Wednesday, February 13, 2008
My two cents on the Clemens ordeal
I'm a baseball fan, and like most fans, I'm frustrated with this Clemens nonsense not because he did or did not take performance enhancing drugs but because it takes the focus away from the art of the game. I could honestly care less if every player or no player takes steroids; if home runs are 800 feet and pitchers throw 150 mph, so be it-- just as long as they are playing the game.
Nonetheless, I get asked frequently about this Clemens ordeal. I really don't think anything has changed with today's proceedings. (Though McNamee did include the fact that he injected Clemens with Winstrol, an anabolic steroid, in today's proceedings. I hadn't heard anything other than HGH up until today, though I'm not following it exceedingly close.) If we look at the biases of each person's testimony, McNamee would be biased towards withholding the bad things he did-- if anything, he isn't telling us enough. It's the same for Clemens; he's biased towards witholding any bad things that could have happened. The reason we've got a problem is while Clemens is squarely where his bias would predict him to be, McNamee is entirely on the other side. I think that speaks more than any confirmation of who was at so-and-so's house for lunch or when certain conversations occurred, if at all.
Related to the issue at this juncture is also the simple fact that, if something bad happened, the marginal cost to admitting it is basically zero for McNamee (or possibly a net benefit if coming clean and leading to other users minimizes his legal penalty) and massive for Clemens.
It doesn't look good for Clemens at this point, nor has it since this began to blow up. Wolfers et al wrote a piece in the New York Times about the statistical analysis Clemens' team did and makes very good points; here (I think) is the most recent post at Freakonomics which links the first post which, in turn, links to the NYT article. I'm going to go ahead and say that you're generally not in a good position when Justin Wolfers is arguing against what you're saying.
Though I will say that one positive that could come from today is that it prevents the members of Congress from...oh, I don't know, printing out checks and sending them to people.