Bill Plaschke Don't Be Surprised if `Rocket' Escapes the Bonds Treatment Home Edition, Sports, Page D-1 Sports Desk 21 inches; 798 words Type of Material: Column By Bill Plaschke, SAN FRANCISCO -- The news that the drug hounds have finally been unleashed on Roger Clemens sent me to the guy who knows something about being chased. So, I asked Barry Bonds, do you think Clemens will have his heels nipped and his neck poked and his breath shortened like you have? "I like Roger, I respect Roger, so I won't comment on that," said Bonds, smiling. "But I'm feeling your question." I then headed to the office of the guy who knows something about watching this chase. So, I asked Felipe Alou, will Clemens be subject to the same public condemnation and consistent scrutiny as Bonds? "We'll have to wait and see," Alou said, also smiling. "But it's tough to catch a 'Rocket.' " * On the eve of the steroid era, a 34-year-old pitcher is sent packing from his longtime team because, his boss says, "He's in the twilight of his career." One year later that pitcher increases his strikeout total by 35, throws the most innings in the last 10 years, and wins a Cy Young Award. And Roger Clemens is not above suspicion? In the middle of the steroid cleanup period, a 44-year-old pitcher sits out the first two months of the season while contemplating retirement. Then he shows up in June and fashions the fourth-best earned-run average of his career, finishing decimal points short of his career average of strikeouts per nine innings. And Roger Clemens skates? The revelation in Sunday's Times that Clemens' name was among those that appeared in a search-warrant affidavit in an investigation of performanceenhancing drugs did not surprise anybody in the game. What happens next also will not surprise anybody. Here's guessing, nothing. "What do you think is going to happen to him?" said one Dodger with a shrug. Another Dodger jokingly climbed into an adjoining locker to avoid the question. Although Clemens' and Bonds' careers have taken the same arc toward eternal athletic life, they are perceived as differently as, well, white and black. America does not want to believe the dirt on Clemens because he is a nice guy, a family guy, a good ol' guy and, let's be honest here, a Caucasian guy. America likes its sport villains dark and moody and everything that has always been Bonds. America doesn't like to be fooled. So here's guessing America will brush off this new Clemens link as the ramblings of a scared ballplayer (Jason Grimsley) or the hallucinations of an IRS special agent (Jeff Novitzky) or just some late-season score in a game that has no effect on the standings. Clemens has long since clinched America's love. His magic number is zero. His immortality is assured. He will remind everyone that he has never flunked a steroid test, even though the test cannot detect human growth hormone. He will then retire, disappearing to a Texas ranch, where he will be careful to lose all invitations to congressional hearings. The legendary cowboy pitcher will spend the rest of his life as a country gentleman. While Bonds will spend the rest of his life on the run. It's not that Bonds is innocent. It has been written here that there is enough evidence linking him to steroid use that he should not be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But how could we not see that Clemens has followed the same odd statistical path? Everyone talks about how Bonds hit more than 40 homers three times in his first 14 seasons, then four times in his next eight seasons. How come nobody talks about Clemens winning three Cy Young Awards in his first 13 seasons, then four in his next eight seasons? Everyone talks about the changes in Bonds' physical stature, the giant head, the bulging neck. As someone who covered Clemens in his rookie year in 1984, I can attest that he is much bigger and thicker today, his mass strangely only increasing with age. When Bonds sat out most of last season because of injuries, folks wondered if he wasn't just dodging drug tests. But when Clemens sat out the first two months of this season before re-signing with his old team, nobody said a word. No, we don't know the extent of Clemens' involvement other than the mentioning of his name. And, yes, it's unfair to charge him with anything beyond that. Unlike Bonds, he has never been dragged in front of a steroid-searching grand jury, he has never been the subject of an indictment-filled book, and his personal trainer has never sat in jail to protect his clients. But now that the link has been revealed, serious questions should be asked. Not just of Roger Clemens, but of ourselves.
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