"You can talk to anyone you want," Hendricks says. "You can believe what Roger says or not. I do think you have to admit that the things he says are plausible."
So much happened. The end of the season was a prolonged buzz, a tempestuous time. Clemens hurt the shoulder...couldn't lift his arm to comb his hair...was going to come back to pitch...couldn't pitch...finally pitched...punched Morgan's office door with his right hand after an argument over media access to the locker room....
The Red Sox edged out the Toronto Blue Jays on the final day of the season. Tempestuous. Clemens says he punched the door for emphasis. An exclamation point! Don't a lot of people do that when they lose an argument? So much has happened. He pitched the opener of the playoffs...left at the end of six...wanted to pitch the seventh...was lifted...didn't talk because he didn't want to second-guess Morgan after only one game in the playoffs. Plausible.
The A's were better. That was the damnable thing. The Red Sox had to play perfect baseball to beat the A's. The Red Sox were not perfect. Arms were shot. Hitters couldn't hit. The final day in Oakland was mostly a chance to grab some respect. Throw a little sand in the gears of that machine in the other dugout. Why not? Hold back nothing. Take the challenge for what it was and try to respond. Have some fun. Pound guys. Pound Goliath.
"You know what?" Clemens says. "I'm still pissed off that I wasn't around long enough to punch out a few guys. To do the gestures."
How would that have been? The gestures—and maybe the half-shaved Fu Manchu—what would all the pop psychologists have said then? The stories are already out of control. The day has been picked apart as if so many birds were hipping at every little movement by Clemens. The story about the warmup pitch that went into the stands? Just fooling around, impersonating Cincinnati Reds reliever Rob Dibble...pitch got away...thumped into a pad...didn't go into the stands, Clemens claims. The story about the photographer? Just heading through the narrow passageway to the clubhouse to get some heat before the game...photographer in front with a long lens...brushed the photographer...just brushed him, Clemens says. The remarks to Welch and Eckersley? A lot of people were saying a lot of things. Hard things. That is the nature of dugout baseball. Clemens says he didn't say anything about drinking to Welch. He says he didn't hear anything that he remembers. Did you ever hear the baseball expression, "Drink some milk and eat some bananas"? Maybe that was what someone said. Baseball expression. It means calm down, idiot.
"Things that are being said down there are not being said to appear in the media," Clemens says. "They're just being said. It's different. You don't play that game through the media."
The idea that he wanted to get thrown out of the ball game? Crazy. He says he pitched one game this season in which he left in the seventh with the score tied 1-1. There was criticism, comments that he should have stayed. Then he worked a game in which he threw 165 pitches. There was criticism, comments that he was a dumbbell to keep pitching and risk his health. How can he win? Crazy. Stewart's comments? What does he know?
"Dave Stewart doesn't know me," Clemens says. "That's what bothers me, people talking about me who don't know anything about me. How can he say I think I'm bigger than the game? I don't think I am. I had to listen to Dave Stewart crying when I won the Cy Young and he didn't. I just said, 'Dave Stewart's a great pitcher, and maybe he should have won.' Well, look at his team. He's playing for a great team, too. It's great to be a sparrow and chirp when you're on top. I didn't hear Dave Stewart say very much when he was playing in Texas."
The day somehow seems so much bigger than it should have been. The television pictures, the coast-to-coast commentaries, the ejection. What was Clemens doing? He was doing what he always does, he says. He was shaking his head, perhaps, but he shakes his head a lot on the mound. Shakes it at himself. Shakes it at the umpire. Talks to himself. There is a steam that builds up in him and that he lets out when he pitches. A pressure. He is convinced that Cooney was waiting for him, that Cooney was mad about some remarks he thought Clemens made from the Sox dugout a day earlier in a big situation, when Cooney ruled that Sox shortstop Luis Rivera's checked swing was a third strike. But how could Cooney hear? How did everyone suddenly develop such wonderful hearing? Clemens admits that on the mound he used some words he shouldn't have used, but he is convinced that he shouldn't have been ejected. If warned, he says, he wouldn't have repeated the words.