Sins Of The Father

added 1/14/2010 by Bob Hulsey

Being the child of a celebrity cuts both ways. They get tremendous advantages in life but they also face staggering expectations to match the success of their famous parent, something they often fail to achieve (see Pete Rose, Jr., among many).

DNA can be cruel just as easily as it can be generous. My favorite example is when the iguana-faced rocker Billy Joel had a child with supermodel Christie Brinkley whom, through much of my adolescence and young adulthood, I considered the most beautiful woman in the world. They had a little girl named Alexa whom the genetic gods chose to give Billy's face, not Christie's. I wouldn't blame Alexa if an expletive came to her lips every time she glanced in the mirror.

It was with raised eyebrows that the Astros chose Roger Clemens' son Koby in the 2005 June draft in the eighth round. I wondered if the lad's pro potential was the true reason he was taken or was it the thought that Koby might have publicity value that could be shared throughout the organization. Perhaps the drafting was a handshake deal the oft-retiring Roger had with the Astros as part of his terms to play the 2005 season.

Perhaps the dream of Tim Purpura and the Astros was to see Roger boost the attendance at minor league games as he traveled to watch his son play. You may recall the rock-star-like reception Roger got as he trained through the minors after signing in May of 2006. The Astros' farm teams loved the attention.

In 2007, Roger attended a winter camp with his son and later played catch with his son at the Astros' spring training. Both father and son said what a thrill it was to both be at camp together.

But everything changed after the season when the Mitchell Report first linked Roger to alleged abuse of performance enhancing drugs. While Roger has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, the court of public opinion turned against him and things got worse with a flurry of messy revelations about Roger's personal life. The Astros asked him to leave their spring training camp in 2008, citing the media distraction he had become.

Personally, I've still given Roger the benefit of the doubt regarding the alleged steroid abuse. The so-called proof offered by Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, doesn't prove Clemens used steroids any more than it proves Clemens was drunk at the time.

McNamee claims that he saved a needle he had used to inject Clemens and kept a gauze with Clemens' blood that he stored in a beer can in his refrigerator for years.

(Does anyone besides me think it is beyond creepy for someone to keep a beer can with a used syringe in his fridge for at least five years on the odd chance he might later need to prove he used the syringe on Roger’s butt? By comparison, saving a blue dress with the president's spent DNA seems rather reasonable).

In police work, there's something called the "chain of evidence". A recent study seemed to support McNamee's claim that, yes, the needle and the gauze had Clemens' DNA on them. But it would be easy for a trainer to inject Clemens with any number of acceptable substances, wipe the blood with the gauze and then re-use the needle later with a steroid substance and drip a few drops of it onto the gauze. Because McNamee was the only one who had this evidence, and has a vested interest in the outcome, he had multiple opportunities to taint the sample so the DNA tests would come back with his desired result. In a trial, this would be inadmissible, which is why the results were released to the media, not to a court of law.

For the time being, Roger has gone from worshiped superstar to persona non grata throughout much of baseball. Meanwhile, Koby has finally discovered himself in the minors in his fifth pro season. In a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league in the backwoods of Lancaster, CA, Koby's bat exploded for 22 homers, 121 RBIs and a .345 batting average last year, best in the Astros' farm system.

USA Today named Koby the Astros Minor League Player of the Year and MiLB.com named him the advance A-ball Player of the Year.

But would that be good enough for the Astros to keep him around? Prior to the winter Rule V draft, Koby was not protected on the 40-man roster. It was later revealed that the Astros did promote him to their AAA Round Rock roster, which meant that any team which did claim him would have to put him on their major league roster for all of next season. Nobody selected Koby and he is expected to play this coming year at AA Corpus Christi where he appeared briefly last season.

Koby has surely heard a lot of foul comments and crude jokes about his father in the past couple of years. I hope he’s grown a thick skin about it. He says he looks forward to having his dad attend many of his games at Corpus now that he'll be playing a short drive from the family's home base in Houston. Hopefully, the Hooks fans will be civil about it all.

There are still qualms about whether Koby can be a successful hitter at the major league level and what position he might play if or when he reaches it. Trials at catcher and third base did not seem to pan out so he spent much of last year getting used to the outfield. I have questions, too, about how seriously the Astros regard their prospect. At any level, a .345 average and 121 RBIs in one season is nothing to sneeze at - particularly in this lackluster farm system. Yet the Astros still allowed him to be dangled for any team that wanted him.

At 23, you can't really call Koby a kid anymore. But I hope fans will respect him and cheer him for who he is, not who his father is and that the front office values him for what he can do and not as a sideshow attraction. Let both men's careers stand on their own merit. I hope both men find success and, in one case, redemption but if it doesn't happen, I hope Koby can be judged as if he were Koby Smith or Koby Johnson, not the son of one baseball’s most notable players.

We all deserve not to be compared to Christie Brinkley when we look in the mirror.