Roger Clemens, quite simply, is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
The statistics and awards reveal the utter dominance during his era.
– Seven Cy Young awards.
– One MVP.
– 11 All-Star selections.
– 354 wins.
– 4,672 strikeouts.
– Seven ERA titles.
If it was merely about numbers, Clemens would have been a shoo-in when he first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot and not about to be extinguished in his last year of eligibility.
The trouble with Clemens is that you can’t bring up his name without Barry Bonds.
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Clemens is ensnared in the same steroid controversy as Bonds, which was first revealed in former Senator George Mitchell’s investigation on performance-enhancing drugs when he was accused by his former trainer, Brian McNamee, of using PEDs.
Clemens vehemently denied the charges.
He went in front of Congress and said that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts of perjury, contempt and making false statements to Congress, spent millions of dollars defending himself, and won.
The first trial was declared a mistrial.
The second, he was acquired on all counts.
Yet, he’s guilty in the court of public opinion, and in this case, by the Hall of Fame voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot.
Why Clemens belongs
Go ahead, try to come up with greater pitchers in all of baseball history.
You’ve got Walter Johnson and Cy Young and Christy Mathewson, but after those iconic pitchers, Clemens can take his rightful place among anyone in the past 100 years.
His 354 victories rank ninth all-time, and the second-most behind only Maddux (355) since baseball expanded in 1961, while his 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind Nolan Ryan and Johnson.
He also led his team to six pennants and two World Series championships.
Where he doesn’t stack up
Sure, it would be naïve to believe there aren’t players already in the Hall of Fame who used performance-enhancing drugs.
There was just not a paper trail, or in Clemens’ case, a former trainer accusing him of using PEDs.
And if voters are not going to put Barry Bonds in the Hall of Fame, Clemens will go down with him.
The two stars were performing just as well late in their careers than at the beginning, with Clemens winning four Cy Young awards and going 162-73 with a 3.21 ERA after he and the Boston Red Sox parted company in 1996 after 12 seasons.
Dan Duquette, the Red Sox’s GM at the time, said that Clemens, 34, was “in the twilight of his career).”
No one can beat Father Time, but Clemens and Bonds defined it longer than just about any other athlete, raising suspicions that their performances were chemically enhanced.
Clemens, who initially retired after the 2003 season, returned at the age of 41 for the Houston Astros and won his seventh Cy Young, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts. A year later, he produced a 1.87 ERA, leading the National League.
The numbers were ridiculous, and the Mitchell Report revealed perhaps just why he was still dominant two decades later.
Clemens will finish with his best voting percentage since debuting on the ballot 10 years ago, but it still likely won’t be enough to get him across the finish line.
He debuted receiving just 37.6% of the vote in 2013, and it took four years for it to climb over 50% in 2017, where his candidacy has continued to stall until perhaps this final year. In Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame tracking, he is at 76.2%, but the final number is expected to drop below 75% when the actual votes are announced Jan. 25.
- 2013: 37.6%
- 2014: 35.4%
- 2015: 37.5%
- 2016: 45.2%
- 2017: 54.1%
- 2018: 57.3%
- 2019: 59.5%
- 2020: 61%
- 2021: 61.6%
Clemens and Bonds have run out of time, and now Clemens’ fate will likely end up in the hands of Today’s Game Committee that will vote in December.
Clemens was shy of being elected last year, and according to Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame tracking, he has picked up only three votes through Sunday.
It will be fascinating to see if Clemens ever gets in through the 16-person Today’s Game committee that is scheduled to meet twice every five years for retired players, managers, umpires and executives from 1988 to the present. The committee includes four former players.
Remember, it was the late Joe Morgan, who was on the Hall of Fame board of directors, who sent out letters to all of the BBWAA voters in November 2017, urging them not to cast a ballot for any alleged steroid user.
“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame,” Morgan wrote. “They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.”
Perhaps if the voting eligibility hadn’t been reduced from 15 years to 10 years the extra years would be an ally to Clemens, but he ran out of time.
The ramifications could be enormous considering this is Alex Rodriguez’s first year on the ballot. Without Clemens or Bonds getting in, Rodriguez’s chances of election will evaporate with his year-long suspension in 2014 for his involvement in PEDs.
The irony is that Clemens or Bonds were never punished, suspended, or even fined a penny by MLB for PED use.
Yet, they received the biggest punishment of all – at least by the writers – with their exclusion from the Hall of Fame.