The Baseball Writers Association of America seems to believe that the Hall of Fame is simply a museum, not a cathedral of baseball history. The fact that some of the players who failed to garner enough support for induction did not get in is incredulous. Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio both most certainly deserving of induction. However, the real victim of Wednesday’s voting was alleged steroid user and former New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens. With Wednesday’s omission of his name from 355 ballots, 62.4 percent of Hall of Fame voters have effectively barred a true superstar from receiving baseball’s most prestigious honor. By receiving just 37.6 percent of the vote, it is unlikely that Clemens will ever come close to induction by the BBWAA, and instead will likely have to someday place his faith in the veterans’ committee.
While Clemens was most certainly not the only suspected cheater on the ballot, he is one of the few where a timeline of his alleged use was testified to in federal court, and one of the few who was legitimately a Hall of Famer prior to his suspected usage. There is unquestionably a fine line in trying to determine how much the use of steroids should affect someone’s opportunity to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Personally, I would have voted for Clemens’ induction to Cooperstown. Yes, he likely used steroids, though he was acquitted by federal jury regarding perjury charges stemming from his testimony on steroid use. However, all indications from former trainer Brian McNamee’s testimony are that Clemens began steroid use no earlier than the 1998 season, his second year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Look at Clemens’ statistics prior to the 1998 season. “Rocket” was 35 years old when that season began, and already had fourteen solid major league seasons under his belt. During that time, Clemens accrued 213 victories, including four seasons with twenty or more wins. He had also recorded a career earned run average of 2.97, which ranked 20th in baseball history at the time. Clemens’ 2,882 strikeouts ranked eleventh on baseball’s all-time list, and he had led the league in that category four separate times. Through the 1997 season, Clemens had already led the league in victories in three separate seasons and in earned run average in four separate years. Additionally, he had an MVP award, four Cy Young awards, and six All-Star appearances under his belt.
Roger Clemens’ pre-steroids statistics do not lie. The man known as “Rocket” was simply dominant during his fourteen-year career prior to Brian McNamee’s doping allegations. He may never have hit 300 victories or 4,000 strikeouts without the steroids he allegedly used, but there is no doubt about the fact that Roger Clemens was one of, if not the best pitcher, of the 1980s and 1990s. He was a sure bet to be inducted to the Hall of Fame prior to his alleged steroid use. Perhaps it is time for Hall of Fame voters to put aside their reservations about voting someone who may be tainted into the Hall, and instead look at the body of work they put together prior to suspected drug usage. If the voters were to take that approach, there should not be a doubt in anyone’s mind that Roger Clemens deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
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