Toronto Blue Jays: Put Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame
By David Hill
There is no denying Roger Clemens‘ place as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. It is past time that the former Toronto Blue Jays hurler is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Later today, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2016. As of this point, it appears as though Ken Griffey Jr will be a lock to be inducted, with the only question being whether or not he will set a new record for the highest percentage of the vote received. Based on the public voting tracker, Griffey would have company with Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines joining him in Cooperstown, although that is subject to change later today when all the votes are tabulated.
While this would be a strong class, it still may not be considered complete. Right now, on the outside looking in, are two players that may be considered among the greatest at their positions in Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Given his ties to the Toronto Blue Jays, let us focus on Clemens’ case.
A quick glance at Clemens career shows how dominant he was. He won seven Cy Young awards, including his final one at age 41. Clemens made eleven All-Star Games, winning the MVP award for the game in 1986. Also during that 1986 season, Clemens was the American League MVP. With a career 354-184 record, 3.14 ERA, 1.173 WHiP and 4672 strikeouts, there is no doubt that Clemens was among the best pitchers in baseball history.
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The biggest issue with Clemens making the Hall involves his alleged PED use. When Clemens became a free agent following a two year span when he was 20-18 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.367 WHiP, Dan Duquette infamously proclaimed Clemens to be done. Signing with the Blue Jays, he proceeded to have what may have been his two greatest seasons, posting a 41-13 record with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.061 WHiP, striking out 563 batters in 498.2 innings. So much for being done, right?
However, that production, and his ability to pitch at a high level into his forties, led to those PED allegations. Jose Canseco named Clemens in his tell all book, and former teammate Jason Grimsley claimed that Clemens was a PED user. He was named in the Mitchell Report, and as such, has seen his legacy tarnished.
And so, Clemens, like many other players with who are alleged to have used PEDs, have found that the voters will not let them enter the Hall of Fame. Despite his accomplishments, Clemens has yet to receive more than 37.6% of the vote, with the voters hiding behind the Morality Clause to keep him out. However, players who were known racists, those who kept baseball from becoming integrated and Ty Cobb could all be inducted? That Morality Clause seems to be used fairly sporadically.
Even if Clemens and others were using PEDs, it does not matter. Quite simply, they played in an era when steroids and other substances were rampant in the sport. If, as it is speculated, a full 50 to 60% of players were on some sort of PED in that time period, Clemens was still head and shoulders above his competition. It’s not as though he was Manny Alexander or Alex Sanchez, barely holding down a major league job.
Quite simply, the time from the mid 1990’s through the mid 2000’s were the Steroid Era of baseball. Just like the Deadball Era, or pre-integration, or the times before the designated hitter, it is a part of the history of the game. Steroids and PEDs were also not the only drugs used – baseball had issues with “greenies” since the 1960’s when they would be widely available, as well as a cocaine problem in the 1980’s. The usage of amphetamines did not stop Willie Mays or Willie Stargell from making the Hall.
The reluctance to put players like Clemens into the Hall of Fame is equally puzzling considering that, just over a decade ago, these players were being lauded as helping to save baseball following the disastrous strike of 1994. Fans flocked to the ballpark to see mammoth home runs and pitchers throwing pure heat. Those whispers of steroid use were ignored, or winked at. Writers would trip over themselves to provide an explanation, such as Mark McGwire‘s usage of Creatine.
Whether or not baseball, and the BBWAA, want to delve into that part of their history, there is no denying what occurred. The records have been broken. The numbers still count. These exploits have been recorded, and we can watch the highlights. The Pandora’s Box cannot be closed or ignored any longer.
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It is time to put Roger Clemens into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Even though he is unlikely to get in this year, there may be hope that the former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher can eventually find his way into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown without a ticket.