As someone who reported on Roger Clemens on a daily basis longer than any journalist in the country – from June of 1983 when he was drafted through 1996 when I was a beat writer for both the Quincy Patriot Ledger and Boston Globe, I can tell you this, Clemens was and is a Hall of Famer and he should eventually get elected to the Hall.
There will be resistance to him at first, but he’ll garner enough votes to keep his Hall of Fame chances alive. Somewhere over the 15-year eligibility window, he will earn a place, I believe.
Did Clemens take performance-enhancing drugs? He probably did. For how long? We can only go by the evidence in the Mitchell Report, which indicated that during his time in Toronto after four subpar seasons with the Red Sox, there was evidence he engaged in that activity.
He certainly wasn’t alone in taking those enhancements, and obviously, so many players got away with it with their names never sullied.
You can love or hate Clemens, but one thing was undeniable – he was a great pitcher. You can joke and smirk about his claim to being a workout warrior – but he was. Those of us who witnessed it first hand for many years understand how hard he worked at being the best.
Later in his career he crossed the line.
Clemens was found not guilty on perjury charges levied by Congress about taking steroids and HGH. Obviously, Clemens had a great attorney in Rusty Hardin. And he also had an accuser who had less credibility than he did – Brian McNamee.
That’s where Clemens won the case.
McNamee simply could not be believed.
Clemens, we’re sure, dropped a few million dollars on this case,. And we’re sure the government did as well.
It seemed like a futile process from the start. Why would the government go this far and spend this much money to nail one professional athlete when Clemens was likely the tip of the iceberg on a rampant problem in baseball during that time?
And why would the government go into a case with such a weak accuser in McNamee, knowing full well, that a good defense attorney could make him look so bad and so shady? That’s what the Clemens team did.
We certainly understand that Congress can’t let someone get away with lying under oath, but there were always more important battles they could have waged. Instead they went after a big-name athlete to make a point, which in the end, they didn’t make.
Did the verdict clear Clemens’ name? It did not.
Most people still believe Clemens took something at some time. All he ever needed to do was admit that, like his buddy Andy Pettitte did, and Clemens likely would have been forgiven and waltzed into the Hall of Fame a lot sooner than he will now.
He won 354 games, which ranks ninth all-time, and he won seven Cy Young Awards, was 12-8 in the postseason, and 3-0 in eight World Series starts. He struck out 4,672 batters, third most. He pitched two historic 20-strikeout games 10 years apart vs. Seattle and Detroit in 1986 and 1996.
You can take those numbers and try to subtract what you perceive to be performance-enhancement years.
And if you play that game there’s still one conclusion you have to draw – a Hall of Famer beyond a reasonable doubt.