I’m not sure why Roger Clemens was found not guilty. Frankly, I don’t care.
But if the useless pursuit of the former Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros ace’s use of performance-enhancing drugs did anything beneficial, it at least delayed the inevitable discussion about his Hall of Fame merits.
Is Roger Clemens worthy of Cooperstown? Is this really a debate?
Should he get in? Here’s where the sanctimony begins.
Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America like to point to the fact that Mark McGwire’s candidacy falters more and more each year, a sure sign that voters are going to look at suspected steroid-users Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa with the same semblance of doubt and punishment. It’s a cute little argument, except for the fact that McGwire isn’t really a Hall of Fame player to begin with. Neither is Sosa. Rafael Palmeiro is borderline. If the BBWAA wants to keep them out based on suspicion, whatever. I’d rather argue for Dwight Evans than waste any time debating their legitimacy.
If Clemens and Bonds don’t make the Hall, then the BBWAA is collectively dumber than we all thought.
Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal has already come out and opined how he’ll approach the Clemens situation, admitting that he won’t vote for him the first year of eligibility. That’s likely how many of his colleagues will go about their votes as well, a petty approach that speaks to the overwhelming arrogance of the BBWAA. What, Clemens’ stats are going to get better over another year of retirement, or is that how long it takes to forget about the steroid business? “OK, it’s a year later, all good, fellas. Here’s the key.”
The one-year abstinence thing drives me nuts, especially when it comes to players like Clemens and Bonds, a pair of controversial figures that test the BBWAA’s morality clause, but it’s not like the rest of the Hall’s members all went on Red Cross relief missions during the offseason. Prove to me that every single member of Cooperstown was clean of performance-enhancing drugs and we can debate whether or not Clemens or Bonds gets in. Heck, prove to me that Clemens took steroids. We all know he probably did, but the government just spent millions trying to prove the same and failed miserably. You think the bumbling members of the BBWAA can present a better case as to why he shouldn’t be elected?
“‘No’ on the first ballot – as I’ve written before, I vote ‘no’ on virtually every player from the steroid era as a way of distinguishing them from the greats of the past,” Rosenthal writes. “Is that an unfair penalty for candidates thought to be non-users? Yes, but all of the players were part of a union that had the power to implement change.”
That’s rich. Clearly the union did nothing to help the cause, but it was Rosenthal’s colleagues who continually kept their heads in the sand even as evidence mounted in the steroid era. It was the BBWAA that constantly preached that there weren’t enough “facts” to warrant criticism. It was those same baseball writers who turned from Alfred E. Neumann to God when things blew up in their faces, the same BBWAA members who immediately defended their colleague, 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner and suspected molester Bill Conlin last December, completely ignoring the morality clause with which they so vehemently judge the players.
But I digress.
“My general rule after the first year is that mere suspicion is not enough for me to withhold a vote; one should only consider the facts at hand,” Rosenthal writes. “I voted last year for Jeff Bagwell, knowing that some of my colleagues would refrain, suspecting that Bagwell used PEDs. Bagwell jumped from 41.7 percent of the vote his first year to 56 percent in his second.”
So, “mere suspicion” is enough to judge someone in the first year, but all that just sort of dissipates into some sort of magical upstate New York vortex? Got it.
It’s that sort of hypocritical nature that we’ll get to deal with over the next few years, when the controversial stars of the Steroid Era come up for eligibility. Having fun yet?
Clemens and Bonds were two of the most dominant players in the game over the course of their careers. Some of it was drug-induced, some of it was not. You want to keep Bonds out because of Balco? OK. As long as every other member is clean too. Have fun proving that.
Despite the suspicions, Clemens won. He fought for his name and won. The government helped him out along the way, but for all intents and purposes, it’s over. Clemens gets to legitimately have his numbers, whether you agree with it or not.
He’s going to Cooperstown, but not before the BBWAA institutes its own holier-than-thou judgment.
Because one year changes everything. Even the past, apparently.