The Case for Cooperstown: Roger Clemens
With the release of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, Waiver Wire writer Greg Kaplan will explore the candidacy of numerous names on the ballot. Points for and against induction will be presented, and we’re forcing him to make a decision at the end of each post to decide if that player should be placed alongside the immortals that have played baseball throughout history.
Previous Cases – Jack Morris – Jeff Bagwell – Lee Smith – Tim Raines – Alan Trammell– Edgar Martinez – Fred McGriff – Larry Walker – Mark McGwire – Don Mattingly – Dale Murphy – Rafael Palmeiro - Bernie Williams - Barry Bonds
Year(s) on ballot – 1st
Credentials – 24-year MLB career (13 with New York Yankees, six with Boston Red Sox), 354-184 record, 3.12ERA, 118 CGs, 46 shutouts, 4,672 strikeouts (3rd all-time), 1.17 WHIP, 11-time All-Star, seven-time Cy Young Award winner (most all-time), 1986 American League MVP, two-time World Series champion, career 133.9 WAR (8th all-time)
The Case For -
Much was the case for Barry Bonds, all you need to do to understand the brilliance Roger Clemens maintained throughout his career is all up there under his credentials.
This was a pitcher who led the league in wins four times, won 18 or more games 10 times, won the ERA crown seven times, including a three-peat from 1990-92, led the league in strikeouts five times and won the pitching Triple Crown in back-t0-back seasons in 1997-98 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Not to mention, career wise, only two players have struck out more hitters than Roger Clemens in his career (Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson) and only two pitchers post-World War II have won more games than Clemens (Warren Spahn and Greg Maddux).
Let this last point ruminate a little bit before we jump to the next segment on Clemens. Only twice in his career did Clemens’ season K/9 rate drop below seven. Once was when he was 22 in 1985 and started only 15 games for the Boston Red Sox. The next time was his final season with the New York Yankees when he made his “dramatic” comeback.
At age 44.
22 years later.
The Case Against -
I really wish steroids and PEDs weren’t going to be the only reason why a player won’t get into the Hall of Fame. It would make writing this cases a little more intriguing. However, Clemens is really the first pitcher that falls into the category of someone believed to have used in his career.
We saw what certain substances could do for hitters in their career. It made them stronger, turned gap power into 30+ home run power and transformed their bodies into those of modern-day body builders. For pitchers, sure, PEDs may have added some zip to a pitcher’s fastball, but the main advantage they benefited from seems to be quicker and easier recovery times between starts.
What it comes down to for me is that writers like to talk about how it was unfair advantage that some players used PEDs, while others decided to stay clean throughout this perceived “steroids era”. However, the more they talk about it, the more it feels like the healthy majority were using. Doesn’t that mean that everyone was playing on the same level after all? That great players were still great and better than those who were merely average and using?
Some people point out that stars early on were using amphetamines, which are now banned in baseball, and yet nobody is rushing to say Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron should be taken out of the Hall. It’s a fair point. What it really is saying is that we’re all frustrated how so few writers and their esteemed opinions get to make decisions so many disagree with.
Look, I am a die-hard New York Mets fan. I hate Roger Clemens more than any other professional athlete in my lifetime. I still believe he should’ve been suspended for beaning Mike Piazza in the head during the 2000 season, and he absolutely should’ve been tossed from Game 2 of the World Series when he chucked the splintered bat at Piazza. (Seriously. That was the second inning. You eject Clemens, that entire game is different. Maybe the entire series is different. I’m getting myself upset. I need to stop.)
However, none of that defeats the point that Roger Clemens was just an exceptional pitcher, but he is truly one of the all-time greats. If you’re going to have a Hall of Fame and not put in one of the three best pitchers post World War II (Clemens) and one of the best hitters to ever step into a batters box (Barry Bonds), well, what’s the point of having it then?