Scott’s Argument Supporting Clemens
Clemens clearly used after leaving the Red Sox so his stats and awards are greatly inflated by the help of foreign substances. Over his final four seasons with the Red Sox he had a 3.77 ERA and 8.7 k/9. In the next two seasons he had a 2.33 ERA and 10.2 k/9. He was 34 years old in 1997 and struck out a career high in batters. I mean, come on. There is no argument about what he did. The argument comes over what to do with him and the others. Honestly, there is no wrong answer, and that is the problem. It is an individual’s opinion over how to treat steroid users, and many people have differing opinions. As a result, guys like Clemens and Barry Bonds have been stuck in ballot purgatory.
Steroids very clearly affect statistics in a huge way. Two people have ever hit 60 home runs in a season, and then it happened six times in four years during the height of the steroid era. It hasn’t been done since. The record book was left in shambles. It’s a shame. All of these players have better stats due to using, but some of them were Hall of Famers anyways, and that’s where my argument for Clemens (and some others) comes into play. I could care less about the character clause quite frankly. The Hall of Fame should be a place to celebrate the greatest players to play the game, everyone has faults.
With 192 wins after 1996, Clemens’ win total wouldn’t have screamed Hall of Fame. At 34 he would have still pitched for a couple more seasons and gotten to maybe 220-230 wins? But that’s not the case for him. Clemens was already a three time Cy Young Award winner and an MVP winner by this time. Three Cy Young’s and an MVP get you in the Hall. He had led the league in wins twice, ERA four times, and strike outs three times. He also had two different games during which he had struck out 20 batters. No one else had ever accomplished this at the time. His career strikeout total still would have eclipsed 3000 and placed him in the top 15 of all-time in that category. If he had never touched anything and just played out what was left of his career naturally, he’d be enshrined. That is why I would vote for him.
Mike’s Argument Against Clemens
Roger Clemens is the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history. He should not, however, be in the Hall of Fame. Clemens is, as much as Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, the poster child for the steroid era of baseball.
It is commonly accepted that the Rocket began taking steroids after leaving the Red Sox following the 1996 season. He was so offended by then-GM Dan Duquette’s “twilight of his career” speech that he committed himself to proving everyone wrong.
Like Bonds, many people will argue that the Rocket was a hall of fame pitcher before he left Boston. His 13 seasons with the Sox were indeed excellent and at least borderline for the hall. He finished with 192 wins, an ERA of 3.06, 2,590 Ks, three Cy Young awards and a league MVP.
In 11 seasons after leaving Boston, between the ages of 34 and 44, Roger compiled 162 wins, 73 losses, a 2.91 ERA, 2,082 Ks, and four more Cy Young Awards. A 2.91 ERA. Most telling about the immediate positive impact that steroids had on Clemens is the fact that in his final year in Boston he was 10-13 with a 3.63 ERA and 257 Ks. In his two seasons in Toronto, he went 41-13 with an ERA of 2.33 and averaged 281 Ks. He won the Cy Young both years.
Great Pitcher, Bad Guy
Clemens was more than just a juicer. He was a bad guy who in the second half of his career folded like a lawn chair in some of the biggest moments. In The Yankee Years, Joe Torre explained in detail Roger’s diva nature, his feigning of injuries when he was getting shelled in games, and his relationship with Brian McNamee.
Clemens not only took steroids for the better half of his career, he lied to Congress about it. The Rocket’s defenders argue that Clemens was found not guilty of perjury and that McNamee was a slime-ball witness trying to become famous. But nobody with any intellectual integrity believes that Clemens competed clean.
Roger Clemens was a great pitcher. He was a better science experiment. Everyone recognizes that this rocket was fueled by HGH, Winstrol, and litany of chemicals to extend and enhance his career. The question for Cooperstown voters is simply: do you care?
I believe that they do not. Clemens will eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. That said, you cannot allow Roger Clemens and others like him in the Hall without opening the doors to guys like McGwire, Manny, A-Rod, and others. Voters cannot hide behind the façade of the Hall’s “character clause” to exclude players they don’t like while inducting cheaters like Roger Clemens.
Anyone interested in the real Roger Clemens, beyond the impressive stat line, should read American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America’s Pastime. This well-documented book by the New York Daily News Sports Investigative Team, published in 2009, puts his career and the entire steroid era into the proper perspective.