Looking at the Hall-of-Fame Ballot: Former Yankees Pt. 5 – Roger Clemens
Anytime one writes about Roger Clemens, there is bound to be a reaction from fans. Roger Clemens is a polarizing figure on the Hall-of-Fame ballot because of the allegations that he used steroids to enhance his career. If that is true, and many people believe it is, then many people also feel that he does not deserve to be enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame.
Absent of the steroid question, which for many cannot be separated, Roger Clemens is an inner circle Hall-of-Famer. Just look at these statistics:
7 Cy Young Awards
11 time All-Star
Led the league in wins four times
Led the league in ERA seven times
Led the league in strikeouts five times
The list could go on and on. If we just look to WAR for pitchers, Clemens ranks third all time behind only Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
Absent of steroids, the man is a Hall-of-Famer…
So What About Steroids?
This is a question that each voter or fan has to answer for himself. There are a variety of ways to look at this question.
The most direct is “If he was a steroid user he shouldn’t get in – ever.” That argument has been a strong one and it is one that will be hard for Roger Clemens to overcome. In fact, that’s the argument that has kept him out of the Hall-of-Fame to date.
The problem is, that argument is falling apart.
The first, and most obvious reason is that other players tied to steroids are already in the Hall-of-Fame and have been elected in the years after Clemens first went onto the ballot. It seems like Roger Clemens (and a few other players) are being held to a different standard than some other players with credible ties to using performance enhancers.
A second argument is that no one will ever truly know which players used and which ones didn’t. We know the players who were caught. We know the players who were named in the Mitchell Report, but no one suspects that the lists end with just those players. Are we to assume that any player not listed on those reports was clean?
A third argument is that managers of teams that won with players accused of steroids are now in the Hall-of-Fame. The successes those managers enjoyed was based, at least partially, on the performance from players using performance enhancers.
A fourth argument is that the Commissioner of Baseball during the steroid era is in the Hall-of-Fame. The blight that steroids had on the sport did not keep him out of baseball’s hallowed halls. The argument would be, if he’s in, why should the players be held to a different standard?
A fifth argument would draw an imaginary line at the point when Clemens probably didn’t use and when he might have. The question one would ask is, “Was he a Hall-of-Famer before be used (suspected use) steroids? The problem here is that no one knows, at all, when any player used or didn’t use.
A sixth argument differentiates between Joe Jackson and Pete Rose and the steroid guys. Joe Jackson and Pete Rose were kicked out of baseball. On the other hand, some of the players most tied to steroids, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire (both also not enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame) have served as MLB coaches. The game welcomed them back. This begs the question, if they can coach, why can’t they also be in the Hall-of-Fame?
Ultimately, the steroid question is the only one that matters in regard to Roger Clemens. Did he use, and if he did, should that keep him out of the Hall-of-Fame?
Based on his numbers, Roger Clemens is a Hall-of-Famer. I believe he will be inducted eventually. Whether or not that happens in 2020 will be determined by today’s writers.