Tag: Roger Clemens

Would Bonds, Clemens Entry Open Up Hall of Fame Floodgates?

How much juice can the National Baseball Hall of Fame hold? We’re going to find out.

The sea change in the voting for the Hall of Fame can’t be ignored. It first became apparent when Mike Piazza, long suspected of needing performance-enhancing drugs to slug more homers than any other catcher, got into Cooperstown with 83 percent of the vote in 2016.

Now the revolution is projected to continue in 2017.

The latest Hall of Fame class won’t be revealed until January 18, but all the votes were in on December 31. And thanks to Ryan Thibodaux, the tireless Samaritan who aggregates Hall of Fame ballots, we already know how the votes are trending:

With the cutoff for induction set at 75 percent, Vladimir Guerrero is too close to call. Otherwise, it looks like congratulations will soon be in order for Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.

This trio’s induction would draw applause from plenty but also raise eyebrows from others. Bags, Rock and Pudge come with big numbers but also with suspicion and/or baggage.

Bagwell was a muscly steroid-era slugger who admitted to using androstenedione to the Houston Chronicle (via Sports Illustrated‘s William Nack and Kostya Kennedy)—the stuff Mark McGwire was on.

Rodriguez, another steroid-era star, once gave a curiously vague response when he was asked about PEDs, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). Raines was in the back end of his career during the steroid era, but he did use cocaine during his prime with the Montreal Expos in the 1980s.

This is neither here nor there for those of us (hi there!) who see the scuzzier portions of baseball’s past not as parts to be shunned but as those to be discussed and examined. But all should be prepared for the rabble about to be raised by a small army of handwringers. They’ll echo the Hall of Fame’s insistence on integrity and character and wonder if nothing is sacred anymore.

A word to the hand-wringers: If you don’t like how those three are trending, you’d better not look at how Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are doing.

Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run king, and Clemens, its only seven-time Cy Young winner, debuted with just 36.2 and 37.6 percent of the vote in 2013. By last year, they had only climbed into the 40s.

Never mind the argument that Bonds and Clemens may be the greatest hitter and pitcher ever, respectively. This seemed to clarify that their status as poster boy 1A and 1B for the steroid era weighed more heavily.

But look! Now they’re tracking at darn near 70 percent. “How about that?” says Mel Allen’s ghost.

Although Bonds and Clemens will likely fall short of their current marks in the end, this is still writing on the wall that says their support is in for a major boost. With five years left on the ballot after this one, they finally have a light museum at the end of their tunnels.

Some things are random. Like lottery numbers. Or Bryce Harper’s year-to-year performance.

But Bonds and Clemens’ push to Cooperstown? That’s not random.

This is an effect of the Hall of Fame’s purging inactive baseball writers from the Baseball Writers Association of America voting bloc in 2015. That did away with a lot of older and out-of-touch voters, giving younger and more progressive voters more influence.

This is also an unintended consequence of the Hall of Fame’s welcoming legendary manager Tony La Russa in 2014 and former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig this year. Juiced players (McGwire included) helped the former win 2,728 games and three World Series. Juiced players did the latter a huge favor by putting on a show that erased the 1994-1995 strike from memory and ushered in an era of unfathomable prosperity.

Selig’s induction seems to be the real kicker for many voters. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports recently offered a sampling of their thoughts, with the consensus being it’s no longer fair to scorn the juiced-up labor of the steroid era while the beneficiaries of said juiced-up labor are going scot-free.

“When Bud was put in two weeks ago, my mindset changed,” veteran Philadelphia sportswriter Kevin Cooney wrote to Passan in an email. “If the commissioner of the steroid era was put into the HOF by a secret committee, then I couldn’t in good faith keep those two out any longer.”

Clearly, the line in the sand has been redrawn. That doesn’t just spell hope for Bonds and Clemens, but it also does so for other steroid-era stars gunning for Cooperstown. That’s you, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa. 

As for you, Manny Ramirez…uh…hmmm…

OK, you’re a tough one.

It’s easy to miss Ramirez on this year’s ballot, but he’s there. And his numbers loom large. He hit 555 dingers in a 19-year career and is one of only 13 players to accumulate more than 9,000 plate appearances and post a slash line better than .300/.400/.500.

The only number that matters, though, is the 26.7 percent Ramirez is polling at.

There’s no big secret for why he’s struggling. Ramirez enjoyed success during and after the steroid era but missed the memo when the era ended. Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reported in 2009 that Ramirez tested positive for PEDs in 2003. He was then busted and suspended for PEDs later that year. When he was caught again in 2011, he ducked the consequences by retiring.

Ramirez is the first superstar to have been caught riding dirty to appear on the ballot since Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. That doomed him to 11 percent of the vote that year and an early exit in his fourth year. Ramirez might last longer, but it looks like his fate will be the same.

Certainly, more players would have been caught and punished had there been rules and punishments during the steroid era. But it was a different time.

“There were no rules before 2004,” wrote Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “No signs in clubhouses banning PEDs. You were free to take whatever you desired with no testing, no penalties, nothing.”

The shorthand: There’s a difference between breaking “rules” and breaking rules. As MassLive’s Nick O’Malley‘s helpful compilation makes clear, this is a common refrain for voters regarding Ramirez.

Earth to Alex Rodriguez: This concerns you.

After retiring in 2016, Rodriguez isn’t due on the ballot until 2022. Like Ramirez, he’s an all-time great producer who had success during and after the steroid era. Also like Ramirez, he was on the 2003 list and later busted and suspended in 2014. 

For now, he’s screwed. As much as the Hall of Fame voters are loosening their standards for PED guys, they still have some standards. They came for Palmeiro and Ramirez. They’ll come for Rodriguez, too.

Unless, of course, another unexpected sea change comes along.

Before long, the effect of the Hall of Fame voting bloc’s getting younger and more progressive will go from minor to major. As Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated pointed out after A-Rod’s retirement, there will be an influx of analytically minded baseball writers starting in 2018.

If for no other reason than to reverse the effect of “small hall” thinking—MLB.com’s Mike Petriello has a good article out on that—these voters could be more inclined to vote for Ramirez and Rodriguez. Modern times need more representation in Cooperstown. Like it or not, they’re two of the biggest stars of modern times.

They also still have time to repair their images. Ramirez has already begun with his work with the Chicago Cubs. Rodriguez, meanwhile, played the good soldier on the field following his suspension and has since emerged as an extremely likable television analyst.

The other thing time can do is thin out the competition. In contrast to the tidal wave of superstars of recent years, the future should see only a slow drip of superstars onto the ballot. In the meantime, the 10-year limit will push some off the ballot. Others will get squeezed by the annual 10-player voting limit. Others still, such as Bonds and Clemens, will get voted in, leaving fewer titans to contend with.

This is better news for someone like David Ortiz, who was flagged for PEDs in 2003 but was never busted in 13 fruitful years after that, than it is for Ramirez and Rodriguez. But if nothing else, this is all basically Lloyd Christmas telling them there’s a chance.

For good or ill, the Hall of Fame’s days of just saying no to PED guys are over. We’re in new territory, and the task of charting it is just beginning.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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These MLB Stars Are the Only Ones Worthy of 2017 HOF Enshrinement

The first year Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, I voted “not now.”

OK, technically I just didn’t vote for them, but as I explained then in a column for CBSSports.com, it was more of a “not now” vote than a “not ever” vote.

“They may never get in,” I wrote, “but my guess is eventually they will.”

Eventually is coming.

It likely won’t happen this year based on early voting numbers tracked so carefully by Ryan Thibodaux. But Bonds’ and Clemens’ numbers went up last year after the Hall of Fame made changes in the electorate, and Thibodaux’s tracking numbers suggest they’ll rise even more significantly this time around.

Some votes switched after a Hall of Fame committee decided to enshrine Bud Selig, the commissioner who oversaw baseball’s steroid era. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports talked to some of those voters and explained why they switched.

The Selig decision didn’t affect my vote. I’ve voted for Bonds and Clemens since 2014 for reasons I explained then on Facebook.

Three years later, I feel the same way. And just as I did in 2014, I used the maximum 10 spots on this year’s ballot.

Here they are in alphabetical order (as they’re listed on the ballot), with the reasons why each one belongs.

Begin Slideshow

Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza Broken World Series Bat Sells at Auction for $47K

If you’re looking for a unique piece of baseball history—or collecting evidence of the anger issues caused by rampant steroid usage—you missed out on a gem.

According to Jim Baumbach of Newsday.com (h/t Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com), the broken bat Roger Clemens infamously hurled at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series sold at auction for a cool $47,800 this weekend.

While the buyer preferred to remain anonymous, the item’s seller was former New York Yankees strength coach Jeff Mangold, who claims he saved the broken bat from disposal and kept it as a souvenir.

“I’ve had it for 13 years, mainly in the office here at the house,” Mangold told Baumbach. “It’s time for it to move on.”

Mangold says Piazza’s Mizuno Pro bat still has Yankee Stadium dirt embedded in it from Clemens throwing it across the field.

Of course, the Yankees pitcher famously said he never meant to throw a shard of wood at Piazza in the first place.

Clemens claimed he thought the broken bat barrel was the ball, which makes sense considering throwing it at the baserunner is the quickest way to force an out, or something.

On the bright side, the shattered bat once thrown with ill intent will now be used for good. Mangold says he plans to donate a portion of the auction profits to the CJ Foundation for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and use the rest to pay for his children’s college tuition.

Indeed, a product of the former Clemens-Piazza feud is helping sick infants and putting kids through school. Now, it’s time for Sammy Sosa’s corked bat to step up and do its part for the rain forest. 


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Panel of ‘Jeopardy’ Contestants Whiff on Baseball Trivia Question

Fact: A solid foundation of sports knowledge will never be held against you.

You can use it for small talk, impressing strangers and making friends when you’ve been dragged to dinner parties. Also, in the rare event you end up on a gameshow, a command of sporting trivia can help make you cash money. 

Unfortunately for three Jeopardy! contestants, a lack of baseball trivia led to a group miss on a recent airing of the show. The footage was spotted by John Ferensen of Next Impulse Sports. The answer they faced?

“354 wins did not overcome the controversy as this ex-Red Sox pitcher didn’t make the Hall of Fame cut in 2013.”

The contestants gave it a whack, but they unfortunately came up short. As it turns out, neither “Pete Rose,” “Curt Schilling” or “Mark McGwire” were the exact hard-throwing Red Sox pitcher Trebek was looking for.

GIF via Imgur

The name Trebek was looking for was “Roger Clemens.”

To their credit, they tried.

Each of the three contestants rattled off a question that included the name of a retired baseball player whose name has come up in HOF conversation. They deserve a measure of credit for that.

We all have at least one friend who hates baseball—despises it and thinks it’s worse than watching a stump and a jar of paint debate Bird Law on CSPAN. That friend is probably less knowledgeable than these contestants. 

A few of your baseball-hating friends probably don’t even know who Rose is, so keep that in mind before you go crazy with the off-color jokes on these three. 

With that being said, it’s moments like these that make you grateful to have a face and a palm. 

Look for Jeopardy! to keep mining the sports trivia in the name of saving some cash. It’s a popular subject, and evidently, some of the subject matter can be confounding. 


Which basketball player spawned the ‘Air Jordan’ shoeline? I’m sorry, “Wilt Chamberlain” is incorrect.

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Do MLB Cy Young Winners Always Get off to Hot Starts?

Who’s the hottest pitcher in the majors? There’s Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers right-hander who nearly threw a perfect game his first time out. Or maybe it’s Atlanta Braves lefty Paul Maholm, who is 3-0 and has thrown 20.1 scoreless innings.

But we can’t forget about Matt Harvey, the New York Mets righty who’s the first pitcher since 1900 to win each of his first three starts while notching 25 strikeouts and allowing six or fewer hits, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Indeed, no pitcher in baseball is off to a hotter start right now—or maybe ever—than Harvey.

Each of those three hurlers has been Cy Young-worthy so far, but frankly, it seems way too early for any award discussion. Or is it?

Which brings us to the question: Do Cy Young winners always get off to hot starts?

When we explored whether Most Valuable Players always get off to hot starts, the answer was a resounding yes. But let’s analyze the arms and see what we can find out.

First, let’s refresh your memory with a list of the Cy Young winners since 2000:

*For the purposes of this research, we’ll ignore Eric Gagne’s 2003 because comparing starters to relievers is more or less futile. For the record, though, Gagne did pitch extremely well that April: In 14.1 innings, the Dodgers closer allowed no runs on six hits and three walks with 24 whiffs. Oh, and he tallied eight saves.

From 2000 through 2012, there were 25 individual Cy Young seasons by starting pitchers, and here are their average stats for the month of April:

That translates to a 3-1 record with a 2.85 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 37-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 37 innings in the season’s first month.

Pretty nasty.

But what’s interesting is that not all Cy Young winners are created equal when it comes to April performances.

Focusing on ERA and WHIP, 11 of the 25 individual seasons (or nearly half) actually have been worse than “Cy Young average”—again, a 2.85 ERA and 1.12 WHIP—in both stats through April:

Granted, neither stat provides a perfect measure of just how good—or in this case, ungood—a pitcher has been, but taken together, ERA and WHIP give us at least some indication.

What do you notice about the table above? How ’bout the fact that in just about every season since 2000, at least one eventual Cy Young winner has had a so-so (or worse) first month? In fact, 10 of the past 12 seasons featured an award-winning arm who got off on the wrong foot.

But if that’s the case—if a hot start isn’t necessary—then how do these Cy Young winners manage to, well, win the Cy Young exactly?

By getting better as the season progresses, silly.

Let’s shift gears to another statistic: OPS allowed (on base-plus-slugging percentage). You may recall our old metric friends, sOPS+ and tOPS+, from the MVP study. In short…

  • sOPS+ is a version of OPS that is weighted to league average, which is 100; for pitchers, an sOPS+ below 100 is better than league average (i.e., good)
  • tOPS+ is a version of OPS that is weighted to compare a pitcher’s OPS allowed in a given period of time against his OPS allowed for the entirety of that same season; similarly, a tOPS+ below 100 means a pitcher’s OPS allowed was better in that time frame than it was compared to the season as a whole.

If your eyes just glazed over, these tables will make it easier to digest. This one shows the April sOPS+ for each Cy Young winner over the past 13 seasons:

Basically, the boxes that are shaded green indicate that the pitcher’s OPS allowed in April was better than league average, whereas any boxes shaded red indicate worse than league average. While only four eventual Cy Young winners posted a below-average OPS allowed in April, there also were a handful of others that were only slightly above-average (i.e., Johan Santana in 2004).

In other words, on the whole, these pitchers were very good compared to the league, but they weren’t immune to slow starts.

By the way: What Cliff Lee did in April of 2008 (.361 OPS against), as well as what Pedro Martinez (.475) and Randy Johnson did in April of 2000 (.431), should be illegal.

This next table shows their tOPS+ in April:

Same story: Green is good (above-average), but red is bad (below-average). Except this time, we’re comparing each pitcher’s April OPS allowed to his OPS allowed for the full season in which he won the Cy Young.

You’ll notice a lot more red. In fact, 16 of the 25 Aprils are crimson, meaning a majority of the Cy Young winners since 2000 actually were below-average—for them—as far as OPS allowed in the first month of their award-winning campaign.

What does this all mean? Well, for one thing, it proves that just because Yu Darvish, Paul Maholm and Matt Harvey are in line for crazy-good Aprils, it doesn’t guarantee that some slower-starting ace isn’t lying in wait to pitch his way to the 2013 Cy Young Award.

Because for starters, it’s not always how you start.


All stats come from Baseball Reference.

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MLB Hall of Fame: It Should Include Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa, but How?

In an era where every player who has Hall of Fame-worthy numbers is scrutinized under the harshest of microscopes, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have become the steroid era figureheads, examples of what happens when your career is tainted with suspected or proven use of performance-enhancing drugs—but that shouldn’t deny them access to the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown, NY.

The MLB Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, and rightly so. For some fans, it’s the place they take their baseball loving son or daughter to show them the history and legends of the game they love. For others, it’s purpose is to determine the good players from the legends.

Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t punish presumably clean players (Craig Biggio, for one) for playing in an era where steroid use was rampant, simply for not knowing who was clean and who wasn’t. Players who have never failed a test now are often tossed in the category of “they didn’t get caught, but everyone was cheating so they probably were too,” which is a poor, lazy attempt to discard an entire generation of players and their records. 

What needs to be done, if the Hall of Fame is to achieve its former glory and respect for the process, is to find how to deal with the steroid era players. Clean or not, the players from that era obliterated records. Even with normal progression (players over generations have become more and more machine-like (Patrick Willis in the NFL, Albert Pujols in the MLB, etc) and as players become more naturally physically gifted, they will undoubtedly break the records of the players who played cards in the locker room instead of lifting and training. Its been long joked about how Babe Ruth, one of the ten best baseball players ever would down hot dogs during games. I doubt we’d see a player at his peak performance level sneaking a few ballpark dogs in the dugout anymore.

As times change, training, general skill level and a better understanding of the game put today’s players at a better starting point than they ever have had previously. 


To better make the case that players who are elite are just that much better today, look at Bonds’ first 13 seasons (up to the season prior to his 73 home run season). Clearly, Bonds was already a Hall of Famer if he retired mid-season.

2,010 Hits, 400+ doubles, 445 Home Runs, 1299 RBI, 460 SB and a .288 AVG.

That’s a Hall of Fame résumé if I ever saw one. He went on a historical tear after, ripping 73 HRs into the stands, and breaking the single-season record set by McGwire in the magical 1998 season.

Which brings us to the next man left out of the Hall this year: 1998’s other half, Sosa. 

For all his ups (10 straight seasons of 35 HRs, 100+ RBI, a member of the 500 HR club, an NL MVP and HR Derby Champion in 2000) Sosa’s career has been marred by corked bat incidents, steroid allegations, testimony in front of congress denying his use of PEDs, and his slightly awkward change in skin color leaving some to think that he was trying to look more “white.” Considering the oddities in Sosa’s career, he might not have as strong a case as the other players in this article. His batting average was only .273 and that is including likely steroid influenced years. Bonds’ statistics were outstanding before his use. 

Clemens, too, famously appeared before congress, denying use of PED’s through his illustrious career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, which began a lengthy legal circus around his testimony. His career is almost unparalleled, and stands up well among the greats in baseball history: 354 Wins, 1.17 WHIP, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 Ks, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP.


Career numbers like those will continue to be an inconvenient problem for the MLB and the Hall of Fame voters to say no to after a while, once context and perspective can frame the era. Too many pre-steroid era writers and voters refuse to consider the careers of the tainted players, though some were Hall of Fame worthy before their alleged or confirmed usage.

To fix the Hall of Fame’s steroid era problem, there isn’t one quick fix solution. Realistically, time may be the only thing to forward the conversation to a better solution than exclusion. Personally, I’d be OK with a ”steroid era wing” or at least a description of the allegations briefly stated on their plaques in the Hall. For example:


This makes a clear statement that while a great player, the integrity of his numbers is to be questioned and his career deserves a closer look than just a look at his stats. This statement could of course be amended per player, if they tested positively or were found to have cheated. 

No solution will be perfect, but much like when the NCAA sanctions a school, it’s not as if that team didn’t exist or no one saw the BCS game they won; and it’s certainly not as if steroid era players who hit more than 60 home runs and seven-time Cy Young award-winning pitchers never happened. They did, and baseball needs to recognize that. This era cannot be swept under the rug, and its records forgotten. If voters cannot agree to the candidacy of steroid tainted players, perhaps they should be replaced by veterans of the game, who may be a better judge to weigh the careers of the accused.

Who closer to the game, more knowledgeable, more trustworthy than former players, to be the key holders to the greatest club in all of sports? A jury of their peers.

When writers reflect back on this past era in baseball, they will note that several of its greats made the Hall of Fame. As for the list of lucky players, it will be up to time, and the voters, to tell us who they’ll be.

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No Easy Answers to the Steroid Problem for Baseball’s Hall of Fame Voters

For years, we all have known the day was coming when the stars from the steroids era would be on the Hall of Fame ballot. They all should get in. None of them should ever get in. Believing there is one answer that will resolve this problem in a way that makes complete sense is reserved for the Skip Baylesses of the world. The rest of us know this situation is far too complicated and that there is just no easy way to make it right.

There is no option that makes complete sense. More importantly, there is no option that will make anyone feel good about what is going on.

The question then becomes, what do we think is most important?  Preserving the history of the game? The dignity of the game? The respect for those who played before? Is there any way to do that? Will any option successfully address any of those questions?

Is it worse to keep out someone who might have been clean than it is to admit a cheater?

Are there players we think cheated but can say even without steroids, they would have been Hall of Famers? Should that matter?

Let’s take a step back. What happened in baseball? Marginal players took steroids to become good players. Good players to become great. And great to become legendary. We know about a few, there are many we suspect, and there are many, many more out there.

They each took something illegal that was not against the rules, that was not being tested, that those who ran the sport simply did not care about and that those who covered the game could not be bothered to care about (that is until someone un-likeable began to challenge sacred records).

I get why they cheated. It was a risk and to most players, it was worth the risk. Baseball players certainly are not the first group to see a risk/reward situation and decide the reward far outweighs the risk. Right now, if any of us were offered something that would make us better at our jobs and more money, wouldn’t we all take it? And wouldn’t most of us take it even if it were illegal if we thought there was little chance at repercussion?


I am not that far removed from college. How many people in college or grad school or med school or law school took something illegal to help stay awake, to help focus, to help study, in order to get a better grade on an exam?

So, I get it. But just because I get it, and the players are not the only ones to blame, does that mean what happened is ok? Does that mean there should be rewards as if nothing happened? I think no, but those are much more difficult questions to answer than most people that I see talking on TV want to admi

Baseball could have handled this much better. What if baseball several years ago gave its players a limited window to confess to what they did? A one-time get of jail-free card of sorts.

This could have been an attempt to put the steroid era behind us; to know who did what but to also stop the speculation. If a player was truthful, there would be no repercussions and it would not be used against them when it came time to vote for the Hall of Fame, an implicit acknowledgment by those who run baseball that they were as responsible for the steroids era as the players were.

Maybe that never could have worked, for no other reason than those who run baseball never wanted to truly accept any responsibility.

But should that let the players off the hook?

Just because I get why the players took steroids, and I get that we are all responsible for what took place, does that mean they should be in the Hall of Fame?

What if McGwire and Sosa and Bonds and Clemens had been voted in? What do they say during their induction speeches? Would we hear anything they had to say anyway?

I know those players were not the only ones and I know the reality is that most players were probably on something at one time or another.

I also know that steroids were not the first black mark on the history of baseball. For years, white players played only against white players. Had baseball not been segregated, would those same players from that era be in the Hall of Fame?

What about amphetamines? What about cocaine?

All good points.  This may be childish, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Right?

I have no vote (obviously) and will never have one. I don’t think there is a right answer and there definitely is not a good answer. For me though, I originally agreed with the idea expressed by Buster Olney and others, that we don’t know who did what, so we just have to vote everyone in who deserves it on their career alone.

I changed my mind though. I don’t know if I am right, but I don’t know if anyone can be right on this topic.  This isn‘t about either trying to feel superior, or about some notion of “what do I tell my kids?” 

But, being in the Hall of Fame is a tremendous individual accomplishment; there is no greater. Yes, the Hall of Fame is a museum, but the players inducted are inducted as a personal award. The Hall of Fame can have a section on the steroid era and explain it for history’s sake. But we don’t need the individual players being inducted to remember that history.

I understand, too, the argument that we don’t know everyone who was cheating, so it is unfair to punish the few we do know, when most players were likely on something. I don’t think that is reason to vote someone into the Hall of Fame.

Across the country, everyday in criminal courtrooms, people are convicted of crimes. We don’t know everyone who committed robbery, but that doesn’t stop us from convicting someone for robbery. There are even cases where multiple people are suspected of being involved in a single crime; we can convict one even when we don’t know everyone involved.

If I got caught cheating on a test while in college, could I have escaped punishment by telling the Dean I wasn’t the only one cheating? Or by saying, I only cheated that one time on one exam, but even without that exam, I still should pass? I’d probably have been laughed at.

There is no answer that makes me happy. But, I keep coming back to the idea of seeing someone we all know cheated being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of giving a speech. Of getting a plaque to hang next to Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. Those are images I am just not comfortable with.

Induction is an individual honor that comes with many perks, including financial ones. Those who cheated the game should not get the benefit of any of those perks.

It isn’t to single the few out or to think that keeping them out of the Hall will make me feel better about what happened. It won’t. I understand why they did what they did; I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same. But they did it, they took the chance and they got exposed.

There are consequences.

Returning to the criminal law comparison, when judges sentence defendants, often times there is mitigation that explains why the crime happened, and many times, one might even understand why the person committed the crime in a given situation. But, there are still consequences.

We will never know the full truth. That is one of many shames of what happened in baseball. It doesn’t mean we pretend we know nothing.

Tests or no tests, those who vote for the Hall of Fame were around the game during the steroids era. They each have ideas; they each have eyes and ears.  They each saw things during that time that they likely either didn’t truly realize at the time or that they chose to ignore. They are complicit in what happened as well. But they can’t ignore what they know.

So, if I had a vote, if there was a player that, based on the best information I can put together, took steroids, I don’t think I would ever vote for that player. I get what and why they did it; I don’t even necessarily blame them. I don’t think anything should be taken away, but they should not be given the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Will some mistakes be made?  Unfortunately, yes. But maybe that is the price to be paid for allowing steroids to have had such an impact on the game of baseball for so long, while all involved acted as if nothing was wrong. All we can do is make the best decisions with the best information we can gather.

The Hall of Fame is about individual achievement, and baseball more than any other sport is about compiling numbers throughout one’s career. Steroids, at their most basic, were about finding a way to add more numbers in one’s career—maybe that meant adding muscle and speed, but often it was just about being able to get on the field quicker and for a longer amount of time.

That is no different than what likely went on before steroids with other substances or what goes on in different sports. But everyone in baseball knew steroids were there and acted otherwise. They all benefited at the time, and now there is nothing that can really be done. However, just because we know why it happened, and just because we know nothing can change the past, does not mean we need to honor those who we believe were involved.

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2013 MLB Hall of Fame: How Voters Should Judge the Steroid Era

The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame class has been all over the news lately.

The announcement comes Wednesday, Jan. 9., and this year marks the first time that the some of the game’s greatest but also most controversial players—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling—are eligible to be elected.

MLB Network has brought in everybody and their mother to give their two cents on who should be elected and how the era should be evaluated based on the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs.

Opinions on the subject are widely varied.

Some experts and observers accept that it was just the era that these players played in and are willing to overlook cheating to include players like Bonds, who despite admitting to unknowingly using steroids, is still the all-time home run leader.

Another option was to induct them later and hold them off of the first ballot as protest. Some say that any player suspected should be kept from baseball immortality.

One final opinion that has been posed by former reliever Dan Plesac and others—one that I find completely absurd—is that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, where either everyone should be withheld or everyone should be considered as if they did nothing wrong.

Starting with allowing them in or postponing their admission: cheaters are cheaters. Bonds used a substance and he even admitted it. Inducting Bonds, who forever put a black mark on the entire league, into the same class as role models like Cal Ripken Jr. and Jackie Robinson goes against everything that the Hall of Fame should stand for.

I’m also of the belief that it withholding a vote until a certain amount of time has passed is silly. Either the player is a Hall of Famer or not. In the end, it’s not like there are different tiers of the Hall of Fame.

On the subject of penalizing anyone suspected, that goes against everything America stands for. As citizens, we are innocent until proven guilty and that should carry over to baseball.

It’s pretty easy to say who definitely took drugs. Positive tests and admissions of guilt are valid proof that players cheated. Therefore, they should never be Hall of Famers. It’s a much tougher call on players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, such as Roger Clemens. I am a Clemens hater, mostly because I really dislike the Yankees and the World Series broken bat incident with Mike Piazza.

But he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, nobody could ever prove that he took steroids. Whether or not you believe that he was clean is your opinion, but just because you think he cheated doesn’t mean that he did. Clemens is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and if Ryan Braun stays clean and productive, he should make it too.

The all-or-nothing proposal is just silly. Making sweeping generalizations is usually not smart and that’s how stereotypes form. Penalizing players for just being in the steroid era, whether or not they had any link to steroids at all, is just wrong. Players should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

In summation, every player is different, so each should be evaluated individually. If they have been proven guilty, they are out. If they are not proven guilty, they can be considered. In my opinion, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire are out. When Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon become eligible, they are out too. Clemens, Bagwell and Piazza deserve to be in.

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Hall of Fame Vote 2013: Why Roger Clemens Deserves to Be in Cooperstown

There was a time when all of us figured that Roger Clemens would be a stone-cold lock to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame when his time came.

Well, his time has come, as Clemens’ place on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot became official last week. Over the last few years, however, his status as a stone-cold lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown has steadily been whittled away.

The Rocket’s Hall of Fame status is now a giant question mark. Given all that’s come out about him and his alleged PED use in the last few years, does he really deserve to go into the Hall of Fame next summer?

It’s a question I’ve wrestled with quite a bit—for the exact same reasons, I suspect, that everyone else has wrestled with it. I’m sure that at one point in the past, my answer was an emphatic no. I probably even put it in print (bonus points to anyone who can find out).

But today’s the day I say yes. Today’s the day I’m ready to endorse Roger Clemens as a deserving candidate for entry into the Hall of Fame, in print and everything.

Some of you are Rabble!-Rabble!-Rabble!-ing right now, and I want you to know ahead of time that I totally understand. But I implore you to hear me out anyway, especially if you already have half a mind to head down to the comments section to voice your disagreement.

Let’s not yell. Let’s talk.

We can start with the obvious reasons for why Clemens deserves to be represented in Cooperstown. As far as his numbers and accolades are concerned, he is without a doubt one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game.

In 24 big league seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, Clemens racked up 354 victories and 4,672 strikeouts. He ranks ninth on the all-time list in wins and third on the all-time strikeout list behind only Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Clemens led the league in ERA seven times and in strikeouts five times. He was an 11-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion and the American League MVP in 1986. He is the only pitcher in history to win seven Cy Young awards.

Clemens’ career ERA of 3.12 is only good for 212th on the all-time list, but it’s not fair to compare pitchers from different eras using ERA as a primary measuring stick. It’s better to compare them based on ERA+, a statistic that adjusts for ballparks and for league quality.

The Rocket compiled an ERA+ of 143 in his 24 seasons. That’s good enough for 10th on the all-time list, which is more like it.

In terms of WAR—because everyone loves WAR—Clemens ranks second among right-handed pitchers behind Walter Johnson with a career WAR of 133.1, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

That encapsulates just how easy it is to argue that Clemens is one of the greatest right-handers to ever play the game. It’s also quite easy to argue that he is the greatest right-hander to ever play the game.

After all, Clemens’ career WAR is nearly as high as Johnson’s despite the fact he appeared in nearly 100 fewer games. Johnson was also pitching well before Major League Baseball was integrated, meaning the overall quality of the league wasn’t as strong as it should have been.

Clemens, on the other hand, was pitching many decades after integration, not to mention at a time when the league was becoming more and more multicultural with each passing year.

He also played during the Steroid Era, which I think is safe to say did far more wonders for hitters than it did for pitchers. Clemens succeeded anyway, winning four Cy Youngs from 1997 to 2004.

Ah yes, but what of Clemens’ part in the Steroid Era? Is he not one of the main poster boys for the blasted thing? Did he not partake of the same sweet, career-making nectar as everyone else?

I don’t know. Neither do you, if you feel like being honest. 

With the exception of Clemens himself, nobody knows. His ties to the Steroid Era always were and still are damning, but they never were very strong, and now we know that they’re actually very weak.

Clemens first became one of the primary villains of the Steroid Era when his name was mentioned a shocking 82 times in the Mitchell Report, but his name may not have been mentioned at all had it not been for the testimony of former Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee.

McNamee went on to become the star witness for the prosecution in Clemens’ perjury trial, an upshot of his questionable testimony before Congress in 2008 that he had never used PEDs. McNamee came with his guns loaded, saying that he had injected Clemens with steroids several times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he even provided evidence of the injections.

But Clemens’ defense had no trouble utterly destroying McNamee‘s credibility, and Clemens ultimately walked away with no convictions. As summarized by ESPN.com:

McNamee was the only person to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using steroids and HGH, and even prosecutors conceded their star witness was a “flawed man.” Clemens’ lawyers relentlessly attacked McNamee‘s credibility and integrity. They pointed out that his story had changed over the years and implied that he conjured up the allegations against Clemens to placate federal investigators.

Former teammate Andy Pettitte, the prosecution’s other star witness, also turned out to be unreliable. The prosecution was hoping that Pettitte would magically recall a conversation he may have had with Clemens in which he had admitted to using PEDs, but the defense got him to admit that there was at least a “50-50” chance that he may have misunderstood what he had heard.

Pettitte has been attacked for changing his story from what he told Congress in 2008, but props go out to Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk for being one of the few who have consistently pointed out that Pettitte’s story never actually changed. From the moment he was deposed by the government in 2008, Pettitte was uncertain about what he had heard in conversations with Clemens in 1999 and 2005.

If the testimonies of McNamee and Pettitte can be discredited—as they easily were in court—then there’s not much to suggest that Clemens actually did use PEDs during his playing days. Not even Jose Canseco, who thinks virtually everyone used steroids but doesn’t believe Clemens was juicing while he was playing.  

To boot, there’s no positive test for the Rocket on file, and the circumstantial evidence against Clemens is pretty flimsy

Yes, Clemens did begin a remarkable career turnaround in 1997 with the Blue Jays at the age of 34, but it was only three years prior that he posted a 2.85 ERA and an AL-best 176 ERA+. It’s certainly possible that PEDs are what led him to become a dominant pitcher again, but it’s also possible that he was simply able to overcome a couple bad years in a row.

As for how Clemens managed to be so successful between the ages of 34 and 44, it’s not like the success he experienced in that time frame was unprecedented. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Clemens is one of 11 pitchers in history to accumulate a WAR of at least 34.9 between the ages of 34 and 44.

Also on that list are names like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, whose long careers can be easily credited to hard work and freakish physical gifts that came naturally. It could be that such things allowed Clemens’ career to last so long, as he has insisted all along.

It’s perfectly OK to be suspicious of that actually being the case. I have my own suspicions about Clemens, and the recent survey carried out by the Associated Press makes it pretty clear that plenty of Hall of Fame voters have suspicions about Clemens.

All signs point toward these suspicions being enough for the voters to keep Clemens out of the Hall of Fame this year. Suspicions have managed to keep out Jeff Bagwell, after all, and his ties to PEDs are as weak as can be, if not altogether nonexistent.

But mere suspicions aren’t good enough. By keeping players out of the Hall of Fame based solely on suspicions, voters are effectively punishing players for staining the integrity of the game despite not having real proof that they did stain the integrity of the game.

A charge like that is too serious to be made so easily. And since it is being made so easily, I worry that all the greats from the Steroid Era may be considered guilty by association in the same way that Bagwell is being considered guilty by association. If so, that would put players like Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and even Derek Jeter at risk of being left out of Cooperstown.

Instead of considering all the greats from the Steroid Era under the same umbrella of suspicion, their cases should be handled individually. The only question that needs to be asked is how much proof there really is that they cheated their way to great accomplishments.

There’s solid proof against Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and plenty of others. The proof against Clemens, however, has been revealed to be well below solid.

Like it or not, the only thing that can be proved about him is that he was an excellent pitcher in his time, and one of the greatest to ever toe the rubber on a major league mound.

As long as the Rocket remains out from 2013 onward, the Hall of Fame will be incomplete.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 


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Roger Clemens: Beleaguered Veteran Has No Room to Start Making Demands

Roger Clemens has always been a bit bullheaded.

But demanding he not only pitch in the majors, but also pitch against a contender at 50 years old is going too far.

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said on Monday that “there’s a possibility” Clemens will pitch for baseball’s worst team this season, but he noted that he wouldn’t start him against a contender.

Clemens quickly responded, telling KRIV-Houston, via ESPN:

I can tell you right now and they would know, too, that if I was going to go do it, I am going to pitch against a contender, that’s who I want to knock out. Why would I want to waste my time running around and getting in shape. I get over to Minute Maid (Park), I’ll crank it up and get it over 90 for a contender. We’ll knock them right out of the playoffs. That would be the fun. Pitching against somebody that’s not in contention wouldn’t be any fun for me.

It’s not going to happen.

There are a few things wrong with this statement.

Why would Clemens want to “waste” his time getting in shape if he won’t pitch for a contender? Well, that’s simple, because he’s been “wasting” his time in an independent league for an opportunity to pitch in the majors.

When you are turning 51 years old in August, your resume sort of goes out the window.

Whatever your thoughts are about Clemens’ connection with the infamous Mitchell Report, that’s beside the point. The point is, he’s acting like the self-entitled superathlete who makes fans bitter about professional sports. The Astros are frankly doing him a favor by entertaining the thought of adding him to the roster.

Also, I’m sorry that pitching against a non-contender “wouldn’t be fun” for Clemens, but baseball is a team game—no matter how bad that team is. Clemens makes his stance clear: I am above the team. 

How about doing it just to get back to playing baseball for the love of the game? You know, that special feeling you get when you and your teammates rally for a victory, or fight valiantly in defeat?

That is apparently a long-lost feeling for the Rocket.

The sad news is that the Astros could conceivably bow to Clemens’ demands, because the fanbase is fed up and, frankly, Clemens sells tickets. Don’t think the seven-time Cy Young winner doesn’t know that.

One thing’s for sure: Clemens has already hurt his reputation, even if you dismiss the allegations of him taking performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.


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