Hall of Fame Case: Roger Clemens

Hall of Fame Case: Roger Clemens

by December 18, 2020 2 comments

Roger Clemens is on the ballot for the ninth time this year. His statistics are easily Cooperstown-worthy, but obviously, there are other things to consider. Still needing an extra 14 percent of the vote and time running out, can the Rocket finally get in?

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Hall of Fame Cases.

Clemens was one of the best pitchers in history. Unfortunately, fairly or not, the cloud of the steroid era is darker over him than most. Let’s take a look at the Rocket’s dominance between the lines.

Career Summary

William Roger Clemens was drafted originally by the New York Mets in 1981 in the 12th round. Clemens chose not to sign and instead went on to the University of Texas where he was an All-American twice and winner of the 1983 College World Series. The Boston Red Sox then took Clemens with the 19th pick in the 1983 draft. He would get to the big leagues the following year, but it didn’t start off well for the young fireballer. In his first six major league starts Clemens sported a 7.13 ERA in 35 1/3 innings, allowing 56 hits while batters had an even .900 OPS against him. He would obviously turn it around. He pitched to a 3.31 ERA the rest of the way before having surgery to fix a torn labrum in September.

The Rocket Launches

In 1986 Clemens won the Cy Young award as well as the American League MVP going 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA, 0.969 WHIP, and 238 strikeouts. He pitched for the Red Sox until 1996. In that time he won 20 games three times, led the league in ERA four times, led the league in Ks twice, and won three CYAs. The Rocket also achieved the rare feat of striking out 20 batters in a game…and he did it twice. The first time was on April 29, 1986, at home against the Seattle Mariners. The second time was on Sept. 18, 1996, in Detroit against the Tigers. Clemens would only pitch two more games for Boston as he would sign with the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason.

Life After Boston

Most people thought the Sox would re-sign Clemens and he would retire having played for one team. GM Dan Duquette made comments about having Clemens into the twilight of his career. That didn’t go over well and the Rocket took his talents to Toronto with something to prove. And prove it he did. In 1997 and 1998 Clemens won the CYA and the pitching triple crown. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they were not very good and Clemens wanted a ring. He was traded as pitchers and catchers reported in February 1999, to the New York Yankees for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells.

The big righty pitched for the Yankees from 1999-2003 winning championships in ’99 and ’00 and even grabbing his sixth CYA in 2001. New York made the playoffs each year of Roger’s tenure and he performed well in the postseason. In 100 IP Clemens went 7-4 with a 3.24 ERA while striking out 98.

The Final Years

Just when it looked like the 41-year-old starter would retire, he came back for the Houston Astros. He won his seventh and final CYA in 2004. The following year he led the league with a 1.87 ERA and the Astros to their first-ever World Series appearance. After being swept by the Chicago White Sox, the Rocket looked like he might retire. He didn’t. Instead, he came back to Houston for one more year. In 2007 the soon to be 45-year-old Clemens signed with the Yankees for the remainder of the season. The final regular-season start of his career ironically came at Fenway Park on Sept. 16, 2007, against Curt Schilling.

Pros

There really isn’t much to say in regards to Clemens’ on-the-field resume. Strictly by the numbers, he should’ve been in long ago:

  • 7 CYAs
  • MVP
  • 2x WS Champ
  • 3rd All-Time in Ks (4,672)
  • 3rd All-Time rWAR for pitchers (138.7)
  • 6th All-Time ERA+ for SP min. 2,000 IP (143)

I could go on, but at this point, it should be abundantly obvious that Clemens was one of the best pitchers in the history of the game.

Cons

When we think of the steroid era, we generally think of hitters. Clemens’ name has been lumped in with fellow Hall of Fame hopefuls Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa as well as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. While the whole validity of Clemens’ use or non-use of steroids is in question, fellow pitcher Andy Pettitte admitted to using HGH to heal faster which corroborated statements from Clemens’ personal trainer Brian McNamee. Even though the Rocket never tested positive and was never found guilty in court, many still believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That dark cloud of suspicion still hangs over Clemens.

Verdict

Clemens should’ve given his acceptance speech back in 2013 as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Unfortunately, despite the lack of evidence, the Mitchell Report seems to hold more weight with some voters. Clemens is on the ballot for the ninth time and received 61 percent of the vote last year. He received 59.5 percent the year before and seems to be running out of time. Unless he can make a significant jump, it is unlikely he will get in. He is the pitching version of Bonds. He was dominant, an all-time great, and is seen as a cheater. Despite what the voters think happened, Roger Clemens should be inducted into Cooperstown.

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2 Comments so far

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  1. stroquest
    #1 stroquest 24 January, 2021, 15:36

    Your article glosses over discussing if the Mitchell report is credible. Is there any reason to believe that it is not? There are numerous instances where there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence & even in many courts that is adequate to convict. People like track star Marion Jones never tested positive but was conclusively exposed-finally confessing-& even if he never was caught with “The Clear”, the evidence against Barry Bonds is massive.

    The Mitchell report was very cautious & even with limited powers granted showed many cheating. I am aware of nobody they implicated who was innocent. Clemens had a Bonds-like improbably late career renaissance & many resurgences during it.
    Clemens & Bonds were good enough to justify getting into the HOF based upon what they did *before* they added extra muscle mass & were using PEDs.

    So I would be in favor of letting both in: IF they apologized & showed genuine remorse.
    The character clause covers conduct that effects baseball, & certainly the outcome of games.
    Players who cheated & lied steal glory from others, many times major league spots & effectively more talented player’s reams, extra money…And what effectively are corrupt victories for their team.
    From all the players who refused to take illegal advantages.

    Show us that it is unlikely the Mitchell report is correct. That would be an unusual opinion that I do not believe can be justified.
    Otherwise honoring him rewards corruption, send the wrong message to fans & children, & hurts the reputation of the game.

    Letting him admit the Truth & be repentant after lying for many years to gain adulation & acceptance is very fair.

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