Roger Clemens spent 14 years in the Boston Red Sox organization. He is tied for first place in all-time Red Sox victories with Cy Young and his Hall of Fame plaque has already been made.
Despite the vitrol of Red Sox fans, the clarity of the fact that Clemens prefers the Yankees organization (remember, he’s comparing the Yankees organization to the Yawkey Trust organization; not hard to figure out why he prefers the Yankees organization to that) and the fact that no one considers Clemens’ legacy as a Red Sox when factoring in his career, one thing is for sure:
Roger Clemens will leave a lasting legacy on the game when he departs, and the majority of that legacy will be with the Red Sox. Clemens would have to pitch two more years in order to match the length of time he’s stayed in the majors post-Red Sox with the time he spent with the Red Sox.
Clemens won three Cy Youngs with the Red Sox and came within one strike away from a World Series ring (I know, I know, the blister…). With the Blue Jays, he reinvented his career (and now we know how) and won back-to-back Cy Youngs. He headed to New York, won two more Cy Youngs and added two World Series rings to his resume.
He’s probably entering the Hall of Fame as a New York Yankee.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the majority of his career was with the Red Sox and the news that Clemens is heavily implicated in using steroids (he issued a standard, creampuff denial of those allegations, by the way) is nonetheless jarring. The greatest pitcher of a generation who captivates the world every year with his decision on whether or not to retire has been fingered as a performance enhancer. A liar. A cheat.
Those words may delight the ordinary Red Sox fan (and for good reason) but they don’t delight me.
How is it good for the game that the greatest pitcher and greatest hitter of all time used performance enhancing substances?
How is it good for the game that for the last five or so years Barry Bonds has been the most hated sports figure of all time while Roger Clemens got a free pass?
The same rumors surrounded Roger Clemens that embroiled Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds is probably headed the way of Mark McGwire: a chair next to Pete Rose signing autographs every summer during the Hall of Fame induction rather than sitting behind the new inductees in the esteemed chairs of those already in the Hall.
Let’s run through the known history of Roger Clemens and performance enhancing substances:
- In 1998, Roger Clemens was in his second year in Toronto (this means he had already won a Cy Young after posting a 2.05 ERA, by the way). His new strength and conditioning coach, hired that year in Brian McNamee, became aware that Roger Clemens was using steroids. (This means Roger Clemens could have been using in 1997 or even with the Red Sox, a fact most people fail to realize). 1998 was the first documented time (so far) that Roger Clemens allegedly used P.E.D.s (Performance Enhancing Drugs).
- Jose Canseco was also a member of this 1998 team (he played with the Red Sox in 1995 and 1996… hint hint). In June of 1998, McNamee observed Clemens and Canseco discussing steroids: their benefits and usage.
- McNamee personally injected Roger Clemens four times over a period of several weeks starting in late June. At this time, Clemens obtained Anadrol-50 but did not use it and McNamee disposed of it.
- Clemens says that the steroids have a very good effect on him and McNamee observes increased effectiveness pitching. He was also training and dieting better during this time period.
- Clemens was traded to the Yankees in 1999 and posted a 4.60 ERA, a year after posting a 2.65 ERA in 1998. McNamee followed him a year later after Clemens persuaded the Yankees to do so. In the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens decided to use again and was injected by McNamee four to six times with testosterone from a bottle and human growth hormone supplied by Kurt Radomski (Radomski and McNamee were the information suppliers in the Mitchell Report).
- Clemens shaves a full run off his year and finishes the year with a 3.70 ERA. He did not use again until August 2001, and then McNamee injected him four or five times with either Sustanon or Deca-Durabolin (testosterone). To McNamee’s knowledge, Clemens did not use hGH in 2001 because he disliked “the bellybutton shot.” Clemens goes 20-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 2001 and a Cy Young. Clemens’ splits from the year 2001 show decreased endurance and effectiveness in July, which may have prompted the decision.
- Clemens continued to work with McNamee through 2007. (That will undoubtedly change.)
Roger Clemens has never tested positive for a test and the only evidence against him currently is the testimony of Brian McNamee, who has also publicly said he never provided Clemens with any type of PED (but “confessed” after being threatened with government action if he lied).
Barry Bonds has never tested positive for a test and the only evidence against him currently is that of a government who says he knowingly took steroids (he says he took them but did not know).
The difference here is we know that Barry Bonds took steroids (but if he did take them unknowingly, that matters a lot).
Mark McGwire has never tested positive for a test and has never said he took steroids (although he was seen with a bottle of androstenedione in 1998).
Of these three players, the only person who is likely to make the Hall is Roger Clemens.
What does Roger have that Bonds and McGwire don’t have? Is it the fact that he’s a pitcher? That he played for the Yankees?
Let’s throw McGwire out for a second. How terrible does it look along racial lines?
This is a world I think that is very peaceful (at least in America) along racial lines, but everyone enjoys whipping themselves in a frenzy over any perceived racial slight (like Arthur Blank and the fried chicken comment — not to get off on a tangent, but this world is trying so hard to be politically correct that it’s becoming politically incorrect in its correctness… if you can wrap your head around that).
So in this world of politically incorrect correctness, Roger Clemens is skating into the Hall of Fame on wings of angels while Barry Bonds is hammered into the ground and fights in the pits of hell. It will further push the racial agenda that permeates everything these days.
But this is baseball, not racism, so let’s get off that tangent. Bottom line:
The greatest hitter, even on evidence that is flimsy as best, has been crucified and left for dead.
If Roger Clemens makes the Hall of Fame on similarly flimsy evidence and Barry Bonds does not, the integrity of the game will forever be tarnished.
In the headline to this story (Rocket fueled by syringes: How does this impact Roger Clemens’ legacy?) I asked how this impacts Roger Clemens’ legacy.
In short: it’s too early to tell. Clemens testing positive for steroids comes as no surprise to me (but honestly, you could not surprise me with any name, and that’s sad) but how the media and how the fans react to this news will be very telling of the double standard in baseball. It’s not okay for Barry Bonds to deny knowingly using steroids while having no one come forward saying that Bonds used steroids with first-hand knowledge, but it’s okay for Roger Clemens to deny using steroids while having someone who injected him with steroids say otherwise?
This is not a good era for baseball. It’s not a good position for Commissioner Bud Selig to be in.
Absolve everyone. Label it the steroid era and move on. Buster Olney of ESPN had it right: everyone essentially played on the same playing field in the steroid era, so those who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame in this era, judged against the peers who most likely used steroids, should be in the Hall of Fame. You can’t cherry pick.
If Barry Bonds is worthy of this vitrol, so is Roger Clemens.