Rocket fueled by syringes: How does this impact Roger Clemens' legacy?

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.

Categories: Barry Bonds Bonds/Steroids Brian McNamee Jose Canseco New York Yankees Roger Clemens Roger Clemens and the Mitchell Report Toronto Blue Jays

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

32 Responses to “Rocket fueled by syringes: How does this impact Roger Clemens' legacy?” Subscribe

  1. Michael Edelman December 13, 2007 at 8:38 PM #

    It's good for the game because he cheated. If he cheated, he should be caught. That goes for everyone, but baseball can't catch everyone. They'll just have to hope that the ones who are caught discourage the ones who aren't.
    And I wonder if this will affect which hat he goes into the HOF wearing. The fact is that he played three times as many years with the Red Sox than he did the Yankees. And the Red Sox were the only team that Clemens was clean with. Will the HOF want to remember him as a young sensation, and face of a franchise, or an old mercenary who cheated?

  2. Bob December 13, 2007 at 8:59 PM #

    I think Clemens was going in with a Red Sox cap anyways simply because he has the most victories, cy youngs, and ks with the Sox not to mention both of his 20 K games came with the Sox. I don't see any use in purging people from the record books because of steroids because its pretty evident that a lot of people were using them from top to bottom.
    That begs another question. How much of a difference do steroids really make? Both Larry Bigbie and Roger Clemens used steroids, Larry Bigbie sucked, Clemens had a lot of sucess. Steroids can make you stronger but they can't improve your eyesight or hand eye coordination or your ability to throw a curveball. I've always thought that that aspect of the whole steroids thing was overlooked for the sake of creating a frenzy.

  3. Mo December 14, 2007 at 1:40 AM #

    Well said Evan. I think all of these players should be in the HOF. We do not really know who was using, and it would be impossible to uncover all the users and keep them out. Furhtermore, as Evan said, the field was littered with these players. Does a Bonds homer count if it was hit off Clemens? I think they should all get in, and the Hall should have a section regarding the steroid era.

  4. Mark December 14, 2007 at 4:18 AM #

    For what it's worth, my most hated baseball player for the past five years has been Clemens and not Bonds (well, 9 actually, since he went to the Yankees on that illegal trade). Nothing surprises me, and he'd been under some scrutiny before. Remember how he said before the 1st season of testing he said something along the lines of "don't be surprised if my performance falters a bit, they pulled my Vioxx!" The man is a scumbag, has always been a scumbag, and will continue to be a scumbag. If only one of those butt-needles had had Hep C on it…

  5. JaredK December 14, 2007 at 4:44 AM #

    Maybe he'll embrace wearing that Sox hat in the Hall…

  6. Kristy Fasano December 14, 2007 at 5:45 AM #

    Excellent article with a lot of valid points…I wish the Yankees site was this good. I do hope that any discerning writers with the ability to vote for HOF inductees will come to the same conclusion- they're all in or they're all out- no picking and choosing just because Clemens has the more affable personality.
    I can't imagine a HOF that doesn't include Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds because like it or not both of their careers have defined the baseball of my generation. And I will admit firsthand that it was McGwire's homerun chase that captivated me enough to really bring me back to baseball after the disgrace that was '94…that, and well the Yankees victories in 96, 98,99, and 2000.

  7. Mr. Furious December 14, 2007 at 5:51 AM #

    Put 'em all in the HOF. They are all equally guilty by the same equally weak evidence and hearsay. Clemens and Bonds in particular were all ready HOFers before this started. If nothing else, the amount of pitchers named, to me, helps "equalize" the accusations against Bonds. Not excuse, but equalize. If the pitchers were using too it mitigates advantages that were previously only attributed to hitters.
    I don't think there is any doubt about their guilt in my mind, but I think the whole report is filled with sketchy "proof" that would never hold up in court. I also think the list is hardly definitive. To pretend that these ninety guys are the only guilty ones is a joke. And to persecute them based on that is not fair. These are the guys who got caught due to this investigation and these connections/witnesses.
    After seeing the variety of players who used I can hardly look at some of the guys NOT named and assume they are/were clean

  8. Mr. Furious December 14, 2007 at 5:54 AM #

    I've long thought that Clemens' late-career surge was just as suspicious as Bonds' and have wondered why he has managed to avoid the scrutiny.
    I think it's more than race

  9. Kristy Fasano December 14, 2007 at 10:02 AM #

    OH but the one thing I disagree with is that
    "This is not a good era for baseball. It

  10. Eric SanInocencio December 14, 2007 at 6:28 AM #

    My only worry is that Selig's statement of "case-by-case" basis will leave him a loophole to punish Bonds further instead of everyone involved.
    I feel that not only should Clemens and Bonds records stand, but everyone else's as well. These players were great before they took the PED route, and to my knowledge there isn't an equation in the world that can compute the numbers difference because they took steroids.
    You have to count the whole era, it is the only way to fairly assess what happened. Those who call for removal of records can't justify what to erase. You can't tell me that only 50-80 players took PED's the last decade.
    Also, unless you have a positive test in front of you, any other claims of abuse are strictly hearsay and inconclusive. In a court of law it can never be proven.

  11. Evan Brunell December 14, 2007 at 10:04 AM #

    Good points all, but:
    This is a good era for baseball only in terms of attendance. In terms of PR…. [silence]
    Love to see Rocket in with a Sox hat, just don't see it happening.

  12. Dave B December 14, 2007 at 11:10 AM #

    How can anyone say that this is a good era for baseball. Yesterday was the most embarrassing days since the Black Sox. I'm not saying the Mitchell Report says much of anything, i'm just saying that it perpetuates the talk of steroids.
    How much does steroids help? I can't answer that but it increased Bonds home run rate by what 20 HRs a season. It got Clemens ERA down to a sub-2. Drugs don't effect everyone in the same way.
    I am so happy to see Clemens busted. It is not because i dislike Clemens, but it puts this era into context. Bonds has been the scape goat this whole time. A good 20-30% of players were juicing and thats that. Bonds was the best at it.

  13. Mostly Running. December 14, 2007 at 3:39 PM #

    Back in the early 90's i ran into Clemens at a restaurant in Florida during spring training. I was 12 years old, I approached him and politely said: "Excuse me Mr. Clemens. I would love to catch your fastball someday. May I have your autograph?"
    He was dining alone, no one was drooling over him and I kept my voice down. He told me to get lost. I've hated him since that day, hated him when he was a sock, and now find a bit of closure. What goes around comes around little man with the tainted career.

  14. Anonymous December 14, 2007 at 3:52 PM #

    Dave, I understand where there is embarassment- this whole thing has been nothing but shameful.From the players dabbling, to the coaches turned heads, to the writer's failure to exploit the situation, and the Commissioner's inability to institute more stringent testing and prevention measures…and to us, as fan, for being so enthralled with bombers that we didn't look past Bonds splash's into McCovey Cove until he broke 700 and we all began to realize how close he was to shattering the holy grail of baseball records.
    I am saying its a good day because finally baseball is being forced to deal with this issue. Because the entire world is watching, and they've seen baseball at its worst, and they've seen baseball flush itself out, and now they are watching to see how baseball will handle its future. It's been humiliating and humbling, but now more than ever baseball has a chance to make a statement and preserve its integrity. Baseball was the first sport to step up and do this, to put itself on the chopping block and let it all hang out. It's more than football can say, and no one in their right mind can tell me there isn't a steroid issue in football. And now, more than ever, I am proud to call myself a baseball fan.

  15. Kristy Fasano December 14, 2007 at 3:54 PM #

    Oppps….Sorry, sometimes I get so excited I forget to put my name in the appropriate field. Apparently my college education failed to equip me with the ability to follow directions.

  16. Zach December 14, 2007 at 4:45 PM #

    The HOF committee decides on what hat Clemens goes in with, right? With this Mitchell Report outlining that Roger was only clean with Boston, you can bet he'll go in with a Red Sox hat now. I had doubts before because he seems like the kind of jackass who would wear a Yankee hat (he did win the WS twice there.., still a jackass)

  17. Kristy Fasano December 14, 2007 at 4:55 PM #

    Zach, I am pretty confident that while writers and the veterans committee decide who gets in and who doesn't- the player themselves chooses what hat they will be bronzed in.

  18. kevin r December 14, 2007 at 1:11 PM #

    How much of a difference do steroids really make?
    On a Nationals blog, re: Nook Logan, someone posted “This has destroyed my faith in performance-enhancing drugs.”

  19. Evan Brunell December 14, 2007 at 1:40 PM #

    Kristy: Nope, that changed a few years ago. Now it's a vote by the Committee.

  20. Bob December 14, 2007 at 1:43 PM #

    nope the committee decides. Wade Boggs had a deal with Tampa Bay to go in with their hat, but the committee made the decision and put him in with a Boston hat.

  21. Kristy Fasano December 14, 2007 at 2:16 PM #

    Thank you for correcting me. I actually looked it up after I posted the comment (maybe in the future I will look up the facts previous to responding…sorry zach!), and here's what I got from USA TODAY way back from Winfield's days:
    "The Hall wants to keep the issue from becoming controversial by avoiding any link between a cap logo and a slick marketing scheme. It also will enforce an unwritten rule that the Hall reserves the right to decide the logo on a player's cap.
    "History is not marketable," Hall President Dale Petroskey says. "Our responsibility is to communicate history accurately.""
    I guess I remember when Mr. October chose to go in as a Yankee, and that's where I was shooting from.
    Also, in response to everyone's comments regarding how the Rocket will enter the HOF I found this from ESPN from three years ago (Which really means nothing considering we all have been witness to how often Roger changes his mind…)
    _______________________________________
    "Clemens said Saturday he will not attend his own induction ceremony if he is not allowed to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the New York Yankees…"
    "Somebody told me there are a couple of guys who don't even have a hat on," Clemens said. "But that would be disrespectful to what Mr. (George) Steinbrenner has given me: an opportunity to come here and continue my career, to be able to achieve these moments and become a Hall of Famer."
    "I became a Hall of Famer here," Clemens added. "If I'd have listened to people there [in Boston], then I'd have been done. Not people. One person that evaluated my skills and he didn't take the time to get to know me."
    "Clemens left Boston as a free agent after the 1996 season when general manager Dan Duquette and the Red Sox figured that his best years were behind him. Clemens then signed with the Blue Jays and won the Cy Young in each of his two years in Toronto. He was then traded to the Yankees."
    _________________________________
    Now we all have strong speculations as to why his career rebounded in Toronto- but regardless, this is straight from the horses mouth.

  22. Bob December 14, 2007 at 2:26 PM #

    Personally I don't care, and I don't think many Red Sox fans have much affinity left for Clemens, but considering he spent more years, won more awards, and had his 2 20 strikeout games with Boston, based on personal achievements you'd have to think that the committee would put him in in a Boston hat. He's reconciled himself to Sox ownership since making those comments also. Especially now since Boston is the only team that it can be said he was clean for (he may have started using with the Red Sox, but it's doubtful he did it until the 90s when he was on his way out).
    As for the whole best pitcher in recent memory stuff, I always thought that Pedro was better in his prime, it was unfortunate that he had the shoulder problems because he was head and shoulders better than everyone else in his prime. Clemens had more longevity, but I've never heard Pedro's name linked to steroids, and since it was a Mets clubhouse guy who provided most of the names you'd think Pedro would have come up if he was using.

  23. Bob December 14, 2007 at 2:28 PM #

    Rosenthal just reported that the As sent Haren to the DBacks for a package of prospects that he didnt specify.

  24. Craig December 15, 2007 at 1:54 AM #

    Bonds was a legitimate HoF candidate before he began using. It would not surprise me to see him miss out the first year – I think many of writers will withhold their votes to register their fury/disgust at Bonds in particular and steroid usage in general. But he'll get in and he deserves to. Evan, one thing, greatest hitter . . . ? You aren't suggesting, I hope, that he was the greatest hitter ever. If so, I'll take Teddy Ballgame and the 6 seasons he missed in the prime of his career every time.
    Clemens. He's a legitimate HoFer as well. To be consistent, if writers withhold their votes on Bonds, they should do so on Clemens as well, but he'll get in. Even with the alleged steroid usage, he's still got a strong claim as the greatest pitcher of his generation. What's in doubt now is his claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Up until Wednesday of this week he was on a very short list of pitchers who could lay claim to that title – now, he's probably not in the discussion.
    All that said, this whole mess just leaves me depressed. And I can't help but think that in the end, Mitchell's report will do little to bring about real change (MLB has already begun to clamp down). Frankly, this was all about perception:
    1. The public's perception that MLB was serious about eliminating PEDs.
    2. Capitol Hill's perception that MLB was serious as well – to protect it's anti-trust exemption.
    Part of me would really like to see Bonds', Clemens', etc. records and achievements completely stricken from the record, but PEDs appear to have been so pervasive that I don't think you can do that. In the end, as Evan suggests, MLB will just have to label our era the steroid era and move on. But it still pisses me off.

  25. Steven Roth December 15, 2007 at 9:00 AM #

    "Love to see Rocket in with a Sox hat, just don

  26. Steven Roth December 15, 2007 at 9:01 AM #

    Do the same thing with Bonds, give him a Pirates cap and tell him he has to lose all that muscle and resemble a Steve Urkel look before he addresses the crowd at the Hall.

  27. Evan Brunell December 15, 2007 at 10:12 AM #

    Craig: Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter of this generation. No doubt Williams rules all.

  28. Daniel Rathman December 15, 2007 at 11:21 AM #

    Now this is just plain odd…
    According to Newsday, Roger Clemens might come back again next year, and he would prefer to finish his career with the Red Sox (though he'd more likely go to Houston).
    I think he should sign with the Sox, and then promptly announce his retirement, making it more likely that he'd go into the HOF with a Sox cap.

  29. Shane December 15, 2007 at 11:34 AM #

    I couldn't care less what cap Roger has on.

  30. Evan Brunell December 15, 2007 at 1:06 PM #

    Houston makes the most sense, and I think he'll end up there.

  31. Michael Edelman December 15, 2007 at 1:25 PM #

    No way he'd sign with the Red Sox. There's no reason why they'd be interested in him. Not only do they already have too many starters, but Roger barely kept it together in half a year's work last year WHILE he was likely using steroids.

  32. Bob December 15, 2007 at 1:38 PM #

    Roger in a Sox uniform makes no sense. No one liked him to begin with and after the steroid allegations he shouldn't expect any sympathy. I doubt Houston would even take him, he was clearly washed up last year and couldn't stay healthy, he should just give it up and retire. At this point I think we can agree that pretty much everyone is sick of Roger's mercenary, in and out of retirement act. He's made plenty of money and set plenty of records and he should just hang it up now.