Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds Deserve Hall of Fame Induction
The argument against Clemens and Bonds is valid. They, allegedly, juiced. Both men faced action in court and both beat perjury raps. If you are looking for boy scouts with gaudy numbers to enshrine, look elsewhere.
The impact Clemens and Bonds delivered to Boston, Pittsburgh and San Francisco trumps the vanity displayed later. When on their game for nearly a decade, Clemens could not lose and Bonds found a way to win. Two of the four faces on baseball’s PED Mount Rushmore—joining Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire—the pair sealed their own fate the moment they tried to fool father time.
In turn, the Baseball Writers Association of America treats the majority of stars from the 1990s with the same care an elementary school teacher treats her unruly class. Lights off and heads down to cover the pair of kids acting like brats. How many players bought into the siren song of better living through chemistry remains a mystery. The percentage of users is higher than most of us care to admit, but lower than the rampant rumors flying around. In trying to play the role of defenders of the game, or covering their looking the other way during those years, the BBWAA has excluded sure-fire hall of famers such as Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza from having their day. Two players never linked to anything but guilt by association.
Thanks Roger and Barry for lumping an entire generation in with you.
Still, even with the damage done to their fellow greats, Clemens and Bonds deserve their day under the New York sun. Why?
If we can take Bonds at his word that the discovery of McGwire’s bottle of Andro in his Shea Stadium locker during the summer of 1998 was the primary reason for Bonds to seek a boost, then we can assume at the first decade of his career being clean. What did he achieve? Three MVP awards, two National League Eastern Division titles, nearly another trip to the playoffs with the San Francisco Giants in 1993 and a triple crown bid the same season.
Yes, the numbers became cartoonish after 1998. Bonds, who never hit higher than .336 in 1993 for a season, suddenly won two hitting titles with averages over .360. In 2002, at 37, Bonds hit .370. The year before, he crushed 73 home runs. In the process of passing Hank Aaron’s career home run record, Bonds turned the NL into an old version of RBI Baseball for the Nintendo.
For a decade between 1987 and 1997, there was no hitter feared more or an outfielder who could run balls down like Bonds.
The case for Clemens is similar.
From 1986 to 1992, Clemens never had a season where he failed to win less than 17 games. A major factor in the Boston Red Sox great run during the late 80s, he won four ERA titles and led the American League in strikeouts twice. Not bad for a player that would show up to Spring Training every year bloated and out of shape. If you look at the 13 years he pitched for the Red Sox alone, his case for Cooperstown is there. Four division titles, one pennant, an ERA of 3.06, 2590 strikeouts and a franchise-record 192 wins. Before Pedro Martinez became must-see television in New England, Clemens held six states captive every fifth day.
As with Bonds, the numbers stopped being realistic once he left for Toronto in 1997. Clemens did things in his 40s for the Houston Astros a decade ago that an ace half his age would struggle doing. His hits-per-nine mark of 6.4 in 2005 nearly matched his eye popping 6.3 set in 1986.
Few people are going to regale you with stories about how nice these men were during their career. Fans loathed Clemens and considered Bonds chase of Aaron a joke. Clemens threw at bat at Piazza during the 2000 World Series. If you wanted your children to understand the warmth and affection from baseball players, these two players are on the top of the list.
On the other hand, we should not lump these two with the likes of Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez or Rafael Palmerio. Since athletic competition became serious, participants have looked for an edge. Whether it was legal was not their concern. Major League Baseball did not ban steroids until 2005. Yes, the federal government banished their use years before, but until ten years ago, there was not a policy in place to punish failed tests.
Delaying Bonds and Clemens immediate admission into the Hall of Fame is valid. They played fast and loose with the spirit of the sport. At some point, however, someone already enshrined will admit to using steroids and all the holier-than-thou attitude the voters use to punish this generation of players will be for naught.
Bonds and Clemens are worthy of scorn and criticism, but they are equally worthy of being celebrated. Someday, they will be.