Roger Clemens not worthy of Baseball Hall of Fame induction despite not guilty verdict at perjury trial

Baseball writers will be next judge and jury Roger Clemens faces

By Bill Madden
The Daily News
June 19, 2012

Roger Clemens emerged from a federal courthouse in Washington late Monday afternoon acquitted of all counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements before Congress.

It was a throwback of 91 years, to a time when Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven of his Chicago White Sox teammates and co-defendants walked out of the Cook County courthouse in Chicago acquitted of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series.

Acquitted all of them in the court of law for their crimes against baseball, but not so in the court of public opinion. Clemens himself conceded as much in his testimony at the 2008 congressional hearing when he said: “No matter what we discuss here, I’m never going to have my name restored.”

Nevertheless, Clemens spent millions of dollars in legal fees — refusing a plea deal — to do just that: to have his adamant denials of using performance-enhancing drugs validated by a jury of his peers.

He did so because he desperately wants to have his career and all that “hard work” that went into those 354 wins, third-most strikeouts (4,672) and record seven Cy Young Awards get validated by being voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association.

The problem Clemens is going to have with that, however, is that the crimes for which he was acquitted Monday had nothing to do with whether he did or didn’t use steroids and, despite the court verdict, there is still considerable evidence he was a cheater.

I suspect a prime reason for the jurors – many of whom had to jar themselves to stay awake during the tedious nine-week trial — reaching their verdict so quickly was because they concluded this was a baseball issue and not a federal case.

And so they threw it out, like a used baseball, right into the laps of the baseball writers, who will be Clemens’ next judge and jury, beginning in January. That is when he will make his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot along with fellow alleged steroid cheats Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza, the former Met who, though never named in the Mitchell Report, has been tainted. The writers have made a clear statement about how they feel about steroids cheats with their dismissal of Mark McGwire with less than 20% of the vote (with 75% necessary for election) and Rafael Palmeiro with just 12.6% last year.

As one fellow voter said to me Monday: “It’s hard enough to get 75% if there is no taint on you.”

In that respect, Clemens’ choking up upon mentioning “all you media guys who know me and followed my career... I put a lot of hard work into that career” was telling. He wants us to believe those 162 wins and three additional Cy Youngs after the age of 35, after a 10-13 season with the Red Sox in 1996 when Boston GM Dan Duquette dissed him as “entering the twilight of his career,” were all the product of “hard work.” He wants to dismiss the claims of his personal trainer, Brian McNamee, that he repeatedly shot the righthander up with steroids, as the jury did, just as he wants us to “misremember” like he claimed his teammate, Andy Pettitte, did of a conversation in which Clemens allegedly told him about taking human growth hormone.

If nothing else, the jury’s action further muddies this whole steroids/Hall of Fame controversy. A guilty verdict would have made it a whole lot easier for the baseball writers and would have given some needed credence to the Mitchell Report. Its only value was its recommendation that baseball adopt a comprehensive drug-testing program. For that, you have to credit the commissioner, Bud Selig, who wasn’t interested in whether steroids cheats should or should not be in the Hall of Fame, but rather how to get steroids out of his game.
We’ll see, off this acquittal, if Clemens will be able to get past that clause on the Baseball Writers’ Association Hall of Fame ballot about sportsmanship and integrity.

I can’t speak for my brethren, but I take that clause seriously and will vote accordingly. It has been my stance that if you want me to vote for all of these guys — Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, the rest — sheerly because they have reached Hall of Fame numbers, then take the clause out of the ballot.

He can feel justifiably elated by Monday’s verdict, but at the same time, Clemens might want to take a gander back at history and the statement baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis issued the day after the eight “Black Sox” were acquitted: “Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Even though Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the greatest hitters of all time, was acquitted in court, he never played another game in the majors, and there is no plaque for him in the Hall of Fame.

Nor — unless circumstances and criteria are changed by the Hall of Fame — should there be one for Clemens.