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September 07, 2012; Sugar Land, TX, USA; Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher Roger Clemens (21) waves to the crowd after coming out of the game in the fourth inning against the Long Island Ducks at Constellation Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Clemens And The Hall Of Fame

Slam dunk, no-brainer, no-doubter, no-questions-asked automatic Hall of Famer. That was Roger Clemens, who, along with Greg Maddux was the pre-eminent starting pitcher of his era.

And then all of the questions began. Did Clemens use performance-enhancing drugs? Did Clemens cheat the game? Did Clemens break rules? Or even laws? According to those who sat in judgment of him when Clemens was charged with law-breaking, he is an innocent man, so toss the law-breaker item out.

If ever a page filled with numbers can be considered as beautiful as a work of art then Clemens’ lifetime resume is worthy of being hung in a museum. A power pitcher out of Texas, Clemens at his best was certainly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. For a baseball aficionado just reading his body of work gives the spine a little tingle. Watching Clemens work on the mound, his fastball blazing at 95 and that powerful arm, big trunk and sturdy legs working cohesively, he was something. At 6-foot-4 and something like 220 pounds, Clemens was very appropriately nicknamed “The Rocket.”

Roger at his best just killed batters. They flailed around helplessly like uncoordinated toddlers with a plastic bat trying to connect with a whiffle ball. The guy struck out 20 batters in a nine-inning game–twice. That makes Eliot Ness look touchable.

Clemens spent 24 seasons in the big leagues and didn’t retire until he was 44. He played for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros and while compiling a record of 354-184 he won 20 or more games six times. Some of Clemens’ seasonal marks were astonishing. He went 24-4 for Boston, 21-7 for Toronto, 20-3 for New York, and 18-4 for Houston. Seven times he won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher of the year in his league.

The strong right-hander’s career earned run average was 3.12 and Clemens won seven ERA titles. He threw as many as eight shutouts in a season and led his league in strikeouts five times. Clemens’ K total of 4,672 is third in history behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. He is ninth on the all-time wins list and threw 4,916 2/3 big-league innings. That’s the 16th highest total. Besides being an 11-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, Clemens was the Most Valuable Player of the American League in 1986.

It is little known, and perhaps forgotten by those who did know, that when Clemens was snubbed by the Red Sox and granted free agency in 1986 he had won more games in team history than anyone but Cy Young. They remain tied atop of the club records list with 196 victories each. The Red Sox obviously made a premature judgement about how much Clemens had left in the gas tank when they sent him away. That was a good motivator to bounce back and show them a thing or two.

Clemens pitched during the era when power hitters were accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs to aid their careers and eventually the accusation got around to including pitchers. He was accused in baseball’s Mitchell Report of taking such drugs, however. Clemens was summoned to testify before a Congressional committee on the topic and under oath said he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. Later, he was indicted and charged with six counts of perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress.

Twice Clemens went to court to face those charges. The first time the case was thrown out immediately on a mistrial because of prosecutorial misconduct. When the prosecutors decided to retry the case, Clemens was found not guilty on all counts. In August of this year Clemens, now 50, made a guest pitching appearance for an independent league team called the Sugar Land Skeeters in Texas near where he lives. Hints and rumors suggested Clemens might make a Major League comeback with the Astros before the end of the season, but that did not happen.

For all of his denials, and despite his being exonerated in court, it is very clear that many members of the Baseball Writers Association of America still believe that Clemens took performance-enhancing drugs and some have indicated publicly that they will not vote for him for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame when they turn in their ballots by Dec. 31.

A player who solely based on on-field merit might have received 100 percent of the vote may end up with less than the 75 percent required for induction. It will be a case of whether Clemens’ numbers outweigh suspicions.

Tags: Hall Of Fame Houston Astros New York Yankees Roger Clemens

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