The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce on January 4, 2014 who they have chosen for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Chances are again that Roger Clemens will not receive THE phone call from Cooperstown.
Should he be enshrined?
If you disregard the performance enhancing drug use, then the answer is, “Hell, yes!”
Clemens won 354 games in his 24-year career, struck out 4672 batters and had a career ERA of 3.12, or 43 percent better than league average. Cooperstown was built for Clemens, if you just ignore that he cheated.
So, maybe the better question to ask is can you make a case for Clemens for enshrinement when he pitched clean? The short answer is yes. Here is why:
If you study his complete record, you can see that he likely started using either in his last year with the Boston Red Sox in 1996 or after he signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays, at 34, in 1997. Clemens went 10-13 his last year with Boston with a 3.63 ERA. Hs first season with the Jays, the record was 21-7 with an ERA of 2.05. His strikeout-per-9 ratio started rising again during 1996, not common as pitchers age, and hit a then career-high of 10.0 in 1997.
If we want to judge his worthiness for Cooperstown, anything after he left the Sox is off the table.
With that in mind, in the 13 seasons Clemens pitched with Boston, his 192-111 record with 2590 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.06 puts him in the driver’s seat for induction. Clemens possessed magical control and kept hitters off base. Allowing 7.6 hits-per-nine and carrying a WHIP of 1.158 from 1984 until 1996 only strengthens his case. His ERA+ was 144 or 44 percent better than the average American League pitcher during that era.
Clemens won three Cy Young Awards, a Most Valuable Player Award for his breakthrough season of 1986 and selected to five All-Star Games. Surprisingly enough, he never pitched a Triple Crown (wins, ERA and strikeout leader) season. (Clemens did that twice in a row with Toronto.)
If Clemens had a career-ending injury after 1996 and never pitched again, you would be hard pressed to say he was short of Cooperstown standards. If he went through a normal career-aging trend, he would have likely won around 250-275 games, easily cleared 3,000 strikeouts and had an ERA under 3.40. Ticket punched.
To go along with being surly, like Barry Bonds, Clemens cannot hide from his PED past. As with Bonds, you can make the solid case that Clemens body of work clean is good enough to get in despite his prickly personality.
However, until a current Hall of Famer comes out as being a doper, or is outed, Clemens will watch every January and be disappointed. Clemens let his ego get in the way and lost. That, however, should not take away the years of dominant pitching he gave to the Boston Red Sox and the four divisional championships they won with him on the mound every fifth day.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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