Clemens’ Hall candidacy now in doubt

December 15, 2007 at 8:33 pm (Baseball) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On his climb to 300 wins, Roger Clemens made a point to learn all about baseball’s greatest pitchers.As he joined their ranks, Clemens kept pictures of the old-timers in his locker. He’d reach in to grab his glove, history would stare back. Lefty Grove, Early Wynn, Rube Marquard — they all kept watch.

Clemens clearly knows the game’s past, so he’s surely aware of this: The mere mention of steroid suspicion can block the door to the Hall of Fame.

Through his lawyer, Clemens has denied using illegal drugs. Some were wondering, though, after his teammate, friend and training partner, Andy Pettitte, admitted trying human growth hormone.

Bob Feller wasn’t swayed by anything Clemens had to say.

“You know what I think?” the renowned right-hander said. “I think there should be two Hall of Fames. One for drug losers and one for non-drug losers.”

So, would he put Clemens alongside him in Cooperstown?

“I don’t think he’d get my vote,” Feller said by telephone. “He was a great pitcher, but I don’t like liars. I saw the whole press conference, and there should be consequences.”

With fans still buzzing about the Mitchell Report, baseball is sorting out the ramifications.

Almost assuredly, no asterisks will appear in the record book to denote big numbers achieved during the Steroids Era. Mitchell himself has cautioned commissioner Bud Selig about meting out suspensions and penalties.

“It all comes down to the Hall of Fame, really,” said Dennis Eckersley, a Hall member himself. “That’s what we’re talking about. Should a guy be in there?”

Eckersley briefly was Clemens’ teammate in Boston and called him “maybe the greatest pitcher of his generation.” There are 20 Clemens-related items now housed at the Hall.

“Is he guilty? I don’t know. It’s like with Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. Do you believe they did it? It comes down to what you think. Me, I want to wait a while and see what comes out.”

Fact is, most people may not care whether Matt Franco, Fernando Vina and many of the other 85 players implicated in the report used performance-enhancing drugs.

Since the Mitchell Report was released, three players named in the list have publicly admitted they took HGH: Pettitte, F.P. Santangelo and, according to The Washington Post, Gary Bennett. David Justice, who’s on the current Hall ballot, and Alex Cabrera said they were innocent.

For Clemens, the Hall vote could be referendum on his legacy, his 354 career wins, his seven Cy Young Awards and his place in history.

Clemens was mentioned 82 times in the report and, through his lawyer, denied all allegations. For years, references about the Rocket often included the phrase “future Hall of Famer.”

That’s definitely in doubt now.

After McGwire’s career was complete, a poor performance in front of a Congressional panel asking about steroids cost him.

On his first try at making the Hall, the man who ranked eighth on the all-time home run list with 583 received a scant 23.5 percent of the votes this year in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It takes 75 percent for election.

At 45, Clemens has not said whether he’ll return next year to pitch for the New York Yankees, Houston or anywhere else. He becomes eligible for the Hall five years after throwing his last pitch.

So, what’s the early scouting report on Clemens’ chances?

“Some people are quick to say until they have documented proof that Clemens was involved with steroids he’d get their vote for the Hall of Fame. My approach is just the opposite: Until he and all the others in question can prove they did not use performance-enhancing substances I will not vote for them,” USA Today writer Hal Bodley said.

“Not on the first ballot, not on the 15th. To say there is no proof they did use steroids is just an easy cop-out.”

Other voters want to wait before making up their minds.

“It will be very difficult for him to get in, even though his career stats before alleged use (like Bonds) are worthy of Hall consideration. Can’t say whether I will vote for him or not. Five years is a long time for much more information on the Steroids Era to be divulged,” said Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune.

Added Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News: “Instead of judging players on whether or not they used performance-enhancing substances, I think the focus now shifts to measuring their performance within the context of the Steroid Era.”

Come Monday, a copy of the Mitchell Report will be at the Hall of Fame for review by researchers.

Clemens is already well represented at Cooperstown. There are balls, gloves, spikes, a cap, a pitching rubber and dirt from the mound, marking his historic performances. There are no plans to alter how any of them are shown.

“At some point soon, we will address performance enhancers in the musuem, as a whole,” Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said. “We need to put that story into context, which is just beginning to take shape.”

“But artifacts from players listed in the report, on display, are simply on display and visitors are allowed to draw their own conclusions about how they feel,” he said.

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