Howard Herman: Clemens OK, the others, no

Sunday December 2, 2012

The Hall of Fame ballots have been sent to voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Many of them have very difficult choices ahead of them.

Of the 24 first-year candidates on the ballot, three of them have been front and center in the debate over performance-enhancement substances. What will the BBWAA members do about Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

I am not a card-carrying member of the BBWAA, and I am pretty happy that I don't have an actual vote. Were I to have a ballot, each of the aforementioned trio would be treated differently.

I've been thinking about the Clemens nomination especially, and my thinking has changed on him. Were I to have a vote, I would cast a ballot in favor of Roger Clemen's induction into Cooperstown.

According to an Associated Press survey of voters, none of the three received 50 percent of support from the BBWAA. That obviously means it's going to take a while for any of the three.

I understand that Clemens is at the heart of the steroids controversy, a major part of the Mitchell Report, and anecdotal evidence points toward the Rocket having used PEDs during his time in Toronto and New York.

But his time in Boston alone has earned Clemens a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Clemens played 13 years in Boston, a career for just about anybody. In those 13 years, he had a 192-111 record, a 3.06 earned-run average and he struck out 2,590 batters in 2,776 innings.

He participated in four postseasons with the Red Sox, including the 1986 World Series.

During Clemens' time in Boston, he led the American League in ERA four times, complete games twice, made five All-Star teams and won three Cy Young Awards that is given to the best pitcher.

If you are in the "He used steroids" camp, you still must admit that in the pre-PED era, Clemens was a first-ballot Hall of Famer for his performance. This is why I feel comfortable now drawing the line between the 13 years in Boston and the other 11 years of Clemens' big league career.

While The Rocket won 41 more games in Toronto, 83 with the Yankees and 38 in Houston, he is still probably best-known on the bump for his 13 seasons in Boston.

Sosa is probably the easiest one to vote against. A pretty good player when he first came up to the bigs, were it not for his corked bat and then his alleged PED use, he might never have been on anyone's radar screen. He might have been a Shane Victorino with more power, but no Hall of Famer.

Not even the stirring home run battle with Mark McGwire would stir this writer, assuming I had a vote.

Which leads me to Bonds. He was on track to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer off his seven years in Pittsburgh.

In eight years with the Pirates, he was a multiple-tools guy. In his last year in Pittsburgh, Bonds hit .311, hit 34 home runs, drove in 103 and was 39 of 47 in stolen bases. He ended up with 251 steals in seven years, but 263 in twice as many years with the Giants.

Had he stayed the player he was with the Pirates, we wouldn't be having this discussion. We are, and I still can't bring myself to say I'd vote for Barry Bonds as a Hall of Famer.


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