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The statistics show he was the greatest pitcher of his time, and one of the greatest of all time. He won seven Cy Young Awards, two more than anyone else, and was dominating batters into his mid-40s, when pitchers before him had long lost their fastballs. Just as important, a few days ago a jury wasted little time in finding him innocent on charges he lied to Congress about using steroids and HGH.
That doesn't mean he didn't use steroids or HGH. Trainer Brian McNamee claims he injected him often, and former teammate Andy Pettitte testified Clemens told him during a workout in Texas that he had used HGH, though he later backed off that claim. There was certainly enough circumstantial evidence introduced in the trial to raise more than just a little suspicion, even if the jury decided against convicting him of lying.
I'm a member of the BBWAA, though I don't have a Hall of Fame vote. If I did, I'd be leaving a lot of names unchecked this year.
Bonds and Sosa, for sure. Probably Mike Piazza, too, because his career blossomed in the steroid era and his numbers fell off precipitously after the first round of testing began.
Coincidental? Maybe. Unfair? Possibly. Unfortunately, everyone who played the last 25 years and posted big numbers has to be judged under the same cloud.
That includes Clemens, who correctly predicted in his 2008 testimony before Congress: "No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored." The trial may have given him some vindication, but he won't find many believers among fans who have listened to player after player deny using steroids, even when they're caught by testing.
If nothing else, the wounds inflicted on baseball by steroids are just too raw to induct anyone even remotely suspicious right now. We didn't rush to judgment on their steroid use, and there's no need to rush to induct any of this year's class. Why not allow a few years to go by to properly digest their role in it and see if any new evidence turns up to make the decision more clear cut?
Indeed, there may come a time in the not-so-distant future when Clemens is welcomed into the Hall of Fame, no strings attached.
That time is not now.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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