Roger Clemens throws during minor league batting practice at Houston Spring Training at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee Florida. According to reports Clemens will be indicted for lying to Congress during his testimony about performance-enhancing drugs. (Photo by Scott A. Miller/Getty Images)
After being acquitted by a jury, Roger Clemens carries no official taint of steroid use. But will his acquittal make a difference to Hall of Fame voters?
Okay, so National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg isn't exactly an authority on sports.
But when Nina Totenberg speaks, millions of people listen. Tuesday morning, she reported on the resolution of the Rogers Clemens trial and concluded with this: "For Clemens, the verdict was as close to exoneration as a public figure can get in a case like this, and it will likely mean that the pitching star known as "the Rocket" will one day be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame."
So, Hall of Fame: Yes.
But wait a minute. What about the sports authorities? Why, here's one now ...
No. RT @SherriPizza Do you think anyone affected by the steroid scandal will make the Hall someday?— Ken Davidoff (@KenDavidoff) June 19, 2012
So, Hall of Fame: No.
Davidoff is an actual Hall of Fame voter, and engaged in a long series of Twitter messages with readers on this subject. He doesn't say he won't vote for anyone affected by the steroid scandal; he just thinks none of those guys will get enough support to be elected.
I disagree. For one thing, someday is a long time. It's like, forever. While it's possible and perhaps likely that nobody affected by the steroid scandal will be elected within the next five or 10 years, it also seems possible and perhaps likely that somebody affected by the steroid scandal will be enshrined in the next 15 or 20 years. Or 50 years.
Right? I mean, what if someone was just marginally affected?
Jeff Bagwell was affected, at least in the sense that there have been whispers.
Mike Piazza was affected, in the sense that Murray Chass wrote about Piazza's back acne.
Are both of those guys automatically out?
Davidoff's definition of "affected" is probably a bit more substantial. He probably means players who were named on the Mitchell Report, or were hauled into court at some point, or who admitted using illegal PEDs, or who just flat-out admitted using the stuff.
You know those guys are just the tip of the iceberg, right? That for ever player who's wound up on some list, there are many more who were lucky enough or smart enough to not get caught? I'm highly confident that someone has already been elected to the Hall of Fame, or will be soon, who someday will join that list of players affected by the steroid scandal.
Maybe that's all it will take to open the floodgates. Maybe once an acknowledged or highly suspected drug cheater's been elected, the rest will be reconsidered.
Or maybe something else will happen. Maybe as older voters fall from the electorate, younger voters (like Davidoff) will constitute a large enough percentage to swing the elections toward players affected by the steroid scandal.
Maybe the people who run the Hall of Fame will decide it's really not much of a Hall of Fame without the best hitters from an entire era, and do something. I'm not sure exactly what they could do. I don't think threatening the BBWAA would work, and it would certainly be lousy public relations. But while it's one thing to ban players from the Hall of Fame who have been permanently banned from Organized Baseball, it's quite another to (essentially) ban players from the Hall of Fame who have simply broken baseball rules, when so many other rule-breakers (and law-breakers) are already in the Hall of Fame.
And finally, a play in one act ...
Cooperstown - 2023
youngster: Dad, where is Barry Bonds? And where is Roger Clemens?
dad: Son, they're not here because they broke the rules. They cheated.
youngster: But didn't Gaylord Perry break the rules?
dad: Routinely. But that's different.
dad: Also, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens used drugs to play better.
youngster: But didn't lots of guys do that? Didn't lots of guys in the Hall of Fame eat greenies like I eat Skittles?
dad: Routinely. But that's different.
youngster: Oh. You know what, Dad?
youngster: When I grow up, I want to be a baseball writer, just like you.
and ... scene.