Three former Boston Red Sox who should be in Cooperstown
By Drew Athans
“Wait a minute…I thought you said no known steroid users like McGwire or Sosa?” I can hear you asking yourself. Hear me out, because this is where I’m going to split hairs a little bit. Unlike those other cheaters mentioned above, Roger Clemens was never actually proven to have used PEDs. Do we all think he did? Yes. Does most of the circumstantial evidence around him make it look like he did? Sure does. Was he ever actually punished by MLB for using PEDs? No. The same goes for Barry Bonds. Those two were well on the Hall of Fame path before they started juicing, unlike the others I’ve mentioned.
With that (slightly sleazy) distinction out-of-the-way, just look at the numbers. While guys like McGwire and Sosa were rather one-dimensional in their achievements and their PED use directly impacted it, Clemens was a prototypical dominating power pitcher during his twelve-year Red Sox career.
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From 1984-1996, Clemens racked up 192 wins and 2,590 strikeouts for the Red Sox, both franchise records. He won three American League Cy Young Awards (1986, 1987, 1991) with the team as well as the American League MVP in 1986. He also set the Major League record for strikeouts in a single nine-inning game, whiffing twenty Seattle Mariners in 1986. For good measure, he accomplished the feat again versus the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
Based on just his Red Sox career alone, Clemens was probably a Hall of Famer. After 1996, he went on to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros, and he kept racking up the milestones. Clemens finished his career with 354 wins (and 184 losses), 4,672 strikeouts (the third most all-time), and a record seven Cy Young Awards. His career ERA was 3.12 and he was an eleven-time All Star and two-time World Series champion. He won the pitching Triple Crown twice, led MLB in wins four times, ERA seven times, and the American League in strikeouts five times.
On numbers alone, Clemens is a no-doubt Hall of Famer and one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Would he have finished with numbers almost as good after 1996 whether he’d remained with the Red Sox or not? Almost certainly. The PED accusations and his Congressional trial for lying under oath (for which, need I remind you, he was found not guilty) have sullied his reputation as did the accusations that he had an affair with Mindy McCready in the early 1990s.
Still, Clemens was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame and while his number 21 hasn’t been retired, no one has worn it since he left the team in 1996. He and Bonds alone among the big steroid-era names have been gaining steady support each year during Hall of Fame voting and it will probably only be a matter of time before he gets in. It will be long overdue, regardless of how you feel about him.