Hall of Fame debate: Roger Clemens’ dominance tarnished by PED allegations

If this were just about numbers, Roger Clemens would have been inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame eight years ago.

If this were simply about the annals of history, Clemens would go down as perhaps the greatest pitcher in the last century.

If this were only about pitching dominance, Clemens may be the greatest right-handed pitcher of all time.

But here we are, in the ninth year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and Clemens is still short of election, and running out of time.

He and Barry Bonds, one of the greatest hitters of all-time, are joined at the hip.

If one gets in, the other gets in.

If one stays out, the other stays out.

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They will be forever linked by steroid allegations, with Clemens appearing in George Mitchell’s 2007 report on performance-enhancing drugs, accused by his trainer, Brian McNamee, of using PEDs.

Clemens went to court, spent millions of dollars clearing his name and has never been convicted.

It hasn’t made a difference, with his vote total slowly creeping up to 61% last year, and trending 10% higher this year, according to Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame ballot tracker. But he still needs to get to 75%.

Roger Clemens won 354 games — ninth best all-time — in his 24-year career. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

The case for

Ok, where do you want to start?

The 354 victories, ninth-most in MLB history?

The 4,672 strikeouts, third-most in MLB history?

The seven ERA titles, while leading the league in strikeouts five times and victories four times?

The record seven Cy Young awards, plus an MVP award and 11-Star appearances?

The two World Series championships and six pennants.

Producing the third-highest WAR for a pitcher in baseball history (139.2) behind only immortals Cy Young and Walter Johnson, and nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.3).

Or how about his sheer dominance pitching in the heart of the steroid era, when teams were hitting 3,813 homers during his first full season in 1986 to 5,528 in 1999.

Remember, it wasn’t as if Clemens was facing hitters that were clean during the wild-wild west of steroid use before drug testing in 2005.

The case against

Clemens never tested positive, never flunked a single drug test, never admitted to steroid use, but no one believes he was clean.

It didn’t even matter that he was acquitted of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress when he denied using steroids.

He was guilty in the court of public opinion.

Although there are several strongly suspected steroid users in the Hall of Fame, none had a smoking gun like Clemens with his personal trainer detailing steroid use in the Mitchell Report.

Voting trends

Clemens debuted in 2013 with 37.6% of the vote, surged above 50% for the first time in 2017, but his vote percentage has remained largely flat the past four years.

In Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, he is at 71.2%, but the final number is expected to be at least 5% lower when the actual votes are announced Jan. 26.

His momentum for induction has stalled, leaving his fate with the voters in 2022.

  • 2013: 37.6%
  • 2014: 35.4%
  • 2015: 37.5%
  • 2016: 45.2%
  • 2017: 54.1%
  • 2018: 51.2%
  • 2019: 59.5%
  • 2020: 61%


It appears there is no chance Clemens will be inducted this year, leaving 2022 as his final shot.

He will appear on the ballot next year with Alex Rodriguez, who received the longest PED suspension in baseball history, and David Ortiz, who failed a drug test when players were offered anonymity in 2003, according to the New York Times.

If voters are going to check the boxes for Rodriguez or Ortiz, it would be hypocritical to leave off Clemens or Bonds.

And if voters are going to exclude Clemens and Bonds for a final time in 2022, how can they ever elect A-Rod, Robinson Cano or any other players who were suspended for drug use.

Clemens is down to his last strike.

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