Clemens and Bonds… rethinking the PED era

Baseball-Steroid-Use

Clemens and Bonds… to some folks who think of themselves as true aficionados of the game of baseball those two names can be like pouring gas on a fire considering the heated words the mere mention of their names can bring to the table.

I wrote an article way back in 2008 and I am reprinting here in it’s entirety for every one’s perusal…

At the end of the piece I will write about my thoughts about what I wrote  and why I wrote it when it was published in 2008 and then make an admission….an admission that may or may not surprise some people. Truth be told after I read this I surprised myself with a truth that I had to admit to myself.

So… it may be cliched but I think it’s appropriate… without further ado here is my article that I wrote for Informative Sports some eight years ago in its entirety unchanged except for some minor re-formatting so that it is more easily readable…

clemens & bonds

Clemens and Bonds:
The Hall of Fame*

Should you punish the robbers for acts committed when it was legal to rob a bank? In today’s society (that is full of itself by the way) the answer is yes. Bonds and Clemens should never go to jail for using steroids or HGH…lying to a grand jury is something different all together. It is funny to me that a society that lives in a glass house so freely throws stones…Good Luck to Ledger when he wins the Oscar…never mind the fact that he left a little girl behind…we will find some way as a society to make Ledger’s oops into the feel good story of the Oscars…too bad the same society cannot or rather will not forgive Clemens and Bonds in the same way…truth be told they did nothing wrong…at the time.

I read this a few weeks back. It got me to thinking about the ideas behind the writer’s thoughts and the fact that there is going to be a legitimate debate about the issues he specifies.

You cannot punish someone for a crime if the act was not a crime when it was perpetrated.

Heath Ledger is dead. Sad but true. As far as I know the drugs that he had were all legal prescription drugs … legally obtained and OTC drugs. It was the ignorant manner in which Ledger used the drugs that caused his untimely death, (not that death is ever timely).

If Bonds, Clemens, et al, were doing illegally obtained drugs; if they procured drugs illegally; if they lied to a grand jury then these men have performed activities and offenses against society and against the sport of baseball. They could be, and may be, punished for these crimes by receiving jail time. Should they be put in jail? That is not my decision to make. It is for a court of law to decide. In Clemens’ case it doesn’t look very good that he is not guilty of certain crimes. He should have and still can just come clean and, we, the fans, and, eventually, the sports writers and MLB would have probably find a way to forgive him and welcome him back into the fold after a time of gnashing of the teeth, some holier than thou proclamations and various other processes that we the public will make both him and ourselves be put through.  This exposition however really doesn’t care or deal with any legal punishments or moral issues except as they pertain to MLB and the Hall of Fame. Therefore in consideration of this topic I will turn to Roger Clemens first. And, the fact is I don’t know if he should be allowed in the HOF just purely based on his pre PED numbers and career. My gut reaction is that he compiled the numbers that would have put him over the top for election to the Hall AFTER doing PEDs.  It is my gut feeling. I have no proof… yet.

Roger-Clemens-The question is when did Clemens start doing PEDs? (I am going to make the assumption that he indeed did do PEDs.) Was it when he went to Toronto?  A good argument for that happening could definitely be made. Suddenly his record, his post Boston career, experiences a tremendous spike. So then I need to look at his career numbers with Boston and his career numbers post Boston.

Clemens’ Boston numbers (assuming my math is correct and if anyone wishes to crunch the numbers you most certainly are welcome to do so) look as follows:

Wins = 192; losses = 111 for a .606 won-loss percentage. He had 2590 strikeouts and kept his strike out to walk ratio to at least two strikeouts for every walk, which is better than good. He averaged about 250 innings per year while with Boston, which even then was very good, and, today that is much better than most pitchers can or do accomplish. . He compiled these numbers in thirteen years with the Boston Red Sox. Are they Hall of Fame numbers? He certainly has better numbers than some players currently in the Hall, that is certain, BUT, in my estimation, these are not numbers that would or should entitle him to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  But, also, consider that in his pre-PED career he won the Cy Young award twice, led the league in ERA four times, in wins twice, WHIP twice, Strikeouts three times, complete games twice (1987 he had 18 CG and 1988 he had 14 CG!!!!!), in shutouts five times and was the strikeout to walk  ratio leader four times. Again, very impressive numbers but do just these awards put him over the top for entry into the Hall? I still have to say I do not think this entitles him to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His post Boston career, if legitimate, is more than enough to make him a first ballot electee, and in my book, a unanimous electee to the Hall. But, when most players are in the decline of their careers he is decidedly in the prime of his career. Consider these numbers: Wins = 162; losses = 73 for a .680(!) won-loss percentage. He had 2082 more strikeouts and kept his strike out to walk ratio to that same basic two strikeouts for every walk. And he continued to average almost 200 innings pitched a year, (196 in actuality).  If we throw out the two years in Toronto that accounts for 40 plus wins but how then can we explain his New York Yankees exceptional years in 2001 (20-3 won loss record with 200 plus strikeouts) and in 2003, (17-9 won – loss record with 190 plus strikeouts) and then with Houston in 2004, (18-4 won – loss record with 200 plus strikeouts)???? All after the previous two years, 1999 and 2000, when he won only 13 and 14 games respectively. Only one pitcher, that I am aware of, was able to duplicate this consistency and quality of winning that long into his career and into his forties and that was Warren Spahn. Spahn won twenty or more games from 1953 through 1963 except for two years and then he won 17 and 18 games in those two non-twenty victory years. Spahn had a 23-7 won-loss record in his twenty first year of playing baseball, (but then completely collapsed after that remarkable stretch and ultimately retired). So, yes, someone pitching that well that late in their career is possible, an exception but it is possible. If you look at Warren Spahn’ career there were almost none of the peaks and valleys that appear in Roger Clemens’ career. Spahn consistently won either 20 games during this late period in his career or was very, very close to winning twenty, with Clemens’ career it was either very good or very mediocre at best. So, Spahn appears to have been a very big exception in the world of baseball and quite possibly a freak of nature. Clemens, however, in my estimation had to have had another reason for his “success” that late in his career, because there were just too many swings and no consistency at all. My conclusion: Roger Clemens does not belong in the Hall of Fame. And if I had a vote then every year that he came up for consideration he would not get that vote.

barrybondsWith Bonds we ask the same question that we did regarding Clemens and PED usage. When did he start using PEDs? According to Game of Shadows, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, “….in 1999 Bonds played in only 102 games, hitting 34 home runs — one for every 10.4 at bats, the highest frequency of his career. Bonds had an outstanding year, batting .306, with 49 home runs … a career high and second in the league to Sosa’s 50 … and 106 RBIs. … it had been a breakthrough year, one in which Bonds had completed the transformation of his body and his game and, it seemed, had discovered the Fountain of Youth.  If the pitch was three inches outside the strike zone, Bonds would ignore it and work another base on balls. But if the pitch was located where he could drive it — and in 2001 that seemed to be anywhere in the strike zone — he would take a rip. …at 39 he put up better numbers than he had when in his prime with the Pirates; better numbers, in fact, than at any time before he hooked up with (Greg)Anderson.”

Again, it is my assumption that Bonds did indeed do PEDs. But now we have arrived at a quandary and a very big problem. This time my gut reaction is that he actually did put up the numbers before 1999 that would have eventually allowed him entry into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers of America.  I will allow as evidence the following numbers and achievements, (again, if anyone wishes to check my number crunching feel free.)

Prior to 1999 Barry Bonds’ totals read as follows: He had hit 411 home runs, a batting average of about .280; 1364 runs scored, 1216 runs batted in and had won three MVPs. He was also a leadoff batter for a portion of his career, so that needs to be taken into consideration regarding his career numbers up to the cutoff point when we consider his Hall worthiness. He had won eight gold gloves between 1990 and 1998, missing winning the award only in 1995. During that same time span he was elected to the All Star team eight times, missing only in 1991. He won seven Sliver Slugger awards in that time span; led the league in On Base Percentage four times, in Slugging Percentage three times; In OPS five times and again as I have previously stated had won three MVP awards. He compares very closely to Hall of Famers such as Kirby Puckett (12 year career); gold (16 year career), Harmon Killibrew (22 year career) and Carlton Fisk (24 year career).  Therefore, at this point in his career I would have to assume that he had already attained numbers and achievements that would entitle to Hall consideration and eventual election to the Hall and that he probably would compile even more to his career totals if he stays healthy and we adjusting for age reduced numbers which would then easily enable him entry into the Hall.

But suddenly after this first thirteen years he begins to compile numbers that would make him and a sure first ballot and probably a unanimous electee to the Hall, (but there always seems to be someone who chooses not to allow players that privilege and honor up to this point in MLB history).

So, considering the facts of Barry Bonds’ career up until 1999 the assumption can be made that he probably did have the numbers, statistics and awards to be elected to the Hall. We are now back at the dilemma I alluded to earlier, that if he did indeed use drugs illegally from 1999, (whether they were banned or not by MLB the fact remains that if he used PEDs and did not have a prescription for those drugs then it was an illegal act and that he has further perjured himself by saying he did not use those drugs adding to and compounding his illegal commissions.) should he be allowed into the Hall?  Understand also, it appears no one openly questioned how a 34 year old player could add 15 pounds of muscle weight in the short span of about three months. And it appears that the Giants’ owner and the Giants’ management team had no desire to question Bonds’ possible PED usage. Why would they when Bonds was the biggest draw they had and they were soon to open a new ball park? Besides MLB had not as yet banned steroids although it was illegal to use the drugs without a prescription.  So everyone by omission enabled and put the stamp of approval on Bonds’ usage (as they did with Clemens usage and the general PED usage throughout MLB) of steroids. But you are still responsible for your own actions. And as in Clemens’ case it is true for Bonds also: If he would just say I did it, I was wrong and I am sorry, then, eventually, after a period of “woe is us” he would be forgiven. BUT, again if I have a vote to elect him to the Hall, I say NO!  He cheated and as a cheater I need to include him in the same class as Pete Rose and the eight men out in the Black Sox Scandal. He rewrote the bible of baseball and cheated such great players as Aaron and Ruth of their honorably attained records.

So in answer to the initial thought that led me to speak on the above issues, i.e., “Should you punish the robbers for acts committed when it was legal to rob a bank? In today’s society (that is full of itself by the way) the answer is yes. Bonds and Clemens should never go to jail for using steroids or HGH…” then, actually, the answer has to be “Yes” because the usage of PEDs by either of these players was an illegal act, in and of itself. You cannot obtain PEDs, specifically steroids, without a prescription. So unless either of these men can produce that specified prescription then they committed a crime. And in committing that crime they cheated the game of baseball and should be held accountable for those actions. Whether they should go to jail for such a crime is another matter altogether. But then the poster of the initial statement does go on to ascertain that it is a whole other issue if either of these two men lied to and committed perjury before a grand jury or in giving testimony or evidence to any investigatory legal body or representative of the law and what legal punishments these two should be given. And that, too, is questionable whether these men should do “time”. But my issue is purely with just punishments these two deserve from baseball and whether they should be allowed entry into the Hall of Fame.Bonds and Clemens records

Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds cheated all of baseball, and, this means we the fan, the players and the record books.  They cheated us all, because it was a lie what they were laying claim to on the field of play. The play and the numbers and the records that are put before us should be as honestly attained as possible. They cheated their contemporaries because they in all likelihood took at least one job away from one worthy player that might have been on a MLB roster. And if someone has grievously disrespected and grievously abuse all of baseball then they should be punished accordingly. Thus, in my estimation denial to the Hall is what each of these men deserve. In Barry Bonds’ case it is even a greater tragedy because he was, again in my estimation, going to gain entry into the Hall of Fame eventually. He did it to himself, so for that he does not gain my sympathy but I do pity him for being such a foolish, vain and spiteful man that thought he could cheat his way to bigger fame and glory than he really deserved. His ego, as did Clemens’ ego, is the ultimate tool of his demise, downfall and disgrace.

So what about all the other players who remain undiscovered? Sportswriters, MLB management and we the fans never pressed the question until lately. So what can be done regarding the reality and the veracity of the players who may eventually gain entry into the Hall? What can be done regarding these men who cheat the players who did not use PEDs out of possible yearly awards and league leadership in very important numbers, especially when it comes time to negotiate their contracts? Sadly, there is no way to honestly and justifiably ever know who else actually used PEDs and therefore cheated the game. This period for a time will wear the scarlet letter of cheat. Sadly in the future, I fear, this time period and it records and statistics will be accepted by our grandchildren’s children as factual. And that is a great travesty and tragedy that all players who used PEDs will have perpetrated upon the great game of baseball.

So, these two men, so far, have become the epitome of what MLB had allowed itself to become which was a falsehood and farce to the very game itself. And thus the greatest tragedy of all has been promoted: The innocence lost. Whether imagined or real there was a time when baseball was perceived to be an honest, innocent and true testament to competition and sportsmanship on the field of play. But now that innocence is indeed lost and we will never know what is real, imagined or an outright lie. There is a song called “The Day the Music Died”. We may never pinpoint the exact day the innocence of baseball died but we can point to the era that the innocence was taken from us because of ego and greed.

Submitted 2008

Time heal all wounds including wounded sense of justice & morals…

Now…

Time has a way of changing a peron’s perspective.

Sometimes in a minimal way and sometimes in a rather great way but most times it falls somewhere in-between the two extremes. In the process it… time… also sometimes heals wounds that were once festering and causing blindness where there should be an open mind and a sense of objective reasoning…

Time has in some ways done that to my reasoning and my way of looking at the PED era in regards to the history of Baseball. It has in a manner of speaking sort of healed my wounded sense of morals and justice as regards the “horrendous” crime against the game that certain proven, as well as accused, cheaters had perpetrated against The Game…

Recently, Barry Bonds, has said, “God knows I’m a Hall of Famer. In my fraternity, the game of baseball, there’s not one player who could sit there and say I’m not one and there’s not one coach who ever coached me who ever said I wasn’t one.”

And, Roger Clemens could probably also say the same words… although coming from Clemens they would piss me off whereas when Bonds says them they just seem like a statement of fact. Bonds as arrogant as some have portrayed him, including myself… at least until very recently… he still was never as arrogant and despicable as Clemens ever was as Clemens constantly seemed to besmirch the game as well as many others that he was involved each and every time he opened his mouth.

The point of the matter of all of this is that I have changed my viewpoint from when I first wrote this exposition. I now think Bonds, et al… yeah… even the jackass Clemens… should be elected into the Baseball Hall of fame solely based upon their statistics. If, voters can honestly say that any players numbers are Hall worthy… and who can deny that Bonds with his homeruns totals, as well as many of his other big offensive numbers, or, Clemens with his 300 plus wins, 3000 plus Ks… aren’t numbers that shout out Hall of Famer and would get any other player into the venerable Hall at Cooperstown?

But… but… but, ya’ll say, “Them steroids! What about them steroids? They have no bearing on what those players were able to produce?”

Personally…

Yes, I believe the steroids did inflate the numbers, and, in Clemens situation they more than likely extended his career by another 5 to 10 years so that he could compile his Hall worthy stats.

But, here’s the rub…

How many other players were also using steroids during that same time period and will get into the Hall simply because they didn’t have the notoriety and receive the publicity that either Bonds or Clemens or Palmeiro or Sheffield or Sosa or McGwire or whoever did?ped users

And how many players didn’t cheat at all. Who were they?

We just don’t know… we just will never know…

Plus, everyone… yep, every one including the players, the officals of MLB… aka mangement, the media and we the fans turned a blind eye to what had to be so damn obvious… something was afoot in the game but we were all so damn enthralled with the records being set that we sjurt didn’t give a damn. Baseball… both management and the players… were so taken with the game’s renewed popularity and the money coming into the sport they didn’t dare kill the geese who were laying nthe godlen eggs.  The media had their headlines and their lure for a new generation of fans and other untapped customer bases who were  now interested in the game and hearing about it from the so-called experts.  And, we the paying public… the suckers who so willingly were wont to part with our dollars jsut so we could be witness to the records being broken…  especially the sexist record of them all… the home runs that were being hit, the moon shots that were breaking the records that had stood the test of time… that is until the PED era.

barry-bonds-hrsSo, measured against that perceived standard and the then prevailing permissive attiudes, how do we then take into consideration the players who played in the PED era and their careers? Simply, this… the voters need to look at their numbers just as they would any other era and then vote them into the Hall accordingly…

But, if they… those supposed cheaters… those steroid users… do finally get elected to the Hall it’s with one big caveat… one very, very, very damn humongous caveat…  a notification must be included on their plaque that states without any doubt the allegations were against each player and what their involvement with PEDs actually was… as well as a separate historical display must be established within the historical museum that is the Hall of Fame that explains all that the so-called PED era was and what it meant to Baseball and the bible of Baseball… the record book.

With that caveat and that established display I believe the Hall’s so-called integrity clause can be met and the Hall’s reputation as a museum that presents Baseball’s history in a fair and just manner will also be served.

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