Roger Clemens, Steroids and the Baseball Morality Police

There are still a lot of people upset about last week's Roger Clemens verdict. Sure, most of the people appear to be sportswriters and not actual taxpaying citizens, but that's beside the point. Sportswriter Ken Rosenthal and his baseball-reporting pals see the whole thing as a travesty of justice that once again is going to force them to actually make some hard decisions about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I'm not a Roger Clemens fan. I never have been. I never will be. I also don't have a Hall of Fame vote, but if I did, I would vote for Clemens. The guy has the stats, of that there's no doubt. Did he bend a few rules? Probably. And you know what? I don't give a damn, and neither should you, Ken Rosenthal or any of Rosenthal's buddies who don't want a cheater in the Hall of Fame.

Rosenthal wrote after the verdict that he's not sure what he's going to do about Clemens besides voting "no" the first year that Clemens is on the ballot. And I'm fine with that. I think it's stupid, either the guy's a Hall of Famer or he's not, but if he wants to hold off for a year because of steroids, then fine.

But here's where it gets really stupid. Rosenthal wrote that "as I've written before, I vote 'no' on virtually every player from the steroid era as a way of distinguishing them from the greats of the past. Is that an unfair penalty for candidates thought to be non-users? Yes, but all of the players were part of a union that had the power to implement change."

Do you know what that means? That means that he's voting no to Ken Griffey Jr. That means he's voting no to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and Randy Johnson and Chipper Jones and Craig Biggio. That means he's voting no to Derek Jeter, and if you believe the national press, Derek Jeter is the greatest athlete to ever don a uniform. Sure, he'll vote for them their second year on the ballot, like he did with Jeff Bagwell this past season, but think, these guys are some of the greatest players of the past several decades. And he's going to vote no to them because other players may or may not have cheated.

Think about that. The names of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz have never been associated or linked to steroids. And Rosenthal's going to vote no because the union had the power to implement change and didn't. Do you know who else had the power to implement change? The owners. And they didn't do a damn thing till Congress forced their hands.

Baseball ownership loved what steroids/HGH/PEDs did to the game. Remember how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball? Remember "Chicks Dig The Long Ball?" Remember how Barry Bonds supposedly started doing steroids because of all of the attention being paid to the likes of McGwire, Sosa and Jose Canseco? Remember how Canseco wrote about the owners, specifically then-Rangers owner George W. Bush, knowing all about the Rangers' juicing habits?

If anything, guys like Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Johnson deserve to not only go into the Hall on the first ballot, they deserve to be unanimous selections because they excelled as pitchers in perhaps the most hitter-friendly era the game ever experienced. And perhaps more consideration should be given to Mike Mussina. Mussina didn't get to the magical 300-win mark, but if he's pitching in an era where things are more evened out, he probably eclipses 300 wins, which would make him a guaranteed inductee.

And think of Griffey. Everybody acknowledges that he was a clean player. And when he was healthy, he was perhaps the most graceful to play the game. He hit over 600 home runs without doing steroids. And the likes of Ken Rosenthal aren't going to vote for him on the first ballot because he played in an era of steroids. Just how stupid is that thinking?

And don't give me that crap about the voting instructions to consider a player's character, integrity and sportsmanship. Ty Cobb's in the Hall of Fame, isn't he? Cobb was known for sliding spikes-up into second base. He went into the stands and attacked a heckler. He fought with his teammates and opposing teams.

Gaylord Perry admitted, while still playing, that he threw a spit ball. The spitter's an illegal pitch. Don Sutton was also known for doctoring the baseball, as was Whitey Ford. They're all enshrined in the Hall. And Willie Mays, acknowledged as one of the game's greatest ever players, was known for using amphetamines to help him make it through games.

Perry, Sutton, Ford and Mays all broke the rules, and they broke the rules to gain an advantage on the competition and to make them better players. I haven't heard of any movement to get these guys kicked out of the Hall of Fame for cheating. And isn't that what the likes of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, Ken Caminiti, Andy Pettitte and so on, and so on, and so on, were also doing?

I'm sorry that Ken Rosenthal's got his panties in a wad because of Clemens and the steroids era. But he helped to enable that era as did his fellow sportswriters. They extolled the home-run hitters and made them heroes. Management loved the packed stands and all of the media attention. So to say the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Biggio, etc. don't deserve a first-year vote because they played the steroids era and did nothing to stop it is some of the stupidest, most hypocritical thinking ever.

And frankly, denying admittance to Bonds or Clemens or Alex Rodriguez because of steroid/HGH use is just as stupid. It is punishing players for acts condoned and encouraged by management, the media and the fans. The Hall of Fame is supposed to celebrate the best, and Bonds, Clemens and Rodriguez were among the best before the PEDs, and they were among the best while using the PEDs.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal