Earlier this week, legendary pitcher Roger Clemens was found not guilty of lying to Congress when he testified in 2008 that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Yet the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who pitched like a bullish 25-year-old well into his 40s, still faces an army of skeptical fans who believe he used steroids. Clemens is eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time this year, and some sports writers argue that his recent acquittal should boost his chances of getting in, as any player with his stats who was not plagued by scandal would sail through the voting. Of course, other scandal-stained stars of the '90s, like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, have yet to be elected into the Hall. Should Clemens make it into Cooperstown?
Denying him would be hypocritical: Clemens' "towering achievements" include seven Cy Young Awards, 300 wins, and 4000 strikeouts, says Dave Zirin at New York's Daily News. You simply can't deny stats like that, and the oft-cited "character clause" is not justification enough to keep him out. The Hall of Fame hosts drug dealers, sex addicts, Elders of Zion conspiracy nuts, drunk drivers, and "proud racists" like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Rogers Hornsby. Why are those sins more forgivable than steroid use? Besides, Clemens never even tested positive for steroids, nor has it been proven that he used them. Suspicion is not the same as evidence.
"Why Roger Clemens belongs in Cooperstown"
And it's time to stop stigmatizing the steroids era: Clemens belongs in the Hall, says Chad Finn at The Boston Globe. And so do Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and "any other players who were on the track to Cooperstown at the advent of the steroid era." These players may have "left the record book tattered with asterisks" with their suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, but they were still the best players of their time. Cooperstown should celebrate them, even if they are "frauds."
"Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame"
If Clemens gets in the Hall, it won't happen for awhile: Clemens certainly won't get in on the first ballot, says Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated. A jury may have acquitted him, but the court of public opinion still suspects he's very guilty. Steroid-linked players remain personas non grata with the current voting body. Perhaps 15 or 20 years from now, when the steroids era isn't so fresh in our minds, players like Clemens will stand a better chance of making it in. But not yet.
"Despite verdict, Clemens still on trial in court of public opinion"