Would Resetting the Hall of Fame Clock for Roger Clemens Make Any Difference?
Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
(Well, maybe that is a surprise, if you were expecting him to pitch for the Houston Astros in his very next appearance. But more on that later.)
Clemens' next start is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7, against the Long Island Ducks, who feature Timo Perez in their lineup. (Perez is 2-for-11 lifetime against Clemens, if you were curious. Weren't you curious?)
Prior to his next appearance, Clemens will throw a side session on Tuesday, Sept. 4, while the Skeeters are playing the York Revolution. Showing their entrepreneurial spirit, the Revolution are promoting this and inviting ticket holders to watch Clemens throw before the game. Clearly, no one wants to make a sideshow of this event.
The fact that Clemens is pitching again has fueled further speculation that these efforts are intended as preparation for a return to the major leagues. For at least one start, anyway.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the team is scouting Clemens' next start for the Skeeters. (Maybe their new guy, Kevin Goldstein, will be among the group watching.) Heyman's colleague, Danny Knobler, writes that the current speculation in baseball is that Clemens will pitch for the Astros after a normal four days of rest.
That would put him on the mound Sept. 12 at Minute Maid Park against the Chicago Cubs. As you may have noticed, Sept. 12 is not during the final month of the regular season.
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If Clemens follows a normal rotation, he could make three additional starts for the Astros. However, if he wanted to end the season at home, that would likely be Sunday, Sept. 23, versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But why does Clemens want to do this? Is this really all just for love of the game? Does he just want people to like him—really, really like him—as a friend of Clemens told ESPN's Jayson Stark? Does he really just love getting out there on the mound and throwing a baseball so much that he'll take any opportunity to do so?
Has five years of retirement driven him batty and he'll do just about anything to get out of the house?
Do Clemens and Astros owner Jim Crane just think it would be fun for the fans to see a baseball legend on the field a couple more times?
As MLB.com's Richard Justice reports, Crane insists it wouldn't be for the money or publicity, for what that's worth. Some of the revenue generated by any games Clemens pitches in might go to charity.
Yet the prevailing belief is that Clemens wants to pitch in the majors one more time so that he can reset his eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame back another five years.
Five years from now, perhaps some of the ill feelings toward Clemens from his perjury trial and accusations of performance-enhancing drug use will have subsided. Clemens would also gain some separation from the Hall of Fame eligibles of 2013, which include other accused PED users such as Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa.
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But would this really happen? Would five more years to consider Clemens' suitability for the Hall of Fame truly make a difference among voters and in popular opinion?
It's possible that Bonds and perhaps Piazza will have been voted in to Cooperstown by then, after voters make those players wait a year or two as punishment for presumably using PEDs.
Voters could at least take away the honor of being "first-ballot Hall of Famers" from those players and then acknowledge their achievements on the field. (Jeff Bagwell could be included in this group as well.)
If that's the case and accused steroid users have gained entry in to the Hall of Fame by the time Clemens is eligible again, then he would certainly have less of a stigma surrounding him. The so-called steroid era will have been accepted.
Something else to consider is that Clemens would stand out more as a certain Hall of Famer among the potential ballot for 2018.
Who else will be on the ballot by then? Chipper Jones, for certain. Mariano Rivera would have been a lock, but he intends to pitch in 2013 following his season-ending knee injury this year. What about Lance Berkman? Jim Thome? Andy Pettitte? Ichiro Suzuki, perhaps?
Jones and Rivera would get plenty of support and be the headliners. But Clemens could overshadow them with his candidacy and be the heavy favorite to gain 75 percent of the vote.
By that point, voters will have had another five years to look over his numbers. His 354 wins rank ninth on the all-time list of pitcher wins. He may even have surpassed Greg Maddux for eighth place if he earns a victory or two during this comeback.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
This could be where Clemens' true intentions lie. He would almost be like a car salesman, telling a potential customer to take his time and think it over. He'll check back with you later. In this case, it would be five years later.
Oh, and don't forget that he ended his career (again) on a high note pitching for his hometown Astros and gave everyone one highlight in what's been a miserable season. Go ahead and check that Baseball-Reference page again as many times as needed. Talk with as many people as necessary.
With that, Clemens could head back to his office (he wouldn't have a cubicle), kick his feet up on the desk and savor the moment, knowing that he made the sale. All that remains is for it to become official.
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