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Hate Him or Love Him, Roger Clemens Belongs in the Hall of Fame

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COMMENTARY | Hate is a strong word.

I don't consider myself a Roger Clemens fan. The ace of the Boston Red Sox during my formative years as a Red Sox fan poured his foundation as a surly diva in Boston and later alienated the entire region by slapping a pinstriped coat of paint on the finished product.

That said, I don't hate him. Regardless of whether he actually "misremembered" all those things, Clemens belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not to honor a man who brought dishonor to the national pastime, but to recognize one of the greats of an era.

Even if he is a lying, filthy cheater, the electorate lacks vital information about Clemens and his peers to make decisions based on anything but statistical merit.

The damage is done

Commissioner Giamatti was an idealist. In his statement on the Pete Rose decision, he recognized baseball's "nobler parts" are subject to the "human frailties" of its stewards. Try as we may, the game will always know "blemish, or stain, or disgrace." His words were prophetic.

Following Giamatti's death and Fay Vincent's brief tenure, we got Bud Selig and Donald Fehr, for whom the whir of turnstiles and the cha-ching of cash registers was all that mattered. Performance-enhancing drug use in baseball went unchecked, despite its inherent danger to the game and its players.

So Clemens was the biggest kid in the playpen with no parental supervision. Should he be penalized for allegedly taking advantage of that situation? I think fans are smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

The Hall isn't a shining city upon a hill

The disaster of the Steroid Era lit the lamp on a seedy underbelly of the game that has persisted since its inception. Believe it or not, baseball's great museum honors alcoholics, drug dealers, gamblers, racists, womanizers and, yes, admitted cheaters. Some of the bronze plaques display the visages of men who fit more than one of the above descriptions. They're human, after all.

The morning of the Hall of Fame announcement, Boston scribe Gethin Coolbaugh tweeted some common sense about the era and its players. "They helped make the game what it is," he said. Ignoring the contributions of Clemens (and others) to the growth of baseball paints an incomplete portrait of its history.

We don't know the whole story

Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe recently wrote, "Our votes shouldn't be influenced by who best concealed their drug use." Clemens' trainer was at the center of the Mitchell Report, so of course we know all of his dirty laundry.

Meanwhile, we have just as much evidence suggesting Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza juiced as Frank Thomas (none), but the Big Hurt gets in while suspicion blocks the doorway for the two former players. There is no way of knowing who used and who didn't, yet the electorate tries to police the game with shoddy composite sketches of the suspects. Undoubtedly, cheaters have been enshrined and will continue to be. They just haven't been caught.

His seven-year peak

The popular sports radio caller refrain of "Yeah, but he was a Hall of Famer before he was on the juice!" actually makes sense here, if you put glasses on it, give it a pocket protector and graphing calculator. The Jaffe WAR Score system (JAWS) measures a player's Hall of Fame worthiness based on a 7-year peak. Before his suspected PED use and late-career success, Clemens went 136-63 with a 2.66 ERA and 1,673 strikeouts from 1986 to 1992.

During that span, he led the league in:

Shutouts (5x)
ERA (4x)
Strikeouts (2x)
Complete games (2x)
WHIP (1x)
Innings pitched (1x)

Quite simply, he was the very best pitcher in baseball during that era. If Jim Rice supporters can build a candidacy on him being the "most feared" hitter in baseball and Jack Morris' "most wins in the 1980s" is a bullet point, Clemens' complete dominance is more than enough to make a case.

His counting stats

He has 354 wins (ninth all-time) and 4,672 strikeouts (third). Clemens is third all-time in pitcher WAR and 11th in adjusted ERA. Does it walk like a duck? Yes.

Roger Clemens is an easy target, like Barry Bonds, because he was the biggest and the best. The symmetry of Clemens' seven Cy Young Awards with Bonds' seven MVPs is remarkable given the level of scrutiny both have faced over the last decade. I feel both should and will eventually get in. Baseball's already made enough of a mess.

Sean Sylver is a Boston-based writer, radio personality and avid gardener. His work has appeared on Babble's Disney Dads and other pro sports blogs. Like the article? Disagree completely? Interact with him on Twitter @sylverfox25.

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