Blue Jays spring training

A look at the Toronto Blue Jays as they prepare for the 2013 baseball season.

FILE PHOTO: Jul 5, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
FILE PHOTO: Jul 5, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; Former New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game&#39;s most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn&#39;t sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn&#39;t dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.</p><p>Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.</p><p>Alas, whatever claim &quot;The Rocket&quot; may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/news/mitchell/coverage.jsp" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Mitchell Report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Mitchell Report</a> in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:via a Congressional hearing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">via a Congressional hearing</a>. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won&#39;t leave Clemens&#39; case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.</p><p>Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it&#39;s worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”</p><p>While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/barry-bonds-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:As with Bonds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">As with Bonds</a>. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.</p><p>Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn&#39;t move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year&#39;s draft.</p><p>After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.</p><p>Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn&#39;t walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee&#39;s Teddy Higuera, but Clemens&#39;s edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.</p><p>Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens&#39;s who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner&#39;s legs. You know the rest.</p><p>Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.</p><p>His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in &#39;90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was <em>almost two runs </em>better than the AL&#39;s 3.91 figure<em>.</em> He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him &quot;gutless.&quot; The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.</p><p>Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell <em>combined</em>.</p><p>No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to &#39;92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola&#39;s 37.7 ranked second to Clemens&#39;s 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and &#39;95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from &#39;93 to &#39;96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.</p><p>That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in &quot;the twilight of his career.&quot;</p><p>How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens&#39;s career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we&#39;ll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton (&#39;72) and Dwight Gooden (&#39;85).</p><p>Clemens&#39;s rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.</p><p>Clemens&#39;s stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, &#39;01 and &#39;03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A&#39;s but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger&#39;s path as he ran down the first base line.</p><p>Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/05/mike-mussina-hall-of-fame-election-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mike Mussina" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mike Mussina</a> (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.</p><p>The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in &#39;04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in &#39;04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year&#39;s NLCS wasn&#39;t a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros&#39; 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.</p><p>Convinced that his aging body wouldn&#39;t withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in &#39;07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays&#39; strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-&#39;98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in &#39;00 and &#39;01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.</p><p>Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he had his day in front of Congress" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he had his day in front of Congress</a>. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens&#39;s testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.</p><p>Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.</p><p>There&#39;s little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux&#39;s 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.</p><p>He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens&#39;s 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James&#39;s praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you&#39;d have two Hall of Famers.</p><p>For those who want to play the &quot;He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff&quot; game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn&#39;t even include Clemens&#39;s Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.</p><p>The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It&#39;s also worth noting that the findings of the report didn&#39;t hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That&#39;s not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He&#39;s a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I&#39;ve laid out in this series, I don&#39;t see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.</p><p>Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/operation-equine-steroids-investigators-vindicated-mark-mcgwire-admission-article-1.462283" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the FBI’s Operation Equine" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the FBI’s Operation Equine</a>, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today&#39;s Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens <em>et al</em>.</p><p>Susan Slusser, the Oakland A&#39;s beat writer for the <em>San Francisco Chronicle </em>and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the <em>New York Post</em>’s Ken Davidoff, the <em>New York Daily News</em>’ Peter Botte and the <em>Boston Globe</em>’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.</p><p>Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.</p><p>That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/21/joe-morgan-hall-of-fame-letter-steroid-users" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:send his letter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">send his letter</a> to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. <a href="http://www.mlive.com/sports/2017/11/idealistic_joe_morgan_wants_ba.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Several voters" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Several voters</a> have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.</p><p>To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.</p>
Roger Clemens, Arguably the Greatest Pitcher of All-Time, Is Trending Toward Hall of Fame Induction

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game's most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn't sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn't dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.

Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.

Alas, whatever claim "The Rocket" may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in the Mitchell Report in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings via a Congressional hearing. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won't leave Clemens' case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.

Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it's worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”

While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. As with Bonds. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.

Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn't move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year's draft.

After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.

Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn't walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee's Teddy Higuera, but Clemens's edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.

Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens's who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner's legs. You know the rest.

Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.

His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in '90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was almost two runs better than the AL's 3.91 figure. He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him "gutless." The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.

Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell combined.

No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to '92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola's 37.7 ranked second to Clemens's 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and '95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from '93 to '96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.

That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in "the twilight of his career."

How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens's career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we'll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton ('72) and Dwight Gooden ('85).

Clemens's rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.

Clemens's stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, '01 and '03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A's but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger's path as he ran down the first base line.

Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate Mike Mussina (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.

The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in '04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in '04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year's NLCS wasn't a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros' 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.

Convinced that his aging body wouldn't withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in '07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays' strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-'98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in '00 and '01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.

Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, he had his day in front of Congress. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens's testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.

There's little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux's 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.

He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens's 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James's praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you'd have two Hall of Famers.

For those who want to play the "He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff" game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn't even include Clemens's Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.

The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It's also worth noting that the findings of the report didn't hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That's not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He's a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I've laid out in this series, I don't see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.

Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about the FBI’s Operation Equine, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today's Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens et al.

Susan Slusser, the Oakland A's beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte and the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.

Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.

That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to send his letter to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. Several voters have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.

To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game&#39;s most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn&#39;t sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn&#39;t dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.</p><p>Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.</p><p>Alas, whatever claim &quot;The Rocket&quot; may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/news/mitchell/coverage.jsp" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Mitchell Report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Mitchell Report</a> in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:via a Congressional hearing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">via a Congressional hearing</a>. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won&#39;t leave Clemens&#39; case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.</p><p>Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it&#39;s worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”</p><p>While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/barry-bonds-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:As with Bonds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">As with Bonds</a>. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.</p><p>Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn&#39;t move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year&#39;s draft.</p><p>After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.</p><p>Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn&#39;t walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee&#39;s Teddy Higuera, but Clemens&#39;s edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.</p><p>Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens&#39;s who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner&#39;s legs. You know the rest.</p><p>Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.</p><p>His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in &#39;90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was <em>almost two runs </em>better than the AL&#39;s 3.91 figure<em>.</em> He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him &quot;gutless.&quot; The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.</p><p>Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell <em>combined</em>.</p><p>No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to &#39;92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola&#39;s 37.7 ranked second to Clemens&#39;s 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and &#39;95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from &#39;93 to &#39;96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.</p><p>That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in &quot;the twilight of his career.&quot;</p><p>How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens&#39;s career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we&#39;ll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton (&#39;72) and Dwight Gooden (&#39;85).</p><p>Clemens&#39;s rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.</p><p>Clemens&#39;s stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, &#39;01 and &#39;03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A&#39;s but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger&#39;s path as he ran down the first base line.</p><p>Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/05/mike-mussina-hall-of-fame-election-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mike Mussina" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mike Mussina</a> (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.</p><p>The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in &#39;04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in &#39;04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year&#39;s NLCS wasn&#39;t a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros&#39; 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.</p><p>Convinced that his aging body wouldn&#39;t withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in &#39;07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays&#39; strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-&#39;98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in &#39;00 and &#39;01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.</p><p>Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he had his day in front of Congress" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he had his day in front of Congress</a>. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens&#39;s testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.</p><p>Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.</p><p>There&#39;s little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux&#39;s 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.</p><p>He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens&#39;s 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James&#39;s praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you&#39;d have two Hall of Famers.</p><p>For those who want to play the &quot;He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff&quot; game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn&#39;t even include Clemens&#39;s Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.</p><p>The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It&#39;s also worth noting that the findings of the report didn&#39;t hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That&#39;s not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He&#39;s a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I&#39;ve laid out in this series, I don&#39;t see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.</p><p>Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/operation-equine-steroids-investigators-vindicated-mark-mcgwire-admission-article-1.462283" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the FBI’s Operation Equine" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the FBI’s Operation Equine</a>, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today&#39;s Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens <em>et al</em>.</p><p>Susan Slusser, the Oakland A&#39;s beat writer for the <em>San Francisco Chronicle </em>and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the <em>New York Post</em>’s Ken Davidoff, the <em>New York Daily News</em>’ Peter Botte and the <em>Boston Globe</em>’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.</p><p>Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.</p><p>That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/21/joe-morgan-hall-of-fame-letter-steroid-users" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:send his letter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">send his letter</a> to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. <a href="http://www.mlive.com/sports/2017/11/idealistic_joe_morgan_wants_ba.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Several voters" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Several voters</a> have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.</p><p>To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.</p>
Roger Clemens, Arguably the Greatest Pitcher of All-Time, Is Trending Toward Hall of Fame Induction

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game's most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn't sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn't dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.

Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.

Alas, whatever claim "The Rocket" may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in the Mitchell Report in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings via a Congressional hearing. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won't leave Clemens' case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.

Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it's worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”

While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. As with Bonds. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.

Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn't move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year's draft.

After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.

Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn't walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee's Teddy Higuera, but Clemens's edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.

Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens's who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner's legs. You know the rest.

Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.

His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in '90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was almost two runs better than the AL's 3.91 figure. He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him "gutless." The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.

Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell combined.

No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to '92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola's 37.7 ranked second to Clemens's 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and '95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from '93 to '96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.

That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in "the twilight of his career."

How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens's career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we'll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton ('72) and Dwight Gooden ('85).

Clemens's rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.

Clemens's stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, '01 and '03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A's but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger's path as he ran down the first base line.

Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate Mike Mussina (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.

The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in '04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in '04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year's NLCS wasn't a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros' 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.

Convinced that his aging body wouldn't withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in '07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays' strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-'98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in '00 and '01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.

Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, he had his day in front of Congress. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens's testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.

There's little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux's 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.

He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens's 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James's praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you'd have two Hall of Famers.

For those who want to play the "He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff" game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn't even include Clemens's Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.

The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It's also worth noting that the findings of the report didn't hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That's not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He's a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I've laid out in this series, I don't see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.

Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about the FBI’s Operation Equine, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today's Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens et al.

Susan Slusser, the Oakland A's beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte and the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.

Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.

That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to send his letter to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. Several voters have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.

To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.

<p><em>The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year&#39;s ballot, please see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/20/hall-of-fame-ballot-chipper-jones-jim-thome" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>. For an introduction to JAWS, see </em><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/27/hall-fame-jaws-intro-2018-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game&#39;s most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn&#39;t sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn&#39;t dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.</p><p>Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.</p><p>Alas, whatever claim &quot;The Rocket&quot; may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in <a href="http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/news/mitchell/coverage.jsp" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Mitchell Report" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Mitchell Report</a> in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:via a Congressional hearing" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">via a Congressional hearing</a>. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won&#39;t leave Clemens&#39; case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.</p><p>Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it&#39;s worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”</p><p>While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/12/barry-bonds-hall-fame-ballot-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:As with Bonds" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">As with Bonds</a>. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.</p><p>Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn&#39;t move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year&#39;s draft.</p><p>After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.</p><p>Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn&#39;t walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee&#39;s Teddy Higuera, but Clemens&#39;s edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.</p><p>Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens&#39;s who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner&#39;s legs. You know the rest.</p><p>Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.</p><p>His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in &#39;90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was <em>almost two runs </em>better than the AL&#39;s 3.91 figure<em>.</em> He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him &quot;gutless.&quot; The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.</p><p>Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell <em>combined</em>.</p><p>No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to &#39;92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola&#39;s 37.7 ranked second to Clemens&#39;s 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and &#39;95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from &#39;93 to &#39;96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.</p><p>That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in &quot;the twilight of his career.&quot;</p><p>How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens&#39;s career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we&#39;ll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton (&#39;72) and Dwight Gooden (&#39;85).</p><p>Clemens&#39;s rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.</p><p>Clemens&#39;s stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, &#39;01 and &#39;03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A&#39;s but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger&#39;s path as he ran down the first base line.</p><p>Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/12/05/mike-mussina-hall-of-fame-election-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mike Mussina" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mike Mussina</a> (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.</p><p>The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in &#39;04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in &#39;04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year&#39;s NLCS wasn&#39;t a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros&#39; 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.</p><p>Convinced that his aging body wouldn&#39;t withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in &#39;07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays&#39; strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-&#39;98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in &#39;00 and &#39;01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.</p><p>Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/7144/prospectus-hit-and-run-smoked/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:he had his day in front of Congress" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">he had his day in front of Congress</a>. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens&#39;s testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.</p><p>Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.</p><p>There&#39;s little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux&#39;s 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.</p><p>He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens&#39;s 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James&#39;s praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you&#39;d have two Hall of Famers.</p><p>For those who want to play the &quot;He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff&quot; game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn&#39;t even include Clemens&#39;s Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.</p><p>The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It&#39;s also worth noting that the findings of the report didn&#39;t hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That&#39;s not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He&#39;s a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I&#39;ve laid out in this series, I don&#39;t see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.</p><p>Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/operation-equine-steroids-investigators-vindicated-mark-mcgwire-admission-article-1.462283" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the FBI’s Operation Equine" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the FBI’s Operation Equine</a>, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today&#39;s Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens <em>et al</em>.</p><p>Susan Slusser, the Oakland A&#39;s beat writer for the <em>San Francisco Chronicle </em>and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the <em>New York Post</em>’s Ken Davidoff, the <em>New York Daily News</em>’ Peter Botte and the <em>Boston Globe</em>’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.</p><p>Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.</p><p>That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/21/joe-morgan-hall-of-fame-letter-steroid-users" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:send his letter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">send his letter</a> to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. <a href="http://www.mlive.com/sports/2017/11/idealistic_joe_morgan_wants_ba.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Several voters" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Several voters</a> have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.</p><p>To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.</p>
Roger Clemens, Arguably the Greatest Pitcher of All-Time, Is Trending Toward Hall of Fame Induction

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. Originally written for the 2013 election, it has been updated to reflect recent voting results as well as additional research. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

Roger Clemens has a reasonable claim as the greatest pitcher of all time. Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander spent all or most of their careers in the Dead Ball Era, before the home run was a real threat, and pitched while the color line was still in effect, barring some of the game's most talented players from participating. Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver pitched when scoring levels were much lower and pitchers held a greater advantage. Koufax and 2015 inductees Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez didn't sustain their greatness for nearly as long. Greg Maddux didn't dominate hitters to nearly the same extent.

Clemens, meanwhile, spent 24 years in the majors and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards, not to mention an MVP award. He won 354 games, led his leagues in the Triple Crown categories (wins, strikeouts and ERA) a total of 16 times and helped his teams to six pennants and a pair of world championships.

Alas, whatever claim "The Rocket" may have on such an exalted title is clouded by suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs. When those suspicions came to light in the Mitchell Report in 2007, Clemens took the otherwise unprecedented step of challenging the findings via a Congressional hearing. He nearly painted himself into a legal corner and was subject to a high-profile trial for six counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. After a mistrial in 2011, he was acquitted on all counts the following year. But despite the verdicts, the specter of PEDs won't leave Clemens' case anytime soon, even given that in March 2015, he settled the defamation lawsuit filed by former personal trainer Brian McNamee for an unspecified amount.

Amid the ongoing Hall of Fame-related debates over hitters connected to PEDs—most prominently Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—it's worth remembering that the chemical arms race involved pitchers as well, leveling the playing field a lot more than some critics of the aforementioned sluggers would admit. The voters certainly haven’t forgotten that when it comes to Clemens, whose share of the vote has approximated that of Bonds. Clemens debuted with 37.6% of the vote in 2013 and only in 2016 began making significant headway, climbing to 45.2% thanks largely to the Hall’s purge of voters more than 10 years removed from covering the game. Like Bonds, he surged above 50%—a historically significant marker towards future election—last year, to 54.1% (0.3% higher than Bonds), benefiting from voters rethinking their positions in the wake of the election of Bud Selig. The former commissioner’s roles in the late-1980s collusion scandal and in presiding over the proliferation of PEDs within the game dwarf the impact of individual PED users and call into question the so-called “character clause.”

While it appeared that Clemens (and Bonds) had caught another break, the mailing of this year’s ballots was immediately followed by a plea not to honor players connected to steroids by Hall of Fame Vice Chairman Joe Morgan. As with Bonds. Clemens won’t get to 75% this year, but doing so before his eligibility runs out after 2022 appears to be a significant possibility.

Contrary to legend, Clemens did not emerge whole from the Texas soil. Born in 1962 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who separated during his infancy, he didn't move to Houston until high school in 1977. At Spring Woods High, he pitched and played first base in baseball, was a defensive end in football and a center in basketball. After attending San Jacinto College North in 1981, he was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round but chose not to sign. Instead, he left for the University of Texas, earning All-America honors twice and pitching the Longhorns to a College World Series championship in 1983. The Red Sox tabbed him with the 19th pick of that year's draft.

After dominating at three different levels for a total of 17 minor league starts, the 21-year-old Clemens debuted in the majors less than a year later, facing the Indians on May 15, 1984 (they cuffed him for 11 hits and four runs in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision). He went 9–4 with a 4.32 ERA for Boston, but more impressively, he struck out 8.5 hitters per nine in his 133 1/3 innings, a rate better than the official AL leader (Mark Langston, 8.2 per nine). Limited to just 15 starts the following year due to shoulder soreness, he was diagnosed with a torn labrum by a then-obscure orthopedist named Dr. James Andrews, who repaired the tear arthroscopically—a novel treatment for the time.

Eight months later, Clemens was back in action, and at 23, he compiled his first outstanding season in 1986. In his fourth start, he set a major league record by striking out 20 against the Mariners; he didn't walk anyone and allowed just three hits and one run. He wound up leading the AL in wins (24) and ERA (2.48) and ranked second in strikeouts (238) and WAR (8.9). That latter mark trailed only Milwaukee's Teddy Higuera, but Clemens's edge in the traditional numbers and his role in leading Boston to an AL East title helped him capture not only his first Cy Young (unanimously, even) but also league MVP honors.

Clemens made three good starts and two lousy ones in the postseason, throwing seven strong innings in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Angels and departing Game 6 of the World Series against the Mets after seven innings with a 3–2 lead and the Red Sox six outs from their first championship since 1918. Alas, fate intervened in the form of sloppy relief work by Calvin Schiraldi (an ex-college teammate of Clemens's who had been traded to Boston in November 1985), a wild pitch from Bob Stanley and a ground ball through Bill Buckner's legs. You know the rest.

Clemens followed up in 1987 by winning 20 games, tossing seven shutouts among his 18 complete games (!) and racking up 9.4 WAR—league-leading figures in each category—en route to a second straight Cy Young. In 1988, he struck out a league-leading 291 and spun eight shutouts, helping the Sox to another AL East title.

His 1989 season was less notable (a garden-variety 5.7 WAR season, still fourth in the league), but he followed that up in '90 with the first of three straight ERA crowns; his 1.93 mark that season was almost two runs better than the AL's 3.91 figure. He also went 21–6 and led the league with 10.6 WAR that year but finished second to Oakland’s Bob Welch in a ridiculously upside-down Cy Young vote; Welch had gone 27–6 with a 2.95 ERA—more than a full run higher, in a much more pitcher-friendly park—in a season worth 3.0 WAR. The Red Sox won the AL East, but after throwing six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS against the A’s, Clemens was ejected in the second inning of Game 4 by home plate umpire Terry Cooney, who claimed that the pitcher cursed at him and called him "gutless." The ejection came amid a three-run rally that would provide all of the offense Oakland needed to complete a four-game sweep.

Clemens won his third AL Cy Young in 1991, leading the league in innings (271 1/3), ERA (2.62), strikeouts (241) and WAR (7.9). The award made him the fifth pitcher to take home at least three Cy Young awards, after Koufax, Seaver, Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton; at age 29, Clemens was the first to do so before turning 30. He slipped to third in the voting in 1992 despite leading the AL again in ERA (2.41) and WAR (8.8); that last figure was 0.6 wins more than Cy Young winner Dennis Eckersley and runner-up Jack McDowell combined.

No pitcher threw more innings than Clemens from 1986 to '92 (1,799 1/3), and no one was within 20.0 WAR of him during that span; Frank Viola's 37.7 ranked second to Clemens's 58.4. High mileage began taking its toll, however. Clemens served stints on the disabled list in 1993 (groin) and '95 (shoulder), averaging just 28 starts, 186 innings, 10 wins and 4.5 WAR from '93 to '96—about half his annual value over that previous seven-year stretch.

That said, Clemens’s final year in Boston was actually an outstanding one camouflaged by a 10–13 record and a 3.63 ERA (still a 139 ERA+). He led the league in strikeouts for the third time with 257, and his 242 2/3 innings were his most since 1992. On Sept. 18, in what proved to be his third-to-last start for the Sox, he tied his own major league record by striking out 20 Tigers, again issuing no walks. Despite his ability to fool hitters consistently, Boston general manager Dan Duquette opted to let Clemens depart for the Blue Jays via free agency, infamously declaring that the 34-year-old was in "the twilight of his career."

How that statement fueled the final decade-plus of Clemens's career is an issue addressed further below, but for now we'll stick to the record as it unfolded at the time. In December 1996, the Rocket signed a three-year, $24.75 million deal with Toronto and then put together back-to-back seasons in which he won not only Cy Young awards but also Triple Crowns. His 1997 campaign (21–7, 2.05 ERA, 292 strikeouts, 11.9 WAR) was by far the better of the two seasons, though his 8.2 WAR the following year led the league as well. That 11.9 WAR season in 1998 ranks fourth among all pitchers since 1915, 0.2 wins behind the totals of Alexander (1920), Carlton ('72) and Dwight Gooden ('85).

Clemens's rebound caught the eye of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long coveted the now-36-year-old righty. On Feb. 18, 1999, shortly after pitchers and catchers had reported to spring training, the defending world champions sent starting pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd and reserve infielder Homer Bush to Toronto in exchange for Clemens. Hampered by a hamstring injury, he spent three weeks on the disabled list and posted a 4.60 ERA during the regular season, but he fared better in the postseason, save for an early exit against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS at Fenway Park; his 7 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Braves helped New York complete a sweep to sew up its second of three straight championships.

Clemens's stint with the Yankees extended four more seasons. Though not as consistently dominant as he was in Toronto, he helped the Joe Torre-led team win pennants in 2000, '01 and '03. In the first of those years, he was knocked around in two Division Series starts by the A's but responded with a 15-strikeout, one-hit shutout of the Mariners in the ALCS and eight innings of shutout ball in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets. That latter performance was overshadowed by his confrontation with Mike Piazza in which Clemens hurled a broken bat barrel across the slugger's path as he ran down the first base line.

Aided by outstanding run support (5.7 per game), Clemens won a sixth Cy Young with a 20–3, 3.51 ERA season in 2001, though his 5.6 WAR ranked fourth; teammate Mike Mussina (17–11, 3.15 ERA with an AL-high 7.1 WAR) got a raw deal, finishing fifth in the voting. Clemens struggled early in the postseason, totaling just 13 1/3 innings through his first three starts, but he hit his stride in the World Series. With the Yankees trailing the Diamondbacks two-games-to-none, he whiffed nine in seven strong innings and allowed just one run in a Game 3 win, then struck out 10 in 6 2/3 innings in Game 7, though New York ultimately lost. After a dud start in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston, he had a strong outing against the Marlins in Game 4 of the World Series, but the Yankees fell to Florida in six.

The 41-year-old Clemens initially retired after that 2003 season, but when friend and former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros, he was lured back. Pitching in the NL for the first time, Clemens recovered some of his dominant form, winning his seventh and final Cy Young award in '04 by going 18–4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts, his highest total since 1998. He won yet another ERA crown with a 1.87 mark in 2005. After helping Houston come within one win of a World Series berth in '04 (his six-inning, four-run performance in Game 7 of that year's NLCS wasn't a career highlight), the team won the pennant the following year. Alas, he had just one good postseason start out of three, plus a strong three-inning relief appearance that garnered a win in the Astros' 18-inning Division Series clincher against the Braves. He left the World Series opener against the White Sox after just two innings due to a hamstring strain, and Chicago eventually completed the four-game sweep.

Convinced that his aging body wouldn't withstand the grind of another full season, Clemens continued to dabble with retirement, sitting out spring training and making 19 starts with a 2.30 ERA for Houston in 2006 and 17 with a 4.18 ERA for the Yankees in '07. But any designs the 45-year-old Clemens had on furthering his career were put on hold when he was named in the Mitchell Report that December. Based upon information obtained from McNamee, who served as the Blue Jays' strength and conditioning coach in 1998 and then moved on to the Yankees in 2000, the report alleged that Clemens began using Winstrol (a steroid) in mid-'98 after learning about its benefits from Toronto teammate Jose Canseco, and that he used various steroids and human growth hormone in '00 and '01. McNamee, who also served as a personal trainer for Clemens and Pettitte in the 2001–02 off-season, claimed to have performed multiple injections on Clemens and to have stored the used syringes in empty beer cans. In 2012, Pettitte testified that Clemens admitted using HGH in a conversation the two pitchers had in either 1999 or 2000.

Clemens challenged the Mitchell Report, and two months later, he had his day in front of Congress. Seeking to cast doubt on the report and on the testimonies of both Pettitte and McNamee, the Rocket and his counsel went a weak 1 for 3, painting a picture of McNamee as a fairly disreputable character seeking to avoid jail time of his own. The Department of Justice opened a perjury investigation into Clemens's testimony, and in August 2010, he was charged with six felony counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress. The case dragged on until June of 2012, when he was acquitted on all counts. Clemens’ insurance company settled McNamee’s defamation suit in 2015. “Roger Clemens did not contribute a penny to the settlement,” said Clemens’s attorney, Chip Babcock. “Nor did he release any claims against Mr. McNamee.” Still, that appears to be the end of the matter.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2013, at age 50, Clemens mounted a brief comeback with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, with son Koby catching him in two starts. Despite widespread speculation that he would pitch another game for the Astros—thereby bumping his Hall of Fame eligibility back another five years, distancing himself from the controversy—he did no such thing.

There's little question Clemens has the numbers—traditional and sabermetric—for the Hall of Fame. His 354 wins rank ninth all-time, the second-highest total of the post-1960 expansion era behind Maddux's 355. His 4,672 strikeouts rank third behind the totals of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. His seven Cy Young awards are two more than Johnson, three more than Carlton or Maddux and at least four more than any other pitcher.

He led his leagues in wins four times and placed in the top five seven other times. He led in ERA seven times and finished in the top five on five other occasions. He led in strikeouts four times, ranked second five times and in the top five 16 times. His 140.3 career WAR ranks third behind Young (168.4) and Walter Johnson (165.6) and is nearly twice the total of the average Hall of Fame starter (73.9); the only other post-World War II pitchers above 100 are Seaver (110.5), Maddux (106.8), Randy Johnson (102.1) and Warren Spahn (100.2). Clemens's 66.3 peak WAR ranks 11th, ahead of every pitcher whose career ended after 1930. His JAWS ranks third behind Walter Johnson and Young; Seaver is the only postwar pitcher within 20 points of his 103.3. To borrow Bill James's praise of Rickey Henderson: Cut Clemens in half and you'd have two Hall of Famers.

For those who want to play the "He was a Hall of Famer before he touched the stuff" game, consider just what Clemens did with in Boston. In 13 seasons pitching for the Red Sox, he notched 192 wins with a 3.06 ERA (144 ERA+) and 2,590 strikeouts; his JAWS line for those years alone (81.3 total/60.4 peak/70.9 JAWS) would be above the Hall of Fame standard for starting pitchers and good for 21st on the list, with a score a whisker below that of Pedro Martinez (84.0/58.2/71.1). That ranking doesn't even include Clemens's Cy Young-winning 1997 performance with Toronto, around which there are no PED allegations.

The PED allegations muddy the waters, but to these eyes, the timing matters. Clemens never failed a drug test, and the Mitchell Report’s accounts date to the time before MLB began testing players for PEDs or penalizing them; Clemens is not known to have used them once testing was in place. It's also worth noting that the findings of the report didn't hold up in court, with the credibility of star witness McNamee a major problem. That's not to say that Clemens is as pure as the driven snow. He's a reflection of the era in which he pitched, and by the guidelines I've laid out in this series, I don't see anything in his case that puts him in the class of Rafael Palmeiro, whose Hall of Fame-caliber numbers were trumped—at least in the eyes of the voters—by his having failed an MLB-administered drug test.

Meanwhile, the election of Selig via the 2017 Today’s Game Era ballot could carry significant long-term ramifications for how voters handle PED-tinged candidates. The Today’s Game committee is different from the BBWAA, but multiple BBWAA writers served on it, as did eight Hall of Famers. Selig received 15 out of 16 votes despite the stains on his resumé, namely a role in three years worth of collusion against free agents (which yielded a $280 million award to the players’ union) and a blind eye he turned to the proliferation of PEDs as commissioner. Any assertion otherwise on the latter front rings false given that, as acting commissioner, Selig had to have known about the FBI’s Operation Equine, an early ’90s investigation into PED distribution that included McGwire and Canseco. Special agent Greg Stejskal told baseball’s security chief, Kevin Hallinan, about it in 1994, and it defies belief that such a revelation wouldn’t have made its way to Selig. Despite all of that, the Today's Game committee felt that Selig met the integrity, sportsmanship and character standards in the character clause that BBWAA voters have used to justify voting against Bonds, Clemens et al.

Susan Slusser, the Oakland A's beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and a past BBWAA president, was one of the first to grasp the ramifications of Selig’s election, tweeting, “Senseless to keep steroid guys out when the enablers are in Hall of Fame. I now will hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.” NY Sports Today’s Wallace Matthews, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte and the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham were among those voicing similar sentiments regarding the hypocrisy of electing Selig but not at least the pre-testing era candidates. Of that quintet, only Abraham and Davidoff voted for Bonds and Clemens in 2016. All but Mathews (who abstained from voting) included him in 2017.

Among the 71% of voters who published their ballots either before or after the results were announced, Clemens was named on 13 out of 15 ballots from first-time voters and picked up a net of 29 votes from returning voters. His 54.1% overall suggests that he’s on his way to election, given that Gil Hodges and Lee Smith are the only candidates who surpassed 50%, aren’t currently on the BBWAA ballot, and haven’t otherwise been voted in. Smith has yet to appear on a Today’s Game Era Committee ballot next year.

That Clemens and Bonds reached the 50% threshold is probably what compelled Morgan to send his letter to voters, but his belated, simplistic and disingenuous plea ignored baseball’s long history of amphetamine abuse—and amphetamines are most definitely PEDs, illegal without a prescription since 1970—and the presence of such users in the Hall of Fame, to say nothing of the strong possibility that steroid users have already been inducted as well. Early indications are that the Morgan letter won’t have much effect anyway. Several voters have pointed out the numerous flaws in Morgan’s letter and/or said that won’t sway them. Of the 45 ballots published in Thibodaux’s tracker at this point, he hasn’t lost any votes from returning voters, and has picked up three first-timers.

To echo what I wrote with Bonds, Clemens has this year and four more to get that remaining 21%. The pair will be aided by the evolution of the electorate, as the first wave of internet-based writers gets the vote (this scribe included, for 2021) and the ranks of those who covered his career and feel personally misled by him continue to dwindle. Theireventual election won’t please everybody, but the Hall of Fame has never been a church. If it can withstand the segregationists, alcoholics, domestic abusers, amphetamine users and Selig, it can withstand Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time.

John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Gibbons, manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, talks with members of the media at the Major League Baseball winter meetings Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
<p>Winter Meetings has begun, but will this slow MLB offseason pick up steam at the annually frenetic event? Be sure to check in here regularly for the latest rumors, news and moves around the league.</p><h3>Rumors and News</h3><p>• The Yankees and White Sox are among the teams that have expressed interest in Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Buster_ESPN/status/940722234750054401" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• The Cardinals have reportedly acquired Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna for pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara. (<a href="https://twitter.com/CraigMish/status/941004846035034113" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sirius XM" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sirius XM</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/JesseSanchezMLB/status/941005900323741697" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• After initially telling teams that they are not looking to move outfielder Christian Yelich, the Marlins are now saying that they have not ruled out trading Yelich and will talk to him to see if he wants to stay in Miami. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941050840831483904" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Diamondbacks and Rangers have discussed a possible trade involving starter Zack Greinke. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Sullivan_Ranger/status/940743300222464000" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• Other teams are also inquiring about Greinke, though Arizona would require another starter to take his place in the rotation, potentially complicating talks. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940985783804223489" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• Along with Greinke, the Diamondbacks are getting calls about lefthanded starter Patrick Corbin and utility players Chris Owings and Brandon Drury. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/940986253591359488" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• Free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez will meet with Red Sox officials this week. (<a href="http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21752094/jd-martinez-sit-boston-red-sox-other-suitors-winter-meetings" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• The Royals are getting lots of calls about lefthanded starter Danny Duffy and are &quot;seriously thinking&quot; about dealing him. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941076190722494464" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Giants are &quot;staying in contact&quot; with free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce but have seen trade talks with the Reds for outfielder Billy Hamilton &quot;fade significantly.&quot; (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941035696504082433" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Athletics are &quot;edging closer&quot; to getting outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/susanslusser/status/941023204465938433" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:San Francisco Chronicle" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">San Francisco Chronicle</a></em>)</p><p>• The Twins have signed starter Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract. Pineda spent last season with the Yankees but suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July and will miss most of the 2018 season. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/BNightengale/status/940957711600177153" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:USA Today" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">USA Today</a></em>)</p><p>• The Rockies have re-signed lefthanded reliever Jake McGee to a three-year deal worth $27 million. McGee posted a 3.61 ERA in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado last season, striking out 58. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940981060271329281" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Mets have signed righthanded reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal. Swarzak spent last year with the White Sox and Brewers, recording a 2.33 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/MarcCarig/status/940983556129611776" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Newsday" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Newsday</a></em>)</p><p>• The Mariners have signed righthanded reliever Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract. Nicasio split the 2017 season between the Pirates and Cardinals, with a 2.61 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. (<a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/941069615727292417" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Athletic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The Athletic</a>)</p><p>• The Angels are “definitely interested” in Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, with the Mets, Giants and Brewers also showing interest. (<a href="https://twitter.com/jcrasnick/status/940963772604338177" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:ESPN.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">ESPN.com</a>)</p><p>• Kinsler&#39;s no-trade list comprises 10 teams: the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Rays and Blue Jays. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/941019207273275395" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The New York Post" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The New York Post</a></em>)</p><p>• The Dodgers are still having talks with free-agent starter Yu Darvish. (<a href="https://twitter.com/kengurnick/status/940698318627393538" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:MLB.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">MLB.com</a>)</p><p>• The Blue Jays, Orioles, Astros, Athletics and Phillies are all interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940989031210541056" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Blue Jays are also interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gomez. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940989264258568192" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• As many as 10 teams are interested in free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, including the Giants and Angels. (<em><a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1/status/941019539676024832" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The New York Post" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The New York Post</a></em>)</p><p>• Free-agent second baseman Eduardo Nuñez is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941021344434704385" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Padres are talking trades involving infielders Yangervis Solarte and Chase Headley, who was acquired by San Diego from the Yankees on Tuesday. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941050050054184960" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• The Mets are weighing their second base options and could be eyeing Jason Kipnis, Josh Harrison, Cesar Hernandez and Kinsler. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/940760465084383232" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p><p>• There is &quot;strong optimism&quot; the Rockies and closer Greg Holland will agree to a deal. (<a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/941007756999393280" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:FanRag Sports" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">FanRag Sports</a>)</p>
MLB Trade Rumors: All the Latest News, Rumors and Moves From Winter Meetings

Winter Meetings has begun, but will this slow MLB offseason pick up steam at the annually frenetic event? Be sure to check in here regularly for the latest rumors, news and moves around the league.

Rumors and News

• The Yankees and White Sox are among the teams that have expressed interest in Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. (ESPN.com)

• The Cardinals have reportedly acquired Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna for pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara. (Sirius XM and MLB.com)

• After initially telling teams that they are not looking to move outfielder Christian Yelich, the Marlins are now saying that they have not ruled out trading Yelich and will talk to him to see if he wants to stay in Miami. (The Athletic)

• The Diamondbacks and Rangers have discussed a possible trade involving starter Zack Greinke. (MLB.com)

• Other teams are also inquiring about Greinke, though Arizona would require another starter to take his place in the rotation, potentially complicating talks. (The Athletic)

• Along with Greinke, the Diamondbacks are getting calls about lefthanded starter Patrick Corbin and utility players Chris Owings and Brandon Drury. (The Athletic)

• Free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez will meet with Red Sox officials this week. (ESPN.com)

• The Royals are getting lots of calls about lefthanded starter Danny Duffy and are "seriously thinking" about dealing him. (FanRag Sports)

• The Giants are "staying in contact" with free-agent outfielder Jay Bruce but have seen trade talks with the Reds for outfielder Billy Hamilton "fade significantly." (The Athletic)

• The Athletics are "edging closer" to getting outfielder Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. (San Francisco Chronicle)

• The Twins have signed starter Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract. Pineda spent last season with the Yankees but suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in July and will miss most of the 2018 season. (USA Today)

• The Rockies have re-signed lefthanded reliever Jake McGee to a three-year deal worth $27 million. McGee posted a 3.61 ERA in 57 1/3 innings for Colorado last season, striking out 58. (FanRag Sports)

• The Mets have signed righthanded reliever Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal. Swarzak spent last year with the White Sox and Brewers, recording a 2.33 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. (Newsday)

• The Mariners have signed righthanded reliever Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract. Nicasio split the 2017 season between the Pirates and Cardinals, with a 2.61 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. (The Athletic)

• The Angels are “definitely interested” in Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, with the Mets, Giants and Brewers also showing interest. (ESPN.com)

• Kinsler's no-trade list comprises 10 teams: the Mets, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Rays and Blue Jays. (The New York Post)

• The Dodgers are still having talks with free-agent starter Yu Darvish. (MLB.com)

• The Blue Jays, Orioles, Astros, Athletics and Phillies are all interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. (FanRag Sports)

• The Blue Jays are also interested in free-agent outfielder Carlos Gomez. (FanRag Sports)

• As many as 10 teams are interested in free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, including the Giants and Angels. (The New York Post)

• Free-agent second baseman Eduardo Nuñez is drawing interest from the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. (FanRag Sports)

• The Padres are talking trades involving infielders Yangervis Solarte and Chase Headley, who was acquired by San Diego from the Yankees on Tuesday. (FanRag Sports)

• The Mets are weighing their second base options and could be eyeing Jason Kipnis, Josh Harrison, Cesar Hernandez and Kinsler. (FanRag Sports)

• There is "strong optimism" the Rockies and closer Greg Holland will agree to a deal. (FanRag Sports)

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, home plate umpire Dale Scott is attended to on the field in the eighth inning after he was hit by a foul tip during a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott&#39;s second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
MLB ump Dale Scott retires rather than risk more concussions
FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, home plate umpire Dale Scott is attended to on the field in the eighth inning after he was hit by a foul tip during a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott&#39;s second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
MLB ump Dale Scott retires rather than risk more concussions
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott&#39;s second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2013, file photo, Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott prepares to return to action after being injured in the second inning of a baseball game between the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays in Seattle. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo in Toronto on April 14 caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, home plate umpire Dale Scott is attended to on the field in the eighth inning after he was hit by a foul tip during a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott&#39;s second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, home plate umpire Dale Scott is attended to on the field in the eighth inning after he was hit by a foul tip during a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE - In this April 14, 2017, file photo, home plate umpire Dale Scott is attended to on the field in the eighth inning after he was hit by a foul tip during a baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. The veteran crew chief missed nearly the entire 2017 season after a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo caught him hard in the mask, causing Scott's second concussion in nine months and fourth in five years. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Stroman, takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto,
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman takes the first Lyft ride in Canada with an outpatient at Sick Kids Hospital and a driver at Lyft launch event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alastair Sharp
<p>1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:</p><p>a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.</p><p>b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.</p><p>c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).</p><p>d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.</p><p>e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.</p><p>f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.</p><p>g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.</p><p>h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.</p><p>i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”</p><p>j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?</p><p>k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal. </p><p>l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.</p><p>m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.</p><p>n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.</p><p>o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.</p><p>p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.</p><p>2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.</p><p>3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.</p><p>4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6&#39;0¼&quot;, and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5&#39;10¾&quot; ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.</p><p>5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com<em>, </em>and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. <a href="http://deadline.com/2017/12/fox-sports-solicits-la-rams-fans-for-nfl-on-fox-pre-game-hoopla-sunday-1202223528/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:So a notice was put out" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">So a notice was put out</a> on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear &#38; join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.</p><p>6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect. </p><p>7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.</p><p>8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player&#39;s head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: <em>Would be subject to officiating interpretation. </em>Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It&#39;s a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe&#39;s midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender&#39;s intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I&#39;m not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.</p><p>9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:</p><p>• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”</p><p>• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling <em>Wash Me!</em> It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”</p><p>I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.</p><p>10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VKLOJL4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&#38;tag=sportsillustrated0f--20&#38;camp=1789&#38;creative=9325&#38;linkCode=as2&#38;creativeASIN=B00VKLOJL4&#38;linkId=596fe17a63fbeb127422e89b19a7f32b" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:my 12-ounce Hydro Flask" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">my 12-ounce Hydro Flask</a>, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.</p><p>b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.</p><p>c. <a href="https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/nfl/bengals/2017/12/07/tim-krumrie-brain-trauma-wont-settle-sad-fate/905801001/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Football story of the week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Football story of the week</a>: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer<em>, </em>on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.</p><p>d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.</p><p>e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.</p><p>f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.</p><p>g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …</p><p>h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).</p><p>i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.</p><p>j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.</p><p>k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.</p><p>l. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-jerome-crowe-20171205-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Obituary of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Obituary of the Week</a>: from the Los Angeles Times<em>, </em>word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.</p><p>m. <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2017/12/05/plot-twist-for-bookstores/7U6qgeWtbw18iIBOSHoUdO/story.html?p1=Article_Trending_Most_Viewed" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Story of the Week</a>, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.</p><p>n. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-ohtani-angels-hernandez-20171208-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Baseball Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Baseball Story of the Week</a>: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times<em>, </em>on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.</p><p>o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, <em>I’ll get ’em next time.</em></p><p>p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.</p><p>q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.</p><p>r. Sprint, don’t run, to “<a href="http://focusfeatures.com/darkesthour" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Darkest Hour" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Darkest Hour</a>,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.</p><p>s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.</p><p>t. Save the Boston Herald.</p><h3>Who I Like Tonight</h3><p><strong>New England 29, Miami 9. </strong>The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>The kid had it all.<br>Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.<br>North Dakota weeps.</p><p><strong><em>• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free</em></strong>. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by <a href="https://www.si.com/static/newsletter/signup" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box.</em></a> Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.</p><p><strong>• <em>Question or comment? Story idea?</em></strong> Email us at <span><em>talkback@themmqb.com</em></span>.</p>
Ten Things I Think I Think: On the Coolest Drive of the Year, the Giants’ GM Job and Baker Mayfield

1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:

a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.

b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.

c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).

d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.

e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.

f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.

g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.

h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.

i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”

j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?

k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal.

l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.

m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.

n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.

o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.

p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.

2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.

3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.

4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6'0¼", and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5'10¾" ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.

5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com, and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. So a notice was put out on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear & join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.

6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect.

7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.

8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player's head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: Would be subject to officiating interpretation. Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It's a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe's midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender's intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I'm not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.

9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:

• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”

• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling Wash Me! It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”

I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into my 12-ounce Hydro Flask, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.

b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.

c. Football story of the week: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.

d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.

e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.

f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.

g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …

h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).

i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.

j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.

k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.

l. Obituary of the Week: from the Los Angeles Times, word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.

m. Story of the Week, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.

n. Baseball Story of the Week: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.

o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, I’ll get ’em next time.

p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.

q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.

r. Sprint, don’t run, to “Darkest Hour,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.

s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.

t. Save the Boston Herald.

Who I Like Tonight

New England 29, Miami 9. The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?

The Adieu Haiku

The kid had it all.
Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.
North Dakota weeps.

• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box. Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.

Question or comment? Story idea? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

<p>1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:</p><p>a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.</p><p>b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.</p><p>c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).</p><p>d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.</p><p>e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.</p><p>f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.</p><p>g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.</p><p>h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.</p><p>i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”</p><p>j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?</p><p>k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal. </p><p>l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.</p><p>m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.</p><p>n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.</p><p>o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.</p><p>p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.</p><p>2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.</p><p>3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.</p><p>4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6&#39;0¼&quot;, and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5&#39;10¾&quot; ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.</p><p>5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com<em>, </em>and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. <a href="http://deadline.com/2017/12/fox-sports-solicits-la-rams-fans-for-nfl-on-fox-pre-game-hoopla-sunday-1202223528/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:So a notice was put out" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">So a notice was put out</a> on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear &#38; join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.</p><p>6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect. </p><p>7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.</p><p>8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player&#39;s head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: <em>Would be subject to officiating interpretation. </em>Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It&#39;s a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe&#39;s midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender&#39;s intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I&#39;m not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.</p><p>9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:</p><p>• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”</p><p>• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling <em>Wash Me!</em> It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”</p><p>I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.</p><p>10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VKLOJL4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&#38;tag=sportsillustrated0f--20&#38;camp=1789&#38;creative=9325&#38;linkCode=as2&#38;creativeASIN=B00VKLOJL4&#38;linkId=596fe17a63fbeb127422e89b19a7f32b" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:my 12-ounce Hydro Flask" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">my 12-ounce Hydro Flask</a>, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.</p><p>b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.</p><p>c. <a href="https://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/nfl/bengals/2017/12/07/tim-krumrie-brain-trauma-wont-settle-sad-fate/905801001/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Football story of the week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Football story of the week</a>: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer<em>, </em>on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.</p><p>d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.</p><p>e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.</p><p>f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.</p><p>g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …</p><p>h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).</p><p>i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.</p><p>j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.</p><p>k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.</p><p>l. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-jerome-crowe-20171205-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Obituary of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Obituary of the Week</a>: from the Los Angeles Times<em>, </em>word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.</p><p>m. <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2017/12/05/plot-twist-for-bookstores/7U6qgeWtbw18iIBOSHoUdO/story.html?p1=Article_Trending_Most_Viewed" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Story of the Week</a>, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.</p><p>n. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-ohtani-angels-hernandez-20171208-story.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Baseball Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Baseball Story of the Week</a>: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times<em>, </em>on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.</p><p>o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, <em>I’ll get ’em next time.</em></p><p>p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.</p><p>q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.</p><p>r. Sprint, don’t run, to “<a href="http://focusfeatures.com/darkesthour" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Darkest Hour" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Darkest Hour</a>,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.</p><p>s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.</p><p>t. Save the Boston Herald.</p><h3>Who I Like Tonight</h3><p><strong>New England 29, Miami 9. </strong>The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>The kid had it all.<br>Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.<br>North Dakota weeps.</p><p><strong><em>• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free</em></strong>. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by <a href="https://www.si.com/static/newsletter/signup" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box.</em></a> Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.</p><p><strong>• <em>Question or comment? Story idea?</em></strong> Email us at <span><em>talkback@themmqb.com</em></span>.</p>
Ten Things I Think I Think: On the Coolest Drive of the Year, the Giants’ GM Job and Baker Mayfield

1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:

a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.

b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.

c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).

d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.

e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.

f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.

g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.

h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.

i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”

j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?

k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal.

l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.

m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.

n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.

o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.

p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.

2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.

3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.

4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6'0¼", and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5'10¾" ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.

5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com, and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. So a notice was put out on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear & join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.

6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect.

7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.

8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player's head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: Would be subject to officiating interpretation. Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It's a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe's midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender's intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I'm not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.

9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:

• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”

• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling Wash Me! It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”

I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into my 12-ounce Hydro Flask, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.

b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.

c. Football story of the week: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.

d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.

e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.

f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.

g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …

h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).

i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.

j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.

k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.

l. Obituary of the Week: from the Los Angeles Times, word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.

m. Story of the Week, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.

n. Baseball Story of the Week: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.

o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, I’ll get ’em next time.

p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.

q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.

r. Sprint, don’t run, to “Darkest Hour,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.

s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.

t. Save the Boston Herald.

Who I Like Tonight

New England 29, Miami 9. The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?

The Adieu Haiku

The kid had it all.
Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.
North Dakota weeps.

• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box. Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.

Question or comment? Story idea? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

<p>For all of the contentious debate that surrounded Jack Morris&#39; 15-year run on the BBWAA ballot, his election to the Hall of Fame via the Modern Baseball Era Committee—whose <a href="https://baseballhall.org/news/modern-era-ballot-results-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:results" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">results</a> were announced Sunday evening, from the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida—was inevitable, given the history of candidates who fell just short of 75% from the writers. On the other hand, the election of Morris&#39; longtime teammate, shortstop Alan Trammell, was a pleasant surprise given the lackadaisical support he received during his ballot tenure.</p><p>Those two stars of the Tigers’ 1984 World Series-winning squad as well as their &#39;87 AL East winners were the only candidates among a 10-man slate to receive at least 75% of the vote from a 16-member committee comprised of Hall of Famers, major league executives and veteran media members. What&#39;s more, they&#39;re the first living ex-players elected to the Hall by any small-committee process since 2001, when the election of Bill Mazeroski produced such an outcry that the Hall began a seemingly endless series of overhauls to the Veterans Committee.</p><p>The election of Morris has something in common with that of Mazeroski. The latter, a longtime Pirates second baseman who was one of the best defenders ever at his position, was a substandard hitter who owed a great deal of his fame to one swing of the bat that produced a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees. The legend of that home run—the first Series-ending homer in history—papered over the flaws in Mazeroski&#39;s candidacy. Similarly, Morris&#39; 10-inning complete game shutout for the Twins opposite Hall of Famer John Smoltz and the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series overshadowed the gruff righty&#39;s 3.90 ERA, which becomes the highest among the 63 Hall of Fame starters. Morris never led his league in ERA, led only once in strikeouts, and never won a Cy Young award, with a pair of third place finishes as close as he came</p><p>The battle over Morris during his 15-year run on the ballot (2000-14)—which I chronicled for <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Cooperstown-Casebook-Baseball-Should-Plaques/dp/1250071216?tag=smarturl-20" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Cooperstown Casebook" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>The Cooperstown Casebook</em></a>, released this past summer (excerpt <a href="https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-cooperstown-casebook-excerpt-the-war-on-war/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:here" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">here</a>)—centered around a reevaluation of old-school statistics, and a backlash to the introduction of new-school ones that helped his contemporary, Bert Blyleven, get <a href="https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/12685/prospectus-hit-and-run-blyleven-in-11-and-other-tales-from-the-ballot/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:elected in 2011" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">elected in 2011</a>. The reactionary campaign turned into one front of the culture war that unfolded in the wake of <em>Moneyball.</em> Its emphasis on wins, gritty intangibles and insider-ism brought out the worst in many, including multiple Spink Award-winning writers who were reduced to hurling schoolyard-level insults at those questioned their authority.</p><p>While <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/15/jack-morris-hall-fame-modern-baseball-era" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Morris won 254 games" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Morris won 254 games</a> for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians in his 18-year career—the 43rd highest total in history and seventh among those outside the Hall—his win total is a reflection of the great work of his teammates. He got excellent support from his defense, which included Trammell and his longtime double play partner Lou Whitaker, in the form of a .272 batting average on balls in play, 14 points better than league average. Relative to his leagues, the offensive support he received was six percent better than average (better than 41 of the 62 other Hall starters), while his rate of run prevention was just five percent better than league average. Among Hall of Famers, his 105 ERA+ tops only those of Catfish Hunter (104) and Rube Marquard (103). By comparison, Red Ruffing, whose 3.80 ERA was previously the highest among Hall of Fame starters, had a 109 ERA+, as he pitched during a higher-scoring era (1924-47).</p><p>Via Wins Above Replacement, Morris&#39;s 44.1 career WAR is <a href="https://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/jaws_P.shtml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:149th among starting pitchers" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">149th among starting pitchers</a>, surpassing just five of the 62 enshrined starters. His seven-year peak score of 32.8 WAR ranks 186th, ahead of just one Hall starter. His 38.4 JAWS, the average of those two figures, is tied for 163rd, surpassing just four Hall starters.</p><p>Morris’s candidacy started slowly. He debuted at 22.2% of the vote in 2000, didn&#39;t reach 30% until 2005, and took another five years to break 50%. But thanks to a backlash against “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” (to use <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/madden-stingy-yanks-life-difficult-brian-article-1.1226001" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bill Madden" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Bill Madden</a>’s unforgettable term) that propelled Blyleven to election, Morris gained steam, and after receiving 66.7% in 2012, his 13th year of eligibility, his election appeared inevitable. But amid a flood of controversial candidates on the 2013 ballot—Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa—he gained just three additional votes, finishing at 67.7%, then slipped to 61.5% in his final year in front of the writers.</p><p>Even then, it was clear that Morris&#39; story wasn&#39;t over. Since the BBWAA returned to annual voting in 1966, five players besides Morris aged off the ballot after receiving at least 60%, namely Nellie Fox (74.7% in 1985), Orlando Cepeda (73.5% in 1994), Enos Slaughter (68.8% in 1979), Jim Bunning (63.7% in 1991) and Gil Hodges (63.4% in 1983). All but Hodges were subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee.</p><p>That Morris has been as well is no surprise, as the panel, with a median age well above 60, was always more likely to be sympathetic to Morris’s old-school charms than the stat-savvy BBWAA minority that kept him out. This year&#39;s committee consisted of Hall of Famers George Brett, Rod Carew, Bobby Cox, Dennis Eckersley, John Schuerholz, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount; major league executives Sandy Alderson (Mets), Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bob Castellini (Reds), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals) and David Glass (Royals); and veteran media members/historians Bob Elliott, Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark.</p><p>That Morris, who understandably expressed some bitterness at the BBWAA outcome, gets some peace is a positive. He didn’t ask to become a battlefront in a cultural war that&#39;s largely been won, as analytics has permeated every front office in baseball, and subsequent elections, such as those of Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines last year, have solidified the incorporation of advanced statistics into Hall of Fame debates. Still, his election lowers the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers and serves as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Win totals aside, all have far fuller résumés than Morris from a Hall standpoint, better run prevention combined with Cy Young awards and their own shares of records and postseason heroics. They now deserve an equally thorough airing in this context, particularly in light of the scarcity of viable starting pitcher candidates in the coming years.</p><p><a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/14/alan-trammell-hall-fame-modern-baseball-era-committee" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:As for Trammell" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">As for Trammell</a>, a six-time All-Star who spent the entirety of his 20-year career (1977-96) with the Tigers, he was an outstanding two-way shortstop whose solid offensive numbers (2,365 hits, 185 homers, and a .285/.352/.415 line for a 110 OPS+) were overshadowed by Hall of Fame contemporaries Cal Ripken Jr. and Yount, both of whom won multiple MVP awards during their careers (the latter&#39;s second came after a shift to centerfield). Trammell himself was robbed of the 1987 AL MVP award by the Blue Jays&#39; George Bell, whose 47 homers and 134 RBIs overshadowed Trammell&#39;s .343/.402/.551 line with 28 homers and 21 steals. Bell&#39;s Blue Jays dropped the final seven games of the season, gifting the AL East to Trammell&#39;s Tigers, who despite their 98 wins fell to the 85-win Twins in the ALCS. Had Trammell won that award, and/or had the Tigers claimed a second pennant during that period, he might already be enshrined.</p><p>When Trammell reached the BBWAA ballot in 2002, he instantly became a forgotten man. While fellow shortstop Ozzie Smith breezed into Cooperstown with 91.7% of the vote, Trammell polled just 15.7%, lower than any post-1966 candidate ever elected by the BBWAA (Duke Snider’s 17.0% in 1970 is the low-water mark). Whether it was the patchiness of his late career, or his disastrous stint managing the Tigers from 2003–05—three sub-.500 seasons including a 43–119 crater in his first year—he remained below 20% until 2010, sinking as low as 13.4% in 2007, when Ripken and Tony Gwynn sailed in. Even after his minor surge to 36.4% percent in 2012, when Barry Larkin was elected on his third try, his support receded once the ballot grew more crowded, though he did finish with a high of 40.9% in 2016.</p><p>Trammell&#39;s raw numbers and his advanced ones bear a striking similarity to those of Larkin, the longtime Reds shortstop who himself was the centerpiece of a World Series winner (1990) but did win an MVP award (&#39;95). Thanks to excellent defense as well as offense, Trammell finished among the AL&#39;s top five in WAR four times, with two more in the top 10; in an 11-year stretch from 1980-90, his 59.3 WAR ranked third in the majors, behind only Rickey Henderson (80.7) and Wade Boggs (63.1), with Yount (57.6) and Ripken (57.5, albeit with just 23 games before 1982), just behind him. Trammell’s 70.4 career WAR ranks 11th among all shortstops, ahead of 14 of the 21 enshrined including Larkin (70.2). His seven-year peak total of 44.7 ranks eighth, ahead of 15 of the 21 enshrined shortstops, while his 57.0 JAWS ranks 11th, ahead of 13 of 21 inductees. He’s a worthy addition to Cooperstown.</p><p>Trammell deserved to be in years ago, and now the committee—which <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/07/26/baseball-hall-of-fame-era-committees-rule-changes" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:meets again in two years" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">meets again in two years</a>—needs to take a long look at Whitaker, who ranks 13th in JAWS but fell off the writers’ ballot after just one year because he received less than 5% of the vote. Whitaker has never been considered in a small-committee context, in part because he didn&#39;t become eligible until after his 15-year run would have expired in 2015. Still, his omission here felt like a slight.</p><p>Of the good news to be had from among the other eight candidates, the fact that Ted Simmons, who similarly fell off the writers&#39; ballot after just one try, finished just one vote short of election, counts. A switch-hitting catcher who starred for the Cardinals, he ranks 10th in JAWS. That the voters could give him a long enough look to take him seriously in this context offers hope for candidates such as Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Kenny Lofton who similarly went one-and-done.</p><p>On the other hand, the fact that <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/16/marvin-miller-hall-fame-modern-baseball-ballot" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Marvin Miller" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Marvin Miller</a>, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, received just seven votes is inexcusable, the absolute nadir of the Hall of Fame process. Time and again, it’s been a bloc of executives, many of whom have links to labor wars past, such as the 1981 and &#39;94 strikes, who have prevented his election, though some of the blame also lies with players who benefited via free agency not advancing his cause forcefully enough. Miller, who oversaw the game&#39;s biggest change since integration by dismantling the reserve clause and therefore shifting the century-old balance of power from the owners to the players, is the candidate with the strongest case of any individual outside Cooperstown, and perhaps the strongest case of any non-player in the game&#39;s history.</p><p>Via the Hall of Fame, the other six candidates—Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Luis Tiant—each received fewer than 7 votes. Those candidates spent 15 years on the writers’ ballot, with Garvey <a href="https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/11/10/hall-fame-modern-baseball-era-committee" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the only other one" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the only other one</a> besides Trammell and Morris to receive more than 32% of the vote.</p>
Evaluating the Inevitable Hall of Fame Election of Jack Morris, the Pleasant Surprise of Alan Trammell and More

For all of the contentious debate that surrounded Jack Morris' 15-year run on the BBWAA ballot, his election to the Hall of Fame via the Modern Baseball Era Committee—whose results were announced Sunday evening, from the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Florida—was inevitable, given the history of candidates who fell just short of 75% from the writers. On the other hand, the election of Morris' longtime teammate, shortstop Alan Trammell, was a pleasant surprise given the lackadaisical support he received during his ballot tenure.

Those two stars of the Tigers’ 1984 World Series-winning squad as well as their '87 AL East winners were the only candidates among a 10-man slate to receive at least 75% of the vote from a 16-member committee comprised of Hall of Famers, major league executives and veteran media members. What's more, they're the first living ex-players elected to the Hall by any small-committee process since 2001, when the election of Bill Mazeroski produced such an outcry that the Hall began a seemingly endless series of overhauls to the Veterans Committee.

The election of Morris has something in common with that of Mazeroski. The latter, a longtime Pirates second baseman who was one of the best defenders ever at his position, was a substandard hitter who owed a great deal of his fame to one swing of the bat that produced a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees. The legend of that home run—the first Series-ending homer in history—papered over the flaws in Mazeroski's candidacy. Similarly, Morris' 10-inning complete game shutout for the Twins opposite Hall of Famer John Smoltz and the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series overshadowed the gruff righty's 3.90 ERA, which becomes the highest among the 63 Hall of Fame starters. Morris never led his league in ERA, led only once in strikeouts, and never won a Cy Young award, with a pair of third place finishes as close as he came

The battle over Morris during his 15-year run on the ballot (2000-14)—which I chronicled for The Cooperstown Casebook, released this past summer (excerpt here)—centered around a reevaluation of old-school statistics, and a backlash to the introduction of new-school ones that helped his contemporary, Bert Blyleven, get elected in 2011. The reactionary campaign turned into one front of the culture war that unfolded in the wake of Moneyball. Its emphasis on wins, gritty intangibles and insider-ism brought out the worst in many, including multiple Spink Award-winning writers who were reduced to hurling schoolyard-level insults at those questioned their authority.

While Morris won 254 games for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians in his 18-year career—the 43rd highest total in history and seventh among those outside the Hall—his win total is a reflection of the great work of his teammates. He got excellent support from his defense, which included Trammell and his longtime double play partner Lou Whitaker, in the form of a .272 batting average on balls in play, 14 points better than league average. Relative to his leagues, the offensive support he received was six percent better than average (better than 41 of the 62 other Hall starters), while his rate of run prevention was just five percent better than league average. Among Hall of Famers, his 105 ERA+ tops only those of Catfish Hunter (104) and Rube Marquard (103). By comparison, Red Ruffing, whose 3.80 ERA was previously the highest among Hall of Fame starters, had a 109 ERA+, as he pitched during a higher-scoring era (1924-47).

Via Wins Above Replacement, Morris's 44.1 career WAR is 149th among starting pitchers, surpassing just five of the 62 enshrined starters. His seven-year peak score of 32.8 WAR ranks 186th, ahead of just one Hall starter. His 38.4 JAWS, the average of those two figures, is tied for 163rd, surpassing just four Hall starters.

Morris’s candidacy started slowly. He debuted at 22.2% of the vote in 2000, didn't reach 30% until 2005, and took another five years to break 50%. But thanks to a backlash against “the vigilante sabermetric brigade” (to use Bill Madden’s unforgettable term) that propelled Blyleven to election, Morris gained steam, and after receiving 66.7% in 2012, his 13th year of eligibility, his election appeared inevitable. But amid a flood of controversial candidates on the 2013 ballot—Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa—he gained just three additional votes, finishing at 67.7%, then slipped to 61.5% in his final year in front of the writers.

Even then, it was clear that Morris' story wasn't over. Since the BBWAA returned to annual voting in 1966, five players besides Morris aged off the ballot after receiving at least 60%, namely Nellie Fox (74.7% in 1985), Orlando Cepeda (73.5% in 1994), Enos Slaughter (68.8% in 1979), Jim Bunning (63.7% in 1991) and Gil Hodges (63.4% in 1983). All but Hodges were subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee.

That Morris has been as well is no surprise, as the panel, with a median age well above 60, was always more likely to be sympathetic to Morris’s old-school charms than the stat-savvy BBWAA minority that kept him out. This year's committee consisted of Hall of Famers George Brett, Rod Carew, Bobby Cox, Dennis Eckersley, John Schuerholz, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount; major league executives Sandy Alderson (Mets), Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bob Castellini (Reds), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals) and David Glass (Royals); and veteran media members/historians Bob Elliott, Steve Hirdt and Jayson Stark.

That Morris, who understandably expressed some bitterness at the BBWAA outcome, gets some peace is a positive. He didn’t ask to become a battlefront in a cultural war that's largely been won, as analytics has permeated every front office in baseball, and subsequent elections, such as those of Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines last year, have solidified the incorporation of advanced statistics into Hall of Fame debates. Still, his election lowers the bar for Hall of Fame pitchers and serves as a slight to numerous contemporaries such as Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser and David Cone. Win totals aside, all have far fuller résumés than Morris from a Hall standpoint, better run prevention combined with Cy Young awards and their own shares of records and postseason heroics. They now deserve an equally thorough airing in this context, particularly in light of the scarcity of viable starting pitcher candidates in the coming years.

As for Trammell, a six-time All-Star who spent the entirety of his 20-year career (1977-96) with the Tigers, he was an outstanding two-way shortstop whose solid offensive numbers (2,365 hits, 185 homers, and a .285/.352/.415 line for a 110 OPS+) were overshadowed by Hall of Fame contemporaries Cal Ripken Jr. and Yount, both of whom won multiple MVP awards during their careers (the latter's second came after a shift to centerfield). Trammell himself was robbed of the 1987 AL MVP award by the Blue Jays' George Bell, whose 47 homers and 134 RBIs overshadowed Trammell's .343/.402/.551 line with 28 homers and 21 steals. Bell's Blue Jays dropped the final seven games of the season, gifting the AL East to Trammell's Tigers, who despite their 98 wins fell to the 85-win Twins in the ALCS. Had Trammell won that award, and/or had the Tigers claimed a second pennant during that period, he might already be enshrined.

When Trammell reached the BBWAA ballot in 2002, he instantly became a forgotten man. While fellow shortstop Ozzie Smith breezed into Cooperstown with 91.7% of the vote, Trammell polled just 15.7%, lower than any post-1966 candidate ever elected by the BBWAA (Duke Snider’s 17.0% in 1970 is the low-water mark). Whether it was the patchiness of his late career, or his disastrous stint managing the Tigers from 2003–05—three sub-.500 seasons including a 43–119 crater in his first year—he remained below 20% until 2010, sinking as low as 13.4% in 2007, when Ripken and Tony Gwynn sailed in. Even after his minor surge to 36.4% percent in 2012, when Barry Larkin was elected on his third try, his support receded once the ballot grew more crowded, though he did finish with a high of 40.9% in 2016.

Trammell's raw numbers and his advanced ones bear a striking similarity to those of Larkin, the longtime Reds shortstop who himself was the centerpiece of a World Series winner (1990) but did win an MVP award ('95). Thanks to excellent defense as well as offense, Trammell finished among the AL's top five in WAR four times, with two more in the top 10; in an 11-year stretch from 1980-90, his 59.3 WAR ranked third in the majors, behind only Rickey Henderson (80.7) and Wade Boggs (63.1), with Yount (57.6) and Ripken (57.5, albeit with just 23 games before 1982), just behind him. Trammell’s 70.4 career WAR ranks 11th among all shortstops, ahead of 14 of the 21 enshrined including Larkin (70.2). His seven-year peak total of 44.7 ranks eighth, ahead of 15 of the 21 enshrined shortstops, while his 57.0 JAWS ranks 11th, ahead of 13 of 21 inductees. He’s a worthy addition to Cooperstown.

Trammell deserved to be in years ago, and now the committee—which meets again in two years—needs to take a long look at Whitaker, who ranks 13th in JAWS but fell off the writers’ ballot after just one year because he received less than 5% of the vote. Whitaker has never been considered in a small-committee context, in part because he didn't become eligible until after his 15-year run would have expired in 2015. Still, his omission here felt like a slight.

Of the good news to be had from among the other eight candidates, the fact that Ted Simmons, who similarly fell off the writers' ballot after just one try, finished just one vote short of election, counts. A switch-hitting catcher who starred for the Cardinals, he ranks 10th in JAWS. That the voters could give him a long enough look to take him seriously in this context offers hope for candidates such as Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Kenny Lofton who similarly went one-and-done.

On the other hand, the fact that Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, received just seven votes is inexcusable, the absolute nadir of the Hall of Fame process. Time and again, it’s been a bloc of executives, many of whom have links to labor wars past, such as the 1981 and '94 strikes, who have prevented his election, though some of the blame also lies with players who benefited via free agency not advancing his cause forcefully enough. Miller, who oversaw the game's biggest change since integration by dismantling the reserve clause and therefore shifting the century-old balance of power from the owners to the players, is the candidate with the strongest case of any individual outside Cooperstown, and perhaps the strongest case of any non-player in the game's history.

Via the Hall of Fame, the other six candidates—Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Luis Tiant—each received fewer than 7 votes. Those candidates spent 15 years on the writers’ ballot, with Garvey the only other one besides Trammell and Morris to receive more than 32% of the vote.

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