What’s the difference between the greatest hitter and pitcher of the steroid era? It’s as obvious as an intentional walk.
I have no moral issues with Performance Enhanching Drugs. I don’t particularly feel like telling other people what they should do to their bodies in order to achieve happiness. I would certainly prefer that no one take PEDs because of the unknown harm that can be done to the mind and body, but this is not my decision.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds almost certainly engaged in some serious PED use. This was quite obvious well before the Mitchell Report (which is quite the dubious document, as some references were very poorly corroborated; check out this Peter Gammons article for an example), but has now become acceptable to talk about in terms of Clemens, who got by for years without much written suspicion until this past Thursday.
I’m not going to further address whether or not voters should check off a box next to a known PED user’s name, but one interesting topic I will address is this: would Clemens and Bonds have been Hall-of-Famers had they never decided to “cheat?”
First, let’s talk Bonds. His career numbers as of 1998 were incredible. He was an all-time five tool player who had 416 steals and 439 homers, ridiculous on-base abilities, a few Gold Gloves, and some MVP awards. The guy was already in Cooperstown because of his talents, not chemicals. Pantheon athlete? Not yet, but on his way to reaching that status at only 33 years old.
On the other hand, what about Clemens? While thought of as a dominant pitcher well before he left Boston, he was most definitely NOT already a Hall-of-Famer before he “resurrected” his career in Toronto, New York, and Houston…oh, and New York again, sort of.
Clemens was 192-111 in his time in Boston. He had a career ERA of 3.06 and struck out a solid 8.4 per 9 innings. That sounds like a pretty good pitcher to me. But not necessarily a Hall-of-Famer. Realistically, given how well Clemens pitched over the remainder of his career, and given he developed his devastating splitter later in his career to off-set a decline in his other pitches, Clemens certainly would have reached 260 wins with ease had he pitched until 40 year old. 290-300 was also quite possible.
275 wins means Hall-of-Fame. Not the guy that some have called the greatest pitcher of the modern era, but still damn good.
Why is it then, that the media and fans alike have treated the two so differently over the years, even though they basically are each other’s hitter/pitcher parallel?
Undoubtedly Bonds must own up and share some of the blame for being generally so repugnant as a human being, but lest we forget, Roger Clemens used to have issues with carrying his own bags, was accused of being a fat, lazy bum, and allegedly wouldn’t sign autographs for kids unless they paid for it (this is not necessarily true, but it has been said amongst fans, and was held against Clemens in the Boston area for years).
Dan Shaughnessy summed things up well last May for the Boston Globe when Clemens signed with the Yankees once again.
So why is there such a difference in the way we view these two legends?