MLB Legacies: Roger Clemens

Major League Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the world. There have been so many memorable teams and moments over the years, especially in the postseason, as shown by increased interest in World Series odds with the progression of each season. 

Most people who love MLB also know about the great players who have made the sport incredible. These players leave behind legacies that cannot easily be forgotten. However, not all legacies last forever, and some can be overshadowed by drama and controversy. 

This was the case for the legacy of Roger Clemens. MLB struggled with controversy around drug use in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Roger Clemens was one of several stars whose names are forever linked to the scandal, but were the claims true? 

Controversial Moves 

Clemens spent the bulk of his career with the Boston Red Sox. After Boston drafted him in 1983, he was called up to the majors in 1984 and established himself as one of MLB's best pitchers. In 1986 he became the first pitcher to record 20 strikeouts in a 9-inning game, a feat he matched in 1996, his final year with the team. 

When the Red Sox declined to resign him, Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he played for two seasons, winning a Cy Young in 1998. At that point, however, Clemens demanded a trade due to his belief that Toronto was not good enough to win a championship. His demands rubbed fans the wrong way, and it became more controversial when the Blue Jays traded Clemens to the New York Yankees, the hated rivals of the Red Sox. The Yankees had won World Series championships in 1996 and 1998, and they felt Clemens would help continue their dynasty.

Clemens helped the Yankees win two more World Series in 1999 and 2000. However, one of his most infamous moments came in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series when he threw a shattered bat barrel towards New York Mets batter Mike Piazza.

Clemens announced that he was retiring in 2003, and most of his appearances that year amounted to a "retirement tour" where fans in many ballparks gave him standing ovations to show their appreciation. However, he quickly reneged on his decision months later, joining the Houston Astros for a few seasons and helping lead them to a World Series appearance in 2005 (where they were swept by the Chicago White Sox).  He then returned to the New York Yankees for one final season in 2007. 


Shortly after his retirement came the steroid allegations. In the Mitchell Report, released in 2008, former trainer Brian McNamee alleged that he injected Clemens with steroids during his career. Clemens replied with a series of strong denials, with the strongest coming in testimony before Congress in February 2008 where he denied taking any performance-enhancing drugs. Despite the denials, the allegations cast a shadow for Clemens that still exists today.

This was only the beginning of the legal trouble for Clemens, as the FBI opened an investigation as to whether Clemens committed perjury during his testimony before Congress.  In 2010, a grand jury indicted him of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. The trial, and all the awkward moments that came with it, began the following year. However, in 2012, Clemens was acquitted of all charges.

A Tainted Legacy 

Clemens was on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the 10th and final time in 2022. He finished his career with 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, 11 All-Star appearances and seven Cy Young Awards, along with his two World Series championships. On paper, Clemens was a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. 

However, allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs has tainted his legacy and therefore his eligibility. Although Clemens has repeatedly denied that he used PEDs, not everyone is convinced. 

After being snubbed in 2022, Clemens tweeted: "I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF. I played to make a generational difference in the lives of my family."

Clemens finished 3rd in the Hall of Fame voting last year with 65.2% of the vote from the BBWAA, falling below the 75% threshold needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Although Clemens will no longer be on the ballot for the baseball writers, he could still be considered for election by one of four Veteran’s Committees.  However, there is no doubt that the shadow of allegations about him could affect his chances of being named a Hall of Famer in the future. 

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