Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News reported Tuesday evening that attorneys for embattled former pitcher Roger Clemens are considering ways to try to sway members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to cast their Hall of Fame votes for their client.
The 50-year-old Clemens is on the ballot for the first time this winter, but his reputation has taken a beating in retirement. Federal prosecutors accused Clemens of lying to Congress during a 2008 hearing when he said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens was acquitted in June after a nine-week trial.
Rusty Harden, the lead attorney for Clemens’ defense team, said he is considering sending a briefing book on the trial to the writers who vote for the Hall.
“I would think that if a baseball writer really waned conscientiously to cast a vote on one of the greatest pitchers of all time, go look at the evidence,” Harden told the Los Angeles Times. “See, after you read it, why the jury did it. It wasn’t a crazy jury.”
On the surface, Clemens’ candidacy for the Hall of Fame would appear to be a slam dunk. His 354 wins are the ninth-most in major-league history. More significantly, only Warren Spahn (363) and Greg Maddux (355) have more wins among pitchers who did not pitch during the dead-ball era. Clemens trails only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875) on the all-time strikeouts list with his 4,672.
But the writers have not been kind so far to players associated with the so-called “steroid era.”
Former Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire received only 19.5 percent of the vote in 2012, light years from the 75 percent needed for induction. McGwire hasn’t come close in six years on the ballot and it’s not likely his totals will improve this time around.
Even Jeff Bagwell, the former Houston Astros slugger who was only mentioned in whispers when it came to PEDs, fell well short on his first year on the ballot. He got 56 percent of the vote last year despite averaging more than 100 RBI a season over the course of his 15-year career.
It gets more complicated in 2013. Among the first-time eligibles are some players with a little bit of steroid controversy in their backgrounds. Barry Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa are on the ballot this time around, along with Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling.
There is no question Bonds, Clemens and Sosa won’t get in next year, if ever. Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher of all time, won’t make it in 2013 because there were suspicions he used PEDs. There were no positive tests, of course, and nothing but innuendo and an acknowledgement he used androstenedione early in his career.
But in today’s Hall of Fame voting climate, suspicion is enough to keep a player out of Cooperstown.
In cases where there was more than suspicion? Shoeless Joe Jackson might have a better chance of being enshrined, regardless of how much politicking one’s attorneys might do.