HOUSTON — We are two weeks from the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., which Roger Clemens should be a part of.
He should be a Hall of Famer with 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, seven Cy Youngs, and two 20-strikeout games playing for the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros, perhaps the most dominating pitcher of his generation.
But his inclusion in the Mitchell Report as a PED abuser — even though he was cleared of obstruction and lying to Congress over PED use — remains stuck in the minds of voters.
In his two years of Hall eligibility, his voter support has dipped from 37.6 percent to 35.4, far short of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement.
He has 13 remaining years of eligibility. And although he has never failed a steroid test, Clemens, now a special assistant to the general manager of the Houston Astros, may never become a Hall of Famer, even though many voters, including yours truly, have supported him on the ballot.
When asked Saturday, during the Red Sox-Astros game at Minute Maid Park, about his Hall of Fame exclusion, Clemens said, “I won’t even address that. That’s not worth addressing. I think I told you already once, it’s not gonna change me as a person or who I am. I have no control over that.
“If they want to believe something that’s out there because some guy [trainer Brian McNamee] had an agenda, believe it. I could care less. All I know is I’m stopping him from making money off my name. That’s how we operate.”
Clemens didn’t elaborate whether he faces further legal battles.
Clemens has disputed McNamee’s claims that he injected Clemens when they were together in Toronto. Clemens’s defense team has successfully painted McNamee as someone with less than scrupulous conduct who is not credible.
Clemens has been welcomed back with open arms in New York, Boston, Toronto, and Houston. He’s content these days to work with pitchers in the Astros’ farm system, work charity events for his foundation, watch his sons play baseball, and play a lot of golf.
He will be inducted in the Red Sox Hall of Fame in August, along with Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Joe Castiglione. He says he keeps an eye on the Red Sox, and when he visits at least once a year he gets together with some of their pitchers.
Last summer he had dinner with Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Ryan Dempster. He has interest in Texan Brandon Workman, and says he often corresponds with current players on his former teams.
“I watch Brandon quite a bit,” Clemens said. “I’ll get a call from a friend of mine who knows Brandon and he’ll have a question. Some of these guys will ask different questions. Just recently [Workman] said he’s not very happy about going back to Pawtucket. I said, ‘You shouldn’t be because you’re a big leaguer, and you’ll be right back there in no time.’ Don’t go getting [ticked] off like I did when I was young.”
He said of Lester, “I think he feels comfortable in his position now as an elite pitcher. There was one game I watched and I texted him right after where I said, ‘You need to keep that tape right in your side drawer or in your computer.’ He was incredible how he was able to repeat his delivery.”
Clemens, commenting about the distraction of free agency said, “Let’s be real. You can go 12-12 and throw 200 innings and they’ll give me $18 million. That ain’t no pressure. Just go out there and be yourself and you’re gonna get paid. And [Lester’s] lefthanded.”
The Astros had Clemens meet Masahiro Tanaka last winter before Tanaka signed with the Yankees.
He said many years ago he showed Koji Uehara and other Japanese pitchers how to throw the split-fingered pitch.
One of Dr. James Andrews’s most prominent patients, Clemens is close with Andrews and they have discussed the rash of pitching injuries.
“I think it’s extremely stressful with the mound being 11 inches high,” Clemens said. “I experienced that with my lower half even at my advanced age. If you want to see some of it alleviated, you would come up a little more with the mound. It’s just less stressful on the body.
“You also see guys come out now level shoulder. There’s no tilt. Try to teach them to have a little bit of tilt. The reason I bring it up is I just spoke to Dr. Andrews and some people about the same thing. Doc made the comment that he’s done more Tommy Johns on kids from [ages] 13-16 than he ever has. I go in to talk to those parents and they tell me, ‘Look Mr. Clemens, we did the no curveballs until he was 15, did the pitch-count [limits], and we’re still here.’ Most of the guys who get hurt are level shouldered and it puts a lot of stress on the elbow.”
Clemens is about to see Mark Appel, Houston’s No. 1 overall pick last year. Appel has not had a good start to his career, struggling with a 9.57 ERA this season in the high-Single A California League.
Clemens thinks pitchers have to pitch inside more. He certainly offers that opinion to young pitchers.
Clemens said he’s very busy with his Astros schedule, and for the moment wouldn’t want any more to do.
“I have 17 guys come to my house and throw and they’re all big leaguers,” said Clemens about the offseason. “Earlier in my career I had a chance to watch [Tom] Seaver [with the Red Sox in 1986] and I learned a lot and asked questions. And I look forward to doing that with the young guys.”
Two weeks from now, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas will be standing on a stage in Cooperstown for their enshrinements. Clemens should be up there with them.
But the PED charges will follow him forever. And Clemens will fight them to the death.