LOS ANGELES – It would be “shameful” for baseball writers to omit Roger Clemens from their Hall of Fame ballots over suspicions he used performance-enhancing drugs, a lawyer representing Clemens said.
Clemens is one of the headline attractions in what could be the most divisive election in Hall of Fame history. The first-time candidates include Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa, each of whom has been linked to performance-enhancing substances.
Voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America receive their ballots next month, with results announced in January.
In the case of Clemens, a federal jury in June cleared him of charges he lied to Congress when he testified he never used performance-enhancing drugs. Michael Attanasio, co-counsel for Clemens in the case, criticized those writers who he said already have indicated they would substitute their judgment for that of the jury.
“For them to say, ‘He’s not getting into the Hall of Fame because I know he did it,’ ” Attanasio said, “I think that’s shameful.”
Rusty Hardin, the lead counsel for Clemens, said he would consider sending voters a briefing book on the trial.
“I would think that if a baseball writer really wanted conscientiously to cast a vote on one of the greatest pitchers of all time, go look at the evidence,” Hardin said. “See, after you read it, why the jury did it. It wasn’t a crazy jury.”
Hall of Fame voters have soundly rejected any candidate with ties to steroid use.
Mark McGwire, who has admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs, has failed to get even 25 percent of the vote in the six years he has appeared on the ballot. McGwire hit 583 home runs, ranking 10th all-time.
Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive for steroids in 2005, has failed to get even 15 percent of the vote in his two years on the ballot. Palmeiro is one of the four players with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, alongside Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.
Yet the outstanding statistical credentials of McGwire and Palmeiro are a prelude to those of the four now eligible for the ballot.
Bonds won a record seven most valuable player awards. His 73 home runs are the single-season record, and his 762 career home runs are the all-time record. A federal jury in April 2011 convicted Bonds of obstruction of justice but cleared him of charges he lied to a grand jury when he testified he had not knowingly used steroids. Bonds is appealing the conviction.
Sosa hit 609 home runs, ranking eighth on the all-time list. The New York Times reported that he tested positive for steroids in 2003, though Sosa has denied using performance-enhancing substances.
Piazza, perhaps the best-hitting catcher of all time, told the Times in 2002 he had briefly used androstenedione earlier in his career — baseball did not ban the substance until 2004 — but had not used steroids. His autobiography is set for release in February, and in it he “addresses the steroid controversy that hovered around him and Major League Baseball,” according to Simon & Schuster, the publisher.
Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards. In the Mitchell Report, commissioned by MLB and released in 2007, former trainer Brian McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone on multiple occasions.
In a subsequent hearing in Congress, McNamee repeated his allegations under oath and Clemens denied them. Clemens was charged with perjury and acquitted at a trial in which McNamee testified.
Hardin and Attanasio spoke on a panel at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Hardin said Clemens does not expect to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
By denying his steroid use under oath rather than taking the Fifth Amendment, Clemens risked a perjury conviction that Hardin said could have resulted in 22 to 36 months in prison.
The Hall of Fame ballot charges voters with evaluating “the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Attanasio suggested Clemens’ willingness to risk his freedom to convince a jury he didn’t cheat spoke eloquently to his integrity, sportsmanship and character.
“That absolutely should go to his credit, in terms of that clause and the vote,” Attanasio said. “It’s a little sanctimonious to hear writers talk about it, given that (admitted spitballer) Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame. But to think Roger shouldn’t be in because of what Brian McNamee said is insane.”