Clemens will get my Hall of Fame vote

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - Washington might be in first place in the National League East. But the government is in last when it comes to winning big trials on the federal level of late.

The feds failed to fully nail Barry Bonds. Recently, former presidential candidate John Edwards walked. On Monday, Roger Clemens beat the feds, too.

Clemens, the former All-Star pitcher, was acquitted on all charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'm very thankful," an emotional Clemens told the media after the not guilty verdict. "It's been a hard five years."

In 2008, Clemens was charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress when he testified at a deposition and at a nationally televised hearing.

The government banked its case on Clemens' longtime strength coach, Brian McNamee, who claimed he injected Clemens with steroids during his playing career. The only problem was that McNamee was a flawed witness and had a credibility issue because of things in his past.

That's why the jury did the right thing.

There was, indeed, a reasonable doubt.

For sure, most will still believe that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs, even though he denied it and fought to clear his name. And he won the case.

Clemens is up for a Hall of Fame vote by baseball writers next season. There's a good chance that despite all the great things Clemens did in his 24-year career, he won't get into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot try.

Proof is Mark McGwire. He admitted to steroid use and hasn't come close to making it in. McGwire, if we're only looking at his stats, would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. So far, any player who admitted use or been under suspicion has been left out.

Clemens, who won seven Cy Youngs,  will get my vote, however.

There's a good chance Clemens, indeed, used the stuff. But I think it was more the norm in the league than most want to admit. Plus, I still look at PEDs as ways to recover and keep you playing. It can't make you a great player.

Clemens, who won 354 games, was a great pitcher before and after steroids. That convinces me of his greatness. Many look at his season when at age 41, Clemens went 18-4, as proof he was helped by the drug. In his final season, the next year, Clemens posted a career-best 1.87 ERA.

 But, there were a lot of pitchers in the Mitchell Report, naming players who test positive, and none of them had the results Clemens.

The other thing I hold onto is that baseball didn't even test for PEDs. Hence, it wasn't a banned substance. You can't change the rules after the fact. What's done can't be undone.

My fellow sports writers aren't honest with their stance. They are willing to wipe out the Yankees and Red Sox championships which were won with players who used steroids, but want to punish the individuals. So foul.

Either everything is wiped out or everything stands. You can't have it both ways.

No one can tell us exactly how much steroids help. There are no facts other than people saying it makes you throw the ball harder and hit the ball farther. It has become like an Urban Legend.

I'm still waiting for the scrub player that used steroids and made it to the Hall. There are none. Because you have to have a long career of excellence not a few lucky or out of the norm seasons.

Commissioner Bud Selig should have come out and said that all stats and championships would stand and the game would move forward and take PEDs out of the game with stiffer rules.

But just pointing fingers at certain player, especially the star players, Selig has left this thing open to debate.

That's why there's a chance some of the greatest players we ever saw might not get in. That would be a shame.

I will not follow the flock on this. I believe most baseball writers are 100% wrong and botched this period in baseball history. Just call it the steroid era, the same way we call the game without blacks and Hispanics the segregation era. That was a mistake, too.

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