Roger Clemens' lawyers unveil a new argument for the Hall of Fame

Jared Wickerham

Yes, they really did invoke the "integrity clause" in Roger Clemens' favor.

Good news! On the pressing matter of Roger Clemens' Hall of Fame candidacy, Roger Clemens' lawyers have weighed in! See, the only recorded evidence of Clemens' steroid use was in the Mitchell Report, and that evidence was in the form of Brian McNamee's testimony, and Clemens' lawyers destroyed McNamee in a trial, so -- the logic goes -- how can the Hall of Fame voters even consider steroids when considering Clemens' candidacy?

But wait, it gets even better. Like any good lawyers, they're pressing their case. From Bill Shaikin (via the L.A. Times):

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 the pitcher's willingness to risk his freedom to convince a jury he did not 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."

Well, no: It's not insane. But thanks for keeping this discussion on an even keel.

Wrong-headed, maybe. Intellectually inconsistent, probably. But we should reserve the "insane" label for anybody who thinks Miguel Cabrera was more valuable than Mike Trout this season.

Kidding! They're merely addle-minded!*

* still kidding. sorta.

Anyway, the notion that Clemens' "willingness to risk his freedom" will carry approximately zero weight with the actual Hall of Fame voters, most of whom either a) covered Clemens, or b) have spent a fair amount of time with people who covered Clemens. So they are likely to see his "willingness to risk his freedom" not as a marker of integrity, but rather just another manifestation of his stubbornness, his combativeness, and perhaps his delusions.

I'm not saying they're right. I'm just saying this line of defense probably won't sway many voters.

Just to review, the following contains the so-called "integrity clause":

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."

This may, of course, be used to support just about any argument you care to make about a player. But with the exception of Shoeless Joe Jackson and perhaps Carl Mays, it's exceptionally difficult to identify serious Hall of Fame candidates who have failed to gain election because of some supposed deficit of integrity or sportsmanship. Conversely, it's almost impossible to identify actual Hall of Famers who garnered significant extra support because of their integrity and sportsmanship.

You know how I feel about this. Or maybe you don't. Sometimes I'm not sure I know how I feel about this. I wish the players hadn't taken so many illegal drugs in the '90s, and the 'aughts. I also wish they hadn't taken so many drugs in the 1970s, and the '80s. I think there are four guidelines a Hall of Fame voter might follow with some consistency.

One might decide to ignore drug use completely.

One might decide to vote for a candidate who almost certainly would have compiled Hall of Fame numbers whether he used drugs or not.

One might disqualify any player who's been been just touched by hints or rumors of drug use.

One might disqualify almost any player who's on record as having used banned or illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

I tend to waver between the first and second of those, but closer to the first if there's a continuum.

But many voters prefer to third guideline, and most have clearly adopted the fourth, most stringent guideline. Which, as I've said and written many times, I simply cannot understand.

Roger Clemens will someday be elected to the Hall of Fame. But it sure as hell won't happen this year, or any year soon. He will be elected when a number of today's Hall of Fame voters have died off, and some of the rest have cast off the bonds of self-righteousness.

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