With the 2017 MLB Hall of Fame inductions just days away, I felt it was time I finally addressed something that I have believed, and felt passionate about for years now.
In my mind, it is an absolute no-brainer, that Roger Clemens, with or without steroids, is the greatest pitcher in MLB history. No if's, and's, or but's. Now, putting my personal feelings aside, and my love and admiration for "The Rocket", I have quite a few legitimate reasoning's as to why this man not only belongs in the Hall of Fame, but deserves to be regarded as the greatest pitcher to ever step onto the mound.
Let's begin with the elephant in the room and address the steroid issue. Now, there's no doubt in my mind or anyone's mind that Roger Clemens used steroids during the course of his career. If I had to guess, I would assume that he began using steroids a few years before, and during his tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays, and then certainly again during his comeback with the Astros in 2004.
My first counterpoint to the steroid use is the most clear and obvious - he played during the steroid era. He faced guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmero, the list goes on an on, so let's not act like he was out there with a legitimate advantage over the rest of the league. EVERYONE was doing it, and while that is far from an excuse, it means that whatever "advantage" he had, was negated by the rest of his competition's similar abuse of PED's.
Secondly, and for me, most importantly, is that there is no way you can tell me that he came into the league juiced up in 1984. He came into the league firing, and by his third season in the MLB at age 23 in 1986, had grabbed the CY Young and MVP awards, his first ERA title, his first strikeout title, and first All-Star appearance. Not to mention that season he recorded the MLB's first EVER 20 strikeout game, going 9 innings against the Mariners and allowing only 3 hits and 1 earned run. The 20K feat has only been accomplished 3 more times since that April 1986 game, the second coming from Clemens yet again in 1996.
Now with the steroid issue being addressed, you have to take a look at what he did over the course of 24 seasons in the MLB. If you are still hung up on the steroid issue, just TRY and look at these numbers and accomplishments from a hypothetical standpoint.
*Additionally, regarding the majority of the stats and accomplishments that I'll be bringing to light, I want it to be noted that I do not think that any pitcher who pitched before the 1960's-70's should be counted towards all-time wins/strikeouts/awards of any kind, because the dead-ball era and the way the game was played was built for pitchers to thrive in certain aspects, and the amount of innings pitched alone give these guys statistical advantages over anyone. While they are still some of the greatest players to ever step on the diamond, for the sake of comparison, it just isn't fair.*
Roger Clemens is a 7x Cy Young award winner, 2 more than any pitcher in MLB history, with his award winning seasons spanning 18 years. He won an MVP in 1986, and finished top 10 in the MVP voting 5 more times after that. He earned 7 ERA titles, second most all time behind Lefty Grove's 9 titles. He had 6 different seasons where he recorded 20+ wins, with 4 additional seasons where he came up just short with 18 wins. He ranks 9th All-Time in career wins, with 354, and 20th All-Time in win-loss %. Of those 8 individuals ahead of him in career wins, only Warren Spahn (363) and Greg Maddux (355) should be counted in comparison to Clemens. He is a 2x Pitching Triple Crown winner, both coming during his two ridiculous seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he won back-to-back Cy Young awards. He ranks third All-Time in strikeouts (4,672), trailing only Nolan Ryan (5,714), and Randy Johnson (4,875), both of whom are regarded as the greatest strikeout pitchers of all-time, and both trail Clemens in every other possible statistical category.
Of course, you can't forget his two World Series rings with the Yankees either, the first coming in 1999 when he pitched the Bronx Bombers to a series win in Game 4, throwing 7.2 IP, allowing 1 earned run, and striking out 4 batters. Similarly, in 2000, as the Yankees faced the Mets, Clemens recorded his second world series win, as he pitched 8 innings, allowing 2 hits, and striking out 9 in the process.
I could go on and on for hours with stat after stat as to why Roger Clemens not only deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but should be considered the most dominant pitcher to ever step on the mound. Love him, hate him, or call him a cheater, his resume is as good as it gets. I believe at this point the MLB needs to embrace the steroid era, and let all those who truly dominated that time into the Hall, because like it or not, the steroid era was the most exciting time in MLB history.
With Clemens' Hall of Fame voting % going from 44% to 54% from 2016 to 2017, I am hoping that sometime very, very soon, we will see the Rocket's % hitting 75% and him being enshrined forever.
And hey, if you don't wanna take my word for it regarding The Rocket's dominance, take a look at how his career compares to Sandy Koufax AND Pedro Martinez combined.