Yesterday, the Boston Red Sox announced the three newest members of their storied Hall of Fame, the warmest, innermost circle in their legendary Boston creme pyre. The lucky trio are Nomar Garciappara, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.
As a Yankee fan, I say, congrats to all!
By inducting Clemens, Boston seems to be bucking the Selig iron rule of baseball morality: that no player accused of using performance enhancing drugs shall be recognized for his past achievements. According to the National Sportswriters Sacred Code of Hypocrisy, Roger shall be closed out of Cooperstown, along with Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. No decision has been made on Jason Giambi, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, et al -- and the avalanche of names still awaiting public disclosure, when a few years from now a cadre of destitute, or conscience-wear or attention-starved ex-players start writing their tell-all memoirs. (See CANSECO, Jose.)
As a Yankee fan, I hate to say this, I really, really, really, really do:
Wait a minute. I know there are red-blooded Red Sox fans out there who will:
a) Hate the idea of Clemens being honored.
b) Claim Roger was surely clean when he pitched for Boston.
c) Say this honor means nothing; there is no meaning here; stop reading, everybody, go home, there's nothing to see.
Fine. OK. No problem.
However, I prefer to think Boston, by recognizing Clemens' work, shows signs of being:
a) Magnanimous. After all, they've now won three world championships in a decade.
b) Smart, because they know if they start applying morality to all their stars, in a few years, they won't have anybody to induct into their Hall of Fame (See ORTIZ, David).
c) Realistic about human nature and the obsessions of pro athletes.
Listen: Baseball cannot continually scrutinize and tear apart its aging superstars as they hit their declining (and, maybe not coincidentally, their highest-paid) years. It's a stinko model. It's also 1948 Russia. When does it stop? Two years ago, there were credible allegations that Mickey Mantle was juicing back in 1961. Should MLB go back and investigate? And if it's found true, should The Mick's legacy be stricken from the books?
Of course not! Dear God, that would be insane! (And stupid, from a marketing standpoint.) And what happens when the future claims emerge in the tell-all books? Will baseball pull down plaques and strike names from the books, like OJ Simpson's Heisman Trophy at USC, or Joe Paterno's statue at Penn State?
Listen: What's done is done.
For better or worse, we cannot take back Barry Bonds' home run records. (And he probably hit some off pitchers who were juicing.) Yes, steroids are a bad chapter in baseball history. But performance enhancing drugs are also an ongoing chapter, which will never end. At least Boston is willing to turn the page and move on.
Roger Clemens was a great player. Give him a plaque, give him a drink, give him a round of applause. Was he a cheater? Probably. Was he a warrior? Damn straight. Does he deserve to be shunned and shamed for the rest of his life? Let's think long and hard on that.