Roger Clemens Deserves Induction into the Hall of Fame

Like many baseball fans, I look down on the players of the 90s who used steroids to advance their careers. Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds saw their numbers inflate with their muscles and later deflate with their reputations. Sosa had 600 career home runs with seven all-star appearances. Barry Bonds technically holds the all-time home run record (even though I still think it’s rightfully Hank Aaron’s). Despite those strong numbers, there’s something about these players that rub fans the wrong way. Maybe it was Sosa’s aloofness, or Bonds’ cocky attitude. Personally, I think it was their lack of enthusiasm for the game. They didn’t love the game as much as most Hall of Famers do, which is why they may never get inducted. Roger Clemens, however, is a different story. Roger Clemens deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Before I discuss Clemens’ worthiness, I should confess that I never was a huge fan of his. As aClemens Deserves Induction life long Red Sox fan, I saw his departure from Boston as the ultimate act of betrayal paralleling Babe Ruth’s in 1920. I also couldn’t stand Clemens’ arrogance as a player and person, especially in the wake of the steroids scandal. Clemens, however, while self-serving, took the mound every day to win. This view sets him apart from the others suspected of steroid use, and is why Clemens deserves induction into the Hall of Fame.

Clemens’ Numbers Through His Career

Clemens broke into the majors in 1986, helped the Red Sox reach the World Series, while taking AL MVP honors. He spent the next twenty-three years accumulating 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, eleven all-star appearances, two World Series championships, and an astounding seven Cy Young Awards. What’s particularly amazing is that Clemens won the Cy Young Award eighteen years apart (1986, 2004). Most pitchers’ careers don’t even last that long. Another amazing feat is that Clemens is one of only three pitchers to strike out 20 batters in a nine inning game (Kerry Wood and Max Sherzer are the other two). What’s even more impressive is that Clemens performed the feat twice, ten years apart (1986, 1996).

Clemens’ Tenacity Cancels Out Controversy

You can’t ignore the arrogant and sensitive comments Clemens has made throughout his career. There’s his vehement denial of steroid use (I’ll root for the Yankees before he ever confesses). There’s also his diva-like persona and views towards Asian baseball fans that has earned him rebuke. During his days with the Yankees, Clemens once quipped that he hated that he had carrying his own bags through the airport. But teammate Jason Giamni later told The New York Times, “I’d carry his bags for him, just as long as he is on the mound.” This testimony suggests that Clemens added much more to the game than those who also fell under the suspicion of steroid use. If we ding Clemens for his sins, then we should remove Mike Piazza, who also fell under the same suspicions of steroid use.

Clemens had the ability. He also had the longevity and spirit to go out there and win every day. His desire to win, and his ability are the reasons why Clemens deserves induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

Top Prospects Must Stay With Red Sox

As the trade deadline approaches, talks loom about who the Red Sox will let go in exchange for a strong pitcher. The most recent news points to the White Sox scouting players like Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. According to ESPN, the White Sox sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A team on July 28th. Moncada and Benintendi play there now. Personally, I don’t think any pitcher in the MLB is quite worth giving up Moncada or Benintendi, especially Chris Sale. If Boston wants to make it to another World Series, then the Red Sox top prospects must stay in the farm system.

Yoan Moncada has already stolen 43 bases in stints at Single and Double-A this season.Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay He’ll easily be a .300 average hitter in time. He can also hit for power. The fact that he can play infield, and serve as a designed hitter only adds to his value.

Andrew Benintendi is the next Carl Yastrzemski. He’s currently hitting over .300 with twelve triples between stints at Single and Double-A levels. You can attribute his triples to his developing strength and speed. Overall, he’s developing power, speed, and eye coordination, which will be both offensive and defensive assets. These factors signal that he’ll become a Boston superstar.

Let’s not forget about Michael Kopech. The guy is a wizard on the mound. Anyone his age that can throw 105 MPH is definitely worth keeping around. He pitched a immaculate inning a few weeks ago. He’s currently carrying an ERA of 1.35 in 26 innings this season. While that’s not a lot to bank on right now, it’s a VERY promising sign of what’s to come.

Experts like famed sportswriter Peter Gammons claim that all three of these prospects are “untouchable” and can’t be traded. According to ESPN, however, Dave Dombrowski said last week that “teams’ motivations tend to change as the deadline creeps closer.” Let’s hope that Gammons is right on this one.

Red Sox Top Prospects Must Stay To Create A New Dynasty

Seeing all three of these prospects on the field in Fenway Park in the near future would be riveting. They’ll be a throwback to the days of Yaz, Boggs, and Clemens. Players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Steven Wright, and Xander Bogaerts will be veterans by then. They can guide Moncada, Benintendi, and Kopech towards a dynasty that Boston hasn’t seen the likes of since the turn of the 20th century when the Red Sox won five World Series between 1903 and 1918. Moncada, Benintendi, Kopech, and other Red Sox top prospects must stay with the team if this dynasty is ever going to come to fruition.

Which Numbers Should the Red Sox Retire?

When the Red Sox gave number 24 to David Price, a pang of sadness engulfed me. I came of age as baseball fan in the mid-2000s, and Manny Ramirez was my hero. Though often obscured by flowing dreadlocks, he wore 24, and it therefore held special significance to me, just as it did to older fans who idolized Dwight Evans. Together, those two gave twenty-seven years of excellent service wearing that number, and I yearned to one day see it rightfully removed from circulation.

However, the Red Sox are notoriously careful about whose number they retire. Red Sox retireManagement has a strong preference for Hall of Fame players who spend at least a decade in Boston and also end their career in the city. Accordingly, only eight Red Socks, plus Jackie Robinson, have had their number retired: Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Pedro Martinez.

In May, Wade Boggs will join that elite group at long last, perhaps ushering in a new era for number retirement at Fenway Park. Previously, the Red Sox shied away from honoring Boggs, who infamously enjoyed success with the rival Yankees, but with Gordon Edes hired as a new team historian, perhaps The Olde Towne Team will finally relax its criteria for enshrinement.

Though many will hate the concept, there is now big money to be made from retirement ceremonies, with memorabilia sales and attendance soaring around such events. The Yankees have demonstrated that repeatedly in recent years, and Red Sox ownership may look on enviously and seek to boost their brand by honoring former heroes.

So, who deserves consideration, should the Sox expand their stable of retired numbers? Well, the 24 of Evans and Ramirez would be a terrific place to start. They combined to play 3,588 games, launch 653 home runs and collect 3,605 hits for the Red Sox, in addition to representing the team at 11 All-Star Games. Both were beloved by the fanbase, and both deserve fair recognition for tremendous careers. Just as the Yankees retired number 8 in honor of Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey, the Red Sox should hang the 24 of Dewey and Manny, thus giving two generations a chance to say thanks.

Similarly, David Ortiz should definitely have his number 34 retired. Aside from a plethora of accolades, awards and accomplishments, Papi was just a huge part, physically and spiritually, of bringing three World Series championships to a city that could barely dream of just one. Ortiz is the most important Red Sox player since Ted Williams, and he should be honored as part of his final season.

Spreading the net wider, Roger Clemens has a fairly good case for enshrinement, albeit one buried beneath steroid allegations and Yankee defection; Luis Tiant thrilled the masses and pitched remarkably well in Boston; and Fred Lynn is consistently overlooked when discussing the great players in Red Sox history. All three should be seriously considered.

Then, of course, we have those sweetheart players who charmed Beantown and captured the zeitgeist of Red Sox Nation at various times. Tony Conigliaro was a hometown kid done good; Nomar Garciaparra was deified in the late-90s as one of the game’s defining superstars; while Tim Wakefield was the living embodiment of the hope and perseverance that defines Boston baseball. Again, you could make a good argument for each of those guys.

Finally, I would like to propose a few names that may surprise people, and which may test the Red Sox’ rigorous criteria too much to ever gain serious acceptance. However, the 2004 World Series title may not have been secured without the leadership of Terry Francona, the intricate preparedness of Jason Varitek, or the warrior instinct of Curt Schilling. Those three made bold and courageous contributions to Red Sox history, which simply wouldn’t be the same without them. Therefore, they should at least be in the conversation.

Ultimately, the Red Sox may not honor any of the people mentioned above. But the retiring of a number should delve beyond simple longevity and skill, and instead focus on those select few legends who altered the course of team history and changed the texture of team success. If we play by those rules, more people will receive their long overdue moment of acknowledgement, which is what this should really be about.