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Day of reckoning (cont.)

Posted: Thursday December 20, 2007 2:02PM; Updated: Friday December 21, 2007 12:06PM
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By John Perrotto, BaseballProspectus.com

POLL
What did you think of Roger Clemens' denial of the Mitchell Report findings?
I believe him
I'm skeptical, but buying it
I don't believe him
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Others, such as the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton, the current BBWAA president, want more information before making a decision. "My initial reaction is 'yes,' but that's all it is, an initial reaction," Dutton says. "It's too early, I think, for anything else."

The Rocky Mountain News' Tracy Ringolsby and the Dayton Daily News' Hal McCoy, two veterans who have been honored in Cooperstown as winners of J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious service to the craft of baseball writing, have differing opinions. Ringolsby says, "I think what this report shows is that baseball, like other sports, went through a period of time that will be forever blemished, but it also shows this was an industry-wide situation, not isolated cases. During his career Clemens was as dominant -- if not the most dominant -- as any pitcher in the game. Hopefully, lessons will be learned from what happened, in that we have a tendency in all phases of life to try and find an edge on our competition and often that edge is used without a full understanding of the long-term implications."

"I won't vote for cheaters," McCoy says. "I said that about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. So I have to say it about Roger Clemens, too. He cheated and he wasn't participating on a level playing field with guys who chose to play the game the right way."

I was of the same mind as McCoy last year; my final decision was to automatically disqualify anyone with a steroid cloud. Thus I did not vote for McGwire. However, a year has passed, with more PED speculation and more admissions, all of which has given me a different perspective on the issue. In fact I had an epiphany in the hours leading up to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park as I stood in the concourse outside the visitors' clubhouse and strained to listen as Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd verified a San Francisco Chronicle report of his HGH use. It struck me that if Byrd, a guy who looks like Frasier Crane and throws his fastball at a speed barely faster than Tim Wakefield's knuckleball, could be an HGH user, then no one in the game is beyond suspicion. So I now look at every player who has appeared in a major league game from 1988 (an arbitrary date, as it was the first of my 20 years as the Pittsburgh Pirates' beat writer for the Beaver County Times in suburban Pittsburgh) until now has possibly been chemically enhanced.

It may not be the most logical way to look at the issue and it certainly isn't fair. However, I cannot think of a better prism through which to view the players of the past two decades. In regard to Clemens in particular, I can only go by the numbers, and Clemens has 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, and a most impressive 3.12 ERA during a career in which the league average has been 4.38. To me, those numbers clearly say Hall of Fame.

John Perrotto has been a BBWAA member since 1988, when he began what has been 20 years covering the Pirates for the Beaver County (Pa.) Times.

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