On-Base Perception

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Roger Clemens' move may reset Hall of Fame chances

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens pauses

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens pauses as he speaks to the media outside federal court in Washington. (June 18, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Roger Clemens -- Cy Young winner, World Series champion, record holder -- may be counting on the Sugar Land Skeeters to help nudge him into the Hall of Fame.

It's been a whirlwind five years since Roger Clemens last set foot on a major league mound, a time filled with accusations, evidence, denials, lawyers, courts, judges and an acquittal thrown in for good measure.

When Clemens threw his last major league pitch, a fastball to strike out Victor Martinez in Game 3 of the 2007 ALDS, it was a foregone conclusion that in August 2012 he would be just months away from election to the Hall of Fame. Instead, he's likely to end up in the purgatory Mark McGuire must suffer through every year: getting enough votes to stay on the ballot, but not enough to earn election.

Yes, Clemens was acquitted of perjury during a lengthy federal trial. But he hasn't been acquitted of actually using performance enhancing drugs in the minds of many fans, nevermind Hall of Fame voters.

So when news broke Monday that Clemens, 50, would be signing with Sugar Land, an unaffiliated team that plays for the independent Atlantic League (along with the Long Island Ducks), it immediately raised the possibility that Clemens could be trying to reset his Hall of Fame clock.

Players are eligible for induction five years after they've last played in the majors, which makes Clemens eligible this year. But if Clemens can somehow parlay this gig into a job in the majors in September, he wouldn't be eligible for another five years. Yes, that's a bit of stretch, though.

But who knows what we might learn in that period of time? Maybe scientists discover that steroids don't give ball players any real benefits. Maybe they find that Brian McNamee was injecting Clemens in his sleep, with “the Rocket” having no knowledge of the shots.

Or maybe people just stop caring that players may have used performance enhancing drugs.

That final point is what Clemens would seem to be banking on. And for those who think Clemens could never hook on with one of the 30 MLB teams, just examine recent history. The Oakland A's signed Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal despite multiple well-publicized PEDs suspensions. Someone will sign Melky Cabrera next year despite a 50-game ban down the stretch this season and allegations that he tried to cover up his use of a banned substance by some pretty head-scratching means.

The bottom line is that if a pitcher can still get hitters out or a batter can still jack one over the wall, someone will be interested. Maybe it's Clemens' hometown Houston Astros. In the midst of one of their saddest seasons ever, would they take a gamble on Clemens, if for no other reason than to boost attendance and merchandise sales in September?

Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte caught Clemens during his audition for the Skeeters.

“He is nasty,” Bracamonte told Fox 26 Sports. “His split is good. He still has life. He was throwing in the high 80s.”

Certainly sounds like he could help a major league team out. And perhaps help his Hall of Fame chances in the process.

Tags: Roger Clemens , Houston Astros , Victor Martinez

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