Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza, linked by an ugly incident in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, are soon to be prime characters in an ironic twist of fate.
Next winter, Clemens and Piazza, along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, headline the first-time eligibles for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since all four gained stardom during the Steroids Era, many feel they are really candidates for the Hall of Shame wing at Cooperstown.
When Clemens was cleared of charges that he lied to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs, it reopened the Hall of Fame issue to public debate.
Before we get into that, a little history on the Clemens-Piazza World Series confrontation.
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It began in July of 2000 when Clemens, an accused head hunter, buried a fastball into Piazza's skull and he went on the disabled list with a concussion. The folllowing October, the stage was set for a faceoff when Clemens' Yankees and Piazza's Mets faced off in a subway World Series.
First inning of Game 2: Clemens strikes out the first two batters and up steps Piazza. Clemens blows two fastball strikes past the All-Star catcher.
Piazza swings at the next pitch. The bat explodes into three pieces. The barrel bounces between the mound and first base as the ball goes foul. Clemens rushes over and angrily picks up the wood and flings it right into the path of Piazza who is running toward first base.
Piazza yells: "What's your problem" as both dugouts empty. The umpires restore order and Piazza grounds out. The pitcher and catcher never again cross paths on the diamond.
Was Clemens' "problem" roid rage?
In an interview last year, both said the incident was behind them. Now they face their first Hall of Fame vote.
Clemens was among 92 players publicly linked to using performance enhancing drugs when he was mentioned 82 times in the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball. Clemens has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Piazza was not listed in the Mitchell report, but has been implicated by other players and once admitted to a reporter: "Sure I use," he said, "but in limited doses and not all that often."
Just a little guilty?
There are those who will use Clemens' acquittal -- in the 10-week trial that never should have taken place -- as a reason to vote him into the Hall of Fame.
I disagree, and here's a primary reason why:
From age 21-33, Clemens won 182 games and lost 98 with a 3.06 earned run average. From age 34-43, he won 172 games and lost 86 with a 3.17 ERA.
The man just didn't age.
I don't buy it. And I don't think the majority of HOF voters will either. Not this year and no time soon.
A player needs 75 percent of the vote to earn a pass to the Hall. In six tries, Mark McGwire, an admitted steroid user, has not surpassed 24 percent.
Clemens and Bonds and McGwire are the primary faces of the tainted era. To let any of them into the Hall of Fame would condone cheating.
A smart person once said: "Forgetting the past endangers the future."