Commentary

Sox leave light on for Clemens

As a 2014 inductee to team's HOF, Rocket may finally make peace with Boston

Updated: February 5, 2014, 5:49 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

Finally, a Hall of Fame that even Roger Clemens can love. Or, of more consequence for Clemens, one that loves him.

The Red Sox announced Wednesday the list of 2014 inductees to their Hall of Fame, and an impressive class it is: Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, broadcaster Joe Castiglione, and the Rocket. The door to Cooperstown may be blocked to Clemens, who received less support (35.4 percent) this go-round than he did in his first year on the ballot, but no such reservations were demonstrated by the 16-member committee whose selections are awarded with plaques displayed outside the EMC club.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesRoger Clemens and Pedro Martinez greeted each other as members of the All Fenway team, which was introduced during a pre-game ceremony in September. Both were named Wednesday to the 2014 Red Sox Hall of Fame class.

That committee is comprised of team executives, broadcasters, members of the BoSox Booster Club and Sports Museum of New England, and past and present media members. The committee is unencumbered by the guidelines of integrity and sportsmanship that has the Baseball Writers Association of America so divided on the issue of what to do with those who used PEDs or are suspected of using PEDs. Even a subsequent tour of duty in a Yankee uniform is not a deterrent to induction, as Wade Boggs demonstrated with his 2004 election, so Clemens' selection was pretty much a slam-dunk.

"He's very happy about the election,'' Dick Bresciani, the Sox vice president emeritus of public affairs and team historian, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

Clemens has yet to receive the kind of love accorded Martinez, who is listed in the Sox directory as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington but is more like the resident deity, or Garciaparra, who was an unhappy camper when traded by the Sox in 2004 but came back a few years later to sign a one-day "contract" that allowed him to say he ended his career with the Sox, and receives unfiltered adulation whenever he shows up.

But things could be trending in that direction. Clemens has been invited back for many of the team's milestone moments in recent years. He begged off the Fenway 100th birthday celebration in 2012, saying his son Kacy had a high school playoff game, but has sat in the Monster seats with buddies for a couple of games (Sox supplying security), came back for the All-Fenway team at the end of 2012 and the Morgan Magic reunion last July, when he was warmly received. And when the Sox went to Houston last August, Boston pitchers Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster had lunch with Clemens and his sons.

Reconciliation?

"I can't say anything about a 'reconciliation,' since I don't know of any problem our ownership has had with him,'' Bresciani wrote.

Clemens hasn't reached the point where the Sox are asking him to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a postseason game, but it isn't hard to envision that day coming. And the Sox clubhouse managers, first Joe Cochran and now Tom McLaughlin, have not assigned Clemens' No. 21 since he left the Sox to sign with Toronto after the '96 season, just as they haven't reissued Pedro's No. 45, perhaps anticipating that one day those numbers will be retired and affixed to the grandstand roof.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaClemens patted his heart to cheering fans at Fenway during a ceremony in July celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Morgan Magic.
[No such treatment for Nomar. Three players -- Rocco Baldelli, Nick Punto and now Jonny Gomes -- have worn his No. 5 since he left.]

Of course, Clemens belongs in the Sox Hall. No need to recite the numbers he accumulated while he was here: He and Martinez rank as the greatest pitchers in Red Sox history. In my personal ranking, it's Martinez 1-A and Clemens 1-B, recognizing that it could easily be flipped the other way. Clemens made his big-league debut 30 years ago this May, and for the better part of a dozen years was the most compelling figure in Boston baseball, as much the face of the franchise as David Ortiz is today. There is no telling the Red Sox story without including the Clemens chapters, especially since no one has connected his years in Boston to the allegations of PED use that have followed. He hasn't been canonized, just recognized for the great pitcher he was in a Sox uniform.

Clemens has remained involved with his hometown Astros, where he is a special assistant to GM Jeff Luhnow. When they made a serious bid for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, Clemens accompanied owner Jim Crane for face-to-face negotiations in Los Angeles. He also toured with the Astros caravan when it stopped in Oklahoma City.

Maybe Clemens' future involvement in baseball will begin and end in Houston. But perhaps the day will come when Clemens will find a place, and not just a plaque, in his baseball home.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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