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On Mindy McCready, and why PEDs aren’t why Roger Clemens belongs outside the Hall of Fame

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Sometimes, the character clause should matter. This is one of those times.

User Keith Allison on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Now that Hall of Fame voting season is upon us again, we find ourselves again wrestling with the annual question of whether two of baseball’s titans - Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens - belong in the Hall of Fame. Usually, that discussion revolves around their alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, an allegation that both deny.

This article is not about PED allegations. Roger Clemens doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame for an entirely different reason, and one which merits far more attention than it has thus far received.

Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a young girl. The baseball world was appropriately reviled and disgusted, as no person who acts in such a manner belongs on a baseball field. And yet, this same baseball world collectively shrugs when it comes to Roger Clemens’ long time ”relationship” with the late country singer Mindy McCready.

In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that “Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.”

A few days later, McCready confirmed the Daily News account, saying “I cannot refute anything in the story.”

Nevertheless, it was McCready who was sullied in the press. Inside Edition asked if she had any apologies for Clemens’ wife Debbie. Deadspin referred to McCready as Clemens’ “mistress.” The media referred to the “relationship” as an affair, despite the fact that McCready was only 15 when the relationship began.

Meanwhile, contemporary articles pointing out that the “relationship” was illegal were all too few. Instead, the press wanted to know if Clemens had erectile dysfunction from PED use.

McCready was accused of fabricating the allegations to jump-start her career. Some media outlets congratulated Clemens on his “dalliances” with the “underage blonde bombshell,” notwithstanding that such a dalliance would be illegal and rape. One writer, Dan Moore, accused McCready of “ruin[ing] your Roger Clemens memories,” and made this doozy of a statement:

Clemens clearly did a lot of sketchy things over the course of his Major League career, but the only one that’s even potentially done anyone material harm is his apparent relationship with McCready, although the details of that are both hazy and not exactly things I’d love to know more about. Baseball’s forgiven worse people for more problems—hopefully, 50 years from now, bloggers and tabloid newsmongers are mostly bothered by Clemens for stealing a Cy Young Award from Freddy Garcia.

Clemens, of course, was only too eager to accommodate as McCready was slimed, calling her a liar and denying any romantic relationship ever occurred. He watched from the sidelines as McCready struggled with alcohol and drug addiction until she committed suicide in 2013 at just 37 years old.

What did Clemens say about her death?

“Yes, that is sad news. I had heard over time that she was trying to get peace and direction in her life. . . . The few times that I had met her and her manager/agent they were extremely nice.”

That statement is, of course, bovine excrement; Clemens’ own lawyer had said that the two were close friends, and his statement is therefore nothing but gaslighting.

Why is what Clemens did to McCready essentially forgotten? Is it his denials? He denies using PEDs, too, and yet no one believes him there after he was mentioned 80 times in the Mitchell Report. Is it because he, unlike Vazquez, is white? Or is it that baseball still doesn’t value women? Maybe it’s because many of the same writers who congratulated or defended Clemens a decade ago are BBWAA voters today.

At this point, it doesn’t matter so much why Clemens is given a pass on his conduct towards McCready as much as the fact that he still is. In the #MeToo era, that’s simply unacceptable.

The question about Roger Clemens is not whether his alleged use of PEDs disqualifies him from the Hall of Fame. It’s whether his alleged sexual assault of a teenager half his age disqualifies him from the Hall of Fame. And even if you believe that the relationship was not sexual until after McCready passed the age of consent, Clemens is not somehow absolved of wrongdoing by “dating” - i.e., grooming - a 15-year-old without raping her. If you believe that Felipe Vazquez belongs out of baseball - and you should, for his actions were horrific - the same standard should apply to Roger Clemens.

By now, you’re familiar with the “character clause” in the Hall of Fame voting rules.

Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.

Does a person have the requisite character for the Hall of Fame if they are credibly accused of sexually assaulting a teenager, and then gaslighting her after her suicide? Nothing about Clemens’ relationship with McCready is a sign of good character or integrity, whether he raped her or not. A 28-year-old having a romantic relationship with a 15-year-old is disgusting. Sliming her in the press for it is worse. Gaslighting her after her death with a wink and a nod is beneath contempt.

Roger Clemens is not entitled to a place in the Hall of Fame. This is not a criminal proceeding where he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. This is a question of whether he, as a person, is entitled to an honor based, in part, on his character. The evidence we have suggests his character is not worthy of enshrinement. We don’t need to get to the question of PEDs; adults who abuse children shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.

Mindy McCready was a human being. She deserved better than what we gave her. It’s far too much to say that she would be alive today had we treated her better. But it’s not too much to say that blaming her for a “relationship” that began when she was a teenager is absolutely, categorically wrong. It was the press that dishonored her life by defending Clemens and casting her as a “mistress” instead of a victim. We should not dishonor her again in death by enshrining her abuser for all time.