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Together In Hall of Shame?

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If it all ended today, if both their baseball careers and the controversies consuming them went no further, if enough Hall of Fame voters were giving the maximum benefit of the doubt, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds could be the Cooperstown Class of '13.

The perfect number for a couple of allegedly imperfect fellows.

To this point, nearly a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training for the 2008 season, neither Clemens nor Bonds has a job in baseball. What they do have are a lot more important matters on their minds than that next paycheck or major league game.

Such matters are now in the hands of legal representation, aka, the high-powered firm of Liar, Liar, Pants 'n Fire, Esq.

Free agents both, still free citizens both, Bonds and Clemens have yet to announce their retirements from the game that probably would be much better served if they did (or could) follow Mark McGwire's lead and simply vanish into some gated golf-course community.

Bonds is holding out hope that he'll be signed by another club - presumably, logically, the cross-bay Oakland Athletics. San Quentin being right across the Richmond Bridge and all. As a DH, too, he wouldn't be all that impeded by the GPS bracelet around his ankle.

And why should The Rocket - media and legislative hounds of hell notwithstanding - give up a part-time gig that pays $4.5 million per month and allows him to make his own hours? For that kind of money, Clemens could actually hire a trainer who'd ... uh, never mind.

The instant either one officially calls it quits, though, the five-year countdown begins to what surely would be an even more regrettable scenario.

Forget the more immediate questions about Clemens and Bonds, the usual queries about whether they actually used performance-enhancing drugs; whether their pitching and hitting numbers should be adorned with scarlet asterisks; whether they should be stripped of any or all of their seven Cy Young and seven Most Valuable Player Awards; whether fans really care if they or any other players were juiced; whether team management was complicit and beneficiary; whether the suspicions and allegations surrounding them should keep anyone from voting either into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hashed, rehashed and re-rehashed.

Just think of this: As things stand today, there is the very real possibility that Clemens and Bonds would share the honors as first-year inductees into Cooperstown in July 2013. Not so far away, really. Not nearly far enough away.

You might want to buy your tickets to that particular circus right now. That, or buy a plane ticket to somewhere where there's no television, a place where you wouldn't risk having to accidentally see replays of that Cooperstown ceremony. Depends on your appetite for the distasteful.

Bonds, for defensive purposes, would be the one wearing his body armor up to the podium. (He'd go in wearing a Giants cap, naturally, provided the artist can forge a hat big enough to fit Bonds' head on the plaque.) Clemens, of course, would make his induction speech while holding the barrel end of a sheared-off bat to fend off the tomatoes.

Speaking of which, while we're paying this visit to Futureworld, consider that the 39-year-old, broken-bodied Mike Piazza is also unsigned for 2008. He already may have played his farewell game. Class of '13, perhaps? Oh, lovely.

Now more certain of enshrinement than Bonds or Clemens, Piazza will be forever remembered as the target of both beanballs and the broken bat thrown by Clemens. Picture the two of them seated next to each other through the press conference and ceremonies, to say nothing of the juxtaposition of their plaques, together on the wall in perpetuity.

Putting aside the mistreatment Clemens would get from Mets fans who would make the short trip from New York to applaud Piazza - not to mention the many Red Sox Nationals who would go to the moon to boo the Rocket Man - the specter of steroids would cast a huge and depressing pall over baseball's annual lovefest in upstate New York.

Just as an appreciation for the ethos of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. drew the largest assembly ever to last summer's festivities, the general disdain and distrust attached to Bonds likely would supersede any signs of grudging or genuine respect that he would receive in Cooperstown. Seated behind Bonds and/or Clemens on the dais would be the Hall of Famers they'd be joining, some of whom already have decried the way their game has been denigrated by drugs, their records devalued.

Among them would be Rich "Goose" Gossage, Class of '08. On the day and day after Gossage learned of his election to Cooperstown, questions about his feat were laced heavily with those focused on the Mitchell Report and steroids.

"Yes, I think they are on the same level," said Gossage, asked specifically about Bonds and Clemens. "I don't think there's any question about it. It's kind of weird these guys had some of their most productive years when (other) guys in the history of the game, their talents were diminishing as they got older, and these guys it didn't happen that way.

"So we'll just have to wait and see if these guys come clean and finally put an end to this."

Please. Before it's five years too late.

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