Roger Clemens is on the ballot for the 10th and final time this year. His statistics are easily Cooperstown-worthy, but obviously, there are other things to consider. Still needing an extra 13.4 percent of the vote and time running out, can the Rocket finally get in? Clemens was one of the best pitchers in history. Unfortunately, fairly or not, the cloud of the steroid era is darker over him than most. Let’s take a look at the Rocket’s dominance between the lines.
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William Roger Clemens was drafted originally by the New York Mets in 1981 in the 12th round. Clemens chose not to sign and instead went on to the University of Texas where he was an All-American twice and winner of the 1983 College World Series. The Boston Red Sox then took Clemens with the 19th pick in the 1983 draft. He would get to the big leagues the following year, but it didn’t start off well for the young fireballer. In his first six major league starts Clemens sported a 7.13 ERA in 35 1/3 innings, allowing 56 hits while batters had an even .900 OPS against him. He would obviously turn it around. He pitched to a 3.31 ERA the rest of the way in 1984 before having surgery to fix a torn labrum in September.
The Rocket Launches
In 1986 Clemens won the Cy Young award as well as the American League MVP going 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA, 0.969 WHIP, and 238 strikeouts. He pitched for the Red Sox until 1996. In that time he won 20 games three times, led the league in ERA four times, led the league in Ks twice, and won three CYAs. The Rocket also achieved the rare feat of striking out 20 batters in a game…and he did it twice. The first time was on April 29, 1986, at home against the Seattle Mariners. The second time was on Sept. 18, 1996, in Detroit against the Tigers. Clemens would only pitch two more games for Boston as he would sign with the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason.
Life After Boston
Most people thought the Sox would re-sign Clemens and he would retire having played for one team. GM Dan Duquette made comments about having Clemens into the twilight of his career. That didn’t go over well and the Rocket took his talents to Toronto with something to prove. And prove it he did. In 1997 and 1998 Clemens won the Cy Young Award and the pitching triple crown. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they were not very good and Clemens wanted a ring. He was traded as pitchers and catchers reported in February 1999, to the New York Yankees for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells.
The big righty pitched for the Yankees from 1999-2003 winning championships in ’99 and ’00 and even grabbing his sixth CYA in 2001. New York made the playoffs each year of Roger’s tenure and he performed well in the postseason. In 100 innings Clemens went 7-4 with a 3.24 ERA while striking out 98.
The Final Years
Just when it looked like the 41-year-old starter would retire, he came back for the Houston Astros. He won his seventh and final CYA in 2004. The following year he led the league with a 1.87 ERA and the Astros to their first-ever World Series appearance. After being swept by the Chicago White Sox, the Rocket again looked like he might retire. He didn’t. Instead, he came back to Houston for one more year. In 2007 the soon-to-be 45-year-old Clemens signed with the Yankees for the remainder of the season. The final regular-season start of his career ironically came at Fenway Park on Sept. 16, 2007, against Curt Schilling.
There really isn’t much to say in regards to Clemens’ on-the-field resume. Strictly by the numbers, he should’ve been in long ago:
- 7 CYAs
- 2x WS Champ
- 3rd All-Time in Ks (4,672)
- 3rd All-Time rWAR for pitchers (138.7)
- 6th All-Time ERA+ for SP min. 2,000 IP (143)
I could go on, but at this point, it should be abundantly obvious that Clemens was one of the best pitchers in the history of the game.
When we think of the steroid era, we generally think of hitters. Clemens’ name has been lumped in with fellow Hall of Fame hopefuls Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa as well as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. While the whole validity of Clemens’ use or non-use of steroids is in question, fellow pitcher Andy Pettitte admitted to using HGH to heal faster which corroborated statements from Clemens’ personal trainer Brian McNamee. Even though the Rocket never tested positive and was never found guilty in court, many still believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That dark cloud of suspicion still hangs over Clemens.
Clemens should’ve given his acceptance speech back in 2013 as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Unfortunately, despite the lack of evidence, the Mitchell Report seems to hold more weight with some voters. Clemens is on the ballot for the last time and received 61.6 percent of the vote last year. He received 61 percent the year before and seems to be running out of time. He is the pitching version of Bonds; dominant, an all-time great, and is seen as a cheater. Despite what the voters think happened, Roger Clemens should be inducted into Cooperstown.
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