Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Captains v. Clemens

Roger Clemens is facing the Tribe's Class A affiliate tonight, and is supposedly "preparing like it's the World Series." Based on his performance last October, that's probably good news for the Lake County Captains. I hope they light him up like a Christmas tree.

In recent years, Roger Clemens has been getting the kind of fawning press coverage that future Hall of Famers tend to get late in their careers. However, I remain firm in my belief that he's one of the biggest jerks in sports. Why? Maybe it's because I remember that he once threw a ball at his pregnant wife during a pick-up game, or because I haven't forgotten the bizarre, obscenity-laced tirade against the umpires that got him ejected from Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS.

Or maybe I don't like Clemens because I'm a little suspicious about exactly how he revived his career during the late 1990s. Don't forget that from 1993 through 1996, Clemens' career appeared to be on a downward path. During those seasons, he posted a mediocre 40-39 record and recorded 200 Ks only once. After he was traded to Toronto, however, Clemens rebounded. He went 21-7 (2.05 ERA) with the Blue Jays in 1997, and raised his strikeout number to 226. He went 20-6 (2.65 ERA) the following season, and then, of course, he signed with the Evil Empire. Over the next several seasons, Clemens earned World Series rings, AL and NL Cy Young awards, and notched his 300th career victory.

In short, the last ten seasons of Clemens' career have been a feel good story about an aging player who suddenly found the fountain of youth. Hmm...where have we seen that before? Anyway, I'm probably way too cynical. I'm sure Clemens' performance is just the result of clean living, proper nutrition and a fanatical work-out schedule.

I mean, what has any aging superstar done recently that would make me think otherwise?


Anonymous said...

Come on over to swerbsblurbs message board so I can rip you a new a$$hole about Clemens!


Hornless Rhino said...

This is what Pup had to say, and my response:

Hey rhinoass, that piece is a crock of shit. First Clemens was not traded to Toronto. The Red Sox chose to not sign him. Then had the nerve to say he was in the twilight of his career. So after working his ass off, as he has his entire life, he came back to prove Boston wrong.

From 1993 to 1996, Clemens was 40-39. His ERA was 3.78 in those years. The AL ERA was over 5 in that same stretch, so I guess he was still pretty good. Over those 4 years, Clemens pitched 743 innings and struck out 717 batters. Pretty solid numbers if you ask me. In his last year in Boston, he went 10-13, but that was probably not his fault. In 34 starts, he threw 6 complete games and 2 shutouts. He threw 242 innings and struck out 257. Obviously washed up.

Did he battle through some injuries in that time? Yes he did, and that is why he did not strike out over 200 guys during those 3 years.

His last season in Boston, he struck out 257. His first year in Toronto he struck out 292, not the 226 you incorrectly stated.

In 2 of those years, 1994 and 1996, he finished 2nd and 7th in the AL in ERA.
1994 he allowed the fewest hits per inning in the AL. In '96, he was second.
1994, he finished 2nd in k's/9 innings
1996, he was first in k's/9 innings.
1994 finished 2nd in total strikeouts.
1996 finished first.
If you are really going to write something like that, please use the proper facts.


You are absolutely right about the strikeout numbers and the circumstances under which he joined the Blue Jays. No excuses--"rhino-ass" it is. You are right, and I am wrong. I will post your comments on my site so that everybody knows that.

Now, you cite several stats to make the point that Clemens was better than the average pitcher during the mid-1990s. I would hope so. I mean, when you start out as Roger Clemens, do you have to fall to the level of a guy like Rich Yett before people can say that your "career appeared to be on a downward path?"

You do seem to grudgingly acknowledge that Clemens' productivity was down in comparison to his prior accomplishments during the mid-1990s, although you attribute that mostly to injuries. That's okay with me--as players age, they get hurt, and it affects their performance.

It's what happened next that bothers me. Even though he was already in his mid 30s and had a lot of mileage on him, Clemens overcame his injuries to pitch not only effectively, but often brilliantly, into his 40s. Sorry, but after the events of the last several years, I'm a little suspicious about a player who seems to age like fine wine.

I agree that I'm "rhino-ass" for getting some of the stats wrong in my piece, but if you don't like hearing people voice suspicions about how Roger Clemens has been able to defy the effects of time, I've got a feeling you're in for a long summer.