Sports

Roger Clemens: Career retrospective

Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame, at least based on his performance on the mound. Why isn’t he in the Hall yet? Well, we’ll be getting into that, and also into why the case for him is so clear otherwise. Clemens was as dominant on the mound as anybody of his generation, or possibly any generation. It’s time to look back with a career retrospective of the pitching great who has stirred up controversy both on the field and off of it.

 

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Clemens begins his college career, but not at Texas

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Clemens is primarily thought of as a Texas Longhorn, but that was not his first taste of college pitching. In fact, Roger first pitched for San Jacinto College North in 1981, going 9-2 and getting drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round, but did not sign.

 

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Roger joins the Longhorns and dominates

Roger joins the Longhorns and dominates

Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After that one season with San Jacinto, Clemens made the move to the Longhorns. Clemens was a force in college, finishing as an All-American twice and winning a title with Texas. He also pitched 35 consecutive scoreless innings, which stood as a record until 2001.

 

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The Red Sox select Clemens

The Red Sox select Clemens

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Despite his college success, Clemens was not one of the top picks in the 1983 MLB Draft. He lasted until the 19th pick when the Boston Red Sox made the wise decision of drafting the hurler.

 

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Clemens debuts in 1984

Clemens debuts in 1984

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It did not take long for Clemens to work his way through the minors. He would make his debut with the Red Sox in May of 1984, less than a year after being drafted. There was a scare early in his career, though. Clemens suffered a torn labrum that almost ended his career. However, he underwent successful surgery at the hands of a then-unknown doctor named James Andrews.

 

20 strikeouts

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In 1986, Clemens became the force that he would be for the rest of his career. His first hallmark performance came early in the season. On an April day at Fenway Park, Clemens struck out 20 Mariners. He was the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game.

 

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Winning his first Cy (and the rare MVP for a pitcher)

Winning his first Cy (and the rare MVP for a pitcher)

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That 20-strikeout performance set the baseline for the 1986 campaign. While win-loss records don’t matter for a pitcher, Clemens did go 24-4. More importantly, he had a 2.48 ERA and struck out 238 batters. The ace pitcher didn’t just make his first All-Star Game and win his first Cy Young, he was also named the American League MVP, extremely rare for a pitcher.

 

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Two more Cy Youngs

Two more Cy Youngs

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The next season for the Red Sox wasn’t very good. Maybe it was the fallout from that infamous 1986 World Series loss? Clemens was just fine, though, as he would win his second Cy Young in a row. Then, in 1991, Clemens would take home his third Cy Young with the Red Sox.

 

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Clemens strikes out 20 again

Clemens strikes out 20 again

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A couple of pitchers have struck out 20 in nine innings, but only Clemens can say he did it twice. The second time came in 1996, toward the end of the season. Maybe the Tigers weren’t fully invested in the game, but the fact remains that Clemens struck out 20 Detroit batters that day.

 

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Roger leaves Boston for Toronto

Roger leaves Boston for Toronto

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Clemens became a free agent after the 1996 season. The Red Sox front office said they offered the ace the biggest contract in franchise history, but Roger would still leave to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays gave Clemens a contract for four years and $40 million. Yes, contracts have really changed since 1997.

 

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Two Cy Youngs with the Blue Jays

Two Cy Youngs with the Blue Jays

Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Despite signing that four-year deal, Clemens only spent two seasons with the Blue Jays. What amazing seasons they were, though. In both the 1997 and 1998 seasons Clemens won the AL Triple Crown for pitchers and the Cy Youngs as well.

 

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Clemens is traded to the Yankees

Clemens is traded to the Yankees

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While Clemens was successful in Toronto, the team wasn’t successful enough for him. He asked for a trade and ended up with his third team in the AL East, the New York Yankees. Clemens was swapped for David Wells (a fine pitcher in his own right), Homer Bush, and Graeme Lloyd.

 

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Clemens finally wins a World Series (two in a row in fact)

Clemens finally wins a World Series (two in a row in fact)

SPX/Ron Vesely Photography via Getty Images

Clemens’ first season with the Yankees wasn’t great on a personal level, as he had a 4.60 ERA. However, in the clinching Game 4 of the World Series, Clemens threw 7.2 innings and only allowed one run, leading the Yankees to a World Series. It was Clemens’ first ring. The Yankees would proceed to win again in 2000 in the famed Subway Series.

 

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Roger Clemens announces his retirement

Roger Clemens announces his retirement

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In 2003, before the season was over, Clemens announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. This led to a lot of fanfare around the majors, including in Boston. The Yankees would make the World Series – they lost to the Marlins – and Clemens made what would be his final start as a Major League pitcher.

 

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Yeah, about that retirement…

Yeah, about that retirement…

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OK, so maybe retirement didn’t suit Clemens. In fact, he didn’t even miss a single season. In January 2004, Clemens decided to come out of retirement to sign with the Houston Astros, effectively his hometown team.

 

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Clemens climbs to second on the strikeout list and wins another Cy Young

Clemens climbs to second on the strikeout list and wins another Cy Young

Ron Vesely/MLB via Getty Images

Apparently, Clemens still had something left in the tank. During the 2004 season, Clemens rose to second on the career strikeouts list, behind only Nolan Ryan. Given how lofty the number of strikeouts Ryan racked up is, that’s an impressive place to be. That year Clemens also won his seventh Cy Young.

 

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Leaving the Astros and returning to the Yankees

Leaving the Astros and returning to the Yankees

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After the Astros lost in the 2005 World Series, Clemens said he would retire again after the World Baseball Classic of 2006. That didn’t take, though, as Clemens pitched a partial 2006 season with the Astros. Then, maybe to make up for that first retirement, Clemens left Houston to put on the pinstripes in the Bronx once more.

 

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One more season before retiring

One more season before retiring

Al Bello/Getty Images

Once again, Clemens joined a season midstream, not making his Yankees debut until June. Despite being 44, Clemens was able to post a 4.18 ERA and racked up his 350th career win.

 

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Pitching appearances after retirement

Pitching appearances after retirement

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Clemens retired from MLB for good after the 2007 season, but it wasn’t the last time he would take a mound. In 2012, Clemens would pitch a couple of games for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. At 50, and with his son Koby catching, Roger looked quite good on the mound given his age. Reportedly the Astros even sent scouts to watch him.

 

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Appearances in other media

Appearances in other media

FOX

Clemens, as one of the most famous baseball players in the world, made several appearances as himself on TV shows and in movies. Boston sports fans the Farrelly Brothers included him in their movie “Kingpin,” for example. However, his most memorable performance was certainly as himself in the “Simpsons” episode where Mr. Burns gets MLB players for his softball roster.

 

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PED controversy (and other controversies)

PED controversy (and other controversies)

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Clemens was great on the mound, but he has been dogged by other matters. In addition to accusations of adultery that became tabloid fodder, the primary thing that people think of is the PED rumors. Jose Canseco and Jason Grimsley both said Clemens used steroids. He appeared in the Mitchell Report numerous times. Clemens even had to testify in front of Congress and faced perjury charges. However, Clemens never officially tested positive.

 

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An all-time great, but will he ever be a Hall of Famer?

An all-time great, but will he ever be a Hall of Famer?

Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

He’s a pitcher that won an MVP. And yet, it’s possible Clemens will never end up in the Hall of Fame. Like with Barry Bonds, the best player of his era, the PED rumors have kept Clemens from getting enough votes to be enshrined so far. It’s a hypocritical double standard on the part of many, but that doesn’t mean Clemens won’t get left out, despite being clearly deserving on the field.


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