Monday, May 07, 2007

It's Good that Rocket's Back--But He's Still a Jerk [Addison Quale]

Well, the Rocket is back on the Yankees. As a Red Sox fan, I do have a certain loathing for Roger Clemens ever since he bolted Toronto and headed (like Gollum to Mordor) for the evil confines of Yankee Stadium. Would I have liked to see him back in a Sox uniform? I guess that would have been nice. But actually, I think I prefer to see him in pinstripes. I think I prefer hating him as a Yankee than to somehow overcoming my resentment of him and having to embrace him once again as a Boso[ck].

Say what you want about Clemens being one of the greatest pitchers ever, the guy is kind of a big jerk. How so? It’s easy to explain. From 1986 until 1992 Clemens was clearly the best pitcher in the game. A typical season of his was 250 innings pitched, 230 strikeouts, 18 wins and a 2.50 ERA. Then suddenly in the years of 1993 until partway through 1995 Roger forgot how to pitch or something. Instead of the usual 35 starts per season he averaged about 26. His pitched 200 innings in just one of those seasons. And his ERA was about 3.75. It seemed to many that he was indeed in the “twilight” of his career. Though in the last half of 1996 he did look pretty good—I guess the contract year thing started to motivate him.

Roger in my opinion is just a classless ballplayer. He tanked his last 4 years in Boston—trying only in his last half season (his contract year) and then tried to get a ridiculous salary in light of his recent performance. It really did seem to many that he was in the “twilight” of his career.

But I guess being known as the best pitcher in baseball (though Nolan Ryan matched him pretty good in his old age), making millions of dollars, and doing his best to please fans and honor his opponents was never enough motivation for Clemens to actually to try. No, the real motivation for him was sticking it to Sox ownership and Dan Duquette. It was pride. Suddenly in 1997, after 4 mediocre seasons, Roger Clemens was Superman. He was untouchable. And he won the Cy Young awards handedly—beating out Pedro in his prime—both 1997 and 1998. Do you think he suddenly just learned how to pitch again? Let’s not be naïve, folks. So thanks Roger, for giving that kind of effort for the Red Sox your last years there buddy. Way to honor your fans.

The facts clearly show that Clemens has only tried when he’s wanted to. He’s not like Randy Johnson who has given his best year in and year out. Or Greg Maddux for example. Blessed with the greatest pitching talent ever this generation, he has been a slacker. How else do you explain his incredibly mediocre years in a Yankee uniform. He went from two consecutive sub 2.70 ERA campaigns in 1997 and 1998 to a hideous 4.60 his first year in pinstripes. I guess he just needed to give enough to get that ring. I think his average ERA for the Yanks was over 4.00. And sure we wouldn’t want to overlook that 2001 Cy Young award. Yeah, what an amazing season that was. The highest ERA for a Cy Young winner in baseball history—3.51. The only reason he won that folks is because 20 wins is a nice looking number—and that’s what happens when your team scores 10 runs every time you pitch.

And can we forget his praiseworthy dealings with Mike Piazza and the Mets in 2000? First he beaned the guy. Then he threw a bat at him in the World Series—of course I guess he did think it was the ball. Goodness. Face it folks, the guy’s just a snarling pitbull up there. And he’s never really gotten his comeuppance has he?

Now you gotta give him some credit for his last three years of pitching. It does seem that he’s actually trying again. But generally speaking, if you’ve got talent, the classy thing to do is to do your best with it. Clemens only did so part of the time. He got the biggest contracts in baseball and then dogged it on the field. Only trying periodically just to stick it to his enemies. The scary thing of course is that Clemens could have been better—much better!—if he hadn’t been such a slacker.

So in conclusion, I’m glad he’s back. It’s great drama for baseball. It’s great excitement for Sox and Yankee fans. It’s going to be great to see him come back into the rivalry. Clemens wants a clean and picture perfect exit from of baseball. He wants to ride off into the sunset with his dignity intact and another ring on his finger. Well all I can say is that it’s going to be awesome to watch him get humiliated and help the Yankees miss the postseason for the first time since 1994.

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