I typed this up for a baseball forum I visit…might as well post it here.
Farewell, Roger Clemens.
15 years ago, any argument over the “best pitcher in baseball” centered around Clemens and Gooden. The two young flamethrowers, nearly unhittable power pitchers, absolutely dominated the game in their early twenties. In 1985, Gooden shocked the baseball world, winning the NL Triple Crown, posting a 24-4 record with a 1.53 ERA. Doc was handed a Cy Young award for these accomplishments at the age of 20. Rocket followed suit the next season, and posted an identical 24-4 record, while earning his first Cy Young award, and also became the first AL starter to win the MVP award in 15 years. It hasn’t been done since. Each pitcher led their club to the World Series that season, where neither earned a decision.
By 1991, the battle between the two was still raging. Gooden, at 26, had 131 victories and a career winning percentage of .712, good enough to be the modern record at the time. Clemens, at 28, wasn’t far behind with 134 victories and a .657 mark.
Jump to 2003. Gooden’s career crumbled amost a decade ago, while Clemens improved his winning percentage to .660, and more than doubled his win total to end up with 310. A record 6 Cy Young awards. 6 ERA titles - 2nd all time. 4,099 strike outs - third all time. He also led the majors in wins a record 4 times.
Clemens pitched brilliantly in the final start of his notorious career tonight, and kept the Yankees alive in Game 4 of the World Series. You know that somewhere Dan Duquette is kicking himself, for doubting Clemens, and letting him walk away from the Red Sox in 1997. Since the fateful day Duquette proclaimed the Rocket was in the “twilight of his career”, Clemens has gone 118-47 (.707), won 3 Cy Young awards, and even managed to start the 2001 season with a 20-1 mark - the best start ever. Perhaps if Duquette had signed Clemens, he’d still have a job, and be wearing the same two, or possibly three, championship rings as Roger.
Although the final page of his World Series career may not have been written yet, he stands at 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in Series play, through 47 innings. Yes, this is a pitcher you will find yourself telling your grandkids about.
When Fox replayed his final strike out pitch this evening, with hundreds of camera flashes lighting up the background, it just seemed to personify his entire career. As Clemens walked out of the dugout, and waved his hat to the crowd for what may be his final curtain call, I was feeling a bit nostalgic.
I couldn’t help but think Ted Williams might want me to say, “There goes the best pitcher who ever lived.”