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Roger Clemens - A New Start North Of The Border

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Clemens's performance in 1992 didn't help the fortunes of his team. The Red Sox slid to the bottom of the American League East with a dismal record of seventy-three victories. Clemens's fortunes also slid the following year when, bothered once again by shoulder and arm injuries, he suffered his first losing season (11-14). The infamous strike-shortened 1994 season saw Boston still foundering and Clemens posting a 9-7 record. These were not good times for Clemens. Over the next two seasons, he continued to struggle with a groin injury and tendonitis, as well as the knowledge that the Red Sox were no nearer to winning a World Series than when his career had begun. With Clemens and the Red Sox slumping and Clemens becoming a free agent, the big market, big league rumor mill started. Would the Red Sox trade Clemens for new blood or hang on to him? Would Clemens jump to another team for a big payday and the opportunity to pitch for a World Series ring?

The answer came in a $24.75 million, three-year contract to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, who outbid the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees. This contract made Clemens the highest paid pitcher of the moment. The Blue Jays were counting on Clemens turning around his sub par performances of the past several years and making them a contender. Clemens delivered, turning in a stellar 1997 season where he was easily the most dominating pitcher in baseball, putting together a league leading 21-7 record, 2.05 ERA, and a career-best 297 strikeouts The Rocket was back! Clemens also collected his fourth Cy Young award. Sports Magazine named him one of the ten most dominant athletes of 1997, along with Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis, and Tiger Woods.

Awards and Accomplishments

1986 All-Star game MVP
1986-87, 1991, 1997-98, 2001 Cy Young Award
1986, 1988, 1990-92, 1997-98, 2001 Made All-Star Team
1996 Strikes out 20 in one game for the second time in his career
1998 3,000th strikeout
1999 First World Series title
2000 Second World Series title
2001 Oldest starting pitcher in All-Star game in baseball history

Over Roger and Out?

Clemens does not accept the idea that he is in some sort of irreversible decline. He argues instead that, with a few runs here and there, everything could have turned out much differently in 1999. "Six games could've gone either way," he says. "I could easily have been a twenty-game winner. And if I did that, there wouldn't be any talk about how I'm losing it." It's true that the Yankees supported him with a mere fifteen runs in his ten losses last year, but how many times did they score by the bushel-load to dig him out of a hole? He just as easily could have been a fifteen-game loser. "Listen, the only downer last season was that I hurt my hamstring and couldn't hold on to some four-to-nothing leads." He hints that for most of season, he pitched while he was in pain. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had theorized this over the winter. "I was in a defensive mode after the hamstring injury, trying to protect it, trying not to reinjure it," Clemens says. "I didn't want to miss more time. I wanted to answer the bell."

Source: Michael P. Geffner, Texas Monthly, August 2000, p. 120.

Roger Clemens - Awards And Accomplishments [next] [back] Roger Clemens - Third Time Cy Young Charm

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