Roger, Meet George
The 1998 season with the Blue Jays was equally productive with Clemens adding his 3,000th strikeout and becoming the only pitcher in history to win a fifth Cy Young award. Clemens could have easily stayed where he was, collecting his third year of guaranteed money and forcing an optional fourth year, but whereas Clemens was at the top of his game, Toronto wasn't. Clemens, realizing that the Blue Jays weren't going to
be contenders, exercised an option in his contract that put him again on the open market.
George Steinbrenner and the Yankees came calling, trading their star pitcher David Wells, reliever Graeme Lloyd, and second baseman Homer Bush for Clemens. The deal rocked the baseball world. Steinbrenner took a lot of heat for trading hometown hero Wells, who had come off of a great year, as well as having pitched a perfect game, but as Yankee pitcher and Wells's best friend David Cone told Newsweek:" When you add the best pitcher in the game, how could it not be a good deal?"
At first it looked like Steinbrenner's bet on Clemens was not going to pay off. Clemens stumbled badly through the 1999 year, leaving many to wonder, especially in the media glare of New York's number one media market, how a five-time Cy Young winner, 41-13 in the past two seasons with the Blue Jays, could be struggling to keep his ERA under 5.00? With Clemens's regular season record being a mediocre 14-10, all the usual questions about Clemens's age and durability surfaced. But Clemens pitched brilliantly in the postseason, helping the Yankees win his first World Series game and his first World Series ring by winning Game Four of the Yankees shocking 4-0 sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
The 2000 season followed pretty much the same pattern with Clemens barely doing better than a .500 winning percentage. But his postseason was brilliant. First he helped shut down the Mariners with a one-hit, 15-strikeout masterpiece in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Then in Game 2 of the Subway Series with the New York Mets, Clemens faced Mike Piazza, the popular Mets catcher and slugger. What followed was an incident that will be forever replayed in the annals of World Series history. Piazza's bat shattered on one of Clemens's fastballs. Clemens fielded one of the shards and hurled it back towards the first-base sideline missing Piazza by less than a foot. The resulting face-off between Piazza and Clemens emptied the benches, though without incident. On the next pitch, Clemens retired Piazza on a grounder. After that the Mets went down meekly and the Yankees went on to win the game and subsequently the Series in five games.
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