Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This Day in Red Sox History

April 29, 1986 - Roger Clemens strikes out 20 Seattle Mariners

22 years ago, on a cold night in Fenway, the Rocketman official introduced himself to the national stage. On his way to one of the more dominant seasons by a pitcher, Roger Clemens set a major league record by striking out his 20th batter in a nine-inning game. The performance was the crown jewel in a season that would see Clemens win both the AL Cy Young award, and the Most Valuable Player award. Rocket Roger was at the top of his game, and fans everywhere knew there was a budding ace on their hands. He would live up to that hype in Boston, tying the career Red Sox records for wins and shutouts. Both those records are shared by none other than Cy Young himself. The Hall of Fame was just a matter of time.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

Roger didn’t even wait to get out of Boston before he stated to tarnish his image. There were the holdouts in spring training. The reports of refusing to sing autographs. Chinks in the armor collected over time. There was the interview he gave after winning a Cy Young award, calling the award one more step on the way to the hall of Fame. Couldn’t he at least pretend, like everyone else does, that he was thinking of the team? Shouldn’t he have said he couldn’t have done it without his teammates? Something? Then there were the last few seasons with the Sox that were just plain awful. Say what you want about the bullpen losing leads, or wins not being the pitching stat people think it is. He stunk up the place big time. Not many people were sorry to see him bolt when his contract ran out.

The free agent mess was yet another dent. I’m all for players getting as much money as they can. I know I would. Just have the sense to tell the fans that. If you’re Asante Samuel, go ahead and cash in with the big contract. Just don’t tell us that you’re signing with a team to get to the playoffs when the team you left just had an undefeated season. If you’re Roger Clemens, go ahead and follow the green. Just don’t sign with Toronto, and say that it’s to be closer to your family in Texas. Just say, sorry…I wanted a raise. And, then first season with the Blue Jays, he announces that he’s dedicated himself to get into shape to prove that he can still play. Where was that desire when he was stinking up Fenway Park?

From there, it just gets weird. He wins back-to-back Cy Young awards in Toronto, then demands a trade since the Jays aren’t competitive. Duh. He’s able to force his way to NY where he wins a Cy that he didn’t deserve. And, he wins his ring riding the coattails of other Yankees. All the while, the national media can’t get out of their way making him into some sort of god. He throws a broken bat at Mike Piazza, and the media gobbles up the story about him thinking it was a ball. They never ask why he was, then, throwing a ball at Piazza.

After a few years, he decides to retire, and everyone throws him his goodbye parties around the league. Not quite as far as holding a ceremony and giving him a rocking chair, but close enough. The Yankees don’t even offer him arbitration, they’re so sure he’ll retire. That leads to the only good thing he’s done lately. He screws the Yankees over and signs with Houston. Because NY didn’t offer him arbitration, they don’t even get any draft picks from Houston for signing a free agent. So, he pitches for Houston, and wins another Cy he didn’t deserve. He thinks about retiring again, until he comes up with a wacky idea. If he waits until mid-season to sign with a team, he only has to pitch down the stretch. He can still get gobs of money, and only pitch part of the time. Oddly enough, several teams fall for it for several years. The Astros and Yankees (and to a lesser extent the Sox) fall all over themselves to sign Roger for a half season. Why, exactly, teams would jump at the chance to sign a pitcher for the playoff race when the pitcher’s main fault in his career is performing under pressure is beyond me. I’d rather sign him for the first half, take his 10 wins and purge him before he starts choking. But, I don’t run baseball. The plum deal finally end when the Yankees get him with much fanfare, and he proceeds to suck wind for his half a season. They’d have been better off having me pitch the second half. So, career ends…and wildness continues.

The Mitchell report on steroid use in baseball names Roger as the big fish in the scandal. Suddenly things start to make sense. That’s why he had to wrap himself up like a mummy every time he pitched to stop himself from pulling all sorts of muscles. Why didn’t we see that muscles too big to be useful were a classic side effect of steroids? That’s why he was able to pitch longer and better in his 40’s than he did in his 30’s. Naturally, the nation media tried to cover for him, but it’s getting too deep. He denies everything, but his stories are a mess. They contradict themselves everywhere. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that Roger’s wife and best friend got HGH from his personal trainer, but Roger has never even discussed HGH with anyone? I believe OJ more than I do Roger at this point.

And, now the icing on the cake with his “alleged” relationship with Mindy McCready that started when Mindy was only 15. They claim they’re just friends, and there was no affair. Even if I give them the benefit of the doubt and say they’re friends, I still have questions. I can understand a 28-year old ballplayer becoming “friends” with a cancer patient they meet, or a neighbor, or some other kid they have a chance meeting with. I just have to ask why a 28-year old would throw a jersey with his name on it at a 15-year old girl as a way of starting a relationship. That’s actively looking to befriend a 15-year old girl. I don’t get it.

That’s the problem with rockets, I guess. They can fly high, but if you’re not careful they’ll burst into flames on the way down.

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