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Roger Clemens

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William Roger Clemens
(Rocket)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Roger "The Rocket" Clemens is considered by many to be the greatest pitcher of all time, having notched over 300 wins and 4000 strikeouts and winning an unprecedented seven Cy Young Awards for four different teams. He has also been a very controversial figure because of some ungentlemanly behavior over the years, and accusations of PED use that led to his trial for perjury in 2011.

Clemens was signed by the Boston Red Sox and scout Danny Doyle as a 1st round pick in the 1983 amateur draft. He made his major league debut with the Red Sox in 1984, and went on to win 20 games for them three times and help them to the World Series in 1986. He became a household name at the start of that season, when he reeled off 14 straight wins to begin the year; he was the 1986 American League MVP, the last starter to win MVP honors for 25 years until Justin Verlander would be the next. No one has since matched his 14-0 start, although for a long time, he was the one who came closest, starting with 11 wins in 1997; Max Scherzer would finally top that in 2013, with 13 straight wins before his first loss. After his breakout season in 1986, when he was 24-4, 2.48 with 238 strikeouts, he repeated as Cy Young Award winner in 1987, going 20-9, 2.97 with 256 K's. The Sox then won another division title in 1988, although he fell to 18-12, 2.93. He won his first strikeout title that year, with 291, and his 8 shutouts led the American League as well and were a career high. He had another outstanding year in 1990, when he led the Red Sox to a third division title, by going 21-6, 1.93. However, he failed to win a game in either the 1988 or 1990 ALCS, as the Red Sox were swept by the Oakland Athletics both years, his second start in 1990 ending early when he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

In 1996, after four subpar seasons, the Red Sox let Clemens become a free agent. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and won Cy Young Awards in both his seasons there, 1997 and 1998. Prior to the 1999 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees, whom he led to four World Series appearances in five seasons. He also won two other Cy Young Awards, in 2001 and 2004, the latter with the Houston Astros in the National League. In 2001, he started the season 17-1, the first to do so since Elroy Face had won his first 17 decisions in 1959; the next pitcher to win 17 of his first 18 decisions would be Scherzer in 2013. Clemens finished the season with a mark of 20-3, the first pitcher to win 20 games with that few losses since Ron Guidry had gone 25-3 in 1978.

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Roger's career has also been marked with some blemishes. He was ejected from a playoff game in 1990 for arguing balls and strikes and his behavior was erratic as he started the game with eye black on and also wore high socks. He once beaned Mike Piazza, an act that some suspected was intentional because Piazza had previously hit very well against Clemens. Later that same year, in the 2000 World Series, Clemens threw a jagged piece of a bat - which Piazza had just broken in fouling off a pitch - in Piazza's general direction. In trying to win his 300th game against the Red Sox, Clemens used a specially logoed glove, an act that rankled the Red Sox, causing manager Grady Little to ask it be removed. The umpire consented and Clemens, who lost the game, was forced to use his normal glove. Most seriously, he has also been alleged to have used steroids by former major league players Jose Canseco and Jason Grimsley. He, as well as his personal strength coach, Brian McNamee, who allegedly dealt steroids to Grimsley, have denied the allegations. In fact, he completely denied usage of PEDs in testimony to Congress in 2005.

Clemens, a Texan, planned to retire following the 2003 season, but when the Houston Astros wanted to sign him, he jumped at the chance to play close to home. He went on to win his first National League Cy Young Award with the Astros in 2004. He started the 2004 All-Star Game for the National League at Minute Maid Park, becoming the third pitcher o start the game for both leagues, after Vida Blue and Randy Johnson (Roy Halladay has since joined them). Incidentally, he was rocked by American League batters in the game, to such an extent that there was speculation that his catcher, Piazza, was tipping pitches in a continuation of their long-running feud. He holds the record for most times pitching in an All-Star Game, with 10 appearances during his career. On May 9, 2005, Clemens became the winningest living pitcher when he passed Steve Carlton on the all-time wins list. He had 341 career wins at the close of the 2005 season.

The Astros non-tendered Clemens on December 7, 2005, which prevented them from re-signing him before May 1 of the 2006 season. The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees expressed an interest in signing him, but Clemens implied that he was leaning toward retiring after the United States was eliminated by Mexico in the second round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic. On May 31st, it was announced that Clemens was coming out of retirement to rejoin the Astros for the remainder of the season. He signed a one-year contract worth $22,000,022, which was prorated to approximately $12.25 million for the final 3+ months of the season. Clemens made his first appearance of the season on June 22nd against the Minnesota Twins, losing to rookie Francisco Liriano, 4-2. He ended the season with a 7-6 record, and a 2.30 ERA.

Facing a similar situation in 2007, Clemens announced on May 6th that he was signing with the New York Yankees who desperately needed starting pitching. When Clemens faced Julio Franco on June 15th, it was the oldest pitcher-batter match-up since Rube Walberg pitched to Nick Altrock in 1933. With the Yankee bullpen worn out, Clemens volunteered to relieve on June 24th against the San Francisco Giants. He had not pitched out of the bullpen since July 18, 1984, as a rookie. It was a major league-record 22 years, 341 days between relief stints, easily shattering the 15 years, 343 days set by Steve Carlton from 1971 to 1987. On July 2nd, he pitched eight innings of two-hit ball against the Minnesota Twins to pick up his 350th career victory, becoming the first pitcher since Warren Spahn in 1963 to reach this milestone. On August 18th, Clemens became the first pitcher to allow a home run to a hitter who was not yet born at the time the pitcher first won a Cy Young Award; Cameron Maybin was the batsman. In a match-up of 300-game winners, he faced Greg Maddux twice after they each passed the 300-game mark. His record in these match-ups was 1-1. He finally retired after that season, having long teased fans and media about his upcoming retirement, dating back to the 2003 World Series when his start for the Yankees against the Florida Marlins was touted by broadcasters as likely the last of his career.

During his career, Clemens twice struck out 20 batters in a single nine-inning game: against the Seattle Mariners on April 29, 1986 and against the Detroit Tigers on September 18, 1996.

Clemens' oldest son Koby Clemens was selected by the Astros in the eighth round of the 2005 amateur draft. His son, Kacy Clemens, was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 35th round of the 2013 amateur draft.

He appeared in The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat". He also appeared in the movie Anger Management as himself and in the movie Cobb as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics. In the movie Kingpin, he played the role of Skidmark.

On December 13, 2007, Clemens was one of the players named in the Mitchell Report as using performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens denied the claims and appeared on 60 Minutes to try to clear his name. He also filed a defamation lawsuit against Brian McNamee, who was his trainer from 1998 to 2001, who made most of the allegations of PED use and produced physical evidence in the form of used syringes which he claimed were used to inject Clemens with various illegal substances. Clemens and McNamee testified before the House oversight committee on February 13, 2008. Both held to their past positions and were caught in contradictions by the Congressmen. Andy Pettitte, Clemens' former teammate, said that Clemens had told him that he used Human Growth Hormone. Clemens claimed that Pettitte did not correctly recall the conversations. Other damaging information about Clemens came out at the time, including allegations of having had a decade-long affair with country music star Mindy McCreary that had started when the singer was only 15. The tale took on added poignancy when McCreary committed suicide in 2013, aged only 37, after years of run-ins with the law and numerous bouts of drug addiction.

On August 19, 2010, Clemens was indicted on six counts of perjury for his 2008 testimony under oath, which was alleged to have contained a number of lies and misleading statements in order to obstruct the work of Congress. The trial began in Washington, DC on July 6, 2011, after the trial of Barry Bonds had found the latter guilty of one count of obstruction of justice, but could not come to an agreement on the charges of perjury leveled against Bonds. In prevision of the trial, the prosecutors revealed some of the evidence they had against Clemens on July 1st, including items of medical waste supplied by McNamee that were allegedly used to inject Clemens with PEDs. On July 13th, after jury selection had been completed, both sides presented their opening arguments. The trial was expected to revolve around the credibility of McNamee, who supplied much of the physical evidence and was the prosecution's key witness. Also slated to appear was convicted drug dealer Kirk Radomski, who claimed to have supplied some of the substances. For its part, the defense countered that "Clemens' only crime was having the poor judgment of staying connected with McNamee." His lawyers claimed that none of the allegations were founded and that the physical evidence was the result of tampering. Then, in an unexpected development, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial the next day, explaining that the prosecution had repeatedly ignored his directives regarding how evidence could be introduced to the jury. The defense thought the errors were deliberate and asked for the charges to be thrown out entirely, but Judge Walton instead ordered a new trial, which began on April 17, 2012. Highlights included testimony from Pettitte, who stated that he was "50-50 sure" about having a conversation with Clemens on PED use in the early 2000s, and incriminating testimony from McNamee, who swore that he had injected Clemens with illegal substances on numerous occasions, although the defense strategy was to discredit McNamee's character and reliability as a witness, something it managed to do quite successfully. On June 18th, Clemens was acquitted of all charges by the jury.

Clemens returned to the world of baseball on August 20, 2012 by signing with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Atlantic League. While the return to the field was portrayed as a one-time favor to Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti, a personal friend, there was also speculation that it could mark his eventual return to the major leagues in some capacity, now that he had put his legal issues behind him. Covering all the bases, the Houston Astros sent a scout to look him over, as well as teammate Scott Kazmir, just in case. He returned to the mound on August 25th, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Bridgeport Bluefish before a sold-out home crowd. He showed good control and velocity and left the door open for more appearances with the team in the future, but a couple of days later, he stated that the outing had been a "one-time deal" and that for now, he was concentrating on his golf game, as he was playing the the World Amateur Handicap Championship. He then immediately reversed himself by announcing he would make another start for the Skeeters on September 7th. That day, he pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Long Island Ducks. His son Koby started at catcher for the Skeeters, having signed a one-game contract with the team and allowing the father-son duo to play together for the first time. In 2013, Clemens went to spring training with the Houston Astros - but as a special instructor only.

Clemens may have been acquitted of charges by a jury, but in the court of public opinion, he faced a much harder fight. The results of the 2013 Hall of Fame Election were a case in point. His numbers should have made him a shoo-in for election on the first ballot; instead, he finished well down, with only 37.6% of the vote, behind his contemporary Curt Schilling, who had much less impressive career numbers, but had been outspoken in favor of a "clean" game. With a large number of voters being on record that they would never vote for players tainted by steroids, his eventual election by the BBWAA was doubtful. His vote total did not increase in 2014 and in fact dropped slightly, to 35.4%, although he did pass Schilling.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 11-time All-Star (1986, 1988, 1990-1992, 1997-1998, 2001 & 2003-2005)
  • AL MVP (1986)
  • 7-time Cy Young Award Winner (1986/AL, 1987/AL, 1991/AL, 1997/AL, 1998/AL, 2001/AL & 2004/NL)
  • 1986 All-Star Game MVP
  • 2-time AL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1997 & 1998)
  • 7-time League ERA Leader (1986/AL, 1990-1992/AL, 1997/AL, 1998/AL & 2005/NL)
  • 4-time AL Wins Leader (1986, 1987, 1997 & 1998)
  • 3-time League Winning Percentage Leader (1986/AL, 2001/AL & 2004/NL)
  • 2-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (1991 & 1997)
  • 5-time AL Strikeouts Leader (1988, 1991 & 1996-1998)
  • 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1987, 1988 & 1997)
  • 6-time AL Shutouts Leader (1987, 1988, 1990-1992 & 1997)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 12 (1986-1992, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003 & 2004)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1986, 1987, 1990, 1997, 1998 & 2001)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 15 (1986-1992, 1996-1998, 2000, 2001 & 2003-2005)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 12 (1986-1992, 1996-1998, 2001 & 2004)
  • Won two World Series with the New York Yankees (1999 & 2000)


AL MVP
1985 1986 1987
Don Mattingly Roger Clemens George Bell
AL Cy Young Award
1985 1986 1987
Bret Saberhagen Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
1986 1987 1988
Roger Clemens Roger Clemens Frank Viola
1990 1991 1992
Bob Welch Roger Clemens Dennis Eckersley
1996 1997 1998
Pat Hentgen Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
1997 1998 1999
Roger Clemens Roger Clemens Pedro Martinez
2000 2001 2002
Pedro Martinez Roger Clemens Barry Zito
NL Cy Young Award
2003 2004 2005
Eric Gagne Roger Clemens Chris Carpenter

[edit] Records Held

  • Strikeouts, game (9 innings), 20, April 29, 1986 and September 18, 1996 (tied)
  • Strikeouts, AL, career, 4,167

[edit] Further Reading

  • Roger Clemens (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, June 1990, pp. 41-42. [1]
  • Joseph Janczak: The Rocket: Baseball Legend Roger Clemens, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2007.
  • Jeff Pearlman: The Rocket That Fell To Earth: Roger Clemens and the Rage for Baseball Immortality, Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2009. ISBN 0061724823

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