Thursday, February 14, 2008

The real Roger Clemens

It's been a long time since I've thought of myself as a fan of Roger Clemens.

After exhibiting much promise and being hailed as the next Nolan Ryan, he exploded with a breakout year, with 24 wins and his first of six Cy Young Awards, in 1986, for the Red Sox. Clemens went back-to-back on the Cy Young train, capturing the coveted pitching award again in 1987. After several more solid years during the late 80s and early 90s, including a third Cy Young, in 1991, he let himself get fat and lost his competitive fire. 1993-1996 saw Clemens win no more than 11 games, as he made numerous trips to the DL and only occasionally reverted to the pitcher that once regularly dominated AL hitters.

On September 20th, 1996, in one of his last starts in a Red Sox uniform, “The Rocket” struck out 20 Detroit hitters, at old Tiger Stadium, including Ken Phelps, four times. While this game meant nothing, with both teams out of playoff contention, Clemens showed that he still could dominate major league hitters, when he wanted to.

Then, after not getting a guaranteed fourth year during contract negotiations with the Sox, Clemens became a baseball mercenary, motivated by money, more than anything, heading north to Toronto first, and then, back stateside, in New York.

This Roger Clemens, who drew the ire of Red Sox fans, won three more Cy Youngs; two in Toronto (’97 and ’98) and another for the "evil empire" (in 2001).

When he left Boston, after the 1996 season, Clemens was going to be 34-years-old. Conventional wisdom, pre-steroid era, was that a power pitcher, like Clemens, had probably seen his best years and performances. Only Ryan and a handful of other power pitchers had been able to dominate hitters well into their late 30s. Clemens would actually win 18 games, at the age of 41, in 2001, pitching for his home state Astros, in Houston.

While Boston fans who followed the club pre-2004 have never fully forgiven Clemens for his betrayal, many had managed to put aside our strong dislike of Clemens, and had adopted, somewhat grudgingly, an acknowledgement of his accomplishments; some of us even managed to work up some measure of admiration, albeit with much difficulty.

Many of us, once again feeling betrayed that we cut Clemens any slack, is now reveling in his recent disingenuous charade, feigning innocence and doing his best to throw his former trainer, wife and just about anyone else, under the bus, his narcissism on display for the baseball world to see. That’s exactly who I’ve always known Roger Clemens to be. A stupid arrogant jock, who turns out, is a cheater. Rather than credit his hard work, we now know he’s been “juiced,” like Canseco, Bonds and all the other baseball cheaters out there.

My hope is that like Pete Rose, he spends the rest of his days in baseball purgatory, forever banished from the Hall of Fame and finds himself plastered prominently as one of the poster boys for the game's steroid era.

On a related note, could the members of the congressional delegation have been any more pathetic, especially Republican hypocrite extraordinaire, Dan Burton, from Hoosierville? What a bunch of worthless suck ups!

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