William Roger Clemens, nicknamed "Rocket", is a Major League Baseball pitcher. He is unofficially retired after spending the 2007 season with the New York Yankees. He has also spent time with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. In recent years, Clemens has defended himself against allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs after being named in the Mitchell report.
After a four year career at Spring Woods High School(Texas), Clemens spent a year at San Jacinto College North. He was drafted by the New York Mets but opted to continue his collegiate career at the University of Texas. Clemens spent two years at the University, being named an All-American both years and taking the team to the 1983 College World Series title. He lost out on the Most Outstanding Player award to teammate Calvin Schiraldi. At the conclusion of the tournament, Clemens was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 1983 baseball amateur draft.
Red Sox (1984-1996)
Clemens sped through the Red Sox farm system. He reached Double A in his first professional season. He started the following year at the team's Triple A Pawtucket squad. After seven games with Pawtucket where Clemens recorded a 1.93 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 46 2/3 innings, the Red Sox called him up to the big league team. He made his Major League debut on May 15, 1984 and earned a no-decision in a 7-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians. He would win nine games in his first year and finish sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Alvin Davis.
In 1986 Clemens had an outstanding year. He won 24 games with an ERA of 2.48, both stats best in the AL. He also recorded 238 strikeouts, which was second to Seattle's Mark Langston. On April 29 against the Seattle Mariners, he became the first pitcher to strike out twenty batters in a single game. The Red Sox would go on to win the AL East by 5.5 games over the Yankees. Although Clemens was less successful in the playoffs, the team was able to overcome a 3-1 deficit to the California Angels to reach the World Series. He did slightly better in Game One of the World Series against the New York Mets, allowing 3 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched in a game the team won to take a 2-0 series lead. Clemens took the mound for Game Six with Boston holding a 3-2 lead in the series. He returned to his regular season form, allowing 1 earned run and striking out eight over seven innings pitched. However, there was some controversy about Clemens' exit. Boston manager John McNamara claimed that Clemens asked out of the game after the seventh due to a blister on his hand. Clemens repeatedly denied the claim. Either way, the Mets would score four runs off of the Boston bullpen, with the winning runs scoring on Bill Buckner's infamous error in the bottom of the tenth inning. The Red Sox went on to lose the series in seven game. Despite the playoff result, Clemens became one of the few pitchers to win the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season.
In 1987, Clemens recorded another 20-win season and received his second straight AL Cy Young award. He had another strong year in 1988 as Boston returned to the playoffs. Clemens pitched well in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Oakland Athletics, allowing three earned runs over seven innings in a game the team lost on their way to getting swept 4-0. Clemens led the team to their third AL East title in five years in 1990. They again played the Athletics in the ALCS. Clemens pitched six scorless innings in Game One and left with the lead, but the bullpen allowed Oakland to score nine runs to take the game. He returned in Game Four on three days rest with Boston facing another four game sweep. The outing turned out to be a short one, with Clemens getting ejected by home plate umpire Terry Cooney for arguing. Some have blamed him for letting the team down. Recalled Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart: You can't be thrown out of a game. The umpire gave him plenty of chances to decline his comments, and he still stayed with those comments, knowing he could get thrown out. The Red Sox would lose the game 3-1 and the series 4-0. He received further criticism after complaining about the fact that he had to carry his own bags to the airport. Clemens continued his strong regular season performances by winning his third AL Cy Young in 1991.
In the following years, his performance started to dip. From 1993-1996, he went a combined 40-39. He had a solid but not great season in Boston's 1995 AL East title. Clemens clashed with the team's new General Manager, Dan Duquette, about the direction of the team. He wasn't happy about Duquette's plan to enter a rebuilding phase. On September 18 of the 1996 season, in what ended up as his last apperance with Boston, he recorded his second twenty strikeout game, this time against the Detroit Tigers. After the season, he signed a multi-year deal with the Blue Jays. The Red Sox opted to hold their own press conference to address Clemens' departure. Said Duquette: "The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career. We just want to let the fans know that we worked extremely hard to sign Roger Clemens. . . . We made him a substantial, competitive offer, by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise." Some, including Clemens himself, either misinterpreted or misremembered Duquette's statement, thinking that the GM implied that the pitcher was currently in the twilight of his career. Clemens would use the alleged slight as motivation in future games against the Red Sox.
Blue Jays (1997-1998)
Clemens first year was a great one. He lead the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. He was awarded his fourth AL Cy Young award for his performance. He started the 1999 season 6-6 but won fourteen starts in a row to finish 20-6 and take his second consecutive AL Cy Young, his fifth Cy Young award overall. It was also in 1999 that Clemens hired Brian McNamee as his trainer. McNamee would later claim to have first injected Clemens with steroids during this time. Clemens demanded a trade following the season and Toronto sent him to the Yankees in exchange for David Wells.
Clemens' first year in New York was a disappointment. All of his major statistics dropped off from the 1998 season. The Yankees would win the World Series that year over the San Diego Padres. Clemens' second year was better but nowhere near what was expected of him. The team would go on to win their second straight World Series title over the Atlanta Braves. Clemens received criticism in the media for winning titles by jumping on the Yankee's bandwagon. He would prove his value to the team the next season by winning twenty games and picking up his sixth AL Cy Young award. The Yankees defeated the Mets in the World Series for their fourth win in five years. His performance again dropped over his final two seasons in New York, as his ERA over the 2002 and 2003 seasons was over 4. Clemens chose to retire following the 2003 season. The retirement turned out to be brief, as he signed with his hometown Astros at the urging of friend and former Yankee teammate Andy Pettitte.
Despite the additions of Clemens and Pettitte, the Astros got off to a slow start in 2004. With a 44-44 record at the All-Star break, the team opted to replace manager Jimy Williams with Phil Garner. The team's play turned around and they went 48-24 the rest of the way to take the NL Wild Card by a game over the San Francisco Giants. Clemens had a solid year, striking out 218 hitters and finishing with an ERA under 3 for the first time since 1998. Clemens, Pettitte and Roy Oswalt combined for a 44-18 record. Carlos Beltran contributed 23 home runs after a June trade from the Kansas City Royals. The Astros would beat the Braves in the NL Divisional Series to face a strong St. Louis Cardinals team in the NL Championship Series. They ultimately fell in seven games. He picked up his first NL Cy Young and seventh Cy Young overall.
Following the season, Clemens again considered retirement. The Astros offered him arbitration in an effort to prevent him from signing with another team. The two sides were able to agree on a one year contract worth $18 million. Despite losing Beltran to free agency, the Astros would again win the NL Wild Card due to the overall poor play of the rest of the league. They again drew the Braves in the NL Divisional Series. They were able to take the series in four games, including a clinching game that went eighteen innings and Clemens pitching three innings of relief for the win. They would meet the Cardinals in a rematch of the previous year's NLCS. Due to his relief appearance, Clemens was first start was pushed back to game three. He would throw six innings and allow two runs to give the team a 2-1 lead in a series they would win in six games. Clemens allowed three runs in only two innings pitched due to a strained hamstring during game one of the World Series against the Chicago White Sox. The Astros would get swept 4-0.
The Astros opted not to offer Clemens arbitration in the offseason. The move prevented them from signing the player until May 1. After once again considering retirement, Clemens re-signed with the Astros on May 31. The contract was a one year deal worth a pro-rated $22,000,022. He had another strong season but the club ultimately fell short of the playoffs.
After his yearly tradition of pondering retirement, Clemens opted to return to the Yankees. He made the official announcement over the public address system at Yankee Stadium. Clemens: "Well, they came and got me out of Texas, and I can tell you it's a privilege to be back!" He signed a one year deal worth a pro-rated $28,000,022. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Roger Clemens is a winner and a champion, and he is someone who can be counted on to help make this season one that all Yankees fans can be proud of." Clemens would win six games with the team as they won the AL Wild Card. He pitched 2 1/3 innings in Game 3 of the AL Divisional Series against the Indians before leaving after injuring his left hamstring. He was replaced on the Yankee's playoff roster by Ron Vilone. The team would go on to lose the series in four games.
- Kroichick, Ron. "Clemens' ejection lasting image from past matchups"; San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 2003
- Silverman, Michael. "End of an Era: No return fire from Sox"; Boston Herald", December 14, 1996
- Curry, Jack. "Former Trainer Puts Yankees Stars Under Microscope"; New York Times, December 14, 2007
- Hermoso, Rafael. "Clemens Demands Trade"; New York Daily News, December 3, 1998
- Bodley, Hal. "Clemens: Mom favored retirement"; USA Today, February 15, 2006