Roger Clemens

April 14, 2007

Flinchbot says: Roger Clemens is the best pitcher in the past 50 years. Discuss.

FlavaDave Says: Sandy Koufax pitched no hitters in four consecutive years, including a perfect game in 1965. Between the ages of 25-30, he complied a record of 111-34 as a starter. He has a lower career ERA than Clemens, and he won three rings with the Dodgers while posting a mind-blowing career 0.95 ERA in the World Series. The only thing that could stop him is arthritis.

Says Flinchbot: Koufax was a good pitcher sure, but not the best pitcher in the past 50 years. How many Cy Young awards did he win? Clemens has won seven which puts him about….top of the list for most Cy Young awards ever won. By two. He also won his awards over a span of 18 years. Most pitching careers don’t last 18 year yet Clemens won hist first Cy Young in 1986 and his last in 2004. Shouldn’t he have gotten an injury somewhere in there? No, because he, like Nolan Ryan, is a godlike machine that pimp slaps the notions of what we think of great pitching. Clemens is the Pimp-god of pitching.

Says FlavaDave: I have more to say on the topic, but I refuse to speak until you address the issue of Roger Clemen’s sub-par postseason career.

Flinchbot Says: Sub-par postseason career? Well, he’s 12-8 with a 3.66 ERA and 2 World Series rings for his postseason career. He would have had 3 rings had Mariano Rivera not blown a save in 2001. If you’re trying to make some weak point that he isn’t good when games matter, then let’s look at his ERA in the World Series, when the games matter most:

  • 1986 – 3.18
  • 1999 – 1.17
  • 2000 – 0.00
  • 2001 – 1.35
  • 2003 – 3.86
  • 2005 -13.50 (Strained left hamstring after 2 innings)

So yeah, he really sucks in the World Series. Other than being injured and having to quit after 2 innings, he can start on my World Series team any time he wants.

Next lame argument, please.

FlavaDave Says: Do you believe that there is any chance that Roger Clemens never used steroids? Obviously there is no hard proof, but if you had to bet your life one way or the other, would you say he did or didn’t?

And I realize that bringing up steroids might seem like a cop-out, but my perception of Clemens is shaded by the fact that I’ve always assumed he was a cheater, and I also assumed that everyone knew this as well. Just like my assumptions of Bonds, I don’t need grand jury testimony to see how quickly Clemens came back from injury and slumps while being noticeably out of shape. Not to mention the freakish longevity of his career. There is no way that he isn’t using.

You agree, right? So the question is, does it matter?

(BTW, we need to have an official ruling on the format of our posts. I vote for “_________ Says“, rather than “Says _________“)

Flinchbot says: Seeing as you’ve given up on this discussion by playing the Steroid card, I now demand that it is Flinchbot vs. FlavaDave.

Are you serious? Clemens on Steroids? Did you see his rookie card picture? Those strong, well defined arms led to a 4.32 ERA that season and then was followed by a ton of sub 3.25 ERA seasons. He’s known for his splitter which doesn’t need brute cheater strength to pitch successfully. Dude touched drugs about as much as Lance Armstrong did. If he had been doing steroids in the 90’s, his body would be falling apart and he’d not be able to pitch even half a season at the age of 43. Jason Grimsley called out both Clemens and Andy Pettite. Why stop there? Throw in Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. Nothing has been proven and if it does (and this is a whole different discussion)…If Clemens was using steroids throughout the 90’s, he did nothing against the rules of baseball, because baseball did not ban steroids. So what’s your point again?

FlavaDave Says: The Ballad Of The Rocket.

FlavaDave’s Final Thought: Okay, back to the facts. Why isn’t U2 the greatest rock band of all time? They have the longest stretch of relevancy in rock history, they are tied with Stevie Wonder for most Grammy wins all time, and they always make multiple appearances on every single major list of “The Greatest __________ in Rock History”. That just about clinches it, right?

Well, no, obviously. There are many bands who have achieved much greater heights for sustained stretches of their career. Just not for the ridiculously long time that U2 has.

The Beatles weren’t around too terribly long, breaking up early because of creative and personal difference. But their output during that stretch is arguably the greatest of all time (a point we will inevitably argue at a later date).

This doesn’t irrefutably prove my point. But I feel like Clemens is U2. Always very good, even one of the best. But I never watched Clemens pitch and thought “this is the best player in the game”. I’ve rarely heard a batter say that Clemens was the pitcher they feared the most. Most batters name guys like Ryan, Carlton, Pedro, Maddux, Santana. I never felt like Clemens was the heart and soul of a team, which is true of all those guys except perhaps Nolan Ryan.

The real talk of Clemens being the best of the modern-ish era came after his late-career dominance. That second wind really helped him pile on the stats (7 Cys, 300 wins, 2nd all-time K’s, etc). He hit those milestones and people said “Wow, I didn’t realize he was that good”. Maybe people were blinded by his lack of franchise loyalty (on full display with his dissing of your boys on the Astros this season, by the way). Maybe people were distracted by his lack of dominance in the postseason. But when players thought of dominance, Roger was in the discussion. But he wasn’t first.

Sandy Koufax is the Beatles. Over 6 years, no one was better. I think we can agree on that. I just don’t see how a lower level of play for a longer period of time makes Roger better.

I’ve settled my tab. FlavaDave rests.

Flinchbot Says: So you think Clemens is prey to the Craig Biggio school of logic? An above average but rarely great second baseman who, due to longevity, deserves inclusion to the hall of fame but never had a great, dominant stretch?

How about this dominant stretch from 1986-1992, seven seasons of dominance:

  • 1986 – 24-4, 2.48 ERA
  • 1987 – 20-9, 2.97
  • 1988 – 18-12, 2.93
  • 1989 – 17-11, 3.13
  • 1990 – 21-6, 1.93
  • 1991 – 18-10, 2.62
  • 1992 – 18-11, 2.41

Now let’s look at the great Sandy Koufaxes best 7-season stretch. 1960-1966:

  • 1960 – 8-13, 3.91
  • 1961 – 18-13, 3.52
  • 1962 – 14-7, 2.54
  • 1963 – 25-5, 1.88
  • 1964 – 19-5, 1.74
  • 1965 – 26-8, 2.04
  • 1966 – 27-9, 1.73

I wonder how Clemens would have fared with the same mound height that Koufax got. We’ll never know, but lowering the mound raises ERA, right? The mound was lowered in 1969 (So Koufax never got to pitch on the lower mound) and NL ERA’s went from 2.99 to 3.59. It’s strictly conjecture but hmmm….what if Clemens got an extra .6 dropped from his ERA? Or Koufax had to add .6.

Face it – Clemens is pretty much in a league all his own. A few guys are worthy of hainging around – Koufax, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Walter Johnson, Satchel Paige, Randy Johnson, etc. But Clemens has done everything – wins, era, strikeouts, WHIP, anything. You name the stat, he’s got it. Except for batting average. Dude can’t hit is way out of a wet paper bag.