Throughout his 13 year stint with the Red Sox
, Clemens repeatedly stated that he would only play for one of two teams - the Red Sox, or the Houston Astros
(the latter because it was close to home). The Red Sox rewarded Clemens' Cy Young
season of 1990 by making him the highest paid player in baseball (which lasted all of a few weeks, when Jose Canseco
signed a bigger deal). After two outstanding seasons, Clemens was ineffective and often injured between 1993 and 1995. In 1993, he failed to pitch 200 innings for the first time since 1985. This trend would continue through the '95 season. Although Clemens had a respectable ERA
, it was during this period that many sportswriters began to question Clemens' work ethic, his weight, and his desire to win.
Fast forward to 1996. Now in the final year of his contract, Clemens returned to form by leading the league in strikeouts, but his ERA was still not that of a dominant pitcher. During this period, Clemens "amended" his statement, saying that he wished to pitch only for the Red Sox, the Astros, or a "competitive team". At season's end,
Clemens demanded a larger amount of money than the Red Sox wanted to pay, so he took the money and ran... to Toronto.
Now, no offense to Toronto fans, but the Blue Jays of 1997 were not a competitive team. Aside from Pat Hentgen, the team did not have any solid, proven pitching talent, and their offense was subpar with the exception of Carlos Delgado. Clemens stretched his definition of "competitive team" a little too far, some would say.
Although Clemens returned to Fenway triumphantly the following year, striking out 16 in eight innings, he couldn't help but defile himself by making gestures towards the box of general manager Dan Duquette while walking off the field. Later returns to Fenway drew less and less of a response - the fans simply didn't care.
The Red Sox ended up replacing Clemens with Pedro Martinez, a younger, more dominant pitcher who is now the best pitcher in the American League. The Yankees got a ring for Clemens, in spite of his pathetic stats last year, and Clemens now toils away as a .500 pitcher for the World Champs...
Addendum: Please, let's not sugar coat Clemens' 2001 season by making it more than it is. Clemens has been outpitched by his own teammate (Mike Mussina
). Clemens' record is more a product of luck, run support (over 6 runs a game), and convenient scheduling by Joe Torre
than it is his dominant performance this season. Clemens has started a total of 23 games against teams that are sub-.500, and it took Clemens almost three months to pass an injured Pedro Martinez on the strikeout leaderboard.
Clemens: Hall of Famer? Definitely. 2001 Cy Young Winner? Yes. Having one of the greatest seasons of all time? Not really.