Roger Clemens “The Rocket”

Daniel Collins

Written by: Daniel Collins

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Roger Clemens, “The Rocket”, is an American former professional baseball player (1984-2007) who is considered to be one of the greatest power pitchers in Major League Baseball’s history. Drafted 19th by the Boston Red Sox in the 1983 MLB draft, Rogers went on to forge an illustrious 23-year career that was riddled with record-breaking milestones and two World Series championships, the holy grail of baseball.

He has been inducted in the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, was voted 4th in the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Clemens is an 11-time MLB All-Star and a 7-time winner of the Cy Young Award.

Early Career

Clemens was born in 1962 to Bill and Bess Clemens in Dayton, Ohio. Upon moving to Texas in 1977 and joining the Spring Woods High School baseball team, he grew into a standout pitcher, going 19-5 in his two seasons there. In his senior year, the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins showed an interest in drafting him. Due to his preference for Texas baseball teams, he declined the offers, foregoing the chance of turning pro.

San Jacinto Junior College was his next destination and he excelled there too. In his sole year there, he recorded 85 strikeouts, had a 9-2 win-loss record and his fastball speeds improved to the 90s. He again turned down a 12th round draft selection in 1982 by the New York Mets, choosing to play college baseball at the University of Texas at Austin instead. In Texas, he went on to win the 1983 College World Series with the Longhorns, recording a 25–7 record in the two All-American seasons he participated in. This set the stage for his 19th overall selection by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1983’s MLB draft. This time, he accepted the offer.

Professional Career Highlights, Milestone and Records.

His progression through the minor league system was fast, and Clemens made his MLB debut in 1984, a year after being drafted. Initially threatened by a previously undiagnosed torn labrum, his first two rookie years were slow, only recording 16 wins in this period. He was, however, at his dominant best in the seven years that followed (1986-1992).

He regained his flair, broke the strikeout record and won himself the coveted Cy Young Award twice. 1n 1986, his most dominant year, he finished with a 24-4 record, 238 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.48. This saw him win his first American League MVP award and get selected to his first All-Star Game, which he starred in too, winning the game’s MVP award. He also led the Red Sox to the AL pennant, losing the World Series.

His last 4 years at the Red Sox were tumultuous. His career took a downturn and he recorded his only two career losing seasons in 1993 and 1996, while going 40-39 in his last four seasons there. After a contract dispute with Dan Duquette, the Red Sox general manager, he signed for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clemens’ Toronto Blue Jays days, though short-lived, were sensational. In his two years at the Jays, he posted a 41-13-win record, 563 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35 en route to winning two pitching “triple crowns” and two Cy Young Awards. Convinced that the Jays were not competitive enough to make a play at the championship, he demanded a trade to the New York Yankees in 1999.

It was New York City that Clemens found most success in his career. He won back to back World Series titles (1999 and 2000). His incredible start to the 2001 season (20–1) keyed him to his sixth Cy Young Award. He stayed with the Yankees up to 200, where he retired for the first time. However, he came out of retirement in 2004, signing with the Houston Astros, where he won his last sixth Cy Young Award (2004) and cemented his status as one baseball’s greats.

Playing Style

Considered a power pitcher, Clemens dazzled the batters he faced with fastballs, some reaching 100-mph, hard breaking balls and devastating split-finger fastballs. He led the American League in strikeouts (5 times) and strikeouts per nine innings (3 times) in his career. It is this ferocious power that earned him the nickname “The Rocket”, and etched into baseball pitching stardom.

Clemens was also known for his strict workout regimen, obsessive game preparation and intense focus during start days. Fueled by his desire to dominate, he often got himself into problems, as seen in his ejection in a 1990 playoff game against the Oakland Athletics.

His former Red Sox coach once described him as a freak of nature and a once in a generation pitcher. While debates about his effectiveness in the postseason have persisted past his playing days, Roger Clemens still remains one of baseball’s greats.