Roger Clemens has started some of the most crucial games in baseball history. His team has lost most of them.

Clemens has been called the greatest pitcher of his time, but when scrutinizing his record, one must question that conclusion.

In 1986, his third major league season, Clemens was 24-4, winning his first 14 decisions. He won the American League Cy Young Award. He was voted the league’s MVP.

It was only the eighth time that a pitcher had won the MVP since the Cy Young Award had been created in 1956. Many felt that it was not right for a pitcher to win the MVP since pitchers had their own award.

Henry Aaron, baseball’s all-time lifetime home run leader, expressed the view that pitchers should not be eligible for the MVP award.

Clemens, whose mouth may cost him his freedom, responded.

“I wish he were still playing. I’d probably crack his head open to show him how valuable I was.”

The 1986 American League MVP made two starts in the playoffs and two more in the World Series. He won but a single game.

In the League Championship Series, Roger Clemens set the record for most hits allowed in a series (22) and tied the marks for the most runs allowed in a single game (8), most earned runs allowed in a game (7) and most runs allowed in a series (11).

Despite the handicap of having Clemens as their ace, the Boston Red Sox managed to defeat the California Angels to win the pennant.

New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, were the National League champions. They had defeated one of Roger’s future teams, the Houston Astros, in the most riveting of all playoff series.

The Sox won the World Series opener in New York, as confused New York Yankees fans couldn’t decide when to feel happy or when to feel upset. It was a nightmare because only one team could lose.

Clemens started the second game of the World Series, a game the Sox won handily, 9-3, but Roger lasted only four and one-third innings. Steve Crawford was the winning pitcher.

The sixth game is one of the most memorable games in World Series history. The Sox were up in games, three to two, and Clemens was leading the game, 3-2, going to the Mets’ seventh.

He retired them in order, but manager John McNamara pinch-hit for the big right-hander in the top of the eighth.

Clemens was forced to leave the game. Did he beg out, as some have claimed? It was reported that Clemens asked to be taken out, but only Clemens and McNamara know what really happened

Calvin Schiraldi, who had pitched for the Mets in 1984 and 1985, came in for the eighth inning.

The Mets tied the game at 3-3 on a Gary Carter sacrifice fly, but in the 10th inning, Dave Henderson blasted a home run off Rick Aguilera, the Sox scored another run, and Yankees fans didn’t know if they were about to lose or lose.

The Mets had the bases empty with two outs in the 10th inning.

In 1986, the Mets were still the Mets, the Red Sox were still the Red Sox, and when the Red Sox came within one strike of winning the World Series, the Mets rallied for three runs to win it all.

What if Roger Clemens had stayed in the game?

In 1990, the Red Sox won the American League Eastern Division title but were swept by Oakland in the second round of the playoffs.

Clemens started the fourth game, and was ejected in the second inning for cursing at the home plate umpire. The Red Sox lost.

One must question Roger’s priorities. Perhaps he could have exhibited a greater sense of self-control in order to remain in the game.

Or maybe he realized that no baseball team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs or World Series. To him, the game didn’t matter much since the Red Sox were not the most likely franchise to be the first to overcome such a deficit.

How ironic that in 2004, Boston did become the first and only team to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. And they did it against the Yankees.

With the Yankees, Clemens won the clinching World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1999.

He started the second game against the beloved Mets in 2000 and won.

The following year, Roger started the seventh game against Arizona. He pitched well enough to win, but manager Joe Torre took him out in the eighth inning with a one-run lead. The Diamondbacks beat Mariano Rivera with a two-run rally in the ninth.

Finally, Houston Astro Roger Clemens started the World Series opener against the Chicago White Sox in 2004. He lasted only two innings, allowing three runs before being forced to leave with a leg injury. The Sox swept the Astros.

Not all great players do well when it counts the most. A pair of Martins, Pepper and Billy, were good players, but neither approaches Roger Clemens’ achievements.

In 1931, Pepper Martin was instrumental in helping the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the favored Philadelphia A’s, and in 1934, Martin did it again, this time against the Detroit Tigers.

Billy Martin is a World Series legend. His great play in 1952 against the team that New York loved even more than the Mets, the Brooklyn Dodgers, has gone down as one of the great performances in the annals of the World Series.

Roger Clemens was one of the greatest regular season pitchers, but when it counted the most, there are a few pitchers who were a little more effective.


Roger Clemens at the Baseball Library

Baseball Reference

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