The Boston Red Sox held another dog-days, put-fans-in-the-seats pre-game ceremony Thursday night prior to their showdown with fellow AL bottom-feeder Houston Astros to honor the four latest inductees into the Red Sox Hall of Fame: former stars Nomar Garciaparra, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and longtime radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione.
But of course, nothing these days can come without a touch of cynicism. The reaction to Thursday night, a very special night at that, was no different.
The controversy this time surrounded Clemens, who spent the first half of his distinguished career in a Red Sox uniform. One of the most polarizing sports figures in recent years, Clemens is one of the faces of the infamous Steroid Era in baseball history. So that point needed to be reiterated as if we didn’t know that already.
We had to be reminded that he wasn’t the most likable human being on the planet. We also had to be enlightened of the fact he left Boston for Toronto for the purpose of being closer to his native Texas. Oh, and don’t forget — he played for the Yankees.
We can have our opinions — and there are many about Roger — but when you look at the facts, Clemens is hands-down one of the three or four best pitchers in Red Sox history at worst. A case can be made for him being the best to ever take the bump in a Red Sox uniform among the thousands who have. In fact, the same case can be made for him being on of the best in the modern era, period.
We’ll just look at the numbers from his time in Boston from 1984-96. Over 383 appearances, all but one of them starts, he won 192 games with a 3.06 ERA, striking out 2,590 over 2,776 innings. He won three of his seven Cy Young Awards in Boston and became the first and only Red Sox pitcher to win the AL MVP with his 1986 campaign (though in fairness, Pedro should’ve won it in 1999).
He went the distance in 100 starts, meaning he averaged about one complete game per month. To put that in perspective, the 10 pitchers who have started a game for the Red Sox in 2014 have combined to go nine innings a grand total of two times through roughly five months of baseball.
Where would the Red Sox have been had Clemens not been the ace of the staff for 13 years? They wouldn’t have come within a strike of winning it all in 1986, a season in which Clemens earned the MVP and Cy Young by going 24-4 with a 2.48 ERA.
There would’ve been no Morgan Magic in the second half of 1988. While Clemens struggled during that second half run (6-7, 3.71 ERA), the Sox would’ve been completely out of it by the time they made the managerial change at the All-Star break had it not been for Clemens, who was 12-5 with a 2.42 ERA in 20 starts prior to the dismissal of John McNamara. The Sox wouldn’t have made the playoffs in 1990, either.
Clemens wasn’t as charismatic as Pedro. He wasn’t as beloved as Nomar. But don’t think for a second he doesn’t have a similar place in the long, storied history of the Red Sox. There’s a reason why no Red Sox player has worn No. 21 over the last 18 years. Sometimes we just have to put opinions and personal agendas aside and let the facts tell the story. Thursday night was one of those moments.