|Clemens wins 300th - Special to the Toy Box|
Written by Peter L. Shanski (Contact & Archive) on June 03, 2003
On Sunday, June 1st, Roger Clemens achieved his 300th major league win in a brilliant six-inning stint against the powerful Detroit Tabbies. Clemens dominated the Tabby line-up in which only three of the nine hitters were batting less than .200 entering the game.
The margin of victory for the 8-6 win was provided by a strong Yankee offense, which jumped on Detroit ace Jeremy Bonderman (who was 2-7 entering the game) staking the Rocket to a 7-1 early lead. Clemens held the Tabbies to only four earned runs over six innings, with a two run lead. Steve Karsay then set up Mariano Rivera, who pitched a perfect ninth inning.
In an exclusive interview given to this reporter immediately after the game, Clemens looked visibly relieved. He admitted that he was nervous after getting whacked around by Boston at the stadium last Monday, but today he said, “I was ready.”
Clemens first thanked George Steinbrenner who he described as a baseball genius.
He said it was Steinbrenner who hit upon the idea that you didn’t need a farm system under free agency. You could have some small market team discover, sign, teach and develop an all-star and then sign him away for an outrageous sum of money, which would cost less than the cost of maintaining a minor league system. He said that money means nothing to the Yankees. “Who else could sign a Japanese home run hitter who hits one home run a month for $21 Million, and spend another $32 Million on a Cuban Commie pitcher who then gets sent to the minor leagues?
Clemens related how he, Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina were sitting around reminiscing about how they had always wanted to be a part of the great Yankee Steinbrenner tradition. None of the three actually knew how much Yankee tradition meant until Steinbrenner put Yankee greenbacks on the line.
Giambi said, “Once I realized that I could become part of the over-paid Yankee tradition, I suddenly realized how badly I had always wanted to play in the big ball yards in the Bronx. Suddenly, my brother and the adoration of all the loyal Oakland Athletics fans didn’t mean so much.” Mussina heartily agreed. On, selling himself to the Yankees, Mussina stated, “that’s what it’s all about.”
When asked whether winning his 300th game or his sixth Cy Young award was his greatest thrill in baseball, Clemens was emphatic. “Neither,” he said, “my greatest thrill was when my agent told me the Yankees had made such an obscene offer that I had to put aside what I thought were my feelings about playing in New York. After all, a man has to think about his family, right?”
Clemens was proud of being able to be part of a Yankee team that, for a fleeting moment, after its sizzling 20-4 start, was regarded as the greatest Yankee team ever. However, a recent tailspin that included a five-game losing streak destroyed that myth. The cause of the losing streak: Derek Jeter. “Look it up,” said Clemens. “Derek returned to the line-up and all our problems began. He was injured in the first game and out until the 39th. During that period, our record was 24-9. He came back and we dropped 11 of the next 14. If Mr. Steinbrenner hadn’t stepped in and taken charge after our recent 5 game winning streak then we might be in second or even third place. That man really knows how to motivate a team.”
How great does he think the present team can be? “Very great,” he said, “after all, Saint Joe Torre has picked many of them over and over for the All-Star team. What more proof do you need?”
Clemens also confessed to this reporter that he was the source of David Wells’ now famous quote from his book Baseball, Ballerinas and Boobs that up to 40 percent of all major baseball players are on steroids. He told Wells that, “it is a hell of a lot easier to bulk up with ‘roids than it is to hit the gym.” Wells had to apologize for what he said in the book. He explained that he had written the book with a ghostwriter and the final version had a lot of words in it. He had not read it all by the time the book was released. The only teammate who was really upset about Wells’ revelation was Jason Giambi, whose ears developed muscles during his MVP year at Oakland. When asked who he believed was presently using steroids, he said, “Besides Soriano? Well, I’m sure that the entire Toronto Blue Jay team must be on something.”
According to Clemens, Giambi was also the object of a mini-team uprising when the Yankee in-crowd forced General Manager Brian D. Cashmen to ban his “supplier…uh…trainer,” Clemens corrected himself, “from the clubhouse.” Clemens speculated that as a consequence, Giambi is in withdrawal and his batting average has been hovering around the .200 mark all year.
Asked if he was the greatest Yankee pitcher of all time, Clemens did not hesitate. “Yes,” he said. “When you think of the Yankees, you think of Mantle and Berra, Rizzuto, and that guy who hit all the home runs before Hank Aaron and the one who played in all those games in a row. You didn’t really think of any pitchers.”
Unfortunately, at this point, the interview was interrupted by the Clemens family members who had made the trip to the Motor City for the momentous occasion along with one of his friends. His other friend had begged off, saying he wasn’t certain Clemens could handle the Tabbies. His loss.
Yours, Jaysen Blair
Special correspondent to the Toy Box