Saturday, November 15, 2003

Why I Think Roger Clemens is a Weiner by Kip Yates

I love to root against Roger Clemens. I can't stand to see him win. I didn’t always feel this way. I grew up in Texas pulling for Roger Clemens but all that changed in 1999: the day the Rocket became a friggin’ New York Yankee. I pulled for the guy as he led the Texas Longhorns to a win in the deciding National Championship game in 1983. I pulled for him when he was selected 19th overall by the Boston Red Sox in that year’s draft. I pulled for him as he left game six of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets because he had done it. He had led the Boston Red Sox to their first championship in almost 70 years. The Rocket had led his team to the promised land.

Boston had suffered numerous midsummer blues and the occasional October collapse throughout their colorful history. All the while, their hated American League rival, the New York Yankees, seemed to win every year. Baseball fans in Boston had suffered a dry spell that saw our grandfathers, long passed, who had rested their hopes on Red Sox teams led by Ted Williams, Dom Dimaggio, and Johnny Pesky, bequeath their suffering to their sons, our fathers, who similarly were wiped out by placing their hopes on Carl Yazstremski’s team and a little later, that of Carlton Fisk. Now, our fathers were gingerly placing their hopes on Dave Henderson, Dwight Evans, an elder Jim Rice, and a youthful Clemens. Their sons would not suffer the same defeat that killed their fathers and was summarily closing their own casket. No, their sons would know the sweet taste of victory. They would know what it was like to thumb their nose at New York and give their own “Bronx cheer”. When Roger Clemens excused himself from the remainder of game six, the Red Sox were only three innings from securing their first championship since 1918...and then all hell broke loose. You know the story. I don't have to rehash it. You know what happened and what didn't happen. What you may not be aware of though was that the Rocket tanked it long before Schiraldi grabbed the baseball, long before Bob Stanley's wild pitch, long before that ball went through Bill Buckner's legs. Roger Clemens was the man in 1986: winning the Cy Young, the MVP and setting a major league record by striking out 20 batters in a game. If there was anyone you wanted on the mound for the final out of the “final game” of the series, it was Roger Clemens; and he couldn't play through the blistering pain for a few more innings. For me that was when the myth of the Rocket started to show some cracks. You have to want to be on the mound when the deciding out is made. Especially if that final out relieves a city, such as Boston, from the long dark shadow baseball had cast upon it. And Roger Clemens didn't want to be there! It looked to me that he was content to watch his mates hold the lead he held when he left. After all, he was young; he had his whole career ahead of him to hoist his hand in the air, a number one gesture springing forth. What a cocky sum'bitch!

So now you know, Boston has not won a World Series in eighty-five years. What is worse, the Rocket has gone on to a Hall of Fame/Player of the Century career. Sure, most of those 300 wins happened while he was with the Red Sox. He continued to pitch reasonably and considerably well, despite what the Red Sox brass had thought. He even won two more Cy Young awards in Boston. However, in the Winter of 1997, Clemens, tired of the verbal abuse heaped on him by General Manager Dan Duquette, took his ball and went home—to Canada. The Rocket went through a rebirth as a Toronto Blue Jay, winning the Cy Young award twice more. Even then, I still had a considerable amount of respect for Clemens. I remember watching the television footage of him glaring at Mr. Duquette sitting in the Fenway box seat as he walked off the mound after a sterling performance against his former team and cheering for him. My respect for Clemens began to falter soon after though and since has continued to fall into an abyss of hatred.

In 1999, Clemens was traded to the (hated) Yankees. The boy who was denied a ring with Boston finally won a ring as an old man for the pinstripers, just one of the many, many, mercenaries hired by George Steinbrenner over the years. My respect for Roger Clemens dwindled slowly like black strap molasses leaking from a pan of southern fried goodness.

Originally, I was excited at the prospect of the hometown Houston Astros securing Clemens from the Blue Jays. Of course that excitement came to a screeching halt when Astros general manager, Jerry Hunsicker, proclaimed that he would love to have Roger Clemens but he was not going to meet the three year, 30-million dollar request that Clemens and his agents, the Hendry Brothers, were asking. Hunsicker held that Roger had a chance to get “Kevin Brown” money two years ago when he signed as a free agent with Toronto and he was not going to let this trade become a trade-and-sign. Good for you, Jerry, I concur. He can't treat a trade like a free agent signing. He missed that boat two years ago. Of course, Steinbrenner gave Roger everything he wanted. My Astros missed out on Clemens and I hated neither Hunsicker nor the grocer (owner Drayton Maclane made his fortune in the grocery business) for missing out on the Clemens sweepstakes.

No, my vitriol was saved for Roger Clemens.

Since the trade to the Yankees, Roger Clemens has done incredibly stupid act after annoying act. If he isn’t making a public spectacle of himself by touching the bust of Babe Ruth in centerfield before starting his home games, then it’s something else. There was the whole bean ball war with the Mets: The beaning of Piazza in an interleague game followed by the bat-throwing incident during the 2000 World Series. This was followed by the continued bad blood between Clemens and the Red Sox. Sitting on 299 wins and needing a victory against his former team for number 300, at the request of the Hall of Fame, he actually tried to wear a glove with a patch with the number 300 emblazoned on it. Clemens did not get number 300 that day and when he tried against the Detroit Tigers, one of the worst baseball teams to put on a uniform, he was denied again. The Roger Clemens number 300 train, sponsored by ESPN, pulled into the windy city and he was outdueled by fellow Texan and 20 strikeout pitcher, Kerry Wood. Woo hoo! Sure he finally got number 300 but it took him almost three weeks and stops in three cities before he joined the 300 club.

Then it got worse. Clemens started blabbing about how when he goes into the Hall of Fame; he wants to go in as a Yankee. But HOF executives claim that he will wear the cap of the team that he became a HOFer in and that my fine friend is the Boston Red Sox. Suck on that Roger! So what does he do next? He releases a statement saying if he is not allowed to go into the HOF as a Yankee, then he won't go to the ceremony at all, probably becoming the first player in history to raise a stink about something that cannot happen for over five full years. So again, he will just take his ball and go home. Well do us all a favor Roger and puh-lease, make an ass out of yourself one more time.

You big weenie!

An actor by trade, Kip Yates decided to give this writing thing a shot. Unfortunately, his wife Jamie refuses to listen anymore about the curse on the Red Sox and cannot bear anymore rants about Astros postseason failures ("He swung at ball four! Did you see that? Why did he swing at ball four...Oh my God Walt Weiss doesn't make that play again in a million chances...I hate you Kevin Brown, I really, really hate you...D-a-v-e- S-m-i-t-h?), so he relegates most of his time hating and consequently writing about the Yankees. Kip would like to thank Mike at Zisk for giving this poor scribe a chance. Oh yeah, Kip is expecting his first child this October and baby Yates will be indoctrinated into the world of baseball at a very young age.

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