That ill-timed Dan Duquette quote concerning Clemens
There is a common misconception that Roger Clemens was toast when the Boston Red Sox decided to not re-sign him after the 1996 season. Sox GM Dan Duquette became infamous in our little world of baseball for saying that Roger was entering the “twilight” of his career.
The Blue Jays disagreed with Duquette’s assessment of Clemens and signed the 34-year old starter to a four year deal worth ~$31 million. To put the money in perspective, Clemens was paid more than Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey in ’97 & ’98.
What made the Blue Jays so sure that Clemens was worth MVP level money when Boston said good riddance to him? It’s pretty simple actually. In 1996, Clemens last year with the Red Sox he led the American League in strikeouts. He whiffed 42 more batters than the league runner-up Chuck Finley.
Roger Clemens was far and away the best strikeout pitcher in the AL when Duquette said he was in his “twilight”. This is akin to suggesting that Cliff Lee today is nearly washed up.
In addition to leading the league in strikeouts by a mile the ’96 version of Clemens was top-ten in the AL in strikeout/walk rate, fewest home runs allowed, innings pitched, complete games and E.R.A. In his 32nd start of the 1996 season “The Rocket” went to Detroit and tied his own MLB record for most strikeouts in a 9-inning game by sending down twenty Tigers batters on strikes while allowing no walks and no runs.
Roger Clemens did not have to go to Toronto and use PED’s to revive his career. When the Red Sox let the former Texas Longhorn walk he was still an elite major league pitcher.