GOODEN AND CLEMENS: WHAT IF???

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – While enjoying Tuesday’s excellent column, written by our Phriends in Philly, philview & The Phanatic, we received a link from Rugby Guru Geoff Andrews of the New York Rugby Club re a NY Times article about Roger Clemens. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The ceremony commemorating the Yankees’ final game at the old stadium last September featured appearances by famous Yankees like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Reggie Jackson, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and David Wells, and a video celebrating the team’s greatest players at each position. Conspicuously absent was Roger Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who boasted 354 career victories and 4,672 strikeouts on his stat sheet. It was as though Roger the Rocket — who had become a focus of a federal investigation — had never even pitched for the Bronx Bombers.”

This article, coupled with the aforementioned in our Tell It Like It Is Tuesday segment, got thinking of the tragedies in sports, specifically baseball, and even more specifically, about Dwight Gooden and Roger Clemens.

Born two years apart, Gooden and Clemens were similar pitchers. Both were big guys that threw the hell out of the baseball.

A big difference, however, was the way in which each player was used early on: Gooden threw well over 200 innings in 4 of his first 5 seasons, all before he was 24. Conversely, Clemens didn’t throw 200 innings until he was a husky 24. By the age of 29, Gooden was a shell of his former self – the early innings had likely taken more of a toll than the cocaine – while Clemens would win 4 of his 7 Cy Young Awards after the age of 29.

The argument that Doc Gooden’s physical woes contributed to his off-the-field troubles is specious at best – it happens to other players and they deal with it. With Clemens, however, one can point to the fact that only 6 other pitchers won a single Cy Young at 34 or older and he did it FOUR TIMES. (The Phanatic will be proud of our stat research).

  • Is it better to have been great and not get into the Hall Of Fame because of cocaine or to have been great and not get in for cheating?
  • Tragically, their stories do not begin and end with them. For every Dwight Gooden there is a Ken Caminiti. For every Roger Clemens, there is a Mark McGwire and baseball will never fully recover from the what they represent.

    However different their choices, Doc Gooden and Rocket Clemens have left us with a shared legacy: They’ve left us to wonder:

    What if???

    Greg Maddux is nodding somplace.

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