By In Stuff

Ballot 2: Roger Clemens

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Roger Clemens

Played 24 years for four teams

Seven-time Cy Young winner won 354 games and struck out 4,672. 139.4 WAR, 94.6 WAA

Pro argument: By the numbers, the greatest pitcher in baseball history.

Con argument: The wide assumption that he used steroids.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Of course.

Will get elected this year?: 5-10% chance

Will ever get elected?: 95% chance

* * *

Roger Clemens was awesome. He was unlikable. He had two separate careers that roughly equate with the two careers of Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez. He was involved in an incredibly nasty and contentious post-career fight over steroids. He was found not guilty of perjury. Most people believe he used steroids.

Blah blah blah. You know where you stand on Clemens.

* * *

Here’s one thing about Roger Clemens’ career that has always interested me: Why was he not taken until the 19th pick in the 1983 draft? Yes, it’s true that the baseball draft then was a mishmash of bizarre scouting techniques, varying degrees of incompetence and, in the case of some teams, a basic misunderstanding of what an amateur draft even is.

Even with all that, the Clemens thing was particularly strange.

Clemens pitched for two years at the University of Texas just as the college baseball was entering a new period of recognition. ESPN had only just come on the scene and was in desperate need of cheap sports programming. The College World Series was perfect for the new channel. In 1982, for the first time, ESPN broadcast the entire College World Series … and that year fortuitously had perhaps the most famous play in college baseball history, the Miami “Grand Illusion” play.

In the play, Miami pitcher Mike Kasprzak stepped off the rubber (the key so that it was’nt a balk) and pretended to throw the ball away, first baseman Steve Lusby cursed and ran after the phantom baseball, and everyone in the Miami dugout pointed to the phantom baseball. The pigeon was Wichita State’s Phil Stephenson, who saw all the commotion and jogged into the most embarrassing out of his life.*

*Stephenson had set an NCAA record for stolen bases that season with 86 — a record that still stands and one that is completely forgotten because of the one play. The thing is, that play was specially designed for him. It was his habit of taking huge leads and diving back into the base head first that set up the misdirection of the play.

In that series, by the way, Clemens completely shut down a very good Oklahoma State offense with Jim Traber and Robbie Wine, who we will meet again. Clemens was incredible that whole postseason — he threw what was then a record 35 consecutive scoreless innings. It was his first bit of national limelight.

Then, in 1983, Texas won the College World Series, Clemens was on the mound when it ended — it wasn’t his best game but he pitched a complete game, struck out nine, didn’t walk anybody. The point is: It was impossible, absolutely impossible, to watch Roger Clemens pitch and not see that he was a future superstar (the same could be true later of another Texas College World Series star, Greg Swindell). Clemens’ future greatness came through every cable-ready television in America. He was a 6-foot-4 force of nature with Nolan Ryan’s windup and the competitive fury of a cornered animal.

How in the WORLD did 18 teams pass on him?

And they didn’t just pass on Clemens; as you will see they passed on him in bizarre ways:

1. Minnesota took Mount Vernon Nazarene’s Tim Belcher with the first pick.  “Right-hander Tim Belcher,” the Associated Press reported, “whose fastball has been clocked at better than 90 miles per hour, was the Minnesota Twins choice.” Whoo — 90 mph! The Twins offered Belcher no money and they were terrible, so Belcher chose not to sign. He went on to a fine big-league career, making 373 starts and winning 146 games — none of them for Minnesota.

2. Cincinnati took shortstop Kurt Stillwell out of Thousand Oaks High in California. They signed him right away and expected him to become a star, which didn’t quite happen though he did play almost 1,000 big league games and reach one All-Star Game.

3. Texas took shortstop Jeff Kunkel out of Rider University in New Jersey. Kunkel is the son of longtime big-league umpire Bill Kunkel, who pitched briefly for Kansas City and New York in the early 1960s. Jeff was a good athlete and he had a strong arm, but he could not hit well enough to get a regular big-league spot.

4. The New York Mets took Eddie Williams out of Herbert Hoover High in San Diego. This was a weird one. The Mets knew all about Clemens; they had taken him in the 12th round two years earlier and had apparently fallen $10,000 short of signing him ($10,000 that former Mets prospect and later GM Steve Phillips gleefully acknowledges he got instead). But the Mets did not take Clemens this time. They took Williams, a mercurial talent who hit .223 in two catastrophic minor league seasons which included more thrown bats than home runs. He was promptly traded to Cincinnati. Williams’ career seemed doomed, but he did put it together well enough to kick around for six big league teams. He hit 23 homers for San Diego over two seasons in the mid-1990s.

5. Oakland took Stan Hilton, a right-handed pitcher out of Baylor. Yeah … I don’t know. They A’s had a scout IN TEXAS … you would think … maybe Clemens? Maybe? Hilton injured his arm and never did make it to the Major Leagues. He went to work, remodeling kitchens, but he stayed around the fringes of baseball. He sort of re-emerged in the public eye as a pitching coach for Fort Worth’s independent team when Max Scherzer went there to pitch.

6. The Cubs took Jackie Davidson, a right-handed pitcher out of Everman High School in Texas. Again … right-handed pitcher IN TEXAS. I don’t know. Some scout looked at Jackie Davidson and looked at Roger Clemens and said, “I like Davidson.”

Davidson was just 18 when he was drafted but he was already married with a baby daughter. His son would be born less than two years later. It is a tough life, trying to raise a young family in the minor leagues. No money. Insane travel. Maybe if circumstances had been different he could have put it together but as it was Davidson was unable to harness his talent and soon went into real life, becoming a truck driver. If you were following closely you might remember that Davidson gave baseball one more shot — he was a scab player for Texas during the baseball strike. In fact, he was scheduled to start on Opening Day for the Rangers. When the real players came back, Davidson displayed no bitterness. “They made me realize the man I had to be,” he said.

7. The Mariners selected Darrel Akerfelds, a right-handed pitcher out of Mesa State College. What is the deal with picking all these right-handed pitchers ahead of Clemens? Akerfelds went to Columbine High, and in those Colorado days, he was the guy everyone knew would become a big sports star. He starred in football and baseball but it was his drive — the drive that pushed him to run nine miles a day and only then begin his workout — that made him look like a future star in whatever sport he chose. He was drafted in the ninth round by Atlanta but went to play football at Arkansas instead. He was a starting linebacker for Arkansas in the Gator Bowl but realized that baseball was his future, which is why he went to Mesa State.

It never quite came together for him as a pro baseball player. That drive, the stuff that made him a high school legend, kept him in the game. He managed to get into 125 big league games as a pitcher. He briefly pitched in Taiwan. He got into coaching and was bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres for 11 years. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.

8. Houston took catcher Robbie Wine out of Oklahoma State. Now, come on. Houston had to see how Clemens had shut down Robbie Wine — I mean, it was on television. Wine had some natural power but he just could not make enough contact. He hit .216 in eight minor-league seasons and only played 23 games in the big leagues. He became head baseball coach at Penn State and currently manages in the Padres minor-league system.

9. Toronto selected catcher Matt Stark, a high school catcher from Hacienda Heights, CA. Stark was a good young hitter, good enough that he made the Blue Jays as a 22-year-old after a fantastic spring training in 1987. Five games in, he developed a nasty case of tendinitis in his right shoulder, and he never could throw again. He eventually had rotator cuff surgery. After that, he tried to make it back as a slugging first baseman, and he hit well enough to make it up to the Chicago White Sox as a September call-up in 1990. He played for years in Mexico. Stark then scouted and coached and now is a high school coach back in Hacienda Heights.

10. San Diego took Ray Hayward, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Oklahoma. Hayward was supposed to be a high first round pick in 1982, but he had major knee surgery that year. That might have been a harbinger of bad things. He was a bit of a sensation when he went right to Class AA Beaumont, made 10 starts, struck out 71 in 66 innings and went 5-1 with a 1.76 ERA. Then he began treading water. He couldn’t stay healthy. He had shoulder surgery. He came back and had hernia surgery. He only got 15 big-league starts. He took it all in stride.

“Every Sunday, when I go to church, before the sermon starts, our preacher talks about the people we need to pray for,” he said. “And everybody’s got cancer. … I’m going, ‘I don’t have any problems.'”

Hayward is now pitching coach at Texas Tech.

11. Cleveland took Dave Clark, an outfielder out of Jackson State University in Mississippi. He was a legitimate prospect (he hit .340 with 30 homers one year in Buffalo) who just couldn’t quite break through with Cleveland. The Tribe was terrible then, but they had an outfield — with Joe Carter, Mel Hall and Cory Snyder (and Oddibe McDowell) — they were convinced was going to become the best in baseball. Sigh.

Clark played 13 years in the majors, though he never got more than 318 plate appearances in any given season. It’s unclear if his career might have been different if he was handled better as a young player. Either way he stayed in the game — you might remember he was interim manager for Houston in 2009 — and these days he’s third-base coach for the Tigers.

12. Pittsburgh took outfielder Ron DeLucchi out of Campolindo High in Moraga, California. I have to admit being stumped by Ron DeLucchi — the only really interesting thing I can find about him is that he was represented by the great football agent Leigh Steinberg, who sort of poked around as a baseball agent. DeLucchi was a big-time football and baseball player in high school but he was clearly not a baseball prospect — he never made it out of Class A.  Again: I’m just not sure how a professional scouting despartment could look at Ron DeLucchi and look at Roger Clemens and think DeLucchi is the right choice.

13. The White Sox took right-handed pitcher Joel Davis out of high school in Jacksonville. Funny, every time I look at this draft I keep confusing Joel Davis with Joel Skinner, the big catcher who was on the White Sox at that time. Skinner was taken by Pittsburgh in the 37th round a few years earlier. Skinner was actually behind the plate when Joel Davis made a start against Texas on September 5, 1985, making what might be the only Joel-to-Joel battery in baseball history.*

*Or it might not be — I’m not looking it up … I can’t believe I decided to do this draft thing in the first place.

Joel Davis was a big pitcher, 6-foot-5, with a good fastball and he got 41 big league starts by the time he was 23, at which point he blew out his shoulder and never pitched in the big leagues again. He is a high school baseball coach in Jacksonville.

14. Montreal took Rich Stoll, a (you guessed it) right-handed pitcher. He was a big-time pitcher at Michigan, going 30-5 and carrying the Wolverines to the College World Series. The Detroit Free Press reported he had a fastball “in the high 80s.” That should give you an idea of how different the time was; that was reported as a POSITIVE thing.

Peter Gammons once quoted someone in the Red Sox organization saying that it was Stoll, not Clemens, that Boston really wanted. This leads to one of those baseball questions that people inside the game talk about a lot — were the St. Louis Cardinals SMART for getting Albert Pujols in the 13th round of the draft or were they DUMB for passing on him 12 times. If the Red Sox really would have taken Stoll over Clemens, well, they’re no smarter than the Expos, they just got lucky.

Anyway, Stoll showed real promised and then did what most pitching prospects seem to do — he tore the labrum in his shoulder. After trying and failing to come back, he returned home to Attica, Indiana and became a pastor.

15. Detroit took Wayne Dotson a (no, not again) right-handed pitcher from (no, don’t say it) a high school in Texas. Dotson was a sensation in Lubbock, so much so that the Lubbock newspaper basically covered him the way that Japanese papers covered Ichiro his first year in the United States. Dotson apparently considered skipping out on baseball and going to Oral Roberts, but the Tiger came up with the money. When he signed, his mother said: “I look forward seeing him on TV now.” It didn’t work out that way. Dotson could not adjust to professional baseball and topped out with eight starts in double-A.

16. The Expos (again!) took a (no!) right-handed pitcher not named Roger Clemens. Yes, the Expos get the prize, picking TWO right-handed pitchers not named Clemens in the first-round of the 1983 draft. I’m sure there’s an alternate history where the Expos take Clemens and stay in Montreal.

This time, at least, the Expos took a pitcher who did make it somewhat. They took Brian Holman, a high school star at Wichita North and the best pick taken before Clemens (top pick Belcher would have been the best pick before Clemens but, alas, he did not sign).

Holman took a little while to get going, which meant that he rose more or less in perfect sync with a lefty pitcher Randy Johnson. They were the top two pitchers for Class AA Jacksonville in 1987 and Class AAA Indianapolis in 1988. They both made their big league debuts for Montreal in ’88, Holman on June 25, Unit on September 15.*

*Man could you imagine if that was Clemens and Johnson? There’s probably an alternate history where if THAT had happened, MLB would have moved more teams to Canada.

The Expos, in their infinite wisdom, promptly traded Holman and Johnson to Seattle for Mark Langston, who pitched 24 games for Montreal and got the heck out of Canada. Holman was a moderate success for Seattle — he won 32 games in three years with a better than league average ERA. An arm injury ended his big-league career when he was just 27. He coaches baseball now in Olathe, Kan.

17. Seattle took catcher Terry Bell out of Old Dominion. Teams sure liked drafting catchers in the first round back then. Bell was viewed as something of a defensive phenom and the concern was that he would not hit. It was a well-founded concern. Bell hit .231 in seven minor-league seasons with a grand total of eight home runs. He did get nine games and six plate appearances in the big leagues. He then returned home to Dayton where he has taught baseball and helped out the Dayton Flyers.

18. The Dodgers took left-handed pitcher Erik Sonberg out of Wichita State. It was Sonberg’s misfortune to be the pick RIGHT BEFORE Clemens and so he gets outsized play in the various stories about that 1983 draft. Sonberg, like Clemens, was a College World Series star in 1982. Sonberg had a somewhat disastrous season in Albuquerque in his first full minor-league season, going 5-13 with a 7.34 ERA. And then came the shoulder surgeries — five of them in all. He tried again and again with four different teams but could never quite break through into the Majors. He retired and went into business.

19. The Boston Red Sox took right-handed pitcher Roger Clemens.

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60 Responses to Ballot 2: Roger Clemens

  1. Tomg says:

    Isn’t a fake pickoff throw to first base a balk?

    • Big Daddy Bobo says:

      If you look closely at the video, the RHP takes a step back of the pitching rubber with his right foot before faking the throw to first. That is a perfectly legitimate action and not a balk at all.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Only if your foot is still on the rubber. If you step off you can make a fake throw. True for every base. Runners are taught to not lead off until the pitcher is on the mound and to get back quickly if a pitcher steps off. It’s a runner and base coach gaffe if a team pulls a hidden ball trick in any form.

    • Brian says:

      Joe pointed out he stepped off the rubber – that’s key

  2. Matt says:

    My guess is there must have been dirt on Clemens for so many teams to pass on him. Obviously no one could have known he’d be as good as he was. They probably figured he wasn’t worth the risk.

  3. ajnrules says:

    The draft really is weird back in the 1980s. I always heard that Clemens dropped because he wasn’t seen as the ace of the Longhorns and Calvin Schiraldi was instead, but then again Clemens went eight spots ahead of Schiraldi. I do like this look at the other players taken in the 1983 draft.

    One note about Dave Clark and Roger Clemens. Their paths would cross one more time. On September 10, 1988 (five days before Randy Johnson made his major league debut), Clemens was working on a no-hitter through 7 and 1/3 innings before Dave Clark dumped a single in the outfield. Clemens retired the next five batters to record his only career one-hitter.

  4. Laurence says:

    Negative. Once pitcher steps off rubber, he’s free and clear.

  5. steve says:

    Those were the first 18 players drafted? That must be the worst first 18 ever. Like Joe with the Joels, I am not going to look that one up. Maybe we should start a collection of false baseball news to accompany the false news news.

  6. Robert says:

    Here in Toronto we have had some pretty good pitchers (Dave Steib?) and some pretty obnoxious players (Jose Bautista?) but we never had anyone who combined the two as well as Roger. Thanks for the Cy Youngs, and pleased to have known you. BTW, HOF – yes.

  7. Mike Rothstein says:

    Joe, I’m surprised you put the odds of him eventually getting in as basically a shoe-in. The way voting has gone for these guys, I really don’t see it.

    • Matt says:

      Bud Selig getting into the Hall of Fame now opens the door for guys like Bonds and Clemens. A lot of the writers felt a “responsibility” to keeping the Hall of Fame clean. But now, they can vote w/o feeling guilty because they all know Selig enabled players to use steroids. Also, voters now need to make their ballots public. There’s more accountability and responsibility which is why Clemens is now likely to get in.

  8. Dale says:

    After the first act of his career, Clemens was definitely NOT HOF material. Then he had his chemical awakening in Toronto and put up his astonishing late career numbers. How on earth can that possibly give him a 95% chance of getting in? His case Is actually worse than Bonds’. Maybe voters will eventually warm to his roid rage in the World Series.

    • DB says:

      What are you talking about? 81.2 WAR (BR), 3 Cy Youngs and an MVP. That is HOF before he even stepped foot in Toronto. He could have retired and been in the HOF a long time ago (same as Bonds).

    • DC says:

      Haha, not quite. Clemens was traded to Toronto after the 1992 season. At that point:

      He had one MVP award (as well as a third place finish).
      He had won three Cy Young awards (as well as a runner up finish and a third place finish).
      He had led the league in shutouts five times.
      His career record was 192-111.

      Every eligible player (other than Clemens) with three Cy Youngs breezed into the Hall of Fame. Obviously his win total is low but there are several precedents of pitchers with shorter careers being elected who won fewer than 192 games (e.g. Sandy Koufax, Lefty Gomez, Addie Joss).

      • Tim says:

        Clemens played two years in Toronto, 1997 and 1998. He signed as a FA because Sox GM Dan Duquette famously said he was in the “twilight of his career”

        • DC says:

          And won two Cy Youngs in his two years in Toronto, then traded for David Wells.

        • Pat says:

          Red Sox fans will fight you over that quote. Duquette talked about Clemens’s “twilight” as something still in the future (and said he looked forward to Clemens still playing for Boston then).

          Not that it makes much difference if Clemens was determined to walk. But it’s one thing Duquette’s unfairly dinged for.

      • Rally says:

        Who can ever forget Clemens pitching the 1993 Blue Jays to the world championship? In fact, he was the pitcher of record when Joe Carter hit his famous homerun.

        My only fear in life is that the Red Sox invent a time machine so they can undo that trade and get a few more years out of Roger.

      • MartyR says:

        3.53 ERA last four years with Boston.

    • Dale says:

      At best, he’s a borderline case. You can spin it all you want, but those four completely average years at the end in Boston, followed by a chemical-free end in Toronto, would likely land him in the Hall of Very Good.

      • Matt says:

        LOL no. He’s was a first ballot Hall of Famer before going to Toronto.

      • Otistaylor89 says:

        Eh, his WAR for those “Average” years were:
        1993 2.5
        1994 6.1(3rd in MLB)
        1995 1.9
        1996 7.7 (3rd in MLB)

        If you are 3rd in anything in a positive category in all of MLB, I probably wouldn’t considered that to be “Average”.

  9. birtelcom says:

    Most b-reference pitching WAR, age 23-29 seasons:
    1. Walter Johnson 76.1
    2. Roger Clemens 58.5
    3. Christy Mathewson 52.3
    4. Tom Seaver 51.9
    5. G.C. Alexander 51.5
    6. Pedro Martinez 51.3
    7. Robin Roberts 49.2
    8. Hal Newhouser 48.7
    T9. Greg Maddux and Rube Waddell 45.7

    • Dano says:

      Number of Hall of Fame pitchers w/ 40-39 win/loss record for the 4 full seasons age 30-33? Everyone may have an off year here or there but basically he was just a decent pitcher going nowhere near Cooperstown until he went to Toronto. Mike Mussina was 64-43 those years, Maddux 71-34, Glavine 63-34, Randy Johnson 56-12, Sutton 66-42, Nolan Ryan 66-53, Seaver 78-31, Gaylord Perry 82-55, Jenkins 68-57, Carlton 74-44. Of these recent HoF pitchers, Roger Clemens would have clearly the worst record over that period that is usually pretty productive for a pitcher. Of the listed pitchers here, 6 had at least one 20 or more win season after age 33. Mussina, Glavine and Jenkins had 1 20 win season after 33. Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry and Steve Carlton had 2. Roger Clemens had 3. So he went from the worst pitcher in the above collection in prime years age 30-33 to the best ever from 34 on? I would not vote him in as it appears to me that without drugs he would have been less than a pitcher than Mussina career wise.

      • ajnrules says:

        Are you really going to cite win-loss record to argue that Clemens was in the twilight of his career in 1993-96? It’s true that he had terrible years in 1993 and 1995 where he was plagued by injuries, but people forget that his 1994 and 1996 seasons were actually All-Star caliber.

        In 1994, he had an ERA of 2.85 that was 76% above league average, an ERA+ that led the league. He allowed only 6.5 hits for every 9 innings, a total that not only led the league but was the second best in his career to that point. His 168 strikeouts were also second to only Randy Johnson. Of course, because of the strike and a run support of 3.93 runs per game that was the second lowest in his career to that point (behind only the 1993 season) his record was only 9-7, but I think it’s unfair to consider his 1994 season a failure just because of that win-loss record

        And then came 1996. That was the year he led the league in strikeouts with 257 for the first time since 1991, including a 20-strikeout performance that tied his record he set 20 years prior. True he had a 3.63 ERA but you have to remember that was the dawn of the home run era and so that was still 39% above the league average. But he inexplicably ended up with a 10-13 record.

        In both of these seasons he ended up with a bWAR that was second in the league, behind Cy Young winners David Cone and Pat Hentgen respectively. However, because of his ugly win-loss records that I don’t think were a reflection of how well he pitched, he didn’t pick up a single win-loss record. Yet despite a win-loss record of only 40-39 in those four seasons and two admittedly average years, he put up a bWAR 18.2 with a bWAA of 11.1. That’s higher than those of Nolan Ryan (15.8/6.8), Steve Carlton (14.9/6.4), Don Sutton (12.4/4.2), pitchers with better win-loss record. Now I do think I focus more on pitcher wins than is healthy for me, but I do think that they can often be deceptive, and I just don’t buy the fact that just because Clemens went 40-39 that he is ready to be put out to pasture if he hadn’t taken steroids. Plus per the testimony of Brian McNamee, Clemens didn’t touch the stuff until 1998, which indicates that his 1997 season to be presumably clean, and what did he do? He went 21-7 and had a career high 11.9 bWAR. He’s a Hall of Famer.

        • Dano says:

          If you add those 21 wins to his total in Boston he still was not a Hall of Famer at that point. If he’d been clean his entire career, sure, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now. But like Bonds, he wasn’t clean and his late career stats are very questionable and likely skewed to such a degree that they are not representative of what he’d have done without drugs. Boston didn’t want him after 4 years of mediocre pitching. Not sure how he got 7.7 WAR for a season he won 10 games–strikeouts are all good but allowing runs and losing games should count more.

          • ajnrules says:

            I know I’m never going to convince you otherwise, but for what it’s worth

            Roger Clemens (1984-1997): 213-118, 2.97 ERA, 149 ERA+, 3040 innings, 2882 strikeouts, 924 walks, 41 shutouts, 93.2 bWAR, 65.5 bWAA

            John Smoltz: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3473 innings, 3084 strikeouts, 1010 walks, 16 shutouts, 66.5 bWAR, 38.0 bWAA

            Granted, their careers aren’t completely analogous. Smoltz has his time as a closer that gives him 154 saves that probably pushed him to the edge. I think Smoltz is a deserving Hall of Famer, but I think Clemens was better in his career through 1997.

      • Brian says:

        Won/loss? Really?

      • John Autin says:

        Since you think W-L records are so important, you should at least know that dozens of Hall of Famers had worse records than 40-39 for some 4-year span. For age 30-33 in particular, Catfish Hunter had the exact same record as Clemens, while Robin Roberts, Ted Lyons and Waite Hoyt all had losing records. Roberts was 15 games under .500 in that span, while the latter two had just 35 wins.

        Anyway, Clemens had already logged a HOF career before age 30 — unless you want to kick out about a third of those already inducted, starting with Koufax and Dizzy Dean.

  10. KHAZAD says:

    I have been watching baseball for 45 years. Roger Clemens had the best career of any pitcher I have seen. If someone wants to throw out the back half of his career because of the PED taint, and give him a regular decline, he is still top 5, and a lock for the Hall.

    I say that as someone who never really liked the man, even before the whole accusations and court thing. But I also appreciate greatness when I see it.

  11. William Keane (@largebill68) says:

    Joe,

    Can’t wait to see a similar summation of the careers of those picked ahead of Mike Trout.

    • nightfly says:

      That group is already ahead of the ’83 draftees: Steven Strasburg and Dustin Ackley went 1-2, and you’ve got Shelby Miller, AJ Pollock, Drew Storen, and Mike Leake all in there. That’s how gob-smacking the ’83 draft was.

      What I find funny (and by funny I mean mortifying) as a Mets fan is seeing that the Angels had both the 24th and 25th picks that year, courtesy the Mets and Yankees… the Mets gave up the 24th pick (the one just before Trout) by signing Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod! At least the Yanks got Teixeira out of their pick.

  12. Johnny P says:

    In your little bit about Brian Holman, I’m surprised you did not mention his biggest accomplishment: he came within one out of throwing a perfect game against the reigning world champion Oakland Athletics on April 20, 1990. Ken Phelps broke it up with his last MLB home run.

  13. blacksables says:

    Your use of the word ‘scab’ is disgusting and despicable. People shouldn’t be forced to buy into a union they don’t believe in, and should be able to play where and when they want based on their talent, not a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    • Edwin says:

      Well, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a scab (noun) is a worker who accepts employment or replaces a union worker during a strike. So Joe used the word correctly. That you wanted to force your views about unions into the discussion is a complete different matter.

      • blacksables says:

        Lots of words in the dictionary. Many of the are offensive and inappropriate. Being on a list dosen’t make a word usable.

        Scab is an offense word, used in a derogatory manner.

        This is exactly the reason Marvin Miller doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. His, and his unions’ treatment of replacement players.

    • gogiggs says:

      And why are we denying children the right to work?!

  14. Anon says:

    That isn’t even the most interesting “alternate reality” involving Randy Johnson. He was originally drafted by the Braves out of HS in 1982 and went to USC instead. Imagine a 90’s Braves rotation of Unit, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. (Of course, it’s likely the Braves don’t sign Maddux if they have Johnson, but if we’re going to play alternate reality, let’s really play alternate reality.)

  15. Brent says:

    I suspect the summary of this draft is pretty similar to most drafts, at least in regard to pitcher health, which leads me to conclude that the team that figures out how to predict which pitchers will not blow out their Rotator cuffs will be way ahead of the curve with the draft. Unfortunately, although there are some congenital indicators that could be used to help (some doctor can come on here and explain the difference between a Type 1 and a Type 4 acromion and then explain what that has to do with rotator cuff health), I am pretty sure nobody is really sure why Pitcher A needs 5 surgeries and Pitcher B never has a problem.

  16. Mtortolero says:

    Maddux and Glavine, both, were drafted in 1984 second round

  17. Rally says:

    “And then came 1996. That was the year he led the league in strikeouts with 257 for the first time since 1991, including a 20-strikeout performance that tied his record he set 20 years prior. True he had a 3.63 ERA but you have to remember that was the dawn of the home run era and so that was still 39% above the league average. But he inexplicably ended up with a 10-13 record.”

    The Red Sox defense that year was beyond awful. Their DER was .665, worst in the league. All the other Red Sox starters had ERA’s over 5. Last week I watched the 20 strikeout game from that year. His command and movement were amazing. As for velocity, there was no radar gun display on the broadcast, but in the 9th inning the announcers tell us that a pitch to Tony Clark was clocked at 99 MPH. They go on to say that Clemens had not lost any velocity, was pretty much pitching at that speed the whole game. He got a lot of the strikeouts with his split finger, a pitch that was new to him.

    He was 34 years old and a force of nature. Anybody who knew what he was looking at should not have been surprised by the way Clemens pitched in 1997.

  18. Chris Smith says:

    How does one find out that an ex-prospect is now a truck driver? Is that stuff all just in Wikipedia??

  19. John Kenny says:

    Joe I have read nearly every article you have written since I became aware of your writing a few years ago. I like them all even those I disagree with. I like to categorise the sports writers I admire and you fall into the category that excuses cheating and defends the stats at all cost. Rob Neyer is the same. Paul Kimmage and David Walsh are the exact opposite. I don’t know of any European writers that share your views on cheating. In fairness to Clemans it has never been proved he cheated. But even if it was proven he cheated I guess it would not change your opinion and that is a shame.

  20. Cliff Blau says:

    This Red Sox scouting report on Clemens may clear it all up:
    http://www.boston.com/sports/untagged/2013/06/07/red_sox_draft_picks

  21. Wes Tovich says:

    Oh its screamingly obvious that Roger was a Roider par excellance. 1997 on. It’s also very true he’s a great pitcher and he should be in the HAll. I don’t see keeping him or Bonds or Sheffield out is going to be doing anyone any good. He was buildt like a Bunchberry the last decade he played and I think it was horribly obvious he was HGH man, but anyone that thinks he was only that is a tool.

  22. Pat says:

    Someone’s already mentioned it, but Clemens was viewed as not as good as his college teammate Calvin Schiraldi.

    Schiraldi would figure rather prominently into Red Sox lore as the loser of Game 6 in the 1986 World Series started by Clemens.

  23. shagster says:

    I’m echoing somebody on this string. Try money. I.E. how short sighted people in mgt. roles become when ownership /Sr execs reduce it to money. According to own article Clemens had already passed up an offer where difference was — $10K. At that time in baseball ownership/mgt. were permitted quite a bit of bad (see the Garvey – Winfield mess) and retributive (ownership still carrying the axe about the clause) behavior by the courts. It took a collected pile of money (players union) to move that needle. The fact he went at 19th may indeed be amazing. With the renewed focus on baseball perhaps we’ll also see more writing on the MLB business side. It’s not as fast moving as the game itself, but the buffoonery and chicanery of ‘caretakers’ protecting disproportionate financial means has been solid eyeball entertainment since religion was put to paper. And baseball has proven itself to be a fine contemporary platform for telling these tales.

  24. Pete R says:

    I’ll look it up!

    There was one other Joel-to-Joel, but the catcher was Skinner again. When Joel McKeon made his major league debut, his first catcher was Skinner.

  25. Pete R says:

    I presume that the MLB teams knew the draft rules, and I presume that they were aware of Clemens’ eligibility, but he was an odd case.

    Many players have been drafted in two consecutive years (usually after their junior and senior years of college).

    And many others have been drafted twice, three years apart (usually after high school, and then again their junior year).

    But it is very unusual for a player to be drafted twice, two years apart. And it’s unusual for a player to be drafted after their sophomore year of college.

    I presume that Clemens was eligible after his sophomore year because he had just passed his 21st birthday before the draft.

    • ajnrules says:

      I’m not entirely sure of the draft rules, but Clemens would have still been 20 when the draft happened, since the draft was in June and he didn’t turn 21 until August 4. I think he was drafted out of junior college in 1981 and so 1983 would have been his third year in college.

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