- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

It took New York Yankees pitcher Roger “The Rocket” Clemens four tries to notch his 300th regular-season win. But the certain-to-be first-ballot Hall of Famer finally achieved that milestone last Friday night. On the same day, when he became only the 21st pitcher to win that many games, the 40-year-old, 20-year veteran joined an even more exclusive club. When Clemens blazed a 94 mph fastball past Edgar Renteria, he became only the third pitcher in major league history to record 4,000 strikeouts, joining Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136). Three hundred victories and 4,000 strikeouts: Now, that’s exclusivity. And it gets even more so. Among baseball’s 21 pitchers who have recorded 300 victories, Clemens’ 300-155 record gives him the third-highest winning percentage (.659).

Among the nearly 7,500 hurlers in major league history, Clemens is the only one to win six Cy Young awards. In 1986, he became — and remains to this day — the only player to win the Cy Young Award, the American League Most Valuable Player Award and the All-Star Game MVP award in the same season. In 1986, Clemens became the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a single nine-inning game; 10 years later, he did it again. Clemens is the only pitcher in history to strike out 200 or more hitters in 11 seasons. He has led the American League in earned-run average six years and strikeouts five years.

Before arriving in New York for the 1999 season, Clemens played for more than his share of lousy and mediocre teams, having toiled in Boston for 13 seasons and Toronto for two. That makes his winning percentage all the more amazing. After winning three Cy Young awards (1986, 1987, 1991) in Boston but compiling only a 40-39 record during his last four seasons (1993-1996) in Beantown, Clemens was colossally misjudged in late 1996 by Boston General Manager Dan Duquette to be in the “twilight” of his career. After signing as a free agent with Toronto in 1997, Clemens became the first pitcher in the American League to win the pitching triple crown (most wins, lowest earned-run average, most strikeouts) since Hal Newhouser did in 1945. Clemens then repeated the achievement the next year. During his stint in Toronto, Clemens picked up two more Cy Young awards. He added his sixth in New York in 2001.

In the 2001 edition of The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the baseball historian declares that “there is actually a very good argument that he is the greatest pitcher who ever lived.” An even stronger argument can be made that Clemens is the greatest right-handed pitcher since the Deadball Era ended in 1920. In either case, he would be in an exclusive club of his one.

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