Yankee Stadium is no more. There will be no more playoff games, no chance to pad onto the 100 World Series games that have been played. No more "ghosts" that float around to help the Yankees win games in the post-season in the "House That Ruth Built." There was just two things missing from the ceremony last night: Joe Torre and Roger Clemens!
Many people realized that in 2003, the Yankees as many people knew them, were starting to mutate before our very own eyes. In 2003, Andy Pettitte would leave as a free agent and play for the Houston Astros. His friend, at the time, Roger Clemens would quickly egress out of retirement and help lead his hometown Astros within one game of the World Series.
(For the record, I always will feel that if Pettitte had not been hurt with his elbow injury in '04 or if Drayton McClane had ponied up and signed Beltran they would have won a World Series in one of those three years Clemens was there.)
The whole time that Pettitte and Clemens were in Houston, the Yankees openly expressed their affection towards both of them for helping sustain a dynasty that was flickering before the Yankees eyes. Fans had fond memories of both pitchers, especially Pettitte and how they performed in the clutch and how when the dynasty was on the line they could rely on of those horses and not some scion like Kevin Brown or Javier Vazquez.
Even Clemens was missed terribly. In 2003, at Yankee Stadium no less, he recorded his 300th win and 4000th strikeout in the very same game. Clemens also did something that other Yankee starters were incapable of doing: knocking someone into the dirt by throwing hard and high to a batter.
It was a fact that Jeter and his teammates were protected by the Rocket. (Ask A-Rod how many Yankee pitchers have protected him the way that Clemens did last August when he hit Alex Rios in the back after he got pelted in the knee cap with a pitch!)
Clemens also used intimidation techniques in the biggest games of the season in the playoffs (see Game Two of the 2000 World Series and Game Four of the 2000 ALCS.) It was a wonderful part of the package: Clemens had impeccable control and could manipulate a hitter's fear with his fastball and then get their head out of the game and dominate!
Whether Yankee fans want to admit this now or not, Clemens was beloved in those years for being an intimidator. If someone had too much success off of him, they were liable to get hit high and hard for that. His hazel eyes that were barely peering through his black glove and bill of his hat were all made to intimidate the hitter.
When Clemens hit Piazza in the head many Yankee fans rallied around Clemens! The fans knew they were the hated Yankees and just like Patriot fans rallied around the Spygate issue, Yankees fans rallied around Clemens this way.
Sure, Yankee fans admitted that Game Two of the 2000 World Series was odd, but people still remember that when they had the Rocket, the Red Sox didn't win a World Series. The year after he left, the Yankees didn't have enough pitching to hold off the Red Sox in the '04 ALCS.Many have said that if Pettitte and Clemens were there, that comeback never happens.
Clemens and Pettitte were so incredibly missed that the Yankees, in the words of Brian Cashman, "put on a full court press", to get Pettitte back and maybe Clemens could join his buddy along side of him in pinstripes at the beginning of the 2007 season. It worked! The Yankees paid Pettitte 16 million and gave Roger Clemens a pro-rated 28 million dollar contract to pitch from the end of May through Game Three of the ALDS.
Now here's what was vexing about the ceremony last night in Yankee Stadium: How come Pettitte (an admitted steroid user) got honored to start the final game and Clemens doesn't even get a blurb uttered about him?
(Joe Torre wasn't mentioned either, which is both shameful and disappointing! He really is going to be the next Yogi Berra for the standoff that will occur between him and the Yankees. I pray to God that both parties can heal after some time off, because if Joe Torre passes away without being honored by the Yankees there would be nothing more shameful!)
David Wells got honored (yes, I know he threw a perfect game, but he also kept himself so out of shape that it cost them Game Five of the 2003 World Series along with many other unprofessional acts he accrued in pinstripes.)
For the record, I do believe that Clemens probably used PEDs. Okay, he most likely did. And I know it would have been a huge distraction for him to be there. The very least they could have played a couple of his highlights at Yankee Stadium (like his 300th win, his 350th win or his 4000th strikeout. That all happened at Yankee Stadium: It's a small part of the mystique and aura that Yankee Stadium has.) How hard would that have been, it's not like the Yankees from other generations were perfect human beings.
Clemens was a keeper of the flame from the moment he arrived in the Yankees organization. He started and won Game Four of the 1999 World Series. He got his first ring for pitching well that game. Sure, Roger had a little bit of a hard time adjusting to the spotlight that was New York, but he played brilliantly on that stage at times.
In 2000, the Yankees needed him to pitch well in the ALCS against a scrappy Seattle team and he pitched a near no-hitter in Game Four and recorded 15 strikeouts that game. (Also, in case you forget, he knocked A-Rod on his butt twice in a row in the 1st inning to set a tone for the rest of the game.)
In 2001, he won 20 games and squared off against Curt Schilling in Game Seven after he won Game Three to get the Yankees back into contention in the World Series. In 2003 he reached several milestones and really was a beloved fixture on that team (even so much that the Yankees bought him a Hummer with the University of Texas burnt orange as the color.)
And let's not forget that he beat Pedro in Game Three of the '03 ALCS and did so after he was warned because Pedro hit Karim Garcia in the back with a pitch the inning prior! (Whether he threw at Manny's head will forever be speculated on, but he won that game for his team against a person who known for intimidating hitters himself.)
For the Yankees not to even mention Clemens was shameful! As much evidence is against him, and there is a lot, he's never been convicted of anything. Jason Giambi got to start at 1st base and was honored and he's an admitted steroid user like Pettitte.
I can understand if they didn't want a Pete Rose from the 1999 World Series moment, but Clemens deserved to get honored by the Yankees. He's still the pitcher that instilled a professional attitude that helped turn the season around last year, he's still the 2nd best steal the Yankees got from Boston and it would have been a fitting tribute for him to be honored next to guys like David Wells and David Cone!