Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 13th, 1996

Roger Clemens Signs with Blue Jays

In honor of the Red Sox at least securing Daisuke Matsuzaka, it only seems fitting to discuss the loss of the another Sox pitcher, one who they will presumably now begin attempting to lure back to Boston. Famously, Sox GM Dan Duquette said that Clemens was in the "twilight" of his career; since then Clemens has won four Cy Young awards and a hundred and fifty seven games. Well-played, Dan.

Of course, Duquette's defenders--and they do exist--claim that Clemens was getting complacent in Boston and point to his 10-13 record in 1996. These people seem to entirely miss the point. Clemens was seventh in ERA that year, fifth in innings, fourth in ERA+. According to BaseballProspectus' VORP statistic, in a neutral context Clemens was worth four and a half wins more than any other Sox pitcher. In fact, VORP lists Clemens' as the team's most valuable player, ahead of Mo Vaughn who actually finished fifth in MVP voting that year.

So the Sox made a drastic miscalculation in letting Clemens go, that was hardly the first time. But give them some credit, the Sox' day wasn't a total lost. They may have let go their most valuable player from the previous season--arguably the greatest pitcher to ever live--but they did hold on to Tim Naehring. I'll forgive you if you don't really remember Naehring. To be fair, he did have a pretty good '95 for the Sox as their third baseman. On the other hand, he took a step back in '96 and was a twenty-nine year old with exactly one season.

The Red Sox were desperate to sign Naehring because he was coveted by the Indians. As it turned out, the Indians had to settle for Matt Williams who hit thirty-two home runs, had the team lead in RBI and led them to the World Series. Meanwhile, Naehring played in just seventy games in 1997 (and zero in 1998) as the Sox finished fourth. I'm sure he enjoyed collecting his two year, five and a half million dollar contract; I'm less sure Dan Duquette enjoyed watching him collect it.

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