What happened to Roger Clemens's strikeout rate? He started his massively overpaid 2007 tenure with 21 strikeouts in 16.2 innings, but since has only 13 in 34.1. The premiere strikeout pitcher of our generation can't seem to buy one, maybe cause they're priced at $207,758 per.
Not that this should come as a surprise. Strikeout pitchers who don't retire in their prime almost always hit a wall just before hanging up their spikes. Check out the numbers on Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver and Don Sutton, who top the career strikeouts list for inactive players:
(Career K rate --> K rate in final season)
Ryan 9.9 --> 6.4
Carlton 8.1 --> 5.4
Blyleven 7.5 --> 5.7
Seaver 7.4 --> 6.5
Sutton 6.3 --> 4.7
This is all very obvious, nothing inspiring about it. But what this means -- truly, finally -- is that Clemens has reached the end of his road. This is a good thing, because no baseball player in the last 10 years has manipulated his image quite like Clemens and received the effusive praise and orgasmic radio raves quite like he has. Frankly, I'm tired of it. And I know deep down in some Yankees fans, they're tired of it, too. How Clemens is perceived by fans at large is almost entirely the result of a concerted effort on his part to mold himself into the idea of the genteel though ultra-competitive flame-throwing maverick, the romanticized all-American baseball cowboy. He is aware of his legend and steers its manifestation in a creepy, unnatural, Johnny Darko-type way. The media, of course, has lapped this up. They fawn over him like he's a saint, when in fact he's kind of prissy, kind of a prick and, in all likelihood, kind of a steroids user. Everything about him screams fake, from his contrived understatedness (when are people going to call him inarticulate?) to his wife's website.
That said, he can still be tough on young teams, and his domination of the Royals continued last night with a 9-2 win (it was much closer than that until the Yanks scored five in the 8th, but really, it wasn't that close). He's won 10 straight decisions against Kansas City, having last lost in 1996.
Johnny Damon was the YES Network's postgame interview. He said some good things about Kansas City -- complimented the barbecue -- said he enjoys coming back to play, but noted that "they had to do what they had to do," referring to the trade for Roberto Hernandez and Angel Berroa. That seems rather unfair to the Royals, since everyone then and now knew he had no intention of letting the small-market team sign him at a fair and affordable price. No sense dwelling on it now, of course.
POSTSCRIPT: Mike Coolbaugh: what an unbelievably freaky incident. Lee Warren offers some thoughtful words.