The Mariners open a three-game series with the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park, which serves as nice timing. Twenty-five years ago tonight, at Fenway, Roger Clemens struck out 20 Mariners, becoming the first pitcher to reach that number in a nine-inning game.
In recognition of that anniversary, let's do our first Friday Five focusing on players, rather than on stadiums, games, teams or cities. Yes, it's the top five over-hated players of the last 25 years:
1. Roger Clemens
Do I think he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs? OMG yes. And this puts him in a Hall of Shame!!!! Along with...well, a really, really long list of players. Too many to list here. Or here. Or even here.
Time gives us added perspective, and you start to understand people's motivations, all around: Congress picked on baseball because it generated headlines. Baseball commissioned the Mitchell Report as a way to get Congress off its back.
And Clemens? He made the mistake of using a supplier who got caught.
If you were to use one word to describe Clemens' role in baseball's "Steroids Era"? Try "scapegoat." Because that's precisely what he is. His presence in the Mitchell Report gave the document credibility: "Wow, if they're willing to destroy Clemens, then they're serious!"
Clemens was the perfect fall guy, moreover, because he was 45 years old when George Mitchell released this sucker. Clemens had nothing left to give to the sport.
Sure, he could've 'fessed up, asked for forgiveness, moved on with his life and perhaps been welcomed back into the game. But who are we to judge what he should have done? If he wants to fight the system, as he has chosen, then I say bully for him. I still think there's a decent chance that his attorneys discredit Brian McNamee and Andy Pettitte and get Clemens an acquittal from his current charges.
Everyone has the right to fight for his or her innocence. Even if he or she is actually guilty.
Oh, and lest we forget Clemens' actual playing days: Sure, he could be selfish in some respects, and he rubbed some people the wrong way during his Astros years when he blew off a high percentage of the team's games (as his contract allowed him to do), and yup, he most certainly went off the reservation with the Mike Piazza stuff in 2000.
However, no one could dispute that, every fifth day, he got the most out of his abilities. During his Yankees years, at least, he was regarded as a good teammate who was generous with his time, engaging and encouraged his fellow pitchers to join his ultra-intense workouts. >> Roger Clemens photos
2. Jose Canseco
Clemens' teammate in Boston, Toronto and New York, he is implicated (with only circumstantial evidence) of supplying Clemens with illegal PEDs in the Mitchell Report.
I can understand if players don't like Canseco since he breached The Code by tattling like crazy on other players in his two books, "Juiced" and "Vindicated." What puts him on this list, really, is the way baseball's highest powers, including then-MLB executive vice president Sandy Alderson, reacted to the release of the first book.
They did everything they could to discredit Canseco, only to wind up owing Canseco an apoloogy for being so ahead of the curve (no matter how misguided his intentions were) when it came to usage in the game.
Only that apology has yet to come. If the current drug-testing program means anything to you, then you should thank Canseco, for he deserves as much credit as anyone else. >> Jose Canseco photos
3. Alex Rodriguez
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as the old saying goes, and A-Rod made about 1,000 terrible first impressions. He knows it and lives with those consequences.
The question here is, did A-Rod deserve to be hated so much in the first place?
I don't think so. Like Clemens (A-Rod's teammate on the 2007 Yankees), A-Rod never cheated his teammates of full preparation or effort. He often tried to help young teammates, even if he did so in such an awkward manner that it was not appreciated on the other end.
His biggest sin appeared to be an inability to connect with his teammates. A personality issue rather than one tied to his play on the field.
And again...if you're gonna loathe him just because he used illegal PEDs, then you better work up a great deal of loathing for a large number of players. >> Alex Rodriguez photos
4. Roberto Alomar
We might never know the full story behind Alomar's decision to spit on John Hirschbeck in 1996, and although nothing excuses that spur-of-the-moment action, Hirschbeck's willingness to forgive and move on should be a guide to others who still dislike Alomar for it.
Alomar's Mets years? Terrible. He was done. Maybe he should have coped better with that. Better body language? I don't know. I wasn't there. But it's unreal how many people held it against him that he simply couldn't play anymore.
Maybe now that he has gained Hall of Fame induction, Alomar can transcend the negatives on his resume. I don't know, though. I know that I still receive a handful of hateful e-mails about Alomar whenever I write about him. >> Roberto Alomar photos
5. David Wells
Ah, the Boomer - Clemens' teammate on the 2002-03 Yankees, Canseco's on the 2001 White Sox and Alomar's on the 1996 Orioles.
The son of a free-spirited lady named "Attitude Annie," Wells struggled with authority figures for most of his career, and his well-known aversion to conditioning won him few friends.
But still. When he felt like being out there, Wells was an artist and a gamer. He was a marvel to watch, and he especially enjoyed pitching in October. We've discussed previously what I think about Wells' early departure from 2003 World Series Game 5. In short, if you don't want to read the link: I don't blame him. He left while his club still had a chance to win, rather than digging a hole too deep.
And shoot, anyone who would wear Babe Ruth's cap in an actual game deserves extra credit for chutzpah.
If you accepted Wells for who he was, rather than disliking him for who he wasn't, you could appreciate his contributions to the game. >> David Wells photos
--Have a great day.