Roger Clemens says he has not directly followed the Baseball Hall of Fame voting in four years or so, but that does not mean he is unaware of his gradual rise since becoming eligible in 2013.
“Other people text me, and I say, ‘I appreciate it,’ and that’s about as far as it goes,” the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and former Yankee told Newsday on Tuesday night at an event in Manhattan to promote the DAZN show “ChangeUp,” which premieres Thursday.
Clemens, 56, walks a fine line in discussing the vote, in which he has risen from 37.6 to 59.5 percent over the years, still short of the 75 percent needed for induction.
His stance is neither overly eager nor unappreciative of the support he does get. He said when writers he knows text him to say they voted for him, he merely sends back a thumb's up and moves on.
“I have no control over it,” he said. “People ask me about it, but it’s not going to change me as an individual either way. It’s great if it happens. If it doesn’t, so be it. But I didn’t play to make the Hall as a priority for me.
“For me it’s a selfish thing. There would be so many guys I have to thank, like I thank my teammates all the time . . . Then you think about compliments from a Don Drysdale or a Yogi Berra. I played with Yogi a couple of times in the Bob Hope [golf] tournament, and Yogi said, ‘You could play in my era, kid.’ That means the world to me.”
Clemens and Barry Bonds are the two best players of their era, but their Hall candidacies have been hampered by associations with performance-enhancing drugs. Their eligibility for the writers’ vote expires in 2022. In 24 seasons, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, which ranks third in MLB history.
Clemens said he is too busy to think much about that, including being a grandfather of 2½-year-old twin boys. He calls himself “Poppy Rocket.” “They’re getting at the point now where I need a rope, because they’re both going in different directions,” he said.
He hosts celebrity golf tournaments and works with current players and teams, including his hometown Astros. He said he is in a “pretty good situation,” because three of his former teams – the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox – are among the American League’s best.
Clemens said Yankees fans’ optimism about 2019 is not misplaced.
“They have a great team, as long as their arms stay healthy,” he said. “It will be fun watching CC [Sabathia] finish up his last year and go through his emotions.
“I have a high regard for [general manager] Brian Cashman. I probably wouldn’t have come back and played that last year  if he hadn’t called me at the house and asked me to do that. It was a lot of work to do that at my advanced age, but I think they’re going to be fine.”
The Mets drafted Clemens out of San Jacinto (Texas) College in the 12th round in 1981. He said it was “special to watch” what the Mets’ Jacob deGrom did last season in winning a Cy Young despite getting little run support.
Clemens said he always was exhausted, mentally and physically, after throwing 120 pitches in a 2-1 victory, and not tired after throwing 120 pitches in a 6-1 victory.
“Your body just doesn’t feel it, because the stress is not involved,” he said.
DAZN, a subscription streaming service, signed former ESPN host Adnan Virk to host “ChangeUp,” a nightly show that will include live look-ins of major-league games.
Clemens is not set to appear on the show but will serve as an adviser when asked. Virk and other cast members appeared at the event at the baseball-themed bar Foley’s, which Clemens never had visited before.
“I heard they had some [memorabilia], but this guy’s got zero wall space, hardly,” he said, standing before a poster of himself in a Red Sox uniform.
Clemens said the biggest thing he has noticed in spring training is how pitchers deal with the 20-second clock.
“I’ve watched a lot of guys who are pitchers turn into throwers in spring training because they’re just getting it and throwing it,” he said. “Thank goodness they never messed with my mechanics. I’m watching guys just grab the ball and try to throw it instead of executing a pitch.”