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Long before he had even heard of Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann had developed an unhealthy obsession with Roger Clemens. While he's never disclosed the source of his animus towards Clemens, his hatred of Roger Clemens is so intense that he abandoned bashing George W. Bush and Bill O'Reilly for almost 10 minutes to disparage Roger Clemens almost seven years after leaving the world of video-taped sports highlights as the co-host of ESPN's SportsCenter.
On Countdown last night, Olbermann repeatedly questions Clemens integrity and competitiveness, he derided Clemens as the supposed finest pitcher of our time, a 44 year old - soon to be 45 - pitcher who won only seven games last year, a pitcher who "surrendered" leads his teammates gave him, effectively a "500 pitcher" in the post-season who creates "wreckage of the fans" in cities he has played all while a graphic displayed the words "The Rocket Racket" implying Clemens is somehow a fraud.
To put this in context for those who do not follow baseball, Roger Clemens has won the award for best pitcher (Cy Young Award) in his league SEVEN times which is two more than anyone else in the history of the game. He is one a handful of players to win over 300 games (he now has 348 wins), and TWICE achieved the rare pitching "triple crown" (lowest ERA, most wins and most strikeouts). He is one of just four pitchers with over 4,000 strikeouts and is currently second on the all-time strikeout list. He has pitched in six World Series, played in 11 All-Star games and was named to the Sports Illustrated "all-time" team. He is universally acknowledged as lock for the Hall of Fame.
Yet according to Keith "for every success in Clemens career there is a parallel controversy".
There is NO controversy at all except in the mind of Olbermann so there is no "parallel". In a logic reminiscent of his warped mindset when it comes to all things O'Reilly, where others see greatness Olbermann sees "evil". As he done before, Olbermann put forward the absurd argument that Clemens is not really the great pitcher he has been made out to be because he has "made 33 starts and his team has lost 17 of those games and in 8 of those starts he has surrendered the leads his teammates have given him". In reality, Clemens has a very impressive 12-8 record in the play-offs for a .600 winning percentage.
Viewers listening to Olbermann would be perplexed why any team would want to sign Clemens because he is so old, last season he was "only" had a 7-6 record and he's effectively been a "500 pitcher" in the post-season. The only thing Keith got right is Clemens' age. Keith's guest points out a few facts worth noting, that "Roger Clemens had the best ERA in baseball last year, the last two years he's had the best ERA in baseball, and if you take the last three years he's had the best ERA in baseball...he is an amazing competitor...[teammates have] all kinds of respect...he has an incredible pitching aptitude...he knows how to win..." He might also of added that during those three years since he left the Yankees he won another Cy Young Award and led the Houston Astros to their first-ever World Series appearance.
In some bizarre attempt to make a case against Clemens, Olbermann recounts what he imagines is a blistering indictment of the Rocket.
- "1990 things aren't going well...got himself thrown out of a play-off game for the Red Sox against the A's"
- "came out on the second inning of play-off game where he was just getting rocked in Boston for the Yankees in 1999, there's some murky explanation of a bad back"
- "the unclear bat throwing incident with Mike Piazza in the World Series in 2000"
- "comes out a play-off game when he's losing in 2001 suddenly he's got this hamstring pull out of nowhere"
- "first game of the world series in 2005 he's got nothing...walking fine...no problem...suddenly as he reaches the dugout he starts to limp he's got another hamstring pull"
One can only wonder what type of OlbyLogic is required to include the Mike Piazza incident on this list as most people felt it exemplified Clemens' overwrought level of competitiveness, quite the opposite of Keith's supposed point. What we have left is that once in the first 15 years of his career Clemens "got himself" thrown out of a play-off game and that three times later in his career since he was taken out of game due to injury. That's a total of 1 play-off game out of 33 where Clemens was ejected for arguing with the umpire (something Clemens does quite frequently) and 3 play-off games out of 33 where Clemens left a game due to injury (all when he was well past the age of 35 by which time many professional baseball players are no longer even active).
As usual, Keith's "smoking gun" turns out to be a water pistol.
Long-time Olbermann Watch readers will recall it was back in February 2005, that we demonstrated Keith's embarrassing ignorance on a subject in which he supposes himself to be an expert - sports. At the time, the topic was college football and the faux-controversy Olbermann sought to generate over Bill O'Reilly's impressive college career as a football player at Marist College (O'Reilly was a scholarship athlete at Marist in basketball but played on the schools club-level football team where he excelled as a punter). More recently, Keith's has been made to look the fool again, this time in the one area of sports many thought he really was an expert - baseball.
How much does Olbermann despise Clemens? Back in the early days of Countdown, Keith compared Roger Clemens to Rush Limbaugh. Clemens' offense? He decided to come out of retirement to pitch for the Houston Astros after leaving the New York Yankees at the end of the 2003 season. In 2005, Keith sought to link Clemens to the burgeoning steroids scandal in baseball by attempting to tie together threads so tenuous as to be invisible - striking even by Olbermann's already low standards. Keith highlighted details from Jose Canseco's infamous tell-all book by quoting Canseco stating that he had NOT seen Clemens do steriods and that Clemens had NOT told Canseco he had ever used steroids but that Canseco knew pitchers used steroids and Clemens was a pitcher. During the baseball playoffs of 2006, Keith reported a false story from the L.A. Times that an ex-teammate, Jason Grimsley, had implicated Roger Clemens (per usual, Keith never ran a correction even after San Francisco U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, the man running the Balco/Barry Bonds investigation, took the unusual step of denouncing the story).
On September 11, 2006, Olbermann released a book that few read, "Worst Person in the World and 202 other contenders" which contained material lifted straight from MSNBC transcripts - apparently without even taking the trouble to fix glaring errors in the original transcripts. One section of the book, lifted directly from an Olbermann blog entry from Oct. 2, 2006, dealt with the future first ballot hall-of-famer. The entry entitled, The Case against Roger Clemens.
Obviously, Keith is enough of an expert on baseball to know that Aaron Boone (not his older brother Bret) hit one of the most famous home runs every by a player in pinstripes. So, exhibit 5 on his list is either an example of KO's usual sloppy "journalism" or how little effort went into his "book".
"2003 ALCS Game Seven at New York. Clemens is battered by the Red Sox for six hits and four runs in three innings, leaves the most important game of the season down 4-0. The crash will be obscured by the unlikely relief pitching of Mike Mussina and the even more-unlikely pennant-winning home run of Bret Boone."
Ironically, Bret Boone was in the stadium that day, doing color commentary for Fox Sports, one of the many broadcasting organizations that has fired Keith over the years.
Last night when I heard Keith launch into yet another anti-Clemens spiel, I recalled a Link Roundup post from last month where I had linked a great AOL Journal entry from December 2006 I Renew Correspondence With My Good Friend, Keith Olbermann. In it the blogger, who goes under the name "bads85", absolutely destroyed Keith's absurd argument that Roger Clemens is not really a great pitcher because he has supposedly been mediocre in post-season play. The dissection of Olbermann's argument is so devastating that I am taking the liberty of publishing it here:
Your opening salvo against Clemens is that his team have lost seventeen of the thirty-post season games he has started, even though Clemens is 12-8 in the post season. Perhaps you didn't learn this in your time at ESPN, but if the starter is not the pitcher of record, chances are his teammates are responsible for the loss. However, you imply that the reason Clemens' teams lost seventeen times is because Clemens had to leave the games early or because he blew leads.
Let's take a look at Clemens' no decisions that resulted in a team loss:
Game 4, 1986 ALCS -- Bullpen blows a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, loses the game 4-3 in the eleventh.
Game 6, 1986 WS -- The Buckner game.
Game 2, 1988 ALCS -- Clemens gives up 2-0 lead in the seventh; Sox tie the game in the bottom of the frame, then Lee Smith loses it in the ninth
Game 1, 1990 ALCS -- Clemens leaves game with lead after 6 IP, bullpen gives up nine runs.
Game 1, 1995 ALDS -- Red Sox lose 5-4 in the 13th inning. Yes, Clemens gave up a 3-0 lead in the sixth, but the Red Sox also blew a save in the eleventh, plus they squandered scoring opportunities in extra innings.
Game 7, 2001 WS -- Rivera blows save
Game 4, 2003 WS -- bullpen loses game in 12th inning, 4-3.
Game 4, 2004 NLDS -- Clemens leaves with a 3 runs lead after 5 IP, bullpen gives up 4 runs. Astrosdon't score after the second inning.
Game 1, 2005 WS -- Clemens leaves after 2 IP with injury, giving up 3 ERs. Astros tie game in top of the third, but do not score the rest of the game and pen coughs up two runs to lose 5-3.
In most of those games, it is obvious that Clemens was hardly the reason for his team's defeat. To parade idea that Clemens was responsible for all of his team's seventeen losses is disingenuous. However, from there, you embark into complete stupidity, faulting Clemens for blowing 8 leads over the course of a game in 34 post season appearances (two of which were 1-0 first inning leads; the other six were 2-0 leads at various courses in the game). This shows a complete lack of any sort of baseball context. Clemens post season appearances are very equitable to what a starter would throw in a regular season in this modern era. Would you chastise a pitcher for blowing eight leads, including two 1-0 first inning leads, over the course of the season?
You then said Clemens was no Christy Mathewson or Bob Gibson. Mathewson's team was .500 in the post season when he pitched, just like Clemens. Let's see how these guys did with your dumb stat of "Blown" Leads:
Mathewson 11 Games 5 Games w/ "Blown: Leads - 45%
Gibson 9 Games 3 Games w/ "Blown" Leads - 33%
Clemens 34 Games 8 Games w/ "Blown" Leads - 24%
I don' think we need to spend anymore time on this silly stat rooted in ignorance. You thought you could build a case by counting, but evaluating performance is much more than counting, something they obviously don't teach at ESPN. You also said that "[Clemens] is a guy with a post season record slightly less than that of his journeyman teammate Russ Springer," an obvious attempt at hyperbole. Here is a tip, Keith, hyperbole only works in snark if it is grounded in some sort of fact. Russ Springer hasn't even started a post season game.
Your slam on Clemens was baseball analysis at its worst, riddled with factual inaccuracies and absurdly erroneous evaluations of performance. In other words, your piece was what passes for sports journalism these days in media throughout the country, which is quickly dismissed. However, since you sit behind your anchor desk with an air of snarky moral superiority, kind of like a grumpy Stan Laurel devoid of humor, you should be smacked around when you behave like Coulter or Limbaugh. The fact that you read a teleprompter at ESPN when you weren't occasionally being thrown in a dugout doesn't mean you learned much about sports, especially baseball. Sure, you are capable of belittling the dimwitted O' Reilly, but if you are going to talk baseball, you need to bring better stuff. The last thing baseball needs is an aging tall, skinny Coulter/Limbaugh offspring offering baseball commentary on lower tier cable.
Well said, bads85, well said.