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Baseball: Clemens; Old, bold and good as gold

Sunday, July 29, 2001

It's been proven that men can: In their 40s, run the world (see Bill Gates). In their 50s, marry a babe like Catherine Zeta-Jones (see Michael Douglas). In their 60s, father children (see Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood). In their 70s, repeat 40s, 50s and 60s (see Hugh Hefner).

But a man is not, at 38, supposed to be 14-1 and clearing space on the mantle for a sixth Cy Young Award as New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens is doing.

Cy Young at 38? He went 18-19 with the 1905 Red Sox.

"It's hard to imagine him being any better when he was younger," says Clemens teammate Tino Martinez.

Monday, Clemens won his 14th game of the season and 274th of his career to pass Red Ruffing for 27th place all-time. It was a milestone mostly overshadowed by the fact he struck out eight Toronto Blue Jays in 6 2/3 innings of the 7-2 victory to pass Tom Seaver for fourth place on that all-time list with 3,643.

Seaver at 38? He went 9-14 with the 1983 Mets.

"He doesn't get old," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said of Clemens after Monday's game. "And every time he steps on the mound, he's got a chance for history."

Posada isn't just whistling hyperbole. This season, Clemens has already passed eight players on the wins list, including Bob Feller and Jim Palmer.

Palmer at 38? 0-3 with the 1984 Orioles. Feller? Retired.

Seaver was the fourth Hall-of-Famer passed this summer on the way up the strikeouts chart. Only Nolan Ryan (5,714), Steve Carlton (4,136) and Bert Blyleven (3,701) remain above him. And before the kids are back in school, the list will be down to just Ryan and Carlton.

Ryan at 38? He went 10-12 with the '85 Astros. Carlton?15-16 for the '83 Phillies.

There are any number of pitchers who've pitched into their late 30s and early 40s. Ryan threw two of his record seven no-hitters after 38. Warren Spahn won 96 games between ages 39 and 44. Phil Niekro was a 21-game winner (and 20-game loser) with the 1979 Braves at age 40.

But what separates Clemens apart in the rotation of the gods is that no late-thirtysomething has continued to combine the power and the success at such an advanced age. Even Ryan, for all his strikeouts, was only slightly above .500 (83-74) from ages 39 to 46.

Clemens entered his start yesterday vs. Toronto leading the American League in wins and was second in strikeouts with 139. He is on pace to finish 22-2 with a 3.72 earned run average and 218 strikeouts in 224 1/3 innings. Since July 2, 2000, he is 25-5 including last postseason.

"He's 38 years old and still pitching like a power pitcher," Martinez marvels. The numbers are certainly right there with his previous Cy Young seasons:

Team, yearW-LKsERA
Red Sox, 198624-42382.48
Red Sox, 198720-92562.97
Red Sox, 199118-102412.62
Blue Jays, 199721-72922.05
Blue Jays, 199820-62712.65

If he does win the Cy Young in November, it will make him the third-oldest to do so. San Diego's Gaylord Perry was 40 when he won in 1978, and the White Sox's Early Wynn 39 in 1959.

It might present a touchy problem at home, though.

When Clemens won in 1997, he told reporters he wanted one for each of his four kids.

That makes The Guy In The Stands wonder: Does Clemens' wife, Debbi, know she's expecting? She's already one behind as it is.

'A' for all right

The Athletics, 17-7 in July and within five games of the AL wild-card lead going into the weekend, took much of the star-power out of Tuesday's trading deadline when they dealt for big-ticket player Jermaine Dye ($3.8 million salary). It was the strongest signal possible that 1) 2000 AL MVP Jason Giambi, a free agent after the season and who said recently that the club's offer of $90 million for seven years "wasn't going to get it done," is staying put at least for now, and 2) the A's believe they can win the wild card.

"Everybody thought we'd be in a selling mode," A's GM Billy Beane told the Los Angeles Times. "It's always fun to fool the naysayers."

That said ...

With Giambi off the market, the following are the most likely to have an impact of players already traded or rumored to be on the block (disclaimer: Unlike past summers, the block is thinner than a Chandra Levy suspect convention):

Jason Schmidt, Pirates, P ... 6-6, 4.61 ERA ... Has gone at least six innings in each of his past six starts while allowing only 13 earned runs in 44 innings (2.66 ERA).

Andres Galarraga, 1B, traded to Giants Tuesday, .245, 11 HRs, 40 RBIs. ... "I want to prove I can still play." Sometimes there is no better motivator. He went 6 for 14 with a homers and six RBIs in his first three games, all Giants victories.

Fred McGriff, 1B, traded to Cubs Friday, .318, 19 HRs, 61 RBIs. ... A .301 hitter at Wrigley with six homers and 26 RBIs in 136 ABs.

Daryle Ward, Astros, OF ... .260, 7 HRs, 27 RBIs. ... Fourth man in a talented Houston outfield. All he needs is a chance.

Old stadium, new trick

You'd think that of all the stadiums going that Yankee Stadium would have seen it all (allowing, of course, that an inanimate object could actually see). Not so. Tuesday night, Detroit's Juan Encarnacion hit an 0-1 pitch from Ramiro Mendoza over the left-center field wall, over Monument Park, over the Yankees' bullpen and into the third row of supplemental bleachers. No ball has ever been hit out to this part of the stadium. Not by Reggie. Not by Joe D. Not by Donnie Baseball. Not by Mickey. Certainly not since the old place was renovated in 1976. And certainly not in the past 50 years, says PA announcer Bob Sheppard, who began doing Yankees games in 1951. The shot was measured -- with a tape measure -- at 477 feet. "That was almost like Nintendo baseball," said a wowed Bernie Williams.

Baseball interruptus

Braves center fielder Andruw Jones had a busy day Wednesday. In the morning, he testified in Atlanta federal court in the Gold Club trial in which owner Steve Kaplan is accused of racketeering and providing women to star athletes who frequented the Atlanta strip club. Jones testified he had sex with two women. "When I go there they treat me good." At no time, he said, did he pay for anything. In the afternoon, he started against Cincinnati. He went 0 for 2, but in keeping with the day's theme set that morning, was issued three free passes and scored three times in an 11-3 rout of the Reds.

Series of the week

Athletics (55-48 through Friday) at Indians (59-42), Tuesday-Thursday, Jacobs Field. ... Oakland's decision to roll the dicecasts this series in a new light. ... Oakland's pitching (3.90 ERA) might give it an edge in wild-card race. Tim Hudson (12-5) is 10-2 since May 1 with a 2.00 ERA. Hudson is likely to face Indians rookie C.C. Sabathia (10-3) Thursday. ... Matchup of slugging first baseman: Jason Giambi (.327, 23 HRs, 73 RBIs) vs. Jim Thome (.301, AL-best 33 HRs, 87 RBIs). ... Meet four more times Aug. 20-23 in Oakland.

This 'n' that

Arizona's Luis Gonzalez had his eighth two-homer game of the season Tuesday. Going into the season, he had eight in his career. ... So you think Alex Rodriguez is overpaid? Conservative radiohead Rush Limbaugh re-upped with Clear Channel Communications this week for $285 million over seven years with a $35 million signing bonus. And he doesn't have to play any day games in Texas in the middle of August.

Shot and a jeer

Scott Bordow, columnist for the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Ariz., on why the Diamondbacks were willing to let the pop group 'NSYNC use Bank One Ballpark for a recent concert that damaged the field: "They wanted somebody in the outfield who wasn't at least 30 years old."


GOOD, WILD & UGLY

Box score lines of the week:

Good: Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, Tuesday
7 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 Ks in 11-0 win vs. San Diego

When he "relieved" Curt Schilling to complete a suspended game vs. the Padres July 19, he allowed one hit and struck out 16 in seven innings. That means that in his past 14 1/3 innings vs. San Diego, he has 30 strikeouts and allowed just two hits.

Wild: Bret Saberhagen, Red Sox, Friday
6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 Ks in 9-5 win vs. Chicago

Not too shabby for a 37-year-old pitcher who hadn't worked in 647 days. "If he's lost anything since the (shoulder) injury, I hate to see what he's lost," Chicago SS Royce Clayton said.

Ugly: Jim Thome, Indians, Tuesday
4 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBIs, 4 Ks in 4-1 loss vs. Chicago

Finished a two-game string of seven consecutive strikeouts. Even when the AL homer leader swings and misses, he does it in a big way.


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