My Good Buddy Kwyjibo,
PRELIMINARY NOTES: That piece by Gammons must have been written awhile ago. After last year, Clemens now has seven E.R.A. titles.
Also, let me say that WITH THE EXCEPTION OF GAMMONS, I think the historical rankings of ESPN's baseball "experts" aren't worth the cyberspace they're
typed on. One of those clowns said he doesn't think Pedro Martinez--by FAR the #1 pitcher all-time in Adjusted ERA, and one of about 4 or 5 pitchers
tied for third with 5 ERA titles--should make the Hall of Fame. What you have there, of course, is one of the countless sportswriters who hate Pedro,
are irrational on the subject, and should never be allowed to vote on whether he makes the Hall.
Anyway, your question is a tough one, because it, in turn, begs this question:
How do you define a "pitcher in Red Sox history?" Is it SOLELY on the basis of what he did with the Red Sox, or is it on the basis of his entire
Now let me explain this:
If you're going to call Cy Young a "Red Sox pitcher"--which he was for 8 of his 22 years--then YES, I rate Clemens as having long ago left Cy Young in
his dust. And the same is true if you're only counting the years the two men spent with the Red Sox.
As for Pedro Martinez, he's clearly a "Red Sox pitcher," having spent a lot more time with them than LA, Montreal or the Mets (so far). And as I have
explained at length before, I believe Pedro wins on an inning-by-inning comparison, but Clemens has had a better total career, to date. But AS FOR
THEIR TIME WITH THE RED SOX, I think Pedro is CLEARLY the better pitcher, as you'll see below.
And what of Lefty Grove? You will have noted that Gammons always says that Clemens is the greatest RIGHT-HANDER of all-time, the greatest
RIGHT-HANDER in Red Sox history (I've heard him say that a lot), or the greatest LIVING pitcher. I guarantee you that's not because he thinks Sandy
Koufax was better (he's alive), nor because he thinks Walter Johnson was better (he was a righty). It's because he, like most experts, thinks Grove
Well, as I've said, Grove was robbed of his first 5 years because, as the son of miners from a dirt-poor Maryland family (he'd done some coal mining
himself, as a teen), Grove jumped at Jack Dunn's contract to play for Dunn's own minor league team, the Baltimore Orioles, for whom Babe Ruth had
played several years earlier. (WOW, what an eye for talent, huh?) So Grove lost at least 5 good years off his major league career--->that is NOT
speculation, because he led the A.L. in K's his first year, and in ERA his second.
Well, OK. Grove pitched his first NINE years with Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's, and his last EIGHT years with the Red Sox. The majority of his
incredible feats were racked up with the A's, including the three year run of going 79-15 and lifting the A's to three straight A.L. flags (and 2 W.S.
wins) over Ruth/Gehrig/etc.
So QUESTION #1 is, if you are rating Grove, are you ONLY counting the 8 years as a member of Boston, or do you get to count all 17 years? If you
count all 17 years, he's #1--not Clemens--and I'd bet plenty that Gammons would agree... for now.
If you only count Clemens and Grove for their years with Boston, I think Clemens probably wins, but it's close. Grove's final two years were really
nothing... two years spent getting him, barely, to 300 wins. His record for those two years was 14-13, and it accurately reflects his Adjusted ERA
for those years. Also, his first year with Boston was 1934, the year he BLEW OUT HIS ELBOW AND FOREVERMORE LOST HIS LEGENDARY FASTBALL, FORCING HIM
TO LEARN HOW TO PITCH ALL OVER AGAIN, AS A JUNKBALLER. He went 8-8 that year, but with an atrocious 6.50 ERA and an Adjusted ERA of 74!! Connie Mack
offered to take back the trade, but Tom Yawkey said No, a deal's a deal. Good move, Tom.
So when you talk about Grove's time with Boston, you are talking about the five years from 1935 through 1939. And OH, what a set of five years that
was. He won FOUR more ERA titles, as a lefty without a fastball in Fenway park, at ages 35, 36, 38 and 39.
Say that ten times aloud and see if you can believe your ears. There is no equivalent for that in pitching history. It's absolutely incredible, and
I've been wondering if Pedro, with his legendary fastball now slowed down considerably, has it in him to do what Grove did for those 5 years. If
Pedro does, even those dishonest dweebs at ESPN won't be able to escape the truth about who's #1. But I frankly don't see that's happening, do
Anyway, Grove had five incredible years there--with Adjusted ERA's of 176, 190, 160 and 185 in the years he won his last four ERA titles, and an
Adjusted ERA of 158 in the year he did not. Clemens has NEVER had more than a 3-year run with such consistency of excellence in his Adjusted ERA, not
even in his youthful prime, and he sure as hell never could touch the pitcher Grove was from 1929 through 1931.
So, Kwy, it's all a matter of how you want to call it. I think it's tough to rate Clemens over Grove for all-time value, but easy to rate Clemens
over Pedro (for now) and everybody else, in terms of all-time value.
Grove had two five-year runs, 1928-1932 and 1935-1939, which outshine any 5-year run Clemens has had. One of those was with the Red Sox. But Grove's
total W-L record with the Red Sox was 105-62, which, while an excellent record, is nothing like his record with the A's, which was 195-79.
(Not a misprint.)
Clemens' record with Boston was 192-111. That's not within a mile of Grove's record WITH THE A's, but it's a winning percentage of 63.37. Grove's
CAREER winning percentage was .680 (absurd), but his winning percentage WITH BOSTON was 62.87, which is 0.5% BELOW Clemens' W-L percentage with
On the other hand, Grove won 4 ERA's in a much shorter span of time, at a much older age, and as a lefty in THAT park. Clemens won 4 ERA's as a
righty in that park, in his prime years, over a considerably longer span of time.
I think it's quite clear Grove had the better career (so far). But it's up to YOU how you want to define this. Are you just going to count their
respective seasons with Boston? If so, Grove has the edge in peak value--the great 5-year run from 1935 through 1939--but Clemens has the same number
of ERA titles, essentially the same W-L %, and a hell of a lot more WINS, INNINGS PITCHED, etc.
Now, I can also give you Pedro's stats with BOSTON, but they will make you sick. His record was 132-45, a preposterous W-L % of 74.58. He won FOUR
E.R.A. titles in SEVEN years, including one year in which he posted the best Adjusted ERA of all time (unless you want to count the year 1880). He
also had a six-year string with these mindblowing Adjusted ERA's: 160, 245, 285, 189, 196 and 212.
You realize, of course, that these are quite possibly the three greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. I have Grove and Clemens at #1 and #2,
right now, and easily could have Pedro at 1, 2 or 3 when he's done. So....
I have given you all the mindblowing stats as to these three giants when they were with the Sox, and you've seen me go on (and on and on and on) about
their career stats other times. So YOU PLEASE TELL ME:
Who do YOU think is "THE BEST RED SOX PITCHER EVER?"