Roger Clemens Should Go for 400 Wins

As soon as Roger Clemens finally retires from baseball the debate will begin. Is Clemens the best pitcher in major league history? His legacy and rightful place in that argument have already been cemented, but Clemens has the ability to end the discussion in the next three to four years if he so chooses. Clemens ended the 2005 season with 341 wins. Remember when his quest for 300 wins seemed like baseball history because of the rarity of the feat in the modern era? Well, Clemens is nearly halfway to 400. A lot of “ifs” have to go right for Clemens to get there, but it’s not an impossible feat. If he can get there it will be the greatest achievement of any pitcher in baseball history.

It’s true he’s 43. It’s true that he’s been on the verge of retirement for three years already. But if Clemens is anything, he’s a competitor. Having this milestone within his reach could give Clemens added incentive to stick around. 300 wins became his mission before he retired. He gave us the sense that once he reached that goal that all of his baseball achievements would be reached and he could walk away. Clemens changed his mind and decided to play for Houston where he could stay close to home. In the two years since he’s won a Cy Young and reached the World Series. He’s also slipped under the radar to approach a once unthinkable milestone.

Clemens was not offered arbitration by the Houston Astros in the off-season and has focused his attention on the World Baseball Classic. He can’t re-sign with the Astros until May and has gotten some interest from his former clubs, New York and Boston. He’s hinting that he will retire, but he clearly knows that he’s got some time to make up his mind.

The significance of 400 wins in the modern era is unparalleled. The only two pitchers to reach 400 are Walter Johnson and Cy Young and they did it in an era where thirty win seasons were commonplace. Cy Young put up a ridiculous 511 wins, which is a number that, unless pitchers start getting bionic arms, will never be touched. Warren Spahn’s 363 is not the official record, but it’s the commonly acknowledged modern day mark. In an era where the starting rotations are bigger and the relievers pitch more innings for Clemens to be a season away from Spahn is an amazing feat on its own, but he has proven that he can still pitch at a level among the best even at age 43.

Clemens continuing to pitch into his mid-40’s is not unprecedented. Nolan Ryan played until his was 46 and there’s no question that Clemens is a better pitcher than Ryan. For Clemens to play until Ryan’s mark he has four seasons to compile wins. Ryan’s final years were fairly mediocre and if Clemens equals Ryan’s mediocrity in terms of wins he’s still be sitting on 376. That tops Spahn and that’s if Clemens only matches Ryan. Barring injury its almost automatic that Clemens would pitch with more success over the next four years.

So what will Clemens actually have to achieve to reach 400 wins? His past four seasons were not his best in terms of wins, but his ability is still there. If he repeats the same win totals of his past four years over the next four years he would retire with 402 wins. Basically the advice to Clemens would be, just keep doing what you’re doing. To have this much success this late in the career is unheard of. It’s unheard of to the point where it almost seems like its Clemens’ prerogative what milestones he chooses to reach. Either way he’s probably the best, but to reach 400 would end any and all debate. It would become a question of, “Who’s the best pitcher besides Roger Clemens?”

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