Whatever your opinion on Roger Clemens is, he was a generational talent and the best pitcher in baseball during his time as a Blue Jay. The Jays gave him a four year deal heading into the 1997 season. What followed was two years of pure domination, awards, disappointment, and a trade.
During his first season in Toronto he was the league leader in almost every pitching category and took home a Cy Young award, the fourth of his career. His Baseball Reference page is covered in bold. His 21 wins, 2.05 ERA, 2.25 FIP, nine complete games, three shutouts, 292 strikeouts, and 1.03 WHIP all led the league. His 11.9 WAR from this season is the highest single season mark from a pitcher in franchise history. Despite this brilliance, the Blue Jays finished 5th in their division with a 76-86 record.
The following season saw a second consecutive Cy Young award. He again led in a variety of pitching statistics. His WAR finished at a total of 8.1. This year wasn’t quite as good as his last, but it was still ridiculous. An ERA of 2.65 and a K/9 at 10.4 both led the league, again. He also won 20 games. There was nothing Clemens couldn’t do, and the fact he was in a Blue Jays jersey was nothing short of surreal. The only thing that didn’t happen however, was a playoff appearance. The Blue Jays finished third in the division with a record of 88-74-1. While this was an improvement, Clemens wasn’t enjoying himself.
After the 1998 season Clemens requested a trade. He didn’t feel like Toronto would be competitive enough and he wanted a World Series ring. He would be traded to New York where he went on to have continued success and win two rings with the Yankees. Despite the unceremonious ending, Clemens mark in Toronto was definitely felt. Although he only played two seasons, he ranks 19th (!) in all time Blue Jays WAR at 20.1. For reference, this is more accumulated WAR than Russell Martin, Adam Lind, Shawn Green, Joe Carter, Josh Donaldson, Fred McGriff, and other long time Blue Jays. Clemens was just SO good in his two seasons that he was statically more valuable to the team than these other great, all-time players.
This written piece was meant as a reflection of players that were here for a good time, not a long time. Let’s not lament the loss of Semien and Ray, instead let’s appreciate their time here. I truly hope the best for them. Nevertheless, 2022 should be a fun year to be a Blue Jays fan.