Clemens calls it a career tonight

Roger Clemens is coming off a 2003 season which may, arguably, be the second-best finale a pitcher ever had.

Updated: October 23, 2003, 7:12 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
Roger Clemens is about to do something that very, very few men in baseball history have managed to do: walk away from the game with plenty left to give. Most players do not get to choose when they leave; it is mandated by time and the inevitable atrophying of talent. Even the greatest tend to play a year or two too long and Clemens is spitting into the gale force that is human nature by hanging up his gun right now. He is coming off a 2003 season which may, arguably, be the second-best finale a pitcher ever had.

Roger Clemens
The Yankees shouldn't be surprised by Clemens' actions.
Sandy Koufax's 1966 campaign -- in which he set career bests in wins and ERA (27-9, 1.73) -- is the undisputed champion of finales. (If Albert Spalding, the sporting goods magnate, hadn't inserted himself into a handful of games in 1877, his 1876 finale would be up there as well.) The big difference between Koufax and Clemens is that Koufax was driven from the game by excruciating pain in his pitching wing. 700 innings of work including 54 complete games over the last two seasons took a decided toll on his famous left arm. Koufax was just 30 when he walked away from the game and it is fun to wonder what would he could have accomplished in the super pitching-friendly season that came two years after he left. Since Bob Gibson managed a 1.12 ERA that year, what might have Koufax been able to achieve? The Dodgers were fairly mediocre that year, so his won-loss record might not have been eye-popping, but his other stats might have been mind-boggling.

Clemens is older than Koufax by over a decade but is not leaving for physical reasons. He clearly still has much to offer and there is hope around the Yankees camp that he will keep his options open by declaring free agency instead of going on the retired list, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The rules state a retirement notification means he would have to sit out a year while filing for free agency would leave the door open for a return. In spite of protests to the contrary.

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.

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