Red Sox find a new ace
Boston fell to 78 wins and a fourth-place finish in the AL East in their first season without Clemens. Their pitching staff produced a collective 4.70 ERA, putting them in the bottom-third of the majors.
Keeping Clemens wouldn’t have been enough for the Red Sox to keep pace with the powerhouse Orioles and Yankees in the ’97 division race. Toronto had Clemens in peak form that year and still finished in last place. The disappointing results did convince the Red Sox that they needed a new ace to anchor their rotation though.
Prior to the 1998 season, Boston acquired reigning NL Cy Young-winner Pedro Martinez from the Montreal Expos. Pedro’s arrival immediately lifted the Red Sox back to the postseason. He captured two more Cy Young awards with arguably the greatest two-year span by any pitcher in the modern era from 1999-2000. Martinez became a legend in his seven seasons in Boston, culminating in his final year with the franchise in 2004 when he helped vanquish an 86-year title drought.
Pedro helped bring one championship to Boston but would there have been more titles to celebrate if he were paired with Clemens? Imagine those two co-aces in the same rotation. Even if Clemens wasn’t quite the same without PEDs, he would have been a formidable No. 2 behind vintage Pedro.
Could the Red Sox have overcome the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS if they had Clemens on their side instead of wearing pinstripes? Probably not considering the only game Boston won in that series was when Pedro beat Clemens in Game 3, a match-up that saw The Rocket knocked out after only two innings.
Clemens pitched a gem against the Atlanta Braves in the World Series that year and was even better in his one start against the New York Mets in the following year’s Fall Classic. You could make a case that the Yankees would have one or two fewer rings to rub in our faces if they didn’t have Clemens, although they won both those World Series fairly decisively. The Bronx Bombers didn’t even really need Clemens to be a dynasty.