Maybe Duquette was on to something

January, 20, 2010

It's not an original thought -- my colleague Mark Feinsand from the New York Daily News raised the same issue long before it creased this brainpan -- but after reading Carlton Fisk diss Roger Clemens, it occurred to me that the next time I run into Dan Duquette, I may owe him an apology.

I was just a few days on the job at the end of 1996, covering the Red Sox for the Boston Globe, when Clemens spurned an offer from Duquette and the Sox to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays. I whiffed badly on that one, heeding the counsel of my then-Globe colleague Peter Gammons that Clemens was going to sign with the Red Sox or Yankees.

In the aftermath of that departure, Duquette would utter a line -- penned by Sox publicist Kevin Shea, I was later told by a club insider -- that became notorious overnight and would be thrown in Duquette's face time and again over the remainder of his term as Sox GM.

"The Red Sox and our fans were fortunate," Duquette said, "to see Roger Clemens play in his prime and we had hoped to keep him in Boston during the twilight of his career …"

The comment looked absurd when Clemens won back-to-back Cy Young Awards for the Blue Jays in his first two seasons in Toronto, won a World Series ring with the Yankees, and was still pitching a decade later.

It doesn't look as outlandish now, does it, in the aftermath of allegations by Clemens' former trainer Brian McNamee, highlighted in the Mitchell report, that beginning in the summer of 1998, he injected Clemens with steroids.

Fisk reminded me of that with his rant on Mark McGwire to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, with Fisk also going off on The Rocket.

"The reason he got let go from the Red Sox was because he was starting to break down," Fisk said. "His last couple of years in Boston just weren't very productive, a la 'The Rocket.' Then all of a sudden he goes to Toronto and he wants to show somebody something. Then he gets two consecutive Cy Young Awards. Come on, give me a bucket.

"It's obvious to players. You notice that stuff. You know how hard it is to play the game. You know how hard it is to be productive at any age, but especially at an older age. You see guys who are as productive later on as they were early [in their careers]. It offends guys that stayed clean. But [the abusers] set their great-great-great-grandchildren up for the rest of their lives."

Clemens missed no opportunity to rip Duquette after he left Boston. And neither did the media, present company included. Turns out the darkness might have been kinder to Clemens if he had allowed it to come in its own good time.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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