"Best game I've seen in my life," Rodriguez says. "I've probably watched on TV and played in 5,000 games, and it's easily the best I've ever seen. His 140th pitch in the ninth inning was 98 miles an hour. His splitter was 95 and nasty.
" Roger Clemens is a role model for me. He is where I want to be: the financial rewards, the family happiness, the Hall of Fame career, the work ethic. He climbed the mountain, and he's stayed there."
Tony Gwynn liked to distill his hitting style to one word: carving. That was his expression for allowing the ball to get deep into the hitting zone and then slicing it through "the 5.5 hole," between the third baseman and shortstop. For Clemens, the operative word is downhill.
"Perfect," he says. "I work downhill. Stay tall. Stay back. Work downhill." In his windup he does a deliberate two-step: a drop step with his left foot and a step in front of the slab with his right. He can no longer see the catcher as his chin drops—he is soft-focused on the third base side of the mound—but he visualizes the target. "When I try to pick up the target too early, my chin drifts," he says. "That causes the [left] shoulder to fly open. You pick up the target as you're going home."
The mound never seems so damn high as when Clemens is erect over the rubber with his left knee up, the ball still in his right hand inside his glove. Imagine the last ominous click you hear from the chain drive of a roller coaster as it crests that first hill. At that moment the maximum amount of energy is stored. What comes next is pure downhill fury, "I'm six-four, so I have leverage," Clemens says. "Use your leverage and reach out there and get somebody."
Down, down, down the slope of the hill he roars, the stored energy released in an explosion of 237 pounds of power while he keeps his huge, meaty right hand behind the ball, his fingers on top—not on the sides—and his arm extended toward the target. Nothing is wasted. The speeding coaster stays straight on its rails.
"Roger is massive across the back and shoulders," Stottlemyre says, "but much of his power comes through his great lower-body strength and pushing off properly." This is why he invests four days of sweat in every start, a program he tapers after the All-Star break to stay strong for the rest of the season. He is, body and soul, a power pitcher.
"I know why I'm able to keep my fastball at the pace it is right now: It's because of the work that I do," he says. "If I was a control freak as far as location and movement go, I could ride a stationary bike and do a little whirlpool and stretch and probably be fine. I wouldn't have to worry about getting sore. For me to do this it's a four-or five-day recovery time."
He weighed 212 pounds when he made his big league debut in 1984. In '88, after "melting at the 200-inning mark in August," he says, he decided to reinforce his foundation. "I put almost two inches on my legs and booty," he says. He has trained fanatically over the years, though in different ways. With the Red Sox, for instance, he ripped off four-or five-mile runs two or three times so often between starts, he says, that "I knew every crack in the path along the Charles River." When he left Boston for the Toronto Blue Jays after the 1996 season—with Red Sox G.M. Dan Duquette famously writing him off as being in the "twilight" of his career—he met McNamee, who tweaked his workout. In seven years, McNamee recalls, Clemens has showed up late for only one workout and missed none. "I'm glad I still enjoy running and doing the stuff I do," he says. "It's not work. I enjoy it because I know it gives me results."
There is more to it than that, which is apparent when he is told that Rodriguez wants to know what drives him. " A-Rod doesn't have to look any farther than to his left and his right," Clemens says. "He has a kid at second to his left and a kid at third to his right, and he's setting the perfect example for them: that you don't just come in and pick up your paycheck every 15 days. It takes a lot of work. I'm doing it because...I want Andy [Pettitte] to know."