The Rocket Keeps Firing
In the first two weeks of the season, while facing both a five-game suspension for his behavior in the 1990 American League Championship Series and misdemeanor charges stemming from an off-season fight with an off-duty police officer at a Houston nightclub, Boston's Roger Clemens proved he is one focused athlete. He won his first three starts in overpowering fashion, beating Toronto's Dave Stieb, Cleveland's Greg Swindell and Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen. In 25 innings, Clemens gave up one run, walked one batter and struck out 27.
Yet his sizzling start should come as no surprise. As of Sunday, Clemens was 12-2 with an 0.84 ERA since the '90 All-Star break, and he had struck out 116 batters while walking 20. But the lingering reminder of his temper tantrum during Game 4 of last year's playoffs has detracted from his astonishing numbers.
For allegedly cursing plate umpire Terry Cooney and shoving umpire Jim Evans in the ensuing argument, Clemens received a five-game suspension and a $10,000 fine from league president Bobby Brown on Nov. 20. Clemens appealed the ruling, and Brown granted him a hearing.
On April 2, Brown upheld his ruling. Clemens then appealed to commissioner Fay Vincent, who last Friday held a five-hour hearing with Clemens in New York City. As of Monday, Vincent was still pondering whether to let Brown's penalty stand.
The Players Association did its part to delay a ruling by presenting new evidence at Friday's hearing to help determine what Clemens said that day to Cooney. After analyzing a tape of the incident, Deborah Copeland, a hearing-impaired lip-reader who works for the New York Society for the Deaf, testified that Clemens didn't necessarily swear at Cooney.
Assuming Copeland is correct, let's say that Cooney overreacted and should not have thrown Clemens out of the game. Clemens was still wrong for shoving Evans in the argument's ugly aftermath and deserves a suspension for that alone. Pete Rose, as manager of the Reds, was suspended for 30 days in 1988 for shoving an umpire.
Another reason to uphold the suspension is damage control. By overturning Brown's ruling, Vincent might alienate the owners, and he would certainly enrage the umpires. He will anger the union by upholding the suspension, but he could reduce the fine and warn Cooney about being too combative. That might be Vincent's most diplomatic way out of a messy situation that has dragged on far too long.
What Price, Glory?
Jon Peters, who set a national high school record with 53 straight victories for Brenham ( Texas) High (SI, May 8, 1989), is fighting to keep his pitching career from ending at age 20. On March 19, noted orthopedist James Andrews performed so-called Tommy John surgery on Peters, whereby a tendon was removed from Peters's right wrist and put in his right elbow. It will be five months before Peters will even be able to try to pitch. "[ Dr. Andrews] said I threw 100 too many games in Little League," he says.