End of an Era Age Epoch Contract

Matt Clement signed today with the St. Louis Cardinals, ending a rocky relationship with the Red Sox and their fans.

Clement, known by some (or just by me) as the "Boston Carl Pavano" was met with choruses of boos when last he pitched in 2006, and is best known for taking one of the worst playoff beatings by any Sox starter in Game 1 of the 2005 ALDS. He missed all of 2007 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, torn labrum and torn expectations.

The bar was clearly set high for Clement — the free agent the Sox acquired to replace the departing Pedro Martinez, only the most dominant pitcher ever to wear a Boston uniform. In the previous three seasons, he seemed to have turned a corner, posting a losing record (35-36), but with a 3.80 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and a 2.4 K/BB ratio.

Clement’s opening in Boston was amazing — moreso when one considers we’ve seen much better pitchers struggle with a transition to the AL East. Clement finished June 2005 at 9-1 with a 3.33 ERA, and ultimately was selected to an All-Star team for the first time.

A_clement_275_2And then.

Although it’s easy to look at Clement’s pre/post July 26 splits and blame the Carl Crawford line drive that smashed into Clement’s head (10-3, 4.30 before; 3-3, 5.10 after), the truth is more complicated. Clement had allowed 22 earned runs in the 23 innings and four starts entering that July 26 game, and in the seven immediately afterward, Clement threw six quality starts, with a 3.43 ERA in nearly 45 innings. However, in his last four appearances, including the playoffs, Clement threw one quality start, while being shelled for seven runs (1.1 innings), four runs (5 innings) and eight runs (3.1 innings in the ALDS) in the other three.

2006 wasn’t any better. Clement lasted just 12 outings before being shut down, managing just four quality starts — matching the number of times he couldn’t make it out of the fifth. The boos rained down, and eventually Clement went under the knife, when doctors found a situation much worse than what had appeared on his MRI.

Likely, Clement’s shoulder injury — not the line drive — led to his pitching woes in late 2005 and 2006. His case is one of "what could have been?" In a sense, Crawford’s line drive may have indeed cost Clement the rest of his contract with the Sox — without it, perhaps the subsequent struggles would have been attributed sooner to an arm injury instead of the widely held belief that he had been psychologically affected by the beaning.

Here’s hoping Clement can get his career back on track in St. Louis. He deserves better than he got in Boston.

13 comments… add one
  • // He deserves better than he got in Boston. //
    Who was unfair to Clement — besides the ball that hit him on the head?
    Bottom line, Clement sucked in Boston. He looked so mentally fragile out there, he made Derek Lowe look like a pillar of reliability.
    Was that the fault of the fans, the media, or the organization? You make it sound like he got a raw deal.

    Anonymous January 4, 2008, 10:04 am
  • // He deserves better than he got in Boston. //
    Who was unfair to Clement — besides the ball that hit him on the head?
    Bottom line, Clement sucked in Boston. He looked so mentally fragile out there, he made Derek Lowe look like a pillar of reliability.
    Was that the fault of the fans, the media, or the organization? You make it sound like he got a raw deal.

    Hudson January 4, 2008, 10:04 am
  • It just saddens me that there will be no more Sox gamers with Clement pitching. Meanwhile, we still have Farnsworth.

    Nick-YF January 4, 2008, 10:11 am
  • To be fair, while I understand WHY the Sox let Clement go, I just wish that the Sox had given Clement more of a chance to pitch in ’07.
    I’m thinking that the Clement St. Louis is getting is going to be closer to the guy that started the All-Star game for the Red Sox, than the broken down husk who pitched in the second half of ’05 and 2006.
    I was only surprised that the Red Sox didn’t make more of an effort to sign him for cheap.
    If this scenario goes according to past Red Sox experience, Clement, who had never even been on the DL prior to coming to the Sox, will rebound nicely and turn into an ace for the Cardinals.
    I’m sorry, but Carl Pavano is like a yawning hole that you shove money into compared to Clement. Clement may have ended his contract in Pavano-esque form, but an 11-2 record and an all-star start out of him BEFORE he became Pavano-lite is at least SOMETHING noteworthy.

    Brian January 4, 2008, 11:13 am
  • Bottom line, Clement sucked in Boston.
    While this is true in one sense, it’s statements like this that make me say “he deserved better.”
    The man was hit in the head with a line drive, then pitched through a torn rotator cuff AND a torn labrum. Granted, the fans didn’t know it at the time — neither did he — but clearly the criticism that he was psychologically fragile turned out to be unjustified. I would guess a tattered shoulder led more to his inability to execute than any kind of deer-headlight syndrome.

    Paul SF January 4, 2008, 1:45 pm
  • I can barely believe it was less than two seasons ago that Clement pitched for the Sox. I have to be reminded (like by this article) that I actually watched him pitch in a Boston uniform on live TV as recently as spring of 2006. Seems like it should be longer ago.

    FenSheaParkway January 4, 2008, 1:48 pm
  • Paul, I usually don’t buy into such things but there were questions about his make-up dating back to his Chicago Cubs days. One of my Cubsfan friends felt that he was just too nervous to ever fulfill his potential. Perhaps, it was all body language? I do remember thinking when he was with the Sox that he looked a bit anxious on the mound.

    Nick-YF January 4, 2008, 1:48 pm
  • Not to be too snarky, but I’d look pretty anxious too if my vlocity was down or I couldn’t locate and I didn’t know why. That might have affected him further; I won’t deny wholly the psychological aspects of the game. I think it all goes back to the shoulder.
    But you’re right, FSP, I remember a few starts where Clement just had that “Oh, crap” look.

    Paul SF January 4, 2008, 1:52 pm
  • Oops, I was agreeing (and somewhat disagreeing) with Nick, not FSP.

    Paul SF January 4, 2008, 1:55 pm
  • I think it is fair to say that the fans (myself included) were too quick to judge Clement based on his demeanor when there were physical issues at hand causing him great distress. Bill Simmons coined the term the “Derek Lowe Face”, but look what Lowe did for the Sox in the playoffs over and over – we shouldn’t be so quick to jump on a guy for a hangdog pout. It may not tell us much of anything, frankly. Clement, who took great abuse from me and from others for his heart (or lack thereof) got a raw deal in retrospect, and I can’t say I feel that great about how harsh some of my comments were about him, seeing now what he has been through physically. Historical questions about his makeup notwithstanding, Clement took more abuse than he deserved, and I wish him nothing but success. To that end, I agree with Paul’s statement that he deserves “better”, certainly his years in Boston weren’t a great success by any means, other than for his wallet.

    SF January 4, 2008, 2:11 pm
  • Paul, your response using the line drive as an excuse for Clement sucking after his initial bravura start is directly contradicted by your own post — he did start sucking well before getting hit in the head.
    And plenty of pitchers can’t pitch through injuries or even fail outright without looking like they just watched the family dog get hit by a passing car.
    As for the comparison to Lowe: The analogy fails because Lowe *did* come through when it counted. Clement never did.

    Hudson January 4, 2008, 3:58 pm
  • Matt also deserves some respect for working his arse off all last season to come back. Basically he ran out of time to rehab in the minors, and then the Gagne meltdown assured there wouldn’t be any meaningless games in the last 2 weeks he could pitch in. Coming back from both rotator cuff and labrum surgery is extremely difficult. Could he have just shut it down and ‘retired’? Frankly the money might not have been a whole lot different. All the reports and interviews I’ve read suggest he’s well-liked and respected by the other players, one of the “character guys” Theo’s been collecting.
    There’s just no place on the ’08 Sox roster for a long-shot starting pitcher rehab project, so his Sox story was over last year anyway, but St Louis (& the NL Central) is a great place for him. As hard as he’s worked, I hope he makes it back, has a kick-butt year, and survives to face us in interleague games next year.

    CT ball fan -SF January 4, 2008, 5:02 pm
  • he did start sucking well before getting hit in the head.
    Yes and no. He pitched very well for seven starts AFTER being hit in the head. To even take the mound without missing a start after that experience is an amazing feat. So I fail to see how pitching despite such a calamitous occurrence, and then struggling through one of the worst pitching injuries one can fathom qualifies him for the abuse he’s received. To continue to perpetrate such abuse even after the discovery of the injury to me is just unconscionable.
    Clement deserves our respect for gutting through a line drive to the head (and succeeding in spite of it) and a shoulder that better resembled an Italian dinner. If not respect, he certainly does not deserve our derision.

    Paul SF January 4, 2008, 5:20 pm

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