Part of it comes with his stepped-up role as clubhouse leader. With Dwight Evans' departure to Baltimore, Clemens has taken over Dewey's prized corner locker, the one that once belong to No. 8, Carl Yastrzemski. When he first took over the locker, a teammate taped a hand-lettered sign above it. "Possessed Rebel," it read.
And when he saw it, Roger Clemens laughed.
"It's OK if they think of me that way," Clemens says. "It's because of my intensity on the mound."
Clemens has added his own locker decorations -- baseball cards featuring Hurst and Evans, Jim Rice and Al Nipper -- all departed Red Sox friends. There are also cartoon characters, chief among them those turtles that caused such controversy last fall.
"The whole thing was blown out of proportion," says Clemens, who is wearing a Batman T-shirt with his number, 21, stenciled on the chest. "I don't think there's anything strange about [the Turtles]."
Indeed, Clemens loves the Ninja Turtles. He has taken his sons, Koby, 4, and Kory, 2, to see both movies, and wouldn't mind seeing them again. He admits, with no embarrassment, that cartoons are a passion. If watching the Tasmanian Devil with your kids -- and loving it -- equals insanity, then Clemens pleads guilty with glee.
"I really don't care what anybody says about anything anymore," Clemens says. "I'm just concentrating on baseball. I want to do the best I can and win as many games as I can for this team."
Despite all the insanity, Clemens seems to have reached some sort of peace over the off-season. Let them call him a child, let them call him crazy . . . as long as they remember to call him the best pitcher in baseball. Let them say anything, as long as they remember this: When Roger Clemens is on the mound, Roger Clemens is king.
Some might have forgotten, but Clemens was "The Rocket" long before a fleet-footed football player in South Bend, Ind., awed the sports world. In 1986, when Raghib Ismail was a high school junior, Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters in a single game. In 1987, Clemens won his second consecutive Cy Young Award, become only the third major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.
His numbers are astounding: He has the second highest career winning percentage in American League history (.695, behind Spud Chandler's .717) and a career 2.89 earned run average. Entering Thursday's start against Kansas City, he has not given up a homer in 123 innings.
"I'm not even amazed anymore," says Boston pitcher Greg Harris, the former Phillie who charted Clemens' pitches last Saturday. "It's like every time out he does something different to beat the opponent. No matter what, there's nobody in the league, in baseball, who has his control."
* It is now late in the afternoon at Fenway. Clemens' fastballs have
been low, his sliders smooth. He easily retired the first 14 men to come to the plate.
The Indians' Carlos Baerga was left marveling at a fourth-inning slider that sent him back to the dugout. Jody Reed, Boston's second baseman, calls the pitch an "Eight-nine slider," after the 89 mph at which Clemens is capable of throwing it over the plate.
"That," Baerga says, "is why he makes five million bucks."
Danny Darwin, the free-agent signee who had a disastrous first start for the Red Sox last Thursday, has retreated to the clubhouse, where he can watch Clemens on television and thus get a better angle on his delivery.
"He's the best pitcher in baseball," Darwin says, shaking his head. "I wanted to see how he could throw the ball. There's nobody around who can throw four quality pitches like he does."