Roger Clemens had a storied career. Now, he’s like a cold sore. When he keeps coming back, it’s awfully embarrassing. The 50-year-old former All-Star signed with the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League on Monday. He is expected to start for the minor league team on Saturday at home against Bridgeport.
“His fastball was clocked at 87 mph; all of his pitches were working,” reports Randy Hendricks, Clemens’ agent, to ESPN. “He threw a three-inning simulated game after an extensive workout warm-up.”
Hendricks tells ESPN that Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this “for months”. Clemens, who was acquitted in June of charges he lied to Congress, hasn’t played for a team since pitching for the Yankees in 2007 at the age of 45.
He went 6-6 in 18 games with a 4.18 ERA that season. As if that wasn’t enough of a clue to stay down.
Texas Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt, a former teammate of Clemens with the Astros, is excited about his friend’s return to baseball. “I think he’s going to show everybody that all that stuff that he had to go through had nothing to do with the success he had in the big leagues,” Oswalt tells ESPN. “He said he’s going to do it a little bit and see how his body responds. I wouldn’t be surprised next year if he’s pitching in the big leagues for somebody.”
“He’s always loved to compete,” says Yankees Manager Joe Girardi of Clemens. “That’s who he is. He kept coming back. There were times he felt he couldn’t quite go a full season, but he gave it as much as he had. He loved to compete. That’s a hard thing to replace is that competition. Guys miss it.”
I understand. Clemens did have some great years with the Astros after turning 40. He went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004, winning his record-tying seventh Cy Young Award. He went 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005. He also earned $160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most all-time and he was named to 11 All-Star Games.
However, that’s not Skeeters’ money. He joins a “didn’t you used to be” roster that includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens’ on Houston’s 2005 World Series team. It isn’t clear how long Clemens will pitch for the Skeeters.
“This is a one game at a time thing,” Hendricks says. “Let’s see how he does on Saturday.”
How does he get to do this? I don’t get to report to work when I want.
Apparently I’m not the only one skeptical of Clemens’ public desire to play again. “He didn’t travel with the Astros half the time toward the end there,” notes Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson. “I can’t imagine him traveling for the Sugar Land Skeeters. I’m sure they’ll draw a good crowd and it will be fun, but it’s kind of those things you read about it and you’re like: ‘What’s he doing?’ ”
Clemens has been throwing batting practice to one of his sons often, but that doesn’t mean he’s major league ready. I get that it’s difficult to get that urge to compete out of your blood. But, what about overstaying your welcome?