ESPN.com is reporting that Clemens told USA Today that he intends to retire at the end of the World Baseball Classic. But, in typical Clemens style, he left himself a caveat.
Clemens said: “But the only thing is if I’m sitting in the stands in Boston, or New York, or somewhere in May, and get the itch again, who knows what will happen?”
Specifically mentioning Boston and New York bodes well for those respective teams. One thing makes me wonder, though - if he’s going to be spending time with his family and spending time watching Koby in the minors, what would he be doing in Boston or New York? I wonder if there might be more to the “somewhere” than he wants to show.
While baseball pundits will be making a huge deal of the previous quote, I think another thing Clemens said bears repeating and greater emphasis than it is likely to receive: “I’m not going to start the season with anyone.” Now, many will say that all that means is that he’s going to wait until later in the season and see who’s contending. However, it could mean something more for the Astros, as they are the only team of the four he is considering that cannot sign him before the beginning of the season. In fact, they can sign him after May 1. Go back to the previous quote. What did Roger say? If he gets the itch in May.
But let’s say for a second that he just wants to give his body a rest. Let’s say he wants to see what teams are serious contenders before he decides to subject himself to another season of work. That would definitely bode well for the Sawx and Yanks, who typically start strong, stay strong, and finish strong. Bad news for the Rangers, who haven’t started strong or been strong in a few years. Clemens is the kind of player that could really put the Rangers over the top and make them serious contenders. You have to wonder if he’ll take that into consideration, or just look at them as a team that might have a good start, but has a really bad history of sputtering out in August.
That would also be bad news for the Astros. Again, you have to wonder if he’d take his sizeable contribution to a club’s staff into consideration. The Astros and Rangers, even more than the Red Sox and Yankees, would be entirely different ballclubs with Clemens than without. And the Astros have been kind of the opposite of the Rangers the last couple of seasons in terms of when they’re strong and when they’re weak. In 2004, the Astros were sitting at .500 at the All-Star break. A 36-10 run later, the Astros finished just one game shy of the World Series. In 2005, the Astros recovered from a horrid 15-30 start, becoming the biggest turnaround story in baseball history and reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
With better pitching, it’s entirely possible that the Rangers may become the same kind of late-blooming team.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have spent the last few seasons at the top of their division, only to falter in the playoffs, partially because of the age of their stars.
Would Roger have that kind of long-term view when deciding whether or not to return for the summer? Only time will tell. But for now, for either of our Texas teams to have a shadow of a chance, there had best not be any late bloomers.
Wed 03/08/06, 3:27 pm EST