Roger Clemens required special privileges to sign with the Yankees this week, most notably the right to return home between starts. How did the Rocket square that with his teammates? First, he pointed to his 348 career wins. Then he pointed to the team's season ERA. Then he delivered this stirring and spontaneous original speech
"Friends, Yankees, teammates: Lend me Mike Piazza's ears
[Wait for laughter to die down.]
"You might have read the past few days how I'm 44 years old and I haven't pitched in seven months and that I require special treatment that no other Yankee has ever received, not even Derek Jeter. But today
[Be sure to echo the last syllable, "day, day, day" like when Lou Gehrig gave his speech]
"You should consider myself
[Repeat echo effect.]
"The healthiest pitcher on the face of your pitching staff.
[Glance over at Jeff Karstens, Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa. Wait for everyone to stop snickering.]
"So ask not what the Yankees can do for you. Ask what they can do for me. For never have so many owed so much to so few: me. Although I would say that Steinbrenner owes me the most.
"You may be six games behind the Red Sox but we are still the American League East champs and we shall defend our title, whatever the cost may be (a pro-rated $28 million is a pretty good guess). You shall fight in Boston and you shall fight in Baltimore. You shall fight special education teachers in the bullpen, you shall fight in front of the dugout with that punk Pedro Martinez. You shall fight in Florida, you shall fight in Canada and other foreign countries like Cleveland. You shall fight in Minnesota and California or Anaheim or Los Angeles or whatever the hell they call where the Angels play now. And you shall go on to fight in Seattle and on to Detroit and then you're going on to Washington, D.C., to get congratulated by the president at the White House! Byaaah!!!
[Note to self: Need to practice the Howard Dean yowl some more before attempting.]
"And I'll be right there with you, every step of the way.
[Wait for applause to end.]
"Or at least I will be with you in spirit. Which is still more than some people can say.
[Glare at Pavano -- if he's even there.]
"Physically, I'll be on my couch at home in Houston, rooting and watching you play on TV. Unless you're on the West Coast and the game goes late. I mean, hell, I gotta get my sleep if I'm going to be ready to pitch on my scheduled day. But I still expect Jeter and Giambi and Andy and everyone to text message me all the time and keep me in the loop like y'all been doing the past couple weeks. And I promise I'll get right back to you the next day. Or Alan or Randy will. One of their secretaries, for sure.
"Plus, remember, it's not like I'm going to be having it easy back in Houston. Like, I signed up for DirectTV so I could get the MLB Extra Innings package to see all your games and I had to wait ALL AFTERNOON for the guy to show up and install the dish. And then I found out that Extra Innings is going to be on cable! And I also got XM radio installed in my Hummers so I can listen to your games when I'm driving, which means I have to listen to John Sterling.
"But I'm willing to do this because the Yankees have always come first for me, except of course, when I pitched for the Red Sox. And the Blue Jays. And the Astros. I know this is a new situation for you but you'll get used to it, just like the Astros did. There were even some players who joked that it was nice not having me around all the time.
[They were joking, weren't they?]
"So in conclusion, we're all in this together. Or mostly together. Remember, there is no 'I' in team and no 'I' in Clemens, though there is 'ME.'
"Oh, and one more thing: I better not catch any of you messing with my stuff while I'm gone."
[Check with Andy to see if Ruben Rivera is still with team.]
[Also, be sure to duck head when they lift you on their shoulders and carry you out the door.]
BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
Anyone wondering why the Yankees would agree to let Clemens leave the team between starts after previously refusing to do so, need only look to last Friday's box score for the answer. That night starter Kei Igawa blew a 5-0 lead and after the Yankees rallied to retake the lead, he and rookie reliever Colter Bean gave up eight runs in the fifth. Bean threw 21 pitches, only four in the strike zone. His line:
0 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
Given how injury-riddled and bad their pitching was, it's a wonder the Yankees didn't also agree to play their games in Houston when Clemens pitches.
TELL YOUR STATISTICS TO SHUT UP
I was in San Francisco the past couple days for an assignment and I must say, if you're ever in town when the Giants are playing, be sure to rent a kayak from City Kayaks at Pier 38 and spend a game paddling around McCovey Cove. I was out there Monday night in absolute perfect conditions -- calm water and a warm, clear night. Well, perfect except no one homered into the cove. But it didn't matter, because it's a great time out there. The number of kayakers in the Cove is down this year, though that will change as Barry Bonds nears Hank's record, but there are about a half-dozen hardy regulars in the Cove. They're all very friendly. Larry Ellison, whose kayak comes equipped with a webcam and a laptop that shows the game via Slingbox, gave me a brat and a brownie while Jay Austin gave me some fried chicken. Jay occasionally dresses in costume (Batman was a favorite) and he used to float around on a seven-foot inflated sea horse. "I didn't have a wet suit at first so to keep my feet from getting cold, I'd drink a fifth of Chivas Regal with some Vicodin," he said. "One day I just passed out and floated into the Bay. I was just out of it. Larry paddled out and rescued me. If it hadn't been for him, I'd have ended up in Oakland. I was dressed up as Tom Hanks in 'Cast Away,' with the loincloth and volleyball and everything. The last thing I remember is shouting, 'You just hold on, Wilson!"'
Twenty-one of 25 Mets had their heads shaved before Tuesday's game in San Francisco as a way of showing team unity. It started slowly but as the head shavings and the peer pressure mounted, the well-coiffed Shawn Green and David Newhan began to look increasingly worried. Newhan edged deeper into his locker until he had his legs up and body pressed back against the wall, partially hidden behind his clothes. "I'm just trying to contemplate how this whole thing got started," he said before caving in and reluctantly joining Green for a dual shaving. "This is my last interview as a good-looking guy," Green said on his way to the chair. David Wright, who shaved his head the previous night, pronounced that "a lot of guys improved their looks today." What about Shawn Green? "Shawn Green? Shawn's haircut looks good, it's just that his ears are bigger than I thought."
At the risk of irritating my employer, I know I won't plan my day around watching the baseball draft on TV. The NFL and NBA drafts are already silly and overblown but at least those players have a chance of stepping in and helping the team the next season. But in baseball, drafted players usually are three to four years away from having any sort of impact. So it's going to be pretty hard to get excited about watching the Brewers pick a guy who will be in Helena next year. On the other hand, seeing what 18-year-old ballplayers from rural Georgia wear to draft day could be mildly entertaining.
Of course, everyone feels sad about the death of St. Louis pitcher Josh Hancock. And of course, the Cardinals' instinct is to be protective of their friend. But for Tony La Russa to suggest taking a fungo bat to reporters investigating the story was just plain wrong. La Russa has become so controlling and paranoid he should be coaching in the NFL. He owes St. Louis reporters and fans an apology. And a team that plays in a stadium named for a brewery and has a manager who passed out drunk at the wheel of a car at an intersection may want to be sure to send a better message to the public than "Mind your own business." The only possible good that can come out of this horrible death is if future DWI accidents are prevented because people remember Hancock when they've had one too many and call a cab instead of getting in the driver's seat.
"The Yankees signed 44-year-old Roger Clemens. Not to be outdone, the Red Sox have started to thaw out Ted Williams."
-- David Letterman
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue." His new book with Steve Buckley, "The Best Boston Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for Die-Hard Boston Fans" is on sale now.