Good move by Clemens

Originally Published: January 12, 2004
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

We all knew that Roger Clemens wouldn't be able to stay retired for long, and he didn't. His retirement officially lasted 78 days, which the typical retiree can spend just searching for his car keys. Britney Spears was married almost as long.

Roger Clemens
Clemens

The only surprising thing about Clemens' decision to come out of retirement is that he made it so quickly. Traditionally, retired players at least wait until pitchers and catches report to spring training before getting bored sitting around the house all the day. Clemens didn't even last until Groundhog Day, the annual winter holiday when thousands gather around a hole in the ground in Punxsatawney, Pa., to see whether Steve Bartman sees his shadow.

Although this announcement came sooner than expected, it is a welcome one. For one thing, this really makes George Steinbrenner and the Yankees look bad. They've now lost their starting pitchers from Games 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the World Series (Clemens, Andy Pettitte and David Wells), who accounted for 53 wins and 634 innings last season.

That loud groan you heard Monday morning was from Steinbrenner, who probably already has fired the left half of the staff directory.

Now, it was one thing to lose Clemens -- after all, the man insisted all year he was retiring -- but it was quite another to bungle the Pettitte free agency. Had the Yankees pursued Pettitte more aggressively, he might have re-signed with New York instead of Houston and Clemens wouldn't have even been interested in the Astros. And when the Rocket finally did decide to come out of retirement -- and you know he would have eventually -- he probably would have re-signed with the Yankees to be with Pettitte. Of course, that couldn't have happened until May because the Yankees failed to offer Clemens arbitration as a precautionary move last month.

Instead, they wind up with nothing, not even a draft pick as compensation for Clemens.

I know New York traded for Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez to fill the rotation, but just wait until Brown goes on the disabled list again. Can you say second-place Yankees?

In addition to the Yankees' woes, this is also good for fans, particularly those in Houston and the National League, who finally get to watch one of the greatest pitchers in history on a regular basis.

And don't give me any of this, "Clemens should have retired while he still was at the top of his game" nonsense. Columnists always say that -- even though it is such poor advice that the very people who write never take it, either.

Look at it this way. Clemens has been playing baseball most of his life. He still can throw in the 90s. He still is one of the best pitchers in the game. He still is ridiculously competitive. He still is being offered unimaginable money to keep playing (his $5 million salary with Houston is more than three schoolteachers will make in their entire careers). And if he retires, he would never again play the game he loves.

For what possible reason should he stay retired? So he can be home weekends to putter around the hardware store?

I don't think this announcement qualifies as a comeback (how can you come back from something if you never went away?), but it was the obvious and right decision. Clemens not only gets to play baseball for obscene pay, he gets to do it near his home, with the added appealing challenge of trying to take a team to its first World Series.

After following Clemens for nearly two decades, I wasn't ready to say goodbye, either. And now we won't have to because we'll get to see him glaring over his glove at Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols and all the other National League greats.

This is good news for everyone other than the Yankees.

Although Mike Piazza might have a different view.

Lies, damn lies and statistics
With the loss of Clemens, Pettitte, Wells, Jeff Weaver, Brandon Claussen and Sterling Hitchcock, the Yankees are without six pitchers who combined for 122 starts last year. According to The New York Times, the Yankees are the first league champions to lose that many starts from a rotation since the 1997 Marlins. And we all know how that turned out for Florida. ... The producers of "Frasier" announced this week that the current 11th season will be the show's final season. Frasier Crane set up shop on a Seattle radio station in the show's debut on Sept. 16, 1993, the same day the Mariners routed the Royals 15-1 at the Kingdome, with Randy Johnson striking out 15 batters and allowing one hit in 7 1/3 innings. Ken Griffey was the center fielder, Kevin Turang was the left fielder, Rich Amaral was the designated hitter and Omar Vizquel was the shortstop. The game drew 14,125. (Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Dave Winfield singled off Dennis Eckersley that night for his 3,000th career hit). ... Lost amid the Pete Rose controversy last week was Randy Myers, Cecil Fielder and Terry Pendleton receiving a Hall of Fame vote apiece and Kevin Mitchell receiving two. ... While some were speculating that Clemens would pitch only home games, could anyone really picture the Rocket staying home during road trips? And there seems to be a perception that Nolan Ryan pitched mostly home games his final season, which simply isn't true. Nolan was hurt so much that he started only 13 games in 1993, and of those starts, seven were on the road and six at home. His final two starts were both on the road.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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