Jeter: Why should Rocket quit?

Updated: January 13, 2004, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Derek Jeter could tell Roger Clemens was rethinking his retirement.

"He wants to play longer," the New York Yankees shortstop said Tuesday about his former teammate. "He's been doing this his entire life, so who's to say when you're supposed to go home?"

Clemens supposedly was finished after last season, his final game a no-decision against the Florida Marlins in the World Series. He left baseball with 310 victories, 4,099 strikeouts and a record six Cy Young Awards.

But the 41-year-old Clemens surprised many by signing a one-year, $5 million contract with his hometown Astros on Monday.

"I knew he was interested, but that's about it," Jeter said.

Jeter played five seasons and won two World Series with Clemens. The two players spoke last week at Michael Jordan's golf tournament in the Bahamas, as the pitcher sought out friends and retired athletes for advice.

Jeter spoke at the SuperShow, a sporting good trade show. He was there to promote his line of youth pitching machines and sign autographs.

Coincidentally, Clemens also was scheduled to appear at the SuperShow on Tuesday. But he canceled because he needed to take a physical in Houston, convention officials said.

Clemens' change of heart is only the latest of offseason developments for the Yankees.

New York owner George Steinbrenner spent the winter totally revamping the Yankees roster.

Gone are such familiar faces as pitchers Andy Pettitte and David Wells, and bench coach Don Zimmer. New this coming season are four starting pitchers, three coaches and at least two position players.

Jeter met Pettitte in 1992 during their rises through the Yankees' minor league system, and he acknowledged that it's always tough to lose a friend.

"But you've got to realize one thing: it's a business," Jeter said. "He made a decision that he wanted to be by his family, so you can't blame him for that."

Jeter echoed his baseball-as-business theme when asked about Zimmer's departure to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The veteran of 55 years, the last eight as Yankees manager Joe Torre's right-hand man, quit the team after last season because he didn't like how Steinbrenner treated him.

"Our coaching staff has been pretty solid throughout my career," Jeter said. "But, once again, people make decisions. Those things kind of happen."

The current projected rotation has Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber and Javier Vazquez. The only holdover is Mussina, a Yankee since 2001.

"I really don't think it's going to be much of an adjustment," Jeter said. "It may be an adjustment for them, coming to a new team. But I really don't foresee any problems."

Steinbrenner's overhaul of the Yankees sparked an arms race with the rival Boston Red Sox, with the two teams jockeying for offseason headlines with their personnel moves. That's nothing new, Jeter said, aside from the more prominent names involved.

Not even Boston's attempt to land seven-time All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez fazed Jeter.

"I didn't think about that too much," said Jeter, himself a five-time All Star. "I show up in spring training and see who ever team has.

"There's so many rumors, especially when you're in New York, you'll drive yourself crazy worrying about them."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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