Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Rocket is Back!

This is sort of old news now, but I haven't had a chance to report on it yet.  Roger Clemens, who was recently acquitted of perjury in Federal court, has decided to make a comeback of sorts.  He threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League a couple weeks ago, and has signed on to take the mound again this Friday.  This league appears to run a few weeks later than most independent leagues so technically he could make a couple more starts for the Skeeters, but myself and many important people in baseball believe that this is the first step before eventually signing on with a big league team, perhaps even before the end of the season.  Having won 7 Cy Youngs, and arguably being one of the top 5 pitchers of all time, Clemens really has nothing left to prove on the baseball field.  So what is the motivation here?  He claims it is just for fun and because he was already keeping in shape anyways - despite whether or not you believe he took PEDs, he is renowned for his work ethic.  And speaking of PEDs, that is the added layer to all of this.  If he was truly doing this for fun, he wouldn't have rushed in to try to pitch this season.  His goal is to try to get back to the majors this season to delay his Hall of Fame eligibility by 5 years, plain and simple.  He saw that he could still throw 88 and that the Astros were so bad that they might sign on for this publicity stunt, so he's taking a chance and seeing what his 50-year old body can handle.  Nothing is set in stone and obviously Clemens is not going to tip his hand, but I would be very surprised if he does not suit up for Houston before the season is over.

My own personal view on this is, I don't blame him for trying.  He's always had a need to be liked, and I think it is important to him to try to restore his good name.  By appearing in a game this year for an MLB club, his original 2013 eligibility date for Cooperstown would be pushed back 5 years, and it would give writers and voters a longer period of time to either forget what has happened, or rethink his career.  I think that there are always going to be a core group of voters that will never ever vote for anybody even associated with PEDs, so I don't think it will do much.  But players like A-Rod, Jason Giambi, and Mark McGwire have already gone through this stunt trying to clear their names by coming clean, and I think that is Roger's best option here.  If he wants to keep pitching he needs to come clean and take that doubt out of everybody's mind, and allow voters to vote solely based on his merit as a ballplayer.  If he didn't do PEDs that's fine, but I find that hard to believe given his renaissance beyond the age of 35 with the Blue Jays, Astros, and Yankees.  Even if he juiced every day, I still love Clemens and think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.  My view on it is that you have to assume 95% tried steroids at least once in the 1990s, so just like with any other era, you have to vote for the best players of that time, and you also need to take into account how good the players were at their peak.  For instance, Clemens had 3 Cy Youngs and Barry Bonds had 3 MVP awards before the age of 30, which is typically the age when ballplayers start to decline.  If you throw everything out past that, they both still had really good numbers, even before they remarkably continued to improve into "old age."  Yes, steroids is cheating I understand, but just like you can't hold it against certain pitchers who pitched in the dead ball era, or threw spitballs, or played when the mound was higher vs. today's pitchers, I don't think you can hold it against players who excelled during an era when everybody took steroids and felt like they had no choice but to take them if they wanted to compete.  PEDs can't make you throw a splitter on the black or square up a baseball, they only improve strength and longevity.  I hope that eventually voters will agree with me and that Roger Clemens gets into the Hall of Fame someday, even if it takes a scherade like he's doing now.

UPDATE: It was announced today (Wednesday) that Roger's oldest son, Koby, was granted his release by the Toronto Blue Jays organization and subsequently signed by the Sugar Land Skeeters.  He will be in uniform on Friday night to catch his dad's 2nd start for the Skeeters, for what I'm sure will be the first father/son battery in professional baseball history.

Brewers 65-69, -16.0, -7.5 WC (4 @ Marlins, 3 @ Cardinals)
Reds 82-54, +8.5 (3 v. Philles, 3 v. Astros)
Twins 55-80, -18.5 (3 @ White Sox, 4 v. Indians)

Erik - 29
Peter - 38

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