Sports Outside the Beltway

Clemens “failing at retirment”

Should he play or should he go. That’s what the Rocket wants to know. Cause if he quits there will be trouble, but if he plays he’ll bring double, so what he really wants to know, is should he play or should he go. The AP is reporting

Roger Clemens talked about his plight and laughed.

“I’m failing at retirement,” he said. “Let’s just face it. I’m failing miserably at it.”

The 44-year-old right-hander, unsure whether to retire or return for a 24th major league season, was the keynote speaker for the St. John’s winter baseball banquet on Wednesday night.

If he does pitch – and it sounds as if he will – Clemens will choose among his hometown Houston Astros, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

“I think if it wasn’t for more than a handful of phone calls from my teammates, not only my teammates here, but in Houston and the guys in Boston, I don’t think I’d take it to heart as much,” he said. “It would be real easy to step away and be done with it.”

Clemens’ words to the contrary (If it were easy to walk away he wouldn’t play this game year after year) the desire is clearly still there to pitch at the major league level. He may not make an announcement until May, he may not decide until then, but he will take the hill wearing one of three uniforms this June. He can come full circle and wrap it up in Boston. He can go back to the city of his greatest success in New York. Or he can stay with the Astros.

Brian Cashman seems to be taking the Yankees into a smarter direction. Less overpriced and elderly veteran players. More younger and flexible talent. Is there a place for a very expensive 44 year old starting pitcher. To keep him out of Boston, they’d make room. And the Red Sox with their six starters on the roster seem to have no room for Clemens, either, but surely they would make room. Houston must be tired of this game, but the hometown fans would not be happy if Clemens walked the way that Nolan Ryan did. It is a nearly perfect situation for a pitcher of Clemens’ talents. He has three franchises interested, two of which will fight to the death for him.

But which team will be best served by the presence of Roger Clemens in their rotation?

Houston New York Boston
Roy Oswalt
Jason Jennings
Woody Williams
Wandy Rodriguez
Fernando Nieve
Mike Mussina
Andy Pettitte
Chien-Ming Wang
Kei Igawa
Carl Pavano
Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon

Houston: Oswalt is a staff ace and Jennings is solid. Williams pitched effectively last season in the pitcher’s paradise of San Diego, but with his declining strikeout rates, he will be lucky to keep his ERA under 4.50 in more hitter friendly Houston. Wandy Rodriguez got his eighth win on June sixth and then only got one more the rest of the season, with a demotion to AAA thrown in. Nieve pitched well, but mostly in relief last season. Houston has the most holes in their rotation and therefore the biggest need for Roger Clemens.

New York: The front three are as strong as any trio. Mussina and Pettitte can be counted on for 200 innings of above league average work. Wang is using his extreme groundball tendencies to blossom into a very effective inning eater. And with a better fielding first baseman taking more of the throws at first in Doug Mientkiewicz, he could win 20 games this year. Kei Igawa will need to transition to the US major leagues. How he handles big league hitters in a rough and tumble division is a big question mark. As is Carl Pavano, who might be healthy, might be injured and if he’s healthy there is no guarantee he will be effective. The Yankees will be evaluating their need based largely on Pavano. If Crapshoot Carl is healthy and effective, their need for Clemens is mitigated. Of course Andy Pettitte wants his fellow Texan back in the Bronx, and the Yankees will open the checkbook to bring Clemens back if for no other reason to keep him out of Boston. But their need is less than Houston’s.

Boston: The Red Sox have the deepest rotation of the three. If healthy, Schilling, Wakefield, Beckett and Matsuzaka could combine for 850 innings among them. Jonathan Papelbon is transitioning back to starting and should be stretched out to throw six innings a start. Papelbon has been immensely effective, primarily out of the pen, for the Red Sox in his young career, which makes it hard to figure how he will be as a starter. But there is little statistical evidence to suggest he will fail. In addition, Boston has Jon Lester ticketed for Pawtucket, and Joel Pinheiro, Julian Tavarez and Kyle Snyder in the pen, who can each provide league average innings as starters. The need is the least in Boston, but again, they will woo and wow Clemens to ensure he doesn’t go to the Bronx.

The inescapable conclusion is that he winds up back in Houston. The Red Sox and Yankees would prefer that he doesn’t play for the other. Houston has the greatest need. And Koby Clemens may be up with the big club for a September call up to play a few games with dad on the team. Neither Boston nor New York can offer that. His failure at retirment means the Astros get another shot at success and the elusive World Championship.

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