For a variety of reasons, it would be in a perfect baseball world if the Red Sox and Roger Clemens would announce Saturday that they’ve come to an agreement.
Based on Josh Beckett’s meltdown in Cleveland, they could sure use him.
It would be one heck of a firing shot as the Yankees -- who according to the New York Sun, are the “best team in the American League by a wide margin, despite having only the fourth-best record” and are “bludgeoning everyone” -- and Red Sox get set to do business Monday evening.
It would easily blow any draft pick the Patriots have to announce off the front page, and we know how the Sox like to do that.
And it would be a neat little way to bring him back to his Boston roots, wouldn’t it though?: on the 20th anniversary of his 20-strikeout night against the Seattle Mariners.
We’ve all seen the game, no need to re-hash the thing on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Attendance that night was 13,414, and somehow more people were there that night than when Ted Williams hit his final home run.
It remains to this day, more so than Clemens’ other 20-K game 10 years later in Detroit, the second-most dominating regular season pitching performance most of us have ever watched someone display in a Red Sox uniform. It is topped only by Pedro Martinez’s 17-strikeout, one-hitter against the Yankees in 1999 in that the Yankees were a team on their way back to winning the World Series that year. The Mariners finished 1986 with a 67-95 record.
Three days following the horrors of Chernobyl, Clemens’ historic performance -- one in which he almost ended up with the loss until Dwight Evans’ seventh-inning two-run home run -- was one of the early prophecies that 1986 would be one of those memorable seasons, though it ultimately ended in heartbreak.
And now we are talking about him actually coming back to Boston to finish his career. Two decades later.
There is a minority of murmuring detractors to this opportunity, of course, still stinging from Clemens’ initial decision to thwart them a decade ago; but seriously, what could be better than this? Just imagine the energy at Fenway Park the first time Clemens emerges from the bullpen, wearing 21 on his back, and takes the mound for his warmup pitches. The Red Sox will make back a month of Clemens’ salary that night from jersey sales alone.
If Clemens doesn’t have it anymore -- if he is more the pitcher that amassed a 4.35 ERA in his last season in the American League rather than the one whose 1.87 mark led all of baseball last season with the Astros -- the story aspect of his much-ballyhooed return goes ugly really fast. But that, even at the age of 43, is a risk worth taking.
Monday is the first day that Clemens is allowed to speak with Houston, the team that did not offer him salary arbitration last November. A good number of folks seem to think that Clemens is either going to retire or spend one more season with the Astros. But there is a growing movement that believes Clemens’ second tour of duty in Boston is becoming more than a distinct possibility.
Red Sox pitching coach Al Nipper all bit said he believed he would have Clemens on his staff soon the other day to the Globe’s Gordon Edes. That’s a bit of different Friend of Roger account than they seem to be getting in New York, where Derek Jeter admitted he speaks to Clemens all the time, but that he has said nothing about returning. And Brian Cashman told the New York Times, “He's officially retired. The way his agents left it, if he changes his mind on that, they will let us know. I'm not going to harass them. We have a great relationship."
The Astros are perceived to have the edge because Clemens would be able to come and go as he pleases, but in an online chat with the Dallas Morning News, Texas Rangers beat writer Richard Durrett was asked:
“dignan10: Peter Gammons recently said the Red Sox will land Clemens if he decides to pitch. Do you agree?
Richard Durrett: Maybe. I still think Houston would be the logical choice if they are in the hunt. It's close to his home and he could see his family all the time. But Clemens is talking about returning in June, which means he wouldn't be away from his family that much. Boston would have great appeal. He played there, they are competitive and he'd be in a big spotlight. So it wouldn't surprise me. I think Texas is probably third on the list.”
That’s all true. Except that I’m not sure Texas is anywhere near the list.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com writes that despite Jeffrey Loria’s insistence, it is likely that Florida’s Dontrelle Willis will appeal to the losers in the Roger Clemens sweepstakes. At 24, Willis is probably the better option, even if you have to surrender prospects, which creates quite the conundrum. Is it better for the long-term stability of the Red Sox to give up a guy like Jonathan Lester for a young pitcher who is already one of the best in baseball. Isn't that really the more prudent thing to do than tossing millions of dollars at a 43-year-old for the “story?”
Well, Willis isn’t available. Yet. Clemens could say “no” to the Astros and “yes” to either the Yankees or Red Sox as early as next week.
He won’t -- I will not say “can’t” because look at what he did last season -- be the same athlete he was that night 20 years ago. He won’t be the same pitcher he was 10 years ago, when his legacy in Boston seemed to have come to an abrupt halt in the “twilight of his career.”
But he will make the Red Sox better. And as much as some of us want to witness it happen for all the other reasons that come along with it, isn’t that the end result we’re all looking for?