If this Roger Clemens news hit you with the force of a Vernon Wells swing on Red Sox pitcher [insert name here], at least you can take solace in the fact that there was probably little else the Red Sox could have done.
I suppose they could have re-named Yawkey Way for one of the K-kids. They might have cordoned off a complete corner of the tiny Red Sox clubhouse for the hurler, complete with an Ugueth Urbina original recliner. At the very least, they could have gotten Tarantino to direct the DVD.
The news that Roger Clemens is going back to Houston isnít a shock to most who assumed as much. As intriguing an option as Boston must have been to close out his Hall of Fame career, the Astros made the most sense for Clemens. Boston was a risk, the open opportunity to return to where it all started, with the uncertainty that he would be able to live up to lofty expectations. The Yankees wouldnít give him the freedom he would demand in any agreement. The RangersÖare in Texas, really the only reason they were ever in the discussion.
Then there was Houston, which offered him the money, his home, and his son in the minor leagues. Debbie may have missed Framingham, but Shopperís World canít hold a candle to that trifecta.
So, Roger Clemens, will pitch one more year for Houston and despite that result, I have to admit I am a little disappointed. Look, the situation probably wasnít ideal for either Clemens or the Red Sox. The last time Clemens pitched in the DH-league, he finished with a 3.91 ERA, and that was three years ago, when he was 40. There was no guarantee he could be the pitcher heís been with Houston the last two seasons in the American League. But was it a risk worth taking? Hey, if youíve got the cash to toss at a one-year venture in lieu of a long-term solution, que sera.
Still, it would have been great, reliving that old pregame buzz around Fenway Park, awaiting a mid-August Clemens start in the midst of a pennant race, watching one of the best pitchers to ever play the game close out his career in the legendary ballpark where heís already created so much baseball history.
Alas, it wonít be, and as the prospect melts away, so too do the options the Sox have in which to counter.
The team mantra right now is, ďWell, at least he didnít go to the Yankees.Ē Thatís all well and good, but perhaps the Sox ought to worry about their own pitching woes before breathing easy that Clemens didnít sign with their rivals. On the same day we could have an official announcement on Clemens, Boston is tossing Portlandís David Pauley out to the mound to face what has been a potent Blue Jays attack in his first major league appearance. David Wells may never throw another pitch in the big leagues, and plenty of Red Sox fans are dreaming that Matt Clement might follow suit.
The Sox have major pitching problems. Or perhaps youíre OK with the fact that a chief AL East rival now has pounded out 17 earned runs in 24 innings against your No. 2 ace? Itís one thing to say the Blue Jays have Josh Beckettís number, something else entirely that theyíve been able to create new formulas with it, too.
Itís evident that some sort of change has to be made, barring a total surprise out of the right arm of Pauley in the coming days. The Dontrelle Willis rumors are sure to pop up at any coming moment now, but letís not forget the matter that Willis is 1-6 this season with a 4.93 ERA. How much of that can be attributed to the fact that heís playing with the atrocious Marlins is a legitimate question. Willisí concentration level not where it has been in the past, when heís proven himself to be one of the gameís most promising lefties. Heíd also cost the Red Sox prospects, which should cause the front office to hesitate considering the current starbursting of Hanley Ramirez in Miami.
But Willis is likely a pipe dream in the Fens. Every team in search of a lefty pitcher (Philadelphia, Colorado, New York) is assured to be in on the bidding and driving up the price. But consider, when Willis burst on the scene in 2003, when he went 14-6 for the World Series champion Marlins, he was just 21 years old. Meanwhile, in Triple-A, the Sox already possess a pair of promising 22-year-old pitchers: Lefty Jonathan Lester, who has rebounded from a difficult spring and is now 3-4 with a 2.98 ERA for Pawtucket, and Craig Hansen, the one-time closer of the future who has started three games with the PawSox. In his last outing over the weekend, Hansen allowed just one hit over four innings.
So, with this duo performing so well at the minor league level, fans want to know, why Pauley, who in some circles has already earned the nickname, ďAt least heís not Abe AlvarezĒ? Why is Manny Delcarmen riding the official Merloni-Youkilis shuttle up and down 95? If Lester and Hansen are the best the Sox have, why arenít they here when the team needs them the most?
Answer: Itís not even June. The last thing the Red Sox want to do in this instance is rush the progress of these guys and Cla Meredith them. Hansen, yes, did spend time with the big boys last summer, just months after being drafted, but the Sox are in the midst of stretching him out right now (heís pitched just 7 2/3 innings over his last two starts). As for Lester, this was a guy who was winless (0-4, 5.94 ERA) in his first five starts this season. Although heís come around lately, another month in the minors will only help him. Thatís a benefit worth utilizing when you consider that a callup now might hurt his progress.
Itís extremely possible that by the All-Star break the Red Sox employ a rotation of Curt Schilling, Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Lester, and Hansen. Is it wise to depend on a pair of rookie starters at the big league level? Perhaps the better question is could it really be worse than what the Sox have gotten from Clement and Lenny DiNardo in the No. 4 and 5 slots in the rotation?
Remember, Jonathan Papelbon didnít make the trip last season until July 31. The only way the Red Sox rush these guys to the big leagues faster than theyíd like is if everything, and I mean everything, falls apart. While we may have knee-jerk reactions over a pair of losses in Toronto, the Red Sox canít.
Instead of Clemens, the Red Sox could soon have two pitchers at the end of their rotation that are a combined 44 years old, which is the age the hopeful Houston savior will turn come August. Clemens would have been here for less than a season. These guys could be here for years to come.
Houston makes the most sense for Clemens, no doubt. But before we rush the Willis talk, it just might be that Hansen and Lester make the most sense for the Red Sox.