It was 10 years ago today that former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, upon watching franchise ace Roger Clemens ink a four-year, $31.1 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, notoriously bid his infamous monotone farewell to the best pitcher Boston had seen, saying the Rocket was in “the twilight of his career.”
We hate to remind you, but the Red Sox took that money they had earmarked for Clemens and invested it into Steve Avery and Shane Mack, both colossal failures. Clemens, meanwhile, went on to win a pair of Cy Youngs with the Blue Jays, engineered a trade to the Yankees (with whom he won two World Series titles), and now commands top dollar to play only part of a season as baseball’s best, and oldest, mercenary.
The Red Sox could now be in the very same boat they were in a decade ago, coming full circle. Instead of paying Daisuke Matsuzaka, they may be forced (if they don’t reach a deal with Dice-K) to turn around and use a good chunk of the money they earmarked for the posting fee and offer it up to Clemens.
If Matsuzaka doesn’t get on that plane this morning, you know what we have to do around these parts. I mean, other than rip the Red Sox for their flawed negotiating tactics.
So, let’s talk Roger, shall we?
I know, another offseason of discussing Roger Clemens’ likely landing spot sounds about as much fun as being the poor Barnes and Noble clerk who has to deal with the mass return of every Japanese language manual that was purchased over the last 29 days. And this is always a particularly fun time of the year when Clemens’ posturing overlaps with the posturing of Brett Favre.
Let’s admit it. Deep down, even the bitterest Red Sox fan would welcome the sight of seeing Clemens pitch at Fenway one more season. Yes, it would be nostalgic, historic, and a great way for the future Hall of Famer to close his storied career. With that potential, Sox fans should embrace the thought of Clemens pitching for their team in 2007, even with all the perks and outrageous salary that come along with it.
But to suggest that Clemens is a so-called “Plan B” to landing Matsuzaka is ludicrous.
“Alternate” plan, sure, but there can't be any Plan B to landing Matsuzaka. To think that a 44-year-old would be a suitable replacement for a 26-year-old potential ace for years to come can’t possibly be how the Sox plan to sell this to their fandom. At the very least, Clemens would cost somewhere north of $21 million for three-quarters of a season. As it stands now, the Sox are reportedly hemming and hawing over dishing out an additional $66 million for Matsuzaka for six years.
So, we ask, what’s the problem? Do the Sox need to know yet again what Gil Meche got? Jason Marquis? I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if Scott Boras turned on his own client and told Theo Epstein, “Look, you were even dumb enough to give J.D. Drew $14 million a year, why not this guy?”
Regardless, if the Sox lose their Japanese prize, they will almost certainly turn to Clemens, something they probably would have done anyway in all likelihood. The DVD is in the mail.
Look, nobody even knows whether Clemens wants to return to pitch in 2007, but we know the whole story with that by now. He works out, sees where he’s at physically, then sees the ungodly amount of money being tossed at him, and jumps at the chance to play yet another year. I’m fully convinced this will be the way he approached every season until he’s close to 50. I think even Minnie Minoso has to be a little scared by this prospect by now.
This time around, the Clemens options appear to be: the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees, the same as they were last season, probably the same as they will be come 2012.
The Astros offer Clemens an opportunity to pitch at home. The Yankees offer him a chance to pitch with attached-to-the-hip pal Andy Pettitte. The Red Sox offer him a chance at nostalgia and the opportunity to have a little competitive fun with good buddy Pettitte.
Of course, the decision comes down to whoever offers the most cake. But it’s fun at least to think that Clemens cares about breaking that 192-win mark he’s currently at in the Red Sox record books, tied with Cy Young for the most in Sox history.
Duquette was rightfully skewered for his lowball offer to Clemens, and looks even more ridiculous for his “twilight” comment every time Clemens steps to the mound. For the Blue Jays, Clemens turned out to be the best free agent pitcher signing ever, according to Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star: “Counting only individual production; he won consecutive pitching triple crowns (wins, ERA and strikeouts) and two Cy Young Memorial Awards in his two seasons in Toronto. There is no better free agent record.”
In an age when Miguel Batista gets $27 million, that’s hard to argue.
If the baseball world were perfect, the Red Sox would employ Matsuzaka and Clemens in the rotation next summer, backed by a powerful trio of Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, and Curt Schilling. That’s a 2007 five that would be not too short of nasty, and one that still has a young core of Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Papelbon going forward for 2008 and beyond. If it’s just Clemens, and no Matsuzaka, now you’re banking on just Beckett and Papelbon (and holding out hope for Jon Lester) being the only under-30 starters in the rotation going forward.
It shouldn’t come down to either or, because Clemens does not provide nearly the long-term benefits that Matsuzaka potentially would. And while it might be fun to have Clemens around for a season instead of Matsuzaka, it is not the wiser investment. Having both of them on board might not exactly be a cheap proposition, but for a one-year, go-for-it mentality, as well as building for the next decade, why wouldn’t the Sox do it if they have the cash. And they have the cash.
It’s been 10 years, and we’re still talking about Clemens. Though, I’d have to imagine the bigger question is, will we still be talking about Matsuzaka in 10 days?