I wish Theo Epstein's dad weren't kidding about his son being married at Nathan's hot dog stand. At the very least, I would have had a standard for wanting to check out Flo's Clam Shack when the wife brings up any future renewal of vows. But, who am I to say there isn't also something very romantic about saying "I do" amid images of Takeru Kobayashi stuffing his face with 50 wieners?
Now that the honeymoon is over though, Red Sox fans have some advice. And it doesn't involve refusing to surrender the big screen for "One Tree Hill" any time a game is on, which, general manager of the team or not, you're going to have to do at some point.
"Congrats Theo and Mrs. Theo..." one poster writes on a Boston.com message board of congratulations. "NOW LETS GET GOING ON SIGNING CLEMENS."
Sure. As if it were that easy.
In case you haven't heard any of the 43 times he's said so this winter, Roger Clemens is unsure if he is going to pitch in 2007, which means he will assuredly be back on the mound come summertime. At this point, I'm convinced that the man will never retire, that he’ll hold his annual mercenary sweepstakes for top dollar until a team won't dish out millions of dollars for his three months of service. Once the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros aren't interested, it'll be a discounted rate for everybody else. And Tom Hicks might finally get his man.
Why Clemens would leave the cushy situation he has in Houston is beyond me, but here's a look at each of the contenders:
Houston: Clemens has enjoyed the privilege of not having to travel on road trips on which he isn't pitching, can commute to Katy without any hassle, and now gets the added bonus of pitching to his son, Koby, whom the Astros could simply commit to the major league roster to assure they land the 44-year old again. On the other hand, buddy Andy Pettitte jumped ship to the Yankees, a move all New Yorkers are assuming means Clemens will be pitching in the Bronx this summer.
New York Yankees: Is it possible to blow up a story more about nothing than last week's announcement that Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano was surrendering his No. 22 in case Clemens might want to reclaim his old digits with the team? It must be inevitable then. How could Clemens want to return to his plush life in Texas when he can wear No. 22 again? What's ironic is that this ploy is nothing more than an attempt to bring New York on some sort of more even playing field with the Red Sox, who have never given out his old No. 21, never mind to some kid.
Boston: Debbie would get to check out Shopper's World again. OK, there's more than that, obviously. There is no question that a Clemens return to Boston would have significant financial windfall for the Red Sox, the reason they're willing to pay him $21 million to come to Boston this year. Imagine the influx of T-shirts and jerseys they'll sell alone. If I'm a vendor, I guarantee a 7-1 sales ratio over both J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo merchandise, and that's only because I like to lowball so I look good in the end.
On the field, while there has to be some concern about his not having pitched in the American League since 2003, the bottom line is the man is still dominant in the lesser National League. Maybe his ERA goes up a whole run in a switch to leagues, which would make it 3.30 from last year's 2.30. And all Epstein needs to do is pull out the roster and ask Clemens to show him the holes in the lineup. Even if he does ask, "Who's this Pedroia kid?" it's all still sure to be very persuasive. Heck, he might even win more games than the seven he won last season with the enigmatic offense the Astros trot out there nightly, one that is losing Jeff Bagwell.
If Clemens wants to win a title this season, his best shot is not in Houston. It's in New York or Boston. Duh.
Maybe we're all being a bit provincial when we pine for a Clemens return to his roots, trying to picture the roar of the crowd as he steps out of the home dugout for the first time in his old uniform, unchanged in the 11 years since he wore it last. Perhaps, we assume, because we opine that it would be a fitting way to end his career, that he processes the same thoughts. In New York, he has connections with manager Joe Torre, George Steinbrenner, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina, and Mariano Rivera, among others. In Boston, it's a piece of cloth. Oh, and he yelled at Curt Schilling once.
But it comes down, in the end, to money, really. Is any one team going to blow the Astros out of the water so that Clemens would be willing to surrender all his perks in Houston? If the Astros pony up $20 million and the Red Sox or Yankees offer $25 million, is that enough to pry him north? As much as we'd like to make believe, Clemens isn't a novelist, no purveyor of words looking for an angle that can last well into the next generation of Red Sox fans. We can't assume the "story" of him returning to Boston would supersede the "compensation" of him returning to Boston.
But both would be huge.
Just imagine: Schilling, Clemens, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, and Jonathan Papelbon. That has to make any New Englander with even the slightest interest in the game of baseball tingle with excitement. One has to wonder if it has the same effect on Clemens. Mussina, Clemens, Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, and Carl Pavano isn't bad either.
There's no need for a DVD this time around. Money will be the deciding factor. And since the Red Sox just tossed $51 million around this offseason just to talk to Matsuzaka, you think Clemens didn't notice? Breaking the 192-win team record he holds with Cy Young, being able to hang with old friends again, and the ability to go back and end it where it all started, that must be nice for Clemens. But it's obvious now, after this offseason, what kind of cash the Red Sox are willing to dish out. And if he's going to be willing to give up his Houston luxuries, then that price had better be pretty steep. You too, George.
Get to work, Theo. Time for the Sox and Clemens to renew their vows.