Of all the reactions that followed Roger Clemensís announcement yesterday that heís returning to the Yankees, perhaps former Astros teammate Lance Berkman summed things up best.
"With this Rocket situation, there's two kinds of people: people that are not surprised and morons," Berkman told the Houston Chronicle. "Where else was he going to go? He wasn't going to come back here. From the moment Pettitte signed with the Yankees, there was 100 percent certainty that that's where he was going."
What a weekend. After going 0-for-everything during Saturdayís double dip of pony racing and pugilists, Lance Berkman calls me a moron. Iím going to lay off any predictions for a little while, at least.
Clemens is indeed heading to the Yankees, only us simpletons actually opining that heíd wind up in a place like Boston, where he might have had the best chance to win one last World Series title. There comes a point when you tend to want to believe an athlete when he says his No. 1 objective is to win, that it isnít all about the paystub. We forgot this was Roger Clemens, the greatest pitcher of our generation who also happens to be the biggest fraud as well.
Maybe even more predictable is todayís outpouring of sour grapes from Red Sox fans, who seem to be echoing the bombastic comments of Curt Schilling and Julian Tavarez: ďWe donít need him anyway.Ē As of this morning, in a Boston.com survey, 88.6 percent of respondents felt that Clemens wasnít worth it.
At a prorated $28 million, thatís probably accurate. After all, Clemensís potential return was more about the cyclical story than him being a necessary component. But now, that chronicle is officially over. Clemens has decided on what his baseball legacy will be, and that is as a New York Yankee.
He will go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. The Red Sox will never retire No. 21. Even Astros fans are wondering how to react to the Rocket when he returns to them as part of his 10-year personal services contract. You have to wonder how many people Clemens can turn his back on before it finally comes back to slap him in the face.
In fact, the Red Sox could do little worse than ending the whole Roger charade by severing all ties with his memory now. Award No. 21 to someone this year, perhaps a certain lefthander in the coming weeks as a sign of respect and honor for his road to recovery?
Put on your scenario glasses for a moment if you will. Knowing how much the Red Sox love theater (Doug Mirabelli, anyone?), imagine this playing out next month: With Clemens making his debut for New York in Fenway Park (itís a strong possibility), the Red Sox trot Jon Lester to the mound, back from his rehab stint, wearing the jersey that has sat in mothballs for the past 11 years.
Who better to don the number than Lester? Itís not as if theyíre giving it to Julian Tavarez or some other Boston short-timer. Even giving it to someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka would reek of pomposity. But Lester is a different story, one of the crown jewels of the Boston farm system, an inspirational story thatís coming close to its climax. There's a reason to give this kid the number, if he wants it. It's obvious Clemens has become more attached to his Yankee 22 anyhow. Maybe he was worried he couldn't pry it from Wily Mo Pena.
The Chronicleís Richard Justice writes today that Clemens found Houston boring, which is understandable enough for a guy whoís pitched in the two greatest markets in the game. And donít forget Toronto, a two-year period that seems almost like a dream sequence at this stage. But this move was engineered by cash, and cash only. The desire to win, the ability to pitch at home with his family, all generated exaggerations for the sake of public relations, lest we think heís only about the money, and not the desire to play the game that has consumed his life.
Itís going to be some time before we truly understand what this move means for the Yankees. With their pitching staff starting to come together now after a month of being in shambles, Clemens could play an enormous role in deciding the American League East. Or he could be a five-inning pitcher who does little to help an already taxed Yankee bullpen.
The New York Timesís Murray Chass writes:
But of the three teams, the Yankees were the only one that was prepared to sign Clemens now. They would have preferred signing him yesterday ó that is, not yesterday as in Sunday, but yesterday as in a month ago. Thatís how desperate they have been to bolster their decimated pitching staff.
The Red Sox are not desperate for pitching; they have a pretty good starting rotation. They would have been happy to send JuliŠn TavŠrez back to the bullpen and give Clemens his spot in the rotation, but they are in first place and lead the Yankees by five and a half games. That position just might make them feel a little too good about themselves. Did someone say cocky?
Desperate and cocky. Welcome to the AL East.
Itís May 7, and Boston enjoys a 5½-game lead over the Yankees, 6½ over Tampa and Baltimore, and 7½ over the banged-up Blue Jays. The Red Sox have the largest lead in Major League Baseball, the most wins this side of Milwaukee, and the best 1-2 pitching punch (Schilling and Beckett in the same rotation? Come on.) in the game, a combined 10-1.
But they donít have Roger Clemens, and that might be just fine.
Just let this be the end. No more DVDs. No more wondering when 21 will make it to the rafters. Roger Clemens, for all intents and purposes, no longer has a legacy here in Boston. He spit on it long ago, of course, but now it is officially just gone, a quiet yawn of a memory that he decided to toss away. For more cash.
And if we thought it had a chance to be revived one last time, then we were indeed morons about the whole thing.