May 07, 2007

Is That A Rocket In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

We're just happy to see you, Roger.

One of the things I had sort of forgotten over the last few years is that Roger Clemens, bless his heart, when he talks at length about anything other than the mechanics of pitching, makes no fucking sense whatsoever. I present this verbatim quote from his eighth inning interview with Al Leiter and Michael Kay in the YES booth today:

“I was very upset in 2003, not upset that, that – you know, I had so many flashbacks when that first happened, and then I took a deep breath and knew that I had a chance to be in the bullpen throughout the remainder of that, that series. And then yeah, when it ended I thought that was it, I thought I had thrown my last pitch and I felt good about it, you know that was my mother’s wishes, and so we’ve come to grips with a lot of that. I’ve been playing at home, I didn’t know the circumstances that would happen with Andy going back to Houston, and uh, I just feel very blessed, my body’s been holding up, what can I say? I’m taking care of myself, and I’ve done the work, I’ve always enjoyed working, and again, working with young guys, so hopefully that’ll be the case here. I’m gonna get my body ready for a situation like this on this field, here, and uh, that’s just going to take a little more time."
In case you're wondering, the question was: “What keeps you coming back?”

It's okay, Andy Pettitte speaks fluent Roger and can translate in the clubhouse. And Clemens is smarter than he sounds: not only did he sign for a prorated $28 mil (making him, I believe, the highest payed player in the game), and swing an unprecedented-for-the-Yankees deal in which he will not always travel with the team -- he also managed to drop the name of his sponsor, Continental Airlines, at least three times during various interviews.

That may sound cynical, but make no mistake, I was thrilled to see Clemens' surprise announcement during the seventh-inning stretch today. When you're one of the three or four best pitchers in history, you can play by your own rules. Of course Clemens isn't going to pitch at that level, at age 45, in the AL East, but I don't doubt he's still a damn sight better than Kei Igawa, Darryl Rasner, and Jeff Karstens combined, and the Yanks need him. Major props to Cashman and the Yankee brass for keeping this so quiet, surprising almost everyone, and creating a truly memorable moment at the Stadium. Buster Olney explains how it all fell into place.

The crowd went nuts, and it was a nice change, after the last few weeks, to see the Yankees grinning and laughing in the dugout. Jorge Posada, next to Pettitte on the bench, practically melted with relief... not that getting acquainted with Kei Igawa's pitching style hasn't been a real thrill for him, I'm sure.

This move could backfire, I suppose. One of these years, he isn't going to be able to do this anymore; 45 is up there for pro athletes, no matter what kind of shape you're in. Or maybe, though I hate to bring it up today, it'll come out that he took steroids. There's no hard evidence, but the rumors have swirled for a while, and anyone with that kind of late-career surge has to make you wonder. Clemens also has that "my actual skull has expanded over the years" sort of look to him, plus roid rage (and little else) could explain the Mike Piazza-thrown bat debacle. But you know what? I'm going to ignore that for the moment, and hope there's no fire underneath all the smoke. Or that he never gets caught. Whichever.

-You know how much they need Roger Clemens right now? The win today (oh yeah, there was a game!) was the Yankees' first shutout of the season. Good grief.

-My question is, what did Steinbrenner say to Clemens that made him come back? Best guess: that he's in failing health and this might be his last shot at a Championship? Okay, maybe it was just "I will fill your Olympic-sized swimming pool with cash." But I prefer the more dramatic scenario.

-Neither Cashman not Clemens’ agent wanted to discuss the money at the press conference today, I suppose to keep that from becoming the focus -- and Clemens claimed he didn’t even know the details of the deal. Uh huh.

-Random factoid: according to Jose Conseco's book -- in which he suggests the pitcher showed signs of steroid use, but admits he has no firsthand knowledge of it -- Roger Clemens is "one of the very few baseball players I know who never cheated on his wife. I was amazed by him, to be honest... He was one of the rarities, the anomalies, in baseball. I can hardly think of anyone else who never cheated on his wife."

-Clemens said over and over today that he's looking forward to working with the team's young pitchers. In other words, Phil Hughes just lucked the fuck out and found his Yoda.

13 comments:

Al said...

OMG!!

E, you read Jose's novel !!

What dreadful bet did you lose? Or was it one of those wreckless sorority hazing, we always read about?

Frankly I’m shocked, baseball players who cheat on their wifes!! But no, that can't be, after all, Manny is the crazy one! What would Mantle and Martin say (note: I actually thought Billy gave senior citizens a good name when he juggled his wife, his paramour, his fiancĂ©e (yes, fiancee), and baserunners, all in Yankee Stadium, at the same time; No really).

I still have some contacts at FBI lab. My Spidey senses tell me Julio Franco is older than his “listed” 48 years (he’s atleast older than the 53-yrd Willie); I recommend carbon dating at Quantico.

And continuing his MVP campaign, ‘da Amazin’ Reyes gunned down a runner from the seat of his pants. Holy Cow!!

I am so disappointed. Doesn’t any wise-ass work weekends?? The Post and News Blew the Hilton coverage. I don’t want to bore you with the hundred and one ways to employ blow or Can,but the splash lines were so screamingly obvious: “Jail Bait” or “Alcatrash”

Al said...

* When Josh Phelps went waaaay outta his way to stomp on Seattle's catcher, I actually thought, "either its 'roid rage or meth and hoookers."

* Clemens post game presser wasn't so bad. YES ran a ticker translating Rocket in real time.

* Who in there right minds would cheat on Debbie Clemens ? She blogs and her favorite music is 70s porno soundtracks.

* As for the Clemens ‘roid rumors, what 40 year-old mother of three doesn’t have a six pack abs? I’m mean, as if! It only takes 7-minutes a day, ya know.

Al said...

It’s amazing how ”product placement” blends into the environment. Its so subliminal, you can barely feel the pitch.

Anonymous said...

A truly memorable moment at the Stadium?!?!? You're kidding, right? The "classy" Yankees stooped to WWE levels with that embarrassment on Sunday! The funniest thing was hearing clips of Susan Waldman screaching like a wounded hawk when he appeared in the owner's box! Waldman, Sterling, Michael Kay were downing the Yankee kool aid that day, welcoming Clemens home. Wait, I thought Houston was his home? And when is he going to help Phillip Hughes? When he's on a plane to Texas after his 6 innings of work the night he pitches? What a joke. I can't wait until this clown fails this year!

Emma said...

Anonymous, I'm a Bill Veeck fan and believe classiness is, frankly, overrated when you're running a baseball team...

More to the point though, I don't care whether Clemens' is "home" or not -- I just want him to make most of his starts, pitch six innings, and be significantly better than Kei Igawa. If he does all that, which seems likely enough, then I'll have nothin' but love for the Rocket.

Emma said...

Al, thanks for the Debbie Clemens links! I had no idea. I admire her entrepreneurial spirit... and abs. Holy crap.

Al said...

Emma,

You should be so proud. When Curt Schilling (aka Anonymous) isn't mixing red paint, misspelling Tory Hunter's name, and filing Barry Bonds' 1040, he's responding to your posts.

And whats wrong with the WWE ??

I already bought my tickets for Mets-Demoliton nite. And Emma, remember to bring the lighter fluid !!

May GOD bless Bill Veeck.

Anonymous said...

Funny stuff from ESPN:

Looking for perspective in the sports world
By Tim Keown


Whatever you do today, you need to listen to the audio of the live reporting of Roger Clemens' announcement on the Yankees' radio network.

http://www.wcbs880.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=695991


We all know signing Clemens is the biggest of big deals, and oh-so-surprising, but if you listen to Suzyn Waldman's on-air hysterics, you would think the Yankees cured cancer, ended poverty and won every war in the past 2,500 years.

Honestly, it was something else.

Printed words can't come close to capturing the ecstasy of the moment -- described on Wikipedia as a "sportgasm" -- but here's a sample:

"Of all the dramatic things I have ever seen, Roger Clemens standing right in George Steinbrenner's box announcing he is coming back!"

(There aren't enough exclamation marks alive to convey the ferocity of her excitement.)

"You should see what's going on in the Yankees' dugout!"

(Apparently, guys like Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were smiling.)

"Attention, fans! He is here and we don't have to discuss who takes that place in the rotation!"

(OK, we won't.)

Finally, John Sterling said something about Clemens' arrival being maybe a little bit down the road.

When John Sterling is the voice of reason and calm, you know you're in trouble.

Anonymous said...

For all of you Yankee fans, another take on the Clemens signing from ESPN's Bill Simmons:

As for Clemens signing with the Yankees, I was surprised by my lack of emotion as I watched him pull a Jimmy Chitwood and address his forgiving lapdogs at Yankee Stadium (who seemed perfectly willing to forget that Clemens screwed them over a few years ago by fleeing to Houston). I didn't really care. I swear, I didn't care.

In fact, here are 10 reasons I'm happy the Rocket signed with the Yankees.

1. There's finally a villain on the 2007 Yankees. Just like the good old days. I was tired of talking myself into despising A-Rod and Posada.

2. Since he didn't sign with Boston, I wasn't put in the position of (A) having to boycott his starts and (B) feeling constantly sick because so many Red Sox fans would have been perfectly willing to forgive him if he came back. This would have been awful. I would not have handled it well. Now I get to look forward to the possibility of Clemens pitching in Fenway in three weeks while the entire crowd chants, "H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H! H-G-H!" Much better.

3. He burned his bridges with yet another city (Houston). Love when that happens.

4. Watching the inevitable "Brokeback Mountain" parody trailer on YouTube with Clemens and Andy Pettitte. It hasn't happened yet, but you know it's coming.

5. If he'd signed with Boston, between Dice-K Mania, Beckett's quest for 30 wins and the return of the greatest Red Sox pitcher ever, Curt Schilling might have snapped from a lack of attention -- we could have seen him break a baseball bat over a Japanese photographer's head just to grab the spotlight again. Glad we avoided this.

6. Honestly? I don't think Clemens will be that good for the Yanks. He turns 45 in August and has been pitching in an inferior hitting league for the past few years. Physically, it just doesn't add up. He's defying the career paths of every other pitcher in the the history of baseball … I mean, even a freak of nature like Nolan Ryan started to break down in his mid-40s. How is Clemens still chugging along? How? I just feel as though the odds of Clemens either breaking down or becoming involved in a massive scandal seem to be much greater than the odds of him continuing to be an elite pitcher. And if he stinks … it's going to be glorious. Just glorious.

7. The Yankees' clubhouse is already fragile enough … now they're adding a guy who abides by his own sets of rules, flies back home after every start, drags his kids around with him like Michael Jackson, and comes and goes when he pleases? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? If he struggles out of the gate, the Yankees' fans will turn on him faster than the WWE fans turning on John Cena during a pay-per-view.

8. We're coming closer and closer to my dream of Clemens' Hall of Fame plaque featuring a cap with a dollar sign on it. I feel as if that's a genuine possibility at this point.

9. The Red Sox spitefully giving No. 21 to someone else this season, preferably the worst pitcher on the team. In fact, I vote that they bring Rich Garces back, feed him burritos until he passes the 400-pound mark, then squash him into a No. 21 jersey and hire him as the bullpen coach.

10. Looking forward to an entire season of e-mails like these …

RC in Guatemala City: "So let me get this straight … we're supposed to be scared of the Yankees hiring a 45-year-old fat dude with groin problems? Really?"

Jason T. in Maine: "I'm happy Roger is going to the Yankees. Trying to bring him back to Boston made me feel like Forrest Gump at the end of the movie. You know, when Jenny, the used-up coke fiend, came back to Forrest to die of AIDS after screwing half the continent. After the last two series, the amount of hate for the Yankees, at least in my heart, was in serious decline. Now I feel reinvigorated, full of hate for all things pinstriped."

Gary in Somerville, Mass.: "I thought you were nuts last year when you were openly hoping that Roger didn't come back to Boston. But after he dangled himself in front of the Yanks, Sox and Astros AGAIN this year I snapped out of it and realized that some things just aren't worth another championship. That grotesque display today IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME told me I made the right choice. Am I the only one that finds this Clemens/Pettitte thing more than a little odd? I can imagine that when Roger told his wife that he was going back to the Yankees she had the same look on her face that Michelle Williams did when Heath Ledger told her he was going 'fishing' with Jake Gyllenhaal."

John F. in Kansas: "This is historic … who ever heard of a rat jumping ON a sinking ship?"

Emma said...

Here's the thing... I don't really get why Sox fans are so worked up about the Clemens signing. I mean, the Sox don't need him right now. It wouldn't make sense for them to throw that kind of money at Clemens -- in fact they lowballed him with an $18 million offer, when he made $22 mil last year.

It makes sense for the Yanks because they're desperate for healthy, competent starters; the Sox aren't. I mean, I guess anything that helps the Yankees hurts the Red Sox, but why all the anger towards Clemens? He left in 97 because the Red Sox didn't want him, and they didn't pursue him aggressively this year, nor should they have. I honestly don't get it. I never looked at Clemens going to Houston after 2003 as a betrayal of Yankee fans -- he changed his mind, wanted to keep pitching, play with his friend, and be near his family. Understandable.

Props to Simmons reader John F. for that rat line, though, which did crack me up.

Al said...

(que music)

…Don’t cry for me, Red Sox Nation…”

What do Julian Taverez, H&R Schilling, David Wells, Phil Garner, Bill Simmons, Steve Philips, ESPN and Sawk Nation have in common? …they’re melting, they’re melting….!!

Fellas, I think Gaylord Perry said it best, “never let’em see you sweat.” Or was it, “never let’em see the vaseline and sandpaper”? Ahh, same thing.

* Wow! I new this was big, but I didn’t think it would freak Guatemala City.

* Tim Keown, what happened to you? You used to be funny.

E, here’s some pics you’ll dig:

* ...pray for rain? Hell, pray for rapture!!

* I guess we can be obnoxious too (but its fun!)

* The Empire Strikes Back

Anonymous said...

Hey al, that was a great picture of Pedro. Was that from Game 7 in 2004? I think the final score was 10-3 Red Sox.

Al said...

Anon,

No that's from Game 7, 2003. Grady's last stand.

I picked that one, cuz of the fan holding up roger's jersey.

Actually, this one, from Game 2, 2004, is my fav. I dig how there's 5 women on the railing going nutz. Anything that drowns a sterotype make me beam.