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:
In case you're wondering, the question was: “What keeps you coming back?”
“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."
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.