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Why Roger Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros

Aug 31, 2012, 9:13 AM EDT

Roger Clemens Getty Images

I was totally not surprised when it was revealed yesterday that the Astros are going to scout Roger Clemens’ September 7 start for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Heck, I was not surprised when the September 7 date was announced itself, because that set things up for a normal four days rest allowing Clemens to pitch against the Cubs in that mid-September series. Which I identified as the best option a week ago.

But if it’s not a big surprise that Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros, let us take a minute to ask why he’s going to pitch.  In this, I think my opinion differs slightly from most people’s.

The most common answer I’ve heard for this is that pitching now sets his Hall of Fame waiting period back five more years, buying him time.  I agree that this is one consideration for Clemens, but I doubt it’s the main one. Mostly because I don’t think five years will make a big difference for him one way or the other. If he didn’t pitch and was eligible for the vote now, he’d still be eligible five years from now when, according to this theory, the sentiment towards PED users may change. If that sentiment hasn’t changed five years from now, I question if it ever will, rendering those five more years on the back end superfluous.

No, I think the real reason Clemens wants to pitch again is so that the final paragraph of his obituary — and the final image from any documentaries made of the man — ends with triumph as opposed to infamy.

Think about it: if Clemens were to die without having pitched again, the final chapter of his story will be ending the 2007 season injured, not coming back after being named in the Mitchell Report and then fighting prosecution — and winning an acquittal most people scoffed at anyway — for the last several years of his public life.  The last image in that SportsCentury bio or whatever would be him in a suit, with a bad haircut, walking down a Washington D.C. sidewalk with his sleazy lawyer.

But even if he pitches one inning against the Cubs, and even if he doesn’t do terribly well, the last image will be of him walking off the mound in a major league uniform, tipping his cap to adoring fans in his hometown. If he strikes out some September callup all the better.  The image will be one of redemption, even if there is nothing especially redeeming about his story.  The implication will be that, questions about him aside, he was able to compete in the majors at age 50, so how dare anyone question what he was able to do when he was 37.

Images matter. Final chapters matter. By pitching in the majors one more time, even if it’s just to one or two batters, Clemens — and posterity — will get to see him closing out his public life on his terms, not someone else’s. And I can’t help but think that’s incredibly important to a guy who spent so much time in the spotlight.

  1. delawarephilliesfan - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    I agree that this may be Clemens thinking – but “final chapter”? Heck no!

    This is a side show unless he make a real come back next year. Sorry, but I can not see the documentary of his life saying “At age 50, he proved he still had it by throwing 4 innings of 4 hit baseball against the Chicago Cubs”. And needless to say, if he is lit up, the whole affair seems pointless.

    If all he does is 2 or 3 September starts, this is just a side show, not a final chapter

    • pjmarn6 - Sep 2, 2012 at 3:46 AM

      Can I wring out my hankie now? What sop! He used drugs, cheated and made millions. Now he wants to assuage his ego? What bull shit! Get him and Armstrong and the other cheaters and put them on a bus back to Iowa.
      You mean to say that you want Clemens to have a SWAN SONG AS A GOOD EXAMPLE TO EVERYONE THAT CHEATING IS CONDONED?

      HE WON’T HAVE GOTTEN HALF THIS FAR IF HE DIDN’T JUICE UP! And you cry about a swan song. Big business, in this case wants to fill empty seats in the stadium and beer and hotdogs. How much more are they going to charge tv and radio to broadcast that game?
      BOOBIE it is all about MONEY! And nothing else.

    • pjmarn6 - Sep 2, 2012 at 3:50 AM

      Hey I want to know is he going to be drug tested after the game?

      Go back in history and look at all the pitchers……………their prime ends at 35.

  2. mazblast - Aug 31, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Any owner who signs Clemens is an SOB whose team deserves no fandom from any true baseball fan. Any GM who lets an owner override his common sense like that should resign in protest, “Besides marring the reputation of this organization by signing a known, proven steroid user, you also seem to have changed its name to Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, and I for one refuse to clean up after the elephants.”

  3. randygnyc - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Mazblast- “known proven steroid user”. Holy shit. I don’t know your true identity, but I do know the Feds would love to speak with you. As a favor, before your meeting, please share with us this conclusive evidence you have that proves Clemens used steroids. (I bet Espinoza or sports illustrated would make you a rich man if you shared it with them first).

    • cosanostra71 - Aug 31, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      I bet you believe that OJ Simpson is innocent too.

  4. randygnyc - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    Edit- don’t know how ESPN was autocorrected into Espinoza, lol.

  5. johnchesterny - Aug 31, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Selig should invoke Best Interests of Baseball clause here.

  6. randygnyc - Aug 31, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    I don’t think selig wants to be sued from both Clemens and the players union for denying a player the ability to earn a wage.

    • gloccamorra - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      That may be another reason: he blew his retirement stash, er, funds, defending himself in court. That would mean he’d want a contract for next year too.

    • johnchesterny - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:19 PM

      Understood. But if Selig truly stands by the Mitchell Report this would be a fight worth fighting.

    • delawarephilliesfan - Aug 31, 2012 at 7:45 PM

      There actually is precedent here – in 1990 Minnie Minoso at age 63 wanted to play a game for the White Sox to get his 6th decade in. The commish shot it down, saying that there had to be a legitimate baseball reason for signing him.

      Perhaps there is a semi-legit baseballl reason for signing Clemens, but my point is a “ability to earn a living argument” would fall flat, as the commisioner has precedent to point to that they don’t allow side shows, and that in his judgement, this is a side show

  7. TIF - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Clemens has never cared what the public thought about him when he played. This is the guy who complained about having to carry his own luggage, stated that Fenway Park lacked appropriate amenities, and got special treatment from every team he played for. Clemens’s motivation in pitching for the Astros is clear: he is trying to do everything he can to give himself the best chance to get in the HOF. Being on a different ballot than Bonds and having his last appearance as a player be to a standing ovation will both help his odds.

  8. theskinsman - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Roidger is a cheating,lying POS who was among the best. But he’s a 50 year old who still craves the attention.If he is called up by the AA Astros,I hope he gets shelled and slinks back to whatever slimy pit he just came from.

  9. tashkalucy - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    The entire article is based on a false premise.

    Unless Clemens comes back for at least half a season, this will be forgotten.

    Like when Minnie Minoso and Satchel Paige came back for a game. It was forgotten except for a few like me.

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