Monday, May 7, 2007

Rocket in Pinstripes

So Roger Clemens decided to go with a World Series contender (New York's record is 14 and 16 as of 5/8/2007 in the afternoon) and sign with the New York yankees Sunday. Apparently, according to the Rocket, George Steinbrenner whispered something magical in his ear that made him decide to sign with the yankees. My guess as to the aural incantation sounded something like, "We'll pay you 28 million pro-rated Roger." His comeback to the Bronx announcement was done in very anti-climatic fashion during the 7th inning stretch at the stadium Sunday where he made a very uninspired "speech" from Steinbrenner's luxury box (if you haven't seen it, check it out as it was like someone just handed him the mic and told him that he was playing for the yankees 10 seconds before he had it in his hand. My friend Matt, who is a yanks fan, aptly said 'Lou Gehrig he's not'). What was really hilarious was yankee radio color analyst Suzyn Waldman absolute freak-out on air after the announcement, which you have to listen to in order to believe it (she’s from Newton, MA too…shame, shame).

Would I have liked to see Clemens in a Sox uni again? Yes and no. As a Red Sox fan that wants to win another championship I would say yes. An addition to the already solid pitching staff, Clemens would have been a boost that would have translated as some pricey insurance. Do I think we needed him? Absolutely not. Our starting rotation and bullpen have been stellar so far this season and I’m happy with the horses we’re going to war with. Having Clemens would have given us a bit more of a cushion in case a starter gets injured and essentially assure that we would get a fairly decent quality start most times he would take the ball as a fifth starter. Objectively I’d rather see him in a Sox hat mainly to keep him out the yankee’s hands.

All that said let’s look at the numbers (I’ll get to the ‘no’ part of my previous paragraph’s opening later). Roger has pitched in the effete hitting National League central for the past few years since his “retirement” in 2003 (remember that?). That being said we won’t look at his wins and losses because he never got any run support from the Astros. His ERA however was an impressive average of 2.38 between 04’ and 06’ in 55 games. There is a dramatic drop off in the number of innings pitched: in 2004 he pitched 214 innings, in 2005 he pitched 211 and in 2006 he pitched 113. While the amount of games he started dropped off in 2006 the numbers are as follows for average amount of innings pitched per start: 2004 –6.48 IP, 2005 – 6.59 IP, 2006 – 5.94. This is a guy who on average may get you into the 6th inning but most likely will not get you past the 7th. Now if you total up the batting averages and slugging percentage averages of the NL central in 2006 the BA was .256 and SLG was .401. In the AL east where, Clemens will be pitching again, the average BA for the 2006 season for the four teams (I’ve excluded the yankees and Astros in both cases obviously) was .274 and SLG percentage average was .436. So there is a noticeable difference in just those two divisions. As everybody who has an inkling of baseball knowledge is aware the AL bats are much more potent then the NL ones. The last two years the Rocket pitched in the AL in 2002 and 2003 his ERA averaged 4.13. and he was 4 years younger in 2003 (he will turn 45 in August). Clemens will make a little over 20 starts this season and maybe, if he is lucky, he will win 10 of those games. But with the yankees bullpen in absolute shambles I can only imagine what kind of over taxed shape they will be in by August.
However I think he will help the Yankees and will add some spice to the Boston/New York rivalry. It will make it that much more sweet when we beat them in the post season.

Personally I didn’t want to see Clemens in a Sox uniform again because of a close encounter my friend Dave and I had with Roger in 1990. This story is absolutely true and I will swear on my beloved grandmother's grave to the following. Dave lived near the Fens and we were walking on Boylston St. on a late Sunday afternoon. Clemens had pitched that day and I believe he got shelled. Regardless we were stopped at the crosswalk and sure enough a black Porsche with the vanity license plate “ROCKET” pulls up to the light. Dave and I were all psyched because, well there was THE Roger Clemens. He had already won three Cy Young awards, had the 20 strikeout game and was a legend in Boston. I used to love watching him pitch just like most everyone in Boston and here he was just a few yards away in his sweet ride. Just then two little African-American kids about 9 or 10 years old pull up to the Porsche on their BMX bikes. They started leaning against the car with their hands and also started knocking on the tinted driver side window saying "Roger, Roger can we have your autograph?" a few times over. Still stuck at the red light, Clemens rolls down the electric window and proceeds to tell the kids “Don’t touch the fuckin’ car!” and he then peeled out as the light turned green immediately after uttering those words. It was a movie moment to say the least. The kids, Dave and myself stood there with our jaws on the pavement. I said to one of the kids “He’s a jerk don’t feel bad about it.” One of the kids said trying to be tough, “He’s an asshole.” Yet you could see the disappointment in their eyes. I figured that many celebrity athletes are douche bags but it was one thing to see it firsthand at the expense of those kids. From that day on I never liked Clemens and was secretly happy whenever he got rocked in an outing. It was tough to support the Sox and hate the ace of the staff. I felt I got a real glimpse into his character and that said, 17 years later, he’s a perfect fit for the yankees. See you in Boston the first weekend in June Roger (unless you aren't pitching because you don't have to travel with the rest of your team.)