Rocket’s ride too smooth in pinstripes

first_imgQuick! What do O.J. Mayo, Christopher Columbus and Roger Clemens all have in common? Think fast!All three arrived to their destination relatively unannounced. Cristobal hit the New World and declared it India.Totally un-recruited hoopster Mayo simply sent a fax to Southern California coach Tim Floyd sayin’, “I’m comin’!”Clemens, however, took a decidedly more lame approach.Making an announcement following “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Yankee Stadium, Clemens made a return to pinstripes so unbelievably cheesy, that even Hollywood cheeseball director Michael Bay would laugh in the face of such a script proposal. In fact, if a film featuring such a scene were to ever be released, it would surely be straight to VHS (DVD if it were lucky).However, this was just the latest example of Clemens getting by on the sweetest deal in all of sports.Really, does anybody in the world of sports have it as easy as Roger Clemens?He can miss out on Spring Training and the first month or more of the season before deciding what situation would be best for him, both financially and in the interests of winning one more World Series.At 44 years old, The Rocket is still considered to be the top athlete at his position, despite being at an age where (in athletics) only professional bowlers seem to truly be at the top of their game.Clemens is incredibly popular all around the world for a man who has made it his personal goal to throw projectiles at 95-plus miles per hour through the head of nearly anyone who steps in the batter’s box.He might be the only player in the history of the game to simply just play the game when he wants to, treating a major league baseball season like a buffet line in Las Vegas. However, while no one can blame the Yankees — who need starting pitching like Paris Hilton needs a designated driver — for picking up Clemens, it seems like this could finally be the year Clemens runs out of fuel and instead of being interstellar, simply sits on the metaphorical tarmac of Major League Baseball.While on the surface, Clemens doesn’t appear to be fading on the hill yet, there are several subtle signs of decline. For one, The Rocket’s contract last year was all the more impressive, considering his per-inning pay was out the roof. For $22 million and 22 cents, Clemens pitched almost the fewest innings in his career at 113.3. This leads to the fact that while his total durability cannot be questioned, Clemens’ innings per start has plummeted in recent years, bottoming out at an average of only six innings per start last season.If Clemens consistently can’t get into the later innings for the Yankees, he is going to be part of the problem when it comes to the issue of their overworked bullpen.There is also the fact that Clemens has spent the last three years pitching in the National League, a far more watered-down version of the American League — call it the AL Lite. Just the AL East alone will pose serious lineups that the likes of the Brewers, Pirates and Cardinals couldn’t hope to equal. Basically, while Clemens has been away, the American League has gotten really good. The transition back to unfamiliar hitters and stronger lineups are unlikely to be particularly smooth for Clemens.Even in looking at how Clemens chose to play the offseason, it is obvious that The Rocket is fizzling. Last year, Clemens played his perspective suitors like Kenny G plays the saxophone, making the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros get into a monthlong bidding war, driving the price up to record levels, before finally going to the ‘Stros and being the best player on an otherwise awful club for about half of a season.This year though, Clemens not only jumped the gun and got back into it way too early — only a month in and on top of that joined the team that was at the lowest point — needing the most help to get back into the race.The Yankees are a more flawed team than Boston. This decision alone could be the signal that The Rocket is coming crashing back down to earth.But then again, should you go back into The Badger Herald archives about 10 months, you’d have seen I wrote that last year.Dave McGrath is a senior majoring in English and journalism. This is his final column for The Badger Herald, the last of 138 editorial pieces. Hence, this is your last chance to send hate mail to [email protected]… unless he makes a Clemens-like return next semester.last_img read more

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