He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack….

OK, I’ll be the first to say it — this one doesn’t pass the smell test.

Oh, sure, I believe Roger Clemens truly does want to try his hand at pitching professionally, and on a much lower scale than the big leagues, as he gives his 50-year-old arm a test against real-life hitters.

But forgive me if I don’t think this is a one-game only experiment, a good-will gesture, a way for Clemens to sign some autographs, and, as he put it on Tuesday, “just have some fun.”

I have no idea what is actually going on inside Clemens’ head as he prepares to take the mound for his Independent League Sugar Land Skeeters debut on Saturday. Heck, maybe this really is just a case of a former superstar pitcher wanting to see if he can still bring it.

If that’s the case, heck, why not? It’ll be a fun night at Constellation Field. If it’s just about Houston resident wanting to inject some baseball life into a nearby suburb only 20 minutes from home, then so be it. It isn’t hurting anyone. Go for it.

But you’ll forgive me for being suspicious. I don’t claim to know Roger Clemens well. I am not in his inner circle. Most of my conversations with him were filtered through his agents (which was always a hoot). But I did cover him as a reporter during the Astros’ glory years in the middle of last decade, and I learned a few things. First and foremost, when it comes to competing, Clemens doesn’t do anything just for rips and giggles.

He competes because he lives for it. It defines him. It’s all he knows. And it’s hard for him to give it up, which is why he unretired in 2004 to pitch for the Astros, why he stayed on with them for three years, why he went back to the Yankees in 2007 and why he now plays in a 50-and-over softball league (and why he boasted at his presser that he hit two home runs in his most recent game).

Clemens was dutifully self-deprecating with his responses as to whether his Skeeters debut was a precursor to signing on with the Astros, possibly in September, when rosters expand.

No, no, no, Clemens said. Loosely translated, it likely means maybe, possibly, and probably.

“I’ve come out of retirement three times. But I’m 50 years old. It’s not realistic.”

True.

“There’s a big difference between pitching and training at a high level. I’m not at that level, by any means.”

Makes sense.

“I’m nowhere near where I was five years ago. I’m 50 years old. I have to be conscious of that.”

Totally.

“Mentally, I’m going to go out and feel 35 again. When I throw my first couple of pitches, I’m going to feel 50 and say, “what the heck am I doing?”

Whoa.

Just a minute, Sonny.

It’s one thing for Clemens to take a safe and harmless aw-shucks approach. It’s quite another for him to predict that he’ll soon be second-guessing himself.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. That’s not Clemens. It wasn’t Clemens at 30 or 35 or 41. It’s certainly not him at 50. It just doesn’t compute.

I could be wrong on all of this. He could be using this angle to protect himself in case he does indeed blow up Saturday. He could very well hit 83 mph on the gun and get torched by opposing hitters. If that happens, he probably will sign some autographs, shake a few hands and ride off into the Sugar Land sunset by way of Highway 6 and U.S. Route 59.

But what if this experiment isn’t a disaster? What’s next?

I agree it’s a stretch to think any 50-year-old, even one seemingly as ageless as Clemens, could realistically have success against Major League hitters 25 years younger than him. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned after years of covering Clemens, it’s that the only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing for sure.

Clemens hasn’t lost the burn to compete. The Astros thought enough of Monday’s warmup session to send their scouting director to watch. And there are a few empty seats at Minute Maid Park these days, if you haven’t noticed.

Perfect storm or far-fetched fantasy?

Stay tuned.

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17 Comments

If he gets in a game for the Astros that will delay is hall of fame vote for 5 years. Does he care about the HOF?

That may be the main reason he’d want to come back. It would spare him the shame of not getting in on the first ballot. I don’t think his ego could handle that. There are also reports that he paid Rusty Hardin north of $10 million dollars for his defense and perhaps he wants to earn some money to pay that off. Clemens knows too that a lot of folks suspect he took PEDs, so this may be his way of trying to prove people wrong.

It’s one thing for an Independent League team to sign a 50-year-old pitcher just to bring in fans, it’s entirely different for a real Major League like the Astros.

Hell, if they did something that desperate, they’d get laughed out of the National League.

well they are leaving the national league……so what is it going to hurt? I would pay to go see him pitch in MMP again, I would go pay to see him Saturday in Sugarland if i didn’t have to work.

As always Allie, you are brilliant in your assessment! keep up the great work!

Good blog, I agree 100%. We all know that famous line, “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hall of Fame.” Clearly, he does or this idea would have never come up. I believe that is the hidden agenda here. Now that the dust with the purgery trial has settled, I think, if this goes well, he wants to prove that everything he did at 35, 40 and 45 was not linked to steroids. He is trying to parlay this into a contract with the Astros so he can reset his Hall of Fame eligibility window to give the voters more time to think about everything he has accomplished.

I agree, Brian. I too thought this was linked to a HOF bid when I first heard the news. If he can bring it at 50, why would he have needed steroids at 40?

I agree, Brian. I too thought this was linked to a HOF bid when I first heard the news. If he can bring it at 50, why would he have needed steroids at 40? At least that’s the logical conclusion he’s hoping the HOF voters will draw.

I see what you did there…

;)

Just for old-times sake: Now that Meacham is gone, they need to tap Cheo for that 1st base coaching gig. Talk to your buddy Luhnow for me.

i am sure most baseball fans realize that everyone is not a fan of clemens, me included. he is arrogant at the least and i wouldn’t look out my window to see him. he keeps popping up which makes him a glory hound.

It worked out so well earlier this year for Jamie Moyer to pitch at age 50…but honestly, if the Astros are serious about playing the youngsters, then they shouldn’t even think about Clemens pitching at Minute Maid Park in September.

Clemens it’s over….Astros if u bring this Clemens in to pitch it’s obviousl the organization is a dog and pony show….

you nailed it on the head, Directrix. this is a calculated maneuver, probably, i agree, aimed at resetting his first ballot eligibility. especially since biggio and bagwell, guys never touched by such scandal but on his team, will already be competing for stros into cooperstown this year.
peace from the Great NorthWet.

Pingback: Posts about The Astros From Other Great Blogs issue #1 | Houston Astros Dugout Online | Houston Astros Blog

This all about finding a way to reset his HOF calendar.

Correction: It was Brian McCann who hit the game winning home run off of Clemens. I remember it vividly as it was the moment I fell in love with the now best catcher in baseball

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