Clemens' Return A Boon for Baseball
By Diane M. Grassi
Say what you will about his $18 million salary, but Roger Clemens' return to the pitching mound will be well worth it for not only Houston fans, but for the overall health of Major League Baseball.
A year ago, Clemens surprisingly signed with his hometown team for $5 million. He had announced his retirement with the New York Yankees following the 2003 World Series, but as he left his name on the active player list until the eleventh hour, he never had to reactivate himself. Clemens, egged on by family, friends and best buddy, Andy Pettitte, also signed last year by Houston after being let go by the NY Yankees, publicly made no excuses for wanting to return then, at a bargain basement price for the Astros, and will not equivocate now.
Roger Clemens has nothing left to prove, especially after not only being the oldest pitcher in baseball in 2004 but also winning his record-setting 7th Cy Young Award. He led the all- but-dead Astros to within 1 game of reaching the World Series; and this without benefit of pitching ace, Andy Pettitte, who opted to have season-ending elbow surgery in August. Speculation was leaning to Clemens' retiring after 2004. Most of it came from Clemens himself. In order to continue being a top-shelf pitcher and the physical regimen he requires, Clemens questioned whether all of the time away from his family in 2005 would be worth it, even with the exception in his contract allowing him to stay at home if he is not set to pitch when the team goes on the road.
But after listening to Clemens' press conference on January 20th, it became evident that Clemens is also looking ahead. He admitted that being able to play on a winning team again with Andy Pettitte as well as some ego were parts that played into his decision. But he also commented on the future of baseball for the Astros as well as his continued desire to leave the Astros in a better place than when he originally signed on in 2004.
Given the tenuousness of the Astros' roster for 2005, Clemens also feels committed to and an obligation in helping grow the Astros organization. He showed interest in remaining with the Astros after his retirement as well, as he noted that Nolan Ryan works with youngsters in the minor leagues, which he feels is very important. And he also expressed his passion to keep interest in baseball especially in Houston on an incline, in the football-driven state of Texas. Clemens himself was overwhelmed with the support the fans of Houston gave the Astros last season.
Roger Clemens' return illustrates more about his persona than his pitching craft. He has been and will continue to represent the good things about baseball. His Hall of Fame career will be well documented, and for all of the discord he has aroused from opposing fans and players alike, he does not get nearly the credit he deserves for all of his philanthropic efforts in the various communities he has lived for the teams for which he has pitched, although he did get more press coverage last year surrounding his appearance at the All Star Game, as it was in Houston.
All said, when a pitcher such as Clemens has pitched himself into the history books, and has more on his mind than just being the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, his motivation to return this time has one foot out the door, as he is looking ahead with investing in the Astros in other ways when he retires. He has been passionate in expressing his preoccupation with keeping youth engaged in the game of baseball, and seems more than willing to carry that torch in 2005 and beyond in that endeavor through his sense of obligation.
With all of the negative stories which engulfed the world of Major League Baseball this past 2004 season, we look forward to starting anew in 2005 and to witness the apparent final-go-round of a marvel at work. Clemens is also one of the few standard bearers left who can take us back to old school baseball, and to a time when we could just enjoy the game. To that end, both Major League Baseball and the Houston Astros have made a good investment this year with Roger Clemens and will get nothing less than his best efforts on as well as off of the field as an expression of his love of the game.
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