Monday, May 07, 2007

T-Minus Four Weeks Until Launch

Roger Clemens always had a flair for the dramatic, and of course we know Big Stein loves the Big Moment. Announcing his comeback on the PA during the seventh inning stretch is more WWE than Yankee baseball, to borrow the comparison from some of my radio brethren. Its ridiculous enough we have to wait until completing a quarter of the season before he even decides if and where to play, why disrupt a game with these shenanigans. The introduction may be a ploy to mask all the other inherent issues with this signing.

I am on the record as stating I wanted no part of Clemens before the season started for a number of reasons. The soap opera he makes this into and the rules he wants to play by sicken me. Nobody else gets this treatment. I know he is an all-time great, but did Cal Ripken or Tony Gwynn ask for or get this special treatment? Does Greg Maddux? No, and the Astros and Yankees are just as culpable for allowing it.

On the field, this is high risk. At his age, a player is liable to lose it any time. They are expecting him to not pitch good, but pitch at an elite level, at least according to his paycheck. Sub-3 ERA’s in three seasons with Houston speak for itself, but the NL-AL switch is worth at least a half run to a full run on the ERA, just ask the Big Unit and Josh Beckett. Besides the performance risk, Rocket is only a 5-6 inning pitcher at this point, leaving the Yankees vulnerable to the bullpen every time he takes the mound. Hardly what I expect for my highest paid pitcher.

Speaking of the bullpen, this signing does nothing to help the bullpen or the bench. Arguably, with the emerging health of Wang and Mussina, the solid pitching of Pettitte, and some promise from a few rookies, the starting pitching is stabilizing. Bringing Clemens in does nothing to help the bullpen, and we need only ask his good pal Andy Pettitte how disastrous the bullpen has been, blowing three leads for Andy alone. If anything Clemens hurts the bullpen further by guaranteeing they pitch 3-4 innings each time he starts. Basically, I’m holding my breath. There are more chances for this signing to fail on the field than anyone ants to admit.

The criticism does not end there. Brian Cashman lied. Two months ago and all off-season he claimed the Yankees were fiscally responsible, cutting salaries back, and getting younger. No Zito, trade Sheffield, no Schmidt, no Dice-K, and so on. I agree with that strategy, but explain to me how paying the highest annual salary to the oldest player this side of Julio Franco fits this doctrine. Is Cashman acting in desperation to save his job, or is he just practicing double-talk in preparation for a political career? You simply cannot wax poetic about getting the payroll in line with other teams, and overhauling the roster, than make this signing. Not to mention, in typical recent Yankee style, pay millions of dollars more than any other team. Bottom line, his ass is on the line. Do not let that sly smile in the press conference fool you, Cashman knows it.

I hate to keep harping on it, but the Clemens special schedule just bothers me. What happened to Joe Torre not allowing the come and go as I please schedule. Last year it was not the Yankee way, this year, a few bad pitching performances, and all of a sudden we polled the players and its going to work out. Hypocrites. The Yankee way is the Yankee way, tradition, clean-cut, no special exceptions. This diminishes the Yankee way in big way. To boot, they are not even making the exception for a real Yankee. Its not Bernie, or Jeter, or Mattingly, it’s another free agent that passed through for a few years. Where was this undying love for the Yankees and Steinbrenner a decade ago when Clemens ran to Toronto, or when he came out of retirement to Houston without so much as giving the Yanks a call. How soon we forget.

Lost in all the hysteria, the Yanks have won 5 of 6 after the Boston disaster. Not counting the Kei Igawa Softball Classic on Friday night, opponents only posted 7 runs in that span. Might the starting pitching be making the turn. One no-hitter into the seventh, one perfect game into the eighth, and a shutout. Is Clemens solving any of the real problems?

I save the biggest shock for last. How did this slip past the media?


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