Friday, June 01, 2007

When to Launch the Rocket

Wed. May 30, 2007
Three minor league starts is all the refueling The Rocket needed before launching. After two average outings, Clemens was dominant at AAA Scranton this Monday, setting the stage for his return against….the White Sox. Huh? What happened to the dramatic Fenway Park debut?

Throughout his tenure with the Yanks, Joe Torre has always attempted to diffuse hysteria, as much as that is possible with the Yanks. It is usually the smart move, attempt to avoid distractions that could deter the team. 2007 is different. This edition of the Yanks is not flying high, not carrying any sort of winning streak, there is no flow to avoid disrupting. While the Bombers have no shortage of distractions, thanks to Jason Giambi, the owner, A-Rod’s contract, and their lackluster performance, the Yanks do need a spark.

Starting Clemens at Fenway is a guaranteed media and fan circus. Maybe that spotlight will cause the rest of the team to focus and play like they are capable. One thing is for sure, they can not play worse.

Torre has already made his mind up, Clemens will start against Chicago. Some New York media feel Clemens should pitch in Boston because they are paying him an outrageous salary to beat Boston, not Chicago. We need to get over the salary, and be realistic about the situation. Just because Cashman gave Clemens an egregious contract does not mean he is suddenly Sandy Koufax, or the Roger Clemens of 1986. Rocket is a five or six inning pitcher, who will compete like a bulldog, something the Yanks are really lacking right now, and he will keep the team in the game. The Yanks need him to pitch in Boston, not because its more important to beat the Red Sox than any other team, they need the wake-up call that only a Clemens start at Fenway can provide. It’s a last ditch effort to get the train moving in the right direction.

Realistically I expect an ERA approaching 4, and about six innings, five to seven strikeouts, and a few walks, per outing. Not exactly a threat to the Cy Young candidate, but he is 44-years old. Clemens is not the savior everyone expects him to be. Starting pitchers only throw once every five days. For the Yanks to turn this around, they need to win more than once or twice a week, meaning Clemens biggest impact may be invoking a team-wide attitude adjustment through his presence in the clubhouse and by example.

One thought to ponder, if the Yanks losing continue to snow ball, and they hit mid-June with a double-digit wild card deficit, only two starts into the Clemens season, where will this contract rank on the list of biggest busts of all-time. Even if Clemens pitches well, signing a pitcher for a million dollars a start when your team is already playing for draft position, and does not need a box office draw, is a major mistake. Come September will we be debating if it’s the worst contract ever, or the signing the awoke the sleeping giants? The next few weeks will be telling.


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