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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

No, He Isn't

Is he?

Worth it, that is?

Who? Worth what?

Roger Clemens. Is he worth $22 million for this season?

It's a pretty funny request from someone who last year inked a one-year deal with the Astros for the love of the game because he wanted to pitch alongside his good friend Andy Pettite and near his wife and kids. At a below-market rate. After his farewell tour with the New York Yankees.

So, after un-retiring, pitching a season worthy of a seventh Cy Young Award (although Randy Johnson would have received my vote), and then saying that he wasn't sure he wanted to pitch this season, Roger Clemens put a price on this season.

$22 million.

He said in an interview that was re-run about a week ago that physically he still felt capable but mentally it was harder and harder to get ready to pitch, presumably because he has done it for so long and because he wants to spend more time with his family. The latter reason, by the way, is not a trumped up reason, either. I read a good biography of former Tigers third baseman George Kell, a Hall of Famer, who retired at the age of 32 or thereabouts. The reason? He got tired of the separation from his family (ironically, Kell became a broadcaster, and that job created even more time away from his family). Others have retired for the same reason.

So the love of the game and his best friend in pitching has a price, and Roger Clemens wants the ultimate payday if he is to don an Astro uniform this season.

The Astros response?

They offered $13.5 million.

Are they being cheap?

On the one hand they offered a below-market price to a legend, a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, a guy who should put people in the park. In droves.

On the other hand, they offered an above-market price to a 42 year-old pitcher, where common sense dictates that you cannot offer too much money, to a pitcher whose heart really isn't into it given his comments. And, come July, when the Astros are trailing the Cardinals and perhaps the Cubs, his heart really won't be into it. Because he's been there and done that, and he has no more mountains to conquer.

So, the question that everyone is asking is whether Roger Clemens is worth $22 million, and the answer here is no.

A-Rod wasn't worth it, and that contract became an albatross around his neck that still haunts his legend just a little bit. Carlos Beltran, the next Willie Mays, didn't get it, and neither did Randy Johnson. Perhaps there's some kid playing Little League ball in El Cerrito, San Ramon, Hialeah or Pascagoula who someday will get it, but not even the might Roger Clemens is worth this type of haul.

Even for one final season.

When Roger Clemens signed with the Astros last year, it was a great story. A story about coming home, a story about pitching near family and friends, and a story about pitching with his best friend and becoming teammates with some classy veterans named Biggio and Bagwell.

And when he won the Cy Young Award that great story became a magical one, the type written about in the Greek myths, the type little kids fantasize about when they're throwing a baseball against a brick wall to strengthen their arms and work on their quickness, when they're sitting in the dugout on a warm spring day wondering what type of ballplayer they'll become.

But when he asked for the $22 million, Roger Clemens stepped over the line, at least in the minds of some fans. I, for one, take no offense, as I'm from the "if you don't ask for it, you won't get it school." But others will quickly forget the warm stories that flooded the newspapers last year about Roger Clemens, and they'll simply add this episode to their laundry list of grievances about what's wrong with baseball and the other major sports these days.

Is $13.5 million simply not enough to feed Roger Clemens' family?

Or is it the principle of the competitive athlete, that if you want my outstanding services you have to pay the best market price out there?

Or is it simply a hold up for a team that needs this marquis player to drive sales?

Listen to the "Shoeless Joe" types of voices out there, Roger.

And say it ain't so.


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