Shea, like a few other writers, does not like Clemens re-signing with the Astros at this point in the season.
So Roger Clemens, who claimed a team's chances of advancing to the postseason weighed in the decision-making of where he'd sign, picked the Astros.
The only team on his list not in first place at the time of his decision.
While the Yankees and Red Sox were tied atop the American League East and the Rangers led the AL West, the Astros were in third place, 7 1/2 games back in the National League Central.
A team's postseason chances were one factor, but they weren't the only factor. Clemens was a free agent. Note the use of the word "free".
In the end, it was more about perks than parks. Why dedicate yourself to pitching at Yankee Stadium if the Yankees refuse to let you skip out of town to watch your kid play T-ball? Or whatever level his four boys are at these days. The Yankees said they wouldn't accommodate Clemens by giving him all the benefits he wanted, but the Red Sox and Rangers were willing to roll out the red carpet and let Clemens call the shots.
The Astros caved in to Clemens, just as they did last year when Clemens helped the Astros to the first World Series in their history. It worked once. Will it work twice? The Astros will continue to allow Clemens to miss games if he's not pitching, but is a part-time teammate a good teammate? How would the special arrangement fly if the Astros are buried in the standings in September?
On this part of the baseball globe, Barry Bonds refuses to stretch with the team, leaves the dugout after exiting games and shuns team photos. But at least he shows up every day. He's often ridiculed for what he does and says, but he doesn't blow off work because his daughter is the lady bug in the school puppet show.
For starters, Bonds is expected to play every day or close to it. Clemens isn't. He's a starting pitcher. Are the Astros going to pout if he's not sitting on the bench when he's not pitching, spitting sunflower seeds and chatting with Andy Pettitte? "Gosh, we could have won that game, but Roger wasn't here to cheer up Chad Qualls after he came off the field in the eighth inning."
People never forget Bonds' past. With Clemens, it's as if the goofy stuff got deleted from his bio. Rubbing eye black under his eyes, then getting ejected in the second inning in the 1990 ALCS finale in Oakland, as if he wanted no part of another Dave Stewart beating. Beaning Mike Piazza, then throwing a broken bat at him, ridiculously suggesting at the time that he thought the bat was the ball. Promising to drill Bonds, then doing it. Getting summoned for a steroid test after Team USA's final game in the World Baseball Classic, then ducking the media altogether except to release a statement, saying, "For me, right now, it's goodbye," and not explaining what he meant.
Clemens was ejected by Terry Cooney because he was afraid to pitch against Dave Stewart? Was Shea serious? As for the incidents with Piazza, people bring those up quite often. And was Clemens expected to invite the media to watch him urinate for a steroids test.
Clemens led the league in ERA last year and might have won 20 games (instead of 13) if not for an offense that repeatedly shut down when he took the mound. The Astros were 15-17 in Clemens' starts -- and why again wasn't the offense more inspired on his watch?
It's not as if he has shined on the national stage in recent performances: In Game 1 of last year's World Series, he got pulled after two innings with a pulled hamstring. Two years ago in the All-Star Game, in Houston, Clemens surrendered six first-inning runs. In the WBC finale, he lost the deciding game to Mexico and was pulled after 4 1/3 innings.
Ahh, the Steve Phillips theory of run support for pitchers. The good pitchers don't get any because offenses take it easy when a good pitcher is on the mound. Apparently this didn't apply to Clemens when he was on the Yankees. In 1987, Nolan Ryan led the NL in ERA at 2.76 and was 8-16. I detect a trend among Astros hitters and their tendency not to score when a good pitcher is on the mound.
And Clemens did pitch the final three innings of Game 4 of the NLDS against the Braves when the Astros were out of pitchers. And he won his only start in the NLCS. Then he had the nerve to strain a hamstring in the World Series. He's obviously a faulty human being. He should have kept pitching and made his team's deficit greater.
In the WBC, there were pitch limits, so Clemens had to leave at that point in the game. And I suppose he didn't inspire the American hitters to put up more offense against the Mexican pitchers, whom they didn't hit well either time they faced them.
Roger Clemens is not an easy guy to like. But he's been on the job for 22 seasons and is heading for a 23rd. He's accomplished a lot in his career. And if he wants to call the shots on where he should pitch and under what terms and some teams wants to agree to it, then I don't see what the big deal is. Was there some preestablished guideline that Clemens was supposed to follow or does he have to retire in a way that follow the established plan set out by the American sportswriting community?