WBC: Clemens not going out yet

During tonight’s WBC broadcast, the ESPN announcers were commenting on the future of Roger Clemens. Clemens, according to Jon Miller, has said he will, after the Classic, go back to his family until June or July, and then he will make his decision on his baseball future. During the intervening months, Clemens will stay in game shape, teasing the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Rangers.

While Clemens did not provide a definite answer on his future, after watching him pitch last night, I would predict that Roger Clemens is not quite ready to hang up his spikes.

I have watched The Rocket pitch for nearly my entire life. Clemens broke into the Majors on May 15, 1984. I was 1 year, 1 month and 16 days old. I’ve seen Clemens pitch against my team, and I’ve begrudgingly rooted for him to pitch for my team. I cheered him in 2003 when he announced his retirement and booed him when he snubbed the Yankees for the Astros.

I saw him in person shut down the Diamondbacks in Game 3 of the 2001 World Series when the Yankees were in a must-win situation. I watched on TV as he mowed down the Marlins in the 2003 World Series. He was going out on top.

When he changed his mind, it was clear to me that Clemens wanted to win. He saw Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt on the Astros and knew that he could bring victory to Houston. He came within four games of delivering that elusive championship to his home state. However, the long season caught up with the 43-year-old Clemens, and he pitched just 2 innings in the Astros’ World Series loss.

At that point, Clemens did not commit to anything for 2006. He knew that if he stuck around with the Astros, he could play with his son Koby, a prospect in the Astros’ system. But at 43, his body couldn’t recover as quickly as it used to. He wanted to spend some time with his family too.

So his compromise was to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. He would see how it felt to pitch every five days and train. Then, he would take his time to decide his future. While we don’t know what’s going to happen, for Clemens, it will be very hard for him to walk away knowing his last game was a loss.

I think Clemens will come back to lead a team to victory in a divisional race. He’ll be the biggest deadline acquisition any team willing to pony up the dough could make. He may come back and team up with Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina for one last pinstriped run at a title. He could return to Boston, but I don’t think that’s too likely. If Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte can keep Houston in contention, maybe Clemens will return to Minute Maid Park to bring the Astros back to the playoffs.

And then there is Texas. If the Rangers are looking competitive, Tom Hicks may be able to lure Clemens out of retirement. Some people think that Clemens may head to Texas.

Me? I hope Clemens can rescue the Yankees. It’s clear that pitching is this team’s weakest link. No matter what, I don’t think a 2-1 half-hearted defeat at the hands of Mexico in the World Baseball Classic is going to be Clemens’ swan song. The Rocket will return.

Mis-managing the WBC

With 2 on and 1 out down by a run in the 9th, the Americans were mounting a comeback. They had momentum on their side and Mexico seemingly on the ropes. One hit would tied the game.

The Mexicans had just brought in David Cortes, a right-handed hitter. With Chipper Jones on second and pinch runner Johnny Damon edged off first, Buck Martinez opted to stick with right handed hitter Vernon Wells.

What was he thinking?

Team USA had a left handed hitter in Chase Utley on the bench. If ever there was a time to use a lefty, it was then in the 9th with Team USA’s chances on the line.

If Martinez insisted on keeping Utley around for whenever, then how about Derrick Lee and his 3 home runs? Or what about telling Vernon Wells to take a pitch? Instead, Wells grounds into a game-ending double play on the first pitch.

Buck Martinez has not managed in the Major Leagues since 2002 when he was dismissed by Toronto. Now, the rest of the country knows why he’s just an ESPN announcer instead of a Major League manager. Hopefully, in 2009, when fewer players opt out of the Classic, Major League Baseball can find a better manager for a team that certainly won’t be favored to win its own tournament.

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