Roger Clemens’ return to baseball is much ado about nothing, so let's not overfocus

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  • Roger Clemens
    Roger Clemens
    American baseball player

Roger Clemens will pitch again as a Sugar Land Skeeter and we’re supposed to hate it. The Houston Astros would put Clemens in their uniform again and we’re supposed to be disgusted.

Clemens would be desperate and calculating. The Astros would be desperate and transparent. And we’d all be fools to play along.

So this would be some kind of embarrassment to Clemens and his former organization, or what’s left of it, or what it could be again by next decade. This is beneath Clemens and somehow even beneath the Astros, and who knew there was room under there?

I can do better than that: I don’t care. Clemens said Tuesday he’s probably not interested in returning to the major leagues, and I still don’t care.

It’s September. The Baltimore Orioles are hounding the New York Yankees. The Boston Red Sox have gone all kinds of Looney Tunes. The Detroit Tigers aren’t sure if they’re the Detroit Tigers or the Cleveland Indians. The Oakland A’s are the hottest team on the planet, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the richest team on the planet, and the San Francisco Giants have a better record than both.

It’s September, 16 teams have a shot, a former All-Star hasn’t been suspended in days, the best player in the game just turned 21, and the Red Sox, yeah, we already mentioned them.

Meantime, in York, Pa., some middle-aged guy satisfying his competition jones/attention lust threw a side session. He probably looked great. Reasonable velocity, decent command, great hair, perfect tan, all that stuff.

Well, good for him. And good for the Astros for promising to show up when Clemens pitches again on Friday, because, Lord knows, neither had anything to do that day anyway. This will be viewed in cynical circles as an extension of the hardball travesty that began a couple weeks ago, when Clemens pitched on five years’ rest and performed admirably enough in an independent league game. And it will prove to some the Astros have become small time, or are satisfied with small time until they can regroup and re-organize and rebound.


I believe I’ll save my indignation for something more worthwhile. Something like, oh, the Astros gutting themselves into what amounts to a scheduled forfeit and how 14 of their 27 remaining games are likely to impact playoff races. Or for the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost back-to-back games to the Astros three weeks ago, amounting to the Astros’ only winning streak since June.

[Also: Cardinals' David Freese impresses during wild-card chase]

It’s possible the Astros and owner Jim Crane are being polite to Clemens and graciously supporting his little Moyer-ian journey, and that they cringe when Clemens allows for anything more than a couple starts and some love for the boys in Sugar Land. We’re just getting to know Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow. We know their team stinks. We know they’ve hired some very smart people. We know their first draft was celebrated by those who celebrate drafts. And we know that very few people come to their ballpark, and those who do can’t possibly expect to go home pleased.

Now they get Clemens and wherever this is headed, and anyone who has watched Clemens suspects if this isn’t about a cameo or two in Houston this month it’s probably about a semi-regular job next April. With one more win he catches Greg Maddux at 355. With a single pitch he ducks a Hall of Fame ballot that includes Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

And maybe we’re all supposed to be amazed that a man who just spent five years defending himself against allegations of steroids and growth hormone use can, at 50, still throw a baseball 88 mph. Or maybe we’re supposed to catch a ride on the happy bandwagon of Clemens’ acquittal, assume he was wrongly accused, and allow the man his benefit of the doubt. Clean living, you know.

We’ve already been through that wringer. If Guillermo Mota can keep getting jobs, if Melky Cabrera can possibly win a batting title, if Ryan Braun can buff that MVP trophy every morning, then what’s a few innings from Clemens in Houston or anywhere else?

[Also: Stephen Strasburg finally has shutdown talk with Nationals]

There’s nothing at stake here. Not a game, not a pennant race, not a legacy. There’s not even anything cheap about it. Seen the Astros’ second-half ERA? It’s 5.16. Clemens could come back pushing a walker at 65 and not foul that up. The spirit of competition? The purity of the pennant races? The Astros have won nine games since the All-Star break. Nine.

So, let’s leave Roger Clemens be. If he needs to pitch for the Astros, and the Astros need the ticket sales, and some charity benefits, go ahead y’all. If not, ol’ Rog had his fun.

“I don’t see it happening,” Clemens told reporters Tuesday in York. “Everybody is speculating and everybody’s got their own opinions, and that’s great. But it is still a lot of work.”

That’s not “No,” as you might have noticed. It’s not, “Dude, I’m 50 for cryin’ out loud.” What that is, is give me the ball on Friday and we’ll see where it leads.

So what’s to hate?

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