Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I hope the 52,000-plus New York Yankees fans that were going crazy at Yankee Stadium on Sunday when Roger Clemens announced he was coming back realize that the only reason the Rocket is returning is for that monster $28 million contract.
I don't want to hear Clemens ramble on about Yankee tradition. The only reason he is back in pinstripes is because they agreed to pay him the most money. That's it. It's not because he loves playing with Derek Jeter or his buddy Andy Pettitte, it's not because of the respect he has for Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner, it's simply because he is getting paid.
If Boston could have come up with the cash, believe me he would be back in Fenway hammering the final nail in the Yankees' coffin. Not only that I am sure he would be going on about how Boston has always been home and yada, yada, yada.
Clemens is a phony, always has been, always will be. Let's not forget how he spurned the Yankees after leaving Boston the first time. He didn't want to pitch in New York then. Now all of a sudden he is Whitey Ford. Give me a break.
Remember that warm reception that Clemens got the last time he pitched in Fenway? Classy move by the fans that September afternoon a few years ago, as they gave him a standing ovation, thinking it would be his last start there. Little did they know he would pitch three more years and eventually return again as a Yankee. Somehow I don't think he will be treated as nice this time around.
Don't get me wrong here. I don't fault Clemens for choosing the Yankees, as he is going to be paid roughly $4.5 million-per-month, but I just can't listen to him go on about how much he loves the organization. Then again I would probably wax poetic on The Sports Network if they paid me the way the Yanks are paying Clemens.
By the way do yourselves a favor this week. Try and catch Yankee radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman's call of Clemens making his announcement. I thought she was going to have an aneurysm in the booth.
Clemens signing with the Yankees is huge, though. The Red Sox wanted him. They probably did not need him as much as the Yanks, but anytime you add a seven- time Cy Young winner you are better off.
Does it shift the balance of power in the American League East back to Torre's club? I am not sure, but I will tell you this, if Clemens pitches anything close to the way he pitched in Houston last year he is going to win 18 games with that lineup behind him. And that my friends is more wins than you would have gotten from the Chase Wrights, Darrell Rasners, Kei Igawas and Jeff Karstens of the world.
Clemens' biggest contribution, though, may come off the field, as his presence will be a huge benefit to some of the Yankees young arms. Chien-Ming Wang supposedly idolizes Clemens and phenom Philip Hughes has drawn comparisons to the Rocket. Now the youngsters will get an up-close and personal look at how it is done.
Clemens is going to be 45 in August and is still probably in the best shape of any pitcher on the team. Nobody has the work ethic of Clemens. Following his press conference yesterday he was out in the bullpen getting some work in. Things like that have to rub off.
Heading into action this week, the Yanks are only 5 1/2 back of the Red Sox with 13 games still to go against them. Clemens has said he plans on pitching in about a month. The Yankees are in Fenway the first weekend in June. How about that for a return? I doubt he would come back then, but with the pomp and circumstance that surrounded yesterday's announcement, nothing would surprise me at this point. Plus I am pretty sure the Yanks are not dropping that kind of cash to have him watch those games.
And while we are talking about the Red Sox, if Clemens isn't the biggest phony in sports than Boston right-hander Curt Schilling is. Of course, the great Schilling had to chime in on the Clemens signing, saying that the Red Sox did not need him. His words may have carried a little more weight, though, had he said it a few weeks ago like teammate Julian Tavarez did. It is easy to say it now when he signed somewhere else.
It is amazing that Clemens is coming back again and is being looked upon as the saviour of the Yankees. The guy is closer to Torre's age than he is to Hughes'.
Does anyone even remember that he used to pitch for the Red Sox at this point? I mean it has been almost 11 years since he left. Most people felt he was done when Boston general manager Dan Duquette decided to let him walk. Not only has he won four Cy Young Awards since, but he has enjoyed some of the best years of his career. Most players start to slow down as they close in on their 40's. Well unless you are Barry Bonds I guess.
Hmm...kind of makes you wonder doesn't it?
Either way Yankee fans have not had a lot to cheer for this season. Things, though, got a whole lot brighter in the Bronx on Sunday.
So does this mean that Igawa is out of the rotation when Clemens returns?