On Friday afternoon, the topsy-turvy world of baseball rumor mongering delivered what we in the industry refer to as a doozy. Whispers from several Major League sources suggested that the Houston Astros were planning on having 50-year-old Roger Clemens start a September 12th home game against the Chicago Cubs, after his second start for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
Clemens spoke with reporters this afternoon to promote his September 7th start for the team, and made his strongest statement to date on his supposed comeback attempt bringing him back to baseball’s highest level.
I don’t see it happening.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner stressed to the assembled media that despite the rampant speculation, he was only pitching for the Skeeters one more time to have fun, with no ulterior motives attached to pushing back his Hall of Fame eligibility or further distancing himself from MLB’s steroid era. If that was his intention he said that he’d also attempt comebacks at the age of 55 and 60.
We’ll never know if Major League Baseball stepped in at some point over the weekend to quell the plans of Clemens and Astros owner Jim Crane. However, it’s certainly possible for the league to have considered an appearance by the pitcher this season to not be in the best interest of baseball.
While a start at Minute Maid Park certainly would’ve been a boon to Houston’s ticket sales and marketing efforts, it also would have broken a measure of the good faith that exists between fans and teams that asks that the sanctity of the game be protected by a minimal amount of effort on the part of operators/owners to act in a manner that best serves competitiveness.
Allowing Clemens to pitch once again at the Major League level, while fun, would have essentially represented a gaming of the system to serve the wants of both Clemens and Crane. So, whether the league’s finger prints were on Clemens’ announcement today, or if the pitcher came to the decision on his own, all that matters is that the right thing was done.