Monday, May 07, 2007

William the Mercenary Lands Back in the Bronx

William Roger Clemens has, for the second time in two years (and the fourth year since he first retired from the Yankees), decided to un-retire and pitch the final four months of the season for his beloved Yankees. In a humourous article titled "Can Rocket rescue Yankee season?" William is exalted as the missing piece to the Yankee puzzle that the 2007 season has been. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

The Yankees will pay about $26 million in salary and luxury tax for the Rocket, more than $1 million per win for a soon-to-be 45-year-old pitcher likely to make about 22 starts in the regular season. Then again, it's value shopping when compared with Carl Pavano — as far as the Yankees are concerned, his $39.95 million, four-year contract surpassed the 1997 Dunbar Armored heist ($18.9 million) as the largest cash robbery in U.S. history.

Pavano has more injuries (six) than wins (five) in a little more than two seasons, and he might have elbow surgery that could sideline him for the remainder of his agreement. New York spent even more on Kei Igawa — $46 million including his contract and the posting fee. He has two wins, a 7.63 ERA and might wind up in the minor leagues soon.

News Flash: Igawa HAS been sent to the minors. It just happened. Also, thank goodness the Sox didn't bid anywhere near as high as the Yankees did for Pavano after his nutty 18-win 2004 season. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make...

While the Yankees sputtered to a 14-15 start, sending pitchers to the disabled list with the regularity of an assembly line, the Boston Red Sox spurted to an AL-best 20-10 record. Clemens is viewed as a savior.

"This is a huge statement," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in the interview room in the bowels of Yankees Stadium. "Don't count us out, because we want to be in it for the long haul."

Pitching is prized above all in baseball, more important than power, more coveted than fancy fielding or super speed. Just last Friday, the Yankees scored 11 runs and lost to Seattle, wasted an 8-6 lead by allowing eight consecutive batters to reach.

In October, especially, the Yankees have flopped on the mound following Clemens' 2003 departure, with Kevin Brown, Javy Vazquez and Randy Johnson battered as if they were BP pitchers. But at the rate Yankees pitchers were allowing runs, New York wasn't going to reach October without a drastic move.

Mike Mussina (38) and Andy Pettitte (35 in June) figure to miss starts here and there. Phil Hughes, the 20-year-old knocked out by a hamstring injury in mid-no-hitter last week, figures to learn a lot from Clemens, as do Darrell Rasner, Jeffrey Karstens, Chase Wright, DeSalvo and maybe even Igawa, too.

Clemens described his mission as part educational, a Stanley Kaplan finishing school for the pitching set. He's part professor, part drill instructor, with 348 wins and 4,604 strikeouts. "There's a lot of young pitchers here now trying to achieve their dreams and goals," he said. "I look forward to talking to them and bringing them some experience."

What a bunch of complete and utter bullshit. If William the Arrogant really wanted to talk to young pitchers and bring them some experience, then why isn't he doing so right now? The answer is simple. It's because he's a selfish SOB who wants nothing more than for the world to bow to his every whim.

Is Clemens a great pitcher? Absolutely. He's a lock to be elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Is he a good guy? Not from where I sit. He mailed in his 1993-6 seasons with the Red Sox. He went 40-39, including his only sub-.500 seasons, 1993 and 1996. He gained weight and lost a yard off his fastball which prompted Dan Duquette to utter the famous "twilight of his career" remark that signalled the end of the Clemens era in Boston. Armed with hurt pride, William then got back into shape, developed a split-finger pitch and won back-to-back Cy Young awards for the Toronto Blue Jays before stabbing them in the back and forcing a trade to the Yankees where he stunk up the Stadium for two years until 2001 when he won his sixth Cy Young (He won three in Boston, 1986, 1987 and 1991). He then "retired" after the 2003 season only to un-retire and resurface with the Astros, where he only had to go to home games.

What kills me is that this boob likely cost the Astros a crack at last year's post-season. By sitting on the sidelines and playing the Astros against the Yankees, William waited too long to help his team. The Astros finished 82-80 last year, a mere one-and-a-half games behind the NL Central Division and eventual World Series Champion St, Louis Cardinals. William made 19 starts and went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA. Is it likely that if he had returned a month earlier that in the six or starts he'd have made that he could have turned three or four Astro losses into wins? I think it is, but we will never know that. I just wonder if that thought has ever occurred to him. Somehow I doubt it.

Last night, on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, Orel Hershiser said that he expects William to make 24 starts and that he expects the Yankees to win 14 of those, and that William's ERA would be at 4.00 or over -- nearly double what is was last year. In the National League, pitchers hit. Not so in the American League. We have and Papi, Manny. The Blue Jays have Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus and Alex Rios. The Orioles have Miguel Tejada, Ramon Hernandez, Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons. Even the Devil Rays have Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, BJ Upton and Delmon Young, and those guys certainly beat the pants off the Pinstripes a few weeks ago. And these are just the Yanks inter-divisional rivals. Look at the other sluggers in the AL Central and West. Guys like Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Richie Sexson, Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher. All those guys are dead fastball hitters.

Oh, and let's not forget the prospect of injury. William turns 45 in August, and it is not reasonable to expect him to feel retard strong every time Joe Torre tells him he must start a game. Still, it's the Yankees and one cannot help but get a creepy feeling about this move.

I'll sum up this post by hoping that this season plays out as last season did, and that William will have waited to long to make a difference, and that he, and his team miss the post-season.

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