The ink is barely dry on Rogers Clemens’ massive one-year deal with Houston, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman is already predicting a mid-season trade.
There are certain signs that you have been at one job too long. Here’s mine: Roger Clemens signs a pitchers’ record $18 million contract yesterday with the Astros and the first thought is not “Good for him,” or “Good for Houston,” or even “Wow.” The first thought is a contract like that means Roger Clemens is going to end the 2005 season as either a Yankee or a Red Sox.
A more serious consideration of a new job would have been necessary, except an AL executive said this yesterday: “If the Astros are a non-contender in July, I would put it at 80 percent that Clemens would be a Yankee or a Red Sox. The reality is those are the only two places he would consider going.”
The Yanks and Red Sox both came sniffing at Clemens last year when Houston appeared a pretender, 51-52 on July 31. Houston management decided to keep Clemens and Carlos Beltran, and the go-for-it panache was rewarded with a major league-best 41-18 record thereafter and the NL wild card.
That choice was easier then. Clemens’ base salary was $5 million ($3.5 million of which was deferred), and he was more than paying for himself by packing Minute Maid Park. Can the Astros be so blasÃ© this year if non-contention comes when Clemens’ payday is more than three times greater? Or are we looking at Kevin Brown’s late-season substitute in New York? Clemens just replaced Pedro Martinez as the highest paid pitcher ever; could he go back to where he started to finish as Martinez’ Boston stand-in?
Clemens and Randy Johnson in one rotation is a fireballing George Steinbrenner dream. Curt Schilling pitching with his mentor, Clemens, would be another sign The Curse is gone forever. Ever since Clemens received that standing-ovation, Fenway sendoff in September 2003, I have sensed an open door for him to return. Wade Boggs, who also left under bad conditions, will go into the Hall of Fame this summer as a Red Sox. Maybe Boston has just begun an era of righting all past wrongs. The Boss, of course, will not let that happen without a spirited tussle.
There is validity to Sherman’s prediction, because after all, nothing of significance could occur in baseball without New York or Boston having the final say.