It was in August 1986 when I went to my first baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Roger Clemens was pitching for the Sox and they were facing Oakland. The reason we went to this game was that Reggie Jackson was playing for the A’s and we wanted to see him hit against the Rocket. I don’t remember too much from the game, other than watching Dwight Evans in Right Field and Jim Rice leaping against the Green Monster and missing a flyball. I don’t even remember who won. I would have loved to see him pitch again, especially after I watched Jonathan Papelbon make his Major League debut against the Minnesota Twins on July 31, 2005 from atop the Green Monster. Few pitcher remind me of the Rocket and Papelbon is it. I could only dream about Clemens giving tips to Papelbon, much like Seaver did for Clemens in 1986.
Well my fairy tale bubble has burst. Roger Clemens won’t pitch for the Red Sox this season (unless the Yankees really collapse). His pro-rated $28 million dollar contract is now the highest single season salary ever for a major league athlete (sorry A-Rod). And he is 44, turning 45 in August. Roger Clemens will likely be making more money than the 55,000 people in the stands who paid to see him. He is a mercenary and nothing more. I hope he pulls a hamstring in his first start and is out and ineffective for the rest of the season. Even a healthy Roger Clemens isn’t going to give you more than 3 ER in 6 innings and the Yankee bullpen is awful (except for Rivera), meaning like in Houston last year, he will get a lot of no decisions.
But how much impact will Clemens have in the AL East race? Well not that much. He is projected to only add 4 wins over the guys he is replacing in the rotation. Given the fact the Yankees are currently 5.5 games out, this would still put them 1.5 behind Boston. He is only pitching every 5th day, won’t be in the club house much between starts and any little injury at this point will cripple him. He won’t get to pitch against the soft underbelly of the National League and will likely get hit hard by teams like Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and Anaheim.
The Yankees will get a boost and yes they will get healthy and start winning. I still don’t think they have enough in the rotation to win, but they will lose a lot of games in middle relief. These guys are not getting younger and these minor injuries really set this team back. But only time will tell and after all we are only a little over a month into the season.