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Back on Broadway (sigh)
by Issam Konsul (MLB)
Posted on May 10, 2007, 3:22 PM

Since this appears to be the only sports website without an obligatory Clemens column yet, I feel more then happy to step to the plate. Doing my best to attack this story from an unbiased writer's perspective (instead of a jealous Houston fan’s perspective), let’s look at the significant fallout from this in-season pickup for the Pinstripes.

How much does this acquisition really help?
Uh, a lot. As impressive and promising as Darrell Rasner, Phil Hughes, and Matt DeSalvo have been, they aren’t 7-time Cy Young winning pitchers. On a more basic level, they aren’t even proven major league commodities. The Yankees have just guaranteed (barring injury) themselves 15-20 extra quality starts for the rest of this season, and any one of those could be the difference between capturing the pennant and sitting out the postseason.

The most hilarious argument against Clemens I’ve heard so far is the jump back into the deep end of the pool. Yes, he was playing against National League kiddies, and yes, his ERA is going take a hit. Along with that, of course, his run support is going to improve. In 2006, he gave up more then 3 earned runs only THREE times, but he managed to only go 7-6. In 2005, he gave up more then 3 earned runs only four times in 32 starts, had a 1.87 ERA, and only managed a 13-8 record. For barroom argument’s sake, it might be best to call the ERA hike and the run support hike a wash and be done with it.

Another way to analyze the impact this move really has is to take a look at the team he is joining. If you believe everything being said out there, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros were the only real competitors in this year’s Clemens sweepstakes. The Yankees rank below the Red Sox and Astros thus far in overall team ERA (22nd to 3rd and 12th, respectively) and ERA in innings 1-6 (20th to 8th and 12th, respectively). More surprisingly for the Astros then anyone else, Houston’s team is tied for first in the major leagues in number of quality starts with 22, Boston is right behind with 20, and the Yankees are next to last in all of baseball with only 11 quality starts. Put quite simply, no team needed the starting pitching help as much as the Yankees did.

What about the distraction factor?
What may not be common knowledge in the league is that the Astros led the league the last few years in the “rolled eyes” category in the clubhouse. While Roger’s announcement from the press box was surprising and thrilling for Yankee fans, it was not by any means atypical of Clemens’ love of the spotlight. What makes the situation tricky is, he is usually very deserving of that spotlight. If any other player tried to pick and choose his schedule, sit out the beginning of the season, and play in golf tournaments during pennant chases (Yes Roger, you did), they’d be out of a job. But for one of the greatest right-handers of all time, exceptions are made.

The question can then be posed; what team in baseball is better equipped to make those exceptions? The recipe to keep a clubhouse balanced and orderly is veteran leadership, team camaraderie, and of course, winning. To this end, the Yankees offer Derek Jeter, one of the most natural team leaders in baseball; Andy Pettitte, Roger’s right hand man and running buddy; and 27 world championships. Whereas the Roger Clemens traveling act may have worn thin for the Astros clubhouse, the Yankees and their fans realize the need for quality pitching, and will gladly set aside personal grievances for the chance at another title. In the end, the results he brings are far greater in consequences compared with the Clemens Press Show.

Bottom line: Can we hand the Yanks the title now?
Not so fast, I’m afraid. While one problem was remedied for the Bronx Bombers, more remain. In fact, too many question marks are still around to decree them even the favorites now, let alone hand them any trophy. One question mark goes by the name of Mariano Rivera, who is currently boasting a stellar 7.71 ERA, 3 losses, and 2 blown saves. It doesn’t matter who is starting games for the Yankees, because they have always been able to rely on Rivera to close the door at the end. If that definitive stopper isn’t there, the Yankees are in trouble.

Another matter of truth is that Clemens probably only has a half season of work in him, and that is significant to a playoff run as well. The Rocket has missed starts in September his past two years in Houston, and had to leave his last World Series start early thanks to a hamstring pull. This same concern can go for the rest of the Yankees staff, with such injury-prone contributors as Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina.

While the addition of Roger Clemens is a huge addition to the Yankees arsenal, they must make sure to not over-exhaust him during the long haul of the season. He will give them great games, but the vast majority of them will be 5- and 6-innings games. With all of that being said, the Yankees are better off for it, they can certainly afford it, and now that the Clemens-quota is filled, I can stop talking about it.

One liners

I’m assuming the fact that the Yankees have three players in the top five batting averages in the AL helped Clemens’ decision (Jeter-.362, Posada-.354, Rodriguez-.352).

Maybe Gil Meche was worth that contract after all (2.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP through 8 starts).

The Astros must love the Reds. Roy Oswalt is 19-1 against them, and Lance Berkman homered in three straight games against Cincinnati, where he only had two in his first 32 games.

Carlos Zambrano might want to sign that contract extension quickly if he’s planning on keeping this act up.

And this year’s ‘Chris Shelton’ award goes to...Ian Kinsler! Congratulations! April’s 9 homers and .667 slugging percentage have turned into May’s 0 homers and .190 slugging clip.

Someone break up the Brew Crew! No really, please?

EARLY AWARDS (not predictions, but who would win them TODAY)
AL MVP – Magglio Ordonez, DET
NL MVP – Prince Fielder, MIL
AL CY YOUNG – Josh Beckett, BOS
NL CY YOUNG – Jason...Marquis?, CHI



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