Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rocket Rangers

There's a beautiful waltz going on right before your eyes. I'm not talking about the 15-2 opening day victory that the Yankees posted against the Athletics, although that is rather Fred Astaire-like. What I'm talking about is a song and dance that will keep us following along all season long. I'm going to provide the spoiler for you, so if the curtain hasn't been raised on this musical number for you yet, let me be the one to say, "Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls of all ages, Canyon of Heroes is proud to present for your enjoyment the Rocket Ranger Review!!"

From the moment the Astros declined the option on Roger Clemens the circus of rumors and speculations about where he'd pitch next, and IF he'd pitch again, began. A guy who won his 7th Cy Young award in 2004 and posted a league best 1.87 ERA in 2005, at the age of 43, doesn't seem ready to call it quits. Like a coy schoolgirl, the "Rocket" has played with the press citing his desire to pitch for the US team in the World Baseball Classic and then hang it up. That's it. No more. Sayonara. Hall of Fame, here I come.

Use your brain for a second. Is there a more feared pitcher on the planet than Roger Clemens? Is there another guy that can defy Father Time and lead the Majors in ERA? Is there a guy with the bulldog mentality out there that can put a team on his back and carry them through the stretch run of the season, into the playoffs, and plant them firmly in the Fall Classic? Who other than Roger Clemens can captivate an entire nation of baseball fans with his next mound appearance? The answer is no one.

Look at all the teams lining up to kiss his posterior. They are all playing footsie with him to avoid pressuring him and antagonizing him into crossing them off his short list of teams to join post All Star break. Mark my words, Rocket will launch again in 2006. It's not IF, but rather WHEN. I'll go so far as to GUARANTEE that Roger Clemens will wear a Major League uniform again this year before it's all said and done. What's more, I know exactly how it's going to go down.

Teams will continue to knock at his door by inviting him to sit in the owner's box at whatever stadium he happens to be around. Every baseball insider knows he's going to pick a team later this season and they all want to make their overtures, so when the time comes that rumors start flying that he's ready, they will have wooed him sufficiently to be in the hunt. It will build gradually, and there will be moments during the season that you'll read some columnist somewhere say that he really believes that this is it for Roger, but it'll be BS.

Sometime during the All Star festivities Roger Clemens will talk to a member of the media and leak that he is in conversations with a number of teams about a potential return to the field. He'll say that the competetive spirit inside him has reawakened for just one more run at a World Series and that he has stayed in great shape to help a team get to the promised land. He'll play coy about which teams he's talking to and Peter Gammons will report that it's the Red Sox or the Yankees, but Rocket already knows what he's going to do. About a week after the All Star game has concluded, maybe less, Clemens will reportedly sign with the Texas Rangers for a $2.5 million dollar contract extending through the remainder of the 2006 season.

The only thing that can throw a monkey wrench into the plan is if the Rangers end up too far out of contention that a post season berth looks like a longshot. With Anaheim and Oakland in the same division, it could easily happen. If the Rangers are within 4 or 5 games of first at the All Star break, my prediction seems reasonable. The fall back is a bidding war between Boston and the Yankees that will end as it always does with the Yankees signing the former pinstriped Cy Young winner leaving Boston in their wake.

I know his son Koby plays in the Houston organization and that Andy Pettitte is there. I know they went to the Series last season with Oswalt and Andy and Rocket, but the 2006 Astros are a shadow of their former selves. Roger Clemens is nothing if not a mercenary for the front-running ballclub.

In the end, I may be wrong about the ballclub, but my guarantee stands: Clemens, All-Star break, contending team, last hurrah. He can't resist it, and he knows how to manipulate the media circus to build his own legend. We all know that by now.

I'll stick with my Rangers prediction, and we'll see Roger Clemens leave this game the way his predecessor Nolan Ryan did...

...in Arlington...

...doing Advil commercials.


Matchosan said...

Didn't the Rocketto-man leave with bad vibes about the Yankees, and NY as a whole?

You got to remember its not about the money anymore. Right?

Well probably not, but he will not sign with Boston. That I know.

Mike Plugh said...

He won't sign with Boston...I'm sure. It's likely he won't sign with the Yankees, but the x factor there is how much he wants the title. If that's his main goal, he'll head back to the Bronx and we'll have him back gladly. All the drama that went on after he pretended to retire will be forgotten if he gets us back to the promised land.

The Astros and Rangers look like the favorites. The Astros have his buddy Pettitte, another stud in Oswalt, and his son in the minors. The Rangers have the hitting and the kind of atmosphere he likes.

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