Thursday, February 01, 2007

waiting for Godot.

I thought it was utterly bizarre last year when Roger Clemens not only decided he wouldn't be ready to pitch until at least May, but had three teams bidding for his services at a pro-rated rate, no matter how much possible damage it could do with two months of not having him in the rotation -- the general consensus was that five months minimum was better than no full season at all.

Clemens currently admits he's a "failure at retirement," even while entertaining the fluffery of the Yankees, Red Sox, and his hometown Astros, who won the feeding frenzy to sign him for a shortened season in '06 and then proceeded to miss out on the playoffs (although the eventual world champ Cardinals did their damndest to give the NL Central away to them on a silver platter.)

No one, least of all me, will dispute Clemens' legendary status in the game. He is one of, if not the top, starting pitchers in the game, and of all time. But why is taking spring training and the first full month of the season off excusable to any major league team? Clemens holds us in thrall in the same way Brett Favre does with his retirement talk every year, and ESPN, SI, and every other outlet in town will cover it with as much fervor. At some point, an actual somebody in sports media will ask why it's tolerated. The games started stats don't lie -- if he gets 10 more starts during those early months of 2006 (making about 30 rather than 19), what effect does that have on last year's NL Central race, especially with that Cards team that almost choked before making the run to the Series title? Despite Houston's questionable offensive production, he can still win games on his own. You think the Astros wish they'd had him at the beginning of the season after losing the Central by a game and a half?

I love to watch Clemens pitch, but whether his terms are fair to the team he signs with or not is a sticking point, especially if you consider the straitjacket it puts the Astros in these days (someone advocating signing Steve Trachsel?!?) -- Drayton McLane is not one to shy away from taking measures to slash payroll; despite shelling out to Roy Oswalt, this is the organization that pretty much had the whole Jeff Bagwell mess look awful for them, and they wait for Clemens while skimping on the rest of their lineup. Boston and the Yankees can wait him out. Whether Houston can or should is debatable.


Bouj said...

I agree with your point about the extra starts Clemens would have made in May/June and if it would have helped Houston catch St. Louis.

However, having watched nearly every game the Astros played in 2006, I can tell you that the extra starts from Clemens would have been rendered moot if Phil Garner had jsut stopped using Lidge as his closer. Lidge blew 2 games against St. Louis (one in STL, one in HOU) that would have turned the tide completly in Houston's favor. And these games happened well after Lidge showed he was unreliable.

Signal to Noise said...

Damn, I forgot about Lidge's utter collapse and loss of closer mojo -- dude never recovered from getting touched up by Pujols. Thanks for mentioning that.

If Clemens is in the starting rotation for the whole season, though, maybe Garner makes that switch earlier or a few games are decided in Houston's favor to tamper the effect. Then again, Lidge could have blown a number of good Clemens starts and left them in the same position.