Roger Clemens and the Sugar Land Skeeters
Wednesday August 29th, 2012
Sam Evans: Roger Clemens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If Cooperstown picked candidates with regard to their off-field activities, players like Dick Williams and Mickey Mantle might have never been chosen to the elite class that is the Hall of Fame. If Hall of Fame voters look at Clemens’ career numbers, they’ll find it hard to not see him as having one of the best starting pitching careers we’ve ever seen. Clemens is currently pitching with the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters after five years away from the game. It’s been only one game so far, with more possibly to come. Let’s look at Clemens, his first start, and how he stacks up against some of his teammates.
Roger Clemens ranks eighth all-time among major leaguers in WAR, and second among starting pitchers (145.5). His upper 90’s fastball, nasty splitter, and above-average changeup led him to over 300 wins and a twenty-four year career in the majors. His last season, in 2007 with the New York Yankees, Clemens still managed to pitch at a fairly high level, posting a 4.14 FIP in seventeen starts. His average fastball velocity was just over 90 MPH for the 2007 season.
After Clemens figured out a bunch of legal things, he “tried out” for the Sugar Land Skeeters, who play in the independent Atlantic League, and made the team. In his first start on Saturday, August 25th, Clemens lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit, not walking a batter, and striking out two. Facing a Bridgeport team that features former major leaguers Joey Gathright and Shea Hillebrand, Clemens topped out at 88 MPH and got a few outs via his splitter.
By the end of Clemens’ outing, he looked exhausted. At fifty years old, competing against players half your age in a professional sport can’t be easy. Once Clemens starts getting in better shape, he should be able to pitch longer outings. However, for now, it looks like Clemens is going to be limited to short outings. Assuming he continues.
According to StubHub, tickets for the Clemens start were selling online for more than $200. While I don’t think fans would flock to see a Clemens start in the majors quite like this one, there is an idea floating around that Clemens could boost attendance for a major league team if he reached the majors. The Astros and Royals, both two teams in need of a grizzled veteran starter, were in attendance at the game.
Roger Clemens probably just played for the worst team he’d played for since he pitched at the University of Texas. Nonetheless, the players on both sides all are very good baseball players and a high percentage of them have played minor league baseball before. The Skeeters’ roster features former minor leaguers such as Will Startup, Bubba Bell, Jeff Farnsworth, and Ofilio Castro. Just think of how crazy it is that those guys get to spend a season with one of the greatest pitchers of all time. For as much as been said about Clemens and his off-field issues, I don’t see how any player couldn’t benefit from having a pitcher like that on their team.
The Houston Astros should be interested in Clemens. With the move to the American League next year, a pitcher like Clemens wouldn’t be a bad option to have either in the bullpen or as a back-end starter. Houston is going to need all the pitching help they can get next year, and Clemens knows pretty how to attack hitters as well as anyone. He’s nowhere near where he was five years ago, but if Clemens continues to progress in the next year, a stint in Houston is definitely a possibility.
It’s too early to tell if Roger Clemens still has a future in the majors. The good news for Clemens is that his velocity isn’t that much worse than it was five years ago and at least two teams have shown interest in him. Still, Clemens has to get in better condition and rediscover what made him one of the nastiest pitchers in the game. I’m not sold that Roger Clemens will ever pitch in the majors again, but his first start with Sugar Land couldn’t have gone much better. Roger Clemens is fifty years old, five years removed from baseball, and he can still pitch at a fairly high level. That’s pretty awesome, if you ask me.
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***Today’s feature was prepared by Sam Evans, Baseball Writer. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter. (@RJA206)***
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Posted on August 29, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged astros, baseball, bubba bell, cooperstown, dick williams, hall of fame, houston astros, jeff farnsworth, joey gathright, mickey mantle, mlb, new york yankees, pitcher, roger clemens, shea hillebrand, steriods, sugar land skeeters. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.