Friday, February 10, 2006

Return of the Rocket?

The latest rumor to hit Red Sox Nation is that the Sox are making a very serious attempt to get Roger Clemens to return to Boston for his final season. The rumors allege that Sox Chairman and TV mogul Tom Werner is behind this attempt, even down to the production of a slick video to convince Roger that Red Sox fans really want him back. Roger understandably has some reservations about how much he is still liked in Boston, no doubt due to memories of his treatment by the fans in the 1999 ALCS. In case you don't remember, Roger got pounded by the Sox and Pedro beat the Yankees 13-1. Sox fans were, shall we say, less than sympathetic to Roger's plight. Unfortunately, that was the only game of the series the Red Sox won.

I don't think that Roger has anything to worry about on that front. Once Clemens left the Yankees, I think much of the resentment against him evaporated. I think the prevailing attitude among Red Sox fans about Roger is that Dan Duquette made a giant mistake in letting him go, and most folks respect him as one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

So why are the Sox trying to get him back? It's not to sell tickets, that's for sure. It's at least in part a baseball decision, of course. Clemens is still one of the best pitchers in Baseball, even at age 43. He led the NL in ERA with Houston last year and helped pitch them into the World Series. If the Astros could have generated some more offense (Roger pitched in nine games in which Houston got shut out last year) he could have easily won his eighth Cy Young Award. Put him at the top of a rotation with a (hopefully) healthy Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett and the Sox sound like favorites in the AL East again.

I also think the Red Sox are pursuing this for the story. Obviously, Roger returning to Boston has some irresistible angles to it, and I'm sure Tom Werner's head is spinning with the ways he can exploit this on NESN.

Do I want him back? Of course. Why wouldn't you want one of the best pitchers in baseball on your team? I go back to seeing Roger come up with Pawtucket, so there is no question I would like to see him end his career in a Red Sox uniform.

Do I think it will happen? Here's how I'm handicapping it. I think there's a 50% chance Roger will pitch somewhere else (with the Yankees, Rangers or Astros as likely landing spots), a 25% chance he'll end up back at Fenway, and a 25% chance he won't pitch at all.

But wouldn't seeing number 21 stride back out to the Fenway mound be just incredible?


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