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January 13, 2004

Houston Rocket
by Larry Mahnken

2003 was supposed to be Roger Clemens' last season. All year long he professed his intention to retire, and as the year wound down, he got the obligatory standing ovations as he left each mound for the last time. Every time someone asked, he reaffirmed his intentions, this was it, he was going home.

Well, he went home, but he didn't retire. Yesterday, Clemens signed a one-year deal to pitch with the Houston Astros, joining his friend Andy Pettitte.

Because the Yankees didn't offer Clemens arbitration, they lost out on two draft picks: a supplemental first round pick and a second round pick, both of which would probably have garnered quality prospects, players who could have helped in a few years.

The Yankees have nobody to blame but themselves for not offering arbitration, Clemens didn't betray them, he didn't plan all along to sign with Houston, this isn't some malicious scheme he hatched in mid-summer to make the Yankees look like fools. He just changed his mind. Everybody has the right to change their mind, and I really don't see how Clemens can be blamed for changing his mind in this situation.

He gets to pitch at home, and he probably won't have to go on road trips where he's not pitching, or pitch that many games on the road, either, so he gets to spend most of his time with his family. The offer Clemens is getting from Houston is one that the Yankees could not have matched.

What's frustrating is the Yankees' decision to not offer arbitration. Perhaps they didn't do it because they thought there was no point in it with Clemens retiring, but I think it's more likely that they didn't want to take the chance that he would accept the offer and they'd be "stuck" with Clemens for another year at a price they didn't want to pay, and that he'd disrupt their offseason plans for restructuring the team. But I don't think there was any more than a 5% chance that Clemens would have accepted arbitration, if that, and if he had, it's not such a bad thing having Roger Clemens as your 4th starter. Maybe it's just karma paying the Yankees' back for not having to give a draft pick to Atlanta for Sheffield.

For baseball fans, this is a good thing, we get to see the greatest pitcher of our generation for another year, and watch him move up the recordbooks. He hasn't left the Yankees any worse than they expected to be next year, and I can't hold any ill will against him.

This, on the other hand, is just insane. Calm down, Jim. He didn't bet on baseball, he just signed with another team.