The Real Reasons Behind Roger Clemens' Baseball Comeback
The date is not April 1.
Roger Clemens (who should be referred to as "Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens" next year, though it probably won't happen) signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League and is scheduled to pitch on Saturday (Aug. 25), according to Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press.
Clemens is 50 years old and, as a famed workout freak, is presumably still in great shape. But what is the legendary pitcher thinking with this decision? Does he not care about tarnishing his legacy even further? Is becoming a potential laughing stock of no consequence to him?
Apparently not. This is really happening, and we can only speculate as to why Clemens is going through with this. Actually, that's exactly what we're going to do here. We're going to speculate on the reasons why Clemens is going to pitch for a team whose mascot is a mosquito. Not all of these nine reasons are serious. And really, how could they be?
For Love of the Game
As trite as it sounds, maybe Clemens just missed playing baseball. Maybe he just missed being on the field and in the clubhouse with a group of guys fortunate enough to be paid to play a game.
Clemens is 50 years old and probably should give up such pursuits, but if he wants to keep playing baseball, who is anyone to tell him otherwise?
He's the one who has to live with the consequences, even if we might shake our heads at a great pitcher pitching for a team with a mosquito as a mascot.
After having to sit in courtrooms, before Congressional sub-committees and grand jury depositions, all while having to fit that neck in a collar and tie and wear a suit in humid D.C. weather, the man probably just wants to slap some spikes on, rub Icy Hot wherever he prefers to rub it and mow down some hitters with that fastball.
Hey, we all have our hobbies.
Is This a Tryout?
Could Clemens really be auditioning for a gig with his former team, the Houston Astros? If he shows he can still throw in the 90s and get hitters out, would the Astros really be interested in giving him a shot?
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Astros' amateur scouting director, Mike Elias, watched Clemens throw before he signed with the Skeeters. Elias was probably just doing his due diligence and Sugar Land is only 20 miles or so outside Houston, so he didn't have to take a long trip to see Clemens. But is this really a possibility?
That seems highly unlikely given how general manager Jeff Luhnow has overhauled his team, shedding older, high-priced veterans in favor of cheaper, developing young talent. Bringing the circus to Minute Maid Park doesn't seem to be his style.
But Clemens would sell tickets. Even Luhnow and owner Jim Crane have to acknowledge that, and people might overlook just how bad his team is during September if they get to watch Clemens every five days.
As Rosenthal also points out, playing in the majors would set Clemens' Hall of Fame clock back to five years after he retires. That would allow him to separate himself from the other eligible inductees fighting steroid suspicions. It would also put his PED accusations and legal proceedings further into the past.
Must Be the Money
OK, this can't possibly be true, right? According to Baseball-Reference.com, Clemens made more than $150 million during his 24-year major league career.
But a professional athlete squandering millions in career earnings isn't exactly a rare occurrence. Maybe he helped out plenty of friends and relatives with money over the years. Mom needed a house. Dad needed a helicopter. Cousin Jimmy always wanted to open a BBQ joint.
After years of being paid like a king, a person could develop a lavish lifestyle. Maybe Clemens has a bunch of cars. Perhaps he has a mansion with multiple indoor basketball courts, batting cages, pitching mounds, movie theaters, robot butlers, car elevators, four Iron Man suits in the basement and a Batcave.
Maybe each of his kids with names that start with the letter "K" each have private jets (or Iron Man suits). Maybe he helped out a Nigerian prince after getting an email from him.
Oh, and Clemens' legal defense could have been expensive too.
He Missed Throwing at Guys
As my fellow MLB lead writer Zach Ryder suggested, Clemens may just miss throwing at batters. After "accidentally" hitting a few neighbors one too many times while playing catch with one of his kids whose name starts with the letter "K," there were some complaints.
Clemens may have professed innocence, but yelling "Chin Music!" each time he hit a neighbor probably hurt his claim that he didn't mean to do it.
By playing organized baseball again, Clemens can buzz a guy standing too close to the plate and it's considered apropos. He can plunk a guy in the rib cage for some perceived slight, such as stealing signs, taking too long to get in the batter's box or calling time-out just before he's ready to throw a pitch.
Even if none of those things actually happen, Clemens can say that's how he interpreted it and throw a baseball as hard as he can at someone. Between the lines, it's legal.
That's a Cool Name
Clemens has pitched for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, two of the legendary franchises in baseball. But how many opportunities does a guy get to pitch for a team called the Sugar Land Skeeters?
Their mascot is a mosquito. (Could Clemens be a fan of the Syfy Channel movie Mansquito? By donning a uniform adorned by a mosquito, Clemens could in fact be a form of a mansquito.) That actually makes more sense than a red sock. Think about it.
Did Cy Young pitch for a team called the Skeeters? Did Walter Johnson? How about Bob Feller?
No pitcher that's ever won seven Cy Young Awards has ever pitched for a team called the Skeeters. That's the kind of trivia that keeps Tim Kurkjian warm at night—he can't wait to mention that on the Sunday afternoon edition of Baseball Tonight.
He Really Wanted to Play for Gary Gaetti
Hey, who wouldn't want to play for the former Minnesota Twins third baseman?
Well, maybe not Kent Hrbek, as this 1989 Sports Illustrated feature explains.
Enough Family Time
Living the normal-guy lifestyle works for most of us.
We spend time with our family, we make tables in the garage, we go to the movies, we cut the grass, we clean out the attic, we start watching Breaking Bad because everyone keeps saying how awesome it is, and we treasure the bliss that is the mid-afternoon nap.
But this is Roger Clemens we're talking about here. He can't be domesticated. His Saturdays shouldn't revolve around checking out yard sales or a trip to the Home Depot.
Maybe after spending time with his four kids—all of whose names begin with the letter "K"—Clemens realized what a horrible mistake he made and what trauma he saddled his children with, and just had to get away from it.
I mean, it probably seemed cool at the time: give them all "K" names because "K" is the symbol for strikeouts. But then Clemens realized that he did this to actual human beings he helped create. Nothing made sense anymore—except being on the mound, getting the sign from the catcher and firing a baseball at his mitt.
The Special Eighth Episode of 'The Franchise'
Clemens has a sense of the moment, so perhaps he sees a potential comeback (or a goof for an independent minor league team) as great material for a reality show.
Maybe Clemens even read Juan C. Rodriguez's report in the Sun-Sentinel that Showtime was cutting the second season of The Franchise, featuring the Florida Marlins, short after seven episodes and saw an opportunity to take that free eighth episode to chronicle his outing for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
But Showtime and the Marlins decided that a preview episode broadcast in April after manager Ozzie Guillen's controversial remarks about Fidel Castro was sufficient to top off the eight-episode order.
So much for that. Although plenty of cameras will surely be around for Clemens' Sugar Land debut on Aug. 25. Maybe MLB Network will send a crew down there, just in case something memorable happens.
Clemens and his people should hire their own camera guys too. Have some professional production work done on the footage and sell it to Showtime or MLB Network. NBC Sports Network could use the content too.
He Lost a Bet
To me, this explanation almost makes the most sense.
Maybe Clemens and Andy Pettitte corresponded at some point long before Clemens' perjury trial this past May (before lawyers advised the two not to communicate), maybe even back when they were working out together, and said, "Hey, if this ever comes back on us, just say you don't remember."
"Just say you misunderstood," Clemens could have said.
"What? No one's gonna believe that," Pettitte might have responded.
"Dude, just try it," Clemens could have said. "Say it was a 50-50 shot you remembered right. Everything's 50-50.'
"I don't know," Pettitte might have responded.
"I will bet you right now they go for it," Clemens could have said. "I'm so positive they'll go for it that I'll pitch in some independent league when they buy it."
"Independent league? Like what?" Pettitte might have asked.
"I don't know, something in Texas, like...I don't know, the Sugar Land Skeeters," Clemens could have said.
"The what?" Pettitte might have asked.
"The Sugar Land Skeeters," Clemens could have said. "They don't exist yet. But they should. Isn't that a great name?"
"Alright, man. You're on," Pettite might have responded.
"Alright, alright, alright," Clemens could have said, Matthew McConaughey style.
Follow @iancass on Twitter