Apparently, the 50-year-old right-hander was being sincere when he said, "I don't see it happening," in reference to making a comeback with the Astros, though very few—if any—believed him at the time.
Clemens was throwing a side session three days before his second start with the Sugar Land Skeeters and looked to be on track to face the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 12. But he later told a Houston television station that he wanted to pitch against a playoff contender and knock that team out of the race. That seemed to rule out an appearance against the Cubs.
A week later, Clemens hasn't pitched for the Astros, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that he'll do so. You have to figure Clemens would pitch while the Astros are at home. What would be the point of putting him on the mound if the team couldn't at least derive the revenue from a big crowd at Minute Maid Park?
The Astros have six home games remaining, beginning on Sept. 21. They play the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, so if Clemens wants to face a playoff contender, he'll have the opportunity to do so.
However, Clemens hasn't pitched since Sept. 7. He hasn't stayed on a regular five-day rotation, and he hasn't built the necessary stamina to face major league competition again. Barring a surprise appearance during the Astros' final home stand, Clemens is not going to pitch for Houston this season.
Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that Clemens might try a comeback next year. Maybe he realized he just needed more time to get ready. Or perhaps Clemens doesn't want to merely be a one-game sideshow, rather preferring to contribute for the Astros over a full season.
It would be one thing for Clemens to make a token appearance at the end of a miserable, 100-loss season for the Astros. Allowing Clemens to pitch would have been a spectacle, but at least it would have given Astros fans something to get excited about at the end of a rough year.
There's no reason for the Astros to let Clemens pitch for them in 2013. Is he truly capable of lasting through a full major league season, pitching 150 innings and providing a veteran presence for a young pitching staff? In other words, are there actual baseball reasons to do this?
It seems highly unlikely. So why go through such a charade?
If the reason behind a Clemens comeback is to reset his Hall of Fame clock back another five years to separate him from accused PED users and other 300-game winners like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson, the Astros don't have to indulge him.
To do so would make a mockery of professional competition. The other players on the field are out there trying to win a game and establish or extend their major league careers. Clemens would arguably be doing the same thing, but his ultimate objective would be much more self-serving.
The Astros and Clemens could still create a nice story here. It could be the epilogue to Clemens' 24-year major league career as well as the prologue for the next era of Houston Astros baseball.
Clemens could train with the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., next spring. He could work and compete alongside Houston's pitchers as if he was trying to win a job on the major league club. By doing so, he would effectively be a coach, setting an example for the team's young hurlers to follow.
Learning Clemens' methods for preparing for the major league season to come would be extremely beneficial for the Astros' staff. That would be far more constructive for general manager Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane and the Astros' rebuilding effort than whatever gate receipts might be generated from Clemens pitching.
It would also be the nice ending that Clemens is presumably seeking for his career: generating the goodwill that we all assume he's looking for and compelling us to remember how great of a pitcher he was rather than a guy in a courtroom battling perjury charges.
Hopefully, this is the path that Clemens and the Astros choose to follow instead of bringing the circus to Houston next year.
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