If Roger Clemens had wanted to quell rumors that he wasn't launching a comeback into Major League Baseball, then he really should start pitching a lot worse. Last night, before a sellout crowd in Sugar Land, Clemens and the Sugar Land Skeeters strangled the Long Island Ducks for four scoreless innings, contributing to a 4-0 win.
Vintage Clemens pervaded. He grimaced, he winced, and we're still waiting for his beard, long dormant as scruff, to fill in. There was only one thing missing -- dude's fastball. What was once his most fearsome pitch, earning him that iconic moniker The Rocket, was noticeably absent. When he brought the heat, it wimpered in at a scant 88 miles per hour.
Nonetheless, he was untouchable last night, hurling 54 pitches with 33 strikes to his son at catcher, Koby. Still, these were the Long Island Ducks -- not the
Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox Los Angeles Dodgers. Would Clemens ever be able to emulate his performance Friday night in the bigs?
For now, Clemens says he's done pitching for the season, but would take the call from Astros owner Jim Crane if there's desire to get him back out there. Even if that's not likely to happen: "At this point, I don't see that happening," Clemens told reporters after the game. "I just know my recovery time right now, and I think I've pushed my body and my shoulder to where it needs to be."
He later added: "There's no reason why it couldn't next year."
Indeed there were traces of that magic Friday night -- at least for fans. One man, who would only call himself "Skip," eschewed any notion that Clemens had been taking steroids over the last few decades, saying, "They were just allegations." Well, it was a little more than that, according to the Mitchell Report released in 2007. But we didn't want to ruin the joviality of the night, so we left it at that.
Still, there was one more question -- was it silly for a 50-year-old man to get back out there?
"Silly?" Skip said. "Silly? Is it silly for me to ride horses every weekend?"
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Well, a little.
"If you love the game," Skip said. "You love the game."
Frank Middleton, 53, of Houston, had a more measured tone. "He was a steroid user, but so was 85 percent of the players in the game. The MLB didn't police it. And he's out there just having fun, and isn't that what it's about?"