Rocket Has Red Glare, Again
by Karl Wright
May 31, 2006
The Astros have done what I imagine a majority of knowledgeable baseball fans figured they would do, and signed Roger Clemens for the remainder of the year. He’ll earn a little less than $13 million, which is the prorated value of the $22 million contract he’s agreed to. The immediate question now is, “How long will it take him to get back into playing shape?” If his past resilience is any indicator, it won’t be long. Technically, he hasn’t signed a major league contract yet, as he’ll avoid being sent down by signing a minor league contract first, allowing him to prepare for the big leagues. If all goes as planned, Clemens will pitch first in Lexington (A) on June 6th, where his eldest son, Koby, plays, then on June 11th for Corpus Christi (AA), and finally on June 16th in Round Rock (AAA).
The Astros are hoping that Clemens will then be ready for a start versus the Minnesota Twins on June 22nd. The next question involves how much this is going to help the Astros; How much does Clemens have in this, his 23rd season? If the past two years are any indication, that should not be a worry for Astros fans, not to mention his solid performances in the World Baseball Classic this spring. As was mentioned in my last article, this was a necessity for the Houston franchise to even have a shot at the post-season, especially now that they have dipped to only one game over .500 for the season. With Andy Pettitte’s decidedly weak performance thus far, the ‘Stros were in desperate need of a strong arm behind Oswalt, who has looked very sharp in all but one start so far this season.
Don’t look now, but the Detroit Tigers have the best record in the majors and boast the best road record, as well. How long can this last? I don’t necessarily see them finishing as the top team in baseball, especially when one of their workhorses is the hot-headed Kenny Rogers. He’s always good for a second-half collapse, as was best demonstrated last year after leading the Rangers’ staff early on and completely imploding (almost literally) by mid-July. I expect that Mike Maroth (5-2, 3.56 ERA) will experience a similar drop-off as well since he is pitching a full run better than his career average and Bonderman is still pitching like, well…Bonderman. Justin Verlander is still enjoying a great start going 7-3 with a 2.55 ERA as is Nate Robertson (5-2, 3.02 ERA), so it’s possible that there will be some stability on the mound going into the summer.
However, if you’ve been watching them, you’d know that if they do go into the post-season (or are the best team in the league) it won’t be because of their pitching. Quite simply, this team can be offensive juggernaut when it wants to be. Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Chris Shelton, Craig Monroe and Carlos Guillen make this team a formidable challenge for any pitcher. Unless a couple of these guys quit playing ball before the end of the season, I just don’t see them dropping out of contention in the AL Central.
Well, since I put my nose in a place it probably didn’t belong by predicting a NYC-sized collapse by the Mets, I figured it’d be worthwhile to report on their progress. As I write this article, they still lead the NL East by 4 games over Philadelphia, whom they own a 2-1 series advantage over so far. We’ll check on them again after June, which should prove to be a make or break month, as they face Arizona, Los Angeles, Boston, Toronto, Cincinnati and the Yankees. Enjoy first-place fever while it lasts, Mets fan, because it is certainly fleeting.
Karl Wright currently resides in Dallas, Texas and be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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