SUGAR LAND, Texas – Roger Clemens wore blue jeans, a black Harley Davidson belt with his phone clipped to it, black cowboy boots and a blue oxford shirt. He then put on a Sugar Land Skeeters hat, wiggled it into place and announced his return to professional baseball.
“If you want to call it a comeback,” he said, “you can call it that.”
So is this a comeback or what? What is the big idea here? Why is a 50-year-old Clemens, five years removed from his last game, going to start for an independent league baseball team on Saturday night?
“It’s just basically for fun,” he said.
A lot of people will be skeptical of that for a lot of different reasons. Clemens earlier this year was found not guilty of six counts of perjury after being accused of lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing. Despite that ruling, in the minds of many baseball fans and media, he remains strongly attached to the Steroid Era in baseball and many remain suspicious about his career, which lasted 24 years and included three seasons in which an over-40 Clemens recorded sub 3.0 ERAs.
Altough there is no physical evidence Clemens ever used PEDs, his Hall of Fame candidacy is the subject of considerable debate and, the thinking goes, could benefit from some breathing room.
If Clemens can get himself into just one major league game, he can push the first vote on his candidacy back five years and distance himself from it all.
That, of course, is all speculation, although Clemens did not exactly shut any of that down on Tuesday. He said his career “speaks for itself,” and that he was physically a long way from being able to compete at the MLB level. But he also wouldn’t rule out a return to the Astros.
“I’d never close the door on the Astros,” he said.
So there’s a lot of potential charity happening here. It could be that Clemens is merely being charitable to a little baseball team 20 minutes from his home in northwest Houston.
But if he actually does want to play for the Astros, he’d be asking them for some charity too.
Clemens threw 87 miles per hour during a workout Monday, and it isn’t like the last-place, rebuilding Astros would have any practical use for a 50-year-old power pitcher without any power.
They would be doing him a personal favor.
Clemens does not seem to be under any delusions about that and says he hasn’t talked to the Astros about it.
“We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he said.
He says he runs the three-mile Memorial Park track on a regular basis. He says he throws with his sons. The bloated Clemens you remember from the trial appeared on Monday to have trimmed down a little. He says he’s been working out, but working out isn’t the same as training. His arm, he said, was sore from yesterday.
“I’m 50 years old,” he pointed out several times.
But then he says other things. He says the famed Dr. James Anderson recently evaluated his pitching arm and told him it looks like that of a 30-year-old. He says he wants to “see how it goes.” He says he has worked hard on his mechanics to give himself longevity.
He will pitch this game on Saturday for the independent league Skeeters, he will sign a bunch of autographs and pose for a bunch of pictures and then wake up the next day and evaluate. At the end of the press conference, somebody hollered out “good luck.”
“Thank you,” Clemens said. “I’m going to need it.”