11:04 am Aug. 22, 20121
Roger Clemens, 50, will be making a comeback this Saturday night with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
He'll be pitching against the Bridgeport Bluefish, a team made up of the usual type of players found at the unaffiliated professional baseball level, with outfielders like former Mets prospect Prentice Redman, well-known car-jumper Joey Gathright, and former major leaguer Shea Hillenbrand.
Clemens last pitched in the major leagues back in 2007, when he posted a 4.18 E.R.A. for the Yankees over 99 innings. But that was five years ago. His average fastball velocity then was 90.1 miles per hour; he was clocked at 87 miles per hour on Monday, a significant difference, particularly if that was his high, rather than average velocity.
In theory, this is more than spectacle. If Clemens is able to physically get through his start on Saturday night, he could conceivably find a place with a big-league organization, like maybe the Houston Astros.
Why on earth would he want to do that, you may ask.
The answer is that Clemens, by virtue of appearing in a major league game again, would restart the five-year clock preceding a player's appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, which starts ticking the moment the player retires. Given the difficulty that players tarred with steroids use (or even, in the case of Jeff Bagwell, tarred with the possibility of steroids use despite no evidence) are facing getting elected these days, allowing for more time, in the hope that the climate changes, would seem to be in Clemens' best interest.
Who knows. A team like the Astros, with baseball's worst record and sagging attendance, might welcome a return by Clemens to boost the gate. (Come to think of it, Clemens would be a good fit for the Mets, too, though the franchise about to celebrate Mike Piazza Bobblehead Day probably isn't the most hospitable fit.)
There's been exactly one pitcher who threw a major league pitch when he was old enough to qualify for membership in the AARP: Satchel Paige, who returned to the major leagues at the age of 59 in 1965. He threw three scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965, in a game Kansas City eventually lost to the Boston Red Sox, 5-2. He allowed one hit, a double to Carl Yastrzemski, and struck out the opposing pitcher, Bill Monbouquette.
Paige spent most of his career in the Negro Leagues; he didn't pitch in the major leagues until he was 41, but only because baseball's color line wasn't shattered until after Paige turned 40.
A few years later, in 1971, Paige was elected to the Hall of Fame, the first Negro Leagues player to receive the honor. Maybe Clemens wants to follow Paige's path. It would be fascinating to watch him try.