Roger Clemens Is Joining An Independent League Team. Here’s Why That’s Not Depressing.
The last we heard of Roger Clemens, he was getting found not guilty on all charges in his seemingly-endless perjury trial. This made a lot of people happy, not because they necessarily thought Clemens was innocent, but because: 1) the trial sounded incredibly boring and therefore almost no one was interested in it; 2) the prosecution of Clemens struck many as a waste of time and money to begin with, so they were glad to see that side lose.
For Clemens, though, the verdict represented an undeniably huge victory. Had he been convicted, he would have faced jail time. He'd taken a risk by rejecting a plea bargain, and the risk paid off. Regardless of the personal opinions many still held, Clemens got off. What would he do with his new lease on life?
Well, apparently he's going to play independent league baseball.
Earlier today, the website of the Sugar Land Skeeters, who play in the geographically-incongruous Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, announced Clemens had signed with the team and is scheduled to pitch Saturday. (Clicking the link on the team's site leads not to a news story about the signing but directly to a page with ticket info about Saturday's game, which is either a sign the team hasn't been able to get up its own news release yet, or an abandonment of pretense so naked that it's almost noble.) Assuming he makes that scheduled start, Clemens will take on the Bridgeport Bluefish.
There are a couple different ways to look at this signing, and reader Joel, who emailed us about this story earlier this afternoon, touched on both. One is more cynical: one might assume Clemens just needs money. If he does (and again, he might not), then that would be sort of sad, since Clemens made $150 million over the course of his career. Even after fighting through a high-profile legal case with a high-powered lawyer, that would be a lot of money to blow through.
But the other possibility is that Clemens just wants to play some baseball. And if he does, we say: hey, good for him. Yeah, it's not the majors, but: Clemens is 50. Of course he's not going to pitch in the major leagues. Who is he, Jamie Moyer? And it's not like the Atlantic League is the dregs of the baseball world, either: that Bluefish team Clemens is set to face? It features Joey Gathright and Shea Hillenbrand, both of whom played several years in the majors, on it. One of Clemens' new teammates, Scott Kazmir, led the American League in strikeouts just five years ago. (Honestly, Kazmir's is a more depressing downfall, strictly in baseball terms, than Clemens'.)
If Clemens still wants to get his pitching fix - and the fact that he pitched in the majors well into his 40s is a sign he might well - then at this stage of his life there's no better place he's going to get to do it than a team, playing in the state where he lives, that's a part of a league that seems to feature a decent number of players you've heard of. Clemens trying to make an obviously-doomed major league comeback would be a sad spectacle.
This? This is Roger Clemens doing something because dammit, he can. You could make an argument it's depressing that he seems unable to let the game go, but hell, the guy's been on trial and mocked endlessly. If this is how he wants to unwind, we're fine with that. And the way Clemens' agent is talking about how "this is a one game at a time thing" - why, he even sounds self-aware and realistic. Hardly the stuff of someone clinging to bygone glory days. Maybe, after all he's been through, an outing with the Skeeters is exactly what Roger Clemens needed.
Well, unless he takes the mound and can't get anyone out. That would be depressing.
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