Former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens. Mandatory Credit: baseball-fever.com

It's Time To Let The Rocket Return To The Bronx

Once upon a time Roger Clemens signed the richest (at the time) single year contract in baseball history to pitch half a season. His arrival led Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman to lose her composure (and maybe her mind) screaming mid-game about the Rocket’s return. Since that spring day in 2007, Clemens’ career and character have been irreparably tarnished. There have been Mitchell Reports, various lawsuits (both by him and against him), criminal charges, depositions upon depositions, a yearly dwindling amount of Hall of Fame votes and the word “misremembered” being added to the American lexicon. The Yankee organization meanwhile has taken the approach to pretend that Roger Clemens never wore a Yankee uniform.

If you did not know Roger Clemens played in New York for six seasons, you would have no way of learning that fact by visiting Yankee Stadium. In 2008, at a ceremony for the last game at the old Yankee Stadium nearly every living Yankee legend was present to give the old building a proper sendoff. Those that could not make it or were deceased were illuminated in a video tribute. Roger Clemens, who won a Cy Young Award and two World Series rings in pinstripes, was not included. The new Yankee Stadium opened the following year sans any posters or murals of the Rocket. The man who recorded his 300th win and 4000th strikeout as a Bomber has not been invited to any Old Timer’s Day games since his retirement after the 2007 season. A player that complied over 350 wins, over 4500 strikeouts, seven Cy Youngs, two championship rings, and an MVP cannot get a gig as a spring training instructor.

Roger Clemens played for four teams in his MLB career (Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros). Clemens and the Red Sox divorced on bad terms.  Then-general manager Dan Duquette stated at the time that Clemens was “in the twilight of his career.” Albeit in dubious circumstances, all Clemens would do is win four more Cy Youngs after leaving Boston. His time in Toronto was very brief but very successful, winning back-to-back Cy Youngs in his only two years there. The Astros picked him up at the tail end of his career but he had enough left in the tank to win another Cy Young and lead the team to an NL Pennant.

The Astros also signed him to a personal services contract. Clemens has been invited to several Astros events since his retirement. In fact, Clemens will part of the special Astros goodbye tribute to Derek Jeter the first week of the season. The Red Sox will finally allow Clemens back to Fenway this summer when he is inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame along with fellow all-time great and Yankee nemesis Pedro Martinez.  So why do the Yankees not only bar him from any Yankee events but go the extra step of trying to erase his very Yankee existence like this was Soviet Russia?

Roger Clemens’ retirement has been a horrible embarrassment to everyone that has been involved in his career, including the Yankees. But even on Clemens’ worst day, he was nowhere near as toxic as Alex Rodriguez was on any given day in the past year. Despite a plethora of circumstantial evidence, Clemens never did fail a drug test. He was never convicted of a crime. Others who have been tainted by PED use or suspected use have been able to return to Major League Baseball. The poster child of PED suspected use, Barry Bonds, is a guest hitting instructor for the Giants this spring.  Mark McGwire is the hitting coach for the Dodgers.  Matt Williams was named in the same Mitchell Report as Clemens and is now the manager for the Nationals. Jhonny Peralta signed a fat multiyear contract after being suspended for PED use last season. The Yankees stood by Andy Pettitte through his PED use and Alex Rodriguez’s first PED admission. What makes Clemens different?

The bad blood that the Yankees have with Roger Clemens runs deep and past any PED use that may or may not have occurred. It brews from his signing with Houston after “retiring” from the Yankees in 2003 and not giving them a shot to resign him. It concerns his involving of Andy Pettitte in his lawsuits. It runs from his ultra-competitive demeanor rubbing people the wrong way. But all of that needs to be forgotten. Roger Clemens’ career is over. He will forever be shrouded in disgrace after his lawsuits and PED suspicions. He will never enter Cooperstown without paying for a ticket. And while no one is advocating giving him a plague in Monument Park, the time has come to forgive and forget, as the Red Sox have done and the Giants have done with Bonds. Clemens should be invited to Spring Training and to Old Timers Day. He has a positive place in Yankees history, whether the organization wants to admit or not. This is a franchise that prides itself on have more history and great moments than any other, and Roger Clemens is a part of that.

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