Let’s Talk About Clemens

I stumbled upon this column this morning. There’s nothing special about it; it’s par for the course when it comes to the Yankees’ signing of Roger Clemens. The writer unleashes the standard set of rationalizations arguments against the deal that seems to have permeated virtually all forms of sports media. Whether it’s ESPN or The Boston Globe, Peter Gammons or Gerry Callahan, it seems like everyone has adopted the same company line(s) about the Clemens’ deal.

I’m pretty tired of it, to be honest. The only things I’ve been reading about this deal are negative. Of course, people are entitled to their opinions. And if they’re negative, then so be it. But these opinions should be based on sound reasoning and clear thinking, not on gut feelings, emotional reactions, or (my favorite) bitterness. So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to put forth the primary, dominant arguments against the Clemens/Yankees union that are permeating the sports media. Then, I am going to logically, reasonably, and coolly (maybe not the last one) completely disembowel these arguments. As a Yankee fan and a rational human being, I am tired of reading and hearing shitty arguments against the deal. I am perfectly willing to listen to smart things, but I have no tolerance for dumb things. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dumb things being said, and here they are:

(1) Signing Roger Clemens shows how pathetic and/or desperate the Yankees really are.

The Yankees are not desperate, they are injured. Keesup said it the best the other day: “it just seems like everyone is equating their pitching injures with moral failure”. I couldn’t agree more. I cannot stress this enough – the Yankees are not desperate, they are not pathetic, and they are not morally flawed. Their pitching staff has endured an unexpected rash of significant injuries. That’s it.

Chien-Ming Wang was out until late April with a hamstring problem. Mussina missed 3 weeks with a hamstring problem. Phil Hughes is out for a couple months with a hamstring problem. Carl Pavano is Carl Pavano. The only Yankee starting pitcher to have not missed his turn has been Andy Pettitte. So let’s quit it with the pathetic and desperate Yankees talk. If your team suffered a rash of injuries that forced 14 starts from Jeff Karstens, Chase Wright, Kei Igawa, Matt DeSalvo, and Darrell Rasner, your team would have a sub-.500 record too.

It’s also May. Early May. If you think a 6 game deficit can’t be made up in early May, then you need to shoot yourself in the head right now (I’m looking at you ESPN). The Yankees aren’t done, finished, dead, floundering, or on life support. The Yankees are, however, a good team that has been set back by random, weird pitching injuries that have forced the Yankees to address this new need. The Yankees need more quality starting pitchers as a hedge against any future injuries. Roger Clemens was available. Makes sense to me.

(2) Roger Clemens isn’t that good because he was 7-6 last year in Houston.

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but wins are stupid. STUPID. The “win” is the most uninsightful, non-descriptive, useless statistic in baseball (sports?) today. Seriously. If anyone – mother, father, brother, lover – tries to make a point based on wins, then you must automatically consider that person an idiot. I cannot stress this enough. Wins are stupid. Stop using wins to judge pitchers.

This is why Roger Clemens had only 7 wins in 19 starts last year: lack of run support. Houston was 25th in baseball in runs scored, 21st in OBP, and 28th in OPS. That’s horrible. Houston couldn’t score runs, and therefore Clemens could not get “wins” – despite posting a 2.30 ERA in 113 IP, and a WHIP of 1.04.

It someone makes the argument that Clemens is bad now because he only had 7 wins, please punch them in the face. I will post your bail when you get thrown in jail.

(3) Roger Clemens is old and he’s going to break down.

I understand that Clemens is 44 and it is reasonable to wonder about his health. But he’s also averaged 33 starts per season for his career. He hasn’t missed a start since 2002. He’s in fantastic shape, he works hard to stay in that shape, and he has a healthy history. I have a hard time believing that this would be an issue if he were with any other team than the Yankees. He signs with the Yankees, and he’s injury-prone. He signs anywhere else, and he’s a medical marvel and a tribute to hard work.

Might he break down? Sure, he’s 44. But please don’t make a gigantic stink about this when there’s minimal reason to.

(4) The Yankees paid too much for a part-time player.

It’s funny how we didn’t hear this argument when he was doing the same thing in Houston. I understand that a starting pitcher’s value is less than an everyday player’s. Clemens can only help the Yankees win every fifth day. I get that.

But here’s the thing: the Yankees don’t give a shit about the $18.5 million or so that they’ll be paying Clemens. They’re the Yankees. It’s chump change. They’ll get some more money later. If the Yankees do not use their vast financial resources to improve their team, they are completely neglecting their competitive advantage. The Yankees should never cut costs, because there’s no reason to. They can afford to spend the most to acquire the best, and they should. The Yankees had a need, and someone was available to fill that need, but for a lofty price. The Yankees could afford that price, so they made a deal.

One more thing. Clemens, despite being a “part-time player”, is a significant upgrade from the status quo. Come June, the Yankees’ rotation will be Wang, Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina, and Hughes. That’ll do. The upgrade Clemens provides over Igawa/Rasner/Wright/DeSalvo is significant. So yeah, the Yankees paid a lot. And yeah, they paid a lot for someone who helps 20% of the time. But they could afford it and it made sense. Isn’t that why people make purchases?

(And also, Gerry Callahan, the Red Sox paid $51 million to pick up the phone and talk to Dice-K. He also plays 20% of the time. Quit your bitching.)

(5) Roger Clemens special treatment will tear the clubhouse apart.

Seriously? Really? Does anyone believe this? Brian Cashman either (a) traded dissenting players or (b) confirmed this treatment with current veteran players. It’s been widely reported that he’s done this. He got rid of Randy Johnson partly for this reason, and he checked with guys like Mussina, Posada, and Jeter to make sure they didn’t have a problem with Clemens’ privileges. They didn’t. Do you know why? Because he’s Roger freaking Clemens, and he’s a huge asset to the team.

Look, the Yankees play in New York. The media is insane, vicious, cutthroat, unreasonable, scheming, conniving, agenda-ridden, and suffocating. I don’t think the players are going to be sitting around moping about how Roger isn’t in the clubhouse today. They’re professionals and they understand that if anyone has earned this right, it’s Clemens. The Yankees’ clubhouse will not implode. This is a stupid suggestion.

(6) Roger Clemens is only doing this for the money. It’s not about winning a World Series. If it were about winning a World Series, he would have signed with the Red Sox.

I’m sure the money is a huge part of Clemens’ decision. He also, however, already wipes his ass with $100 bills. So it can’t be entirely about the money.

I also reject the notion that if he wanted to win a World Series, he would have signed with Boston. The obvious implication is that Boston is better-equipped to win it all than the Yankees. That is not so clear to me. Boston has had near-flawless starting pitching, near-flawless bullpen work, and a healthy offense. Everything that could have gone right for the Red Sox has. Beckett is not going to pitch sub-3.00 ERA ball all year, nor is Wakefield. Schilling will regress a little as well. Who knows what Matsuzaka will do, but he hasn’t looked good so far. The bullpen has been untouchable, which also will not continue. The lineup has been completely healthy, which also cannot last.

In short, it’s not as obvious to me as it is to everyone else that the Red Sox are clearly better than the Yankees. Maybe they’re better. I don’t know. But it’s too early to definitively state that the Red Sox are better than the Yankees, and therefore provide a better opportunity to win it all.

(7) General bitterness and hypocrisy

As I’ve stated, the sports media has depicted the Clemens signing in a decidedly negative light. The Yankees are desperate/pathetic, Clemens is a mercenary asshole, the ship will continue to sink, etc. This is mostly true within the Boston media.

But if the Red Sox had signed Clemens, the media would have creamed all over themselves, philosphically and elegantly waxing about how things have come full circle and how this will provide “closure” to the Boston fans and Clemens’ career. But no, the Yankees signed him, so now it’s pathetic and corrupt. The Yankees spending money is a deplorable, immoral act that sets a bad example for other franchises and disgraces the game. The big, bad Yankees are up to their old tricks again, using their financial advantage to (gasp!) win ballgames. What a bunch of assholes.

Here’s what I have to say to that: deal with it. I’m tired of the Yankees being hated and loathed because they have money. They have money because they are an old, storied franchise with a competitive and rich owner that puts out a fantastic product in one of the biggest markets on the planet. I can understand not liking them because they win a lot. That’s natural. But it drives me nuts when sportswriters get all jittery and bitter because the Yankees spend their money.

You know which team was the most expensive to win the World Series? The 2004 Boston Red Sox. You know which team was the most expensive to have missed the playoffs? The 2006 Boston Red Sox. Money does not equal World Series victories. Stop whining.

That’s pretty much it: stop whining.


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