- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

Roger Clemens has decided to join this baseball season in progress.

After consulting everyone in his family, including the memory of his dead mother, Clemens will again pitch for the Houston Astros, earning $12 million for just more than half a season.

Clemens, who lives in Katy, Texas, will essentially work from home. Just like last season, he doesn’t have to travel with the team, unless he is scheduled to pitch.

At 43 years old, with 341 wins and seven Cy Young Awards, Clemens doesn’t have to do much of anything.

He didn’t have to come back, and it’s still hard to tell just how enthused he is about this season.

“I don’t necessarily know that I need to [come back] or that I want to, but I’m committed,” he said last week.

But the Astros knew they wanted him to come back, so they put together another offer he couldn’t refuse.

Here’s the other thing, the thing Clemens must have turned over in his head a few times: He was the best pitcher in baseball last season — 13-8 with a 1.87 ERA in 2111/3 innings. Only poor run support kept him from winning an eighth Cy Young Award.

But Clemens was 4-3 with a 5.63 ERA in last season’s playoffs. He limped off the mound against the White Sox in Game 1 of the World Series. His body gave out on him.

That’s why this half-season, even if comes at a steep price for the Astros, is a great deal for them and Clemens.

Clemens is betting that he has a good half-season, plus a postseason, left in his arm — and the smart money says he’s right.

Last season, Clemens joined Cy Young and Warren Spahn as the best 42-year-old pitchers. This season, he will challenge Nolan Ryan and Phil Niekro as the best 43-year-olds.

None of the usual rules of age and decline apply to Clemens, because 1) he prepares himself so well and 2) he probably is the best pitcher of all time.

Because Clemens is the best, even his decline is going to be pretty good.

Consider this: Eight pitchers have more career wins than Clemens, but only Spahn pitched his entire career after 1919, the end of the dead ball era. Clemens is just 22 wins from Spahn’s “modern” record.

As for the playoffs, Clemens and the Astros have some work to do. They are 81/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

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