Roger Clemens

Why Roger Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros

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I was totally not surprised when it was revealed yesterday that the Astros are going to scout Roger Clemens’ September 7 start for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Heck, I was not surprised when the September 7 date was announced itself, because that set things up for a normal four days rest allowing Clemens to pitch against the Cubs in that mid-September series. Which I identified as the best option a week ago.

But if it’s not a big surprise that Clemens is going to pitch for the Astros, let us take a minute to ask why he’s going to pitch.  In this, I think my opinion differs slightly from most people’s.

The most common answer I’ve heard for this is that pitching now sets his Hall of Fame waiting period back five more years, buying him time.  I agree that this is one consideration for Clemens, but I doubt it’s the main one. Mostly because I don’t think five years will make a big difference for him one way or the other. If he didn’t pitch and was eligible for the vote now, he’d still be eligible five years from now when, according to this theory, the sentiment towards PED users may change. If that sentiment hasn’t changed five years from now, I question if it ever will, rendering those five more years on the back end superfluous.

No, I think the real reason Clemens wants to pitch again is so that the final paragraph of his obituary — and the final image from any documentaries made of the man — ends with triumph as opposed to infamy.

Think about it: if Clemens were to die without having pitched again, the final chapter of his story will be ending the 2007 season injured, not coming back after being named in the Mitchell Report and then fighting prosecution — and winning an acquittal most people scoffed at anyway — for the last several years of his public life.  The last image in that SportsCentury bio or whatever would be him in a suit, with a bad haircut, walking down a Washington D.C. sidewalk with his sleazy lawyer.

But even if he pitches one inning against the Cubs, and even if he doesn’t do terribly well, the last image will be of him walking off the mound in a major league uniform, tipping his cap to adoring fans in his hometown. If he strikes out some September callup all the better.  The image will be one of redemption, even if there is nothing especially redeeming about his story.  The implication will be that, questions about him aside, he was able to compete in the majors at age 50, so how dare anyone question what he was able to do when he was 37.

Images matter. Final chapters matter. By pitching in the majors one more time, even if it’s just to one or two batters, Clemens — and posterity — will get to see him closing out his public life on his terms, not someone else’s. And I can’t help but think that’s incredibly important to a guy who spent so much time in the spotlight.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

DENVER, CO - JULY 20:  Starting pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers to home plate during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Chris Archer will take the mound for the Rays on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, opposing Dodgers right-hander Bud Norris in a 10:10 PM EDT start. It’s convenient that what could be Archer’s final start could be right in front of the team with which he eventually lands.

A rival executive told ESPN’s Jayson Stark last week that he believes there’s a “70 percent” chance Archer winds up with the Dodgers. It makes sense, as Archer is arguably the best pitcher — current won-lost record and ERA aside — available heading into the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Dodgers need an impact pitcher if the club is to keep pace in the NL West and the NL Wild Card races. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Dodgers are 56-44, 2.5 games behind the first-place Giants and holding the first of two Wild Card slots.

The Dodgers, notably, are without Clayton Kershaw, who is dealing with mild disk herniation in his lower back and may require surgery. Hyun-Jin Ryu landed on the disabled list earlier this month after making his only start of the season. Alex Wood underwent an elbow procedure recently and may rejoin the team in mid- to late-September.

Archer is 5-13, with the 13 losses leading all major league starters. He also has an uninspiring 4.60 ERA, but his total of 147 strikeouts is best in the American League. ERA retrodictors like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA believe Archer is anywhere from much better to significantly better than his ERA indicates.

Not that the Dodgers are pinching pennies, but Archer is also relatively affordable through as late as 2021. He’s earning $2.75 million this season, $4.75 in 2017, 6.25 million in ’18, and $7.5 million in ’19. He also has a $9 million club option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout and an $11 million club option for ’21 with a $250,000 buyout.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez) @ New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard), 4:05 PM EDT [Game One]

St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) @ New York Mets (Bartolo Colon), TBD [Game Two]

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Mike Pelfrey) @ Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Texas Rangers (Nick Martinez), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Lucas Harrell) @ Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Cody Reed) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have placed reliever Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. The club recalled Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis.

Thus continues a terrible 2016 for Rosenthal, who lost his grip on the closer’s role last month. The right-hander has recorded the save in 14 of 18 chances with a 5.13 ERA and a 48/27 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. Seung-hwan Oh has handled save situations  for the Cardinals in July.

As the Cardinals are playing a doubleheader against the Mets on Tuesday, the club also recalled Sam Tuivailala to serve as the 26th man on the roster.