January 13, 2004:
SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER THAN TO TRUST THIS RATMay 7, 2007
We knew better, dammit. That's what's so galling.
We spotted Roger Clemens from eight miles away. We'd seen him pour kerosene all over his Boston exit, never once thanking fans who'd invested 13 years in him. We'd seen how he strong-armed his way out of Toronto.
We figured him for a phony, fingered him as a fraud. He wasn't going to be able to put his act over on us. Not on New York. We're too savvy, too smart. We saw him for what he was: a disingenuous double-talker who spoke poetically about wearing pinstripes but sure seemed a lot sweeter on George Steinbrenner's checkbook. You were slow to accept him, slower to embrace him.
"I want to be a Yankee for life," Clemens declared, in March of 1999. "I want to retire a Yankee," Clemens insisted, in April of 2000. "I want to go in the Hall of Fame as a Yankee," he swore in June of 2003.
And you know what? We fell for it. Fans. Sportswriters. Yankee brass. ...
Look, Clemens did nothing illegal by deciding to end his retirement after 78 days. He wants one more summer in the sun with his pal, Andy Pettitte? Hey, you can do worse than work every fifth day for $5 million. Godspeed, Rocket. Have a plate of brisket on us.
But we'd better not ever hear him pipe up about the pinstripes tattooed on his soul anymore, OK? We'd better not ever listen to his dream of making the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. That's over. That's done.
"Somebody told me there are some people who don't have a hat on [on their plaques]," Clemens told us last June, "but that would be disrespectful to Mr. Steinbrenner, who gave me the opportunity to continue my career, to achieve these goals and become a true Hall of Famer."
He can officially spare us this tripe from now on. ...
Clemens is one of the most shameless athletes of all time ... Let him go. Let him go home. Let him try to figure out the National League, and let the fans of Houston fall prey to his wicked charms. We're done. We've been there. ...
"I played 20 years, they aren't going tell me what hat I'm wearing on my plaque," Clemens had said in June. "There might be a vacant seat there if they do."
Just like the 56,000 vacant seats that would accompany any Roger Clemens Day at Yankee Stadium. He wants to come back? He can buy a ticket. Just like any other Texas tourist.
You don't always get the chance to redeem yourself this way, but that's the opportunity Roger Clemens has now. He can make things right in a place where he badly needs to make things right. He can rectify his place of prominence in the Yankees firmament. And maybe earn that Yankees cap he swears he wants to wear into Cooperstown. ...
This is a different team Clemens joins this time around. He is no carpet-bagger anymore, rolling his dice with a shoo-in favorite.
May 8, 2007So, Mike, he's not a greedy gasbag anymore? You seemed pretty sure about it three years ago. What happened to make you forget the tripe and embrace the Rat?
HOW ABOUT THAT! A POP-QUIZ AS YOU PREPARE FOR THE RETURN OF ROGER
Well, we have about a month to re-calibrate ourselves, to get ready for All Things Rocket, to re-familiarize ourselves with those wonderfully kooky Elton John lyrics ("Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it's cold as hell ...) that'll accompany his weekly marches to the mound. ...
We have a month to allow Yankees fans to painstakingly remember how to love this merciless mercenary again, at precisely the point when they’d written him off as another greedy gasbag.
To help hasten the process, let's offer up a quick primer, a little nine-inning quiz to see exactly where you are in terms of your Rocket-Readiness. Eyes on your own paper.