Clemens' return benefits both sides

Clemens' return benefits both sides

Roger Clemens' decision to join the New York Yankees might seem, at first glance, to be at least a small surprise. But it is actually Clemens in classic form -- The Rocket to the rescue.

Of Clemens' three choices, the Yankees, on the surface, might seem to have the least obvious appeal. The Houston Astros had the comforts of home. The Boston Red Sox had far and away the best record of the three teams -- the best record in the American League, for that matter -- so the chances of Clemens finishing his career with another championship seemed to point to this option.

But if you're Roger Clemens and you've won 348 games and you're headed toward the Hall of Fame, you are not bound by the usual considerations. Your sense of yourself is largely heroic, and this is not all ego. You have the numbers to prove it.

So the question, in part, becomes: Where can you make the biggest difference? And the answer to that question comes back: with the New York Yankees.

Look at the Yanks. They have an everyday lineup as good, or better, than any in the game. But they are a sub-.500 operation as we speak, because their pitching has been beat up and/or ineffective. If one man could make a tremendous difference to their overall outlook, that one man would be Roger Clemens.

He may be 44 years old. But in his 19 starts with the Astros last season, he had a 2.30 ERA. The most recent evidence says that he is still The Rocket.

In these circumstances, with the Yankees in desperate need of pitching help, you could say that Clemens is the hero, riding in on a white horse to save the situation. In fact, Clemens might be the entire cavalry.

So these circumstances are perfect for Clemens' sense of himself. But there is another element that makes the Yankees the sensible choice for the ace of aces: It's not all a question of what he can do for them. It's also a question of what they can do for him. It isn't all the money. He could get that in the other two locales, too. The record says that the Yankees will score runs for Roger Clemens -- lots of runs.

Roger Clemens

This was the problem in Houston. In 2005, Clemens had an ERA of 1.87, but because the Astros, even though they became a World Series team, could not consistently score for him, that splendid ERA translated into only a 13-8 record.

If The Rocket pitches at anything like the level of the last two seasons, he won't have that non-support issue in the Bronx. The vast majority of the time, if he pitches well enough to win, the Yankees will score enough for him to win.

You take these two circumstances -- the opportunity to be seen as the lead character in a Yankees revival and the assurance of runs with which to work -- and you can see why Roger Clemens has ended his annual semi-retirement in favor of another stint with the Yankees. They could be the Yankees again, if they get better pitching. What could be more of an answered prayer than the addition of Roger Clemens?

The announcement of Clemens' return, made by The Rocket himself during the seventh-inning stretch on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, was in perfect keeping with the theme. The Rocket appears suddenly, magically, and within the blink of an eye, deep concern turns to genuine optimism.

There aren't many people who could make this happen. There are even fewer pitchers who could make this happen. But Roger Clemens can. That is why he is going to the Yankees.

He is the answer for what ails them. They will provide him with necessary the run support. There will be general disapproval of this choice deep in the heart of Texas and in New England. But The Rocket's return for a second hitch with the Yankees makes perfect sense, for both the club and the pitcher. Not only can Roger Clemens win with the Yankees, he can be a main reason that the Yankees can win.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.