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Anthony Castrovince

Clemens' flirtation with comeback a bad idea

Castrovince: Clemens' comeback a bad idea

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We are a nation divided.

Some of us want to see him return; some of us would prefer he stay away from such a prominent position.

Consensus, it seems, is out of the question. But soon, at least, we'll have clarity.

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I speak not of Barack Obama and his bid for reelection but of Roger Clemens and his bid for big league resurrection. Clemens is attempting to mount the comeback bid none of us necessarily wanted or expected but, now that it is a distinct possibility, some of us can't help rooting for, if only for freakish entertainment value.

Not that this Major League season hasn't been entertaining enough, mind you. This is, after all, the year of Mike Trout, a 21-year-old expected to win an MVP award. This is the year of underdogs in underserved markets, with the Nationals looking to bring postseason baseball back to the nation's capitol for the first time since 1933 and with the A's and O's enjoying amazing late-season relevance. This is the year of Bobby Valentine headlines and of three perfect games (to date) and of the Stephen Strasburg Shutdown and of Chipper's final lap and of the Dodgers' stunning spending and on and on and on.

In short, we've had plenty to hold our attention even without the 50-year-old Rocket tossed into the mix.

But Clemens can't help himself, and, well, maybe in hindsight this should not be a surprise. He is, after all, one of the more intense competitors the sport has ever seen. He beat the rap in federal obstruction of justice charges, and now he's trying to beat Father Time, too. His frosted tips are but the beginning; next on his horizon is the 49-year-old Jamie Moyer's recently set record as the oldest pitcher to win a Major League game.

In suiting up twice for the Sugar Land Skeeters, Clemens created a sideshow worthy of the independent Atlantic League and obviously caught the eye and attention of a Houston Astros club that is last in the league in both wins and attendance numbers.

Common ground, however, has not been found, as the two sides have expressed differences of opinion not in interest and not in money but in scheduling. Astros owner Jim Crane, seeking to preserve the integrity of the pennant races, doesn't want Clemens pitching against a contender, and Clemens, ever macho to the core, doesn't want to waste his time on anything but.

"Why would I want to waste my time running around and getting in shape?" he told Houston TV station KRIV. "I get over to Minute Maid (Park), I'll crank it up and get it over 90 for a contender. We'll knock them right out of the playoffs. That would be fun. Pitching against somebody that's not in contention wouldn't be any fun for me."

The Astros' remaining home slate features the suddenly contending Phillies and the Pirates and Cardinals, so non-contenders are not an option, unless the Pirates continue to fall out of the Wild Card mix.

And so the Clemens comeback is dead on arrival ... until it isn't. The "will he or won't he" in this has lasted through several news cycles, and we've yet to hear anything truly definitive.

What is definitive, is that this was a bad idea from the beginning, rooted as it is more in Clemens' self interests than the Astros' baseball interests.

But once unleashed in the public realm, a possibility of this sort becomes an entity all its own. Because now you've got a certain segment of the population increasingly curious to see what Clemens can accomplish at this level at this age, and the lure of a September sellout for the Rocket's return has to be appealing to an Astros team en route to 100 losses. This is, after all, an entertainment business.

What is undoubtedly appealing to Clemens, on some level, is the thought of pushing back his Hall of Fame candidacy another five years. Time does tend to lend a new perspective to things, and perhaps it would lend new perspective to the PED suspicions (short of convictions) that currently stain Clemens' career.

That career, some have argued, has Hall of Fame credence, even if we only acknowledge his time with the Red Sox and ignore all that came after. Alas, we can't ignore all that came after. Nor can we ignore this comeback chatter, even in the midst of much more appealing and important pennant races.

Right now, it appears the Clemens comeback isn't happening. But check back in a few days or a week, after the final votes have been cast.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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