The Astros had a chance to make it OK, either by strengthening the team’s offense or by working a deal to send Clemens to a contender, maybe even to Boston, which would have brought his extraordinary career full circle. Instead, a team that was seven games under .500 did nothing.
With the trade deadline passed, Clemens is stuck, marooned, trapped. A waiver deal later in the season is probably impossible, given the number of teams that would probably claim him if his name went on the wire. So he’ll have to finish the year, pitching brilliantly with nothing to show for it, his team unable to either score runs for him or, on the rare occasions that they do, hold a lead.
He turns 44 this week, and it’s hard to see him coming back for another season — not, at least, to his hometown team, a team that wouldn’t do right by one of the greatest players ever to pull on a uniform. This year, he returned for just more than half a season. Given the return in victories in his investment of pain, it’s hard to see how he’d try it again.
Last year, Clemens was 12-8, pitching 211 innings and allowing just 151 hits and giving up an average of 1.87 earned runs per game. In nine of his starts, the Astros didn’t score a single run for him, effectively denying him and eighth Cy Young Award and killing any shot Clemens had at climbing higher than eighth on the all-time wins list.
But the Astros made the playoffs last year and got to the World Series, where they were run over by the freight train that was the Chicago White Sox. Houston got to the postseason the same way it did in 2004 — with a furious charge down the season’s final two months.
But don’t even dare to think you can do it three times in three years. The Astros have used up their allotment of miracles. Without the help that management couldn’t get it, the team is going nowhere.
OK. In the annals of crimes against humanity, this one isn’t even a footnote. Clemens’ salary is prodigious, he gets to live at home and he doesn’t even have to go to the ballpark or on road trips if he isn’t scheduled to throw. Jobs don’t get much better.
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