A no-decision for Clemens
Courting over; no winner yet
Major league teams are chasing Roger Clemens, but for now he says, Im focusing solely on this World Baseball Classic. (Reuters Photo)
PHOENIX -- The selling is over.
According to Roger Clemens, there's nothing more any teams can do to persuade him to play for them. He's heard all of the pleas, watched all of the videos. When the World Baseball Classic is over, he'll take some time off, do some soul-searching, and come up with a solution to his dilemma. And it is a dilemma: to play or not to play.
Clemens said the Red Sox did a great job as salesmen, with Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, John Henry, Tom Werner, and others making the trip to Houston last month for a presentation at the Clemens Foundation headquarters to Roger and his wife Debbie.
''It was a great video," said Clemens. ''It was very personable. They shot people around town. They went out to Framingham where I used to live. Deb got pretty teary-eyed about it. She loved being there in those years and we still have friends there, of course, and it was great to see the effort they put into it.
''Theo spoke to me afterward and he was explaining to me how things have changed and everything. I cut him off at one point and told him, 'You don't have to explain that to me. I know that.'
''I've seen for myself how things have changed when I come up there to see my friends. But I liked it the way it was before, so you don't have to sell me on the organization or the city or the ballpark and all the great changes they've made there."
Clemens, who pitched two scoreless innings against the Giants Sunday and is scheduled to start for Team USA Friday against South Africa, said the Sox video was about three minutes long, and his entire family viewed it a second time after the presentation.
''It went through a little bit of my career in Boston," he said. ''A lot of memories, a lot of great memories that were brought back to me. It was well done."
Clemens stopped short of saying he was agonizing over a decision, but his agent, Randy Hendricks, ''told me they're all making this as difficult as possible for me. Texas came in and they had a real nice video, too. New York, they didn't have to. They're in contact with everybody."
Clemens said he was impressed with the Sox contingent. He said it was the first time he's been able to chat with all of them individually.
''It's definitely a different feel," said Clemens. ''And I know they're doing things in a much more positive way, to continue to win, but they don't have to sell me on anything. I loved Fenway the way it was. I like it now with all the new seats above the Monster."
So what will the decision come down to? Clemens still has the desire to win a championship. Can that be done in Houston? Or in Texas? If that's the motivation, wouldn't Boston or New York be better alternatives?
The Rangers always have wanted Clemens. George W. Bush did all he could to get Clemens in a Rangers uniform when he owned the team.
In Boston, Clemens would be returning to the team with which he started his career. And the one for which he pitched both of his 20-strikeout games. Fenway Park is where his number 21 could one day hang on the right-field facade.
Clemens nodded to all of those suggestions.
And there's one more thing: Al Nipper, the pitching coach.
''Nip and I stay in contact a lot," said Clemens. ''We talk, we e-mail. I'm in his corner. I want him to do well and have success with those pitchers. He's got a great staff back there.
''Obviously, he's one of my best buddies in this game. Nip is old school. He wants you to work your butt off. He wants you to have that tough mind, that tough attitude. I like that. That's the way he was when he pitched. He knew his talent was a little lesser than the next guy, but he's gonna battle you till the end. I think that's why I enjoyed working with him."
Clemens has talked in the past to Curt Schilling. He knows Josh Beckett.
''[Jon] Papelbon is gonna be a good one, whether he's a closer or a starter," he said. ''And Boomer [David Wells] is an experienced guy who can pitch big games. So, they have it going.
''I don't even know if any of these teams would need me. I don't know what's gonna convince me to go to this team or that team. I honestly don't know.
''If I'm not back, I can assure you'll see me sitting in the stands at Fenway or Yankee Stadium in my old ballparks. You might see me showing up at Fenway in Theo's gorilla suit. I don't know.
''There are things I want to do, like go to the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500. Things that I haven't had a chance to do. Right now, believe me when I tell you I have no idea what I'm going to do. There are so many things to consider.
''Right now, I'm focusing solely on this World Baseball Classic. I really am. I'm really into it. It's for my country and I'm going to give it all I have. I was pleased with how things went against the Giants and I hope I can pitch that well as the games progress."
He reiterated that there will be a break between the WBC and his decision; he won't be starting the season with any team.
''After this is over, I'm going to take some time and just do nothing for a while and think about what I want to do. How I feel in this tournament is going to enter into it because it's going to tell me whether I can still pitch at a high level.
''I'm gonna get away from it a little bit and just think it through. I'm going to see if I want to keep doing it. I know I won't be out of shape because I'll be throwing BP to my kids for an hour.
''I appreciated what everybody did and how much they all made me feel wanted. It's very humbling the reaction I received from everyone and the time people took to put together videos and to come down to Houston to meet with me. I appreciate all of that.
''But there's no selling to be done for me anymore. Any of those teams would be comfortable for me."