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Clemens Comes Back to Baseball

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Clemens Comes Back to Baseball

Clemens Comes Back to Baseball

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Here is an interesting coincidence about age, maturity and stardom. On August 4th, 1961, Barack Obama was born in Honolulu. He is a rising political star and he's considered very young for the league that he's playing in. Well, precisely one year later, on August 4th 1962, Roger Clemens was born in Dayton, Ohio. He is considered so old and he is such an established star that he has now made a practice of pitching half a season.

Yesterday, Clemens announced that he has come out of retirement yet again to attempt to do for the New York Yankees what Obama's admirers hope he may do for the Democratic Party - win. Buster Olney watches the Yankees for ESPN The Magazine and joins us once again. And first of all, what are the Yankees paying Roger Clemens?

Mr. BUSTER OLNEY (Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine): The prorated rates - he's getting paid $28 million salary and prorated for 4 months, it means it's going to cost them a little over $18 million. That is the highest salary for - each month than any player in the history of baseball.

SIEGEL: How close were the closest competitive bidders?

Mr. OLNEY: Not even close. And while there certainly were heartstrings tugged by George Steinbrenner and Derek Jeter and Joe Torre, other members of the Yankees family, there's no question that the money was a big factor. If he had signed with the Red Sox, he probably would have made about $10 million for his work this summer. If he had signed with the Astros, he probably really would have made about 11 million. And pitching for the Yankees, he makes that $18 to $19 million for four months worth of work, about $750,000 per start.

SIEGEL: Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars per start. Now, last year, when he pitched for Houston, he averaged just a little bit under six innings per start. We're talking about over a hundred twenty-five thousand dollars per inning, over $40,000 per bat, or he retires.

Mr. OLNEY: Basically. And you're breaking down even more on average - if you figure that in every start - he throws about a hundred pitches. He's going to make about $7,500 every time he throws a baseball.

SIEGEL: Is he worth it?

Mr. OLNEY: He's worth it to the Yankees. And he's certainly now worth it to any other team that close. But you have George Steinbrenner around 876, really wanting to win a 27th championship for the Yankees. He's willing to spend any kind of money. They have it. They have a desperate need for starting pitching right now.

And they really targeted Roger in the wintertime. They looked at the market and they said, this is the guy we want because we've seen so many players go into New York and struggle with the pressure of playing there. There's not that questions about Roger as he joins the Yankees.

SIEGEL: Pitchers who are over 40 are very often tire in the heat of August, and a full season can be very rough on those old bones. Is Roger Clemens pioneering something here that pitchers - late in their careers - will set out first half of the season, and then enter the free agent market the second half?

Mr. OLNEY: I think there's a chance that other pitchers will try to do it. But let's face it, Roger Clemens is getting this opportunity because he's Roger Clemens. You know, what happened was is in 2005, he began to break down at the end of the season for the reasons that you just said. He started to get some leg injuries. And when the Astros made it to the playoffs, he really had broken down.

And so he decided to - because it was important for him to be available to pitch in the important games in September and October - decided to pitch less than a full season to make, you know, 20 to 24 starts instead of a 34 to 36 starts. But if it were any other pitcher, I don't think that they would get the same kind of treatment as Roger does because it would not be assumption that at age 44 or 45 that they would keep themselves in top condition. That is not a question about Roger.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Everyone already says that Clemens is in great shape, and that this is as healthy and robust almost 45-year-old as you could possibly be. But at some point, it catches up with you, doesn't it? I mean, we don't think he'll be capable of doing this at 50.

Mr. OLNEY: There's no question about it, and that is the risk that the Yankees run because of Roger's age. It may be that if he were to break down and have leg injuries that would prevent him from pitching, they could get an $18 to $19 million bill and not get much in return. There's no question that's part of the risk with them signing Roger at this age.

SIEGEL: He might have to run for president instead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OLNEY: And I would say at this point, he's not going to get a lot of votes in Boston or in Houston.

SIEGEL: Teams where he used to play.

Mr. OLNEY: Exactly. I think anybody who hates the Yankees probably would not vote for him and that - from what I gather - involves a lot of people.

SIEGEL: Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. OLNEY: Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of music)


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