By Bryan Jeon
So much for Joe Torre on the hot seat and an injury-plagued starting rotation that had the New York Yankees under tons of criticism for having the highest payroll [at $195 million] yet performing at under .500 for the season and even spending some time at the bottom of the AL East. So much for all that talk about suggesting spending some of those tens of millions on starting pitching and not on getting an All-Star at every position on the field. The seriousness in considering trading some power for pitching was nonexistent throughout the brief chaos. The solution: spend tens of millions of more dollars for power pitching. You didn’t think owner George Steinbrenner was a complete bonehead, did you?
The Yankees (14-15) managed to snag Roger Clemens for a prorated salary of $28 million this season. That will come out to about $4.5 million a month from June through September. Last year, the 44-year-old right hander had a prorated salary of $22 million with the Houston Astros, going 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while striking out 102 in 113.1 innings pitched.
Clemens made the announcement to the fans from the owner’s box after the seventh-inning stretch during Sunday’s 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners (13-13), the Yankees’ fifth victory in six games. The 23-year veteran follows ex-Yankees and Astros teammate Andy Pettite to New York to join a rotation that includes Mike Mussina and returned Chien-Ming Wang, to lead a squad that suddenly holds four solid pitchers in the rotation and one of the top pitching prospects in Phil Hughes (who is currently on the disabled list for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury).
Fantasy-wise, if you’re in a public league, open another window right now and check your waiver wire to see if he’s been picked up yet. More likely than not, some geek picked him up immediately after the announcement, which would all but end a shot at owning the 7-time Cy Young Award winner.
Clemens will begin work in the minor leagues with the intent to pitch by the end of May or early June. The Yankees suddenly are a favorite to win the World Series with the best offense in the league and arguably, the best closer in Mariano Rivera.
Unfortunately, I find myself in great anger at how well Clemens is being paid. Yes, he’s a future Hall-of-Famer who still has the stuff to get double-digit wins while missing two months of the year but to make him the highest paid player in the league (Alex Rodriguez had the previous high at $27.7 million this season), give me a break. Hell, the guy, when he did pitch, didn’t even average six innings of work last year. Don’t expect another 2.30 ERA this time around with the Yankees, as he hasn’t experienced his better pitching years in New York. He owned a 3.91 ERA his last year in 2003 and had a career-worst 4.60 ERA his first year with the Yankees in 1999.
His salary will be more than double what the best pitcher in the game right now, Johan Santana, makes at $13 million and who put in almost seven innings of work last year, and what the highest-paid pitchers in Andy Pettite and Bartolo Colon make at $16 million. Leave it to the Yankees to pay that kind of money. It’ll hurt that much more when they make another early exit in the playoffs this year, despite being reunited with Clemens.