By Ernie Palladino
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And you thought you'd seen the last of Roger Clemens after his acquittal on congressional perjury charges, didn't you?
But really, was it any surprise that Clemens popped up again Saturday as a starting pitcher for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League? If Clemens has proved anything the last few months, it is that his arrogance knows no bounds.
An average person who went through an ordeal such as he did -- getting off on allegations that he lied to Congress under oath about his alleged PED use -- might have slunk back into the woodwork, never to be heard from again until his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. For the next five years, that person would have been counting his blessings for facing a choice of golf shirts in the morning instead of a prison-option orange jumpsuit.
He'd have taken his new title as unpunished juicer and been happy that it didn't include the word "felon."
Not Clemens, though. At age 50, there he was in Sugar Land with the kid hopefuls, pitching 3 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-strikeout ball as scouts from the Astros, Orioles and Royals watched.
And now the question is, will it stop there, or was his appearance just a prelude to a major league comeback.
Whatever you do, don't put that past the Rocket. He may have been busy defending his rep since he last pitched in the majors in the 2007 playoffs, but he surely hasn't forgotten about the cheers that accompanied his appearances in Houston from 2004-06, before he closed it out with the Yanks in the '07 playoffs.
And, it appears, Astros owner Jim Crane would be more than happy to accommodate Clemens and his arrogance. There's always one, you know.
Actually, if he really wants to come back, he should probably put in a call to Sandy Alderson. The Mets have nothing to lose at this point, including their franchise reputation. That went out the window about the same time the revelations about the Wilpons' dealings with the eminent Bernie Madoff came out. With their post-All Star Game slide into oblivion opening the door for a Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not moment, putting Clemens into a Mets uniform probably would at least attract a few more paying customers.
The kind that flock around auto accidents, to be sure. But face it, the Mets won't be choosy about where the bucks come from, just as long as somebody's laying out some greenbacks.
Clemens only talked about a mound of ice in his future, though. Apparently, the old shotgun isn't what it used to be. His top speed of 88 MPH Saturday left him far from effectiveness on any level past Double-A.
Still, it's hard to count Clemens out of anything. Few figured he had a chance to beat the perjury rap in the face of what seemed a mound of proof that he used. Bloody pieces of gauze, testimony from his old trainer. Had Brian McNamee been the least bit credible, Clemens might have gone to jail and taken his Hall of Fame possibilities with him.
In light of that, a reappearance in a major league uniform would not fall far out of the sphere of the realistic. Not for a guy like Clemens, whose calculated arrogance -- think delaying his Hall of Fame ballot to a more favorable time-frame -- makes him capable of anything he sets his mind to.
Not for a guy who still has believers -- or folks who don't care about what he did or didn't do with PEDs -- in high places.
Whether he actually makes it to the majors again is a question, for now. Just know that we haven't heard the last of him.
Guys like Clemens don't go for the quiet fadeout.
Do you think this is a prelude to the Rocket's MLB comeback? Be heard in the comments below...
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