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Put a Rocket in Your Pocket and Kiss Off!

When you have 348 career wins, more than 4,000 career strikeouts, seven Cy Young Awards, and two world championships on your resume', you deserve the red carpet treatment. But am I the only one sickened by the process Roger Clemens chose to select the Yankees?

If you were one of the few people left on this planet who believe the owners in Major League Baseball have more pull over the players, that belief should have been erased from your mind forever on May 6, 2007. That was the day Roger Clemens began his ownership of the New York Yankees. It will likely be a brief ownership, one completed in October if the Yankees are lucky. But the fact is the Yankees had a little panic session, not just with this season's rocky start. This panic also dates back to 2000, the last time George Steinbrenner was able to post a year on his Dale Mabry Highway "World Champs" sign.

Now I have to preface my comments with this statement: I am not a Rays fan who is jealous the Yankees signed Clemens. I'm sure there are a few Yankees fans reading this who would come to that conclusion, but it's simply not true. What team wouldn't want Clemens on the mound every fifth day? And a move like this only supports my comments in last week's column that the Yankees would indeed recover and challenge for the AL East come September. The addition of Clemens, and the hopeful healthy returns of Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina will only help the Yankees right the ship for the third year in the row.

What bothers me most about this signing is the whole process, and Yankees fans, it bothered me too last season when Clemens and his agent Randy Hendricks pulled off the same charade with Houston. For years now baseball fans have been outraged at some of the outrageous contracts given. Whether it be from Alex Rodriguez's absurd $252 million deal with Texas in 2001, or the five-year, $55 million deal to the ho-hum Gil Meche by Kansas City this year. With fans still wondering how much is too much, I haven't heard a lot of complaining about Clemens picking and choosing who he plays for, when he plays for them, and when he travels with them.

Why does Clemens get treated so gingerly by fans and media when in reality he's holding three baseball teams (the Yankees, Astros, and Red Sox) hostage for the best deal WHENEVER HE WANTS TO START? My belief is since he's toying around with two passionate and baseball-friendly markets such as New York and Boston, and his hometown of Houston, Clemens gets the pass by fans and media in all three markets. To me, that is completely unfair, especially when you try to put someone else in Clemens' shoes.

If Barry Bonds was to do these exact same shenannigans, people would think he's a jerk and only playing up to his egotistical needs and desires. If Sammy Sosa was to do this, people would question his alleged steroid abuse and wonder why any guy who fell off the planet ater 2005 would command such a deal. If Ken Griffey Junior was to do this, all of the warm and fuzzy feelings from fans and media built up over the past few years would be wiped away as cries of "CRY BABY!" and "MONEY GRABBER!" would arise again like they did in 2000 when he carefully selected Cincinnati as his new home team. But with Clemens, you hear none of this. No claims he's playing for himself, no claims of padding his bank account with a three-month season, and certainly no claims of steroids or HGH use. Interestingly, and I'm not claiming Clemens is on the juice, but I find it interesting how his selective free agency conveniently surpasses the spring training drug test and most likely the "random" regular season drug test.

Regardless, Clemens gets the pass because people see him as a hero. The good old Texas cowboy who everyone hopes rides off in the sunset with a final World Series ring. And it's no coincidence Clemens selected these particular three teams to sleep with, only to call the Yankees back the morning after to say, "I love you". With the Yankees he could be a hero winning their first World Series in seven years. With the Red Sox, fans will forget everything bad they ever said about him if he helps them pick up a trophy for the second time in four seasons. With the Astros, they would probably rename the stadium in his honor if they could get their first championship title since the club's inception in 1962. If Clemens fails to win one for the Yankees this season, expect the whole dating game to continue again next season with the same three bachelorettes lining up for a chance to score with Mr. Big Stuff. Consider it a "rebound" romance in 2008.

Ultimately though, the decision by Clemens has nothing to do about a team or a city celebrating a world championship, be it for the first time or the 27th time. This may come as a surprise to you, but this is all about Clemens and his love for Clemens. I'm one of those people who believes Tim McCarver lost touch with reality around the time Deion Sanders dumped a whole bunch of water on him during an Atlanta Braves postseason celebration. But the planets alligned correctly this past Saturday, allowing McCarver to hit the nail on the head during FOX's coverage of the Yankees and Mariners game. McCarver said if Clemens was really serious about playing for a contender, he would have been part of that contender from day one of spring training. I couldn't agree with McCarver more. While the Yankees players say they don't mind Clemens dropping in for a little midseason help (and who wouldn't?) you have to wonder why Clemens didn't show his love for the pinstripers in February when most people believed the team would be playing in October anyway.

With Houston, the Astros aren't as strong as they were in 2004 or 2005. And as evidenced by last season's performance, no matter what Clemens does he will be forgotten about as the Astros are forgotten about in September. With Boston, Clemens would be second banana to Curt Schilling, who has since taken over the reins of the star pitcher role since Pedro Martinez left for the Mets. With the Yankees, he can be seen as the savior in such a troubling time for the Bronx Bombers. A virtual knight in shining armor riding on his white horse promising to take his minions on the roster to the promised land of Camelot.

Ahhh... it's good to be the king.

So now the ramped-up spring training and minor league regimen starts up for Clemens at the University of Kentucky. I'm sure ESPN will be at Trenton and Scranton to televise his AA and AAA starts, much like they did last season in Corpus Christi and Round Rock. Select members of the New York media will line up to kiss Clemens' ring, and other various parts of his body if they really want to welcome him back. The fake retirement of 2003 and the sweetheart deal the Astros gave him back in 2004 will be forgotten. The hypocrisy of all parties in this entire deal stinks more than a Bronx subway station on a hot afternoon. But the Yankees got their man, and Clemens got what he wanted-- a lot of people loving up on him.

There's no "I" in "team", but there is a "me".

Now some news and notes from Rays land and elsewhere:

* Juan Salas has had a lot of good things said about him, and he's done a lot of good things over the past couple of seasons to become one of the most talked about relievers in the Rays system. After getting hit with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancers, one has to wonder how good Salas really was. And one has to wonder how good Salas could have been had he not chose to cheat his way up to the big leagues. Now, Rays fans have to wonder if Salas will ever be legit.

* The suspension of Salas should remind baseball fans that it's not always the hitters who feel performance enhancers is necessary. Pitchers need to throw harder and recover from injuries faster. It's pitchers who don't have all of the natural gifts, and the ones teetering on the line between the major and minor leagues, who could benefit the most from performance enhancers. If someone told you you could make it to the major leagues with a few pills, powders, or creams, don't tell me you wouldn't think twice about it.

* The Rays' decision to demote Ruddy Lugo was a good one, despite some recent success from him on the mound. The team's bullpen woes likely won't improve this season, but with the team hovering around .500 and just 1 1/2 games out of second in the division a month in to the season, it's best to do what you can with what you got. For the Rays sake, let's hope Lugo gets it right in Durham. He already has the right attitude, at least publicly. Let's also hope Chad Orvella and Tim Corcoran don't blow this opportunity they've been handed.

* Hmmm... interesting... Joe Maddon now says organized practice on fundamentals will become a regular thing during homestands. Now if Mr. Maddon could get some organized team workouts on a regular basis, he may start earning the title of "manager" and not merely be every player's best friend.

* To those of you thinking the Rays should have spent $8 million on Julio Lugo, this just in: Through 29 games Lugo is hitting .221 and he has gone 11-for-71 in his last 18 games. Defensively he has commited four errors for a .971 fielding percentage.

* Props to the Brewers for making their "vintage" 1982 unis more visable this year. Now if they can only start wearing those horrid powder blue road unis from 1982, then the transformation will be complete, and the ghosts of Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, and Gorman Thomas can be resurrected in the Brew City.

* Finally, a hilarious note from New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick on the Roger Clemens story; "Roger Clemens, we hear, wants to picth for the Astros when the Yanks are on the road."

* DISCLAIMER: As of this summer, Matt Sammon is now a part-time, paid employee of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' ownership, management, players, coaches, or other employees. *