Monday, May 01, 2006

The 4-team Race, and they're off....

This will be the only time the Yankees and Red Sox are involved in a race with the Astros and Rangers. Yes, it is now May 1st, which means the race has begun. The Astros are finally allowed at the starting line, and Clemens now has full negotiating power. All we know for sure in handicapping this thing is to put the Astros first, but I'll do my best on the rest of it. Of course in a perfect scenario for Clemens, all of the teams would be very much in a divisonal race, and the Yankees and Red Sox would be playing each other a lot so at least one if not both teams feel they need to make a move on the other. And we have a perfect scenario for Clemens. The Ranger have a half-game lead in the AL West, the Yankees and Red Sox are tied for 1st in the AL East, and the Astros who are in 3rd place, a half game behind two teams, have the best record of the four teams. The Yankees and Red Sox will play each other 12 times in the next 39 days, starting today, the same day the Clemens race begins.

#1 Houston Astros: They do have a big advantage. They are the hometown team. Andy Pettitte is his best friend in baseball. The Astros let Clemens do whatever he wants, as long as he shows up at the ballpark at least one out of every five days. With a 16-8 record, and only in 3rd place, last season's ERA leader could give them the edge in the NL Central race. They have the money to afford Roger Clemens, because they didn't spend the money this offseason that they saved by not bringing back Roger Clemens.

#2 Texas Rangers: Tom Hicks is the biggest factor for the Rangers. This is a guy who can be convinced to spend. His team is located in Arlington, and he was convinced to give Alex Rodriguez a deal for more than a quarter of a billion dollars. He can get Clemens for less 1/12 of that, and a better chance to make the playoffs than he ever had with ARod. Clemens can take Rangers money without losing face of being close to his family that he would have to endure if he signed with the Yankees or Red Sox. For as long as anybody can remember, the Rangers need pitching. The Rangers may be a very close second here. Closer than people think, and if not for Andy Pettitte being on the Astros roster, I would put them first, especially with the presense of Nolan Ryan.

#3 Boston Red Sox: Boston's long-lost son returns home? I'm surprising even myself by putting the Red Sox ahead of the Yankees, but as long as Lenny DiNardo is in the Red Sox rotation, you can see the Red Sox making the move. The Red Sox remade their team on pitching and defense and have a team ERA that is a run higher per game than the Yankees. It seems owner Henry is very intrigued by the story-line of Clemens coming back, and it would allow them to keep Papelbon in the closer role for the time being where he's been lights-out.

#4 New York Yankees: The Yankees still have their 7-starters. They are still looking for the right combination of them, but the team's pitching is rolling right now. However, the Yankees not only like big names, the need them. While the Yankees were just valued as baseball's first "Billion Dollar Franchise," many believe the YES Network is also now valued at about $1 billion. Anything that gets rating for the YES Network is important to the Yankees, and Clemens will get that. The Yankees are still in fourth though because they are the least likely to give Clemens the freedom to show up when he wants. However, there are two factors that can move the Yankees up quickly, if it comes down to a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox, it's hard to imagine Steinbrenner losing it. And if the Yankees kick out 3 or 4 bad pitching performances in a row, especially against Boston, Steinbrenner may order the signing of Clemens.

With the Astros and Rangers in the thick of their divisional races, the Yankees and Red Sox are probably pretty distantly behind the two Texas teams. When all is said and done, if he doesn't pitch well for either of the Texas teams, it will be forgotten quickly. If he comes back into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, there will be massive amounts of pressure, and his performance will be remembered good or bad. It's one thing for him high-pressure AL East if it's his only ticket to the postseason, but if he can stay in Texas and make the postseason, get the money, show up at the ballpark only when he feels like it, and all in a low-pressure situation...Roger Clemens will be pitching in Texas sometime in June.

1 comment:

Sully said...

I can't beleive I'm even justifying this with a response, because this is the biggest non-story of the decade. He's not going to Texas, he's not going to Boston, and he's not going to New York. He's using them all to drive up his price with Houston, because the only thing he loves more than his family and Andy Pettitte is money.

But the Red Sox really think they're in it for some reason, mostly because Lucchino and Steinberg love the story and want Roger back so they can sell t-shirts and sappy DVDs and get the Red Sox brand name out in the mainstream media. Not that I'm bitter about this at all...