Beyond Golf — 28 August 2012 by Jim Street
A circus we don’t need to see

The thought of 50-year-old Roger Clemens returning to the Major Leagues this season (or any season) is something right out of a Barnum & Bailey playbook.

“Step right up folks, pay your 30 bucks, and enjoy the show.”

The first step of that potential scenario was taken this past week in Texas, where Clemens pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings for the independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters – among the few teams in our nation’s largest state that are worse than the Astros.

There is little more than a month remaining in the regular season, the Astros again have the worst record in the big-leagues with a 40-88 record, are practically guaranteed of reaching the 100-loss level for the second consecutive season and attendance could be abysmal in September.

Enter new Astros owner Jim Crane. He has said that “under the right circumstances” he would be open to signing The Rocket to a contract.

But would it be a good idea?

That’s a clown question, bro.

“Step right up folks, pay your 30 bucks, and enjoy the show.”

Say it isn’t so. OK, so Roger the dodger beat the charge that he lied to Congress when confronted with the question: Have you ever used performance enhancing drugs?

For those of us not on that jury, the jury is still out on whether or not he used them and I am one of the 700 or so jury members who cast ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame each year.

Clemens’ name is scheduled to appear on the ballot for the first time this year.

That is, unless he throws just one pitch in a Major League game before the regular season ends on Oct. 3. If that happens, his five-year wait starts would start over when he again “retires”.

Five years is a long time – long enough to be disassociated with the likes of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, who are eligible for the first time for 2013 enshrinement. I doubt that Bonds, Sosa, Clemens or any of the others associated in the past with PEDs – Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro head that group – will come close to receiving the 75 percent needed to be elected.

As my good friend Larry Stone of the Seattle Times points out, waiting another five years could benefit Clemens big time.

“Perhaps he feels he might have a better shot in five years, when attitudes toward such players might have softened,” Stone wrote.

An excellent point and I couldn’t agree more.

Clemens has yet to be specific as to why he decided to pitch for the Sugar Land team, managed by former MLB third baseman Gary Gaetti, and what it means in the big picture.

Is he really contemplating a comeback?

“No,” Clemens said. “I’ve had success before at that level and other things. Again, it’s a great deal of work and I’m not thinking that at this point.”

Even with his recent legal issues, The Rocket probably doesn’t need the money. He made more than $150 million while winning 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most in MLB history and he was an 11 All-Star.

And like any circus coming to town, Sugar Land was ready.

The Clemens appearance drew a standing-room only crowd of 7,724.

I can hear it now — “Step right up folks, pay your 30 bucks, and enjoy the show.”

In case you were wondering, here is a list of the former players eligible for the ballot for the time:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Cirillo, Jose Valentin, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Conine, Jose Mesa, Royce Clayton, Bob Wickman, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Mike Lieberthal, Tony Batista, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Damian Miller, Todd Walker.

A screening committee will determine the eventual ballot, which also will include carryovers from last year.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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