Since the news came out on Tuesday morning that Roger Clemens would return to baseball with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, the opinion on his motivation has varied. Some think he's coming back for the money, some think he's an aging star desperate for publicity; I'm not that cynical on this situation. First of all, how much money could the Skeeters offer him? They're an independent team. Second, he signed with a team from an independent league that has no effect on your favorite team, so why get disparage him? Let the man pitch if it makes him happy and helps the Skeeters sell a few tickets.
I think Clemens came back for two, possibly three reasons. First, he's an extremely competitive guy and I think he wants to prove to himself that he can still do it. To be able to say that he pitched professionally at the age of 50 would be something he'd brag about for years. Second, he wants the last public image of himself to be on the baseball field and not walking out of a courtroom. Image is important to Clemens and he fought hard for over five years against steroid allegations, this is another step in repairing that image. Lastly, he wants to pitch in the major leagues again, most likely with Houston, not to chase another ring or a record, but to start the clock over again for his Hall of Fame eligibility. Clemens claims not to care what the people who vote on the Hall of Fame think of his career, but he knows the history of the sport and I believe his rank and where he stands amongst the all-time greats is very important to him. Some writers will never vote for Clemens, but if he's able to start the clock over again, five years of separation from the end of the court battle to the time they vote could be enough to have people forget, forgive, and vote him in to the hall.
What does it mean for the Astros and the city of Houston? It'll mean nothing for the Astros record, but it will certainly sell some tickets. Just look how much tickets prices for the Skeeters game on Saturday have gone up on StubHub; if they were even on StubHub before. Know that Astros owner Jim Crane will watch or find out the results of Clemens start very quickly; they'd like to fill that nearly empty ballpark. For the city, with the Astros decline and the Rockets stuck in mediocrity, we don't get much attention from the national media or ESPN; that will change if Clemens keeps pitching and eventually joins the Astros. I don't think this is a Kenny Powers stunt, I wish Clemens nothing but success.