07/12/2004 10:00 AM ET
Piazza, Clemens turn the page
Shared history won't bother All-Star battery
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
|Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza had a well-documented run-in in the 2000 World Series. (AP)
HOUSTON -- Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza are probably so tired of answering questions about their past incidents that it wouldn't be surprising if they decided to walk onto the field arm-in-arm Tuesday when the National League takes the field for the 75th All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.
Just to spite the media. Just to send the storylines in a different direction.
Well, actually, that would be a little surprising. After all, these two are not friends. Through all of their politically correct statements since the All-Star teams were announced on July 4, they've never once said they embraced the idea of being starting batterymates at the All-Star Game.
They've never said they would meet after the game for some cold beverages and laughs about their confrontations from years past.
They've simply said the past is the past, and that they will handle their upcoming assignments as professionals.
"It's not a big deal," Clemens said. "It's definitely not larger than the game, unless you make it that. I'm not too concerned. I'm professional about my work, and so is Mike."
Piazza: "We both have a job to do. I'm just going to go out and do the best I can. It's not really a situation. It's just two guys who are going out to do the best they can and be professional."
But as long as Clemens and Piazza are in the same ballpark, the controversy will linger.
It was four years ago, during a Mets-Yankees Subway Series game, when Piazza took a Clemens fastball to the head that knocked the catcher to the ground and caused a mild concussion. The incident forced Piazza to miss several regular season games and the All-Star Game.
Clemens steadfastly denied beaning Piazza on purpose. Piazza steadfastly chose not to believe him.
The storyline grew in the 2000 World Series. In the first inning of Game 2 at Yankee Stadium, Piazza fouled off a 1-2 fastball from Clemens that sliced his bat in two. Piazza held onto the handle. The rest of the bat bounced toward the mound.
Piazza, not sure where the ball was, began jogging toward first. Meanwhile, Clemens fielded the bat and whipped it in Piazza's direction, much to the catcher's surprise.
Clemens steadfastly insisted he thought the bat was the ball. Piazza steadfastly chose not to believe him.
The two faced each other earlier this season when the Mets were in Houston for a three-game series. The day before his start, Clemens downplayed the meeting in front a roomful of curious New York reporters.
"It's like any other situation," he said. "When you have a great hitter and pitcher out there, the fans win. It's no different than facing Barry [Bonds] or Mark McGwire or [Jose] Canseco."
Piazza's three at-bats against Clemens were uneventful. The first baseman walked, struck out and grounded out. But in his final at-bat, Piazza knocked a game-tying home run off Octavio Dotel with two outs in the ninth, and the Mets won the game in extra innings.
Understandably, that plate appearance pushed the Clemens-Piazza saga to the back burner.
It's safe to say the two haven't spoken since Game 2 of the 2000 World Series, when Piazza asked Clemens several times, "What's your problem?" It's also a safe assumption that the two will not speak again after they come out of Tuesday's All-Star Game in Houston.
But for one night, they will be teammates, representing the National League on baseball's biggest exhibition stage.
And it's likely Clemens and Piazza will make sure the somewhat awkward partnership leaves baseball observers with nothing to talk about later.
"I don't think that would be a problem," Yankees skipper and American League manager Joe Torre said. "It's good theater, but I'm glad I'm not a part of it. They are both professionals. Certainly, if there is an issue, the game is going to take precedent."
"We've both been selected to do a job," Piazza said. "That's the bottom line."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Mark Feinstand and Kevin Czerwinski, reporters for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.