Clemens takes wait-and-see approach
Future Hall of Famer says return in hands of interested teams
ORLANDO -- Roger Clemens made it clear on Saturday that a decision on whether he will play this year won't come until May. And as far as speculation on who holds the cards, he stated that ultimately the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox have the final say.
"From what I understand, all three teams want to see where they are as far as their rotation ... and how their pitching lines up," Clemens said in an exclusive interview with MLB.com after his question-and-answer session with fans during the MLB FanFest at Universal Orlando. "Not a one of them wanted an April or May [deal] anyways. All three teams look good as far as their pitching staffs go. My agents will let me know if and when they call."
The 44-year-old right-hander, who entertained fans in a lengthy informal interview with BaseballChannel.TV host Vinny Micucci, was candid about his position and stated it had nothing to do with a limited position with a club.
"The thing that's been misconstrued quite a bit is that I have a deal in Houston where I pitch and then don't show up," said Clemens, who spent about 15 minutes signing autographs for fans following his chat. "I'm working more than I'm pitching down there. It's not like I'm pitching and then going home and sitting around."
Clemens, who has been helping coach in Minor League camp during Spring Training with the Astros, discussed at length how he was upset that his situation with the Astros was made out to appear as a luxury-type deal and that he was afforded unique concessions. The Houston native first came out of retirement in 2004 after Andy Pettitte signed with the Astros. Clemens ultimately retired and un-retired two more times, with the last deal signed in 2006 after his appearance in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA.
The deal, in which he received a pro-rated portion of $22,000,022, was constructed as a "personal service contract" in which Clemens agreed to mentor and coach in some facet for Houston's Minor League clubs. While he mentioned that coaching is something that isn't in the near future for him, he loves the chance to take part in helping teach the younger players.
"I would have signed a similar deal with the Yankees had Andy stayed in New York," said Clemens. "I thought he was a lifer there. I know when we were in the playoffs in 2003 and Andy's contract was coming up, he wasn't sure about what he was going to do because he knew I was retiring. He was like, 'I don't know what I want to do and if I want to stay here.' And I told him I'd come visit a couple times a month, play some golf and possibly work for some TV people."
Clemens, though, was persuaded to un-retire after Pettitte became an Astro.
"Andy mentioned how he was going to talk to his good buddy, and then I ended up with some 50 odd-some people outside my gate begging me to play," Clemens said. " That's how I ended up in Houston. We thought it would be fun and it worked out where we took the organization further than it's ever been. Now, here I am at a crossroads again."
Clemens admits that he wavers back and forth about his desire to return again, knowing how much effort and commitment it takes. But he also said he understands how to manage it, considering he has run his charity foundation for years in addition to recently becoming a part of an ownership group in two Astros Minor League affiliates, the Round Rock Express and the Corpus Christi Hooks.
"I have a lot of stuff going on, but I can balance it," said Clemens, whose wife, Debbie, helps manage the Roger Clemens Foundation. "That's another thing that people don't realize about my deal with the Astros, is that, when I wasn't traveling with the team, I was going all over the place to handle business."
So, while Clemens may not have said point-blank where he would end up playing, his words on Saturday alluded to the attractive value of each city.
In New York, his good friend plays there. Pettitte was the main reason Clemens returned to the game the last time.
"I'm talking to different buddies around the league right now, including Andy and getting them ready for the long ride ahead," said Clemens. "The talks we have in private time is just as important as going out and performing, and it's important to know how much you have to invest, both physically and mentally. I was strong last year and I know what it takes to get back into it full-strength."
In Houston, he can be near his family. While his oldest son, Koby, is now playing in the Astros organization after being drafted in 2005, his other sons, Kory, Kacy, and Kody are at the age where he can help coach them.
Finally, in Boston, not only does he have his legacy there, having played 12 seasons with the Red Sox, he has another part of history that intrigues him.
"My biggest idol growing up was John F. Kennedy, and when I was there, I was lucky enough to meet the family and become friends with them," said Clemens, who is a history enthusiast. "That's another thing about Boston. When I'm there, I can visit their family, which is a pretty cool thing."
Kennedy once said that, "Change is the law of life." For Clemens, it seems change is again on the horizon.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.