Rocket accepts sweetheart deal
Yankees snag Clemens with offer he couldn't refuse
Roger Clemens will be pitching for the New York Yankees this season because the team made him an offer he couldn't refuse: tell us when you want to go to work and how much you want to make.Basically, Clemens and his agents replied that the pitcher was ready to start working out now and he wanted to be paid at a rate that makes him the highest paid player in the game. Deal done. The Yankees will pay Clemens at the rate of $28 million ($28,000,022 to be exact -- by one report, the 22 represents the player's uniform number), the highest single-season salary in baseball history. Technically, Clemens removed the "highest paid player" label from the shoulders of his new teammate, third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez makes $27 million this season, and his contract calls for the same salary in each of the next three years unless he decides to exercise an opt-out clause. Although the Yankees didn't show a lot of creativity in their approach to signing Clemens (how can you go wrong when you ask the other side to state the terms), the team certainly put on its creative cap in making the announcement. It was Clemens, himself, who made the announcement of his return to New York, and he did it in a most appropriate way -- over the public address system from the box of owner George Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium on Sunday during the seventh inning of the Yankees' game with Seattle. Clemens, 44, spent Monday at a charity golf tournament and when asked about signing with the Yankees, he told the Associated Press: "If you think it's about the money, you're greatly mistaken." This brings up another technical point, and one would have to give Clemens the benefit of the doubt. The Yankees simply wanted Clemens more than their other two competitors, the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros.
The Red Sox responded to media requests on the Clemens signing by the rival Yankees by issuing an official statement: "We met with [agent] Randy Hendricks earlier this week and, at Randy's request, made an offer to Roger Clemens. We offered a substantial salary and suggested, for health purposes, that Clemens return on approximately the same timetable as last year. Today we learned from Randy that Clemens has signed elsewhere."It's always interesting to examine the words used in a team's official statement. The Red Sox are telling us they made an offer because the agent wanted to have something on the table and, most important, the team has enough questions about Clemens' health to suggest he start pitching in late June and not any earlier. Last year, Clemens signed with the Astros on May 31 and pitched in his first game on June 22. On Clemens' current timetable, he could be ready to pitch on June 1, an interesting date in that it marks the start of a three-game series between the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Astros, like the Red Sox, acknowledged they were hoping to have Clemens start in late June and pitch for three months, not four. There has been a lot of talk about Clemens' schedule and how it relates to his health and ability to pitch, but don't overlook a very important factor in that he is being paid at a going rate of $4.5 million a month. And don't think for a minute that Clemens' agents -- Randy and Alan Hendricks -- don't play hardball. I know first hand from many negotiations with the Hendricks brothers during my time as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yankee general manager Brian Cashman gave some insight to his negotiations with Alan Hendricks by telling the New York Times: "Here I was, trying to get Randy Hendricks on the phone (during a recent road trip to Texas), he was text messaging me: 'I can't talk to you now, I'm in Fenway Park.'" When Randy Hendricks called the Astros to tell general manager Tim Purpura that Clemens had reached a deal, Purpura asked for details and Hendricks reportedly replied, "Gotta go." And it wasn't just the Red Sox and Astros who were frustrated by the Yankees' signing the hurler. Angels general manager Bill Stoneman responded to the announcement by telling the Los Angeles Times: "I don't think that's good for the game. He [Clemens] shouldn't be able to sit on the sidelines, watch how things are going and decide where to go. No club should be able to benefit from that." I'm afraid I can't agree with Stoneman on this point. It's all part of free agency. And you have to realize there's nothing free about free agency.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book (Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue) was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.