05/06/07 10:10 PM ET
Clemens' decision not that surprising
Johnson, others saw writing on the wall before announcement
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
"If I had that type of money, believe me I would want to get the best," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said after his Minnesota club lost at home to the Red Sox on Sunday. "If I was [Yankees principal owner] George Steinbrenner, I'd do the same thing. Right now they were having pitching problems and they went and got Clemens. You can't be jealous. Just be happy for them. Because if I had the same thing, I'd go get the best, too."With an eye on the schedule, the Diamondbacks, who defeated the Yankees in seven dramatic 2001 World Series games, visit Yankee Stadium for a three-game Interleague set from June 12-14. When Johnson came off the disabled list against the Padres on April 24, he faced 44-year-old David Wells in the battle of the oldest left-handers in Major League history. R.J. could trump that if he faces Clemens, who will be 45 on Aug. 4. "I get a feeling that we'll catch him right when he's rounding into shape and in the heat of battle," said Orlando Hudson, the Diamondbacks second baseman who played for Toronto the first time Clemens toured with the Yankees. "OK, here we go. He's in the rotation with [Andy] Pettitte and [Mike] Mussina? Wow! And Randy facing Roger in another 40-year-old battle? It'd be great for the game. Two first-ballot Hall of Famers." This will be the second consecutive year that Clemens starts the season late. Last year, he pitched for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, didn't re-sign with the Astros until May 31, and didn't make his first start for them until June 22. The right-hander finished 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA as the Astros were eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. In 2005, Clemens helped the Astros to their first NL pennant, but his mother died that September and both his body and psyche seemed to wear down. Early in Game 1 of the World Series at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, he severely injured his hamstring and had to come out after two innings. The White Sox ultimately swept the series. That began the long decision-making process about whether he would retire or pitch a much-abbreviated season. For the seemingly umpteenth time since he supposedly pitched his last game during the 2003 World Series, Clemens has again beaten back retirement. "It's not a bad thing that he's coming back," said Tom Glavine, the Mets' left-hander, who at a youthful 41 is seven wins shy of 300. "It's certainly a unique story. You're seeing an era where veteran guys are playing for a long, long time. Longer than they ever have been before. If I were a young player right now, that's something I couldn't help notice. If you're a good player and take care of yourself, you can play this game for a long time. That benchmark has certainly been moved the last few years." Glavine going after 300; Jamie Moyer (at 44) still effective for the Phillies; Wells and Greg Maddux (at 42) still going strong for the Padres, Giants slugger Barry Bonds (at 42) only 11 homers behind Hank Aaron's all-time record 755, Moises Alou (at 41) still starting in left field for the Mets, Steve Finley (at 42) a backup outfielder for the Rockies, and finally Johnson and Clemens, who are both expected to still have a major impact. "Obviously, it's a huge pickup for the Yankees," said Rangers shortstop Michael Young after the Rangers defeated the Blue Jays at home on Sunday. "The guy keeps himself in ridiculous shape and he's the best pitcher of all-time."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.