January 15, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 58  

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SPORTS

Burying the hatchet?

On the DL
David Lee

Sports Editor

I’m stuck between the Rocket and a hard case.

As you’ve probably heard — or read in today’s issue of The Gazette — Roger Clemens has signed with the Houston Astros, inking a one-year deal valued at US$5 million late Monday night.

For the informed fan, the signing is no big surprise. Though Clemens had insisted his retirement was complete, over the past few months there were hints he’d come out of retirement to play for his hometown Astros (though born in Dayton, Ohio, Clemens makes his home in Houston.) There was also the fact Clemens’ friend and former teammate Andy Pettite signed with the Astros and was trying to convince the former Yankee to do the same.

Some of you may remember a column I wrote earlier in the year confessing my profound distaste for Clemens. My reasons for disliking him remain the same: the Piazza bat incident, the Piazza headhunting incident, the way he plays for himself and his stats, his bizarre naming of his children (whose names all begin with the letter “K”) and so on. Despite his athletic talents, Clemens seems to me to be a very unlikable person.

All of those points still stand. I still can’t tolerate the man on a personal level. Were I a Yankees fan, I would have regarded his departure as a mixed blessing. As a non-Yankees fan, I saw his retirement as the one good thing he did with his tainted career.

However, my allegiance as a fan does not fall to the Yankees. Instead, I am a staunch supporter of the Houston Astros. And therein lies the problem.

The Astros have never appeared in the World Series since their inception in 1962. They’ve been on the cusp many times in recent memory, and finished within a game of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central in 2003. They’ve even gone so far as to trade away highly-touted prospects such as Freddy Garcia for star players like Randy Johnson, hoping the presence of a veteran could push them over the top.

It hasn’t worked, at least up to this point. In acquiring Clemens, though, the Astros may have stumbled upon someone that could take them to the proverbial next level. Adding the Rocket to a potent rotation that already includes Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller and Pettite could give the Astros the makings of a contender.

Yet the question remains: “Who should I support?” I want Clemens to land flat on his face, as always, but I still want my Astros to reach the postseason. It’s likely that a lot of the Astros’ success will be linked to Clemens’ performances every fifth day out. Either way, I’ll be satisfied — Clemens will re-retire in shame or the Astros will (fingers crossed) make the post-season.

I still love the Astros. For whatever reason, they’ve become my favourite team and it’d be hard to replace them with another franchise. In the end, my desire to see the Astros claim their first World Series trophy far surpasses my dislike for Clemens. Though I joke that it’s a win-win situation, in reality I want the Astros to be successful. Since much of that success will be built upon Clemens’ performances in 2004, I suppose it’s about time I bury the hatchet.

But who knows. Maybe it can be un-retired at some point, too.

 

 

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