Is it gonna be a long, long time?
Several months ago, the Houston Astros set Roger Clemens free. Unavoidably, at least personally, that led us to reflect on the team’s present and near future. They had just reached a World Series for the first time, and it was so close to grabbing an MLB title. Yes, the White Sox swept the ‘Stros on that contest, but please take a look at the box scores and you’ll tell me if those weren’t close games or what.
That December night found us in a Winter League ballpark in Venezuela, and we had the opportunity of watching two prospects: Luke Scott, getting close to become a cult figure for fans down there; and Fernando Nieve. They have both made the grade since then.
It all comes back to us since today Clemens had what could be his final start at Minute Maid Park. The relevance of the moment has diluted because he has kept on threatening to call it quits only to come back a few months later. He always does, but you always wonder what if he really pulls the plug for good, and this is precisely the last hurrah for one of baseball’s greatest players. Ever.
Phil Garner once said Clemens still has a lot of an arm for a few years down the road; and that’s how we saw him today, consistent as he ever is. This is normal for him, and amazing for us, considering he’s past 40.
Scott went yard. And this little thought process we had last December keeps on hanging onto us. No answers have been provided this year. Figures such as Scott and Nieve might be a good foundation for a solid future, but there’s a piece (or two) that do not fit into the puzzle just yet. An unanswered question remains, if you will. Will there ever be someone picking up the offensive pace of this ballclub besides Lance Berkman? Will he be a free agent? How much would it cost?
If this is definitely Clemens’ farewell in Houston (and there isn’t anything that assures us it is), this wasn’t the way we would’ve wanted to see it. It sure would have been great to see him besides Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell (why not?) grabbing a World Series trophy while being bathed in champagne. This is not the year for that, it seems.
I hope I’m not the only one with an incessant loop of Elton John’s Rocket man in his head while asking himself what’s next for the Astros. There isn’t a lot of time in store for solving this riddle; and it’s better not to consider Clemens as part of the equation. If he comes back once again in an Astros uniform, it will be as a welcome bonus.