Roger Clemens Returning To The Major Leagues?

Late last month, Roger Clemens began pitching for an independent minor league team called the Sugar Land Skeeters at the age of 50. Now it looks like he may be returning to Major League Baseball:

Roger Clemens is moving closer to returning to the major leagues with the Astros.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told’s Jon Heyman that he plans to have a scout watch Clemens pitch for the independent Sugar Land Skeeters on Sept. 7.

The strong speculation in baseball has been that if all goes reasonably well that night, Clemens will then pitch for the Astros five days later, on Sept. 12 against the Cubs.

Clemens, who turned 50 on Aug. 4, last pitched in the big leagues in 2007 with the Yankees. He would be on this December’s Hall of Fame ballot, but that eligibility will be delayed for another five years if he pitches for the Astros.

In fact, many believe that Clemens’ main motivation in his comeback is to remove himself from this year’s ballot, where his association with performance enhancing drugs would make his election unlikely.

That’s the theory that many have had for this, but there may be other motivations:

 I agree that this is one consideration for Clemens, but I doubt it’s the main one. Mostly because I don’t think five years will make a big difference for him one way or the other. If he didn’t pitch and was eligible for the vote now, he’d still be eligible five years from now when, according to this theory, the sentiment towards PED users may change. If that sentiment hasn’t changed five years from now, I question if it ever will, rendering those five more years on the back end superfluous.

No, I think the real reason Clemens wants to pitch again is so that the final paragraph of his obituary — and the final image from any documentaries made of the man — ends with triumph as opposed to infamy.

Think about it: if Clemens were to die without having pitched again, the final chapter of his story will be ending the 2007 season injured, not coming back after being named in the Mitchell Report and then fighting prosecution — and winning an acquittal most people scoffed at anyway — for the last several years of his public life.  The last image in that SportsCentury bio or whatever would be him in a suit, with a bad haircut, walking down a Washington D.C. sidewalk with his sleazy lawyer.

But even if he pitches one inning against the Cubs, and even if he doesn’t do terribly well, the last image will be of him walking off the mound in a major league uniform, tipping his cap to adoring fans in his hometown. If he strikes out some September callup all the better.  The image will be one of redemption, even if there is nothing especially redeeming about his story.

As for the Astros, it’s easy to see what might motivate them to sign Clemens to even a short term contract. They’re last in their division, attendance is down, and many fans are still upset about their impending shift from the National League to the American League. Signing someone who many in Houston still consider a hero would give them some much needed publicity to finish off the season.

H/T: Jason Epstein

Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Let’s face it: the man is 50 years old and striking out professional hitters. The Bluefish might not be the top rung of that ladder – let’s face it, as far as professional baseball goes, it’s purgatory – but they’re still professionals, and I don’t think the average fan understands – or cares – just how good you have to be to even play single-A ball.

  2. Mr. Prosser says:

    If he does pitch he’ll go into the record books with Jamie Moyer who is also 50. He pitched 53 innings for the Colorado Rockies early this season. He finished with a 5.70 ERA, after sitting out 2011 and after finishing with Philly in 2010.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    He’s doing it to avoid being on the same Hall of Fame ballot as Barry Bonds, why else?

    I think Clemens used PEDS however he was one of the 5 best players of his era and he should be in the Hall.

  4. Franklin says:

    One of the reasons people became suspicious of Clemens is because he was able to prolong a career. At the highest level in professional sports, nearly everybody trails off in their mid- to late 30s and only the best survive to 40. He was still pitching at 45 and may want to prove he can pitch at 50. In other words, that he naturally has a better ability than most to defy time.