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The Rocket effect

How Matsuzaka could determine Clemens' '07 status

Posted: Monday December 11, 2006 12:57PM; Updated: Monday December 11, 2006 1:44PM
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Roger Clemens went just 7-6 in 2006 but opposing batters hit just .216 against him.
Roger Clemens went just 7-6 in 2006 but opposing batters hit just .216 against him.
Al Tielemans/SI
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This week, millions of Japanese baseball fans will be funneled through a trans-world rumor mill, curiously awaiting word on whether their national pitching treasure, Daisuke Matsuzaka, will play in the United States this season or return home. Meanwhile, millions of fans in Boston, the only place in America that Matsuzaka can play in 2007, will work themselves into an all-out frenzy as the Red Sox near a Thursday midnight deadline to reach a contract agreement with the Japanese right-hander.

Down the Atlantic seaboard, the Yankees and their nation of die-hards will watch the goings-on with a load of interest -- and maybe a little bit of nervousness -- while the people in the Park Avenue offices of Major League Baseball promise to keep a wary eye on the whole, bizarre process.

And somewhere down in Texas, on top of it all, sits William Roger Clemens.

As big as the Matsuzaka story is this week for the Red Sox, for the Yankees, for all of baseball -- for all of Japan -- nobody stands to make more out of it, no matter which way it ends, than the indomitable Rocket. The 44-year-old Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner, hasn't even said that he'll pitch again in '07. In fact, nobody, anywhere, would blame him if, after 23 years in the big leagues, he finally retired. If, of course, he actually retired this time.

But with everything going on this winter, with everything happening this week, how can Clemens quit? There's too much to be gained now, too much to be left on the table, for him to give it all up.

Consider the cash-ringing and ring-gaining possibilities:

Clemens could sign with the Red Sox ... especially, of course, if Matsuzaka doesn't. The animosity that once festered between Clemens and his original team is gone now. Clemens has said as much. If Matsuzaka doesn't come to an agreement with the Sox -- and, according to reports out of Boston, the negotiations are at a standstill right now -- the team will have $51.1 million, the posting fee that it paid the Seibu Lions for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, refunded. The Sox would almost certainly be in all-out wooing mode for Clemens, right away.

If Matsuzaka signs, a Clemens return to Boston would be a long shot. With Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon and Matsuzaka in the rotation, signing Clemens would seem to be the ultimate in luxury.

Not that the Sox aren't into spoiling themselves occasionally. Note that $51.1 million.

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