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Great Needs Demand Great Expense
by Derek Smart
After filing for a record setting arbitration figure of $22M, it appears that Roger Clemens is close to reaching an agreement with the Astros on a one year deal that, while reportedly not quite the amount he asked for, will still make him the highest paid pitcher in the history of the Major Leagues, surpassing the $17.5M paid to Pedro Martinez in 2004.
UPDATE:And just as I post this, I see that ESPN is reporting that the deal is a theory no more, with Clemens getting $18M for his services in 2005.
Talk all you want about whether or not Clemens is worth that kind of money in a vacuum, but the fact remains that with the losses of Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent, the injury that will delay the start of Lance Berkman's season, and the continuing declines of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, the Astros have little choice but to sign Clemens to whatever deal he'll agree to, and thank him for the privilege.
What was once a fearsome offensive machine and a tremendous strength, now looks like the team's biggest weakness, and in order to compete in the NL Central, or anywhere for that matter, it's imperative that Houston keep runs off the board consistently. The best method at their disposal at the moment is Mr. Clemens, and besides, like all teams, the Astros need to put butts in seats, and after losing the kind of offensive star power they did this winter, failing to bring The Rocket back might have served to keep patrons away in droves, as well as killing any hope Houston had for the playoffs.
It might be going a bit far to call this a good move for the Astros, but I'll admit I'm not looking forward to seeing Clemens standing on the Wrigley Field bump, other than in a pure baseball sense (there's something about Clemens/Wood matchups that will never get old for me). Rather, I'll say it's probably the best Houston could do with what they had to work with, and sometimes that has to be good enough.