Monday, October 08, 2007

Rocket Exits, Perhaps For Good

NEW YORK - It took the Yankees only four brief paragraphs to bring to an end the latest, and perhaps final chapter, of Roger Clemens' baseball career.

The 45-year-old future Hall of Famer, betrayed by Father Time and a troublesome, lingering hamstring injury, was removed from Game 3 of the American League Division Series after allowing Cleveland three runs on 2 1/3 tortured innings Sunday. Today, Clemens was removed, again, this time from the team's postseason roster, replaced by 37-year-old reliever Ron Villone.

Both moves, necessitated by Clemens' concession that he was not physically capable of performing.

The move seemed to signal the beginning of the end, if not the end itself for Clemens, a stark realization when it comes to an iron man who seemed intent on pitching forever in order to build onto the already astounding totals of 354 big-league victories and 4,672 strikeouts.

Should the Yankees advance past the Cleveland Indians and on to the American League Championship Series, neither new major league rules nor the injury will permit Clemens to go with them, manager Joe Torre said.
And if the team advances, further still, to the World Series? Well, the rules would allow for Clemens' reinstatement, but ...
"We don't know if he'll be alright," said Torre. "We hope we have an opportunity to find out. At least that keeps him from having to make a decision about the next round."

Thing is, Torre didn't sound any more hopeful about the Series than he appeared convinced that Clemens would ever pitch, again, period.

"I don't want to think that way," the manager said. "Obviously we'll take whatever it is when we get there. And Roger will certainly be honest with us. He's always been that."


NEW YORK - If and when Joe Torre leaves the Yankees' managerial position, a refreshingly honest era occupied by a concise, direct, conscientious pro will come to an end. And the New York sports scene will be all the poorer for it.

Today, Torre, for a second straight day, graciously and openly faced questions about the ultimatum from George Steinbrenner that coldly greeted him Sunday. You know the one: down 0-2 in the best of five division series, Torre was publicly, bluntly told he needed his team to defeat the Cleveland Indians in three straight games or his job was gone.

Not surprisingly, Torre's first concern was his players. No, he said, he did not think that the ultimatum had upped the pressure on the team, or provided the motivation that led to an 8-4 victory in Game 3 Sunday night.

"It's tough enough to win when you're all pulling the same thing in the same direction," Torre said prior to Game 4. "But when you have people saying, 'well, we have to win this game because the manager's job is in jeopardy' - that's nuts.

"Now you're trying to make something that's important more important and that shouldn't be the case."

As for his feelings on Steinbrenner, Torre remained in character, as he has for a dozen years in baseball's toughest venue. "The first thing you have to understand is he's the boss," said Torre. "I think that when you come in and understand that, then it;s a matter of understanding he's entitled to say what he wants. He owns the team. He can be as critical or as complimentary as he wants to be any time he wants to be that."