Roger Clemens said the other day that when the United States got bounced out of the farce that is now the Olympic baseball competition next summer, it essentially sealed his retirement.
So why is that significant? Because, despite all that hoopla over Clemens' "final" start in the World Series, there were numerous signs even then that he was still open to unretiring.
During the World Series, we speculated that Clemens' grand finale in Game 4 might not have been his true finale. Afterward, a friend of Clemens told us that everything we'd suggested was accurate. But having no Olympics to pitch in next year changes everything.
Had Clemens had Athens to shoot for, he would have had no choice but to keep himself in some semblance of pitching shape. Then the scenarios for a Clemens comeback were endless.
1) Imagine this guy working out, saying, "Boy, I feel great. Why am I quitting?" Or 2) imagine him thinking about pitching in those Olympics and realizing he needed someplace to pitch to get ready. Or 3) imagine him returning from Athens all stoked up, thinking, "Hey, I wonder if Mr. Steinbrenner needs me to make a few starts down the stretch?"
It was all highly feasible. But not anymore. He now says there are "no scenarios" in which he comes back. Still, let's just say that several people in baseball noticed that he and agent Randy Hendricks did file for free agency this month.
"We filed under the theory of, 'You never know,' " Hendricks says. "Roger considers himself retired."
Speaking of that Olympic baseball mess, we've surveyed several people involved in the selection of the team that got eliminated in Mexico last week. And while there have been frustrations over the failure of some teams to cooperate in making players available, their conclusion is that if there is blame to be assessed here, it should be dumped on the Olympic organizers.
Our buddy, Jim Caple, makes a compelling case on this site, in his current Off Base column, for what a joke it is to allow three teams from baseball-crazed Europe into the Olympics, while limiting North, South and Latin America to a total of two.
But if that's the deal, the question is this: How can the defending champs have their fate determined by the outcome of one second-round game -- let alone one against a country that had won zero games in the first round? Can't somebody think up a better system than that?
Best suggestion we've heard is a double-elimination tournament to get down to the final two teams, followed by a best-of-three or best-of-five final round. Toss that single-elimination format in the dumper. Too many goofy things can happen in one baseball game. And they happened to the good old U.S.A.
One final Olympics note: Not much has been -- or ever will be -- said about it. But sources say that several minor-league players being considered for the team the U.S. sent to Panama were disqualified for failing to pass the we-ban-everything Olympic drug test.