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Roger Clemens continues to downplay the idea that his fun little comeback start in the Atlantic League this weekend is going to lead him to the big leagues. But go back and check the transcript of his news conference and listen to his appearance on the Scott Van Pelt Show. Never once does Clemens say anything to the effect of: "I'm only going to pitch in this one game, just for some chuckles, and that'll be it." Never.
So, it's no wonder two baseball men who know Clemens and new Astros owner Jim Crane told me this week: Don't be shocked if the Rocket winds up on the mound in Houston in September.
"Jim Crane and all those guys [in the Astros front office] underestimated how bad all this losing would make them look in the community," said one of those men. "They're taking a lot of heat, and they're looking for any kind of lifesaver, anything that could give people a reason to come to the ballpark and smile for a night. And who better to do that, in that town, than the Rocket?"
Other circumstantial evidence: The Astros have plummeted to last in the league in attendance. They're on pace to draw about 1.3 million fewer customers than they drew just five years ago. Clemens has a personal-services deal with the Astros that has yet to be exercised. And Crane and Clemens are friendly enough that they play golf together and were said, by one source, to have attended the All-Star Game together.
So you think this can't possibly happen? Think again.