Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Yankee Panky #9: In-Clemens Weather with Roger
2007-05-14 20:17
by Will Weiss
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

For the 348 games Roger Clemens has won in his Major League career, he just can’t win.

The New York newspaper editing intelligentsia must have salivated when Clemens declared that reporters and commentators needed to get their facts straight when referring to the special services clause in his contract. The salivation must have turned to full-on drool when his former manager in Houston, Phil Garner, told ESPN Radio that Clemens’ absence did, in fact, become a problem with guys in the clubhouse — that when it would have been more appropriate for him to be in team workouts or sit in the dugout talking shop and rooting for his teammates, that he would be playing in charity golf tournaments.

The latter brought the local editors together to engage columnists in the latest game of “Soapbox Soundoff.” Granted, this is a columnist’s function, to provide opinions and occasionally drop a holier-than-thou missive in 700 words. As fans and consumers, we accept that. But I maintain that in this instance, the local print media waited a day too long to get preachy and play the “Yankee Way” card.

Last week I wrote that “if the reality (of Clemens' arrangement) didn’t match the perception, why make a big deal of it three years later?” (Correction: I stated that it was a story for three years, but I was wrong. Last year was the only year of his three seasons in Houston that he joined the team midseason.)

Fast forward a week. The majority of the “Clemens’ absence demeans Yankees’ integrity” columns were released Tuesday. Why wait a day? Why not throw in the biting commentary into the context of the “Roger is back, and here’s what it means” stories released on Monday? The editors and writers knew that a major condition of Clemens signing with the Yankees for the remainder of this season was the team’s willingness to bend where they stood steadfast for the past two years.

These same editors and writers know that the “Yankee Way” was compromised when they traded for Kevin Brown in December 2003. Brown had clearance to fly to and from his home Macon, Ga., when he was not pitching in order to spend time with his family. An even more notable exception to the “Yankee Way” than the Knucklebuster was Thurman Munson. I’m dating myself here, so I’ll elicit the help of you guys in the comments, but because of Munson's elevated status on the team and the way the writers respected him, I can’t see too many — if any — columnists or editors criticizing Munson for getting his pilot’s license and flying to and from Canton, Ohio, to see his family. In conversations I've had with writers and broadcasters who knew him, they admired him for what he did.

The most interesting column on the topic, in my opinion, came last Thursday from the Post’s George Willis, who opined that Clemens’ big-money, half-season contracts and carte blanche treatment will start a trend for fortysomething MLB veterans. Willis provided a different perspective. He didn’t try to explain what separates the Yankees from everyone else, or express dismay that the organization sold itself out. Willis also had a great hook: the ubiquitous Reggie Jackson told Willis he was jealous of Clemens’ arrangement. This, to me, was the best part of the column. Jackson later noted that as a hitter, you have a chance to be in the lineup everyday; thus, it’s more important to be with the team every day than if you’re a starting pitcher (did Barry Bonds form his opinion of pitchers from talking to Reggie?), but it’s obvious he fancied himself talented enough and powerful enough to have commanded such an arrangement.

Reading and rereading the Jackson quotes, I couldn’t help thinking that he still harbors enmity toward Munson and was taking a shot at him. His comments in the Sport Magazine article 30 years ago are as famous as any ever spoken by a Yankee. Their effect still divides members of that championship team. (Quick aside: Four years ago at Old Timers’ Day, a small group of reporters, including myself, gathered around Sparky Lyle to get his take on the Yankees retiring Jackson’s No. 44. Disgusted at the inquiry, Lyle took a drag from his cigarette, huffed the smoke out through his nose and said, “I’m not saying anything about that, because I don’t have anything nice to say.”) Furthermore, Jackson told reporters last October he didn’t see a similarity between Cory Lidle’s death and Thurman Munson’s. The circumstances surrounding their crashes were different, but the parallel is an easy one to draw.

Thankfully, the coverage shifted from the "no 'I' in team" soapbox to the daily chronicle of his workouts in Lexington, Ky., staying there to watch his son Koby play a minor league game, then on to Tampa for workouts leading up to his first preparatory start in the minors.

And as the team headed west, with the papers sending only their beat guys, Clemens became a note item and the Yankees’ offensive anemia came to the fore.

* * * * *

Speaking of notebook items, thumbing through Monday’s missives, all the dailies led with the offensive struggles, with A-Rod, of course, being the poster boy. I couldn’t help but notice the subtle differences in what each paper chose for “sidebar” and “notebook” stories.

Notebook lead: Games taking Torre’s mind off his brother’s fight for life following a kidney transplant.
Other notes: Clemens to throw in Tampa Tuesday leading to Friday start.

Notebook lead: Torre’s mind on brother Frank
Other notes: Clemens’ schedule; Rotation for Mets, Boston series

Full sidebar on Bob Abreu’s prolonged slump

Notebook lead: Clemens’ schedule
Other notes: Jason Giambi back despite foot injury; Jeter, Posada streaks

Notebook lead: Clemens schedule
Other notes: Giambi ailing; Torre’s return to New York; Torre considered sitting Damon and Abreu; Villone to be called up?; Jeter commits first error in 23 games

Notes on Clemens, travel musings, in Peter Abraham's blog (link is on right rail).

Notebook lead: Clemens
Other items: Proctor accepts suspension (from Sunday)

Notebook lead: Jeter, A-Rod errors
Other items: Abreu slump; Jeter, Posada hit streaks DeSalvo gives scorecard from Saturday’s win to his brother

It’s fascinating to me how similar stories spanning so many outlets can have such different information due to the difference of one or two words. For example, regarding the Clemens story, Newsday stated Tuesday’s throw day would put him on track for a Friday start, while the Times and the Post also presented the situation as an “if/then” item. The Daily News definitively claimed “Clemens will start Friday,” and if he comes through that OK and starts games at the graduated levels of the minors, he’ll be in line to start June 2 at Boston. In addition, there was conflicting information regarding the Giambi injury. Newsday reported the injury as plantar fasciitis, whereas the Daily News and the Post said it was a bone spur. Which one is it? They’re two different injuries.

The lesson: no matter how good the reporter is (and Kat O’Brien, George King and Mark Feinsand are all good), their stories can’t automatically be accepted as true.

2007-05-15 05:25:58
1.   Simone
The NY Times has a nice piece on Jorgie. I'm glad that he is getting the positive press attention that he has always deserved.

2007-05-15 05:46:27
2.   OldYanksFan
I hate to be a bad guy, but I agree with George Will and any of the opinion that this special treatment stuff is not good for the Yankees. I don't mind some perks, but not traveling with the team and playing a partial season, I think, is a terrible idea.

Also, with all the hype this is getting, if Clemens is not particularly good (4+ ERA), the reporters will have a field day taking about how expensive the mistake/desperation move was.

We all know Roger is a 6 innings #2/#3 guy. The hype is too much... but that's what reporters are for.

I really hope MLB discusses and addresses these 'special clauses'. It's not bad now, but as Will said, things could go in that direction. If MLB makes rules, it will keep the game better, and make GMs lives easier.

2007-05-15 05:47:28
3.   Sliced Bread
Interesting stuff, Will.

How many questions do you think Clemens will field about his "family plan" at his post-bullpen session presser today?

I figure every media outlet will deliver the question with their particular spin, and he'll keep fouling it off until they stop asking about it.

Kevin Kernan of the NY Post has a good piece on Clemens' first work out yesterday. It's chock full of details including the exact time Clemens arrived, precisely how long he went about his business, how he got into the fine points of pitching with Hughes, what he was wearing, etc.

Interesting that Kernan gathered all this information from the sidewalk outside the field, as the workout was off-limits to the media.

Gotta tip your cap to Kernan and the NY Post for staking out Clemens for the "off day" story, and for not whining about the lack of access to Clemens.

It was a much more interesting read than Lupica's bitchy waste of space in today's Deli News.

2007-05-15 05:57:13
4.   Sliced Bread
1 Yeah, Jorgie has to hit .360 before they'll write him up -- not that he cares about the lack of ink dedicated to his name.

I love Posada's postgame quotes. They tend to be terse but insightful, especially regarding the pitching.

Jorgie calls it as he sees it, and has no agenda, which is probably why writers tend to ignore him.

2007-05-15 06:09:29
5.   Sliced Bread
2 I sort of agree with you. I wouldn't have given Clemens the "come and go as you please" plan.

But let's see how it works out before sending the matter to Chief Justice Bud Selig.

Right now I think it's easy for GMs to say if you want Clemens' perks, you better have his resume.

2007-05-15 06:26:12
6.   rbj
I really don't care about the "special clause" in Clemens' contract. Total non-issue to me.

Off topic, anyone else hear about the deal between Cerberus & Daimler, whereby Daimler is actually going to pay (once all the dollars have been exchanged) $650 mi to Cerberus to take Chrysler off its hands? That, after having spend about $36 billion to buy Chrysler. Man, talk about being pavanoed.

2007-05-15 06:26:57
7.   RZG
2 You want MLB to get involved to address these 'special clauses'? How can getting MLB involved ever make an improvement?

I don't object to perks. The team didn't have to agree to the request if they didn't want to. If the team and player weren't against them why should you be?

Tom Glavine was away from the team for a couple of days last week to attend to some personal matters, do you object to that?

Earlier in the season Pettitte didn't accompany the team to Tampa. Did you object to that?

I don't know if Proctor is with the team now. Do you think he should be?

2007-05-15 06:31:34
8.   williamnyy23
2 Quite frankly, the "special treatment" story is much ado about nothing, IMHO. After all, what is more egregious to you: signing a historically great pitcher for a 4 months and allowing him to fly home a few times...or giving a historically mediocre and fragile pitcher a 4-year guaranteed deal so he could drive Porshes with super models in Florida?

By virtue of being guaranteed, baseball contracts are one big perk...essentially, you can earn millions of dollars for doing nothing. I am not going to get all bent out of shape because one of the games best (with one of the most intense work ethics) wants to spend some extra time with his family. If that's bad for the Yankees, then maybe we all have our priorities out of whack.

Also, I don't get the Clemens is "only a 6 inning pitcher" argument. Well, last year, the AL leader in innings was a 6 2/3 innings pitcher. Against what standard are we judging Clemens now?

Finally, I really hope MLB DOES NOT make rules to limit "special clauses". I don't see why team shouldn't be able to decide for themselves what is appropriate and what is not. The idea that GMs need to be saved from themselves by Bud Selig doesn't reflect well on the men running the game.

2007-05-15 06:35:27
9.   Simone
I don't see the big deal about Clemens' special clause. I didn't see all this outrage when he had one in Houston. Ultimately, the Yankee way is "do whatever it takes to win." One look at the current Division standings should be enough for a Yankee player and fan to get over any concerns about Clemens' peaks.
2007-05-15 06:54:56
10.   Shaun P
What amuses me is that the complaints about Clemens are about perks given in a contract. So non-contractual special treatment is OK*, but contractual special treatment isn't?

Seems like a distinction without a difference to me.

*I'm thinking of, for example, the way Jeter's poor defense to his left has always been largely ignored by the media. Or how A-Rod got bashed for his hitting in the '04 ALCS (.258/.378/.516), but Jeter didn't (.200/.333/.233).

I'm not picking on Jeter, or the media, but that's the first example of non-contractual special treatment I thought of.

2007-05-15 07:07:41
11.   AbbyNormal821
1 Simone - thanks for that link on Jorgie. He has that certain fire & quiet confidence in what he does. I know I certainly prefer seeing him in the lineup.
2007-05-15 07:12:28
12.   williamnyy23
4 Posada is about the only Yankee who gives the impression of caring as much as the diehard fans do. I'm sure that's not the case, but still, it does make me feel a little better watching him seethe during an interview.
2007-05-15 07:21:16
13.   JasonO
Weiss's conclusion really extends to all media sources, be it sports or "hard" news. The last 5-7 years (at least) have completely destroyed the facade of "objectivity" that journalists professed.

Michael Kinsley once said something really smart...all media sources should reveal their organizational biases (in a mission statement) and then go about covering events within this framework.

In a way, sports media sources (if they are covering a team in a home market) have already accomplished this transformation...they need to be biased toward the home team (or excessively confrontational, like Joel Sherman) to increase readership.

2007-05-15 07:22:22
14.   williamnyy23
6 Actually...the Pavano deal is still more one-sided. At least Daimler gets off the hook for some massive labor-related liabilities. Maybe Cerberus is interested in Pavano as a reclaimation project too? I hear he's an expert of sports cars!
2007-05-15 07:24:33
15.   Will Weiss
Great observation, JasonO. ... When students ask me about objectivity, I tell them flatly that to not kid themselves, that it doesn't exist. Everything that's written has a slant, even if it comes from wire copy.
2007-05-15 07:26:20
16.   jkay
Great stuff from the Star-Ledger Yankee blog. Media catfight!!

Does anyone even care what he writes anymore? Mike Lupica is so 1992 at this point; his relevance expired somewhere around the last time the Knicks were any good and Lupica could still write about basketball. Today, Lupica surprisingly (note the sarcasm) attacks the Yanks, as he says they have lost their "swagger." That's of course true to a certain extent, but he fails to note that this bad-start-kinda-thing has been the case through the first 40 games of the last few seasons, and those (regular) seasons have turned out just fine. There's no reason to stomp on this team (at least not yet). Individual performances, maybe (That means you, Messrs. Cano and Abreu).

2007-05-15 07:28:18
17.   williamnyy23
15 The more a journalist knows about a topic, the less objective they'll be. Everyone seems to think they are an expert on sports and politics, so not coincidentally, those topics seem to lack any objectivity.
2007-05-15 07:29:18
18.   C2Coke
8 Just one thing, I believe you meant "he could [crash] Porshes with super models in Florida," right?

4 I always have doubts against someone, who says he's not a fan of or does not like Jorge, being a real Yankee fan. He's always been very genuine.

Having an editor dad, I learned early on (as early as I knew how to read) that the media cannot be trusted with all the words printed.

2007-05-15 07:39:50
19.   Will Weiss
williamnyy23, your point is well-taken. I think the best approach is to treat it academically, as if it was a research paper.
2007-05-15 07:40:54
20.   JasonO

This is truly good news for Gm and f: Cerberus will generate positive cash flow from C's finance business regardless of the status of the auto business. Thus they can be seriously hard line in UAW negotiations and do the pension/OPEB reduction dirty work that Gm and f need to stay viable.

Weiss: Agreed...I enjoy reading scare pieces in the WaPo and NYT about the rise of advocacy journalism. It has always been advocacy journalism, just being read by apparently trustworthy people like Cronkite and Brinkley and with no independent fact checking mechanism (blogs)

2007-05-15 07:43:09
21.   rbj
14 LOL

As for a reclamation project, I hear that even Halliburton turned down that deal -- claimed they wouldn't be able to make any money off of it.

2007-05-15 07:59:02
22.   ny2ca2dc
4,12, I think i remember Kepner writing a similar JoPo-love article last year. Since we're on the topic of biases, here's mine: I'm a JoPo worshiper. Like many of you all, I love that Jorgie can be counted on to put up a good at bat, even when the rest of the lineup is scuffling and the pitcher is cruising. These 3 games vs. the M's really showed that; even the one game we won was lame, after beating the hell out of the starter, who was throwing batting practice, they got blanked & looked like shit doing it vs their frigin long reliever O'Donahugh or whoever.So if not for the outburst in the first 3 innings, that game could've been lost too. A-Rod striking out in the 8th on Sunday was ugly, of his three swings he didn't even get wood on the ball any time. This is a team that is really having everything going wrong: the old guys are looking REALLY old (save Jeter & JoPo, shock), including Mo, and the young guys (Melky, Cano) are looking totally over-matched, while the bench is non-existent. And our one-man wrecking crew has fallen off dramatically...

I still feel like this team has the ability to rip off a month of domination, thanks to the rotation, but the offense really needs to show what they're made of. They need to perform more like they did vs. the Red Sox in the first series this year, and less like v the Tigers in the ALDS last year...

2007-05-15 08:10:06
23.   Mike from Hoboken
Ripken got special treatment from the Orioles in his later years, yet I rarely heard anyone complain about St. Calvin.

I really don't think the Yankees will be harmed if Roger Clemens isn't around to kibbitz in the dugout when he isn't starting.

But I guess in the interest of fairness, the Yankees could offer the same treatment to every other seven-time Cy Young winner on the team.

2007-05-15 09:37:01
24.   Zack
I don't relly care about the "special treatment" for Roger. I mean, come on, we are talking about a bunch of guys who get paid millions of dollars to play a game 8-9 months out of the year. If they can't handle one of their own getting to fly home a few times a season, shame on them. Considering all the perks they already have, I don't want to hear it from them: the Yanks gave the clause to Roger, so there it is.

But what's more, if the Yanks don't turn things around by the time Sir Rog. arrives, and are still under .500 and 10 or so back, THEN things might get ugly...

2007-05-15 10:12:42
25.   3rd gen yankee fan
OT: Look what I ran across on craigslist today:

Sports Marketing: Summer Part-time Internship

New sporting good company, co-founded by Baseball Legend, Don Mattingly, is looking for summer interns for Field Marketing. Looking for College students with a passion for baseball and/or softball. This is not an office job but an exciting sports marketing opportunity to help spread the word about our leading edge baseball and softball bats. More information on this internship and the ability to apply is available at

2007-05-15 11:33:39
26.   Al Rogers
Waaaa Waaaa Waaaaa

Big fucking babies.

Proving, yet again, that blogs have risen to fill in the disconnect bwtn self-appointed experts and regular fans. No real sports fan cared if Ripken had his own suite or if Bonds has a Lazy-Boy at his locker, etc., etc.

Roll Roger, Roll

@8 williamnyy23

@18 C2Coke

Pavs girlfriend, Gia Allemand, isn't a "supermodel." But I'm sure she'd make a nice rollerblading date.

2007-05-15 11:45:29
27.   Al Rogers
Hey, Will Weiss, Bruce Markusen

when you refer to an article in your column, its GOOD FORM to include an embedded link (see Alex Beth's posts).

2007-05-15 12:49:34
28.   Shaun P
26 27 I too don't care what perks a pro ballplayer gets. But labeling everyone who disagrees with you as not being a "real" sports fan (whatever that means) adds nothing to the discussion. Where is the "GOOD FORM" in that?
2007-05-15 12:55:51
29.   Canadian Rockies
26 27Hey, Al Rogers

when you comment on someone's blog, it's GOOD FORM to not be a jackass about it. (proper use of apostrophes never hurts, either)

2007-05-15 14:32:38
30.   Al Rogers
Shaun P: I wasn't labeling anyone. Colloquialism/idioms vs literalism. Keeping tabs on me? HBO has a show titled "Real Sports," does that also annoy you? Are they labeling subjects they don't cover, non-real sports? You shouldn't be so sensitive. Your head might explode if you heard some of the patrons at the stadium. And no, I don't have my "hall pass" either.

Canadian Rockies: tisk, tisk, such language. Stepping through the looking-glass, are we? But that's o.k. I do have a nice ass.

2007-05-15 15:17:06
31.   Orly Yarly NoWai
Also, while Gia Allemand may not TECHNICALLY speaking be a supermodel, she's certainly hot enough.
2007-05-15 15:47:57
32.   Marcus
According to, Ron Villone is coming up to the big leagues:

"Facing a midnight deadline, the Yankees have decided to add Ron Villone to their roster.

GM Brian Cashman said the move would be made after manager Joe Torre spoke with the player losing his spot. Sean Henn is likely to go to make room for him."

2007-05-15 16:41:41
33.   OldYanksFan
Wow. Joe Torre on acid.

From Lohud:
Damon DH
Jeter SS
Rodriguez 3B
Posada C
Matsui LF
Phelps 1B
Abreu RF
Cabrera CF
Cairo 2B
Mussina RHP (2-1, 4.76)

2007-05-16 17:29:28
34.   bbfan1
RZG: :Tom Glavine was away from the team for a couple of days last week to attend to some personal matters, do you object to that?"

If you can't grasp the difference between taking a couple of days to attend to personal matters and being able to do whatever on days you're not pitching I don't know what to tell you. You're beyond help.

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