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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Will They or Won't They?

Tonight at 11:00 p.m. Central is the deadline by which the Astros have to either offer Roger Clemens salary arbitration or lose the right to negotiate with him until May 1. There has been speculation far and wide as to the strategies and mindsets of both Roger and the Astros as the deadline has grown closer. Is Roger's body worn down too much to pitch another season? Are the Astros willing to pay him $18M again? How can they not, seeing as that he had the best ERA of any starting pitcher in baseball in 2005? How will pitching in the World Games affect the Rocket's ability to pitch for the Astros? How does the presence of Koby Clemens in the Astros organization affect Roger's thinking? Will Roger refuse to pitch on the road, on Tuesdays or in games where the temperature is not to his liking?

My opinion? The Astros ownership thinks from a PR perspective, not a baseball perspective, in nearly all of these type situations. They let Carlos Beltran and Scott Boras drag them on throughout the entire 2004-2005 offseason mostly because they wanted to give their fans the perception that they "cared" about keeping Beltran. In hindsight, they were played for fools and lost out on several opportunities to make the team better (keep Kent, pursue bullpen help, etc.)

From the PR perspective, the Astros cannot afford NOT to offer arbitration to the Rocket because if they don't, the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, etc. can start bidding for the Rocket's services. Whether or not Roger is interested in pitching for any other team is irrelevant, from an Astros PR perspective. A situation where Roger sat available on the free agent market would be disastrous from a PR standpoint for the Astros because it would make them look unappreciative of Roger's past two years of service and too cheap to compete with the big-market clubs.

Therefore, my guess is that Drayton will certainly offer the Rocket arbitration, if only to keep the other teams from gaining an opportunity to make the Astros look bad. Unfortunately for Astros fans, baseball logic routinely comes in a distant second place when it comes to their front office's decision making process. Hopefully, for Astros fans, Tim Purpura finds a way to satisfy Roger and the Hendricks brothers while simultaneously convincing Drayton to open up the checkbook to add some much needed offensive help. Contrary to Phil Garner's comments to the media yesterday, my belief is that going into 2006 with the same team from 2005 (all one year older) with the expectation that they will perform at or above their level of play from 2005 is insane.


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