The Press Buffet: America's Most Popular Minor League Pitcher

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Has a minor-league pitching prospect ever generated this much ink after one mediocre start? Some clown named William Clemens made his first start for the Yankees A-ball affiliate in Tampa, and the newspapers are going nuts about it. I mean, sure, he helped the Texas Longhorns win a national championship, but at his advanced age, how do we even know he'll be any good? His numbers weren't that great, after all, but the organization is hurting for pitching, so he'll be moving up to the double-A Trenton Thunder in time for a Wednesday start.

Why are the journalists who cover the Yankees' farm teams so excited about this old man? Find out after the jump.

OK, I've had my fun. It could have been interesting to see what the New York papers are saying about Roger Clemens, but I thought it would be WAAAAY more fun to see what the papers that cover Yankee affiliates have to say. I mean, they're about to be touched by the hand of the almighty Rog, right? It's not often anyone reads about the Trenton Thunder even in Trenton, so readership has to be sky-high for some of these fellas right now.

The Tampa Tribune already HAS a MLB team to write about, but the Tampa Yankees just handed them the biggest story they've had in years. Martin Fennelly drew the lucky straw, and got to write about prima donna moments like this one:

The Hummer that he rode in on was parked outside a few hours before Friday night's Single-A game between Clemens' Tampa Yankees and the Fort Myers Miracle. We don't mean outside Legends Field. We mean outside the Tampa clubhouse door, in a hallway inside the stadium. It's good to be the Rocket.

And Martin, that card, really had me going with this description of a pre-game moment with a local youth.

Clemens let little Nicholas put resin on his hand and had a hug for the youngster after the national anthem. Clemens, the father of four boys, was reportedly so enamored with the tyke that he offered to purchase him from the Ketterer family for $2.3 million.

The best part, though? Attendance at the A-ball game was 10,257. The announced attendance at Tropicana for the Devil Rays/Marlins interleague dustup was 13,003. That's right, "the show" came thisclose to playing second fiddle to a rehab start. Read the rest here.

Thanks to the parent club's horrendous injury situation, it looks like we're not going to be able to keep Roger down on the farm for long. The talk is that Wednesday will bring his debut for the Trenton Thunder (try not to choke on the exhaust from Rocket's Hummer as he roars out of town Thursday morning, Trentonians!)

Apparently, everybody in Trenton wanted a piece of this story, because this piece is attributed to "Staff and Wire Reports". Either that or nobody in Trenton knows how to write a column - I don't know.

This sentence has a local flavor to it, however:

He's slated to make his next one in a Thunder uniform on Wednesday night at Waterfront Park against the Portland Sea Dogs.

Holy shit! The Sea Dogs? That is a hot, hot rivalry. Look for Rocket to challenge Aarom Baldiris early by throwing high and tight. There is no love lost between these two warriors.

Also, I'd like to introduce the most terrifying mascot I've ever seen.

Donnie Collins at the Scranton Times-Tribune can see the writing on the wall - the Yanks need pitchers, and Rocket is not known for his patience, so the Greater Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area might get skipped on the Yankee farm tour. However, I would like to seriously thank Mr. Collins for not just adding a one-paragraph tag to the wire story and calling it a day. He actually had some amusing lines.

In a nutshell, Clemens gave up a towering home run to a sweet-swinging lefty outfield prospect named Erik Lis, who wasn’t quite 2 months old when Clemens made his big-league debut against Cleveland in May 1984. He also gave up a line-drive double to smallish second baseman Toby Gardenhire, who is known more for being his father’s son — that would be Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire — than for the .171 batting average he was packing before the game.

and this nugget:

If we were handing out grades for Hall of Famers pitching against unproven youngsters who had only ever seen him in video games before, Clemens could make a case for a very stout B-plus. He will make another minor-league start, most likely at Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. A repeat of what he did Friday, and selling him on another workout in the minors might be like trying to get Donald Trump to buy a Ford Focus.

Whoa, where did the Trump reference come from? Unnecessary. In case you hadn't heard, Roger himself has two Hummers, and he's allowed to park them on the warning track if he so desires. I don't think he'll be buying a Focus either, rendering your stretchy simile moot, Mr. Collins. Still, a very stout B-plus for making an effort.

And, finally, a man who sports one of the sourest official byline photos I've ever seen, the New York Post's Kevin Kernan. He doesn't give a rat's ass where Clemens pitches on his way back up - he likes the way Rocket is taking the time to mentor some of the youngsters as he goes.

The Rocket not only went through one of his typical workouts that included everything from his abdominal crunches to tossing a football, but for the first time, he was able to take Junior Rocket Phil Hughes under his wing. Hughes will earn a Master’s Degree in power pitching from Clemens over the rest of this season.

Clemens spent close to 30 minutes on the mound with Hughes, going over the finer points of his delivery. At one point Clemens got down in the dirt and drew a line, showing Hughes the proper landing spot for his right foot. Clemens also demonstrated the proper arm slot, release point, leg balance, and positioning of hands in the stretch.

If he fixes Igawa, I say the Yankees owe him another $20 mil.

And, just in case you're wondering, four of the six Yanks affiliates are also called the Yankees. Man, those guys know how to ruin everything, even the smorgasbord of fabulous monikers that is Minor League baseball. Thank goodness for the Charleston RiverDogs.

I have been your host, Extra P.

Posted by Eric (Extra P.) at 10:04 PM