Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

Is Roger Clemens returning to the major leagues?

From Comcast SportsNet
SUGAR LAND, Texas (AP) -- Hours after Roger Clemens agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters, he was back on the field playing in an over-50 softball league. And the ultra-competitive Clemens, now a half-century old, was quick to point out just how well he did against that group of geezers. "I hit two homers, by the way," he said. Things will be a bit tougher on Saturday when he is scheduled to start for the independent Atlantic League team at home against Bridgeport. The right-hander agreed to play for the team on Monday and was introduced on Tuesday. Whether this all leads to Clemens pitching in the major leagues -- the seven-time Cy Young Award winner played that down, conceding he's nowhere near big league pitching shape. "I'm 50 years old. We're just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans," said Clemens, who has a touch of gray stubble on his chin but still sports a shock of blond highlights in his hair. Clemens didn't understand all the rules of his old-man softball league at first. When he hit his first home run and dashed to first base, his teammates told him to stop. He thought it was because home runs weren't allowed. It turned out that the over-50 set doesn't see the need to run all of the bases on a homer. "I really play in that league for the exercise and the fun," he said. He laughed off questions about playing professionally at an age when he qualifies for an AARP card. "I hope nothing breaks and I hope I don't pull anything," a still fit-looking Clemens said. Some believe his return to the minor leagues is the first step to another comeback in the major leagues, where he last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007 at age 45. Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this year, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years. He isn't sure how he'll be perceived by voters when his name appears on the ballot. "Sure, the Hall of Fame is great, I've told people that. But it's not going to change my life either way," he said. "But if there's something there that somebody feels like they have a grudge or want to hold something against you, I can't control that one bit." Clemens said thinking about a big league comeback is premature. He dismissed the theory that the minor league appearance was a step on the path to a big league return. "I've been to the major leagues and back a couple of times," he said. "I've retired and unretired, so I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit." A return at his age wouldn't be all that outlandish, considering that Jamie Moyer returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery to start for the Colorado Rockies this season. Clemens chuckled when asked about Moyer. "People are trying to ingrain that in my mind that 50 is now the new 40," he said. "But I'm not buying it because I'm still having to pack myself in a lot of ice." He says he talks to new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane often but that he has not talked about pitching for the Astros and that he doesn't see that happening. He isn't committing to playing more than one game for the Skeeters, who play in a Houston suburb, saying he wants to see how Saturday goes first. Clemens was accused by former personal trainer Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball of using steroids and HGH, allegations Clemens denied before Congress. The Justice Department began an investigation concerning whether Clemens had lied under oath, and in 2010 a grand jury indicted him on two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress. He was acquitted of all the charges on June 19 after a 10-week trial and has largely stayed out of the public spotlight until now. He's glad to be talking about baseball again instead of that difficult chapter in his life. "Everybody has their own opinion and they dwell on that so much," he said. "In between all of that, handling that business up there and doing what was right for me and my family and taking that head on, I was still doing the work that I've always done. So it wasn't gloomy or depressing." Clemens had two great seasons with the Astros after he turned 40, going 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 2004 to win his record seventh Cy Young Award. He was 13-8 with a career-low 1.87 ERA in 2005. Tal Smith, a longtime former Astros executive who is now a special advisor to the Skeeters, is one person who wouldn't be surprised if Clemens made a comeback in the majors. "Knowing Roger and how competitive he is and what great shape he is in, and the fact that Jamie Moyer pitched close to 50 and Nolan Ryan pitched well into his late 40s, if anybody can do it, Roger Clemens can do it," he said. Clemens earned about 160 million and won 354 games in a 24-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most and he was named to 11 All-Star games. Now he will see what he has left for the Skeeters that have a roster which includes former major league pitchers Tim Redding and Scott Kazmir and Jason Lane, a teammate of Clemens' on Houston's 2005 World Series team. Smith believes this is a great opportunity for Clemens and he thinks it could change some opinions as a possible Hall of Fame vote approaches. "I hope this helps," Smith said. "I think voters should remember that he's been acquitted of all charged and that he never tested positive. I hope this story dies down in future years." Clemens and Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti have been talking about this since April. But he received another push toward the field early this summer when he visited Dr. James Andrews in Florida for a checkup. "He said: The MRI looked great. Your shoulder looks like you're 30. You should go pitch -- just kidding,'" Clemens said Andrews told him. It was then that he started thinking he could actually play for the Skeeters. After throwing for the team on Monday, where his fastball was clocked at 87, the multimillionaire got himself a new gig. "We're going to have fun with this and see if I can get through a few innings without Gary having to go to the bullpen, and we'll see where it goes from there," Clemens said. Smith takes issue with those who think this is simply a media stunt. He said that the Skeeters regularly sell out Saturday night games and that there were only 500 tickets available for this Saturday's game before Clemens was signed. "I can understand why he's doing it," Smith said. "He loves baseball. He love the competition. Baseball has been his life and there's no reason he shouldn't try to continue it. If he's successful it just adds to his legend, and if he's not, it was fun."

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Film study: Breaking down Bojan Bogdanovic's overall game

Film study: Breaking down Bojan Bogdanovic's overall game

PHILADELPHIA -- What kind of player are the Wizards are getting in Bojan Bogdanovic? You've heard coach Scott Brooks, president Ernie Grunfeld and Bogdanovic himself talk about the skillset since he was acquired in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets before the deadline earlier this week.

This is what the film says:

Bogdanovic is always looking for chances to run, whether on or off the ball. If there's a seam to attack, he'll do so. One moment he looks like he's lightly jogging back down the court and as long as ballhander reads him correctly, Bogdanovic will shoot the gap.

Bogdanovic isn't just a catch-and-shoot forward. He can attack the closeout and pull up under control for the mid-range which is a high-percentage shot for him, too.

Bogdanovic doesn't get the ball here but this is an example of how his mind works. This isn't a play. This is a read on his part. He's about to step-up screen on the guard, reads it correctly and slips instead as his defender (Michael Beasley) is asleep at the wheel. Bogdanovic dives to the rim but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doesn't pick up on it and misses out on an easy assist. 

Just because Bogdanovic can shoot doesn't mean he'll take it every time. He has good court awareness and will make the extra pass to get a teammate a better shot.

He can run the pick-and-roll as the ballhandler, dribble into traffic and finish through contact over the big because he's physically strong enough to do so.

He can finish with either hand at the rim. Even though Bogdanovic isn't going to set the floor on fire with his foot speed, he's fast enough if you're caught relaxing. And even if you're quicker, he's strength allows him to turn the corner and get to the rim to create the needed separation.

The biggest complaint you'll hear about Bogdanovic is his defense. While he could be more active off the ball with getting deflections, laterally he can be beaten by quicker players, he understand how to follow the ball, rotate and contest. He's not a lazy, unintelligent, talentless defender who is an open door. Understanding team defense and proper rotations are part of being a responsible defender.

Otto Porter drains this transition three, but Bogdanovic helps contain John Wall on the break, tries to prevent an easy pass to Bradley Beal trailing in the paint and then runs out to contest. The effort was there as was the IQ defensively by Bogdanovic even though the shot was made.

[RELATED: Trade deadline hints at future plans for Otto Porter]

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Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

This story originally published on January 4, but has fresh relevence as the Redskins are running out of time to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 

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Pending contract talks with Kirk Cousins will not only impact the Redskins salary cap, they will also impact the desire of free agent wide receivers looking to join the Burgundy and Gold.

That's the word from multiple sources as Washington brass again enters negotiations with Cousins after he played the 2016 season under the franchise tag.

It's understandable why receivers want to see what unfolds at QB for the Redskins.

With Cousins, the Redskins run a dynamic, pass-first offense capable of moving the ball among the best teams in the league. Should Cousins leave via free agency, it's unknown what happens for Jay Gruden's 2017 offense.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

While it seems likely Cousins would at least return for 2017 under another franchise tag, if that doesn't happen, would the team turn to backup Colt McCoy? Bring in a veteran starter to compete with McCoy? Has rookie Nate Sudfeld developed to a point where he could compete? Questions like these make for uneasy conversations among wideouts looking at options. 

The Redskins not only need to make decisions with their own free agent receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, but the team also has shown interest in free agent Kenny Britt, recently of the Rams. Sources indicate Britt would be interested in Washington if Cousins is the quarterback, but the 29-year-old has at least seven other interested teams should the Redskins QB situation not get resolved before free agency opens. 

Jackson's return to Washington seems unlikely, as he will probably command more money than Garçon or Britt.

ESPN's John Keim reported that Garçon will not play for less than the $7.6 million he made this season, and sources have said Britt expects to make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per season in a multi-year deal.

All three pass-catchers had strong seasons in 2016, all eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Among the trio, Britt is two years younger than Garçon and Jackson, who will both turn 31 this season, and bigger. Britt goes 6-foot-3 while Garçon is 6-foot and Jackson 5-foot-10. Neither Britt nor Garçon can touch Jackson's speed, and few players in the NFL can match Garçon's toughness.

That said, Britt raised eyebrows around the NFL getting to 1,000 yards on an awful Rams team that suffered with poor quarterback play and a prehistoric offensive system. 

Another franchise tag for Cousins would not necessarily solve the Redskins issue with free agent receivers, at least long-term. Like all players, wideouts want multi-year deals, and a 2017 tag on Cousins makes it highly possible that Washington needs a new quarterback in 2018. 

Fans need to deal with the possibility that neither Jackson nor Garçon could return to Washington. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Much of that will be determined by money, but the contract status of Cousins will be a factor.

For wideouts, Washington is an attractive destination with Cousins. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

Without him, the landscape looks quite different. 

RELATED: Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa