There's no 'I' in Rocket
Clemens out and about with his teammates in the Bronx
NEW YORK -- For all the hoopla surrounding Roger Clemens' contentious contract, it's been the Rocket himself hushing his critics to a whisper.
Clemens has done it, mainly, by ignoring his option to head home for the week after dropping the Pirates in his season debut on Saturday. With five days between starts, Clemens easily could have buzzed back to Texas for the week, worked out in private and jetted back in time to open the Subway Series against the Mets on Friday.
Clemens could have, but he didn't. Instead, the 44-year-old chose to spend the time bonding with old friends and making some new ones, with a few of those legendary workouts also on the planner.
"I'm having the opportunity to visit with some of my teammates, young and old, that I haven't performed with here," Clemens said. "They're getting to know me a little bit and seeing my routine and what I'm about."
It's an opportunity some of them might have assumed they'd never get. The image of Clemens as a mercenary, a hired gun without any real emotional attachment, was strong leading up to the Rocket's launch in the Bronx.
And it's an image that, for now, he's starting to shed.
"It was fun watching [Chien-Ming] Wang pitching," Clemens said of his time in the dugout on Tuesday. "I've seen him on TV, but to see him live [was fun]. It's going to be fun to watch [Mike Mussina] go at it again, because we're going to obviously need him in a big way. So as each day goes by, it's fun for me to get a close look at everything that's going on."
And also for his teammates to get a close look at him. Wang, in particular, relished the opportunity, bumping into his childhood idol in the tunnels of Yankee Stadium.
"I think he was a little surprised when we crossed paths," Clemens said. "I told him I enjoyed watching him work, and he was pretty impressive. He seemed to get stronger as he went. I told him it was great to be young."
Perhaps the old Clemens will soon surface -- the Clemens whose me-first reputation drew some grumbles about that contract clause in the first place. And there's no doubt that Clemens will eventually use that luxury. Had the Yankees been on the road this week, Clemens very well may not have followed, choosing instead to return home to the comforts of Texas.
But perhaps his reputation slides a little more toward fiction as Clemens reaches his mid-40s. He's settled now in New York, recently finalizing a place to live for the season and bubbling that "it's all coming together."
Don't expect, by any means, this new clubhouse presence to become the norm. But don't expect it to become a rare occurrence, either, as Clemens renews his baseball vows in the Bronx.
The one thing about Clemens that can't be questioned is his innate passion to win.
"I still love what I do," Clemens said. "I wouldn't have chosen to come back here and everything that goes along with it if we didn't expect to win. There's a lot of expectations here to do that, and either you like it or you don't."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.