On Thursday night, Randy Johnson became just the third pitcher to reach the 4,400-strikeout plateau when he fanned the Devil Rays Nick Green in the fourth inning. The 5-2 Johnson trails only Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Roger Clemens (4,502) on the career list.
Knowing just how competitive Clemens is -- and how important his stats are to him in relation to his place in baseball history -- Johnson's achievement may be all the incentive he needs to return for yet another go around. If Clemens decides not to play, Johnson will pass him and move into second place before this season is over.
It's hard to imagine Clemens letting the 42-year-old Johnson surpass him, knowing that the Yankee lefty is nearing the finish line in his career as well. Clemens surely thinks he is the better pitcher of the two -- even now, at this late stage of their careers.
If a 37 or 38-year-old pitcher was closing in on him, one who appeared to have at least a few good years still in reserve, then Clemens would likely accept the inevitable with a begrudging acceptance that everyone gets old and eventually has to retire. But there's no way he's going down to one of his peers -- certainly not another 40-something.
So bet on Clemens returning. The only question now is, to which team?
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.