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Would Clemens ever return?

MAILBAG: May 16

Q: Since the old regime of the Boston Red Sox is out, how likely is it that Roger Clemens returns to Beantown next season and puts No. 21 back on (no one's donned the number since he left)? All would be forgiven, and he would go to the Hall with the "B" rightfully on his cap. -- Patrick Laverty, Cumberland, R.I.
Roger Clemens
Clemens

Peter Gammons: I think the Red Sox's new ownership would love to have him back, but the New York Yankees would never allow it. After Roger is done playing, I think you'll see some reconnection between the two sides.

Q: I recently received a book by Allen Barra called, "Clearing the Bases: The Greatest Baseball Debates of the Last Century." In one chapter, he compares Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and concludes that Mantle was the better overall player. What's your opinion? Mantle is my all-time favorite player, but I had always conceded that Mays was better. -- Peter Blanchette, Rochester, N.Y.
PWG:
Barraís book is excellent, and I respect his opinion, but I have always believed Mays was the better player. Now, had Mickey not hurt his knee in the í51 World Series, it might be a different story. And Mantle was a great player. But I believe Willie was greater.

Q: Can you settle a long-raging debate between two book jockeys working in the bowels of a bookstore? In your opinion, which record is the hardest to break: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak or Pete Rose's career hit record? I say it's Rose's record (even more than Aaron). By the way, my friend is a Yankee fan! -- Brian Burkett, Temecula, Calif.
PWG:
I donít see either being touched, and I believe Roseís ability to hit was amazing. But to hit in 56 straight games marks brilliant consistency that I believe was more difficult. Itís really not a fair argument, though, because one is a streak, one is a career.

Q: Is there a chance the Texas Rangers could get a real No. 1 pitcher? Chan Ho Park is not and never will be one (in my opinion). If so, would they be able to get anything for Rusty Greer, Gabe Kapler or Hank Blalock? -- Carleton Sellers, Greenville, Texas
PWG:
Park isnít far from a No. 1, and Kenny Rogers has pitched like one. If they put Blalock on the market, heíd fetch a lot, and Kapler will eventually get them a pretty good pitcher. But there wonít be No. 1s available for a while. Mike Hampton? If I were Texas, Iíd take that shot because look at what happened to Pedro Astacio and Darryl Kile when they got out of Colorado.

Q: Where do you see Vladimir Guerrero ending up by the trade deadline or, if he isn't dealt, at the end of the season? -- Matt Flanagan, North Haven, Conn.
PWG:
I donít believe Guerrero will be traded. The commissionerís office canít alter the pennant races. And Frank Robinson and Omar Minaya would fight it.

Cliff Floyd
Floyd
Q: Are the New York Yankees serious about trading for Cliff Floyd or Vladimir Guerrero? If they are, who do they deal? -- Steve, Connecticut
PWG:
The Yanks call every week on Floyd and have been told that heís not available. Now, if Florida falls back, then at the deadline he might be traded.

Q: With Manny Ramirez out for 4-6 weeks, do you see the Red Sox going after another power hitter, maybe Jim Thome or Carlos Delgado? -- Jacob Bauza, Chicopee, Mass.
PWG:
The Red Sox decided not to pursue anyone, even Kapler, at least for the time being. There are those who believe Thome could end up in Boston next season as a free agent.

Q: Do you think there's anything illegal about what the Colorado Rockies are doing to their baseballs (i.e., storing them in that humidor)? If not, are other teams doing the same? Wouldn't all teams with poor offenses be better served by doing this? -- Cubs fan, Damascus, Md.
PWG:
The Rockies say that they get their supply of baseballs in February. Because it is so dry, the covers shrink, the balls tighten, and they become rockets. By using the humidor, they are able to keep the baseballs normal. Sandy Alderson says thereís nothing wrong, and thatís good enough for me.

Q: With the Mike Hampton rumors swirling, are the Atlanta Braves in the market for a left-handed starter? What would they have to give up? -- Ricky, Atlanta
PWG:
I donít think the Braves could take on Hampton's contract. Damian Moss has pitched well, and their needs are more at the corners of the infield, unless they trade for an outfielder and put Chipper Jones at first.

Q: Do you see the Detroit Tigers trading some of their good young prospects to try to gain some much-needed offense? -- John Walton, Wellington, Kan.
PWG:
No, they are going to build with their kids. The answer isnít trading for average players. The answer is building. And when they go out, go get stars. Former GM Randy Smith had the right idea with Juan Gonzalez, but he had the wrong ballpark.

Q: The New York Mets are hard to watch. What's next for this underachieving crew and its lackadaisical manager? Could someone please tell Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz that there is no such thing as a seven-run homer? Do you think Bobby Valentine's managerial style is more suited for the American League? -- Matt LaPan, Hudson Falls, N.Y.
PWG:
I donít believe this is Valentineís fault. He has three homers out of Vaughn and Edgardo Alfonzo, combined. Roger Cedeno was on base 25 percent of the time in the leadoff spot until they got to Los Angeles. Piazza, Vaughn and Burnitz strike out a ton. Letís wait a few weeks and see.

Q: What chance do you see of the San Francisco Giants making the playoffs? Do you see them making any trades before the deadline? I love your work. -- Brian, San Ramon, Calif.
Jeff Kent
Kent
PWG:
I think they have a very good chance. For one thing, Jeff Kent hasnít yet hit as he will, and Jason Schmidt hasnít gotten to his level either. The race against Arizona and the Dodgers will be a very good one, but you know that GM Brian Sabean will make one or two moves at the deadline to win.

Q: What are your thoughts on Baltimore Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, with his 5-0 start and 2.01 ERA? Is he the real deal? -- Brandon Weigel, Baltimore
PWG:
Funny, Lopez bombed when the Padres had him. But he apparently is a legit major-league starter, albeit probably not a No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Orioles VP of Baseball Operations Syd Thrift has plucked a good catcher in Geronimo Gil and now Lopez out of Mexico.

Q: Would you please explain what a quality start is for a pitcher? -- Nicholas Black, Glenside, Pa.
PWG:
A minimum six innings pitched and a maximum of three earned runs allowed.

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