NEW YORK -- Clearly, sticking around the major leagues was a great career move for Roger Clemens.
As dominant as ever after reversing his decision to retire, the
42-year-old Rocket easily won his record seventh Cy Young Award on
Tuesday -- first in the National League -- after taking the Houston Astros within one win of the World Series.
He received 23 of 32 first-place votes and 140 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, becoming the oldest pitcher to win a Cy Young. Gaylord Perry was 40 when he won the NL award in 1978.
"I'll just have to wait and see," he said. "I kind of have a feeling on what I need to do and what the future holds."
Clemens retired after pitching for the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series, then changed his mind in January and signed with his hometown Astros. He won his first nine decisions and finished 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts.
"His competitive fire still burns bright," said Tim Purpura, the Astros' new general manager.
Arizona's 41-year-old Randy Johnson, second to Clemens with five Cy Youngs, was second in the balloting with eight first-place votes and 97 points. The Big Unit went 16-14 with a 2.60 ERA and a major league-leading 290 strikeouts -- Arizona scored two runs or fewer in 17 of his 35 starts.
Currently in Japan with a touring major league all-star team, Clemens said he considers himself "99.9 percent" retired -- what he said last year. He said he must decide whether to get his body into shape to pitch and whether he has enough time to be with his family -- his oldest son, Koby, is eligible for the June amateur draft.
On days he didn't pitch, the Astros tried to allow him to work out at home as much as possible.
"I made the baseball and football games, but I still missed quite a few," Clemens said. "I tried not to spread myself too thin with my teammates."
Clemens is expected to file for free agency by Thursday's deadline. He didn't give a direct answer when asked whether Houston would be the only team he would consider pitching for.
"I would be surprised if he would play for someone other than the Astros," his agent, Randy Hendricks, said.
After getting to the team hotel in Japan, Clemens said he found out he had won about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday (11:30 a.m. EST Tuesday). He immediately called his mother.
"I kind of teased her," he said. "I told her someone in Osaka called me at 1:30 in the morning and told her I was going to have to redo my fireplace."
On the second floor of his house in Houston, where he has jerseys signed by all living players with either 300 wins or 500 homers, Clemens has his six prior Cy Youngs -- all from the American League -- arranged above the fireplace.
The health of his mother, Bess, will be an important factor in Clemens' decision to return or retire. She has emphysema, and he talked about wanting her at his Hall of Fame induction. His stepfather died when he was young, and his mother has been an inspiration.
"I don't want to speak to two empty chairs," he said.
Clemens won three Cy Youngs with Boston (1986-87, 1991), two with Toronto (1997-98) and one with the New York Yankees (2001). He is the first player to win BBWAA awards with four teams; the first to win eight awards -- he was the AL MVP in 1986; and the fourth to win Cy Youngs in both leagues, joining Perry, Johnson and Pedro Martinez.
With a 328-164 record, Clemens is 10th on the career wins list, and his 4,317 strikeouts are second to Nolan Ryan's 5,714.
Clemens signed with the intent of helping the Astros reach the World Series for the first time, but Houston fell one win short. Clemens couldn't hold a 2-0 lead against St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL championship series, when Albert Pujols hit a tying double in the sixth inning, and Scott Rolen followed with a two-run homer.
"We came up short and I've tasted what it feels like, the best champagne at the end of the road there," he said.
Clemens earned a $100,000 bonus for winning the award, raising his 2004 earnings to $6,825,000, including $1.7 million in attendance bonuses. Johnson got $150,000 for finishing second, and Oswalt and Schmidt earned $25,000 each.
"There will always be a place in our rotation for Roger Clemens," Purpura said. "We'd love to have him back, but we want to make sure he has as much time as he needs to make the best decision for him and his family."