Roger Clemens might still have "it" at the age of 43, but will he be worth the $12.6 million (prorated) the Houston Astros will pay him if he returns in late June?
On the field, maybe.
Off the field, maybe not.
Last year, Houston drew an average of 2,741 more fans for Clemens' home starts than for games started by the rest of its staff.
Assuming he starts for the first time this year on June 22, Clemens will be on pace to make a total of 18 starts, and 10 should come at home. If he is responsible for the same attendance increase, that's 27,410 more fans coming to the ballpark. The average ticket price for an Astros' game is $26.22 in Houston, according to Team Marketing Report, which is only $718,690 in additional gross ticket revenue.
Attendance will be higher if the Astros make the postseason, but it will be harder to attribute that increase strictly to Clemens' presence on the mound.
Clemens isn't adding anything to the team's broadcasting revenues, either. Those deals are done already. And the amount of money earned from the sales of new Clemens merchandise won't line the Astros' coffers any more than it will the bank accounts of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, since teams split merchandise revenue equally.
But that doesn't mean the numbers don't make sense.
"We might not be able to figure it out on a balance sheet, but I bet [Astros owner Drayton McLane] can," said Rod Fort, professor of economics at Washington State University who has specialized in the business of baseball. "The business of sports is a business. If it weren't, then why didn't the owner, who has more money than the pharaohs, just give him $50 million."
One way for McLane to maximize the Clemens investment is to use him as much as possible off the field.
"For all owners, the team is only one element of their wealth generation portfolio," Fort said. "Clemens is an employee of the owner, and he can generate income for him in a variety of ways."
With a net worth of $1.2 billion, McLane ranks as the 283rd richest American in 2005, according to Forbes. He is chairman of the McLane Group, a holding company that manages a logistics and technology company, beverage and food brands and grocery product exportation.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.