Roger Clemens at a 2022 ALCS game.

ESPN is bringing in a guest analyst for their first regular-season MLB broadcast this year, and it’s a prominent but controversial figure. That would be Roger Clemens. The network announced Wednesday that Clemens will join Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and Buster Olney (their usual Sunday Night Baseball booth for this upcoming season, but with Clemens taking the spot of David Cone, who’s doing local YES work on the New York Yankees’ game that night) for their Chicago White Sox-Houston Astros MLB Opening Night broadcast on Thursday, March 30. Here’s a quote on that from a release, from ESPN senior vice president (production and remote events) Mark Gross, who references Clemens’ previous appearances on the network’s KayRod Cast alternate feeds with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez:

“We’ve enjoyed working with Roger during his impressive KayRod Cast appearances and can’t wait for him to join our Opening Night broadcast team as special guest game analyst. The insights Roger has gained from his storied career, including his ties to Houston, will help inform the audience as the Astros begin their title defense and the sport begins a new era of gameplay.”

The “new era of gameplay” line is about the pitch clock introduced at the MLB level for the first time this season, and that’s controversial enough. (And that comes with its own challenges in terms of how to display it on broadcasts, as ESPN’s Phil Orlins told AA’s Joe Lucia recently.) But Clemens remains a controversial figure in his own right.

Clemens’ on-field accomplishments (a 354-184 record, 4,672 strikeouts, and a 3.12 ERA across a five-team MLB career from 1984-2007) are certainly impressive. But he fell off the Baseball Writers of America Hall of Fame ballot after 10 years this winter. Various performance-enhancing drug allegations are a large factor there, and his controversial relationship with singer Mindy McCready (who was 16 when they first met) also impacts Clemens’ stature for others. But none of that has stopped Clemens from being featured on broadcasts before, including those recent KayRod Cast events. And it didn’t stop him from throwing out a ceremonial first pitch in Houston ahead of Game One of last year’s ALCS, as seen above.

Still, it’s interesting to see Clemens elevated from a KayRod Cast on ESPN2 guest for part of a broadcast to a full in-booth ESPN analyst for a particular game. That’s a notable jump in stature. And it comes with an increased microscope, especially on a national exclusive Opening Night game. We’ll see how ESPN’s decision to put Clemens in their booth is received.

[ESPN Press Room; photo from Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.