COOPERSTOWN, NY – A little baseball today. The new season’s about six weeks old, and unfortunately there’s not much to say except that the season is six weeks old. There have been a few oddities, though:
Ryan Zimmerman has hit in 29 straight games. For good reason, batting streaks always conjure up thoughts of Joe D. By many accounts DiMaggio was a jerk. And it’s doubtful he’d win any Greatest Living Player contests anymore, even if he was still alive, but that record remains the most intriguing unbreakable mark in sports. The amazing thing is – every year it is statistically breakable (unlike, say, Cy Young’s 511 wins), but the pressure that a kid would face once he got to 40 games would be incredible. ESPN alone might assign sixteen reporters.
Johan Santana has two losses – an outing where he struck out about fifty-four guys and did not allow an earned run, and then last night, where once again he did not give up a earned run. His ERA is below 1.00, and dropping.
The Yankees have stumbled out of the gates, tired and drawn, like a spent MILF – still attractive in ways, but you’re no longer in any rush to check the box scores in the morning.
The Mets approach the quarter turn in first place. They were riding three sweeps, and playing extremely well, until last night. Still, they’re in the thick. Okay, it’s May. Yes, we know. No, we’re not. Don’t put words in our mouths.
The Phillies have played as if they’re getting a free pass to the playoffs this year, like they do for major events in the PGA. They are a flaccid club right now. Hey, no big complaints – they’re World Champions – but so far they are just going through the motions – you know, like Bernie in Weekend at Bernie’s. Only Bernie showed more life.
Finally, let’s talk about a dinosaur, the last of his kind. He’s approaching what could be his last summer on big league hills. He’s not an attractive man. Even in his youth, he had a unblessed countenance that recalls an old Larry Bowa line; speaking of a teammate, Bowa said that the other player had a face that:
“looked as if it caught on fire, and someone put it out with a track shoe.”
That fits this man. But while attractiveness may give one undo attention, we’re talking here about a pitcher who by all accounts played clean in an unclean time. So good looks, thankfully, are not a requirement. All that matters is the performance, and this guy had it all. He’s with the Giants now, his seventh stop in the big leagues, including two runs in Arizona. He even stopped by and picked up 34 wins in two years with the Yankees. He’s got hardware all over the house – 1 AL Cy Young, 4 NL Cy Youngs, a WS MVP, a ring; and he’s struck out more batters than anyone not named Nolan Ryan, so he doesn’t need this final statistic. But it’s fitting that he’s going to get it.
Randy Johnson is two wins shy of 300. We never thought he’d get there – all signs pointed to Tom Glavine being the last, at least for a long time – but we also never thought Johnson would pitch until he was seventy-four either. But it seems right. An honest player who didn’t start dropping his pants in bathrooms when the going got tough, like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and George Michael.
We won’t stat-rattle you this week, but it deserves mention that, after Johnson, the next active guy is Jamie Moyer, with 249. He’s even older than Johnson. Kenny Rogers is about eighty away at 43. Schilling, at 41, if he ever decides to unretire because no one at Yahoo Sports uses quotes from his blog anymore, is eighty plus away, as are Pettitte and Martinez, both an old 36. Smoltz is ninety away at 41. Another no shot.
Sabathia? Santana? Both have a long, long way to go. With five-man rotations and six inning expectations, it’s just tougher.
Funny, this topic makes us think, oddly enough, of two NY pitchers. First, Mike Mussina. Never thought much of the guy, but then he wins 20, and walks away from the game’s most hallowed franchise with 270 wins. He just had enough. There’s something admirable about that.
It also makes us think, more sadly, of Dwight Gooden. For those of us on this forum who remember that guy, he was a lighting bolt. At an age when kid pitchers are sophomores in college, or “learning their craft” in B ball, Gooden was winning 24 games, with a 1.53 era. 300 wins? How about 350. Gooden had 119 wins at the age of 25. Randy Johnson didn’t even become a full time starter until he was 26.
What a damn waste.