K is for Kershaw

Is Clayton Kershaw the best pitcher of this generation? He’s certainly making a pretty good case.

On Thursday night the Dodgers left-hander tossed his second consecutive shutout and struck out 13 in becoming the first pitcher in the modern era to string together 5 consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts and 1 or fewer walks. Let that settle in. No one since 1900 has done that. And no pitcher has exhibited such a combination of power and control. For the season, Kershaw now has 77 strikeouts and FOUR walks – a 19 to 1 ratio. The best ever ratio for a full season is 11 to 1. Extrapolated over a full season, Kershaw would end up with a mind-numbing 308 strikeouts versus 16 walks.

With 3 Cy Young Awards, an MVP award, and 4 ERA titles already under his belt, he is already in rare territory. His career ERA is 2.40, the best among active players by over half a run (Madison Bumgarner is 2nd at 3.02). He is now 119 and 57 over his seven and a half seasons. His winning percentage is first among all active pitchers and is 8th all time. For six straight seasons now, he has dominated the National League. His run is reminiscent of that of Sandy Koufax’s 4-year stretch from 1963-66, which is still the greatest in modern baseball history. But it’s time for Kershaw’s name to be included in the conversation about pitchers who may end up among the best the game has seen.

It was a great week for pitchers other than Kershaw, as well. Max Scherzer tied the MLB record for K’s in a 9 inning game with 20. And Noah Syndergaard of the Mets blasted two homers in his win over the Dodgers the night before Kershaw took the mound.

Every era has their greats. In the ’60’s it was Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale, and Marichal. The ’70’s had Seaver, Carlton, Palmer and Ryan. We seem to be in another era of dominant pitchers with Arrieta, Hernandez, and the like, but to me Kershaw is clearly at the top.

What do you think?

It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a great guy, committed to making the lives of others better. Check it out: http://www.kershawschallenge.com/




Steph Stuff

Rather than a big red “S” on his chest, Superman wears number 30. Or so it seems.

What more can be said about the NBA’s best player after the last 24 hours? Last night, Steph Curry came back from two weeks off with a sprained MCL, to torch the Portland Trailblazers — and the NBA record book, again — in a 132-125 overtime playoff win.

He shook off the rust from the layoff by the second half, and by overtime he was simply on fire, scoring 17 points in the extra period – something no one in the history of the game had ever done in either the playoffs or regular season. After starting by missing his first 9 shots from 3-point range, he finished 16 of 32 from the floor. He was simply ridiculous.

And today, last season’s MVP winner was announced as a unanimous selection for the same honor this year — something else no one had ever done. Think about it: Mikan, Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Bird, Magic, Michael, Kobe, Lebron. Not one of them had ever been the unanimous MVP.

In a note that may have gone unnoticed by many last week, Steph came in 4th in the voting for the league’s Most Improved Player. Think about that for a moment. The reigning league MVP nearly wins the MIP. He was the only player ever to average 30 points per game when playing less than 35 minutes per game. He became 1 of 3 players in history to shoot 50% from the field, 45% from three, and 90% from the free throw line, and the other two did not have nearly as many attempts.

He got better!

Which is why he was the unanimous choice for MVP. And why he lit up Portland last night on one and a half good legs. He’s changing the game… and having fun doing it. Which is also why we should keep watching.

It’s not every day we get the chance to witness greatness like this. Actually, this season it is.



Big Hit

Last night, baseball witnessed it’s version of Halley’s Comet.

New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run, at age 42.  He turned on a James Shields fastball and deposited it over the left field wall, to become the oldest player in history to hit his first career home run, just 3 weeks shy of turning 43.  Coming into the game, the round mound of the mound sported a microscopic .089 lifetime batting average over his 19 seasons.

He surpassed Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, whose first homer came at age 40. He’s only the third Met to homer after turning 40, joining Willie Mays and Julio Franco, baseball’s Methuselah who was 48 when he homered.

Said Colon, “I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Mets’ play-by-play man told the television audience, “The impossible has happened!”

When asked about it, opposing San Diego Padres’ manager, said, “Certain things leave you speechless.”

The crowd went nuts, then watched the portly pitcher take 30-seconds to haul his 283 pounds (or so he is generously listed) around the bases.

The entire scene was definitely one for the ages.



Rare Arr-ieta

With the eyes of the sports world on the NFL Draft on Thursday, few paid attention to Jake Arrieta’s win over the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his 16th straight. After tossing a no-hitter in his previous start, this one seemed to draw a collective yawn. He gave up 1 run in 5 innings. Such are the expectations that Arrieta have produced.jake

The reigning N.L. Cy Young winner has had what is now one of the most remarkable pitching stretches in history. Since June 21 of last year, Arrieta has made 25 starts. He is 21-1 with an 0.88 ERA, giving up just 18 earned runs during that stretch. In 183 innings, he has allowed 94 hits. He’s also thrown 2 no-hitters – something just 31 other pitchers in history have done. Only Bob Gibson’s performance in 1968 when he posted a 1.12 ERA compares with Arrieta’s run during the last 100 years.

While hitters today are less discerning and swing at more offerings out of the strike zone, and there are more of them due to the number of teams, none of that takes away from what the Cubs right-hander has done. All this from a guy that the Baltimore Orioles gave up on after he had gone 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 4 seasons.

So appreciate it for what it is. We are witnessing one of the truly great performances in the history of the game.


Feeling a Draft

Today is Christmas in April for the NFL. All 32 teams are wondering if when they open their gifts they will be getting a cool new bicycle, socks and underwear, or a pair of slippers that don’t fit.

The NFL draft is is the most watched craps game in America. Teams gamble millions of dollars on a handful of 20-year-olds they hope will solidify their franchise’s future and lead them to the promised land. Sometimes they strike gold, and sometimes they…well, are just playing craps.

Draftniks from Miami to Seattle will be waiting with palpitating hearts tonight and throughout the weekend, hoping to hear the name of their favorite NFL prospect called by their team, and overdosing on stats, highlights and the shrill pitch of Jon Gruden.


It appears the Rams and Eagles will take QB’s Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, and pay them big bucks in hopes they will become the next Peyton Manning, not the next Ryan Leaf. Quarterbacks have been taken with the 1st pick 32 times in the draft’s history, including 11 of the last 15 years. Of those 32, only 3 have gone on to the Hall of Fame, with Manning certain to join them. And speaking of Manning, the Broncos could become the 3 team since the draft’s inception, to draft a QB in the first round after winning the Super Bowl. The others: Packers in 1967 and the Steelers in 1980. Don Horn or Mark Malone, anyone?

Which all goes to remind us that this is, after all, just one big craps game. There are no sure things, even when Mel Kiper or any other of the plethora of “draft experts” says so…as Leaf, Trent Richardson, Tim Couch, Jamarcus Russell, Tony Mandarich, Johnny Manziel, et al have proven.

So, don’t get too uptight about who your team selects tonight. Instead thing about how they will be putting the keys to the franchise and several million dollars in the hands of an entitled 20-year old who didn’t finish college and whose taste is demonstrated in that awful looking suit he wears on stage tonight.

That oughta to make you feel much better.


Kneed You Back Soon

Steph Curry’s sprained MCL is just about the worst thing that could’ve happened for the NBA right now. Curry and the Warriors are the main reason people are tuning in this season. People want to see if Steph and the boys can complete the the end to end journey from title to title, with 73 regular season wins sandwiched in between.


The team says Steph will out 2 weeks, minimum. When I saw Steph slip and fall, I winced, knowingly. I experienced a near exact fall 4 months ago while skiing. Same type of split. Same contortion of the right knee. Same injury. Sprained MCL. It took me a good month before I could run; two to do so without pain. Granted, I’m twice Steph’s age, so he will heal faster. Hopefully a lot faster. I’m hoping it’ll be fast enough for him to get back in time for the Warriors second championship.

Why, you might ask?

Well, he makes the game fun to watch. The childlike joy is similar to what we all experience playing ball as kids on the blacktop or in the driveway as kids.

More than that, in this era of packaged NBA stars with their sullen attitudes, deftly crafted marketing strategies, and massive egos – the size of which may only be surpassed by their entourages – Steph is an anomaly. A humble kid who doesn’t take himself too seriously, is compassionate, patient and often defers to others. He’s like one of us… except, of course, he regularly drains 35-footers.

Hurry back, Steph.


Fair Trade

Milt Pappas died yesterday. If you don’t remember Milt, he won 209 games over 17 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs.

One day before a 1962 start against the Yankees, a writer asked the 23-year-old what he needed to do to beat the Yankees. Pappas replied, “If I pitch a shutout and hit a home run, we’ll probably win.”

You know what happened, right? Pappas went out and pitched 6 shutout innings and hit a home run as the Orioles beat the Yanks 1-0. As Yogi once said, You could look it up.

He had a pretty good career. He was one of a small handful of pitchers to win 150 games by age 30, had 43 shutouts, and tossed a no-hitter. But he will long be remembered for being the key piece in one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history.  In 1965, he was traded for Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who went on to lead the Orioles to four World Series.


Reading of Pappas death made me think about some of the trades in sports that didn’t work out too well for one side… like the Herschel Walker trade from Dallas to Minnesota. Or the Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi Angels-Mets trade.

So, what do you say? What do you think is the most lopsided trade in sports history?