Thursday, June 10, 2004
Diane Grassi drops in for a guest spot in The Bullpen
A Couple of Golden Gems and A Diamond in the Rough
Not enough can be said about the stellar pitching coming out of the National League this season and no less than from the "senior circuit" by way of Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. They just get better and better! First we have Roger Clemens, playing in the National League this year the first time in his career at the age of 41. He appears in better shape physically than he has been in years, and is impressing with another Cy Young Award type season.
Clemens now owns a 9-0 record, the best in the Major Leagues and posts an ERA of 2.08, the lowest in the Major Leagues as well. He has struck out 88 batters this season, bested only by Randy Johnson's 98. Clemens is a lock, barring injury, to start the All Star Game for the National League, in his hometown of Houston, this July.
There may be a couple of reasons which have contributed to the fine season Roger Clemens is now enjoying in what was to be his first year of retirement. He his living in his hometown, gets to spend more time with his family and his contract with the Houston Astros was structured to not require him to be on the road for games in which he does not pitch. In addition, he is not under the type of pressure he experienced the last several years in NY while playing for the Yankees. He appears to be playing for the sake of playing the game, not for recognition or financial gain at this point. It is clearly more enjoyable to watch Roger pitch this year from a fan's perspective, as he is clearly is painting a different kind of portrait.
Not one to be upstaged, is the ever dominant Randy Johnson, who at the age of 40 has only pitched a perfect game this season, has struck out 98, owns a 2.75 ERA and has allowed only 21 bases on balls the entire season. Randy has pitched two complete games and his record now stands at 8-4. Considering his club, the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 12 games under .500, it is remarkable for him to have as sparkling a record as he has. After all, he does not get the run support or defensive skills behind him, as he once enjoyed on this very same team, when capturing the World Series in 2001.
The pitching performances this year of both Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson are a baseball fan's dream. While they are locked in, in their respective zones while pitching, they seem to dominate the fans' attention as well. They reel us in and capture our imaginations as we experience baseball at its best. We can leave our troubles behind and are taken to another place, reminiscent of baseball's past. These two giants are representative of baseball as it was played in another era, and whose records we may never see the likes of again.
However, we can still appreciate young talent, and this season, Ben Sheets, of the Milwaukee Brewers deserves considerable attention. His pitching in 2004, his fourth year in the Big Leagues, reminds us of Clemens and Johnson. Sheets' first great effort this year was on May 16th , when he struck out 18 batters over nine innings. On June 8th he pitched nine shut out innings of one hit baseball and for almost seven innings had the makings of a perfect game, which then went on for a total of 17 innings, and almost 5 hours to complete against the American League's Western Division leading Anaheim Angels. Although he did not figure in the decision for his gallant effort, which Milwaukee eventually won, Sheets did lower his ERA to 2.41, the fifth best in the National League. His command of his pitches and his poise on the mound give us hope for the future of baseball, as it was meant to be played, with grit and determination. Let's hope Ben Sheets can be one of the gems of the future, helping to keep baseball alive and healthy, in the tradition of Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson and those greats which preceded them, in honor of their legacies.
posted by David 8:58 AM