Oh baby, I’m a star! Might not know it now baby, but I are, I’m a star! I don’t want to stop ’till I reach the top. Sing it! -Prince
Public Service Announcement: Everybodys’s jibbering about Ubaldo Jimminez. Everybody’s jabbering about Stephen Strasburg. Jibbering and jabbering. Blibbering and blabbering. What about this guy? What about Bob Adam Wainwright? Last night, Adam Wainwright hurled seven shutout innings to lead the Cardinals to a 6-1 victory over the Reds. That may not seem like such a big deal to you, but know this: Wainwright has now registered 17 wins this season. Wainwright has now registered a 1.99 ERA this season. All through 25 starts. Pretty good, right? Damn skippy it’s good. Since 1970, only five other pitchers posted at least 17 wins and an ERA below 2.00 through 25 starts in a season. Only Vida Blue 1971 (19 wins; 1.37 ERA), Gaylord Perry 1972 (17 wins; 1.70 ERA), Ron Guidry1978 (17 wins; 1.79 ERA), Dwight Gooden 1985 (18 wins; 1.64 ERA) and Roger Clemens in 1997 (18 wins; 1.66 ERA).
Like my main Jake LaMotta always says, “Joey, that meant something. You mention Tommy, you mention Salvy, you mentioned you. You included you with them. You could have said anybody, but you said you and them.” I did say you and them. It does means something. When you do something that five of the greatest pitchers who ever played this great game of ours done did, it most certainly means something. Something special.
You can Murderers Row me. You can can Big Red Machine me. But for my money, the greatest baseball team ever assembled were the the Swingin’ A’s of the 1970′s. The best pitcher on that team was one Mr. Vida Blue.
Quick trivia question. Who was the last switch hitter in th AL to win an MVP? That’s right. Vida Blue.
Blue was a power pitcher. A tower of power pitcher. A big strapping lefty who pounded the strike zone. He pounded the strike in 1971. Pounded the strike for a Cy Young and MVP in 1971. In 1971, at his youthful best, Vida Blue was the most scintillating athlete in the world. Mesmerizing, tantalizing, captivating, he was devastating. Blue finished the season 24-8, with a 1.82 ERA, eight shutouts and 24 complete games. He was the youngest MVP winner in the 20th century. You’re my boy, Blue!
You may know Gaylord Perry as King of the Spitball. All hail the King! You may know him for this story: In 1963, manager Alvin Dark joked, “They’ll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run.” Then, on July 20, 1969, just an hour after the Apollo 11 spacecraft carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, Perry hit the first home run of his career. That’s the stuff legends are made.
So is this. Before the 1972 season, the San Francisco Giants traded the then 32-year-old Perry to the Cleveland Indians. All Perry did was go on a 24–16 season. All Perry did was record a 1.92 ERA in 1972. All Perry did was win his first Cy Young award in 1972. The only Cy Young winner for Cleveland until CC Sabathia. That’s all Gaylord Perry done did.
Unfortunately for me, a then long suffering Red Sox fan, I watched this season up close. Up close and personal. A little too personal, for you knwo, I know, and Bucky Bleepin’ Dent knows, it was Ron Guidry toeing the rubber that fateful day back in 1978.
Ron Guidry’s 1978 season was one for the ages. One for the sages. All the rages. Not many were more impressive before it and none have been more impressive since.
He won thirteen straight games before finally losing his first game in July. July! For his eleventh win, he struck out 11 California Angels. By season’s end, Ron Guidry’s record was an astounding 25-3. His .893 winning percentage remains the highest ever turned in by a twenty game winner. His ERA was a miniscule 1.74, a figure not posted by a southpaw since the glory days of Sandy Koufax. Perhaps most impressive is that during the 1978 season Guidry’s opponents managed only an anemic .193 batting average. They didn’t call him Louisiana Lightining for nothin’.
Before the drugs, before the DUIs, before the assaults, before the guns to his head, before all that stuff there, Dwight Gooden was the best pitcher in baseball. 1985 was the best season of his career.
In 1985, Doc led the Majors with 24 wins. In 1985, Doc led the majors with 268 strikeouts. He led the majors with a 1.53 ERA. You know what that spells boys and girls? That’s right. That spells pitching’s Triple Crown. Even in the eleven games when Gooden didn’t earn a win, he was still dominant.
Ponder this, Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering? I think so, Brain, but this time, you put the trousers on the chimp. Ponder this: In his four losses that season, Gooden allowed a meager 26 hits and a paltry 5 walks in 28 innings, with 28 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA. Yowza! If this kid stayed clean, we’d be talking about him like we talk about Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax. Oh, what could have been.
Know this: I hate Roger Clemens. But know this too. I hate him because I used to love him. I used to love her, but I had to kill her. Loved him more than all the rest. Loved him more than Loni Anderson’s chest. Loved him because he was the best. He was the nastiest pitcher I ever saw. He was the Boston Red Sox.
When Roger left Boston, he was fat. When Roger left Boston, he was lazy. He was in the twilight of his career. That’s why 1997 was so disheartening. That season, Clemens was simply incredible.
That season, he pitched 264 innings, which tied for first in the American League with teammate Pat Hentgen. His ERA+ was a ridiculous 226. He gave up only 9 home runs that season which equated to 0.2 HR/9 innings. When all was said and done, Clemens was worth 14.9 wins above the replacement player, the highest single season number he ever accumulated during his illustrious career. When all was said and done, he won another Cy Young Award.
Peace out homies. Six two and Even!