New York is in a state of Linsanity, which brings to mind the craze of one particular rookie phenom.
I am embarrassed to confess that at one time I thought Tom Seaver deserved the 1981 Cy Young Award over Fernando Valenzuela. Seaver had lost one of the closest votes ever to the Dodgers rookie, tying him in first place votes 8-8, but lost on a second-place vote, 70-67. Perhaps it was my sympathy for a great pitcher against an upstart, or simply my natural cynicism about any fad, and Fernandomania! was definitely that, though a bandwagon his fans were right about. I don’t know enough about basketball and the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin to tell you if he’s going to be a flash in the pan or a lasting contributor like Valenzuela was, but the excitement greeting his unexpected rise has some of the same flavor to it.
Thirty-one years later, it’s easy to forget just what an incredible debut Valenzuela had. The chubby 20-year-old had pitched 17 2/3 scoreless innings in relief in 1980 after posting a 3.10 ERA at San Antonio of the Texas League, a circuit in which the average ERA was 4.25. Flash forward to Opening Day 1981, when Jerry Reuss had to pull out of his scheduled start at home against the Astros and Joe Niekro. Instead of substituting Burt Hooton, Bob Welch, Rick Sutcliffe, or any other pitcher hanging around the staff, manager Tommy Lasorda went with the kid. The results were instantaneous, the lefty screwballer pitching a complete game shutout.
From there, it would be about six weeks before Valenzuela didn’t pitch a complete game or even recorded a loss. In his first eight starts, Valenzuela went 8-0 with seven complete games, five of them shutouts. In those 72 innings, he allowed just four runs (0.50 ERA) on 43 hits while walking 17 and striking out 68. He was less fun after that, posting a 3.66 ERA—above the league average—in the 17 starts remaining in the strike-truncated season, albeit with another three shutouts.
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Fans are upset at Zack Greinke's basketball hobby, but would they be so upset at Cal Ripken?
As a Brewers fan, the news on Tuesday that Zack Greinke would be starting the season on the disabled list due to a broken rib was rather upsetting. Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball and his acquisition was supposed to herald in a memorable, playoff-chasing 2011 season. Getting injured so early in the year, and in such a dangerous part of the body, is not the type of thing any Milwaukee fan wants to hear.
But I'm not one to overreact. The club has said that they are just being extra-careful with Greinke this early in the year. If this were, say, the playoffs, he would be healthy enough to play. That lessened the sting a bit. Not all fans are buying it, though, and they seem to all be taking it out on Greinke and the way his injury came about: Greinke injured his ribs in a game of pickup basketball by diving for a rebound in the first week of spring training. "How could he be so stupid?!" seems to be the common thought amongst the irate. "You get paid to play BASEBALL, not basketball!"
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