“Greatest” is not a word I use lightly

Hard to think about baseball during times like these, what with NBA and NHL finals in play, but the following piece has been due for some time.

I’ve said before, on this blog and elsewhere, that Ken Griffey Jr. is the greatest position player I ever saw. No question. Hasn’t changed in 20 years.

Pitchers, however, are a different story. I don’t really have a definitive answer for who’s the greatest pitcher you ever saw?

The “Mount Rushmore” of ’80s/’90s/’00s pitchers is generally considered to be Maddux, Clemens, Pedro, and Randy Johnson. No arguments there. But would I place any one of these pitchers unequivocally above the others? The race is too subjective and too close to call.

It would take a lot for someone to surpass Griffey in my mind, but I could see a pitcher eclipsing the aforementioned quartet. The most obvious possibility is Clayton Kershaw, barely 30 and three Cy Youngs in. But Kershaw hasn’t been as effective thus far this season, and it’s not as though he could hang it up at 30 and be in the conversation. He ain’t Koufax.

Enter Max Scherzer. Also three Cy Youngs, including one in each league. He’s 10-1 this year (NL pitcher of the month in both April and May), and barring injury is likely to win his third straight Cy Young this season. He’s 33, has pitched about the same number of games as Kershaw, with the same number of wins. Amazingly they’ve pitched almost the exact same number of innings in their careers, and it’s actually Scherzer who’s got more strikeouts. Yes, Kershaw’s got a better ERA, but let’s face it… they’re both pretty unhittable.

Max Scherzer’s performance last night, though not as historic as one of his no-hitters or 100+ game score gems, was pretty damn good. Over eight innings he gave up only two runs on five hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts. He faced 28 batters and threw 99 pitches. Eighty-one for strikes. Eighty-one! That’s less than one a batter. The average batter last night saw 0.64 balls out of the strike zone. That’s unheard of. Batting practice pitchers don’t have that kind of control.

Every time Max Scherzer steps on the mound I think he can throw a perfect game. That’s the bottom line. It’s been true since the day he signed a fat contract to play here in D.C. Know how much money the guy makes? About a million dollars a start. And he’s worth every penny.

No question Scherzer’s a leader and a team player. (A great D.C. guy too; he was in house and in full Capitals regalia for their win Monday night.) In last Saturday’s (baseball) game he entered as an emergency pinch hitter in the 14th inning of a tie game. Got a hit… and scored the go-ahead run on the next batter’s triple. Wasn’t running the bases with a jacket on… he was just running the bases.

Will I one day refer to Max Scherzer as the greatest pitcher I ever saw?

A World Series ring would really help his chances.

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About moc

My name is Mike O'Connell. I am 35 years old and live in Northern Virginia. I am a teacher, a musician, and an enthusiast of all things American.

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