Reader Ben alerts me to this story: A high school sophomore pitcher who can throw 80 MPH with a “wicked curve” gets cut from his high school team because he can’t field bunts all that well.
Oh, the fact that he happens to have two prosthetic legs may have something to do with it. And did I mention that the kid was a cover boy for an ESPN Magazine story about athletes with prosthetics? Yeah, this is a poop-storm, alright.
Where you come down on this probably correlates pretty nicely with where you believe high-pitched, winner-take-all competition in sports should begin. Is that on a varsity high school team? Earlier? Later? And the subject raises a host of other ethical questions:
- Should this kid’s teammates expect only the most able athletes to go into battle with them, or is pretty darn good but flawed good enough for high school baseball?
- Do we give this kid extra points for determination and courage that we wouldn’t give to an otherwise able-bodied pitcher who can’t field bunts because, hell, he just doesn’t have the reflexes?
- Is it somehow unfair to the other teams that shame will prevent them from laying down bunts if this kid were pitching when they’d certainly do it if, say, a fat kid were pitching?
I’m inclined, based on the information presented, to think the coach here is a jackass and that he should have found a way to keep the kid on the team. And that’s certainly the narrative that tends to get created in these situations. But I don’t pretend to have all of the answers on this stuff either. Any time you get into this subject there are unexpected advocates on either side.
There are disabled people who contend that any special treatment (i.e. letting the kid pitch even if he has trouble fielding his position) does the disabled person a disservice. There are likewise some people who can never look past the prosthetic legs no matter what the performance. There are also some people who will ignore the unintended consequences of either course of action because paying attention to such things doesn’t jibe with their world view.
Personally, I see any argument that is grounded in a belief that an ultra-high level of competition in high school baseball should be inviolate to be a rather pathetic one. But I’ll grant that it’s more complicated than saying “player good, coach bad!” and relying on the expected sympathies as well.
Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.
deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.
In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.
Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.
deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.
Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.
Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.