LeBron James was the most talented player to enter the NBA since Michael Jordan or maybe even since Wilt Chamberlain. Yet he’s now gone eight seasons without winning it all. When his Cavs reached the Finals in 2006-07 and lost to the Spurs, he was absolved of the blame. He was just 22, and his teammates were outclassed.
King James, though, was fairly criticized after the Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Celtics in 2009-10 and he’s getting far worse this time around. His passive play was at times shocking to watch. James should be able to carry a team when he’s on. In the Finals, it looked like he was waiting and hoping someone else would do the heavy lifting.
Alex Rodriguez was the most talented player to enter MLB since Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle? The Babe? No position player can make as much of a difference on the field as a basketball superstar can on the court, but A-Rod was put into a position that allowed him to win right away. His Mariners reached the postseason in his second full season.
Those talented Mariners, though, couldn’t get over the hump. A-Rod took the money and ran to Texas, yet failed to reach the postseason in his three seasons there. After first working to get himself traded to Boston, he ended up with the Yankees instead, making annual postseason visits an expectation.
And A-Rod flopped after an exceptional ALDS against the Twins in his postseason debut with the Yankees in 2004. He struggled in the latter games as the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Bombers in the ALCS. Then in the team’s next three postseason series, all losses, he drove in one run in 13 games. Manager Joe Torre went so far as to drop him to the eighth spot in the lineup.
A-Rod finally redeemed himself in 2009, hitting .365 with six homers and 18 RBI in 15 games as the Yankees won the World Series.
LeBron will likely follow a similar path to a championship. He will have his moment in the sun. Though it’s worth wondering if he’ll play second banana to Dwyane Wade when it happens.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.
Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.
Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.
It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”