You could fill a book with the things I was wrong and deluded about in 1986, but one thing I was certain of was that Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was scuffing baseballs.
Yeah, people were all taken at the time with the notion that the splitter was some vexing form of sorcery, but it strained credulity that Scott — after an exceedingly pedestrian career to that point — suddenly figured out all of the secrets to pitching in 1986, doubling his strikeout rate on the back of some newfound hyper-command of his split-fingered fastball. Way more likely that he just figured out how to properly install an old nail or a thumbtack in his glove — perfect for scuffing purposes — so that it wouldn’t be detected.
Scott still hasn’t totally come clean on that, but in an interview he gave for MLB Network’s upcoming documentary about the 1986 postseason, he comes as close to a full confession as any crafty ball-doctorer ever will:
They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball that hits the ground has something on it. … I’ve thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven’t scuffed every ball that I’ve thrown.
I love that passive voice: “balls that were scuffed.” It’s OK, Mike. We all know. We’ve known for 25 years. You gave us a fun, improbable 300+ strikeout season that was nice to plug into our Lance Haffner sim baseball game for our Commodore 64s and your treachery, while almost impacting the results of the 1986 season, ultimately didn’t carry the day. We’re cool with it. Really, we are. Now give us a big hug.
(link via Mets Blog)
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.