Two years ago (October 16, 2012 to be exact) I was listening to Chelsea Peretti’s podcast when an anonymous 24-year-old caller named “John” told her the story of how his once-promising baseball career went downhill and he blew through his $210,000 signing bonus after being drafted by the Mets out of high school.
Here’s part of my recap at the time:
Peretti asked: “And then what happened, you started sucking at baseball?”
“They thought I was a good baseball player,” our mystery man explained, adding that he was a pitcher before his “elbow blew out” and he spent most of the signing bonus on a truck and “buying sushi every night.”
I did a little internet detective work and discovered the caller was 24-year-old right-hander John Holdzkom, a former Mets fourth-round draft pick who at the time was pitching for them at Single-A. They later released him and Holdzkom had to play independent ball just to keep his dream alive.
He pitched for two different independent league teams this year alone, but then the Pirates signed him and sent Holdzkom to Double-A. He thrived there, kept pitching well following a promotion to Triple-A, and then got the call up to the big leagues as part of September roster expansion.
Last night Holdzkom, now 26 years old, made his MLB debut. And it was a helluva debut, too: He struck out all three batters he faced in a scoreless eighth inning against the Cardinals.
Here’s our hero in action:
I just hope Holdzkom calls back in to Chelsea Peretti’s podcast to update his story.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.