At The Players’ Tribune, former major leaguers Mark DeRosa and Sean Casey discuss the Home Run Derby, the Cubs, and pick their first-half award winners.
It should come as no surprise that for the Cy Young Award, both were in agreement that Clayton Kershaw has been baseball’s best pitcher thus far. The Dodgers’ lefty has a league-best 1.79 ERA, 0.727 WHIP, and has averaged better than 16 strikeouts for each walk.
In describing just how difficult it is to face Kershaw, Casey shared an anecdote, likely from 2008, his final year and Kershaw’s first in the majors.
I only faced him one time. Actually, I was the first guy he ever faced in a spring training game. I turned to Terry Francona and was like, “Who’s this guy?” And he shrugged and said, “He’s some minor leaguer off the back fields.” First pitch comes in at 97 on the outside black. I don’t even see it, I just hear a big thunk as it hits the catcher’s mitt. I look over at Joe Torre and he’s cracking up in the dugout. And I’m thinking, Who the hell is this guy?
Next pitch was a nasty knee-buckling hook for strike 2. I now look at the bench and Larry Bowa and Joe Torre are both laughing at me, and I’m thinking to myself, They must know something I don’t know. The next pitch was strike 3, but the ump called it a ball. Next pitch, Kershaw throws a ridiculous hook on the outside corner, and that was called strike 3. I never pulled the trigger on any pitch. It was the first time I had felt like a little kid in the big leagues in a long time.
It’s safe to say Casey isn’t alone in having made to feel that way by Kershaw.
Also interesting in the Players’ Tribune article is Casey’s counter-argument for putting Madison Bumgarner in the Home Run Derby. DeRosa expresses concern that a pitcher could suffer a common hitting injury like an oblique strain. Casey simply counters, “Yes, but on the other hand, it’s Bumgarner.”