Twelve Thoughts: Nolan Ryan, Giants Bargains, Mat Latos
The American League's Cy Young award in 1973 went to Jim Palmer of the first-place Baltimore Orioles, in part, the former Angels broadcaster said, because Ryan's feats with a weak California club were muted by geography.
"I'm still pissed off about that, it was such an injustice," Enberg told me. "Because Palmer is on a good team and has a little flossier record, he gets enough votes to win it. It's just an incredible injustice. Great praise Ryan, a Hall of Famer and all of the things he's done. But he didn't win a Cy Young award. What did he have to do? If he had pitched for the Orioles, he would've been 30-5. Yeah, Palmer had a great year, but when you sort it all out ..."
• As arm ailments stall Stephen Strasburg, I think of Ryan and his bionic right arm.
The Express threw as hard as Strasburg, notched 61 career shutouts and probably did one-arm chinups between innings.
"The games he pitched were the most dominating I've ever seen," Enberg said. "Frightening fast, and his curveball, I swear, you could almost hear the ball sing. That may be an exaggeration, but time rewrites history."
• If Mat Latos were an equity fund, the stock market would be healthier.
"Wow, he's the best young pitcher I've seen all year," said a veteran scout who only recently saw the Padres right-hander for the first time, and will tune in Friday for Latos against the Cheatin' Phils. "Had four plus pitches with command and a lot of poise. Sometimes we put too much into wanting the Harvard-type education; he's a free spirit, and that's beautiful."
• Western Civilization is blessed for another year, as Vin Scully will return to the Dodgers in 2011.
"He's the best, the best," said Enberg, who owns 13 Emmy awards. "He never makes a mistake. He has such great command of the language. He's the poet laureate of our profession."
• Saturday at Ohio State's football scrimmage, I was surprised no one from OSU thanked me.
I'm a sportswriter from California, the same species that trained a klieg light on the Reggie Bush shenanigans and thus ultimately removed USC from the bowl picture this year. Nearly four decades have passed since Ohio State last beat USC, the worst of Pete Carroll's teams even winning at Columbus last September. Think the second-ranked Buckeyes are happy the Trojans can't await them in January? Bet a sweater vest on it.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates are the smartest dumb organization in baseball.
They're turning a profit yet are on pace to exceed 100 defeats in their 18th consecutive losing season. The losing streak is the longest in the history of pro sports, North American. I'm not ruling out that a cricket club in India has a longer losing streak, India being the source of two Buccos signees.
• Watching Ohio State's endless football scrimmage on Saturday, I thought of baseball stars Albert Pujols and Chase Utley.
Smart baseball player David Eckstein, owner of two World Series rings, said the key to good mojo in team sports is, "the best player on the team needs to want to win the most." The Cardinals have that in Pujols, the Phillies have that in Utley and Ohio State apparently has that in Cameron Heyward. A likely Top 10 pick in the next NFL draft, Heyward spent the final minutes of a humid, 140-snap scrimmage imploring walk-ons and other defensive reserves to hold the line, which they did three times. Was further impressed after chatting with him.
• Brian Sabean, shopper for the San Francisco Giants, is finding offensive value at baseball's 99 Cent Store.
When Sabean trolled luxury shops in recent years, he was apt to overspend for a Zito or a Rowand, or a Roberts or a DeRosa, but look at his bargain shopping this summer that brought three outfield bats: Pat Burrell (.366 OBP, 12 homers in 65 games) for free, Jose Guillen (.371 batting average, 10 games) for a body to be named later, and Cody Ross (4-for-9) for $1 million and no players. The Marlins reluctantly cut Ross so they can find out about Cameron Maybin. Would the Padres have claimed Ross if the rival Giants hadn't? Doubtful, but they dislike that he's an upgrade over Rowand and slugs lefties at a .542 pace.
• Scouts say Ross belongs on the West Coast Bias list of ballplayers.
Ross is one of 23 New Mexico-born players to reach the majors, and scouts who roamed the Four Corners area tell of visiting the Ross home for grub and baseball talk. Ross is a streaky hitter and not fast for a center fielder, but his sharp instincts and competitive gusto make him a favorite of teammates, scouts and coaches. "He wanted to be a rodeo clown," said one veteran scout. "Guy is fearless."
• A Californian presents a tough read for folks in Flyover Land.
San Diego product Mike Leake went 8-4 with a 3.78 ERA for the Reds this year as a starter. Slowing the innings pace of the pitcher who went from Arizona State directly to the majors, the Reds recently moved Leake to the bullpen and watched in horror Tuesday as the Giants pounded him. Leake's sinker deserted him, and although Leake came back with a scoreless inning on Wednesday, the Reds need to figure out if rest is needed. Good news is Bryan Price is among the game's best pitching coaches.
• A Cubs icon may get some assistance from a former Cubs pitcher who won the Cy Young.
The Cubs, wanting to lighten broadcaster Ron Santo's travel, have looked into having Rick Sutcliffe fill in for Santo next year. Even if he picks up some Cubs games, Sutcliffe likely would remain with ESPN, where his zest for preparation has made him one of baseball's smarter talking heads. Another former Cubs ace, Mark Prior was up to 92 miles per hour this week for an indy team in Southern California. His ERA is 0.00 after eight innings/ six relief outings, with 16 strikeouts. Among those monitoring Prior, who will turn 30 next month, are the Royals, Brewers, Astros, Rockies, Rangers and Marlins.
• Points go to the Padres for not taking themselves too seriously, despite their NL-best record.
When the team failed this month to sign its first-round draft pick, Karsten Whitson, Padres exec Paul DePodesta aimed for levity. "Hey," he wrote in his blog, "given our organization's track record in the first round, maybe it was time to take a year off!" DePodesta, on a serious note, also wrote that the Padres "had over $5 million of offers on the table to three high school players, and they all turned down the money, two of them due to a strong commitment to school."
If the Padres are wondering where to put the extra cash, how about the Adrian Gonzalez Fund?