No mercy. That's what has struck me about the last couple of nights watching the Red Sox/Yankee series. Last night, there was no mercy for Roger Clemens going for his 300th win. Tonight, a pitcher named Matt White was making his major league debut for the Red Sox and the Yankees banged him around for six runs. No mercy. And I guess that's the way it should be.
I remember a long time ago when Denny McLain supposedly gave Mickey Mantle a grooved pitch to hit at the end of Mantle's career because McLain had always been a fan. Now this shows my weakness, but I thought it was a nice thing to do. But McLain got tarred and feathered by baseball writers and his peers at the time as there is no place for mercy in baseball.
The only way I have experienced that in my life was when I was bowling competitively. Oh man, I'm going to tarnish my image forever telling you that! Anyway, I was very good back in the 80's and had a 198 average and won most of the tournaments for a period of time in New Hampshire. Usually, whatever I'm playing, I'm happier to lose because that makes the other person happier and I like making people happy. But not in bowling. In bowling, it was about winning because winning meant money and I wanted it. I played mind games, I pyched my enemies out. I did all I could to stomp on the other person. So a part of me understands this no mercy concept.
But think of this poor Matt White's family. Their son/brother/wife/whatever is finally going to fulfil a lifelong dream and pitch in the major leagues. The time finally comes and he is from Massachusetts and NESN is carrying the game. They most certainly were all watching. The kid comes in the game and the whole family is whooping and hollering and as each hit gets pushed past the infield, their hearts are sinking a little more and a little more until by the end of the inning, they are all wondering to themselves just what they are going to say to the poor kid the next time they talk to him. No mercy in baseball. None at all.
Wow...Denny McLain. I haven't thought about him in a long time. Denny McLain, for those of you who were born in the post baby boomer era, is the major leagues last 30 game winner. You never hear about that do you? You heard about Roger Maris until McGwire came about. You heard about Ted Williams as the last .400 hitter. But you never heard about the last 30 game winner did you? You may wonder why you never heard about that. The answer is that McLain was the Darryl Strawberry of his time. He was the great talent that squandered it away and ended up in jail and broke...disgraced and dropped by baseball like hamburger from a mad cow.
Consider that for a five year period, McLain was one of the best pitchers of the last fifty years. From 1965 to 1969, McLain won 108 games and lost 51. In 1968, he was a big reason that the Tigers had one of their best years in franchise history as he won 31 games while only losing six. He pitched 336 innings and gave up just over 300 baserunners (walks plus hits). His ERA that season was 1.96. McLain won the Cy Young award and the MVP award that year. To me, the most amazing stat from those two years is that he started 82 games in those two years (wow!) and 51 of them were complete games!
The season following 1968, he won 24 games while only losing 9. Yes, that's a record of 55-15 in two years! He was that good. McLain was a good-ole boy who liked to have a good time. Those good times ended up catching up with him after the 1969 season. He was found to be associating with the wrong people and was suspended for a good chunk of time. It was a very big scandal at the time. Today it would have been a blip on the radar screen. But back then, it was big news.
He was never the same after that and became a parody of himself by losing 22 games for the Washington Senators in 1971 (that club that year is another great story that maybe I'll tell tomorrow). A year later he was out of baseball and it wasn't long after that and McLain was in jail. For a great history lesson (and life lesson), I recommend the following Web page: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20030228armour.shtml
Denny McLain...no mercy. None needed.
Hold your head up, Matt White. There will be another chance. And if not, you still beat the odds.