A lot of great players were honored before the All-Star Game in Cincinnati last Tuesday, including the controversial Pete Rose. But it’s not Rose who has Doug Gottlieb questioning the pre-game festivities almost a week later; rather, it’s baseball’s living legends.
The four players who were honored – the living Mount Rushmore, if you will – were Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench. Those players range in age from 67 to 84. Bench, the youngest of the quartet, retired most recently – in 1983.
That was 32 years ago. Is MLB really saying that nobody from the last three decades deserved to be in that foursome?
“Yeah, I don’t quite agree with that either, but there’s a lot of tough things there,” MLB Network analyst Brian Kenny said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Because when you start to really look at it, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron have to be on that list. If you’re limiting yourself to four, who do you go with (for) the other two? Mike Schmidt was the guy that I thought was the most glaring omission.”
Schmidt, 65, was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time NL MVP, a 10-time Gold glove winner, a six-time Silver Slugger winner, an eight-time NL home run champion, a four-time NL RBI champion and is a member of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team.
And that’s before we get to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
“It’s a tough call to try to say, ‘Hey, it’s a Mount Rushmore of sports,’” Kenny said. “Not everything fits neatly into four.”
Looking at current players, Clayton Kershaw might be the deserving off a spot on Mount Rushmore, but he’s struggled in some high-profile spots, including the All-Star Game. Kershaw allowed two runs on three hits in one inning, taking the loss for the NL. He’s also been a bit pedestrian this season, at least by his standards: 7-6 with a 2.68 ERA. That’s a far cry from his 2014 Cy Young and MVP season (21-3, 1.77 ERA).
What’s the deal?
“It is strange because he was struggling early,” Kenny said. “He was still striking guys out – he had (the) highest strikeout percentage of his career – and he wasn’t walking guys, but he was leaving some pitches back. I’ve heard people say that his slider was not good. It didn’t have a lot of bite on it. Guys can exploit any weakness that you might have . . . but it wasn’t just hard luck or a slow start. He did really struggle. And I think he’s gotten it back. I think (in) his last 10 starts, he’s got a 1.36 ERA.”
Kershaw has been especially dominant in his last three starts, allowing just one run in 24.0 innings. He also has 34 strikeouts to just two walks in July.
“But he did struggle a bit (earlier in the year),” Kenny said. “I would say the best pitchers this season have been Zack Greinke and then Max Scherzer. And then you can start talking about Clayton Kershaw.”