Dan's Dugout: Where Have All the Pitching Aces Gone? • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Where Have All the Pitching Aces Gone?

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SECAUCUS, NJ – Every deck of cards has just four aces.

Baseball doesn’t have many more, according to MLB Network analyst Tom Verducci.

MLB Now airs from 4-5p ET on MLB Network

MLB Now airs from 4-5p ET on MLB Network

During commercial breaks on MLB Now, the veteran baseball writer said he’d be hard-pressed to name ten true aces – pitchers not only at the top of their game but feared by other clubs.

Verducci, who writes for Sports Illustrated when not talking baseball on television, ticked off a few names he puts in the “ace” category: All-Star Game starters Max Scherzer and Chris Sale,
three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, probably Stephen Strasburg and David Price, and maybe postseason hero Madison Bumgarner before his dirt bike accident.

Host Brian Kenny, former catcher Dave Valle, and this reporter, on set with him, couldn’t dispute the logic, though the names of Yu Darvish, Jacob deGrom, and the injured Noah Syndergaard were mentioned during the conversation.

The bottom line, for Verducci, is which pitchers would fans pay to see? Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale used to pack them in, along with Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and even Doc Gooden. But too many others, such as Mark (the Bird) Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela, were too short-lived to fall into that group.

Pitch counts, rotations of five or even six starters, and the proliferation of relief pitching have whittled the number of star starters in the big leagues.

Gone are the days when Warren Spahn piled up more complete games (382) than victories (363) and

Warren Spahn had more complete games than wins Credit: Topps

Warren Spahn had more complete games than wins
Credit: Topps

pitchers were paid to finish what they started. One of Spahn’s complete-game losses was a 1-0, 16-inning game in San Francisco settled by a Willie Mays home run. The opposing pitcher, Juan Marichal, was 20 years younger. That battle even inspired a book called The Greatest Game Ever Pitched.

Don Sutton, another Hall of Famer, said he felt he failed if he didn’t throw nine innings per start.

Today’s starters, with few exceptions, start looking at the bullpen as soon as the game becomes official: after five innings. But bullpens are often so wobbly that the win is now an endangered species.

In addition, the advent of the 10-day disabled list has allowed teams to rest tired starters with impunity. Kershaw (back pain) and Strasburg (arm stiffness) wound up on the list after just two innings apiece in separate games Sunday.

That’s why Tom Verducci believes the gate to the 300 Club is closed, making Randy Johnson (2009) the last of the 24 members. The pending retirement of 44-year-old Bartolo Colon, still short of 250 wins, makes the 300-win plateau that much more elusive.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Giancarlo Stanton might be moving out of Miami

Giancarlo Stanton might be moving out of Miami

Even though he carries an enormous contract, four-time All-Star Giancarlo Stanton could be traded from the cost-cutting Marlins within a week . . .

With Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier adding youth to their outfield, how long will the Yankees hold onto slumping veteran Jacoby Ellsbury? . . .

Minnesota catcher Chris Gimenez has worked as a mop-up pitcher five times this season . . .

One of the big reasons the Colorado Rockies remain in contention is the work of veteran relievers Greg Holland and Mike Dunn, both added as a free agents . . .

David (Big Papi) Ortiz, a member of three world championship clubs in Boston, is the latest member of the Red Sox to have his number (34) retired . . .

Although the Yankees have since retired Andy Pettitte’s No. 46, three players wore it during the time Pettitte was pitching in Houston . . .

Veteran umpire Joe West says Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre is the biggest complainer in baseball . .

The Miami Marlins have had seven managers since 2010 and could have another if the sale of the team goes through . . .

Incoming Hall of Famer Tim Raines is the only player since Ty Cobb to steal 70 bases and collect 70 RBI in the same season . . .

Tim Raines brings some extraordinary stats to Cooperstown Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Tim Raines brings some extraordinary stats to Cooperstown
Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Jeff Bagwell, also to be installed Sunday, played the entire 162-game schedule four times in his career . . .

Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso is the brother-in-law of Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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