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This Week in Baseball History: April 30 – May 6

Strikeouts are cool, but chicks dig the long ball.

Will we ever see another 300 game winner? What about a 3,000 strikeout pitcher?

With the current trends of modern analytics, it has become much harder to enter these illustrious pitching clubs.

There are 24 members of the 300 Win Club… but only four have joined since 1990.

Meanwhile, only 19 pitchers have managed 3,000 Ks… with the most recent being Max Scherzer last September. Who will be the next pitcher to join? Zack Greinke is the closest with 2,815 Ks… followed by Clayton Kershaw (2,693), Chris Sale (2,059), and David Price (2,044).

Let’s rewind three years and one day ago, when the 17th member of this club earned his membership.

 

April 30, 2019 – CC Sabathia’s 3,000th K

 

At one point, it seemed like Carsten Charles Sabathia would not join this club.

His first 12 seasons were dominant: 191 – 102, 3.50 ERA/125 ERA+/3.50 FIP, 1.221 WHIP and 2214 K over 2564.1 IP. He also got a Cy Young, World Series win and all-time great playoff push with the Brewers in ’08.

Unfortunately, C.C. started losing his dominant stuff, and struggled mightily for three season… recording a 4.81 ERA/83 ERA+/4.40 FIP from ’13 to ’15. Not only that, but C.C. was struggling with injuries that forced him to pitch just 46 innings in ’14. And before the ’15 playoffs, C.C. checked into rehab to address his struggles with alcohol. After that three-year stretch, C.C. was still well away from 3K (with just 2,574 Ks).

But then C.C. reinvented himself. He got his alcoholism under control, wore a knee brace to help him grind through his injuries, and changed his pitching style to focus more on placement and generating weak-contact. From ’16 to ’18, C.C. was an extremely dependable starter who could give you 160 innings of 3.76 ERA ball – a valuable asset for a Yankees team that yearned for stability on its pitching staff. In these three seasons… he got another 412 strikeouts. Suddenly – C.C. stood at the door of one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

He needed just 14 more strikeouts for No. 3K. C.C. signed a one-year contract for ’19, declared that to be his final season, and got to work.

His first start against the White Sox was excellent – 5 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB and 3 K. The next one was a bit more wild — 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 4 BB and 5 K). In C.C.’s next start, Andrelton Simmons clobbered two homers off him as Sabathia gave up 4 ER in 5 innings… but he still got 3 Ks.

Entering his April 30 start in Arizona, C.C. needed just three Ks for 3K.

The first inning saw no Ks. But in the second, C.C. had his first victim – David Peralta. Then he punched out the next batter, Christian Walker. A couple batters later, C.C. came toe-to-toe with his old battery mate, John Ryan Murphy. The count got to 1 – 2, and C.C. delivered this nasty off-speed pitch to enter history.

C.C. ended his career with 3,093 Ks – the 16th most of all-time. He actually has the third most Ks by any lefty ever. The only lefties with more are Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton… who both have over 4K.

 

May 1, 2000 – The First McCovey Cove Splash HR

 

The San Francisco Giants have clobbered 91 splash homers into McCovey Cove ever since Pac Be… SBC PaAT&T… Oracle Park first opened in 2000. If I were to ask you, who do you think hit that very first McCovey Cove splash… you would probably get it right.

It was none other than Barry Bonds.

Before 2000, Bonds had a measly 445 career home runs across 14 seasons. He would hit 317 more in his last seven seasons… and he only played 14 games in one of those!

You want a crazy Bonds fact? More than 10% of those 317 homers splashed. He hit 35 McCovey Cove Homers in just seven years… that’s almost one for each month of the regular season. 

The first one came on May 1, 2000 against the New York Mets. The opposing pitcher? Rich Rodriguez… a 10-year journeyman vet. In his first 3 PAs, Bonds struck out… walked (and scored)… and singled (scoring again).

In his fourth PA, Bonds just absolutely turned on the first pitch, an inside fastball. And as he had done countless times before… Bonds sent that pitch to the moon.

 

Everyone celebrated! The splash hits counter put up its first number… Bonds took a curtain call… and the man who caught the splash HR even opened up a bottle of champagne!

Wondering who would hit the next splash homer? Take a wild guess…

 

Bonus: May 2, 1999 – Chicks Dig The Long Ball

 

So when researching this article, I found some sources saying that the famous “Chicks Dig The Long Ball” commercial debuted on May 2, 1999.

1999 came at the height of the steroid era, and it was a rough year for pitchers. The previous season saw the electric ’98 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which helped revitalize baseball after the ’94 strike. In fact, ’99 saw the highest league-wide, single-season HR/9 (1.15) in the modern era (since 1920). But that record was broken the very next season. And it was also bested in each season from 2016 to 2021.

Nonetheless, in ’99 aces like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were struggling because a combined 6 Cy Young Awards wasn’t noteworthy.

The only thing that mattered?

The Long ball.

 

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Alex Kleinman

Journalist who loves the Yankees and the Bears. One gives me strength, the other leads me to existential dread. When I'm not obsessing over baseball, you can find me at a concert, hiking in a National Park or chasing my dog, Frankie, who has probably stolen one of my socks.

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