Originally Posted March 2016
This is a REAL “Inside Baseball” story if there ever was one. And I LOVE IT. The phrase “inside baseball” is used to describe any story about anything (sports or otherwise) that is simply too “deep in the weeds” for most casual fans / readers to “get”… or even care about.
It requires a detailed appreciation of the “nuances” of whatever the topic might be. It is intended for aficionados of a subject whether it be gardening, cooking, racing, golf, or, in this case, actually about Baseball.
This is an account of the first time Major League Baseball met The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw‘s curveball in 2009.
It was a meaningless spring exhibition game between LA and Boston and the batter was 11-year veteran Sean Casey. The pitcher was a gangly 19 y/o rookie southpaw from Dallas. The AB only lasted four pitches and the bat never left Casey’s shoulder. Baseball insiders on both teams remember it vividly…. three Cy Young Awards later.
WARNING: Intended for aficionados only…. others proceed at your own risk….. IF you enjoyed that Fungo Bat Quirky, you’ll love this one too….
March 7, 16
Sean Casey watched. On the cusp of his first season with the defending world champion Red Sox, his 11th and final season in the bigs, he knew the league inside and out. But 19-year-olds wearing jersey No. 96 don’t qualify as known quantities, even to a wily vet.
“Mags,” Casey said to hitting coach Dave Magadan, “do you know this guy?”
A purse of the lips and a shake of the head.
“Tito,” he said to manager Terry Francona, “you know him?”
Casey came up with two out. The first pitch was a rocket. Ninety-seven on the black. Strike one.
“That was legit,” Casey thought to himself. “That was different.”
He looked over to the open-air visiting dugout. Magadan shrugged. Francona shrugged.
Next pitch, curveball. A big old hammer. At the face one moment, at the knees the next. Casey buckled. Strike two.
Now Casey knew. The joke was on him.
“Who is this guy?”
Third pitch, another heater on the edge of the zone. Casey couldn’t even muster the momentum to pull the trigger. The umpire, generously, called it a ball. The ump probably figured he was giving the established and notoriously scrupulous hitter the benefit of the doubt, when in fact he was only prolonging the nightmare.
Finally, mercifully, memorably, the finisher. The curve again. You don’t go through your career striking out in only 10 percent of your plate appearances without the ability to read pitches, to wait on breaking balls. But Casey had never seen anything like this. He surrendered to Uncle Charlie, emphasis on the “uncle.” The rotation, the depth, the free fall like an elevator with a snapped cable. This embarrassing at-bat was as lost at the plate as Casey had ever felt in his professional career. And when the umpire rung him up after four pitches in which the bat never left his shoulder, with Torre and Bowa still laughing in the other dugout, Casey retreated in utter confusion.
“What the hell just happened?”