Bert Blyleven: ‘Coaches Need To Let Athletes Play Whatever They Want’

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COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Bert Blyleven gives his speech at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011 in Cooperstown, New York. Blyleven finished his 22 season career with 3,701 strikeouts (fifth on the all-time list) and 287 wins including 60 shutouts and 242 complete games. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Bert Blyleven (Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There’s dirty, there’s filthy and there’s filthy dirty – and this year, Clayton Kershaw has been filthy dirty.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace strolls into the All-Star break with an 11-2 record, a 1.78 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 96.1 innings. He also hasn’t lost since May, he’s won his last eight outings and he’s allowed just one run in his last five starts.

So yeah, filthy dirty.

Kershaw has been compared to Sandy Koufax, who spent his entire 12-year career in Los Angeles. Koufax was a seven-time All-Star, a four-time World Series champion, a three-time Cy Young winner and the author of four no-hitters. He also had a career 2.76 ERA.

But it’s worth asking: Is Kershaw being compared to Koufax simply because they’re both Dodger lefties, or is it because they’re actually similar pitchers?

“I think you look at (Koufax’s) breaking ball and you see the type of stuff that he had,” Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You have to remember back in the ’60s when Sandy Koufax pitched, the mound was a lot higher – (a) 15-inch mound sometimes with the drop-off. Now the mound is a little bit different. I think Kershaw has the same type of stuff that Sandy had – not maybe as big a breaking ball, but again, the mound is . . . going to eliminate some of the rotation and spin toward home plate. He’s having a fantastic year.”

Indeed, he is. But do you who isn’t? Jose Fernandez – and dozens of other pitchers who have undergone, or will undergo, Tommy John surgery.

What has been the cause of this epidemic? Are pitchers throwing curveballs too young? Is it overuse? Something else?

“I had the opportunity (Sunday) to coach the World Team in the Futures Game against Tom Kelly and the USA,” said Blyleven, whose team lost 3-2. “A lot of my pitchers were from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (and) Venezuela. You talk to those kids, and they put down the baseball for awhile. All these travel teams are nice, but I think kids need to play other sports. They don’t have to throw 98 miles per hour. Even though you might have a 92-mile-per-hour fastball, you see guys trying to overthrow. I think that has a lot to do with it, especially at a young age. I didn’t throw a curveball until I was 14 years old. And I don’t think it’s the curveball as much as guys just trying to overthrow their fastball.”

Blyleven’s advice?

“Go play flag football. Go play other sports and forget about baseball for awhile,” he said. “The sad part is, when you get into high school, a lot of the coaches make you pick a sport, but that needs to change. Coaches need to realize that if you have a good athlete, let him play basketball, baseball, football – whatever he wants. And he will decide which direction he needs to go when he finishes high school.”

 

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