Matt Kemp is having a career year and has an outside shot at winning the Triple Crown. Clayton Kershaw should win the NL Cy Young Award, although it will probably go to Ian Kennedyof the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, lost in the Kemp and Kershaw shuffle for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season is a guy who is having an amazing season that nobody’s talking about.
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After Kershaw, the pitcher who’s arguably having the best season is a guy who would probably be picked last in a game of playground baseball. This pitcher is pale and red-headed and is so skinny that he could never play for the Chicago Cubs or the San Francisco Giants – he would get blown off the mound!
Mike MacDougal is proving to the Dodgers that looks, age, injury history and the opinion of other major league teams can be deceiving.
MacDougal shouldn’t even be on the mound for the Dodgers. When you see a player with a jersey number like his – 66 – you think: “This must be one of those September call-ups who are trying to make their mark in the big leagues.”
That couldn’t be further from the truth for MacDougal.
MacDougal is far from a rookie. The 34-year-old pitcher was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1999. In fact, it seems like MacDougal is vying for the “Mike Morgan Play for Every Team Award.”
Prior to signing a minor league contract with the Dodgers this year, MacDougal was on a roller coaster ride during his baseball career. He’s been injured, released, traded, released (did I mention released?), injured again and left for dead.
But guess what? The lanky (that’s a nice word for “skinny”) MacDougal is having the last laugh with the Dodgers this season. All he has done this year is to post a 3-1 record with a sterling 1.88 ERA.
It’s not like MacDougal has posted these numbers in just a few mop-up appearances. He has appeared in 63 games this season and has become manager Don Mattingly’s go-to guy in the seventh and eighth innings.
And why not? All MacDougal has done this season is to strand 86.7 percent of all base runners he has inherited.
MacDougal is proving that he is a fighter and a survivor after the blows that he has suffered during his career:
- In his rookie year with the Kansas City Royals in 2001, MacDougal suffered a fractured skull from a stray bat and lost all feeling in his right arm for three months.
- In 2004, MacDougal got an unexplained illness, lost weight and his fastball became his “not-so-fastball.” He was replaced as closer by the Royals and was demoted to triple-A.
- In 2006, MacDougal was injured again and was later traded to the Chicago White Sox.
- In 2007, after suffering another injury, MacDougal was released by the White Sox.
- After being signed by the Florida Marlins in 2010, MacDougal was once again released. He signed with the Nationals that year and quit before the season started.
Are you out of breath trying to keep up with the travails of Mike MacDougal? I know I am! The Dodgers took a chance on MacDougal in the off-season, and he has done nothing to disappoint.
When the Dodgers came to Atlanta the weekend of Sept. 2-4, I got to see MacDougal up close and personal. Once I got past the initial thought of “Wow, that guy’s a twig,” I had to rub my eyes at the radar gun after he threw a few pitches.
MacDougal consistently knocked on the 100-mile-an-hour door with his fastballs. In one at bat, MacDougal’s fastball registered 98, 99, 98 and 98. I don’t care how old you are and whether or not you were released by the lowly Royals, that’s impressive!
You’ve got to tip your cap to MacDougal. He’s bearing the torch for every overage, underweight and easily-injured person in America.