As the baseball season winds down, it’s really a shame that the most important and dramatic games late in the season are regularly overshadowed by early-season football. I love football and am just as guilty as anybody of ignoring baseball on Saturdays and Sundays when football is on all day, especially since I’m a White Sox fan (yes, those exist) who hasn’t witnessed a meaningful September White Sox game since probably 2012.
Because baseball ends on the first Sunday of October, that means that final farewells may go unrecognized by many as sports fans are too busy watching NFL Redzone and checking their fantasy teams. Even though I’m a die-hard baseball fan, I was one of those fantasy-obsessed zombies who was switching back and forth from the Bears game and NFL Redzone and I didn’t even realize that Mark Buehrle was pitching in the final game of his career.
I was slightly confused when I read that Buehrle was pitching on Sunday in Tampa Bay as I clearly remember him starting for the Blue Jays just two days before. Due to my zombie-like football state this weekend, I was unaware that Buehrle was being left off the Blue Jays playoff roster despite going 15-8 with a 3.81 ERA (Price, Estrada, Stroman and Dickey will serve as their four starters) and that the 2015 regular season would be the last time he pitches as he’s set to retire following this season. It appears that Buehrle’s rubber-like left arm has finally begun to wear down at 36 years old after nearly 3300 innings pitched.
Instead of calling it a career after getting a final win on Friday, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons opted to start Buehrle on one day rest which was a surprise given the Jays were only a game back of the Royals for home field advantage in the playoffs. The plan was for him to throw two innings so he could reach the 200-inning plateau for his 15th consecutive season which is a testament to his durability throughout his career. Unfortunately, Buehrle got rocked and let up the Rays’ first grand slam of the season (really…the first one) to Joey Butler. It ended up being Buehrle’s shortest start of his career as he only recorded two outs while surrendering eight unearned runs before being replaced. The Royals would go onto beat the Twins anyways so in the end this game turned out to be completely meaningless and no harm was done from the surprising decision to let Buehrle start.
It would have been nice to see Buehrle reach the milestone and go out on a high note, but who really cares. There was nothing more Mark Buehrle than starting a game on one day rest in a day and age in which pitchers’ now have innings limits and strict pitch counts. The soft-tossing lefty and four-time All-Star was known for the quick pace in which he worked games and his remarkable consistency during his 12 seasons with the White Sox and then later with the Blue Jays and Marlins. He once started a game for the White Sox against the Mariners in 2005 that lasted only 1 hour and 35 minutes. He never once landed on the disabled list and hasn’t thrown a pitch over 90 MPH since 2010. He has allowed only 59 stolen bases over his 16-year career, which is one more than Dee Gordon had this season, and picked off an even 100 runners. He won’t be a Hall of Famer as he only won 214 games and didn’t he even strike out 2,000 batters, but he’s a one of a kind, throwback pitcher that is few and far between in today’s game.
For me, there are too many White Sox memories to even list them all. He helped bring Chicago it’s first World Series’ title in 88 years. You may never again see a pitcher win a game as a starter in the World Series and then win the following game as a reliever which is what he did for the White Sox in 2005. He threw two no-hitters, one of which was perfect (DEWAYNE WISE!), and made White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson nearly lose his sh*t on countless occasions. He would do slip ‘n slide on the tarp during rain delays (until he was forced to stop) and once went completely out of his way to sign a baseball for me while in the dugout. He was a four-time Gold Glover who once did this:
Most importantly, Mark Buehrle was by all accounts the perfect teammate who always had a smile on his face. Drafted in the 38th round of the 1998 MLB draft out of Jefferson College in Missouri, Buehrle wasn’t supposed to have this type of career…but he did. He wasn’t supposed to have a statue built at U.S. Cellular Field…but he will. Hopefully he will go out on a much higher note than his final start and earn his second World Series ring this postseason with the Jays because he deserves it. Baseball’s going to miss Mark Buehrle and so will I. Thanks for 16 great seasons.