Charlotte Hornets

Short takes: Comparing Matt Kalil, Nic Batum; MLB debut milestone; IRS scam; The Claw

Former Charlotte Knights ace Michael Kopech made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago White Sox Tuesday. He did something no one has done since another Charlottean made his big-league debut.
Former Charlotte Knights ace Michael Kopech made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago White Sox Tuesday. He did something no one has done since another Charlottean made his big-league debut. AP

Michael Kopech made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago White Sox Tuesday. You know him from the Charlotte Knights. His ERA in Charlotte was 3.70, but he’s been sensational since the Triple-A All-Star Game break. He’s 22, and one of baseball’s top pitching prospects.

The first Minnesota Twins’ hitter he faced Tuesday was Joe Mauer, who singled. The second hitter was Eddie Rosario, who is hitting .293 with 22 home runs. He singled. But Kopech got a strikeout, induced a double play and retired the side. In the first two innings he struck out four batters.

Then came an almost one-hour rain delay, and despite not giving up a run, Kopech’s work was finished.

The last White Sox pitcher to open his big-league career with a shutout is Black Jack McDowell, now the baseball coach at Queens. He lasted longer than Kopech but faced the same opponent, Minnesota. McDowell threw seven shutout innings.

▪  I got a telephone message from the IRS. But it wasn’t the real IRS. Of course it wasn’t the real IRS. The IRS wants records. So if they contact you, it’s by mail.

The phone call invoked police officers, apparently angry ones. If the call had been accurate, I would have walked out of the Central Avenue building and encountered a SWAT team. I called the number back, and the man that left the message answered the phone.

I was going to play along, but wasn’t in the mood. I told the man that if the IRS contacts you, they send a letter.

Who are you? I asked.

“Scammer,” the man said, laughing.

Somewhere, mom and dad are proud. …

▪  Carolina Panthers’ offensive tackle Matt Kalil was inconsistent last season. This doesn’t qualify as breaking news. He became better as the season went on whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. Was he a star? Nah. But he was a starter at the most important position on the offensive line.

Charlotte Hornets’ Nic Batum suffers from the same malady Kalil does. He’s a decent player, always was, good at almost everything and excellent at nothing. But we resent him, many of us do. We resent him because he, like Kalil, signed a bloated five-year contract, a star’s contract.

We resent players with big contracts whose work does not merit the big bucks they collect.

But if somebody offered to overpay me, I don’t think I would say, “You know, I’m not worth that kind of money.”

I’d say yes. So would you. . …

▪  Boston has the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and Boston Red Sox, each of which is or will be a contender.

As I write this, the Red Sox lead the New York Yankees by eight games in the American League East, and the Yankees have the second best record in baseball. Who stops the Red Sox? The Yankees? Houston? Cleveland? The Cubs? Atlanta? Anybody? …

▪  You look at the Carolina Panthers receivers and wonder who stays and who goes? Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Jarius Wright and Curtis Samuel are locks. Then what? I like Torrey Smith.

I also like Damiere Byrd. Byrd, 25, is one of those players that look fast when they stand still. He has great speed, and appears to summon it almost instantly. Byrd can do everything but stay healthy.

What about Rasheed Bailey out of Delaware Valley or Mose Frazier out of Memphis, Fred Ross out of Mississippi State, Jamal Jones out of Montana or Austin Duke from Charlotte? I like Duke, have since high school at Independence high.

The Panthers have until Sept. 1, when the rosters are reduced to 53, to figure it out.. …

▪  I was at the beach last week, walking through a restaurant, and heard somebody mention The Claw.

The Claw is one of the great weapons in the history of professional wrestling, and to hear it mentioned in the land of the multi-million dollar mansions was surprising.

The master of The Claw is Baron von Raschke. Baron usually denotes royalty, so he might have grown up in the affluent English part of Nebraska. He’d apply his large hand to his opponent and squeeze. The Claw would basically squish his opponent. The Baron was so popular he endorsed a pizza. He applied the Claw to it.

In one of his great matches, he and Paul Jones defeated Ric Flair and Blackjack Mulligan.

The guy at the beach might have been talking about crab or lobster tails. But I’m not going to interrupt a man with food in his mouth.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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