On my desk I keep a box of unopened Minnesota Twins "Premium Facial Tissues". Kleenex if you will.
I have left it unopened not for lack of opportunities to weep in this most horrid of baseball seasons. I am simply not sure how many of these are out there and this might have considerable collectors value one day. Such matters are always about scarcity and I must assume that most Twins fans in the face of epic disappointment will have popped the box open and quickly gone through them. I am made of sterner stuff.
Oof, what a season. I am jotting this down on 18 September with about two weeks to go in the dismal 2016 season. My beloved Twins are currently the worst team in baseball with a record of 55 wins and 94 losses.
Mostly it has been the pitching staff that got them there. Injuries, incompetence, trades that did not turn out as planned.
Sometimes you speak of a pitching staff being "decimated". But in the case of the Minnesota Twins it is far worse than that.
The Twins began the 2016 season with 12 pitchers. Four of those guys are still on the staff. And the team had tried fairly hard to unload at least one of them in trade but had no takers.
Decimation means the loss of one in ten. But the Twins pitching staff has been cut down not by 10% but by 75%. That gets us very close not to decimation but to annihilation.
Decimation was a seldom used practise in the Roman army. When a unit had exhibited cowardice in the face of the enemy they would have to draw lots. One soldier in ten was then randomly put to death by his fellows. Somewhat less unjustly all the officers would also be executed. As this practise was clearly very bad for morale it was done rarely. Until I looked it up I had not known that this was done more often in the Republic than in the Empire. If you buy my theory that Star Wars basically ripped off the history of Rome, then you have to imagine Yoda and the Jedi Council being less merciful than Darth Vader and the Emperor.
In later days this sort of thing has been done less and less. Perhaps the most recent example lies barely within the life span of a few very old folks. In 1917 elements of the French Army refused orders to advance and mutinied. Some details of the punitive actions that followed are still said to be sealed.
Decimation comes from the Latin decima, meaning ten. Annihilation comes from nihil meaning nothing. Hence nihilism, the absence of all belief. Things did not get quite that bad this year for the Twins pitching staff. Santana, Gibson, Pressley and Tonkin are still suiting up and throwing with variable levels of competence. Perhaps with a little time left in the season one or two more will go down with injuries but at this point it hardly matters.
Of course nihilism does not infect True Fans. We have belief. In the off season shoulders will heal. Management will make some savvy trades. Winter will surely come, but so also comes the warmth of spring and with it "The hope that springs eternal...".