Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Minnesota Twins Report. A Season Ending Too Soon.

My "baseball" category on Detritus of Empire is a lightly used one.  The topic is covered extensively both on line and in the dwindling pages of the daily newspaper. But I like odd stuff...and baseball always is good for a bit of it.

My Major League team is the Minnesota Twins.  True, I have lived elsewhere for the majority of my life but the team you grew up cheering for will always be your team.  I could make an exception perhaps for somebody whose life took them say, from a National League city to an American league town, but otherwise anyone who frivolously changes one of their primary default settings is to be regarded as shifty. You just can't know where their loyalties really lie.

Last year the Twins were awful.  This year they came out of Spring training and were wonderful.  Thumbing their noses at the pundits who uniformly picked them to finish last in the league they actually were the best team around for a while.  And then....

Well baseball is a harsh meritocracy.  And as spring turned into summer they slipped. Out of first place.  Out of contention.  Under .500.  The usual story of course. Injuries. Young players promoted too soon.  A error here, a couple of days where your starting pitchers get knocked out early, a quirky schedule where you go up against a string of genuine contenders.  Things happen.  Bad things.

But unless you are a Yankees fan it is not reasonable to expect a Championship Season every year.  And you find other things to enjoy.  The odd stuff.

Item One.  Bartolo Colon.

So desperate were the Twins for any pitcher with a detectable pulse that they were willing to even fudge a bit on that minimum requirement.  At age 44 Bartolo is the oldest player in the Majors.  His weight is dubiously listed at 285 pounds.  Last year he became the oldest player in Major League history to hit his first home run.  2016 was one of those years (Cubs, Donald Trump, etc) when all manner of impossible things happened.  Observe and marvel:

Of course the Twins did not sign him for his bat.  Nor did his previous team release him without cause.  Hoping that his losing the last four starts for Atlanta, Minnesota took a flyer on him.  In his new uniform he has lost all three starts.  And in the American League pitchers don't even get to bat.

Item Two.  Chris Gimenez.

Generally speaking in baseball pitching is done by, well, pitchers.  When a position player takes the mound something very bad is going on.  Usually what has happened is your starting pitcher has gotten knocked out early.  And his replacement got knocked out soon after.  And then his replacement.  When the score becomes hopeless and you have to put somebody out there it is time for an emergency pitcher.  In the case of the Twins it means a call to Chris Gimenez.

Mr. Gimenez primarily a catcher.  So he does have the range dialed in to toss a ball gently back and forth over the proper distance.  With the Twins pitching staff being charitably described as "thin", blowout games are fairly common.  And by mid season Chris Gimenez set what seems to be a Major League record for pitching appearances by a non pitcher at six.  He has not won or lost a game yet....coming in when your team is already down by a ton makes either unlikely. Remarkably his Earned Run Average of 7.2 is better than that of six ACTUAL pitchers that the team has foolishly entrusted with the ball.

Ah but as a true fan I am always looking towards seasons yet to come.  And even there I find amusement.  Down on the farm, as they say when speaking of the minor league teams affiliated with the Big Club, there are some fascinating things happening.  The Chattanooga Lookouts recently got mired in a 21 run marathon game.  So much weird going on.  The winning pitcher of course was a position player, one Max Murphy who usually plays right field.  Why, he actually struck somebody out!  

In the American League, and their minor league affiliates, pitchers don't bat, that function being taken over by a "Designated Hitter".  But there are occasions where you have to make substitutions that eliminate your "DH".  For 11 of the 21 innings the Lookouts pitchers had to bat.  At least it appears that was what they were trying to do up there!


Probably the Twins are going to finish with a losing record.  But I can still root for them.  Perhaps Chris Gimenez will be called on to pitch in an actual close game.  And maybe Bartolo Colon will be around long enough to be put in as a pinch hitter....the baseball world would hold its collective breath waiting for History to be Made.

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