Look Who’s Number One!
Survival of the Front Runners
The Return of Joe Koukalik
Well well well… Look who’s in first place!
Everyone is surprised to find the Minnesota Twins in first place for a change. After starting off at 1-6, AND losing their top starter, Ervin Santana, to a 80-game suspension (Performance Enhancing Substance. How’s that for Orwellian? Double plus Ungood!) just 2 or 3 days before the season started, the upstart Twins have been one of the best teams in baseball, playing two separate stretches of 9-1 ball, and inching into first place over the vaunted Royals of KC.
If you are a local you can undoubtedly remember the boo-birds circling overhead after that 1-6 start. The Twins are Terrible, they don’t spend any money, they don’t try to win, they don’t improve the club, blah blah blah blah blah…
Everybody’s on board the bandwagon now, of course, now that they are winning. (And where did that expression come from? Jumping on the bandwagon? What the heck is a bandwagon anyway? (I suppose it’s pretty self-explanatory.)) Well, that’s baseball, and that’s the crowd, the teeming masses yearning to be winners, and it’s probably the same everywhere. Everybody loves a winner, and it’s very easy and tempting to kick somebody when they are down. (If just to say, you are down, and I am not. I couldn’t be down, because I am up here, kicking you.)
The probably says something very basic about people. I suppose it’s Darwinian. When the Visigoths were winning, everyone was a fan, it was probably the smart thing to do in Visigothia. Visigoths probably did not take kindly to criticism, even to well-meaning and constructive criticism. I think, back in the day, nobody took criticism well; probably it was the first step to being tied to the stake in the village square.
So anyway the Visigoths had a good run, and everyone rooted for the Visigoths, everyone had Visigoth pennants and bumper stickers and promotional swords and coffee mugs and 574 Championship and Theoderic-the-Great t-shirts. And then the Visigoths luck ran out. It always does. And then we had never liked the Visigoths. The Visigoths don’t want to win, they don’t do what’s necessary, they’re terrible, they stink. Booo. Lousy Visigoths. Go Byzantium!
Yes, it’s probably all in our genes; it’s the survival of the front-runners, and natural selection. It goes back to pre-history, I suppose, when everyone was a Neanderthal fan when they were doing so well, everyone loved the Neanderthals, and then – BOOM! – and suddenly nobody liked the Neanderthals and they got kicked out of the league. We can’t help it.
Now, where was I? Do I need to make a cap for the Neanderthals now?
The Twins lost yesterday, to the hated Brewers (what an insipid name for a ball club!) of Milwaukee, but the Royals also lost to Texas, so the Twins still have a 1 game lead. Things look promising for a summer of baseball and scoreboard watching. How have the Twins done it? Well, Paul Molitor I think has a lot to do with it. And the pitching has been remarkably good, so let’s throw some credit at pitching coach Neil Allen. 3.91 ERA this year, 4.57 last year. The hitting seems spotty, no one is really leading the way. Maybe Torii Hunter, who’s had some key hits. But so far, I think, it’s the pitching, and hopefully that will continue. Nothing seems more fragile and tenuous than pitching. Those guys are delicate little flowers out there on the mound. One thing about the Twins, they seem like they’ve got some young arms still in the minors.
The other big surprise in baseball is in the old National Pastime Baseball League, where the lowly and nearly forgotten Louisiana Blaze… well, let’s let the commissioner of the NPBL speak:
Yes. We RULE.
Well, okay, maybe not so much anymore. A few teams have surpassed us, and it’s early in the season. Still, it’s getting on towards the all-star break, and we cling to a half-game lead. A nice surprise after finishing 6th, 6th, and 4th in the last three seasons. Perhaps we are the Minnesota Twins of the GEL South.
The Blaze are also thriving on pitching. We’ve gone back to a starting four rotation, anchored by Unethical Chad McCall and Rubeun Chaix, who won the Top Pitcher award last season. Joe Koukalik has also made his debut this season – a bit of a surprise, due to an injury on the staff. (Delicate little flowers.) You may remember Koukalik’s great gread great great grandad, (perhaps not enough greats there,) who pitched a bit for the old 1904 Millers. (And no, I haven’t forgotten the ’04 Millers. There’s just not enough time in the day, is all.) Anyway, young Koukalik has been a bit of a pleasant surprise. I had to send Jimmy Ray “Big Daddy” Hardwhistle down, he was struggling, and I hope he comes back, because a baseball name like that doesn’t come along every day, and I’d hate it if he had to languish in the minors. And speaking of good baseball names, I’ve got a powerful young first baseman busting the ball down in AAA, name of Thornton Swackhammer. I have high hopes for Mr. Swackhammer.