the 2018 season: so long, it’s been fun…

I hope you don’t think that I’ve lost interest. Not. At. All.

It’s just that life is pretty full right now.

But I have to take a moment to wish Paul Molitor well. The Twins Brain Trust fired him today, which is the eventual fate of all managers, practically. From Manager of the Year and a brand new three-year contract in October 2017, to former Twins Manager in October 2018.

That’s the way baseball go.

There’s some talk about him staying with the team in some capacity. I’d be surprised if that would happen.

Molitor didn’t have much of a chance for success this year, when you consider the Twins season. Did Ervin Santana ever pitch? Sano and Buxton were largely MIA with assorted injuries. Shortstop Polanco: suspended for half a season. Their pitch-framing catcher: out most of the year. Their free agent off-season pickups were largely disappointing. This is not a recipe for success. This is a recipe for “So long, see you later, thanks for everything.” The Twins finished the season a lackluster 78-84, second place in the Hapless American League Central Division, behind the Spiders of Cleveland.

It was a annoying and dull season. The Front Office threw in the towel and became a retail operation in July, selling players for whatever the market would bear. Goodbye Mr. Dozier, thanks for everything. So long, Mr. Escobar. You were a pleasant surprise and we wish you well. Joe Mauer donned the tools of ignorance for one last at-bat, last game of the season, and everyone expects it to be his last. So long, Joe. Thanks for all the great baseball. Wish we could have taken you to the World Series. But that’s the way baseball go.

I am squarely on the fence regarding the Twins brain trust, Levine and Falvey Inc. Their moves so far have not inspired a great deal of confidence. But – to be fair – I’m willing to give them a few years for their efforts to come to fruition. I’m not about to show them their walking papers after one disappointing and injury-plagued season. Nope. I believe in giving a guy a fair chance to succeed.

And now they’ve got a chance to pick a manager. Here’s a Golden Opportunity to show me something.

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Damn Yankees

In the whole recorded history of organized baseball, has any one team ever managed to do worse against another team, head-to-head, than the Minnesota Twins against the New York Damn Yankees?

Here’s part of the answer; the Twins record since 1961 against all the other teams. The good news: We own the Padres. The bad news: Damn Yankees. I don’t think this counts today’s game, so it’s one game worse than what we see here. (Thanks a million, BaseballReference.com, for having these stats ready at the push of a few buttons.) Looking at this again, it probably doesn’t include any of 2018. Still.

It would take awhile to run through all the teams to see what might be the worst of the worse. I see that the Mets have a .443 percentage against the Dodgers. Better than the Twins. Houston has a .397 record against the Rangers, but in a lot fewer games, so it doesn’t count. Maybe some day. Hey, Cleveland is also at .416 against the Yankees since ’61. What a coincidence! I have a suspicion that they have done quite a bit better in the last 20 years, though.

Since 1998: Indians vs Yankees: .386
Since 1998: Twins vs Yankees: .329

Either way, nothing to write home about.

Nauseating, in fact.

This is rather disheartening research.

I thought it might cheer me up to see who has beat up on the Yankees, head-to-head, since 1961. The answer?

Nobody.

The Yankees have an above .500 record against every team in the American League, (since 1961). The team that gives them the most problems is Boston; they’re .513 against Boston.

They’re .481 against the Phillies, (13-14) and .462 against the Dodgers (6-7).

Damn Yankees.

Addendum:

American League teams that have done worse than the Twins against the Yankees since 1961:

Texas: .415
Kansas City: .402

 

 

Yu Lose!

And so the rumor surfaces today that the Yu Darvish race is finally over, and that the Cubs, the lowly woebegone Cubs, are, for once, victorious. .

The MLB Cubs website says 6 years, $126 million, and a new ultra-high-definition 1000-inch TV for his palatial locker.

 

On the bright side, well:

  1. The Twins have saved a whole lot of money.
  2. The Twins are now able to spend heavily on ten or fifteen 36-year-old former major league pitchers who think that maybe they’ve till got one more season to play.
  3. Money that would have been spent on Yu Darvish-based promotions: saved!
  4. He’s in the National League, where he’ll probably do very well, as they have pitchers batting in that league about 10% of the time. And so we won’t have to play against him very much.
  5. We won’t be forced to watch an ancient 36-year-old Yu Darvish laboring through the last years of his fat contract.
  6. Nor will we have to worry all the time about his most valuable arm being healthy.

Seriously, the Chicago Cubs have won the booby prize here. How many pitchers with huge free-agent contracts ever win, say… 18 games in a season? I ask you. Well, let’s look at a few of the top contracts for pitchers.

David Price – $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox:
went 17-9 in 2016, with a 3.99 ERA
went 6-3 in 2017, with a 3.63 ERA

Clayton Kershaw – $215 million contract with LA Dodgers
2014: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, Cy Young, MVP
2015: 16-7, 2.13
2016: 12-4, 1.69
2017: 18-4, 2.31

 

 

 

Max Scherzer – $210 million contract with the Washinton Nationals
2015: 14-12, 2.79
2016: 20-7, 2.96, Cy Young
2017: 16-6, 2.51, Cy Young

Zack Greinke – $206.5 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks
2017: 13-7, 4.37
2017: 17-7, 3.20

Justin Verlander – $180 million with the Detroit Tigers
2013: 13-12, 3.46
2014: 15-12, 4.54
2015: 5-8, 3.38
2016: 16-9, 3.04
2017: 15-8, 3.36

There. Aren’t we fortunate that we didn’t waste our money on any of these guys?

 

 

 

I suppose the Twins are training, now…

…and I suppose I should make some note of that.

But last season took a lot out of me. As my high expectations (i.e. World Series) were not just “dashed.”

There isn’t really a word for what they were.

Perhaps “eviscerated” comes close.

Well, anyway, these are the Twins, so they have regrouped and apparently are in Florida again, spring training, as it were, and thinking of the future, and planning for the upcoming season. They’ve got a brand-spanking new front office, new GM, new coaches, a new “pitch-framing” catcher, a new old third baseman, and everybody should still have a bad taste in their mouth from last season. (59-103, lest you could possibly forget.)

Anyway, I’ll have to touch base with the Twins soon — and forgive them — and get up to speed on the doings over there.

And I should also let all you Blaze fans know: The Louisiana Blaze, my team in the National Pastime Baseball League, are Champs! Yes! Yes!  Champions of the NPBL! We RULE.

The NPBL is a computer baseball league that uses Out of the Park Baseball simulation software, which provides an incredibly realistic baseball management experience. I assumed control over the Blaze back in 2050, and my 19-year long-range plan worked pretty much to perfection, as we win the title in 2069 (after finishing third in our division.)

I think more on this later. There were at least a couple good stories there. Suffice to say that “We rule!” and also that it’s also spring training in the NPBL, and last year is last year, we have left it behind and are thinking of the future and planning for the coming season.

Which makes me think that baseball is a zen sort of sport. There’s no yesterday, and there’s no tomorrow. There’s only NOW. And now the Blaze are working on the usual drills, enjoying an off day after winning a 5-3 spring game yesterday. And the Twins are also enjoying an off day after winning a 2-1 win spring game yesterday. And everything is good.

Now if only the Millers could win a game…

 

Ralph Branca

I suppose as a professional baseball player you have to get used to losing. Year after year, all the teams go at it, only one team gets to walk away as winners. What is that? About 3% of the players can think of them selves as winners in a given year? (roughly?)

So there’s the run-of-the-mill losing, that bad ball clubs, the mediocre ball clubs, day-in day-out losing. I suppose that becomes less stressful in some ways. Then there are the teams that are actually in contention. I suppose losing would be harder on them, because there was more of an opportunity to win in the first place. When there’s a decent chance to win, then you might think more about the bad call, the dropped ball, the extra base, the cut-off throw. The woulda-coulda -shoulda. That sort of second-guessing would be harder to deal with and take awhile to get past.

And then there’s Ralph Branca. October 3rd, 1951. Coming into the deciding game of the playoff, pitching for the Dodgers with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th. There’s a couple of runners on, one out, and Bobby Thomson coming up to the plate.

Branca pitches.

Thomson swings.

There’s a long drive.

The Giants win the Pennant.

The Giants win the Pennant.

This takes losing to a whole other level.

Of course it’s a team game and there were a lot of other plays made and not made in the game that might have made a difference. But Ralph threw the pitch that lost the game.

The picture of the aftermath is probably the best picture of baseball ever.

bobby-thompson-and-ralph-branca-b-fr-sm

There you have it. That’s what the game is all about. That’s what life is all about.

baseball-ying-yang-c-fr

Branca was a pretty good pitcher for the Dodgers, winning 21 games for them in 1947. He made the all-star team in ’47, ’48, and ’49. Then he got hurt in a clubhouse accident in ’52, hurt his back, and never regained his pitching form. He used to go around to the old timer’s games with Thomson, who passed away in 2010 at 86. They became friends, and donated some money from joint appearances to charities.

Ralph Branca passed away today, in Rye Brook, NY, at age 90. Three time all-star, 21-game winner for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Good game, Ralph.

well, well, well…

chicago-tribune-cubs-win-1908

This would be a terrible baseball blog indeed, if some small mention was not made of the Chicago Cubs wonderful championship season. I don’t think I need go into details; the media juggernaut has certainly covered the story from every possible viewpoint. Let’s just say congratulations to a fun team. Congratulations also to the Cleveland club, who also excelled this year, and might very easily have been the champions. It was a magnificent World Series, very nearly approaching the ’91 classic.

The illustration above is from the Chicago Tribune, who has posted the front page story from the last time the Cubs won the series. I love those old newspapers! October 15, 1908. A totally different world back then, but still, baseball.

And here’s another nice item:

final-out-baseball-from-1908-cubs-world-series-victory

I noticed that the Final Out Baseball from the 1908 World Series has gone up for auction. Current bid: $28,000 (plus the buyer’s premium, of course.) There’s still time to get your bid in!

Other than the world series, and the Cubs, well, there were the Twins. One of the most disappointing seasons ever. A good baseball blogger would perhaps have covered the disaster in detail, but I just just just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was purely awful and, really, the less said about it, the better for everyone.

Just Awful.

But: we turn the page. Welcome to the 2017 Hot Stove League!

country store d fr