These are panic-stricken days. Each win by one of baseball’s better teams, the Minnesota Twins, brings the boys closer to disaster.
The team’s World Series prospects flicker with each home run that is launched through precisely calculated launch angle. The victory cigars grind to ash with each strikeout notched through optimum spin rate.
After too many dreary seasons to count, Minnesota Twins’ fans find themselves standing and clapping and fretting. You don’t need a Greek mythology class to have some vague notion of what happens when you fly too close to the sun.
Baseball fans don’t want to keep dancing with the ones who brung ’em. Mostly, the players Twins’ fans want off the dance card sit in the bullpen. Might be news to you, but this is every team’s problem. To comical effect.
He might just be a scrawny, Ichabod Crane-like 175-pounder known for glasses with thick black frames and throwing in the upper 90s for St. Louis, Boston and now the Los Angeles Dodgers. But Joe Kelly became Major League Baseball’s Bullpen Poster Boy last week.
On Monday, Kelly’s atrocious outing barely helium-upped his earned run average. That ERA was to high to take a hit with just one more awful inning. But the ultimate insult? Joe Kelly Bobblehead Head Night was scheduled for three days later.
Kelly might now be in Witness Protection Program. He hasn’t pitched in a week.
One of the best quotes I ever got was from Andy MacPhail, who was the Twins’ general manager when the Twins won the World Series in ’87 and ’91. “It’s a short walk from the sunshine to the shade,” he said.
So, you don’t wait till next year. The Twins have to make moves and take their shot at the World Series.
They can do what they like with the bullpen, but San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner owes it to the Twins go come to Target Field for half a summer.
There don’t seem to be a lot of fragile qualities to the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Bumgarner, who is bearing down on his 30th birthday. But damn, he’s entertaining.
Again, during a Dodger game last week: “Madbum” allowed a home run to Max Muncy, who admired the parabolic arch of the ball destined for McCovey Cove in San Francisco, Bumgarner screamed at the poor fellow.
Muncy, in turn, became an instant moneymaker for the T-shirt industry when he told Bumgarner to go get the ball out of the ocean.
Jack Morris aside, Minnesota Twins’ players are not known for attitude. Bumgarner has it. But that’s not why he should come to Minnesota. It’s because after the Minnesota Twins’ shredded the 21-year-old in 2011, he lyrically made a career U-turn.
My wife, Claudia, and I, arrived in San Francisco late in the afternoon that June Thursday. We weren’t there to see the night’s starting pitcher, young Madison Bumgarner. Tim Lincecum was scheduled to pitch against the Twins on Saturday.
Had to love him. He was an early adopter of legalized marijuana, hence the Giants’ fans embracing him with “Let Timmy Smoke” T-shirts.
Damn. Baseball is good for the T-shirt industry.
We had barely scratched our chair legs into table position at Union Square’s since-departed Lefty O’Doul’s saloon that Thursday when it began.
Ben Revere singled on Bumgarner’s third pitch. Alexi Casilla doubled two pitches later. Joe Mauer singled. Mike Cuddyer doubled. Delmon Young singled. Danny Valencia doubled. Luke Hughes singled. In the ultimate indignity, Tsuyoshi Nishioki doubled. Pitcher Carl Pavano struck out. Revere doubled. MadBum departed.
It was 25 pitches, 22 strikes, nine hits, five doubles, and eight earned runs in third of an inning.
“You have to take away some good stuff, which that’s pretty hard to find,” Bumgarner said after that pounding. “I think it’ll help the focus of executing pitches the rest of my career, because now you know what happens if you don’t.”
Since that day, Bumgarner is 104-74. And just too entertaining.
As entertaining as Jack Morris, who the night before Game 7 of the ’91 World Series said, “In the immortal words of the late, great, Marvin Gaye, ‘Let’s get it on.”?
Dunno. Be fun to find out.