Category Archives: baseball business

[game 124] Offense & Defense

The Twins and Royals played two games of baseball today, and I’m not referring to a doubleheader. Through the first six innings, the game was about how far you could stretch a single run. And then it became a classic clobbering, with the Twins raining down hits to sweep the series and inch up to two games below .500.

Carl Pavano started for the Twins, and he had a textbook day, almost escaping with a shutout. He pitched seven innings and allowed only two runs, one in the sixth that tied the game, and one in the seventh that meant nearly nothing.

Steering the team through five and two-thirds innings with a 1-0 lead, he was careful without cringing. He challenged the Royals hitters, with an answer for most any trouble they could pose.

The Royals’ Brian Bannister was nearly as good, but not for quite as long. In the third, the Twins got a single run as Carlos Gomez scored on an error by Mark Teahen. But Bannister, victim of that lousy fielding error, stayed splendid until the seventh.

I’m sure he felt great coming to the mound to start that inning. The Royals had finally tied the game, and the tense battle might finally be tipping his way. But on the first pitch, Michael Cuddyer blasted a ball to left to nudge the Twins back into the lead.

When we try to imagine a pitcher’s psychology, we are only imposing our own ideas of what we’d feel up there. There’s no knowing if that leadoff homer rattled him, but there are some facts in the case. The Twins followed with two more hits and another run scored, and Bannister had thrown 102 pitches. Time for a reliever to restore order.

Kyle Farnsworth was selected for this duty. When last seen, Farnsworth was objecting mightily to manager Trey Hillman’s disinclination to keep him in a game. So we presume he’s back with something to prove.

But maybe Hillman had something to prove as well. Farnsworth inherited a man on first, but promptly allowed first pitch singles to Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla to load the bases. There were no outs, and Farnsworth had thrown only two pitches. If there are baseball dreams of World Series-winning hits, this would be a baseball nightmare. And Hillman left Farnsworth in the game.

Still, the Twins were only ahead by a manageable two runs. If Farnsworth can tidy things up, starting with Denard Span at the plate, the Royals can stay in the game.

Not if Span has anything to say about it. His triple clears the bases, and he gets to cross home plate himself on a sac fly from Orlando Cabrera. Cuddyer gets another at bat in the inning after Joe Mauer singles, and this time Cuddy crushes the ball past the shimmering fountains in Kaufman Stadium.

It’s an eight-run inning, and the close game has become a laugher. The Royals chalked up two more runs, but even the KC fans saw them as feeble efforts. The final score was 10-3, and the Twins have the lift of a three-game winning streak

I’ve seen many games that followed the pattern of the first six innings today, and others that resembled the exhilarating hitting in the final innings, but it’s rare that both extremes occur in a single afternoon. It made me wonder exactly why the defensive advantage in baseball can suddenly collapse.

Because, for the most part, all sports favor the defense, if only subtly. If they didn’t, offensive skills would be too coarse and common, and it would be too easy for one team with even a small edge to crush another. If you want to invent a sport, start with the how the defense can stymie the offense, and then wait for the great players to burst through those barriers.

For about a decade, offense in baseball was defined by home run hitting. Thanks to various drugs and the financial incentive for many players to use them, the defense couldn’t contain the hitters. Because the financial incentives remain as powerful as ever, we have to assume that drugs remain a part of the game, but perhaps they are a bit less common.

The game in which a batter faced nine fielders, including a cunning pitcher, evolved into the game in which a batter faced an outfield wall between 350 and 400 feet away. Just hitting the ball that far was the object, not threading it through the fielders, hitting a sacrifice fly, or figuring out what the pitcher was about to throw.

The Twins never played that type of baseball, though they now have four batters with over 20 home runs for the season, and in Justin Morneau a serious power hitter. But they play baseball within the walls more than beyond them. And a good defense can shut them down awfully well, because the batting order has numerous weak spots.

This afternoon, the Twins could only peck at Bannister for six full innings, but in the outburst of the seventh, they suddenly overmastered Bannister and Farnsworth’s every move. Was Bannister that tired and Farnsworth that off? Or did the Twins lineup come to life, all together and in especially glorious fashion?

I may be guilty of imposing a story on what I saw, but the fusillade of hits in the seventh showed me that the Twins batting order should not be written off. Seven batters hit successfully, one of them twice, and an eighth got a sac fly. There’s no great mystery to what makes a big inning: you get two hits for every out. And today, hitters weak and strong all did something to the ball in the seventh.

It’s impossible to find the seam between offense and defense. For the first two thirds of the game, the defense did what it’s supposed to, perhaps aided just a tad by a semi-generous strike zone. None of the hitters had much to say about it.

But when the game broke open, it probably took both weakness in the defense and strength in the offense to do it. I will venture one supposition. Baseball acquaints each player, on a minute by minute basis, with success and failure. It may take less for the brain to flood with temporary certainty about one side or the other of that equation than we think.

Perhaps Bannister hated that home run and couldn’t settle down after allowing it. And perhaps Farnsworth was stunned by two consecutive first pitch hits and couldn’t summon up a shred of confidence afterwards. Finally, perhaps every Twins hitter came to the plate with an equally inaccurate conviction, but this time it was the belief that hits were easily to be had.

No sports performance is simply self-confidence. But all the training and natural skill in the world can’t ignite without some of that belief, a far stronger tonic than the drugs that cheapened the homer into a boring currency. The subtle mental lever is much, much harder to push.

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[game 88] Brad Radke

Sports fans are entitled to various idiosyncrasies, and mine include disproportionate affection for Brad Radke, Twins pitcher from 1995 through 2006. “Disproportionate” is the term others would apply; I feel entirely justified in proclaiming Radke among my all-time favorite players. Here’s my three-point case for Radke.

First, he played his entire career for the Twins. Around the middle of his career, the current free agent bonanza started up in earnest. A player with any kind of success whatsoever was supposed to change teams and quadruple his salary as soon as his first day of free agency came round.

Radke was not the CC Sabathia of his day, but he was a notch or two above some typical recent cash-ins, like Gil Meche, Carl Pavano, and Erik Bedard. The starkest parallel is to Johan Santana, who came into the Twins rotation alongside Radke. No, Radke couldn’t have gotten Santana dollars, but he certainly could have left Minnesota as Santana did. Santana left for the sake of leaving, as the Mets topped the Twins’ offer by a negligible amount but offered a preferred zip code. Radke didn’t leave for money, and he didn’t leave for fame. In fact, it appears he may have stayed not only because he liked the Twins organization plenty well, but because bigger city was not to his liking.

Point two: he was a finesse pitcher, who played with wits and cunning. He had a fine fastball, but it wasn’t atomic, nor possessed of as much movement as the Roger Clemens signature heater. He had an above average curveball, which he could throw ahead or behind in the count, but, again, it wasn’t the curveball of the ages. Then he had a changeup. His arm action sold it as a fastball, and it was an out pitch that left the strikeout victim muttering on the way back to the dugout.

Radke changed speeds well, and he also pitched to the corners. He liked to start a hitter with a strike that might glide just low enough to fool him. Then another strike, this one biting the inside. Third pitch was often well outside, and plenty of batters chased it. Radke moved the ball left and right, up and down, fast and slow. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Many pitchers try to overwhelm with power, but Radke was very Greg Maddux-like in his craft.

Radke had two crucial flaws, and they got larger toward the end of his career. He let hitters get under the ball, and this could lead to easy outfield plays. It could also lead to home runs. It often led to home runs. It led to some home runs in playoff games that Radke, and all Twins fans, would prefer not to recall. (Oakland, Anaheim. . . )

His other flaw was pretty puzzling. It always seemed like more a statistical anomaly than a real trait, but year after year it only grew more prominent. Radke could not get through the first inning without giving up runs. I don’t have the stats at my command, but I have a well-formed memory of seeing him stake the opposing team to a lead game after game. It didn’t always sink the Twins, but playing with your back to the wall is never desirable. He tried everything to shake this bugbear, shuffling his game-starting routine in myriad ways, but there was something about starting a game that just made him crazy. If he didn’t allow a score in the first, all the Twins fans sighed with relief and assumed he’d march on to the win; certainly the odds swung all the way round into his favor.

Radke was otherwise a solid pitcher, capable of going deep in games and deep into the season. He pitched over 200 innings nine of his twelve years, and the injuries that prevented him the other times were severe. The high inning consumption rate was one reason I located him when trolling for players on my first fantasy team. I latched onto Radke for fantasy baseball and lived and died with his every start. It was watching Radke that got me watching the Twins. When he retired three years ago, I wasn’t truly sure I’d stay a fan, but here I am. Here I am, watching Kevin Slowey pitch with quite a bit of Radke about him.

Point three: Radke pitched well when it counted, and boosted the Twins into the playoffs four times. He won 20 games in 1997, though he never came close in subsequent years. It was his stellar season, and he came in third in the Cy Young voting behind the roadblock of Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.

He pitched when he hurt, working through a torn labrum and stress fracture in his shoulder in his final season. He pitched hurt and he pitched hard and I’d like to interpret his work as pitching with heart. From all I could see, he was committed to the Twins and his teammates.

So perhaps I have made a sufficiently airtight case for you to understand why I named my cat Radley as a concatenation of Bradley and Radke. I doubt I’ve persuaded you that Radke belongs in the hall of fame. I couldn’t put him there myself—a career 4.22 ERA and merely average W-L and WHIP means that Radke stands out for durability more than dazzle.

Still, among Twins, he’s a standout, ranking third in wins and fourth in strikeouts among Twins pitchers. Saturday night, he was inducted into the Twins own Hall of Fame. That means a vinyl banner hangs in the Metrodome for the last 40 or so games to be played there. I hope a less plastic-based shrine awaits him in the new park.

As Radke would say later to the TV commentators Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, as soon as he heard in January that he would be called to the Twins Hall, the need to make a speech was on his mind. It must have weighed heavily. While he was still playing, I heard an anecdote that once Radke and two other Twins player were asked into the TV booth for a little interview and commentary. They were there for ten minutes or so. And when it was all over, the Twins players realized that Radke hadn’t said a word.

But Saturday night, Radke did just fine. He spoke haltingly, and with some emotion, thanking teammates, friends, and fans. Nothing special, just your standard sports hero clichés, but Radke is so sincere that you pause to listen. To listen and to remember him playing, playing with dignity and that stoicism that was the closest he could get to joy.

Just a few bits of flashback video brought it all back to me—the high leg kick, sure, and the downward follow through. But I also remembered what they edited out, his inessential motions on the mound. There was the pointed toe scuffing the dirt in a sharp line, and the look down into the glove. His earnest, impassive face. Radke at peace with his pitching skills, a picture I want to keep forever.

The game following the short induction ceremony was a Twins loss. The White Sox, powered by four runs batted in by Jim Thome, won 8-7. The game had some zigs and zags, but the Twins were always chasing a White Sox lead.

They closed in a couple times, most notably using the bottom of the ninth to pull within one run. Even with two out, a tie seemed possible, but Chicago closer Bobby Jenks finally shut them down.

The Twins are back at their all-too-familiar .500 mark, and have won only three of eight against the Sox so far this season. It was a loss, but I enjoyed tipping my cap to Brad Radke once again.

At the Midpoint

It’s midseason and the Twins still have hopes for winning the division, so what kind of trades should they consider? If I were GM Bill Smith, what would I do?

There are some weaknesses among the position players, but few are glaring. The team not only has the most glorious of catchers, they have a neat backup package in young, slick-hitting Jose Morales and seasoned, gritty-hitting Mike Redmond.

First base is also solved, though I beg the Twins to go easy on letting Cuddyer sub for Morneau when he’s given a day off; Cuddyer tracks fly balls well but is prone to errors at first. But that’s not a large problem, because Morneau has proved to be particularly injury-resistant.

Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert trade off at second. Both are good, committed fielders. Both have put their hearts and souls into trying to hit the Twins way. And neither can build a batting average much above .220. They are not the table-setters, the piranhas, of last season. Alexi Casilla, who is still toiling in the minors after an exceptionally disappointing start to the season, could be the answer, so trading for another second baseman may not be crucial. And as a true Punto fan, I want to see him get every chance. But cold, hard calculation says we should look at what’s available.

Brendan Harris is not going to appear on a lot of fantasy teams, but his .274 average includes a few clutch hits, timely sacrifices, and that sweet triple only last night. He’s no juggernaut, but his baseball intelligence sometimes gives him an edge in dueling with pitchers. He’s got good range in the field and plays all out. Yes, he’s no Ian Kinsler, but he’s not going to be the sole reason we miss the postseason.

At third, Joe Crede solves a long-standing problem, provided his balky back doesn’t keep him out of the lineup. Buscher is his backup, and he is several notches down as both a fielder and a hitter. The best solution here would be a prospect ready to come up from the farm, because Crede doesn’t need replacing so much as he needs a chiropractic breakthrough.

In the outfield, we have both surfeit and shortage. Carlos Gomez and Denard Span are both fantastic centerfielders. Gomez has something Sports Center-worthy almost every night, but then again, he may be a bit too self-conscious about pulling off the Web Gem tumble/wall smash/Spiderman leap. He’s prone to showing off his arm by missing the cutoff man or hurling way off line just to launch a rocket. In short, no discipline, limited experience, fantastic potential. At the plate, Gomez veers toward liability. An ultralight hitter, he can also misjudge the game situation. Lately, he’s been making better contact, but Gomez is a better defensive sub than starting player.

Span is turning into a formidable leadoff man. He can get on base, and look at a lot of pitchers to do so. He can steal bases and motor out triples, and consistently shows baseball wisdom as a situational hitter. He’s an above-average fielder, though he can’t match Gomez’s exciting plays.

The Twins have lately been dealing with the Gomez/Span overflow in centerfield by planting Span in left. This dislodges Delmon Young for DH duty or bench time. It’s already July, and the main thing I can say about Young is that perhaps he’s about to put together a little run to boost his power stats or average. It still hasn’t happened. Might soon, but hasn’t yet.

Michael Cuddyer holds down right field. His .280 average is solid, and his .513 SLG is behind only Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel. Cuddy’s significance extends past his stats, for he’s the prime right-handed power threat in the lineup. He and Crede are needed to keep pitchers honest and managers guessing about the relief sequence.

There are two basic outfield lineups, one that drops Young and one that shuffles out Gomez. Young can DH, but Gomez is at best a pinch bunter. All the outfielders have something to contribute, but a bold commitment toward the postseason might take the form of letting go of Young and bringing in a big and consistent bat. Span moves to center and Gomez appears as a defensive replacement. Cuddy stays in right.

That’s one way to look at it, player by player. But the real problem isn’t that Punto, Harris, Tolbert, Buscher, Gomez, and Young are especially woeful. It’s that, collectively, we have a lineup with a lot of soft spots. Harris would be a fine shortstop if his batting average were surrounded with some power; Punto wouldn’t be a problem at second if his were offset, et cetera. The trouble is, we have six players who need excuses, and that’s too many.

I can justify each one individually, and I can note that building a team out of offensive stats alone ignores both defense and team chemistry. The Twins are at or near the league top in avoiding errors, and all the players in question (except Young) are a major part of the reason why. One only guesses at clubhouse intangibles, but all these players hustle and commit hard enough to earn respect.

So, what should the GM do? I haven’t seen a World Series won yet with a team that’s merely a dream roster. The Tigers, by the way, tried that last year, and the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Angels, Cubs, and Dodgers play a version each season. (For a little though experiment, imagine Brendan Harris on the Yankees. Even as Derek Jeter’s backup, it’s just not fathomable.)

That’s not to say any of those free-spending teams aren’t well-poised to win the Word Series, but to observe that none of them are a lock merely because of their offensive stats. We have so many tools for evaluating individual players, but little helps us understand a team. Even the stats that project runs created or potential wins still analyze individual players. What makes the team win?

So I stopped myself from making excuses on an individual basis to try to see the team. We really do have one or two too many slap hitters. But I’m far from feeling sure I know which one to jettison. And after watching just about as many losses as wins, the problems cannot be heaped at second, short, or left. The team can win with the roster already in place. The tangible problem has been rickety relief pitching, but that’s one of the hardest things to trade for successfully.

As a fantasy GM, I have nothing more than a firm command of the obvious. But as a fan, I have a lot of hope that we won’t make any desperate trades that mortgage the future, and that the changes will bring back last year’s scrappiness, not try to forego it with a simple dose of power.

[game 64] New York Basbeall

The Twins are doing a fine job of winning without me. They beat the Cubs 2-0. Rookie Anthony Swarzak got his second win by holding the Cubs to 4 hits over 7 innings. Outstanding work, but the current wave of injuries will require the Twins to send Swarzak back to the minors for a while as they call up catcher Jose Morales. Michael Cuddyer is now out a while with his slow-to-heal right finger, and Denard Span remains on the DL with dizziness the injury report doesn’t clarify further. Swarzak will be back. Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel got the RBIs, and the Twin are finally doing well on the road.

I sampled another game today, with the Twins under their usual Fox Saturday blockade and me trying to reexamine this blog’s mission by visiting new teams. And I really haven’t been getting out much—I didn’t know JJ Putz was on the DL until it came up in passing during game two of the Mets-Yankees Subway Series.

I decided to let Fox clobber me with New York baseball, the only games they ever want to broadcast. It infuriates me that to Fox there is baseball, and then there is Yankee baseball. The idea that the Yankees somehow play a different game because they have more local fans and a bigger payroll is ultimately insulting to any baseball fan. But ratings are all Fox cares about, and you get them when you control the broadcast in the NY metro area.

The new Yankee Stadium looked the most filled I’ve seen it so far. The Yankees have re-priced some tickets in an admission that a single baseball game is not, really, a luxury item that should cost a week’s salary to witness in person. But I suspect the prime seat-filling force was the Mets fans, eager to see how many home runs their team could hit in this homer-happy ballpark. The answer today: two.

In New York, you play baseball, and then hope you can thread your way through the newspaper and sportstalk coverage. I have some built-in bias toward the value of the press, but I have to admit that they load up on

impossible, baited questions in what really aren’t interviews but pure efforts to waylay players into making sensational quotes.

In New York, this is intensified because there are more outlets dissecting every play and every statement, and because the criticism is harsher. The theory seems to be, the more millions a player earns, the more unforgivable his errors. I have my own set of irrational player loathings, but I don’t delight in seeing Manny Ramirez belittled, or in hearing Kevin Youkilis sound like a dolt. (Well, maybe I find a little joy in the latter, but I try to take the long, compassionate view.) But sportschat is all about righteous indignation, the negative emotion that gives such a big energy boost.

In this context, we have the sorrows of Luis Castillo. Castillo is quite familiar to Twins fans. GM Terry Ryan scooped him up when he was overlooked after a bad year or two for the Marlins, and he proved to be one of the big finds of the 2006 season, for any team. He played so well that the Twins could keep him only until the middle of the 2007 season. The Mets swooped in with their millions and he was gone.

Castillo is an excellent second baseman. Just today I saw him cover a great distance to snare a line drive from Derek Jeter. He got the ball falling forward, nearly about to take a header, and facing to right field. He switched direction and got the throw off to first and missed getting Jeter by inches. It was a heroic effort, though a run did score. I mention it because it reminds me of the energy Castillo always shows in the field.

Last night, the Subway Series opened with the Mets on their way to humiliating their crosstown rivals. Always a satisfying prospect, if you happen to be the humiliator, not the humiliatee. It’s the ninth inning, and ace closer Francisco Rodriguez has two outs. Derek Jeter is on second and Mark Teixeira is on first, and the Yanks are down 7-8.

Alex Rodriguez hits a simple pop-up and Castillo, who knows how or why, lets the ball bounce out of his glove.

Two runs score and the Mets lose and the full, painful extent of baseball possibilities is once again visited. Yes, players will miss easy pop-ups. It will happen so rarely that it will seem they owe us a bigger than usual apology, but it will happen.

Today, Castillo fields just fine, gets two hits, and the Mets cruise to a beefy 6-2 victory behind Fernando Nieve. One of the truly useful qualities in any sport is that playing well demands that you shake off mistakes. When they talk about handy life lessons from gym class, this is actually what they mean. The ability to bounce back from an error is probably more important than the skill that got you into the sport in the first place. Luis Castillo bounced back.

As we expected he would. But consider the case of Chuck Knoblauch (another former Twin, of all things), who inexplicably began to make wild throws from second base for the Yankees. It became a destructive mindset, and Knoblauch left baseball unable to cure it.

I don’t envy the players for the Mets and Yankees. The pressure would so quickly obliterate the pleasures of baseball that you would lose everything except the chance for glory. How much fun can baseball actually be for A-Rod? For Johan Santana?

But perhaps it will be enough for Luis Castillo that he can shake off Friday night’s mistake and go back to playing the way he’s always capable of playing. Stay loose, Luis.

[game 50] Sugar

I read other blogs and comments, you know. I know what this type of sports chat is supposed to sound like. And I know I don’t measure up.

I lack the clarity, the fury, and the venom necessary to meet reader expectations.

Since beginning this, I knew I would be writing more timidly and more naively than is appropriate for sports. I am too in awe of the players, too respectful of their skills, and too removed from doing anything remotely comparable myself. I see the players as entertaining us, yes, and that gives me a certain license to cheer or boo. But I keep seeing them as people too.

Sport is interesting to me because it presents a simplified, vivid version of many of life’s great trials. There is glory and self-doubt, daring and caution, discipline and freedom, self-knowledge and blind faith, individual and team, winning and losing, vengeance and compassion, competitive fire and pure exhaustion. Every element of a sport involves testing limits—can it be done faster, better, longer? The limits come both from history and from each individual. Are you good enough?

That’s the question echoing in every stadium and sand lot. Are you good enough? When I watch baseball or any other sport, I am looking for the same bedtime story I always want to hear: if I try hard enough, and practice, and believe in myself, I am good enough.

Ah, but what is good enough? Sports is serious, a business in more ways than one. There is a vast infrastructure out there devoted to finding what might be talent, chipping at it a little, polishing it some, denting it, turning and twisting it until it’s more recognizable, and controlling it until it gives the finders what they want.

Principally they want money out of it, but what we see as these nets are cast and hauled up and cast again is the journey from raw ability to excellence. We see, or think we see, the crystallization of competitive hierarchy, in which the worthy are rewarded and the excess cast aside.

In baseball, the widest hierarchy extends from the rookie leagues to the majors. At every stage, the players are ranked. At many stages, the players have to be ranked very quickly, very efficiently perhaps. But even though we have perfected the means of finding the least raw scrap of talent and giving it some kind of audition, our mechanism is a bit overloaded. Coaches and scouts don’t have long enough to nurture each player, or find out what’s needed to overcome a flaw. Classifying the flaw is enough. Detect it and move on.

What would it feel like to have a remarkable, unusual skill but only be able to tap it unpredictably? If you are trying to be hitter, and in the course of a week hit two homers and then stumble through strikeouts and singles and grounding into double plays the rest of the week, what do you tell yourself? That you’re the greatest home run hitter ever? That you will be? That you will be if you could just do something three times in a row that, currently, you can only do when you are barely expecting it?

This is why my blog lacks the zestful condemnation of the Twins when they fail. (They failed, tonight. Scott Baker was pitching, and lost to the Rays, 5-3.) What would it be like to be Scott Baker, to pitch well a good deal of the time, but not in any way always. (Tonight, the sixth inning was the problem, in the form of a three-run homer from Evan Longoria.)

Not just tonight, but every night. Not just in the majors, but at every stage from college ball to Triple A. To be in the zone a while, and then out of it again, over-thinking, over-throwing, losing the release point that is such a subtle element of your mechanics that it can come and go when your brain and body are focused on nothing else. But still, it eludes you for a moment. Gone again, then back. Then gone.

How would it feel to know that facts support both your highest opinion of yourself, and your lowest? That you can throw 96 miles per hour, and that you can’t anyone out? That you held a team scoreless for six innings and then gave up three runs? How do you reconcile these truths?

And how would it feel to be competing every minute? To know that your success requires someone else’s failure, and as you rise through the minors, your friends will have to do the failing to let you through? How would it feel to have someone grading every element of your efforts, and seeing your work so dispassionately that the ability itself is lost under the microscopic scrutiny? To know that no error is forgiven?

We admire our sports heroes, and we love them, but I’m not sure we really would trade places if we could. I’m musing on these points tonight because for a full month I’ve been watching Joe Mauer sail along with such ease, adding power to his arsenal as he excels in almost very game. But, over the last few days, he’s looked a good deal more mortal. He has made little mistakes, normal, little mistakes. How would it feel to wrap your hands around the bat the same way you do every night and then swing just a little late or just a little high or just a little wrong, and not know where your skill went?

(Let it be noted that Mauer had a single, double, and triple tonight and once again resembles the idealized baseball player.)

I’m also musing like this because I’ve taken a night off from the Twins to watch the movie Sugar. It’s the story of a pitcher from the Dominican Republic who travels through some of the stages leading to the major leagues. It’s a fine film on many counts, but it especially reminded me of why this blog is doomed to be wimpy. I keep seeing the players as characters, and tragic ones often as not.

See Sugar. It will make you think about what it takes to get to the bigs today. In baseball, player supply exceeds demand. For thousands of hopeful ballplayers, that means picking through a minefield and facing more failure than most anyone can endure. It’s a bittersweet film, and you can draw your own conclusion about whether the ending is hopeful or sad. It let me step aside from baseball as I think I know it and see it a different way, so I found something wonderful there.