As a rule, I’m pretty much of a many-routes-to-the-same-outcome person. Just because I’d do something one way doesn’t mean it’s the only way it has to be done. I like to think of it as a strength, and that it gives the times when I get bullheaded more credibility.
So I’m not sayin’ that Johan should have absolutely, definitely, without doubt been kept in the game Sunday afternoon. But baseball’s best pitcher reinforced his status by yielding only one hit in 7 innings, a sloppy end-of-the-bat single by Joe Crede, and he retired the final 17 White Sox he faced. And there were 9 strikeouts and only 4 fly outs and the biggest bashers in the opposing lineup (Konerko/Thome/Dye/Crede) went 1-for-10 with 2 walks and Johan finished the 7th by totally wasting Crede and AJ Pierbratzski … and he threw 97 pitches while working with the extra day’s rest that he’d asked for. Innings 3 through 7 were highlight-reel stuff for Cooperstown, or for a documentary contesting global warming. Johan was that hot.
I am sayin’ that by the time I wake up tomorrow morning I’d like to hear or read some discussion (or at least acknowledgment) of Ron Gardenhire’s decision. It wasn’t going on in the TV booth today as Dick ‘n’ Bert, who have a combined total of 242 complete games in their major-league careers, didn’t bring it up. By the end, I was longing even for one of Blyleven’s cursory references to “how the game has changed” over the years, and maybe pointing out that Santana pitched only 1 complete-game in ’06 — and that came during a loss.
But 17 batters in a row with the bottom of the order coming up (8/9/1) and the best starter in baseball on the mound?
On Opening Night, when Johan struggled, he didn’t come out for the 7th after the Twins spent a long time at bat in the 6th. Understandable, even if he threw only 83 pitches that night. Maybe Gardy’s decision had something to do with an increased focus on keeping Johan at 100 percent physically. What would have Gardy’s call been in Crede hadn’t blooped his ridiculous single and Johan had a no-hitter after 7? How much can the Twins expect from their ace starter, or any of them, in their second outing of the season? Did any of their starters throw more pitches the first time out? (Yup: Boof 100, Ortiz 98.) Was there concern about bringing in a reliever mid-inning if Johan did get into some trouble in the 8th? And I’m never going to question a decision to bring in Joe Nathan for the 9th.
I’m wondering if those questions came up for discussion on the radio with Gordo&Gladden. Or on WGN’s telecast. Or during your post-Easter living-room discussion, when someone wasn’t grabbing for the remote to watch the Masters. Can anyone fill me in on whether there was a discussion like this:
Me: I was surprised they took Johan out.
She: Why? It was cold and his pitch count was getting up there.
Me: Well, Boof and Ortiz threw more pitches in their first outings.
She: They’ve won a combined 0 Cy Youngs.
Me: That’s my point. He’s the best. He could have finished ‘em off.
She: No, they need to treat Johan with extra care. He’s precious, precious, precious.
That kind of discussion/debate/disagreement is what makes baseball (and she) so great.
(Hey, it was fun to see the 40 or so folks who came to the Twins bloggers’ gathering Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Buffalo Wild Wings in Crystal for setting up some tables. We’ll have to do it again sometime. The game wasn’t much, but watching Aaron Gleeman autograph a baseball for one of his fans was worth the price of the wings!)