Cliff Notes Guide to the 2014 Minnesota Twins: "The Insistant Tune of a Broken Violin on a Summer Afternoon"
Like Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby or the Narrator in Proust's In Search of Lost Time the Twins are party-goers without an ounce of composure or self-reliance. Hidden away in a corner of their stadium until the final moments, they emerge just in time to see the celebration end. Yet when everyone leaves, the team collapses into a disheartened funk. Pulling themselves out of the doldrums to win just 3 of the next 10 games, leaving their fans disappointed and the team itself broken.
But, in a cruel twist of fate, the team is not allowed to creep back into anonymity, awaiting another spring and fresh start. Instead they are subjected to an extended August road trip, through the repeated self-flagellation of sporadic hitting and consistently implosive pitching. Moments of triumph (including an outburst of 32 runs against a vaunted Tigers team) are tempered by the now blatantly inverted hierarchy of the team's past glory, as former fools and patsies the Kansas City Royals repeatedly batter the squad.
Kendrys Morales/Sam Fuld/Kevin Correia/Josh Willingham--These chapters are often paired together because they feature the departures of four previously significant characters. Each of these characters was fraught with contradictions that are both enticing to some readers and maddening to others (witness the previously mentioned Morales and his dualism: i.e. symbol of contender status/presence on a losing team). Tellingly, when each character exits the team clubhouse these moments aren't regarded with celebration, despair, or even much surprise. Instead they appear to be the annual sacrifices to whatever deity drives Twins' Baseball operations: a constant memento mori for their teammates and a simple transaction to their fans.
Bam-Bam & Dan-San
Kennys Vargas/Danny Santana--While all the fixation on veterans around the trade deadline, and in the departure gates of the Minnesota airports serves to bring a glowering gloom over everyone, two of the most prominent replacements offer hope and opportunity. Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana (substituting in for Kendrys Morales/Sam Fuld respectively) also feature prominently in this volume's awareness of cultural differences, shifting the clubhouse away from non-descript veteran white guys to young latino players, a mirroring of the nation's demographics as a whole.
Trevor May--While Vargas and Santana emerge as options within the line-up, May is an intriguing study in the cyclical nature of expectations and reactions. Prior to the expulsion of Correia, a great many fans were clamoring for May's ascendency to the major league roster. Upon his arrival, May sputters, gags, and behaves precisely as you would expect an uncertain young man to behave. In his (admittedly small) sample of performance, he appears to be every bit the mockable man that the aforementioned Correia was, providing the clearest link between this team and the second section of TS Eliot's "Portrait of a Lady "--from which the title came.
Kurt Suzuki--The other figure with the clearest gain from these two months is new catcher Kurt Suzuki. One of the two Twins to attend the aforementioned awkward all-star party, Suzuki parlayed his early success to fondness from fans and a long term contract. However, these moments of growth and personal victory are balanced by the knowledge that many other longer-term Twins signing (including the recently departed Willingham) have collapsed.
Key Quotes/Stats Explained
Cumulative WAR for Morales/Fuld/Correia/Willingham-- 1.1
Cumulative WAR for Vargas/Santana/May/Schafer-- 2.7
WAR (or Wins Above Replacement) is often the go to quote/stat for fans to trot out, yet the creation of the number is a rather complicated and differ depending on which equation (or translation of the equation you cite).
Generally speaking, things that positions players do to create runs (including drawing walks, getting various kinds of hits, and stealing bases) are multiplied by their relative weight or importance (home runs matter more than singles, etc.) and adjusted in relationship to their position on the field (with center fielders/short stops getting greater credit than first basemen and DHs). Those positive numbers are compared to the average player in the league to create a viable means of judging one player against another. [Meanwhile pitchers are judged almost entirely on preventing runs, largely through runs allowed during their innings pitched]. While the best players might have a +8 WAR, the average starter would be around 2, while the average bench player would be between 0 and 1.9
Within these chapters the Twins removed four players from consistent play and gave their time to four others. The four who left totaled 1.1 (though Kendrys Morales' -0.7 pulled that down significantly), while the four who stepped up totaled 2.7 (again undermined by Trevor May's -0.9). The broad take away is that, even though it does not translate into immediate results in the "win column", this shift is for the best for the Twins and their team. However, the net gain amongst hitters (+2.5) fails to compensate for the net loss from Correia to May (-0.7).
Literary Term to Impress your Teacher/Attractive English Major Friend: Mmm...that's a good pastiche
Our recent literary and cultural history has leaned heavily on satire and parody. The Daily Show uses satire to deliver a pointed critique on common styles of tv news programs. The "Scary Movie" franchise uses parody to expand on cliches and tropes in horror movies to the point of making them explode in absurdity.
But the Twins' use neither of these, preferring instead to use pastiche, which again uses styles and habits of others, but does so for the purpose of honoring and complimenting the initial creator, rather than mocking them. Like TS Eliot--whose "Portrait of a Lady" poem builds off of Henry James, Christopher Marlowe and Jules Lafourge--these chapters of the Twins' 2014 season pay homage to the wealth of talented athletes who played on the field during the all-star game, and the restarted franchises who regained their talent through creative destruction.
- Don't Feed the Greed Guy and hybridbear like this