Chapter 1: Gray Matter
The following is a fictionalized, parody, account of Sonny Gray's quest to lead a rotation that throws deep into ball games. Please do not take it seriously. It might not be your cup of tea. I hope to add a chapter every week or two through the season, so check back often.
The day was Sunday, January 15th, 2023. Minnesota Twins ACE Sonny Gray had just awoken from a pleasant night of sleep. He moved silently, rising to the mirror to tie his tie. He slept in a suit because he is all business. He had hoped not to awake his wife from her slumber.
“Sonny,” she murmured. He must have woken her up. “Is today the day?”
“No, Mrs. Sonny Gray,” replied he. “I am a mild-mannered fellow who is not one to cause a stir.”
“You need to do what’s right,” she said. “You can’t let them treat you like that.”
“Get behind me Jezebel,” he said. “I’m not going to break bad.”
“You have to break bad,” she insisted.
Sonny knew she was right.
He sat down and put one shoe on before the other, just like you and me. Then he got in his car and drove.
January 15th, 2023 was an odd date to be meeting up with the boys. There was almost exactly one month before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, and the offseason is the time to spend at home, at one’s home gym, because the guys are paid to play, not dilly-dally all offseason. But it was a special occasion today. Carlos Correa had just signed the biggest contract in Minnesota Twins history, and he was throwing a huge party at his home in Houston, and Sonny was invited.
Sonny was no fan of Carlos Correa. He was overpaid, and he had a questionable clutch gene. He waited to play well until the Twins were out of contention last year.
“And he’s a cheater, people forget that,” Gray said to no one in particular as his modest Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 ambled down I40 from Nashville. A frugal man of the people, Sonny preferred to drive rather than fly for such short a distance. He was made to live in the Midwest six months of the year.
To pass the time, Sonny connected his phone to his car and pulled up his favorite Minnesota sports talk show. They had released a new episode today. He hit play and shut the screen off, placing his phone on his lap.
Alright, boys, we have so—
The episode cut off.
“Damn Cheap Pohlad!” Gray exclaimed. “He doesn’t give us enough money to afford YouTube Premium!”
Sonny grabbed his phone, unlocked it, and hit play again, this time setting the phone in the passenger seat next to him so as to not accidentally bump it and skip elsewhere.
—me sports to get to, so let’s get going.
Sonny listened in silence for the first 37 minutes of the show, before they began to talk Twins. They were of many voices and one, each flowing seamlessly between talking points, such that a man who really wanted to feel the words was unaware when one host began articulating his point and the next began.
Alright, before we wrap up I want to get your takes on the Twins. With the signing of Carlos Correa, are you guys excited about the next chapter of Twins baseball?
I don’t care, I just want to see them win a G.D. playoff game! I won’t renew my season tickets until that happens. It’s already January and they haven’t won a single game!
“Thanks for not taking the Lord’s name in vain,” said Sonny.
Listen here, I have something to say, and that thing is this. This team will not win until some major changes occur. Rocco Baldelli has no feel for the game. Derek Levine and Thad Falvey think they’re smarter than us—
Smarter than us.
—I won’t watch a single minute of Twins baseball until I sit down with Derek and Thad and review their work. ‘Just trust me?’ Oh no—
—we’re long past that. Until they admit that I am smarter than them and show me what they did and why, I won’t give them a lick.
I can see where you’re coming from, but don’t they deserve a little benefit of the doubt, at least until the season starts?
Oh no, need I remind you that this is the team that this is the same team that makes their bullpen decisions—
—at 4 o’clock before the game even starts. The hubris of this front office is why I despise them, and Rocco—
—has no feel for the game. He pulled poor Devin Smeltzer even though he was dealing that one time! And he’s 0-18 in the playoffs! And he pulled Maeda and Berrios too early in the playoffs! And he needs a common sense coach! And he isn’t being forthcoming about Buxton’s knee!
In his defense, it’s not like he had a great staff to work with. Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy aren’t workhorses. They’re not like the Marlins guys. Well actually, I take that back, Dylan Bundy was a 4th overall pick, so he was probably mishandled in Minnesota. But that is just an indictment on Derek Falvey, who was brought in to build a pitching pipeline, and he hasn’t developed one single arm yet.
Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, J.A. Happ, The Shoe, Sam Dyson, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill.
You know, you bring up a great point, but that’s all the time we have, stay tuned for our three hour breakdown on the Viking’s pulling guard situation.
Sonny sat in silence. Although he had heard that conversation word-for-word before, it hit him a bit differently this time. Not like the Marlins guys. He’d have to look into that when he was at the next gas station, since he did not text and drive.
When he checked his phone in a Memphis rest stop, he saw something that shocked him. Four Miami starters averaged more than five innings per start last year.
“I thought that was illegal. Rocco said so.”
Last year, Sonny and Rocco had had a heated discussion behind closed doors. Sonny had wanted to throw nine innings every start, but Rocco put his foot down, saying that the spreadsheet said that it was better for him to pitch three innings. He tried to convince Baldelli to let him pitch longer into games the year before by exerting media pressure.
“I would like to pitch deep into ballgames,” he had told Joe Schmit of KSTP. “So that’s what I would like to do.”
It was all that the soft-spoken man could do at the time. Baldelli was a tyrant who ruled with an iron spreadsheet, but also a puppet of the brainiacs in the front office who had never played baseball in their lives. Maybe he did need to break bad. Maybe he needed to exert a little pressure on the team. But how?
Gray was lost in his thoughts all the way to Houston. He got to Carlos’s house punctually early, but sat in his pickup until the second guest showed up, so as to not put upon the Correa family.
The festivities were raucous that night. One backup catcher, who shall remain nameless, had a lampshade on his head. Sonny was not a man for gallivanting and lollygagging. He had to get back in the gym in the morning. He was especially annoyed when Carlos stood on the table to announce that, as assistant GM, he would be signing his old Astros buddy, Yulieski Gurriel, to a contract this year.
“Great, another cheater,” Sonny mumbled.
Luis Arraez, one of his favorite teammates, was standing next to him.
“Be careful, Mister Gray!” he said. “Carlos is a powerful man. He can make people disappear for speaking out against him and his wishes. He’s not like you, so soft-spoken and unassuming. That’s why I trust you more than anyone here.”
Luis was a sweet kid. He, like Sonny, came to the party in a suit, though his was tailored, pinstriped, and had a vest. On his head sat a pork pie hat. It really tied the look together.
“Mister Gray, since I trust you unconditionally, will you please drive me to the airport tonight? I need to be getting home.”
“Sure, Luis,” Sonny said. “I’m actually about to get going. I need to get back to Nashville for my workout tomorrow morning. The game never sleeps, you know.”
“Unlike Dan Hayes,” said Luis.
When the two got to Sonny’s pickup, he booted up his favorite sports talk show again, and skipped to the portion on the Twins.
Luis tried to make small talk, but Sonny shushed him. When it was over, Luis said, “Mister Gray, I don’t know if they’re right.”“They tell it like it is,” said Sonny. “Too many Twins fans are content with mediocrity.”
“Well,” said Luis, “The passion is nice, but they are incorrect. Rocco knows what he’s doing, and Falvine is very smart, they told me themselves.”
“Luis, you are too trusting.”
Luis took off his pork pie hat and set it on the dashboard. “I only trust the people who I know have the best intentions for me. That’s why they moved me to first base, because I am better there.”
Sonny said nothing. He was steaming from Luis not seeing the truth. Luis was really moved to first base to keep down his arbitration salaries. He tried to think of something to say, but every time he opened his mouth, he had to stop himself from saying “This is why we were 0-18 in the playoffs last year!”
When they arrived at the airport, Luis jumped out of the seat and opened the door. “Goodbye, friend,” he said. “Thank you for being someone I can trust.” He turned and shut the door.
Sonny noticed that Luis had left his hat on the dashboard. He grabbed it and rolled down his window.
Luis turned around.
“You’re a good man,” Sonny said, moving the hat off the dashboard and onto the passenger seat, outside of the view of Luis.
“Thank you Mister Gray!” he replied, before turning back and running into the airport.
Sonny examined the hat for a few minutes. Was he really going to break bad? He placed the hat on his head and looked in the mirror.
“Time to break bad.”
He began to drive.