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Chapter 2: Duel of the Fates

Greggory Masterson



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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 chapters can be read out of order, but if you want to start at the beginning, click here.



Sonny did not get on I69 leaving Houston.
“It is a nice highway,” he had said to no one in particular.
Instead, he hopped on I45 north to Dallas. It was 10 o’clock, post meridiem, when he left Luis at the airport. If he powered through the night, he could make it to 1 Twins Way before Rocco left work for the day. Rocco was never the first one in or the last one out.

His favorite YouTube talk show had released a few more episodes that day. He was able to listen to them in consecutive order on auto play until he reached Overland Park, Kansas, at 10 o’clock the next morning. They told it like it is, as always. He stopped there to check his phone, since, as mentioned before, Sonny Gray does not look at his phone while driving.
     “Darn, it was just one episode on repeat for 12 hours,” he muttered. Sometimes that happened to him. The points they raise are eternal.
     Sonny sat in the Overland Park rest stop for a few minutes, using his phone to do some recon on the Marlins pitchers. When he pulled up the Wikipedia page on Pablo López, he knew he had struck gold. It read, López graduated high school at age 16, where he became fluent in English, Italian and Portuguese, and was then accepted into medical school.
     “Perfect,” said Sonny. “A nerd.”
     López would provide the perfect foil. He could speak the language of the elitists in the front office, who were not actually very smart, but he also had the arm to pitch 180 innings. As the guy on the A Team once said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Sonny spent the last six hours of the drive rehearsing his lines. He pulled into the Target Field parking lot and sat in his pickup to gather himself.
     “Am I really going to break bad?” he asked himself. He decided to call Mrs. Sonny Gray for a word of encouragement.
     “Sonny? Where are you?” she asked. “You were supposed to be here this morning to flip tires.”
     “Wife,” he said, “I am here in Minneapolis to have a stern talking with Rocco. I just need a little encouragement.”
     “I am very proud of you and forgive you for calling me Jezebel yesterday. I know you are a good man who is under a lot of stress at work. You need to tell that Mister Baldelli that this is outrageous, it’s unfair. He will listen to you.”
     “That is great advice, thank you. Goodbye.”

Sonny put on Luis’s pork pie hat, even though it did not match his own suit. Sonny was not one for caring about fashion sensibilities. He walked into the stadium and made his way to the manager’s office.
     “Hello, Mister Gray,” said Herb, the security guard.
     “Herb, there’s not enough time in this chapter for a subplot involving me asking about your family to show how swell of a fella I am.”
     “Understood, Mister Gray, have a nice day.”
     When he got to Rocco Baldelli’s office, Rocco had his face in a 1999 Gateway desktop computer. Cheap Pohlad wouldn’t buy him anything newer. He was looking at a spreadsheet.
     “Good afternoon, Mister Baldelli,” said Sonny as he politely knocked on the skipper’s door.”
     “Sonny,” Rocco started, “A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Good to see ya. But how many times have I asked you to call me Roc?”
     “Sorry, err, Roc, I am just used to treating my superiors with more respect.”
     “Well anyway, what can I do ya for? It’s 4:11, which is pretty close to 5, so I was hoping to get out of here soon. Actually it’s good you came by. I was just looking at the spreadsheet, and we are going to be bringing back your old friend Gary Sanchez to catch again this year. The spreadsheet says his underlying numbers were better than his performance last year, and because we’re smarter than the fans, we know we can fix him. We raised his catcher framing metrics to the 50th percentile last year, after all.”
     Sonny’s ears may have had smoke coming out of them, or it may have been the—uh—burning sage sitting on Rocco’s desk, I can’t tell. He mustered up all the diplomacy he had. He had to talk his way out of throwing to Gary Sanchez ever again in his life.
     “Well, Roc,” he said, “What about Jeffers? He’s a good young buck, and with the Vázquez signing, I don’t see how he finds playing time.”
     “I totally hear where you’re coming from, but a team can never have too many catchers. What if the first two get hurt?”
     That was a good point. Sonny began to settle down a bit.
     “And anyway,” Rocco continued, “We’re going to teach Jeffers how to play first base. It’s not that hard.”
     “It’s incredibly hard,” Sonny replied. “Don’t you know anything about the human element? These guys aren’t pixels you can print off your calculator!”

Now was the time to strike. Rocco was already slinking in his chair. Whenever anyone raised their voice around him, he would lose feeling in his extremities, like all people from Massachusetts.
     “And another thing!” Sonny continued. “We’re going to be trading for a frontline starting pitcher, since you didn’t pony up to sign one in free agency.”
     “Now, Sonny,” Rocco started, “You know that the spreadsheet says starting pitchers are not good free agent investments. And you know we traded most of our prospects to Cincinnati last year for Tyler Mahle, who tells us his arm is going to be reattached any day now, and we believe him. We were thinking about a reunion with old friend Michael Pineda. Would you be okay with that? He was good with the Yankees seven years ago, and we think we can fix him.
     Sonny had heard enough.
     “No. You’re trading for Pablo López, who is a nerd like you.” He withheld that he was also a certified workhorse.
     “We don’t have the prospect capital to do that.”
     “You have Arraez. Trade him.” Sonny was breaking bad. “It’s not like he will hit .400! And he’s just a first baseman. You can get another one!”
     “You mean like Jeffers?”
     “No, a real one!”
     “Sonny, I like you, but you can’t just come in here and demand something like that. I need to consult the spreadsheet and the fine men upstairs who make my decisions for me. There is little precedent for a MLB player swap like this, so we need to do some intense statistical analysis with logarithmic bimodal integer network regression.”
     “I don’t want to hear about your analytics! We need to settle this like men,” Sonny said. He left Rocco’s office and walked down to the clubhouse.
     “Wait, Sonny!” Rocco called after him. “I need to get Derek and Thad’s permission to leave the office! I’m a puppet, remember?”
     “I’ll be back,” Sonny replied.
     “Oh like the line in the Terminator?”
     “I don’t know, I don’t have time for watching sci-fi movies. I spend my time working out and watching World War II documentaries like a man.”

When Sonny returned, he held two bats. He tossed Rocco the 29 ounce bat and kept the 37 ounce bat for himself. Rocco shielded his face with his arms and brought up his knees as the bat clattered to the floor.
     “Careful,” Rocco said. “You know I don’t have good hand-eye coordination.
     “We’re going to fight for this, Rocco. Like men.”
     “Sonny, this isn’t fair. You know that I’ve never picked up a bat. I’m a nerd after all.”
     “Too bad. This is a duel of the fates of my teammates. Your reign of terror has gone on for too long.”
     “Oh, Duel of the Fates, I know that reference. Let me pull it up on my iPod.”
     Sonny swung the bat down on Rocco’s desk, shattering the iPod, saying, “Enough of this nerd garbage. I don’t make references, I make championships.”
     “I had 1,283 songs on that and iTunes shut down a few years ago!” Rocco was finally angry. It was good to see this side of him. He picked up the light bat. “I will do what I must.”

Sonny swung the heavy bat. He swung and he swung and he swung, but he struggled to connect. Rocco was shifty, and although he never swung himself, he kept moving, dodging and deflecting each of Sonny’s hacks. Sonny was a pitcher after all, but pitchers are still the best athletes on the field. Eventually, the sparring devolved into a chase round and round Rocco’s desk, as Rocco smartly kept the desk between the two of them.
     Sonny got an idea. He jumped atop the desk to force Rocco to make a move. What happened next surprised him. Rocco fell on his knees and dropped his bat.
     “I concede!” he wailed. “It’s over Sonny. You have the high ground. I will call Marlins GM Kim Ng and make the trade. You win."
     Sonny hopped down from the desk and pulled Rocco up.
     “Thanks, Mister Bald—err—Roc. I’m glad we could come to an agreement.”
     Rocco got to his feet and dusted himself off. Sonny began walking to the door, adjusting his pork pie hat, which had come a little crooked during the ordeal. Rocco spoke to him from behind.

“Losing Luis won’t be that big of a deal. Assistant GM Carlos Correa is negotiating a deal with Yuli Gurriel, so he can play first base.”
     Not Correa. Not now. Sonny had to think fast.
     “That’s not going to happen, either Roc. We’re signing my old friend from Cincinnati, Donovan Solano.”
     “But Sonny, you didn’t play with Donovan in Cincinnati.”
     Sonny kept his eyes forward, walking out of the room like a cool guy who doesn’t look at explosions.
     “You’re G.D. right,” he said.

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