Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Beef

My buddy Jason selected Sir Sidney Ponson of the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round (of 28) of the Heart of a Champion Fantasy Baseball League draft. By that point of the day, five hours into 12 dudes sitting in a living room on a Saturday afternoon, drinking beer and picking players for our pretend teams, it was a fun, low-risk pick. Jason proudly defended his pick, "I have faith in Meatloaf!" And just like that, a nickname was born.

A week or so earlier, my fiance Maria and I were at a dinner party hosted by our friends Morgan and Steve. Several bottles of wine into the evening, after the other guests had left, we retired to their living room where Steve and I began discussing our upcoming fantasy draft and baseball in general. At some point, we remembered that we never did make it to a Twins game together last year, despite assurances from both sides that it was going to happen. By the end of the night, Steve had gone online and purchased tickets for the first game of the Twins only 2007 home series against the New York Yankees.

Of course, when the tickets were bought we had no way of knowing that our game would be Ponson's Twins debut. Hell, even as of Friday afternoon we were lined up to watch Boof Bonser open the Yankees series. After Friday night's freeze-out in Chicago reshuffled the Twins rotation, though, Ponson was exactly what we'd get.

Sure enough, the Yankees jumped on Meatloaf early with their bats out of hell. Johnny Damon doubled, Derek Jeter singled, Bobby Abreu singled, Jorge Posada doubled (on a ball poorly played by Jason Kubel), and before many had even found their seats, the Yankees led 3-0.

In the top of the second inning, with Damon on first and two out, Abreu worked the count full and the crowd responded by standing up, getting behind Meatloaf with the most encouraging cheering of the night. Meatloaf responded with a nice fat cookie that Abreu creamed about 800 feet to right field to make the score 5-0.

Ponson settled down for the next three innings, even winning me over a bit by hitting Jeter in the nutcup with a fastball in the fourth inning. I was pretty surprised, though, after the Twins finally put a run on the board in the bottom of the fifth, to see Meatloaf sent out for a sixth inning of work. Sure, he had a decent groove going for a few innings, but his pitch count was already in the mid-80s. I had a bad feeling, which held true after an Alex Rodriguez blast to the opposite field made the score 8-1. Gardy came out to get Meatloaf, who exited to a chorus of boos.

I don't think the boos were necessary. Gardy said in a soundbite on the news tonight, "Meatloaf pitched his butt off for us tonight." (OK, fine, Gardy didn't really call him Meatloaf. We're workin' on it, though!) And he did. The problem is, Ponson is just not a very good pitcher.

I don't really care about Meatloaf's checkered past - his multiple DUIs, his assault of an Aruban judge, his childish boycott of the Baltimore media. I'm all for last chances, and I love a good sports comeback story as much as anybody. I'd love to see Ponson turn his career around with the Twins and I'm willing to give him opportunities against lineups less potent than the Yankees. I want him to surprise me, but I can't help but have a bad feeling about his long-term results with the Twins - a magnification of the bad feeling I had when he rolled out for the sixth inning tonight.

And while I've come to understand the Twins conservative roster nature, I still don't agree with serving 30 year old Meatloaf every five days when we have 23 year old prime beefcake in the minor leagues.

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