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Target Field is in a rain delay in the bottom of the eighth with the Twins leading Arizona 2-1. It’s the smallest crowd we’ve ever seen at a Twins game, with possibly 8,000 actual fans in the stands.
There are, however, somehow two compelling story lines emerging from a game between two 90-loss teams competing on a weekday afternoon. Both involve Phil Hughes (no offense to Trevor Plouffe, who reached 80 RBI today before fracturing his forearm).
The first: Hughes has sailed through 8 innings of work today, currently sitting at 96 pitches while the tarp sits on the field. His season total is 209 2/3 innings. This is his final start of a very good year … and he has a $500,000 contract bonus if he reaches 210 innings. In other words, he needs one more out to make $500K.
Would the Twins let him go out and pitch the ninth if he sits in the dugout for an hour while the rain passes?
If he doesn’t get out there again, would they give him a bullpen appearance sometime in Detroit so he can hit his mark?
If he comes one out short, would they pay him his money anyway?
The second: Hughes very well could set the MLB record for single-season strikeout to walk ratio. He has 0 BB and 5 Ks today, meaning his season totals sit at 16 walks and 186 strikeouts — a ratio of 11.6 Ks to BBs (it was 11.3 going into today, better than Bret Saberhagen’s record of 11.0 in 1994.
However, if we walks a batter in the ninth without striking anyone out, his ratio would dip just under 11.0. If he has a walk and a strikeout while finishing the game, he would tie Saberhagen exactly at 11 even (no decimal points in either case).
UPDATES: Hughes didn’t come out to pitch the 9th, so he gets the K/BB record but falls one out short of his innings incentive. He said on postgame radio he has no plans to pitch in the bullpen at Detroit. So it’s up to the Twins now …
Steve Almond isn’t advocating a boycott of football. In fact, he still likes to toss the ball around and it’s clear he deeply misses watching a sport he compares to a work of art. But like a number of fans right now — how many, exactly, is an interesting question with no exact answer — he is conflicted about a sport that thrills him on one hand but troubles him on the other.
So he gave it up and wrote a book called “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” We caught up with him last week for a Sunday Q&A, but we also went to hear him read from the book (photo from the event taken by us) and take questions afterwards Tuesday night at The Loft in Minneapolis.
The main thing that troubles Almond is the same thing that troubles more than one of our friends: reconciling the fact that, by the NFL’s own admission, three of every 10 players will develop some sort of long-term brain problems and are far more likely than the general population to get serious problems much earlier in life.
Even if you are a passive viewer — watching only on TV — you are complicit in the NFL machine, Almond argues, because so much of the league’s revenue is derived from those massive TV contracts.
He made larger points about football as a microcosm for America and about the sport’s troubling nature in terms of gender roles, race and sexual orientation. But mostly he sparked a good discussion with an audience of 40-50 people, a good mix of men and women, old and young. Plenty of them identified as football fans. Plenty of those fans appeared equally troubled by the things with which Almond struggles.
The overriding sentiment from Almond was not trying to convince people to give up football, but rather examine their motives for watching and take a closer look at the sport they love.
Some of you might have noticed that we’ve been in the process of doing the same thing. Keeping tabs on the Vikings is part of our job, so we still watch those games on Sundays. But we’ve cut out all other NFL viewing from what often used to be a 10-hour Sunday diet. We’ve unofficially called it the Sixteen Sundays Project, and the idea is to do something special each Sunday with the reclaimed time.
For Almond, the tipping point was brain injuries. For us, for some reason, it was a growing sense of distrust that came with the handling of the Ray Rice case. Maybe for us this sense will be fleeting. Maybe it will be permanent. But that’s where we are now.
Either way, we are not advocating you quit or cut down on your consumption. Free will is a beautiful thing, and so is football.
But if you are having trouble reconciling your fandom in light of recent events, you should also know you aren’t alone — and that some honest reflection, while a little frightening in that it will take you out of a comfort zone, can be a healthy thing.
The defense isn’t much better, no matter how many night school classes Dom Capers attends.
And now we get the dreaded “don’t worry, it will all be fine” from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is running for his life behind a patchwork offensive line. Per Rodgers’ radio show today:
“Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packer-land: R-E-L-A-X,” Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “Relax. We’re going to be OK.”
Here’s the full audio, if you are interested in this new Increasingly Lost Season.
The Gophers were a quotable bunch at Tuesday’s media gathering, and we’d like to think Sid got everyone off on the right foot. He started by yelling at us about Christian Ponder, and he carried it over when head coach Jerry Kill came to the podium.
The good times spilled over to the portion of the access period in which we get to talk to players. Defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli and QB Chris Streveler (pictured) had notable zingers. Let’s get to it:
*Much of the focus between Saturday and now has been on a Gophers passing attack that led to just one completion in the victory over San Jose State. Part of that was because of how well Minnesota was running the ball. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, while noting that such imbalance probably won’t cut it in the Big Ten, praised Streveler for the decisions he made in the read-option game. In fact, he said it was as well as he has seen a QB run the read-option under his tutelage. Still, a QB is often judged by the passing game, and Streveler admitted he’s heard some chirping on campus this week over his 1-for-7 throwing day.
Said Streveler: “Yeah, some of my buddies class have been like ‘Hey, nice completion’ or whatever. It’s just funny. I like to joke around about it, and we got the win so it doesn’t really matter to be honest. I’ve gotten a little ribbing from that, but it’s all right.”
*Botticelli was being asked about playing at Michigan in front of a huge crowd at The Big House. He started rattling off the short list of Big Ten stadiums in which he’s never played. At the end, a reporter reminded him that Rutgers and Maryland are also on that list.
“We’re counting them as Big Ten schools?” he quipped with a smile before making sure reporters knew he was kidding around.
Getting fans in the stands can be a challenge for various college football programs, including the Gophers. But Michigan? The Big House is usually full and rocking without much help.
As such, fans must have been pretty surprised to learn they could get two tickets to Saturday’s Gophers/Michigan game in Ann Arbor — face value of $75 each — for just the price of two Cokes at a Michigan convenience store.
Fans pounced on the deal, of course — which turned out to be a botched promotion. Per the Michigan Daily:
The Athletic Department later said in a statement that the promotion was run mistakenly.
“Coke as a partner of ours … purchased a limited block of tickets for the Minnesota game for a Coke retail activation aimed at Michigan students,” the release said. “Due to a miscommunication in the approval process, this promotion should not have run as is. As a result, it is being pulled immediately. However all purchases to date will be honored by Coke.”
The promotion sold out at about 7:45 p.m. at the U-go’s in the Union.
Nothing this cool ever happened to us while we were in college in Minnesota, though it was the mid-to-late 1990s and we could wear all the flannel we wanted without fear of reprisal, so it all evens out.
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) September 23, 2014
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