Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Disciple of Jones?

Twins fans hope not. But on last Sunday night, Joe Nathan, Twins closer extroardinaire, did his own very creative impersonation; and, perhaps hoping to make up what was left out of the most recent instance of Classic Jones and emphasized, in a way previously thought impossible at the Major League Level, Classic Jones criteria #2:

1. Jones must come on with more than a one-run lead so that he can give up at least one run.
2. Jones must get runners on the bases early from a fluke hit or error.
3. Jones must face one of the other team's top hitters.
4. Jones must benefit from a solid defensive play.
5. Jones must give up a run (often in exchange for an out or two).
6. Jones must let the other team hit into the final out; the motive here seems to be to avoid striking anyone out.

This was not just any old Jonesy-flukey play: this was a play you quite literally cannot see in any other major league baseball stadium (highlight link under "multimedia"), and probably never will again in the Metrodome ... ever ... again (so we pray).

Top of the ninth inning. The Twins have been slowly blowing a 9-2 lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, and it is now 9-7. Enter Todd Jones with a Joe Nathan mask on.

Batter 1: Prince Fielder steps up, and on a 1-1 count, hits a routine fly ball to center. The substitute center fielder, Lew Ford (Torii Hunter had left the game with a hand bruise), loses the ball in the teflon grey of the indoor stadium's roof. He decides to run around aimlessly looking up. The ball lands about ten feet from where he had started, bounces once, and dies in the synthetic grass. All 6 ft., 260 lbs. of Prince Fielder ... well, he makes it around the bases in time. For a lack of adequate verbage, I give you the Twins' announcers (Dick Such and Bert Blyleven), shell-shocked comments:

"He won't be able to catch his breath until tomorrow."

"He ran the bases like he was on roller skates ... but he got there."

Minnesota still up 9-8

But, no! What is that you say? The Classic Jones theme must continue to develop?

This single play was so incredible, Nathan developed a visible twitch, and continued to throw Jones-esque warm up pitches, just to get things really heated up:

Batter 2: Hall hits a pathetic ground ball bleeder through the right side of the infield.
Batter 3: Estrada liner base hit to right. Runners on 1st and 2nd.
Batter 4: Jenkins base hit to center.

At this point we have: bases loaded for Milwaukee, none out; Nathan 16 pitches thrown. Then, Nathan begins the Classic Jones wind-down.

Batter 5: Graffanino: Strike Out. One out.
Batter 6: Counsel: Short sac fly to center, two out. Hall Scores: Game tied, 9-9. Batter 7: Hart (already had 2 home runs in the game); the count goes to 1-2, the Brewers double steal: Runners at second and third; Hart then strikes out swinging. Inning Over.

So, to sum up the pitching performance ala Jones: Criteria 1 and 2 clearly met. Criteria 3: well, Nathan faced pretty much the whole lineup. 4: no. 5: yes. 6: no. Here, Nathan has difficulty completing the Classic Jones in #'s 4 and 6 because of his propensity to strike batters out, and so does not need the solid defensive play, and is not able to induce a hit-into-final-out. We now realize it cannot be Jones in a Nathan mask, but perhaps Nathan was temporarily hypnotized by the idea of the Classic Jones by watching recent Tiger highlights over and over and over on his cell phone. We can only speculate.

To finish the story, the Twins' reigning AL MVP, Justin Morneau comes up first in the bottom of the ninth, and on the second pitch, parks it in the right field bleachers (see highlight at Morneau's link under "multimedia"), and walks off, 10-9. Twins fans everywhere exchange emails with their Tigers fan friends in commiseration.

Dick Such:"The Twins snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. What might have been the most gripping loss of this season, and they end up on top anyway."

The essence of Classic Jones.


Burglar said...

Your Photoshop skills are incredible.

And you hit the nail on the head about why Nathan can't pull the classic Jones: strikes out too many batters. That's a quality you want in a closer, but not in a Jones.

And did Nathan get credit for the win? Isn't that like missing your shot on purpose in basketball just to increase your number of rebounds?

mkr mouse said...

That's all brilliant. "Have mercy upon the prisoners and captives of war" must apply to Tigers fans in regards to their closer. By the way, what happened to Rivera, speaking of closers? I have heard nothing about him for months....

Thorgersen said...

Yes, I expected many accolades for that Microsoft Paint work.

Nathan got the win -- another reason why wins are probably the most ridiculous "stat" in baseball, and most especially ridiculous when we keep track of them for relievers. It's like giving someone a star sticker for being around when good things happen to us, and basing our decisions about friends on who has the most stars. Who cares if he happened to have pitched the half inning before our team finally scored some runs? Maybe to be perfectly clear we should call it the "Lucky Magic" stat. I think this may help people to catch on to the true nature of baseball:

Joe Morgan on ESPN two years from now -- "That reliever has not been too good with bringing his Lucky Magic this year. I mean, he has a great strikeout to walks ratio and really low opponent average, but why would you bring someone in who is Lucky Magic 0-7 when you need to score some runs in the next half inning?!?"

Speaking of Lucky Magic, is Rivera's LM finally wearing out (possibly also that he's getting older ... )? Mr. Mouse, I loved the way you were able to very subtly undermine the viability of your rival Yankees closer. Really, though, he's 38 ... he still is getting a lot of strike outs and hardly walks anyone, but it seems like people are finally getting hits off of him. In short, the Yankess bullpen does not look good, even more so as he continues to be far and away the best pitcher there. I do think that he will have a solid year as a closer, but the days of being automatic lights out are over. Perhaps the Yanks could trade A-Rod to get Jones, and then Rivera could set up?