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Game 79: Twins at Cubs

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Adalberto Mejia gets me all introspective.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

First Pitch: 1:20 PM CDT
TV: FSN, MLBN
Radio: WCCO 830, TIBN
Know Thine Enemy: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Today is a big day for me. It's the 2018 debut of young left-hander Adalberto Mejia.

Your first question is probably why this would be a big day for anyone outside of Adalberto and his immediate family. But there's a certain special something that Mejia represents -- something that, in my mind, warrants a little extra anticipation about his first major-league start of the season.

From the time I became a baseball fan, I experienced certain "fixations." It began with Carlos Gomez, who remains my favorite player to this day. Go-Go had it all: he was toolsy, playing with rampant hustle and an electricity under his wheels. He was unabashedly individual, smelling his bat between swings and seemingly losing his balance on every other pitch. To top it all off, he wore my favorite number: #22. It was the complete package.

But the funny thing about baseball is how quickly things can change. Just two years later, Gomez was off the team, and a year after that, the Twins had embarked on a quest for total irrelevancy, a goal they achieved just one season after making the playoffs in their new ballpark's inaugural debut campaign. Gone was the excitement, the electricity in the stands and the fire in the bellies of the 25-man roster.

For a casual fan, I understand the argument that it's the team's job to get you to invest in them with a winning on-field product. But as one of the die-hards, I think there's something to be said for re-investing on your own terms. Rediscovering what it is that makes you love the game, beyond the pennant races, beyond the Hall of Famers. When expecting a yearly World Series run becomes unrealistic, why do we keep watching?

So I picked out players. Players who nobody would give a second thought to. Players who were on the team because the team was terrible, but who still played with heart and hustle and near-childlike wonderment because they were on a major-league baseball team, darn it. Why not have fun?

Guys like Luke Hughes, if for no other reason that maybe Dick Bremer would make a clever "Luke Hughes, the force!" call on some dramatic fielder's choice one day. Guys like Doug Bernier, who wore his high socks proudly as a September call-up and looked more ready to go than some of the veterans around the diamond. The Darin Mastroiannis and the Caleb Thielbars of the world.

Guys like Jordan Schafer, who get arrested at 2:00 am at the Cheesecake Factory for possession of marijuana-laced peanut butter cups, making this tweet from almost a year later approximately 800 times funnier:

Adalberto Mejia might be of the same ilk. He might be the kind of guy who only ever plays for the Twins, and never scratches the roster for a true pennant contender. But he also might be something special. He's got a 2.74 ERA and a 9.1 K/9 in nine starts for Rochester this season. He managed to accrue one full Win Above Replacement last season for the big club, with efficiency being his predominant issue (21 starts, just 98 innings pitched.) He's an intriguing young left-hander, and he's only 25. And if you've spent any time around the comment sections lately, you'll notice I've been one of his most vocal supporters.

On this, the last day of June, it feels like time to re-invest. The Twins are eight games back of the increasingly improving Cleveland Indians, and genuine playoff hopes are escaping through a window that seems to be closing on the breezy evening of contention. Finding investment, finding a reason for sentimentality amidst a doomed, injury-riddled season, feels a bit like slow dancing in a burning room.

But why not have fun? As Tom Kelly famously said in 1991, "Ah, hell, it's only a game."

Why not have fun.

Today's Lineups

MINNESOTA TWINS CHICAGO CUBS
Joe Mauer - 1B Albert Almora - CF
Eduardo Escobar - 3B Jason Heyward - RF
Eddie Rosario - LF Javier Baez - 2B
Brian Dozier - 2B Anthony Rizzo - 1B
Max Kepler - RF Willson Contreras - C
Ehire Adrianza - SS Ben Zobrist - LF
Jake Cave - CF Addison Russell - SS
Bobby Wilson - C David Bote - 3B
Adalberto Mejia - LHP Tyler Chatwood - RHP