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Game 92: White Sox at Twins

Or, game 8 of 19; will you miss this many games in-division when they’re gone?

Colorado Rockies v Minnesota Twins
Like a true nature’s child, he was born to be wild.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Calm, dry, 82° at first pitch

Opponent’s SB site (with some cool artwork): South Side Sox

TV: BSN. Radio: When I got to The Show, yo ho ho

Michael Kopech has already pitched twice against the Twins this year, doing well in April and getting pummeled in July. So you probably know that’s he’s a former reliever in his first season as a full-time starter (and you might remember his flawed young marriage to a former Canadian teen celebrity).

An interesting thing about his switch to the rotation, though, came courtesy of this recent article by Do-Hyoung Park, about how the Twins are being careful not to overtax Jhoan Duran’s arm. Duran says “I don’t think about it that way, but I always liked to be a starter. I always liked that.” He expresses a hope to start again someday. Keep in mind that Kopech sometimes topped 100 during appearances in the minors.

Now, it’s likely that Duran’s velocity is more sustainable than Kopech’s early flamethrowing ways (he did fail a banned-substances test once). But, so far at least, Kopech is throwing a little less hard and having a little more success starting than bullpenning.

Of course, such decisions are the job of management, the front office, and (most importantly) the medical staff. All things being equal, though, would you rather the Twins had a top-of-the-line starter or shutdown late reliever? Seeing as any player, in either role, is unlikely to remain with the team once they qualify for Lots More Money... is a starter who throws more innings worth the extra risk those additional innings put on a highly-vulnerable arm (as anyone throwing over 100 is)? Food for thought. 2022 digits:

Kopech throws in the upper 90s and has an effective slider, plus some sporadically-used slower stuff.

Devin Smeltzer will probably never be a consistent starter, and may not even be much of an important reliever on a stacked bullpen... but the Twins would certainly be a lot closer to second place had he not come through several times when the rotation was ailing.

(Incidentally, note which pitcher FIP prefers, here.)

As someone who, barring grim death, will turn 50 this year, you’d think there would come a point where I shamefully vow to stop playing with toys. But that day has not come, yet.

Yes, this year I bought MLB: The Show, for what is probably the 12th straight season, and it’s a total indulgence – however, it’s far, far less of one than such games used to be. Basically because in 2020, I gave up on Season Mode.

I started using Season Mode from the first year I played as the Twins, which was 2001. (Using Triple Play Baseball.) Why season mode rather than just starting an exhibition game between each team? Partially because I wanted to see what numbers “my” Twins racked up in things like home runs. And I was annoyed how, in Exhibition Mode, the CPU could use exactly the same relievers every time I played the same opponent. In Season Mode, a reliever who pitched three innings in one game wouldn’t be available the next.

My use of Season Mode had several personal rules, all of which were massive time drains. For example, I wanted to play against the exact same scheduled starters the Twins would be facing on any given day, which meant adjusting upcoming opponents’ rotations at least five days before the first game of their Twins series (so as to make sure those starters had adequate rest). I also made to keep mutiple copies of backup seasons on hand in case teams altered their rotations at the last minute and I needed to go back in Season Time to reset those rotations.

Keep in mind that I didn’t get regular paid-for internet service (I had spottily-available service from a convenience store’s unprotected network downstairs) until 2012 or so, so that made this rotation-arranging more difficult.

And roster moves! Trades, injured lists, and so on. For a few years I had free cable (due to a subscription I canceled which the company never shut off). So I could write down roster moves from the ESPN ticker on bottom of the screen. Oh, how frustrating when the ticker was about to cycle around to where I began seeing it, and a commercial came! After free cable ended, I would use the work computer on my breaks to print up that day’s roster moves. (To save paper/ink, I’d copy-paste those moves into Word and make the font itsy-bitsy.)

Even when I actually paid for the internet, I had to manually make all these roster moves in Season Mode. While the games now have regular downloadable roster updates, those won’t apply to Season Mode. That’s stuck on the players who you started the season with, and any alterations to their attributes/any created players you make manually.

At first, I didn’t alter player attributes. Instead, I would write down the Twins’ offensive roster in a small spiral notebook. By each player’s name I would list their batting average, updated once a week. (Usually, when I got my copy of Baseball Weekly in the mail.) Then, while playing, I would adjust the game’s difficulty rating up or down based on how that player’s batting average was progressing in Season Mode. Before every at-bat, no less.

Later, I stopped doing this and tweaked their various skill ratings a little to better match how Real Twins were doing on that season.

I was particularly fanatical about creating new players added to the Twins or their opponents mid-season. Height and weight were not enough, oh no! I’d try to determine their particular skillset from scouting reports in Baseball Weekly’s season preview, later from online sources. I’d even try to determine what styles of uniform/equipment customization they used, once The Show made it possible to adjust such things on created/edited players.

How, why did I eventually back down from such persnickety obsession with detail?

Well, in short, dating.

This was the first break in my baseball gaming routine. Since another of my rules was, I could only play the very next game on Minnesota’s schedule — no skipping ahead. So that when I started any game, the Twins’ record would be their actual record. (If the game I’d played hadn’t matched the eventual outcome, I’d sim it until it did and resave the season before starting the next.)

Having a lady over one, then two, three, four nights a week meant no more playing every game on the schedule. This was no great loss, as I preferred her company to the PlayStation’s. PlayStations can talk, but only in prerecorded snippets (so far). It is also impossible to have sex with a PlayStation (so far).

Increasingly simulating games I’d missed eventually led me to give up on worrying if Season Mode Twins matched the batting averages of real Twins. And it wasn’t long before I stopped worrying about creating EVERY detail on EVERY new player. If they kinda sorta vaguely looked from the back like real players, this was enough. (I still tried to get it right on Twins players or division foes who’d gotten regular roles with their teams.)

I kept playing Season Mode, even after we moved in together in 2016. (Yes, we lived apart for over ten years. It worked for us. Don’t be a Judgy McJudge.) Because in 2016, my job of 15 years badly injured, then fired me (for being injured) — so right as I began living with soon-to-be Mrs. James full-time, I had more time on my hands to be full of.

As every job I could land was either a scam, a misery, or run by an honest-to-God Nazi, this situation continued on-and-off until 2020. And you know what happened to the baseball schedule in 2020.

The Show could not issue software patches to match the shortened schedule. Season Mode, for that year, was out. Should I keep spending money on this silly game (serious question) or, if I did spend money, enjoy it in — gasp, shudder — Exhibition Mode?

I chose option “C” — buy the game anyways, and play the Twins’ season as if those lost games were happening. Which was a less time-consuming solution than an actual Season Mode would have been. In married life, as opposed to dating life, we rarely go to bed at the same time anyways. (And married life has made me more aware that when dating, she was adjusting to my schedule, not the other way around, as generous as I thought I’d been by sacrificing Season Mode fidelity back when we started!)

Then the 2020 season started for reals, and I was relieved by how much easier it was to just match up the starters and rosters (via downloads) rather than obsess about them. I don’t worry as much about the CPU using key relievers in multiple matchups, either.

The thing has just become fun (a slower version of Pac-Man). I like seeing if I can hit what the starter throws, and facing top relievers in tight spots (or getting tough batters out) has video-game excitement, not “will this situation be one the Twins succeed/fail at tomorrow” tension.

(Believe it or not, I actually thought in the early 2000s that my game efforts would be somehow indicative of the Twins’ subsequent outcomes in real life — like kids pretending to play out the last shot of that night’s NBA Finals in one-on-one on the playground. With less sweating.)

Is it probably a silly purchase at this point? Sure. Do I enjoy it? Yes, I do. Do I ever let it interfere with real life? Uh… most of the time, no.

And heck, while playing with toys might be pathetic-ish at 50, probably so is pretending to be a real writer on a blogsite. Writing about grown-a** men playing a game, no less.

Besides, I fell far behind my "peers" in the race to Full Adulthood somewhere back in the 1990s, so it’s pointless to try and catch up!

Today's Lineups

Tim Anderson - SS Luis Arraez - 1B
Yoan Moncada - 3B Carlos Correa - SS
Luis Robert - CF Byron Buxton - DH
Jose Abreu - 1B Max Kepler - RF
Andrew Vaughn - DH Jorge Polanco - 2B
AJ Pollock - LF Alex Kirilloff - LF
Leury Garcia - RF Jose Miranda - 3B
Josh Harrison - 2B Nick Gordon - CF
Reese McGuire - C Gary Sanchez - C
"Fanboi" Kopech - RHP "Specs" Smeltzer - LHP