Minnie Minoso is throwing out the first pitch for today’s White Sox home opener. And there’s a great feature on him over at the Chicago Tribune today. There really is no one like him. No one who had a career with the arc of the one he had. Just an astounding man and an astounding story.
And he was an astounding player. He had a .389 career OBP, .459 slugging percentage, had speed and was an excellent left fielder. There weren’t a lot of players like him in his era — his prime was the station-to-station baseball of the mid-50s — so his skills were overlooked by many. His age is an open question, but most people believe that he was in his late 20s when he became a major league regular for the White Sox in 1951, delayed by the color barrier. Minoso was the first dark-skinned Latino to play post-Jackie Robinson. If he had a chance to play earlier, he’d have been pushing 3000 hits, one can assume. As it was, he continued his career in Mexico following the end of his MLB days, and his staying power down there made Julio Franco look like a quitter.
Minoso is up for election by the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee this December. I’m not confident given that body’s track record, but it would be nice to see Minoso get what Ron Santo didn’t get: a chance to take his deserving place in the Hall of Fame while he’s still walking the Earth.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.