Sports media and athletes do all they can to destroy the meaning of formerly useful words.
Like “resilient.” Break a 10-game losing streak, and someone with a microphone will call you resilient. Athletes who compete are not resilient. They are athletes. Competing is exactly their job.
Another: Consistency. As if a streaky hitter who produces 50 home runs isn’t as admirable as a drone who hits .250 all season.
By the new, meaningless definition of the word, Kyle Gibson is a paragon of consistency. Since his first start of 2017, the season during which he was supposed to move toward the top of the Twins’ rotation, he has finished just one start with an ERA lower than 6.00.
Criticizing Gibson’s performance may seem redundant, but he showed again on Thursday why his failure is so important to the Twins.
He was a first-round pick in 2009 by a franchise desperate for pitching. He teased in his first two full big-league seasons, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA in 2014 and 11-11 with a 3.84 ERA in 2015. If not an ace, he seemed destined to pitch in the middle to top of the rotation for years.
Thursday, he allowed three earned runs in four innings while throwing 97 pitches and fell to 6-10 with a 6.05 ERA.
He should spend next spring trying to make the Padres, or the Saints, but baseball is so bereft of functional pitchers that he may get another shot with the Twins.
He shouldn’t. He has almost single-handedly kept the Twins from competing for a division title this year.
He is 0-3 in four starts against Cleveland this season. Statisticians argue that pitching victories can mislead, and that is often the case, but when losses accompany terrible pitching lines and unwatchable pitching performances, go ahead and stick the “L’’ on the appropriate forehead.
If Gibson had merely performed as well this year as he did in 2014, when he was still figuring out where the visiting clubhouses were in other ballparks, the Twins would have at least a few more victories, and would have required fewer innings from an overtaxed bullpen. They’d at least be in better position to win the second wild-card position.
Thursday, Gibson pitched against Cleveland at Target Field in the first game of a doubleheader. He knew that the bullpen was stretched thin and that he would have to be efficient as well as effective. He was neither. His four-inning stint was his shortest since July 9.
He fell behind, nibbled and failed to put away hitters with two strikes all while showing the mound presence of a shrug emoji. He wasn’t just awful, he was awful in a way that sucked the energy out of his dugout and home ballpark, throwing 60 pitches in the first two innings of what could have been a meaningful doubleheader for the home team.
Gibson is making $2.9 million this year. That’s not much for a veteran pitcher, but the way arbitration works, he’ll make more next year if the Twins decide to keep him.
With his size, stuff and pedigree, Gibson could figure out how to pitch elsewhere, but in my eyes he’s used up his chances here. He needs to go find himself somewhere the home runs he allows won’t threaten the health of the Twins fans he had already put to sleep.
“I ran into a little bad luck there,’’ Gibson said.
When you don’t have a pitch that can put away opposing hitters and refuse to work from ahead in the count, opposing hitters are going to look lucky as lottery winners.
Pitchers are taught to hide their emotions, so it’s difficult to tell whether Gibson is an exceptional actor or merely tone-deaf. He’ll cost his team a chance to win, then discuss how he saw some “good signs.’’
At this point in his career, the best sign for Gibson would read “Lindbergh Terminal.”
He doesn’t meet even the lowest standards for the word “resilient.”
Consistent? Sadly, yes.