Paul Molitor played in parts of 10 doubleheaders as a rookie with the Brewers in 1978, a couple of times even switching positions between games. But he says he doesn’t remember two-game days happening so frequently.
Maybe he’s just blocked out the memory.
Once a Sunday tradition as commonplace as a sermon, mostly back in the days before all ballparks had lights, doubleheaders today are regarded by managers like Molitor as a scourge on pitching staffs and an impediment to daily routines in a sport that thrives on them. “We have to plan well ahead, as best we can,” Molitor said. “It creates real challenges. We’re considering workload all the time. Do we have to do anything, rosterwise, to make sure we have enough pitching for two games?”
No wonder, then, that the Twins have, because of an unusual number of weather postponements, played three doubleheaders already this season — and made at least one roster transaction involving the pitching staff after each.
But if doubleheaders are a headache for managers, the modern version has become just as detested by ballplayers. In 1989, the Red Sox, used to regularly selling out Fenway Park, resurrected the day-night “split” doubleheader to sell tickets to both games. It was controversial at first — the Twins were Boston’s first day-night opponent, and players initially voted to refuse the scheduling. The players finally agreed, though, apparently believing the other team had already OK’d it.
“You don’t play doubleheaders with two hours in between,” Twins outfielder (and now radio broadcaster) Dan Gladden told the Star Tribune. “What makes me more mad is that management lied.” The Red Sox reportedly settled the issue by donating $20,000 to a charity chosen by Twins players, and the precedent was set.
No doubleheader has been scheduled since 2011; all are used to make up rainouts. And virtually all are day-night, which still aren’t popular in clubhouses.
“Players like traditional doubleheaders. You come in, do your work, get ready and play. Then you come in, maybe get some trail mix, and then go right back at it,” said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who grabbed a 30-minute nap between games last Saturday. “The split doubleheader, you’re just waiting around, and that can drain your energy, too. And then you have to go through it all again — running, stretching. At the end of it, you’ve been at the ballpark 12 hours or more. And if you have a day game the next day, it catches up to you.”
But the alternative — a makeup on an off day — is even less popular. “Off days are like gold,” Dozier said. “You never want to give one up.”
So the Twins will play five doubleheaders this season (so far), including a rough one next Saturday in Kansas City: They’ll play Friday night, in the afternoon and at night on Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. That’s four games in roughly 45 hours; even worse, it’s near the end of a stretch of 45 games in 45 days.
“They’re challenging enough, and when they’re in rough stretches it’s harder,” Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said. “You try to be smart about working out, or how hard you work out. You have to maybe take a break from lifting. And you still can lose your focus, because you get tired. You have to fight that.”
Can a manager do anything? “A little kumbaya,” Molitor joked.
All-Star rosters will be announced one week from tonight, with Miguel Sano and Ervin Santana the top Twins candidates for inclusion. What other AL Central players deserve a July 11 trip to Miami? Here’s a look:
Indians: Strangely, the AL champs have nobody among the voting leaders, but Francisco Lindor (.798 OPS and elite shortstop defense) is all but a lock. Jose Ramirez has quietly developed into a stellar third baseman, too, and Andrew Miller may be the best lefty reliever in the game. Add Carlos Carrasco (2.99 ERA), too.
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Royals: Salvador Perez figures to win election as catcher in a romp. Lefthander Jason Vargas, back from Tommy John surgery, has been stellar (11-3, 2.29 ERA), and Lorenzo Cain’s .818 OPS is good for a reserve outfield spot. Eric Hosmer is worthy at first base. Mike Moustakas may be a victim of the crowded field at third base.
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Tigers: There are no locks here anymore. Miguel Cabrera isn’t having an MVP year but should go. J.D. Martinez hits like an All-Star but has played barely half the games. Justin Upton could be one of the last players picked. Justin Verlander? No longer their ace (it’s Michael Fulmer); a seventh nod would be mostly on reputation.
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White Sox: They’ll probably send bat-only players Jose Abreu (13 homers) at first base or Avisail Garcia (batting .336) in the outfield, or perhaps both. Matt Davidson’s 17 homers deserve a look, but he’s a designated hitter. David Robertson has only 11 saves, but he’s a plausible option, too.
Nik Turley’s first three starts were a disappointment, but some good Twins pitchers have started poorly, too. The worst ERAs by Twins pitchers in their first three career starts:
17.47: Pete Filson, 1982
16.39: Nik Turley, 2017
14.04: Travis Miller, 1996
13.50: LaTroy Hawkins, 1995
12.83: Dan Perkins, 1999
10.54: Logan Darnell, 2014
10.50: Johan Santana, 2000
10.29: Carlos Pulido, 1994
10.13: Mike Dyer, 1989
9.49: Paul Abbott, 1990
Remember when Fenway Park and Coors Field were the well-known homer havens? These days, the Twins play in one of the more notable homer-happy parks. Most home runs per game in 2017, by stadium (through Thursday):
3.32: Yankee Stadium (113 HRs, 34 games)
3.03: Great American Ballpark (112, 37)
3.00: Target Field (123, 41)
2.95: Globe Life Park (115, 39)
2.94: Chase Field (103, 35)
2.91: Citizens Bank Park (99, 34)
2.88: Nationals Park (92, 32)
2.87: Camden Yards (109, 38)
Baseball reporters Phil Miller and La Velle E. Neal III will alternate weeks.
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