Aaron Judge patrolled out there, and on some teams that might be seen as an effort to hide a hulking slugger. Not with Judge. He glided backward and timed a leap, and at the fullness of his 6-foot-7 frame snared Sano’s ball. Not for the first time I found myself hoping this superb athlete can overcome the injuries that have caused him to miss more than 100 games the past two seasons.
Judge has it in him to put up a stunning statistical array, and with the Mets’ Pete Alonso on the other side of town, he could give the city the two best sluggers in the game.
Much of the Twins’ story is heartwarming, as young players find their strokes and confidence. That said, oddities abound, peculiarities that edge too close to chemistry for comfort. So Jorge Polanco, the Twins’ young shortstop, was suspended last season for taking a powerful steroid. He apologized and he insisted it was a mistake. He came back this season and hit more homers with a higher slugging average than in the past, and made the All-Star Game. In track and field, athletes routinely are hit with suspensions of multiple years, and some competitors favor lifelong bans, as the effect of steroid use can confer long lasting benefits.
Maybe Polanco simply matured, which at age 25 is a perfectly reasonable explanation. It is also reasonable for the more skeptical minded to hike an eyebrow.
Another Twin, Nelson Cruz, is a soulful veteran leader, a 38-year-old who slugged 41 homers in just 454 at-bats. He also was implicated years ago in the Biogenesis doping scandal in Miami and suspended for 50 games. Maybe that, too, is unfortunate history. There is however the eye-widening fact of his statistics. Cruz, who hit more than 20 home runs only twice in his 20s, has now averaged more than 40 home runs from age 33 to 38.
Back on the field, the game was, if not close, at least diverting. A cityscape twinkled in the October chill, and Twins fans wore proud baseball history on their backs, countless red jerseys with the names of Twins greats: Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and the brutal slugger Harmon Killebrew.
Unfortunately, baseball is its own worst enemy even in its glory. Postseason games routinely stretch hour upon hour upon hour, made worse and worse by the vogue for summoning a steady march of faceless relievers. Boone burned through three in the fifth inning alone.