Baseball’s interleague production of “The Biggest Loser” closed Wednesday night, with the Braves ever so definitively nailing down the title.
Two questions came to mind as the worst in the American League – Minnesota’s Twins – left town with two victories over the indisputably losingest team in all of baseball.
I wonder if at any time – especially early in Wednesday’s contest when it appeared Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz was throwing live chickens that scuttled this way and that out of the reach of catcher Anthony Recker – did Dansby Swanson ever wonder: “Did I just get demoted?”
His 31-18 Mississippi Braves (in the Southern League’s second half) have to have been playing more attractive ball than what the big league team trotted out there on Swanson’s debut (a 10-3 loss to the Twins).
And, secondly, if you had no emotional attachment, if it was just a matter of choosing an ugly team as one would try to choose between the two skinniest pups at the pound, which team would you rather spend time with: The Braves or the Twins?
Here are two teams whose trajectory this season were remarkably similar in a wet firework kind of way. They both lost 30 of their first 40 games. One – remember Fredi Gonzalez? – fired its manager in mid-stream. The other canned its long-time general manager.
The Twins left town with a 49-71 record, having put a little more distance between themselves and the now 44-76 Braves, refusing to lie down in order to improve their amateur draft position.
A couple of catalysts to Minnesota’s victory Wednesday were a 23-year-old rookie rightfielder named Max Kepler and a 24-year-old centerfielder named Eddie Rosario. So, they appear to be serious about working young talent into their everyday lineup asap (average age of the Twins starting eight Wednesday was 25.9; it was 28.1 for the Braves even with the addition of young Swanson).
Since July the Twins are 24-18. The Braves are 17-24.
To watch the Twins is to enjoy far more offense than the Braves provide: Minnesota hits 12 points higher as a team, has 64 more home runs (145-81) and, consequently, a significantly higher OPS (.751-.671).
And the difference in staff ERA is not glaring: Atlanta 4.40; Minnesota 4.91.
I put the question of which of these toads have the fewest warts to a Turner Field dinner table panel of experts – OK, a few broadcasters/former players – and still they insisted the Braves are the more interesting of the two. If only because the Twins have such difficulty developing pitchers and the Braves at least have young arms in bulk.
You’ll just have to take that on faith, I guess. One more vague nod to the future, added to a very long season of leaning on the thin foam of what might be.
That becomes a little more difficult to do when they are waking up this morning in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area thinking: “Well, it could be worse. We could be in Atlanta.”