Sunday, October 28, 2012

Woe is Minnesota, 1981

I now have an inkling of what Gene Mauch felt like in the summer of 1961.

Mauch, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, watched 51 years ago as his team embarked on a 23-game losing streak. It is the record for futility in the World Series era of Major League Baseball.

Comparatively, in my APBA baseball game replay of the strike-shortened 1981 season, the Minnesota Twins — nay, my favorite team the Minnesota Twins — are engaged in a similar journey. Through my skillful managing, the 1981 Twins have now lost 21 games in a row and counting.

The APBA game is an ingenious one based on statistical occurrences. The game company computes batting and pitching tendencies and replicates those on individual players’ cards.  Fans of the game roll dice and replay baseball seasons with those cards. I’ve been doing some version of the game since 1977.

Despite the math-geekiness sound to it, the game doesn’t always stick to statistical probabilities, algorithms and frequencies. There’s always an anomaly or two in each season I’ve played. In my 1957 replay, Mickey Mantle played horribly and the Chicago White Sox actually won the American League pennant over the real life winner, Mantle’s Yankees.  Kansas City couldn't lose in 1987, beating out the real life winner Minnesota Twins for the pennant that year.

This one, however, is the worst. I’ve juggled the 1981 Twins’ lineup a bit, hoping for some stroke of luck that will end the losing streak. I generally stick to the suggested lineups the game company provides, but if a player seems to be “hot,” I may move him up in the order to utilize his bat more efficiently.

It hasn’t worked for the Twins.

Minnesota had the powerful bats of John Castino, Rob Wilfong, Hosken Powell, Glenn Adams and Danny Goodwin. Not heard of them, you say? Well, join the club. And I lived in Minnesota.

In my replay, the Twins led only one time in their 21-game kaputt. The streak began on July 7, 1981, against California. Their latest loss, to Cleveland, happened on Aug. 1, 1981. Only six games were loses by two runs or less. Only two games extended into extra innings.

Their pitching staff didn’t render fear in the hearts of man, either. Fernando Arroyo, Don Cooper, Pete Redfern. I guess, in those days, the ol’ adage, “Spahn and Sain and pray rain” became: “Erickson and pray for work stoppage.”

Which was what actually happened in the real season. The 1981 season was disrupted by a baseball strike. And here’s the irony: When I began this 1981 replay last December, I decided to play the full season. The strike never happened in my game. And, on the inverse, the games my replay Twins are playing never actually happened.

So, I roll on and hope each time Minnesota plays a game. I average maybe five games a day, so the Twins don’t play but every four or five games here. I have a few days to prepare for yet another loss.

On an interesting historical note, Mauch, the manager of the ill-fated 1961 Phillies, actually managed Minnesota. His last season with the Twins was in 1980. Maybe he saw the handwriting on the wall and left, leading the California Angels in 1981, because he didn’t want to be associated with my own poor managing skills.

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