By Michael Rand
The thing about the decision to remove Joe Ryan from Tuesday’s game after seven hitless innings and 106 pitches is that it wasn’t really a decision at all.
In 2022, it was an inevitability.
We as a society at large are wired to make decisions that play the percentages — that cut through the increasing noise and clutter to give us some sort of comfort against the anxiety of a poor or even worst-possible outcome.
If Ryan had kept pitching in the game, he more than likely would have been fine. He might have given up a hit on the 107th pitch and been removed. He might have gone deeper — maybe even all the way — with a pitch count creeping past 130.
That might have created some soreness before his next start or perhaps the need to keep his pitch count down next time out. And that next start will come in the midst of a five-game series at Cleveland that qualifies as the Twins’ last gasp at any relevance in the AL Central.
So it makes sense. All that matters to those in charge is that it was intellectually justifiable, something I talked about on Wednesday’s Daily Delivery podcast.
“I want what’s best for this team, and I want to go to the playoffs, and I want to win games in the playoffs,” manager Rocco Baldelli said afterward. And that’s the priority for me right now.”
It’s easy, too, to look at an extreme cautionary tale. Former Twins great Johan Santana was shut down in September 2010 with a shoulder injury while with the Mets. He missed the entire 2011 season. He came back at age 33 in 2012 and threw 134 pitches while completing a no-hitter on June 1. He had a 2.38 ERA at the time.
He made 10 starts the rest of the year, posting an 8.27 ERA. Santana never pitched in the majors again.
Did the 134 pitches and exertion in that no-hitter — 27 more pitches than he threw in any other game that year — cause Santana’s career spiral? We don’t know that for sure.
Would Ryan — seven years younger than Santana was at the time — been at risk of such a thing? We don’t know that for sure.
What we do know is that as long as worst-case scenarios have plausibly played out, decisions will be made to guard against them.
It’s sports and life in 2022: What might happen in the future has gained an outsized priority over what is happening now.
It makes for smarter decisions but less fun in the moment, and I’m not sure the trade-off is worth it.