June 1st, 2012 was the closest experience I’ve ever had to the final scene of Annie Hall.
Someone who once ignored my pleas and moved on popped back into my life. But the animosity I had once harbored for this person did not materialize. Instead, I was surprised by the sincere enthusiasm I felt towards them.
Except in my version I didn’t bump into a fetching albeit unstable young woman I had loved, I bumped into a 33-year-old Venezuelan Cy Young Award-winning pitcher. And instead of “Seems Like Old Times” playing, it was “Smooth” by Carlos Santana featuring Rob Thomas.
Yes on June 1st Johan Santana, erstwhile Twins ace, threw the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets. And I was thrilled. I didn’t wish he had thrown one for us (despite the three spots in our rotation that seem to be filled with whatever AAA pitcher we can call up). And it was on that day I thought to myself, “I hope one day I can feel this way about Francisco Liriano.”
Liriano, who has thrown a no-hitter for the Twinkies, was once my second-favorite Twins pitcher. Indeed in 2006, he was Santana’s running buddy. Between the two of them, the Twins won thirty-one games. We also enjoyed a still relevant Justin Morneau, and the best catcher in the game. For every Lew Ford-induced slap of the forehead, the still-inspiring Torii Hunter threw himself into the wall for a flyball with no regard for his safety.
Then tommy-john surgery reared its ugly head, and the Liriano of old seemed gone for good in the eyes of both the fans and the notoriously heady Liriano himself. Sure there were flashes. That six walk no-hitter in 2011 was thrilling. And even as recently as July 13th (after a stint in the bullpen) when his name seemed ubiquitous in trade rumors, he threw 15 KO’s against Oakland and still lost the game. His next start he threw 10 KO’s in six innings against the sagging Orioles with only two earned runs (another loss). I am not here to bury Francisco Liriano.
And at this point, most of the analysts I trust seem confident that the Baltimore start will be Liriano’s last in a Twins uniform. Whereas Santana fled to a bigger market team (leaving us with such busts as Go-Go Gomez and Kevin Mulvey), Liriano will probably just be handed a plane ticket and asked for his keys to the apartment leaving a lot of pressure on poor Scott Diamond. And regardless of his perceived faults, let us never forget the heights we reached with him.