Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Carl Freakin' Pavano

This writer has come full circle with Carl Pavano. A name formerly scorned and lower than scorned, his name itself was a derision. If you grew up in New Jersey, you can hear it in how the heading of this post was spoken. Think of Tony Soprano's voice, now say Pavano's name in that voice and you've got it. He was scum. He was dirt. He was everything hated. And now? After three years of rebuilding his career, his fire for the game, and yes, his leadership with the Twins, this writer actually roots for the guy. Now there is a little smile after enunciating the name. Carl 'Freakin'' Pavano with a little smile at the end.

And so this Fan is happy for the guy on his two year contract. Hopefully, it will work out for both the Twins and for the pitcher. He isn't the greatest pitcher in the universe. His BABIP from 2010 is scary in how low it was. It hardly seems a scenario that can be continued with the same success as he had in 2010. But then again, the guy won seventeen games. He gutted out seven complete games and 221 innings. And he did one other thing better than at any point in his career.

What did he do? He threw more ground balls than fly balls. 46 more in fact. Why is that important? Because it shows that Pavano has adapted and learned from his career and is still remaking himself as he goes along. His 1.13 ground ball to fly ball ratio was the highest of his career. He came close to that ratio in a couple of his short stints with the Yankees, but you can hardly count those years. The rest of his career...the full seasons never featured that kind of ground ball rate. It's not an astounding rate. It's not like Webb or Wang or something. But it's just another sign of a pitcher who has matured and knows what he is doing.

Pavano has come so far since that car accident in Florida with some nameless girl that he forgot to mention to the Yankees. He's come so far since Mike Mussina dissed him in public and in the locker room. Mike Mussina, who never made headlines with his mouth, made them with Pavano. Carl Pavano isn't that guy anymore. He's healthy and his mind and his will is strong. Jim Thome, the ultimate professional ball player personally kept after Pavano to re-sign with the Twins. That shows how far the guy has come.

We are, after all, a society that loves second chances and do-overs. We rag on guys who we think are squandering their careers. But we cheer just as loudly when a life is turned around...when a light bulb goes off inside a person. We don't know the mind of Carl Pavano. Likely none of us know all the facts of his lost Yankee years. But Pavano has proven himself these last three years. He's given the Indians and now the Twins everything they could ask for. He's taken the ball every fifth day and he's kept his team in the game.

He isn't the world's best pitcher. In the end, he's probably just a little better than average. But this Fan hopes he wins another 17 games the next two years. This writer who once said his name with derision, now says it with a wry smile. Go get 'em, Carl Freakin' Pavano!

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