As a fan of a divisional rival, it is not without a huge sigh of relief that I get to type these words: now-former Twins pitcher Andrew "Cy" Albers has signed a one-year deal worth $700,000 US with a $100,000 signing bonus with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization.
A lefty of the crafty and soft-tossing variety, Cy Albers burst onto the scene last year. After a stretch of 132.1 innings in AAA-Rochester that would eventually net him Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors, Albers jumped into the fray and proceeded to hurl 17.1 scoreless innings--8.1 against Kansas City in his debut and 9.0 against Cleveland--thoroughly flummoxing opponents who were in the thick of the playoff chase, allowing just seven baserunners in his first 52 outs. His balls danced, dipped, dazzled, and dived, leaving the opposition gasping for air those first two outings. He throttled the Twins' would-be conquerors, specifically besting the Royals--a team that had never been and never will be again dominated by a soft-tossing lefty.
Twins fans spread across the North Plains and the entire province of Saskatchewan were enrapt. The dashing southpaw Canuck and offseason substitute teacher took a region by storm, coming in from the cold and emerging from the ethereal and unknowable world that is the Canadian-American Association in 2010 to join the Twins organization. Never you mind that he ceded five earned runs in each of his next two starts. First impressions last, and setting club records in his debut and again in his second start is just the sort of thing that captures the collective imagination of young and old alike.
The 27-year-old rookie would finish his season with a 4.05 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 3.75 K/9, 1.05 BB/9, and 0.9 fWAR in just 60 IP, but the numbers mean little compared to his immortality in Twins country and the Prairie Provinces. The power imbued to him by the collective consciousness in the region changed the mythical powerscape, elevating Cy Albers in stature as he came back to his homeland, specifically when speaking to children on daring to dream for the secretly all-powerful Saskatoon mining company Cameco.
When putting an ear to the ground, the rumbles in the Upper Midwest and the sub-Arctic hellscape of the winter-ravaged Canadian grasslands are undeniably concerned with what the departure of the Demigod of North Battleford means for the region. Without their Champion, the power vacuum is so powerful that it seems any and all in the region could fall prey to any number of nefarious persons/demigods who might have designs on domination of a variety not limited to the confines of the baseball diamond. The concern from the myriad gas-fields of the Prairie Provinces and the Dakotas is palpable, as the reach of catastrophe in this region would be vast.
More than the vulnerability of these lands, though, you--the baseball fan--are probably wondering what this means for the well-being of Major League Baseball. My first instinct, of course, is to chide you for such shallow thoughts when the future of so many is now in jeopardy, but the impact of the Cy Albers signing/defection could ripple endlessly with each ripple growing and growing in size like an unquenchable and unpredictable sea-beast that swells and transforms itself into a horrific tsunami loosed on the world of Major League Baseball.
This year marks the first that the Korean Baseball Organization will operate without its previous salary cap of $300,000 (US). $800,000 may not seem like much, but the wound that the signing causes is far greater than just money. Major League Baseball is already losing men like Luis Mendoza--whose majestic mane has mythical powers of its own--to Nippon Professional Baseball. With the Koreans jumping in to steal away a bonafide demigod as if the entire nation were singing Robbie Dupree's biggest hit in sneering unison with a singular, central digit extended in the general direction of Minnesota and Saskatchewan, one has to wonder if this is only the beginning. With the Korean economy being bolstered by the worldwide success of Psy and the growing presence of Kia, one cannot help but wonder if Major League Baseball is about to suffer the fate of the revenged upon in a Chan-Wook Park movie.
The alarmist that resides deep within all of us should be perking up right about now. The KBO could be about to pounce, and MLB will be without the services of the man who might be the sport's only true demigod--active service, of course, as Andres Galarraga has been retired for nearly a decade.
Much of the biographical information herein owes to this CBC article on the signing. The rest is simply the truth, as folkloric as it may seem.