Some people dislike rain more than others. As of today, Twins pitcher Phil Hughes probably hates it more than anyone you know.
The Minnesota ace was taken out of his final start of 2014 between the eighth and ninth innings Wednesday after a 66-minute rain delay. Hughes had been going strong, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts through the first eight innings and leaving with the lead, but an hour-plus delay meant it was time for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to go to the bullpen.
Unfortunately for Hughes, the opening of the heavens will likely cost him a cool half million dollars. Hughes had an incentive clause in his contract that promised him a bonus if he pitched 210 innings in the 2014 season. Hughes’ total now? 209 2/3. One more out, maybe even just one more pitch, could have earned Hughes $500,000, but each and every minute of that rain delay ended up costing him more than $7,500 when the damage was done. “I was very aware of it, but some things aren’t meant to be,” he said after the game, according to MLB.com.
Now, let’s not feel too horribly bad for Hughes: He’s still a professional baseball player earning $24 million worth of salary over three years, and picked up a pair of additional $250,000 bonuses already for eclipsing 165 and then 195 innings pitched, respectively. But still, $500,000 is $500,000. We all know the feeling of watching the weather forecast on pins and needles because we’re hoping to enjoy an outdoor wedding, a sports event we have tickets for, a day on the lake, etc. Imagine if the rain started at the worst possible second and you ended up out $500K as a result of the forecast you couldn’t control.
With that said, we started racking our brains trying to figure out how Hughes could still land the half million dollars he was oh-so-close to earning. Here are three ways the pitcher could still get his dough, with some admittedly a bit more realistic than others, even if none of them are all that likely.
1. Pitch him in relief
The Twins are 68-90, mired in last place in the AL Central, and have nothing to play for heading into a final four-game series with Detroit. Why not let Hughes get one out? Bring him in to get a right-handed hitter out in the eighth inning Saturday. Let him close out the final batter on Sunday. For that matter, let him start one of the games, get the first out, and then bring on whoever was slated to pitch that day to take things from there. With as many as 108 outs to play with between Thursday and Sunday, surely Gardenhire could find a way to let Hughes retire one of them. The Twins manager has already said he has no plans to use Hughes again, bonus or no bonus, but come on. One measly little out? Find a way, Minnesota. Find a way.
2. Give him the money anyway
If the Twins really feel that strongly about not using Hughes in relief to get the one out he needs for his bonus, there’s always a simpler option: Just give your best pitcher the extra money anyway as a show of goodwill. He’s only the team leader in wins and one of the bright spots during a disappointing year for the club. In fact, Hughes’s 2014 performance for Minnesota will go down in the baseball record books: The veteran right-hander set the MLB record for strikeout/walk ratio Wednesday, breaking Bret Saberhagen’s mark. For a team with a payroll of more than $80 million, what’s another $500,000? Pay the man.
3. Make the money some other way
Assuming neither of the previous two suggestions happen, there’s always a third option for Phil Hughes to get his $500,000: Go into business for himself on the side. Hughes could start a company, call it ‘629 Outs And Counting,’ and begin to market all sort of memorabilia and products related to his failed quest for this last innings pitched bonus. Really, the possibilities are endless: Who wouldn’t want to buy an umbrella with the ‘629 Outs’ logo on it? Or perhaps, a stylish poncho? There has to be a market for ‘629 Outs’ bottled rainwater, right? Hughes could even sell signed copies of his future autobiography: Call it ‘Weather or Not: Why the 630th Out Is the Hardest to Get.’ Hey, we’d buy one, even if no one else would.
UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, Hughes revealed that the team has offered him the chance to pitch this weekend, as we suggested. He declined, saying he didn’t want to risk getting hurt. Hughes also vetoed the idea of just being given the money anyway, saying it would ‘set a bad precedent.’ Well, there’s still always the third option, Phil.