Well, at least they didn’t make out, right? Minor subplots aside, this episode was about Mike and his looming trade to the Chicago Cubs. Would he really go? Would he get an at-bat in his final game as a Padre? Would Blip assume his mantle as clubhouse leader? Would Ginny throw a Ken Burns documentary up on the clubhouse TVs? WOULD MIKE AND GINNY KISS?
Jarrett: They didn’t make out, but they sure did come close.
Most of this episode felt to me like it was building up to two big moments: Mike Lawson having some big walkoff hit in his “last game” in San Diego, and then changing his mind and staying in San Diego to lead the upstart Padres to the playoffs. Much of the back half of the season, really, felt like it was building to those two moments. And Pitch subverted both of them.
Our big hero moment is first put off by Cubs GM Ted (more on him later) demanding the Padres sit Mike, lest he be injured. Ginny then engineers a scenario where Al is “forced” into doing what he really wanted to do, which was to give Mike a big pinch-hitting appearance as the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth. And then Lawson takes a called third strike on a breaking ball outside to end the game. He still gets his nice curtain call moment, which felt like it was modeled on Jonathan Lucroy’s in Milwaukee earlier in this year, but it’s not the big inspirational sports movie moment that creates a big Padres playoff push. This is still fiction, but it’s trying to be a little more reality than most, and the reality is that most teams seven games out with a month left don’t make a big rally.
Meg: My two favorite moments of this episode came around that final game. First, Ginny watching Mike take batting practice, ribbing him for showing warning track power, Al jokingly asking Mike if can shut her up by planting one in the seats– it all underscored the best part of this show: these co-workers being more like friends or family than colleagues. This is the good stuff, Pitch! It’s also some of the most obviously baseball stuff. Do more stuff like that. And I loved that Mike didn’t get to be a hero in his final at-bat. Baseball doesn’t often work that way, where you get to perfectly time your moments. Ginny helped to create it, and the fans brought it to life, and Mike’s face made you feel it. That’s all that was needed. It doesn’t always work out, but Mike tried his best. And San Diego thanks him.
Jarrett: In the end, Mike never changes his mind about leaving, despite all the adulation and reconciliation. He even calls Ginny for a farewell drink before his flight to Chicago for the press conference, abruptly ending her date with Billionaire Totally Not Mark Zuckerberg. But we know Mike Lawson can’t leave Pitch after nine episodes, so Oscar, after prodding by the departing Sarah Shahi, gives in to Luongo’s arguments that Lawson’s mentorship and presence is necessary for the further development of Livan Duarte. It wasn’t the sentimentality of keeping the hometown franchise icon and future Hall of Famer, and it wasn’t even Lawson’s ability to lead the Padres on the field. It’s on the pretense of finances that the trade falls through, but it isn’t even that: it’s that Oscar thinks Mike is more useful for player development than the unnamed Cubs lefty pitching prospects.
Meg: We have been so caught up in the potential ramifications of a Ginny-Mike relationship (the official Pitch twitter account has dubbed them “Bawson,” [ed. Note: Horrendous. Just awful.] which shows that market testing can go too far), that we haven’t spent as much time on the baseball-as-seen-on-TV aspect of the show lately. But can we talk about Livan’s baserunning? We are told that he is supposed to hold at third base, but decides to go home despite there being two outs, and scores to pull the Padres within one run of the Dodgers. Ok, fine. But Livan looked tremendously awkward running the bases. I know he’s a catcher (the character, not the actor), and he’s inexperienced (perhaps the character and the actor?), but he looked lumbering for a guy who is pretty athletic, or at least, wears very tight pants and is tall (definitely the character and the actor). I can’t tell in moments like this if it’s that certain parts of the game play are CGI or what, but it looked off.
Jarrett: Oh god, that running was really painful. And not painful in a “catcher speed” way. Painful in a “this guy has clearly never run before in his life” way. Almost as painful as the name “Bawson. [ed. Note: In disbelief how bad this is.]” It looked like the dude was jogging in quicksand. It actually reminded me of Trouble With The Curve, that doomed Clint Eastwood/Amy Adams/Justin Timberlake movie of a few years ago where the prospect that was obviously supposed to Bryce Harper looked out of shape and like he’d never swung a bat before in his life. (It’s been years and I’ve never figured out how you could make a sentimental baseball movie with those three and have it be actively bad.)
Back to our other fake world, as Mike and Ginny slowly back away from each other outside the bar, we’re left with our characters in a strange predicament. Mike and Ginny have essentially revealed their feelings for each other. Everyone on the Padres—including Ginny—knows Mike was trying like hell to go replace Willson Contreras, which is going to leave his next inspirational speech feeling hollow. Mike doesn’t really want to be there, and he’s being kept to mentor a dude that doesn’t respect him.
Meg: Ohhh boy, they’re in it now. The fundamental problem with Mike and Ginny having a romantic relationship is that they are teammates and co-workers. As soon as Ginny crosses that line, she hopelessly complicates her role as the first woman in the Majors. She clouds what she is there to do, which is play baseball, and gives ammunition to those who think women playing sports isn’t a serious endeavor. As soon as Mike crosses that line, he complicates his relationship with everyone else on the team. Mike going to Chicago changes some of those things—I still wonder if the move was partially motivated by a desire to open a door to Ginny rather than close one. So I’m not surprised we almost got the kiss, and was relieved Oscar’s ill-timed call prevented it. But now they have to be in the same locker room, navigating one of the closest working relationships on the field, with all these [extreme Mike-Lawson-realizing-he’s-in-deep-love-but-also-deep-shit-with-his-teammate voice] feelings.
Jarrett: I do think the idea has crossed Mike’s mind that a member of the Cubs dating a member of the Padres is not nearly as salacious as two people on the same team dating. But even that has some blurred boundaries, and Mike isn’t aware that Ginny’s already been down that road with the dreaded Trevor, no? One way or another, these two are going to have to deal with their feelings, and soon. Hey, what’s that, the season finale is next week? No way!
There’s also the continuing storyline of Amelia being the only one to realize Ginny’s brother Will is a straight-up con artist, as Will partners up with Evelyn on his restaurant idea with Blip and Ginny financially backing it. Even if Will was being straight, sports bars are a terrible idea, but he’s already embezzling money. The low-life family member stealing money is such a cliché, and this show has generally done better when avoiding the obvious. At least we finally got some movement on the plot with Evelyn realizing things are wrong, but like I just want all of this to go away and Blip and Evelyn to go back to being Fun Blip and Evelyn.
Meg: This storyline isn’t interesting to me. It feels like it was created not so much to make things hard for Ginny, but to create conflict in Blip and Evelyn’s marriage. Take your bad business idea and it’s dumb name, and get it away from the one functional romantic relationship on this show, Will.
Jarrett: One last thing: combining Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer into “Chicago Cubs general manager Ted” totally killed my immersion in this episode. Like, this actor was really obviously trying to be Theo Epstein. It’s not like those guys are too busy for a cameo right now or anything. But seriously, if you’re going to have a Cubs GM, having him pick up those guys’ mannerisms and even riffing on their names seems a bit too hokey.
Meg: If Jerry Dipoto doesn’t get to go on the show, no one does, Jarrett. No. One. The inclusion of real teams in realistic scenarios is always a tricky balance to strike for this show. If you have Real Theo, we’re left to wonder why we didn’t see other Real Execs during the All-Star game episode. If you have Real Theo, you set the expectation we’re going to see Real Kris Bryant and Real Dexter Fowler if Mike actually makes it to the Cubs. The show has mostly seemed content to show us real American League baseball and baseball players, and go fuzzier on the National League, and it makes sense: once you open the door to cameos, we expect them. Although, had Mike been traded I would not have been opposed to an improbable, several-episodes-long guest arc for Buster Posey.
Jarrett: Buster would definitely fit in with the show’s feel.
Next week, the season (hopefully not series) finale, and the previews suggest it’s a doozy. Fall out from Mike’s failed trade! Innings limits! Dugout fights! Potential Tommy John for Ginny? We avoided the kiss for now, but nothing brings people together like career-altering injuries. Can you snuggle in an MRI?