- Twins survive ninth-inning nightmare to beat Oakland 10-5
This game was much, much closer than the final score would indicate. The Twins had a 10-0 lead going into the ninth. Scott Baker had pitched brilliantly, holding the A’s two just two hits in eight innings, and since he’d thrown only 96 pitches, was going for a complete game. And that’s when things got a lot more interesting than they really needed to be. Baker was obviously gassed, and loaded up the bases without recording an out (although he didn’t get any help from Alexi Casilla, more on that in a minute). Jesse Crain was brought in to relieve Scotty, but ran into trouble of his own. After Alexi Casilla again failed to field a routine ground ball that allowed a pair of runs to score, Crain had trouble finding the strike zone. He walked Jack Cust with the bases loaded, and was yanked in favor of Jose Mijares. Mijares struck out Jason Giambi, but then suffered some control issues of his own. He walked the next two batters and forced in a pair of runs. With the score now 10-5, and the bases loaded with only one out, Joe Nathan was brought in to complete what had suddenly become a save situation. He struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis to end the threat and pick up his 12th save of the year.
I’ll admit that I was nervous before Nathan came in. If there’s any team that can screw up a 10-0 lead in the ninth inning, it is the Twins. They’ve had such awful luck on the road this season and it really wouldn’t have surprised me if they ended up losing 11-10. Besides, it’s not like this kind of thing has never happened before.
The horrorshow that unfolded in the ninth overshadowed what had been a rare quality road win. Not only did Baker pitch a gem, but the bats sprang to life and gave him some much-needed run support. Delmon Young, who’s really been having a rough season both on and off the field, went 2-for-4 with a double (his first extra-base hit since April 22) and three RBI. Justin Morneau made me look silly for suggesting he might be in a slump, going 4-for-5 with a solo home run. Jason Kubel hit a three-run homer. Brendan Harris, who saw his career-high 12 game hitting streak come to an end on Monday night, went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Even Carlos Gomez, who was put in the leadoff spot when Denard Span was forced to leave the game, came up with a big two-run double (though he also struck out twice). It’s a good thing too, because the Twins needed every single one of those runs to hold off the A’s and get the win.
- Bert Blyleven is an a**
OK, here comes a mini-rant. I’m not really a fan of the Twins’ broadcast team, but I don’t usually complain about them here because it’s a waste of time. The Twins aren’t going to fire Bert and Dick simply because I don’t like them, and rehashing ad nauseum all the dumb things they say is enough to give me a headache. And since most of my readers don’t have to listen to Dick and Bert, they’d probably have no idea what I’m talking about, anyway. But when Blyleven called out Scott Baker during the broadcast for failing to pitch a complete game, I felt I needed to make an exception. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but he made it sound like the ninth-inning collapse was all Scotty’s fault, and it wasn’t (Alexi Casilla had a lot to do with it, but I’ll get to that). Baker was on his game all night: he struck out eight batters, didn’t walk anyone, and allowed only one extra-base hit. He retired fourteen straight batters coming into the ninth inning, and considering how much Baker has struggled this season, his performance had already exceeded expectations. The complete game would simply have been icing on the cake. But Bert ripped into Scotty when he loaded the bases without recording an out (again, not really his fault), accusing him of lacking the mettle to pitch a complete game. Ridiculous. If Baker truly wasn’t interested in trying to finish the game, then what the hell was he doing out there in the first place? It was obvious that he was exhausted, and one would think that if Baker didn’t care about finishing the game himself, he would’ve simply told Gardy that he was done for the night. Scotty didn’t deserve the public tongue-lashing Bert doled out from the safety of the broadcast booth, not after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball. And it will never happen, but Bert owes Scotty an on-air apology. Maybe I should change the title of this blog to “Fire Bert Blyleven”.
Worse yet, there was little rage directed at the true goat of the game: Alexi Casilla. The second baseman booted a couple of routine ground balls, one of which might have been a double-play. If Alexi even made one of those plays, Baker likely would’ve escaped the ninth having pitched a three-hit, maybe one-run complete game. But because of Casilla’s incompetence, Baker had to settle for eight innings and three unearned earned runs. And the Twins had to use their closer to save what should have been a complete blowout (of course, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares could’ve pitched better, too). Ugh, I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that Nick Punto is coming back soon. I will take a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can make routine plays over a sub-.200 middle-infielder who can’t any day.
Jay Busbee recentky posted an article on Yahoo! Sports about the worst announcers in sports right now. I pretty much agree with the list, although I probably would’ve put John Madden much higher than number 19. He makes me feel educated and informed. According to Busbee, awful announcers are the ones who tend to forget that the game is more important than themselves. These are the people who use ballgames as a soapbox to lecture us about how “the game has changed” and things were so much better “back when I played”. Or they use the games as a dumping ground for their cliched or idiotic slogans. In other words, these are the people whose massive egos overshadow the actual games themselves.
Using this criteria, let’s see how our own broadcast teams measure up (I am just analyzing the television teams. With one notable exception, I don’t usually listen to the radio broadcasts):
- Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer, Minnesota Twins:
Dick Bremer isn’t bad (aside from his mancrush on Nick Punto) but Bert Blyleven can be insufferable. Uses games as his own personal soapbox? Check. Blyleven constantly complains that pitchers are babied these days and that arbitrary
pitch counts don’t do anything to preserve young arms (I agree, but I
don’t want to hear about it every… single… game). Between the constant reminders of his birthday (whether it’s coming up or not) and whining about how he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Bert sometimes forgets that there’s actually a ballgame in progress.
To be fair, Bert is the color analyst so it’s not really his job to provide objective analysis to the games. And he certainly does bring color commentary to the broadcasts. You just never know what he’s going to say. Whether he’s inadvertently dropping f-bombs on live television (I wish the video still existed, but it’s been taken down by FSN due to “copyright issues”. Spoilsports) or asking Ace Young if he ever got lucky with Paula Abdul, Bert is always getting himself into trouble. This kind of makes up for his general crankiness.
Actually, I usually turn off the sound on the television broadcasts and listen to the radio instead. John Gordon and Dan Gladden aren’t quite as obnoxious, and pretty much stick to covering the action on the field. Sometimes. You know, a lot of times I like to listen to the opposing teams’ feed.
- Minnesota Timberwolves:
Most NBA announcers are simply awful. They’re little more than obnoxious fans who have somehow been given a microphone. The Wolves broadcast team is different, though. Tom Hanneman and Jim Peterson are actually very knowledgeable and pretty much stay away from all of the obnoxious broadcasting cliches. However, they both have the most boring voices in the history of broadcasting. They can lull you to sleep if you’re not careful:
Geez guys, show a little enthusiasm there. It’s not like you’re calling a golf game or something.
- Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar, Minnesota Wild:
hockey analysts, even if they are otherwise very knowledgeable, are
shameless homers. Hockey is the type of sport that inspires deep fanaticism
in its followers, so it’s very difficult for broadcasters to remain
neutral. Greener and Terhaar are certainly no exception, but they’re
not bad as far as these guys go. They only kind of make me want to shove Q-Tips in my ears, and they do give opposing teams a fair shake (they will actually praise opposing players when they do something well. Not all broadcasters will do this). For the most part, they stick to covering
the action on the ice and don’t go off on tangents about how the game has changed for the worse in the past decade. They do go a little overboard with the man-love for their
favorite players, though. Everything Mikko Koivu does is absolutely
the most brilliant thing Terhaar has ever seen (Nobody clears the puck
out of the neutral zone like Mikko Koivu!! THAT IS THE FACE OF
- Speaking of hockey…
Happy Birthday to me! The Wild blanked the Ducks tonight, 3-0. I was at the game, too, since I got tickets for my birthday. Niklas Backstrom was his usuall stellar self, and he got a lot of help from the defense for a change. Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard all scored (Koivu’s goal was a beauty, too, on a no-look backhand pass from Antti Miettinen). Cal Clutterbuck had nine hits (but no fights), the best one was when he nearly dumped
Ryan Getzlaf (I think it was Getzlaf, I’m not sure)(it was actually Travis Moen. I couldn’t really see who it was from where I was sitting, and I was probably just hoping it was Getzlaf) into the Ducks’ bench. The Wild have finally started playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot, and that was a good thing to see.
By the way, the Wild are now 10-1 in games I’ve attended at the X. If I weren’t broke, I would make an effort to get down there more often!
Bert Blyleven is the type of pitcher who is likely to be overlooked by Hall of Fame voters because, while he was dominant for most of his career, he’s never really been considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time. And that’s a shame, because when you look at all he’s accomplished during his career, Bert really does deserve to get in. He had 3,701 career strikeouts (he is the only retired member of the 3000 strikeout club not in the Hall), a 3.31 ERA, won two World Series rings (one with the 1979 Pirates and one with the 1987 Twins), and was a two-time All-Star (once with his first stint with the Twins in 1973, and with the 1985 Indians). Not to mention the fact that he had the nastiest curveball of his generation.
One of the major reasons voters have been so reluctant to include Bert in the Hall is that he never won a Cy Young Award. There’s also the fact that he allowed a lot of home runs, setting the single-season record in 1986 (50) and back-to-back seasons (’86, & ’87, when he allowed 46). He also never reached the magic 300 career wins threshold, falling short at 283. I think, though, that all of this stuff is irrelevant when you consider just how good his stuff was when he was in his prime. And while he never really won a lot of individual awards, he did lead two different teams to Wold Series victories.
Bert is eligible to get in through the writer’s vote until 2012. Each year he gets a little more support (he finished with 61.9 % of the vote last year). Hopefully the voters will finally get it right this time.
As a side note, I have to say that I really like having Bert do the color commentary for Twins games. Yes, he’s kind of crabby and if I hear him complain about how today’s pitchers are coddled, I’ll throw something at the t.v. Or invent a new drinking game. But he, and play-by-play guy Dick Bremer, really have a passion for the game that’s missing from the national broadcasts. I hate it when FOX features the Twins in the game-of-the-week because I have to listen to a bunch of drones who have absolutely no clue about what’s going on with the team, and sound as though they would rather be somewhere else (I’m looking at you, Joe Buck).
- In other news….
The Timberwolves have now won 5 straight games!!! I have no idea how long it’s been since they’ve had a 5-game winning streak, probably back when KG was still a Wolf. And I’m sure they’ll start losing again once they have to face an opponent who’s actually competent. Still, considering that the team was coming off a 13-game skid, it’s good to finally see the team show some flashes of talent.
I know I should be rooting for the Wolves to lose, otherwise it just validates Kevin McHale’s idiotic decisions as GM. And it’s clear that they’re not going to make the playoffs, so they should go for the higher draft pick. But, if I have learned anything over the past 20 years it is that the Wolves front office has no idea how to evaluate talent, and they’ll probably just screw it up anyway. For now, I am just going to enjoy this little hot streak, because it certainly won’t last.