Tagged: giving up the gopher ball

Griffey Hearts the Dome

843-831222.standalone.prod_affiliate.5.jpgThe last time the Mariners were in town, Ken Griffey Jr. hit the eighth Opening Day home run of his career, tying him with Frank Robinson for the league record.  This time, he hit a two-run bomb that tied the game and sparked a Seattle rally against the Twins’ relief corpse that stopped the Mariners’ six-game losing streak.  Griffey has always hit Twins’ pitching well, and loves to hit in the Metrodome, where he’s a lifetime .287/.358/.581  with a career .968 OPS.  His 26 home runs in the Dome are far and away the most he’s hit in any visiting ballpark, and his career total of 42 homers against the Twins are the most he’s hit against any opponent.  While the pitching staff has done a pretty good job of keeping Junior off the base paths so far this year (he’s batting an anemic .154/315/.385), the two homers they’ve surrendered have turned out to be kind of important.

Poor Nick Blackburn.  He baffled the Mariners for seven innings, matching a career-high sixmedium_blackburn.jpg strikeouts.  He exited the game in the seventh, after having thrown 99 pitches, with a 2-0 lead and was on his way to earning his third victory of the season.  Unfortunately, the bullpen had other ideas.  Lefty Jose Mijares walked Jose Lopez (who almost never walks) on four pitches before throwing a fastball low and inside, right where Griffey likes it.  He was then lifted in favor of Jesse Crain, who failed to retire any of the hitters he faced.  When it was all over, what had been a 2-0 shutout became a 4-2 deficit.  Craig Breslow surrendered another homer in the ninth, a solo shot to that pesky Jose Lopez, just to ensure the game would be out of reach.  The offense tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, when Joe Mauer poked a single up the middle to put the Twins within two runs and Brandon Morrow proceeded to walk the bases full, but Brendan Harris grounded out to third and killed any hopes of pulling off a sweep.  I suppose it was too much to ask for the Twins to win three games in a row and to finally return to the .500 mark.  But before the bullpen blew up they were well on their way to doing exactly that.  The decision to pull Blackburn after seven innings is a bit puzzling, he was still a bit shy of the 100 pitch mark and didn’t appear to be tiring.  I’m sure that Gardy probably didn’t want a repeat of last Sunday’s performance against the Royals, when he left Scott Baker in a little too long and squandered a four-run lead.  Still, unless Blackburn himself felt he was done for the night, he probably should have been allowed to at least try to pitch one more inning.  It’s the only way to ensure that at least the bullpen won’t screw things up.

Further proof, as if any were needed, that the win is an overrated stat:  Frenchy Liriano was awful on Saturday, surrendering five runs on six hits in five innings, but the offense provided a large enough margin of error that he picked up the win.  Blackburn pitched one of the best games of his career, but got a measly two runs in support, and therefore got the shaft.


A Soggy Mess in Bawlmer

  • Twins drop first game of series against O’s, 4-1

rain.jpgRon Gardenhire was visibly angry when the game was finally called off after the fifth inning, and rightfully so.  There were no less than four rain delays totaling nearly four hours, and the radar had predicted no larger than a 15-minute window in which to play.  Why this game wasn’t called after the first rain delay in the third is a mystery.  I’m not blaming the weather for the Twins’ poor performance, the rain had nothing to do with the pitching staff surrendering a couple of home runs and the offense making Brian Bass look like Mariano Rivera, but it was obvious that the weather wasn’t going to clear up long enough to play nine innings and the game should have been called much earlier.

At least Craig Breslow didn’t walk anybody!  He did surrender a solo homer to Luke Scott on the first pitch, but then allowed only one other hit during his two innings of relief.  This is a vast improvement for a guy who had walked nine batters in a little over six innings, but he’s going to have to do better than that if he wants to keep his job in the ‘pen.  Sean Henn and Mike Gosling are viewed as possible replacements, but since both have walked an awful lot of batters so far this year, neither one is likely to get the call anytime soon.

I actually expect the Twins to get swept tonight.  Glen Perkins is on the mound, and while he’s been one of the most reliable starters in the rotation, he’s also been pitching a lot like the old Glen Perkins more recently.  However, I don’t expect him to get much run support either. The Twins will be facing a pitcher they have never seen before, and thus the offense will struggle to do much of anything against him.  It really doesn’t matter how effectively or terribly Brad Bergesen pitches tonight, the Twins’ aggressive bats will continually let him off the hook. And if Perkins allows as much as one run, it will probably be enough to secure a Baltimore win.

If you haven’t already, please check out the latest installment of Timeout at the Plate on Tom Walsh’s blog.  If you like lots of whining (or schadenfreude, if you happen to be a Chicago sports fan), then you’re in for a treat!

The Bears get Jay Cutler and the Vikings get Brett Farve, that sounds about right.  Drew Magary has perfectly summarized how I feel about that.

Between Manny on drugs and the Brett Favre saga, I will have absolutely no reason to watch ESPN for the next couple of months.  Of course, as a Twins fan (and hockey fan), it’s not like I had much reason to watch tWWL in the first place.

SI recently ranked all 30 closers in the league, and look who came out on top.  They did a great piece on him, too.

Nice try, Dave, but I don’t think Bill Smith is that dumb.  At least I hope not.

Also, I added a new Red Wings blog to my blogroll.  Besides the official website and Jim Mandelaro’s blog, there isn’t much out there in terms of Wings coverage and this one is pretty good.  It’s also got video from some of the games.

The Trouble with Scott Baker

  • Baker gives up three two-run homers in loss to BoSox

Thumbnail image for baker.jpgScott Baker has been giving up an awful lot of home runs so far this season, and today’s game against the Red Sox was certainly no different.  The righty gave up three two-run homers in the first three innings, and has given up a total of seven so far this season (all of which have been with runners on).  Now, Baker is a fly ball pitcher who has always had a tendency to give up the long ball, but he has never given up more than twenty in one season and usually does so at a rate of about once per nine innings pitched.  He’s been giving up the gopher ball at a rate of about once per every inning so far this year, and while that certainly isn’t good, it’s also very unusual.   He seems to be struggling with his mechanics, but since he he hasn’t had any complaints about his shoulder since coming off of the DL, he and pitching coach Rick Anderson should be able to figure out what the problem is.

Juan Morillo came in to pitch the seventh, and though he walked three batters without recording a single out, he wasn’t as wild as he looked.  Most of his pitches were actually really close to the strike zone, and since the field was such a mess in the seventh inning, it’s possible that he was just having trouble with his footing.  Actually, the weather probably had a lot to do with the bullpen giving up four runs in that inning, since the field was simply too slippery for outfielders to safely chase after routine fly balls.  But when your team is already down five runs because your pathetic excuse for an offense can’t score with the bases loaded and only one out, it doesn’t matter very much what the bullpen does.

Oh, and I meant to link to these two blog posts the last time, but Rob Iracane and Kris Liakos wrote some very interesting pieces about the unwavering devotion to their team expressed by some fanbases at the expense common sense and the overall appreciation of the game itself.  I have noticed that a lot of fans will forgive a team for a lot of awful things as long as those awful things don’t involve roster moves.  Using what is essentially extortion to force the city to build a new ballpark is perfectly ok, but make a bad trade and angry fans will be storming the front office with torches and pitchforks.

  • Moving?

I have been thinking about moving this blog for some time.  It’s not as though I don’t like the people at MLBlogs, we do have a nice community here.  It’s free, and I get a lot more traffic here than I probably would anywhere else.  But, it does have its limitations.  It isn’t very customizable.  And the censorship drives me nuts.  It isn’t as though I use a lot of bad language or anything (though sometimes I would like to; today, for example,would be a very good day to unleash a few f-bombs), but for some bizarre reason, certain words get censored that really aren’t even bad words, at least not as far as I know. Like ********, for example.  Wh0pping, the word is wh0pping. See what I mean? Anyone care to explain to me why that word is censored?  And obviously that drives me absolutely nuts. 

There are a couple of reasons why I have been reluctant to actually move.  Laziness is at the top of the list.  I haven’t actually settled on a new destination, either, but the thought of having to set up the whole thing again isn’t very appealing.  And any move I make would be permanent, since I have absolutely no interest in maintaining two different blogs.  I can barely keep up with this one, and I don’t see the point in writing the same exact thing twice.  So, I dunno. Thoughts?  Would moving actually be worth the effort?  Would you guys even bother reading this crap blog anymore if I moved it somewhere else?

Is Pitching Effectively Really So Much to Ask?

slowey-fail.jpgRemember all that stuff I said about Kevin Slowey earlier?  That he is the new Brad Radke and will be a dark horse candidate for the AL Cy Young this year?  Well, never mind (And thanks for making me look like a complete idiot there, Kev.  Lord knows I don’t need any help with that!).  As Joe Christensen has helpfully pointed out, Kevin Slowey is looking a lot more like Livan Hernandez than Brad Radke.  He gave up five runs on thirteen hits in five innings against Toronto last night, and has given up ten runs in twenty-two hits in his two starts thus far.  At this rate, he’ll surpass Livo’s grand total of 257 hits surrendered last season sometime around August.    

The bullpen wasn’t exactly spectacular last night, either.  Even though Slowey struggled, he did exit the game with a very slim lead. Which the bullpen (specifically Luis Ayala) promptly coughed up.  Ayala has been doing his best Juan Rincon impression this year, and by that I mean he sucks.  He’s given up four runs on ten hits in five appearances so far, one of which was a two-run bomb to Lyle Overbay in the eighth that put the Jays on top for good.  I have to wonder what he was doing pitching the eighth in the first place, though, especially since Jesse Crain is starting to look like the dominant reliever he was before having shoulder surgery in 2007.  Ayala gave up a run in the seventh that was charged to Matt Guerrier (since he put the runner on in the first place) and was being hit pretty hard.  And yet for some reason Ron Gardenhire thought it was a good idea to put him out there again, even though he had just threatened to cough up the lead one batter ago.  Unfortunately, he made good on that threat in the eighth, and the Twins ended up losing a game they really should have won.  

Last night’s game, as painful as it was to watch, did have a little bit of a silver lining.  Jason Kubel hit his first home run of the season, a bomb off of Jesse Litsch in the second inning.  Denard Span seems to be putting his awful ST campaign behind him, as he went 2-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base and is now hitting .310/.444/.448 in the lead off spot.  And R.A. Dickey managed to retire all four Jays he faced, which is something the entire pitching staff had failed to do up to that point.  So the Twins might actually have one reliable reliever in the bullpen after all. 

And, in honor of outgoing Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire (and because I need cheering up), here is a collection of his best quotes:

My personal favorite?  When asked if he was worried about his team getting lazy against non-playoff bound opponents down the stretch, Lemaire responded: “Worry is part of our life.  We wake up, we worry.  We go to bed, we worry.  And when we dream, we dream about being worried.”  And that is exactly how the pitching staff (and Gardy’s mismanagement of it) is making me feel right now.

It Was a Good Day for Minnesota

Something very rare happened yesterday:  every Minnesota team that played a game actually won.  This pretty much never happens.  There isn’t a great deal of overlap between the schedules for all of our major sports franchises anyway, and the results are rarely so favorable when they do.  Usually one team wins while the rest of them lose.  Or, most likely, all of them end up losing.

  • Twins beat Cardinals, 5-3

Thumbnail image for xIWBYjDe.jpgKevin Slowey continued his bid to be a dark horse candidate for the 2009 AL Cy Young, giving up two runs on eight hits in six innings.  He also recorded five strikeouts, including a big one against Albert Pujols with the bases loaded.  The only runs he gave up came off of a two-run homer by Rick Ankiel, and as I’ve mentioned before, he does have a tendency to give up the long ball.  Jesse Crain also bounced back from his awful appearance against the Reds, in which he gave up four runs on six hits in one inning, by pitching a scoreless eighth.  Jose Mijares was the only Minnesota pitcher who really struggled on the mound, nearly giving the game away in the ninth.  He gave up one run on three hits, and had runners on second and third with one out before getting the next two batters to ground out.

The good news for Cardinals fans is that Chris Carpenter looked really good for the most part.  He did give up four runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, which isn’t as bad as it sounds when you consider that he also struck out seven batters.  Trever Miller and Chris Perez also pitched well, which is very good news for a team whose bullpen had its own share of struggles last year.

By the way, Twins’ infield prospect Chris Cates made his Spring Training debut in the later innings, too.  This is only kind of interesting because, at 5′ 3″, Cates is the shortest player at any level of major league baseball (he’s actually just slightly taller than I am).  He looks like a little kid:

cates_beloit.jpgI think even the bat boys are taller than he is!

The Twins also have the tallest prospect in their system too, the 7′ 1″ right-handed pitcher Loek van Mil.  And yes, the two were teammates last year for the Beloit Snappers.

  • Wild beat Oilers, 3-2

Thumbnail image for backs_sho_oil.jpgAnother game that is essentially meaningless, as the Wild are not going to make the playoffs.  By beating Edmonton at Rexall Place last night though, they at least helped to ensure that the Oilers won’t make it, either.  It was also really good to see Mikko Koivu back on the ice after sustaining a serious knee injury the last time they beat the Oil.

Actually, Niklas Backstrom is the only reason the Wild even won this game.  They still turn over the puck way too much, and if Backs hadn’t been so sharp the Oil would’ve made them pay for all of their careless mistakes (much like the Flames did on Saturday).  The Wild could still theoretically make the playoffs if they win every single one of their next six games.  This is simply too much to ask for a team that hasn’t won two in a row in over a month, and hasn’t won three in a row since Thanksgiving.  Considering that the Wild also have the Flames and the Stars on the schedule (two teams they have struggled to do much against the entire year) I think it’s pretty safe to say that the season is almost over with now.

But hey, at least Bemidji State is having a pretty good run in the NCAA tournament.  The Beavers upset heavily-favored Notre Dame on Saturday, and stunned Cornell last night on their way to their first Frozen Four appearance in school history.  I’ve written before that I started following college hockey when the North Stars were shipped out of town.  And while my beloved Golden Gophers failed to even make the tournament this year, it is good to see at least one of our hockey teams in the playoffs.

  • Timberwolves finally win a game!

Yeah, they beat the Nets.  But a victory is a victory for a team that has only had twenty-one of them this year.  I thought the Wolves were at least going to surpass last year’s grand total of 22 wins, but with only eight games left on the schedule, I’m not so sure.  Sadly, if the Wolves were in the Eastern Conference, they would probably have a decent chance at making the playoffs this year.

By the way, I have now updated my blogroll.  I added three new MLBlogs that I like a lot, as well as a couple of Twins pro blogs.   If you haven’t yet, please check out Plouffe!, written by Twins infield prospect (and guitar player) Trevor Plouffe.  He’s got some great stuff on there about his former roommate Delmon Young, and some cute pictures too!

Tony O

In honor of my ranking on the Leaderboard, I will dedicate my number six to the most beloved Twin to ever wear it (at least most of his career anyway, he was number 37 for a little bit):  Tony Oliva.  Tony O was an outfielder/DH for the Twins for his entire career, from 1962 to 1976, and was one of the greatest left-handed hitters the team has ever had.  He was an eight time All-Star, 1964 Rookie of the Year (’64 was technically his first full year in the major leagues), won a Gold Glove in 1966, and led the league many times in many different offensive categories.  He is also the only major league player in history to win back-to-back batting titles in his first two full major league seasons. Oliva put up some very good career numbers, finishing .304/.353/.467 with 220 home runs, making him 243rd on the all-time home run leaders list.  Unfortunately, his career was hampered by knee injuries that prevented him from putting up Hall-of-Fame worthy numbers.

oliva.jpgThe Twins teams of the late ’60s and early ’70s were absolutely loaded with talent. During his career, Oliva played alongside the likes of infielders Zoilo Versalles and Rod Carew, outfielders Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, and pitchers Jim Kaat and Mudcat Grant.  Oliva himself though, almost didn’t make the cut.  A Twins scout noticed him while he played in his hometown of Pinar del Rio, and urged the Twins to sign him in 1961.  Oliva appeared in three spring training games, but the organization had already finalized its roster and released him.  He then went on to play for the Twins class A farm team in Charlotte, where manager Paul Howser was so impressed with his raw offensive prowess that he urged the Twins to re-sign him.  They did, and Tony O appeared in a few regular season games in ’62 and ’63 before being sent down for further development.  He made his official major-league debut in 1964, and the rest is (Twins) history.

Tony Oliva was actually born Pedro Oliva Lopez Hernandes Javique in Penar del Rio, Cuba.  His father was a semi-professional ballplayer who helped his son develop into one of the best hitters in Cuba.  When the Twins offered him a contract in 1961, Oliva was initially reluctant to sign.  He didn’t want to leave his family back in Cuba.  However, his father pushed him to take the deal, telling him to go to America and become “rich and famous”.  So the then 18-year-old Pedro Oliva used his 21-year-old brother Tony’s passport to enter the United States.  Although it was later revealed that what was believed to be the 21-year-old Tony Oliva was actually his younger brother Pedro, the name stuck. Oliva legally changed his name to Tony Pedro Oliva in 1990.

In 1971, while chasing down a Joe Rudi fly ball in Oakland, Oliva suffered a catastrophiccarew_tonyo_killebrew.jpg knee injury that he would never fully recover from.  Oliva was moved to the DH slot since his knees could no longer handle playing everyday in the outfield, and though he played another six seasons, his offensive production was never the same.  And while he finished with some very good career numbers, it ignited a fierce debate over whether or not he belonged in Cooperstown.  Some, such as Bill James, would argue that he had a good case based on the numbers he would have put up if he had been healthy (this was the same criteria in which Kirby Puckett was inducted in 2001).  Others would argue that players should only be inducted because of how good they were, not for what they could have done.  The latter group would win out and Oliva was denied induction into the HOF by the BBWAA.  For his part, though, Tony O has never made a huge push to get himself inducted.  It was good enough for him that the franchise decided to honor him by retiring his number and inducting him into the Twins’ Hall of Fame, alongside teammates Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew, as part of the inaugural 2000 class.

Even though he retired from baseball a long, long time ago, Tony O. is still a valuable member of the Twins’ organization.  He helps out the young players with batting practice, and is always willing to give advice:

Here he is playing Wii baseball with his grandson, too:

I guess it’s just like riding a bike.

  • Francisco Liriano rocked in loss to BoSox

Thumbnail image for p1franciscolirianosi.jpgFrankie was tagged for seven earned runs in one inning during the Twins’ 9-4 loss to the Red Sox
yesterday.  He was cruising a long until the third, when he gave up mulit-run bombs to Rocco Baldelli, David Ortiz, and Jason Bay.  It wasn’t the homers that hurt him as much as all of the hitters he walked in that inning (three to be exact).  These would all have been solo shots if he hadn’t issued so many free passes, and the Twins might have won the game.

While I’m not worried about Frankie and how he’s going to perform during the regular season (even though he gave up all those runs, he still struck out five batters in three innings), this awful start highlighted one of his biggest weaknesses:  his inability to locate his fastball.  After returning from Tommy-John surgery last year, the velocity on his fastball has dropped from 93-98 mph to about 89-93 mph.  This drop in velocity isn’t much of an issue as long as Frankie can locate his pitches.  After all, I doubt that his soft-tossing teammate Kevin Slowey has ever touched more than 91 mph on the gun, but he strikes out a lot of hitters with his pinpoint control. 

  • Flood Update:

The Red River crested yesterday at 40.82 feet, though the water hasn’t started to recede yet.  The levees are holding for now, but there is still some concern that they might give under prolonged stress if the river doesn’t start to recede soon.  Two people are reported dead, and there are about 50 injured so far.  Once again, if you would like to help out with the relief effort, go here.  

Things That Will Go Right This Year

sloweymauer.jpgOkay, okay, so I might have come across as sounding a tad negative in my previous post (it’s called being realistic about your team’s chances, people).  I do think the Twins have a good team.  Not a great team, and maybe not even good enough to win the division, but a competitive one nonetheless.  And while there are certainly some things to be worried about, there are also a lot of good things that will happen:

  1. Kevin Slowey is the new Brad Radke: The soft-tossing righty is having a great spring so far, posting a 1.93 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 9.1 innings pitched. Better yet, he’s been striking out batters at a rate of about once per inning.  His command has been absolutely spot on, with a perfect 10.00 K/BB ratio.  There are some who think that Slowey might turn in a Cy-Young-worthy performance this year, and at this point I would have to agree.

    The only real cause for concern with Slowey is that, like fellow fly-ball pitcher Scott Baker, he tends to give up the gopher ball.  However, he hasn’t given up any so far this spring and has limited opposing hitters to a tidy .303 slugging percentage.  I am a little concerned that the outfield defense might have a negative effect on his ERA, but at the rate he’s been striking out hitters it doesn’t look like that will be much of a problem.

  2. Francisco Liriano will emerge as the staff ace:  Frankie is still a little wild, but has been striking out hitters at decent clip of 7.71 K/9.  Even though he’s given up six walks in 16.1 innings, he’s held opposing batters to a paltry .172/.254/.259 and hasn’t given up very many extra base hits.  When he’s been on top of his game, he’s been absolutely dominant.  However, even at his worst (as he was in his first appearance against the Yankees and in his last start against the Pirates) Frankie gave up a mere three earned runs on six hits in six innings.  He’s been working on a changeup since his Tommy-John-surgically-repaired arm can’t withstand throwing so many sliders, and it’s been absolutely filthy.     
  3. Jason Kubel and Delmon Young are poised to have breakout seasons:  Last year, Jason Kubel started to show flashes of the hitter the Twins thought they were getting when they drafted him in 2000.  It looks as though he’s finally managed to put his knee problems behind him and has settled in as the everyday DH.  Kubel’s been putting up some good numbers so far this year, batting .367/.424/.500 in 30 ABs (though he’s only hit one home run).  Kubel is going to have to improve on last seasons’ 118 OPS+ to be worth keeping in the DH spot, but I think that with an increase in playing time the numbers will come.   

    Delmon Young will probably never be the power right-handed bat the Twins are looking for, but he looks as though he’s going to rebound from his disappointing 2008 season.  He’s been having a pretty good spring so far, posting a .351/.385/.595 line with 2 homers and 6 RBI in 37 plate appearances (although he did ground into four double plays against the Pirates on Wednesday, which would have been a record if it were a regular season game).  Delmon, like Carlos Gomez, has a tendency to swing at the first pitch a lot, so I would really like to see him show more patience at the plate.     

  4. Jesse Crain will be dominant:  Jesse Crain hasn’t allowed a run in his six appearances this spring, or even in his brief stint with Team Canada in the WBC (he struck out all four batters he faced).  His stuff has been electric, and he’s recorded four strikeouts while giving up one hit.  The velocity on his fastball has been back up to 94-95 mph and has had good movement on it, too.  This is fantastic news for a bullpen that has been lacking a dominant set-up man since Pat Neshek went down with an elbow injury in June of last year.
  5. Glen Perkins might not be that bad, either:  Perkins is arguably the weakest link in the rotation.  But he’s been pretty good so far, allowing a mere 5 earned runs in twenty innings.  However, I doubt this success will carry over into the regular season.  Perk has been very hittable in his spring training starts, having given up 20 hits so far, while only striking out seven.  Which means he’s had a lot of runners on base, something that isn’t good for a guy who (like Baker and Slowey) tends to give up the long ball.

    Lest you think I’m being negative again, I will say that Perk could make a decent back-of-the-rotation starter (and I’m pretty much the only person who thinks he even belongs on a major-league roster, so that’s saying a lot).  However, I also think that if he puts up decent numbers this year, the front office would be smart to consider trading him.  He doesn’t throw all that hard and lacks pinpoint command, but could be valuable trade bait for teams that are desperate for left-handed starting pitching.  The Twins have another lefty in Brian Duensing, who has better stuff and should be ready to start next season.  The Twins generally like to hang onto their pitching talent, though, so I would be surprised if they actually move Perk.  Most likely a demotion to the bullpen is in his future.

I know I lit into the front office for being such skinflints in my previous post, and I stand by that assessment.  However, there are some indications that the Pohlad family will be willing to increase payroll once the new ballpark opens next year.  They have given Bill Smith the greenlight to lock up some of their key players into long-term contracts (most notably Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan), and have expressed a desire to sign their All-Star catcher to a long-term deal even though it will cost them somewhere in the $140 million range to do so.  I am still a little skeptical on the spending front, though, since Jim Pohlad has handled most of the day-to-day baseball activities since 2003 and hasn’t increased payroll much in that time.  And I am also a bit skeptical that Bill Smith knows how to put a championship-caliber team together.  

  • Okay, now they’re dead

wild_lose.jpgPerhaps they are officially still in the Western Conference playoff race, but after last night’s awful effort against the Devils, the Wild Mild look like they’re done.  Just when I think they couldn’t possibly play any worse, they go out and prove me horribly, horribly wrong.  This time Marek Zidlicky was the goat of the game, with two crucial mistakes that led to New Jersey goals.  One was a no-look clearing pass intended for Martin Skoula that ended up right on the tape of Patrik Elias’s stick. 
Ugh, I don’t need to tell you where that one ended up.  The other was a failed attempt to strip Zach Parise of the puck at the blue line, setting up an odd-man rush with Brian Gionta, who buried his 18th goal of the season.  Meanwhile, Martin Broduer showed why he is the best goaltender in the league (and maybe of his generation), stopping all 35 shots and earning his 101st career shutout.

The money quote came from coach Jacques Lemaire.  When asked how his team could put forth such a lackadaisical effort when so much is on the line, he responded:  “I like that question. Hold onto it and take it in [to the locker room].  Ask them, and if you get an answer, tell me.”  Of course, the simple answer is that this team just isn’t very good.  And the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Worse yet, the Star Tribune had an interview with former Wild Captain, and current Devils center Brian Rolston, who admitted that he probably would’ve stayed in Minnesota had the front office approached him about a contract extension prior to the 2007-2008 season.  The Wild could really use his 96 goals and 202 points in three seasons right now.   But thanks for pointing out that one of the Wild’s top scorers and most beloved players would’ve re-signed with the team if the front office hadn’t screwed it up.  I feel so much better now.

  • Corey Koskie has decided to retire

According to this article on the Twins’ website, former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie has announced his retirement from baseball.  It’s not really a surprise, and while I was pulling for him to make a comeback, I also knew his chances of doing so were pretty remote.  Koskie was concerned about suffering another concussion, especially after diving for a ball during an exhibition game on Thursday.  In the end, he decided it was best to retire than spend the rest of the season wondering if every strange sensation he felt was a recurrence of his symptoms.  Considering all he’s been through in the past 2 1/2 years, the fact that he could even participate in any baseball-related activities is a miracle in and of itself.  I wish him the best in whatever it is he decides to do from now on.