- Jim Thome hits 550th career home run
Jim Thome is my least favorite player in the league. Oh, it’s nothing personal. He seems like a nice enough guy and everything. He doesn’t show up opposing pitchers when circling the bases and rarely badmouths anyone (opponents or teammates) in the press. He’s the type of guy who is quietly very good at his job, and I respect that. But whenever he’s at the plate, Jim Thome is my least favorite player in the league. He absolutely murders Twins’ pitching, but besides that, every good thing he does just helps the hated White Sox. His 27 career home runs at the Metrodome are second only to Ken Griffey jr.’s 28 for the most hit by any opposing player, and with nine games remaining against the Sox at the Dome, it’s likely he’ll surpass Griffey sometime this year. And (of course) it was he who killed our playoff hopes last year. Really, the nicest thing I can say about him is that this might be his last season in a Sox uniform.
As much as I might hate Jim Thome, I can’t help but be kind of happy when he reaches another career milestone. I am a baseball fan after all, and it is a bit thrilling to watch a guy put together a Hall-of-Fame career in my lifetime, even if it helps out the enemy in the process. I’m just a lot happier when he does these things against someone else (like Dustin Moseley and Santiago Casilla). And while I certainly wasn’t rooting for (God forbid) the Pale Hosers to win the World Series last year, I would’ve been secretly kind of happy if Thome got a ring. With the almost-Ruthian numbers he’s put up in his career, I can think of few players in the league who deserve it more, and the distinct possibility that he won’t ever get one makes me a little sad. I just want him to win it all with someone other than the White Sox.
Pat Neshek and Boof Bonser are both doing well in rehab. Bonser is actually ahead of schedule and might even be back with the team by September. Boof wasn’t great as a reliever last season, posting a 5.88 ERA and 1.577 WHIP, but his very good 3.44 K/BB ratio and 9.5 K/9 rate suggests it might just be an issue of acclimating himself to his new role in the bullpen. Of course, all of that is in question now that he’s had shoulder surgery and time will tell if he ends up more like Joe Nathan or Jesse Crain. Neshek has begun playing catch from 60 feet, but won’t start throwing off the mound until the fall and isn’t expected to return to the team before next year.
You might’ve missed it, since it’s not like the story is getting much media coverage or anything, but the Yankees apparently have some sort of errorless streak going. Obviously, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have the best defense in the league (they don’t), but it is a vast improvement over what they had last year.
Howard Sinker asks “When did you become a fan?”. I’ve already kind of answered that question, but I’ve pretty much been a Twins fan as long as I can remember (because the ’87 World Series is about as far back as I can remember).
- Twins thump White Sox 20-1
The Twins were simply trying to avoid being swept by the Pale Hose, and going winless on this road trip, and somehow managed to score twenty runs in the process. Before the seventh-inning stretch, no less. While it seems like pretty much every Twin had a hit (Except for Nick Punto, who went 0-for-5 with 3 Ks. Justin Morneau went hitless, too, though he did draw 3 walks, one of which was intentional), Joe Mauer certainly had a good day at the plate. He hit the second grand slam of his career, as well as a pair of doubles, and drove in six runs. Ron Gardenhire shook up the lineup a bit, batting Mauer second and moving Matt Tolbert down to the eighth spot, a move that is long overdue. Mauer has always been more of a prototypical #2 hitter, since he hasn’t typically shown enough power to be a #3 hitter (although that appears to be changing), and it generally makes sense to have one of your best hitters batting second. Gardy has always been reluctant to do this though, since he doesn’t like the idea of having four lefties batting in a row. Perhaps this outpouring of offense will convince Gardy that it’s OK to bat a bunch of lefties in a row when those lefties include Denard Span, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau.
The Twins did get a lot of help from former Yankee fan-favorite Wilson Betemit, who spent the afternoon making a mockery out of the third base position. Bartolo Colon really only gave up one earned run before being yanked in the second inning, the other seven came after Betemit failed to field a Nick Punto bunt. Betemit didn’t help his cause at the plate, either, going 0-for-4 and stranding a runner on base.
Nick Blackburn scattered four hits and shut out the White Sox through seven innings, and helped the Twins end a streak of a different kind: the tendency of the pitching staff to give back the lead, often in the bottom of the inning. This has been a consistent problem throughout the season, but it’s been particularly troublesome on this road trip. Before leaving for the seven-game trip to New York and Chicago, the Twins had swept the Tigers and were tied for first place. But the pitching staff blew at least four leads going into the later innings, costing the Twins at least as many wins and putting them 5.5 games behind the first-place Tigers (who haven’t lost since). Had the Twins managed to hold those leads, they would probably have finished the road trip 4-3. if not 5-2, instead of 1-6 and would probably be trailing Detroit by just a game or two.
- But wait, there’s more
This lopsided loss couldn’t have come at a worse time for the White Sox. Jake Peavy was deciding whether to accept a trade to the Southside, and not surprisingly, he declined. The outcome of this game probably had little to do with his decision, however, since Peavy has long expressed a preference to remain in the National League. It’s also not terribly surprising that Peavy would prefer to remain in an extreme pitcher’s ballpark, such as Petco, rather than move to a hitter’s paradise such as the Cell.
However, as much as it pains me to say this, the White Sox should probably consider themselves lucky that the deal fell through. Whether or not Jake Peavy should be considered one of the best pitchers in the league is the subject of intense debate, since he does pitch in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. While his road numbers in general aren’t exactly terrible, his WHIP increases from 1.085 to 1.293 and his K/BB ratio decreases from 3.73 to 2.54 outside the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park. Which indicates that Peavy might have a rough transition to the American League, and especially to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. And then there’s the matter of Peavy’s contract, which the ChiSox would have been on the hook for had he actually agreed to the trade. $52 million over the next three years is an awful lot of money to spend on a guy who may or may not pitch as effectively in the AL, not to mention the prospects Chicago would have to give up in exchange.
- But wait, there’s more
On a completely unrelated note, the Wild have hired Chuck Fletcher as their new GM (sorry Pierre). I’m not going to go into much detail about the hiring, since this is a baseball blog, except to say that this does like a very good hire (on paper, anyway). This team is going to look very different going forward, which will be very interesting. Still, it’s probably best to see what moves he makes first, including hiring a new coach, before getting too excited.
Oh, yeah, and the Wolves have a new GM now too, but zzzzzzz….
I am inclined to agree with Mike Pagliarulo (and Jen) on that one. Yes, I am also a football fan. And as regular readers of this blog are well aware, I absolutely loooooove hockey. But baseball is definitely the greatest game there is. Because unlike those other sports, there is no clock to kill any potential rally. In baseball, there’s always hope for a comeback. Which is precisely what the Twins did last night. Down two runs in the bottom of the ninth, with two out and nobody on, the Twins battled back and scored three runs off of
Brendan Morrow (oops, Miguel Batista. That’s the kind of sloppy journalism you are bound to produce when you are very sleepy or heavily intoxicated or both) for their first victory of the season.
This was hardly the best game the Twins have ever played. Nick Blackburn was shaky in his five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits while walking three and only striking out one. There were a couple of misplays in the outfield by Delmon Young and Denard Span that certainly didn’t help, either. The offense struggled to do much against Erik Bedard for most of the night. It looked as though the Twins were about to drop their second straight game against the Mariners. But the Twins managed to score three runs off of him in the fifth, to pull themselves within one. Well, until Luis Ayala gave up another run in the top of the ninth, anyway. The game looked like it was over when Seattle closer Brendan Morrow got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. The free-swinging Carlos Gomez was coming to the plate, and fans were already starting head for the exits. But he drew a walk (!) after one of the best ABs he’s ever had, and that seemed to really rattle Morrow, who struggled to find the plate after that. Seattle’s self-proclaimed closer then proceeded to walk the bases full, and was pulled in favor of Batista. Denard Span drove in a run on an infield hit (Span, who had an awful spring, was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI singles). Alexi Casilla then smacked a two-run single to center field and that was the ballgame. Casilla, by the way, is getting really good at this whole walk-off-win thing.
Mike Redmond is still questionable after injuring his groin while running out a double in the series opener. This was right after he got hit in the neck with a broken bat. It just wouldn’t be a ballgame if Redmond didn’t get hit in the head with something. He was kept out of last night’s game as sort of a precautionary
measure and will be re-evaluated today. Apparently the injury isn’t that serious and Redmond has declared himself ‘ready to catch’ if necessary, but we shall see. Groin injuries can be one of those lingering things that affects a guy the entire season.
Apparently I’m not the only one who likes the throwback jerseys, either (and judging by that last pic, somebody else does, too). Although, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really such a good idea to emulate a team that lost 102 games.
I do like what I’ve seen from Joe Crede so far. Not so much at the plate (though he did hit a double in the big three-run fifth inning), but he has tremendous range at third. This isn’t something I’m used to seeing, as the last decent third baseman the Twins had was Corey Koskie. So forgive me for getting a little excited at the prospect that the infield defense might not suck this year.
The Twins really should win tonight’s game, though. Kevin Slowey (aka the new Brad Radke) is on the mound against Carlos Silva. Silva has apparently lost a lot of weight and did put together a decent ST campaign, but he’s still prone to having a total meltdown out on the mound if things aren’t going his way.
- No, no, you had it right the first time
I think I know what I’m going to call the
Pale Hose White Sux White Sox from now on:
- Rivalries are fun
Like the Yankees/Red Sox, Cubs/Cardinals, and Dodgers/Giants, the Twins and the White Sox have developed their own rivalry over the course of the past decade. Although the two teams have been divisional rivals for years, it wasn’t until both started to become relevant that things began to heat up. These games are always exciting regardless of where the teams are in the standings. There’s all kinds of bizarre incidents, heartbreaking losses, and thrilling come-from-behind wins. And, of course, it’s just not a rivalry without the requisite trash talk from both sides.
Games against divisional opponents always carry a special weight, but games against the Pale Hose are different. While Cleveland is a tough opponent, the Twins haven’t had much success against them (except for last year) so the rivalry is kind of one-sided. Although things sometimes get chippy with the Tigers and the Royals, neither team really has the cast of characters that makes games against the Sox so intriguing:
Ozzie Guillen is the most entertaining figure in sports. Period. He always says whatever he thinks and doesn’t care if anyone likes it or not. And more often than not, he’s right. He was right to complain that the Cubs get treated like the Yankees by the Chicago media, while the Sox are treated more like the Mets (it might have something to do with the fact that the Tribune owned the Cubs at the time). He was also painfully honest when asked about a potential reunion of the 2005 World Series Sox. Whatever you want to say about Guillen as a person, there’s no denying that as a manager he is a brilliant strategist and is obviously liked and respected by the guys in the clubhouse (well, except maybe by this guy). And no matter what he says, I hope Kenny Williams has the good sense to never, ever, ever, ever fire Ozzie.
Speaking of controversial figures, A.J. Pierzynski has to be the most hated man in baseball. He’s done something dirty to almost every team in the league, and fanbases everywhere are always vocal about their disapproval. Having said that, I have to admit that I don’t really hate A. J. I find his antics amusing for the most part, and it would be hypocritical of me to criticize him now for things he did all the time as a Twin. But more importantly, he was the centerpiece of the greatest trade in Twins history. I cannot find it in my heart to hate the man who brought us the joy that is Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano (and, to a lesser extent, Boof Bonser). Oh, and his departure made room for the superstar that is Joe Mauer to come up, which just makes it even harder to hate A. J.
The only White Sock I can muster any angry feelings for is Jim Thome, and that’s simply because he’s a Twin-killer. I’ve seen his career numbers against the Twins, and I’m not going to post them because they make me ill. All I’m going to say is that he hits like a modern-day Babe Ruth off of any and all Twins pitchers. But I can’t really say that I hate Thome either; he’s a good guy and he’s very good at what he does. I mostly just feel a sense of dread whenever he comes to the plate, because I know something bad is about to happen.
No, there are really only two sports franchises I actually hate: The Green Bay Packers and the Vancouver Canucks. Hating the Packers (and their fans) is obligatory if you root for the Vikings, although this year’s team didn’t inspire the usual feelings of animosity. The Packers under Brett Favre were very hateable, and their fans were the most obnoxious and arrogant of any fanbase in major league sports. But now that the Gunslinger is gone, the Packers are much harder to hate. Aaron Rogders just doesn’t inspire the sort of frothing vitriol that Fav-ruh did and I actually kind of feel sorry for the poor guy. Besides, Packer fans have been awfully quiet this year. Gee, I wonder why…
I guess when I really think about it all of my sports-related hate is reserved for the Vancouver Canucks. I HATE them. They like to play dirty, and there’s a palpable sense of animosity between the players on the ice. Although the Wild have typically dominated the Canucks, things are different this season. They have yet to win a single game against Vancouver and currently trail them by two points in the standings. To make matters worse, they went out and signed former Wild star Pavol Demitra and will probably go after Marian Gaborik as well.
So which Canuck do I hate the most? Mattias Ohlund, of course. Because he did this to Mikko Koivu:
Go to hell, Vancouver.
While was watching the AFC Championship game on Sunday, I noticed that Steelers fans were waving these:
Ugh (sorry Kevin). Of course, I can’t complain too much, because they look an awful lot like these:
As a Twins fan, I apologize for inflicting the Homer Hanky upon an unsuspecting world. I’m sorry! It’s just…we got carried away! It was so long since the Twins had even made the playoffs, let alone the World Series. It was an exciting time, and we had no idea when, or if, we would have anything to celebrate again (our other sports franchises have been pretty pathetic too, you know).
I refuse to wave the Homer Hanky, by the way. It looks like we’re surrendering, with the sea of white flags waving. I refuse to surrender! WE’RE GOING TO WIN, DAMMIT!!! GO TWINS!!11!!1!
Sorry, At least the Homer Hanky isn’t as bad as Thunderstix.
If you feel a need to bang large plastic phallic objects together to cheer for your team, then GO TO A BASKETBALL GAME!!! Noisy things like this have no business at a baseball game. Cowbells are pretty obnoxious, too, but I’ll give Rays fans a pass since their team didn’t give them much to cheer about for the last decade.
The Rally Monkey has got to go. God, I hate this thing:
Oops, wrong picture.
Doesn’t this constitute animal cruelty? Where’s PETA when you need them?
I have to say, though, whoever invented the Blackout is a genius.
The Kiss Cam has to be the lamest of the lame gimmicks. I thought we were intelligent baseball fans here in Twins Territory (aside from the hanky thing anyway), but even we are not immune from this abomination. Look, I get it. MLB wants to reach a wider audience, and it thinks reaching out to female fans will accomplish this goal. The problem is, the type of women who love the Kiss Cam aren’t really interested in baseball. They’re the pink hats, the types who go to games to impress guys but want to leave before the seventh inning stretch. To make matters worse, this kind of crap simply annoys diehard fans such as myself.
Never mind, it looks like the White Sox already beat us to it.
- Owners Vote to End Coin Flip
Baseball owners have come to their senses and realized that the coin flip is a stupid way to determine home-field advantage for tie-breaking games. Instead, the rule will now be whoever wins the season series, as it should be. It wasn’t really fair that the Twins had to play the tie-breaking game against the Pale Hose at U. S. Cellular Field, since they had won the beaten them during the regular season 10 games to 8. Hopefully,this year the team will have a large enough division lead that they won’t have to worry about playing an extra playoff game.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the coin flip that cost the Twins the division title last year. No, it was the fact that they couldn’t manage to take 2 out of 3 from the lowly Royals in the series finale at the Dome. Francisco Liriano was awful in the first game, giving up 6 runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. This start highlighted one of the problems he’d had all year, the inability to get his breaking pitches over for strikes. The Royals hitters were clearly laying off of these and sitting on his fastball, which had neither the velocity nor the movement to be effective. Glen Perkins was also less than stellar, but he exited after 5 innings with a 2-1 lead. That Boof Bonser promptly threw away (note to Twins’ relief corps: if the team hands you a lead, no matter how small, it is your job to HANG ONTO IT!!!! If you can’t do that, then WHY ARE YOU EVEN IN BASEBALL???!!!). Staff ace Scott Baker was the only one who managed to beat the Royals, pitching a shutout over 7 innings, but it wasn’t enough since the Pale Hose also won and forced the tie-breaking game.
- More talk of the dreaded “c” word
After the Yankees’ recent half-a-billion dollar free agent shopping spree, many small-market owners are now calling for a salary cap in baseball. This is a terrible idea. First of all, the Yankees are not guaranteed a playoff spot, let alone another World Series ring, just because they brought in a bunch of expensive free agents. After all, it was the $43 million dollar Rays who won the AL East and contended for a World Series title last season. Secondly, the Yankees only spend so much because they have billions in revenue that they have earned through making very smart business decisions (the YES network, for example). Why should they be punished for that?
This whole argument that baseball needs a salary cap to create a more level playing field is a convenient excuse for the real reason: greed. Right now, baseball players are the only professional athletes in the U. S. who get their fair share of the revenue that the league earns. By instituting a salary cap, owners would get complete control over player’s salaries and would get to pocket whatever revenue is left over. Although it’s tough to sympathize with a bunch of millionaires, I have to admit that it isn’t fair for management to keep all of the extra earnings while the players have to take whatever they’re given.
To make matters worse, the salary cap wouldn’t necessarily make it any easier for small-market teams to retain their biggest stars. If anything, it would make it even more difficult since teams have to dump larger contracts to make room under the cap. Case in point: the Wild (in all likelihood) are about to lose two of their biggest stars, winger Marian Gaborik and goalie Niklas Backstrom, simply because they don’t have enough space under the cap to re-sign them. In order to clear space, the team would have to dump its biggest contracts: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Nick Schultz, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Owen Nolan. All are huge contributors to the success of the team, and it really doesn’t make sense to dump any of them just to retain a single player. At least the Twins could, in theory, sign Joe Mauer to a 10-year, $200 million contract extension without having to trade Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan in the process.
- Rangers’ Michael Young Requests a Trade:
According to this story, Michael Young has requested a trade from the Texas Rangers rather than be moved to third base. Naturally, there are rumors that the Twins might be interested in the 32-year old shortstop. This is a terrible idea. First of all, the Twins do not need a shortstop, since this is why they re-signed Nick Punto. They need an everyday third baseman, and Young is apparently opposed to the idea of playing third. Secondly, Michael Young is overrated. Yes, he puts up good numbers, but he also plays in a hitter’s paradise. And although he did win a Gold Glove (for some reason), he is one of the worst defenders in the league. Considering what it would likely cost to acquire Young (likely one of the young starters or prized prospects), let’s hope the Twins are smart enough to say no.
The last thing the Twins need is a mediocre hitter who can’t play his position, especially for a team that struggled defensively last season. The Twins had long been known as one of the best defensive teams in the league, but last year was an exception. The team committed 108 errors, or seventh-most in the league. A lot of this had to do with the fact that the team had so many rookies, most of whom improved as the season wore on. Some of it was also due to the rotating nature of the infield due to injuries that prevented players like Brendan Harris from settling into a particular role. At any rate, it is clear that a team built on pitching, speed, and defense cannot afford to sacrifice one of these things (namely defense) for what is likely to be little improvement in offense.
There’s also been talk that the Twins are interested in free agent third baseman Joe Crede. On the surface, Crede does appear to be a better fit and would be an upgrade over the current Buscher/Harris platoon at third. His bat has pop, and unlike Young he is certainly not a liability defensively. However, Crede has been injured a lot and missed most of last season with a back injury. I’m not sure his back would hold up playing on that awful turf, which is little more than a thin rug stretched over concrete. If he were willing to sign a one-year, incentive-laden deal on the cheap (which is unlikely given that his agent is Scott Boras), then I would support it. If he is looking for a deal similar to what Casey Blake got from the Dodgers, however, then the Twins might as well just save their money and stick with what they have.
Finding an everyday third baseman has been a struggle for the organization ever since Corey Koskie left via free agency after the 2004 season. Yes, you read that right, the Twins have not had an everyday third baseman in four years. Four years! In that time Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Mike Lamb, Tony Batista, and God knows how many part-timers have all failed to take over the starting job (and those are just the names I can think of off-hand. I know there are even more). Some were horrible defenders, some were terrible hitters, and some (Lamb) couldn’t do either.
The Twins do have a couple of intriguing minor-leaguers in Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes who might finally win the starting job. Hughes has put up some very good numbers, although they did decline a bit when he made the jump from AA to AAA ball (from .319/.385/.551 with 15 homers, to .283/.325/.463 with 3 homers). Valencia has also put up some respectable numbers, and he is better defensively than Hughes. However, both have some major drawbacks. Hughes’ defense is nothing to get too excited about, and there’s a question as to whether or not he’ll ever be major-league ready. Valencia, at 24, has yet to advance beyond AA ball. However, given the thin market and the fact that whoever the Twins are interested in will cost too much (either in money for free agents or prospects in trade) the team is better off seeing what they have in these guys than rolling the dice with either Young or Crede.