This is going to be one craptacular season for Twins fans, but I’m
done whining (for now). I prefer to focus on the good things that
happened this week:
- Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez throws no-hitter
Moments like this are what makes it so much fun to be a baseball
fan. When Sanchez struck out Everth Cabrera looking to complete the
no-hitter, his teammates reacted as though they’d just won the World
Series. Randy Johnson, who’s thrown a few of those in his career and
whose spot Sanchez replaced in the rotation, came up and hugged the
kid. And his dad was moved to tears by his son’s performance.
And if Juan Uribe hadn’t screwed it all up, Sanchez would have thrown a perfect game. At least Aaron Rowand made a great running catch to preserve the no-no.
Of course, now I’m going to completely rain on his parade by pointing out that he no-hit the weakest offense
in all of baseball. Granted, the Padres play in an extreme pitcher’s
park and their numbers will always reflect that, but even when you
account for ballpark factors, this offense is pretty bad (this game was
in San Francisco, anyway). That said, Sanchez’s performance was still
masterful: 11 strikeouts, no walks, only the sixth no-hitter in
history with at least 10 Ks and no walks.
On a semi-related note, Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times posted a list of the worst (and best)
lineups to ever be no-hit. The Angels team that Eric Milton no-hit was
number five on the list, which isn’t surprising since Milton is the one
of the most unlikely pitchers to ever spin a no-no. The Twins team
that David Wells threw a perfect game against wasn’t terrible enough to make the list, but they were probably about as good as this year’s Padres team.
- Man Muscles is going to participate in the Home Run Derby
Oh, come on, you know he’s going to win it. There isn’t anything he can’t do.
I do think it would be hilarious if Albert Pujols hit 60 bombs in the
first round, only to lose to Mauer because he wore himself out.
- Joe Crede has already earned his $7 million contract
It seems strange to write that, since he’s got a weak .226 batting
average, but it’s true. When researching how awful the worst hitters
in the lineup are (and I was going to consider Crede one of them), I
came across some interesting numbers:
Joe Crede: .226/.293/.428/.721 OPS 11.4 UZR 1.8 WAR
even though he doesn’t hit for a high average, his bat has some pop
and his defense makes him one of the elite third basemen in the
league. Furthermore, by providing some power and bailing out the
pitching staff on a consistent basis, his overall worth is already estimated at $8.2 million. Now, you might not agree with the way Fangraphs calculates dollar values
for players (they think Roy Halladay will be worth $35 million this
year), but as long as he remains healthy there is little doubt that
Crede will be worth every penny the Twins are paying him. Just ask the
- The Royals trade for Yuniesky Betancourt
I am not trying to pick on Kansas City (I’ve already done that). I’m just glad he’s off the market now so the Twins won’t be tempted to trade for him (as others have suggested). Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli,
probably the only fans the Royals have left (and Rany is threatening to
hang it up) have already summarized this deal in two very excellent
Seriously, a lot of Royals fans are fed up with the
front office and disappointed in their team, and I don’t really blame
them. I remember when the Twins were horribly, mind-numbingly bad in
the mid-90s, and how hard it was to cheer for a team that didn’t really
give its fans much to cheer for. It was like this for nearly a decade,
and we all wondered if it was ever going to end, if we were ever going
to even have a decent team again. That’s right, we were dreaming of the kind of mediocrity
this team gives us now. It kind of got me to thinking about false hope
vs. no hope, and which of the two I prefer. And I guess that false
hope is better than none at all. Yes, it can be frustrating to watch
your team hang around in the playoff picture all season long, only to fall short at the very last minute. Or to have your hopes of winning a championship dashed in the first round of the playoffs every…single…time. But jeezus, at least this way you have something to look forward to.
Seligula is more than happy to relocate a small-market team that
consistently loses 90 games to a more lucrative market. Believe me, I know.
My hard drive is now fixed and seems to be working just fine. I’m really glad this happened now and not during the semester, since it would be very, very difficult to get any work done without my laptop. I’m also really glad I decided to back up all of my important files, otherwise I would have lost everything and would basically be screwed. In the meantime, a lot of important stuff happened while I was gone:
The Twins win the series!
I mean the weekend series against the Cardinals. You know, I too find the fact that St. Louis is so unapologetically a baseball town to be quite endearing. I do like football, and I am a Vikings fan, but even I have never understood why the Vikes are so beloved in this town. Unlike the Twins, the Vikings have never won anything important and, if anything, actually have a reputation for choking in big games. They haven’t brought us anything more than shame and embarrassment, and yet people love them more than any other sports franchise in this state. Go figure.
Sadly, the Pioneer Press laid off 11 people, including Twins’ beat reporter Phil Miller. The Press’ Twins’ coverage was pretty minimal at best, now I guess it’ll be non-existent. Which is just one more reason why I have always preferred the Star Tribune.
Justin Morneau homered in three straight games, one of which was this lovely shot that landed in the fountain at Kauffman Stadium. He came out of yesterday’s game against the Royals with a groin injury, but it doesn’t sound too serious and he should be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Tigers. As of right now, there is no need for a “F*ck! There goes our season!” post.
The Twins actually got pretty banged up during the series finale in Kansas City. Mike Redmond had to come out after he got hit in the arm with a foul tip, and apparently he has a bruised forearm and might be out of commission for a bit. Nick Punto also had to leave the game with back stiffness, after Jose Guillen tried to take him out on a questionable play. Um, Guillen does realize that taking out Punto actually kind of helps the Twins, right?
The Sean Henn experiment is over, let the Brian Duensing experiment begin.
The Wolves sort of did the NBA equivalent of taking a bunch of wide receivers in the draft. Actually, I think that the Wolfies did the right thing, for once. It makes sense for a team as devoid of talent as the Wolves to take the best available talent in the draft, since it will take more than one draft to fill all of the holes on the roster. The Wolves will probably have to address most of their needs through trade, and now they actually have the assets to do so. Of course, if the Wolves are still only winning 25 games five years from now, I will be writing an entirely different post.
Michael Jackson, well, it’s no secret that he had a lot of problems. But if there is a more perfect pop album than Thriller, I have yet to hear it. And it spawned the greatest music video of all time.
Oh, yeah, I guess Minnesota finally has a new senator. Meh. I guess now is as good a time as any to post this video:
- If I pretend the seventh inning didn’t happen, the Twins win this one, right?
Scott Baker was cruising along, pitching a no-hitter through six innings. The offense, with the help of some Kansas City errors, managed to scratch out four runs against tough right-hander Gil Meche. It looked as though the Twins were about to win their third straight series, and put the ugliness of last night’s game behind them (more on that in a minute). But then all hell broke loose in the seventh. Scott Baker gave up a single to lead off batter Willie Bloomquist. Then another single, then a three-run homer to Jose Guillen. Baker failed to record a single out in the inning, and when it was all over, Kansas City had a 5-4 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. R.A. Dickey would allow two more runs, and the Royals’ bullpen would hang on to beat the Twinkies 7-5.
Yes, five runs on five hits in one inning is pretty bad, but Baker has shown steady improvement in his past couple of starts and his very good 16/5 K/BB suggests that he’s on the right track. Before he completely fell apart in the seventh, Baker dominated the Royals throughout the entire game, giving up only one walk. I’m not sure if he just lost focus after surrendering the single to Bloomquist, or if he was starting to get tired (Baker has never been terribly efficient and had already thrown about ninety pitches going into the seventh), but this is still a vast improvement for a guy who was surrendering home runs at the rate of once per inning, all of which came with runners on. His ERA has now dropped to 9.15, which is pretty good considering that it was as high as 12.46 after his implosion against the Red Sox in Boston.
I have mentioned before that the Royals will be a good team this year, but this whole series had less to do with the Royals’ talent and everything to do with the Twins’ ineptitude. If it were not for some poor pitching performances in this game, and some crucial defensive mistakes in Saturday night’s game, the Twins would have swept Kansas City and moved into first place. If nothing else, they would have taken two out of three and remained only a half game back. But now they’re 12-13, and are two games behind the first place Royals. Which is precisely where they were before this homestand began.
- Defensive miscues and a horrendous bullpen cost Twins in Saturday’s 10-7 loss
Saturday night’s game against the Royals was about the ugliest I have ever seen. Officially there were four errors between the two teams, but unofficially, well, I lost count of all of the misplays in the field. Brian Bannister, who did struggle a bit, didn’t really get much help from the defense behind him. Only three of the six runs he surrendered were actually earned. Glen Perkins, on the other hand, was terrible on his own, giving up five earned runs on ten hits. For the third start in a row, Perk reverted into his old bad habits and started throwing a steady stream of fastballs whenever he got into trouble. And the Royals made him pay, chasing him out after six mediocre innings. The Perkins that got off to such a good start earlier in the season, the one that went at least eight innings in three starts and gave up only four runs, changed speeds effectively and generally did a good job keeping hitters off balance. I wonder whatever happened to that Perk and if we’ll ever see him again this season.
After last night, Ron Gardenhire has finally decided he’s seen enough of Alexi Casilla’s poor play and has benched the second baseman, at least for one game. Casilla made two crucial errors in the second game of the series, both of which likely cost the Twins the game. In the seventh, with the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, he failed to cover second on a steal attempt by Willie Bloomquist, who later scored on a single by Billy Butler to tie the game. The Royals untied the game in the very next inning, when Casilla misplayed a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning but instead allowed Alberto Callaspo to score from third. Alexi tends to be an emotional guy, and sometimes he lets his struggles at the plate affect his concentration in the field. Casilla was one of the big question marks coming into the season, as he’s struggled at both AAA and the major league levels before putting together a successful 2008 campaign with the big club. Still, Gardy doesn’t think that Casilla’s hot start with the Twins last year was a fluke, and is holding out hope that a day off is all the young second baseman will need to get back on track.
I don’t really know what to say about Craig Breslow. He’s now walked nine batters in 6.2 innings, and walked the bases full in the eleventh before he was pulled in favor of R.A. Dickey. Breslow was very effective last season, but seems to have lost his release point and Ron Gardenhire has now officially put the lefty on notice. The organization has been losing patience with Breslow, whose days are likely numbered since Jose Mijares has been lights out since his call-up and Anthony Slama has been pretty impressive with AA New Britain. It’s kind of a shame, too, because I started to really like the guy. Still, I guess this is probably why he’s bounced around between four different organizations in his five major-league seasons. But hey, at least he still has that medical school thing to fall back on.
- Bruce Boudreau is probably glad that he decided to bench Jose Theodore
Not bad for a rookie:
In his very first at-bat of the season, Joe Mauer drilled a 2-0 pitch from Sidney Ponson into the left-field seats. In his next at-bat, he spanked a double and then scored on a Justin Morneau single. In his third at-bat, he drew a walk and then scored on a Justin Morneau home run (which ended up being the winning runs, I might add). In his fourth at bat, well, he grounded into a double play. Still, that’s not bad for a guy who hasn’t played in any major league games since the
heartbreaker tiebreaker against the White Sox last year, and hadn’t really even swung a bat until, like three weeks ago. The Twins chased Sir Sidney out after five innings, tagging him for seven runs on nine hits. Considering that the Twins were one of the few teams that His Royal Highness the Prince of Slobenia has consistently been successful against (he is 11-4 with an ERA of 3.13 lifetime against Minnesota), it was a very good night indeed.
It’s tough to complain about the lineup too much, since the Twins did manage to score seven runs. However, one has to wonder why the struggling Alexi Casilla is still batting second. I realize that Ron Gardenhire probably doesn’t want four lefties in a row (although, it isn’t a bad idea when those lefties are Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel), but why he keeps batting Casilla second is a mystery. Casilla is batting a miserable .167, but even worse he’s been getting on base at an underwhelming .231 clip. This simply isn’t good enough, and while Casilla is much better defensively at second than Brendan Harris, Harris has been riding a hot streak lately and probably should be in the lineup everyday. I don’t mind Gardy being patient with Casilla and hoping he’ll turn things around (he did hit the ball really hard three times last night, unfortunately it happened to be right to a Royal each time), but he should be moved down in the lineup until he actually does so.
Of course, it’s a good thing the offense managed to provide him with all of that run support, since starter Kevin Slowey needed every single one of them. He gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings and surrendered the lead twice, although he didn’t run into trouble until the third. Still, it was good enough to earn his fourth victory of the season and he improved(?) to 4-0. Joe Nathan, after blowing a save against Tampa Bay in his last relief appearance, gave up a single to Mike Aviles but pitched an otherwise-perfect ninth to record his fourth save of the season.
Oh, and Joe Crede was out of the lineup last night because his wife was having their third child.
He is expected to miss the rest of the series against the Royals but should rejoin the team in Detroit. Never mind, he’s back in the lineup tonight. But Kubel’s sick, so he’s out. And the flame-throwing Juan Morillo was demoted to AAA Rochester to make room for Mauer on the roster. It isn’t really that surprising that he managed to clear waivers, as his 22.50 ERA and poor 0.33 K/BB rate probably scared off any prospective suitors. It will be interesting to see if pitching coach Bobby Cuellar can tame some of his wildness. The minor-league coaching staff has had a lot of success in teaching the young prospects to throw strikes, so Morillo has definitely come to the right place. At any rate, it’s tough to imagine that Morillo won’t get another shot with the big club. A guy whose fastball averages 96.5 mph would be a very good thing to have in the bullpen indeed.
- Will there ever be a rainbow?
First, there was the collapse at the end of the season in which they squandered a 3.5 game lead over the Phillies with only seventeen games left to play. Then, owner Fred Wilpon got taken for a ride by a smooth-talking conman (not named Luis Castillo for once). If that wasn’t bad enough, Citigroup is mulling pulling out of its $400 million deal for the naming rights to their new ballpark due to public outrage over all of the government bailout money they have received.
And then there is the hideous new logo of said ballpark:
And now Ambiorix Burgos is apparently making a name for himself as the worst human ever. Between all of the injuries and legal problems, one wonders if Burgos will ever set foot on the pitching rubber again. The Royals’ front office took a lot of heat when they traded him to the Mets for Brian Bannister. Usually it’s the other way around: a team gets criticized for trading a middle reliever for a starting pitcher. But Burgos had a filthy, 98-mph split-fingered fastball that made the AL’s best hitters look like fools. Most scouts weren’t too impressed with Bannister’s stuff, and thought the Royals were making a huge mistake. Nobody could understand why they were so eager to get rid of Burgos. Well, now we know: clearly the man is insane. This is also why I’m not so quick to criticize the moves Dayton Moore has made this year. On paper. the deals for Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs look horrible. But who knows? Maybe there’s something we don’t know about Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez; maybe they’re both injury-prone and/or crazy, too. Only time will tell if we will be laughing with the Royals, or at them.
- Twins reach agreement with Matt Guerrier, avoid arbitration
Matt Guerrier and the Twins organization have reached an agreement on a one-year, $1.475 million deal and will avoid an arbitration hearing. Now that Guerrier has signed, the Twins have once again avoided going into arbitration with any of their players (Jason Kubel was the only other arbitration-eligible player they had). This is probably more money than Guerrier is actually worth considering the season he had last year, but he’s been reliable for the most part and is worth keeping around.
I think Guerrier is certainly a better pitcher than his numbers last year would indicate. Although at 31 he isn’t likely to repeat the stellar numbers he had in 2007, he will probably bounce back from his mediocre 2008 campaign in which he posted an ERA+ of 78 and an FIP of 5.08 (and had 4 blown saves on top of it). Fatigue definitely played a role in his decline, as he was much better before the All-Star break than after. Another part of the problem is that he tends to struggle in big spots, and just isn’t cut out to be the set-up man. When Pat Neshek went down with an elbow injury, Guerrier was kind of thrust into the eighth-inning role and he struggled mightily down the stretch. However, it looks as though other options for the set-up job are starting to emerge from inside the organization, so I don’t think Guerrier will have to shoulder so much of the burden. If this is the case, Matt Guerrier should bounce back nicely and will probably put up numbers similar to those in 2005 & 2006.
- Ok, so maybe Bill Smith isn’t that dumb after all
Yeah, remember that trade for Jarrod Washburn that I was so upset about? Never mind. It looks like Bill Smith actually has some sense after all. But I had a good reason to be concerned: the trades Smith has made haven’t been very impressive so far. And all the talk that the Twins were interested in acquiring a veteran presence on the mound worried me; apparently they hadn’t learned their lessons from Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz and Livan Hernandez. I know that it’s unrealistic to expect that all of the kids are going to perform as well as they did last year, and at least a couple of them are going to come back down to earth. Still, the Twins already have a number of cheaper, and better, options within the organization should one of the starters fail. Boof Bonser and Philip Humber, who are both out of options, could fill out a spot at the bottom of the rotation if necessary. Heck, calling up Anthony Slama or Rob Delaney would even make more sense than acquiring yet another washed-up veteran pitcher.
There is a misguided tendency for a lot of organizations, not just the Twins, who have a very young team to go out and get cheap veteran players for the sake of having a veteran presence in the clubhouse. Unless these veterans are any good, though, this is simply a waste of valuable resources. The Twins wasted a combined $17 million on the likes of Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, and Craig Monroe last season. None of them, with the exception of Everett who had to replace an injured Alexi Casilla, were with the team anymore by the end of August. That money could have been better spent upgrading the injury-plagued bullpen, or even on long-term deals for some of their young talent. An organization that has limited financial resources like the Twins cannot afford to fritter them away on players who offer little else other than “leadership” or a “veteran presence”.
- Twins Content to Stand Pat While Division Rivals Improve
This offseason has been very frustrating for Twins fans. It has been very difficult to sit back and watch division rivals like the Indians make drastic moves to improve their ballclub, while ours does nothing. Cripes, even the Royals have tried to improve (tried being the operating word. I’m not sure if their moves are much of an improvement). And I’m sure White Sox GM Kenny Williams has something up his sleeve, he usually does. And, unlike last season, it’s not as if the Twins have a lot of holes to fill. They mostly need an upgrade at third and in the bullpen. And it’s been even more frustrating to see other clubs jump in and sign players that would be a perfect fit. The Twins have missed out on Jeremy Affeldt (who signed with the Giants and was apparently not even on their radar) and Koji Uehara for the bullpen, and Mark Derosa at third. Missing out on Derosa was even more frustrating because, not only did he go to the Indians, they didn’t have to give up much to get him. This was mostly a salary dump on the part of the Cubs to make room for Milton Bradley’s contract, and the Indians got him for a bargain.
I have been willing to give GM Bill Smith a pass for some of the boneheaded moves he made in the last offseason (his crop of free agents, the Delmon Young trade that was ill-advised from the beginning, etc.) since it was his first season as the Twins’ GM. And he does seem to have learned from some of these mistakes; he’s been adamant about hanging on to our young talent unless the deal is good enough and hasn’t been dumpster diving for free agents, yet. But the Indians got Derosa for nothing, and I’m sure that, much like the Cubs, the Mariners would love to get out from under Adrian Beltre’s contract (he does have that pesky no-trade clause that makes things a bit more difficult, though I’m sure he would waive it if the price was right. Oh, and his agent is satan himself). It just seems that Smith lacks the shrewdness of his predecessor Terry Ryan when it comes to making deals. Not everything Ryan did was brilliant, releasing David Ortiz is probably the biggest mistake he ever made, but he did have a penchant for ripping off other teams when it comes to trades (just ask the Giants).
Having said all that, I do think the Twins, even without making any major moves, could contend next season. Even with the Indians and the Royals making improvements (okay, maybe not the Royals), the division doesn’t look to be all that strong. Michael Cuddyer will most likely be healthy and provide the right-handed power bat the team is lacking. Scott Baker is starting to emerge as the staff ace, and Francisco Liriano is poised to have a big year. Rookie Jose Mijares was very impressive in his few relief appearances last year, and should compete for the set-up job. And I can live with the Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon at third. But that’s just it, I’m sick of simply contending. We’ve been contending for the past 8 years! I want to make a deep run in the playoffs for once, and this team has enough young talent to make such a run. They just need a little help, that’s all.
- And Another Thing:
While I’m ranting, I have some things to say about my other favorite team: The Wild. In particular, my all-time favorite player, goaltender Niklas Backstrom. Backs has been having a great season, posting a .927 save %, 2.17 GAA, and 5 shutouts, as well as being named to the All-Star Game. So why am I upset? Because Backs is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and the Wild don’t seem too intent on resigning him. I realize the team doesn’t have much space under the salary cap and has much more pressing needs that must be addressed. Still, since when is having depth at goal such a bad thing?
To make matters worse, Backs keeps telling us how much he loves playing in Minnesota and has no desire to leave: “You can’t take it for granted, but we’re playing in front of a sellout
crowd every night that knows a lot about hockey. So for a hockey
player, it’s a dream”. Oh Backs, just stop it. Stop it right now. You are making me cry. This divorce would be much easier if you told us you hate Minnesota and would rather play anywhere else, especially Vancouver. Or you could pull a Gabby and miss the rest of the season with a mysterious “lower body injury”. Then we would be more than happy to let you go.
Oh well, At least we’ll still have Mikko Koivu.