“I hate that guy. Rad would get
you 0-for-4 and you’d go home wondering, ‘How did he do it?’ That’s the
type of guy he was. He was one of the best pitchers they had in a long
time.” -Ozzie Guillen
- Twins induct Brad Radke into franchise Hall of Fame
Radke was honored
in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s loss to the White Sox, and that
turned out to be the only thing worth watching in that game (well,
maybe Joe Crede’s two homers). I’ve written a piece about Radke here, and I think this is the perfect time to post this commercial he did for SEGA “World Series Baseball” way back in the day:
Radke has always been a fan favorite, and it’s really no wonder
why. Besides being a consummate professional and (as far as we know)
decent human being, he gave us something to cheer for during the lean
years when there wasn’t much to look forward to. To be honest, he was
really the only decent starter on the staff for about half of his
career, and though his career numbers certainly aren’t good enough to get him into Cooperstown, they sure look good compared to Frankie Rodriguez.
Fans probably love Radke the most, though, because he turned down
more lucrative offers from other teams to remain in Minnesota. He had
never been particularly overpowering, and he certainly wasn’t a
dominant pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to
rack up strikeouts and eat innings was valuable enough that he could
have gotten a better deal elsewhere. The era of free agency was just
hitting its peak, and pretty much everyone was eager to cash in. Not
Radke, though. He opted to re-sign with the Twins simply because he
liked it here. He liked the organization, his family loved the area,
but he also wanted to see the team through its rebuilding process.
After years and years of being one of the worst teams in baseball, the
Twins had finally started to put together a decent team, culminating in
a string of four playoff appearances from 2002-2006. Unfortunately,
his arm started to give out during the 2006 season, and he decided to
retire rather than have surgery and try to keep his career (and chances
of winning a World Series) alive.
- The late George Brophy was inducted, as well
Brophy is often overlooked by fans, since his job as the director of
scouting and minor-league operations was mostly behind-the-scenes, but
he did play an important part in building the 1987 World Series-winning
team. Patrick Reusse wrote a very good article (as well as this one
from 1998) about former farm director last week, detailing the conflict
within the organization at the time and his thankless task of trying to
build a championship-caliber team on a shoestring budget (seriously,
then-owner Calvin Griffith made the Pohlads look like the
Steinbrenners). Obviously he played a key role in drafting and
developing players like Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett, but he made a
number of other moves that would help shape the 1987 team. He was the
one who insisted that the Yankees throw in Greg Gagne as part of the
Roy Smalley trade, and demanded the Angels throw in Tom Brunansky as
part of the Rob Wilfong-Doug Corbett deal. He also found guys like Larry Hisle, Bobby Darwin, and Doug Corbett (who, like I said, was instrumental in bringing Brunansky to the Twins). Brophy
was one of the original members of the Twins’ front office when he was
hired in 1961. He was later fired by then-team president Howard Fox in
1985 (the two never did get along), and he served as a scouting
assistant for the Astros before his ill health forced him to retire in
1996. Sadly, he passed away in 1998.
Alright, now that I’ve gotten over yet another horrific loss to the
Pale Hose White Sox, I can more objectively assess the team’s performance up to this point. Yeah, the Twins are now 3-4 and neither the pitching nor the offense have been terribly impressive so far. However, there are some encouraging signs that the Twins will turn things around:
- When the offense is productive, it’s been really productive:
The Twins have scored a total of 26 runs in their past seven games, which certainly isn’t bad. Unfortunately, the offense has also been producing runs rather inconsistently. In the three wins so far this season, the hitters have driven in a combined 24 runs. In the four losses, however, the team has only scored two runs and has been shut out twice. That’s right. The offense has been completely shut out twice already this season. That is certainly something to be concerned about. However, I do think that the offense will start to produce more consistently when Joe Mauer returns to the lineup. Actually, that they’ve been able to score this many runs without him is a very good sign.
- The pitching isn’t quite as bad as it looks, either:
The pitching staff has a 5.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.31. Which is obviously not good. However, I think the starting pitching will get better. The entire pitching staff seems to be suffering from a bout of wildness, which is unusual for this particular group (last year they gave up a league-best 54 walks, so control isn’t generally an issue). The pitching staff has given up 19 walks so far this year, compared to the mere 37 strikeouts they have recorded. And really, nearly half of these walks came from the series in Chicago, when Francisco Liriano struggled to find the plate in the fifth (and walked four batters) and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey also walked four during his start on Friday. Most encouraging, however, is that the starters have looked really good when their stuff is on, and that most of the damage has been limited to a few bad innings.
I am a little concerned that the bullpen is struggling to pitch scoreless innings, though. So far they have only had one save opportunity, Wednesday night against Seattle, and they managed to not screw it up. However, in every single one of the Twins’ losses this year, and even in their blowout victory against the White Sox on Friday, the bullpen has given up at least one run and sometimes more. While it didn’t matter much in games like the one in Chicago on Saturday, when the Twins were down by five runs and couldn’t solve Bartolo Colon, it does matter in close games. It’s one thing to be down by a pair of runs in the later innings, but quite another to be down by four or five. Especially for an offense that has been struggling to produce consistently.
- Joe Mauer and Scott Baker should be back really soon:
Scott Baker will be back as early as Wednesday. Joe Mauer is trying to return to the lineup by the end of the month. Can’t hardly wait:
Actually, this game was pretty close through six innings, until the Sox bullpen forgot how to record outs in the seventh. The Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but then Chicago came right back, tying the game and then taking the lead on a solo homer by Paul Konerko in the third. That lead would vanish in the very next inning, however. Denard Span laced an RBI double to right-center, and then Alexi Casilla tripled and scored on a Justin Morneau single to put the Twins ahead for good. Morneau started the offensive explosion in the seventh with a solo homer to left field, and then things kind of fell apart for the Sox from there. The Twins would bat around on three different relievers in the inning without recording a single out.
Joe Crede picked a very good time to hit his first home run of the season, during is very first at-bat against his former team. As a joke, the Sox played Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” when he came up to bat in the second. The joke was his former teammates, though, as Crede promptly deposited a 2-0 pitch from starter Jose Contreras into the seats. The crowd, which had previously given him a standing ovation, quickly started to boo as he rounded the bases.
Catcher Jose Morales also had a very good night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Morales was 3-for-3 in his previous appearance against Contreras at the Cell, his first major league game (and the one in which he injured his ankle). More importantly, he handled Dickey’s knuckleball very well, making several blocks with runners on.
Starter R.A. Dickey was a bit wild with the knuckleball, walking four batters in five innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, but was effective enough to get his first win of the season (and perhaps well enough to earn a spot in the bullpen when Scott Baker returns to the rotation). Brian Duensing pitched three innings of relief, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin in the seventh, but pitched two relatively uneventful innings before and after that. Philip Humber pitched a scoreless ninth.
Delmon Young was back in the lineup and had his first hit of the season, an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh. Unfortunately, he also misplayed a very catchable fly ball in the first, allowing Chris Getz to advance to second. Dickey managed to pitch out of the inning, but it does highlight one of Young’s biggest weaknesses: his defense. The outfielder has been criticized for his terrible play in the field (and not just by me). This is the second time in as many starts that Young has mishandled the ball on a very routine play. With the outfield situation being as crowded as it is, he is going to have to improve or he’ll just see more time on the bench.
In other news, Scott Baker is close to returning to the team. He pitched very well in his rehab start for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and should be back with the team by Wednesday. Kevin Slowey was devastated by the loss of Nick Adenhart, who he considered ‘a little brother‘. The two were teammates on the 2006 Olympic team, and were planning to catch up during the upcoming series in Anaheim. The driver who caused the fatal crash, Andrew Gallo, is apparently going to be facing murder charges.
Oh, yeah, and the Wild defeated the Predators in a blowout of their own, 8-4, at the X. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter as St. Louis and Anaheim both picked up vital points and have thus eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention. Too little, too late, boys.
Tonight is conflicting for a baseball and hockey fan. The Twins take on the White Sox at Chicago, while the Wild are trying to keep their marginal playoff hopes alive against Nashville at the X. The Twins have a much better chance at winning, but the Wild have more at stake. I guess I’ll be flipping back and forth between the games a lot tonight. Well, until someone starts losing, anyway.
Joe Crede is making his return to Chicago after signing with the Twins in the offseason. There’s supposed to be a pre-game tribute to him and everything. It’s probably going to be the first time in history that a Twin will be cheered at the Cell (uh, until he hits a home run off of Jose Contreras, that is). Tonight’s pitching matchup features knuckleballer R.A. Dickey squaring off against Jose Contreras. Dickey hasn’t had a great deal of success as a starter, but the weather in Chicago should be perfect for the knuckleball (about 41 degrees, though it is breezy). Jose Contreras hasn’t been very effective against the Twins in his career (.285/.345/.392 in 11 starts), but he has managed to shut down Justin Morneau, who’s only 2-for-26 with two strikeouts and a pair of walks against the big righty.
This also marks the first time the Twins have returned to the Cell since that horrible one-game
heartbreaker tiebreaker last year. The Twins lost that game 1-0, even though starter Nick Blackburn pitched the best game of his career (barring one mistake to, of course, Jim Thome). Our boys are extra-motivated to win this game, but especially Dickey, who wants to keep a job in the bullpen once Scott Baker returns (probably Wednesday, according to Gardy).
Meanwhile, the Wild are playing another must-win game against the Predators tonight at the X. Since they can’t seem to win two games in a row, and since they absolutely need this one, they will probably lose. Jacques Lemaire is going to pull Backs if the game is tied late in the third period, as the Wild are looking up at Nashville in the standings and can’t afford to go into overtime. Of course, none of this matters if either the Blues or the Ducks win tonight.