The Twins open a four-game series against the A’s tonight in
Fremont Oakland. There’s a pretty good scouting report on the White Elephants here. I’d like to believe the Twins will take the series (really I do), but the way things have been going lately, they’ll probably be lucky to avoid being swept.
It’s no secret that the Twinkies have had trouble scoring runs outside the teflon confines of the Metrodome. At least now we know why.
Tom Glavine isn’t happy that the Braves released him, and is considering suing to recover the $1 million signing bonus he would have received if he made the active roster. I guess it’s understandable that Atlanta would rather give its most prized pitching prospect a job instead of a 43-year-old with arm problems (especially since his performance has been less-than-stellar the past couple of seasons), but one has to wonder why they even bothered to re-sign Glavine in the first place.
Glen Perkins was roughed up in his first rehab start, surrendering five runs on six hits, including a couple of home runs, in four innings. So he’s basically picking right up where he left off before going on the DL. Um. so how healthy is Glavine, then?
The Nats are planning shell out big bucks to sign this year’s can’t-miss pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg in the first round. Will Strasburg be the one to save the franchise from itself? Of course not, this is the Nats. They can’t do anything right. Not even fireworks.
Speaking of can’t-miss prospects, Alan Schwarz notes that there really is no such thing. At least not where pitching prospects are concerned.
I am a huge hockey fan. I should be excited about the Stanley Cup Finals. But watching Detroit (probably) win its second consecutive cup, and 12th in team history, is just sort of anticlimactic. At least we get some good Jersey Fouls out of it.
Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away
I love every single one of our sports franchises. And I like to think that they love me, too. After all, they are always telling me how much they appreciate my devotion (not to mention spending money). But sometimes they have a really funny way of showing it. Between all of the losing seasons, bad trades, shattered playoff dreams, and threats to leave me for someone else I sometimes wonder if they really do love me after all. I mean, how much heartbreak is one fan supposed to take?
I’ve asked myself, how much do you commit yourself?
They’re always breaking up with me, too. Not just players, the franchises themselves sometimes decide they want to start seeing other people. The Lakers (probably the best franchise Minnesota ever had), North Stars, and now (probably) even the Vikings have all moved on to bigger and better things. The Twins claim to be in it for the long haul, but they’ve threatened to leave so many times I’m not sure if I can trust them anymore.
Do I love you, do I hate you, do I got a dyslexic heart?
The Vikings are the NFL version of the Cubs: there’s always a lot of preseason hype that this is going to be the year. The year our long championship drought comes to an end. And then they usually find themselves out of contention by week 5. Even if the Vikings do somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, they always get sent packing in the first round.
I love the Vikings, and I want to believe in them. Owner Zygi Wilf certainly isn’t afraid to make bold, expensive
mistakes moves to improve the team. He wants to win, and I admire that. But every year there’s something, some gaping hole the front office failed to address while overspending on something else. Last season, the Vikings spent a lot of money upgrading their receiving corps, and made a huge trade for Jared Allen to shore up their swiss-cheese like defense. But then they forgot to get a decent quarterback, and the Eagles made them pay dearly for it in the playoffs. This season they’ll probably put all of their efforts into finding a quarterback, but neglect other needs such as oh, I don’t know, special teams or something.
Our memories, they can be inviting. But some are altogether mighty frightening
I’m not going to lie, we’ve had some good times. There was the 2004 Western Conference finals, for example. Even though they lost to the infernal Lakers (curse you, Kobe Bryant!), the very idea that the Wolves could win a championship title was exciting. And with all of the talent on that team we thought they’d be right back in it again the next year. Ha!
And who could forget this magical shot by former All-Star Isaiah Rider, the high point of an otherwise forgettable season:
But the good times never last. Just when things have started looking up for our Wolfies, we get the
worst news ever. That’s right, Big Al, the Wolves’
All-Star leading scorer and overall best player,
is going to miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Oh, he’ll probably be fine and he should be back next season, but I wonder if this team is even going to win another game without him. Probably not. Looks like we have yet another high draft pick to look forward to. Yay.
I am trying to break your heart. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy
Ugh, last night’s game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It didn’t start out that way, though. The Wild looked really good in the first period after they took a 3-0 lead over Ottawa at the X. But then they got lazy and allowed the Senators to score 5 unanswered goals, two of which were shorthanded! I’m not trying to take anything away from Ottawa, they do have a lot of young talent and are a very hot team right now. But the Wild really gave the game away and it was just brutal to watch.
I’m not the only one who’s upset, either. I have never seen Jacques Lemaire so angry before:
Let’s face it: the Wild aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. And we will look back on this game as the one that killed their chances. Yes, they dug themselves a massive hole in December, when they went 3-9-1 and were dead last in the Northwest Division. But they were starting to really come together and play well as a team; they were starting to show some fight and it made us all hope that they could make it after all. And that’s really the most frustrating thing about this team: they can play like an elite hockey team if they choose to do so, but more often than not they just don’t.
Besides, a last-place finish probably would have been good for them. At least this way they could’ve gotten a higher draft pick. For a team that doesn’t have a lot of assets, and is set to lose at least one, if not two of its biggest stars via free agency, having an off year wouldn’t have been such a bad thing at all.
Sweet dream baby. How long must I dream?
I was nine years old the last time the Twins won the World Series. Kirby Puckett’s game winning bomb off of Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the eleventh inning in game six was the second-greatest moment of my childhood. The greatest moment, of course, was Gene Larkin’s bloop hit (What else? That’s how the Twinkies do it) to left center that scored the winning run in game seven that clinched the Twins’ second World Series title in four years.
I love the Twins, I really do. And nobody wants to see them win another championship more than I do. But nobody is more realistic about their chances this season than I am, either. They have a lot of young talent, but this team as it is constructed right now just isn’t going to get the job done. Other than Justin Morneau, there isn’t another hitter in the lineup that makes opposing pitchers nervous. And other than Francisco Liriano, none of the pitching staff strikes fear in the hearts of opposing hitters. The bullpen should be better this year, but even that’s a big question mark. The division will probably be up for grabs again this season, and I’m sure the Twins will probably win it. But I’m afraid that’s all they’re going to win.
Thanks to Kathy over at redbirdchatter for inspiring me to express my feelings towards my beloved sports franchises through song.
Jay Busbee recentky posted an article on Yahoo! Sports about the worst announcers in sports right now. I pretty much agree with the list, although I probably would’ve put John Madden much higher than number 19. He makes me feel educated and informed. According to Busbee, awful announcers are the ones who tend to forget that the game is more important than themselves. These are the people who use ballgames as a soapbox to lecture us about how “the game has changed” and things were so much better “back when I played”. Or they use the games as a dumping ground for their cliched or idiotic slogans. In other words, these are the people whose massive egos overshadow the actual games themselves.
Using this criteria, let’s see how our own broadcast teams measure up (I am just analyzing the television teams. With one notable exception, I don’t usually listen to the radio broadcasts):
- Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer, Minnesota Twins:
Dick Bremer isn’t bad (aside from his mancrush on Nick Punto) but Bert Blyleven can be insufferable. Uses games as his own personal soapbox? Check. Blyleven constantly complains that pitchers are babied these days and that arbitrary
pitch counts don’t do anything to preserve young arms (I agree, but I
don’t want to hear about it every… single… game). Between the constant reminders of his birthday (whether it’s coming up or not) and whining about how he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Bert sometimes forgets that there’s actually a ballgame in progress.
To be fair, Bert is the color analyst so it’s not really his job to provide objective analysis to the games. And he certainly does bring color commentary to the broadcasts. You just never know what he’s going to say. Whether he’s inadvertently dropping f-bombs on live television (I wish the video still existed, but it’s been taken down by FSN due to “copyright issues”. Spoilsports) or asking Ace Young if he ever got lucky with Paula Abdul, Bert is always getting himself into trouble. This kind of makes up for his general crankiness.
Actually, I usually turn off the sound on the television broadcasts and listen to the radio instead. John Gordon and Dan Gladden aren’t quite as obnoxious, and pretty much stick to covering the action on the field. Sometimes. You know, a lot of times I like to listen to the opposing teams’ feed.
- Minnesota Timberwolves:
Most NBA announcers are simply awful. They’re little more than obnoxious fans who have somehow been given a microphone. The Wolves broadcast team is different, though. Tom Hanneman and Jim Peterson are actually very knowledgeable and pretty much stay away from all of the obnoxious broadcasting cliches. However, they both have the most boring voices in the history of broadcasting. They can lull you to sleep if you’re not careful:
Geez guys, show a little enthusiasm there. It’s not like you’re calling a golf game or something.
- Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar, Minnesota Wild:
hockey analysts, even if they are otherwise very knowledgeable, are
shameless homers. Hockey is the type of sport that inspires deep fanaticism
in its followers, so it’s very difficult for broadcasters to remain
neutral. Greener and Terhaar are certainly no exception, but they’re
not bad as far as these guys go. They only kind of make me want to shove Q-Tips in my ears, and they do give opposing teams a fair shake (they will actually praise opposing players when they do something well. Not all broadcasters will do this). For the most part, they stick to covering
the action on the ice and don’t go off on tangents about how the game has changed for the worse in the past decade. They do go a little overboard with the man-love for their
favorite players, though. Everything Mikko Koivu does is absolutely
the most brilliant thing Terhaar has ever seen (Nobody clears the puck
out of the neutral zone like Mikko Koivu!! THAT IS THE FACE OF
- Speaking of hockey…
Happy Birthday to me! The Wild blanked the Ducks tonight, 3-0. I was at the game, too, since I got tickets for my birthday. Niklas Backstrom was his usuall stellar self, and he got a lot of help from the defense for a change. Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard all scored (Koivu’s goal was a beauty, too, on a no-look backhand pass from Antti Miettinen). Cal Clutterbuck had nine hits (but no fights), the best one was when he nearly dumped
Ryan Getzlaf (I think it was Getzlaf, I’m not sure)(it was actually Travis Moen. I couldn’t really see who it was from where I was sitting, and I was probably just hoping it was Getzlaf) into the Ducks’ bench. The Wild have finally started playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot, and that was a good thing to see.
By the way, the Wild are now 10-1 in games I’ve attended at the X. If I weren’t broke, I would make an effort to get down there more often!
I realize I’ve spent a lot of time whining in my last couple of posts, so here are some things that actually make me feel good:
- Al Jefferson is going to be a star
He probably would be one already if he played for anyone else but the Timberwolves. Jefferson has been a scoring machine, he’s already racked up 1,077 points in 47 games this season, averaging 22.9 PPG. He put up 34 points last Friday against the Lakers, and another 34 against the Celtics on Sunday. And even though the Pacers effectively shut him down in last night’s game, his presence on the court forced them to double-team him and allowed teammates Randy Foye and even Brian Cardinal to come up big.
Fans had high expectations for Jefferson ever since he came over from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade. He was replacing the most beloved player in Wolves history, a superstar who used to carry the team to respectability all by himself. Big Al has been winning us over since he arrived as he, like Garnett, is the type of player who just makes everyone around him better. And although he was robbed of an appearance at the All-Star game this season, he’s already making himself much more difficult to ignore.
- I like Cal Clutterbuck a lot, too
The rookie right wing has been a hitting machine, leading the league with 180 hits as of today. I don’t recall another Wild player who finished his checks so often or so enthusiastically as this kid. Even our beloved goon, Derek Boogaard, only has 43 hits so far this season. At 5’10” and 210 lbs. Clutterbuck isn’t really a big guy, but he’s absolutely fearless when it comes to both hitting and fighting (despite what Don Cherry would have you believe). Here is some of his best work:
He doesn’t score a lot, but he always crashes the net and makes the most out of every scoring chance he gets:
Plus his name is just really fun to say.
- Okay, I’ll even say something nice about Bill Smith
Smith has been smart enough to realize that he should give contract extensions to the core talent of the team. Last year, he locked up Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Nathan into multi-year deals. This season he locked up Jason Kubel on the cheap (I don’t care what Dave Cameron says, this is a very good move for the Twins. I respect Cameron and ordinarily I would agree with him, but the Twins have struggled to find a good DH since releasing David Ortiz. Now that they have one, it makes a lot of sense to keep him). Smith took a lot of criticism at the time for the Nathan deal (since the team was not expected to contend) but now looks like a genius for signing one of the best closers in baseball for a relative bargain. Actually, the most questionable deals he made were to Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto, but even those aren’t really terrible. Cuddy was signed for 3-years and $24 million, while Punto got 2-years and $8 million, so neither deal will break the bank if either one ends up being a bust.
I know that Smith didn’t draft or acquire any of these guys, that was his predecessor Terry Ryan, but at least he was wise enough to realize that he should try to keep them around through their best years. That he managed to do so and still come in under budget means he’s not the worst GM in baseball (despite what I might have said in my previous post.
I admit that t may have overreacted just a little).
Today is my 27th birthday, and man I feel like an old lady. Part of it is because I am sort of a non-traditional college student, so I go to school with a bunch of 18-year olds and they have a habit of making you feel old. I have also come to realize that pretty much the entire Twins team this year is younger than I am. I’m older than every single one of the starting pitchers, half of the infield, and most of the outfield, too. While this is good news for the team, it’s kind of bad for my ego.
Plus, I found some grey hairs not too long ago. As I have written elsewhere, it’s probably from being a Minnesota sports fan. Or it could be because everyone in my family has started to go grey before they turn thirty. Nah, it’s gotta be the sports thing.
Reflecting upon all of the stuff I am actually old enough to remember doesn’t really help matters much either. For example:
I am so old I can remember both of the Twins’ most recent World Series titles (although I just vaguely remember the ’87 Series). Good times.
I am so old I can remember the last time the Vikings were actually favored to win the Super Bowl. Losers.
I can also remember when basketball returned to Minnesota. People were really excited about it, too. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.
I am so old I can remember the Montreal Expos, Vancouver Grizzlies, Houston Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and the first incarnation of the Cleveland Browns. I remember when the Rams were still in Los Angeles. I’m not quite old enough to remember the football Cardinals being in St. Louis, though, which makes me feel a little better.
I remember when they were still called the California Angels, and not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or whatever it is they call themselves these days.
I remember when Florida didn’t have any baseball teams, let alone two. I remember that they kept threatening to steal ours, though.
I can remember a lot of important things, too. I remember when the Berlin Wall came down. I wasn’t really old enough at the time to grasp the historical significance of it, but I thought it was cool that people were smashing things on television. And I really liked David Hasselhoff’s leather jacket.
Yeah, I know. Don’t ask.
I kind of remember a time when the Soviet Union was our biggest enemy. I also remember when the Soviet government collapsed under its own weight. I remember that people were really scared, because everything was in such chaos and nobody knew what was going to happen. I also remember that the Soviet people felt this overwhelming sense of hope, that they could look forward to a future free from the tyranny of the Communist regime. Yeah, good luck with that.
I don’t want to sound too much like an old fart, but technology has really changed since I was a kid. Most people still didn’t have computers in their homes, even when I was in high school. They were just too expensive. Same thing with cell phones. They didn’t have all that fancy stuff like cameras, or email, either. I don’t even think you could download ringtones back then. I kind of miss those days.
I remember when I was in high school and my best friend and I used to spend hours listening to records. I used to make him listen to Mudhoney:
He used to make me listen to Big Black (Uhh, some of the language is NSFW):
We thought we were soooo cool because we liked music that nobody else we knew liked. Having indie cred was really important back then. If you weren’t the first person to discover a band, or at least a fan since the very beginning, then you were a poser (a front-runner, if you will). I’m not sure anyone really cares about that stuff anymore.
That was back when recording an album was actually kind of important. The internet has changed all of that. There’s no point in making a masterpiece like Let it Be anymore, when all people want to hear is “I Will Dare“. I remember when I was excited about the internet and how it was going to totally revolutionize the music industry. I grew up in a rural area, and it was really hard to find the music I liked. If MTV didn’t play it (yes, believe it or not there was a time when MTV actually showed music videos) then the big-box stores didn’t carry it, and you were out of luck. But the internet was going to change everything, it was going to be so much more democratic. The little bands were going to have just as much of a chance at being heard as the big bands. And that’s kind of true. But people have lost patience in the meantime, and now refuse to sit through an entire album when they really only want one song. Even if the entire album is actually worth listening to.
Ok, now I’m really depressed. I think I’ll go back to bed.
Now that the Arizona Cardinals are playing in the Super Bowl, there’s been a lot of talk about how their fans are all bandwagoners. Cardinals fans have been mercilessly mocked by bloggers and the mainstream media alike because apparently they didn’t exist before this season (that’s not exactly true, they do have at least one devoted fan). A lot of people are wondering where all of these people have been in the last 20 years, when the Cards were terrible. Because, you know, true fans stick with their teams no matter what, through the good times and bad. Neither rain, nor snow, nor a 13-game losing streak prevents real fans from cheering on their beloved teams.
I admit it, we Minnesotans are notorious front-runners. I remember about a decade ago, when the Twins were routinely losing at least 90 games and the Dome was like a ghost town. Back in those days you could actually sit there and count the number of people in the seats (which was often more interesting than the action on the field). Sometimes I look at all the people in the stands now and wonder where they were before 2002. The Twins aren’t the only ones who’ve had to deal with fickle Minnesota fans, either. The Timberwolves continue to struggle to fill seats, even though they had the best record in the NBA in January (yes, you read that right). Although Minny is considered a football town, the Vikings have had a lot of trouble selling tickets to games these past eight years, when they would barely finish above the Lions. This season, of course, when the Vikes made a big splash in the free-agent market, and then went on to win ten games and make the playoffs, you couldn’t even buy tickets if you wanted to. Fickle, fickle, fickle.
The exception, of course, is the Wild. Wild games always sell out, no matter how pathetic the team might be. It’s not just because Minnesotans are crazy about hockey, either. It’s because we have already suffered the loss of one hockey team. We’re not going to make that mistake again.
It’s not that we only support our teams when they’re winning. We love them all anyway, even when they suck. We wouldn’t spend so much time complaining about those losers if we didn’t care about them. It’s just that we Minnesotans are
cheap a thrifty bunch. We’re not going to spend $60 a pop for nosebleed seats to watch the Vikings stink up the field. Not when we can watch them stink from the comforts of our own homes (or not. And if the game does get blacked out, well, that’s all the better). And why should we? If the team is terrible, but people go to the games anyway, the front office has no incentive to make improvements. If people continue to buy a crappy product, management will continue to produce it. By boycotting games, we fans are sending a strong message that we disapprove of the quality of the product on the field and the idiotic moves the front office has made. Eventually, this boycotting pays off and the front office puts together a quality product (or moves it to a more lucrative market, whichever comes first). It’s not a coincidence that the Twins, Vikings, Wild, and now even the Timberwolves have finally put together winning teams. We fans haven’t given them much of a choice.
I also have no problem with people who finally get fed up and just give up on their teams. I mean really, how long are fans of the Lions, Pirates, Chiefs, and Maple Leafs supposed to suffer? These teams have been dishing out emotional abuse on their devoted fanbases for decades, and I don’t blame these people one bit if they simply refuse to take it anymore. Good for them, sometimes a divorce is the only way to fix a bad marriage.
Of course, when and if your team decides to win again, I’m sure they will be more than happy to welcome you (and your money) back into the fold. No hard feelings, and no questions asked.
Bert Blyleven is the type of pitcher who is likely to be overlooked by Hall of Fame voters because, while he was dominant for most of his career, he’s never really been considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time. And that’s a shame, because when you look at all he’s accomplished during his career, Bert really does deserve to get in. He had 3,701 career strikeouts (he is the only retired member of the 3000 strikeout club not in the Hall), a 3.31 ERA, won two World Series rings (one with the 1979 Pirates and one with the 1987 Twins), and was a two-time All-Star (once with his first stint with the Twins in 1973, and with the 1985 Indians). Not to mention the fact that he had the nastiest curveball of his generation.
One of the major reasons voters have been so reluctant to include Bert in the Hall is that he never won a Cy Young Award. There’s also the fact that he allowed a lot of home runs, setting the single-season record in 1986 (50) and back-to-back seasons (’86, & ’87, when he allowed 46). He also never reached the magic 300 career wins threshold, falling short at 283. I think, though, that all of this stuff is irrelevant when you consider just how good his stuff was when he was in his prime. And while he never really won a lot of individual awards, he did lead two different teams to Wold Series victories.
Bert is eligible to get in through the writer’s vote until 2012. Each year he gets a little more support (he finished with 61.9 % of the vote last year). Hopefully the voters will finally get it right this time.
As a side note, I have to say that I really like having Bert do the color commentary for Twins games. Yes, he’s kind of crabby and if I hear him complain about how today’s pitchers are coddled, I’ll throw something at the t.v. Or invent a new drinking game. But he, and play-by-play guy Dick Bremer, really have a passion for the game that’s missing from the national broadcasts. I hate it when FOX features the Twins in the game-of-the-week because I have to listen to a bunch of drones who have absolutely no clue about what’s going on with the team, and sound as though they would rather be somewhere else (I’m looking at you, Joe Buck).
- In other news….
The Timberwolves have now won 5 straight games!!! I have no idea how long it’s been since they’ve had a 5-game winning streak, probably back when KG was still a Wolf. And I’m sure they’ll start losing again once they have to face an opponent who’s actually competent. Still, considering that the team was coming off a 13-game skid, it’s good to finally see the team show some flashes of talent.
I know I should be rooting for the Wolves to lose, otherwise it just validates Kevin McHale’s idiotic decisions as GM. And it’s clear that they’re not going to make the playoffs, so they should go for the higher draft pick. But, if I have learned anything over the past 20 years it is that the Wolves front office has no idea how to evaluate talent, and they’ll probably just screw it up anyway. For now, I am just going to enjoy this little hot streak, because it certainly won’t last.