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:
Is Jesse Crain hurt? It’s a distinct possibility. He’s been pretty awful since coming off the DL with shoulder stiffness on May 15th, surrendering 11 earned runs in 11.2 innings while only striking out 7. He gave up the winning run on three straight hits in yesterday’s game against the Cubs. Of course, it’s also possible that Crain is just the new Juan Rincon. Update: Crain has been demoted to AAA Rochester. I think the only thing that surprised me about this move is that Crain actually had options left (I’m assuming he had options, the article said nothing about clearing waivers).
Stick and Ball Guy has an interesting assessment of Delmon Young and his approach at the plate. Not surprisingly, Young struggles against power pitchers, but hits finesse pitchers fairly well. Unless he improves his plate discipline and pitch recognition, he will always struggle against power pitchers and won’t develop any power. The question is whether or not the Twins will be patient and wait for him to develop an eye and patience at the plate. Since his trade value is almost non-existent at this point, they really don’t have much of a choice.
Current SI chosen one Bryce Harper has decided he’d rather skip his last two years of high school, get his GED, and enroll in community college until he’s eligible for the draft. Actually, I have no problem with this whatsoever. This kid doesn’t exactly sound like Fulbright material, so an education is probably wasted on him anyway. Since Harper does indeed have the talent and physical attributes to become a good baseball player, why not? And if the whole baseball thing doesn’t really work out, at least he’ll get a $20 million signing bonus out of it. I guess the only real problem is that the greedy parents of less-talented children are going to try the same thing, but fail miserably because their kid sucks.
I was watching the Cubs’ feed during the series in Chicago (sometimes I need a vacation from Dick and Bert), and I thought it was cute that their broadcasters couldn’t figure out why the Twins are under .500. Um, it’s probably because they play in the American League. Although, it isn’t as though there are a lot of powerhouse teams in the AL Central.
ing of which, during tonight’s Brewers-Indians
tickle fight home run derby on ESPN, Steve Phillips said that some thought the AL Central would be the best division in baseball this season. Wait, what? Who said that? Certainly not PECOTA.
Minneapolis Los Angeles Lakers won their bazillionth championship last night. Meh. I just find it really hard to care about basketball because, well, it isn’t really a team sport. I mean, nobody really cares about the supporting cast, it’s all about the marketable superstar. And by nobody, of course, I mean the mainstream media. Seriously, this series might as well have been between the LA Kobe Bryants and the Orlando Dwight Howards.
The Wild hired San Jose assistant coach (and Minnesota native) Todd Richards to replace longtime head coach Jacques Lemaire, who resigned right after the season was over. It’s like Christmas for the hockey fans in this town. We have an owner (Craig Leipold) who wants to win a championship, decided the front office wasn’t going to get the job done, and cleaned house. And after an extensive and exhaustive search, Leipold hired the best available candidates for the job. Obviously, this doesn’t mean the Wild will actually win a championship, and given the lack of talent both on the roster and in the system, it’s going to take a few years to build a Cup-contending team. Still, it makes wish the Pohlad family were more interested in winning a World Series than saving a few bucks.
Yep, watching a bunch of hockey players take BP afterwards was about the most exciting part of this game. Well, it was kind of depressing too, since they all hit the ball farther than Justin Morneau (somebody give Cal Clutterbuck a contract). Scott Baker got roughed up in his debut, giving up six runs on five hits in four innings. Baker struggled with his command against left-handed hitters and gave up four homers against righties. His fastball, which usually runs in on right-handed hitters, had no movement on it whatsoever and the Blue Jays took advantage of all of the pitches he left up over the plate. I have mentioned before that Baker is a flyball pitcher and as such he tends to give up a lot of home runs (at a rate of about once per nine innings pitched), but that the damage is usually limited to solo homers since he doesn’t put a lot of runners on. It doesn’t sound his struggles had anything to do with lingering stiffness in his shoulder, at least according to Baker, anyway. It was probably just terrible luck for a pitcher who tends to give up the long ball (like Baker) to make his debut against a hot-hitting team like Toronto.
The offense, meanwhile, struggled to do much of anything against Scott Richmond. And I was going to be more upset about this, but I just heard the greatest news ever: Doug Risebrough has been fired as GM of the Wild. That’s right, owner Craig Leipold has decided to go in an entirely different direction now that Jacques Lemaire has stepped down. I’m not going to speculate as to what led to the decision (although there are many, many, many, many examples of Risebrough’s incompetence over the years), I’m just glad it’s done. I was just lamenting how the season is over and the franchise is in shambles, but with a complete restructuring of the front office there is now some hope that things might get better. It is truly an exciting time to be a Wild fan.
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.
- Twins drop opener against M’s, 6-1
To be honest, I didn’t really think the Twins were going to win this game. Not with King Felix on the mound for Seattle. He is one of the most underrated young pitchers in baseball, and let’s face it, the Twins don’t exactly have the most potent offense in the league (or the division, for that matter). It was a pretty close pitchers’ duel for most of the game, though. Aside from a couple of mistakes to Ken Griffey, Jr. and Franklin Gutierrez, Francisco Liriano was pretty effective for seven innings. His command was much better than during the spring, though he didn’t actually strike out many batters (only three). Felix Hernandez simply outdueled him through eight innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six. Twins hitters were unable to capitalize on the few scoring chances they had, with Michael Cuddyer striking out with runners on second and third in the first and Justin Morneau grounding into an inning-ending double-play with the bases loaded in the fifth.
I still don’t think the Twins will make the playoffs this year, and it’s not because they lost their first game of the season (I have talked about this before). Even if guys like Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer have career years at the plate, the bullpen is once again going to be a huge liability. While I do think that Jesse Crain will be a dominant set-up man, and I think that Craig Breslow will prove to be an even more effective LOOGY than Dennys Reyes, the middle relief will still be an issue. Matt Guerrier, Philip Humber, and Luis Ayala don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters. R. A. Dickey might prove to be the most reliable of the bunch, and I’m not just basing this on his ST stats. Dickey was very effective as a reliever for Seattle last season. While he was awful as a starter, with a 6.72 ERA and 1.769 WHIP in 76 innings, the knuckleballer was much better pitching out of the bullpen, posting a 2.00 ERA and 1.111 WHIP with 20 strikeouts in 36 innings.
*sigh* Maybe all of the starters will pitch complete games this year; that’s the only way the bullpen won’t be an issue.
The Twins will probably remain in contention for most of the season, even though they won’t end up winning the division. At the very least they will play some very good baseball and should be a lot of fun to watch (for the most part). Which is more than I can say about some of our other sports franchises:
- The Vikings have a good chance to contend for a Super Bowl and they’re blowing it
The most frustrating part of this whole Jay Cutler trade isn’t that the Vikings didn’t get him. A lot of analysts and fans don’t think Cutler would have been a very good fit for Minnesota, and they’re probably right. He is kind of a whiny-pants, and he demands loyalty from an organization, something he certainly wouldn’t get here. No, the most frustrating part of this whole thing is that the Bears made a bold move to acquire a talented young QB that they can build around, while the Vikings haven’t done much of anything. In fact, they’ve actually gotten slightly worse. And it’s really a shame to think that a player as electrifying as Adrian Peterson is going to waste the best years of his career on a team that could be something really special if it were only lead by a decent QB.
Oh, and these people are doing the Lord’s work.
- The Wild don’t have much of a chance to win anything
Mercifully, the season is almost over. Not-so-mercifully, the future for the team looks pretty bleak. They have traded away so many draft picks to try to make a playoff run in the past couple of years that they don’t have much young talent waiting in the minor leagues. They are about to lose their franchise scoring leader to free agency, and they haven’t had much luck in signing top free agents (not that they have enough cap space to seriously pursue them, anyway). Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, this team is in rebuilding mode and it will be a long time before they even approach playoff contention again.
I guess it isn’t all bad, though. Rookie wrecking ball Cal Clutterbuck has been one of the lone bright spots in one of the most boring seasons ever. He leads the league in hits. He fights with Sean Avery. He is a master of the art of trash talk. And he scores the occasional goal, too.
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
Kevin 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:
- Wild beat Oilers, 3-2
Another 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!
- Team USA poops the proverbial bed
Well, things got off to a good start for the Americans. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff home run against Daisuke Matsuzaka. And then things kind of went downhill from there. The Japanese would score nine runs, only five of which were actually earned. Team USA’s defense was atrocious. Officially the Americans committed three errors, but unofficially it was probably closer to five or six. Obviously they didn’t want the Venezuelan record of five errors in a WBC game to stand (those commie ********!) and were trying their hardest to set a new standard in horrible defense. Either that or they simply forgot that this was a single-elimination game.
Japan now gets to defend its WBC title against Korea tonight. It’s kind of disappointing that the US didn’t make it to the finals, but this should be a very good game. These two teams are powerhouses of Asian baseball, sort of like the Yankees and the Red Sox of the far east. I don’t have a particular favorite to win it all, but I guess I’ll root for the defending champs. Which of course means that Korea is going to win. I mean, look at my track record so far.
- Twins beat Toronto, 11-6
The offense finally decided to score some runs in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays. Justin Morneau had a three-run homer, his first big blast of the season. Morny had a very good day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk (apparently Morny has been taking Harmon Killebrew’s batting advice). Actually, pretty much everybody had a good day at the plate, since Jays’ starter Matt Clement wasn’t very effective. The Twins knocked the righty out after 4 1/3 innings, pounding him for nine runs on six hits.
Our own Scott Baker wasn’t particularly sharp either, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up any homers though (for once), and recorded five strikeouts and no walks. Jose Mijares continued to struggle, giving up two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, and also injured his ankle while trying to cover first. It’s looking more likely that the lefty is going to spend the season in Rochester (although Gardy is stubbornly insisting they can turn him around before the team heads north in two weeks). This might give Brian Duensing an opportunity to make the team if the Twins decide they need another lefty in the ‘pen. Duensing has been a starter his entire career, and did struggle a bit early in the season while in Rochester last year, but has looked really good in his relief appearances during spring training. At least he can get hitters out, anyway.
- Wild shutout Oil at the X
Owen Nolan scored a couple of goals, the Oil scored on themselves, and Niklas Backstrom made himself worth every penny of his four year, $24 million contract extension in one of the closest games the Wild have played all season. They got off to kind of a slow start in the first, though they weren’t helped by some awful officiating. Mikko Koivu got called for a phantom interference penalty on Ales Hemske (that was a beautiful piece of diving), and Dan Fritsche got called for boarding when he barely touched Ladislav Smid. I don’t normally complain about officiating, but this was ridiculous. Luckily the penalty-killers (and Backs!) stepped up to prevent any sort of ill-gotten gains by the Oilers.
Marian Gaborik made his triumphant return to the ice after having surgery on his hip. Though he didn’t score any goals, it was just really good to see him out there again. Unfortunately, captain Mikko Koivu suffered a knee injury when he was pulled down by Ales Kolatik and will be out the rest of the week. He might even miss the rest of the season, which means the Wild might as well forget about playing hockey past April. Come on, Mikko. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be fine.
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
If you think Vancouver sucks and they’ll never win the Cup
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
I really shouldn’t mock the Canucks for this hilarious piece of epic fail. They are a lock to make the playoffs after all, and my
Mild Wild will be lucky if they manage to sneak in as the eighth seed (although beating the Oil certainly helps). But there is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a hated rival do something so ridiculously dumb. Especially when your own team has been doing so many ridiculously dumb things as of late.