After being utterly and thoroughly owned by the Evil Empire this season, the Twins have slid back to the
.500 mark for the hundred-somethingth time (oh, and you’re welcome,
Yankee fans). They currently sit in third place, four games behind the
division-leading Kittehs and two behind the second-place Pale Hosers.
All of which is very, very depressing. But take heart Twins fans,
we’re not the only ones sharpening our razor blades and drawing a bath:
The Royals are teh suck. This is hardly news. But this team has so many problems, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I mean, good God, they replaced Sidney Ponson with Bruce Chen in the starting rotation! What, Buddy Groom wasn’t available? Ooh, and now the infield will be manned by both Ryan Freel AND
Willie Bloomquist! Obviously, GM Dayton Moore hates his job and is
trying his best to get fired. That should just about do it.
The Cubs took a team that won 98 games last year and made the
playoffs for the third time in six seasons, and tore apart the roster
as rebuilding teams are wont to do. Perhaps it was simply an emotional
response to getting swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers, or maybe they
felt they needed to dump salary to expedite efforts to sell the team,
but they traded away key contributors like Mark DeRosa and Jason
Marquis without getting much in return. The Baby Bears are currently
in third place behind the division-leading Cardinals and a Brewers team
that features both Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung in its rotation. Now,
the Cubs are only three games out of first, but even with a recent hot
streak they still have the third-worst offense in the league (only the
Diamondbacks and the Padres are more futile at the plate). Of course, this is all a goat a cat Milton Bradley’s fault.
The Diamondbacks have committed
77 errors this season, the second-most in baseball (only the Nats have
committed more). Granted, errors and fielding percentage aren’t
exactly the best way to measure a team’s defensive efficiency, but I think if you commit three errors in one inning, it’s safe to assume that you are, in fact, not good at baseball.
I’m going to refrain from taking shots at the Nati(o)nals. It’s just too easy. I did get a kick out of the “Oh no: no O!” wardrobe malfunction, though. At least Montreal Washington’s ineptitude is entertaining:
(image courtesy chatterbalks.com)
- Twinkies get their a**es handed to them by the Yankees in 10-2 loss
The Wild had just dropped
a must-win game against Colorado and had put forth one of their most
lackluster performances to date. The team had just lost seven of its
past ten games, and were just barely clinging to the slimmest of
playoff hopes, and had only managed to score one lousy goal against the
worst team in the Western Conference in a snoozefest of a game. When
asked why his team put forth such a piss-poor effort with so much on
the line, then-coach Jacques Lemaire replied:
“Maybe this is the team we have.”
this, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2009 Minnesota Twins. OK, maybe
they’re not as bad as last year’s Wild team, but they are pretty much
in the same boat. They haven’t won more than two games in a row since
May 24th, and their longest winning-streak of the season is only four
games. They are currently looking up at the Tigers and the White Sox,
even if it is only by 2.5 games. They will likely get swept at home by
the Yankees, and then have to deal with a red-hot White Sox team before
the All-Star break. The team could certainly use help in the bullpen,
and they could really use a middle infielder who can hit, but aren’t
likely to get anything done at the trade deadline. The Twins have
always preferred to sit on their hands and hope for the best, while
waiting to make their biggest moves during the offseason (if then).
And to be honest, I don’t have a great deal of faith in Bill Smith’s
ability to make trades. His track record so far has been pretty disappointing.
Twinkie Town did a good job breaking down Scott Baker’s horrible performance last night,
and it appears as though he’s still having problems with his
mechanics. His breaking pitches were flat, his fastballs weren’t as
fast, in short, it’s a miracle that he only gave up five runs against one of the most potent lineups in the American League. It had been suggested by some of the commenters
on the Star Tribune site that Baker was awestruck by the Yankee lineup,
that he felt intimidated by them, but I don’t think that was the case
at all. Scotty had actually been quite successful against the Yanks in
his career, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA (small sample size, I know).
Besides, Baker had the same issues in his last start in Kansas City, in
which he needed 117 pitches to get through five innings, and I doubt he
was awestruck by the Royals’ All-Star lineup. That the Royals only
scored one run against him says a lot about their offense (namely that
they can’t even buy runs at this point).
- In meaningless award news…
Justin Morneau has indeed declined an invitation
to defend his title in this year’s Home Run Derby, citing a need to
rest up for the second half of the season as his reason for choosing
not to participate. Joe Mauer hasn’t been asked, but Gardy thinks he would win it if he were.
Joe Nathan has been named the DHL Delivery Man of the Month. I mentioned in my previous entry
that Nathan is having one of the best seasons of his career, but I also
want to mention that he’s only walked one batter in his past 11.2
innings, while striking out 18. He’s given up only four hits
in that period. That’s about as good as it gets. No wonder
he’s the only reliever in the bullpen (and one of the few on the staff,
actually) who doesn’t give me heartburn.
- Stephane Veilleux signs with Lightning
I’m a little sad to see Steph go since he’s been with the team for so long, even though he was basically just a fourth-liner. He loved playing in Minnesota and being part of the Wild organization, even after they put him on waivers simply to prove that he wasn’t as valuable as he thought. Still, when rookie sensation Cal Clutterbuck pretty much took over his duties on the checking line, it was pretty clear that this would be Steph’s final season with the team. At least we will always have this:
This question occurred to me once while reading up on some of the candidates for last season’s AL Manager of the Year award, a vote that is always fraught with controversy since nobody can ever seem to agree on what makes a manager great. A lot of people were heaping a lot of praise on eventual-winner Joe Maddon, but he has also has his detractors. Joe Torre was both much-loved and much-hated during his tenure in the Bronx. And our own Ron Gardenhire is always a perennial Manager of the Year candidate, though he draws such mixed feelings from Twins fans. Some think he’s the greatest manager in the American League, some think he should be fired, and others are on the fence because, well, they aren’t entirely convinced that American League managers really do anything. Yes, they do fill out the lineup cards, and yes, they do have to manage the bullpen, but since they have the distinct advantage of the Designated Hitter, they don’t really have much to do.
Or do they? American League managers might not have to worry about the double-switch, but it isn’t as though they can just take a nap out there, either. The lineups can be pretty important, as you don’t really want a guy with a .296 OBP leading off (unless you’re Gardy, then you’ll bat Carlos Gomez lead off just because
you like him he’s got a lot of speed). There’s also the management of the bullpen, since you don’t really want to put in a left-handed reliever against right-handed hitting if he can’t get righties out. But beyond all that, the manager ultimately decides who gets regular playing time, and who sits on the bench. Sometimes he doesn’t have much of a choice because of a bloated contract (Julio Lugo), but usually if a guy is batting .212 but is still the starting shortstop, its because the manager thinks he’s a ‘gamer’.
I do think that managers in either league tend to get too much credit when the team is playing well, and too much blame when it isn’t. Bill Bavasi obviously deserves more blame than John McLaren/Jim Riggleman for the Mariners’ 101 losses last year. Same with Dave Dombrowski. And you can hardly blame Manny Acta for the mess the Nationals are in (I actually think he should be considered for NL MOY simply for having to deal with Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and now Scott Olsen). I also think that the Yankees’ incredible run during the mid and late ’90s had a lot more to do with the likes of Andy Pettite, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera (and the man who drafted them, Gene Michael) than anything Joe Torre did as a manager. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any bad managers (there are), it’s just that these other forces seem to have a greater effect on the overall success or failure of the team than what the manager does.
If there’s one thing managers of either league are good for, it’s the occasional meltdown when things just aren’t going their way (I don’t think I need to mention that the language in these is NSFW, that should be obvious):
Earl Weaver doesn’t like a call:
Neither does Lou Piniella:
Lee Elia doesn’t like the fans:
Ozzie Guillen doesn’t like Jay Mariotti:
Or Mike North:
Or the Chicago Media:
Or Wrigley Field:
And then there’s this guy:
The uproar over Alex Rodriguez and his bum hip has made me realize how nice it is to cheer for a team nobody cares about. Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser have all had their share of ailments so far (some of them devastating), and yet the mainstream media has barely even noticed. While ESPN has been covering the A-Rod drama nearly 24/7 and obsessing over what Brian Cashman needs to do to ensure that the Yankees make the playoffs, we here in Twins Territory have had to keep up with the progress of our injured players through the local papers (both of them). The injuries to all of these players, like the injury to A-Rod, could potentially cost the Twins the season. But at least I don’t have to hear about it.
There is one other benefit to having little media coverage of your team: nobody cares if they lose. It’s true; the Twins could go on a 20-game losing streak (God forbid) and ESPN would barely even mention it. Could you imagine what it would be like if that were the Yankees or the Red Sox? tWWL would be in full-on panic mode, with all of their analysts talking nonstop about what kind of fire sale the team needs to have. They would spend hours agonizing over what went wrong, and calling for the firing of everyone in the front office. In some ways I kind of felt bad for Yankee fans last year. Every time I turned on the television, I had to hear about how they weren’t going to make the playoffs and that they were a laughingstock because they spent so much money to finish in third place. I can’t imagine Yankee fans really enjoyed having that thrown up in their faces all the time.
Oh, sometimes it can be difficult to be a Twins fan. You often have to watch your favorite players walk away once they become too expensive. But when you realize that Torii Hunter is getting paid $90 million to hit about 25 homers a season for the Angels, you appreciate the $7.2 million Jason Kubel even more. After awhile you tend to think of your favorite players as your children. It’s fun to watch them come up through the system and develop into well-rounded individuals, but eventually they have to grow up and leave the nest. You wish them well, but you know that it’s in the best interests of everyone involved if you just let them go.
Besides, you always have more babies at home to worry about.
I am not trying to disparage large-market teams in any way. Nor do I think the fans of such franchises should abandon their beloved teams and become Twins fans (though that would be nice. The Twins could always use more fans). I just don’t really want the Twins to ever have the sort of media coverage those other teams endure. I realize that the sort of unlimited financial resources these franchises enjoy comes from overexposure by the mainstream media, and I admit that sometimes I wish the Twins had that kind of money. Still, I don’t think I could take it if I had to hear about my teams’ shortcomings every time I turn on the friggin’ television. Obviously I don’t need any help getting all worked up over nothing.
- Twins shutout Reds 3-0
This game wasn’t all that interesting, either, except for the fact that Glen Perkins has been pitching well. I realize that it’s only spring training, but this is still good news. Perk was very inconsistent last year, to say the least, with September being his worst month by far. He didn’t make it past the fifth inning in any of his starts and was having trouble locating his pitches. Considering that he is projected to be the fourth starter (Blackburn has knee issues and the Twins want to take a conservative approach), he’ll have to start pitching more like he did in August.
And Jason Kubel had an RBI single, extending the good spring he’s been having so far.
- Joe Nathan Aching Shoulder Watch:
Nathan threw a full bullpen session the other day and reportedly feels fine, so I’m calling off the watch for now. He even said it himself: “I haven’t felt this good in four years”, whatever that means. Also, Nick Blackburn’s sore knee apparently isn’t bothering him anymore. The starting rotation doesn’t have much depth so this is obviously very good news. While Philip Humber or R. A. Dickey could potentially fill out a spot if necessary, whether or not they could do so competently is another matter. Anthony Swarzak and Rob Delaney look like very promising prospects, but the organization feels like they need more seasoning in the minors. The same could be said about Jason Jones (who will probably end up being a reliever, anyway). While I initially thought the Twins could probably get away with an eleven-man pitching staff, maybe there’s a need to carry twelve pitchers after alll.
Oooooh, I almost forgot. Our old friend Dennys Reyes, aka the Big Sweat, has signed with the Cardinals for two years and $3 million, plus incentives. Reyes was mostly used as a situational lefty during his time with the Twins, and he’s been a very good one at that. The Cardinals had one of the worst bullpens in the league last season (or so I’ve been told), and this signing gives them some much-needed depth at a reasonable price. He isn’t going to solve all their problems, though, since he tends to be shaky against righties and probably wouldn’t make a good closer.
- Wild defeat Sharks in OT, 4-3
This game is worth
mentioning because it is going to go down as one of the greatest in
franchise history. The Wild were down 3-0 in the middle of the second
period, after playing so terribly throughout the first. It looked as
though they were going to lose their fifth straight game and fall
completely out of the Western Conference playoff picture. I was about
to change the channel when captain Mikko Koivu deflected a shot into the net for the first goal, which ignited the unbelievable rally. Minutes later, defenseman Kim Johnsson found Pierre-Marc Bouchard all alone a the blue line, and he beat Brian Boucher over the shoulder for the second Wild goal. There was no stopping the Wild after that, as they kept pressuring the Sharks until they finally gave in.
Of course, Boucher inadvertently helped them out with some sloppy goaltending (and bad ice):
Zidlicky was simply trying to clear the puck into the offensive zone and head off to the bench for a change. He had no idea he’d scored until he saw his goal on the jumbotron. I doubt the Wild would’ve been able to stage such a comeback if Evgeni Nabokov were between the pipes, but I don’t care. This team hasn’t won a game since they beat the Blackhawks on Feburary 22nd at United Center. I will take a win of any kind at this point.
The Captain saved the best for last, though, when he scored the game-winning goal with a mere 20 seconds left in overtime:
Yep, that’s about how I reacted, too.
The Wild are now one point away from making the playoffs, with about 19 games left to play. I still don’t think they’re going to make it, but I’ll be happy if they just finish the season with a winning record.
- Alex Rodriguez may or may not have surgery on his hip
While it was first reported that A-Rod was going to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, the Yankees are now going to try rest and rehab in an effort to save his season. The media and fans are now in a frenzy over the news, and have been hyperventilating over the moves the organization needs to make to ensure the team doesn’t fall out of playoff contention by the end of May (seriously, ESPN must’ve spent at least 20 minutes this morning analyzing every potential trade Brian Cashman could make). I am not here to mock these people for overreacting a bit, though. Not after I nearly had a heart attack when I read that Joe Mauer suffered a “slight setback” during his rehab (what do you mean ‘slight setback‘?! He IS going to be ready by Opening Day, RIGHT?!?!?!) No, I am here to provide an objective analysis of the situation and whether it is in the best interests of the organization to make any drastic moves at this point.
First of all, there is the issue as to whether or not the Yankees are doing the right thing by delaying the surgery. There seems to be little debate that he’s going to need surgery on his hip eventually, but it is possible that he might be able to put it off until the offseason. If A-Rod had the surgery now, he would probably need at least four months to recover. Which means he probably wouldn’t be back until at least the end of May, and would more likely be out until early June. It’s also very likely that A-Rod would need at least a few weeks to get his swing back, so he probably wouldn’t be back to 100% until the end of June, possibly early July. It’s not likely that the Yankees would be out of contention at this point (I mean, look at that starting rotation. And they do have Tex, though he does tend to be a bit of a slow starter), but this is the AL East and it’s not wise to allow the competition to gain any sort of ground if you intend to make the playoffs.
So, that means the Yankees and Rodriguez are doing the right thing by putting off the surgery, right? Well, not necessarily. This is a similar injury to what Mike Lowell and Chase Utley suffered through last season. While it didn’t slow Utley down much, it did affect Lowell. He was limited to 113 games last season, and hit a miserable .225/.286/.357 during the second half when his hip started really bothering him. Since A-Rod is much closer in age to Lowell than Utley, it is likely that he will have the same results: a sharp decline in his hitting as the injury starts to bother him. So this is what A-Rod and the Yankees need to ask themselves: is it better to have the surgery now and hope he recovers in time to help the team make the playoffs? Or should they wait for the offseason and hope his hip doesn’t bother him enough to affect his hitting?
Either way, the Yankees aren’t exactly sunk even if they do end up with a less productive A-Rod. They do have that nasty starting rotation, after all. It’s going to be very difficult for opposing teams to score more than a run or two against Sabathia, Burnett, and Chamberlain (I know he’s had some struggles recently, but it’s just spring training. He’s going to be his filthy self once the season starts). And there is the big offseason acquisition of Mark Teixeira, who did provide a necessary boost to the Angels’ offense last season (this is why they’re projected to only win 79 games this year). There are also, of course, some options available via trade should the Yankees find themselves slipping near the deadline. Garrett Atkins and Kevin Kouzmanoff would be good additions, though neither one is even close to being the great all-around player A-Rod is. Atkins would likely be the most costly, as I imagine Colorado would probably want Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, plus another prospect or two. Kouzmanoff might come more cheaply, but he has some serious issues when it comes to defense. To his credit, he knows he needs to improve and has been working hard on it, but that’s not the kind of thing impatient Yankee fans want to hear. Otherwise, Mark Grudzielanek is still on the market, but he’s hardly the offensive threat the lineup is going to need should A-Rod end up missing part of the season (they might as well stick with Angel Berroa and Cody Ransom).
And of course, Corey Koskie might be available.
- Twins defeat Netherlanzzzzzz…..
This game was a snoozefest. It’s really only worth mentioning because Kevin Slowey was once again perfect in his three innings of work. Actually, no Twins pitcher allowed a single hit until the eighth inning. Apparently the Dutch aren’t exactly known for their offensive prowess. Still, Slowey is my favorite pitcher on the staff and I like to see him baffle hitters with his
45 90-mph fastball right on the outside corner.
- The Wild ignore my advice and do nothing at the trade deadline
Well, they did do one thing. They worked out a contract extension for their All-Star goaltender (and my favorite player). At four years and $24 million, Niklas Backstrom is hardly a bargain (I believe he is now the fourth highest-paid goalie in the league), and the Wild could probably have gotten him cheaper if they worked out a deal last summer instead of waiting
until he got so close to free agency. But who cares (well I care, there’s now significantly less space under the cap. And what good is it to have a great goaltender if your offense and defense can’t back him up)?! Backs is here to stay, and nobody could be happier about it than me. Unless, of course, he ends up being another Manny Fernandez.
Unfortunately this is probably spells the end of Josh Harding’s tenure in Minnesota. He’s going to be a valuable trade piece (though probably not as valuable this summer as if they had moved him at the deadline) and he really deserves a chance to start somewhere. At least he, and I, will always have our memories:
Oh well, at least the Twins will (probably) be good this year. I hope.
Well, it was ugly but the Twins took the first game of a back-to-back series against the Yankees. The pitching was less than stellar, and the key members of the 2009 lineup didn’t produce much (besides Morneau and Kubel). Still, our Twinkies managed to battle back from an early three-run deficit and win 5-4. Of course, it helped that the Yankees were without most of their star players in the lineup, the exception being Jorge Posada (who was 2-for-3).
- Scott Baker was terrible
The projected Opening Day starter struggled to find the strike zone, and to keep the ball down. He was hit pretty hard, giving up three runs on six hits in his two innings of work (one of which was a solo shot to Justin Leone). Baker certainly wasn’t the only one who struggled, and the pitching in general wasn’t anything to get excited about. Brian Duensing wasn’t very sharp either, giving up two walks and two hits in his brief relief stint, but at least he didn’t allow any runs. Kevin Mulvey, one of the prospects acquired in the Santana trade, probably put forth the best performance, giving up one hit in two innings and striking out one.
Mike Gosling made things much more exciting than they needed to be in the bottom of the ninth, loading up the bases with nobody out. He might have gotten out of the inning without any damage if Danny Valencia had not made a crucial error at third, but as it is he only allowed one run.
Overall, six Twins’ pitchers combined to give up four runs on fourteen hits while walking five. Were it not for some timely hitting by their minor league prospects (!) the Twins would have lost this one for sure.
- How about Wilson Ramos?
The catcher-of-the-future gunned down two baserunners, and wasn’t half bad at the plate either. He drew a walk and ended up scoring the winning run off of a Dustin Martin sac fly. If the Twins decide they would rather not commit a ton of money to Joe Mauer, they will probably still be in good hands with this guy.
By the way, the Twins’ radio broadcasters John Gordon and Dan Gladden reported that Mauer has been increasing his workouts. He caught an 18-minute bullpen session yesterday, and apparently felt fine afterwards. This is obviously great news since it means Mauer’s recovery is on track and will probably be ready for Opening Day.
- More Kubel, please
It was Jason Kubel’s solo shot in the sixth that got the rally started. This was his first homer of the year, and came with two outs (and no runners on, unfortunately). Kubel has the potential to be a 20+ homer guy, so hopefully this is the start of something good.
Joe Crede didn’t do much in his much-anticipated debut with the Twins, drawing a walk in his first at bat but then striking out and grounding into an inning-ending double play. It seems like his timing was off, but that should come with more at-bats. At least his back doesn’t seem to be bothering him anymore.
Also failing to do much at the plate were infielders Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla, and Casilla committed an egregious throwing error on top of it. By the way, I think it’s absolutely criminal that Nick Punto gets paid more than Orlando Hudson. The Twins would’ve been much better off signing him and moving Casilla to short than re-signing the offensively-challenged Punto. Besides, it’s not like Punto is any less injury-prone.
The battle for the starting outfield job has gotten more interesting. Delmon Young was much more productive in his second start, going 2-for-2 and driving in a run, though he has yet to hit one out of the park. I am still not very impressed with his defense, though he hasn’t been a liability in the field so far. He will likely win the starting job, since Carlos Gomez has yet to get a hit. Gomez drew a walk in his second at bat, but that was about all he did at the plate. He did make a spectacular play to throw out Angel Berroa trying to stretch a single in to a double, though. It won’t matter how good he is in the field, however, if he can’t hit the ball!
- Okay, I’ll say something nice about the Yankees
I was really impressed with Brett Gardner. I don’t know how he factors into the Yankees’ plans this season, but they could use someone like him at the top of the lineup. He’s got speed, he gets on base a lot, and he’s good in the outfield, too. I know Melky Cabrera has more major league experience, but it sounds like the organization is getting frustrated with his work ethic (or the lack thereof) and might consider giving Gardner a shot.
Tomorrow’s game against the Yanks promises to be even more exciting, with Francisco Liriano scheduled to pitch against Joba Chamberlain. I doubt the Twins are going to win this one, but you never know. I didn’t think they were going to win this game, either, especially not after they were down three runs. I know I shouldn’t care about spring training games so much, but the other Minnesota sports franchises haven’t been giving me much to cheer about lately. The Wild probably won’t make the playoffs, the Gophers have likely played themselves out of a NCAA tournament bid, and the Wolves are battling with the Thunder for last place in the Northwest Division. A Twins win looks pretty good right now, even if it doesn’t really count.