June 2009

Changes Will (Or Should Be) Made

nervous.gifYeah, yeah, I know…the Twins finally got a big win (bats-wise) on the road tonight in Oakland.  Another game closer to catching the Tigers in the AL Central “race”.

However, when a team is leading 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth and the CLOSER has to come in to get the SAVE, something is wrong with that team.

I can excuse Baker, as he pitched a gem up until the ninth and maybe just ran out of gas.  However, if I were Ron Gardenhire, I would be pretty perplexed/frustrated by the performance of the other relievers.  Jesse Crain was horrible, as usual these days, and (much like Juan Rincon last year) could be nearing the day when he finds a pink slip in his locker.  Jose Mijares couldn’t find the strike zone with a navigational device, which further extended the pen.  Of course, Nathan then came in and slammed the door shut.

So, although the Twins picked up the “W” in this one, I can’t imagine that the mood in the clubhouse was too jovial.  I know that Gardy may have tried to make it that way in accordance with his even-keel philosophy, but each and every member of that terrible inning (Alexi Casilla included) knows they could have easily blown a game tonight.

Preview (29-31, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (2-7, 6.12) vs. Dallas Braden (5-5, 3.41).

Tommy-Boy and Big Papi

Two interesting events in the world of baseball that I would quickly like to touch on:

First, is David “Big Papi” Ortiz…

PapiSlump.jpg

As you very well know, Ortiz is currently mired in a slump so long that many people are starting to call it “reality”.  As the stats currently sit, he is hitting a paltry .188 with just one long ball and 21 RBIs in a full 191 at-bats.  I haven’t seen him a whole lot during this horrid stretch, but I guess the word is that he is not catching up to the fastball and, when he does make contact, just pops it up all over the field.

Personally, I hope that Big Papi finds his stroke at some point this season.  When hitting well, he is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball.  I think the thing that Papi has going for him is that, like me, everyone is rooting for him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a full season of at-bats even if he continues to stink.  There are just too many memories like these… http://mlb.mlb.com/media/player/mp_tpl_3_1.jsp?w=/library/open/moments/bbm_04alcs_gm4_nyybos_350.wmv&vid=7808&pid=gen_video&cid=mlb&v=2 … and many others that allow Ortiz time to turn things around.  I’m rooting for him!

On the other hand, there is Tom Glavine…

Glavine4.jpg

He was recently released by the Atlanta Braves (the team for which he played for most of his career) after finally seeming to get healthy following his injury from last season.  There is much buzz going around that Glavine was given a rough deal, but unlike Ortiz, who is universally liked by his home and national fans, Glavine also has THIS on his record…

glavine_look1.jpg

For five seasons, Tommy-Boy “jumped shipped” and pitched for the Braves’ biggest rivals, the New York Mets.  I really don’t remember the details of those negotiations, but I do know that Glavine pitched long enough in the Big Apple to identify with fans their as well.  He re-joined the Braves last season but wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to do any real quality pitching.

Personally, I could care less about what Glavine thinks the Braves “owe” him.  As sports fans have learned from the Brett Favre fiasco year after year, until an athlete retires “for good”, sports, at their core, are still a business.  The Braves didn’t want to waste $1 million on Glavine when he could easily just go out and get injured again, and I don’t question their decision on that one bit.  The same thing happened with the Twins and Harmon Killebrew.  Towards the end of his career, Harmon was clearly fading skills-wise and Twins owner Cal Griffeth practically begged him to retire.  Harmon refused, and thus the Twins traded him to Kansas City were he limped to the quick end of his career.

Remembering D-Day

dday4.jpgI know this topic is not baseball-related in any fashion, but on this day (June 6, 2009), I would like to take a moment to pause and reflect on D-Day, the date during World War II when U.S. and British Forces attacked Normandy, France to truly enter the European Theater of the War.  I believe that the attack, to this day, remains the largest amphibious assault in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.  It was a remarkable physical and technical achievement, and could could have been accomplished without the sacrifice of many great soldiers.

My Grandpa, Ray Koenig (still alive and kickin’ at nearly 87 years of age) was a Pathfinder during the D-Day invasion, meaning he dropped behind enemy lines (approximately near the town of St. Mere-Eglise) the night before the beach assault with the objective of taking key bridges and holding them.  The mission was dealt a huge setback right from the very beginning, as thick cloud cover forced the planes to miss their drop zones…scattering the Pathfinders all over the countryside.  Once they regrouped, however, they were able to successfully complete most of their objectives and provide invaluable support once the beach assault was completed.

On days like these, I am reminded of the great sacrifice that my Grandpa and countless others made for this country.  We truly do owe them a debt of gratitude (as we do to ALL veterans of any Armed Forces) that can really never be repayed.

A video tribute as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcGIK6ktgwA

Laying Down The LAW(rie)

Lawrie.jpgAlthough I did enjoy watching the Twins hold the lead against the Indians last night, the premiere baseball excitement came from the Women’s College Softball World Series Championship on ESPN.

My Dad got me into watching the games a few days ago, and they really are very exciting.  One playoff game was decided by a walk-off grand slam, while another came down to a freshman (Jazlyn Lunceford) pinch hitting for a senior and team captain (Brittany Rogers) and hitting a granny!

However, the entire tournament was really dominated by Washington Huskie pitcher Danielle Lawrie.  She was the PAC-10 player of the year in 2009 and, at least during the playoffs, pitched every inning of every game (one going 15 innings!) for her team.  Although she had a few off innings, most times she was absolutely unhittable.  During the final game, where the Florida Gators needed to beat WASH to force a deciding game three, Lawrie and her Huskies were clinging to a slight 3-2 and Lawrie was struggling.  Once the fifth inning dawned, though, Lawrie came out to the mound with a look of determination that I don’t think I have ever seen from a baseball player of any kind, major leagues or otherwise.  From that point on she completely dominated the Gators’ bats and, pretty obviously, was named MVP of the World Series.

The amazing thing is, Lawrie is just a junior, so you can bet that she will have the Huskies back in the hunt next year as well.  I will be watching!

Twins Preview (26-27, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): Cliff Lee (2-6, 3.16) vs. Anthony Swarzak (1-1, 2.08).  As beat up as the Indians are right now, I have to give Swarzak the nod in this one.  Of course, Lee could always (as a southpaw) pull a complete game shutout out of his hat against our bats.

My All-Star Ballot (NL & AL)

2009-mlb-all-star-ballot1.jpgWhen I was younger, voting for the annual Midsummer Classic was more of a science to me than anything.  I would pore over the stats to try and determine who, categorically, was having the best season and vote for them above all other alliegences.  In recent years, however, I have come to take a different approach: Just vote for the guys who I want to see in the game (within reason, of course!).  Sure, the game actually “counts” now in terms of World Series home-field advantage, but at its core it still is really just a fantastic exhibition event that the fans love…the meaningfullness is only to keep the players interested.

That being said, here are what my current AL & NL All-Star ballots currently look like (barring any severe injuries or horrific slumps during the following month):

American League

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Justin Morneau

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Derek Jeter

OF: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Denard Span (Write-In)

National League

C: Brian McCann

1B: Albert Pujols

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

SS: Jose Reyes

OF: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Justin Upton

Also, if I had to pick the starting pitchers for each team right now, I would go with Roy “Doc” Halladay for the Americans and Johan Santana for the Nationals.

Road Woes

road.jpgThough playing in the friendly confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome tonight against the Cleveland Indians, where the Twins are 19-11 so far this year, inevitably the team will have to hit the road again soon, where they are 6-16.

My question is: Why??????????????????????????????????????

Are the pillows at the hotel not fluffed up enough?

Are the players just suffering from a mental block?

Does Gardy and his coaching crew need to try something different to motivate his players on the road?

Is having “last ups” really that important?

Heck, if the Twins can’t compete at Tropicana Field, the closest thing to the Dome there is in the AL right now, then what chance do we have to go into, say, Boston or Anaheim and pick up even a single victory.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?  I just don’t get it.  At the Dome, the pitchers (even Liriano) look terrific and the bats get the job done on a nightly basis.  Yet, have us bat in the top of innings and we look like “Hitless Wonders” and our pitchers get clobbered.

I mean, it’s still baseball, isn’t it?  The same dimensions, same batters, same pitchers, same basic strategies…yet a huge disparity exists.

Preview (25-27, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): David Huff (0-1, 10.97) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-1, 4.11).  A few more quality starts and the Slow-dog may start to garner some All-Star recognition.

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