Well, the Twins were able to right the ship this weekend in Oakland (taking two of three from the A’s) after a rough week in Seattle. Despite some shakiness of late and a rash of injuries/sickness, we’re still managing to win enough ballgames to not feel much heat from the Tigers.
I would like to touch on a subject that really got under my skin yesterday:
In the eighth inning of yesterday’s game, the Twins finally were rallying to try and make things interesting. Delmon Young whalloped a two-run dinger to get the Twins within one, then Jim Thome doubled to put the tying run in scoring position. Up to the plate came Brendan Harris, who proceeded to quickly strike out, taking a called third strike right down broadway and proceeding to berate the ump for the easiest call he made all night:
Right now, I don’t think I could be more sick of Harris. A little history:
After the 2007 season, the Twins traded for Harris (along with Young) in the swap that netted the Rays Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.
It was thought that Harris would be our everyday second baseman in 2008, but that experiment failed miserably, as Harris could not field the position. Thus, in 2008-2010, he has bounced around between third base and shortstop, never being able to land a starting gig for any prolonged period of time. Were he even just a decently consistent hitter, he could easily see more playing time over the likes of Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert, but (although his bat sometimes has a little pop in it) he is prone to streaks where he is about as automatic an out as is human possible.
This season, Harris’ average has hovered around .150, but it is his attitude that really bothers me. When Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer strike out looking (and know it), they might show some frustration, but only at themselves. Harris, on the other hand, is: A. So lost at the plate that he apparently doesn’t know what a strike is or isn’t anymore; and B. Ready, willing, and able to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of anyone else, preferably the umpires.
I usually don’t like singling players out like this, but in this case I’ve just had it with Harris’ antics.
The other day, upon hearing that Ken Griffey Jr. had announced his retirement from Major League Baseball, I wanted to take a moment here to reflect on one of my favorite baseball players of all-time:
Though I grew up a Minnesota Twins fan in the mid 1990s, those Twins teams didn’t exactly have the type of superstars that can captivate the imagination of a youngster (sorry Ron Coomer, Terry Steinbach, and Butch Huskey). Thus, I naturally gravitated towards the best (with respect to Barry Bonds, a phrase I never thought I would write) player in baseball at the time: Ken Griffey Jr.
Junior could do it all: Hit for decent average (career .284 hitter), tremendous power (630 career dingers, back-to-back seasons of 56 jacks), steal some bases (particularly early in his career; 184 career), and track down balls in center field like Torii Hunter would later do for my favorite club.
In fact, when the big power/steroid boom of the late 1990s occurred, it was the Griffey/McGwire show before Sosa juiced up and changed everything in ’98. Fortunately, Griffey has never seen the smear of performance-enhancing drugs touch his name. He also has none of the tell-tale signs (huge musculature, sudden growth, etc.).
Sadly, the career of KGJ took a down-turn after he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. Though he was the darling of Seattle with the Mariners, I couldn’t blame him for wanting to play for his hometown Reds. However, the Reds never challenged for any sort of title during the “Griffey Years”, and Griffey himself endured so many injuries it would have made Mickey Mantle flinch. At one point, he was projected to “easily” surpass Hank Aaron’s home run record, and may very well of done it had not the injury bug bitten hard.
After a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox (that, despite good performance, never quite seemed right)…
…it was nice to see Junior in an M’s uniform once again in the end:
Perhaps the fondest memory I will take away from Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball player, though, is how as a child I sent him a letter asking for an autograph. Some time later, I received a glossy 8X10 of Junior that had me nearly bouncing off the walls in excitement. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in every sense of the word:
Well, there is a reason why I take this guy every year in my fantasy baseball league. When Felix Hernandez is on, his ball has such incredible movement that it is almost impossible to hit solidly (if at all). That was the case tonight.
The other two reasons the Twins lost:
The Mariners exposed a Carl Pavano weakness and turned the basepaths into a track meet. This is becoming a serious problem when Carlos pitches against teams with speedsters.
Then, Jose Lopez really got ahold of one and you could just feel the air come out of our sails, what with King Felix holding court.
Preview (31-23, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): Scott Baker (5-4, 4.48) vs. Dallas Braden (4-5, 3.60). In the span of three days, the Twins will have stared down last year’s postseason hero (Cliff Lee), one of the top hurlers in the AL (Felix), and a guy (in Braden) who has pitched a perfect game this season. Ouch.
To set the scene: Earlier in the day, with Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers just one out away from pitching a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians, umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base that broke everything up (the runner was clearly out, as indicated by the instant replay). As of this time, Commissioner Bud Selig is refusing to overturn the call and give Galarraga his perfecto, despite an admission of guilt from Joyce.
Then, the Twins-Mariners game last night transpires as follows:
Kevin Slowey and Cliff Lee lock up in a magnificent pitching duel, with the score tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the tenth inning. With runners on first and second and two outs, Ichiro Suzuki hits a slow roller up the middle that Matt Tolbert adeptly smothers and flips to JJ Hardy for what looks to be the final out of the inning. However, despite the fact that replays show the ball beat the runner to the bag, the runner was called safe and, by that time, the lead baserunner had already wheeled around third and scored easily:
Two blown calls that cost their respective players/teams potentially dearly. In Galarraga’s case, he will likely never approach a perfect game if he pitches for 20 more seasons. The Twins, on the other hand, know first-hand the importance of a single game (we’ve played in two consecutive 163-game seasons) on the standings. I can see the kind of tough position this puts Bud Selig in, and thus can understand why he is hesitant to overturn the Tigers call (as wouldn’t that be valuing individual achievement over team victories?).
Let’s just hope that this sort of fiasco leads to the introduction of instant replay into MLB as early as next season (or even this postseason in full-fledged form). Football purists (if such a group exists) argued against instant replay for the same reasons that baseball purists (a much larger group) argue against it today (undermines umps, slows down the game, etc.). However, replay has now become an established part of the NFL, and the league is (at least in my opinion) much better off for it, as getting the call on the field correct is the ultimate goal. It should be the same in baseball as well.
Preview (31-22, 1st, 3.0 GA DET): Carl Pavano (5-5, 3.99) vs. Felix Hernandez (2-4, 3.50)