March 2011

What I Want To See On Opening Day…

What I want to see Friday night in Toronto…

-Denard Span having a 9-pitch at-bat and drawing a walk.

-Alexi Casilla getting through a whole game without a bonehead mistake of some kind (not holding my breath on this one)

-Nishioka lining a single to left/center/right and being halfway to first base before the ball leaves the infield.

-The M&M boys together in the lineup.

-Cuddyer gunning a ball in from RF.

-Danny Valencia just being himself…or cool.

-Pavano laboring through 7-8 innings and keeping us in the game.

-Jim Thome just swinging.  Seriously…even a whiff is epic with that guy.

And finally, what I’ve been waiting to here for over a year now…

If that song is playing, I’ll know a win is within reach!!

Opening Day Take Two: Ch-ch-changes

It’s been a long time since I haven’t watched a MN Twins Opening Day…a streak that won’t be broken come Friday night!

What blows my mind sometimes, though, is how (no matter how different our lives may look from year to year) baseball is always “The Constant” (LOST fans or Field of Dream fanatics get it!) each April.

I mean, last year I was watching the Twins opener in a rental house because our family was in the process of moving, I was driving a different car, and working a different job.  A lot of changes in the span of one calendar year.

Luckily, baseball (except on very few occasions) has always brightened the mood of life come spring!

Opening Day Take One: So Complicated (Or Not)

For previous seasons, I have written very detailed summaries about the Twins’ chances in the upcoming season.  This year, however, I think that all the storylines have been covered ad nauseum.  We are all nervous about Nathan, Morneau, everyday Casilla, Mauer’s health, and the bullpen.

Thus, instead of an in-depth analysis, here is a quick look at the other teams in the division and how I think we stack up against them:

Cleveland Indians: This team is a mess.  From what I see, it will be years before they compete for anything.

Kansas City Royals: Are probably still a year or two away from a serious run at winning baseball, but could seriously begin that process at any time.  Still make too many dumb mistakes to consistently win ballgames.  Both pitching and hitting is improving, however, to the point where expecting to sweep them (even on their turf, like in previous years!) is unrealistic.

Detroit Tigers: Good luck figuring this team out year-to-year.  They have enough general talent to compete, but their streakiness is incredible.  Remember who was leading the division at the AS break last year?  I believe it was the Tigers (I know it wasn’t us).  Then…complete collapse.  I don’t see them putting up enough of a fight to win the division unless they put on a huge streak in the waning months.

Chicago White Sox: The team that can challenge us because of their pitching (especially bullpen) and power hitting.  That being said, they better have a pretty big lead heading into that final month, because we OWN them (especially on our turf) come September.

 

I won’t say that the Twins will waltz away with the division in 2011, but I think it is clear that another division title is easily within our grasp.  If key guys stay healthy and get their innings/at-bats, I think we’re still the favorites to repeat.

Good Riddance (!)

mike-sweeney.jpgJust heard the other night that Mike Sweeney retired. Whew! Talk about a Twin-killer!  He OWNED our pitching during his long stint with the Kansas City Royals, then continued his mastery of our hurlers in Oakland and Seattle.  I always cringed when he came up to bat against us.

Good guy, though, who just had a solid career with the bat.  A career .297 hitter with 215 home runs.  Not too shabby, especially considering all the years on dismal KC teams.

Oh yeah, this guy retired too…

Hampton_Mike_03.jpg

I’ll always remember Mike Hampton for those couple of dominating seasons he had early in his career with the Houston Astros.  Sadly, after being traded to the Braves (in a huge deal at the time) injury woes got the better of him and pretty much rendered him spotty for the rest of his career.

The Sidewinder (Leaves)


Neshek1.jpgToday, Pat Neshek was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres.  I had no idea he would even be “up for grabs”, so this move kind of blind-sided me.  Sad to think how much potential he had in this organization, before the major arm troubles hit him hard and heavy.

I mean, a few years ago he was considered closer material.  Now, his velocity tops out in the mid-80s and that sidewinding delivery isn’t enough to fool batters on its own.

Neshek’s heralded (then brief) stay with the Twins reminds me of another guy in this organization…

imagesCAO1V159.jpg During the early 2000s, Michael Restovich was heralded as our best blue-chip prospect.  That went well.  The power never developed, the batting eye wasn’t there, and pretty soon he was bouncing all over the majors (even Japan for awhile) looking for jobs.

Pretty much the same story with Neshek.  Great prospect, great potential, but ultimately very little delivered (at least for us).  I wish him well in his future exploits, but have a bad feeling that perhaps he may never be able to re-capture that “spark” he once had.  I hope I’m wrong.

Enough Said


s-BARRY-BONDS-large.jpgEnough said (for now).

Kirby

Every Spring Training for the MN Twins, at some point I am reminded of the death of Kirby Puckett in 2006.  Although I didn’t become a serious baseball fan until the mid 1990s, the very end of Puck’s cut-short career, I just remember (as a child) the presence of Kirby being larger than life.  He was (perhaps more than any other) the player who initially got me excited about Twins baseball.

It’s very sad to me that Puckett is no longer around.  When I think of legendary players, I think of guys like Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva.  For my dad, for instance, just seeing those guys is enough to rekindle a flood of old (and primarily rosy!) memories.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to do that with Puck.  Later this August, when the Twins have their 20th Anniversary of the 1991 World Series, there will be a big hole in CF, as has been the case since 2006.

We only have videos like the ones in this post to remember #34.

 

The Wart Heard ‘Round The World (aka How Far We’ve Come)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF6fjVpyqGw

 

royalty-free-rf-wart-clipart-illustration-by-cory-thoman-stock-sample-94510.jpg

I remember a time, back in the late 1990s, when the Minnesota Twins were the scourge of major league baseball. We were mockingly called “Twinkies”, the Metrodome was (on most nights when the Yankees weren’t in town) a sea of blue seats, the playing surface was literally coming up at the seams, and we rooted for players like Jay Canizaro, Brent Gates, Chip Hale, Bob Tewksbury, and Pat Mahomes.  We almost got sold to a guy named “Beaver” in 1998, and the Pohlad-Selig contraction deal nearly swallowed us up in 2002.

Contrast this with the news today, where the removal of a wart on the bottom of Michael Cuddyer’s foot was the top news (top news!) in my “MLB” module of My Yahoo! today.  Yes, a wart, which will keep him out of two weeks of meaningless spring training games.

How far we’ve come (for better or worse), indeed.

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