April 2011

Well, This Is Just “Sick”…

9456_sick_woman_with_the_flu_walkin.pngIn my previous post, I made the point that part of the reason why the Twins are struggling is because their young pitchers haven’t panned out as planned.  That is without a doubt part of the reason, but the main thing right now is injuries…plain and simple.

We’ve never been a team with a lot (or even a little) depth, so more than one long-term injury and all of a sudden guys like Hughes, Tolbert, Tosoni, and Butera are expected to hit at a major-league level and win games.  Nope.

With Mauer, Young, Thome, Nathan, and Nishioka all struggling through various stages of convalescence, the talent level just isn’t what it needs to be.  As much as Gardy can opine about “finding a way to win”, the reality is that with the kind of lineups we have been putting up the last few weeks, we shouldn’t expect to win.

The good news: Injuries heal.

The bad news: It takes time…do we have enough of it?

Five Aces? Not So Much

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In light of the Twins’ recent struggles, I wanted to comment on one of the reasons WHY I feel we are sitting in the basement of the AL Central right now:

Just think back about 3-4 years, after we traded Johan Santana.  Likely one of the reasons we let Johan walk was because we thought we had a five-pitcher nucleus that would last for many years at a relatively low cost.

Well, you know what they say about “best laid plans”…

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Nick Blackburn: Maddeningly inconsistent, including various nagging injuries.  Typical sinkerballer…either boom or bust on any given day.

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Kevin Slowey: Almost chronically injured at this point.

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Francisco Liriano: Was supposed to be the ace of the staff, but post-TJ (except for parts of 2010) has been a mess.  No consistent delivery, no control, seemingly lax attitude.

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Scott Baker: The biggest disappointment of the bunch.  Has not improved one iota since the day he arrived in a Twins uniform.

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Glen Perkins: Bad-mouthed the Twins organization, served his minor league “sentence”; has been decent of late as a reliever.

At one point, all five of those guys showed tremendous promise.  Sadly, they have each fizzled for different reasons, leaving the Twins somewhat pitching-poor when they thought they would be solid in the next decade.

7 Things (Minus 3)

According to Miley, I guess there are seven things to hate about people. Well, there are three less ways to lose a major league baseball game, and the Twins have utilized almost all of them in the span of two days.

Thursday Noon: Starting pitching doesn’t give you a chance.

Thursday Night: Absolutely no offense (no-hit through six innings).

Friday Night: Had a lead in the late innings, then the bullpen blew it

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About the only other way to lose a game at the major league level is through poor fielding. Gulp.

Preview (9-16, 5th, 0 GB CWS): Brian Duensing (2-0, 3.00) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (1-1, 4.20)

The Great Mauer Debate

Joe Mauerasdfgh.jpgFirst off, good to see the Twins pull off a nice little win against Cleveland today. Three in a row!  Of course, it’ll be back to the AL East starting Tuesday night, so lets home that the home turf (or nice green grass, I guess I should say now!) is the difference-maker.

What I really wanted to comment on in this post, however, is the absolute raging debate here in the state of Minny regarding moving our catcher, Joe Mauer, to another position.  I truly believe that this is a move that will have to happen sooner than later.  He’s already shown signs (and they are getting worse) of health issues, and all that squatting won’t help anything.  However, I also strongly believe that moving him THIS SEASON is out of the question.  Here’s why:

The potential places he could move are:

1B- Not an option with Morneau entrenched.

Middle Infield- Nope.  Not that kind of player.

3B- The most intriguing option, but there’s no way (I don’t care how much athletic talent Mauer may possess) that he could jump into that position right away and play it well.  Remember how long it took Corey Koskie to develop into a vacuum at the hot corner?

OF- We already have too many outfield roamers as is (Kubel, Span, Young, Cuddyer).  Cuddyer and Young are not long-term locks, however, so I’d say that moving Joe to the OF may be a future possibility.

DH- We’ve got this guy named Jim Thome right now, who’s doing alright in this slot (!).  Another option a season or two down the road (perhaps as early as next year) would be to have Mauer DH more and be behind the plate less.  The downside to this is that he wouldn’t be learning a new position, and would be a half-time DH before the age of 30.

So, though I think Mauer will likely have to move somewhere–perhaps as early as next season–moving him anywhere in the present campaign would be too difficult and disruptive.  For now, we’ll just have to wait (and hope) that those legs strengthen up and he can come back strong once again.

Preview (9-12, 4th, 2.5 GB DET/KC): Wade Davis (2-2, 2.73) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-3, 7.40) (Tuesday).  Weather-permitting, I’ll be attending this contest!

The Definition of Frustration

Twins_Orioles_Baseball_sff_212679_game.jpgThe picture says it all again tonight.

Preview (6-12, 5th, 1.0 GB CWS): Scott Baker (0-2, 4.50) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (1-2, 3.32)

Round And Round And…


Twins_Orioles_Baseball_sff_212420_game.jpgSame story again tonight… a lot of head-scratching on both sides of the ball. I don’t care how many runs the pitchers give up at this point. If we can’t push one across, we can’t win games. This is getting old fast.

Preview (): Nick Blackburn (1-2, 3.06) vs. Zach Britton (2-1, 2.75).

Spark & Fire

Spark:

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Gardy said he likes the Tolbert-Casilla combination up the middle. If the Twins keeping winning, Cuddy can put away his small glove.

Fire:

New call-up (but old hand) Jim Hoey came into the game throwing these…

 

Very impressive, to say the least

Two wins in a row?!  Against these hapless O’s, it should be more as the week plays out.

Preview (): Carl Pavano (1-1, 3.60) vs. RHP Jake Arrieta (1-1, 7.04).

Strong Lineage

215521_10150168134729841_45991614840_6374971_658818_n.jpgWow…what a great picture.

The first thought that comes to mind is “who was the better manager?”, but I don’t think the answer really even matters.  Tom Kelly brought a “fundamentals” approach to MN, and Gardy has simply continued that tradition.  That consistency has allowed the Twins to build such a fine organization over the past two decades.

I found another pic that does show the main difference between Gardy and TK:

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TK was almost always a calming presence, while Gardy brings a bit more “fire & brimstone” to the dugout.  Other than that, though, both managerial philosophies were the same: learn the fundamentals, respect the game, hustle and have fun.

The Exception?

manny-ramirez.jpgAlright…with Manny Ramirez retiring suddenly this past week to avoid a second suspension for failing a drug test, it begs the question: HOF?

Taking steroids out of the equation, this guy is a first-ballot HOF-er.  I would argue that he was the greatest righthander hitter in baseball from 1995-2008, and one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history.  Sure, he was a complete spaz and couldn’t field a lick, but when you hit like that it doesn’t really matter.  During the mid-1990s he and Jim Thome provided potency to the Cleveland Indians, then he and David Ortiz teamed up as perhaps the most dominant 3-4 combination since Ruth-Gehrig.  Even his stint with the Dodgers (before the first suspension that signaled the end of his career) was incredible.

Some of the career stats: .312 BA, .411 OBP, .585 SLG, .996 OPS, 2,574 H, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI.

He was always a favorite player of mine (when not tormenting Twins pitching, of course) for just his pure hitting ability.  The guy didn’t give a lick about anything, but he was blessed with the ability to hit a baseball really, really hard with surprising frequency.

Of course, much like Andy Pettitte, the steroid issue will cloud Manny’s candidacy.  Like Pettitte and, say, A-Rod, Manny is a confirmed steroid user.  That being said, he didn’t make up ridiculous stories in his defense (e.g. Barry Bonds), didn’t become a jerk about it (e.g. Roger Clemens), didn’t refuse to speak about the past (e.g. Mark McGwire), didn’t blatently deny his usage (e.g. Rafael Palmeiro), and didn’t forget how to speak English when questioned (e.g. Sammy Sosa).  Basically, he just got caught and served his time.

My feeling on the matter right now is that I would put Manny in the Hall, but not after a few years of “punishment waiting” sitting on the ballot.  Perhaps I am being too sentimental and should be harder on the guy, but at least he didn’t deny, deny, deny and make baseball look like a bunch of guys trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Time will tell.

Home

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Joe Nathan coming home, indeed.  For the Twins’ 2011 Target Field opener, they pretty much sleepwlked through seven innings at the plate.  Luckily, Carl Pavano was dominating, setting down Oakland A after Oakland A.  Then, in the eighth, Danny Valencia’s infield single was followed by hits from three lefties (Kubel, Span, Mauer) to scratch two runs across.

As this was occuring on the field, Joe Nathan was quickly warming in the pen, anticipating his first Target Field save situation.  When those gates opened and “Stand up and Shout” played over the loudspeakers, it was clear that Mr. Nathan was “Home” at last.

For whatever reason, Joe Nathan is a favorite Twin of mine (just look at the name of this blog).  He’s easily the greatest closer the team has ever had, and there’s just something about a save situation that gets me pumped.  Besides Cuddy gunning a runner, Span slapping a triple, or Thome blasting off, there isn’t anything that will get me on my feet faster than a closer coming into a game to get those final three outs.

I also admire Nathan’s grit and determination.  He started off as a struggling SS with the Giants, then came over here with Liriano and Boof Bonser in the A.J. Pierzynski trade (thanks again, A.J.!) as a so-so reliever.  We gave him Eddie G’s closing role, and he never missed a beat.

If the weather holds out, I may be attending the game either today or Sunday, and I would like nothing more than to see Nathan return to domination in person!

Preview (3-4, T-4, 2.0 GB CLE): Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.50).

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