May 2011

Hughes & Hoey: A Poetic Interpretation

Back in 1948, this little ode was crafted by a Boston sportswriter to describe the dominance of the two pitching aces of the Boston Braves: Warren Spahn & Johnny Sain…

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use
Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come
Spahn
followed by
Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

Now, my own poetic interpretation of the Minnesota Twins’ relieving duo of Jim Hoey & Dusty Hughes:

Hughes & Hoey

Hoey & Hughes

When they hit the mound

It’s most surely a “lose”

 

First will come Hughes, with his lefthanded gait

And pitches that butcher the heart of the plate.

Batters will swing, both lefty and righty,

And crush that poor sphere deep into the nighty

Then will come Hoey, his fastball ablaze

Staring down batters with that long, lanky gaze

But, alas, the round orb could fly hither and yon

So batters need only wait, and then show their brawn

 

Hughes & Hoey

Hoey and Hughes

They come in to cheers

And leave mainly to “boooooos!”

Preview (16-33, 5th, 6.0 GB CWS): Jered Weaver (6-4, 2.35) vs. Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 7.71)

Treading Water

The definition of “treading water” is: “a stroke that keeps the head above water by thrashing or rhythmic movements of the legs and arms”.  Basically, treading water is the act of staying in one place despite a flurry of motion.  The last two days, the Twins have provided a clinic in such a behavor.

Last night, Nick Blackburn pitches a complete game gem…

…and really gets the fans up and yelling at Target Field once again (I was one of them!).

Then today…

…the offense once again goes dormant and gets shutout by Erik Bedard and Co. to lose yet another series.

Thus, essentially, we haven’t gained back any ground that we had lost before Blackie’s inspiring performance.  Treading water.

Preview (16-32, 5th, 5.5 GB CWS): Harmon Killebrew Tribute at Target Field.

New Point Of View

Okay, it’s almost the end of May and the Twins are 15 games below .500 (15-30), and dead last in the AL Central.  I’ve done all the analyzing I can (injuries, wrecked bullpen, disappointing starters, etc.) and am taking a new point of view from this point forward:

The way I see it, we are 5.5 GB the Chicago White Sox right now for fourth place.  Once there (if ever), we can set our sets on third, and so on and so forth.  I don’t care what the Indians or Tigers are doing right now, or even what our record is (to an extent).  I’m just looking to move up in the rankings, one at a time.

Fundamentals

Presented without comment this day of May 22, 2011, after the sweep of the Twins by the Diamondbacks:

Preview (15-30, 5th, 5.5 GB CWS): Jason Vargas (3-2, 3.39) vs. Carl Pavano (2-4, 5.30)

The Killer

Today, Minnesota Twins fans, baseball fans, and the world at large lost a hero with the passing of Harmon Killebrew at age 74 due to esophogeal cancer.

There are so many tributes to Harm floating around in cyberspace that I don’t even know where to begin.  Heck, I didn’t even see the guy play, but when EVERYONE who know says he was their hero as a child, a legend is pretty much the closest way of describing him.

I could go so many directions here, but I’ll keep it short and say this: When all is said in done, it really doesn’t matter how many home runs he hit or how many ballgames he won/lost.  Those moments may produce a lot of nostalgia, but the real reason there are a lot of misty eyes in Minnesota right now is because of the type of man Harmon was.  I’ve never heard a harsh word said about him from anyone, and he was always a model for a good, clean, simple life filled with the things and people he loved.  Referencing the “hook” of the above video tribute, I think that Harmon DID get all those letters (or at least tried!).  He also valued them deeply.

When Babe Ruth, the greatest pre-Harmon slugger, was dying of cancer (also of the throat, oddly enough), he was known to quip “The termites have got me.”  Well, sadly those same “termites” got Harm today, along with a big portion of Minnesota childhood for the baby boomers.

As far as relating this to the current Twins team that is mired in a deep slump, I remember a certain ballclub just a few years ago that turned a tragic event:

…into the inspiration for a remarkable comeback.  That team, of course, was the 2006 Twins, who (on May 17) were 9.5 GB in the division and ended up going to the playoffs.

Preview (12-27, 5th, 3.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (2-5, 7.07) vs. Felix Hernandez (4-3, 3.36)

Who’s On Third?

One of the things that has kind of been funny to watch this season is the complete 180 degree philosophy of coaching third base…

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For the past few years (ever since Al Newman left, I believe) Scott Ulger coached third and become notorious for getting guys thrown out by feet, not inches.  Gardy usually praised Scotty’s aggressiveness, but this year Ulger is bench coach, with Steve Liddle manning the hot corner box:

bilde.jpg

Liddle (at least so far) has been the polar opposite, throwing up stop signs like a middle school crossing guard.

To be honest, I don’t know which approach is best.  There’s nothing worse than getting a key run thrown out at the dish by a mile, but having an inning snuffed with a man on third is exasperating as well.  I think that 3B-coach is just one of those spots where turnover is the name of the game.  Whereas Jerry White will coach 1B forever under Gardy…

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…the guy at the hot corner is under so much more pressure to make those split-second decisions correctly.

It isn’t as easy as it looks (!):

 

Hail No

hail.jpgOh…so it’s going to be one of those years…

The Obligitory Reference

335%20Johnny%20Vander%20Meer%20Reds%201938.jpgAny time a major leaguer hurls a no-hitter, like Frankie Liriano did last week, an obligitory reference must be made sometime before his next start to Johnny Vander Meer.  Thus, I’m just doing my duty (!)

In 1938, on June 11th and 15th, Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds pitched no-hitters in consecutive starts, the only major league pitcher to ever do so.  Vander Meer’s major league career was suspect (119-121, 3.44 ERA, 1,132 BB, 1,294 K), but he’ll always have those two days in June ’38.

Can Liriano do it?!  Let’s just say, it would take a seismic event of the Twins falling to last place in the divis…oh, okay.  So maybe anything IS possible at this point.

Preview (12-21, 5th, 0.5 GB CWS): Rick Porcello (2-2, 3.93) vs. Francisco Liriano (2-4, 6.61).

The Cowboy

The Twins lost again to the Red Sox today (and looked pathetic doing it), so instead of evaluating that pitiful performance, I’m going to take my anger out on a different source:

18433186139890188668.jpg

Yep…”Cowboy” Joe West, major league umpire.  I know that major league players and managers get fined for criticizing umpires, so writing this makes me look over my shoulder a bit, but consider:

On Friday night, Joe West interjects himself into the Terry Francona row:

050611_francona_west_web-300x186.jpg

On Saturday afternoon, he calls a runner out at second base (trying to steal) when the batter at home plate had drawn ball four.

Earlier today, a Jason Kubel fair ball down the right field line at Fenway Park clips him, turning an easy extra-base hit into a single.

Now, from what I have always understood, umpires are supposed to be “seen but not heard”.  In fact, they really shouldn’t be seen whatsoever, either.  Of course, I realize that their job is much more difficult than anybody gives them credit it for (look what happened to Jim Joyce last season), but this Joe West just seems to rub me the wrong way.  Same with our manager, as Gardy won’t even look at him anymore.

My two hopes for tomorrow: 1. A Twins win, so they can avoid another series loss; and 2. A game with the only mention of Mr. West being his pregame introduction.

Preview (12-20, 4th, 3.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (2-4, 4.41) vs. Josh Beckett (2-1, 2.35)

What a night in Twins Territory!  With the team coming off its worst month of baseball since the “Dark Ages” of the late 1990s, and Francisco Liriano basically pitching for a spot in the rotation after a horrible month, he twirls a no-no in Chicago!

From Jack Kralick to Dean Chance To Scott Erickson to Eric Milton, the torch has now been passed to Liriano.  It wasn’t all that pretty (6 walks), but it got the job done.  Milty always got criticized for his no-hitter being against a no-name bunch of Angels at the time, but his name is still in the record books, is it not?!  The same goes for Francisco.

This has to be one of the more unique no-no’s, though, in that the game was literally in the balance until the final out was recorded.  With the way the Twins have been playing as of late, I kept waiting for the big ChiSox hit…that never came.

Hopefully, this can be a turning point for the 2011 Twins season.  For the last two weeks, the Twins have really needed that “spark” to drag them out of the doldrums.  Can you think of anything much better than this?!

Way to go Frankie!!

Notes:

-The no-no was also backed up by a win Wednesday evening.  A series sweep…even if it was just two games!  Now, off to Boston and the AL East again.  Frankie might need that kind of stuff again.

Preview (11-18, 4th, 1.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (1-2, 3.16) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 3.81)

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