June 2011

Anniversary

I just realized the other day that this month makes three years of blogging on this site.  I wanted to take a moment to say “thanks” to the site facilitators for giving us all a place to talk about our favorite subject: baseball!!

When this blog began, it was more of just summaries of Twins games.  After about a year or so, it morphed into my general observations about the team whenever I get a pesky idea rattling around in my head.  Now, with a full-time job and taking online masters degree classes, I have less time than ever to post, but I still enjoy sharing my thoughts about my beloved MN Twins!

Firework

 

Yes, I kind of ripped this little “musical coincidence” off from a FOX pre-game show a little while back, but the song sure does fit the player, doesn’t it?!  Ben Revere, since his everday play earlies this month, has really energized this team in a way only seen twice in recent(ish) seasons:

At the All-Star break of 2003, the Twins acquired Shannon Stewart, put him in the OF, and batted him leadoff.  He began spraying hits all over the field and turned a big Twins deficit into a relatively easy division title.

Then, in 2008, Carlos “Go-G0″ Gomez was quite a spark plug before proving that his raw athletic gifts far outpaced his mental faculties.

Now, I realize that the Twins’ pitchers have (more than anyone else) facilitated this dramatic turnaround, but the correlation with Revere’s presence isn’t just a coincidence, either.

Of course, it helps to channel the “ghost” of Jacque Jones in position (OF), number (11), batting stance (straight legs, hunched over on top), and just general “coolness”.

Preview (31-39, 4th, 2.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20) vs. Madison Bumgarner (3-8, 3.21)

Why I Don’t Give Up

I’ve been a Minnesota sports fan (Twins & Vikings, primarily) since the late 1990s.  Since that point, I have learned two undeniable facts:

1. The Vikings will ALWAYS let you down.  Even when you think they couldn’t possibly let you down any worse, they go out and do that exact thing.  Case in point…

2. The Twins will NEVER completely let you down.  Yes, they may lose in the playoffs to the Yankees every #$%^&*! year, but at least they play hard and give it everything they have:

If the Twins are somehow able to get back into this division race by the end of the season, it would truly be their most incredible feat ever, I think.

This is why I don’t give up.  Why I continued watching the blown leads and blow-outs in April and May, night after night.  Because until the Twins are mathematically dead and buried, they HAVE to be accounted for and every team in the division will second that notion.

They used to play this old video up on the Jumbotron at the Metrodome, and it really sums up the ’11 Twins to this point:

 

THAT is why I don’t give up!!

Preview (29-39, 5th, 1.0 GB KCR): Tim Stauffer (2-4, 3.28) vs. Scott Baker (4-4, 3.55).

 

Twins HOF: Jim Perry

This weekend, the Twins inducted pitcher Jim Perry into their Hall of Fame.

According to the stats, Perry (in his 10 seasons with Minnesota) had three excellent seasons as a reliever/spot starter (before those roles were so defined) and three spectacular seasons as a starter (winning the Cy Young Award in 1970).  He also spent time in Cleveland, Detroit, and Oakland during his 17-year career.

After retirement, Perry (especially in recent years) has become a nice Twins ambassador of sorts, appearin gat all the reunions and special events.  I think he really identifies as a “Twin” more than any other team.  Older fans really wax nostalgic (and with good reason) about him from those exciting mid-60s-1970 years of Twins baseball.

Though his raw Twins stats may make Perry a borderline Twins HOFer, the honor couldn’t be bestowed on more of a gentleman and baseball lifer.  Enjoy the company, Jim!

Preview (26-39, 5th, 2.0 GB KCR): Gavin Floyd (6-5, 3.89) vs. Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.54)

Texas Beatdown

When a lineup consists of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz, sometimes a blowout occurs.

About the only positive to take from it is Swarzak saving the bullpen after Duensing’s disappointment.

Preview (24-39, 5th, 3.0 GB KCR): Colby Lewis (5-6, 4.37) vs. Scott Baker (3-4, 3.86)

Two Things…

Two things to ponder in the middle of a hot streak…

1. It never ceases to amaze me that if Alexi Casilla is playing well (both in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths), the Twins are almost guaranteed to be winning games.  The theory doesn’t hold true in the reverse, as the Twins have played well without Casilla on many occasions the last few years, but I’ve never seen him play well in losing efforts.  Don’t ask me why this is, but it seems to be the case.

2. When things are at their most bleak…and I mean the VERY PIT of despair…the Twins always seem to play their best as well.  It wasn’t until both Thome and Kubel went down on the same day that the winning streak began.  I suppose one could argue that when rock bottom is hit, the ONLY way to go is up, but I’d still like to think that the Twins are a better team WITH Kubel/Thome than without.  The same effect was seen after the loss of Morneau in 2009 & 2010.

Notes:

-A tough loss in Cleveland tonight, but it was a well-contested contest that saw Liriano look solid and the bullpen do a great job.  We just ran into the buzzsaw of Carlos Carrasco for a night.  The key now is to bounce back and still take the series tomorrow afternoon.

Preview (22-38, 5th, 4.0 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.83) vs. Justin Masterson (5-4, 3.28)

Snatch & Grab It

Finally, a Twins callup from Rochester (AAA) is taking the opportunity of a lifetime and running with it.  Anthony Swarzak made his second consecutive strong start, the Twins (even without Thome/Kubel) knocked out a bunch of runs, and we inched one game closer to fourth place.  Gee whiz, I know, but progress is progress at this point.  Maybe a series win on the road can occur next??!!

Preview (18-37, 5th, 6.5 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (2-5, 5.19) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.11)

The Mauer Effect

Memorial Day weekend is often used as the first “benchmark” in a long baseball season.  Which teams are strong, which are weak, who may be sellers at the break, who may be gearing up for a mid-season trade.

Usually, the running joke here in Twins Territory is that the Kansas City Royals are usually making winter vacation plans at about this time.  Well, the Royals ARE in fourth place in the AL Central and more than a few games below .500, but there’s something this year that makes the joke quite a bit less funny: the Royals are 6-7 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins.

So far this season on this blog, I have lamented the terrible play and given a few opinions of my own on it.  I would like to add one more here, known possibly as the “Joe Mauer Effect”:

Clearly, the biggest reason for the Twins’ struggles has been the time lost to injuries to key players.  There’s no debating that fact.  However, I wonder if perhaps the potential “babying” (the word goes in quotes because nobody seems to know exactly what transpires with him on a day-to-day basis) of star catcher Joe Mauer isn’t creating a tinge of bitterness in the clubhouse that translates over onto the field.

A baseball clubhouse, besides the crass camaraderie and checkbook amounts, is no different than any other workplace.  If one person is getting better treatment than others, and those others feel that that treatment is not well-deserved, a bitter attitude can poison the work environment.  Some people can put that bitterness behind them and be abject professionals, while others let it stew and bleed over into their work habits.

I’m not accusing the Twins of anything, as I have never stepped foot into their pre- or post-game clubhouse and thus cannot pass judgement.  However, it’s just something to think about as the weird injuires (and losses) keep piling up.

What the Twins have on their side, though, is Ron Gardenhire.

While I have–in the past–criticized some of Gardy’s on-field decisions, I do not question for one moment that he is one of (if not THE) best player-relations manager in the game today.  He demands respect for the game, and if he doesn’t get it you won’t play for him all that much longer.

I hope this “Mauer Effect” isn’t seeping through the Twins clubhouse on a daily basis, but like I said, it is worth mentioning.  Of course, as is always the case in professional sports, if Mauer comes back and hits .350, all will be forgiven.  Let’s hope against hope that something similar transpires to give the team a bit of a spark this season.

Notes:

-Kubel and Thome put on DL today.  Oy.

Preview (17-37, 5th, 7.5 GB KCR): Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 6.75)

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