July 2011

Vacation Reflection: Part Two

Earlier on this blog, I recalled the first part of my recent vacation: a trip to the Field of Dreams movie site.  Well, the second (and primary) destination of the trip was the South Side of Chicago, to see my Twins take on the White Sox at US Cellular Field.

From a stadium perspective, I was impressed.  Though perhaps not in the same “romantic class” as a Target Field or Kauffman Stadium, I thought The Cell was still more impressive than the more modern Miller Park in Milwaukee.  I was expecting worse, to be honest.

Now, I don’t want to denigrate the White Sox fans by saying this, but seeing a game at The Cell is a heckuva lot different than here in Minny.  Perhaps the inflamed tensions of the Twins’ recent ownership of the Sox came into play here, but Chicago fans seem much more intense than those residing in Twins Territory.  Over here, we live by the “Minnesota Nice” creed and sit on our hands and mouths quite a bit.  In Chi-town, those hands and mouths are wide-open.

I don’t think one type of “fandom” is necessarily better than the other, but being used to “passive” it was eye-opening to see a more agressive style of root, root, rooting for the home team.

Notes:


If the Twins completely fall out of the race after being disgraced (20-6) against Texas, the above picture will be the image of the season for the Minnesota Twins.  Mr. Everything.

Preview (47-55, 4th, 3.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.24) vs. CJ Wilson (10-4, 2.94)

Diamond In The Rough?

After a disappointing loss in the afternoon game today, the Twins bounce back tonight with the debut of pitcher Scott Diamond, the twelve millionth (a slight exaggeration) Rochester Red Wing the team has used this season.

For whatever reason, I always get excited about a rookie pitcher making his starting debut.  Remember the names Mike Smith and Dave Gassner?  I do.

We can’t lose two games to the Indians in one day, can we?!

Preview (44-50, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Fausto Carmona (4-10, 5.38) vs. Scott Diamond (0-0, 0.00)

Never Doubt

You know, as a prognosticator, I’m having “one of those years”…

Earlier this year, I got on Scott Baker’s case, only to see him rattle off a string of spectacular starts.

Before the All-Star Break, I proclaimed Danny Valencia as my new favorite Twin, only to see my previous favorite…

…get back to, well,…

Earlier this afternoon, I was really on Jim Thome’s case about being injured and stringing together some horrible at-bats as of late.  Then, 490 feet later…

In mid-May, I let myself think (for the briefest of moments) that this might be a long season in Twins Territory.  We’re now just five games out of first place and playing great baseball.

Boy, am I ever glad to be wrong…!

Preview (44-49, 4th, 1.0 GB CWS): David Huff (0-0, 0.00) vs. Anthony Swarzak (2-2, 3.38) AND Fausto Carmona (4-10, 5.78) vs. TBD

Vacation Reflection: Part One

Just recently, I (and my two brothers) took a baseball-themed vacation, the first part of which took us to Dyersville, Iowa and the Field of Dreams movie site.  Here are some more pics of the experience:


It was an amazing stop no matter how you look at it.  As a movie buff (with Field of Dreams topping my baseball movie list), rare is the movie set still intact for such a long period of time.  I mean, this was the exact same field that Kevin Costner stirred our emotions on and Ray Liotta channeled Shoeless Joe Jackson.

As a baseball lifer, the experience was exactly as James Earl Jones described it…

You pull up on a long dirt road surrounded by cornfields as far as the eye can see.  Then, out of nowhere, is this quaint little diamond with cornstalks framing the outfield.  I hit some balls, played catch in the infield, threw a few from the mound, and wandered around in the corn.  Not a bad afternoon for a baseball romanticist.  The entire time I was there, cars continued to pull in and out, with license plates from Texas, New York, and other faraway stops from the cornfields of Iowa.

As the mysterious whispering voice says…

#28

Another well-deserved honor (number retirement) for a pitcher who had to wait so long.  Congrats again, Bert!

TK In The Booth

 

Kind of a random post here, I know, but I just wanted to quickly comment on the experiment of having former Twins manager Tom Kelly in the booth when Bert Blyleven was on vacation last week:

Though TK would seem like the LAST guy in the world to provide an entertaining broadcast voice (he of the monotone, chopped voice and often grumpy demeanor), but clearly he has “softened” a bit in his years away from being the field general.  He can tell stories with the best of them and, truth be told, actually analyzes the game better than Bert.  After just 2-3 innings of listening to him, it is clear that his baseball mind is always working.  To him, 1,000 things are happening on what seem like the simplest of baseball plays.  About the only downside is that he interrupts Dick Bremer a bit too much out of excitement (!)

Do I think he is a better overall broadcaster than Bert?  Nope.  But, in his short stint, he did prove to be a welcome fill-in if needed, or potentially even doing a couple series a year if he would ever so desire.

Ready…Break

Last year at the All-Star break, the Twins were in third place in the AL Central, 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They went on to win 94 games and claim the division crown by mid-September.

This year, after taking 3 of 4 in ChiTown, the Twins enter the break in 4th place, 6.5 games behind Detroit.  Are we contenders?  Are we pretenders?  Well, the first homestand (KC, DET, CLE) after the break will go a long way towards answering that question.  If we come out flat, we’ll likely never be able to make up the necessary ground.  However, a good homestand would beg the question of whether or not the Twins should make a deal at the deadline.

Our biggest need right now is a solid arm out of the pen.  The starters are what the are, and the offense can only get better (heck, if we can win with Tosoni, Hughes, Rivera, etc. we can win with anyone!), but the ‘pen is where the help is sorely needed.  Barring further setbacks, Joe Nathan should quickly supplant Matt Capps as closer, with Capps sharing setup duties with Perkins.  Beyond that, however, the pen is barren.  Phil Dumatrait has been good for a rookie, but who knows, really.  Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares cannot be consistently counted on to get the job done.

Thus, here is how I see the trading deadline scenario playing out in my head: The Twins package Delmon Young (the most expendable outfielder) and perhaps a Kevin Slowey for a decent bullpen arm.  Then, as we always seem to do, we either call up another ready rook, or pick a guy (remember how we got Pavano in ’09?!) from the scrap heap in September.

If I didn’t think the Twins had at least a decent chance of winning the division this year, I would say “trade a few more guys and replenish the minors”.  However, considering that Detroit ALWAYS chokes in the second half, the Indians are fading, and we OWN the White Sox, a division crown (though not easy by any means) is no doubt within reach.

Preview (41-48, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.26) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-7, 5.06).

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching Puts NL Over AL

http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/.element/swf/4.1/global/cvp/si_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=mlb/2011/07/13/071211.mlb.highlights.all.star.game

In the new “Era of the Pitcher”, how fitting was it that this contest was dominated by one big bomb (from Prince Fielder) and suffocating hurling from the NL mound studs.  The AL fared okay, but without their big horses to match up, the NL just had too much firepower coming from that mound.

On the Twins front, Michael Cuddyer saw one pitch…and flied out to shallow right field.  He also played two innings at first base.  Not all that spectacular, but I’m sure a thrill for him nonetheless.

I always look forward to the Midsummer Classic each year, and this one (despite a lackluster AL performance) didn’t disappoint.

On to the second half!

Waddaya Know…Cano?!

The 2011 MLB Home Run Derby was pretty much a mirror image of all that came before it.  Usually in these things, the first round sees the biggest totals put out, after which the competitors begin to tucker out (especially in the final round).  Not this year.

No player even hit TEN HR’s out of Chase Field in the first round, and the second round was pretty pedestrian as well.  But then, in the final round, both Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano put on quite a show, with Cano ultimately coming out on top.  He had that “pure pull” swing working all night long; looking as if he was doing little more than flicking his wrists to send the ball deep into right field.

Despite the slow start, it was still (as usual) a fun show to watch!

Tonight, Jered Weaver will take the mound for the AL, while Roy “Doc” Halladay will start for the NL in the All-Star Game.

Home Run Derby 2011: Preview

For this year’s Home Run Derby in Arizona, my head tells me not to bet against Jose Bautista…

My heart wants to go with Prince Fielder…

But I almost kind of sense an upset pick in Matt Holliday…

I’m excited to see how it all turns out tomorrow night!

Preview:

AL Squad: Jose Bautista, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano

NL Squad: Matt Holliday, Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp, Rickie Weeks

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