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Saying Goodbye…And Hello

I hated seeing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel leave for Colorado & Arizona, respectively.  They have been incredibly fun to watch the last decade or so.  I liked Kubel’s no-nonsense approach to success, as well as his live bat and always-improving defensive skills.  Cuddyer, of course, was the epitome of the “Twins way” with his positive attitude, versatility, and toughness.  There is no way that losing both of them will improve the team in any way, shape, or form for 2012.

The trouble, of course, is that the Twins (because of last season) dug themselves into such a hole that the competitive future is almost surely beyond ’12.  As such, as much as I hate to say it, not overpaying for Cuddyer & Kubel was probably a smart decision.  We gave them both fair offers (at least from what I heard/read) and they chose greener (literally) pastures.  More power to them.

In Cuddy’s case, he’s never really developed into an elite player.  He strikes out (on those @#$% outside pitches in the dirt!) far too much, is prone to long slumps, and could just as easily hit .260 with 15 homers next season.  We can’t tie up any more money in that risk (see: Mauer/Morneau; unluckiness)

With Kubel, he could absolutely mash subpar pitching…but struggled mightily (sometimes even embarrassingly so) against the elites (see: Yankees in playoffs).  Plus, the move to Target Field really dulled his right field gap home run power.

So, as much as I hate to see them go, I have to conclude that it makes sense at this point in the Twins’ future.

We did, however, sign Josh Willingham (formerly of the Marlins, Nats, & most recently A’s)…

I don’t really know much about Willingham, but I like the reviews of him I hear from other players.  He seems to have some pop in his bat as well.  What I like the most, however, is that his career OPS is over .800.  It isn’t tremendous, of course, but far better than most players in our lineups last year.  At the very least, he can hopefully provide some veteran leadership to what promises to be an interesting mish-mash of a team in ’12.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot…

We also got Jason Marquis (of basically every NL team, I believe…!).  Considering the little money we paid him, this could be a steal…provided he comes back from a leg injury sustained last season.  He’s a workhorse who prides himself (much like Pavano) on taking the ball every fifth day.  Lord knows we need more of those types around these parts.

December Ramblings…

My thoughts on a few Twins moves the last month or so…

Kevin Slowey traded to Colorado:  You know, I was always a big Kevin Slowey supporter.  I thought he had the stuff to be the next “Brad Radke”, and I think that concept still exists.  However, it will likely never be realized because of his inability to stay healthy for any prolonged period of time.  Slowey is one of those pitchers who needs to be 100% healthy to succeed, as he relies on such pinpoint control and sharp breaking pitches.  Any “hitch in his giddyup” will cause him not only to fail, but fail miserably.  Thus, despite having high hopes for him, I can’t say I’m all that sorry to see him go.

Matt Capps back as closer: I didn’t like Capps from the beginning, and I haven’t changed that opinion.  I honestly do not know what the organization sees in this guy.  Does he have the potential to be a decent middle-reliever?  I think so.  But CLOSER, where the pressure is magnified with every pitch?  Nah-uh.  He has proven time and time again (when healthy or hurting) that he can’t rise to that occasion like Mr. Nathan could.  I know we are a wreck bullpen-wise, but to pin a key spot on this guy is tenuous at best.

Jim Hoey released: This guy was an absolute joke.  I don’t understand how you can expect to have a major-league career when you can’t locate a fastball to save your life!  Yes, he can throw the ever-loving @#$% out of the ball, but it doesn’t matter a bit…it’ll either be wide of the strike zone or right down the middle (with one option being as unpleasant as the other).  Nothing lost here.

Jose Mijares released: Jose had one dominant year with the Twins…and hasn’t come close to that form since.  Personality-wise, he never arrives to training camp on time (always visa issues) and, when he does show up, he’s grossly overweight.  So, it isn’t until June when he’s even physically ready to pitch effectively.  When on the mound, Mijares is wild to the point of frustration.  Everyone can see he has “the stuff” to get lefty batters out at an alarming rate, but he just can’t do it consistently.  Again, I know our ‘pen is a train-wreck right now, but this guy was beginning to become more trouble than he was worth.

“I Think I’ll Miss You Most Of All, Scarecrow”

After a 99-loss season, change is inevitable.  However, I was very sad to hear today that Joe Nathan is now a Texas Ranger.

Since his arrival in Minnesota in 2004, Joe Nathan (with the exception of perhaps Brad Radke) has been my favorite Twin.  He had the dominant “stuff” that Everyday Eddie lacked, the humble attitude, and the most incredible “walk-up” theme in Twins history.  I had his jersey for awhile and it is no coincidence that the name of this blog is so closely related to Mr. Nathan.

I realize that this is strictly a business decision for the Twins organization (and I guess we offered him a decent proposal, too), but oh I’m going to miss this so much…

Mr. Terry Ryan, Ladies and Gentlemen…

Well, once again Terry Ryan seems to have made another shrewd move in trying to re-tool a somewhat lost franchise.

Ryan Doumit (formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates) was brought in to back-up Joe Mauer in 2012.  As we all know, that gig means catching noon “getaway” days as a given, as well as perhaps being thrust into a starting role should Mauer succumb to injury again.

After seeing Drew Butera & Rene Rivera make Tim “Buck Ninety” Laudner seem like a batting champion, Ryan realized that a backstop with a good combination of defense and pop in the bat is a must on this club.

Doumit has hit .271 in seven seasons with the Pirates, including an OPS of .777.  Nothing all-star worthy, but better than what we’ve got behind Joe now.  Plus, Doumit (from what I have read) seems like a real “gamer” who will quickly buy into Gardy’s (hopefully) increased work on fundamentals and become a team leader.  Plus, Ryan can play a little outfield and first base if needed.

Again, Terry Ryan rubs a little salve on the wounds in hopes of healing their roots.

What Went Wrong

After the season ended, I had planned on doing a position-by-position look at the Twins to examine what exactly went wrong that sent a 94-win team (2010) to a 99-loss squad (2011).  However, with the recent front office move of swapping Bill Smith for Terry Ryan (again), it seems as if three key categories came into play during the ’11 season that really just doomed the Twins from the start.

First, from a tactical perspective, the injuries were horrific…

When half (or more) of your starting team is injured for half (or more) of the season, the plan you put in place all of last offseason was pretty much shot in the foot before it ever had a chance to walk.  Whether bad luck, bad conditioning, or bad “mental toughness” (to quote Mike Tice), the team was limping off the field all season long.

Also, the depletion of the bullpen was another crippling tactical shortcoming…

I realize that the money got too much to retain our key bullpen horses, but in the end the lack of any steady relief help came back to bite the team perhaps more than anyone thought possible.

Second, beyond the tactical stuff, was the inability of our “core group” (outside of Cuddyer, of course) to produce.

Mauer & Morneau needed to get back to this…

But instead they barely played two weeks of the season in the same lineup.

Then, the “solid five” (Baker, Blackburn, Liriano, Perkins, Slowey) starters that we envisioned a few years ago have never (and probably never will) produced to their expectations…

Liriano is an enigma, Slowey is in the doghouse, Baker is failed potential personified, Blackburn is a rollercoaster, and Perkins is now a reliever (and one who has injury troubles at that).

Finally, the final area that really killed the Twins last year was a step away from their tried-and-true organizational philosophy of hoarding draft picks, developing talent, throwing strikes, and playing solid, fundamental baseball (especially defense).

When Nick Punto left in the offseason and ended up winning a ring with the Cardinals…

It signaled a shift from playing “Twins baseball” towards “going all-in to win now”.

Perhaps this was a difference in philosophy between two GMS…

But clearly, the team got away from the “fundamentals”.  The defense was rot, the pitchers walked more batters than ever, and the whole foundation collapsed.

Notes:

-Amazingly enough, Terry Ryan’s first move on his second go-’round as GM impressed the heck out of me, signing Jamey Carroll to play shortstop in ’12…

From what I hear/read, Carroll can play solid defense, handle the bat, stay in the lineup, and get on base a little bit…nothing our middle infielders did in ’11.  Carroll is not a long-term solution by any means, but he adds stability to a team desperate for it right now.

Congrats, St. Louis!


I never got a chance to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals yet on this blog for winning the World Series, so I wanted to take a moment to do that now.  You knocked off the “juggernaut” (Philly), the “chic pick” (Milwaukee), and arguably the most steady team in the American League (Texas).  Much like in 2006, you surprised us all!!

Especially, though, I was happy for former Twin Nick Punto…

He finally has that World Series ring for all his hustle!

On a related note, I was surprised to hear about the retiring of Tony LaRussa.  Personally, I will always remember Tony for this…

I logged more hours on this baseball sim than perhaps any other video game I have ever played!

LaRussa was a great manager who will always be remember for his strategy, and perhaps his involvement in the Steroid Era.  I think I’ll always say that Bobby Cox was the greatest manager of my generation, but LaRussa isn’t too far behind (just look at those win totals).

Remembering ’11


Although the 2011 season did not end well for the Minnesota Twins (the understatement of the year, to be sure), it is still another baseball season in the books, full of ups and downs and memorable moments along the way. This post list those moments that I remember…

-On my couch, hot dogs and brats in hand, to watch Opening Day…and then seeing the Twins out of it in Toronto before it even began, really.  Should have known something from Day One, I guess.

-Getting all excited about Nishioka, then seeing the Yankees take him out early and him become a basket case late.

-Liriano’s May no-no against the White Sox.  Probably the most unimpressive no hitter I’ve ever seen, but still a special night.

-The mid-June surge that saw Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla ignite the team.

-Watching at Target Field as Matt Capps blew ANOTHER save against the Brew Crew.

-Walking on the hallowed “Field of Dreams” in Iowa as part of a baseball-themed vacation.

-Seeing the Twins play the White Sox at The Cell as part of said vacation.

-Attending (at one point in early July) four games in the span of five days.

-The terrible months of August & September which, towards the end, even tested my patience in sitting through an entire error-ridden, pitching-splintered game.

And then, of course, there was perhaps the most meaningless season finale in Twins history.  Except, of course, that it wasn’t.  With John Gordon behind the microphone for the final time, the Twins rallied in the ninth for a walk-off win thanks to the bat of Trevor Plouffe and the legs of Denard Span.

Though, for sure, those last few months were trying and many times I just wished the season would mercifully come to a close, that final game really put things in perspective.  With each passing day without baseball (and especially when football comes to an end), all I’ll want is simply this, with my Minnesota Twins…

Thanks Indeed, Gordo…

From my earliest years as a Twins fan, I remember listening to John Gordon on the radio and being captivated by that lively, exciting broadcasting style.  Put simply, he could make any game (a dramatic masterpiece or ten-run blowout) sound exciting over the airwaves.

Though I’m usually more inclined to watch the games on television, the greatest compliment I can give to Mr. Gordon is that I don’t feel like I’m missing all that much on the times I tune in.  He will be sorely missed, as was Herb Carneal by the older generation of Twins fans.

I’ll glad the team (with Plouffe’s walk-off single in the ninth) were able to give him one last chance to emote into the microphone like he has been doing for so long.

Notes:

-Now that the regular season (and Twins season, sadly) is over, I will be periodically blogging about “what went wrong” in the 2011 season.  Suffice it to say, it may just take me all winter to finish that series.  I will also keep the blogging community abreast of Twins player movements in the offseason and such topics.  The posts will likely be much less frequent, but I won’t be disappearing altogether!

Final Log: 63-99, 5th in AL Central, 32 GB Detroit Tigers

So Long, Farewell…

A quick story about a baseball season coming to an end:

In September of 2007, the Minnesota Twins were winding down a very disappointing campaign.  At the time, I was attending college at the University of Minnesota-Morris and happened to be on campus for a weekend.

Now, I had a variety of options: from which to spend my day: Video games, movies, sleeping, studying (!), etc.  The Twins were just playing out a string of meaningless games.

Almost needless to say, I spent the afternoon watching the Twins game.  Why?  Because I knew that, in a few months, all I would want is for baseball to return, so I decided to enjoy one final game.  For whatever reason, that very day and game also seem to stick out in my mind.

Due to work/school requirements, I may not get the same opportunity the next couple of days (I’ll watch what I can), but the feeling is still kind of the same.  Though right now I just want this nightmare season to come to a close, I also know that Spring Training never quite comes early enough, either.

Notes:

-Ozzie Guillen is gone from the White Sox (probably headed to Florida).  Let the NL East deal with him, is what I say.  I think Ozzie is probably a better tactical manager than many people (including myself) give him credit for, but his personality is just too brash and profane for my tastes.

Preview (61-99, 5th, 10 GB KCR): Sean O’Sullivan (2-5, 6.92) vs. Anthony Swarzak (3-7, 4.42)

360 (Degrees) In 365 (Days)

Just a quick post here, but had to mention how hard it is to believe that this…

…transpired roughly one year ago.

I was at that game on a cold September night in Target Field, but it was one of the most exciting nights of Twins baseball in quite awhile.

Oh, how things have ever changed since that very day.

Preview (60-95, 5th, 7.5 GB KC): Carl Pavano (8-13, 4.40) vs. Justin Masterson (12-10, 3.15)

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