One of the things that has kind of been funny to watch this season is the complete 180 degree philosophy of coaching third base…
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:
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…
…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 (!):
Oh…so it’s going to be one of those years…
Any 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 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:
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:
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!!
-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)
In 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?
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”…
Nick Blackburn: Maddeningly inconsistent, including various nagging injuries. Typical sinkerballer…either boom or bust on any given day.
Kevin Slowey: Almost chronically injured at this point.
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.
Scott Baker: The biggest disappointment of the bunch. Has not improved one iota since the day he arrived in a Twins uniform.
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.
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
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)
First 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 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)