Results tagged ‘ AL Central ’

Last Place

As I sit here writing this blog post, the Minnesota Twins currently reside in the cellar of the AL Central division.  The last time they finished a season that low in the standings was 2000, when I was starting high school and didn’t yet even have cable to watch them on MSC (Midwest Sports Channel, the precursor to FSN).

Some “classic” names on that ’00 roster included Ron Coomer, Jay Canizaro, Matt Lawton, Butch Huskey, Midre Cummings, Sean Bergman, and Mark Redman.

Suffice it to say, it is strange to be in the position of looking up at the KC Royals after being on the “other side” for so long.  A bit humbling, I suppose.

I remember a few months ago, with the Twins in fourth place, my goal was to see the team move up slot by slot in the standings.  Well, the opposite has transpired and now the goal becomes climbing out of the basement back to respectability.

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).

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)

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.

A Different Feeling

Last year ended (at least the regular season) about as exciting as a Twins season has ever come to a close (see above).

This year obviously felt a little different.  For most of today’s regular season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, the 3-4-5 batters were: Drew Butera, Ben Revere, and Trevor Plouffe.

This occured due to the Twins trying to rest guys for the playoffs, but it was still a bit disconcerting to see the team lose so many games after clinching.  I’m not too worried, though, for this reason:

Last year in the ALDS against the Yankees, the Twins Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Matt Tolbert in the starting lineup.  No such thing will happen this year, as those guys are replaced (respectively) by Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and Danny Valencia.

We know that our first-round opponent this year will again be the Yankees, but I’ll have more on that matchup in a later post.

Final AL Central Standings:

y-Minnesota 94 -68 . -
Chi White Sox 88 -74 6.0
Detroit 81 -81 13.0
Cleveland 69 -93 25.0
Kansas City 67 -95 27.0

No Need To Panic

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_195997_game.jpgAfter securing the AL Central division crown with a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, the Detroit Tigers returned the favor by taking three straight from us at Comerica. Here’s two reasons why I’m not concerned:

1. The Tigers are us good in their home park as we are at ours.  If they could win at all on the road, we’d still be battling them in meaningful games.

2. In 1987, after clinching the AL West, the Twins proceeded to lose the final 5 games of the regular season before doing their damage again in the playoffs.

Of course, having home field advantage in a potential second-round playoff series would be nice, but not at the expense of tired arms or worn-down bodies.

Preview (92-63, 1st, 9.5 GA CWS): Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.18) vs. Kyle Davies (8-11, 5.05)

Delmon (And Co.) Demolish The Royals

Twins_Royals_Baseball_sff_184639_game.jpgWow…my first post since the All-Star break.  I guess the trips up north (with no Internet access) are severely affecting this blog (yet also severely improving my summer, so it all evens out!).

Remember all those unanswered questions at the break?  Unfortunately, many are still lingering.  However, the Twins have been able to take care of business against the downtrodden of the AL East (Baltimore) and Central (Kansas City) to jump right back into the AL Central race.

Today, powered by home runs from Delmon Young…excuse me, the Unstoppable Delmon Young (!)…and Jason Repko in the first two innings, the Twins finished off a sweep of the KC Royals.  Duensing pitched another decent game out of the starting rotation, and (besides Jose Mijares) the pen did a nice job of closing the door on a 6-4 victory.

During the series, the Twins outscored the Royals 36-7.  Of course, guys like Butera, Repko, and Valencia won’t have three/four-hit games against the good teams in the league, but series like this serve as a good confidence-builder going forward.

Notes:

-No imminent trade rumors coming out of TwinCo.  Haren (Anaheim) and Lee (Texas) have already been dealt, and Oswalt is likely much too expensive.  Thus, any improvement will likely come from middle-of-the-road talent this weekend, or some waiver-wire guys in September (like Pavano last year).

Preview (56-46, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): TBA vs. Scott Baker (8-9, 5.00). After an off-day Thursday, the Twins have a “quickie” three-game home series against Seattle before embarking on another road trip (this time much more potentially menacing).

Anticipation


c49be18a-1f93-4141-ae91-7b011a093d0d.jpgWell folks, here we go again. Just an hour and a half away from the game that we all have been waiting for.

Just like last year, before a game of this magnitude and improbability, I can’t help but think back on all that has transpired over the past 162 games.  All the opportunities we had to be in the playoffs outright right now, vs. all the times we came back when we probably shouldn’t have won.

However, all that is behind us now.  All either team has to do is take care of business…and we have “Dome turf”.

Preview (86-76, T-1st w/DET): Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) vs. Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36).

This Is Why I Don’t Like Math

a6e817e2-6e28-4cc8-a1a0-66af8bec8585.jpgI contemplated doing a lengthy piece tonight about how the Twins are done and how it finally came to this point.  With the Tigers’ magic number down to 2 to clinch the AL Central, things sure are looking grim for our boys.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it has been to never give up on the Twins.  They seem to play their best with their backs up against the wall, and I’m hoping that proves true tomorrow as well.

Here’s the way I look at it: A loss tomorrow and the whole ball of wax is gone, that much is mathematical.  However, a win would actually swing some momentum back in our favor a little bit.  Would we be in great position?  No.  But at least Detroit would have to beat the likes of Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, and John Danks, while we would get Zack Grienke on our turf and than not much else from the Royals.

So, I’m not giving up yet.  Two seasons of Twins late-season heroics (’06, ’08) are on my side.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Preview (82-76, 2nd, 3.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) vs. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56). 

And Here…We…Go!

Well folks, it all comes down to this.  Four games that will likely determine the course of the 2009 American League Central division.  The Tigers are playing like they have all season (up and down, just waiting for someone to pass them), while the Twins are on fire when not facing Mr. Grienke and his practically unhittable stuff (just ask Jason Kubel).  Of course, the great equalizer is Comerica Park, where the Tigers have played even better than the Twins have at the Dome this season.

This is what September baseball is all about!

Preview (81-74, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) vs. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14).

On another note, Ozzie The Nut is at it again.

http://sports-ak.espn.go.com/mlb/clubhouse?team=chw (Click on Ozzie Rips White Sox)

These kind of rants… are exactly why I hate this guy so much. If I were a player (even one that might very well be in the doldrums), I would be personally offended by that type of language and the kinds of names he calls people. I wonder how the truly professional Sox like Konerko, Dye, and the now-departed Thome feel about that kind of bull crap?

 

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