Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

The Exception?

manny-ramirez.jpgAlright…with Manny Ramirez retiring suddenly this past week to avoid a second suspension for failing a drug test, it begs the question: HOF?

Taking steroids out of the equation, this guy is a first-ballot HOF-er.  I would argue that he was the greatest righthander hitter in baseball from 1995-2008, and one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history.  Sure, he was a complete spaz and couldn’t field a lick, but when you hit like that it doesn’t really matter.  During the mid-1990s he and Jim Thome provided potency to the Cleveland Indians, then he and David Ortiz teamed up as perhaps the most dominant 3-4 combination since Ruth-Gehrig.  Even his stint with the Dodgers (before the first suspension that signaled the end of his career) was incredible.

Some of the career stats: .312 BA, .411 OBP, .585 SLG, .996 OPS, 2,574 H, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI.

He was always a favorite player of mine (when not tormenting Twins pitching, of course) for just his pure hitting ability.  The guy didn’t give a lick about anything, but he was blessed with the ability to hit a baseball really, really hard with surprising frequency.

Of course, much like Andy Pettitte, the steroid issue will cloud Manny’s candidacy.  Like Pettitte and, say, A-Rod, Manny is a confirmed steroid user.  That being said, he didn’t make up ridiculous stories in his defense (e.g. Barry Bonds), didn’t become a jerk about it (e.g. Roger Clemens), didn’t refuse to speak about the past (e.g. Mark McGwire), didn’t blatently deny his usage (e.g. Rafael Palmeiro), and didn’t forget how to speak English when questioned (e.g. Sammy Sosa).  Basically, he just got caught and served his time.

My feeling on the matter right now is that I would put Manny in the Hall, but not after a few years of “punishment waiting” sitting on the ballot.  Perhaps I am being too sentimental and should be harder on the guy, but at least he didn’t deny, deny, deny and make baseball look like a bunch of guys trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Time will tell.

Down To Willie

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Well, of the trio that comprises the chorus of that famous song, now only Willie Mays remains on this earth, what with the recent passing of Duke Snider.
 
Obviously, comparing those three star outfielders was a buzzy topic in the 1950s, and this article really nails why it was such a hot topic:
 
 
The reason, of course, was that there was no “wrong answer”!  Willie, Mickey Mantle, and the Duke all put together monster seasons.  If you liked all-around play, Mays was your man.  If you preferred the dramatic homers, obviously you’d root for the Mick.  If you liked the solid underdog who just keeps his mouth shut and still puts up great numbers, than the Duke was for you.
 
About the closest I’ve ever come to this sort of “quandary” was in the late 1990s with these three guys:
 
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Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, and A-Rod dominated SS in the American League for quite a few seasons. I was always partially to “Nomah”, but you couldn’t go wrong with any of them.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Didn’t get to see the game today, but heard the happy news that the Twins won, AND Jim Thome hit another laser beam into the right field bleachers.

Just a few days ago, Thome hit #584 to pass this guy…

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…on the all-time list.

Now, he’s gunning for this guy (who finished at 586):

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Once Thome passes Frankie and sits at eighth all-time, that is “all” he’ll move up slot-wise on that list this season.  Alex Rodriguez currently has 604, while Sammy Sosa would be catchable at 609 if Thome were to play another season at his current production level.

For now, though, it’s just nice to have a power bat in the middle of the lineup with Morneau still getting too many headaches to risk a comeback.  Let’s just hope now that he can save his energy a bit for the playoffs and the Twins keep fending off the pesky White Sox.

Preview (81-57, 1st, 3.5 GA CWS): Brian Bannister (7-11, 5.95) vs. Francisco Liriano (12-7, 3.27)

A-Rod 600: Make Your Own Kind Of Judgement

Last week, Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home run:

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Was there a big hoopla over an event that, 20 years ago, would have captivated the entire sport?  No, as long as you don’t count the number of at-bats it took him to finally blast-off again.

More interesting, though, is the lack of steroid-related snipings and gripings.  Where’s the outrage at “A-Roid” joining the same club as the Say Hey kid:

willie-mays-d2.jpg To me, this indicates what the future of the Steroid Era might hold.  Instead of the outrage that accompanied the feats of McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens, now baseball fans are taking a “make your own judgement” approach to the issue.  It used to be that we wanted to re-write the record books, but now we realize that the steroid issue is so pervasive that it cannot be successfully excised.  So, we make up our own minds as to who the record holders are.

I know who mine are:

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babe_crown.jpgNot a perfect system, by far, but perhaps it will have to suffice, like a scar reminding you of an old wound that will never quite heal.

John Sterling Must Love The Twins

Seventh inning, bases loaded, one out, A-Rod at the dish, Matty Guerrier on the mound:

 

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Preview (22-13, 1st, 2.5 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (4-1, 2.36) vs. Andy Pettitte (4-0, 2.08).

Contemplating The Yanks

This weekend, the Twins will head to Yankee Stadium in New York for three games with their own particular version of kryptonite: the Yankees.

There is a particular amount of buzz about this series in the Twins Cities area right now (whether suffocating or stimulating is up for interpretation), primarily due to the Twins’ hot start and the potential to erase a few past demons.  Basically, we haven’t been able to do squat against the Yankees since, ironically enough, we started winning on a consitent basis back in 2002.  However, here is the reason why I finally see the Twins turning things around…starting tomorrow night:

 

baseball_back_1024.jpgTo me, the difference between the Twins and the Yankees has always been a deep bench.  Whether Joe Torre or Joe Girardi, in late-inning situations there’s also a big bat coming off the bench that can wreak havoc.  The best example of this was in the ’04 ALDS, when Ruben Sierra came off their bench as opposed to Michael Ryan off ours.  Ouch.

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The picture above more accurately represents our bench (in past years) in a time of need.  Gardy scans the length of the dugout and finds such guys as Brian Buscher, Ryan, Nick Punto, or Matt Tolbert to try and create runs off of Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera.  Not likely.

However, this year we have both the lineup depth AND the pitching to keep pace with the mighty Yankees.  They may still outpace us in top-tier (Sabathia, Burnett, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.) talent, but we now have the bats to hang with them even into the late innings.

Plus, remember this…

In 2003, we took the first game at Yankee stadium before collapsing.  In ’04, we took the first and almost had the second if not for a Nathan blown save.  Last year, we played them toughed in nearly every regular season game (a lot of walk-off wins for them), and had a chance to win all three of those playoffs games if we could have gotten some clutch hits.

Could this be the start of a new era for the Twins (competing with the big boys)?  This weekend provides the first test.

…One Joe Here To Say!

Well, Joe Mauer is going to have a lot more to smile about now…

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…and so do we (the fans)!  Eight more years (nine, counting 2010) of arguably the most talented player in the major leagues right now.

Although crossing the 20% (of the total payroll) threshold has been suicide for many teams (just remember A-Rod going to Texas), I think the Twins have a good enough organization and farm system to build around Mauer (or keep the talent around, as is the case now) for many years.

Giving 8 years and $184 million to a health-risk catcher may seem dicey, but Mauer is the exception to the rule.  If he wanted to stay, and he did, then the right move was locking him up at any price.

It just boggles my mind that only 20 years ago, Kirby Puckett…

puckett88nike-1.jpg  was the first guy in the majors to make $3 million per season.   Crazy.

Why We Lost, Theory #2: We Were Overmatched From The Start

yankeesboard06.jpgIn the previous post, I made the point that the Twins have nobody to blame but themselves for the ALDS sweep at the hands of the Yankees. But is this really true?

This is kind of a touchy issue, at least for me, as it implies that the Twins (or any small-market “David” vs. a big-market “Goliath”) really never have much of a chance to compete against the “big boys” of the league.

Any competant baseball fan knows that the economic system of the game is messed up due to the fact that no salary cap is in place.  Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels (in the American League) have such a huge advantage over the Twins and Royals of the world that its a wonder any other team ever represents the league in the World Series (I guess that is the crapshoot of a playoff structure that features a 3-of-5 first round).  Sure, Bud Selig’s supposedly brilliant luxury tax system (where, much like Robin Hood, the league robs from the rich to give to the poor) helps a little bit, but in reality all it ends up doing is narrowing the free agent pool each year (as the middle-market teams are able to lock up a few key players to long-term deals).  It most definetly, however, does not prevent teams like the Yankees from nabbing the best free agents year after year (case in point: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett brought in before the start of this season).  The Twins could never have dreamed of signing guys like that.

Of course, baseball will likely never changed (at least not with Selig at the helm), as the success of the Yanks, Sawx, and Halos fuels the revenue machine, especially in the World Series.  Though it might provide some sanctity back into the game, nobody wants to see the Twins and Athletics, to use two examples, duking it out in the ALCS.  If the MLB execs had it their way, it would be New York and Boston every single year.

The whole situation kind of reminds me of the infamous “You can’t handle the truth” speech from the movie A Few Good Men:

“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”

While more parity would be great for baseball, it will never happen because admittedly it would weaken the short-term (until new rivalries are formed, at least) revenue stream of the league.

Thus, can the Twins even be expected to compete with the Yankees in any series?  They have Sabathia and Burnett, we have Baker and Blackburn.  They have the best middle of an order (Teixera, A-Rod, Matsui) since Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri batted consecutively, while we have one stud (Mauer) and two others (Kubel, Cuddyer) that are by and large overmatched by quality pitching.  They have guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano at the BOTTOM of the order, while we have Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, and Jose Morales because they are all we can afford.  They can throw arms like Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes at us, while he have Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares.  No comparison.

So, those are the two theories as to why our beloved Twins were brutalized by the hated Yanks.  Which one is more valid?  I think it is a mixture of both.  The Twins would need to play a perfect series to even give themselves a chance to beat the Yankees, and instead we choked in every big opportunity.

Why We Lost, Theory #1: We Beat Ourselves

4767380f-27d8-4a7b-9fd8-d4d6a3153f25.jpgNow that a bit of time has passed and my initial reaction to the ALDS sweep has lessened a bit, I wanted to take a look back and see why the Twins got the broom. Here is one theory, with another to follow in a later post:

We beat ourselves. Plain and simple.  No B.S., no excuses.  Each and every game the Twins gave their all against a very tough Yankee ballclub, yet there was one key collapse and enough mistakes to go around that the only entity to blame for the sweep is staring us in the mirror.

Game 1: As expected, young starter Brian Duensing had trouble containing the big bats of the Yankees, and C.C. Sabathia was mowing us down like a shiny new Briggs & Stratton.  However, in the middle innings, the Twins were just down by a pair of runs and manager Ron Gardenhire decided to go to the bullpen in a key situation to retire Hideki Matsui.  Twins fans expected Ron Mahay, but instead Francisco Liriano trotted into the game.  My reaction: OMFG.  Matsui poked one into the seats and the Yanks never looked back.  Poor managing, plain and simple.

Game 2: Too many mistakes to count, really.  First was the now-infamous rounding of the base from Carlos Gomez (him being in the lineup in the first place could also be viewed as another Gardy Gaffe), where he allowed himself to be tagged out before Delmon Young could cross home plate and thus erasing a potential early lead and key run for the Twins.

Next, was the complete and utter implosion of closer Joe Nathan.  Way too many times down the stretch of the regular season (and in this game, obviously), Joe would come into games with no life on his fastball, the pitch that sets up his nasty breaking stuff.  Thus, he would be forced to throw the breaking stuff (which rarely gets over the plate) early and, when the patient Yankee hitters would lay off, he would then have to groove a fastball, exactly what happened to A-Rod.

The thing that sticks in my (and Gardy’s, I bet) craw the most, though, was the debacle when the Twins loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eleventh inning.  Both Gomez and Delmon Young proceeded to swing at the first pitch of each at-bat (proving that they still just don’t “get it”, yet) and record outs en route to no runs coming in at all.  I bet that Gardy could have wrung their necks at that point.  Thus, the walk-off from Mark Teixera was all but imminent (if we can’t score with the bases loaded and no outs, when would we ever?).

Game Three: The Nick Punto baserunning blunder was the deflation-point of this game, as Punto got a little too excited when he heard the roar of the crowd and decided to round third with his head down at full speed, completely ignoring (well, not even seeing, actually) the “stop” sign that was clearly given from Scotty Ullger.  Jeter snagged Span’s bouncing up the middle and easily doubled Little Nicky off.  The Yankees then went on to dominate us (especially our bullpen once again) in the later innings.

Not only were those blunders quite apparent, but also present was the fact that the Twins left about a week’s worth of runners on base throughout the entire series.  Basically, we rarely got the big hit, and when we finally did we found some way to screw it up.  Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young (the hot hitters who propelled us to the AL Central crown) were downright atrocious in nearly every at-bat.

So, grouse all you want about a botched fair-foul call that went the Yanks’ way or the fact that their payroll triples ours, but the sad truth may be that we lost this one all by ourselves.

Must Be A Horrible Feeling

03f39244-686b-4ea0-9ecf-05c296c9732d.jpgFor almost a decade, the Minnesota Twins have laid a claim to having the best control coming from a starting pitching staff.  While other staffs may have “that one guy” who can throw gas but can’t find home plate with any frequency, the Twins consistently pound the zone and, while giving up a high frequency of home runs, also get a lot of outs.

Thus, the struggles from Scott Baker in the early innings of tonight’s 6-2 loss against the Chicago White Sox were almost painful to watch.  For whatever reason, Baker could not command any of his pitches and made catcher Mike Redmond look like a human pin-ball with the way he was reaching to-and-fro and blocking pitches behind the plate.  I actually started to feel bad for Baker during those second and third innings, as it was clear that he just couldn’t control any of his pitches.

After that horrific second inning, Baker came into the dugout and was given an earful from pitching coach Rick Anderson, who looked as if steam were about to come out of his ears.  Though Twins announcer Bert Blyleven defended Anderson and liked the fiery persona, I don’t know what good it did and whether it was called for.  I mean, if Scott Baker wanted to control his pitches, he would have…it’s as simple as that.  Anderson can stew all he wants, but it still comes down to Baker hitting his spots.

Considering that Scotty-boy has had troubles locating pitches all season so far, I hope that he doesn’t have some sort of mental block (sort of like the Rick Ankiel syndrome).  Of course, it could also just be the typical Scott Baker “off” season that has plagued him his entire career.  Baker has never pitched 200 innings in an entire season, nor has he had too really impressive years in a row.

Notes:

-Ozzie Guillen is a joke (as if that is new knowledge, I know).  A Pale Hose batter (Podsednik, I believe) bunts the ball down the first base line, the ball looks like it hits him, yet no call is made.  Ron Gardenhire comes out to argue the play, and the home plate umpire decides to call a “conference meeting” and the play is overturned.  Why, then, does Ozzie need to trot out and give the umps an earful?  The umps would not have changed the call unless “indisputable visual evidence” (to steal an NFL phrase) was utilized, in this case one of the other umps seeing the ball hit the batter.  I don’t like managers who argue just for the sake of getting steamed up, and that is EXACTLY what Guillen was doing.  Just sit down and shut up.

-Sean Henn made his Twins debut tonight…and now has a 13.50 season ERA.  Will this ever end?

-Seriously Gardy…walking Paul Konerko to GET Jim Thome to the plate?  I don’t care if Carl Hubbell or Steve Carlton suddenly descended from the sky to take the mound for the Twins, I don’t put guys on for the greatest Twins Killer in history (with respect to Griffey Jr. and A-Rod).

-Finally, I don’t like to complain about the announcing a whole lot, but Bert: When Span bunts the ball unsuccessfully with the infield playing way back, he loses the “element” of surprise, not the “ultimate” of surprise.  I only say this because I have heard it before.

Preview (18-22, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (2-4, 5.21) vs. John Danks (2-3, 4.82).

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