Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

Hughes & Hoey: A Poetic Interpretation

Back in 1948, this little ode was crafted by a Boston sportswriter to describe the dominance of the two pitching aces of the Boston Braves: Warren Spahn & Johnny Sain…

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use
Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come
Spahn
followed by
Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

Now, my own poetic interpretation of the Minnesota Twins’ relieving duo of Jim Hoey & Dusty Hughes:

Hughes & Hoey

Hoey & Hughes

When they hit the mound

It’s most surely a “lose”

 

First will come Hughes, with his lefthanded gait

And pitches that butcher the heart of the plate.

Batters will swing, both lefty and righty,

And crush that poor sphere deep into the nighty

Then will come Hoey, his fastball ablaze

Staring down batters with that long, lanky gaze

But, alas, the round orb could fly hither and yon

So batters need only wait, and then show their brawn

 

Hughes & Hoey

Hoey and Hughes

They come in to cheers

And leave mainly to “boooooos!”

Preview (16-33, 5th, 6.0 GB CWS): Jered Weaver (6-4, 2.35) vs. Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 7.71)

Re-Capping Matt

x610.jpgThe Minnesota Twins have had new closer Matt Capps for about a month now, and so I think it’s time to evaluate his performance so far. Here are the raw stats:

13 G, 13 IP, 6 SV, 2.08 ERA

What I like about Capps is that he seems to have the raw “stuff” to get people out.  He has a live fastball, and a decent assortment of breaking pitches to keep opposing batters off-balance.

However, there is a troubling sign that makes the new closer a bit too much like the old one for my tastes…

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For all his velocity, Capps is a “pitch to contact” type of closer.  Those kind of guys make me nervous, especially in the playoffs when “contact” usually is the equivalent of “base hit”.  Now don’t get me wrong…I think that Capps is better suited for the role than Rauch, who didn’t have the live fastball or control of the nasty curve to ever dominate the final inning.  However, on a scale of “Guardado-Aguilera-Nathan”, I think Capps falls somewhere between Eddie & Aggie.

Thus, it is very interesting that the Twins just traded for Angels closer Brian Fuentes:

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The “official word” is that Fuentes will be used primarily as a setup man to Capps, but Gardy also made the interesting comment that Fuentes could be used in “certain save situations”.  I like that reasoning, as it shows me that Gardy understands that Capps isn’t Rivera or Papelbon and thus wants to consider all his options.

Perhaps the best thing that could come out of all of this is that it gives the Twins some bullpen depth, something that always seems to be lacking (on any club, really).  Guys like Crain and Guerrier can’t always shoulder the load, the biggest case in point being Matty G., as we may have already burned him out from years of overuse. 

What To Do, What To Do

Tonight’s dilemma:

The last time Brett Favre suited up in a Vikings uniform against the San Francisco 49ers, he did this:

He will start tonight’s preseason game.

At the same time, the Twins will be looking to bounce back from a dysmal performance yesterday against the Angels:

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The solution: watch the first two series of football, then once Tarvaris Jackson steps under center, immediately switch back to baseball!

Preview (71-52, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Jered Weaver (11-8, 3.11) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.85).

2010 MLB Picks

crystal-ball.jpgMy “official” predictions for the 2010 MLB season (before the season gets too far along and starts to affect my judgement!):

AL East

New York

Boston (Wild Card)

Tampa Bay

Baltimore

Toronto

AL Central

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Detroit

Cleveland

AL West

Los Angeles

Oakland

Texas

Seattle

NL East

Philadelphia

Atlanta (Wild Card)

New York

Florida

Washington

NL Central

St. Louis

Chicago

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West

San Francisco

Los Angeles

Arizona

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champ: New York

NL Champ: Atlanta

World Series Champ: Atlanta Braves

Questions, comments, rants, profanity-laced tirades?!

A Tall Order (Beating The Twins, That Is)

Twins_Angels_Baseball_sff_164043_game.jpg Well, here we are just three games into the 2010 baseball season, and the Twins already look like a much more polished team from the under-achieving gang of ’09.  I can only imagine the thoughts that must run through the minds of the opposition:

Opposing pitchers have to navigate through one of the strongest 1-6 in the American League, plus now Delmon Young and JJ Hardy (another homer tonight, along with Justin Morneau) are swinging the bat well, creating quite a Murderers Row, of sorts.

Opposing batters know that, no matter who they face in a series against the Twins (especially if Pavano keeps throwing like he did tonight), there will be no “gimme” games…all five starters give us a chance to win.  Add in a deep pen that doesn’t really on just one or two guys to get late-inning outs, and that creates the all-important sense of pressure on every opposing at-bat.

The final blow we administer has been, so far, in an area (closer) presumed to be a gaping hole after the devastating Joe Nathan injury.  Well, Rauch has saved two in a row without much trouble (although he did give up a run tonight).

I know I have to keep in mind that, for as down as I was after the season opener, I shouldn’t get too high after two straight wins.  But this team just has oh so much potential that it is difficult not to get pumped up when things start rolling.

Notes:

-Pavano had to pitch out of many jams tonight, but I liked his ability to make the Angels whiff.  He’s never struck me as a guy with anything near overpowering stuff, but tonight he really located well and had great ball movement.  I’m not as down on him as some, but my knock on him was always that he could compete against the bad teams but get hammered by the good ones.  Not this time!

-JJ Hardy showed some great range in the ninth, coralling a ball deep in the hole and firing it to first for the out.

-Had a laugh at something the announcers said tonight after Punto tripled.  He’s been pretty good in the last two even-numbered years (’06, ’08), but horrendous in the odd ones (’07, ’09).  Kind of like watching Star Trek movies for all you fellow sci-fi geeks out there!

Preview (2-1, 1st, 0.5 GA All): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Three-Deep

 

22e4851097a6cff91b862509d48fa665-getty-97630656jd002_minnesota_twi.jpgIf your favorite team loses on Opening Day, like the Twins did last night, it is easy (in the excitement of the moment) to make snap judgements based on the rest of the season. Basically, no one wants to start out 0-1. However, that is the great thing about the sport of baseball. You’re going to lose 60, win 60, and really it’s what you do with the other 42 that make the difference.

Tonight, the Twins had a nice bounce-back from that first-game loss on Monday night.

On the pitching side, Nick Blackburn successfully navigated (despite a Torii Hunter bomb) a very solid Angels lineup and, while not pitching deep into the game, kept the Twins in it and gave them a chance to win.

The offense came from homers by Mauer, Morneau, and newcomer J.J. Hardy on a blustery night in LA.  It was nice to see the lefty M&Ms tag a lefty pitcher for dingers.

This Angels club is still the class of the AL West (at least until they are seriously challenged), so getting out with a split would be a pretty successful series to open the year.  That would require a win tomorrow night…

Preview (1-1, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS & DET): Carl Pavano (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Notes:

-Don’t really like the new road uniforms.  Makes the boys look too much like the Washington Nationals, if you ask me.

Gardy

ron-gardenhire-picture.jpgA while back, the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award was announced, and (once again) Twins’ skipper Ron Gardenhire was the bridesmaid, this time to Mike Scoscia of the Angels. I was not too steamed at this, to be honest, and here is why: I’ll start with the positive:

I think that Gardy is a very good fit for this Minnesota Twins ballclub. He preaches fundamentals (a must for a young team, which the Twins will always be under the current economic structure of baseball), keeps a cool head (another “lead by example trait for the youngsters), and is just a good guy, plain and simple.  He isn’t a complete nutcase like Ozzie Guillen, and he isn’t too full of himself like, say, a Lou Pineilla.  Since Gardy succeeded a burnt-out Tom Kelly as manager, five division titles (and one near-miss) speak for themselves.

That being said, I didn’t necessarily cry myself to sleep at Gardy not getting Manager of the Year for two particular reasons:

First, is his loyalty to certain players (well, one player in particular):

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Back when T.K. was at the helm, he always said that as long as he was a major league manager, Dick Such would be his pitching coach. The same can now be said for Gardenhire and Nick Punto.  While other players (like Alexi Casilla, for instance) can make one mistake and instantly be demoted to Gardy’s “doghouse”, a place that is easy to languish in for extended periods of time, Punto pretty much gets a free pass.  Though this kind of loyalty is nice in a personable sort of way, I think it gets Gardy in trouble a little bit in terms of on-field potential.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the skipper himself was that same type of utility player back in his playing days with the Mets:

 

ron_gardenhire_autograph.jpg2. The other issue is his playoff-managing style.  Instead of “going for the throat”, Gardy tends to manage a playoff game like any other regular season game.  This was evidenced in the ALDS against the Yankees when Francisco Liriano was the first arm out of the pen in a close Game One against the mighty Yanks.  Was he just playing the matchups, or hedging his bet that Frankie could somehow get out of the jam and save the good relievers for later?  I have my suspicions it was the latter.  Of course, later never happened (and often does not in a playoff series).  This was not the first instance of that problem, either.

To re-iterate, though, I think that Ron Gardenhire is the man that the Twins need at the helm right now.  He’s great at teaching the fundamentals of the game to young players, as well as trying to keep them on an even keel and just play the game in front of them.  There’s just a few things that could be improved upon…like not already penciling in Punto as a starting infielder and batting ninth.

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

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.

Halo(s)

Well, after playing the “Halos” on two consecutive weekends, one thing has become abundantly clear to me…the Twins are absolutely no match for them. Every single time we play them, I fully expect to lose, and get swept in the series at that. The Twins are completely out of their league and would go down just as weekly in a playoff series.

In fact, I will go far enough out on a limb to say that, assuming Torii Hunter returns to health, I consider the Angels to be the favorite to win the whole thing this year. After winning the World Series in 2002 (and beating the Twins in the ALCS to get there…!@#$ rally monkey!), Anaheim has been right in the thick of things every season. However, they always seem to get beat by Boston (or someone else) in the Divisional Series round. What I see different about this season’s team, though, is that 1-9 they can completely dominate an opposing pitcher just by being pests. Whereas in other years they could terrorize only the mediocre pitchers (and thus get beat by the big guns in the big time), this year they have all the bullets locked and loaded. I mean, who has ever heard of this guy…

76ad65c5-0049-4277-b75c-2be41c2fc75b.jpg…until just recently?! Earlier today, he (Kendry Morales) hit two three-run home runs to sink the Twins. Look at it this way…

The three weakest players in the Angels’ lineup today were Gary Matthews, Jeff Mathis, and Sean Rodriguez (who still homered to boot!).  Once Hunter and Vlad Guerrero are back, Matthews and Rodriguez will be back to the bench (where they can probably be the most useful), and I consider Mike Napoli to be a better catcher than Mathis anyway.  Thus, they have a lineup not unlike the 1998 Yankees…work the count, foul off pitches, get to opposing teams’ pen and sink them.

Add that to the great D that Mike Scosia always preaches, as well as a solid pitching corps, and I don’t see who can stop the Halos this season.

Preview (52-53, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (8-7, 4.86) vs. David Huff (5-5, 6.39). The Twins have the easiest schedule of all the AL Central division contenders I believe, and that starts now.  If we can’t go into Indian country and take the series, it might be a long September.

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