Results tagged ‘ Athletics ’

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.

Good Riddance (!)

mike-sweeney.jpgJust heard the other night that Mike Sweeney retired. Whew! Talk about a Twin-killer!  He OWNED our pitching during his long stint with the Kansas City Royals, then continued his mastery of our hurlers in Oakland and Seattle.  I always cringed when he came up to bat against us.

Good guy, though, who just had a solid career with the bat.  A career .297 hitter with 215 home runs.  Not too shabby, especially considering all the years on dismal KC teams.

Oh yeah, this guy retired too…

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I’ll always remember Mike Hampton for those couple of dominating seasons he had early in his career with the Houston Astros.  Sadly, after being traded to the Braves (in a huge deal at the time) injury woes got the better of him and pretty much rendered him spotty for the rest of his career.

Their Own Medicine

Athletics_Twins_Baseball_sff_188151_game.jpgThis weekend series against the Oakland A’s was billed with the young, very talented Oakland starting staff potentially shutting down the Twins’ bats.  Instead, we beat them at their own game:

-On Friday, Pavano got hit around quite a bit, but still managed to pitch into the seventh inning and get the win.

-Saturday saw Brian Duensing completely mow down the A’s to the tune of nine innings and three hits.

-Kevin Slowey then pitched seven no-hit innings against Oakland on Sunday, only to be removed from the game due to pitch count issues.

Now, the Pale Hose come to our house.  We can really put a dent in Guillen’s crew by just doing what we do best…winning the series.

Notes:

-I completely understand Gardy taking out Slowey after that seventh inning, as he has been struggling with elbow tendonitis of late.  However, it took even more (insert term loosely related to “guts” here) from Gardy to put in Rauch with a no-hitter on the line.  Didn’t you just know he would blow it…and he did?!  For the first time in my life, I was actually hoping to see Crain jog in from the ‘pen.

Preview (68-50, 1st, 3.0 GA CWS): John Danks (12-8, 3.19) vs. Scott Baker (10-9, 4.76)

I’m So Sick Of You, Brendan Harris

Well, the Twins were able to right the ship this weekend in Oakland (taking two of three from the A’s) after a rough week in Seattle.  Despite some shakiness of late and a rash of injuries/sickness, we’re still managing to win enough ballgames to not feel much heat from the Tigers.

I would like to touch on a subject that really got under my skin yesterday:

In the eighth inning of yesterday’s game, the Twins finally were rallying to try and make things interesting.  Delmon Young whalloped a two-run dinger to get the Twins within one, then Jim Thome doubled to put the tying run in scoring position.  Up to the plate came Brendan Harris, who proceeded to quickly strike out, taking a called third strike right down broadway and proceeding to berate the ump for the easiest call he made all night:

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Right now, I don’t think I could be more sick of Harris. A little history:

After the 2007 season, the Twins traded for Harris (along with Young) in the swap that netted the Rays Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.

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It was thought that Harris would be our everyday second baseman in 2008, but that experiment failed miserably, as Harris could not field the position.  Thus, in 2008-2010, he has bounced around between third base and shortstop, never being able to land a starting gig for any prolonged period of time.  Were he even just a decently consistent hitter, he could easily see more playing time over the likes of Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert, but (although his bat sometimes has a little pop in it) he is prone to streaks where he is about as automatic an out as is human possible.

This season, Harris’ average has hovered around .150, but it is his attitude that really bothers me.  When Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer strike out looking (and know it), they might show some frustration, but only at themselves.  Harris, on the other hand, is: A. So lost at the plate that he apparently doesn’t know what a strike is or isn’t anymore; and B. Ready, willing, and able to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of anyone else, preferably the umpires.

I usually don’t like singling players out like this, but in this case I’ve just had it with Harris’ antics.

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?!

Thanks For The Memories


dome6.jpgDuring the early goings of September of the 2009 Twins baseball season, it looked as if game number 162 (the contest that typically ends the MLB season unless you happen to play in the Midwest) would be a great remembrance of all the baseball that the Metrodome had produced before giving way to Target Field next season.  A post-game ceremony down on the field after that game was both parts touching and entertaining, but there was just one problem…the old Dome wasn’t done; it would go on to host two more games!

Thus, it never really felt as if the Metrodome got that proper sense of ending as maybe it should have…that moment when you just look around and soak it all in.  Obviously, with the New York Yankees celebrating, it wasn’t the time for that feeling.  That is why I would now like to relive my favorite moments of being at the Dome.  Perhaps you will remember some of these as well:

-1990: My first memory of the Dome recalls seeing Kirby Puckett being given the Silver Slugger award for winning the batting title the previous year.  While going through the turnstiles that day, I got a black bat “signed” by Puck that I believe I still have stashed away to this day.

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-1991: Though most fans may only remember the ’91 seaons for Puckett’s Game Six and Black Jack’s Game Seven, there was also quite a heated race (at least for awhile) with the Oakland A’s.  Back then, when both teams were part of the AL West division, the A’s were the powerhouse team of the circuit.  They came into a summer series at the Dome and jumped way ahead of the Twins in every game thanks to the power of guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Dave Henderson (looking back, can you imagine all the steroids coursing through those veins?).  However, the Twins scrapped back in every game and won them all.  I was lucky enough to be at the one that everyone remembers, where the Twins rallied against Dennis Eckersley (the Mariano Rivera of his day) on a triple from Chili Davis that RF Canseco played like a pin-ball down in the corner.  As Jose was bouncing around, a fan overhanging right field chucked an unravelling roll of toilet paper down onto the field, only adding to the mayhem!

 
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-1996-2000: I really began following the Twins with a passion in ’96, but from then until ’00 the Twins were perennial cellar-dwellers. Not to be deterred, though, my Dad and I would still get down to the Dome a few times each year to watch guys like Bob Tewksbury, Pat Mahomes, Brent Gates, Rich Becker, and Scott Stahoviak (among others) battle to not lose 100 games.  I didn’t seem to care about the futility, I guess, as I still root-root-rooted for the home team with all I had.  The attendance was so poor during those years that one could (and we often did) guy a cheap ticket and move right up behind the infield.  Believe it or not, there were no users to stop people!

A more specific game from that time period involves a field trip with my sixth grade class.  My exact recollection of the event is understandably a bit hazy, but the Twins were facing Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox.  The game went into extra innings, the Twins loaded the bases with no outs, but then two guys (one of which I’m positive was Terry Steinbach) struck out.  The next batter then singled to win the game (I want to say it was Pat Meares, but I could be wrong).

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-2002: Fifteen innings of baseball against the Atlanta Braves.  Bobby Cox got tossed in the first inning, the Twins roughed up Greg Maddux, and Christian Guzman’s double off the baggy scored Tom Prince (pictured above) to win it.  Once you do the fourteenth-inning stretch, you never forget it!

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-2002: With the Twins already having locked up the division title, they hosted the beaten White Sox to close out the season.  I was at the final two games, both won by dramatic, late-inning home runs from Bobby Kielty.

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-2008: With the Twins needing to sweep the White Sox in the final homestand to stay in the playoff race, they do just that.  I was at all three thrillers, but of course momst remember the final contest when the Twins fell behind early but clawed back into it thanks to a dramatic triple from Denard Span.  A walk-off hit from Alexi Casilla sealed it in extra innings.

So, those are my fondest, brightest memories of the Metrodome.  Though many malign it as a dump and unfit for the National Pastime, it is the only home turf I have ever seen the Twins play on, and no one can take that from me.  Though Target Field may prove to be a rousing success (or a miserable failure, whatever the case may be), it will always be the Dome that holds my childhood baseball nostalgia.

Good Deal

Well, for the first time since Shannon Stewart was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2003, the Minnesota Twins finally pulled the trigger on a mid-season addition, this time in the form of A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera:

130984_Athletics_Rangers_Baseball.jpgPersonally, I think this is a GREAT move for the Twins to have made, as Cabrera plays great defense and hits, at .280, rougly 70-80 points better than Nick Punto on any given day. Plus, he is on a terror with the bat (.377 this month) right now, so maybe we’re getting him just when he is starting to peak this year.

Back in ’03, when Stewart came on board, the Twins miraculously went from a team almost out of contention, to one that won the division almost going away. It’s amazing what a little excitement (from a big trade) can do for the players on a team. Shannon brought the leadoff presence that year, while now Cabrera brings offense out of the #2 hole in the lineup (exactly what we need).

What will be interesting is how Harris, Casilla, and Punto will be used now that Orlando is in town. Harris was terrible at the second sack last year, but can (and will) play third when (not if, unfortunately) Crede needs to be out of the lineup. That leaves Punto and Casilla at second, and assuming Gardy doesn’t stroke out in the near future, we all know what that means (although batting ninth, one is probably just as good as the other).

By the way, I attended the first two Twins/Sox games at the Dome earlier this week, and really, is there any better feeling than sweeping the Sox?! Hey, maybe we can give the Angels a little payback this time around now that Cabrera is on our side!

Other deadline deals:

-Victor Martinez is on the verge of going to the Red Sox.

-Halladay is still a Jay (two minutes to go!)

-Tigers acquired starter Jarrod Washburn

Preview (52-50, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Ervin Santana (3-6, 7.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.75). No Cabrera yet tonight, but Blackie might not need him.

The Lonely Goatherd (aka Diary Of An Insane Night)

A recap of the events on the fateful night of 7-20-09 in Minnesota Twins fan history:

From 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., I was at the local theater performance of “The Sound of Music”

 

It was a great performance, especially considering the small-town venue.  It ran a bit longer than I thought it would, so I hurried out to the car radio to get the Twins games on the sub-woofers.  At that point, I found out that this was happening…

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Basically, it was a good ‘ole fashion beat-down courtesy of guys like Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and, well, pretty much everyone else. The high point came at 12-2 in the third inning, I believe, when it looked as if the Twins might set a new single game scoring record.

The only damper on the evening is that the A’s kept trying to crawl their way back into the game due to the fact that Nick Blackburn was essentially throwing batting practice (his sinker wasn’t moving at all). He left after five innings having given up seven runs.

Of course, the bullpen would come in and cobble together the rest, right. Yeah…the lines for the next two Twins hurlers:

Brian Duensing: 1.1 IP, 3 ER

Bobby Keppel: 0.0 IP, 3 ER

As I thought the game was well in hand, I was kind of messing around on Facebook while all the horrendousness was going down, so I don’t remember exactly what transpired, but suffice it to say that Duensing loaded the bases in the seventh, then Keppel gave up a grand slam to Matt Holliday to tie the game at 13-13…

 

SucksBigTime.jpg Then Gardy, looking like he could bite the head off a bat, pulled Keppel for Jose Mijares.  On the first pitch. Jack Cust took HIM deep, and the A’s had remarkably taken the lead.  This was my status quote on Facebook at that point:

**** (14-13)

But that wasn’t the last of it by far.  With two outs and the Twins looking to go down meekly in the bottom of the ninth, Cuddyer doubled and Kubel was intentionally walked.  Delmon Young then stepped to the plate and did his level best to prolong the game (by not swinging…his premier aspect).  On the second pitch to Young, the ball bounce high of the plate and, to the horror of Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, could not be found.  Cuddyer easily took third, then made the now-fateful decision to try and tie the game.  He came barreling into the plate, slide across the dish right between Suzkuki’s legs and before the tag, and looked to home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski for the “safe” sign that would surely be forthcoming:

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Unfortunately, to paraphrase poet Ernest Thayer:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Twinsville – mighty Cuddy was called out.

I have watched a lot of baseball over the years, and that “out” call may have been the worst umpiring decision I have ever seen. Cuddyer was halfway across home plate before Suzuki’s glove hit him, yet Muchlinski gave him the fist pump. I am usually not one to call for suspensions/fines lightly, but if Muchlinski doesn’t get some sort of reprimand from MLB I would be disappointed. A major league umpire should make that call in his sleep.

Preview (47-46, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Anthony Swarzak (2-3, 4.50) vs. Dallas Braden (7-8, 3.45). How exactly does a team bounce back from a loss like last night?  That is the question I posed to Bert Blyleven on the Carsoup.com “Email the Booth” website before tonight’s game.

A Much-Needed Victory

9260ad8b-1ca6-4191-a21d-329a7ce2e299.jpgIf you read my blog post last night, it was pretty obvious that I was angry at the way the Twins (despite picking up the victory) let the game end on Tuesday night.  Thus, I was very glad to see Liriano pitch a good game tonight, as well as the bats coming alive in the late innings (when was the last time THAT happened on the road?!) to get the ball to Joe Nathan in an opposing stadium.

I always just want to add tonight that, no matter what happens the rest of this season, I will be pulling for the Twins all the way.  That sounds like an incredibly obvious thing to say, but it seems as if a lot of negativity has been floating around the Twins this season.  Whether it is hating on the bullpen, the Baker/Liriano early-season disaster, or a few batsmen (Delmon Young, Brian Buscher, etc.), there hasn’t been a whole of positivity so far into the ’09 season.  Though all those areas are ripe for criticism, I think that sometimes we all need (including myself) to remember that this really is just a game.  It’s like little league…you play your heart out on the field, but once the final out is recorded you don’t take it with you whether win or loss.

A few years ago, while writing for the University of Minnesota-Morris campus newspaper, The University Register, I wrote an article entitled “Why We Watch Baseball”.  I would like to copy that into this blog post, as I think it really rings true this season:

Why We Watch Baseball

-With those who don’t give a (hoot) about sports, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them. (Art Hill)

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base. (Dave Barry)…A couple of months ago, a friend of my sister happened to be over at my family’s home for dinner.  This being summer time, my nightly ritual of watching the Twins game was about to commence.  After the meal, she plopped down on the coach next to me and asked: Why do you like watching baseball?  Not being mentally prepared for that kind of question, I gave the typical male answer: “Grunt…Because it’s better than shopping…grunt”.  However, that was not good enough for her inquisitive mind, as she launched into a lecture of how professional sports mean absolutely nothing.  As she mentioned something about starving people in Africa, I realized that I had nothing (at that time) to refute her claims.  The games themselves do mean nothing in the grand context of history and there are more important endeavors in life than stealing second base.  So, why do we watch baseball?  The following argument could be applied to all professional sports, but I am going to keep it confined to a baseball context.

I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tends to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. (Walt Whitman)…A young boy idolizes his dad and wants to do everything with him.  The dad, a big baseball fan, teaches his son about the game.  They play whiffle ball in the back yard, watch Twins games together, and talk to each other about the game.  Political events have no bearing on the young boy’s life at this time, but baseball does.  Through the sport of baseball they are able to form a common bond that will last the rest of their lives, through good times and bad. 

Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America. (Bruce Catton)…The same boy has a grandfather who is 84 years old.  The grandpa lived through the Great Depression, spent his childhood working on a farm, and served his country during World War II.  The boy grew up playing video games, reading science fiction novels, and the closest he ever came to a battlefield was Risk or Fort Apache.  The binding factor between the two–baseball.  While each came from completely different backgrounds and ideologies, making communication with each other difficult, the love of sports provided a bond.  They may not be able to bridge the generation gap, but it is easy to debate the merits of Johan Santana versus Dizzy Dean (the grandfather’s favorite pitcher as a child) or how Rogers Hornsby (star player of the 1920’s and 30’s) would have fared against today’s pitchers.

Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  True.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. (George F. Will)…Now that same boy has left home for college.  He finds the transition difficult, but smoothened by one thing–baseball.  Getting through the day might be a struggle, but at night he can watch the Twins on TV or listen to John Gordon bring the game alive on the radio.  The games relax him and give him something other than school to think about.  After a while his spirits raise and he is able to do much better in his classes.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. (Rogers Hornsby)…At the beginning of his second semester of college, the boy is feeling lonely again.  Spring will be coming soon and he feels trapped, away from his family or anyone to talk to.  He begins writing for the school newspaper–sports, of course.  This gives him something creative to do and a way to meet new people.  He becomes motivated to make himself more physically fit, letting the Twins take his mind off the treadmill he pounds every night.

             Most people are in a factory from nine till five.  Their job may be to turn out 263 little circles.  At the end of the week they’re three short and somebody has a go at them.  On Saturday afternoons they deserve something to go and shout about. (Rodney Marsh)…When the boy goes home on weekends, the last thing he wants to do is talk about the hard week of studying that has transpired.  He is tired from the week and wants to relax with his family.  What a better opportunity than a baseball game?  Whether it means making the trip to the Metrodome or watching on TV, baseball allows the boy to unwind before another tough week.  It transports him (for a few hours at least) into a world where the concerns of real-life seem to melt away.

            Don’t tell me about the world.  Not today.  It’s springtime and they’re knocking a baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. (Pete Hamill)… The boy has now passed his love of baseball on to his two younger brothers.  They play in Little League over the summer, as well as endless games of the MVP Baseball 2005 video game.  Once school starts again, emails are sent back and forth about favorite baseball teams and players.

            I don’t love baseball.  I don’t love most of today’s players.  I don’t love the owners.  I do love, however, the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans.  I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds.  The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports. (Stan Isaacs)…So as you can see, the sport of baseball does have the power to enrich a life.  Or, more specifically, my life; as I am the boy.  While on occasion it has made stay up a little too late (darn extra-innings!) or ignore the outside world because “the game is on”, baseball’s positive influence in my life has outweighed the negatives.

You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too. (Roy Campanella)…To further appreciate the impact that baseball can have on one’s life, please see the movie Field of Dreams.  My favorite sports movie of all-time, it focuses on the relationship between father and son and how that relationship can be enhanced through a mutual love of baseball.  At one point in the movie, James Earl Jones (aka Voice of the Baseball Gods) explains how baseball is able to leave its mark on a person.  I leave you with his quote…

            The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.  This game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again. (Field of Dreams) 

Preview (30-31, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (5-2, 3.30) vs. Trevor Cahill (3-5, 4.21).  Another no-name Oakland pitcher…the days of Zito, Mulder, and Hudson seem so long ago! 

Changes Will (Or Should Be) Made

nervous.gifYeah, yeah, I know…the Twins finally got a big win (bats-wise) on the road tonight in Oakland.  Another game closer to catching the Tigers in the AL Central “race”.

However, when a team is leading 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth and the CLOSER has to come in to get the SAVE, something is wrong with that team.

I can excuse Baker, as he pitched a gem up until the ninth and maybe just ran out of gas.  However, if I were Ron Gardenhire, I would be pretty perplexed/frustrated by the performance of the other relievers.  Jesse Crain was horrible, as usual these days, and (much like Juan Rincon last year) could be nearing the day when he finds a pink slip in his locker.  Jose Mijares couldn’t find the strike zone with a navigational device, which further extended the pen.  Of course, Nathan then came in and slammed the door shut.

So, although the Twins picked up the “W” in this one, I can’t imagine that the mood in the clubhouse was too jovial.  I know that Gardy may have tried to make it that way in accordance with his even-keel philosophy, but each and every member of that terrible inning (Alexi Casilla included) knows they could have easily blown a game tonight.

Preview (29-31, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (2-7, 6.12) vs. Dallas Braden (5-5, 3.41).

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