Results tagged ‘ Bert Blyleven ’

#28

Another well-deserved honor (number retirement) for a pitcher who had to wait so long.  Congrats again, Bert!

TK In The Booth

 

Kind of a random post here, I know, but I just wanted to quickly comment on the experiment of having former Twins manager Tom Kelly in the booth when Bert Blyleven was on vacation last week:

Though TK would seem like the LAST guy in the world to provide an entertaining broadcast voice (he of the monotone, chopped voice and often grumpy demeanor), but clearly he has “softened” a bit in his years away from being the field general.  He can tell stories with the best of them and, truth be told, actually analyzes the game better than Bert.  After just 2-3 innings of listening to him, it is clear that his baseball mind is always working.  To him, 1,000 things are happening on what seem like the simplest of baseball plays.  About the only downside is that he interrupts Dick Bremer a bit too much out of excitement (!)

Do I think he is a better overall broadcaster than Bert?  Nope.  But, in his short stint, he did prove to be a welcome fill-in if needed, or potentially even doing a couple series a year if he would ever so desire.

It All Comes Out In The Wash (AKA The Truth About Capps)

On Saturday night, the Twins lost a game they should have won.  On Sunday afternoon, the Twins did roughly the same to the Brew Crew to take the crazy series.  Of course, it took Glen Perkins relieving Matt Capps in the ninth to lock down the final outs.

I am completely bamboozled as to why Capps has so much support from all sides.  The team loves him, Gardy seems to adore him, the media (by and large) give him a free pass, and even Dick and Bert were sticking up for him today.  My take on Capps is a bit different:  I’ll even go so far as to say that this guy…

…was a better closer overall than Capps.

Now, I don’t think that Capps is beyond usefulness.  He could be useful as a setup-type reliever, or a “seventh inning guy”.  However, he just doesn’t have either the physical stuff (like a prime Joe Nathan) or the presence to fake it (like Rauch).  I just wonder when we are going to figure this out for good.

Preview (36-46, 4th, 4.5 GB CWS): David Price (8-6, 3.43) vs. Brian Duensing (5-7, 4.69)

Watch Out Hall…Here Comes Bert!

First off, congratulations to Roberto Alomar…

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…a very deserving HOF inductee. Alomar was the top second baseman for almost the entire 1990s decade, and could do it all (defense, speed, average, some power).

But, being a Twins fan, I was much more excited to see that this guy…

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…finally got in!!  After years of circling others, Bert Blyleven finally got circled himself where it counted…on the Hall of Fame ballot!

In other posts, I’ve recounted why Bert should be in the Hall (many obvious reasons…just look at the stats, really).  So for now, I would just like to bask in the moment.

A few years ago, while writing for the University Register campus newspaper of the University of Minnesota-Morris, I penned a little tribute for Bert that I would like to share here.  It’s a bit long, yes, but I think it really sums up my feelings about Bert and why I think he deserves to be enshrined.

Heck, this might even mean a trip to Cooperstown this summer…you never know!

The article:

Circle Me Bert

            …the accounts and descriptions of this game may not be disseminated without the expressed written consent of the Minnesota Twins.  During his eleven-year tenure as TV broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins, Bert Blyleven has almost become more famous for that statement than for his prowess as a former All-Star pitcher.  For Twins fans of the current generation, his first name might as well be “Circle Me.”  Injecting his passion for baseball and knowledge of the game into every broadcast, Bert has created a sort of cult following in Minnesota. 

Yet, Bert’s career is somewhat of an enigma.  He has Hall of Fame stats, but is not in the Hall of Fame.  His crazy antics labeled him as a goofball, but he has an extraordinary knowledge of the game.  It begs the question: Who is the real Bert Blyleven?  For younger fans, prepare to learn a little more about your birthday-celebrating, telestrator-hogging broadcaster.  For the seasoned viewers, you can reminisce about that knee-buckling curveball and tongue curling up at the edge of his mouth…

In 1951, Jenny and Johannes Blijleven emigrated from the Netherlands (Holland, to be exact) to the United States with their son Rik Aalbert.  Living in Garden Grove, CA, with his four sisters and two brothers, young “Bert” was introduced to the game of baseball by his father, who took Bert to see Sandy Koufax pitch for the Dodgers.  Enamored with baseball, Bert starred on the Santiago High School baseball team, also running cross country to build up his stamina and leg strength.  In 1969, he was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Twins, where after only 21 minor league starts he found himself called up to the majors at age 19.  Prophetically, the first batter he faced, Lee May, hit a home run.

Blyleven recovered nicely from that first batter, though, and won at least ten games from 1970-1975 with the Twins.  In 1973 he was 20-17, pitching a remarkable 325 innings, 25 complete games, nine shutouts, and posting a 2.52 ERA.  It was with the Twins that Bert perfected his master weapon…the curveball.  Taught to him by Twins scout Jesse Flores and former pitcher Ed Roebuck, Blyleven’s curve was widely regarded as the best in baseball.  Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson once said, “It (his curveball) was nasty, I’ll tell you that. Enough to make your knees buckle.”  Blyleven himself claims his curveball was the result of abnormally long fingers.  Blyleven’s personal catcher in Minnesota, Phil Roof, recalls that Bert spun his curve so hard you could hear his fingers snap together when he released it.

Not only did Blyleven posses a nasty curveball, but hitters couldn’t knock him out of a game very often.  From 1971-1976, he never pitched fewer than 275 innings a season and averaged over eight innings per start.  As one of the last work-horse pitchers in baseball history, his philosophy towards each start was as follows: “These pitch counts,” he once said, “Everybody’s counting to 100. I’m still waiting for that first guy to blow up when he throws that 101st pitch.”

However, those Twins teams of the early 1970s were nothing more than aging remnants of past pennants, going 488-471 during Bert’s first six seasons.  Struggling with terrible run support, Blyleven’s career record to that point was 108-101.  He was averaging 18 wins a season, but because he played on “.500 at best” teams he was also averaging 17 losses.  After years of constant frustration, Bert was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1976.

From 1976 until 1985, Bert spent time with the Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cleveland Indians.  He won a World Series championship with Pittsburgh in 1979, but was once again mostly relegated to sub-par teams, skewing his statistics even further, though he threw a no-hitter in 1977 and was a Cy-Young contender in 1984.  In 1986, as part of the first four-team trade in baseball history, Bert was sent back to Minnesota.

By this time, after spending 15 seasons in the major leagues, Blyleven had gained a reputation for something other than his curveball…his clubhouse pranks.  Known as a player willing to stop at nothing for a practical joke, Bert’s most popular trick was crawling under the dugout bench (braving the years of tobacco stains and gum wads) to light teammates’ shoelaces on fire (only after tying them together, of course).  On one occasion at Seattle’s Kingdom, Blyleven found a crawlspace under the bleachers and used it to set fire to the opposing bullpen via some alcohol and a match.  Another time, Bert had a little fun with Twins trainer Dick Martin.  Bert took Martin’s toothbrush, rubbed it over his own posterior region a few times, and put it back.  When Martin went to brush his teeth, he couldn’t understand why the entire clubhouse was cracking up.  While those pranks (along with the obligatory shaving cream pie during a TV interview, mooning the photographer during the team picture, or stealing pairs of pants from random lockers) may have been considered crude to the outside world, in the jocular major league baseball clubhouse they were an excellent way to break the tension of a long, 162-game season and have a little fun.

Blyleven started his second tenure with the Twins in 1986 with a rather dubious distinction: giving up 50 home runs in a single season, the most in history.  The next year, 1987, he did a little better, giving up only 46.  “The year I gave up 50, I think 42 were solo,” Blyleven later recalled to his defense, “One time I gave up five in one game, but we won, 11-7!”  Of course, the Twins did win the World Series in 1987, so Bert was exonerated.

After a final season with the Twins, Bert closed out his career with the California Angels.  He put together a final solid season in 1989 (winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award after a terrible ’88), but had his career screech to a halt by a torn rotator cuff in 1991.

Upon his retirement, Bert Blyleven had put together an impressive resume of career achievements: 287 wins (25th all-time)…3.31 career ERA…4,970 innings pitched (13th all-time)…3,701 strikeouts (5th all-time)…242 complete games…60 shutouts (9th all-time)…one of only three MLB pitchers to win a game before his 20th birthday and after his 40th birthday.  While those numbers would suggest a ready-punched ticket to Cooperstown, the Hall has not called.  Whether it be Bert’s lack of an impressive winning percentage, appearances on sub-par teams, or inability to stick with one team for a prolonged period of time (none of which he could control), Hall of Fame voters have kept him out.

In 1996, Bert Blyleven became the full-time “color man” of the Twins’ TV broadcasting crew, paired with Dick Bremer’s play-by-play.  While at first the duo struggled with adapting to each other’s strong opinions about baseball strategy, they have now managed to create the exciting chemistry you tune in each night.

The last few years, Bert has become famous for his circles.  It is my hope that the sports writers of America will do the same, by circling his name on the Hall of Fame ballot.  I would…and not just because I value my shoelaces, either.

 

Jammed

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187721_game.jpgTonight, Francisco Liriano went 5.2 innings and only gave up one run. Without observing the game and just going by that stat line, you’d think that maybe he walked a few too many guys or just ran out of gas.  This was not the case whatsoever.  In fact, Frankie (if not spectacular) was remarkable in his ability to get out of jams.

In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded with Sox and no one out, Cisco got Rios to hit into a force play at the plate, then struck out both Konerko and Quentin on nasty sliders to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Sox again loaded the bases, this time with one out, only to see Liriano get Pierre to line out and then cede to Guerrier, who popped out Ramirez.

All told, it was a miraculous performance from Liriano in terms of pitching out of jams.

Then the seventh inning dawned, the Tighty-Whities put a man on base (Mauer) to pitch to Kubel, and that pretty much ended things:

Twins_White_Sox_Baseball_sff_187726_game.jpg Notes:

-With Valencia playing so well at third, there seems to be no rush to hurry along Nick Punto back from injury.  When Little Nicky does return, I would hope that Gardy would use him as a sub, not wrenching the starting job from a still-hitting Danny Boy.

-Will anyone really miss Mijares?  He’s basically what I call a 50-50 guy.  He might get the lefty out, but he also has just a great a chance at walking him or uncorking a wild pitch.  Is he worth it as a LOGEY?

Preview (65-50, 1st, 1.0 GA CWS): Gio Gonzalez (10-7, 3.51) vs. Carl Pavano (14-7, 3.28). As Bert Blyleven said on the telecast tonight, Oakland is playing some decent ball right now, and can throw some quality arms at us this weekend.  But is it any match for the stache?  I think not.

Hall of Fame: 2010

Well, it was announced the other day that Andre Dawson…

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…was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Dawson was a bit before my time as a baseball fan, thus I never remember seeing him play, but the stats (2,774 hits, 438 HR, .279 BA) seem to indicated that he is sort of a “fringe” pick. However, I did see that he won numerous Gold Glove awards and was once Rookie of the Year (1977) and MVP (1987). I’d like to hear what people have to say about his induction.

Of course, as usual, this clown (!)…
BertBlylevenHOF.jpg…is left on the doorstep.  This year, he missed by just .08 of the vote (garnering a 74.2% vote total), boding well for his chances next year.

Finally, it was almost fitting that, the day before the balloting was released, Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson announced his retirement…

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He is about as sure a first-ballot HOFer as can ever exist, and I will miss his dominance out there on the mound. 

One More Day


38753be7-9185-4c9c-a7bd-b65cc59b9ef9.jpgFor about the last 2-3 weeks, the sentiment around the Twins organization has been to just continue to play meaningful baseball for as long as possible.  Well, that plan was in serious jeopardy earlier this afternoon, as a loss against the Tigers would have eliminated the Twins from playoff contention.

Thankfully, the Twins were able to win a sloppy game (Baker only went five innings, and the defense committed four errors) thanks to the offense’s ability to pick away at Nate Robertson in the early innings and the bullpen shutting the door (besides two unearned runs) for the rest of the way for the 8-3 victory.

Of course, were not this essentially an elimination game for the Twins, the big story would have been the bad blood that permeated the atmosphere all day long between both clubs.

It all started when Scott Baker skidded a pitch right by the face of Marcus Thames…

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Thames glared out towards Baker, but then quietly took his base after being hit.  It didn’t look as if Baker had an intention of plunking him, especially in such an important game, and there really isn’t any history between the two.

The next batter then grounded a ball that looked like a double-play all the way, but Thames slid hard into Orlando Cabrera and wasn’t called out for interference…

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Was it a close play? Certainly, as the tip of Thames’ toes did touch the base. Yet, it was clear that his intentions were to get in O-Cab’s grill.  Borderline dirty, especially if Cabrera would have been injured on the play, but understandable if you are Thames and still feeling the wind of that fastball by your chin.

Things heated right back up again in the next inning, when Thames stepped back into the box.  A high hard one forced Thames to move out of the box a bit, and he took a long glare out at Baker before reconsidering a charge.  Again, I really couldn’t determine intention from the pitch, as it wasn’t thrown at his body and I don’t think Baker would ever purposely throw at a guy’s head.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things either.  Who knows who (manager, player himself, etc.) instigates these things, but when Jose Mijares came into the game to relieve Matt Guerrier in the eighth, his first pitch sailed right behind Adam Everett.  This time, it was clear that retaliation was the name of the game, and both benches were warned, leading to the tossing of one manager (although not the one Twins fans would expect)…

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Described as the “Ron Gardenhire Memorial Ejection” by the TV announcers, Jim Leyland was booted by home plate ump Angel Hernandez.  It was clear that the Tigers were now miffed, and it didn’t take too long for the final straw to break.

In the top of the ninth, leadoff batter Delmon Young was quickly plunked in the calf by Jeremy Bonderman, who was promptly give the old heave-ho by Hernandez.  But then, one of the strangest sights I had ever seen transpired behind home plate…

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Young, in obvious pain after getting hit in what looked to be square on the calf muscle, hopped around for a bit until the pain had subsided, then starting having words with a member of his one team! No Tiger player was within ten feet of him, and Young was mouthing obscenities and pointing towards his home dugout. Both benches emptied at that point, but by the time the bullpens got into things nothing really had developed (no punches or kicks thrown).

Dick and Bert were at a bit of a loss in deciphering what had set Delmon Young off, but the only thing they could think of is that Young was angry at Mijares for instigating the beanball war the previous inning.  You know, were this not happening in a crucial point of the season, I think that Young would be a big story in the papers and media.  To have words with your own teammate who’s just trying to have your back is upsetting, especially coming from a guy who might still be best known in professional baseball for this unsavory incident…

Like I said, little will be made of this incident in the coming days due to the pennant chase, but if Go-Go is playing the outfield at the Dome tomorrow you’ll know why.

Preview (83-76, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Lenny DiNardo (0-2, 7.52) vs. Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.81). The Tigers draw Peavy tomorrow, while the pitchers in this game leave little to be desired or hoped for.  Could be a crazy one!

Matchups, Matchups

a89afc92-b2c3-485b-9648-a895602e3764.jpgWith just twelve games remaining on the 2009 regular season schedule for the Minnesota Twins, we are right back in the thick of things in the AL Central division race. It seems like every pitcher in the starting rotation (while underachieving terribly at one point or another over the course of the season) now has their defined “role” in the remaining tilts:

-Blackie’s job was to beat the White Sox, which he did with ease tonight. The Pale Hose (well, sans Thome at least) cannot solve Blackburn to save their lives.

-Carl Pavano was brought in to beat the Tigers, and he has done so succesfully so far (I’m sure he’s lined up for another start against them next week).

-Then, it is just up to Scott Baker to dominate the Royals (a very important feat with the KC boys creaming everyone these days).

I guess you also have to include Brian Duensing, whose job it is to continue pitching well against whomever he is thrown against!

Notes: A scary moment for Denard Span tonight, as he got hit right in the back of the helmet…

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The report on (aside from Joe Mauer) the guy I consider to be our team MVP this year came back good and he’s officially listed as “day-to-day” (of course, as Bert Blyleven would say, “aren’t we all”?).  I’m sure he’ll get the night off tomorrow (unless he’s 100%) and then hopefully be back for Wednesday’s contest.

Preview (77-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Jeff Manship (0-1, 5.31) vs. John Danks (12-9, 3.59).

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.

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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