Results tagged ‘ Indians ’

Thank You, Jim Thome

Before this blog turns to the negative posts that will likely dominate the month of September, I want to take a moment to thank Jim Thome for a lot of great memories.

For two decades, Thome was the bane of existence to our pitching staffs.  In less than two years, however, he endeared himself to the state of Minnesota like almost no other ballplayer in team history…

From a home run off the flagpole, to one over the batting eye, to one 490 feet away, to two in Detroit for 600, Thome gave us some special moments in a short time span.

He’s a class act, a true gentleman, and I wish him the best in Cleveland and beyond.

Just try not to clobber around our starters too much in September, will ya Jim?!

Preview (55-77, 4th, 11 GB CWS): Brad Penny (9-9, 4.82) vs. Brian Duensing (8-13, 5.12)

Paying The Piper

We sports fans are a fickle lot most of the time.  For the last few years, Twins fans were ALWAYS badgering GM’s (either Ryan or Smith) to sign more players to help us win.  Since the pitching seemed solid, a lock of hitters was always our “dire” need.

Well, we brought in guys like Delmon Young, Orlando Hudson, JJ Hardy, and Jim Thome to help the offense.  Plus, we signed out “Mantle & Marris”…

…to long-term deals.

Well, those offensive players (for a variety of reasons) never really paid off, and “M&M” have been too hurt to meet the return on investment.

Thus, part of the reason for this season spiralling into disaster has been an inability to patch holes like we have done in the past.  The bullpen guys got too pricey, the starters all regressed or never hit their potential, and all the hitters got hurt.  ALL…OF…THEM.

So, we are now realizing (as we did in the 1990s) that we still can’t quite spend with the big boys on the coasts…even with a new stadium.  The time to pay the piper has come, and that time is now.

Notes:

-Twins get swept by lowly Orioles at home.

-Liriano goes on the DL (Scott Diamond will take his place).

-Kubel is claimed off waivers (though no deal yet) by the White Sox.

-Same story as above for Jim Thome & the Indians.

Preview (55-75, 4th, 9.0 GB CWS): Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17) vs. Scott Diamond (0-1, 4.26)

A Lesson From The Band Room

During the four years I attended the University of Minnesota-Morris, I played in the Concert Band each semester.  During one of those years, the director said something I will never forget: he told the group that if each musician makes one glaring error in each song, the entire performance will probably be a wreck.  He didn’t tell us this to put us under added pressure, but just to emphasize the pure fact of the matter.

The same concept applies in baseball.  If each player makes one error each game, that team will never win a game.

Sound familiar?

Of course, Nishioka & Tolbert combined tonight to make enough errors to lose 3-4 games.  There’s really nothing more to say.

Preview (52-66, 4th, 6.0 GB CWS): Brian Duensing (8-10, 4.56) vs. Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.08)

One Last Stand

After getting roughed up at home by Chicago and Boston, the Twins now hit the road to face Cleveland and Detroit.

I’d like to say the season hangs in the balance, but I think that would be far too optimistic.  Instead, the Twins are now playing for pride.  Right now, we are the old, once-powerful gunslinger who is now struggling to get the job done.  The dusty town may be overrun by the “bad guys” with no hope for the season at hand, but the gunslinger stands in the middle of the street anyway to defend the honor of himself, his people, and his future.

The question then remains: Will the gunslinger get gunned down in cold blood, or will he maintain that honor?

Preview (52-65, 4th, 5.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) vs. Justin Masterson (9-7, 2.71)

Diamond In The Rough?

After a disappointing loss in the afternoon game today, the Twins bounce back tonight with the debut of pitcher Scott Diamond, the twelve millionth (a slight exaggeration) Rochester Red Wing the team has used this season.

For whatever reason, I always get excited about a rookie pitcher making his starting debut.  Remember the names Mike Smith and Dave Gassner?  I do.

We can’t lose two games to the Indians in one day, can we?!

Preview (44-50, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Fausto Carmona (4-10, 5.38) vs. Scott Diamond (0-0, 0.00)

Ready…Break

Last year at the All-Star break, the Twins were in third place in the AL Central, 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They went on to win 94 games and claim the division crown by mid-September.

This year, after taking 3 of 4 in ChiTown, the Twins enter the break in 4th place, 6.5 games behind Detroit.  Are we contenders?  Are we pretenders?  Well, the first homestand (KC, DET, CLE) after the break will go a long way towards answering that question.  If we come out flat, we’ll likely never be able to make up the necessary ground.  However, a good homestand would beg the question of whether or not the Twins should make a deal at the deadline.

Our biggest need right now is a solid arm out of the pen.  The starters are what the are, and the offense can only get better (heck, if we can win with Tosoni, Hughes, Rivera, etc. we can win with anyone!), but the ‘pen is where the help is sorely needed.  Barring further setbacks, Joe Nathan should quickly supplant Matt Capps as closer, with Capps sharing setup duties with Perkins.  Beyond that, however, the pen is barren.  Phil Dumatrait has been good for a rookie, but who knows, really.  Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares cannot be consistently counted on to get the job done.

Thus, here is how I see the trading deadline scenario playing out in my head: The Twins package Delmon Young (the most expendable outfielder) and perhaps a Kevin Slowey for a decent bullpen arm.  Then, as we always seem to do, we either call up another ready rook, or pick a guy (remember how we got Pavano in ’09?!) from the scrap heap in September.

If I didn’t think the Twins had at least a decent chance of winning the division this year, I would say “trade a few more guys and replenish the minors”.  However, considering that Detroit ALWAYS chokes in the second half, the Indians are fading, and we OWN the White Sox, a division crown (though not easy by any means) is no doubt within reach.

Preview (41-48, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.26) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-7, 5.06).

Two Things…

Two things to ponder in the middle of a hot streak…

1. It never ceases to amaze me that if Alexi Casilla is playing well (both in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths), the Twins are almost guaranteed to be winning games.  The theory doesn’t hold true in the reverse, as the Twins have played well without Casilla on many occasions the last few years, but I’ve never seen him play well in losing efforts.  Don’t ask me why this is, but it seems to be the case.

2. When things are at their most bleak…and I mean the VERY PIT of despair…the Twins always seem to play their best as well.  It wasn’t until both Thome and Kubel went down on the same day that the winning streak began.  I suppose one could argue that when rock bottom is hit, the ONLY way to go is up, but I’d still like to think that the Twins are a better team WITH Kubel/Thome than without.  The same effect was seen after the loss of Morneau in 2009 & 2010.

Notes:

-A tough loss in Cleveland tonight, but it was a well-contested contest that saw Liriano look solid and the bullpen do a great job.  We just ran into the buzzsaw of Carlos Carrasco for a night.  The key now is to bounce back and still take the series tomorrow afternoon.

Preview (22-38, 5th, 4.0 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.83) vs. Justin Masterson (5-4, 3.28)

The Great Mauer Debate

Joe Mauerasdfgh.jpgFirst off, good to see the Twins pull off a nice little win against Cleveland today. Three in a row!  Of course, it’ll be back to the AL East starting Tuesday night, so lets home that the home turf (or nice green grass, I guess I should say now!) is the difference-maker.

What I really wanted to comment on in this post, however, is the absolute raging debate here in the state of Minny regarding moving our catcher, Joe Mauer, to another position.  I truly believe that this is a move that will have to happen sooner than later.  He’s already shown signs (and they are getting worse) of health issues, and all that squatting won’t help anything.  However, I also strongly believe that moving him THIS SEASON is out of the question.  Here’s why:

The potential places he could move are:

1B- Not an option with Morneau entrenched.

Middle Infield- Nope.  Not that kind of player.

3B- The most intriguing option, but there’s no way (I don’t care how much athletic talent Mauer may possess) that he could jump into that position right away and play it well.  Remember how long it took Corey Koskie to develop into a vacuum at the hot corner?

OF- We already have too many outfield roamers as is (Kubel, Span, Young, Cuddyer).  Cuddyer and Young are not long-term locks, however, so I’d say that moving Joe to the OF may be a future possibility.

DH- We’ve got this guy named Jim Thome right now, who’s doing alright in this slot (!).  Another option a season or two down the road (perhaps as early as next year) would be to have Mauer DH more and be behind the plate less.  The downside to this is that he wouldn’t be learning a new position, and would be a half-time DH before the age of 30.

So, though I think Mauer will likely have to move somewhere–perhaps as early as next season–moving him anywhere in the present campaign would be too difficult and disruptive.  For now, we’ll just have to wait (and hope) that those legs strengthen up and he can come back strong once again.

Preview (9-12, 4th, 2.5 GB DET/KC): Wade Davis (2-2, 2.73) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-3, 7.40) (Tuesday).  Weather-permitting, I’ll be attending this contest!

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.

Opening Day Take One: So Complicated (Or Not)

For previous seasons, I have written very detailed summaries about the Twins’ chances in the upcoming season.  This year, however, I think that all the storylines have been covered ad nauseum.  We are all nervous about Nathan, Morneau, everyday Casilla, Mauer’s health, and the bullpen.

Thus, instead of an in-depth analysis, here is a quick look at the other teams in the division and how I think we stack up against them:

Cleveland Indians: This team is a mess.  From what I see, it will be years before they compete for anything.

Kansas City Royals: Are probably still a year or two away from a serious run at winning baseball, but could seriously begin that process at any time.  Still make too many dumb mistakes to consistently win ballgames.  Both pitching and hitting is improving, however, to the point where expecting to sweep them (even on their turf, like in previous years!) is unrealistic.

Detroit Tigers: Good luck figuring this team out year-to-year.  They have enough general talent to compete, but their streakiness is incredible.  Remember who was leading the division at the AS break last year?  I believe it was the Tigers (I know it wasn’t us).  Then…complete collapse.  I don’t see them putting up enough of a fight to win the division unless they put on a huge streak in the waning months.

Chicago White Sox: The team that can challenge us because of their pitching (especially bullpen) and power hitting.  That being said, they better have a pretty big lead heading into that final month, because we OWN them (especially on our turf) come September.

 

I won’t say that the Twins will waltz away with the division in 2011, but I think it is clear that another division title is easily within our grasp.  If key guys stay healthy and get their innings/at-bats, I think we’re still the favorites to repeat.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.