Results tagged ‘ Jason Kubel ’

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.

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)

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 Mauer Effect

Memorial Day weekend is often used as the first “benchmark” in a long baseball season.  Which teams are strong, which are weak, who may be sellers at the break, who may be gearing up for a mid-season trade.

Usually, the running joke here in Twins Territory is that the Kansas City Royals are usually making winter vacation plans at about this time.  Well, the Royals ARE in fourth place in the AL Central and more than a few games below .500, but there’s something this year that makes the joke quite a bit less funny: the Royals are 6-7 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins.

So far this season on this blog, I have lamented the terrible play and given a few opinions of my own on it.  I would like to add one more here, known possibly as the “Joe Mauer Effect”:

Clearly, the biggest reason for the Twins’ struggles has been the time lost to injuries to key players.  There’s no debating that fact.  However, I wonder if perhaps the potential “babying” (the word goes in quotes because nobody seems to know exactly what transpires with him on a day-to-day basis) of star catcher Joe Mauer isn’t creating a tinge of bitterness in the clubhouse that translates over onto the field.

A baseball clubhouse, besides the crass camaraderie and checkbook amounts, is no different than any other workplace.  If one person is getting better treatment than others, and those others feel that that treatment is not well-deserved, a bitter attitude can poison the work environment.  Some people can put that bitterness behind them and be abject professionals, while others let it stew and bleed over into their work habits.

I’m not accusing the Twins of anything, as I have never stepped foot into their pre- or post-game clubhouse and thus cannot pass judgement.  However, it’s just something to think about as the weird injuires (and losses) keep piling up.

What the Twins have on their side, though, is Ron Gardenhire.

While I have–in the past–criticized some of Gardy’s on-field decisions, I do not question for one moment that he is one of (if not THE) best player-relations manager in the game today.  He demands respect for the game, and if he doesn’t get it you won’t play for him all that much longer.

I hope this “Mauer Effect” isn’t seeping through the Twins clubhouse on a daily basis, but like I said, it is worth mentioning.  Of course, as is always the case in professional sports, if Mauer comes back and hits .350, all will be forgiven.  Let’s hope against hope that something similar transpires to give the team a bit of a spark this season.

Notes:

-Kubel and Thome put on DL today.  Oy.

Preview (17-37, 5th, 7.5 GB KCR): Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.60) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (2-4, 6.75)

Home

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Joe Nathan coming home, indeed.  For the Twins’ 2011 Target Field opener, they pretty much sleepwlked through seven innings at the plate.  Luckily, Carl Pavano was dominating, setting down Oakland A after Oakland A.  Then, in the eighth, Danny Valencia’s infield single was followed by hits from three lefties (Kubel, Span, Mauer) to scratch two runs across.

As this was occuring on the field, Joe Nathan was quickly warming in the pen, anticipating his first Target Field save situation.  When those gates opened and “Stand up and Shout” played over the loudspeakers, it was clear that Mr. Nathan was “Home” at last.

For whatever reason, Joe Nathan is a favorite Twin of mine (just look at the name of this blog).  He’s easily the greatest closer the team has ever had, and there’s just something about a save situation that gets me pumped.  Besides Cuddy gunning a runner, Span slapping a triple, or Thome blasting off, there isn’t anything that will get me on my feet faster than a closer coming into a game to get those final three outs.

I also admire Nathan’s grit and determination.  He started off as a struggling SS with the Giants, then came over here with Liriano and Boof Bonser in the A.J. Pierzynski trade (thanks again, A.J.!) as a so-so reliever.  We gave him Eddie G’s closing role, and he never missed a beat.

If the weather holds out, I may be attending the game either today or Sunday, and I would like nothing more than to see Nathan return to domination in person!

Preview (3-4, T-4, 2.0 GB CLE): Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 1.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (1-0, 1.50).

Options, Options

The other day, the Twins made a few “option” decisions on players:

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First, Jason Kubel was brought back for 2001.  Overall, he had a disappointing ’10 campaign after a breakout 2009, but the RBI’s really started coming in those final months, so there is hope he can bounce back.

 
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Also, Nick Punto was not offered an option, but could return at a lower salary. It would be strange to see Little Nicky go, as it would truly signal an end to that “pirahna” era, but I wouldn’t miss Gardy’s unwavering devotion to him one bit, even when we were desperate for some offense at times.  The presence of Matt Tolbert might make Nicky expendable.

Go Ahead…Make (His) Day


Angels_Twins_Baseball_sff_189132_game.jpgTisk, tisk.  Once again, a team (this time the Angels) intentionally walks Joe Mauer to get to Jason Kubel.  Bad idea (for the other team, that is).  Twins route Haren and Duensing coasts to victory.

Preview (71-51, 1st, 4.5 GA CWS): Trevor Bell (1-3, 5.40) vs. Kevin Slowey (11-5, 4.22)

More Bailouts Than Obama (aka Don’t Mess Around With Jim)

Tonight’s Twins-White Sox game featured more bailouts of Twins’ pitchers than the Obama Administration:

First, Scott Baker stunk it up once again, giving up a bevy of hard-hit balls, including a moonshot from Paul Konerko in the early innings:

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However, the Twins also got dingers of their own from Delmon Young and Orlando Hudson, as well as a big triple from Jason Kubel, to stay in the game.

With the Twins leading 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, Matt Capps was brought in for the save situation.  The first batter, Alexei Ramirez, homered to tie the game, but Capps was bailed out by a huge, bases-loaded double play to end the inning.

In the tenth, Jon Rauch took the mound and, with one out, gave up three straight singles to once again allow the White Sox to score a run, giving them a 6-5 lead.  Rauch, for the second time in as many games, couldn’t even finish off his inning and had to be replaced:

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At this point, though, is when Big Jim took matters onto his own, rather broad shoulders:

 


White_Sox_Twins_Baseball_sff_188630_gameBigJim.jpgIn the bottom of the tenth, Delmon Young sent a rocket right through the crotch (almost literally) of Matt Thorton.  Up stepped Jim Thome, and three things happened in rather short fashion:

1. The ball rocketed towards the right field pavilion;

2. The ball landed, giving Thome career homer #581, and the first walk-off jack at Target Field;

3. A shaving cream-filled towel quickly homed in on Thome’s face, courtesy of one Nick Punto.

 

Every win against the Sox is a good win at this point, but it’s so much sweeter when Thome does it to his former mates!  Next to Delmon Young choosing to punch AJ Pierzynski in the face instead of sliding into home plate, Thome’s blast is easily the highlight of the season-series with these two clubs so far.  Can we drop them even further back tomorrow?!

Preview (69-50, 1st, 4.0 GA CWS): Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70) vs. Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26).

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.

Right Said, Fred (aka I Do My Little Turn…)

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So let’s see…what happened today:

Twins jump out to early lead on Rays…Twins bullpen completely implodes and allows a grand-slam to Jason Bartlett late to tie the game…Jason Kubel hits a towering pop-up that hits the catwalk high above Tropicana Field and allows the eventually winning run for Minnesota to score and at least salvage a split on enemy territory.

Perhaps this is what happens when you build a domed stadium in Florida:

TROPICANA-FIELD-INTERIOR.jpg And then name it after an orange juice maker:

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Do I miss the Metrodome? Nahh…

Preview (61-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (10-7, 3.18) vs. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 1.50).

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