Results tagged ‘ Jim Thome ’

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)

Never Doubt

You know, as a prognosticator, I’m having “one of those years”…

Earlier this year, I got on Scott Baker’s case, only to see him rattle off a string of spectacular starts.

Before the All-Star Break, I proclaimed Danny Valencia as my new favorite Twin, only to see my previous favorite…

…get back to, well,…

Earlier this afternoon, I was really on Jim Thome’s case about being injured and stringing together some horrible at-bats as of late.  Then, 490 feet later…

In mid-May, I let myself think (for the briefest of moments) that this might be a long season in Twins Territory.  We’re now just five games out of first place and playing great baseball.

Boy, am I ever glad to be wrong…!

Preview (44-49, 4th, 1.0 GB CWS): David Huff (0-0, 0.00) vs. Anthony Swarzak (2-2, 3.38) AND Fausto Carmona (4-10, 5.78) vs. TBD

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)

Well, This Is Just “Sick”…

9456_sick_woman_with_the_flu_walkin.pngIn my previous post, I made the point that part of the reason why the Twins are struggling is because their young pitchers haven’t panned out as planned.  That is without a doubt part of the reason, but the main thing right now is injuries…plain and simple.

We’ve never been a team with a lot (or even a little) depth, so more than one long-term injury and all of a sudden guys like Hughes, Tolbert, Tosoni, and Butera are expected to hit at a major-league level and win games.  Nope.

With Mauer, Young, Thome, Nathan, and Nishioka all struggling through various stages of convalescence, the talent level just isn’t what it needs to be.  As much as Gardy can opine about “finding a way to win”, the reality is that with the kind of lineups we have been putting up the last few weeks, we shouldn’t expect to win.

The good news: Injuries heal.

The bad news: It takes time…do we have enough of it?

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.

What I Want To See On Opening Day…

What I want to see Friday night in Toronto…

-Denard Span having a 9-pitch at-bat and drawing a walk.

-Alexi Casilla getting through a whole game without a bonehead mistake of some kind (not holding my breath on this one)

-Nishioka lining a single to left/center/right and being halfway to first base before the ball leaves the infield.

-The M&M boys together in the lineup.

-Cuddyer gunning a ball in from RF.

-Danny Valencia just being himself…or cool.

-Pavano laboring through 7-8 innings and keeping us in the game.

-Jim Thome just swinging.  Seriously…even a whiff is epic with that guy.

And finally, what I’ve been waiting to here for over a year now…

If that song is playing, I’ll know a win is within reach!!

The Big Guy’s Back!

101882810_crop_340x234.jpgYes!  Finally, some truly good news in what (at least so far) has been an offseason of personnel losses.

Big Jim fills a huge hole of ours coming off the bench, and is also the best teammate/gentleman you could ask for.  Despite his age and inability to play the field, he is still a premiere power hitter.

As Jim Croce once crooned (and could be echoed by AL pitchers everywhere)…

 

Minnesota Twins 2010: A Season Review

After going through some of my blog posts recently, I realized that I hadn’t penned a “season review” of the 2010 Twins season.  Maybe the quick (again) exit from the playoffs contributed to my apathy, or perhaps it was the Vikings’ season going very bizarre very quickly and giving me plenty of other blogging material.  Either way, I do want ot quickly run down my standout moments of ’10…

To me, 2010 will always be remembered as the “Year of Target Field”:

target-field.jpg

At first, I was as skeptical as anyone at the new outdoor ballpark.  Fortunately, that all changed the first time I walked through the gates.  Besides some of the parks (like Wrigley or Fenway) that keep their charm primarily due to history, I can definitively say that Target Field is the best new home we could have possibly asked for (at least when the weather cooperates, which it did in spades last summer…heck, the Vikings in the Dome had more postponements in ’10 than the Twins!).  Also helping to broaden the experience was the fact that our family moved closer to the Twin Cities metro area this year, so I was able to go to more games than ever before.

I’ll just say this: At the end of 2009, I was missing the Dome.  By the end of ’10, I can’t imagine playing anywhere other than Target Field.

Some other memories include…

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-Much like Brett Favre did to the Vikings in 2009, Jim Thome gave the ’10 Twins a bit of a swagger.  He can’t run or play the field, but it doesn’t matter in the least…he proved that (out of the DH spot) he can still be the most prolific power hitter in the game, bar none.  When Justin Morneau went down with his concussion, Big Jim stepped into the cleanup role and did exactly that…clean up.  Perhaps the most memorable Thome moment was his walkoff home run against the Chicago White Sox in extra innings.

mustache-twins-carl_pavano1.jpg

-Carl Pavano, predicted to fail miserably, provides the veteran leadership the staff desperatley needed, and even became a folk hero due to his mustachioed upper lip.

delmon-young.jpg -Delmon Young’s torrid dog-days-of-summer performance, almost single-handedly keeping us in the division race with a hitting surge unlike anything I had ever seen.

danny-valencia-joe-mauer-jason-repko-2010-8-22-22-20-2.jpg

-Some young kid named Danny Valencia coming up from the minors to lock down third base and provide some spectacular clutch hitting, all the while winning the hearts of the yound ladies in Twins Territory with his megawatt smile.

Other memories would include the torrid second half of Joe Mauer’s bat, as well as Francisco Liriano finally returning to his dominant pre-Tommy John surgery form.

So yes, even though the season ended in disappointment once again…

 
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…I choose to remember the good moments that seemed to last all summer long.

Perhaps the one memory above all that will stick with me is sitting in Target Field on a cold, wet September night but loving every minute of it as the Twins clinched the Central Division Championship.  I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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