Results tagged ‘ Joe Nathan ’

“I Think I’ll Miss You Most Of All, Scarecrow”

After a 99-loss season, change is inevitable.  However, I was very sad to hear today that Joe Nathan is now a Texas Ranger.

Since his arrival in Minnesota in 2004, Joe Nathan (with the exception of perhaps Brad Radke) has been my favorite Twin.  He had the dominant “stuff” that Everyday Eddie lacked, the humble attitude, and the most incredible “walk-up” theme in Twins history.  I had his jersey for awhile and it is no coincidence that the name of this blog is so closely related to Mr. Nathan.

I realize that this is strictly a business decision for the Twins organization (and I guess we offered him a decent proposal, too), but oh I’m going to miss this so much…

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

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).

My Favorite Twin

As the youngest of youngsters, my Twins hero (predictably) was Kirby Puckett:

Then in the mid-90s, Rick Aguilera (for whatever reason) was my favorite Twin:

Brad Radke then picked up the mantra:

Who passed o the torch to Joe Nathan:

However, with Nathan just now perhaps getting back on the horse after Tommy John, I needed a new “favorite player”…that one guy who either comes in from the pen or strides to the plate and make you inch forward in your seat with anticipation.

Right now, for me, that player is Danny Valencia…

Sure, he’s batting in the low .200s this year after an amazing rookie 2010 stretch run surge.  But I just see so much potential in him; maybe our first bona-fide hot corner man since Corey Koskie.  He hits for power, drives the ball to the gaps, has a flair for the dramatic, and plays a solid (if sometimes spectacular) 3b.  Plus, he has just enough ego to know he’s good, yet has a solid manager and good teammates to keep that Florida ego in check.

So, as of right now, Danny Valencia is my favorite Twin.  Time will tell if V will be around for the long haul (like Cuddyer), but considering his youth and considerable talents already, I’d say he’s well on his way.

Notes:

-A good start to the series with the Rays in beating David Price.  Duesing was dominating today and Valencia (heh heh), Cuddy, and Nishioka provided the offensive firepower.

Preview (37-46, 4th, 4.0 GB CWS): James Shields (8-5, 2.45) vs. Scott Baker (6-5, 3.15)

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)

The Same Mistake

Last night at Target Field, I had an upper-deck, bird’s-eye view to one of what had to be the biggest Twins collapses in recent memory.  Aside from the obvious blame on Matt Capps for not really getting anyone important out in the ninth inning, this game was lost by our manager.  What makes it even more painful is the fact that, earlier in the game, the opposing manager of the Milwaukee Brewers made the exact same mistake…

In the early innings, the Twins absolutely blasted Brewers starter Narveson.  Cuddy and Danny V. hit back-to-back jacks to almost an identical spot at one point, and the Twins coasted to a 7-0 lead.  At one point, with the Twins up 4-0, Narveson had thrown almost 100 pitches, given up 11 hits, and yet the Brewer bullpen was JUST STARTING to get loose.  I figured that the inability to get a reliever into the game who could get outs would be the Brewers’ undoing.

Sadly, I was quite mistaken, and the shoe ended up firmly planted on the other foot.  Leading 7-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, “closer” Matt Capps allowed four runs to give the Brewers the lead and eventual victory.  While, to be honest, I am not all that surprised about Capps, as I believe he is the most overrated pitcher on our entire team, what absolutely perplexes me is why Gardy would leave him in the game for so long?

If you know anything about Capps, you know that when me melts down, every single fan in the ballpark knows it.  He’s a control pitcher with no dominant pitch (not exactly a closer repetoire, to be sure), so when the control isn’t present, it gets ugly quick and doesn’t end for a while.  Kind of like if Nick Blackburn doesn’t have his sinker; you KNOW he will struggle.

So, with the game hanging in the balance and potentially Joe Nathan or Phil Dumatrait ready to come in and (at the very least) secure a tie ballgame going into the home half of the ninth, Gardy sticks with Capps who promptly gives up a single and the game with it.  If anyone has one rational reason why Capps was allowed to pitch after allowing the tying run, please let me know.  To add insult to injury, Dumatrait then came in and got Prince Fielder to ground out on one pitch.

I’m sorry to say it, Gardy, but this one is on you.  Everyone makes mistakes, so let’s move on and try to take the series today, but when everyone in the ballpark knows the tide has turned and the pitcher is rattled, it is YOUR job to get him off that mound pronto.  Please do not let the “traditional closer role” dictate your thinking.  Ditto for “matchups”.  Capps needed to be removed, I don’t care if Jim Hoey is coming out of that pen (a profound and terrible statement in and of itself).

Preview (35-46, 4th, 5.5 GB CWS): Zack Greinke (7-3, 5.63) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-6, 3.64)

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?

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).

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!!

Spring Training 2011: On The Fringe

With the Twins now in Fort Myers, FL, for Spring Training, they’ve been getting more media attention than usual due to issues like Morneau’s concussion comeback, Nathan’s Tommy John rehab, and the new Japanese SS whose name I’m too lazy to look up for spelling (probably should get on that).

However, there are three other areas I would like to comment on that perhaps slip our minds in the midst of the “bit stories”:

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1. Alexi Casilla has never been an everyday player for a full season.  Whenever he’s been given the opportunity to start, he’s droppped the ball (sometimes even in the literal sense).  Considering Gardy’s love of guys like Matt “The Next Punto?” Tobert or the newcomer Luke Hughes, Casilla still has a lot to prove and will not be handed the job by any means.

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2. Can “Valencia Mania” continue? A favorite example of mine of this case comes from 2000, when the Mets had an outfielder named Timo Perez (heck, he might be bouncing around somewhere yet) who, in August-September that year, looked like the next coming of Junior Griffey.  He then made a few World Series blunders, pitchers figured him out, and he’s been a fringe player since.  Pitchers now have a similar “book” on young Danny-Boy, so those fat pitches will be fewer and farther between.

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3. Besides a summer (June-July) that was out of control, Delmon Young was very average at the beginning and end of 2010.  What if that “Beast Mode” doesn’t occur again in ’11, or for nearly as long?  He’s always been a streaky hitter.

Keep an eye on these issues, as they could be every bit as important as “the big boys”.

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