Results tagged ‘ Justin Morneau ’

Well, That Was Quick…

 Well, after just 13 warm-up pitchers in his first bullpen session of spring training, new Twins acquisition Joel Zumaya torn a ligament in his throwing shoulder and will be out for the rest of the season and probably his career barring extensive rehab.

On one hand, I feel really bad for the guy.  I mean, he’s tried to come back so many times that this must be a crushing blow for him.

On the other hand, I sincerely hope that this is not a harbinger of things to come for the Twins.  Pure logic would indicate that one player’s injury cannot “cause” another, but superstition is a powerful force in baseball clubhouses.  If a team feels as if they have been bit by the injury bug (see: 2011 Twins), then every scratch turns into a DL stint.

But here’s some good news to leave off with for now…

 Justin Morneau has had four good days in a row (knock on wood)!!

What Went Wrong

After the season ended, I had planned on doing a position-by-position look at the Twins to examine what exactly went wrong that sent a 94-win team (2010) to a 99-loss squad (2011).  However, with the recent front office move of swapping Bill Smith for Terry Ryan (again), it seems as if three key categories came into play during the ’11 season that really just doomed the Twins from the start.

First, from a tactical perspective, the injuries were horrific…

When half (or more) of your starting team is injured for half (or more) of the season, the plan you put in place all of last offseason was pretty much shot in the foot before it ever had a chance to walk.  Whether bad luck, bad conditioning, or bad “mental toughness” (to quote Mike Tice), the team was limping off the field all season long.

Also, the depletion of the bullpen was another crippling tactical shortcoming…

I realize that the money got too much to retain our key bullpen horses, but in the end the lack of any steady relief help came back to bite the team perhaps more than anyone thought possible.

Second, beyond the tactical stuff, was the inability of our “core group” (outside of Cuddyer, of course) to produce.

Mauer & Morneau needed to get back to this…

But instead they barely played two weeks of the season in the same lineup.

Then, the “solid five” (Baker, Blackburn, Liriano, Perkins, Slowey) starters that we envisioned a few years ago have never (and probably never will) produced to their expectations…

Liriano is an enigma, Slowey is in the doghouse, Baker is failed potential personified, Blackburn is a rollercoaster, and Perkins is now a reliever (and one who has injury troubles at that).

Finally, the final area that really killed the Twins last year was a step away from their tried-and-true organizational philosophy of hoarding draft picks, developing talent, throwing strikes, and playing solid, fundamental baseball (especially defense).

When Nick Punto left in the offseason and ended up winning a ring with the Cardinals…

It signaled a shift from playing “Twins baseball” towards “going all-in to win now”.

Perhaps this was a difference in philosophy between two GMS…

But clearly, the team got away from the “fundamentals”.  The defense was rot, the pitchers walked more batters than ever, and the whole foundation collapsed.

Notes:

-Amazingly enough, Terry Ryan’s first move on his second go-’round as GM impressed the heck out of me, signing Jamey Carroll to play shortstop in ’12…

From what I hear/read, Carroll can play solid defense, handle the bat, stay in the lineup, and get on base a little bit…nothing our middle infielders did in ’11.  Carroll is not a long-term solution by any means, but he adds stability to a team desperate for it right now.

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)

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”:

alexi.jpg

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.

danny-valencia.jpg 

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.

delmonyoung.jpg

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”.

Sour Grapes

Target_Field_Dia2.jpg
grapes-print.jpgI wanted to quickly comment here on something that kind of disturbed me the other day:

Just recently, the Minnesota Twins organization released a statement saying how they are going to improve Target Field by adding a right field scoreboard and a cool LED tower thingy…

twins123.jpg

Basically, the organization is telling fans that they are going to continue to try and provide the best fan experience in major league baseball

However, just a day later, Twins 1B Justin Morneau complains that the Twins are not going to move in the fences.  Talk about your sour grapes.  Though I understand Morneau’s thinking to an extent (as HR’s were very difficult to come by in 2010), that is not his decision to make, or even comment on.

The Twins set up Justin for life with a huge contract, and (since that point) have seen him miss significant time due to injuries.  Now, by no means am I saying that Morneau is faking his injuries (concussion) or anything like that, but after missing an entire half a season, it isn’t his prerogative to get whiny about the executive decisions (sometimes life sucks and you need to just man up and keep your mouth shut).

Plus, if I were a Twins pitcher reading that article, I’d be feeling a little miffed right now too.  The Twins had the best home record in the AL last season, I believe, and now Morneau wants to change the fences for what would primarily be a personal gain?  That wouldn’t fly with me.

None of this is to say that I have completely soured on Morneau, but these are the little flashes that we get into people’s character that competitive sports often bring out.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Didn’t get to see the game today, but heard the happy news that the Twins won, AND Jim Thome hit another laser beam into the right field bleachers.

Just a few days ago, Thome hit #584 to pass this guy…

mark-mcgwire.jpg

…on the all-time list.

Now, he’s gunning for this guy (who finished at 586):

2007-01-12-frobby.jpg

Once Thome passes Frankie and sits at eighth all-time, that is “all” he’ll move up slot-wise on that list this season.  Alex Rodriguez currently has 604, while Sammy Sosa would be catchable at 609 if Thome were to play another season at his current production level.

For now, though, it’s just nice to have a power bat in the middle of the lineup with Morneau still getting too many headaches to risk a comeback.  Let’s just hope now that he can save his energy a bit for the playoffs and the Twins keep fending off the pesky White Sox.

Preview (81-57, 1st, 3.5 GA CWS): Brian Bannister (7-11, 5.95) vs. Francisco Liriano (12-7, 3.27)

When Delmon Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy

Twins_Rays_Baseball_sff_185986_game.jpgOne of the startling (but in a good way) characteristics of the 2009 Minnesota Twins has been their ability to overcome injury adversity and play on despite extended DL trips for three starters (Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto, and Justin Morneau) and a beat-up Joe Mauer.  Guys like Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, and Danny Valencia have found their niches over the past few months.

However, if the first two games dropped in Tropicana tell us anything (besides the fact that the Rays are fast and shouldn’t be walked, respectively), it is that Delmon Young is the key to everything right now (at least with Morneau still on the sidelines).  So far against Rays pitching, Delmon is 1-9.  Without him spraying the ball everywhere, the Twins just don’t have enough lineup depth to keep mounting rallies when needed.

Thus, against good teams that we can’t just clobber, we all too often send a bullpen full of late-inning collapsers (Guerrier, Crain, Mijares) into the game at the most pressure-filled situations.  Unless the splits/matchups go exactly our way, bad things are almost bound to happen.

I’m not saying that the pen is altogether rotten, but put it this way…right now I have as much confidence in Jesse Crain as in anyone else that comes out of those swinging doors, and anybody who has read my blog in the past knows how difficult it is for me to even CONSIDER that statement.

Notes:

-Another good start for Duensing (just one mistake that happened to be hammered by Sean Rodriguez), but still too many walks, which only serve to raise the pitch count and tack on runs that shouldn’t ever materialize.

-Woke up this morning, heard Brett Favre had texted his retirement to the Vikings, and thought “Well, the Twins had better be the bread-winners this sports season”.  Of course, that would mean I actually BELIEVE #4…

Preview (59-48, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (9-9, 5.00) vs. David Price (14-5, 2.90).

Whew…That Was Close

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_181553_game.jpgWhew…the Twins managed to avoid a sweep today at the hands of the Tigers thanks to another solid outing from Carl Pavano and some much-needed clutch hitting (that didn’t produce too many double plays).

With pretty much the entire rotation struggling at this point, Pavano took the rotation on his back and turned in 7.2 IP while allowing just three earned runs.  Heck, he even managed to keep Miguel Cabrera from completely destroying us!

Multi-hit games from Young, Cuddyer (who is finally starting to hit the ball again), and Kubel allowed the M&M-less offense to come out on top.

This was a big win for the Twins, as heading into the break three games back is much better (if only psychologically) than five.

Notes:

-Justin Morneau, due to his lingering concussion symptoms, will not start in the All-Star game (or play whatsoever) on Tuesday night.  Cabrera will start the game, while Paul Konerko of the White Sox has been added to the roster.

-Sad news today in hearing that longtime Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard passed away today.  I know that he hadn’t been doing the PA for a few years now, but his recorded broadcast still introduces Derek Jeter to this day.  Younger fans may not remember the name, but the voice will likely be familiar.

Preview: Home-Run Derby!  Here are this year’s participants:

 

National League: Chris Young (Diamondbacks), Corey Hart (Brewers), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

American League: David Ortiz (Red Sox), Nick Swisher (Yankees), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays)

Pinballin’

2955623966_1bdf7a3c4b.jpgMan, since when did Rogers Centre turn into Coors Field?  Once again tonight, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays turned into something akin to a pinball machine, with the Jays bashing enough long fly balls (both in and out of the park) to beat the Twins 6-5.

Both Alex Gonzalez and Jose Bautista hit moonshots for the blue birdies, while John Buck, Vernon Wells, and that pesky Fred “my batting stance looks exactly like Fred McGriff” Lewis also added big hits.

Of course, both Orlando Hudson and the unstoppable Delmon Young added dingers of their own, but it wasn’t enough to push Kevin Slowey (6.1 IP, 5 ER) and Matt Guerrier (blown hold) out on top.

Like I said yesterday, the Twins hitters will come around (even if it is at the frenetically-charged Rogers Centre), but it is the pitching that needs to turn in a few more quality starts.  It doesn’t help that our staff’s biggest weakness (the gopher ball) plays right into the Jays’ greatest strength.

Notes:

-Just heard tonight that Jake Peavy of the White Sox will likely miss the rest of the season.  This is a huge blow to the ChiSox, because they really folded down the stretch without him last season.

-Hopefully Morneau is okay after taking a knee to the head sliding into second base (he left the game as a precautionary measure).  Wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a day off tomorrow.

Preview (44-38, 1.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (7-7, 4.72) vs. Brett Cecil (7-5, 4.19).  It’s halfway through the season and Baker has an ERA near 5.00?  Perhaps this is why we are so strongly in the running for Cliff Lee?!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.