Results tagged ‘ Metrodome ’
I’ve been a Minnesota sports fan (Twins & Vikings, primarily) since the late 1990s. Since that point, I have learned two undeniable facts:
1. The Vikings will ALWAYS let you down. Even when you think they couldn’t possibly let you down any worse, they go out and do that exact thing. Case in point…
2. The Twins will NEVER completely let you down. Yes, they may lose in the playoffs to the Yankees every #$%^&*! year, but at least they play hard and give it everything they have:
If the Twins are somehow able to get back into this division race by the end of the season, it would truly be their most incredible feat ever, I think.
This is why I don’t give up. Why I continued watching the blown leads and blow-outs in April and May, night after night. Because until the Twins are mathematically dead and buried, they HAVE to be accounted for and every team in the division will second that notion.
They used to play this old video up on the Jumbotron at the Metrodome, and it really sums up the ’11 Twins to this point:
THAT is why I don’t give up!!
Preview (29-39, 5th, 1.0 GB KCR): Tim Stauffer (2-4, 3.28) vs. Scott Baker (4-4, 3.55).
I remember a time, back in the late 1990s, when the Minnesota Twins were the scourge of major league baseball. We were mockingly called “Twinkies”, the Metrodome was (on most nights when the Yankees weren’t in town) a sea of blue seats, the playing surface was literally coming up at the seams, and we rooted for players like Jay Canizaro, Brent Gates, Chip Hale, Bob Tewksbury, and Pat Mahomes. We almost got sold to a guy named “Beaver” in 1998, and the Pohlad-Selig contraction deal nearly swallowed us up in 2002.
Contrast this with the news today, where the removal of a wart on the bottom of Michael Cuddyer’s foot was the top news (top news!) in my “MLB” module of My Yahoo! today. Yes, a wart, which will keep him out of two weeks of meaningless spring training games.
How far we’ve come (for better or worse), indeed.
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”:
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…
-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.
-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’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.
-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…
…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.
At the old Metrodome, when the Twins were down going into the final inning, this pump-up video would play on the Jumbotron:
C’mon Twins…don’t go down meekly again!
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:
And then name it after an orange juice maker:
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).
Since my last blog, the Twins got caught by two hot pitchers in Boston (Bucholz/Lester), then righted the ship by beating up on the Brew Crew over the weekend (taking two of three and coming within a big hit of sweeping).
About three weeks ago, though, I saw my first two games at Target Field…
…and never really commented on the experience. Although I loved the experience and thought that the new digs put the Metrodome to shame, there was just something about it where I couldn’t gush over our new home too much. I think I may have finally figured it out.
In the old days, ballparks were built with all kinds of quirks that made them stand out. Some examples:
Polo Grounds: Almost 500 feet to center field (which featured a garage in the field of play!), and just 250 ft. down the lines (picture a giant horsehoe).
Ebbets Field: A crazy little nook out in center field, a huge wall in right, with band-box dimension all around.
Baker Bowl: ENORMOUS brick wall out in RF that puts even Boston’s Green Monster to shame!
LA Coliseum: Just look at the picture!
Old Yankee Stadium: Monuments and flagpoles IN PLAY; centerfield almost 500 feet deep.
Then, after going through the terrible cookie-cutter stadium movement of the 1980s (Veterans Stadium, Skydome, Astrodome, etc.), ballparks started to improve in fan amenities, but (for the most part) those little quirks/nuances had disappeared. In the past few years, there are only a few stadiums I can recall that really spark my interest:
Wrigley Field: Ivy, brick walls.
Fenway Park: Green Monster, Pesky Pole
Minute Maid Park (?; that’s the name I’ll always remember it as!): CF slope, neat LF architecture.
And, dare I say it…
Metrodome: Vampire seats, Baggie
Basically, my point is this: I really like stadiums with distinct visual features, and I feel as if Target Field is a bit lacking in that area. Besides the patches of Limestone and HD scoreboard (but that doesn’t really count), it feels like “any other great ballpark”. Kind of a double standard, I know, but I guess I am more than a bit of a sentimentalist towards those “good old days” of quirky baseball stadiums.
Preview (26-18, 1st, 1.0 GA DET): AJ Burnett (4-2, 3.86) vs. Scott Baker (4-4, 4.88). Time to create a little bit of new history against the Yanks? I hope so.
Now that the Twins are cranking things up down in Fort Myers, here is a little preview of what to expect in terms of the build-up to Opening Day 2010:
Last Year: 87-76, 1st in American League Central Division (1 GA of Detroit Tigers), lost to New York Yankees in ALDS (3-0).
Manager: Once again, the Twins will have Ron Gardenhire at the helm. Since taking the reins from Tom Kelly back in 2002, Gardy has posted a 709-588 (.547) record with the Twins. Besides the lone 1969 Billy Martin tenure, that winning percentage constitutes the highest mark in franchise history, and trails only TK (1140-1244) in overall wins.
Venue: After nearly three decades of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins will now christen open-air Target Field as their new home. Dimensions: LF-339, LCF-377, CF-404, RCF-367, RF-328.
Projected Starting Lineup & Positions:
- Denard Span (R), CF (2009 stats: .311 BA, 97 R, 180 H, 23 SB, .807 OPS): Though primarily just a singles hitter who runs the bases well, Span is very adept at working counts, getting on base, and coming up big in the clutch. The best lead-off hitter wearing “TC” since Chuck Knoblauch jumped ship. Plays Torii Hunter-like defense in the outfield.
- Orlando Hudson (S), 2B (for LA Dodgers: .283 BA, 74 R, 35 2B, .774 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove): One of the newcomers this year. Can’t say I’ve watched him play much, but the stats don’t seem to lie. He’s very comparable to the departed Orlando Cabrera, who did wonders for the top of the order down the stretch in ’09.
- Joe Mauer (L), C (.365 BA, 94 R, 96 RBI, 28 HR, 1.031 OPS, All-Star, Gold Glove, MVP, Silver Slugger): Perhaps the most talented player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols. The kind of guy who could hit .320 and call it a “down year”.
- Justin Morneau (L), 1B (.274 BA, 100 RBI, 30 HR, .878 OPS, All-Star): Take a look at those stats, and then consider he missed the final month of ’09 due to injury. His ability to hit for average and maintain a selective eye separates him from the hackers.
- Michael Cuddyer (R), RF (.276 BA, 93 R, 94 RBI, 32 HR, .862 OPS): The biggest hurdle for Cuddy is making it through an entire season. When hurt, he struggles with things like consistency and strike outs. When healthy, he puts up numbers like last season. Possesses a rifle arm.
- Jason Kubel (L), DH (.300 BA, 28 HR, 103 RBI, .907 OPS): Could be the cleanup hitter in many other teams’ lineups. Is just coming into his own (a bit late) after struggling through a serious knee injury as a rookie. Can also more than hold his own in the outfield, where he may find himself on more than a few occasions if Jim Thome heats up.
- Delmon Young (R), LF (.284 BA, 60 RBI, 12 HR, .733 OPS): Will be the first to sit if Kubel and Thome play their way into the lineup, but also has tremendous upside. Is clumsy in the field (but just good enough to make up for it) and prone to hitting nothing but singles for long stretches, but when locked in can be a deadly force.
- J.J. Hardy (R), SS (for Milwaukee Brewers: .229 BA, 53 R, 47 RBI, 11 HR, .659 OPS): The Twins are hoping for the ’07-’08 Hardy to re-emerge…the one who hit 25+ homers and posted a respectable average. The verdict is still out on his D, which is decent but not Punto-like.
- Nick Punto (S) (.228 BA, 56 R, 82 H, 16 SB, .621 OPS) or Brendan Harris (R), 3B (.261 BA, 44 R, 108 H, .672 OPS): A classic “offense vs. defense” choice here. Gardy loves Punto for the defense he brings to the infield, but Little Nicky is often an albatross at the bottom of the order. Harris is an average fielder, but can rattle one off the wall every so often.
- Jim Thome (DH/1B, L) (for White Sox & Dodgers: .249 BA, 23 HR, 77 RBI, .847 OPS): Hopefully the big bat the Twins have desperately needed off the pine. Could easily play his way into everyday lineup if balls start clearing the walls.
- Jose Morales (C, S) (.311 BA, 119 AB, .742 OPS): Showed enough poise as a youngster for the Twins to let veteran Mike Redmond leave.
- Alexi Casilla (2B, S) (.202, 228 AB, .538 OPS): At times provides a spark to the top of the order and plays flashy D, but is still far too prone to mental errors/goofs that Gardy can’t stand.
- Matt Tolbert (IF, S) (.232, 198 AB, .611 OPS): Plays the kind of scrappy ball and defense that the manager loves and his adept at handling the bat (if not racking up hits).
-Others battling for roster spots include Drew Butera (C), Wilson Ramos (C), Jacque Jones (OF), Luke Hughes (IF), Trevor Plouffe (IF), and Danny Valencia (IF).
- Scott Baker (RHP, 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 200 IP): Baker has shown spurts of ace-like outings, but needs to consistently pitch further into games to really match up against the league’s best.
- Nick Blackburn (RHP, 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 205.2 IP): Has a knack for coming up big in the clutch starts, but also needs to work on consistency. A typical sinkerball pitcher in that if the ball isn’t diving, it’s jumping (off bats, that is).
- Kevin Slowey (RHP, 10-3, 4.86 ERA, 90.2 IP): At times looks like the second coming of Brad Radke, but needs to stay healthy for an entire season to prove it. Has absolutely pin-point accuracy with an assortment of pitches to keep the hitters guessing.
- Carl Pavano (RHP, 5-4, 4.64 ERA, 73.2 IP): The only veteran in the starting rotation, but his overall effectiveness is questionable. Showed he could compete against the AL Central after being acquired during the latter months of the season, but needs to prove his worth against the “big boys” of the league.
- Francisco Liriano (LHP, 5-13, 5.80 ERA, 136.2 IP), Glen Perkins (LHP, 6-7, 5.89 ERA, 96.1 IP), Brian Duensing (LHP, 5-2, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP, 3-7, 6.25 ERA, 59 IP), or Jeff Manship (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 31.2 IP): Liriano is obviously the wild card of this group, as he could become unquestioned ace of the staff or play himself right out of the majors. Perkins is not on the organization’s good side after squabbles over service time and just plain poor performance, while Duensing is the conservative pick after impressing in the heat of the pennant race last year. Swarzak and/or Manship would have to pitch their tails off to even warrant consideration.
- Joe Nathan (RHP, 2.10 ERA, 68.2 IP, 47 SV): Still a top-tier closer in all of baseball, but somehow needs to shake late- (and post-) season demons. Too many batters (7) tagged him with the long ball last year, so that is a good place to start.
- Matt Guerrier (RHP, 2.36 ERA, 76.1 IP): The primary setup man to Nathan. Is very solid, but fatigue always an issue due to over-use.
- Jose Mijares (LHP, 2.34 ERA, 61.2 IP): The lefty-lefty matchup guy who his almost unhittable when in decent shape and possessing a clear head. Has tendency to put balls in the dirt and sometimes inexplicably loses his control for short periods of time.
- Pat Neshek (RHP, DNP-Injured): After missing almost two whole seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the side-winding Minnesota native is back to confuse opponents once again. Could be a god-send to take some of the strain off Matty G.
- Jon Rauch (RHP, 1.72 ERA, 15.2 IP): One of the big (literally!) reasons the Twins made the playoffs last season. Is very flexible in terms of duration (1-3 innings).
- Jesse Crain (RHP, 4.70 ERA, 51.2 IP): An enigma: some fans love his electric stuff, while others cringe at his predictability, wobbly control, and inability to pitch out of jams after creating them.
- Clay Condrey (RHP, for Philadelphia: 3.00 ERA, 42 IP): A newcomer who is coming off two solid seasons in the National League. Adds valuable depth to a unit that would often carry a green rookie or past-his-prime vet in this spot.
Prediction: If the starting pitching holds up for the entire season and the bats produce even a trifling of what they should, this could be a very scary team. Must prove first and foremost that, as well as beating up on the Kansas City’s and Cleveland’s of the world, they now have the firepower to take on the likes of New York and Anaheim (teams that destroyed them in ’09). A division championship is a very achievable goal, with the sights set on further venturing into the playoff tournament.
I know I’m a little late on this, as the New Years parties are all but forgotten already, but I wanted to take a few moments to recount some of my favorite Minnesota Twins memories of the decade past:
2000: When a team features such players as Jay Canizaro, Butch Huskey, Jason Maxwell, Sean Bergman, and Mike Lincoln, it was a bit difficult to really get excited about the teams’ chances. However, having just been introduced to the sport and completely enthralled by it, I can remember going to the basically-empty Metrodome (been to a T-Wolves game lately?) with my Dad, buying an outfield seat, and then moving right up close to home plate because not even the ushers cared what you did back then!
2001: The team finally comes together and starts winning thanks to players like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton. The Twins didn’t win the division, but after nearly a decade of losing baseball, they finally brought some excitement back to the Dome.
2002: The year I learned to hate Bud Selig. In an effort to make MLB more profitable, Selig hatches a scheme to contract two franchise to bolster the others. The obvious choice were the Montreal Expos (later to become the Washington Nationals), but the Twins? Obviously some back-room buyout deals between Buddy-Boy and Twins owner Carl Pohlad were occuring. Luckily, MLB realized that contraction was ill-advised and allowed the Twins to easily capture their first division title since 1991.
2003: After a dominating 2002 campaign, the Twins were nearly out of the division race at midseason of ’03. However, after acquiring outfielder Shannon Stewart from the Blue Jays to bat lead-off, the Twins took off and won the division nearly going-away.
2004: Of the back-to-back-to-back division title winning teams, this squad was the best. In the ALDS, the Twins took the first game at Yankee Stadium and were on the brink of going up 2-0 heading home. However, Joe Nathan (who had taken over for the departed Eddie Guardado and been completely dominant the entire season) led an extra-inning lead slip away and give the Yankees momentum to win that game and then sweep both at the Dome. Of course, maybe it was just fate, as those Yanks proceeded to go up 3-0 on the Red Sox and well, Dave Roberts can tell you the rest…
2005: Not a fun year for Twins Territory. We didn’t outright suck, but we never really competed for the crown, either. Even the usually stoic Brad Radke was overheard griping about the lack of run support from a horrendous offensive unit. Also, this was the year that tensions erupted between Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and a few blows were thrown, one that somehow connected with little Lew Ford!
2006: The Twins spent one day in first place, but since it was the final day they made it count! They played well pretty much the entire season, but so did the Tigers. A late-season hot streak pushed the Twins over the top on the season’s final day.
2007: How quickly a team can go from “contending” to “rebuilding”. In the first losing season under Ron Gardenhire, a lack of fundamentals and downright sloppy baseball made the final month of the season almost unwatchable.
2008: After underachieving all season, the Twins basically needed to win out the final week of the season, starting with a sweep of the White Sox, whom they were chasing for the division title. I was at all three of those games at the Dome, and they are (easily) the most exciting games I have ever been to. The Twins would later lose to the Tighty Whities in a one-game playoff, but not before some of the most exciting baseball I have ever witnessed.
2009: (Read: 2008). This time the Twins make the one-game playoff count in the most exciting single baseball game I have ever watched!
It was a great decade of Twins baseball memories…why not try for another one?!
During the early goings of September of the 2009 Twins baseball season, it looked as if game number 162 (the contest that typically ends the MLB season unless you happen to play in the Midwest) would be a great remembrance of all the baseball that the Metrodome had produced before giving way to Target Field next season. A post-game ceremony down on the field after that game was both parts touching and entertaining, but there was just one problem…the old Dome wasn’t done; it would go on to host two more games!
Thus, it never really felt as if the Metrodome got that proper sense of ending as maybe it should have…that moment when you just look around and soak it all in. Obviously, with the New York Yankees celebrating, it wasn’t the time for that feeling. That is why I would now like to relive my favorite moments of being at the Dome. Perhaps you will remember some of these as well:
-1990: My first memory of the Dome recalls seeing Kirby Puckett being given the Silver Slugger award for winning the batting title the previous year. While going through the turnstiles that day, I got a black bat “signed” by Puck that I believe I still have stashed away to this day.
-1991: Though most fans may only remember the ’91 seaons for Puckett’s Game Six and Black Jack’s Game Seven, there was also quite a heated race (at least for awhile) with the Oakland A’s. Back then, when both teams were part of the AL West division, the A’s were the powerhouse team of the circuit. They came into a summer series at the Dome and jumped way ahead of the Twins in every game thanks to the power of guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Dave Henderson (looking back, can you imagine all the steroids coursing through those veins?). However, the Twins scrapped back in every game and won them all. I was lucky enough to be at the one that everyone remembers, where the Twins rallied against Dennis Eckersley (the Mariano Rivera of his day) on a triple from Chili Davis that RF Canseco played like a pin-ball down in the corner. As Jose was bouncing around, a fan overhanging right field chucked an unravelling roll of toilet paper down onto the field, only adding to the mayhem!
-1996-2000: I really began following the Twins with a passion in ’96, but from then until ’00 the Twins were perennial cellar-dwellers. Not to be deterred, though, my Dad and I would still get down to the Dome a few times each year to watch guys like Bob Tewksbury, Pat Mahomes, Brent Gates, Rich Becker, and Scott Stahoviak (among others) battle to not lose 100 games. I didn’t seem to care about the futility, I guess, as I still root-root-rooted for the home team with all I had. The attendance was so poor during those years that one could (and we often did) guy a cheap ticket and move right up behind the infield. Believe it or not, there were no users to stop people!
A more specific game from that time period involves a field trip with my sixth grade class. My exact recollection of the event is understandably a bit hazy, but the Twins were facing Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox. The game went into extra innings, the Twins loaded the bases with no outs, but then two guys (one of which I’m positive was Terry Steinbach) struck out. The next batter then singled to win the game (I want to say it was Pat Meares, but I could be wrong).
-2002: Fifteen innings of baseball against the Atlanta Braves. Bobby Cox got tossed in the first inning, the Twins roughed up Greg Maddux, and Christian Guzman’s double off the baggy scored Tom Prince (pictured above) to win it. Once you do the fourteenth-inning stretch, you never forget it!
-2002: With the Twins already having locked up the division title, they hosted the beaten White Sox to close out the season. I was at the final two games, both won by dramatic, late-inning home runs from Bobby Kielty.
-2008: With the Twins needing to sweep the White Sox in the final homestand to stay in the playoff race, they do just that. I was at all three thrillers, but of course momst remember the final contest when the Twins fell behind early but clawed back into it thanks to a dramatic triple from Denard Span. A walk-off hit from Alexi Casilla sealed it in extra innings.
So, those are my fondest, brightest memories of the Metrodome. Though many malign it as a dump and unfit for the National Pastime, it is the only home turf I have ever seen the Twins play on, and no one can take that from me. Though Target Field may prove to be a rousing success (or a miserable failure, whatever the case may be), it will always be the Dome that holds my childhood baseball nostalgia.
Garth brooks – the dance (clip)
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Well, it’s been a little while since I last updated this blog, but I think perhaps (during that time) I have gained the proper perspective from which to evaluate the 2009 Minnesota Twins.
As Garth so poignantly sings:
I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance
That simple verse pretty much sums up my memories of the 2009 Twins baseball season. Sure, it ended with a bitter taste in our collective mouths, but would we rather have just missed out on the postseason altogether? Heck no!!
Much like in 2006, when I watched the Twins clinch the division on (until a few weeks ago) what many considered to be the most improbable streaks in team history, 2009 was somehow even more thrilling! I’ll never forget the anticipation of each late-September contest, feeling the Dome rocking that final weekend against Kansas City, or watching game #163 (for the second year in a row!) that turned out to be the single most exciting baseball game I have ever watching in my entire life (I was a bit too young to be conscious for any of the ’91 World Series).
Thus, that is the way I will look back on the Twins when I recall 2009. It was witnessing an incredible comeback (no outs, no one on) in game #2 of the season, watching Joe Mauer put together the greatest season in catching history, and seeing my team completely put a fork in its most hated rival (the Pale Hose) time and time again.
Another way to look at things is this: The Twins, a team that couldn’t pitch all season and couldn’t get clutch hits for a good part of it, managed to play 166 games…four more than 23 other teams counting both leagues.
Since the Twins began their “competitive” run in 2002 after nearly a decade of celler-dwelling and being the butt of countless jokes, there is one take-away memory I have of each season…
2002: Making the playoffs.
2003: Getting Shannon Stewart and overcoming a large first-half deficit.
2004: Dominating the division and having the Yankees on the ropes in the ALDS.
2005: Not being able to hit all season long and having even the always-stoic Brad Radke begin to grouse about it.
2006: The Comeback (Part I)
2007: Too much youth, too many bonehead plays.
2008: Sweeping the White Sox on the final homestand to stay in contention.
2009: The Comeback (Part II); especially that one-game playoff.
Though none of those season ended with the team hoisting a trophy or parading around a city, they still bring back some great memories that still make it all worthwhile.
Coming up next: A look at my favorite Metrodome moments