Results tagged ‘ Metrodome ’

Anticipation


c49be18a-1f93-4141-ae91-7b011a093d0d.jpgWell folks, here we go again. Just an hour and a half away from the game that we all have been waiting for.

Just like last year, before a game of this magnitude and improbability, I can’t help but think back on all that has transpired over the past 162 games.  All the opportunities we had to be in the playoffs outright right now, vs. all the times we came back when we probably shouldn’t have won.

However, all that is behind us now.  All either team has to do is take care of business…and we have “Dome turf”.

Preview (86-76, T-1st w/DET): Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) vs. Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36).

Why Exactly Are We Moving Out Of Here Again?

b04c3acb-5040-499b-914d-21abe2ed58f7.jpgWell folks, here we go again!!  As common as .500 baseball has been for the Twins over the past two or three seasons, just as common has been incredibly inspired late-season play. 

After taking the first game in this playoff-like Dome series against the Tigers last night thanks to the brilliant pitching of Brian Duensing, the Twins needed to keep the momentum going this afternoon and did so in spectacular fashion.

For the first seven innings, this game was the tightest of pitchers duels, with Carl Pavano’s hex on the Tiger bats matching Justin Verlander’s 99 mph heater.  Both teams got a run early, and the Tigers scored again in the third to go up 2-1, a score that would hold until the bottom of the eighth inning.

Really, though, the momentum in this game began to shift in the top half of that inning.  With Pavano out of the game after having pitched incredibly well, the ball was given to the ever-shaky Jesse Crain…who proceeded to get three quick outs on just eleven pitches (I probably should heap the credit on Crain tonight, as somewhere along the line I will be quick to jump all over him a bit later).

Of course, things didn’t look all that bad for Verlander in that fateful eighth to begin with, as Punto struck out and Span hit one of his patented singles to land on first.  Orlando Cabrera then lifted a lazy fly ball to left field that Don Kelly, who had been put into the game as a defensive substition just an inning previous, easily had measured…until he didn’t, of course, and the ball dropped to put runners on second and third.  With opposing teams only having to deal with those kind of Dome Balls for five more contests, the baseball gods must be getting their money’s worth.

Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Jason Kubel promptly doinked a single into left that scored both Span and Cabrera to give the Twins a lead.  That was the end of the night for Verlander, but the firemen didn’t do much better, as Brandon Lyon quickly served up a three-run jack to the suddenly red-hot Michael Cuddyer to give the Twins a 6-2 cushion, which would amount to the final score.

For the first time in quite awhile, I am seriously considering watching the Twins over the Vikings tomorrow afternoon.  I usually award that time-slot to the footballers due to their once-a-week status, but there is just too much excitement emanating from the Metrodome right now to turn away!  Since the Vikes start at noon and the Twins’ opening pitch is 1:10, I’ll at least have a bit of time to see how the Vikes game is going (maybe they’ll be beating the Lions so badly it won’t even be a decision!).

Preview (76-72, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Nate Robertson (1-2, 5.35) vs. Scott Baker (13-8, 4.35).  Basically, this game could decide the season.  A win pretty much evens things up, while a loss likely means that perfection will be needed down the stretch.

Blame It (On The T-T-T-T-T-T-T-Twins)


abd12ee9-c0c5-4ce0-9a3a-3447ff6bc19e.jpgLast night, as the Chicago White Sox opened their last three-game series at their personal house of horrors, the Metrodome, the team was essentially playing for the rest of the season in one night. With the post-season roster deadline kicking in at midnight, it represented teams’ last chance to improve their club for the stretch run.  The Pale Hose were the epitomy of a bubble team, quickly fading from the AL Central race and needing to win this series to have any realistic hopes of remaining in the conversation.

Good thing that the Twins showed up to play then, huh?!  Nick Blackburn (7 IP, 1 ER, 7K) continued his mastery of the Sox, while both Jo-Mo and Kubel went deep for most of the home boys’ offense.  Can you believe that Mauer (now at 26 dingers) has a shot at 30?!  If Albert Pujols is the undisputed king of NL hitters, than Joe Mauer obviously holds that position in the junior circuit.

After the loss, then, the Pale Hosers decided to cut bait, trading Jim Thome and Jon Garland to the LA Dodgers and sending Jose Contreras to the Colorado Rockies.  So even if the Twins don’t game another game on the Tigers all season, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that he did our part to knock our fiercest rivals out of it (sounds crass, yes, but I cannot and will not sympathize with a team coached by a nutjob like Ozzie Guillen).

Notes:

-Wild prediction of the day: The Tampa Bay Rays will win the Wild Card in the AL.

-Speaking of the Rays, their big slugger Carlos Pena, quite remarkably, has more home runs than singles this season.  Baseball Tonight continues to chart his progress, and it would be funny to see him finish that way.  I believe Mark McGwire did that in his 70-homer season, if I’m not mistaken (or at least was close).

Preview (66-65, 2nd, 3.5 GB DET): John Danks (12-8, 3.82) vs. Jeff Manship (0-0, 5.14). Manship starting a game scares me a bit, but at least he won’t have Big Thome to deal with anymore!

 

Good Deal

Well, for the first time since Shannon Stewart was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2003, the Minnesota Twins finally pulled the trigger on a mid-season addition, this time in the form of A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera:

130984_Athletics_Rangers_Baseball.jpgPersonally, I think this is a GREAT move for the Twins to have made, as Cabrera plays great defense and hits, at .280, rougly 70-80 points better than Nick Punto on any given day. Plus, he is on a terror with the bat (.377 this month) right now, so maybe we’re getting him just when he is starting to peak this year.

Back in ’03, when Stewart came on board, the Twins miraculously went from a team almost out of contention, to one that won the division almost going away. It’s amazing what a little excitement (from a big trade) can do for the players on a team. Shannon brought the leadoff presence that year, while now Cabrera brings offense out of the #2 hole in the lineup (exactly what we need).

What will be interesting is how Harris, Casilla, and Punto will be used now that Orlando is in town. Harris was terrible at the second sack last year, but can (and will) play third when (not if, unfortunately) Crede needs to be out of the lineup. That leaves Punto and Casilla at second, and assuming Gardy doesn’t stroke out in the near future, we all know what that means (although batting ninth, one is probably just as good as the other).

By the way, I attended the first two Twins/Sox games at the Dome earlier this week, and really, is there any better feeling than sweeping the Sox?! Hey, maybe we can give the Angels a little payback this time around now that Cabrera is on our side!

Other deadline deals:

-Victor Martinez is on the verge of going to the Red Sox.

-Halladay is still a Jay (two minutes to go!)

-Tigers acquired starter Jarrod Washburn

Preview (52-50, 2nd, 2.0 GB DET): Ervin Santana (3-6, 7.29) vs. Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.75). No Cabrera yet tonight, but Blackie might not need him.

House of Horrors

When the White Sox come into the Metrodome, do you think that songs like that are running through their brain?!   Amazingly, after looking like a glorified Double-A squad against the Yankees, the Twins were able to put together a strong effort and inch back towards that runner-up slot in the AL Central.

Of course, in the first inning it helped when Chicago starter turned the game into the rough equivalent of one of these:

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Danks walked the first four batters of the game and a big hit from Jason Kubel gave the Twins an early lead. Of course, since nothing is easy with this year’s bunch, the White Sox kept pecking away at the defecit until finally tying it in the sixth inning (only a tremendous leaping catch from Michael Cuddyer at the base of the baggie prevented the Sox from taking a lead). I was a bit nervous at this point, but Blackie was still pitching well and the pen did their job the rest of the way. This should come as no surprise, but this guy…
18797011-0959-4c36-9373-16a644e0f41e.jpg…got the big two out hit in the seventh inning that put the Twins in front, while a perfect squeeze bunt from Carlos Gomez an inning later scored Matt Tolbert (pinch running for Kubel after his third hit of the game) with a big insurance run that allowed Joe Nathan to do his thing in the ninth:
6ef10c34-51ee-4b12-b659-4ad5586ceccf.jpgPreview (44-43, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Gavin Floyd (6-6, 4.33) vs. Glen Perkins (4-4, 4.38). Ozzie Guillen juggled his rotation to have his Big Three horses face the Twins this weekend. That went well (at least so far).

Payback

 

you_got_owned_yel.gif The last time the Twins and Yankees met, earlier this season in mid-May at Yankee Stadium, the Twins got owned, plain and simple.  We played tough in every game, yet the Yanks always found a way to come back and beat us in the late or extra innings.

However, things have always been a bit different at the Metrodome (save for the ’03 and ’04 ALDS series’) for the Yankees.  While they haven’t exactly struggled at the park, they also haven’t come in too many times and waltzed all over us, either.  If the Twins are on their “A” game, they can compete with anybody, but the difficult part is doing it for all nine innings against the Bronx Bombers.  With other teams you can have easy outs or innings, but against New York it is easy for things to spiral out of control at any time, what with the cavalcade of hitters they send up to the plate one after another (no Buscher-Punto-Gomez combination in that lineup).

As you can probably tell, I’m pumped for tonight’s contest.  Maybe we’ll even see some of this…

Mean?  Yeah.  Deserved?  Absolutely!

Preview (43-40, 2nd, 1.5 GB DET): C.C. Sabathia (7-5, 3.85) vs. Scott Baker (6-6, 4.99). All things considered, there really couldn’t be a more fitting way for this series to begin.  Baker is, rather mysteriously, a historic Yankee killer, while the Twins will be reacquainted with old nemesis C.C., who either owns us or gets rattled in the early innings.

A Much-Needed Victory

9260ad8b-1ca6-4191-a21d-329a7ce2e299.jpgIf you read my blog post last night, it was pretty obvious that I was angry at the way the Twins (despite picking up the victory) let the game end on Tuesday night.  Thus, I was very glad to see Liriano pitch a good game tonight, as well as the bats coming alive in the late innings (when was the last time THAT happened on the road?!) to get the ball to Joe Nathan in an opposing stadium.

I always just want to add tonight that, no matter what happens the rest of this season, I will be pulling for the Twins all the way.  That sounds like an incredibly obvious thing to say, but it seems as if a lot of negativity has been floating around the Twins this season.  Whether it is hating on the bullpen, the Baker/Liriano early-season disaster, or a few batsmen (Delmon Young, Brian Buscher, etc.), there hasn’t been a whole of positivity so far into the ’09 season.  Though all those areas are ripe for criticism, I think that sometimes we all need (including myself) to remember that this really is just a game.  It’s like little league…you play your heart out on the field, but once the final out is recorded you don’t take it with you whether win or loss.

A few years ago, while writing for the University of Minnesota-Morris campus newspaper, The University Register, I wrote an article entitled “Why We Watch Baseball”.  I would like to copy that into this blog post, as I think it really rings true this season:

Why We Watch Baseball

-With those who don’t give a (hoot) about sports, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them. (Art Hill)

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base. (Dave Barry)…A couple of months ago, a friend of my sister happened to be over at my family’s home for dinner.  This being summer time, my nightly ritual of watching the Twins game was about to commence.  After the meal, she plopped down on the coach next to me and asked: Why do you like watching baseball?  Not being mentally prepared for that kind of question, I gave the typical male answer: “Grunt…Because it’s better than shopping…grunt”.  However, that was not good enough for her inquisitive mind, as she launched into a lecture of how professional sports mean absolutely nothing.  As she mentioned something about starving people in Africa, I realized that I had nothing (at that time) to refute her claims.  The games themselves do mean nothing in the grand context of history and there are more important endeavors in life than stealing second base.  So, why do we watch baseball?  The following argument could be applied to all professional sports, but I am going to keep it confined to a baseball context.

I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tends to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. (Walt Whitman)…A young boy idolizes his dad and wants to do everything with him.  The dad, a big baseball fan, teaches his son about the game.  They play whiffle ball in the back yard, watch Twins games together, and talk to each other about the game.  Political events have no bearing on the young boy’s life at this time, but baseball does.  Through the sport of baseball they are able to form a common bond that will last the rest of their lives, through good times and bad. 

Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America. (Bruce Catton)…The same boy has a grandfather who is 84 years old.  The grandpa lived through the Great Depression, spent his childhood working on a farm, and served his country during World War II.  The boy grew up playing video games, reading science fiction novels, and the closest he ever came to a battlefield was Risk or Fort Apache.  The binding factor between the two–baseball.  While each came from completely different backgrounds and ideologies, making communication with each other difficult, the love of sports provided a bond.  They may not be able to bridge the generation gap, but it is easy to debate the merits of Johan Santana versus Dizzy Dean (the grandfather’s favorite pitcher as a child) or how Rogers Hornsby (star player of the 1920′s and 30′s) would have fared against today’s pitchers.

Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  True.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. (George F. Will)…Now that same boy has left home for college.  He finds the transition difficult, but smoothened by one thing–baseball.  Getting through the day might be a struggle, but at night he can watch the Twins on TV or listen to John Gordon bring the game alive on the radio.  The games relax him and give him something other than school to think about.  After a while his spirits raise and he is able to do much better in his classes.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. (Rogers Hornsby)…At the beginning of his second semester of college, the boy is feeling lonely again.  Spring will be coming soon and he feels trapped, away from his family or anyone to talk to.  He begins writing for the school newspaper–sports, of course.  This gives him something creative to do and a way to meet new people.  He becomes motivated to make himself more physically fit, letting the Twins take his mind off the treadmill he pounds every night.

             Most people are in a factory from nine till five.  Their job may be to turn out 263 little circles.  At the end of the week they’re three short and somebody has a go at them.  On Saturday afternoons they deserve something to go and shout about. (Rodney Marsh)…When the boy goes home on weekends, the last thing he wants to do is talk about the hard week of studying that has transpired.  He is tired from the week and wants to relax with his family.  What a better opportunity than a baseball game?  Whether it means making the trip to the Metrodome or watching on TV, baseball allows the boy to unwind before another tough week.  It transports him (for a few hours at least) into a world where the concerns of real-life seem to melt away.

            Don’t tell me about the world.  Not today.  It’s springtime and they’re knocking a baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball. (Pete Hamill)… The boy has now passed his love of baseball on to his two younger brothers.  They play in Little League over the summer, as well as endless games of the MVP Baseball 2005 video game.  Once school starts again, emails are sent back and forth about favorite baseball teams and players.

            I don’t love baseball.  I don’t love most of today’s players.  I don’t love the owners.  I do love, however, the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans.  I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds.  The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports. (Stan Isaacs)…So as you can see, the sport of baseball does have the power to enrich a life.  Or, more specifically, my life; as I am the boy.  While on occasion it has made stay up a little too late (darn extra-innings!) or ignore the outside world because “the game is on”, baseball’s positive influence in my life has outweighed the negatives.

You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too. (Roy Campanella)…To further appreciate the impact that baseball can have on one’s life, please see the movie Field of Dreams.  My favorite sports movie of all-time, it focuses on the relationship between father and son and how that relationship can be enhanced through a mutual love of baseball.  At one point in the movie, James Earl Jones (aka Voice of the Baseball Gods) explains how baseball is able to leave its mark on a person.  I leave you with his quote…

            The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.  This game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again. (Field of Dreams) 

Preview (30-31, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (5-2, 3.30) vs. Trevor Cahill (3-5, 4.21).  Another no-name Oakland pitcher…the days of Zito, Mulder, and Hudson seem so long ago! 

Road Woes

road.jpgThough playing in the friendly confines of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome tonight against the Cleveland Indians, where the Twins are 19-11 so far this year, inevitably the team will have to hit the road again soon, where they are 6-16.

My question is: Why??????????????????????????????????????

Are the pillows at the hotel not fluffed up enough?

Are the players just suffering from a mental block?

Does Gardy and his coaching crew need to try something different to motivate his players on the road?

Is having “last ups” really that important?

Heck, if the Twins can’t compete at Tropicana Field, the closest thing to the Dome there is in the AL right now, then what chance do we have to go into, say, Boston or Anaheim and pick up even a single victory.

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?  I just don’t get it.  At the Dome, the pitchers (even Liriano) look terrific and the bats get the job done on a nightly basis.  Yet, have us bat in the top of innings and we look like “Hitless Wonders” and our pitchers get clobbered.

I mean, it’s still baseball, isn’t it?  The same dimensions, same batters, same pitchers, same basic strategies…yet a huge disparity exists.

Preview (25-27, 3rd, 4.5 GB DET): David Huff (0-1, 10.97) vs. Kevin Slowey (7-1, 4.11).  A few more quality starts and the Slow-dog may start to garner some All-Star recognition.

The Passing of Mr. Pohlad

 


pohlad.jpg(First of all, I apologize for using such an unflattering picture of Carl Pohlad in this post, but you will understand why I made the choice in a few moments of reading).

Yesterday, I heard the news that Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad passed away from natural causes (essentially old age).  Before I critique his presence as owner of my favorite sports franchise now and forever, I would like to extend my condolences to anyone who knew Mr. Pohlad on a personal level.  From what I have gathered about the man over the years, he was very close to his family/friends/Twins staff/players, so I’m sure they are all grieving his loss right now.  Also, I cannot personally begrudge a man who served his country during World War II and, if not for a case of Poison Oak, would have hit the beach at Normandy in 1944.

However, in all honesty, I think that the Twins as an organization are better off in the hands of Carl Pohlad’s son Jim Pohlad’s hands (and have been for the last few years).  There are two reasons why I never really could throw my support behind Carlos as an owner:

First, of course, was his stinginess with his money.  Although I don’t blame Carl for trying to spend with the big boys (Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, etc.), as do you spend your personal earnings at work (?), he was notoriously one of the more penny-pinching owners of the 1980s and 1990s and severely hindered the Twins’ chances of contending any earlier than they did.  Pohlad took over ownership of the Twins in 1984, and really only had a few great seasons.  The Twins lucked out in 1987 and won the World Series, then (when Carl finally signed a few key free agents like Jack Morris and Chili Davis) put together a solid team in 1991 and again captured the title.  However, from that point until the new millennium, Carl refused to spend any money on the team and turned it into the laughingstock of the American League.  It wasn’t until the early portion of the 21st century, when Carl’s involvement in the operations of the team (because of his advancing age) started to be turned over to son Jim, that the Twins really began to aggressively pursue a winning tradition.  Before that, Carl was just completely unwilling to “open the purse strings” in the slightest.

Secondly, I lost a lot of respect for the business side of Carl Pohlad on three different occasions.  Though, on one side of his mouth, Carl said he wanted to keep the Twins in Minnesota, he came dangerously close to selling out to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver in 1997.  Then in 2002, Pohlad conspired with baseball commissioner Bud Selig to contract the Twins franchise and receive a large cash payback from MLB.  Luckily, the contraction idea was terminated at the eleventh hour and the Twins (ironically) went on to win three consecutive division titles.  Finally, just a few years after that, the Twins again came close to leaving Minnesota when they couldn’t get a new stadium.  Only a Metrodome lease kept the team grounded.

So, though I don’t want to begrudge Mr. Pohlad or his family, I don’t think he was a very good owner for the Twins when all is said and done.  The last mistake I think he made was not transferring official duties to his son, Jim, much earlier.  As pictured above, the last few years of his life were spent with his eyes seemingly “pasted” shut and an inability to even stand up.  Running a major league baseball team is a young man’s work, and Carl held out a bit too long out of pride.

I think that the Minnesota Twins, overall, are in better hands under Carl’s son Jim, who has proven himself very shrewd at balancing the financial aspect while also keeping the team competitive.

Hrbek’s “Tales From the Dugout”

hrbeks-tales.jpg

I just finished reading Kent Hrbek’s book “Tales From The Minnesota Twins Dugout”, and was not impressed in the least.  Here is a review of the book that I wrote on Amazon.com that I thought was appropriate to share on this Twins blog:

Before my review, a little Kent Hrbek anecdote: A few years ago, while attending the annual TwinsFest event at the Metrodome, I waited in line to get a picture taken with the big guy at his booth promoting his outdoors TV show. Before the photo, I commented on how exciting it was to be there, while all Hrbek could do was mope about wanting to be out on the lake fishing.

So, with that experience firmly planted in my mind, I was only cautiously optimistic that Herbie’s book would be any more exciting than the man himself. As it turned out, this book only confirmed to me that Hrbek is an arrogant jerk who never really applied himself to the sport that set him up for life.

A few (just a few, to be sure) of the things that bothered me in this book included…

-Hrbek calling baseball a “team sport”, which it is, but then lauding his two World Series rings like they make him some sort of Minnesotan God.
-Hrbek not taking a stand on any issues. He claims to be this straight-shooting personality, but never comes close giving his real thoughts on things like steroids, his off-and-on friendship with Gary Gaetti, and the effort (very little) he put into improving his baseball skills. Instead, he couches his “memoirs” with enough “buts” and “althoughs” to get himself off the hook in every situation.

To me, Kent Hrbek has achieved a very false celebrity status her in Minnesota by cashing in on his Bloomington roots and dumb luck of playing on two championship clubs (he certainly didn’t carry those teams). Thus, the only reason I gave this book even a two-star rating is because I encourage Twins fans to read it…not because of the actual concepts, but so you can better understand the type of man that Hrbek really is.

I don’t like saying those things about a former member of the Minnesota Twins organization, but unfortunately they are true in relation to Hrbek, and this book only exacerbates his negative persona.

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