Results tagged ‘ Royals ’
As I sit here writing this blog post, the Minnesota Twins currently reside in the cellar of the AL Central division. The last time they finished a season that low in the standings was 2000, when I was starting high school and didn’t yet even have cable to watch them on MSC (Midwest Sports Channel, the precursor to FSN).
Some “classic” names on that ’00 roster included Ron Coomer, Jay Canizaro, Matt Lawton, Butch Huskey, Midre Cummings, Sean Bergman, and Mark Redman.
Suffice it to say, it is strange to be in the position of looking up at the KC Royals after being on the “other side” for so long. A bit humbling, I suppose.
I remember a few months ago, with the Twins in fourth place, my goal was to see the team move up slot by slot in the standings. Well, the opposite has transpired and now the goal becomes climbing out of the basement back to respectability.
Finally, a Twins callup from Rochester (AAA) is taking the opportunity of a lifetime and running with it. Anthony Swarzak made his second consecutive strong start, the Twins (even without Thome/Kubel) knocked out a bunch of runs, and we inched one game closer to fourth place. Gee whiz, I know, but progress is progress at this point. Maybe a series win on the road can occur next??!!
Preview (18-37, 5th, 6.5 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (2-5, 5.19) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.11)
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.
-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)
According to Miley, I guess there are seven things to hate about people. Well, there are three less ways to lose a major league baseball game, and the Twins have utilized almost all of them in the span of two days.
Thursday Noon: Starting pitching doesn’t give you a chance.
Thursday Night: Absolutely no offense (no-hit through six innings).
Friday Night: Had a lead in the late innings, then the bullpen blew it
About the only other way to lose a game at the major league level is through poor fielding. Gulp.
Preview (9-16, 5th, 0 GB CWS): Brian Duensing (2-0, 3.00) vs. Sean O’Sullivan (1-1, 4.20)
For previous seasons, I have written very detailed summaries about the Twins’ chances in the upcoming season. This year, however, I think that all the storylines have been covered ad nauseum. We are all nervous about Nathan, Morneau, everyday Casilla, Mauer’s health, and the bullpen.
Thus, instead of an in-depth analysis, here is a quick look at the other teams in the division and how I think we stack up against them:
Cleveland Indians: This team is a mess. From what I see, it will be years before they compete for anything.
Kansas City Royals: Are probably still a year or two away from a serious run at winning baseball, but could seriously begin that process at any time. Still make too many dumb mistakes to consistently win ballgames. Both pitching and hitting is improving, however, to the point where expecting to sweep them (even on their turf, like in previous years!) is unrealistic.
Detroit Tigers: Good luck figuring this team out year-to-year. They have enough general talent to compete, but their streakiness is incredible. Remember who was leading the division at the AS break last year? I believe it was the Tigers (I know it wasn’t us). Then…complete collapse. I don’t see them putting up enough of a fight to win the division unless they put on a huge streak in the waning months.
Chicago White Sox: The team that can challenge us because of their pitching (especially bullpen) and power hitting. That being said, they better have a pretty big lead heading into that final month, because we OWN them (especially on our turf) come September.
I won’t say that the Twins will waltz away with the division in 2011, but I think it is clear that another division title is easily within our grasp. If key guys stay healthy and get their innings/at-bats, I think we’re still the favorites to repeat.
Just heard the other night that Mike Sweeney retired. Whew! Talk about a Twin-killer! He OWNED our pitching during his long stint with the Kansas City Royals, then continued his mastery of our hurlers in Oakland and Seattle. I always cringed when he came up to bat against us.
Good guy, though, who just had a solid career with the bat. A career .297 hitter with 215 home runs. Not too shabby, especially considering all the years on dismal KC teams.
Oh yeah, this guy retired too…
I’ll always remember Mike Hampton for those couple of dominating seasons he had early in his career with the Houston Astros. Sadly, after being traded to the Braves (in a huge deal at the time) injury woes got the better of him and pretty much rendered him spotty for the rest of his career.
Last year ended (at least the regular season) about as exciting as a Twins season has ever come to a close (see above).
This year obviously felt a little different. For most of today’s regular season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, the 3-4-5 batters were: Drew Butera, Ben Revere, and Trevor Plouffe.
This occured due to the Twins trying to rest guys for the playoffs, but it was still a bit disconcerting to see the team lose so many games after clinching. I’m not too worried, though, for this reason:
Last year in the ALDS against the Yankees, the Twins Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, and Matt Tolbert in the starting lineup. No such thing will happen this year, as those guys are replaced (respectively) by Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and Danny Valencia.
We know that our first-round opponent this year will again be the Yankees, but I’ll have more on that matchup in a later post.
Final AL Central Standings:
|Chi White Sox||88||-74||6.0|
If the playoffs were to start right now, the Twins would go against the Rays and could trot out Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Brian Duensing in the first three games. After Duensing’s domination of the Royals last night, I like those odds.
A starting pitcher SHOULD dominate the paltry KC Royals offerings, and that is exactly what Duensing did. It may have been the most impressive pitching performance of the season, considering the fact that KC (despite scratching out one weak run) really had no chance against Brian all night long.
Big hits from Tolbert and Span provided the offense against Zack Greinke, who the Twins have now bested four times this season.
I’ll be rooting on my Minnesota Vikings tonight while the Twins hope a plane to Cleveland, but also be keeping my eye on the White Sox game, as a loss could put them a full six games back in the division race!
Preview (83-57, 1st, 5.5 GA CWS): Carl Pavano (16-10, 3.52) vs. Fausto Carmona (11-14, 4.05)
Another one of those games where the Royals pretty much hand us a win and all we have to do is take it from them.
However, in the midst of a 10-3 drubbing, Jim Thome continued to amaze:
Once again, a mighty hack from Big Thome produced a deep bomb over the right field bleachers and bouncing around out on the pavilion. This one (#586) tied him with Frank Robinson on the all-time list.
As long as his back holds out down the stretch and through the (hopefully!) playoffs, he could be just the bat we have been looking for against the likes of the Yankees or Rays (no more Brian Buscher coming off the bench in key playoff spots).
-Ben Revere makes his major league debut. Exciting player who could help in the field and on the bases down the stretch.
-Very intriguing to see Pat Neshek back on the mound. He struggled tonight, but if he can get right he could be a deadly weapon in the pennant race.
Preview (82-57, 1st, 4.5 GA CWS): Zack Grienke (8-11, 3.87) vs. Brian Duensing (7-2, 2.09)