Results tagged ‘ Royals ’

AL MVP and Back To The Division

Peddy.jpgTwo MLB notes I wanted to report today…

1. Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox was named AL MVP.  The Twins’ Justin Morneau was second in the balloting (although not a close second), and Joe Mauer was fourth.  As much as it would have been fun to see a Twin win the award for the second time in three seasons, Pedroia deserved the hardware after having perhaps the best season by a second baseman in the history of modern baseball.  His defense was flawless, and he can hit for power, shoot the gaps, and run extremely well.  He should be a force in the AL for many years to come.  Albert Pujols took home the NL MVP.

2. Just today, it was announced that the Red Sox traded CF Coco Crisp to the Kansas City Royals for relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez.  Just what the Twins needed…another quality player (and one who would single-handedly beat us when he was in Cleveland, at that) joining a division foe.

World Series Failing? Let Rivalries Develop

1_61_fenway320.jpgThis week, while reading an article in Sports Illustrated magazine, I came across a rather lengthy article (although I cannot recall by whom) discussing how the World Series needs to re-establish its place as the crown-jewel of the baseball season, as in recent seasons (most dramatically this year) the event has lost huge viewership numbers, even losing to the NBA Finals in some seasons.  The author of the article layed out a few solutions to the problem, such as starting games earlier (so kids and working adults can watch them), speeding up pitching changes, and doing something to take bad weather out of the equation (like mandating that all new parks be built with a retractable roof).  However, I had a much different response to that article that I wanted to share on this blog…

To me, the drop in World Series luster in the recent years has, ironically, been caused by baseball’s biggest accomplishment…parity (eight different teams have played in the World Series the past four years).  Think back to when the World Series was a premiere event…it was because the New York Yankees were dominating and everyone either loved them or loved to hate them.  Realistically, the Yankees’ last playoff hurrah was in 2004 (when the Red Sox made their improbable comeback)…since then, the World Series just hasn’t been the same in terms of viewership (the Sox got a boost from beating the Yanks, of course).

So, at least in my mind, the best way to return to a star-studded World Series again is to let a big-market team dominate the playing field again.  However, I am terribly opposed to that sort of economic structure (despite the excitement it brings to the playoffs, as who didn’t have a rooting interest in the Yankees either way over the past decade?!), so here is what I think is the next best solution…let the natural MLB rivalries develop.

Historically, the ALCS and NLCS series’ have often been more dramatic as the World Series just due to the fact that both teams (being in the same league) know each other so well.  During the late 1990s and early 2000s, such rivalries as Cardinals-Astros, Braves-Mets, Yankees-Red Sox, and even Yankees-Rangers (for Texas’ first-round futility against the Bombers) really fueled the postseason structure, creating steam for a big World Series matchup.  Because, even though the WS does not, by definition, precipitate geographic rivalries, it can be made more exciting by teams that just came off a thrilling victory.  Growing up, I was always very anti-Yankees and anti-Braves (because I despised the advantages of large market teams over “my” Twins), but that “hatred” of those teams made me watch them all the more just to see them get beat!  I think the same principle could apply to MLB today, but we just have to let a few rivalries play out.

For example, Red Sox-Rays (as pictured above) could be big for years to come, while White Sox-Twins also has potential  In the NL, the Phillies and Dodgers may “get up” for each other after that spirited NLCS, while the Cubs and Cardinals are always at each other’s throats.  Plus, who knows where new rivalries will emerge.  Just last year, no one would have ever thought Sox-Rays would turn interesting, but look what happened.  From my experience with the AL Central, the Twins and Royals have quite a rivalry, but it will only gain attention if the Royals win a few more games (Yikes!).

Thus, I don’t think that there is a “quick fix” to restoring luster to the World Series.  I would love to see games start earlier and pitching changes go a bit quicker, but that alone will not restore interest…only teams, players, and the rivalries between them.

Wanted: AL Central Champion (Go Tigers!)

WANTED.jpg

Does anybody want to win the AL Central?!  As has been the case for practically the entire season, this weekend both the Twins and White Sox had opportunities to put the division in their respective back pockets, but again all that was achieved was the status quo.

Today, while Mark Buerhle turned in a much-needed good start for the Sox against Cleveland, Scott Baker pitched the Twins to a 6-0 victory over the somewhat spoiler KC Royals (who had won the first two games of the series).  It was another one of those games where the Twins could not get the offense going until the later innings, and thus relied on a quality start from the starting pitcher to get the victory.

So, the next step to determining a postseason candidate from the AL Central comes tomorrow, when the Detroit Tigers and the White Sox make up a game that was rained out earlier in the month.  The game time is set for 1:00 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Field.  Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.91) will start for the Sox against former ChiSock Freddy Garcia (1-1, 4.50) of Detroit.  A win would set up a one-game playoff in Chicago on Tuesday, while a Pale Hose loss would give the Twins the division outright.  Go Tigers!

A few notes:

-If a one-game playoff were to occur, the Twins would send Nick Blackburn (11-10, 4.14) to the mound, while the White Sox will rely on John Danks (11-9, 3.47).

-Whoever makes the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Rays will be the opponent, with the first two games scheduled for Thursday and Friday at Tropicana Field.

-In the batting champion race, Joe Mauer currently sits at .330, while nearest competitor Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox is at .326.  Essentially, Mauer would have to go 0-7 in a possible Tuesday tiebreaker to lose the title.

The Long Walk

walk.jpgWith respect to author Stephen King, I think that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire should be the rightful owner of the “Long Walk” title, as over the past month+ he has sure done it enough times.

Today, both the Twins (hits from Morneau and Gomez) and the Royals (German and Guillen) scored early to knot the score at 2-2, but then neither team could push a run across the plate until the extra frame.  Twins starter Francisco Liriano (8 IP, 2 ER) held the Royals’ bats completely in check, as did Joe Nathan in the ninth.  Sadly, so did the KC pitchers, albeit in a different fashion.  The Twins seemed to get a runner on base nearly every inning, but just could not seem to push any of them home.  Basically, it was one of those games (that Twins fans know so well) where the bats went completely silent and the game could have gone 20 innings and the Twins probably wouldn’t have scored more than a couple more runs.

The “knockout punch” (more like a weak, glancing blow that happened to hit the perfect mark) came in the tenth, when they blooped two hits off Twins reliever Matt Guerrier.  With David DeJesus up, Gardy played his lefty-lefty matchup by bringing in Reyes from the pen, who promptly (one pitch) gave up a run-scoring single and was quickly hooked.  In the bottom of the inning, the Twins couldn’t touch the nasty stuff of Joakim Soria and went down 1-2-3.

Chalk up another blown tie for the pen, but blame the loss mainly on the bats, who should be able to rough up a guy like Duckworth.

Notes:

-At least the Twins were able to take the series from the Royals.  Now, the road trip consisting of Baltimore, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay begins.  The bad news: We’re on the road again.  The good news: Baltimore and Cleveland stink.

-I know I’m probably just jinxing things by bringing this up, but here is what I feel is the ultimate scenario for the Twins to reach the playoffs and succeed in them:  Angels (AL West, Best Record), Twins (AL Central, Worst Record of Division Leaders), Tampa Bay (AL East), Boston (AL Wild Card).  If that were to happen, the Angels would play the A’s and the Twins would play the Rays.  Call me crazy, but I think that the Twins can beat the Rays for some reason.  We would almost surely lose to Anaheim, and I think Boston would pitch us to death.

Preview (80-66, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Scott Baker (8-4, 3.66) vs. Daniel Cabrera (8-9, 5.26).  The Twins often times do not play well in Baltimore, but the Orioles are just playing out the string right now so hopefully we can catch them in a funk.

I Almost Feel Bad For KC…

beat down.jpg

Since the Minnesota Twins became a perennial contending team in 2001, the Kansas City Royals have had one season (I believe it was 2003) in which they challenged for the division title.  All those other years, the Twins have countless times either hosted or traveled to KC during the month of September, when the Royals are elbow-deep in minor league call-ups, and either swept the series or at least got our bats healthy.  In this current three-game series, that is exactly what is happening once again!

Tonight, the Twins pasted the Royals 7-1.  The Royals scored an early run in the first inning…then were held off the scoreboard for the duration.  Offensively, the Twins were led by Alexi Casilla (3-4, 2 R), Jason Kubel (3-4, 2 RBI, 1 R), Delmon Young (2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R), and Carlos Gomez (2-4, 1 RBI, 1 R).

On the mound, starting pitcher Kevin Slowey held the Royals to just four hits and one earned run over seven innings for his twelfth win, while Boof Bonser and Craig Breslow coasted the team to victory.

So, basically tonight it was just another late-season victory over the helpless, hapless Royals, who sadly seem STILL a year or two away from serious contention again.

Preview (80-65, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Francisco Liriano (5-3, 3.33) vs. Brandon Duckworth (2-1, 6.60).  With a win tomorrow afternoon (and, seriously, Duckworth?!), the Twins will assure themselves at least a .500 (81 wins) finish, something they were unable to achieve last season.

Back In The Race

slap.jpgWhen the dust finally settles on the “Great AL Central Race of ’08”, yesterday’s game (9-9-08) could very likely be viewed as the turning point of the stretch run for the Minnesota Twins.  Coming into the contest, the Twins knew that the White Sox had already lost the first game of their doubleheader with Toronto, and the Blue Jays also pulled out to an early lead in the second tilt.  Thus, with a win, the Twins knew they could jump right back into the thick of the division race once again.

The Twins got their win, although things did look a little shaky in the early innings.  Joe Mauer drove in Denard Span (who had doubled) in the first inning, but Miguel Olivo of the Royals homered to deep left-centerfield in the top of the second, tying the score.  Carlos Gomez and Span drove in two more runs in the bottom of the second to make the score 3-1, but the Royals again rallied back with one run in the top of the third on a Jose Guillen double.

At this point, however, is where the Twins showed us a glimpse of why they have been in the pennant race up until this point.  So many times during the past month, the Twins would let these sorts of games get away from them by not putting away the opponent early.  Last night, however, the Twins found their shovel and kept piling on some runs.  In the bottom of the third, a Brian Buscher double scored Delmon Young for a 4-2 lead.  Then, in the fourth, after a Mauer sac fly, Justin Morneau broke the game open (7-2) with a homer to right field that just cleared the baggie.

No more runs were scored the entire contest, and Twins fans have Nick Blackburn to thank for that.  After struggling in the early innings, Blackie settled down and ended up going seven strong innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits to finally pick up that elusive tenth victory.  Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain finished off the contest without incident (not to be overlooked in the Twins’ recent rash of bullpen failures).

Notes:

-I don’t know about you, but to me Brian Buscher needs to be in the lineup EVERY DAY down the stretch here in late September.  His defense may be just average (probably at best), but his bat is often crucial in keeping rallies going.  I think Gardy should have Buscher start nearly ever game at 3B, and have Punto/Harris rotate at shortstop depending on what the opposing pitching matchup looks like.  Then, when Buscher needs a day off, put him at DH.  His bat is too powerful not to have in the lineup at this point.

-I also saw last night that Paul Konerko, the powerful first baseman for the rival White Sox, will likely miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury.  First Carlos Quentin, now Konerko.  The White Sox have relied on their home run power for most of the season, so this could be a big blow to them as they begin a road trip (at the same time as the Twins) starting later this week.

Preview (79-65, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (11-9, 3.75) vs. Kyle Davies (6-6, 4.59).  The Twins’ bats pummeled Davies the last time we faced him, so tonight should be a pitching matchup in our favor.

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