Results tagged ‘ Twins ’

Ready…Break

Last year at the All-Star break, the Twins were in third place in the AL Central, 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.  They went on to win 94 games and claim the division crown by mid-September.

This year, after taking 3 of 4 in ChiTown, the Twins enter the break in 4th place, 6.5 games behind Detroit.  Are we contenders?  Are we pretenders?  Well, the first homestand (KC, DET, CLE) after the break will go a long way towards answering that question.  If we come out flat, we’ll likely never be able to make up the necessary ground.  However, a good homestand would beg the question of whether or not the Twins should make a deal at the deadline.

Our biggest need right now is a solid arm out of the pen.  The starters are what the are, and the offense can only get better (heck, if we can win with Tosoni, Hughes, Rivera, etc. we can win with anyone!), but the ‘pen is where the help is sorely needed.  Barring further setbacks, Joe Nathan should quickly supplant Matt Capps as closer, with Capps sharing setup duties with Perkins.  Beyond that, however, the pen is barren.  Phil Dumatrait has been good for a rookie, but who knows, really.  Alex Burnett and Jose Mijares cannot be consistently counted on to get the job done.

Thus, here is how I see the trading deadline scenario playing out in my head: The Twins package Delmon Young (the most expendable outfielder) and perhaps a Kevin Slowey for a decent bullpen arm.  Then, as we always seem to do, we either call up another ready rook, or pick a guy (remember how we got Pavano in ’09?!) from the scrap heap in September.

If I didn’t think the Twins had at least a decent chance of winning the division this year, I would say “trade a few more guys and replenish the minors”.  However, considering that Detroit ALWAYS chokes in the second half, the Indians are fading, and we OWN the White Sox, a division crown (though not easy by any means) is no doubt within reach.

Preview (41-48, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS): Bruce Chen (5-2, 3.26) vs. Francisco Liriano (5-7, 5.06).

My Favorite Twin

As the youngest of youngsters, my Twins hero (predictably) was Kirby Puckett:

Then in the mid-90s, Rick Aguilera (for whatever reason) was my favorite Twin:

Brad Radke then picked up the mantra:

Who passed o the torch to Joe Nathan:

However, with Nathan just now perhaps getting back on the horse after Tommy John, I needed a new “favorite player”…that one guy who either comes in from the pen or strides to the plate and make you inch forward in your seat with anticipation.

Right now, for me, that player is Danny Valencia…

Sure, he’s batting in the low .200s this year after an amazing rookie 2010 stretch run surge.  But I just see so much potential in him; maybe our first bona-fide hot corner man since Corey Koskie.  He hits for power, drives the ball to the gaps, has a flair for the dramatic, and plays a solid (if sometimes spectacular) 3b.  Plus, he has just enough ego to know he’s good, yet has a solid manager and good teammates to keep that Florida ego in check.

So, as of right now, Danny Valencia is my favorite Twin.  Time will tell if V will be around for the long haul (like Cuddyer), but considering his youth and considerable talents already, I’d say he’s well on his way.

Notes:

-A good start to the series with the Rays in beating David Price.  Duesing was dominating today and Valencia (heh heh), Cuddy, and Nishioka provided the offensive firepower.

Preview (37-46, 4th, 4.0 GB CWS): James Shields (8-5, 2.45) vs. Scott Baker (6-5, 3.15)

Michael Cuddyer: Our All-Star

Congrats to Michael Cuddyer on making the AL All-Star squad as a reserve.

Though perhaps not utterly deserving based purely on the stats, I’m glad Cuddy will be making the trip to Arizona next week because of what he means to the Twins organization.

All teams need leaders, and Michael is exactly that right now for this team.  He came up through the Twins’ system as a blue-chip prospect, is the only player to be a part of every Twins division title since 2002, and will play anywhere you ask him (I’ve seen him at first, second, third, left, center, and right).

So, in a down year for individual Twins, I’m excited that Cuddy gets this thrill.  I even have a crazy idea for AL skipper Ron Washington: Remember Caesar Tover?  Well, how about a similar Cuddy experiment July 12?!  Think about it…!

It All Comes Out In The Wash (AKA The Truth About Capps)

On Saturday night, the Twins lost a game they should have won.  On Sunday afternoon, the Twins did roughly the same to the Brew Crew to take the crazy series.  Of course, it took Glen Perkins relieving Matt Capps in the ninth to lock down the final outs.

I am completely bamboozled as to why Capps has so much support from all sides.  The team loves him, Gardy seems to adore him, the media (by and large) give him a free pass, and even Dick and Bert were sticking up for him today.  My take on Capps is a bit different:  I’ll even go so far as to say that this guy…

…was a better closer overall than Capps.

Now, I don’t think that Capps is beyond usefulness.  He could be useful as a setup-type reliever, or a “seventh inning guy”.  However, he just doesn’t have either the physical stuff (like a prime Joe Nathan) or the presence to fake it (like Rauch).  I just wonder when we are going to figure this out for good.

Preview (36-46, 4th, 4.5 GB CWS): David Price (8-6, 3.43) vs. Brian Duensing (5-7, 4.69)

The Same Mistake

Last night at Target Field, I had an upper-deck, bird’s-eye view to one of what had to be the biggest Twins collapses in recent memory.  Aside from the obvious blame on Matt Capps for not really getting anyone important out in the ninth inning, this game was lost by our manager.  What makes it even more painful is the fact that, earlier in the game, the opposing manager of the Milwaukee Brewers made the exact same mistake…

In the early innings, the Twins absolutely blasted Brewers starter Narveson.  Cuddy and Danny V. hit back-to-back jacks to almost an identical spot at one point, and the Twins coasted to a 7-0 lead.  At one point, with the Twins up 4-0, Narveson had thrown almost 100 pitches, given up 11 hits, and yet the Brewer bullpen was JUST STARTING to get loose.  I figured that the inability to get a reliever into the game who could get outs would be the Brewers’ undoing.

Sadly, I was quite mistaken, and the shoe ended up firmly planted on the other foot.  Leading 7-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, “closer” Matt Capps allowed four runs to give the Brewers the lead and eventual victory.  While, to be honest, I am not all that surprised about Capps, as I believe he is the most overrated pitcher on our entire team, what absolutely perplexes me is why Gardy would leave him in the game for so long?

If you know anything about Capps, you know that when me melts down, every single fan in the ballpark knows it.  He’s a control pitcher with no dominant pitch (not exactly a closer repetoire, to be sure), so when the control isn’t present, it gets ugly quick and doesn’t end for a while.  Kind of like if Nick Blackburn doesn’t have his sinker; you KNOW he will struggle.

So, with the game hanging in the balance and potentially Joe Nathan or Phil Dumatrait ready to come in and (at the very least) secure a tie ballgame going into the home half of the ninth, Gardy sticks with Capps who promptly gives up a single and the game with it.  If anyone has one rational reason why Capps was allowed to pitch after allowing the tying run, please let me know.  To add insult to injury, Dumatrait then came in and got Prince Fielder to ground out on one pitch.

I’m sorry to say it, Gardy, but this one is on you.  Everyone makes mistakes, so let’s move on and try to take the series today, but when everyone in the ballpark knows the tide has turned and the pitcher is rattled, it is YOUR job to get him off that mound pronto.  Please do not let the “traditional closer role” dictate your thinking.  Ditto for “matchups”.  Capps needed to be removed, I don’t care if Jim Hoey is coming out of that pen (a profound and terrible statement in and of itself).

Preview (35-46, 4th, 5.5 GB CWS): Zack Greinke (7-3, 5.63) vs. Nick Blackburn (6-6, 3.64)

Firework

 

Yes, I kind of ripped this little “musical coincidence” off from a FOX pre-game show a little while back, but the song sure does fit the player, doesn’t it?!  Ben Revere, since his everday play earlies this month, has really energized this team in a way only seen twice in recent(ish) seasons:

At the All-Star break of 2003, the Twins acquired Shannon Stewart, put him in the OF, and batted him leadoff.  He began spraying hits all over the field and turned a big Twins deficit into a relatively easy division title.

Then, in 2008, Carlos “Go-G0″ Gomez was quite a spark plug before proving that his raw athletic gifts far outpaced his mental faculties.

Now, I realize that the Twins’ pitchers have (more than anyone else) facilitated this dramatic turnaround, but the correlation with Revere’s presence isn’t just a coincidence, either.

Of course, it helps to channel the “ghost” of Jacque Jones in position (OF), number (11), batting stance (straight legs, hunched over on top), and just general “coolness”.

Preview (31-39, 4th, 2.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20) vs. Madison Bumgarner (3-8, 3.21)

Why I Don’t Give Up

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).

 

Twins HOF: Jim Perry

This weekend, the Twins inducted pitcher Jim Perry into their Hall of Fame.

According to the stats, Perry (in his 10 seasons with Minnesota) had three excellent seasons as a reliever/spot starter (before those roles were so defined) and three spectacular seasons as a starter (winning the Cy Young Award in 1970).  He also spent time in Cleveland, Detroit, and Oakland during his 17-year career.

After retirement, Perry (especially in recent years) has become a nice Twins ambassador of sorts, appearin gat all the reunions and special events.  I think he really identifies as a “Twin” more than any other team.  Older fans really wax nostalgic (and with good reason) about him from those exciting mid-60s-1970 years of Twins baseball.

Though his raw Twins stats may make Perry a borderline Twins HOFer, the honor couldn’t be bestowed on more of a gentleman and baseball lifer.  Enjoy the company, Jim!

Preview (26-39, 5th, 2.0 GB KCR): Gavin Floyd (6-5, 3.89) vs. Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.54)

Texas Beatdown

When a lineup consists of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz, sometimes a blowout occurs.

About the only positive to take from it is Swarzak saving the bullpen after Duensing’s disappointment.

Preview (24-39, 5th, 3.0 GB KCR): Colby Lewis (5-6, 4.37) vs. Scott Baker (3-4, 3.86)

Two Things…

Two things to ponder in the middle of a hot streak…

1. It never ceases to amaze me that if Alexi Casilla is playing well (both in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths), the Twins are almost guaranteed to be winning games.  The theory doesn’t hold true in the reverse, as the Twins have played well without Casilla on many occasions the last few years, but I’ve never seen him play well in losing efforts.  Don’t ask me why this is, but it seems to be the case.

2. When things are at their most bleak…and I mean the VERY PIT of despair…the Twins always seem to play their best as well.  It wasn’t until both Thome and Kubel went down on the same day that the winning streak began.  I suppose one could argue that when rock bottom is hit, the ONLY way to go is up, but I’d still like to think that the Twins are a better team WITH Kubel/Thome than without.  The same effect was seen after the loss of Morneau in 2009 & 2010.

Notes:

-A tough loss in Cleveland tonight, but it was a well-contested contest that saw Liriano look solid and the bullpen do a great job.  We just ran into the buzzsaw of Carlos Carrasco for a night.  The key now is to bounce back and still take the series tomorrow afternoon.

Preview (22-38, 5th, 4.0 GB KCR): Carl Pavano (3-5, 4.83) vs. Justin Masterson (5-4, 3.28)

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