Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’

Remembering ’11


Although the 2011 season did not end well for the Minnesota Twins (the understatement of the year, to be sure), it is still another baseball season in the books, full of ups and downs and memorable moments along the way. This post list those moments that I remember…

-On my couch, hot dogs and brats in hand, to watch Opening Day…and then seeing the Twins out of it in Toronto before it even began, really.  Should have known something from Day One, I guess.

-Getting all excited about Nishioka, then seeing the Yankees take him out early and him become a basket case late.

-Liriano’s May no-no against the White Sox.  Probably the most unimpressive no hitter I’ve ever seen, but still a special night.

-The mid-June surge that saw Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla ignite the team.

-Watching at Target Field as Matt Capps blew ANOTHER save against the Brew Crew.

-Walking on the hallowed “Field of Dreams” in Iowa as part of a baseball-themed vacation.

-Seeing the Twins play the White Sox at The Cell as part of said vacation.

-Attending (at one point in early July) four games in the span of five days.

-The terrible months of August & September which, towards the end, even tested my patience in sitting through an entire error-ridden, pitching-splintered game.

And then, of course, there was perhaps the most meaningless season finale in Twins history.  Except, of course, that it wasn’t.  With John Gordon behind the microphone for the final time, the Twins rallied in the ninth for a walk-off win thanks to the bat of Trevor Plouffe and the legs of Denard Span.

Though, for sure, those last few months were trying and many times I just wished the season would mercifully come to a close, that final game really put things in perspective.  With each passing day without baseball (and especially when football comes to an end), all I’ll want is simply this, with my Minnesota Twins…

So Long, Farewell…

A quick story about a baseball season coming to an end:

In September of 2007, the Minnesota Twins were winding down a very disappointing campaign.  At the time, I was attending college at the University of Minnesota-Morris and happened to be on campus for a weekend.

Now, I had a variety of options: from which to spend my day: Video games, movies, sleeping, studying (!), etc.  The Twins were just playing out a string of meaningless games.

Almost needless to say, I spent the afternoon watching the Twins game.  Why?  Because I knew that, in a few months, all I would want is for baseball to return, so I decided to enjoy one final game.  For whatever reason, that very day and game also seem to stick out in my mind.

Due to work/school requirements, I may not get the same opportunity the next couple of days (I’ll watch what I can), but the feeling is still kind of the same.  Though right now I just want this nightmare season to come to a close, I also know that Spring Training never quite comes early enough, either.

Notes:

-Ozzie Guillen is gone from the White Sox (probably headed to Florida).  Let the NL East deal with him, is what I say.  I think Ozzie is probably a better tactical manager than many people (including myself) give him credit for, but his personality is just too brash and profane for my tastes.

Preview (61-99, 5th, 10 GB KCR): Sean O’Sullivan (2-5, 6.92) vs. Anthony Swarzak (3-7, 4.42)

Paying The Piper

We sports fans are a fickle lot most of the time.  For the last few years, Twins fans were ALWAYS badgering GM’s (either Ryan or Smith) to sign more players to help us win.  Since the pitching seemed solid, a lock of hitters was always our “dire” need.

Well, we brought in guys like Delmon Young, Orlando Hudson, JJ Hardy, and Jim Thome to help the offense.  Plus, we signed out “Mantle & Marris”…

…to long-term deals.

Well, those offensive players (for a variety of reasons) never really paid off, and “M&M” have been too hurt to meet the return on investment.

Thus, part of the reason for this season spiralling into disaster has been an inability to patch holes like we have done in the past.  The bullpen guys got too pricey, the starters all regressed or never hit their potential, and all the hitters got hurt.  ALL…OF…THEM.

So, we are now realizing (as we did in the 1990s) that we still can’t quite spend with the big boys on the coasts…even with a new stadium.  The time to pay the piper has come, and that time is now.

Notes:

-Twins get swept by lowly Orioles at home.

-Liriano goes on the DL (Scott Diamond will take his place).

-Kubel is claimed off waivers (though no deal yet) by the White Sox.

-Same story as above for Jim Thome & the Indians.

Preview (55-75, 4th, 9.0 GB CWS): Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17) vs. Scott Diamond (0-1, 4.26)

The Two Constants (Or Not So Much)

Here in Twins Territory, it used to be that solid defense and strike-throwing pitchers were the name of the game.  We’d do those two things right and be able to get by with players that didn’t necessarily matchup well with our opponents.

This year, I can understand why the defense has gone downhill a bit.  The organization made a conscience choice to go offense-over-defense the least few years with guys like Delmon Young and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, with primarily negative results.

What perplexes me, though, is why the pitchers aren’t throwing strikes anymore.  I mean, in the span of just a couple of years, we’ve gone from strike-throwing machines to probably being below-average in that category.  AS a team with no ace pitchers, we just can’t put guys on base and expect to win ballgames.

After this humiliating sweep at the hands of the White Sox, I think that same hard decisions about the constitution of this team will need to be made over the rest of the season.

Preview (51-63, 4th, 4.5 GB CWS): Tim Wakefield (6-4, 4.99) vs. Scott Baker (8-6, 3.01)

Vacation Reflection: Part Two

Earlier on this blog, I recalled the first part of my recent vacation: a trip to the Field of Dreams movie site.  Well, the second (and primary) destination of the trip was the South Side of Chicago, to see my Twins take on the White Sox at US Cellular Field.

From a stadium perspective, I was impressed.  Though perhaps not in the same “romantic class” as a Target Field or Kauffman Stadium, I thought The Cell was still more impressive than the more modern Miller Park in Milwaukee.  I was expecting worse, to be honest.

Now, I don’t want to denigrate the White Sox fans by saying this, but seeing a game at The Cell is a heckuva lot different than here in Minny.  Perhaps the inflamed tensions of the Twins’ recent ownership of the Sox came into play here, but Chicago fans seem much more intense than those residing in Twins Territory.  Over here, we live by the “Minnesota Nice” creed and sit on our hands and mouths quite a bit.  In Chi-town, those hands and mouths are wide-open.

I don’t think one type of “fandom” is necessarily better than the other, but being used to “passive” it was eye-opening to see a more agressive style of root, root, rooting for the home team.

Notes:


If the Twins completely fall out of the race after being disgraced (20-6) against Texas, the above picture will be the image of the season for the Minnesota Twins.  Mr. Everything.

Preview (47-55, 4th, 3.5 GB CWS): Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.24) vs. CJ Wilson (10-4, 2.94)

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).

What a night in Twins Territory!  With the team coming off its worst month of baseball since the “Dark Ages” of the late 1990s, and Francisco Liriano basically pitching for a spot in the rotation after a horrible month, he twirls a no-no in Chicago!

From Jack Kralick to Dean Chance To Scott Erickson to Eric Milton, the torch has now been passed to Liriano.  It wasn’t all that pretty (6 walks), but it got the job done.  Milty always got criticized for his no-hitter being against a no-name bunch of Angels at the time, but his name is still in the record books, is it not?!  The same goes for Francisco.

This has to be one of the more unique no-no’s, though, in that the game was literally in the balance until the final out was recorded.  With the way the Twins have been playing as of late, I kept waiting for the big ChiSox hit…that never came.

Hopefully, this can be a turning point for the 2011 Twins season.  For the last two weeks, the Twins have really needed that “spark” to drag them out of the doldrums.  Can you think of anything much better than this?!

Way to go Frankie!!

Notes:

-The no-no was also backed up by a win Wednesday evening.  A series sweep…even if it was just two games!  Now, off to Boston and the AL East again.  Frankie might need that kind of stuff again.

Preview (11-18, 4th, 1.5 GB DET): Scott Baker (1-2, 3.16) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-2, 3.81)

Opening Day Take One: So Complicated (Or Not)

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.

Crain-wreck

mlb-twins-orioles.jpgWow…Jesse Crain a White Sock!  My thoughts about one of the most polarizing figures in the Twins bullpen since 2004:

If you have read this blog the last few years (or even just scanning through would probably do the trick), you’ll know the emnity I have towards Crain runs quite deep.  I always thought he vultured his way (via an extraordinary ’04 campaign where he picked up a remarkable amount of late-inning W’s) into good standings with Ron Gardenhire to begin with.  Plus, I’ve never seen a reliever with quite the knack for giving up the same-winning hit.  I won’t do this right now (all Crain’s wrongs litter other posts of mine), but I could name multiple, multiple times where he came in a blew a game.  Had we released him halfway through last season, I would have been shouting on high:

 

However, in the last few months of 2010, a strange thing happened: Crain became absolutely unhittable.  As much as I hated to admit it, I actually WANTED to see him come into games in the later innings, as Guerrier was faltering and the rest of the pen couldn’t find their backside with thier collective arms.  Crain himself credited the change to a new type of snappy curveball he began throwing, but whatever the case he was “the man” for awhile.

That being said, I’m still glad to see that he’s moving on, as I have a troubling feeling (well, not so troubling anymore not that he’s a Pale Hose, I guess) that the old “Crain-wreck” is bound to crop up again in the near future (hopefully against us!).  Now that Bobby Jenks is out of Chicago, maybe the Twins can start a new tradition of owning a certain White Sox reliever…Crain!

“Dunn” For

As if I needed another reason to be thankful I’m not a White Sox fan…

Washington+Nationals+Photo+Day+3h2f2-uVlzel.jpg

The Pale Hose just signed big Adam Dunn to a 4-year deal.

Okay, so last year the Sox don’t bring back Jim Thome because they wanted to get more versatile both on the field and in the batting lineup.  So, he goes to the Twins and helps knock them out of the division race.

Now, they bring in a guy who can’t field a lick and strikes out even more than Big Jimmy.

Boggling.

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