Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’

Junior’s Circuit, No More

The other day, upon hearing that Ken Griffey Jr. had announced his retirement from Major League Baseball, I wanted to take a moment here to reflect on one of my favorite baseball players of all-time:

juniorgriff.jpg

Though I grew up a Minnesota Twins fan in the mid 1990s, those Twins teams didn’t exactly have the type of superstars that can captivate the imagination of a youngster (sorry Ron Coomer, Terry Steinbach, and Butch Huskey).  Thus, I naturally gravitated towards the best (with respect to Barry Bonds, a phrase I never thought I would write) player in baseball at the time: Ken Griffey Jr.

Junior could do it all: Hit for decent average (career .284 hitter), tremendous power (630 career dingers, back-to-back seasons of 56 jacks), steal some bases (particularly early in his career; 184 career), and track down balls in center field like Torii Hunter would later do for my favorite club.

In fact, when the big power/steroid boom of the late 1990s occurred, it was the Griffey/McGwire show before Sosa juiced up and changed everything in ’98.  Fortunately, Griffey has never seen the smear of performance-enhancing drugs touch his name.  He also has none of the tell-tale signs (huge musculature, sudden growth, etc.).

t1_ken_griffey1.jpg

Sadly, the career of KGJ took a down-turn after he signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000.  Though he was the darling of Seattle with the Mariners, I couldn’t blame him for wanting to play for his hometown Reds.  However, the Reds never challenged for any sort of title during the “Griffey Years”, and Griffey himself endured so many injuries it would have made Mickey Mantle flinch.  At one point, he was projected to “easily” surpass Hank Aaron’s home run record, and may very well of done it had not the injury bug bitten hard.

After a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox (that, despite good performance, never quite seemed right)…

Chicago+White+Sox+v+New+York+Yankees+CEjQ3iOq6Uml.jpg

…it was nice to see Junior in an M’s uniform once again in the end:

griffey_jpg_681421gm-a.jpg

Perhaps the fondest memory I will take away from Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball player, though, is how as a child I sent him a letter asking for an autograph.  Some time later, I received a glossy 8X10 of Junior that had me nearly bouncing off the walls in excitement.  A first-ballot Hall of Famer in every sense of the word:

 

Playin’ Big

pologrounds.jpgWay back in the day, there was a ballpark called the Polo Grounds that played host to the New York Giants of John McGraw and Christy Mathewson fame.  The park, pictured above, was shaped like an emormous horseshoe and was roughly 500 feet from home plate to the center field “garage” (imagine sitting out there!).  Though batters could hit lazy pop flies that would easily clear the 250 ft. lengths down both lines, the power alleys (aptly named for where the big drives go) were nearly impossible to clear.

During the current Twins homestand at Target Field, its looking more and more (at least in the soggy weather) that our new digs will play pretty big as well.  In today’s game, Michael Cuddyer hit a blast off of John Danks that looked as if it were so far gone that centerfielder Alex Rios wouldn’t even have a shot at it.  Somewhere, though, the cold air kept the ball in the air long enough to allow Rios, on a dead sprint, to extend his glove over the top of the wall and come down with ball in hand.  Cuddyer (as well as the announcers and all watching fans) was incredulous that the ball didn’t leave the stadium by a mile.

Luckily, the Twins got another solid performance from Pavano (7 IP, 2 ER) and managed not to waste it this time, slapping together a few runs in the early innings to counter a rough first inning and hanging on the rest of the way.  Without the baserunning daring of Juan Pierre, the Sox wouldn’t have had anything going for them today.

Preview (22-12, 1st, 3.0 GA DET): Francisco Liriano (4-1, 2.36) vs. AJ Burnett (4-1, 3.40).  Travel day Thursday in preperation for the big Yankee showdown over the weekend.

A Few More Feet

this_close_man.jpgI didn’t get to see much of tonight’s game, as I was watched LOST over at a friend’s house (I know, I know…priorities, right?).

When I picked things up, the Twins were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the eighth.  Mauer lined a single, then Morneau followed with a mammoth drive that, as John Gordon described it, was just a foot or so away from leaving the park and pulling the Twins to within one.  NO!!

The way I figure it, if we are losing to the White Sox in the late innings, I feel pretty good about my chances of tying things up if we are only down by one.  Why?  Because Ozzie Guillen will motion for this guy, Bobby Jenks…

46750433.jpg

Talk about your overrated closers. He’s got a tremendous fastball, but nothing else, thus Twins hitters (having seen him so much) ALWAYS seem to hit him around.  True to form, Thome launched a double off him in the ninth in a scenario that may have played out much differently had it only been a one-run ballgame.  Ugh!

Slowey must have gotten roughed up in that fifth inning, but it was nice to see Alex Burnett and Co. keep the Twins in the game until the very end.  A pen like that can be dangerous to opponents you think they have the game won and go into coast mode, only to see us chip away at the lead.

Preview (21-12, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): John Danks (3-1, 1.98) vs. Carl Pavano (3-3, 3.43).  If Pavano gives us another solid outing tomorrow afternoon, we can’t waste it again, not with a tough East Coast stretch (New York, Toronto, Boston) coming up.

Doing The Laundry At A New Place

white-sox-twins-mascots-jc-425.jpgIn the film “Field of Dreams”, Terrance Mann tells Ray Kinsella that “the one constant through all the years…has been baseball”. Well, to amend that statement, the one constant through the last decade of Twins baseball has been the ability to defeat the Chicago White Sox on our home turf.

 

Mets - Bobby Kielty.jpgStarting in 2002, when at the end of the season Bobby Kielty blasted back-to-back game-winning homers against the White Sox that buried them in the standings, the Twins embarked on a streak of home domination against the Pale Hose.

gallery08.jpg 

In 2003 and 2004, the Twins fended off late-season pushes by the South Siders with sweeps under the Teflon roof. Heck, the last time Twins fans probably remember seeing young Michael Ryan (noteworthy considering he just resurfaced in the majors with the Angels) is when he had the series of his life against the Sox in late September of ’03.

 

ozzie-paws-up.jpgAfter an off year in ’05 that saw the Chisox win the whole thing, the Twins didn’t despair, quickly getting under Chicago manager/nutcase Ozzie Guillen’s skin so much in 2006 with their pesky hitting that Guillen termed them the “piranhas”, a description that is now part of Twins lore.

Then, in 2008, before one coin flip gave them The Cell, it was the Sox we swept at the Dome in remarkable fashion to even have a shot at the postseason.

Thus, when the White Sox enter town tonight, it will be interesting to see how the new digs treat them. Was it only the lime-green turf and white roof that turned them into quivering jelly? Or, perhaps, it was something more…like an entire packed stadium on their feet when Cisco has two strikes on Pierzynski.

I, for one, am hoping for the latter.

2010 MLB Picks

crystal-ball.jpgMy “official” predictions for the 2010 MLB season (before the season gets too far along and starts to affect my judgement!):

AL East

New York

Boston (Wild Card)

Tampa Bay

Baltimore

Toronto

AL Central

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Detroit

Cleveland

AL West

Los Angeles

Oakland

Texas

Seattle

NL East

Philadelphia

Atlanta (Wild Card)

New York

Florida

Washington

NL Central

St. Louis

Chicago

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West

San Francisco

Los Angeles

Arizona

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champ: New York

NL Champ: Atlanta

World Series Champ: Atlanta Braves

Questions, comments, rants, profanity-laced tirades?!

A Decade Of Twins Memories

I know I’m a little late on this, as the New Years parties are all but forgotten already, but I wanted to take a few moments to recount some of my favorite Minnesota Twins memories of the decade past:

metrodomeempty.jpg

2000: When a team features such players as Jay Canizaro, Butch Huskey, Jason Maxwell, Sean Bergman, and Mike Lincoln, it was a bit difficult to really get excited about the teams’ chances.  However, having just been introduced to the sport and completely enthralled by it, I can remember going to the basically-empty Metrodome (been to a T-Wolves game lately?) with my Dad, buying an outfield seat, and then moving right up close to home plate because not even the ushers cared what you did back then!

a_doug_mientkiewicz_i.jpg

2001: The team finally comes together and starts winning thanks to players like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton.  The Twins didn’t win the division, but after nearly a decade of losing baseball, they finally brought some excitement back to the Dome.

contractbud.jpg2002: The year I learned to hate Bud Selig.  In an effort to make MLB more profitable, Selig hatches a scheme to contract two franchise to bolster the others.  The obvious choice were the Montreal Expos (later to become the Washington Nationals), but the Twins?  Obviously some back-room buyout deals between Buddy-Boy and Twins owner Carl Pohlad were occuring.  Luckily, MLB realized that contraction was ill-advised and allowed the Twins to easily capture their first division title since 1991.

s_stewart_i.jpg

2003: After a dominating 2002 campaign, the Twins were nearly out of the division race at midseason of ’03. However, after acquiring outfielder Shannon Stewart from the Blue Jays to bat lead-off, the Twins took off and won the division nearly going-away.

joe%20nathan-thumb-252x344-3662.jpg

2004: Of the back-to-back-to-back division title winning teams, this squad was the best.  In the ALDS, the Twins took the first game at Yankee Stadium and were on the brink of going up 2-0 heading home.  However, Joe Nathan (who had taken over for the departed Eddie Guardado and been completely dominant the entire season) led an extra-inning lead slip away and give the Yankees momentum to win that game and then sweep both at the Dome.  Of course, maybe it was just fate, as those Yanks proceeded to go up 3-0 on the Red Sox and well, Dave Roberts can tell you the rest…

radketowel.jpg

2005: Not a fun year for Twins Territory.  We didn’t outright suck, but we never really competed for the crown, either.  Even the usually stoic Brad Radke was overheard griping about the lack of run support from a horrendous offensive unit.  Also, this was the year that tensions erupted between Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and a few blows were thrown, one that somehow connected with little Lew Ford!

TwinsDchamps-740227.jpg

2006: The Twins spent one day in first place, but since it was the final day they made it count!  They played well pretty much the entire season, but so did the Tigers.  A late-season hot streak pushed the Twins over the top on the season’s final day.

CasillaError.jpg

2007: How quickly a team can go from “contending” to “rebuilding”. In the first losing season under Ron Gardenhire, a lack of fundamentals and downright sloppy baseball made the final month of the season almost unwatchable.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253550680&c_id=min

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809253551036&c_id=min

 2008: After underachieving all season, the Twins basically needed to win out the final week of the season, starting with a sweep of the White Sox, whom they were chasing for the division title. I was at all three of those games at the Dome, and they are (easily) the most exciting games I have ever been to. The Twins would later lose to the Tighty Whities in a one-game playoff, but not before some of the most exciting baseball I have ever witnessed.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200910067016143&c_id=min

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200910067016879&c_id=min

 2009: (Read: 2008).  This time the Twins make the one-game playoff count in the most exciting single baseball game I have ever watched!

It was a great decade of Twins baseball memories…why not try for another one?!

Thanks For The Memories


dome6.jpgDuring the early goings of September of the 2009 Twins baseball season, it looked as if game number 162 (the contest that typically ends the MLB season unless you happen to play in the Midwest) would be a great remembrance of all the baseball that the Metrodome had produced before giving way to Target Field next season.  A post-game ceremony down on the field after that game was both parts touching and entertaining, but there was just one problem…the old Dome wasn’t done; it would go on to host two more games!

Thus, it never really felt as if the Metrodome got that proper sense of ending as maybe it should have…that moment when you just look around and soak it all in.  Obviously, with the New York Yankees celebrating, it wasn’t the time for that feeling.  That is why I would now like to relive my favorite moments of being at the Dome.  Perhaps you will remember some of these as well:

-1990: My first memory of the Dome recalls seeing Kirby Puckett being given the Silver Slugger award for winning the batting title the previous year.  While going through the turnstiles that day, I got a black bat “signed” by Puck that I believe I still have stashed away to this day.

toilet_paper.jpg

-1991: Though most fans may only remember the ’91 seaons for Puckett’s Game Six and Black Jack’s Game Seven, there was also quite a heated race (at least for awhile) with the Oakland A’s.  Back then, when both teams were part of the AL West division, the A’s were the powerhouse team of the circuit.  They came into a summer series at the Dome and jumped way ahead of the Twins in every game thanks to the power of guys like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Dave Henderson (looking back, can you imagine all the steroids coursing through those veins?).  However, the Twins scrapped back in every game and won them all.  I was lucky enough to be at the one that everyone remembers, where the Twins rallied against Dennis Eckersley (the Mariano Rivera of his day) on a triple from Chili Davis that RF Canseco played like a pin-ball down in the corner.  As Jose was bouncing around, a fan overhanging right field chucked an unravelling roll of toilet paper down onto the field, only adding to the mayhem!

 
108446279_126193ede4.jpg

-1996-2000: I really began following the Twins with a passion in ’96, but from then until ’00 the Twins were perennial cellar-dwellers. Not to be deterred, though, my Dad and I would still get down to the Dome a few times each year to watch guys like Bob Tewksbury, Pat Mahomes, Brent Gates, Rich Becker, and Scott Stahoviak (among others) battle to not lose 100 games.  I didn’t seem to care about the futility, I guess, as I still root-root-rooted for the home team with all I had.  The attendance was so poor during those years that one could (and we often did) guy a cheap ticket and move right up behind the infield.  Believe it or not, there were no users to stop people!

A more specific game from that time period involves a field trip with my sixth grade class.  My exact recollection of the event is understandably a bit hazy, but the Twins were facing Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox.  The game went into extra innings, the Twins loaded the bases with no outs, but then two guys (one of which I’m positive was Terry Steinbach) struck out.  The next batter then singled to win the game (I want to say it was Pat Meares, but I could be wrong).

PrinceTom.jpg

-2002: Fifteen innings of baseball against the Atlanta Braves.  Bobby Cox got tossed in the first inning, the Twins roughed up Greg Maddux, and Christian Guzman’s double off the baggy scored Tom Prince (pictured above) to win it.  Once you do the fourteenth-inning stretch, you never forget it!

200px-Bobby_kielty2002.jpg

-2002: With the Twins already having locked up the division title, they hosted the beaten White Sox to close out the season.  I was at the final two games, both won by dramatic, late-inning home runs from Bobby Kielty.

CasillaAlexi.jpg

-2008: With the Twins needing to sweep the White Sox in the final homestand to stay in the playoff race, they do just that.  I was at all three thrillers, but of course momst remember the final contest when the Twins fell behind early but clawed back into it thanks to a dramatic triple from Denard Span.  A walk-off hit from Alexi Casilla sealed it in extra innings.

So, those are my fondest, brightest memories of the Metrodome.  Though many malign it as a dump and unfit for the National Pastime, it is the only home turf I have ever seen the Twins play on, and no one can take that from me.  Though Target Field may prove to be a rousing success (or a miserable failure, whatever the case may be), it will always be the Dome that holds my childhood baseball nostalgia.

This Is Why I Don’t Like Math

a6e817e2-6e28-4cc8-a1a0-66af8bec8585.jpgI contemplated doing a lengthy piece tonight about how the Twins are done and how it finally came to this point.  With the Tigers’ magic number down to 2 to clinch the AL Central, things sure are looking grim for our boys.

However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it has been to never give up on the Twins.  They seem to play their best with their backs up against the wall, and I’m hoping that proves true tomorrow as well.

Here’s the way I look at it: A loss tomorrow and the whole ball of wax is gone, that much is mathematical.  However, a win would actually swing some momentum back in our favor a little bit.  Would we be in great position?  No.  But at least Detroit would have to beat the likes of Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, and John Danks, while we would get Zack Grienke on our turf and than not much else from the Royals.

So, I’m not giving up yet.  Two seasons of Twins late-season heroics (’06, ’08) are on my side.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Preview (82-76, 2nd, 3.0 GB DET): Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) vs. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56). 

Holding Serve

8315043e-c72e-4ca1-aa69-2191e65fac6d.jpgWell, the Twins managed to stick a fork in the White Sox for the second time this season, although this time I’m actually hoping they rise from that grave and put a beat-down on the Tigers this weekend.

It wasn’t pretty last night, but the Twins hung on for the Pale Hose sweep at The Cell and kept themselves in the thick of the AL Central race.

Basically, after today, the AL Central race will be down to four teams: Kansas City, Chicago, Minnesota, and Chicago.  Two are spoilers, while two are trying to reach the promised land.  Here are the remaining schedules for both the Twins and Tigers:

DET: 1 @ CLE, 3 @ CWS, 4 vs. MN, 3 vs. CWS

MN: 3 @ KC, 4 @ DET, 3 vs. KC

You know, for a team that hasn’t seriously competed for the division in quite awhile (the 2003 fade aside), the Royals have been in the thick of playoffs races almost every year.  In 2006 they helped the Twins overtake the Tigers on the final day of the season, while last year they forced the Twins to play a 163rd game that we would eventually lose.  It will be no different this year.  Both Detroit and Minnesota are talented enough to beat the boys from Kauffman Stadium, but the question is who will feel the pressure the most?

If I had to guess, I will say that the Twins will come into the big Detroit series about the same as where we are right now…2.5 GB, give or take 0.5.  That is, of course, unless KC plays spoiler again…

Preview (79-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.82) vs. Robinson Tejada (4-1, 2.94). Are you sure we can’t just skip Pavano and pitch him twice in the Detroit series?!  Maybe Rick Anderson can rig up a pair of glasses for him that turn the Royal batters into Tigers.

5 Alive

deef4233-3c42-49dd-9e36-6eb410141a30.jpgFor much of this season, I had been rather disgusted (perhaps a bit strong…but not much) with the at-bats taken by one Michael Cuddyer.  In fact, in terms of the dollars and cents of his long-term contract, he might just be one of the worst investments (factoring in injuries) that the Twins have made over the last few years (although the jury is still out on that verdict, obviously).

For now, though, the man known as Cuddy is carrying the Twins’ offense on his back after Justin Morneau went done with his season-ending back issue.  Whereas for most of the season Cuddy was giving away at-bat after at-bat by chasing the breaking balls that drop away from him from a right-handed pitcher, he is now locked in at the plate and hitting everything with force.

Tonight, Cuddyer was 3-4 with a single, double, and home run, keeping up his long-held tradition of blasting everything that White Sox starter John Danks throws in his general direction (Cuddy is hitting over .500 against Danks in his career).

Michael also had some help tonight and it was needed, as Jeff Manship struggled in the early goings and didn’t make it past the third inning.  Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kubel, and Matt Tolbert (yep, that’s right) also contributed home runs in the contest, while Joe Mauer had a big RBI double that seemed to revitalize the team at the time.

Unfortunately, the Cleveland Indians left the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth (you would have scored them against us!) and fell 3-1 to the Tigers.  However, the Injuns actually out-hit the Little Kitties, so it isn’t as if Detroit has righted the ship.

One final thought: How in God’s name is Jesse Crain 7-4 on the season?!  Ponder THAT one for a while…

Preview (78-73, 2nd, 2.5 GB DET): Brian Duensing (4-1, 3.22) vs. Mark Buerhle (12-9, 3.84). In Duensing, we may have just found the antidote to Buerhle…another crafty lefty who does whatever it takes to get guys out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.