Results tagged ‘ White Sox ’

Earning His Stripes

6766a2a8-c1d4-405f-8692-7ac73f49dd7f.jpgI imagine that just seeing this picture brings up the gag reflex in most Chicago White Sox fans.  Not because they hate Joe Crede, but for exactly the opposite reason…they let him get away.  Until Crede landed with the Twins, I had no idea he was so revered by the ChiSox and their fans.  It would probably be like Torii Hunter roaming the outfield at U.S. Cellular Field, to put things into perspective.

Until last night, Joe Crede had contributed some very nice plays at the hot corner (something not seen when Brian Buscher was at the same post last year) but not much offensively.  Maybe he’s just a slow starter, or maybe he was pressing to try and impress his new club, but the hits just weren’t falling in for him.  However, he bailed his new club out of a game last night that could have been an incredibly demoralizing loss.

Glen Perkins (8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER) turned in another gem of a performance, but the Twins could only muster two runs of their own (hits from Morneau and Redmond) in the required nine, sending the contest into extras.

In the bottom of the eleventh inning, Joe Crede came to the plate with Morneau on first and two outs.  The game had not been going well for New Joe up to that point, as he had ground into a pitcher-home-first double play to squash a potentially huge rally in the sixth, then struck out in the home half of the ninth.

This time, though, Crede smacked a ball deep to straight-away CF that hit the base of the wall and allowed Morneau to touch three more bases for the “W”.  Crede was mobbed by teammates as he ran in from second base, and his “initiation” into the Minnesota Twins family had begun.

Notes:

-I noticed that only 15,000 fans attended Tuesday night’s game.  To me, this seems really poor.  I know it was a Tuesday night against a team that has zero drawing power, but c’mon…15,000?

-I also have to give Jesse Crain credit for pitching two nice innings (the 10th and 11th) in picking up the victory.  I get on him quite a bit, so it was nice to finally see him contribute in a positive way.

-Finally, Carlos Gomez is completely lost at the plate right now.  As much as this may be called a form of heresy here in Twins Territory, I would rather see Delmon Young in the lineup at this point.  Gomez is up there flailing at pitches he has no business even flinching toward.

Preview (4-5, 4th, 1.0 GB DET & KCR): Scott Richmond (0-0, 6.75) vs. Scott Baker (0-0, 0.00). Baker is making his first start of the season after elbow tightness forced him to miss his scheduled Opening Day assignment.  Baker was our most consistent pitcher down the stretch last season and has the stuff to be a bona fide staff ace, provided he can make it through 6+ innings on a regular basis.

A Few Things I Hate…

defusing-angry-cust.jpgI wasn’t able to blog at all over the weekend (probably a good thing as the Twins lost two of three to the Pale Hose over the weekend and were again beaten by the pitching of Mark Buerhle and the batting of Jim Thome), but I was pretty fired up about the final game of that series and last night’s contest…and not in a good way.  I have been VERY annoyed with some of the things I have been seeing, including:

-Gardy’s “getaway” days.  In the final game of the ChiSox series, Gardy threw a lineup on the field that included Michael Cuddyer at 1B and Brendan Harris at 2B and batting out of the #2 hole.  It absolutely drives me NUTS when Gardy does this every single Sunday and Thursday afternoon game.  I realize that guys need a break every once in a while, but why must Gardenhire do it all in one day?!  If I were a pessimist, I would say that he was just hedging his bet, so to speak, figuring that Buerhle would beat his club no matter who he threw up against him, so why not rest a few guys?  I don’t think Gardy would ever concede a game like that, though, so I just don’t understand his logic.  His Cuddy/Harris combination gave the Twins the weakest right-side infield combination possible, and that led to a big Chicago inning in that final game of the series.  I would rather see Gardy stagger, to an extent, the off-days he gives his players.

-Also, this is easily the worst bullpen the Twins have had in a long time.  I would give serious thought to letting guys like Brian Duensing and Philip Humber take over the late-inning roles, as I do not see the Crain/Ayala combination working out, and Guerrier/Breslow still need to prove themselves as being able to consistently get outs.  Oh, and R.A. Dickey is a joke who may be even worse than our most famous mop-up man…Terry Mulholland.  What really sticks in my craw, though, is that a while back the Twins lost relief prospect Bobby Korecky essentially because they needed to make room for Ayala.  Korecky was a hot prospect in the organization, and we lost him for a guy (Ayala) who can’t throw the ball over the plate and thus lays in meatball after meatball while behind in the count.  I think that Jose Mijares better get his butt in shape pretty quick before the current lot puts the Twins in too big of a hole right away.

-One quick positive note: I think that the Twins’ starting pitchers will be fine once the month of April passes.  Being young, they may just need a little more time to get comfortable out on the mound.  And really, when have the Twins EVER (in recent memory) had a bad starting rotation?!  The Mariners always beat us, Chicago only needs Thome to wreak havoc, and the Blue Jays are the best offensive team in baseball right now.  Things WILL improve on this front.

Preview (3-5, 4th, 1.5 GB CWS & KCR): Rickey Romero (1-0, 3.00) vs. Glen Perkins (0-1, 1.13). Can the Twins’ bats decipher another (any?!) left-hander pitcher?  With Roy Halladay looming on Thursday, we better take this game if we want any chance of even splitting this four-game series.

17 Drab Innings…Then A Walkabout

Though I was a bit crushed that I had to work at night on the day of the Twins’ home opener against the Seattle Mariners, I taped the game and watched it later in the evening.  Gee, that was worth it.  First, this guy…

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…”King” Felix Hernandez, completely shuts down our bats.  Even in the sparse situations we scraped together that could have produced runs, Felix would always get out of the jam either via a strike out (usually Michael Cuddyer, who whiffed three times) or a double play (Justin Morneau).  This was especially frustrating due to the fact that it wasted a pretty decent effort from our mound man..

DingerCisco.jpg

Sure, Francisco Liriano gave up three dingers, but one came after a glaring error from Alexi Casilla.  All told, he pitched very well and just didn’t get any offensive support.

So, I went to bed hoping that the next day’s matchup (which I would be watching on TV…or so I thought) would produce a much better result.  The next morning, however, I was informed that my grandparents (who live in the Metro area suberbs…Fridley, to be exact) had received four free tickets from a Target store promotion and were wondering if my brother and I wanted to go with them?!  Stupid question, as we headed out the door right away!

Game #2 of 162 proved to be much more exciting than the previous one…and perhaps the next 160!  Of course, it didn’t start out so great, as our guy…

BlackieSeattle.jpg

…Nick Blackburn found himself down 4-0 after just four innings.  RBI hits from Denard Span and Cuddyer (he was basically either whiffing badly or driving in runs all game) brought the Twins to within one run for the middle innings, but Luis Ayala surrendered another Mariner run in the top of the ninth.  Thus, new Seattle closer Brandon Morrow was summoned to the Dome mound with a 5-3.  That’s when things started to get interesting:

Morrow got two quick outs in Joe Crede and Delmon Young, but Carlos Gomez put together a surprisingly good at-bat (he would have K’d on four pitches last season in that spot) and drew a walk.  Jason Kubel was called on to pinch-hit for Jose Morales (who had struck out in all three previous at-bats), and Kubel used patience to his advantage to coax another base-on-balls.

Then, with the Jumbotron at the Dome flashing the “Walks Will Haunt” graphic, Morrow walked a third straight batter (Brian Buscher) and was pulled in favor of Miguel Batista.  By this time the lineup had turned over again, so Span The Man stepped in and hit a high chopper that Adrian Beltre couldn’t will down into his glove fast enough, making the score 5-4.

This brought Alexi Casilla to the plate, and my flashback started…the last time I was at the Metrodome, Lexi singled to center field with the bases loaded against the Chicago White Sox to complete the late-season sweep.  This time, Casilla again ripped the first pitch he saw into center, plating both the tying and winning runs…

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Though this wasn’t the greatest run-differential the Twins have ever come back from, it still has to go down in team history as one of the great late-inning victories due to the fact that all the action transpired with two outs.  When Buscher slide across the plate and was mobbed by his teammates, what was left of the 23,700 announced crowd was in a bedlam!

Man, I think I need to starting getting to more of these games…whenever I’m there, something crazy seems to happen.

Preview (1-1, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Carlos Silva (0-0, 0.00).  Though Silva is gone from “Fatboy” to “Slim” over the off-season, he still lives and dies by the sinker.  If “on” he can be maddening.  If not, he WILL get pounded.

MLB Predictions: 2009

1908Cubs.jpgEach year, usually after receiving the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue, I make a complete set of MLB picks.  It’s always fun to look back at them and see how right/wrong (wrong far outnumbering the right!) I was at the end of the season.  Here they are for ’09:

AL East:

Boston

Tampa Bay (Wild Card)

New York

Toronto

Baltimore

AL Central:

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Cleveland

Detroit

AL West:

Los Angeles

Texas

Seattle

Oakland

NL East:

Philadelphia

New York (Wild Card)

Florida

Atlanta

Washington

NL Central:

Chicago

Milwaukee

St. Louis

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West:

Los Angeles

Arizona

San Francisco

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champion: Boston

NL Champion: Chicago

World Series Champion: Chicago

So, after 100 long seasons of waiting, I think this is the year that the Cubbies will finally win the big one.  I just think that their pitching is too good not to make a deep playoff run.

Saved From The Dark Side

Crede.jpgWell, the Minnesota Twins finally have the right-handed bat they have been so desperately looking for since Ron Coomer went from playing in the All-Star game to laughing like a goon during Twins TV broadcasts (!).  Now, as long as his back can hold out, the Twins have to be the favorite to win the division.

Joe Crede came over to the Twins (The Great White Light) from the Chicago White Sox (The Dark Side) for one year and $2.5 million guaranteed.  He could make up to $7 million in incentives revolving primarily around the number of at-bats he accumulates over the course of the season (which is exactly the kind of contract a guy with his injury status SHOULD sign).

A healthy Crede can be expected to hit in the .270-.280 range with 20-30 home runs.  He is also excellent at the hot corner (something neither Brian Buscher nor Brendan Harris have on their resumes) with the glove.

Perhaps the biggest implication of this move, though, is that it gives manager Ron Gardenhire much better depth on the bench.  In late-inning situational ball, Gardy can send up either Harris or Buscher (both decent batsmen) as well as the odd man out of the Gomez-Span-Cuddyer-Young conundrum.  In recent seasons, the Twins have lost big series (think the ’03 and ’04 ALDS rounds against the Yankees) because of their lack of depth, but this move for Crede changes all that.

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.

ALDS Predictions

AmericanLeagueLogo.jpgNow that the Chicago White Sox are the final entree into the AL playoffs (tear), here are my predictions for the ALDS:

Boston Red Sox vs. Anaheim Angels: I’ll take the Angels in four games for this series.  The Halos have easily been the best AL team the entire season, and have been resting up for October baseball for weeks.  True, the Red Sox have good pitching (Beckett, Daisuke, Lester), but lingering injuries are a big issue for them.  Personally, I’d take Lackey, Santana, and Saunders any day.  Offensively, the Sox know how to score runs, but who knows how they will react to a non-Manny Ramirez postseason (i.e. can Jason Bay or someone else step up in the clutch?).  Besides 2002, when they won the World Series, the Angels’ postseasons have been doomed by an inability to score runs.  That’s why guys like Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter were brought in, to pair with Vlad the Destroyer and a deep lineup that can beat you out of any slot.

Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Rays in four.  No, I don’t like the Rays just because their opponent is the sworn enemy of my Twins.  I just think that Chicago really isn’t that great of a team (I think I would have picked the Twins to lose to TB as well).  Both teams can pitch, but Tampa Bay’s offense is better built to score runs in the pitching-dominated postseason…Chicago’s sluggers will strike out too much.  The big factor in this series, though, is the first two games being played in Tampa, where the Rays have been nearly unbeatable.  This could easily be one of those series where the home team wins every game, but I think TB can pick one off in the Windy City to win earlier than that.

Playoff Notes:

-Philadelphia beat Milwaukee earlier today thanks to the strong pitching of Cole Hammels.  Of course, Mr. Automatic Win (C.C. Sabathia) is on the mound for the Brewers in Game Two, so this series will be even very soon. 

One Swing Of The Bat

ThomeClincher.jpgWhen your favorite baseball team is done playing for the year, there are many conflicting emotions/memories that accompany that harsh finality.  I will get to that tomorrow, when my head is a little clearer and I’m not so disappointed.  Tonight, I would just like to talk about game #163:

In the early innings, it became clear that barring a bullpen collapse, this would be a pitcher’s duel right down to the end.  While Blackburn dominated the Sox, the Twins could only eek out a few walks against John Danks, and those walks never amounted to any sort of threat.  Perhaps an early turning point in the game occurred when, after Denard Span drew a leadoff walk in the top of the first, Alexi Casilla could not get down a sacrifice bunt and ended up hitting into a line-drive double play because of that failure (the hit-and-run was on).

The next seminal moment came in the top of the fifth, when Michael Cuddyer doubled and moved over to third on a sacrifice fly.  Brendan Harris then lifted a pop to short centerfield, and Cuddyer tagged up, only to be gunned down at the plate by Ken Griffey Jr’s throw and A.J. Pierzynski holding on to the ball after a collision.  To be honest, I don’t think I would have sent Cuddy in that situation.  I attended all three Chicago-Twins contests at the Dome last week, and about the ONLY thing that impressed me about the Sox during that time was the arm strength of Griffey.  He may have lost a step or two range-wise, but he still has a gun.  Add to that the fact that Cuddyer isn’t the fleetest of foot, and only a single would have been needed (Punto was on deck) to score him, and I would have given him the stop sign.  However, I do not fault the Twins a whole lot for taking the risk, as they play an aggressive game of baseball tailored to press the defense.  It took a good throw and good catch to make the play, and the Sox turned in both.

From that point, the Twins’ bats were completely shut down by John Danks.  I would like to tip my hat to Danks, as he pitched remarkably on three-days rest and after the Twins had hammered him all season long to that point.  Nick Blackburn also pitched the game of his life, and I want to make sure to give him his due.  With Blackburn during the season, it was either feast (ground balls off sinker) or famine (flat pitches = home runs/gappers).  Tonight, Blackburn was “on” to nearly every batter.  What ended up getting him, though, was exactly what the White Sox use to win games…the long ball.  Only so many times (I don’t care if you’re Nick Blackburn or Johan Santana) can a pitcher go through the Dye-Thome-Konerko-Griffey gauntlet successfully.  So, in the seventh inning tonight, Blackburn got tagged by Thome, which proved to be the margin of victory.

The tail-end of the contest saw good pitching by the Twins (from Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan out of the pen), but still silent bats.  It amazes me how one week earlier Bobby Jenks (CHW closer) couldn’t get any outs against us, but tonight he can completely shut us down.

Overall, tonight’s contest was a taut, well-fought game that the Twins can come out of with their heads held high.  We held the most powerful lineup in baseball to one run (and hardly any threats), but were just shut down by masterful pitching.  So many times during the season I have commented that you can sometimes tell that the Twins are going to go down meekly, but I honestly didn’t feel that way tonight…Danks was just on his game.

Notes:

-I am going to comment on this further in later posts, but the Twins really missed the bat of Justin Morneau the last few weeks.  Yes, he’s been in the lineup every day, but he has been completely ineffective (as much as it pains me to say that).  In the local papers over the past month, I have read again and again how Morneau was getting worn down by playing every game of the season, and perhaps that just caught up to him.  It’s a touchy situation (resting Justin), as he is the anchor of the lineup.  But, this could just be a learning experience for Gardy, that next year at this time Morneau may NEED a little rest in order to remain effective.  Over the past season, Morneau had hammered (7-9 I believe) John Danks, but tonight he looked absolutely overmatched.

-Finally, I would like to congratulate Jim Thome on his exciting moment.  Over the last few years, I have generally not liked the many complainers/whiners/jerks/ that the White Sox have featured.  However, I have all the respect in the world for Jim Thome.  Just by watching his post-game interviews I can tell that he is a good man, good teammate, and just a good figure to root for.  When I look back on the 1990s and 2000s, I considered Thome to be one of the best (factoring in steroids) power hitters of the era, right next to Manny Ramirez.

After a night of sleep, I will be back tomorrow with a more over-arching view of the 2008 Minnesota Twins season, as well as a preview of the two ALDS contests.

NLDS Predictions

NL_logo.jpgWith the Tigers losing to the White Sox today, the Pale Hose will now host “my” Twins tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS.  Nick Blackburn (11-10, 4.14) will oppose John Danks (11-9, 3.47).  On the season, Blackie is 2-2 with a 5.67 ERA against Chicago, while surprisingly the Twins have gone 1-1 (7.91) against Danks on the year in four of his starts.  With that huge game still not solidifying the AL playoffs, I would first like to comment on the matchups in the National League’s Division Series:

Brewers over Phillies in 5: Although Philly has the definite edge in pitching (what with Hamels, Myers, and Moyer) and probably the bullpen, Milwaukee has the great equalizer: C.C. Sabathia.  I think that the Brewer’s pitching will be good enough to win at least one game where C.C. isn’t on the mound, as their hitters are a resilient bunch.  Plus, I can see Brad Lidge again folding in postseason play.  That combined with two wins from Sabathia will push the Brew Crew into the NLCS.

Cubs over Dodgers in 3: The Cubs have Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Rich Harden scheduled to pitch the first three games of the series.  Game Over.  The Dodgers may win in Derek Lowe’s start, but I don’t think Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda (as good as they have been in September) can wade through the deep Cubs’ lineup.  A Dodger victory in this series would be one of the bigger ALDS upsets in recent memory.

Tomorrow, once the AL playoff matchups are set, I will preview them.  Go Twins!!

One Last Shot

Shef.jpgAt the beginning of this 2008, the Detroit Tigers were many people’s consensus pick to win the AL Central division going away.  With a lineup that featured Ivan Rodriguez, Placido Polanco, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Rentaria, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and Gary Sheffield (pictured above), people wondered how opposing pitchers would get through an inning against those guys, much less an entire season.  Plus, young pitchers like Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson would likely take the next step in their development, while old hand Kenny Rogers and newcomer Dontrelle Willis would anchor the top of the rotation.  Add in fireballing relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, and the Tigers would surely win at least 100 games, right?!  Well, then the season started…

The Tigers got off to a 2-10 start in the regular season, and never really recovered from that shock.  In late July, Detroit was 5.0 games behind the AL Central division leader, but never got any closer than that the rest of the way.  The bats (as most power-laden lineups are) went through tremendous hot and cold spells, while the starting pitching was atrocious from the get-go and didn’t improve much from there.  Then, because of starters not going deep into games, the relievers were overworked, overstressed, and ultimately burnt out.  Yesterday, the end of the MLB season for most clubs, the Tigers finished 74-87, locking in perhaps the most disappointing season in baseball history.

Yet, the Tigers aren’t quite done yet…due to a rainout in Chicago earlier this month, a final game between the two clubs (being delayed by rain, fittingly, as I write this blog post) will (hopefully!) take place today, with the outcome determining the fate of the AL Central.  A Tiger win will put the (my) Twins in the postseason, while a Tiger loss will set up a one-game playoff between the Twins and White Sox.

Now, one would think that the Tigers, beat up and dejected from a terrible season, would just as well want to roll over and play dead today (especially in the rainy weather).  However, two factors contribute to the contest that (hopefully, being a Twins fan!) will cause the Tigers to play with a bit of passion: First, old Sock Freddy Garcia will be pitching against his former club, which always gets the juices flowing.  Second, a win will move the Tigers out of last place in the division (hopping Kansas City) and, while not a huge victory, will at least not allow the pundits to call the club a last-place team.

So, I say to all you Tigers now: Get those bats going, find some pitching for just one day, and knock off a team at the top of the division that is fighting to get where you wanted to go.  Go Tigers!!

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