Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’

John Sterling Must Love The Twins

Seventh inning, bases loaded, one out, A-Rod at the dish, Matty Guerrier on the mound:

 

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Preview (22-13, 1st, 2.5 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (4-1, 2.36) vs. Andy Pettitte (4-0, 2.08).

Contemplating The Yanks

This weekend, the Twins will head to Yankee Stadium in New York for three games with their own particular version of kryptonite: the Yankees.

There is a particular amount of buzz about this series in the Twins Cities area right now (whether suffocating or stimulating is up for interpretation), primarily due to the Twins’ hot start and the potential to erase a few past demons.  Basically, we haven’t been able to do squat against the Yankees since, ironically enough, we started winning on a consitent basis back in 2002.  However, here is the reason why I finally see the Twins turning things around…starting tomorrow night:

 

baseball_back_1024.jpgTo me, the difference between the Twins and the Yankees has always been a deep bench.  Whether Joe Torre or Joe Girardi, in late-inning situations there’s also a big bat coming off the bench that can wreak havoc.  The best example of this was in the ’04 ALDS, when Ruben Sierra came off their bench as opposed to Michael Ryan off ours.  Ouch.

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The picture above more accurately represents our bench (in past years) in a time of need.  Gardy scans the length of the dugout and finds such guys as Brian Buscher, Ryan, Nick Punto, or Matt Tolbert to try and create runs off of Joba Chamberlain or Mariano Rivera.  Not likely.

However, this year we have both the lineup depth AND the pitching to keep pace with the mighty Yankees.  They may still outpace us in top-tier (Sabathia, Burnett, A-Rod, Jeter, etc.) talent, but we now have the bats to hang with them even into the late innings.

Plus, remember this…

In 2003, we took the first game at Yankee stadium before collapsing.  In ’04, we took the first and almost had the second if not for a Nathan blown save.  Last year, we played them toughed in nearly every regular season game (a lot of walk-off wins for them), and had a chance to win all three of those playoffs games if we could have gotten some clutch hits.

Could this be the start of a new era for the Twins (competing with the big boys)?  This weekend provides the first test.

O(ld)-Dawg

Hudson18_593541gm-a.jpgUntil the seventh inning of Saturday’s Twins-Royals matchup, both teams had seen their starters struggle but gotten enough big hits to overcome it.  Blackburn gave up a few bombs to Rick Ankiel, while the Twins did all their damage in the second inning, including a monster straight-away-center jack from Jim Thome.

Just after Stretch time, though, Orlando Hudson (batting righty) launched a mammoth home run that hit the facing of the second deck out in left field.  I didn’t realize that the 32-year old Hudson had that in him!  From that point, it was Matty Guerrier for a perfect eighth and Jon Rauch for the Guardado-type (aka tenuous) save.

Another series win already in the books, with a sweep now firmly in the sights.

Notes:

-I know that it’s still just April, but I’m already ready for the Yankees to come to town in late May.  Mark my words: If a sweep happens in that series, it won’t be by the visiting team.

Preview (9-3, 1st, 2.5 GA DET): Luke Hochevar (1-0, 2.84) vs. Carl Pavano (2-0, 1.38). 

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?!

Pondering The Closer(s)

Well Twins fans, has it really come to this…the dreaded CBC (Closer By Committee).  My thoughts on the candidates:

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The safe choice. Matt Guerrier is a solid setup man, and would likely do a tidy job in the ninth as well.  The problem: He’s oh so valuable as that solid setup guy.  I’d only go to Matty if another candidate fails.

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Well, it’s clear from the picture that Jon Rauch would have the role if intimidation was the only factor.  He’s got a live fastball, but can’t always control it.  He’s the guy I would throw out there to begin with if Neshek isn’t ready.  Has previous closing experience in Washington, for what it’s worth.

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When we last saw Jose Mijares, the Yankees were walking off.  I would be really scared trusting this guy to the ninth inning in pretty much any situation.  He’s too much of a head-case and easily melts down (the worst character trait of a potential closer).

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The picture says it all for Jesse Crain.

Neshekcloser.jpg Of course, if Pat Neshek successfully shows he has come back from Tommy John surgery, this whole debate will be moot.  I mean, would you want that coming at you?  Every time he’s been healthy he’s dominated batters, so barring arm issues he should be the guy.

A Word Of Warning For Joe Mauer…

Just saw this story on Yahoo! News today…

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ap-knoblauch-assaultplea&prov=ap&type=lgns

First off, I hope that Chuckles gets his life put back together.  It’s always sad to me to see a former Minnesota athlete struggle like that, and my prayers go out to him.

That being said, his life story (at least as it relates to baseball) could be a sort of warning for Joe Mauer (who is perhaps considering a shot in the Big Apple himself, seeing as how he hasn’t signed a contract yet):

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In 1991, Knoblauch was the spark-plug that helped drive the team to their World Series title.  He proceeded to become an elite lead-off hitter in the American League for the next 5-6 years, even on abysmal Twins teams.  He was a doubles machine, and could steal bases with the best of them.  However, he decided to opt for the big market of New York after “serving his time” here in Minny.

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In the City that Never Sleeps, unfortunately Knobby didn’t get much shut-eye either. Under that big-time pressure, he never re-captured those glory years with the Twins, and suddenly developed an inability to throw the baseball from his second base position over to first.  The mental block got so bad that he eventually changed positions to left field, which led to this career path:

AADC038~Chuck-Knoblauch-Studio-Portrait-Posters.jpgI don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So Joe, before you even think about how playing in NYC is all playoff games and confetti showers, consider the sad story of one Chuck Knoblauch, a living example of what pressure (even leading to his being named in the Mitchell Report a few years ago) can do to a person.  The grass always seems greener (literally, in this case) on the other side, but only if you can enjoy the grazing.  Think about it.

The Answer

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the rough shape that major league baseball is in when it comes to parity and competitive balance.  I was then challenged by another blogger to provide a solution to the problem.  To me, the solution is relatively simple…it’s the implementation that is the tough part.  Here are my thoughts…

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First and foremost, baseball needs a salary cap akin to the system in the NFL.  Sure, baseball has the luxury tax, but that is like asking a billionaire to pay a thousand-dollar fine everytime he does something wrong.  It sounds like a lot, but to the billionaire it is relatively little, thus he will continue to repeat his bad behavior (e.g. buying up and keeping contracted all the best players).  In the NFL, teams can only spend a certain amount (in 2009 the figure was $128 million) per season.  Plus, there is even a “minimum floor” clause of sorts that says a team has to spend at least so much money (like a minimum speed limit on the freeway) in order to prevent some franchises from just packing it in and hoarding $$$ to line their wallets if the season isn’t shaping up as planned.  Sure, there would still be bad teams.  However, general suckish-ness would be based on poor team management, like, say, starting this guy at QB…

 

Secondly, the TV pot needs to be broadened as well…

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Once again, the NFL (which I considered to have the best professional sports economic system out there today) requires TV rights to be shared between both teams competing.  In baseball, all the revenue goes to the home club.  So, the Yankees, because of their enormous and populace viewing area, can create their own TV network and rake in the dough, while the Twins (after trying that approach with Victory Sports Network and failing miserably) plod along with Fox Sports North and, comparatively speaking, get chump change in return.

Those two changes would go a long way towards making baseball much more economically sound (in terms of honoring the heritage of the game, not just turning the biggest possible profit by assuring the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs every year), and would not be all that difficult to implement.  However, major obstacles still exist in the implementation of the plan.

The biggest problem (and this will probably be the biggest understatement I ever post on this blog) is this guy…

confused.jpg Allan H. “Bud” Selig, baseball’s commissioner, was once an owner himself (of the Milwaukee Brewers), so he is very sympathetic to their causes.  Thus, he will NEVER impose sanctions on their freedom, even if it means destroying the fabric of the game in the process.

Because of this, the Players Union (once headed by Donald Fehr, but now led by Michael Weiner, pictured below)…

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…won’t, and doesn’t, budge an inch, as they are always terrified that former owner Selig is out to get them.  That is why implementing a salary cap or steroid testing is like pulling teeth.  A new, much more impartial commissioner would go an incredibly long way towards rectifying the situation, but since the players are still raking in the dough and the owners are protected by Buddy-Boy, the status quo hasn’t quite been shaken enough yet to oust Selig.

Of course, in a certain humerous turn of events that even I can smile at, Selig’s contract expires after the 2012 season.  In other words, right before the world is supposed to end (!)…

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So, I guess our only hope is to pray that the Mayans were wrong…as after ’12 baseball might get back on the right track!

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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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?!

Boof To Boston

fantasy_bbonser_300.jpgJust heard today that Boof Bonser was traded to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later.

My first reaction is regret, as Boof (when healthy) has a live arm and nasty stuff that can really tie-up opposing batters.

However, he did have two pretty big strikes against him:

1. After his brilliant rookie campaign in ’06, he has never returned to that form again.  Perhaps hitters figured him out and he hasn’t been able to adapt?

2. His injury status.  This decade, the Twins have seen two pitchers (in Joe Mays and Francisco Liriano) struggle mightily after major arm surgery.  Mays was forced to retire because he was no longer effective, while Frankie is a shell of his ’06 self.

If that big arm ever comes back, the Boofster could be a very nice addition to the BoSox.

In other news:

The most exciting player in the division…

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…that being Curtis Granderson, was recently traded from the Tigers to (guess who!) the New York Yankees.  Though I don’t mind the fact that he won’t be around to terrorize Twins pitching anymore, it makes me want to puke that the Yanks are at it again.

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

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