Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I can't bring myself to closely monitor the baseball off-season. Nothing happens that I can't learn by spending five minutes skimming over an offseason summary and preseason preview. (Although, occasionally my fact checkers have informed me that certain left-handed relief pitchers are no longer members of the Twins roster). By this point of winter, I start wanting baseball back- no matter how much I expect the Twins to disappoint. Is "expected disappointment" an oxymoron?

I'm told that my reader enjoyed last season's "Airing of Grievances." Today is Festivus, and I thought there would be no better way to switch from 2009 to 2010 with what will be the second annual airing of grievances. I think I still need to name my All Metrodome outfield.

I don't know where to begin the grievances, so I'll start with the obvious: Who tries to score from second base on a grounder to the shortstop? There's only one infielder in the league who could possibly mess up that play. And what am I going to do about all of the pitchers?

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Yesterday, during a conversation with two friends, we realized that collectively, the three of us had attempted something eight times but succeeded only once. I remarked that our rate of success qualifies us to play infield for the Twins. One of the others, who does not follow baseball closely, responded, "You're referring to somebody in particular. Just a second. I'll think of the... PINTO! Is it Pinto?" I had intended for my comment to apply to Buscher, Tolbert, and Casilla as well, but the characterization of the piranha as a sub-compact car with no rear fender and a gas tank prone to explosions struck me.

Meanwhile, rumors and suggestions fly about potential free agent moves during the off season. I expect to see Chone Figgins playing third for the Twins next year. The Twins certainly know that fans lost patience with the instability at the hot corner a few seasons ago. The signing of a big-name player symbolically shows fans the organization's commitment to building a winner, while maintaining the traditional Twins image because "he plays our style of baseball."

He will likely flounder in a Twins uniform; he has hit for respectable average, but his game is primarily speed and defense. Similar players for the Angels- Izturis and Aybar- have had similar numbers. Similar players for the Twins have flirted with the Mendoza line. I doubt there can be much difference between Twins speedy infielders and those for the Angels. That leads me to wonder about quality of coaching for the Twins. It may take the Twins a few months to do the damage, but even at career year he'd be way too expensive- which is exactly why I expect it to happen. The Twins best hope is that the Mets outbid for him like the Lions did with Scott Mitchell. I suppose at the very least, he knows not to try to score from second on a grounder to short.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I wish I were disappointed at the news that the Twins traded outfielder Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for shortstop JJ Hardy. Instead, I immediately thought, "This might mean they'll keep Delmon Young." That's a fitting follow-up to, "At least they got more for Garza than Johan."

Many Twins followers had wanted the outfielder to spend the season in AAA. I do not recall arguing a strong position for or against the option, but in hindsight, it clearly was the right thing to do. A dime-a-dozen Jason Tyner type could have done as much for the Twins in 2009 as Gomez and regular at bats and focused coaching in Rochester may have helped to transform Gomez from the bad halves of Pedro Cerrano and Willie Mays Hays to their respective good sides. The move ultimately doesn't mean a whole lot, and still fails to address the top priority for the Twins this offseason.

The article in the Star and Tribune includes a disappointing, albeit unsurprising, description of offseason plans for the Twins. "Smith didn’t rule out pursuing a second or third baseman but noted manager Ron Gardenhire’s preference to have Nick Punto in the lineup." I'm going to take the positive interpretation of this. Smith has realized that if Punto is on the roster, Gardy will play him. If Smith realizes this, that means he knows how simple it is to solve the Punto problem. Get rid of him. Even if this befuddles Gardy so badly when he's filling out the lineup card that they end up with Matt Tolbert in centerfield, no DH, and Kevin Slowey batting fifth, it's worth it.

When I broke the news of the trade to my 86-year-old neighbor, he said it best. "They already have a shortstop who can hit .225." At least this one won't try to score from second on a grounder to short.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


For those who are following on television instead of the radio, here's what you just missed:



Game Two

It took 163 regular season games and 2 playoff games, but I finally figured out the 2009 Minnesota Twins. They can, but they don't. In Friday evening's loss to the Yankees, they proved that they can beat the Yankees, but ultimately lost the game. A serviceable, middle-of-the-rotation pitcher can pitch deep into the ballgame allowing only one run. A lousy utility infielder starting at second by default can get a clutch hit in the 8th inning to take a two-run lead. One of 2008's worst relief pitchers can toss an uneventful bottom of the 8th. And I don't care who is coming to bat in the 9th, one of the game's most respected closers can retire three hitters without surrendering 2 runs. If the three most improbable of these actually happened, then the Twins can win that game and beat the Yankees in a 5-game series.

Instead, they dug themselves a 2-game hole. And unfortunately, the regular season taught them that it's perfectly acceptable to do this. It doesn't matter if you squander a 12-run lead in Oakland because you can always beat the Tigers in a tie-breaker. The Yankees in the playoffs are better than the Tigers in the regular season. I still have faith in the Metrodome to keep things interesting, but realistically Friday was the chance. Then again, in a series with Blackburn pitching well in the Bronx, Punto getting clutch hits, and Guerrier mowing down Yankees does conventional wisdom really apply?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brett Favre

Did the lowly Twins just upstage Brett Favre throwing three touchdowns for the Vikings against the Packers? I don't care how pathetic the AL Central has been, a great baseball game is a great baseball game. They've played 163 games now, and I still have no clue what to think of these Twins. On Sunday, it took four pitchers to get through the 6th inning with a 7-run lead against the Royals. Yet, they keep winning ballgames and have a solid nucleus with serviceable role players. Whether this game marked the end of a great comeback or a monumental collapse in a pennant race will be decided by the next three to five games. They are as close to embarrassing themselves in a three game sweep as they are to winning the World Series. There is just one thing I know: The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is not going to let anybody tell it when it will host it's last Major League Baseball game.

Sacrifice Fly

He can't even hit it far enough to score Casilla. And Alexi "runs around the bases pretty well." He wouldn't even need to hit it that far if his inept play hadn't cost the team victories earlier in the season.

Oh boy.

Oh, boy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Deluded Optimism

2009 has been the year of deluded optimism for the Twins. Could there be a more fitting finish then heading into the final weekend with just a half game margin for error? They could still win the division. For all the reasons to doubt the Twins, there is just as much reason to doubt the Tigers. How would you feel if the Twins took a two-game lead into a final weekend series at home against the White Sox? Throughout most of this season, the Twins have looked like a team with no business in the playoffs, but the Tigers have refused to put us out of our misery. Even Punto tried to do his part by bunting into a double play in the series opener. Did anybody else wonder why Casilla, Punto, and Tolbert all had the chance to grab a bat in the top of the 9th of a tie game against the team with a 2-game lead in the division with 7 games to play? Carl Pavano was available to pinch hit.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Chilly Wind

A strong wind from the north has lowered the temperature in Minnesota. The cool air and bright colors are probably supposed to make me think of football. To me, this weather means that after a hot (or not so hot in 2009) summer, it's finally time for real baseball. I'm looking forward to watching October baseball, and despite the Twins best efforts the Twins may not have that chance. It's anybody's guess what they'll do in Detroit, but I'd be surprised if the two teams combine for more than 1 win during the final weekend.

While I contemplate the outfield and first baseman for my All Metrodome team, I will name the designated hitter. This one is even easier than Gaetti. Nobody is the All Metrodome DH. There have been a few isolated successes, but throughout their stay at the Dome, the Twins have not had a designated hitter. Chili Davis had a strong year in '91, Paul Molitor received a few MVP votes in '96, lately Kubel has settled into the role, and David Ortiz had an outstanding month in July 2002. That covers about 6 of the Twins nearly 30 seasons under the teflon bubble. The rest of the time, platoon outfielders and mediocre free agents attempted to fill the void. Heck, even Denny Hocking started at DH now and then. For as crazy as it sounds to put a light-hitting utility infielder at DH, at least he was a career .250 hitter and rarely flirted with the Mendoza line for most of a season.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eighty Two

It's over. The Tigers won their 82 game clinching a winning record for the American League Central Division champion. The Indians ruined it by completely collapsing instead of starting to play great baseball long after it stopped mattering. Speaking of that, now that attention in Minnesota has turned to #4 the Twins have played pretty well lately. The players' comments following the 2-1 series win over the Tigers sounded generally disappointed. What a contrast from all the times they'd pat themselves on the back for winning 1 of 6. Meanwhile, as I predicted, Punto continues to tear it up in all of the meaningless games assuring Twins fans another 500 at bats in the 2010 campaign.

I suppose I ought to name my All Metrodome third baseman. Much to my surprise, I am not bestowing the honor collectively to Tony Batista, Jeff Cirillo, Mike Lamb and anybody else to man the hot-corner since Koskie. The surly Canadian tempts me, I'll never forget Ron Coomer representing the Twins in the all-star game, Dave Hollins had a nice visit, and the Twins won a World Series platooning Scott Leius and Mike Pagliarulo. I'm not even old enough to remember Gary Gaetti, but I know he's the only choice. Now that I've made all of the easy picks, I'll have to settle on three outfielders. (The pitcher takes even less thought). I hope to post those before I talk myself into Pedro Munoz. (Make sure you pronounce that "Moo-Nose" like T.K. did back in the day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy Birthday

I could not let the day go by without wishing Delmon Young a happy 24th birthday. Honestly, I'm not really sure what the Twins did this weekend. But I'm fairly certain they still think they have a chance at the playoffs.

Before I talk myself back into Todd Walker, I'm naming Chuck Knoblauch as my All Metrodome second baseman. He was a big part of the world championship and the players received in the trade (Milton, Guzman, and Buchanan) helped to rebuild the franchise a decade later. He took forever to adjust his batting gloves in several campaigns that earned him MVP consideration. I always liked his shaggy appearance as well. I'm still disappointed that the Twins didn't give him another shot after the Royals disappointing attempt to revive his career.

Monday, September 7, 2009

All Metrodome Catcher

The middle of the lineup is mired in a slump resembling a typical week for the middle of the infield, but otherwise the Twins have not done anything blog-worthy in a while. I take that back. Cuddyer and Morneau's "slump" would qualify as a hot streak for Casilla or Punto. In light of that, I continue naming players to my All Metrodome team. A month of two ago, I selected Pat Meares as the shortstop.

The catcher lead the club to several division championships while facing plenty of 0-2 counts as a left-handed hitter. He's one of the best catchers to wear a Twins uniform in the Metrodome era, and I will never understand the boos with which the Metrodome crowd greets A.J. Pierzynski. He has always been a solid backstop and tough out. He called a good game and seemed to handle the pitching staff pretty well. For as long as he wore a Twins uniform, he did everything he could to win each ballgame. Joe Mauer is a great player, too. I have nothing against him, but I still miss Pierzynski.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Didn't the Twins already win a game to "get back to .500" this year? It seems like they do it every other day. I'm too lazy to look it up, but you'd think they could be making a run at a club record for the most times they have accomplished this feat in a single season.

I am worried about the Earth spinning off of its axis. Nick Punto laid down a nice bunt on a squeeze play today. Oddly enough, when he actually tries to sacrifice bunt in a sacrifice bunt situation, he gets on base. Who knew? If only he had managed to remember this all of those times he tried to bunt for a base hit when he was supposed to be sacrificing himself.

Apparently, Nick Punto's son was born earlier this week. With September call-ups around the corner, I think it's safe to expect another Punto in the lineup by Wednesday. At least the younger Punto has a chance to draw a walk before he hits a wimpy pop-fly to second.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pleasantly Surprising Weekend

The Twins pleasantly surprised fans this weekend. I saw those three letters I love to see by Nick Punto's name: DNP. It's much better than GIDP- although that typically requires hitting the ball hard and on the ground. I guess that's the one upside to weak pop-ups to second. I'd say it can't be a coincidence that they swept the series with Punto on the bench, but that just means Casilla is out there instead. Both have their batting averages creeping upwards.

This sweep probably means the series with the Royals to close the Dome will be less interesting. I had expected that series would be for 4th place. And while the Twins could play poorly enough to make it close, the Royals can't play well enough to make up the ground. But there is one prize still in sights: Winning the division with a losing record. Can you imagine the Twins entering the final game at 80-81 with the Tigers at 79-82 and both teams lost to send the 80-82 Twins to the playoffs? I guess I would feel bad for the Metrodome to have to host the playoff series.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Homestand, Standings, Preseason

Today opens with the Twins 6 games behind 1st place Detroit and Cleveland 12 games behind first place Detroit. In other words, the Twins are as close to 4th place as 1st. Based on the quality of play lately, it's clear which direction they are headed. This afternoon, the Twins are not playing to "get back in the pennant race" in the AL Central. Instead, they are playing to protect their headstart in the race to stay out of 4th place. A strong finish would be nice, but honestly at this point, I wonder if an embarrassing 4th or 5th place finish may be best. If they limp to a third place finish, the marketing department can try to blame luck and injuries, but if things completely crumble they will know that the current personnel will be a tougher sell in Target Field.

The downside to the impending meaningless September baseball is that Nick Punto seems to perform at his best once thoughts in Minnesota have turned purple. He'll catch fire against the recalled AAA pitching and bring his average back to respectability. "Respectability" may seem insurmountable, but I figure he has about 160 at-bats left. If he hits .300 over that stretch, it brings him up to .240 or so for the season. Remember, he hit .286 in September of 2007 to salvage a .210 average. With Gardy at the helm, we know he'll get at-bats.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bunt

From the accounts of Wednesday evening's game, I gathered that the Twins had all but wrapped up the 2009 American Central pennant. The Tigers lost, the Twins had some timely hitting, and Liriano reverted from- excuse me- returned to form. Certainly, the win was refreshing, and the Tigers and White Sox are undoubtedly too mediocre to end Twins fans' misery any time soon. A strong ballgame today would have at suggested that Wednesday's 5-1 victory was not an anomaly. Instead, a middle infielder with a .200 batting average known for his ability with the little things failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt with nobody out and two runners on base late in a 1-run contest that the Twins lost by 1 run. His whole tenure with the Twins would have been worth it if only Gardy or Bill Smith had marched onto the field and given Punto his outright release before he had time to get up, brush the dirt off- even if he fouled out, I'm sure he slid headfirst into first base- and return to the dugout. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


(Thankfully) I was busy last night and missed the ballgame. I skimmed over the box score this morning. I saw Punto listed toward the middle of the order and listed as the 3rd baseman. What does it say that I thought he started the game batting in the middle of the order following Morneau in the batting lineup? I legitimately thought manager Ron Gardenhire decided to "mix things up a little bit" and "work Nicky in there." I then discovered that he had just one trip to the plate and apparently replaced Morneau late in the game.

Today, heads rolled in the Milwaukee Brewer's organization. In principal, I respect the stability of the Twins, but now and then I would like to see them employ such euphemisms as "dismissed" or "designated for assignment" in description of Twins personnel.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dancin' Homer

Big Bill McLoskey coming up. As soon as he pops out, we'll get straight to the post-game show.

I happened to watch the Dancin' Homer episode of the Simpsons this evening. The dejection in the broadcaster's voice matches the emotion of Jon Gordon during recent Twins games. Regrettably, he does not actually phrase things so cynically.

In a 2006 game, I recall that the Twins had runners on first and second with nobody out late in a close ball game on the road. Nick Punto stepped into the box- probably batting in the second spot in the order- and unceremoniously laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. His entire focus was on advancing the runners. He didn't try to be a hero and beat out the "sacrifice" nor did he try to drag it or slide headfirst into the base. A run from even one baserunner would have been a huge boost. Instead, the extra pressure on the pitcher produced a game-breaking rally for the Twins. At this point, I was willing to accept that the Twins would play the remainder of 2006 with a light-hitting utility infielder playing third base. If he plays superb defense and does the proverbial little things, it's a decent arrangement considering the shortage of quality third-basemen.

Since then, he has proven to be one of the worst on the team with the fundamentals. Yesterday, he failed another critical sacrifice bunt. For somebody who can't get on base, he has a remarkable knack for getting picked off. His defense is above average at best, and the the foolish risks he takes in order to justify his place in the lineup backfire far too often.

Just once, I would love to hear Gordon say it:

Punto coming up. Heck, let's just start the post-game show now.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Sure, the official scorer ruled it a hit. I don't care. Good thing we have Punto out there to play great defense for us. Of course, Gardy will blame the run on Harris. These Twins are so depressing, I'm looking forward to the Vikings. Heck, they are so pitiful, I honestly found myself excited to see how the Timberwolves do this year. Pavano and Cabrera must be wondering what they did to deserve this. And Cabrera was traded from Oakland.

It's now 4-1 before I have time to finish my post venting frustration at our $4 million defensive wizard. If he saves so many runs, why didn't he make that play? Argh.

I followed the Twins pretty closely through the late 90's and I couldn't even make it through one inning tonight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Attack of the Clones

The Angels have left town having thoroughly embarrassed the Twins. I'm sure the Twins will pat themselves on the back for sweeping the Sox, though. Last weekend in Anaheim, Angels infielders Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis nearly collided while playing a pop-up. One of them caught it- I'm not sure who. Aybar, Izturis, and Figgins are all pretty much from the same mold. Then I remember that the Twins acquired Alexi Casilla from the Angels organization. Curiously, though, the trio on the Angels has combined for only one full season (with 200 or more at-bats) with a batting average below .250. Why is it that these Piranhas can actually hit like so many people pretend Nick Punto can? Individually, a .270 hitter without much pop isn't much of a threat, but collectively they can do considerably more damage. Those 70 batting average points are a big difference. It's over twice as likely (1.9% to 0.8%) that all three of them get a hit in any given time through the order. The way the Angels run the bases, that's at least one run. Likewise, every time they don't get out, that's one more chance for the big sticks.

The most frustrating part of the pitching is that it makes complaining about the infielders seem so pointless.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The $4 Million Man

The Twins traded for Orlando Cabrera. They already have a $4 million dollar shortstop. He gets all the playing time because for some reason the manager refuses to let the adequate hitting shortstop with average defense play regularly. If it's any consolation, we can pretend that the front office is admitting that they signed the wrong $4 million dollar shortstop. The trade certainly shouldn't hurt anything- they guy they gave up has considerably worse numbers than Matt Tolbert did at that level. Although one would have to think being different than Tolbert is good regardless.

I would like to think that Bill Smith understands that this move does little to improve the Twins. Pitching is clearly the real problem. Since the All-Star break, they have lost maybe one game (5-3 in Texas) on which on blame rests on the offense. But the reality is that Bill Smith was not the man behind this move. I'm sure Dave St. Peter wants to appease the armchair GM's who sympathize with Mauer and Morneau's pleas for a deal in order to market the Target Field Twins. I do not fault Mauer and Morneau for frustration, but I would rather they challenge their teammates to fill the void.

There is still time a deadline deal which could greatly revitalize this club. There is still time to swing a deal which moves Punto, Tolbert, Casilla, and Buscher for a pocketful of magic beans.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All Metrodome Team

There has been popular demand from my reader that I name my own All Metrodome team. So I will. I begin with shortstop because I want to make the pick before I talk myself out of it.

There really is only one choice at short. His steady play up the middle defined an era of Twins baseball. During his tenure, the Twins manage 70 wins just 3 times and twice failed to win 60. One of the darkest days in franchise history came when the Twins could not even afford to prevent Pat Meares from departing for the greener pastures of the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was rock bottom. I recall the despair when I heard this news.

Meares joined the Twins in 1993. The momentum of the '91 championship was gone. Upon his departure after the 1998 season, the Twins unveiled their youth movement team with a roster consisting almost entirely of rookies. These 1999 Twins featured such players as Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Christian Guzman, Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones. Even A.J. Pierzynski caught a few games. Brad Radke, Eric Milton, and Joe Mays held spots in the rotation. Meares had almost no connection to the success on either side of his time with the Twins. Nearly every other player from the Pat Meares era had either played in the World Series or stayed for a few years with the youth.

I will not forget the time I was at a game and Meares won it with a walk-off ground-rule double.

Monday, July 27, 2009


A radio advertisement for a law firm specializing in bankruptcy aired during the Twins broadcast. They opened by saying, "If you're credit score is lower than Nick Punto's batting average..." I apologize to my new favorite law firm for not catching their name, but I was too delighted at that blatant recognition of the four-million-dollar man's pathetic batting average.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bill Smith Quote

Apparently Twins general manager Bill Smith wonders why nobody ever asks him what he thinks about the team after they have won four out of five. I think he answered his own question. I will be first in line to ask him if they ever win four of five.

For as much criticism as he takes, he has actually done a pretty good job. The biggest mistake was resigning Punto. The next biggest mistake was not trading Liriano when he would have been able to get something for him. Not trading the left-hander reeks of trying to appease knee-jerk armchair GM's who could not recognize that his success was the direct result of a violently unsustainable delivery. The last thing I want in a GM is a coward who does whatever he thinks will appease the fans.

Speaking of cowards, Terry Ryan threw Bill Smith under the bus with Johan Santana. He quit his job to avoid blame for the Cy Young winner leaving. I like the deal Smith went for, and I question Twins coaching at all levels as to why there has not been as much of a return on the deal.

Well, this afternoon, the Twins have another shot at getting back to .500. The whole organization seems so content with such milestones, it's hard to believe they'll win four of five anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Red Flags

The team that can't hold a 10-run complains about umpires not being able to do their jobs perfectly? That's a red flag. Hey, look on the bright side. Tomorrow, the Twins head to Anaheim where they will have yet another chance to climb above .500.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Punto batting second? I quit.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Big Move

I'm too lazy to look and I have forgotten. Had I mentioned that Mark Grudzielanek and Ray Durham were free agents? Yes, he's old, injury prone, and hasn't played this year. What does it say about the $4-million man that the Twins would even think about Grudzielanek? The sad reality is that this move is bad news. If Grudzielank produces at all, he'll get Buscher's roster spot. Gardy will be tempted to bench Harris, but he will not actually go through with it. Remember those incentives in Joe Crede's contract about at-bats? Gardy will move Punto back to short and "work Harrisy in there over at third to get some at-bats" while they try Grudzielanek at second. The result is an unstable left side of the infield and an over-the-hill second baseman. It would just be too easy to leave the left side alone and use Punto as a defensive replacement for Grudzielanek.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


The All-Star game has passed and now and now begin all the rumors and discussion of what the Twins will do. The consensus among talking heads seems to be that the Twins need to do something. There also seems to be agreement that regardless of what they should do, they will not do anything. Realistically, I cannot see how any deal could significantly improve the team.

What weaknesses could they address? Second base is a black hole on offense, but they do have enough bats in the lineup to afford one weak-hitter provided he plays solid defense. The best chance of improvement at second would be if Casilla can conquer his fear of the ball and "hit the cover off the ball" in the Majors like he did in Rochester. In the outfield, Span plays great defense and reliably reaches base for Mauer and Morneau. Cuddyer, although strike-out prone, supplements the middle of the order as well as anybody. Gomez and Young have played better lately, and the Twins should be able to expect a strong second half from one of the two.

This leaves pitching as a hole to fill. Unfortunately, there is no way the Twins can trade for what the staff needs. They need Brad Radke. The current rotation consists of solid 3rd or 4th starters. They're missing the reliable ace who pitches reliably and always throws his best games when they're most needed. Ideally, they would have at least two pitchers like that. They do not have nearly enough depth in the farm system to trade for a pitcher of that caliber.

This highlights another weakness. They have no depth. Tolbert and Buscher are lousy even by "quadruple-a" standards, and they have nobody in Rochester who could hold down the fort over a 15-day stint on the DL. Back in '02 when both Koskie and Mientkiewicz were hurt, they still had David Ortiz, Michael Cuddyer, Matt LeCroy, Casey Blake, and even Bobby Kielty to play the corner infield.

A change-of-scenery trade with some combination of Gomez, Young, and Casilla might be the only legitimate option, but it's too early to give up on their potential. Regardless, the best a trade can do is improve their chances of embarrassing themselves in the division series again. The best a non-trade could do would be if Gomez, Young, and Casilla play well in the second half, a pitcher or two grows into the "ace" role, and one of the fresh faces adopts the role of a strong set-up man. That's the big "ifs" that could make the Twins a legitimate contender for an AL pennant. Unless of course they want to trade Punto and Tolbert for some magic beans. I'd be find with that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The Twins will begin the second half of the season with pitchers following the call-up of Kevin Mulvey. (Fittingly, I forgot his first name as I was writing that sentence and had to look it up). Reserve catcher Jose Morales was sent back to Rochester. It must be so tough for a manager to have to choose between having too many catchers or too many pitchers. Meanwhile, the team has just one middle infielder.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

AL Central Competition

Earlier this week, one of the STRIB bloggers commented that the White Sox are the team in the AL Central that Twins must fear. I think he phrased it rather poorly. This week's series with the Yankees reminded that there is just one ballclub in the American League Central that threatens the Twins chances of winning the division. Despite the shortcomings I rant about, the division belongs to the Twins if they want it. They have two of the best hitters in baseball protected by three more solid threats. I may complain about Punto, but I can live with a lineup in which he is the only lousy hitter. The starting pitching has been solid lately, and now that the only current relief pitchers I can name are Dickey, Guerrier, and Nathan I feel better about the bullpen. The division is the Twins to lose and they have most of the same players as last year. Did they learn anything from all of those "It's-only-one-game" quotes on 2008?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Script

Last night- well technically this morning- the Twins found themselves on the losing end of one of my favorite "scripts" for a baseball game. As is typically the case with games like these, I missed the first few innings. I turn on the radio, "and the Twins trailing six to nothing here in the third." The Twins added two runs in the third and fourth allowing the "it's still early; maybe they can creep back into this" thought to creep into fans' heads. Then they put up 5 in the 6th to tie it at 7 and knock the opposing starter from the game. At this point, I probably should have just shut the radio off for an hour or two because I've followed baseball long enough to know to expect the game to play out like this:

"They're in the bottom of the 7th out in Los Angeles. Here at the Metrodome, neither team has scored since the 6th inning."

"The Tigers take a one run lead here, and the last man in the bullpen will be on to try to stop the Twins."

"The Twins manage to tie in the bottom of the inning. The Orioles have wrapped up their win in Anaheim. Is that Scott Baker heading down to the Twins bullpen?"

There's nothing quite like that moment in the 12th inning when you realize you've heard a full 9 innings even though you started late. I guess the only thing missing from this game was the big hit from a defensive replacement in his second at-bat and the great defensive play by the pinch-hitter.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


There is some outrage that the Twins opted to pitch to the Cardinals star slugger. Ordinarily, I am not one to focus too much on statistics. I don't care about OBPS and I don't know what VORP means. Generally, if it sounds like the onamotapeoia from the old live-action Batman show with Adam West, I ignore it. On the other hand, simple statistics such as at-bats, hits, RBI's, and HR's distinguish perception and reality with a hitter like Pujols. While two-thirds of my readers are far more qualified to assess the risk than I am, I took a look at what the numbers say about the decision to pitch to Pujols.

First of all, he has 314 plate appearances in which he has not been intentionally walked. In those he has 74 RBI's (assuming he was not intentionally passed with bases loaded) and 28 HRs. If you assume 5 trips to the plate per game, an opposing manager could expect Pujols to drive in 1.16 runs if he pitches to Pujols each time. That is not going to beat you unless he gets some help. Right now, the skeptics are thinking that his overall numbers are skewed because managers pitch around him in tight spots. He's been intentionally walked 24 times. Let's (generously) assume that instead he hit a 3-run homer in every one those trips to the plate. Using that rate of run production, he'd still only be expected to drive in 2 runs per 5 plate appearances. That's an absolute upper bound on the damage we should expect, and it's still not enough to win a game.

Sometimes he might hit two home runs against you. In 4 trips to the plate, he has about a 5% at hitting at least two home runs. By contrast, he has a 15% chance of going 0-4. He is three times more likely to go hitless than he is to hit two home runs. The conventional wisdom to pitch around him is based largely on the weakness of the rest of the order. If Pujols goes ofer, the rest of the lineup has some work to do. Yesterday, the Twins were victims of a rare- but nonetheless possible- occurrence. I'm willing to excuse the pitcher for throwing meatballs because all of these probabilities implicitly incorporate the reality that pitchers can't always hit their spots. Even then, Pujols did not beat the Twins yesterday. The Twins lost because they made a fielding error, hit a batter, the guy hitting ahead of Pujols had two hits, and the Twins refused to generate any offense after the fourth inning.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Annual Traditions

While I've been too lazy to post, Twins players, coaches, and reporters have begun one of my favorite June traditions. "This is where we were last year" rings the chorus. "We usually hit a hot streak about this time" the say. Where did they end up last year? They lost game 163 1-0 because they only managed a single win against the Royals on the final weekend. In 2008, "last year" they muddled to a sub-five-hundred third-place finish after muddling around .500 for the first two months. In the Twins favorite last year- 2006- they completed a 4-month comeback to overtake the Tigers and earn the right to a disastrous, embarrassing three-game sweep against the A's. In 2005, they were about .500 in June, and finished at about .500 for third place. I'm sick and tired of the Twins propaganda machine telling us to be excited about mediocrity. A good place to be in June is having already played two and half months of good baseball. In 2002, by June, the Twins commanded a several game lead in the division. A dominant series to begin the month knocked Cleveland down for several years, and the White Sox stumbled about .500. At this point, talk focused not on their status in the division, but rather on how the Twins matched up against other teams in Major League Baseball.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2005 San Diego Padres

Usually a pennant race features two top-tier rivals playing a heated September series while perhaps scoreboard-watching another foe. The 2009 AL Central may feature a team contending not with another ballclub, but instead a theoretical benchmark. In 2005, the San Diego Padres won the NL West with a record of 82-80. Without doing the research, I'd wager this is the worst ever record to win a division. Second place Arizona finished at 77-85. Could we see the AL Central champion finish the season with a losing record? Conventional wisdom suggest that at about this point of the season, a team or two will hit a hot streak to win pole position for the pennant race. But what if Detroit has already had the hot streak to put themselves in first? If "normal" is worse than they've played- or they slump for a week or two- the entire division could sink below .500. The division's saving grace may be that the games they play amongst each other guarantee 180 total wins for the division.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

AL Central

June begins with just 8 games separating first place from last in the American League Central. After a fast start, the Royals have quickly faded to 4th place. The Twins and White Sox have spent two months muddling around .500. Despite high hopes, the Indians early struggles prompted many pundits to dismiss their 2009 season. To date, the Tigers have successfully countered the cynics' speculation of a fire sale. This early June series featuring an inconsistent Twins club hosting a disappointing Indians club will likely define the season for the Central division. A sweep by the Twins announces their intention to win a division title. On the other hand, a sweep by the Indians drags the Twins towards the cellar and gives the Indians hope. In all likelihood, one of the teams will win two of three. Either case suggests four more months of mediocre teams with the least bad holding out to win the division.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Joe Mauer and the Twins Future

The young catcher's hot-hitting has drawn national attention and sparked discussion regarding his future with the Twins. The cynics talk as though he already plays for the Boston Red Sox. On the other hand, the romantics picture the homegrown talent playing his career as a Twin because he is "Minnesota nice." Both sides raise valid points, yet overlook what the most relevant facts have to tell us.

Twins current payroll: $65 million/year
MLB Highest Salary (Alex Rodriguez): $27 million/year
Highest '09 signing and most comparable player (Mark Teixiera): $22 million/year
League Minimum Salary: $390 thousand / year.

The Twins could pay Mauer and Morneau $27 million each, and still have enough of their current payroll left to pay 22 players league minimum and Nick Punto the remaining $4 million. The suggestion may appear to be purely hypothetical speculation, but is it really that much of a change from the current roster? In all likelihood, the Target Field Twins will be a triple-a team with two stars and a few overpaid veterans.

The Pohlads always have run the franchise as a business. They know that they need fans to make money. I doubt Dave St. Peter wants to try to market the Twins should either Mauer or Morneau leave. Inversely, generating fan interest with that pair is considerably easier. Rightfully, fans love Mauer and Morneau, and in the AL Central, the team will always remain competitive enough to keep interest. St. Peter doesn't think fans expect much. In an editorial in today's Star Tribune, he declares, "It doesn't take much to improve the experience of our fans. The bar hasn't been set very high." That says it all. St. Peter and the Pohlads know that if a they can generate interest for a mediocre team in the Metrodome, then they can attract fans to watch a glorified AAA team at Target Field.

Here's the fun part, though. Now we don't have to tolerate it. The organization has no leverage over fans. If they don't field a decent team, we don't have to watch. We've built their stadium and they're stuck with us. Once Target Field opens, it's far easier for the franchise to convince Minnesotans to watch the home team than it would be to convince another metropolitan area to build a stadium. And no matter how much crap Dick Bremer tells us about being a "small market" the people making the business decision realize that the Twin Cities is actually a lucrative location.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Clubhouse Guys

Today I read a column reminding that not only is Nick Punto an atrocious hitter, but he's at best adequate in the field. I skimmed over some reader comments, and not surprisingly the Punto Apologists brought forth their final line of defense: He brings the intangibles. He hustles. He's a team leader. He's a good clubhouse guy. I recall one saying he'd rather have Punto than a "clubhouse cancer" like Manny Ramirez. Let me just ask this: As an opposing team, who would you rather see stepping into the batters box for a critical late inning at bat? Even as a Twins fan conditioned to quake in terror of puny middle infielders like Adam Kennedy, I'd take my chances that the Brave Little Toaster hits a dinky foul ball to the first baseman, spikes his bat in disgust, throws his helmet across the diamond, and slides headfirst into the bag to get his uniform dirty. Manny may be suspended presently, but when he returns, he'll still have more RBI's and HR's that Punto.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

That'll Show 'em!

The Twins return from their seven game road trip having outscored their opponents 42-35. I'd like to think today's 20-1 means that the Twins marks the recovery from a rough road trip and foreshadows a strong homestand. I'm worried that it will give players, fans, and coaches a false sense of accomplishment about the past seven games.

And guess who had the token ofer (with 3 k's) in the offensive breakout. It was none other than Nick Punto!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Breslow Release

Apparently the Twins released Craig Breslow. Will somebody please explain why they waived him in the middle of May, yet waited until June and September respectively with Juan Rincon and Brian Bass in 2008?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blackburn's Outing

After Blackburn's struggle in New York last year and his walk-walk-hr sequence, I was tempted to blog about my disappointment. Then he goes and pitches several strong innings after that. Don't be mistaken. Pitching around two batters to give up a 3-run homer is a huge pet peeve of mine. But I like graceful recovery from such incidents almost as much as I hate the mistake.

I'd expect many question Gardy's decision to leave Blackburn in the game. I'm not one to second-guess managers. Heading into the 8th, I thought to myself, "Blackburn's going to get rocked. Oh, well. He can't do worse than the 'pen." Blackburn actually handled the inning respectably. I'm willing to risk a double to Matsui rather than walking him. The Yankees gave an out to move him to third, Damon grounded out, and then a two-out Texiera single drove in the run. That sequence is a considerable improvement over the bottom of the 3rd.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bad News

The Twins second struggling second-baseman Alexi Casilla down to the minors today. This is bad news for two reasons. First, it means he'll probably return. Let's hope by then he's at least conquered his fear of the ball in the field. Second, the alternative, Matt Tolbert, isn't much of an improvement. Let's no kid ourselves. Gardy will find every excuse he can to play him ahead of Harris. Tolbert will conveniently go 3-4 with a pair of doubles in one of his first games and do nothing after that.

Earlier this decade, I was one of few to defend Luis Rivas when most fans complained about how lousy he was. A second baseman with great defense, a .260 batting average and five to ten home runs would look pretty good right now. That's not to say they should have kept Rivas, but as second-basemen go, he was at least adequate.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mauer's Return

Joe Mauer returned to the lineup on Friday scheduled to bat third. Many had thought he would bat second, and Morneau and Kubel would remain in their respective positions. I respect Gardy patient confidence in Casilla. The manager's tendency to resist knee-jerk decisions likely pays dividends. But Mauer should be batting 2nd with Morneau and Kubel following immediately. Presently, there is no player who has any business hitting between Span and Mauer. You can't possibly want the team's worst hitter, Casilla, to be getting the second most at-bats. If Harris is at second base instead, he fits nicely into the 6th or 7th spot. He's not going to get on-base enough to justify putting him ahead of Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel, but he has enough power that he can be that extra threat after the middle of the order. Punto is doing fine batting 9th, so just leave him alone. I suspect Gardy sees things similarly, but wants to give Casilla another week or so. I doubt we'll be seeing anybody from Rochester; Matt Tolbert's .225 batting average leads all infielders for the Red Wings.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Walking In Runs

Usually when I sit down to watch or listen to a ballgame, I intend to follow it to the very last at-bat. If it gets out of hand, I may linger on another station for a few pitches after the commercial break or switch from television to radio, but I still have the game on. There are a few exceptional situations in which I allow myself to immediately bail out. Walking in a run is one of them. Walking all four batters to give up a run in the 11th inning is definitely one of them. Just give up the W$%(*&$#(*% Grand Slam if you really want. Throw the ball over the plate. Realistically, you'll still allow a run, but at least you have a good chance of getting an out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home Runs and Walks

I'd much rather have a pitcher give up a lead-off home run than a lead-off walk. Even in the 9th inning with a 1-run lead, I'd rather have the pitcher give up a lead-off home run than a lead-off walk. I'm sure you can look up statistics that say you lose more win shares with the homer, but I'm sticking with the anecdotal evidence demonstrated in games like this one.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Left Handed Relief Pitchers

In Monday night's game, Rays manager Joe Maddon elected not to bring in a left-handed pitcher to face Twins first-baseman Justin Morneau with a few runners on base. Remarkably, the earth did not spin off its axis. Instead, Morneau flew out to center field. It's amazing what happens when you just leave a guy in the game when he's throwing the ball well. Gardy's usually pretty good about this, too. I just can't stand the conventional wisdom that you have to bring in a southpaw. Of course, if Sunday afternoon was any indication, sometimes anybody throwing with his left hand can get tough left-handed hitters out.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Angels

Who remembers the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I think that's a pretty good description of the start to the Angels' 2009 season. Last weekend, the Twins benefited at the Angels' expense. While the sweep was certainly encouraging for the Twins, it also highlighted something that troubles me about a baseball team. It has been all too rare that the Twins win a game; usually the opponent loses the ballgame. You have to win the gifts, and it's nice to see the Twins doing that. Over the course of the season, those aren't enough on their own. The great teams win all the freebies, rarely give games away, and earns of a few wins of their own. Over the past six games, the Twins have earned two wins, been given two more, and gave two away.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Winning Pitchers

Last night, I almost turned off the radio to go to bed in the middle of the eighth inning. I've followed baseball long enough to know better, so I decided to listen to the very end. A bullpen meltdown and a Jason Kubel grand-slam later, the Twins had completed a dramatic comeback. Kubel deserves plenty of credit for the victory- particularly because he was one of few players who didn't wait until the last minute to try to win the ball game.

As is usually the case after a game like this, I had no idea who picked up the win. Apparently, surrendering two of your predecessor's runs in the 7th followed by one of your own in the 8th is all it takes. The 9 runs allowed really were a collective effort of Blackburn, Crain, and Guerrier. In such circumstances, I propose that the scorekeepers credit the win to the player most responsible for it. Last night, that would either be the Twins left-fielder or possibly Angels manager Mike Scioscia for over-managing the 8th inning. Any one of those pitchers could have recorded three outs before giving up 7 runs.

Finally, let's not forget the contributions of Brendan Harris. Sure, he struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth. But he had a solo HR early and a sacrifice fly in the 7th. Those two runs were the margin of victory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


People around baseball are mourning the passing of radio broadcaster Harry Kalas. These announcers are irreplaceable, and I fear we are experiencing the literal and figurative death of baseball on the radio.

I've been following the Twins primarily on the radio this season. John Gordon's tendency to accent the strangest words provides welcome relief from Dick Bremer perpetually thinking a pop-fly to the second baseman has a chance. (I suppose it's a valid assumption with a Twins pitcher on the hill). There's also a certain charm to baseball on the radio.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Opening Series

The season begins with a split at home against the Mariners. What did we learn from this? We learned a lesson any baseball fan already knows. Baseball season is the best six (hopefully seven) months of the year. Every day there is another game in which anything could happen. One night they'll refuse to even get hits. The next will look like more of the same, only they'll face a bigger deficit. But a disciplined Carlos Gomez at-bat, a Mariner bullpen meltdown, and some timely hitting will steal a win in the 9th. After this, the Twins timely hitting in the middle innings and early power will win a game. Finally, in the rubber match, they'll rever to "He pitched a heckuva ballgame against us" form. On Friday night, R.A. Dickey pitches the first of many games on the Southside. In principal, I'm none too pleased to see the knuckleballer in the rotation, yet I'm overwhelmed with curiosity at what might happen.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Twins 2009

"He pitched a heckuva ballgame against us."

Sunday, April 5, 2009


It has been brought to my attention that Dennys Reyes is no longer a member of the Minnesota Twins. If that really were the case, I'm sure I'd have marked the news as the highlight of the offseason. I checked and sources seem to concur that Reyes is in fact a St. Louis Cardinal. I will believe it when I see it. A few years ago, I recall being delighted to learn that the Anaheim Angels had overpaid one Juan Carlos Romero. At last I'd be spared of watching the left-handed specialist enter the game in place of an effective righty and walk the #8 batter. Instead, it turned out that the southpaw had merely put on some weight and changed his name. Based on the Twins roster, it looks like the role of giving up home runs to switch-hitting reserve catchers that Gardy wanted to "turn around" has been recast to Jose Mijares.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Rotation

The 2009 Twins will begin the season with journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in their starting rotation. There. I said it.

Before there were bloggers, there were columnists. I want to thank Sid Hartmann for informing me that Doug Mientkiewicz, Eric Milton, and Juan "Knows How to Handle A Bat" Castro have been in camp with the Dodgers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Toughest Part of a Manager's Job

Spring Training is winding down and the Twins must decide which 25 players will open the season in the Major Leagues. Names like Matt Tolbert, Brian Duensing, R.A. Dickey, and Philip Humber are tossed around. At this point, the manager realizes that he has to choose at least two of these clowns to come north for the season. The pitchers will join a bullpen which includes such firemen as Matt Guerrier and Dennys Reyes. Matt Tolbert would join speedy, slap-hitting middle infielders like Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla. Brendan Harris will resurface with the Royals and destroy the Twins worse than Royals pitching.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Training Statistics

With the season approaching, I thought I'd take a look at the Twins stats for spring training. Delmon Young has put together a solid spring with 4 doubles, 2 home runs, and a .295 batting average. Denard Span has managed just a .159 batting average while leading the team in at bats. You'd expect Morneau to lead the team in homers with 3, and not be too surprised that Gomez and Young are tied for the lead with him. But Matt Tolbert also has three.

What do all of these stats mean? The beauty of spring training statistics is that they mean whatever you want them to mean. I like Gomez and Young, so their performances indicate their merit in the lineup. I'm not a huge fan of Denard Span, so him numbers suggest he should ride the pine. And since I hate Nick Punto, his .429 batting average, 5 doubles, and 5 RBI's mean that he's wasted all of his production in March.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brendan Harris

I guess I have few grievances left- except this time they aren't with the player. He switched positions three times last year. In the season of injured middle infielders, he was the only one who stayed healthy. He put together a respectable year at the plate for a middle infielder. His 7 HR's are just 3 short of Nick Punto's total as a Twin. Punto managed a combined 53 RBI's in 2007 and 2008 compared to the 49 for Harris in '08. (Harris also had 59 in '07 so don't try to say it was a fluke).

In the field, Harris is nothing to brag about, but his struggles at 2nd and 3rd can at least be somewhat excused with unfamiliarity. At short, his range was limited, but at least he didn't do anything stupid on the plays he could reach. He also has a strange tendency to set his feet before making a strong, accurate throw.

I guess I do have one complaint. Trim those sideburns! Then maybe Gardy will put you in the game.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Outfied

Please forgive the delay. A busy week at the office followed by a cold amidst the endless and pointless spring training which has produced little blog worthy material. That, and I didn't want to tip my hand in my roto league fantasy draft.

The consensus seems to be that the Twins enter 2009 with a surplus of outfielders. In reality, they are a Denard Span slump and the Dave Kingman ball falling and injuring Michael Cuddyer away from Jason Pridie stepping onto the field. Have Chad Allen, Dustan Mohr, Bobby Kielty, Lew Ford, and Jason Tyner lowered our expectations so much that we regard "enough" as an abundance?

Kubel should spend most of his time at DH. Span plays the field gracefully, but his minor league track record casts plenty of doubt that he can maintain his 2008 production. It's equally believable that Gomez could finish the year in Rochester as it is that he could win an MVP award. Cuddyer has a cannon, always hits the cut-off man, and has shown he can be a threat at the plate, but he has limited range, tends to strikeout, and suffers slapstick injuries. Delmon Young is the safest bet in '09, but between his awkward fielding and the Twins insistence on "correcting" his swing may limit him value. All things considered, this is a pretty good set of options for the outfield. But don't think for a second any of these guys are expendable. It's a long season, and there's no telling who will get hot and who will get hurt. Do we really want to see what David Winfree can do?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Headfirst Slides

Apparently Nick Punto still likes to slide headfirst into first base. Unlike many of Punto's harshest critics, I like this trait. Think about it. He might hurt himself. That's the most valuable thing he can do. Even if he slides in head-first, he's still out when he pops up to the second baseman. Moreover, when he slides into first, he can't overrun the bag, turn the wrong way, and get tagged out while he tries to innocently wander back to the base.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Infield

The StarTribune story regarding the Crede acquisition claims the Twins head into 2009 with their best infield in a while.

But the addition of a proven player such as Crede to play with former MVP Justin Morneau at first base, table-setter Alexi Casilla at second and reliable shortstop Nick Punto appears to give the Twins their best all-around infield in a long time.

I love the word table-setter to describe Casilla. He and Punto have more business as busboys at Denny's than they do heading to spring training as the favorites to start up the middle. In his tenure as Twin, Punto has been anything but reliable. Throughout 2008 he was streaky and injury prone. He flirted with the Mendoza line during the 2007 season following a few hot months in '06. Last season, when he wasn't striking out, popping up, and spiking his helmet in disgust, he was committing baserunning blunders worse than Willie Mays Hayes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Crede Signing

Only time will tell if Crede helps the Twins win ballgames in 2009. That's exactly why I'm excited about it. I've already complained that we hoped Buscher would be adequate at third. I think many Twins fans would also agree that we know that Harris would be serviceable at third. Where's the fun in that? With Crede, it's anybody's guess.

Usually, I'm not one to put too much credence into baseball statistics, but the Crede signing made me curious. How much of his career production is a product of lighting up the Twins? I did a simple analysis comparing his career numbers, his career numbers against the Twins, and his career numbers excluding the Twins. I multiplied the respective rates of HR/AB by 500 AB to see how a typical season might look. Remarkably, there was little difference.

Career: 23 HR
Against the Twins: 25 HR
Career Excluding Twins: 22 HR

Now, remember that as a Twin, he'll face all the same teams except he faces Chicago instead of Minnesota. I don't think White Sox fans would be as cynical and angry if players like Joe Crede weren't hitting way too many home runs against them. So, I think it's safe to say we don't have to worry about Crede's career production being a product of Twins pitching.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Francisco Liriano

My grandmother put it best. She hated Livan Hernandez. She gets most of her baseball updates from the newspaper, and since the story broke during the day, I called her to inform her that the Twins had released the veteran right-hander. Without hesitation, she retorted, "Who'd they call up, Liriano? He's not any better!" Strictly by the numbers, he pitched pretty well in August and into September. Despite this, he looked like he could revert to the ineffective no-control pitcher we'd seen demoted in the spring. Following the Twins sweep of the White Sox, I wish I could have felt more confidence in the southpaw when he took the hill to open the series with the Royals. In the most important start of his career, Liriano proved my grandma right. He allowed 6 runs on 11 hits in less than 5 innings of work. For all his whining when he was in Rochester, I'd think he could handle the Royals with a playoff spot on the line.

He's still plenty young and has a good arm. But don't hold your breath waiting for him to be the next Johan Santana. I'd be content if he could roughly match Eric Milton.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jesse Crain

First, the good news is that I'm running out of players to complain about. My biggest complaint about Jesse Crain is that I perpetually forget he's even there. I spent 2008 so paranoid that Bass, Rincon, Gas Can, or Matches would come out that door to ruin the game, I forgot all about how excited I had been in 2007 when Crain got hurt. (Yes that may be insensitive or mean, but that's how I felt). And yet, compared to the other options, he's not that bad. To continue a theme from the Brian Buscher post, it's hard to get excited about a pitcher who is not that bad.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brian Buscher

Brian Buscher made his Twins debut in 2007 in Cleveland against the Indians. I was at that game. In paging through the Cleveland Plain Dealer, I noticed that the Twins had made a roster move. I remarked that I expected to see him in the game that evening because Gardy likes to "run 'em out there right away to see what they can do." Sure enough, he started the game at third. A few innings into the game, a Buscher throwing error set off a 6 run inning. The damage might not have been nearly so severe if not for everybody's favorite defensive wizard Nick Punto committing another error. Meanwhile, Buscher went 2-4 at the plate. That evening summarizes Brian Buscher. He has potential to be a solid hitter- at least against right-handed pitchers- and with some work he could be serviceable in the field. I don't really have a problem with him, but it's really hard to get excited about a player whose value is having the potential to be adequate.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Offseason Moves

This week the Twins announced their most significant addition of the offseason. They also signed Luis Ayala to "help" the bullpen. When I saw the headline, I thought (hoped) it referred to 49-year-old Bobby Ayala. The one nice part of a fresh face is that I don't have any painful memories like I do with Gas Can and Matches. For now, we'll have to be content with bringing in Larry DiVito as the new head groundskeeper. If he prepares the infield to reduce infield hits, maybe the Twins will find a few more real hitters.

Gas Can and Matches

A commented on one of the STRIB Twins blogs once lamented having to watch Dennys Reyes stroll out of the bullpen with a gas can followed by Matt Guerrier with the matches. I decided to steal these terms to use as nicknames for the relievers. The game on Saturday, September 6th really says it all. Scott Baker entered the 8th having allowed 2 runs on 4 hits. A one-out walk prompted Gardy to summon Dennys Reyes from the bullpen to face the left-handed hitting Curtis Granderson. Three pitches later, a Granderson home run tied the game. Gardy then called upon Matt Guerrier. The second batter he faced hit a 2 run homer to take the lead. At least this meltdown didn't involve the relievers walking anybody.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blackburn and Breslow

These two pitchers get to share a grievance. Both were pleasant surprises in some sense, but they symbolize the team's struggles in 2008. Blackburn helped to fill a void by stepping into the rotation and pitching effectively for the early months of the season. He also struggled to pitch innings down the stretch and looked over-matched in several outings. All things considered, he put together an encouraging rookie season. But he hardly merited rookie of the year consideration or many of the other praises piled on him.

Meanwhile, Breslow may have been the most effective performer in the Twins bullpen last season. Somebody in the bullpen ought to have pitched well enough that I'd be laughed at for saying that. This isn't Breslow's fault, but I'm mad at him for it anyway.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Garza/Bartlett Trade

Twins GM Bill Smith has taken plenty of heat for dealing Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to the Rays for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. It's been described as a rip-off and a failure among other things. I had disagreed with these assessments, but then I remembered something. In the deal, the Twins also swapped minor league pitcher Eduardo Morlan to acquire outfielder Jason Pridie. The young outfielder needed only 10 games to earn an entry in the airing of grievances. As you may recall, Pridie bobbled a routine outfield play to allow the tying run to score from first base with 2 outs in the ninth inning of a September contest at Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays which the Twins would eventually lose in extra innings. A few weeks later, the Twins and their fans were complaining about the coin flip which sent them to the Southside to break the 1st-place tie with the White Sox. It would be easy to blame the manager for putting Pridie into the situation. But I have a hard time believing that routine singles to right field are in different from all the routine singles he saw in AAA.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boof Bonser

Boof Bonser reported to training camp in 2008 much lighter than he had been in 2007. By any traditional measure, he was in much better shape. His 2007 season featured many otherwise dominant performances ruined by an apparent lack of stamina. Naturally, logic would suggest that a slimmer better-conditioned Bonser could overcome this problem. I mostly agreed with the sentiment, but my nagging shred of doubt came true. The reigning American League Cy Young winner weighed 300 pounds. David Wells threw a perfect game. Rod Beck reminded us that nobody ever landed on the DL with a pulled fat. In hindsight, if Bonser had reported to camp 20 pounds heavier than his '07 weight, then his 2008 season may have been as successful as many around the Twins organization had hoped.

He enters 2009 as the most likely candidate to provide a dominant force out of the bullpen to set up Joe Nathan. He's shown that he has as dominant of "stuff" as any pitcher on the staff, but hasn't consistently harnessed it. Many of the best relief pitchers are starters just like that who couldn't quite make it. I guess we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Alexi Casilla

In 2007, Alexi Casilla looked completely overwhelmed with the Major League level of baseball. He began 2008 in AAA where he hit just .219 (21/96) with three doubles accounting for his only extra base hits. Then the entire Twins infield and every backup got hurt, and he was called up by default. In just his 4th game in the lineup upon being recalled, he hit a home run. Stunned by this turn of events, I grabbed my phone to send a text message to my brother. But he was quicker on the draw, and just before I could hit send the exact three letters I had keyed popped up on my screen: WTF. Casilla then taunted Twins fans with plate discipline and occasional power over the summer months. Then he got hurt, and reverted to the Alexi Casilla who held a .250 slugging percentage in AAA. The evidence certainly suggest that May, June, and July are the exception. But even if they are the rule, it's hard to be excited about a player whose upper ceiling looks to be Luis Rivas. But he is really fast.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins received plenty of praise for filling a hole in the rotation last year. He had some solid outings, but I had a hard time getting myself to watch on days that he pitched. The inevitable sixth inning meltdown just ruins the whole game. Once this trend emerged, I wish Gardy would have picked (at least) one game to force Perkins through the 6th no matter how many runs and pitches it took. Instead of getting Bass or Guerrier as soon as things got ugly, Gardy should have just sat in the dugout glaring at Perkins with nobody warming up. I don't care if he was out of gas, hitters figured him out the third time through, or otherwise. He needed to be able to finish a game. Instead, he continually proved my suspicion that he's a "Number 6" starter. He's great for a temporary replacement when somebody else is injured, but he wasn't effective enough to be out there every fifth day for most of a season.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jason Kubel

The problem with Jason Kubel is that no matter what he does, it makes me mad. If he strikes out watching three straight fastballs, I'm mad that he wasted the opportunity. If he hits a big home run, I'm mad because he's taking away my reason to hate him. And it might mean he'll be in the lineup again. He's just a really confusing player. He hasn't been "bad" in either of the past two seasons. But he hasn't done nearly enough to be considered "good." I'd gladly take his 2008 performance for the next few years. I just don't have a clue how likely it is that he can repeat it. Basically, I'm sick of wondering if he'll ever fulfill his potential and hope 2009 can finally answer the question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It's the middle of January and there aren't enough curse words in the English language to describe how cold it has been in Minnesota this week. How cold is it? It's so cold that Minnesota is getting attention from the national media. There at least seems to be a perception nationwide that it's always 20 below in Minnesota. What does this have to do with the Twins? Well, the national image of this state as frigid flyover country coupled with our Scandinavian modesty enables the Twins to brainwash us with the small market myth.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul do not belong in the same category as Omaha, Des Moines, and Oklahoma City. They shouldn't even be compared with Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City. Cities like Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix are much more reasonable comparisons. The Twin Cities are at the smallest a "middle" market. There is no need to convince the fans that we have to settle for less because we don't live in a big important city. This doesn't mean I think they should throw money at free agents just to do it. New York already has the Mets and they're a "big" market. I'm just sick of the crutch and the propaganda.

In order to find blog-worthy material between now and spring training, I will continue by posting something about most if not every expected 2009. Naturally, this will mostly take an "airing of grievances" format.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What if...

I couldn't help but read some of the comments on the STRIB's story reporting Carl Pohlad's death. The moderators deleted any derogatory posts. The remaining posts agreed that Pohlad brought to championships to the Twin Cities and saved baseball in Minnesota. Both sentiments are true to a point, but Minnesota baseball fans ought to rethink their feelings of indebtedness and quit groveling.

Suppose Pohlad had never purchased the Twins from Calvin Griffith and the Twins had left town. The implication is that baseball in Minnesota would be reduced to the Eastern Minny league. In reality, that's probably not the case. Contrary to the propaganda, the Twin Cities market is just too big to be without baseball in some capacity for an extended period of time. Within a matter of years, a AAA team would likely move to town. Remember, a minor-league team would have been bumped by the Twins arrival in their new town. Furthermore, Major League Baseball added 4 new franchises in the 1990's. Certainly Minneapolis-Saint Paul would have been a prime candidate for a new franchise. And in this scenario, the "Twins" would probably be playing in Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, or Miami. The expansion franchise is not a guarantee, but there would definitely be either a AAA or MLB team in the metropolitan area.

In either case, baseball fans in Minnesota would have spent the 1990's watching hot prospects like Dave McCarty struggling fulfill the hype. Matt Lawton and Marty Cordova would have stabilized the revolving door of outfielders which had included Rich Becker, Alex Cole, Brent Brede, and Roberto Kelly. We'd have seen over-the-hill veterans like Otis Nixon give it one more chance. A crafty aging pitcher like Bob Tewksbury might have tried throwing a 45 mph change-up. Minnesota would be one of many stops for mediocre journeymen corner-infielders like Dave Hollins and Greg Colbrunn. It wouldn't be a season without trading Midre Cummings. A pitcher like Mike Trombley would blow the few leads we had. Frankie Rodriguez would pitch over 200 innings in one season. The highlight would have been when Chip Hale set the record for most pinch hits in a season. In short, baseball in Minnesota would have been unbearable in the 90's without the Twins.

But the Twins did win two World Series after Pohlad bought them. The World Championships are treasured memories for any of us with any recollection of them whatsoever. But unless Nick Punto and company get to work this season, come October, some kid who wasn't even born the last time the Twins won a World Series is going to walk into a gas station (present his real drivers' license), and buy a pack of Camel Lights. Do we really want to keep living in the past? Do we want to become as annoying as Cubs fans? Since the Twins won their last championship, the Marlins have won two, the Diamondbacks one, and even the Rockies and Rays made it to the World Series. Even with an expansion team, we may have still enjoyed a championship. As an added bonus, we'd have paid for the stadium by now. Although I'm not sure we ever could have replaced the brilliance of Brad Radke.