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.