Thursday, December 30, 2010

AL Central

The other teams in the division are all pretty much like the Twins. Except, the Sox won a World Series, the Tigers made one, and the Indians came within a game six choke of winning the AL pennant. I guess that leaves the Twins tied with the Royals for postseason wins in the last 6 seasons. The entire division is too close to what I've followed for the last decade, so I can't give any of them serious consideration. Instead, I will examine a few alternative choices:

Chiba Lotte Marines
I have explained my "addition by subtraction" philosophy of offseason moves before. I don't know much about the Marines, but I do know that they lost a middle infielder from last season. That's usually a step in the right direction. Plus, they have $5 million to burn.

Round Rock Express
Sure they have a lame nickname, but they have been the home of one of the stars of my fantasy baseball team. I could finally follow the career of "hot" prospect Chris Davis. Austin is supposed to be a pretty nice city. It's hip and trendy, but since it's in Texas, I can't imagine it's quite like Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. Then again, maybe it is. Meanwhile, the Rangers seem to be in pretty good shape, so I would expect they have decent players working their way through the capital of Texas.

Mankato Moondogs
For each home game, they designate a player on the other team. Each time he strikes out, beer is half-price for the remainder of inning. Once, he was 0-2 with 2K's facing an 0-2 count when the Moondogs pitcher plunked him. Also, occasionally, the opposing manager will hurl the game ball into center field in a temper tantrum after the bottom of the first.

New Ulm Kaiserhoff
Is Terry Steinbach still pitching for them? I saw them play a few summers ago, and I still suspect that they were actually the 1989 Oakland Athletics. They even had the green and yellow uniforms.

Murray's Corner Store*
They may be third-graders, but the really know how to run around those bases. Well, actually, most of them don't know that you have to tag-up on a fly ball. Of course, they all sprint towards home plate at the first chance they get. I know a lot of Major Leaguers don't know that you have to cross the plate before the third out, though. They have also proven that they can beat Anderson Pharmacy* and Gunderson Implement and Tractor* in the playoffs.

So there you have it. I guess I'll have to get started on my next iteration of inspecting the teams. I've never been one for that, so I'll probably channel my inner Lou Brown and go with a hunch.

* All business names are intended to be fake.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

AL West

The AL West brings back painful memories of Twins road trips during the 1990's. The time zone could work against these teams. More recently, I think of Dick Bremer perpetually reminding Twins fans how many times they play Seattle this month. With only four teams, it's easy to forget they're even playing.

Seattle Mariners
I'm still recovering from their dismissal of manager Don Wakamatsu. As I've said, anybody who gets into a fight with a weak-hitting and overpaid middle infielder is fine by me. At least they replaced him with manager Eric Wedge. He has also done something Gardy hasn't. I am certainly curious about the Mariners, but there isn't enough for me to root for them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California
Lately, the Angels have combined everything that's wrong with the family-friendly Twins with all of my complaints about the Yankees. I suppose that's basically the Mets, but it's not comical. I don't know quite what to think of Angels skipper Mike Scioscia. He seems similar to Gardy, but I feel considerably different when he summons a reliever with a 2-run lead in the 8th than when Gardy does the same. I'd say that's because Tolbert, Punto, and Casilla are due up for the Twins, but somehow Scioscia's scrubs are actually somewhat threatening. Following the Angels, then, would mainly be an academic exercise. How similar or different are they from the Twins?

Oakland Athletics
A's general manager Billy Beane has been lauded- mainly by himself- for his Moneyball strategy to win games. As I understand, he picks an offensive statistic from a hat, acquires or develops players who are best at this, and has Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito in the cheap years of their contracts. The current roster has a handful of quality cheap- I mean young- pitchers and a futile- I mean high on-base-percentage- lineup. Do they still play in the Al Davis Coliseum? I think I may have to resort to the time zone argument if I want to rule them out.

Texas Rangers
Manager Ron Washington still wears his uniform without the wuss-out windbreaker. That alone might be enough for me. Nolan Ryan insists on building the team around quality pitching. It seems to be working. They've left themselves a target for this year. First, they need to remind us that although Cliff Lee was a huge part of reaching the World Series, he didn't do it alone. Second, they need to actually win the World Series. I have heard positive reports about the ladies in the Dallas metroplex and my favorite television show, King of the Hill, is set somewhere near Dallas. They play their games in the best mix of time zones of any team which would allow me the chance to watch an entire game and make my bedtime or retire to the sofa at 9:00pm to watch baseball to end my day.

The players in their lineup don't excite me too much, though. I also might feel a little bit too much like a fair-weather fan for jumping to a team that already won the AL pennant. At any rate, I think they are the front-runner after my first iteration through the teams.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NL East

With any luck, the NL East might provide me with a team that starts and finishes it's games early.

NY Mets
They're the Mets. What else needs to be said? They do deserve at least one argument on their behalf. I could spend the entire season quoting Apu from the Simpsons when he says that the "Ny Mets are my favorite squadron."

Washington Nationals
I already wasn't wild about them and then they signed that one guy to a huge deal. They should be mired in mediocrity for a while.

Philadelphia Phillies
They landed Cliff Lee and have one of the top teams in baseball. Of the big-spenders, they are probably in best position to legitimately contend for a World Series. They should be a pretty good team, but I can't imagine they would be much fun to root for. I haven't heard many flattering descriptions of the city of Philadelphia, either.

Atlanta Braves
They are the National League Twins. That World Series win was a long time ago. Otherwise, they have a history of early playoff exits. Heck, this year was a surprise that they even made it that far. For as much as a like a crusty old character like retired manager Bobby Cox, he was probably a bit of a Gardy. Now he's gone, so perhaps the Braves are free to explore what happens without him. They brought in some lousy left-handed reliever that the Dodgers didn't want. I have heard mostly good about the city of Atlanta. ESPN's Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons raves about the ladies in Hot'lanta and his readers and my brother confirm this. I have also heard good things about Chick-fil-A. Atlanta will definitely be among the contenders, but I do not know that I can excited myself about the baseball team enough to actually pick them.

Florida Marlins
I already have a battle-worn hat. My roommate introduced me to this audio clip of a confused Harry Caray. Every time I hear somebody mention the Marlins, I blurt this out like a reflex. I could really enjoy a full season of this:

Announcer: Two outs and a runner on for the Marlins ...
Me (to myself): The Marlins?!?!? Who the hell are the Marlins?!?!?

I've always admired their "Fire Sale" strategy, but they don't seem to have employed it in some time. I do like that shortstop who fired the manager last year. They could assemble a solid squad this season. Then again, they play in the only state to have it's own tag on I'm not sure I'd like the humidity of south Florida either. I'm sure Miami has it's girls, but it's probably too much a party town for an early-to-bed sort like me. Altogether, the Marlins are a strong contender. The Marlins? Who the hell are the Marlins?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

NL Central

I expect the NL Central to be much like its AL equivalent, except with more potent offense because the pitchers bat.

Cincinnati Reds
They surprised people by winning the division and making the playoffs last season. They've also left themselves room for improvement in 2011. They will certainly receive consideration.

Houston Astros
I keep forgetting that they exist. This may be a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, I'm at least curious enough to see who they have, what they are, and what they could do that I'll take a closer look. On the other hand, Houston is known for its humidity in the summer.

St. Louis Cardinals
I should like the Cardinals and Manager Tony LaRussa more than I do. ESPN always seems obsessed with a them. That kind of annoys me. There are probably plenty of convincing arguments that could be made for them, but I just don't think I could get excited about them.

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee is a decent city to visit. I don't much care for Miller Park. The team has a solid lineup if they could get some pitching. They did trade for Greinke, but in the process they acquired that shortstop who always finds his way onto my fantasy team. It's an AL only league, so I suppose I could credit them with sparing me this year. I still feel "betrayed" that they left the American League. Moreover, I can never forgive them for getting rid of the old "Mb" glove logo which was the most perfect baseball logo ever. It was the perfect blend of cute, clever, and descriptive. I will not actively follow the Brewers as a contender, but if something catches my attention- such as bringing back the old logo- they may move up the rankings.

Pittsburgh Pirates
They have a fantastic stadium. The tickets are cheap. Pittsburgh is supposed to be a deceptively nice city. If they win 60 games and finish in 5th it would be an excitingly successful season. Supposedly, they are trying to groom a nucleus in the minors and hold them together to rebuild the franchise. They are more of an "investment" so nobody could accuse me of being a fair-weather fan. In fact, my interest in the Pirates is at least partially a statement about the current Twins configuration. At least these minor-leaguers for the Pirates might win a game in October. The Pirates are definitely a strong contender. Even if I do not choose them, I may catch a game or two.

Chicago Cubs
There's always next year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NL West

Due to my reader's impatience, I will skip the NL East and head west tonight. The timezone will be a major factor with these teams.

Arizona Diamondbacks
I don't like them. They sound like one of those made-up team from a baseball movie that didn't have the MLB license.

Colorado Rockies
With all the talk about asterisks and steroids, there is only true single-season home-run champion: Ellis Burks with my Rockies on Triple Play Gold Edition for the Sega Genesis. They have a nice stadium, Denver is a nice place to visit, and- based on a Pirates blogger's opinion- are rid of manager Clint Hurdle. They have pretty much disappeared ever since their Goldbergian winning streak that took them to the World Series a few years ago. They play their home games in the Mountain time zone and will travel to the Pacific time zone to play San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I'm not sure I'm ready to stay up that late, but they're at least worth consideration.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Their owners' divorce is destroying the franchise, they just signed Matty, I've never cared for them, and over half of their games are in the Pacific time zone.. On the other hand, they signed Juan Castro. During his tenure with the Twins, Juany showed that he knows how to handle a bat. Also, there should be an abundance young ladies in Southern California rooting for the Dodgers.

San Diego Padres
They say southern California girls are unforgettable, but I bet I would forget after Jason Bartlett boots three grounders in one inning. On the other hand, he would be a fun player to root against. I'd want the Padres to win despite Bartlett's struggles. They're roughly on par with the Rockies. I'll watch them more closely than other teams in the West, but doubt I could actually settle on them.

San Francisco Giants
They play in San Francisco.

Fine. You want a baseball reason, too. I just don't think this will be an interesting year for them. They weren't exactly a one-hit wonder. It's not necessarily a disappointment if they don't win a World Series, but that's obviously less than in 2010. They should still be competitive. It's just not the combination that would be exciting for a fan.

Altogether, the time zone probably rules out the entire division. I'm just too much of an early-to-bed kind of guy. On the other hand, I could see myself settling in to relax before bed by watching the start of the game. A good game would be done by 11:30 and a bad game would be obviously bad by 10:30. Bartlett was once denied a starting spot in favor of Juan Castro. Now they're in the same division. How exciting!

Monday, December 20, 2010

AL East

In my quest for a new team, all criteria other than sabremetric over-analysis will be fair game. The team's time zone, reported availability of quality single women, potential as a vacation destination, number of former Twins on the roster, and funniness of cynical bloggers may all be considered. Who knows what else I might think of? Let's start by assessing the American League East for it's potential.

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles intrigue me. In a league of Kansas Cities and Pittsburghs, they have quietly been one of the losingest franchises since the Brady Anderson era. Yet, 2011 might be a year they can enter with some optimism. Watching the Orioles finish in 3rd place with 83 wins sound more exciting than a division series sweep.
Boston Red Sox
I don't keep too close of tabs on the Red Sox. That's mostly because everybody hopped their bandwagon thinking the Sox are the anti-Yankees. In reality, they are the Yankees. At any rate, they have a young star or two flanked by above-average veterans. They're pitching staff isn't in very good shape. If they were my only choice, I think I'd be coming back to Minnesota in hurry. Young, Mauer, and Morneau are a better nucleus than anything in Boston.
New York Yankees
No, they are not automatically excluded just by virtue of being the Yankees. But they just signed a 36-year-old shortstop who is only a marginal improvement over your Yuniesky Betancourts to a how many year deal with worth how many million? They're also similar to the Red Sox, though the veterans are somewhat better. I'm not sure what they have for young talent. Regardless, the best they can hope for is another AL Central title for the Twins. On the other hand, there is some pretty good food in the Big Apple and it's been a few years since I've been there.
Tampa Bay Rays
They just traded Bartlett. A few days ago, in a news article, I noticed that the greatest athlete of all-time was wearing a Rays jersey. If Hulk Hogan lives in Clearwater and thinks the Rays are the team, it's tough to argue. Starting pitcher Matt Garza puts a flying elbow drop on that case, though. Then again, Brad Radke also lives in Clearwater, so there's always a chance that all-time favorite baseball player could wander out to the mound and pitch 8 innings, allow three hits and one run, and claim he didn't have his best stuff. Rays Manager Joe Maddon tends to favor common sense over managing by the book.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are the number one contender among American League teams. First, I already have the hat. Second, you can pretty much refer to my earlier post about how they are basically the same as the Twins. If they can hold the offense anywhere near last season's level and stabilize the pitching rotation, they could leap into relevance.

Overall, I'm hesitant to pick a team in the AL East. With the patient hitters, the games last so long that they'll end after my bed time. Also, I am curious about National League baseball. Is it really as different as all the hype? Is managing with a pitcher in the lineup really as difficult as AL Managers (of the Year) make it look in inter-league games?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth

What do I have in common with Nick Punto this offseason? We're both looking for a new team. One of us will inevitably end up back with the Twins, and it's not going to be me. After much prayer, soul-searching, and consultation with my brother, I have come to realize that I am not a Twins fans. Relationships take work, but I'm doing more than my fair share. Unlike an interpersonal relationship, with a sports team, the fan should just have to show up. The Twins may go on to great success without me, but I have concluded that I wouldn't really enjoy being along for the ride.

Despite all the hate for Punto I know his (potential) departure will not fix the franchise. Deep down, Twins fans do not hate Punto because he is the cause of the team's mediocrity. The anger is because he symbolizes everything that is wrong with this franchise. The Twins try too hard to create the "Little Engine that Could" image. Gardy is still here, and he's more than eager to have some speed in his middle infield. He's just another symptom, though. When you combine fancy new stadium, "We're just happy their competitive" fans, a weak division, a hometown hero, and a business savvy ownership, you're going to get what the Twins have been.

What will I do without the Twins? Especially during the World Series, I realized that it's baseball I love. I have always wondered what it's like to root for another team. Most baseball fans have tunnel vision on their team. When you only watch one team, you notice every flailing strike three, every booted grounder, and every boneheaded bullpen decision. Are other teams managers just as dumb? Are their middle infielders just as pathetic? I'm looking forward to finding out. At least all the players start with a clean slate.

In the coming weeks, I will try to chronicle my search for the new team. I think already have it narrowed down to a short list, but I'll try to build some drama while I research contenders.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Juan Uribe

After watching the other playoff matchups, I'm convinced anybody who defends Nick Punto has never watched any other team. Uribe actually plays good defense. He's a better hitter, too. Yet, the Giants only paid him $3 million a year.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Yankees

The Twins are playing the Yankees in the playoffs. There is plenty of talk about the Twins recent history against the Yankees in the postseason. Some are glad to play the Yankees because they want to get the proverbial monkey off the back. Some think the Twins will lose because they always lose. I hope nobody wanted the matchup with Tampa instead. On one hand, that's like bunting to setup Kubel. On the other, the Rays are just as dangerous. In the playoffs- much like the regular season- the team the matters most is not the opponent. Either way, the Twins are playing their side of the game. The team that wins the World Series is the team that does that for three consecutive series.

The Twins struggles against the Yankees in the playoffs are largely coincidental, anyway. Remember that series with Oakland? The Twins could have lost that series to anybody- including Toronto, Kansas City, or Detroit.

Monday, October 4, 2010


My brother shared this YouTube video with me:

He think they should make one for the Twins. I'd be content with a montage of Punto throwing the ball into the outfield in a desperate attempt to turn two with two outs and nobody on base. To be complete, we'd need Mauer GIDP'ing, Span getting picked off, Ullger sending the runner, SlowBakeBurn melting down, Perkins in a Red Wings jersey, Morneau endorsing fast food eateries and water softeners, Andy trotting out to the mound, and Joe Vavra smugly watching Young and Thome hit bombs as though he taught them how to do it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Final Series

This series with the Blue Jays is a playoff series. I've already posted my thoughts on how the Twins compare with Toronto. Technically, the games may be meaningless, but Toronto is unquestionably a playoff caliber team.

My middle school baseball team once lost a game 6-2. After the game, the other team's coaches told us that it was the first game they had not won by the 10-run mercy rule. They said that it was because they didn't pitch their best pitchers. Meanwhile, the Twins have allowed 59 runs- make that 60- in the last week. That's about the same number of runs the Twins allowed from the start of September until the Tigers series. It's okay, though. Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, JJ Hardy, and others were resting because the division had already been clinched. Well, Punto's lousy defense at short did surrender a few runs, so I suppose it's at least something of an excuse.

Losing streaks happen to every baseball team. That doesn't concern me. I am, however, disconcerted at just how easily they're losing. A team that's headed to the playoffs should at least be playing quality baseball. They're just embarrassing themselves.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Manager of the Year

People seem to be nominating Ron Gardenhire for manager of the year. After all, his team has all but wrapped up its division and has one of the best records in the league. He's also taken a team with one of the best rosters in the league that plays in one of the weakest divisions to this point. Let's not forget the Twins entered the year among the favorites to contend for the World Series title. To this point, he has met expectations. There are plenty of managers out there who could screw this up, but I'd like to think there are at least a few doing more with less. Ozzie Guillen took the White Sox into September still in contention for a playoff spot.

Gardy can't even take credit for some of his best moves. He reluctantly played Delmon Young everybody because Bill Smith didn't give him any outfielders. Even then, he tried to bench Young because Kubel couldn't hit. He had nothing to do with Pavano. And he still hasn't found a way to play Punto from the DL.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pavano and Buehrle

Baseball needs more pitchers like Pavano and Buehrle. They know the drill.

I am usually the type to say, "The Twins won, but..." But when they keep winning, it means they must be doing something right. But, Nick Punto is hurt. So by that logic, Punto's absence must be a good thing. I'm still convinced that no Punto at all is better than an injured Punto, but I'll take it.

Beyond that, I don't know how to feel about the Twins. I claim I want the World Series title. Years of hovering just above mediocre have turned me cynical. I don't have that unwavering and often irrational "This is the year" mentality. (My friends can vouch that I was 100% convinced that the 1998 Twins were destined to win the World Series). This year, everybody around baseball expected the Twins to be among the best teams in the league. The standings show that they are. They have the fancy stadium and a blend of marquee players, rising stars, and serviceable veterans. All things considered, they are quite similar in makeup to recent champions. Usually, the Twins are in the opposite position. They overachieve and claw their way into the playoffs on fumes and then get swept. This really gets us back to the whole identity crisis of the Twins. They're among the "haves" of baseball. Let's hope they continue to play like it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

July 30

The Twins are 11-4 since Nick Blackburn went to AAA and Punto went to the DL.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Manager Don Wakamatsu

The Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu. Within the last month, he benched an overpaid middle infielder who can't hit because of mental mistakes and lack of hustle. I'm going to assume manager Don Wakamatsu wanted to bench Figgins earlier but was afraid because of the contract. The Twins could benefit from this line of thinking.

At this point in the road trip, all the yaysayers seem to think 4-3 proves that the Twins are going to win the World Series. To the naysayers it's proof that they have an uphill battle to a division series sweep. All things considered, these games haven't really said much. They should have won at least three in Tampa but could have been swept. Wins are wins but that's all at this point.

Currently, I am happy to have so many unfamiliar faces in the lineup. I'm starting to like Butera. Some day, I'll come to hate Valencia. Face it. He's the second coming of Brian Buscher. I kind of like Repko, too. Meanwhile, I've realized that I hate Casilla and Guerrier so much that I like them. Really, I just love having Punto on the DL and Blackburn in AAA. Too bad Perkins is back.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Trade

Usually, I like to rate trades by how excited I am to get rid of the player the Twins traded. This time, I thought I'd try something different. I wanted to see how the other team's fans reacted. So I perused a Washington Nationals blog. I have two new friends:


Ramos has been an okay minor leaguer. It seems that most of the complements refer to his plus power (which is undeveloped yet) because of his body type. Body Type? That just means fat guy who can potentially swing a stick.


I’m going to be optimistic, which is hard for me, given the way the Nats are managed,
and I’m going to agree that we must trust Mr. Rizzo. At first, I thought,“Wow interesting trade”.
But then I read the fine print on this trade, hinting that Capps might have asked 7-8mil over his present 3.5mil at arbitration for next year. Then I got pessimistic again. Does this mean that any player with the Nats, who makes the All-stars, is a league leader in saves, and is only 26 years old, will be traded for an untried, usually injured, having a bad minor league season 22 year old rookie catcher? Of course, not to mention that a left handed reliever, who was on his way down from AA to A league, was thrown in for some reason (Did the Nats need a new batting practice pitcher?) And on top of this we give the Twins 500K to boot.

In the spirit of fairness, I suppose I should include a rebuttal from Twins fans:


Ramos was the Twins best bargaining chip. He had to go, but really, for a second-rate Rauch? We'll keep this guy for one year, then Nathan will be back as the closer and the Twins will have given up a future all-star catcher for half a season for a new closer that isn't any better than what we've got. BS! Front office: FAIL.


The Twins would have been better off waiting this time. Billy was WAY tooo caviler on this. Was he just trying to prevent Capps going to the ChiSox? Bad move long term for the Twins. Another Garza/Bartlett for Young.

I appreciate Shane's optimistic take on the deal, but I don't think it's that good. Nonetheless, as a rule of thumb, the team that trades a minor league catcher as its main piece of the deal comes out ahead.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Bunt

"If it works out, it's bases loaded for [Jason] Kubel -- I like those chances. I'm not feeling the greatest at the plate right now, and that factors in, but that situation, you get two guys in scoring position with Kubel up and one out, I take my chances with that for sure. Perez on the mound is nasty. He throws a cutter the majority of the time. It'll break away from a lefthanded hitter, and he induces a lot of double plays. So if I hit into a double play, you guys are probably talking about that."

I already used the quote from the movie Rudy about Justin Morneau. Instead, I'll rephrase a line which has been attributed to Mark Twain, Abe Lincoln, and others:

"Better to be presumed a wuss than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

We like Mauer because he's the quintessential Minnesotan. He won't take the last doughnut. Instead, he'll leave it for Kubel. And when he gets mad, he doesn't show it. He's just passive-diddly-aggressive- almost as though he were raised with the University of Minnesota Spankological Protocol. Instead of showing his anger or frustration, he just says, "If I hit into a double play, you guys are probably talking about that."

I guess for $20 million a year, you can get a player who can at least get the bunt down.

Monday, July 12, 2010


There's a lot of trade talk these days, so I better state my opinion now. It would be nice to pull of a "Michael's Secret Stuff" deal like the Shannon Stewart trade. A solid lead-off hitter and average defensive player somehow completely turned things around. Even Pavano was a savvy acquisition. I'm not sure how wise it is, but this year, I'd like to see absolutely no move or an complete blockbuster. No move tells the players to get their heads in the game and play better baseball. Otherwise, I want a huge deal that moves at least two significant players. There are only two untouchables: Young and Pavano. For better or worse, Mauer is probably just beyond untouchable. He has the no-trade clause, too, right? That leaves Justin Morneau as a prime candidate to be the centerpiece of such a trade. I have no idea what I want or who I'd trade him for or why it would help the team. I'm angry and I want to blast with dynamite!

Oswalt alone is only enough to get the Twins to another division series loss. If, however, he could manage to turn around just one of Slowey, Blackburn, and Liriano, that changes things. I'm not sure that's possible. It's too late and I'm hungry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Everybody complains about Gardy's Sunday lineups. Aside from Punto at short, can we make this one permanent? It's amazing what you can string together without Joe hitting into double plays. Now cue the requisite pat themselves on the back for winning one of three. We struggled a little bit there, but we went into the break on a positive note. Now we get a bit of a chance to regroup.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fair Weather

Every now and then, I skim through comments on various columns and articles about the Twins. I was somewhat surprised to see relatively few people complaining about the fair weather fans. Being a fan does not mean wearing blinders and insisting that you're team is really good. This team is terrible. That does not mean I do not want to see the Twins win. But I don't want to see them win the way they're playing right now. Instead, I need to see an attitude change. This team should be out to prove that they can win a playoff series. In the back of their minds, I think that's their mission, but they don't seem to think they can do much about that right now. They have taken the "one game at a time" philosophy in the wrong direction. To them, it means if we lose tonight, it's only one game. Instead, every night is a chance to prove that they can win a playoff series. They should play tonight as though they are down two games on the Yankees in the Division Series. Then again, maybe that's a bad idea. History says that means they would lose. But they are battling their tails off out there, pressing, and really getting after it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


"You can find a negative in anything; you can find a positive in anything. I've learned over the course of my career the more often you look at the positive, the better off you're going to be. You can find something negative every single day. You can win a ballgame and come out with something negative. But if you focus on the positive, it doesn't wear you out mentally as much."

"You just summed up your sorry career here in one sentence."

Morneau summarizes what's wrong with the team more than anything else. By his theory, the Twins won a game against one of the top teams in the league this weekend. 'Attaboy, Justin. I'm all for the power of positive thinking, but the Twins seem to take it too far. It's more in the territory of rationalization. They are far more skilled at explaining why a loss is no big deal than they are at winning ballgames. Face it, Justin, if you play better baseball, there won't be so much negative to drag you down. If all the positive thinking prevents mental exhaustion, why do check out for the season in August? Maybe all that positive thinking convinces you to pace yourself for three more months of baseball. Remember the time you were so busy focusing on that positive mammoth home run at Miller Park that you couldn't hit and had to be sent back to AAA?

A few weeks ago, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano threw a temper tantrum and blamed his first baseman for allowing the home runs. The Twins organization- management, players, the media, and fans- prides itself on not having that type of player on the roster. But do you know what? Carlos cared. I don't care if it was selfish because he wanted a better ERA or unselfish because he wanted to win. He cared. Things went poorly. He got mad. Is that too much to ask? I'd love to see that kind of spark in a Twins uniform. Heck, as long as people are talking deals, I'd love to see Carlos Zambrano in a Twins uniform. Yes, you saw that correctly. I suggested trading for Carlos Zambrano.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


The trade deadline is approaching. I started thinking about all of the ridiculous proposals I've seen on blogs and message boards. You know, the "let's trade Blackburn and Punto for Pujols" type deals. Swapping a starting pitcher with an ERA around 4.00 and light-hitting defensively challenged middle infielder for an MVP seems completely ridiculous. Of course, Blackburn's ERA is nowhere near 4.00 this season. Blackburn would have to pitch out of his mind to match his numbers from '08 and '09. But Matt Garza is on pace to finish the season with about 200 innings and an ERA of 4.00- just like Blackburn has done twice. Jason Bartlett is hitting even worse than Punto. Currently, Pujols is hitting .306 with 19 HRs and 59 RBI's. Delmon Young is hitting .296 with 9 HR's and 54 RBI's. In addition to the advantage in power, Pujols is also drawing more walks with about a .100 point OBP advantage. Young is certainly not Pujols, but he's certainly playing well enough that it actually makes sense to compare the players. I swore to myself that I would never again evaluate this trade, but when I noticed how similar it looks to some of the absurd suggestions- at least for the moment- I had to acknowledge it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cuddyer at Third

I'm sure Cuddyer's return to third base has delighted members of the blogosophere. I am not pleased by switch. Is Rush Limbaugh the one who says "follow the money" to analyze any situation? With Ron Gardenhire, just follow the Punto. Then it all makes sense.

Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire have been playing chess with the lineup since the end of last season. Smith gave Gardy almost no option to keep Delmon Young on the bench. But during interleague play, Gardy moved Cuddyer to third in order to keep the best bats in the lineup. This gets everybody used to Cuddyer at third again. If Cuddyer is at third, then Kubel is in the outfield. If Kubel is in the outfield, all four outfield options on the Twins are in the game. If there are four outfield options in the game, then the Twins need another outfielder. (This much has already happened. My brother could vouch that I saw this coming). When JJ Hardy returns, he'll get his spot back at shortstop. Nick Punto battles out there. He plays great defense for us. He runs around the bases pretty well, too. He's versatile, so we'll find a way to work him in there. Gardy will want to play Punto at third to improve defense. He'll want to keep Cuddyer's bat in the lineup. Cuddyer is versatile. I think he's played just about every position for us at some point. He played right field before. We'll still run him out there now and then. This means Jason Kubel needs a place to go. Kubel will move to left and Young will sit on the bench. Checkmate. Gardy can now bench Delmon Young in order to work Nicky in there. If Gardy could manage a baseball game with this much foresight, I don't think we'd have the pitchers getting so many at bats in American League ballparks. Follow the Punto.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Catching Up

This time, my excuse is actually that I've been so busy following the Twins, I haven't had a chance to post. I was in Milwaukee last week for the last two games of the series. First of all, Miller Park is terrible. The Metrodome was a better place for a ballgame. Punto is still terrible. Gardy seems to be getting dumber by the day. I still cling to the hope that Gardy is actually a maniacal genius who foresaw the late season collapse and brilliant orchestrated a preemptive meltdown to prevent it.

Of course, Nick Blackburn is terrible too. I'm almost starting to hate him more than Punto. Somebody should tell him that he still has quite a ways to go on the terrible scale. In 14 starts, Sean Bergman threw 68 innings and allowed 73 runs for an ERA over 9. Over part of two season, Mike Lincoln compiled a 7.70 ERA in nearly 100 innings. Kyle Lohse may actually prove to be the most fair comparison. The numbers are similar. Both are capable of pitching quite well, but generally don't. I guess we can only hope Blackburn gets his act together.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Rules

So Nicky admits he doesn't know the rules. It's an obscure rule, so I'm almost willing to excuse his ignorance. But we're always told about how he's a valuable player because he does the little things- the intangibles. He always gives you a great effort out there. He hustles. He sure didn't look like he was in any hurry to cross the plate. Manny Ramirez may be able to get away with whimsical baserunning, but when you've spent most of your career around the Mendoza Line, you should hustle on any play. Anybody who has watched or played baseball for any amount of time should know that odd things happen. I challenge anybody to find me a circumstance in which the run is less likely to count if you sprint home instead of lazily trotting.

If you paid me however many millions of dollars they are paying him to throw the ball into the outfield, I would study the rule book every single night- in the season and the offseason. Again, this is doubly true for an "intangible" player like Punto. Without fundamentals like knowledge of the rules, what value is he? Perhaps somebody should explain to him that if a fielder catches a batted ball before it hits the ground, then the batter is out. A lot of guys in the dugout don't know that rule. If the batter hits a ball to the pitcher, he throws to the first baseman who tags the base before the runner reaches the base, then the batter is out- even if he slides headfirst into the base.

As I'm writing, I proved myself wrong. If a runner is on second base and the ball is hit to an infielder, if you sprint home you will probably be tagged out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twins vs. Royals

The Twins finished a disappointing road trip. (Yes, it was disappointing. Sure, they took 2 of 3 from Oakland, but they lost 3 of 4 in Seattle). Now they "get" to play the Royals. The Royals have actually had the best record in the division over the past few weeks. Anything less than a sweep would be a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mendoza Alert

Presently, Nick Putno (that's a typographical error. He's not worthy of correcting it) is hitting .206. He's 22/107. That means he's just an 0-3 away from the Mendoza line. He'll probably get three or four at-bats today. I can't imagine he'll get a hit in any of those, so he should be below .200 by sunset tonight. If not, he can go 1-8 over the next two games to be squarely at .200. How low can he go? They don't seem to have much of a viable alternative, so this winter, we'll find out just how much they value a .060 hitting aging utility player who is not particularly impressive at any position in the field. (For the math wizards out there, try to figure out how I arrived at the .060 number).

This infield is just depressing. I wanted to suggest trying Thome at first. Then I realized that it would be completely pointless. They have no other options on the bench, so we'd be stuck with Danny Valencia or Brendan Harris at DH. I suppose in a day game after a night game, they could DH Mauer and put Thome at first. Could he really do more damage in the field than one of those crappy infielders can do at the plate? I realize the starters are hurt, but is it too much to ask to have one respectable reserve?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day and Night

What kind of lineup will Gardy trot out there for a night game against a lefty I've never heard of after a day game against a reliever turned starter who would have pitched a heckuva game for them if Delmon Young had done things the Twins way and tried to hit it the opposite way on a day that's usually a day game after a night game? As an added bonus, it's a night game before traveling to the west coast to play a night game on a holiday.

Clearly, Orlando Hudson and Delmon Young have not been fully initiated into the Twins way of doing things. When CJ Wilson is tossing a shut-out having at some point retired 12 consecutive hitters, when the batter ahead of you hits a 2-out single in the 6th inning, you draw a walk or hit a single to set up the heart of the order (to unceremoniously ground out to second base). You most definitely do not hit a 2-run home run to tie the game. Likewise, in the next inning, if the starter begins with a walk, double, and walk, and you are facing the new relief pitcher with the bases loaded and nobody out, you certainly do not try to pull the ball on the first pitch and hit a double to score two runs and break the game open. That's just not how we do things on this club. We take it the opposite way and GIDP. Popping up to second while trying to hit a sacrifice fly is also acceptable. Just make sure the next batter doesn't hit a double. And once you've hit that double, you certainly shouldn't run through a stop sign at third to score from second on a lazy fly-ball behind a drawn-in infield. The appropriate time to take the extra base would be when you are on second, and the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Twins Baseball

Does anything say Twins baseball better than winning 2-1 with Nick Punto scoring on a Joe Mauer bases-loaded, no-out GIDP?

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Blowing a 6-2 lead is nothing new. Some point the finger at Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on that one. They claim he should have called closer Jon Rauch. I just ask why use Ron Mahay in any situation that could possibly matter? All things considered, though, I would like to think a manager could play eeny-meeny-miny-moe and pick a pitcher who could get three outs before surrendering four runs.

In the bottom of the inning, however, Gardy completely mismanaged the situation. One out. Runners on second and third. Nick Punto is on-deck. A rookie infielder playing in his second MLB game is due up. Nick Punto is on deck. To me, there are two perfectly legitimate ways to handle this. (I was not following the game at this point, but from past situations with Gardy, I usually do think of these before he works his madness).

1. Let Plouffe hit. Best-case scenario, he's a hero in his second game and drives in the winning run. Worst-case scenario, he gets out. In that case, there are two outs, runners on second and third, a light-hitting middle infielder at bat, a respectable- albeit not terrifying hitter (Span) on-deck, and Jim Thome and Brendan Harris on the bench. Brewers manager Ken Macha has no choice but to play the Plouffe at bat for this situation. If Plouffe gets out, he's pitching to Jim Thome with the winning run on third. If Plouffe walks, he's pitching to Jim Thome with one out and the bases loaded. Surely, the Brewers don't want that, so Plouffe could probably expect to see mostly strikes in his at-bat. Thome actually could have helped the rookie more by not pinch-hitting for him.

2. Pinch hit Harris for Plouffe. The only difference with this and option 1 is that you have a veteran hitting instead of a rookie.

Instead, Gardy pinch-hit Thome for Plouffe and let Punto strikeout. What troubles me most about this is what it says about Gardy's image of Punto. One possibility is that Gardy fails to see how little Punto intimidates opposing managers. The thought that they might walk Thome to face Punto never crossed his mind. Meanwhile, the Brewers coaches were struggling to keep a straight face. But this is what I expect was going through Gardy's mind:

If I pinch hit Thome-y, then they'll walk him to get to Nicky. But little do they know that Nicky is my secret weapon. I'll have him batting with the bases load, the winning run on third, and one out. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Instead, Nicky struck out the game lasted a few more innings and the bullpen is depleted for today. Of course, one irony here is that if they had more bench players, they might have won in nine innings and saved a few relievers for today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


This week's Jeopardy Tournament of Champions featured a "Yankee Stadium Moments" category. The first though which popped into my head was, "Who is Mike Trombley?" Alas, neither that nor "Who is David Wells?" were correct responses.

The Twins seem to have begun one of their favorite trends. Play generally mediocre baseball with sporadic wins that they try to count as more than one game. They lost two in New York before "conquering their demons" with Kubel's grand slam. That was one of two victories on the road trip. Then they returned to Target Field and scored more runs in one evening- maybe even an inning- than the entire road trip. (Note, I did not fact-check this claim. That I decided not to bother reflects my opinion of the offense on the trip).

It's tempting to use this trip to measure the Twins against the Yankees and the Red Sox. But what about the Blue Jays? The Twins began the road trip with a 9-22 mark against the Blue Jays since 2006. That's half a game worse than their record against the Yankees over the same span (9-21). The Twins struggles with the Blue Jays are perhaps more troubling. At first, it's frustrating because it's easy to group the Blue Jays with such franchises as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. In reality, they certainly belong on a higher tier than those franchises- but certainly not the same tier as the Twins. After all, the Twins have won all those American League Central division titles, right?

In reality, the Toronto Blue Jays are probably the most similar team to the Twins in all of Major League Baseball. Both won a World Series or two in the early 90's. Both struggled in the middle of that decade. Both played in an out-of-date domed stadium during the construction era. Over the last 10 years, both typically had win totals in the 80's. What's the difference between these two teams? Why are the Blue Jays overlooked while the Twins are at least mentioned among baseball's elite? These questions answer themselves. The Blue Jays compete with Tampa, New York, Baltimore, and Boston. The Twins compete with Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, and Detroit. Cleveland and Tampa should be a reasonable fair comparison, though Tampa has certainly had the edge recently. Likewise, Kansas City and Baltimore are quite similar. What about the other teams? Sure, Detroit and Chicago have played in the World Series. But the worst years from Boston and New York are normal seasons for the Tigers and White Sox.

That leaves the Twins and the Blue Jays. Over the past two seasons, the Blue Jays have a 47-28 record against the American League Central. Meanwhile, the Twins have nearly the opposite record against the American League East: 23-44. If the Twins swapped places with the Blue Jays, Toronto would routinely need at most 162 games to win a division title. Whereas, Minnesota would barely edge Baltimore for fourth place. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Manager Trey Hillman

This Royals dismissed manager Trey Hillman earlier this week. By my count, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has won four games against Hillman and the Royals in 2010. Meanwhile, during his entire tenure as manager, Gardenhire has 9 regular season wins against the Yankees. I've seen the hype about how this weekend is a "statement" series and how this year the Twins have the talent to beat the Yankees. First of all, the 2010 version is just the 2010 team with marginal improvements in the middle infield. Secondly, the Twins have always had the talent to beat the Yankees. While Gardy has managed the Twins, the Yankees have lost over 400 games. Evidently, somebody out there is beating the Yankees. The Yankees are just another team, and this is just another series. Paradoxically, that's exactly what makes it so different.

Let's hope Kubel can climb out of his slump before Gardy permanently benches Young in order to give Kubel enough at bats to get going. Remember how much Gardy used to hate Kubel? I wonder if he still does. I tip my cap to Billy Smith. When Gardy fills out the lineup card, Gardy has to use at least one player he hates. To bench Young and Kubel, he would have to play somebody out of position and use Harris or Casilla. Maybe Nick Punto is a just a pacifier. I guess one perk of having Punto as an everyday player is there is no looming threat of who Gardy will bench for making Nicky look bad.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day One

Nick Punto: 0-4, 1K
Luke Hughes: 2-7, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1R, 3K

Saturday, May 1, 2010

He's Back

The Twins activated Nick Punto from the disabled list and sent Luke Hughes back to AAA Rochester. In two games, Hughes went 2-7 with a HR, an RBI, and 3 K's. We will be monitoring Nick Punto closely over the next two months to see exactly when he matches that output. Okay, so the strike outs should be done by about the 8th inning tonight. But it could take until June for him to get a hit and a home run. (Actually, if I know Nicky, he'll really get after it tonight with a couple of hits for us and then go O-fer the rest of May).

Apparently, the Twins just finished one of (if not the) best ever month of April. At this point, I'm worried that Wednesday's loss to the Tigers will be the story of the season. Last night, the won against Cleveland in what appeared to be a decisive game. Remember, though, that the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning. Harris struck out. Next Denard Span grounded into an inning ending double play. Then the first baseman dropped the ball and the Twins scored 3 runs. How much of the Twins success to this point has been given to them? It's certainly positive that they can translate gifts into wins but they need to start winning their own games. (One could argue that to this point that has not been possible because the opposition has played that poorly, though).

Veteran catcher Mike Redmond anchoring a lineup of Mendozas brings back painful memories.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes has moved to within 11 HR's of injured Twins infielder Nick Punto on the all-time home run list.

Friday, April 23, 2010


I'm not as excited as I usually am when Punto lands on the DL. Even with Harris struggling, I'm happy to have Punto out of the lineup. At least they didn't call up Tolbert. How many more hits will Nicky have in his first two weeks off the DL than he does during his stint on the DL?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


One trait for which I often praise Nick Punto is his tendency for injuries. This weekend, I realize have realized the downside. He's rarely fully injured. Instead, he's just "dinged-up" or "sore" or something to that effect. He's incapacitated enough to be unavaliable for about 4 games, but not enough that they would put him on the DL. (I, of course, would argue that he's always incapacitated enough to justify a stint on the DL). Punto's injury interferes with other decisions about the lineup. In order to have a reserve infielder, outfielder, and catcher, Jim Thome must DH leaving either Kubel or Young on the bench. Technically, they have to do that regardless of Punto's health, but with Alexi's "versatility" it's not nearly so critical to have an outfielder in reserve. I'm happy with any combination of Kubel, Young, and Thome covering LF and DH provided Kubel and Young get most of the at-bats. But I am not fine with that decision being made because the Twins insist on carrying an overpaid utility infielder who can't even stay healthy enough to hit .196 in 500 at bats. It's also tougher to use one of these three as a pinch-hitter late in the game. With Punto out of the lineup, there's not much need, but I would feel better with Thome than Harris. Nonetheless, they are better without Punto than with Punto. Because this way, Gardy can't pinch hit Punto for Young because "Nicky hits the ball pretty good against this guy." (This means, of course, that Punto went 2-4 against him 6 years ago and has since gone 0-8).

Sunday, April 4, 2010


On Saturday, I had a chat with my neighbor about the upcoming Twins season. He's in his upper 80's, so he's seen a lot of Twins baseball. I could not help but chuckle at his outlook on the team this year: "It's the same team as last year, only it's more expensive." Can you really dispute that? Although I thought they handled the offseason pretty well, he raises an excellent point. How can expectations be dramatically different when the personnel is exactly the same? Last year, at this time, he told me, "They're a .500 ballclub." They were a little better than that, so if the trend continues, maybe they'll win a game in the division series this year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Third Base

I had thought there would at least be a chance that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would opt to only play 8 players in the field and take the automatic out every time the 9th spot came up in the batting order. Instead, he wants errant throws into right field after the batter has passed first base and popped up bunts. Look on the bright side. By beginning the season as a starter, he is more likely to suffer a season ending injury. I was about to say that it means he can't bench Hardy or Hudson because that would mean playing Harris. But then I remembered Casilla. You can't blame Alexi, though. Time and again he has seen that sloppy defense and a low batting average earn playing time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Outdoor Baseball

Will there be a better week for outdoor baseball in Minnesota than the last week before it begins? The concern regarding facing the elements in a Minnesota April remains valid. For me, this week's weather says the risk is worth it. Sure, it was 10 degrees in April a few years ago, but this time it's 70 in March.

Time is ticking for me to name the rest of my all Metrodome team. The outfield was tough. A "Soul Patrol" of Jones, Hunter, and Stewart or Lawton was tempting. Likewise, I hate to omit Rich Becker and Alex Cole. I insist on having one from each position. With all due respect to Torii, I have to pick Puckett in center. Marty Cordova represents the mid 1990's in left. His 24 HR rookie of the year campaign gave Twins fans hope for the last half of the decade. Of course, his production faded almost as fast as the Twins. Finally, much like Pat Meares, Michael Cuddyer has quietly defined an era of Twins baseball in right field.

The choice for the pitcher is obvious. Officially, I'm not even naming an All Metrodome team. I'm just naming an All Metrodome player. He pitched to Matt Walbeck, Greg Myers, Terry Steinbach, AJ Pierzynksi, and countless others. He took turns starting with Kevin Tapani, Scott Erickson, Rick Aguilera, LaTroy Hawkins, Frankie Rodriguez, Sean Bergmann, Bob Tewksbury, Joe Mays, Mark Redman, Kyle Lohse, Rick Reed, Matt Kinney, Kenny Rogers, Francisco Liriano, Carlos Silva, and even Scott Baker. Eric Milton tossed a no-hitter and Johan Santanna won a Cy Young award during his time in the rotation. He turned the ball over to the likes of Pat Mahomes, Mike Trombley, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Bob Wells, Hector Carrasco, Tony Fiore, Joe Nathan, and Matt Guerrier. Nearly any player considered for the All Metrodome Team shared the clubhouse with him.

Brad Radke's career touched almost all of the Metrodome era of Twins baseball. He played with Puckett and pitched to Joe Mauer. No matter how hopeless the mid and late 90's were, I always knew we were never more than 4 games away from Brad Radke. That didn't just mean a chance of winning. That meant winning. He won 20 games on a team that won 68. Sure he gave up run early- occasionally in the first inning- but when you really needed him, he would throw a masterpiece. Was anything quite like watching him carve the strike zone armed with nothing but an 88 mph fastball, a change-up, and willpower?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hot Dogs

This week, the Twins announced what type of hot dogs they will serve at Target Field. I was disappointed that they did not reveal that Nick Punto has been reassigned to sell hot dogs. Joe Nathan may miss the season. I seem to remember a few years ago, that the Twins decided to use a no-name middle inning reliever as a closer and it worked out okay.

I'll have to read it again to convince myself, but I don't think Souhan took a single pot-shot at Delmon Young in his column which wonders if the Twins should consider trading Mauer. Most people think the Twins have to sign Mauer. To me, the solution is painfully obvious. Do both. Sure, those deals are usually contingent on signing an extension. But think of how angry you would be if the Twins let Mauer go. Don't you think other teams fans would be just as mad if they learned their GM turned down a deal for Joe Mauer? Learn from the Joe Smith deal and handle everything over the table. Don't tell him what you're doing. Don't even tell Gardy. Just call him into the office, tell him his been traded. Play the season and offer him so much money he has to take it. There's nothing remotely underhanded about it. It's just a gambit. Sure, the other team may get the first chance to sign him long term. But it reminds Joe that he's not in charge here. That's really the important thing. The front office must handle this decisively or they will get burned. Then again, I've heard Alexi Casilla is rather versatile. Will he be catching in 2011?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weight Loss

Delmon Young showed up at camp 30 pounds lighter than last season. The weight loss was completely his own decision. Every baseball season seems to feature some player showing up to camp in better shape. Usually, somebody writes an article about how great the subsequent season will be for the player. How often does the improved physical condition actually pay dividends? Remember when Boof Bonser lost weight? I do not doubt that the lighter frame could help Young- especially chasing down balls in the outfield. I'm mostly just curious what happens to these players.

The most encouraging sign for Young is not his weight, anyway. Manager Ron Gardenhire actually seems to like the outfielder this year. This season, Young enters camp expected to play everyday in left-field. As you can infer from my complaints about Nick Punto, I expect all players to perform. But by arriving at camp with a well-defined role, Young can focus his energy on excelling within that role. Remember, this is a job for the players. From the comments by Young, Gardy, and others, it sounds like expectations were not communicated clearly. Certainly, immaturity contributed to Young pressuring himself to perform when he was in the lineup. But how much effort did Gardy make to explain to Young what his role was with the team? We'll never know because we were not in the clubhouse. I'm just happy that it seems like it's solved for this year- that is until I start reading between the lines of comments by Gardenhire and Twins General Manager regarding the "versatility" of Alexi Casilla. For now, I'll do my best to ignore it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hardy and Hudson

Today, I saw a picture of the "Twins new double play combination" sitting in the dugout and laughing. The caption implies that the pair will be the primary middle infield for the Twins in 2010. I fear the picture may be sadly prophetic: These two will ride the pine when Gardy decides to bench them in favor of Tolbert and Casilla. By the end of May, the official scorer will charge Hardy with an error for booting a ball in the hole which likely would have been a single anyway. Casilla will go 3-4 with a double and a home run in a 7-2 Twins loss. Hudson will go 0-5 in between 2-4 and 2-3 games. Tolbert with make a diving stop in the hole, but the runner will beat the throw by half a step. Gardy will interpret this as Hardy and Hudson going through a bit of a slump while Tolbert has been playing great defense for us. And Alexi-y has been knocking the ball around pretty well for us lately. (That 3-4 game will bring him to 4-30).

If you ask why Punto is not considered in this scenario, shame on you. You know exactly where he'll be. Unless we could be so lucky that he hurt himself sliding headfirst into first base after popping up a bunt.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Census 2010 and "Small" Markets

A recent Sports Illustrated article (Hope Springs Eternal, Feb. 22) describes the Twins as a model for small market success. As Nelson Muntz of the Simpsons said after viewing Naked Lunch, "I can think of at least two things wrong with that title." The Twins "success" has been mostly a result of the collective ineptitude of the White Sox, Tigers, Royals, and Indians. Although, that's not really true. The Tigers reached a World Series and the Indians had the Red Sox beaten in the ALCS a few years ago. Meanwhile, both Tampa and Colorado have recently reached the World Series. Heck, Tampa won a division which includes both the Yankees and Red Sox.

The article inadvertently highlights the meaninglessness of the term "small-market." It refers to the St. Louis Cardinals as one of "game's top grossers." A list by Forbes confirms this. I checked some Census data about the Saint Louis metropolitan area. The total population is lower than the Twin Cities by at least half a million people. (The Twin Cities have close to 3,000,000 whereas Saint Louis is no more than about 2,500,000). Moreover, the per capita income of the Saint Louis area is about $5000 lower than the Twin Cities ($29,000 to $34,000). If there are more people with more money in the Twin Cities, then how can the market be the problem? The Twins marketing department loves to convince fans that the team faces a competitive disadvantage. It's much easier to sell Nick Punto as a third baseman when the entire PR campaign aims for nothing more than low expectations.

If Saint Louis is a "big" market, then the only excuse for the Twins would be the stadium. But they built their new stadium and spent all of last season telling us how much greener the pastures (sorry for the pun) would be next year. Who will their next scapegoat be? Will they blame fans for not spending enough money? Maybe if Mauer goes they'll try to blame the "rich" teams. Or the "unfair" lack of a salary cap. If he stays, they'll blame his contract. Well, I shouldn't give them these ideas. If they want my money, they have to convince me that they are making an honest effort to build a world championship club.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Returning to Form

Is any phrase more tiring than hoping a player with return to form? It's just a code saying that a player had one good year and we're supposed to delude ourselves into thinking it should be expected. Of course, the yaysayers and Twins Propaganda Machine would try to argue the reverse about our favorite infielder. They insist we are judging Punto by one bad year. They are half-right. In his 5 seasons of roughly 400 or more at-bats, he's hit .239, .290, .210, .284, and .228. Even in '08 when he hit .284, he still looked like a .225 hitter. He just had way too many terrible at-bats. I wish I was beating a dead horse, but there are still way too many apologists out there keeping it alive.

Of course, the STRIB had a story about JJ Hardy "returning to form" today. I don't care what form he returns to. He's not Nick Punto. I feel bad for Hardy though. He'll boot a grounder on which he has no play to make the out anyway. He'll get in Gardy's dog house. (He'll need a bigger one this year). Then Gardy will run Puntosy out there for some defense. Plus he looked at [Nick's] numbers against this guy, and he hits him pretty well. (2-6 in 2006). Unless of course, Gardy returns to form.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Offseason

Spring training approaches and the offseason winds down. The Twins quietly assembled some new faces in the infield. On paper at least, an infield of Harris, Hardy, and Hudson looks downright serviceable. Alas, the only reason to keep Gardy from benching them is his quest to have a roster consisting solely of scrappy infielders. He can't start Tolbert, Punto, and Casilla in the outfield if any of them are playing in the infield. (I can't remember- Did I publicly suggest Delmon Young play second base? Or did I just think it? Either way, it's less ridiculous than any of those options in the outfield). The backup catcher departed and they gave veteran slugger Jim Thome a chance. Undoubtedly, the most positive outcome of the winter was that they didn't sign Chone Figgins. I love it when I'm wrong about the Twins. It just seemed so dumb that it was inevitable. On the flip side, they only have a month a half left to release Nick Punto before the season opens. This at least buys me time to decide how bold of an ultimatum I dare issue in the event that he starts the opener- heck any game- at Target Field. Maybe Gardy thinks that by playing Punto, then Punto will never become a manager who obsessively plays lousy utility infielders.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jacque Jones

Forgive me for saying this, but I'm excited by the news that the Twins signed the outfielder to a minor league deal. Of former players with even a remotely realistic chance of returning, Chuck Knoblauch is about the only one who could intrigue me more. After all the two-hoppers to second and flailing strikeouts, it's easy to forget that Jones was one of the most productive hitters from 1999-2003; any other player over that era had at least one terrible year. Of course, every year since then, Jones has been worse than a young Doug Mientkiewicz. With any luck, opposing managers have forgotten how to pitch to him and he can be an effective reserve outfielder. If not, it's no big loss. I hope he does well enough that they bring back the old commercial: "Jones turns oun it! He's rounding the bases to the delight of the crowd..." You know. The one with the guy sitting in the toilet stall that shows him with pants around his ankles tapping his feet around as if circling the bases. Much better than the wet toilet paper "high heat" ads.

Even more delightfully, the Mets claimed Jason Pridie off of waivers. Good riddance.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Perkins and Arbitration

Apparently Twins left-handed pitcher Glen Perkins is upset that he failed to qualify for arbitration because he finished the season in AAA. At first, I thought, "Well, you should have thought about that when you lost the game in the top of the first or blew up in the 6th." Then I realized that anybody who was pitching in his place did exactly the same thing. Maybe that's his case. He was just trying to do like everybody else.

Speaking of everybody, Francisco "I Sure Hope He's not the Franchise" Liriano has been pitching the heck of winter ball. He should be well on his way to throwing hall of fame bullpen sessions by May.

I wanted to air my grievances about the pitching staff and sadly realized that it would be a complete re-run from last year. I can't remember any of their names, and a disgruntled White Sox fan said it best in 2002: "You're worse than the guy last night." The grounds crew on Major League wasn't too far off, either. Aside from the pitching, Punto, Tolbert, and Casilla I think I like this team.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jim Thome

Apparently, the Twins have signed veteran slugger Jim Thome. First, I thought, "He originally played third base for Cleveland." Next, I wondered, "Where's Rick Reed these days?" Seen in the proper context, this is a great move for the Twins. I have not read much of the hype, but I hope the organization is not trying to claim (or even imply) that he will play everyday and drive in 100 RBI's. Think of Jim Thome as upgrading from Mike Redmond. He's a mostly worthless benchwarmer at the end of his career that you just can't help but love. Even with too many pitchers, they resorted to such stiffs as Brian Buscher to fill bench spots last season. What does it hurt to have Thome? If nothing else, he provides manager Ron Gardenhire a veteran option to run the bases in late innings if he wants somebody experienced enough to know to stop at third on a grounder to the shortstop.

How can you not love Jim Thome? This is the player, who when asked about becoming the Cleveland Indians all-time home-run leader, responded, "The best part is that I did it all with the same team." My friends at tell me that he made his debut against the 1991 Minnesota Twins. That has to mean something. I'll never forget when the 2002 Twins beat the Indians 23-2 with Thome doing his best by adding 2 solo home runs. My fact-checker is on vacation this week, but wasn't it Thome who hit the shot to eliminate the 2008 Twins? I'm excited!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Vikings

Today, I skimmed over an article regarding the Vikings victory over the Cowboys. The story mentioned that this will be the first NFC Championship series for the Vikings in 9 years. That sounded like a long time. Then I remembered that the last time the Vikings played in the NFC Championship was almost 10 years after the Twins last won a World Series and less than two years before the last time the Twins reached the ALCS. Those were both good eras for the Twins, but it's time for somebody drag the trophy behind his car in the Target Field parking lot.

Apparently Mike Redmond has signed with the Indians. In the one game playoff with the Indians, will somebody remind Gardy to bring the infield in when facing Redmond in the 9th?

They signed some pitcher today, too. I'm sorry, but I just can't get excited enough to have anything to say about him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bill Smith

Considering I will repeat most of my grievances from last year, Bill Smith seems the perfect opening target. I believe in the "addition by subtraction" theory to building a baseball team. It's not about who you get in the off-season, but who you get rid of. Last year, he failed to remove Nick Punto from the Twins roster. Then every day thereafter, he decided not to designate the infielder for assignment or buy out his contract. Think about it. In the scope of the Twins payroll, $4 million a year to keep him from trying to score from second on a grounder to short is a pretty good use of money. A few players will be gone, but can you really credit the GM for Bonser? He hurt himself last year, so it's no different. Who else is gone? I'm not even sure. But why should we expect a mediocre roster from 2009 to do anything other than win 86 games in 2010? The Twins Propaganda Machine will try the "more experienced" argument. Didn't they try that last season? If more faces change among the minor role players change, it's much easier as a fan to delude myself that this year they might have a chance. Bring in a Butch Huskey or Jeff Cirillo. I just need a few more players that I don't hate yet. That shortstop we got from the Brewers doesn't quite satisfy that.