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.