GameChat – Twins @ Orioles #2, 6:05

Mr. Duensing, you may take field!  I am doing my best to moderate my expectations because of several things: it’s a high pressure situation, it’s his first MLB start THIS YEAR [correction per Dewluca], and his relief record seems to tell me that the more pitches he throws the more his ERA kind of creeps up.  The interesting thing is that that is what happens for ALL starting pitchers.  Brian Duensing isn’t magic – we just expect that right now, he’ll be more dialed in than Nick Blackburn has been.  That is what I am limiting my expectations to.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if he surprised me!  😀

Minnesota @ Baltimore
Span, CF   Roberts, B, 2B
Hudson, O, 2B   Tejada, 3B
Mauer, C   Wigginton, 1B
Kubel, RF   Scott, DH
Cuddyer, 1B   Jones, A, CF
Thome, DH   Pie, LF
Young, D, LF   Tatum, C
Hardy, SS   Patterson, C, RF
Punto, 3B   Izturis, C, SS
  Duensing, P     Guthrie, P


  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 8 0
Baltimore 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 x 3 7 0


The good news is that Duensing looked VERY good.  He threw 5 full innings (60+ pitches) and only gave up 1 run.  His line was more than acceptable and I’ll be looking forward to see what he gives us next week and how long they let him go.  Sadly, Slama gave up a 2R HR that cost Duensing his chance at a win.  We really should have still been in the game since it was a 1 run lead and only the 6th inning.  But yeah, despite multiple hits, the Twins fell into their LOB problem.  Cuddyer literally came within INCHES of being the hero of the day by hitting a LONG shot in the 9th that was caught at the wall – just a tad further and the Twins would have had a 2 run lead to take into the bottom of the inning.  Oh well.

Sadly, also in news from the game, Orlando Hudson has what has been announced as an oblique strain that laid him low in his second AB.  I hope he recovers soon but it appears Casilla is back just in time.

Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinkin Badges!

As the trade deadline approaches, there’s a lot being written about what the Twins’ “needs” are as they head in to the final couple of months of the season. Do they need pitching? Do they need more power at the plate? Yeah, maybe. But there are two things this team needs more than anything else right now. Leadership and accountability. Since there’s no way I could limit myself to a reasonable number of words appropriate for a single post on this topic, I’ve split this essay (some might call it a novel, but I think that’s a bit harsh!) in to two parts.

If you decide to read on, be warned: I’ve been watching way too many old movies lately and it has affected my thinking… and my writing. But you’ll get extra credit if you can correctly name the movie from which this post’s Title was taken (but be warned, it’s sorta-kinda a trick question… and no fair Googling!) – JC

UPDATE: Babs wins the contest (see comment section and click to see this clip)!

Whenever a popular sports team is viewed to be underperforming, there will be no shortage of people willing to point fingers at those deemed responsible for that team’s shortcomings. That’s true of teams from youth leagues, on up through high school and college, and certainly at the professional level. It has always been true. New media channels (such as the exploding blogdom) haven’t caused this, they’ve merely amped up the volume. The troubling aspect, for me, is that this has led to almost a mob mentality. Loud voices, whether or not well informed or rational, embolden those with louder voices.

Pretty soon, you’ve got a bunch of blacksmiths, barbers and storekeepers marching to the sheriff’s office and demanding that the stranger awaiting trial for killing a local good old boy be turned over to them for hanging. It takes a sheriff in the mold of John Wayne to stand out front and say, “if you want him you have to go through me to get him, but I’ll take 6 of you with me before you get by me,” before the mob disperses and calm is restored.

One problem we have here is that there is no sheriff to point out to the mob that it isn’t their place to demand summary execution of anyone and everyone they feel is guilty of causing the Twins’ current state of mediocrity (to be generous). There’s nobody in authority to stand up and sternly point out that the media critics (both traditional and nontraditional) are full of crap and they all should chill out and let the people who DO have responsibility for “administering justice” (in this case, that would be addressing roster, lineup, rotation and other performance issues) do so.

And if anyone DOES try to make that point, the mob just shouts louder and adds accusations that such person is part of the problem because they are just team/management lackies.

So the question for those of us who believe we are of reasonable and rational mind becomes, how do we strike a balance? Where is the line between fair criticism and just being a boorish ass? When does pointing out what we feel are legitimate deficiencies, whether directed at individuals or the Twins organization as a whole, become “piling on”?

The Joe Mauer “bunt heard round the world” is a perfect example.

When it happened, I was very vocal in our GameChat about my feelings toward it. You could say I was speechless, but that didn’t stop me from typing a few choice observations. I’d say based on reactions around Twins Territory, including among many people with much better credentials than I (yes, I admit there are a few), that my views were widely shared.

I’d have felt the same about it if Orlando Hudson had done the same thing. But I think it’s safe to say that if Lando had been the offender, it would have drawn some criticism, but it would not have been featured on SportsCenter and countless media talk shows.  In short, there would have been no “mob” seeking to impart their own western justice like there has been with Mauer.

Likewise, if the Twins had a 10 game lead in the AL Central, the mob would not be looking quite so quickly to latch on to the issue nor as reluctant to move past it. I’d also hazzard that if Mauer were hitting .350 with 15 HRs right now, fans would be much more forgiving of this one brain fart (though clearly the fact that he’s NOT hitting well went in to his decision making process at the time).

My point is that this is merely the latest opportunity for everyone to vent their frustration over what appears to be turning in to a disappointing season. We could have a reasonable debate about whether that’s fair to Joe, but it should come as no surprise to anyone.

But if the goal is not to determine fair or unfair, but to address the root cause of the problem, what needs to be done?

Well, they say winning cures everything, so a nice 15-game winning streak would be nice, but I think there’s something missing in this organization that is at the heart of the Twins problems, on the field as well as off. They need John Wayne.

Yes, I know, you’re thinking, “the Twins have enough dead weight in the organization without adding someone who would take that term to a new, far too literal, level.” And you’re right. But you’ll have to wait to read Part 2 for a better (or at least a more realistic) answer. – JC