GameChat – Twins @ Orioles #4, 12:35 pm, WFTC29 & am1500

Remember how I was saying yesterday that the Twins & Orioles keep working very hard to split the season series?  Here’s the chance for the Twins to prove me wrong.  We’re one game up on them and it’s time to finish strong.  It’s definitely the B squad lineup today though so it will be interesting to see what happens because the Orioles have the A team out there – including ‘just off the DL’ Wieters behind homeplate. Given the younger boys on the field behind him, I’m hoping that Kevin Slowey improves on his last start and has a kickass day.  We could all use it.  According to LENIII, Gardy has the roster subs out there for a few reasons: Span was sick all night after the game (heat can do nasty things like that), he really felt that Hardy needed a day off, Mauer is getting the day game after a night game off (he told us he was going to be doing that more) and still no official word on Hudson.  I have to admit that I am kind of looking forward to seeing what the young guys can do when give the opportunity – even Lexi.. again.

Minnesota @ Baltimore
Repko, CF   Patterson, C, LF
Casilla, A, 2B   Tejada, 3B
Young, D, LF   Markakis, RF
Thome, DH   Scott, 1B
Cuddyer, 1B   Wigginton, DH
Kubel, RF   Pie, CF
Valencia, 3B   Wieters, C
Punto, SS   Lugo, 2B
Butera, C   Izturis, C, SS
Slowey, P   Arrieta, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 4 1 1 3 0 0 1 10 19 0
Baltimore 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 4 10 1

 

Well that was an interesting ‘getaway day’. The Twins claim the series 3 games to 1 with a 10-4 win over the O’s after a rain delay in the middle of the 7th inning. Kevin Slowey earned various baked goods, at least, with a  very nice 6 inning performance (we won’t go in to Blackie’s 9th inning hiccups that delayed the inevitable at this point). Jason Repko and Alexi Casilla did a nice enough job of getting on base in the 1-2 spots that any concerns about the two of them being inserted there (not that anyone here would question Gardy’s decisions!) proved without merit… today anyway. Lexi, Little Nicky and DannyV all contributed 3 hits each, Jim Thome launched his 12th HR of the year and Repko claimed his first dinger as a Twin. Baked goods all around.

But Jason Kubel earned Boyfriend of the Day honors with his 3-for-5 performance that included a 2-out Grand Salami in the 3rd inning to give the Twins the lead and a little breathing room besides. Let’s hope this is what Kube needs to get himself on a bit of a roll.

After the game, the Twins announced Orlando Hudson would indeed be going on the Disabled List to rest his strained oblique muscle and catcher Jose Morales would be called up from Rochester. It’s an interesting move and it makes one wonder if Gardy will be giving Joe Mauer more games at DH and letting Butera and Morales handle more of the catching duties while Joe nurses his heel, shoulder, or whatever the heck else is wrong with him back to health.

Oh, and since I didn’t get my wish to have the Twins trade for Cliff Lee, it’s only fair, I suppose, that those of you who preferred Dan Haren as a trade target don’t get what you wanted either. The Angels have acquired Haren for pitcher Joe Saunders and others.   – JC

GameChat – Twins @ Orioles #3, 6:05

The Twins and Orioles seemed determined to do their best to do the season series even up.  So far we’ve each won half the games (if I am remembering correctly) and we have two left.  Twins, let’s make the effort to WIN the series shall we? 

Baker makes another start tonight and lets hope that the elbow is continuing to improve after that cortizone shot.  I would like to see if a bit of that Kid K I remember.

Minnesota @ Baltimore
Span, CF   Roberts, B, 2B
Casilla, A, 2B   Tejada, 3B
Mauer, C   Markakis, RF
Cuddyer, 1B   Scott, DH
Young, D, LF   Wigginton, 1B
Kubel, DH   Jones, A, CF
Valencia, 3B   Pie, LF
Hardy, SS   Tatum, C
Repko, RF   Izturis, C, SS
  Baker, S, P     Matusz, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 2 1 3 0 0 7 14 0
Baltimore 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 1

 

DELMON YOUNG IS ON FIRE!!!

Wins feel great, don’t they?  So many people stepped up tonight too that it was a really fun game to watch.  AND there was a lot of things that were just lucky bounces, so glad to see those finally going our way once in awhile.

No official word from “Lando other than they are going to wait and see if he’s better tomorrow before they decide about the DL.  Other good news announded during the game was that Morneau worked out at TF today and felt a lot better.  Keep improving, big guy, get better.

As for tonight’s game, Baker was FANTASTIC.  It’s really good to see him actually put together a road game even under these weather conditions that was really sparkling.  Yes, he has great numbers against Baltimore so I’m glad to see him keep it up.  Span also really shined tonight – great hitting and spectacular fielding with that stolen HR.  Pastries go to both guys AND Casilla and Danny Valencia stepping up and having good nights.

Above and beyond all that, the BOD goes to Delmon.  4/4 with a HR, a Sac Fly and 3 RBI was some GREAT hitting.  He even had a great fielding move as his instincts and read of the ball from the OF improves.

First Rule of Leadership: Everything is Your Fault!

This is Part 2 of my essay (ok, yes, this part is long enough it might almost qualify as a novel) concerning the Twins’ need for Leadership and Accountability heading in to the last couple of months of the season. If you missed Part 1 and care to catch up with the rest of the class, you can find it here.

As was the case with Part 1, extra credit goes to the first person to correctly identify the movie from which the quote serving as this post’s Title is taken (no fair Googling!) - JC

UPDATE: No guesses on the movie quote providing this post’s title, but you can find it by clicking here.

When last we left off, I was bemoaning the fact that we have no larger-than-life John Wayne type figure to step up and assure all of Twins Territory that everything is under control… that all this whining and yelling and cursing and otherwise uncivilized behavior in Twinsville (especially the blogdom neighborhood) needs to cease.

To me, that’s a problem that goes well beyond keeping us blogheads civil. It goes to the heart of the problems on the field. It appears to me that this team lacks leadership. I don’t know who, if anyone, are the “clubhouse leaders” on this team, but I do know that nobody in this organization is out front projecting to the public that he’s got a handle on things and that while there may be challenges right now, they are being addressed.

It’s called leadership and virtually every successful organization has it.

It doesn’t have to just come from the CEO. In fact, it’s better if it is found at various levels of the organization. But you need people who step up and say, in words and deeds, “don’t worry about it, I’ve got this,” then go out and lead the effort to solve the problem.

To my mind, there appears to be a huge leadership void in the Twins organization, at least where actual baseball matters are concerned. (Clearly Target Field is evidence that there are people in other areas of the organization that can get the job done.)

So let’s talk accountability. I’m calling out the following people specifically. These people need to step up and do their jobs or the Twins need to find someone else who can.

Bill Smith had a nice offseason. Yes, he had the benefit of increased revenue projections that no Twins GM has had in the past so he had more freedom to sign players like Pavano, Hudson and Thome. He ended up assembling a roster that looked better on paper than all but a couple of teams in the American League.

But, as the Yankees have often demonstrated, assembling a team that looks good on paper before Spring Training opens is only half the job of a GM. Every team inevitably finds itself with new needs at mid season and teams that are willing and able to address those needs are the teams that will be playing ball in October. Last year, Smith did a decent job of picking up a few key additions on the cheap when he added Orlando Cabrera, Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch.

I know the Twins keep their mouths shut when it comes to deals they are considering and that’s fine. But the public perception is that Smith is 0 for 1 so far in terms of making moves that would help set the Twins back on course to the postseason, since he couldn’t close a deal with the Mariners for Cliff Lee.

Granted, his job won’t be easy. Half of Twins fans don’t want to see him overpay for a 2-3 month rental. But Smith’s options may be limited if he’s trying to acquire players that have contracts extending beyond the end of this season. His allowable 2011 payroll is pretty much spoken for already thanks to arbitration raises due several players next year and contract extensions given to a number of others, in particular the extra $10 million or so going to Joe Mauer.

It’s time for Bill Smith to step up and declare what direction he is going to take this team’s roster. Show some leadership and take accountability for the decisions you make, Bill.

Which segues nicely to Joe Mauer. It’s time to grow up, Joe. It’s time to make this team yours. You’re going to be claiming somwhere between 20-25% of the team’s Major League payroll. You may not be totally comfortable with the role, but that kind of money brings with it some responsibility that goes beyond just hitting for a respectable average and deciding whether your pitcher should throw a two-seamer or a slider.

I sense that Mauer is trying to “lead by example”, rather than filling a more traditional leadership role. It’s possible that he feels “playing hurt” right now is how he’s most comfortable displaying leadership. But we’ve gotten through over half a season now and his performance is not at the level a team with championship asperations needs to get out of its #3 hitter.

Joe, if you are not hurt, you need to step up and do your job (and that dinger last night against the Orioles was a nice start). If you ARE hurt, step up and tell Ron Gardenhire that you can not currently perform at the necessary level. Get rest if that’s what’s needed. If rest won’t fix your problem, then you and your manager need to conclude that it’s best for the team for you to be dropped in the order to a spot more in line with your current performance.

Which conveniently brings us to you, Ron Gardenhire. There’s a reason they call the guy in charge of a professional baseball team on the field a “manager” instead of a “head coach”, like they do in high school and college. It’s because “managing” is at the top of his responsibilities.

If I hear, “Gardy isn’t responsible because he’s not the one pitching/hitting/fielding,” one more time, I’ll pull out what limited amount of hair I still have. I manage a staff of people approximately the same size as a Major League roster. I didn’t hire all of these people personally, but I am responsible for assuring that they perform as a group at or above expected levels. If my staff is not performing well, it reflects on my performance as a manager.

The question is whether this roster, as currently constituted, will perform at sufficient levels to meet everyone’s high expectations. Good managers, in baseball as in business, sometimes lose their effectiveness with a particular “staff”.  Good managers can make changes to their approach to bring improvements to the performance of the charges under them. Can Gardy change his approach to managing to improve his team’s performance?

When performance is substandard, an organization can do one of two things… lower expectations to align with actual performance or make changes to try to improve performance to expected levels. Not many successful organizations choose the former. So let’s assume the Twins want to actually improve their performance. There are a few changes that need to be made.

  • Players need to play better. People like Mauer and Scott Baker, the guys who have been given job security that indicates they are expected to be the nucleus of the team for years to come, need to show some leadership skills AND improve their own personal performance levels.
  • The Manager needs to change his management approach and find a way to motivate or otherwise improve the performance of players who are not playing well.
  • The GM needs to decide what direction this team is going to take the rest of this year and in 2011 and 2012, take ownership of that decision and communicate it, then set a course to be successful over whatever timeline he deterimines is appropriate.

Insanity, they say, is defined as doing the same things the same ways and expecting different results. Absent a demonstration of leadership by some of these people and the necessary changes being made by them, it’s insane for any of us to expect this team to have better results the rest of the season than they have had so far.

People making $40,000 a year are held accountable by those who pay their salaries for performing up to reasonable expectations. It is not unreasonable to expect those making exponentially more money to be held accountable for doing the same thing. – JC

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!  :D

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

GameChat – Twins @ Orioles, 6:05

Ah…  east coast games.  I forget that they start earlier than I’m expecting.  But that’s ok, it just means that we don’t have to be up late like the west coast  games!  I’m looking forward to seeing if we can’t do a better job against Baltimore on their turf than we did when they were on ours.  Interestingly, the weather isn’t all that dissimilar then when they were in Minnesota.  It is HOT and steamy in Baltimore right now.  The evening game will probably feel better than batting practice did this afternoon – I hope! 

I can’t help it because I’m an eternal optimist but I’m totally looking forward to seeing what Pavano has for us!

Minnesota @ Baltimore
Span, CF   Pie, LF
Hudson, O, 2B   Tejada, 3B
Mauer, DH   Markakis, RF
Kubel, RF   Scott, DH
Cuddyer, 1B   Wigginton, 1B
Young, D, LF   Jones, A, CF
Hardy, SS   Moore, S, 2B
Punto, 3B   Tatum, C
Butera, C   Izturis, C, SS
  Pavano, P     Millwood, P

 

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

 

ANOTHER WIN!! 

Wow, that was a crazy game of drama – and interestingly enough, we didn’t cause ANY of it!  There were MULTIPLE ejections, players & managers in the faces of more than one ump, and then there was the idiot fan on the field.  He really held things up but it was pretty ridiculous given how long it took the security staff to get to him.  He finally gave up and waited for them to tell him where to go after the homeplate ump finally went out to him and told him to stop.  Really?!?!   Doesn’t it seem like there should be some sort of happy medium between Philadelphia and Baltimore?  Yeesh…

But, of course, as Twins fans, the real story of the game was Carl Pavano!  Back to back complete game shutouts will do more to inflame a mustache fad than the Village People.  It’s a thing of beauty how efficient he is out on the mound and Twins fans definitely appreciate the presence of a rock in the turbulent waters of our starting rotation.  For that, the gamechat awarded Pavano today’s BOD and Delmon & Cuddy can celebrate with pastries.. pace yourselves boys, you are getting a lot of baked good lately so you should keep an eye on your diet!

Angst, Acrimony and Accountability

I started writing this post as Wednesday’s ”getaway day” game with the Tribe was playing out and the way that game unfolded, maybe it will provide the necessary salve to make the rest of what I have to say below no longer applicable to the Twins and, specifically, Twins fans.

But I doubt it.

Expecting this one game to make it all better would be like expecting a glass of milk to cure chronic acid reflux.

The high level of general dissatisfaction with all things Twins related did not come about because of one bad pitching performance, one mishandled fielding opportunity, one ill-timed ground ball in to a double play or even, believe it or not, one “WTF were you thinking?” bunt by the reigning AL MVP. This has been building for several weeks and one game will not make everyone feel better.

Frustration is not exactly a new sensation for Twins fans. Even throughout the past decade, while the Twins have been perenial contenders, it’s tough to recall a season that didn’t include periods in mid season where fans were prone to considerable angst over the team’s performance, the holes in the lineup the GM seemed oblivious to, or ownership’s perceived fiscal ultraconservatism.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen things this bad among the Twins “faithful”… if indeed we can even be considered worthy of that term at this point.

I suppose it isn’t really surprising. Everyone, from front office to coaching staff to players on the field to the media to every one of the (seemingly) 100′s of Twins-related bloggers and virtually every fan of the team, had high expectations for this season. Solid returning nucleus+new ballpark+new revenues+new (and better) free agent additions=World Series level expectations. And for several weeks, it certainly looked like those expectations were reasonable. Everyone was happy. Even if we disagreed with a particular decision or if this player or that player wasn’t performing at the level we felt they should, any disagreement was tempered with a sense that this team has so much going for it that it can overcome things that they may not have been able to overcome in previous seasons.

I guess you could say the Twins are certainly putting that theory to the test.

No, the angst is really nothing new. But I’m seeing and hearing more acrimony than I recall in prior years. Yes, we’ve all taken our potshots at whoever the favorite target du jour has been at any given point over the years. Nicky. DY. Jason (pick a Jason, any Jason… anyone named Jason has served time as a target). Cuddyer. Crain(wreck). The list is long, if not distinguished. The manager and GMs (past and current) certainly have always been favorite whipping boys, as have individual members of the coaching staff.

Criticism is part of being a member of a professional sports organization. It comes with the territory and even the lowest compensated of the group are very well paid by the everyday fan’s standards. The players and coaches know that some segment of the fan base is going to find fault, rightly or not, with their performance. We, as fans of the team or particular players/coaches, also have had to acknowledge that our blind affinity for Tiny Superheroes and dimpled outfielders is going to be occasionally tested and mocked. Around here, we try to do that kind of thing in a good-natured way and accept that we all have our favorites… as well as those who may have placed themselves so deep in to our respective doghouses that they can literally never redeem themselves.

That’s all part of the fun of being a fan and being a part of a community with other fans.

But the criticism lately seems to be getting well beyond the norm. It’s downright ugly in some quarters. I’ve seen it get personal. I’ve heard venom that, frankly, I thought was reserved for the worst of Yankee and Red Sox fans. I thought “we” were better than that. While I believe the tone has been much more offensive (to my sensibilities, anyway) in and on other blogs than it has been here at Knuckleballs, there have been a few isolated comments made that made me cringe a bit. To be honest, I’ve been guilty of it myself as my own frustration level has heightened lately.

I haven’t spoken to my fellow “Knuckleballs” bloggers about this yet, but I’m going to go on record saying I won’t allow the vitriol to become worse. Not here. Not on a site I have any level of say over whatsoever. Whether it’s in comment sections or GameChats, I believe we all should be entitled to expect a certain level of civility, not only toward one another, but toward the team in general.

The people who run this blog… the people who visit us here… the people who participate in GameChats with us… the players and coaches themselves… we’re all real people, not just fonts, pictures, avatars or numbers on a uniform. And as people, we have a responsibility, I believe, to treat one another with a degree of respect and civility, even when we’re being critical of  (or poking a bit of fun at) someone.

Does this mean we can’t express frustration (or even something stronger) toward individual actions (or inactions, in the case of our manager and GM)? Of course not.

When your superstar lays down a bunt in just about the dumbest situation one can imagine a superstar deciding to lay down a bunt, we can call it what it is.

When the manager continues to stick his best hitter so low in the order that he gets fewer plate appearances than guys who have no real reason to even carry a bat in to the batters box, we can point out he’s the most stubborn, pigheaded, “I won’t change because if I do, it means I caved to public opinion and I know more than all of you combined,” manager ever to take up space on a Major League bench.

In other words, we can and SHOULD hold everyone in the organization accountable for doing their job at or above expected levels. That goes for Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire. It goes for Nick Punto and Jesse Crain. And yes, it goes for Joe Mauer, too.

I’ve got some thoughts on the subject of accountability (particularly as it applies to Mr. Mauer), on possible roster and lineup changes that I would propose, and just in general what we all need to see in order to get that enthusiasm back that we started the season with. I hope you’ll come back over the coming days/weeks to read what I have to say on those issues or any other thoughts that CapitalBabs, KL and I take the time to share here… and to join our GameChats.

But before I start in on the topics of what I’d like to see the Twins do going forward, I just wanted to start with what I’d like to make sure those of us here continue to do through the challenging days ahead. It’s really simple, actually.

Just play nice. :)

Thank you. – JC

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #3, 12:10, FSN & am1500

These are the days of our lives…. 

It’s no wonder that I really find no need or interest in daytime dramas – I get my fill with Twins baseball!  The emotional ups and downs are darn near reaching levels where medication should be considered.  Sheesh. 

There are some bright spots – FSN has picked up the telecast of several days games in the season that weren’t on their original broadcast schedule, including today.  So, for those of us that are able to be near a TV, we get to SEE the game.  Let’s hope they give us something worth watching.

More news:  Kevin Slowey’s outting last night was enough to keep his bacon out of the fire.  It helped make the decision of WHICH struggling starting pitcher was going to need to be replaced.  Nick Blackburn will trade over to the bullpen and do the long relief job for now that will be vacated by Brian Duensing as he moves into a starting role.  Obviously, we’ve anticipated this move coming for awhile.  It’s all presented as temporary to give Blackburn a chance to get his balls down.  #isthataeuphamism? 

Both Mauer and Gardenhire are not in the game today – Gardenhire is attending to a personal matter and Mauer is riding the pine.  Butera will be catching Frankie and Thome is DH’ing.  After Mauer’s mental break last night, a day off is probably a good thing.  He did respond to questions last night about WTF?!?! from the media.  His response really didn’t make me feel any better.  Basically he said that it seemed like a good idea at the time and he just didn’t do it well – if he had, well then everyone would have thought it was a good idea…  uh… really?  Tom Pelissero at 1500 ESPN had a nearly perfect response to that, IMHO.  Didn’t Execute??

Let’s hope that Liriano can shine today and the boys can put their hits together to get runs.  I like runs.  Runs are good.  *sending positive vibes*

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Cabrera, A, SS   Span, CF
Nix, J, LF   Hudson, O, 2B
Santana, C, DH   Young, D, LF
Peralta, J, 3B   Kubel, RF
LaPorta, 1B   Cuddyer, 1B
Duncan, S, RF   Thome, DH
Crowe, CF   Hardy, SS
Donald, 2B   Punto, 3B
Gimenez, C   Butera, C
  Westbrook, P     Liriano, P

 

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

 

A WIN!! A WIN!! A WIN!! 

It sure is nice to head off for the road trip on a good note – and it was a shutout on a getaway day game too!  Lots of good things today.  Slama got to make his MLB debut in front of his parents who were at the game today.  All his buddies down on the Fort Meyers Miracle team were gathered in the clubhouse to watch the mustachio’d man in stirrups throw k’s.  He was definitely nervous so it was good that the Twins offense had done such a good job to give him a nice good cushion which he didn’t need but must have felt good.  So many guys deserve pastries today that I think we should buy stock in a bakery.  Thome had FOUR untinentional walks today; Hardy, Cuddy & Butera had great timely hits.  And the Twins remembered that leaving men on base doesn’t really help your game much. 

But the big standouts today were Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano.  Frankie gave us exactly what we needed – a fiery, dominant 7 inning performance that kept the hitters off-balance.  It was really a thing of beauty.  Delmon also kept up his new Delmon pace - hitting and running and doing things to keep things hopping and earning more RBI.  It’s a beautiful day!  The gamechat has determined that the game deserves both a Defensive and Offensive BOD:  Delmon on Offense and Frankie on Defense.

 

** final note of the day – Twins have sent Manship back down to AAA and re-instated Alexi Casilla off the DL.  We knew that was coming for all the debate that some thought it would be Blackburn going down. **

GameChat – Indians @ Twins #2, 7:10

Can we pretend that yesterday just didn’t happen?  No?  Ok, well let’s just put that in the category of “Not To Be Repeated” and go from there.  The road to the big leagues just seems to take longer than expected for poor Anthony Slama – in every possible way. The poor man and his wife ended up delayed at our lovely MSP waiting for their baggage – nothing like hauling everything you own straight to the ballpark.  Yes, he is at the ballpark!  (and wearing Chewbacca since he’s the newbie)  Mr. Slama, it’s good to have you with us – please don’t read the blogs/comments about you for a couple weeks so as not to have any additional pressure since all their hopes and dreams seem to rest on your shoulders at the moment.  Not sure what you can do to help the starting rotation do their job or help the hitters quit leaving men on base but hopefully you have GOOD vibes or something.  I will note for those fans out there that Kid Slammer comes complete with mustache – which he already had so he’s not just following the fad.

Kevin?  PLEASE, PLEASE pitch well tonight?  Not only will Twins fans thank you but my fantasy team will as well!

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Cabrera, A, SS   Span, CF
Nix, J, LF   Hudson, O, 2B
Santana, C, C   Mauer, C
Hafner, DH   Kubel, RF
Peralta, J, 3B   Cuddyer, 1B
LaPorta, 1B   Thome, DH
Duncan, S, RF   Young, D, LF
Crowe, CF   Hardy, SS
Donald, 2B   Punto, 3B
  Masterson, P     Slowey, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 4 10 0
Minnesota 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 3 9 0

 

$%#@^$%#$!@#$$%^$%^#$@$#

Well, the positives from tonight include that Slowey didn’t suck.  He didn’t really rock the world either but it was a vast improvement over recent outtings.  There was some decent hitting – just couldn’t seem to really string some things together. 

And a final comment from tonight’s game:  Bunt = 4 letter word.

GameChat – Indians @ Twins, 7:10

This is going to be a good series, I can just feel it!  Both teams are coming off VERY successfull series within the division and are feeling pretty good.  I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty charitable towards the Indians right now since they just WHALLOPED the Tigers.  Now, I am not feeling charitable enought that I want us to let them win or anything but still, they are on my good side.  I know that aren’t doing so well standings-wise but I don’t think that means we should take them for granted like the Tigers seemed to have done.  I ALSO think that they played better baseball against us last time than the Tigers did against us so I hope the boys remember that.

Here’s the good news/bad news of the injury radar for today. GOOD: Joe Nathan finally threw for the first time today since his surgery.  It was supposed to be Saturday but it was delayed until today.  Everything went well and he’s supposed to throw again on Wednesday.  I hope he feels great now and tomorrow.  BAD:  Justin Morneau is still woozy which is not a good sign.  He’ll be seeing a concussion specialist, Dr. Morgan, tomorrow.  This guy also works with the Vikings and the Wild on these issues so I hope that we can get a plan of action to help him feel better soon.  However, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll take the trip with the team to Baltimore.

In other injury news, Casilla is almost done rehabbing.  According to Phil Mackey, he’s supposed to be done on Saturday but Gardy was hinting that he would like him to be available for Wednesday’s day game if possible.

News Update: per LENIII at the Strib – “Heard from the clubhouse that former Twin Mike Redmond, who was released by Cleveland on Saturday, probably will spend the rest of the summer in Cleveland. One of the reasons he signed there was because he has family there. Doesn’t sound like he’s knocking on doors looking to play again.” I still think fondly of you Red Dawg and miss you bunches on that bench – please, consider coming to MN to coach – we’d love you at 3B!!!!!!!

At any rate, I’m looking forward to a good series with the guys we have who are really stepping up lately!  I’m a little cautious with my optimism however since I’m hoping for a good outting from Scott Baker – like just about everyone else in Twins Territory.  Boy do I wish I was at one of the games this week – been away from live baseball for awhile now and I have to admit I miss it.  Funny how the ballpark experience is so addictive!  I’m going through withdrawal!

Cleveland @ Minnesota
Brantley, CF   Span, CF
Nix, J, 2B   Hudson, O, 2B
Santana, C, C   Mauer, C
Kearns, RF   Cuddyer, 1B
Hafner, DH   Kubel, RF
Peralta, J, 3B   Young, D, LF
LaPorta, 1B   Thome, DH
Crowe, LF   Valencia, 3B
Donald, SS   Hardy, SS
  Laffey, P     Baker, S, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland 0 2 0 0 5 0 0 1 2 10 20 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 4 12 1

 

That game not only took 4 HOURS to play 9 innings of baseball, it felt like it took twice that.  According to Dick Bremer, there were 391 pitches thrown in this game. Sadly, it most definitely did not go our way.  It was fun to see some continuing hitting from a few standouts though – Delmon was fantastic with the bat even if there were a couple ugly moments in the field – JJ Hardy was beautiful in the field (isn’t he always) and he had a couple timely hits too – Cuddy still getting on base  – but we just couldn’t seem to string the stuff together the right way.  And our pitchers couldn’t seem to miss the opposing bats to save their life.  The Indians had 20 hits tonight.  Ouch. 

But I told you guys before the game even started that this was not a team to take for granted and that they would come in here in a great mood.  They did.  They played solid ball tonight.

I stayed with the broadcast long enough to hear Gardy talk about the roster moves they are making.  Alex Burnett is being optioned back down to AAA which we figured was basically a guarantee given his outting tonight.  But the really exciting moment for seemingly ALL the Twins bloggers is that Anthony Slama is coming up to shore up the bullpen.  This is his first chance to join the big league club and it has been long awaited.  When I saw him last in spring training, he was not only wearing tall socks, but stirrups as well!  Had to make sure we covered important details in addition to the fact that he’s being discussed as the closer of the future.  This will be a fun shakeup I think.  Condrey is going on the 60 day DL to make room on the 40 man roster for Slama.

Now, we just have to figure out what to do with the starting rotation.. Ouch again.