The biggest news of the day is that Justin did a full workout with the team today AND with the media. He is quite happy that he’s had so many days in a row symptom-free AND that while he says there is no chance he’ll be ready for the first round, he does think his preparations could have him hitting in the second round as long as his health maintains its stability. Just about everyone is going to have comments from him from this afternoon – interestingly, several seemed to feel the need to comment on the level of sweat he’d worked up – but I’ll give you one to get you started from Phil Mackey over at ESPN: Morneau Optimistic…
Other good news is clear from tonight’s lineups. You’ll notice that two names have returned!! Both Joe Mauer and JJ Hardy finally show up which I find to be extremely good news. I’m sure they are also both happy to be back and I hope this is just the motivation needed to make the final series of the regular season a spectacular set of winning games. Considering the next four games are the preview of the 4 starting pitchers we currently have slated for our post-season rotation, I would like them all to do better than they each did in their previous starts. That’s not too much to ask is it?
The only knock of the day is that Thome is still having trouble with his back and will need a bit more rest. Honestly, at this point, I just want him healthy and able to bring his big stick to play against the big boys.
In the words of TC Bear tonight on Twitter: Uff Da.
Basically, tonight was a bit of batting practice for the Blue Jays – no matter who was pitching – with a ridiculous number of homeruns. Of course, somehow they seemed to have solved the supposed Target Field HR drought. Let’s see our guys hit some of those tomorrow shall we?
This seems more timely than the other random stuff I was pondering to ramble about so thanks for the heads up, Dewluca! In our previous discussions about Carl Pavano’s now famous mustache, I have leaned heavily on the American Mustache Institute as a resource. David over at 7th Inning Stache is leading the charge to nominate Carl as a leader in the fight against facial hair discrimination.
The American Mustache Institute (AMI) is now accepting nominations for the 2010 “Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year,” the award Time magazine, the NBC Nightly News, physicist Stephen Hawking, and High Times magazine said is on par with the Nobel Prize for Peace.
The 2009 winner was Arizona Diamondbacks standout relief pitcher Clay Zavada, and the first recipient of the award in 2008 was retired New York City police detective Tim Galvin, who had received three medals of valor and retiring as a captain after being shot twice – in the face and leg – while working undercover.
The “Goulet” is an award for the everyman: the teacher, the community leader, the celebrity, the dwarf, the politician, the psychotic Florida minister. It recognizes the person who has best represented or contributed to the Mustached American community during the past year.
Nominations will be accepted until Friday, Oct. 8, and on Oct. 11 the pool will be streamlined to a worthy group of finalists selected by AMI’s certified mustacheologists for voting.
So I’m asking all our readers to step up and assist the effort by nominating Carl Pavano for the 2010 Mustached American of the Year. Just click on the nomination form and submit your name, your favorite photo of the Carlstache and why you think he should honored. I will do my best to continue to follow this topic and provide all the appropriate information for the next level which will be VOTING. But first we have to get him on the list – here is the text I used when I submitted my own nomination:
Major League Baseball has a long tradition of facial hair discrimination to varying degrees and while the MN Twins have not prohibited the growth of mustaches, most players don’t pursue it. But Carl Pavano not only pursued, he persisted in the face of genuine criticism that it wasn’t flattering. And then, by leading his team to double-digit wins as the most veteran starting pitcher, he also brought along his teammates and many fans. In fact, popular culture (including the media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other forums) has even granted independent personality and credit to the now famous mustache amongst baseball fans. In fact, many credit the power of his singular facial hair with success of the MN Twins in their pennant race including being the first team to clinch a playoff position for the postseason. While that may or may not be true, Pavano’s success is not just as a man with a mustache but specifically highlights the mustache as a crucial part of his successful identity. That is why Carl Pavano should be the 2010 “Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year”
Ok, focusing on the positives! Morneau has had 4 straight symptom free days!!! He’s doing much better and is going to get to work out WITH the team again when they are in town. It’s not likely that even when he can start playing that he’ll be manning his spot for the first round of the playoffs but… assuming the Twins start playing better, *knock on noggin* he may be able to join them yet for this post season. Mauer also was looking and feeling good during BP so who knows, we may yet see him as a pinch hitter tonight… and the swelling in JJ Hardy’s knee is gone so that is good news too.
Now for the Twins do their part to improve the general mood in Twins Territory.
Holy CRAP! The Twins remembered how to win a game! But before we get all caught up in patting them on the back, I just have one thing to say as far as a criticism of tonight’s game goes: 10 LOB, 2-9 with RISP. Ugly.
But enough grousing since the goal is to win the game and we actually got more runs than we gave up! woohooo!! It’s really that simple! It doesn’t take much but even that has been alarmingly difficult lately. Scott Baker actually tried a new fad – he was striking out hitters! Yes, he let some get on which just made him always pitch under tension. Joe Nathan will tell you that it sure works for him so as long as the job gets done, I don’t care. Finally, we had a starter go 100 pitches and not have runs in the double digits. Beautiful. Nine K’s didn’t hurt either. For remembering how to be a starting pitcher, we proudly award Scooter his very own bowl of spicy gumbo for kicking it up a notch tonight. Hope it reminds him of home!
And speaking of pitching, our bullpen ROCKED! Matty G., Tito, Cappy! y’all were fantastic and there was actually FLAILING tonight! How pretty. In honor of our southern theme, the whole bullpen can feast on Chicory coffee and beignets. Eat up quick boys because they’re best when they’re hot – just like bullpen pitchers!
But there really was a unanimous star of tonight’s game. Delmon Young has joined a fairly elite group of Twins players. He’s apparently only the 5th Twin all time to hit 20+ Hr, 40+ 2B, & 100+ RBI in a single season. Tonight, he sneaked his 20th HR just barely inside the foul pole to give us the lead. And then we didn’t let them have it back. Delmon even managed to get another RBI later in the game! So yeah, that officially gets him tonight’s BOD. Congrats for yet another one on his significantly large season total.
If Gardy really blew his top in a closed-clubhouse, “come to Jesus meeting” after the Monday night loss to the Royals, I can’t imagine his blood pressure was much lower after his team demonstrated their reaction to his expression of frustration on Tuesday.
I admit I was pretty frustrated Monday night, too. When you’ve spent over five months programming yourself to expect… even need… to see consistent high level Major League quality play out of your favorite team, it’s hard to dial those expectations back down a bit when the circumstances change.
And let’s be clear, the circumstances have changed.
As I mentioned in the GameChat during Tuesday night’s game, I’m coming around to the perspective of looking at these games as I do the final week or two of Spring Training. The games have no real meaning in that they have no effect on the team’s position in the standings. Ideally, you want to give your regular players enough playing time to have them sharp at the plate and in the field and you want to get your pitching rotation set up appropriately.
You certainly would not feel good about the pitchers you have chosen to make up your rotation having poor outings leading up to the start of “real” games, but if they’ve been pitching well leading up to that last week, you certainly would not panic. You also would want to give anyone who’s banged up or bruised whatever time they need to get healthy.
By the way, the Twins lost a couple of Spring Training games that last week of March where they gave up double digit runs, as well. It happens. Especially when you’re making liberal use of players that, let’s be honest, are only considered “Major League ballplayers” because the normal 25-man roster limit has been removed.
I don’t mean to minimize how great it would be to finish with the best record in the American League. But the Twins are assured of having home field advantage for the ALDS and would have the same advantage over the Rangers in the ALCS if Texas can survive their first round challenge. So, as many others have pointed out, getting healthy is far more critical to the Twins’ post season success chances than anything else.
So as frustrating as things are right now, keep in mind that things could be worse.
We could be Royals fans. You think they wouldn’t trade places with us right now… or last year… or pretty much any year in the past decade?
We could be White Sox fans. How would you like to be relegated to having nothing more interesting to discuss than whether or not the person responsible for your team sucking is your manager or your General Manger and about whether not firing one or both of them means you’re going to suck next year, too?
We could be Rays fans. Sure… it would be nice to be able to get a good seat simply by walking up to the ticket window at game time, but you’d still have to be watching baseball indoors and you would be heading to the post season fully aware that your favorite team’s payroll is going to be slashed next season, to the point of losing some of your best players.
We could be Mets fans. Yes, we’d be able to cheer for Johan Santana (if/when he is healthy), but your ownership and front office would be the laughingstock of all of baseball.
We could be Dodger fans. Say what you wish about the Pohlad family, but at least they aren’t likely to be forced to cut payroll or even sell their team simply because of a nasty divorce proceeding.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not satisfied with “just” another AL Central Division title. I want it all.
But there are several million fans of 20+ other teams who would jump at the chance to trade places with us right now, even if it meant they had to endure seeing their team suffer through a 5-game losing streak. They would be very quick to tell us all to stop bitching and moaning about a few meaningless lopsided losses after our team has already had their playoff ticket punched.
And they’d be right.
We don’t have to pretend we enjoy watching bad baseball, just to “stay positive”. It’s fair to express some concern over poor performances and nagging injuries to important players. But the situation does call for us to keep things a little bit in perspective.
The Major League Baseball playoffs start in one week. 22 teams will not be participating. Only eight teams will still have a chance to play for the opportunity to go to the World Series. The Twins are one of those teams. Again.
I gotta tell you, the way I’m feeling right now, the more I can relate to how Gardy felt in the clubhouse after the game last night. There is a part of me that is glad he was pissed off – because if you aren’t going to play, why do the rest of us show up? BUT part of me thinks that it’s not so much true anger as it is exhaustion and frustration. This has NOT been a good road-trip so far and it”s the end of the regular season so everyone is tired. So reactions are probably exaggerated for players, managers and fans alike.
I think we all need to get over it. The post-season is coming. This is a GOOD thing and being tired is not a very good excuse. So have a few things to deal with at home and the boys have a few things to deal with on the field. Let’s get this done.
*sigh* Since so little is going the way we WANT it to right now, I’m going to ask anyone who is thinking more clearly than I to point out nice performances by players during this road trip in our comments. Just to be reminded that yes, we do have people that know how to play this game.
And just to highlight that a bad road-trip week is a temporary bump, the Reds are officially in the playoffs this year for the first time since 1995. Thanks for the heads up in chat!
As I tend to do on many mornings, I began my Monday morning browsing through all of the Twins blogs on our blogroll. As always, I found some interesting stuff during my blog-check.
For example, Brendan Harris hadn’t posted anything in his blog for months (can’t say I blame him), but he posted a week or two ago and included a fine rant about the government apparently having grown tired of trying and failing to catch real bad guys while continuing to gun for Roger Clemens. Being prone to ranting myself, I appreciate a good rant, especially when it’s one I agree with.
While we didn’t receive an official ballot, we’re not going to let a little thing like not being asked keep us from participating. But we do things a little differently here at Knuckleballs (what’s that? You say you’ve noticed?), so rather than have one of us give a rundown of who would have gotten our votes, we’re going to do this based on the only criteria that really matters around here… Boyfriend of the Day awards!
Yes, it’s official boys and girls… since no BOD was awarded in last night’s loss to Kansas City, Delmon Young has mathematically clinched the Regular Season Knuckleballs Boyfriend of the Year Award! DY has collected 14 BOD awards over the course of the season, while no other Twin has collected more than 7. With only six games remaining in the regular season, the regular season BOY award is all Delmon’s. To my mind, that makes him our Most Valuable Twins Player, as well.
I realize that it has once again become fashionable to trash Delmon a bit. but it seems to be pretty easy for some people to forget just how he carried the Twins on his shoulders in mid-season when it felt like he was getting the big hit almost every game. I’m not sure what “Most Valuable” is supposed to mean, but I do feel pretty strongly that without DY’s mid-season onslaught, the standings would look very different right now. Of course, I think you can probably make the same statement at least 10 of Delmon’s team mates this season. It has been a true team effort this year!
Just like the Twins, however, we at Knuckleballs will “play out the season”, continuing to name BODs for each additional win during the regular season AND do something similar for each Twins post season victory. – JC
Both Mauer and Thome took batting practice today and that was a very good sign. They aren’t in tonight’s lineup yet and probably won’t be tomorrow yet either but they are both supposedly improving. JJ Hardy, on the other hand, is back here in the cities getting his knee checked out. He says it’s feeling better but they want to be sure it’s nothing serious. Joe C. says we should give all three until Thursday before we panic.
So for those of you who are watching baseball instead of football tonight, here’s what we have to work with:
As I told the folk in the chat, I’m going to keep this brief in order to avoid saying something I might later regret.
Slowey was really struggling tonight – not sure what was going on for him but he was REALLY upset when he was in the dugout and I’m pretty sure he was mad at himself. I totally understand that and I hope it’s not something lingering. The offense for both teams seemed to be able to put the ball out there… Just didn’t get enough runs for our line on the boxscore. I was unhappy.
After what can only be described as a truly ugly weekend series in Detroit, maybe what we need to get that taste out of our mouths is a Twins History Lesson “doubleheader”. Let’s look at highlights for both the past week and the upcoming week in Twins history*.
September 20 has seen a couple of interesting events:
1965: As the Twins wound the clock down toward their first World Series appearance, it’s hard to imagine just 537 fans showing up for a make-up game with the Kansas City A’s. “Catfish” Hunter beat “Mudcat” Grant 8-2 before the smallest home crowd in Twins history. I suppose the 52 degree drizzling weather kept people away. Almost enough to make you wonder if they should build a domed stadium in the Twin Cities or something.
2004: The Twins clinched the AL Central title as Carlos Silva picked up the win in an 8-2 victory over the White Sox.
September 21 has seen both highs and lows:
1963: Harmon Killebrew hit three home runs in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he hit another one in the second game against the Red Sox. While it would seem that Fenway would be a great place for a guy like Killebrew (a right handed hitter known for his towering fly balls to LF) to hit, it was actually the only multi-home run game for Killer at the home of the Green Monster. It was also the only 3-home run game of Harmon’s career.
1997: There weren’t a lot of Twins highlights in the late 90s, but on this day Brad Radke gave us something to cheer about. He pitched all 10 innings of a 2-1 win over the Brewers at the Dome, striking out 9, walking nobody and giving up 6 hits (including a Jeff Cirillo solo HR). The Twins won on a Paul Molitor triple that drove in Brent Brede from first base. The Twins would finish with just 69 wins on the year… and Radke won 20 of those.
Looking at September 22:
1968: Proving he could “do it all”, Cesar Tovar played one inning at each of the nine defensive positions in a win over Oakland. Tovar pitched the first inning and not only threw a scoreless inning, he struck out future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson in the process. The game was the ONLY time a position player pitched for the Twins at a game in Metropolitan Stadium, the only time a position player has been the starting pitcher for the Twins, and the only time the Twins have ever won a game in which a position player has pitched. It was obviously a Calvin Griffith publicity stunt and I suppose you would say it worked. The game drew the second highest paid attendance among the final 10 home games of the season… 11, 340. Griffith was so moved by Tovar’s willingness to do his part to bring in the extra fans, that he gave Tovar a little bonus… a new color TV.
1969: The Twins clinched the AL Western Division title with a 4-3 win over the Royals, on the strength of Harmon Killebrew’s 47th home run of the year. Bob Miller was the winning pitcher. (See NOTE at September 28 entry)
1970: Exactly one year later, to the day, the Twins clinched their second AL Western Division title with a 5-3 win over the A’s.
1978: California Angel (and former Twin) Lyman Bostock, Jr., was shot and killed in Gary, Indiana. He remains the only Major League Baseball player murdered during a baseball season while he was an active player.
2003: The Twins clinched the AL Central title as they defeated the Tribe 4-1 at the Metrodome, then watched the White Sox and Royals both lose their games.
Johan Santana became the first Venezuelan to record 20 wins in a season on September 24, 2004, with an 8-2 win over Cleveland. In the process, he established a new Twins record with his 13th consecutive win and also broke Bert Blyleven’s franchise single-season strikeout record.
September 25 has seen its share of eventful games:
1985: Bert Blyleven was the winning pitcher as the Twins beat the Rangers 5-1… win number 2,000 for the Twins
2000: One of those “things you don’t see every day in MLB.” The Twins beat the Indians in the nightcap of a split doubleheader. What’s odd about that? Well, it was the only game of the doubleheader that the Twins participated in. In the afternoon game, the Tribe lost to the White Sox 9-2. This sort of 3-team twinbill has occurred only twice in MLB history.
2008: The White Sox had come to Minnesota with a 2 and a half game lead over the Twins in the AL Central, but that lead was down to a half game when the teams took the field for the final game of the series. The Sox built a 6-1 lead through the top of the 4th inning, then managed just 4 baserunners the rest of the game. The Twins scored 2 in the 4th on a Carlos Gomez triple and Denard Span double and added another in the 6th on another Gomez triple and a successful Span suicide squeeze bunt. The 8th inning saw two more Twins runs on a double by Brendan Harris, a single by Gomez and a triple by Span that tied the game at 6. The game stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th inning when Alexi Casilla singled home Nick Punto with the winning run, sending the Twins a half game ahead of the White Sox and forcing Chicago to play a make up game in Detroit the following day in an attempt to force a Game 163 with the Twins.
On September 26, 1965, the Twins clinched their first American League Pennant, with a 2-1 win over the Senators at DC Stadium. Jim Kaat got the complete-game win for Minnesota, striking out 10 and walking nobody. Kaat and battery-mate Earl Battey were among 7 Twins on that team that had played for the organization as Washington Senators in 1960, before the move to Minnesota. Surveying the crazy scene in the winners locker room after the game, Battey smiled and said, “You guys act like you have never done this before.” It had been over three decades since the franchise had won a pennant.
September 27 has witnessed a couple of games of note:
1981: In recording their last win at Met Stadium, the Twins beat the Rangers 5-2 with John Castino and Gary Ward each hitting a pair of home runs.
1987: The Twins set a team record for single game regular season attendance when 53,106 watch a day game with the Royals.
1998: Paul Molitor ended his Hall of Fame career by going 2 for 4 with a single in his final at-bat in the Twins 6-2 win over the Indians.
Of interest for events of September 28:
1969: The Twins clinched the AL Western Division championship with a 5-2 win over the Mariners in the opening game of a doubleheader in Seattle. (NOTE: As indicated in the entry for September 22, there appears to be some confusion as to exactly when the Twins clinched their title in 1969. Perhaps they clinched at least a tie on 9/22? In any event, rather than digging to find out which is accurate, I’m reporting both… I’m feeling particularly lazy today.)
1974: The Twins were on the losing end of Nolan Ryan’s third (of an eventual seven) career no-hitter as Ryan and the Angels topped Minnesota 4-0. Ryan struck out 15 Twins in the game.
1978: This is the date of “the Speech”, given by Twins owner Calvin Griffith at a Lions Club event in Waseca MN. You can read all about it here, if you haven’t before. It was… unbelievable. For me personally, the low point in Minnesota Twins history.
1987: A much higher point in franchise history was reached when the Twins clinched the AL Western Division title with a 5-3 win over the Rangers in Arlington.
1995: Kirby Puckett’s jaw was broken by a Dennis Martinez pitch. It would be the last regular season appearance of Puckett’s career. He would go through spring training the following year, but be diagnosed with glaucoma before the regular season would begin.
On September 29, 1991, the Twins clinched the AL Western Division title despite their 2-1 loss to Toronto, when the White Sox also suffered a 2-1 loss to the Mariners.
There have been two historic Twins games held on September 30:
1981: 15,900 fans attended the final home game played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Roy Smalley made the final out of the final game, a 5-2 loss to the Royals.
2008: We try not to hold it against him today, but on this date, Jim Thome broke our hearts with a home run off Nick Blackburn, accounting for the sole White Sox run in their 1-0 win over the Twins in the extra “Game 163” necessitated when the Twins and Sox finished the season tied for the lead in the AL Central.
Let’s look at October 1:
2002: Despite falling behind 5-1 after the first two innings, the Twins came back to defeat Oakland 7-5 in Game 1 of the ALDS. Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz each homered in support of winning pitcher Brad Radke.
2006: It had never happened in MLB history before but it did on this date… a team that had not held sole possession of first place in their division/league for a single prior day the entire season, claimed their title on the last day of the season. The Twins won their game and then watched with fans as the Tigers blew a 6-0 lead over the Royals before losing 10-8 in 12 innings. 23 year old Joe Mauer became the first AL catcher to win a league batting title, hitting .347 to lead the Major Leagues.
A few oddities are mixed in with the events of October 2:
1974: In a game against the Twins, Texas manager Billy Martin became the first AL manager in the DH-era NOT to use a DH… allowing pitcher Fergie Jenkins to hit instead.
1988: With a crowd of 35,952, the Twins became the first team to pass the 3 million mark in paid attendance for a season. It was a Twins attendance mark that would stand unitl… well… a few days ago, when the Twins broke that record during a game at Target Field last week.
2004: Play was suspended at the Metrodome after 11 innings with the Twins and Indians tied at 5. Why? So crews would have sufficient time to convert the playing field for the scheduled Minnesota Gopher football game that night. Hmmm… maybe they should think about building a basball-only ballpark?
2009: Joe Nathan notched his 46th save, breaking Eddie Guardado’s prior team record of 45, which he recorded in 2002. Nathan would finish the season with 47 saves.
For those who may be tempted to take the Twins recent success for granted, let me end this History Lesson with a review of the final game of the 1999 season at Comisky Park on October 3, 1999. The White Sox scored in the bottom of the first inning and neither team tallied again until the top of the 7th when Doug Mientkiewicz singled and Torii Hunter drove him in with a double, both coming with two outs. At that point, with the score tied 1-1 in the middle of the 7th, the game was called due to rain, wind, cold and, I would imagine, indifference.
The Twins simply didn’t matter in 1999.
Win or lose this post season, the Twins matter now and they’ve mattered for the past 9 seasons. It’s good to be a Twins fan! – JC
Ok, today’s injury updates are stolen straight from Joe C. over at the Strib:
J.J. Hardy has a swollen left knee and is being checked by a doctor. He’s not sure how he injured himself.
Denard Span fouled a ball off his right foot Saturday, came in sore today and is not in the lineup.
Jim Thome has a knot in the left side of his back and is a little concerned, though Manager Ron Gardenhire said the training staff is confident they’ll remedy it soon.
Jason Repko has a bruised right thumb.
Gardenhire isn’t sure if Joe Mauer will play in Kansas City and said he’ll likely DH when he first comes back.
Gardy will be managing today, though his right ear isn’t pretty.
That pretty much covers the actual injuries. However, I gotta think that it’s not just fans that are groggy after last night’s marathon game. And today’s lineup really does look like a fairly standard Gardy Day Game lineup card. Of course, today that might actually be out of necessity! I would still like to see the Twins salvage a win out of this series right now just to keep the roll going.
I say we just pretend this series didn’t happen. I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about today’s game, other than Brian Duensing at least got through enough innings that the bullpen should have gotten time to recover from the Saturday night debacle. That’s three straight subpar starts for the starting pitchers scheduled for games 1-3 of the the playoffs. No reason to panic, but that doesn’t mean we have to like seeing it.
On to Kansas City… let’s get healthy and back in the habit of winning down there against the Landed Gentry. – JC
I haven’t had a chance to check out any news of the day other than JC reporting that Liriano was working out as usual after his short start last night so I’m just going to take that and run with it. The Twins are still in first place in the American League but the Rays have pulled up into a tie with the Yankees a half game back. I love that excitement.
There hasn’t been much news from the Morneau front recently other than if he’s feeling good, Gardy will throw him in and get him so AB’s but until then, getting him in this season or post-season is not his priority – healthy is his only concern and if that takes time off until next March, that’s just the way it is.
Let’s hope tonight’s game isn’t as odd and isn’t as poorly officiated.
Ok, none of the Knuckleball “officials” actually watched enough innings of last night’s game to be able to comment with any intelligence on a regular length game much less last night’s marathon. If you REALLY want to see how things went in more detail than the link in the boxscore tells you, you can check out the play-by-play.
So I’m just going to limit my comments to .. there was some good, there was some bad and we didn’t walk away with it in the end – which really sucks after going 13 innings. Here’s the Twins page report on the game.
*** addition: Dewluca added an additional link in the comments sharing some of the injury concerns the team has now and Gardy’s general reaction.