Last Man Standing… and Other Peoples’ Words

Just under a year ago in my post-mortem of the Twins’ 2010 season, I reviewed the list of players that we were likely going to be saying good-bye to over the offseason and offered my own humble predictions concerning which would be returning and which would not. I wasn’t far off, either. Then again, how tough was it to predict that Randy Flores wouldn’t be coming back to Minnesota?

As things turned out, by my count, the Twins parted ways with 11 Major League players between the time they were so rudely dispatched by the Yankees in the ALDS and Opening Day 2011. Most of those players managed to find some form of gainful employment with other teams. In addition to the aforementioned Flores, here’s a list of others that Twins fans bid farewell to last offseason:

Ron Mahay, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Orlando Hudson, Brendan Harris, and JJ Hardy.

Do you see the common thread running between all of these players?

Yes… they are all going to have the same view of the MLB post-season that their former Twins team mates are going to have… from the outside looking in. They may not have all ended up playing for last-place teams as bad as the one they left behind in Minnesota, but none of them hitched their wagon to a playoff team.

Nick Punto

But there is one name I left off that list. Yes, one player that the Twins could find no use for will be playing extra baseball this season.

Nick Punto is going to the playoffs.

Punto had a pretty typical Puntoesque season for the St. Louis Cardinals. By that, I mean he spent a  fair amount of time not playing baseball, appearing in only 63 games. But when he played, his numbers were more in line with the 2008 version we saw in Minnesota than what we had seen in his last two seasons. He hit .278, got on base at a .388 clip and had a respectable .421 slugging percentage. That’s good for an .809 OPS.

That’s nothing to scoff at, especially when you put it up next to many of the members of the chorus line of mediocrity that populated the Twins infield this season.

Anyway… like it or not, if you’re a Twins fan that likes to root in the playoffs for teams with guys you’ve come to know because of their recent service with the home town team, Nick Punto is carrying that banner.

Delmon Young

Of course, Nick isn’t entirely alone. The Twins did, after all, make a couple of in-season deals that sent players to contenders. Things didn’t work out the way we hoped they might for Jim Thome in Cleveland, but Delmon Young and his Tigers will be in New York on Friday night to do battle with the Evil Empire. I’m hoping he and his new team have better luck in that crusade than he did with the Twins a year ago.

************************

Finally, it feels like I’m not doing my job as a blogger if I don’t mention something about Wednesday night’s baseball games on the final night of the regular season. In fact, I really wanted to write something about how I sat watching four games on my laptop and a fifth on the television all evening long… how I cheered for my adopted Orioles and for the Rays (someone has to, because nobody seems to do that, even in the Tampa Bay area, right?). It was an amazing night of baseball, but words escaped me on Thursday.

It’s just as well, because as is almost always the case, the people who get paid to do this kind of thing captured everything much better than I could have anyway. So I’m going to just drop a couple of quotes on you from Joe Posnanski and Jim Mandelaro and urge you to go read their stuff.

Mandelaro is the Rochester beat writer for the Red Wings and an unabashed Red Sox fan. As you read his “Heartbroken” post, I’m sure the frustration will sound familiar. He’s hurt, he’s angry, he kicks ass and names names. It’s not all that different than the feelings so many of us expressed about the Twins for the past several months. He finished with these sentiments, with which I believe most Twins fans can relate:

My Red Sox heart is broken. I’m not embarrassed to be a Sox fan, but I am embarrased for this edition of the Sox. I hope they are, too. It will be a long winter. In the meantime, I will now pull for my second favorite team in baseball: The APYs. Never heard of them? Stands for Anyone Playing the Yankees.

When you’re finished with Mandelaro’s post, go check out Joe Posnanski’s. He pretty much always captures these events perfectly and this time is no exception. The entire “Baseball Night in America” post is worth reading, but since Joe’s posts are even longer than mine, I’ll just give you a little taste here:

Funny, if I was trying to explain baseball to someone who had never heard of it, I wouldn’t tell them about Wednesday night. No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

So I won’t even try.

– JC

Baseball & Football

Now that Baseball’s regular season for 2011 has ended in such a dramatic fashion, we can begin debating the dilemma of what to watch now… do we pick someone else’s baseball team to follow through the post-season as our substitute? Do we just occasionally watch the big games no matter who is playing? Or do we give up on baseball in October entirely and concentrate on Football??

Just for the fun of it, I thought I would let George Carlin give you his advice.

If you are watching the baseball post-season, Call To The Pen put out the complete schedule after last night’s craziness.

Put out your requests now if there are particular games you want Chats set up for!!!

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #3, 7:10pm. The End.

This is it. Game 162. The last game of the season.

For the Twins, anyway.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the two Wild Card races are heading in to game 162 in a dead heat. The Rays and Red Sox could still have to play a game 163, as could the Cardinals and Braves. I have to say, as frustrating as it is being a Twins fan right now, being a Red Sox or Braves fan and having to face the prospect of watching your team totally collapse your way right out of the playoffs before they even start might be even tougher. Anyway, there are four games certainly worth keeping an eye on tonight.

Finally, in the “if Ted Williams were alive, he’d kick your ass” category, we have Jose Reyes. Reyes entered the day with the narrowest of leads over the Brewers’ Ryan Braun for the NL Batting Title. In his first PA today, Reyes laid down a bunt and beat it out… then promptly told his manager to remove him from the game in order to put his lead over Braun in the bank. Why? Because he’s a pending free agent and his agent thinks he can get more money on the open market with that batting title in his pocket. I’ve never liked Reyes much and never really had a good reason why. Now I do.

Tonight is not only the Twins’ last game of the season, but also John Gordon’s final game as the voice of the Twins on the radio. Gordo isn’t what he used to be (then again, who of us is?), but he’s been an icon of the organization for many Twins fans for a very long time. We wish him all the best.

This will also be the last game in a Twins uniform for a number of players… we just don’t know exactly which ones, yet. Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps all could be free agents. Kubel, Nathan and Capps aren’t probably going to see action, but I hope fans find a way to express their appreciation for the years of service that Cuddyer, Kubel and Nathan, in particular, have given the organization.

Here’s tonight’s line up:

ROYALS

@

TWINS
Dyson, CF Revere, CF
Giavotella, 2B Plouffe, SS
Butler, DH Cuddyer, RF
Hosmer, 1B Parmelee, 1B
Perez, S, C Valencia, 3B
Moustakas, 3B Tosoni, DH
Cain, RF Dinkelman, 2B
Maier, LF Benson, LF
Escobar, A, SS Butera, C
  _Chen, P   _Pavano, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Kansas City 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 10 0

One run on 10 hits? Seriously. Hey, let’s just celebrate the 0 errors!

Carl Pavano saved his best for last, throwing a complete game, 5-hit shutout at the Royals to wrap up the season.

Denard Span hit a pinch-hit double in the bottom of the ninth, setting up Trevor Plouffe’s game winning single.

All to make retiring broadcaster John Gordon’s final “call” a memorable one.

So why not 4 BODs? (after all, it’s not like we’ve had very many of them the last couple of months anyway).

Carl Pavano

Denard Span

Trevor Plouffe

John Gordon (Photo: MPR/Jeffrey Thompson)

,

 

 

Last Day of the 2011 Season

Thank God…

I think we are all ready to wave goodbye to this season and start fresh in the spring. Of course that means it is going to have to be a pretty busy off-season and I don’t even want to begin talking about what this team needs to do yet. That’s a discussion for many many many a future day to warm the winter with passionate pleas.

Today, I’m simply going to enjoy this ABSOLUTELY PERFECT baseball weather – especially for a Minnesota Fall – and hope that the Twins are able to avoid that triple digit loss record for the year.

I just thought I would share a couple of things as I was thinking through my day.

A photog buddy of mine, Kinsey Anderson, was at the game last night and snapped this shot of Target Field:

 

I’m choosing to consider the image as a metaphor for going into this off-season. The storms, clouds and gloom are moving out and things should be clearing up.

And I thought I would pass on this message from Michael Cuddyer that he put out this morning:

“Last game of the season. I know it has been tough and frustrating, but thank you fans for coming out and supporting us strong this season!!”

I hope all our players know that our frustrations are real but we are here to cheer on the good stuff they do! I really hope we get to do a LOT more cheering next year!

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

So it comes down to this… need to win the last two games to avoid losing 100 games on the season. I’m not really sure losing 99 games is all that much different than 100, but I guess it’s just always better to win than lose, so let’s see what happens.

By the way, in case you haven’t heard, we won’t have Ozzie Guillen to kick around any more. Ozzie and the BitchSox parted ways and it sounds like he’ll be managing the Florida Fish next season.

ROYALS

@

TWINS
Dyson, CF Span, CF
Giavotella, 2B Revere, LF
Butler, DH Valencia, 3B
Hosmer, 1B Parmelee, 1B
Perez, S, C Plouffe, SS
Moustakas, 3B Tosoni, DH
Cain, RF Benson, RF
Maier, LF Tolbert, 2B
Escobar, A, SS Rivera, R, C
  _O’Sullivan, P   _Swarzak, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Kansas City 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 4 14 1
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 2 4 0 0 x 7 11 3

That’s a win! Joe Nathan had to make things a little interesting in the 9th and the Twins did manage to get outhit 14-11, but none of that matters when you end up with more runs than the other guys. Anthony Swarzak threw a nice 6 and 1/3 innings (if you just look at the 2 runs he gave up and not the number of hits) and Chris Parmelee keeps making an impression as he hit yet another home run.

But Rene Tosoni is our BOD tonight in honor of his grand salami, in the 7th inning!

Rene Tosoni (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

GameChat – Royals @ Twins, 7:10pm

Ok, if you’re not watching Monday Night Football, there’s actually a baseball game on!

Kansas City

@

Minnesota
Dyson, CF   Revere, CF
Cabrera, Me, LF   Dinkelman, LF
Butler, DH   Cuddyer, RF
Hosmer, 1B   Parmelee, 1B
Perez, S, C   Valencia, 3B
Moustakas, 3B   Plouffe, SS
Cain, RF   Tosoni, DH
Giavotella, 2B   Hughes, L, 2B
Escobar, A, SS   Butera, C
  Paulino, F, P     Slowey, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Kansas City

1

0

0

0

0

4

0

1

1

7

14

1

Minnesota

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

3

6

0

 

So the Twins and I have something in common for this game: we both started it with the best intentions of being there for the whole game..  Clearly, we both failed. Given that this is the last series of what turned out to be a dismal season, you’d think they’d be done setting records.. but yeah, apparently you’d be wrong. Sadly, this time it was Kevin Slowey who accomplished a “goal” of note: it’s been 60 years in MLB since another starting pitcher made at least 8 starts and lost them all… ouch.

“I feel like the sixth inning was kind of a microcosm for my season,” Slowey said. “Just an absolute dearth of consistency. Make a few good pitches and then leave one over the plate.”

Yes, Kev, I think that says it all.

Sadly, it also inched them closer to one more ridiculous number… this was loss #99. We have two games left in the season. Anyone think we can win them both to avoid that dreaded #100??? yeah, me neither.

GameChat – Twins @ Indians #4, 12:05pm

Really, I would love to see the Twins win ONE of the games against the Indians this weekend.. Please?

Minnesota

@

Cleveland
Span, CF Fukudome, RF
Revere, LF Kipnis, 2B
Cuddyer, DH Santana, C, 1B
Parmelee, 1B Hafner, DH
Valencia, 3B Duncan, LF
Plouffe, SS Chisenhall, 3B
Dinkelman, 2B Donald, SS
Benson, RF Carrera, CF
Butera, C Marson, C
  Hendriks, P   Carmona, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 6 11 0
Cleveland 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 9 0

I didn’t see the game but I heard the last couple of innings on the radio, but what I do know is that the TWINS WON! :)

The bullpen limited the Tribe to nothing but goose-eggs and as surprising as that might be, it wasn’t the most surprising thing to occur in this game. That honor would be the one pitch that Jim Thome played third base before being replaced in his final appearance before the home crowd in Cleveland. I’m sure the fans gave the future Hall of Famer an appropriate send-off.

In the end, it took an extra inning to accomplish the feat, but the Twins won 6-4, with Rene Tosoni hitting a solo HR to lead off the 10th (after being stranded at the plate to end the 9th when Joe Benson got thrown out stealing for the 3rd out) and Michael Cuddyer combined with Chris Parmelee to add an insurance run with a double and single, respectively.

But I’m going to give Boyfriend of the Day honors to Denard Span. Span had 2 hits (a double and a triple), scored two runs and made a terrific diving catch in the field. And let’s face it, it’s just damn good to see Denard out there healthy and playing good baseball! – JC

Denard Span

GameChat – Twins @ Indians #3, 6:05pm (game 2 of 2)

Apparently the Tribe had so much fun beating up the Twins this afternoon that they want to play another game tonight.

The Twins have five games remaining in their season. They need to win three to avoid a 100-loss season. Think they can do it? Yeah… me either. But we can hope!

TWINS

@

INDIANS
Revere, CF Fukudome, RF
Plouffe, SS Cabrera, A, SS
Cuddyer, DH Santana, C, 1B
Parmelee, 1B Thome, DH
Valencia, 3B Duncan, LF
Tosoni, RF Chisenhall, 3B
Dinkelman, LF Marson, C
Tolbert, 2B Phelps, C, 2B
Butera, C Carrera, CF
  _Diamond, P   _Talbot, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 2 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 6 11 0
Cleveland 0 0 0 0 0 5 2 0 x 7 11 0

SSDD. Same shit, different day.

Scott Diamond pitched a beautiful five innings and the Twins, thanks largely to Drew Butera’s hot bat (yes… I really wrote that) staked Diamond to a 6-0 lead. He ran out of gas in the 6th, however. Burnett, Mijares and Capps had all kinds of gas left and they immediately threw it on the fire. By the time those three did their damage, the Twins trailed 7-6. Kyle Waldrop pitched a nice 8th inning in the first MLB appearance his parents got to see in person, so at least there was that. One might wonder why Mr. Waldrop wasn’t called upon instead of three guys who have been blowing games all season, but hey… whatever.

GameChat – Twins @ Indians #2, 12:05pm (1 of 2 today)

It would be really good to win at least one of these games today… I would love it if it was the first one so we don’t have all that pressure on the second one.. *snort*

If you haven’t heard the latest Span news, it appears that Span managed to rearend the car Valencia was in (I think the GF was driving) and yeah… his migraines are back.

Now that Duensing is back to pitch today, let’s hope things go a little better for him this time. I won’t be around to watch either game today (why is it that some weekends just have 14 different family events all on top of each other) but I have full faith that our loyal Knuckleballers can manage to chat without the presence of even a fairly professional babysitter like me. *grin*

Minnesota

@

Cleveland
Span, CF Donald, SS
Revere, LF Kipnis, 2B
Cuddyer, DH Santana, C, C
Parmelee, 1B Hafner, DH
Valencia, 3B Duncan, LF
Plouffe, SS LaPorta, 1B
Hughes, L, 2B Hannahan, 3B
Benson, RF Crowe, CF
Rivera, R, C Carrera, RF
  Duensing, P   Huff, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 9 0
Cleveland 2 0 0 0 0 6 0 0 x 8 9 0

I was nowhere near a TV or radio for game 1 of this doubleheader so all I know about the game is what I see in the boxscore. I see three different guys striking out 3 times each and I see Francisco Liriano giving up 5 earned runs after facing 6 batters in 1/3 of an inning. Ouch. – JC