Countdown to Spring Training 2012!

It’s now officially the Offseason. Congrats to the St. Louis Cardinals for their victory but with that win comes the end of 2011 baseball – special congratulations to David Freese on his well-deserved MVP designation. I still say there is a lot of karmic balance in Nick Punto now being in possession of a World Series ring. It reminds me a little bit of Dougie Baseball – I don’t want to know how many former Twins got rings after they left for whatever reason.. it’s depressing.

Of course, now we can officially look forward to Spring Training. I believe we have 125 days until the first spring training game… I am always the offseason optimist amongst our crew. The old year is done, the next year has yet to begin! This weird void time is always a little odd with the Twins. We never know what to expect – if anything – from the winter meetings or the player market acquisitions. But no matter what the Front Office does (or doesn’t do) between now and March, there is really no accurate way to say what next year will bring.

Of course, I’m looking forward to my first opportunity ever to ATTEND Spring Training so that might actually enhance my optimism but regardless, I think there is a lot to be hopeful about. We have a lot of good things going on with this team and I’m hoping that we can deal with some of the obvious holes in a good way and see what some of our young guys can do. I also think that perhaps we don’t own enough stock in bubblewrap.. just saying.

 Now begins the season of guesswork, rambling proposals & general baseball wish lists!

 

GameChat – GAME 7 2011 World Series!! 7:05pm

So there is just no way that tonight can match the intensity of last night so don’t expect it. BUT it’s fun to see how each team will respond since Carpenter is coming in on short rest, Harrison is obviously overmatched, Napoli is coming banged up, and Holliday has been benched… I think this has been a fantastic series and can’t wait to see what happens!

Texas

@

St. Louis
Kinsler, 2B   Theriot, 2B
Andrus, SS   Craig, LF
Hamilton, CF   Pujols, 1B
Young, M, 1B   Berkman, RF
Beltre, A, 3B   Freese, 3B
Cruz, N, RF   Molina, Y, C
Napoli, C   Furcal, SS
Murphy, Dv, LF   Schumaker, CF
Harrison, P   Carpenter, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Texas

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

6

0

St. Louis

2

0

1

0

2

0

1

0

x

6

7

1

 

Well this game just proved that the ’91 world series was still better despite both having a thrilling game 6. There is just no way to have the same kind of intensity in Game 7 (unless you have a 10 inning complete game shutout).

But there had to be a winner and now we have one. The St. Louis Cardinals have won it all and are the 2011 Champions!

GameChat – 2011 World Series, #6, 7:00pm

 

Texas

@

St. Louis
Kinsler, 2B   Furcal, SS
Andrus, SS   Schumaker, CF
Hamilton, LF   Pujols, 1B
Young, M, 1B   Berkman, RF
Beltre, A, 3B   Holliday, LF
Cruz, N, RF   Freese, 3B
Napoli, C   Molina, Y, C
Gentry, CF   Punto, 2B
Lewis, C, P   Garcia, J, P

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

R

H

E

Texas

1

1

0

1

1

0

3

0

0

2

0

9

15

2

St. Louis

2

0

0

1

0

1

0

1

2

2

1

10

13

3

 

ok, if you didn’t see this game then there is absolutely no way I can accurately convey what happened… wow… right up there with the best world series games ever played..  Congrats to Freese for pretty much single-handedly keeping the Cardinals in this game and the hitting a walk off homerun? yeah… There are just no words. If you have 4 1/2 hours of free time, it’s totally worth watching a replay.

The only downer was the poor fielding and numerous errors… but the sheer determination made up for it.

I don’t know what else they could find to pull out in Game 7 to even come close to this.

Do You Trust the Twins?

These are interesting times to be a baseball fan.

The nature of Major League Baseball has always been unique because of the almost daily scheduling of games and its rich history of publishing at least basic statistics about each of those games, whether they be in box scores in the local newspaper or on the backs of baseball cards. Even going back to the days of my own childhood during the 1960s, I can recall friends who seemingly could recite the stats of all of our favorite Twins. That attention to detail came in handy when it came down to one of our favorite pastimes, trading baseball cards. We all wanted to assemble the best collection and we all thought we were better at making those swaps than anyone else.

But that didn’t mean we were smart enough to run a ballclub. Same Mele and Cal Ermer and Billy Martin were much better at managing a team than we were (well, maybe not Ermer, so much) and until free agency changed the entire business model, most of us thought Calvin Griffith and his organization were among the best baseball minds in the country when it came down to evaluating and acquiring talent.

We could watch most of the Twins’ road games on television, but for home games, we saw the games only through the eyes of the radio broadcasters. Any detailed accounts of the games came only through the words of the beat reporters for whichever Twin Cities newspaper your family happened to subscribe to.

Through most of the first decade that the Twins spent in Minnesota, corresponding with my youth, no matter how one season ended, we just trusted the Twins would be good the following year. There was no reason to think otherwise.

How times have changed.

Now we’re all experts. And as experts, ourselves, we simply don’t trust the people running the Twins to put a competitive team on the field every year.

Because we have access to so much more data than anyone dreamed 50 years ago, we can confidently “prove” that Ron Gardenhire is clueless when it comes to managing a baseball team (despite the fact that he’s arguably had more success as a Twins manager than Mele, Ermer and Martin, combined). Then again, we don’t just know better than Gardy, we also know better than Hall of Fame caliber managers who have their teams in the World Series. (Be honest… you and I both have been wondering what the heck Tony LaRussa’s been smoking through most of the current WS.)

With the help of those same statistics (and a healthy dose of selective 20-20 hindsight), we can “prove” that Bill Smith is overmatched by his fellow GMs, as well as players’ agents, when it comes to making deals to fill out the Twins roster.

Not only that, but thanks to the internet in general and social media in particular, even a guy who writes for the 44th ranked blog in Twinsville can voice his concerns loudly enough that thousands of readers (OK, maybe just 100 or so this time of year) will know just how little faith he has in the Twins’ front office being capable of making the myriad of tough choices facing them this offseason.

Sometimes, it hardly seems fair to the Gardenhires and Smiths of MLB to have to put up with all of us “experts”. We should trust these people more, right?

Then again, they make it so difficult. Often, too difficult. Sometimes, impossible.

Just when we want to believe Bill Smith “gets it”… when we hear that he acknowledges that he needs to find an everyday shortstop (understandably glossing over the fact that he HAD such a shortstop a year ago and traded him away to the Orioles for a handful of magic beans) and needs to strengthen the rotation and accurately recites many of the club’s obvious deficiencies, he follows that up with a comment that makes you wonder if he either slept through half the season or really believes all the muscle strains and pulls and “weaknesses” that landed most of his team on the DL in 2011 were all caused by “collisions”.

Maybe he was just trying to put a brave public face out there to justify the club’s announcement that their entire training crew was being retained despite that particular segment of the organization having every bit as bad a year as the Twins pitching staff. Then again, the pitching coach is keeping his job, too, so I suppose it’s all fair.

Our friend k-bro made largely the same point this week in her blog (hey, I never promised I’d be original when I started doing this blogging thing). At some point, you really just want to see the Twins acknowledge what everyone who paid any attention this year could see. When they don’t do that, it’s difficult to trust them to fix problems they can’t even acknowledge exist.

Despite my frequent rants here, I don’t really believe that I know more than the people the Twins employ to run their organization, either in the front office or on the field. But, as I’ve mentioned too many times already, it’s frustrating that this organization seems to almost take pride in their unwillingness to use modern analysis to their benefit.

Yes, I’m once again referring to the apparent lack of serious attention the Twins pay to advanced statistical analysis. I get that they will never be an organization that makes all of their decisions based on so-called advanced metrics. I’m actually happy that’s the case. But when so many other teams DO make many decisions based on those metrics, it just makes me nuts to think the Twins seem to almost completely ignore them.

It brings to mind a scene in the classic movie, Patton. About to face off with Germany’s Erwin Rommel in North Africa, the camera shows Patton’s bedside table with a copy “Infantry Attacks,” authored by Rommel. After defeating Rommel’s Afrika Panzer Korps in battle (albeit absent Rommel, himself), Patton exclaims, “Rommel, you maginficent bastard…I read your book!”

Did Patton read Rommel’s book because he thought the German Field Marshal was smarter than he was? Unlikely. Even if he did pick up a kernel or two of strategic knowledge he hadn’t considered before, he’d likely never admit it. But that’s not the point.

The point is, if there is a way to get in to the minds of your opponents and get insight in to their strategies… what they believe… what they feel is over or under valued, you are a fool not to do so.

The Twins, under much of the current leadership, had considerable success over the past decade and the organization has earned a bit of leeway from fans. Injuries, more than any other factor, were responsible for the team losing the number of games they lost in 2011. But that doesn’t mean the front office can stick its head in the sand and pretend that doing everything the way they’ve always done things in the past will be good enough to restore the team’s competitive standing.

They’re smart enough people to know that.

I wish I trusted that to be the case.

- JC

GameChat – 2011 World Series Game 5, 7:05pm

With the Series all tied up at two games each, we go back to the Game 1 pitching match-up with Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals facing off with Texas’ CJ Wilson.

I know it’s a 7-game series, but it sure seems to me that the winner of this game becomes the heavy favorite to take home the hardware when it’s all over with. Josh Hamilton looked to me like he was getting better cuts at the ball Sunday night and if that’s indicative of him feeling healthier, I like the Rangers’ chances. Then again, I predicted the Rangers to win the Series in 7 games, so I could just be reaching for some kind of basis to ultimately prove me right.

It should be a good game, despite all efforts of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to ruin it with their horsecrap announcing.

CARDINALS

@

RANGERS
Furcal, SS Kinsler, 2B
Craig, RF Andrus, SS
Pujols 1B Hamilton, CF
Holliday, LF Young, M, DH
Berkman, DH Beltre, A, 3B
Freese, 3B Cruz, N, RF
Molina, Y, C Murphy, Dv, LF
Schumaker, CF Napoli, C
Punto, 2B Moreland, 1B
  _Carpenter, P   _Wilson, C, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 1
Texas 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 x 4 9 2

And now we go back to St. Louis with the Cardinals needing to win both games there in order to dig themselves out of the hole they dug. I’m not sure who’s more to blame for the loss in game 5, the players who collectively went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position or their manager who seems intent on proving how smart he is… and failing miserably.

GameChat – World Series Game 3. 7:05 pm

Jayson Stark Tweeted today that, in the past 60 years, there have been only three World Series that have started out with three straight games decided by just one run (1972, 1974, 1995). Will we see another such event tonight?

It has been a great Series so far, but I suspect that we’re going to start seeing more runs scored now that the venue has moved to Arlington, Texas.

Glancing at the line ups, it appears that Cardinal Manager Tony LaRussa has implemented a limit of just one former Twin in his starting line up for any one game. Thus, with Kyle Lohse on the hill, Nick Punto rides the pine.

CARDINALS

@

RANGERS
Furcal, SS Kinsler, 2B
Craig, RF Andrus, SS
Pujols, 1B Hamilton, CF
Holliday, LF Young, M, DH
Berkman, DH Beltre, A, 3B
Freese, 3B Cruz, N, RF
Molina, Y, C Napoli, 1B
Jay, CF Murphy, Dv, LF
Theriot, 2B Torrealba, C
  _Lohse, P   _Harrison, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 1 0 0 4 3 4 2 1 1 16 15 0
Texas 0 0 0 3 3 0 1 0 0 7 13 3

In a game that brought back some chilling memories for Twins fans (Kyle Lohse’s evil twin “Lyle” made an appearance in the 4th inning for the Cardinals), the big story was Albert Pujols hitting not one, not two, but three home runs. You KNOW somewhere in the back of his mind, he’s thinking, “Wow, it might be fun to play half my games in this bandbox.”

Anyway, worst case scenario now for the Cardinals is that they’ll get to play more baseball in St Louis, even if they drop the next two games to the Rangers… and I think we can dispense with all of the “these games are too low scoring” crap.

.

Congratulations, Babs and Andrew!

It was awfully considerate of Major League Baseball to schedule an off-day in the World Series schedule so that CapitalBabs could get married tonight, wasn’t it?

I’m having some internet connection issues at home so I’m not sure how much I’ll be around through the rest of the World Series anyway, but I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to congratulate Babs and Andrew on their wedding this evening. I hope the weather is holding up and that everyone in attendance has a great time. I have no doubt that such will be the case.

For the rest of us, who are not able to attend the festivities in person, please join me in wishing the happy couple all the best as they embark on their journey through life as one.

For my part, I will wrap up this post with this little quote from one of my favorite authors:

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. – Dr. Seuss.

Much happiness to both of you from all of your friends here at Knuckleballs.

GameChat – 2011 World Series Game 1

Well who ever thought Nick Punto would ever be listed as a starter for the World Series?? Something tells me that even LNP wouldn’t have placed any bets on that happening but there is his name as plain as can be…

That being said, I think we have a really great matchup for the World Series this year. I’m looking forward to these games!

Texas

@

St. Louis
Kinsler, 2B Furcal, SS
Andrus, SS Jay, CF
Hamilton, CF Pujols, 1B
Young, M, 1B Holliday, LF
Beltre, A, 3B Berkman, RF
Cruz, N, RF Freese, 3B
Napoli, C Molina, Y, C
Murphy, Dv, LF Punto, 2B
Wilson, C, P Carpenter, P

A View of Minnesota Sports From Below 43.30

You all know by now that I’m not a Minnesotan, right? I lived in Albert Lea for 10 years as a kid growing up, but that’s almost not even Minnesota. I just do this Twins blogging thing because I happen to be a Twins fan, not because I feel any particular affinity for the state.

It occurs to me that perhaps not having any particularly strong ties to the state, much less the Twin Cities area, gives me a somewhat different perspective on Minnesota sports. I feel that disconnect even stronger during these idle times when there’s pretty much nothing Twins-related going on.

I follow about 50 people on Twitter. A few of those are Hawkeye writers/fans and some I follow because I find their takes on political issues of some interest (or at least they’re entertaining). But most Tweeters I’m following are on the list because of a shared interest in the Twins. At least some of those people seem to be at least semi-regular readers of this blog (you know who you are).

The thing is, when there’s nothing to Tweet about the Twins, y’all Tweet about other Minnesota sports teams. I am a Vikings fan, so the discussions about them are of some interest.

But the Wild… the Gophers… the Lynx… the Timberwolves (OK, I don’t see so much about the T’pups, really)… I just have so little interest in those teams that I start to pretty much ignore Twitter. My high school teams were “Lynx”, so at least those Tweets about the WNBA team cause me to flash back to some memories of my teenage years and I confess that I enjoy making fun of the Gophers, but otherwise, I just don’t care about any of them.

I know, I could unfollow all of you. But that just seems rude. I don’t want to communicate to you that I don’t care about you any more. I just don’t care about what you care about this time of year. Besides, I’d just have to try to remember who all I unfollowed so I could re-follow you in a few months, anyway.

So instead of unfollowing you, I’m going to take this one opportunity… when there is absolutely not a damn thing worth stringing 1000 words together on related to the Twins… to tell you all exactly what I think of Minnesota sports. I’m sure you’ll give my opinions all the weight that you typically give to everything else you hear from an Iowan.

I’ll try to be nice. After all, for most of you, the only reason you aren’t Iowans is that you happen to live in a part of the old Iowa Territory that nobody down here wanted to fight for as part of the statehood process a few generations ago. It is understandable that you’d still be somewhat bitter about being left behind back then, but at some point, you just have to get over that kind of thing. (Yes, I know, those of you whose forefathers lived on the wrong side of the Mississippi River were actually Wisconsinites, rather than Iowans, but that’s hardly something to brag about!)

Anyway… let’s talk Minnesota sports.

Since I do care a bit about the Vikings, let’s start there. There’s really only one Vikings-related topic worth discussing at this point and it has nothing to do with who the poor SOB that has to try to play quarterback behind that crappy excuse for an offensive line. It’s all about the stadium, folks.

I’m so tired of reading about this. Most Minnesotans apparently don’t think public money should be used to help the team build a stadium. I understand that. But that’s how it works, these days. To heck with the “referendum” bunk. You think the issue should be decided by voters because this is a democracy? You should have paid more attention during 7th grade government class. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic. We elect people to make these decisions. It’s their job. If they don’t want to make tough decisions, they’re being cowards and have no business serving in a legislature, on a counsel or on a commission.

The model for the new NFL stadium in LA has purple seats. Coincidence?

So I hope your elected officials will just tell the Vikings right now whether they will or will not participate in building a new stadium. Then the Vikings can either get busy actually building it or go find a new city to play football in that will do what Minnesotans won’t. I honestly don’t care at this point. I’ll be a Vikings fan whether they play in Minneapolis, Arden Hills, Los Angeles or London, for that matter. If I owned that team, I’d have told Minnesota good-bye long before this. Then again, if I’d owned the Twins in the 1990s, I’d have done the same thing and they’d probably be the Raleigh-Durham Twins by now.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s move on to something more pleasant. Let’s talk about the Lynx.

I know nothing about the Lynx, except that they’re a WNBA basketball team and they apparently won their league’s championship this season. I don’t particularly enjoy watching women play basketball, but when that’s the only decent team in town, you damn well better celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulations!

Speaking of basketball, you still have an NBA franchise, right? Then again, Minneapolis might be the only NBA city that won’t even notice if the NBA labor issues result in the entire season being cancelled. I care very, very little about the NBA, in general. I’ve been to two NBA games in my life. I saw the Spurs play in San Antonio in about 1984 when I was down there over the Holidays and went to a game. I also saw the Knicks and Lakers play at Staples Center a few years back. It was fun watching Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee on the video board, but don’t ask me who won the game… I have no idea. I don’t bother watching NBA games until at least the second round of the playoffs and, let’s be honest, that means I never watch Minnesota play.

And then there’s the Wild. I care even less about the NHL than I do the NBA. I’ve been to twice as many NBA games as NHL games and the city I went to that one NHL game at doesn’t even have a team any more (go Whalers!). That said, you would think the Wild would at least serve as some sort of example to the local populace concerning the Vikings situation. Most Minnesotans I know seem to think hockey was invented there and that it’s the only place where anyone plays really good hockey. Yet for years you had no NHL team! Why? Granted, there were a number of reasons, but it had a little bit to do with not being willing to help get a new arena built. So the North Stars became the Dallas Stars. Think about that… you lost your hockey team to TEXAS! Then years later, the state paid half the cost of a new arena to get a new NHL team. (Think about that in a few years when a new bunch of legislators are falling all over themselves to spend twice what’s currently being debated, just so you can lure the Jaguars to move north.)

Then again, most Minnesota hockey fans I’ve known have been much bigger fans of college hockey than the NHL version, anyway. If the Tweets I’ve seen are any indication, however, it doesn’t sound like all’s well with the rodents on skates, either. Still, I can understand a preference for the college game. I feel exactly the same way about college football and basketball.

Speaking of which… how about that Gopher football program? Yes, I’m quite aware that Floyd of Rosedale is having to endure a year of being stuck in Minnesota, but that will be remedied in less than two weeks. I really thought that, once they got an on-campus stadium, it wouldn’t take long to turn the Gopher program around. I can’t say I’m disappointed, though. I’ve got tickets for the Iowa-Minnesota game up there on the 29th and I really am anxious to get my first look at the the new stadium (which I hear is very nice). After the game, I doubt the Hawkeye players will even have to cross the field to get Floyd… the bronze pig will be so happy about returning to Iowa that he’ll run across the field to meet them halfway.

Maybe if the whole Big Ten football thing doesn’t work out up there, TCF Bank Stadium would be kind of a cool place to play outdoor hockey?

If my Minnesota friends think I’ve been a little rough on you and your sports teams here, I apologize. It’s all in good fun, right? It’s not like I flat out hate your other teams with the heat of the very fires of hell.

I save that level of distaste for Wisconsin teams… oh, and Chicago teams… and of course New York teams.

- JC

Ready for the 2011 World Series?

Well, it’s finally decided. It will be the Rangers vs the Cardinals. I have to admit that there are players I like very much on both teams. I might miss a little of the early action in the series just because of the whole wedding thing I have going on this week but I’m still going to try to get the games in.

I haven’t decided if I am cheering for CJ Wilson who just rocks as a person and a pitcher or if I am cheering for Nick Punto to get a WS ring just for karmic balance! Maybe I’ll just cheer for both. 

Here’s the schedule for the upcoming games – all times in Central time to help me remember:

Gm 1 TEX @ STL Wed
FOX Oct. 19 7:05pm
Gm 2 TEX @ STL Thu
FOX Oct. 20 7:05pm
Gm 3 STL @ TEX Sat
FOX Oct. 22 7:05pm
Gm 4 STL @ TEX Sun
FOX Oct. 23 7:05pm
Gm 5* STL @ TEX Mon
FOX Oct. 24 7:05pm
Gm 6* TEX @ STL Wed
FOX Oct. 26 7:05pm
Gm 7* TEX @ STL Thu
FOX Oct. 27 7:05pm

 

So who are you cheering for and why?