GameChat – Twins @ Angels, 9:05 pm

If you think things are bad in Twinsville (and they are), imagine if you were an Angels fan and your team just came through an offseason when they signed the top free agent hitter to a huge contract as well as arguably the top free agent pitcher, only to find yourself rooting for a team that’s only a half game better than the Twins in the W/L columns.

Now that would be tough to swallow.

Albert Pujols still doesn’t have a home run and frankly has looked pretty bad at the plate all month. Of course, as the Red Sox could tell you, there’s really nothing like a series with the Twins to get your season turned around and going in the right direction.

The Angels aren’t just standing pat and hoping things get better, like some teams are (I’m looking at you, Terry Ryan). They’ve just promoted uber-prospect Mike Trout and released Bobby Abreu.

Speaking of changes in status… Twins outfielder Trevor Plouffe tweeted today that he “popped the question” to his girlfriend last night. Since he referred to her as his “fiance,” I guess we can assume she said, “yes.” Congratulations, Trevor and Olivia!

Anyone care to set the over/under on the inning during which I fall asleep tonight?

Oh yeah… no Joe Mauer tonight. That foul ball in the 9th yesterday got his knee pretty good.

TWINS

@

ANGELS
Span, CF Trout, CF
Carroll, SS Izturis, M, 3B
Willingham, LF Pujols, 1B
Morneau, DH Morales, K, DH
Valencia, 3B Hunter, To, RF
Doumit, C Kendrick, H, 2B
Plouffe, RF Wells, V, LF
Parmelee, 1B Aybar, SS
Casilla, A, 2B Iannetta, C
  _Blackburn, P   _Wilson, C, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 8 0
LA Angels 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 x 4 8 0

Hate to waste a Quality Start when you get one out of one of your starting pitchers at this point, but that’s what the Twins did tonight. The offense didn’t show up until the 8th inning and fell one run short. But the loss wasn’t even the worst news of the night. Justin Morneau came out of the game with a sore left wrist… the same wrist he had surgery on last year. He’s “day to day.”

If This Is Journalism, I’d Rather Be a Blogger

I’ve decided that, from now on, every time a “professional journalist” gets all high and mighty about how we’re “just bloggers,” we need to send them this clip.

Stop and think about it… Major League Baseball teams don’t want to acknowledge the blogging community includes “real” journalists so you won’t find them making their ballplayers available for interviews with us low-lifes.

But the St. Louis Cardinals apparently have no problem making their talent endure something like this from one of the local “professional journalists.”

***********

OK, I couldn’t figure out how to keep the damn video clip from starting over every time I refreshed the page and I couldn’t bear to keep listening to that woman… so if you want to try to watch the video, you’ll just have to click HERE to see it.

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #3, 1:10 pm

Remember a week ago when everyone was looking forward to six games against the Red Sox and Royals… two teams that we thought were struggling just as much as the Twins?

Well, here we are at the end of that stretch still waiting for the first Twins win. How friggin depressing is that?

On the bright side, it’s 55 degrees and, more importantly, NOT raining in Minneapolis right now, so there will be baseball played today. I wish I were more certain that that’s a good thing.

ROYALS

@

TWINS
Getz, 2B Span, CF
Gordon, LF Carroll, SS
Butler, DH Mauer, C
Hosmer, 1B Willingham, LF
Francoeur, RF Morneau, 1B
Moustakas, 3B Valencia, 3B
Pena, B, C Doumit, DH
Escobar, A, SS Plouffe, RF
Dyson, CF Casilla, A, 2B
  _Chen, P   _Marquis, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Kansas City 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 4 9 2
Minnesota 4 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 x 7 11 0

It’s been a while, so it’s hard to recognize it when we see it, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they call a WIN!

Once again, the bats did their job. Danny Valencia had a good day, with three hits, a couple of ribbies and started a critical double play in the field. One thing we saw today that we haven’t seen in a while was a “Quality Start” from a member of the Twins rotation. Three or fewer runs in six or more innings doesn’t seem like a terribly high standard until your guys can’t seem to meet it. But Jason Marquis did exactly that today and Jared Burton, Glen Perkins and Matt Capps managed to hold the lead.

But today’s Boyfriend of the Day has to be Josh Willingham, who managed 3/4 of the “cycle” with a single, double and triple, to go with two RBI and a couple of runs scored. Great way to end the homestand, guys! – JC

Josh Willingham (photo Jim Crikket)

Sunday Morning Comic Relief

Saw this last night – yes, I’m one of those late night channel surfers who LOVE the Red Green Show! But you’ll love it. It might even be the best 5 minutes of your day (if you have to rewind and watch that knuckleballs part again!)

 

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #2, 12:10 pm

Oooops. Spent too long at Menards shopping for the yard work supplies I need but can’t actually do because it’s raining. But that’s ok because it’s on rain delay anyway… Not sure how long this will last because it’s really kind of unpleasant out there. Cold & damp and probably matches the mood of players & fans alike in Twins Territory right now.

NOTE: today’s broadcast is on Fox9 – forgot to include that in the post title!

Today’s #Twins game vs. the #Royals is officially postponed. Will be made up on June 30 at 12:10 p.m. 2nd game at 6:10 p.m.

If a Change Must Be Made…

I think most Twins fans had limited expectations for 2012, but this is getting ridiculous.

The theory was… with the health of Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Denard Span and Scott Baker uncertain, we had to keep expectations in check. But if all of those players proved healthy, the team could surprise some people. Of course, not all of those players proved healthy as Scott Baker never made it to the starting gate before undergoing season-ending surgery. But the others have not only been healthy, but quite productive, thank-you-very-much.

The pitching has been a disaster, plain and simple.

In situations like this, it’s tough to come up with reasonable solutions. As manager Ron Gardenhire told the media the other day, it’s not like they can just go out and buy more pitching at this point. They have to hope the guys they have do a better job.

But the Twins’ problems on the field are starting to have an effect off the field… in particular, in the stands. Target Field has about 40,000 seats and this week barely 3/4 of those seats have had fans’ butts in them. That means not only lower ticket sales, but fewer hot dogs, beers and jerseys being sold. That’s not good news when it happens toward the end of a season that doesn’t go particularly well. When it happens before May Day, it’s got the potential to be disastrous for an organization.

If there are no reasonable solutions, however, what’s a front office to do? It really only leaves one option… consider UNreasonable solutions.

I’ve said many times that I believe baseball managers, like football and basketball coaches, get too much credit for their teams’ success and too much blame for the failures. It’s a basic truth of professional and major college sports. Another truth in big time sports is that, whether right or wrong, it’s easier to make a change in management than it is to make all the roster changes that are called for.

Would Terry Ryan really do it though? Would he fire Ron Gardenhire?

He may have no choice.

Ron Gardenhire and Tom Brunansky (photo: Jim Crikket)

Gardy has his supporters and his detractors. Many people question his strategies… his fondness for (some might call it an obsession with) “scrappy” ballplayers who “get after it.” Others point to the success his Twins teams have had over the past decade… the Division titles won with arguably marginal talent. Others point to the postseason failures.

But none of that really matters right now. This decision… if it’s to be made… would not be about Ron Gardenhire’s basebally smarts or lack thereof. At this point, it would be a business decision for Terry Ryan and the Twins ownership, pure and simple.

The Twins front office wants to win, of course. They are competitive, by nature, and that means they want to beat the competition. But does that mean winning baseball games or making more money? Some people seem to think that Twins ownership only cares about the latter, but that’s absurd. Even if that’s true, now that they have their new stadium, the two are intractably intertwined. The Twins can’t beat the competition in the financial competition if they don’t also beat them on the field.

Fans are telling the Twins, loud and clear, that as nice as Target Field is, they won’t fill the stadium to watch bad baseball… frustrating baseball… consistently losing baseball. If that’s the kind of baseball the Twins are going to play, changes must be made… and probably sooner rather than later. If only 30,000 fans are coming to games at the end of April, how many are going to be coming through the turnstiles in August and September?

But would a change in the manager’s office mean more wins? Maybe… maybe not… but it would do one thing for certain and that’s generate discussion… generate renewed interest. Whether they agree or disagree with the decision, fans would pay attention… they’d tune in to see IF it makes a difference.

And that’s a factor Terry Ryan may not be able to ignore much longer. Major League Baseball history is littered with fired managers who didn’t suddenly get stupid, but found themselves fired… or “reassigned other duties”… anyway. It’s a cruel fact of Big League life that Ron Gardenhire may be on the brink of finding out about first hand.

All of which begs the question, if Gardy’s days are becoming numbered with the Twins, who would… or should… Terry Ryan replace him with?

When a manager loses his gig mid season, often the replacement is someone within the organization… usually the bench coach or maybe whoever is managing the organization’s AAA affiliate. But if this really would be primarily a business decision, would putting Steve Liddle or Gene Glynn in charge fire up the fan base enough to keep their interest? I have my doubts.

Who would make people start paying attention again, even if the chances of the Twins climbing back in to contention are all but gone?

I’ve had a hunch that the Twins have been kind of grooming Tom Brunansky to take over down the road at some point, but he hasn’t even managed a full-season minor league affiliate yet (he’s Rochester’s hitting coach this season). He would be someone the fans would recognize and would have credibility in the clubhouse, but it’s hard for me to imagine the Twins trusting him in the manager’s chair this soon.

So who would they hire?

I don’t have any answers to that question, yet. But it’s probably time to start sorting through potential candidates.

It’s a good bet that Terry Ryan has already started doing just that.

- JC

GameChat – Royals @ Twins, 7:10 pm

By now y’all have probably heard about the trouble Delmon got himself into… If you haven’t, you really should sign up for twitter or something and/or you have my sympathies because you have a really really busy life.

The reports thus far have Mr. Young pulling a Mel Gibson in NY – a drunken altercation with a Jewish gentleman that have authorities considering hate crime charges in addition to assault charges. Who knows what the end result of such discussions will be but my only comment will be that I’m glad this event didn’t happen while he was wearing a Twins jersey. Is that selfish? probably. Don’t care, it’s still the truth.

So tonight let’s concentrate on the guys who actually ARE on our team and see what they can do. For the record, Willy is still on paternity leave so we have Revere starting again tonight. Not sure what the move will be but he’ll have to be back tomorrow and there will have to be a corresponding roster move.. I admit that I’m curious. In the category of He’s BA-aack! is Doumit. Good to see. Also have to admit that my little brain went to a funny place…  Pavano is pitching – he clearly still wants “other” when given the choice between whomever and Mauer. I don’t actually have a problem with that, it’s just something I noticed and may or may not be true… Whatever contributes to wins is fine with me so as long as management is ok with it and it works in whatever system they are trying to put in place, whatever.. If it doesn’t contribute to wins than we have hella bigger problems to worry about.

Kansas City

@

Minnesota
Dyson, CF Span, CF
Gordon, LF Carroll, SS
Butler, DH Mauer, DH
Hosmer, 1B Morneau, 1B
Francoeur, RF Doumit, C
Moustakas, 3B Valencia, 3B
Betancourt, Y, 2B Plouffe, RF
Pena, B, C Revere, LF
Escobar, A, SS Casilla, A, 2B
  Teaford, P   Pavano, P

 

 

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

After a while, you just want to type, “they did it again,” and let it go at that. Starting pitcher wasn’t good enough (in this case Justin Morneau’s first inning error didn’t exactly set a positive tone and ended up costing a run), hitters scored enough runs to win, but pitchers found a way to give up just enough runs to avoid getting a W. Oh, and the umpiring sucked again, but what else is new?

The Twins will have a couple of tough decisions to make soon. Josh Willingham should be rejoining the team very shortly and if reports  that the Twins are indeed trying to sign former Tiger Brandon Inge are true, it means two of the current Twins will need to come off the active roster. But which two? Honestly… to my mind, there’s no shortage of guys who have no room to bitch if they find themselves on the outside looking in, but most of them are pitchers. UPDATE: The Twins announced after the game that Ben Revere had been optioned back to Rochester to make room for Willingham’s return from paternity leave. I guess it makes as much sense as anything, given that they still aren’t likely to play either Revere or Willy in RF and Revere still needs to play every day.

I just have a tough time right now getting all worked up about this guy or that guy not “deserving” to lose his job.

Arguably, most players on a team that’s won only five games at this point in the season deserve exactly that. – JC

Here Come the Landed Gentry

“Thank God that stretch of scheduling is over. Things are bound to turn around now that our guys get to play some ball against a team that can’t seem to get out of its own way.”

Here in Iowa, I seem to be hearing something akin to that comment in stereo… both from Twins fans to my north and Royals fans to the south.

Slugerrr

The Royals just recently managed to halt a 12-game losing streak and while the Twins didn’t let things get that consistently out of hand, it wasn’t for lack of trying on their part. They’ve played poorly enough that it COULD have happened. As a matter of fact, while the Twins were letting the Red Sox sweep them out of their own ballpark, the Royals have put together a small (extremely small) winning streak… having won their most recent pair of games over Cleveland.

But the Twins have home field advantage this weekend, right? Well… they’ll play the games at Target Field, but that may not be an advantage. The Royals have a 5-4 road record this season. That’s right, all five of their wins have come on the road. They’re 0-10 in front of their hometown fan(s).

Like the Twins, the Landed Gentry are having a few health issues with their rotation. Tonight’s starting pitcher, left-hander Everett Teaford, has been the team’s long reliever, but he’s standing in for fellow lefty Danny Duffy, who’s dealing with “minor elbow tightness.” Duffy should be damn glad he’s with the Royals and not the Twins. If the Twins’ crack medical staff came up with that as a preliminary diagnosis, it would probably turn out to be a malady that would eventually require amputation.

Pitching hasn’t really been the big problem for the Royals, however. In fact, most of their staff have stat lines that Gardy and pitching coach Rick Anderson can only drool over. No, so far, the Royals’ biggest problem has been that they’ve got a roster of position players who have a reputation for being, “promising, good young hitters,” but many of them have thus far only demonstrated that they are indeed young.

Alex Gordon, Mitch Maier and Eric Hosmer all wish they could start hitting the ball as well as Alexi Casilla does. Think about that.

Other Stuff

I’ve been traveling for work most of this week, so I’ve been a little out of touch, but there are a couple of other items I want to touch on this morning.

The Tigers have released Brandon Inge after handing his 3B position to Miguel Cabrera and the experiment of converting Inge to a second baseman made Cabrera look good as a third baseman, by comparison. Of course, Inge hasn’t helped his cause by hitting almost nothing.

The Twins are reportedly having discussions about whether they should look in to bringing him aboard. The Tigers are on the hook for everything above that portion of his salary equal to the pro-rated MLB minimum salary, so financially it wouldn’t be a hit. The theory seems to be that it would also send a message to Danny Valencia.

But what would that message be? “Wake up tomorrow in Rochester, Danny, because your position here isn’t guaranteed. We can find guys who can’t hit and can’t field pretty much anywhere and, unlike you, some of them have lots of tatoos.”? Look, I’ve never been the biggest Valencia fan, so I’m not averse to finding a replacement. I’d just kind of prefer that it be someone… hmmm, what’s the word I’m looking for here?… GOOD?

The Twins do need to do something and do it soon. I’m not generally one to call for action just for the sake of appearing to take action, but sometimes the local fan base does need to be assured that the front office has noticed that things suck on the field. And based on the number of empty seats in Target Field already this season, the Twins may fast be approaching that point. By the end of last season, fans demonstrated that they won’t pay a bunch of money to go to Target Field to watch bad baseball. They already seem to be making the same statement even before the end of the first month of the season this year.

Over at Twins Daily, in case you’ve missed it, they’ve begun an “Adopt a Prospect” program where members are encouraged to “adopt” one Twins minor league prospect and regularly post updates on that player’s activities and performance. It’s really a very cool way to recognize the hard work these young players put in, most of the time for very… very… little pay. They all have a Big League dream, but that road is long and hard and not terribly rewarding except for the lucky few who reach the top.

If you haven’t already adopted a prospect, there’s still time and a lot of hard working players still available. But even if that’s not something you feel inclined to do, you should still stop by the thread and read up on the 60+ players that have been adopted already.

Because I know you’re curious… I’ve adopted infielder James Beresford, currently with the AA New Britain Rock Cats. James is another player out of the Twins’ Australian pipeline.

Finally, if these troubling times make you yearn for memories from a better time in Twins history, it’s not yet too late to enter our “100,000th Visitor Contest,” with a chance to win a very nice framed Kirby Puckett memento. Just give us your guess as to when you think visitor number 100,000 to our site will be stopping by.

That’s enough for this morning… let’s hope the Twins get the ship righted a bit over the weekend and that May is much better for our guys than April has been.

- JC

Get Your Votes In Before Time Runs Out!

This is a reminder post for a couple of opportunities for Knuckleballers to participate in! Afterall, it’s an off-day (much necessary for both team & fans) so what else do you have to do? It’s not like we have lives, right?

First, don’t forget to put in your guesses to win this amazing collectible memorial for Kirby Puckett. I’ll happily ship it to you if you win! We are coming up on the big 100,000 visitor mark far more quickly than I would ever have guessed.

See the original post to submit your vote so that we have all the contest guesses in one place!

 

AND we can’t forget to go support Lindsay in the MLB FanCave! Having her there has definitely given us all sorts of entertaining moments in Twins games that are somewhat lacking in that particular feature lately. Gotta love the bullpen doing the shark thing just to say hi to her during games!

Go VOTE and make sure we keep her around!

 

GameChat – Red Sox @ Twins #3, 7:10pm

First things first – we extend our heartiest congratulations to Josh Willingham and his family on their newest addition! Per twitter earlier today:

Congrats to #Twins OF Josh Willingham and his wife Ginger on the birth of son #3. Rogan Jaynes born at 1:39 pm. 8 lbs, 6 oz, 21 inches.

Given the paternity leave that Josh is taking to spend time with the youngest Willy Jr, we are granted the pleasure of the return of Ben Revere. Also according to twitter today, he’s been told that his length of stay is completely unknown – could be three days, could be the season. I’m curious to know what the will do when Josh comes back..

At any rate, do I think Revere is the key to beating the BoSox? yeegods, no. But whatever the key to beating them is, I hope the boys figure it out tonight. I really don’t relish the thought of being swept at home, especially by the Sox and I most definitely don’t really want to watch it.. I hope someone is able to do something about that.

 

Boston

@

Minnesota
Aviles, SS Span, CF
Sweeney, RF Carroll, SS
Pedroia, 2B Mauer, C
Gonzalez, Ad, 1B Morneau, DH
Ortiz, DH Parmelee, 1B
Youkilis, 3B Plouffe, RF
Saltalamacchia, C Burroughs, 3B
Ross, C, LF Revere, LF
Byrd, CF Casilla, A, 2B
  Buchholz, C, P   Hendriks, P

 

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston 0 4 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 7 10 0
Minnesota 0 1 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 6 14 0

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

The Twins starting pitcher struggled to miss bats and even get outs, giving up six runs in the first three innings as the Twins found themselves in a deep hole. The bullpen did a good job and the bats finally woke up… and fell just short of the win.

Tonight’s failed starting pitcher was Liam Hendriks. Anthony Swarzak, Glen Perkins and Jared Burton kept the game from getting totally out of hand and the Twins put together a big inning, scoring five run in the 6th. But they left runners in scoring position that inning and again in the ninth. Was the third base coaching extremely conservative? Yes. But the bottom line is that players failed to deliver when it was needed.

That completed the Red Sox sweep.

Chris Parmelee was beaned by a 93 mph fastball, but after a few scary minutes, walked off the field. He’ll be reevaluated on Thursday.

Thursday is an off day, by the way… so the Twins shouldn’t lose another game at least until Friday. Then again, if it’s possible for a team to find a way to lose a game on an off day, this team will figure out how to do it.

An interesting note… paid attendance was just 32,254… for a game with the Red Sox. Ouch. – JC