GameChat – Twins @ Yankees #2, 6:05, FSN & am1500

Over the noon hour today, I was catching up on my reading over at Joe Posnanski’s blog and came across something I feel compelled to share with everyone as we wait for our guys to prepare to do battle with the Evil Empire once again.

In one of Posnanski’s recent posts, he paraphrased something the late, great Buck O’Neil said a few years back and while the subject of the discussion was the ability (or rather the perceived lack thereof) of the Kansas City Royals to compete with the Yankees, if you can’t draw some parallels to the Twins’ situation right now, then you really just aren’t paying attention. You can (and should) read the entire post by clicking here, but let me paste a couple of the more pertinent paragraphs, too. The background is regarding a panel that Posnanski participated on in Kansas City a while back.

So that’s what we were talking about on the panel — the Royals utter inability to compete with the Yankees — when suddenly Buck O’Neil raised his hand. He was in the crowd, and he stood up, and here’s what he said: “OF COURSE we can beat the Yankees.” Everybody in the room stopped, because that’s what Buck’s voice did to a room. I don’t have his words memorized, but he said something like this:

“OF COURSE we can beat the Yankees. It’s not even a question. The Yankees can only play nine players at a time. They can’t sign all the good players out there and play them. They can’t use more than one pitcher at a time. They can’t play two shortstops or three center fielders. They have nine guys, we have nine guys. They might be able to get nine more expensive guys, but that doesn’t mean they get nine BETTER guys.

“Baseball is the fairest game in the world. It doesn’t matter if the other guy is bigger than you or taller than you or stronger than you or faster than you. The only thing that matters is who plays the game better. I’m sick of excuses. People say we can’t beat the Yankees. That’s ridiculous. We beat the Yankees before when we had players like George Brett and Frank White and Amos Otis and Willie Wilson and Hal McRae. Yeah. We just need to find the players and develop them into good players. If we don’t do that, it’s not the Yankees fault.”

Were truer words ever spoken? Sure we can (and forever will) hold Bud Selig and his co-conspirators accountable for fostering an environment that tilts the playing field in the Yankees’ favor year after year, but in the end, someone with the Twins organization simply needs to stand up and say, “enough is enough!” If we don’t do that, it’s not the Yankees fault.

There’s another paragraph I want to share… it’s about the genuine dislike that the old Royals teams of the late 70s held for the Yankees.

Then the Royals came to town, and from 1976 to 1980 they had a rivalry with the Yankees that matches anything in baseball history. Four times in five years, they faced each other in best-of-five playoff series to determine the American League pennant. “I hated the Yankees,” George Brett said. “I mean that sincerely. I HATED those guys.” One series ended on the famous home run of Yankee Chris Chambliss. Another ended with Kansas City’s Fred Patek in the dugout, his face red with tears. The only Royals victory of the four was clinched when Brett turned on a neck-high fastball from Goose Gossage. There were fights, there were titanic performances, there were famous moments like when Cliff Johnson threatened to fight Kansas City’s spiritual leader Hal McRae before one game, to which McRae replied: “I don’t fight extra men.”

THAT is the attitude I’ve been waiting for years to see our Twins have toward the Yankees. Where is it? I don’t know if anyone has an answer to that question, but until someone finds it, I’m not sure the Twins will ever conquer the Evil Empire.

– JC

With that, here are tonight’s lineups. No Morneau tonight for the Twins. Let’s go chew up and spit out some Captain Cheeseburger!:

TWINS @ YANKEES
Span, CF Jeter, SS
Nishioka, 2B Swisher, RF
Mauer, C Teixeira, 1B
Young, D, LF Rodriguez, A, 3B
Cuddyer, 1B Cano, 2B
Kubel, DH Posada, DH
Valencia, 3B Martin, C
Repko, RF Jones, An, LF
Casilla, A, SS Granderson, CF
Duensing, P Sabathia, P

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

I really don’t know what to say about this game other than the right team came out on top!

I do have to laugh a bit at the thought of the Steinbrenners avoiding eye contact with GM Brian Cashman as Rafael Soriano, the pitcher they overruled Cashman on and forced him to sign, totally crashed and burned. The rest of the Yankees “vaunted” bullpen didn’t exactly have Soriano’s back, though, either. The sight of Nick Swisher stumble/falling/diving for DY’s bases-clearing bloop double to right field was pretty funny, too. He kinda makes me glad to have Delmon in our outfield.

It was great that our guys once again didn’t let that immediate 4-run deficit kill their spirit (though, seriously, can we stop spotting the Yankees four runs every damn game… please?), but it was pretty tough to really come up with an offensive nominee for Boyfriend of the Day. Brian Duensing took a page out of Scott Baker’s book last night and hung in there after a rough start to the game. So Young and Duensing get some honorable mention for BOD (along with honorable honorable mention to Rafael Soriano, without who’s effort the comeback would not have been possible).

But in the end, it was just too tough to come up with just one relief pitcher to bestow tonight’s BOD upon. Matt Capps pitched not one, but TWO, perfect innings, on a mere 16 pitches. And our old friend Twitchy McXanax (aka Joe Nathan) sure looked like his old self out there nailing down the game with a perfect 9th inning. So for your combined efforts, Matt and Joe, you are our first co-BODs of the season.

Matt Capps

Joe Nathan

Sometimes a Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words

Yes, we all know I’m prone to wordiness here. 1,000+ word posts are pretty much the norm for me. Normally, I could go on for at least that long about everything there is to despise about the Yankees and their dominance over our Twins. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll do just that. But today, I just don’t have it in me.

So, instead, I thought I would just share my favorite Yankee picture of all time. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason, this picture represents all that I feel toward the Yankees.

Oh… you came here looking for something more insightful? Sorry… try back tomorrow.

In the mean time, you might check out the “new look” of the Star Tribune’s web site. It looks to be well-designed and makes it pretty easy to find what you’re looking for (though now that I think about it, I haven’t found the list of #stribtwins tweets that they used to have… we got quite a few hits from that so I’m hoping it isn’t gone completely).

– JC

Moving On From Toronto To The Bronx

The first series is in the books and while it didn’t go as well as we would hope, the Sunday afternoon win certainly should make everyone feel a bit better. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win.

Honestly, I’m not concerned about getting only one win out of three games in Toronto to start the season. That’s hardly devastating.

I’m really more concerned… perhaps a better word is leery… about the way the Twins played than I am about the results themselves. I have no idea what the reason is… season opening nerves, lack of preparation, lack of Spring Training time for some of the star players, or anything in between… but I just felt there were concentration issues out there among a lot of guys.

Carl Pavano pitched like I’d expect him to pitch in Spring Training… kind of out of sync. He had a great spring statistically, though he, himself, commented several times that he didn’t feel he was pitching all that well. For some reason, I’m not optimistic that he’s going to find himself against the Yankees in his next scheduled start.

Francisco Liriano just wasn’t very good, period. He had some issues in Spring Training, too, so it will be worth watching to see how long it takes him to find a rhythm.

Justin Morneau looks like he’s just started swinging a bat after a long offseason… which is pretty much accurate. His bat looks slow to me, so let’s hope get starts seeing the ball and getting around on it more consistently.

The new middle infield hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. Interestingly, though, while most people were nervous about Alexi Casilla and felt confident of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, it’s actually been Nishioka that’s been the poorer performer, so far. Nishioka has two errors already and he’s struck out five times. Casilla was given Sunday off, but he had the only Twins extra base hit in the first two games (his only hit in five ABs, however). Nishioka frankly not only looked tight in the field, but his right handed plate appearances have been particularly ugly. He steps in the bucket on virtually every pitch.

Denard Span has gotten off to a good start at the plate, but even he got caught losing track of the number of outs when he was a baserunner at 1B early in Sunday’s game.

The bullpen has had mixed results, at best. Sunday saw solid performances by Matt Capps, Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins, but otherwise you have to look pretty hard to find a member of the pen to praise. I know Joe Nathan got a save Sunday, but that was by no means a good performance by Twitchy.

In all, the best thing you can really say about this first series of the season is that it’s over and the Twins managed to salvage one win. That’s one more than the Red Sox or Rays managed to come up with against the Rangers and Orioles, respectively. Those two teams, along with the Brewers and Astros in the National League, could still go 0-162. That’s a joke of course… though if I were an Astros fan, I might feel like it’s not so far-fetched. They could be really bad. Fans in Boston, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, however, all have some reasonable playoff expectations and I doubt being winless at this point dampens those expectations too much.

Home of the Evil Empire

Monday night, the Twins will start a four-game road series in the Bronx against the Evil Empire. The Twins have the talent to match up with the Yankees, but we all know that doesn’t seem to matter when they go in to New York and routinely seem to play with one hand wrapped around their collective throats. I’d be pretty happy with a split of those four games.

Finally, in case anyone is inclined to put a lot of emphasis on the results of the first series of the season, allow me to just point out that the Kansas City Royals currently lead the AL Central standings after taking three of four games from the Angels in their opening series.

UPDATE: It’s not often I update a post just to link to another blog, but Jon Marthaler over at Twinkie Town posted a beaut over there this morning. Go check it out… he tells us all exactly how the rest of the season is going to play out!

– JC

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ST GameChat – Yankees @ Twins, 12:05, am1500

There was a report in LaVelle E. Neal’s Strib blog that today’s game is being televised by FSN, but I haven’t seen that anywhere else, so I suspect it will just be radio today. Guess we’ll find out at game time. I’m going to go ahead and put up a GameChat anyway for anyone who’s interested.

Twins top prospect Aaron Hicks, who’s likely going to be starting the season at High Class A Ft. Myers this season, is getting a start in center field for the Twins. I saw Hicks play several games for Beloit last year and he’s definitely got a great deal of potential. Hope he does well. The Yankees have brought their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, to the game, as well.

In any event, here are the line ups:

YANKEES @ TWINS
Nunez, E, SS Hicks, CF
Cano, 2B Tolbert, 2B
Teixeira, 1B Cuddyer, RF
Rodriguez, A, DH Morneau, 1B
Chavez, Er, 3B Thome, DH
Jones, An, RF Young, D, LF
Pena, R, LF Valencia, 3B
Montero, J, C Butera, C
Krum, CF Casilla, A, SS
Carlyle, P Pavano, P

Always good to pick up a win over the Yankees, regardless of who’s wearing the uniforms. ‘Stache wasn’t real sharp, but it’s good to see Cuddyer and Thome both going yard. Matt Capps had another very good inning (note to Gardy…. are you absolutely POSITIVE about that Closer decision?).

Monday at noon, the Twins wrap up their Spring Training season by hosting the Pirates and yes, FSN will continue with their bizarre “let’s just televise Monday noon games” media strategy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 1 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 6 13 2
Minnesota 1 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 x 7 7 1

News From the ‘Bad Guys’

I’m a contrarian by nature, so naturally that means I would pick the date that the Twins begin official Spring Training workouts for position players to write about what’s going on with other teams.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to write about the Twins. There’s no shortage of daily media updates, so whether it’s Joe Mauer’s knee (or his shampoo commercial), or Justin Morneau’s long awaited return to the diamond, or Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s first appearance in Twins gear (or perhaps his ‘fight song’ is of greater interest to you), there are finally a number of Twins-related news items to read and ponder. I have already and if you haven’t yet, you should.

But not here.

Here, I’m going to offer some commentary about a few items coming out of the enemy camps this week. Specifically, from our primary divisional rival White Sox, our “made up inter-league rival” Brewers and everyone’s least favorite team, the F’ing Yankees.

White Sox

Our friends on the South Side appear to be the preseason consensus pick to win the AL Central Division. In addition to re-signing Paul Konerko to a big-money deal, they bulked up their lineup by giving slugger Adam Dunn a contract guaranteeing him $56 million over the next four years.

Kenny Williams (Photo: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos)

So, it was interesting to read Sox GM Kenny Williams’ comments about the state of baseball. He essentially made three points:

  1. Anyone who pays $30 million a year for a ballplayer is “insane”.
  2. The MLB financial model sucks and needs to be replaced by something that gives the fans of every team some kind of hope that their team will eventually at least compete for a championship AND if it takes the “game being shut down” to accomplish that reform, Kenny’s fine with that.
  3. The White Sox could lose money this year.

It’s not so much that I disagree with his points (in fact, I find it a bit disconcerting to be in so much agreement with anything Kenny Williams says… to the point where I have to consider whether I might be wrong in my views). I happen to agree that no player, not even Albert Pujols, is worth $30 million a year and particularly not for a contract term that would pay him that amount well beyond any period for which one could reasonably expect him to be among the top players in the game.

I also think the MLB financial model sucks. Of course, I have no idea if the White Sox are actually in danger of losing money, but I wouldn’t find that surprisng.

What’s odd is that this rant is coming from the GM of a major market team that will start the season with something approximating a $125 million payroll. What takes it from odd to amusing is that Williams is essentially complaining about having to overspend to the point of flirting with losing money in order to have a shot at overcoming the Minnesota Twins! How cool is that?

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall anyone with the White Sox complaining about MLB’s financial model when the Twins were spending about $50 million a year less than the Sox. But now that the Twins… who had been kicking their collective Bitchy Sox almost every season even when being outspent for talent… are able to afford to spend every bit as much as the Sox do, suddenly their GM doesn’t like how MLB is being run.

I have to admit, however, that this does bring up an issue I’ve been struggling with a bit. Now that the Twins are one of the “haves” in terms of revenue streams, how am I supposed to feel about the whole “revenue sharing” subject? More about this later when we get to the subject of the Evil Empire.

Brewers

Over at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, columnist Michael Hunt wrote a piece on the Brewers’ new “ace” starting pitcher Zack Greinke. I found the column interesting perhaps because I’m still playing “what if”, given that Greinke topped my offseason wish list for the Twins.

Zack Greinke (AP Photo)

In any event, while it’s not the first or the most in-depth article about Greinke’s social anxiety disorder, Hunt does what I think is a balanced job of shedding some light on the relative pros and cons of having Greinke topping the Brewers’ rotation. Whether you choose to believe it’s a justifiable by-product of his ability to deal with his disorder or that it’s just another overpaid pitcher who doesn’t want to have to deal with media and fans, Greinke’s approach is to avoid having to talk whenever he can, but when he does talk, he’s going to tell you exactly what he feels. It seems to be a coping mechanism for him and I’m fine with that, personally, and I hope he has a great season for the Brewers.

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder how his statements would be going over with Twins fans and other Twins players right now, had he been opening up Spring Training in Ft. Myers instead of Phoenix. Throwing him in to the mix along with Nishioka certainly would have given everyone more to chew on this year, that’s for certain.

(And, yes, typing the Milwaukee columnist’s name did cause me to have a “Porky’s” flashback.)

Yankees

The Steinbrenners are back in the news, again. Hank gave an interview which touched on a couple of subjects.

The comment that most of the NY media latched on to most fiercely was when Steinbrenner implied that the reason the Yankees didn’t repeat as WS champions last year was that some players got complacent following the 2009 championship. Specifically, he said, “Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things, not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that.”

Apparently Derek Jeter was the only Yankee anyone could identify as having built a new “mansion” during the 2009-10 offseason, so naturally the media assumed this was aimed at Jeter. Steinbrenner denies that his comment was directed at The Great One. To his credit, Jeter responded appropriately. He laughed at his idiot owner.

Bud: "Tell Hank to shut up" (Photo: Cataffo/NY Daily News)

As entertaining as that little exchange was, the Steinbrenner comment that I found spinechilling was with regard to a much broader topic… the MLB financial model (see, I told you we’d get back to this subject). It seems that, like Kenny Williams and me, Hank Steinbrenner thinks the MLB financial model is broken. He sees the problem a bit differently than Kenny and I do, however. Here were his comments about the revenue sharing system that resulted in the Yankees shelling out about $130 million to other teams last year:

“We’ve got to do a little something about that and I know Bud (Selig) wants to correct it in some way,” Steinbrenner said. “There’s a way. Obviously we’re very much allied with the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers and Cubs in that area. At some point if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets or don’t leave teams in minor markets. Socialism, communism – whatever you want to call it – is never the answer.”

I found this comment both refreshing and deeply disturbing.

Refreshing because just when I was growing concerned about agreeing with Kenny Williams about an issue, a Steinbrenner spoke up and argued the opposing side and, thus, reassured me that I’m still on the right side of this debate.

On the other hand, just a hint (regardless of whether there’s even a kernel of truth to it), that the future direction of Major League Baseball and specifically the issue of competitive/financial balance might actually be decided behind closed doors by Bud Selig and the Steinbrenners is just about the worst kind of nightmare possible for fans in virtually every other market.

While Selig apparently was not amused by the comment, he hasn’t exactly jumped at the opportunity to deny anything, either. I do admit, however, that I found it kinda funny that Bud didn’t call Hank and tell him to shut up. He called Hank’s brother, Hal, and told HIM to tell Hank to shut up! Hilarious.

OK, I think I’ve killed enough time not talking about the Twins today… let’s all go check in on Mauer’s knee lubricant, shall we?

– JC

The Curious Case of Derek Jeter

Let me start this by saying I like Derek Jeter… at least as much as a person can “like” any New York Yankee. Maybe “like” is too strong a word. I appreciate the kind of ballplayer Derek Jeter has been during his career. Has he been overhyped as a result of being a Yankee? Sure. But he’s done his job well, stayed out of jail, and just generally has appeared to do things “the right way” throughout his career. If he had come up through the Twins system and played his career with our team, I’d probably sign a petition to erect a statue or something.

But he’s a Yankee, after all, so I really can’t say I like him… too much. In fact, he’s the Yankees’ captain.

He also just happens to be a 36 year old free agent shortstop with declining defensive skills coming off by far the worst offensive year in his career. In fact, statistically with the bat, he had about the same kind of year JJ Hardy did (outside of the fact that Jeter actually, you know, played in most of his team’s games). Then again, Hardy is eight years younger than Jeter and covers a lot more ground at SS (again, when he’s actually on the field).

There’s a fair amount of discussion among Twins fans, bloggers, and the media (and apparently their manager and GM) concerning whether the Twins should non-tender (or even trade, according to the Baltimore Sun) Hardy. Offering him arbitration might result in a modest increase in his $5.1 million salary. But the Twins want to add more speed to their line up and, since they’re apparently set on having the slowest outfield in professional baseball, they have identified the shortstop position as the spot to target in their quest to upgrade their wheels. In

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

fact, they’re so intent on making that improvement that they’re reportedly shopping overseas, having posted a bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese batting champion, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. There’s no doubt that replacing Hardy and Orlando Hudson with Nishioka and Alexi Casilla would improve the Twins footspeed. Whether it would improve anything else is certainly a fair topic for debate.

Meanwhile, over in the Bronx, they’re talking money with Jeter and his agent. Jeter pocketed $21 million in 2010, the final year of his contract. Now, apparently, the Yankees and Jeter are playing a little game of “chicken”. Jeter and his agent don’t think he should really have to take much, if any, of a pay cut and should get at least a four year extension… if not longer. The Yankees, on the other hand, say they’re willing to overpay for Jeter (after all, they overpay for everyone else), but only for three years and for something less than $20 million per year.

This is where I have to admit that, while I occasionally sound off about MLB being complicit in a system that allows the Yankees to be able to spend twice on payroll what most teams can afford, it’s not really quite as bad as that. It COULD be really bad, if it weren’t for the fact that the Yankees owners are morons who almost seem intent on overpaying for every player they want by focusing on what those players have done in the past, rather than what they’re likely to do in the future.

If the Yankees were smart, they’d tell Jeter, “We’ll pay you $35 million over the next three years. Even that’s overpaying, but you’ve been a good Yankee and we want to acknowledge that. Feel free to go shop around and if someone offers you more, give us a call and we’ll talk about upping our offer. But we aren’t going to negotiate against ourselves.” They’d probably get him for that price, too. Instead, he’s going to end up being paid close to $20 million a year until he’s a 40 year old shadow of himself. Hell, they may not have to erect a statue of Jeter. He’ll be his own statute.

As a matter of fact, if I owned the Twins (and had as much money as the Pohlads do), I’d be on the phone with Jeter’s agent, offering him $70 million for four years. Why? Because we all know there is no… friggin… way… that the Yankees can NOT bring Jeter back. Knowing that, why not run that price up to the point where the Yankees not only overpay, but grossly overpay for Jeter? In the worst case scenario, the Yankees balk and you end up with him on your roster. That’s not ideal, but at least you have a right handed DH, plus you’ve pissed off virtually every Yankee fan in the country. That’s gotta be worth something! If you really feel you have to recoup some of the cost, though, I suppose you could always dress him up in his old Yankee uniform and put him in a dunk tank out on Target Plaza on days he’s not in the line up. That ought to bring in a few bucks.

But that’s how teams with $100 million payrolls compete with the guys who spend $200 million… they make sure the rich team has to pay twice what their players are worth to anyone else. They make sure they commit $20+ million a year for six years to starting pitchers who have virtually no chance of being worth that money every season of the contract. That’s why I’m glad the Rangers and Nationals are talking about throwing some big offers at Cliff Lee. Why let the Yankees have him for anything close to what he’s actually going to be worth? Let him be their next AJ Burnett or Carl Pavano over the next several years. Meanwhile, opposing teams can just keep slapping ground balls in to left field past the $50 million worth of statues the Yankees will be trotting out to 3B and SS for the foreseeable future.

And as long as the Yankees have Jeter attached to their infield like a ball and chain, the Twins front office can go shopping overseas for a guy like Nishioka, without having to be concerned about the Yankees overpaying for the rights to negotiate a contract that would overpay him to play in New York.

God bless Derek Jeter! Take ‘em to the cleaners, Captain!

-JC

Things That Make Me Go “Hmmm”

George Carlin

I was a big fan of the late George Carlin back in the days of my misspent youth. I mean, I liked Bill Cosby and Gallagher, too… but Carlin always made me laugh. My favorite part of his stand-up routine was when he’d come up with the “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”. You know what I mean… like “Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?”

Well, since Bud Selig and the other geniuses at MLB decided we should all take what seems like a month off between the end of the LCS and the World Series, I thought this would be a good time to share some of what I’ve read lately that made me go “hmmm.” So that’s what I’m going to do. Below are a few things I found interesting and links to where you might read more.

I’ve been a big fan of Zack Greinke and have been up front for some time about wishing there was a way to get him in to a Twins uniform. So this tidbit from Seth Stohs’ post on Sunday caught my attention:

Speaking of the offseason, the Zack Greinke rumors are already in full gear. Apparently the Twins are among the teams that Greinke would accept a trade to. There is talk that due to his social anxiety disorder, he would prefer to stay in a small market. Travis Aune (of) TravisTwinsTalk.blogspot.com tells me that he has heard rumors of a potential deal involving Greinke and David DeJesus coming to the Twins in exchange for Kevin Slowey, Delmon Young and Aaron Hicks.

Zack Greinke

Greinke is due $13.5 million for both 2011 and 2012. DeJesus gets $6 million for 2011. Together, that’s about $12 million more than the Twins would be paying Slowey and Young next season (Hicks would remain a minor leaguer for at least another year with the Twins). I’m not sure the Twins have room for that kind of payroll bump, but it’s an interesting thought.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are chomping at the bit to get moving on making sure they don’t fail to reach the World Series two years in a row. Frustrated, I’m sure, by not being able to throw gazillions of dollars at Cliff Lee while Lee is still pitching for his current team, the Rangers, in the World Series, the Yankees decided to do something immediately to begin the process of fixing their team… they fired their pitching coach, Dave Eiland. Right, guys, it wasn’t your overpaid, underperforming, arms that cost you the World Series berth you feel entitled to, it was your pitching coach.

Coincidentally, while the media seems to have determined it’s a foregone conclusion that Lee will be a Yankee in 2011, those classy Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium may have screwed up GM Brian Cashman’s plans. According to USA Today, it seems Cliff’s wife Kristen was none too impressed with how she was treated at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS.

Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

Wouldn’t it be a gas if the typical Yankee fan behavior turned out to be a critical factor in Cliff Lee telling the Yankees  to “shove it” and staying with the Rangers?

While on the subject of the Yankees, I’ve read the following “rumors” about Cashman’s offseason plans (beyond the obvious intent to throw money at Cliff Lee):

  • While Derek Jeter’s value on the open market to teams other than the Yankees would be about $7 million on a one-year deal, the Yankees are likely to sign him to a 3-year contract for about $45 million. HOWEVER… as part of that deal, they should let him know that he should no longer expect to always hit in the top two spots in the order and he should be made aware that he’ll not be playing shortstop every day. He may transition to other positions, including possibly DHing. (Where do I sign up for a gig that gets me paid, by my current employer, twice what I’m worth to anyone else, on the condition that I accept the fact that I won’t be working as much?)
  • One writer speculated that Jeter would begin transitioning to 3B, with Alex Rodriguez beginning to DH.
  • Jorge Posada will not be catching as much next year but would be used as the primary DH. In fact, the Yankees may carry three catchers including current part-time catcher Francisco Cervelli and uber-prospect Jesus Montero, with the plan being to gradually get Montero MLB catching experience and using both Montero and Posada as DHs.
  • In an effort to figure out how to justify spending even more Steinbrenner money to bring in Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth for 2011, there’s speculation that the Yankees might trade current RF Nick Swisher or… if the Yankees find no takers for Swisher and his $9 million contract… move Swisher to DH.

All of which has me wondering just how soon Bud Selig will be proposing a new rule allowing the Yankees to use five DHs in their line up.

Mike Sweeney

Finally, I’ve gone several weeks now without linking to a Joe Posnanski “Curiously Long Post” so I’m going to link/recommend two of them that should be considered “must reads”. One is about Mike Sweeney (caution… if you’re anything like me, reading this may make you feel inclined to wish the Twins would offer Sweeney a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, just to see if they could wring a little more magic out of him as a right handed DH/PH) and the other is actually a re-post of an article he wrote about accompanying Tony Pena on a trip to his native Dominican Republic several years ago when Pena was the Royals’ manager. I have to admit, I loved the way Pena ran a team from the catcher position and wish there was a bit of Pena’s fire in Mr. Mauer.

That’s all for now! – JC

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enema?

NOTE: Yes, this is another long JimCrikket rant but if you’ve been coming here halfway regularly this season, you should be used to it by now and I’m tired of apologizing for being long winded. – JC

Enema… that’s the plural form of the word “enemy”, right? (I may be off on the appropriate word, but I just don’t feel like looking it up and it still seems to fit since this post is about the Bitch Sox and Yankees.)

Almost nothing riles up the folks who populate Bitch Sox message boards and blogs quite like when Ozzie Guillen says something complimentary about the Twins to the media. (Yes, I peruse their sites occasionally. I suppose you could say that makes me a “troll”, but I never post any comments to stir up the locals, so I don’t really think of it as trolling. It’s more like feeding some sort of harmless, but deep-seated, voyeuristic fetish that conventional society may consider borderline perverted… and who among us doesn’t have one or two of those?)

To put it in terms Twins fans may be able to relate to, Bitch Sox fan responses to Ozzie’s man-love for Gardy and the Twins is comparable to comments you see on Twins boards and blogs when Gardy becomes effusive about how Nick Punto “gets after it”. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with expressing respect for how an opponent (or a player with limited natural ability) works hard to play the game “the right way”, it’s just that hearing it over and over and over (and over) again starts to wear on you, I guess. I’m sure this is especially true of  Bitch Sox fans who have had to endure watching their team lose something like 741 out of the last 742 games to the Twins (again, I could be off a bit on the number, I just don’t feel like looking that up either).

Has Ozzie overdone his man-love for the Twins a bit? Yeah, probably. It appears as though he was so impressed by the “piranyas” the Twins fielded a few years back that he convinced his GM, Kenny Williams, to clone that team and put them in Sox uniforms in 2010. Can’t you just imagine the conversation those two had in the offseason?

Williams: “Hey Ozzie, what do you think about bringing Jim Thome back as our DH?”

Ozzie: “No, no, no… he’ll never stay healthy and he can’t play defense. We need flexibility. Give me Mark Kotsay, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Mark Teahan and I’ll have plenty of DH options.”

What’s the matter, Ozzie, weren’t Jason Tyner, Lew Ford, Rondell White or Jeff Cirillo available?

Anyway, as I was trolling… er… reading through the Bitch Sox fans’ post game comments Tuesday and Wednesday, it struck me just how similar they were to what I’ve read about Twins fans’ feelings toward the Yankees (or as I prefer to refer to them, the F’ing Yankees). The frustration level is off the charts in both cases.

But being a Bitch Sox fan having to endure this kind of one-sided relationship has to be even worse. Can you imagine how it would feel if the Twins not only were consistently getting slapped around by the Yankees, but were having it happen 18 times a season AND were having to spend October playing golf instead of playoff baseball because the Yankees consistently were winning the Division? You might as well be a Blue Jays fan.

There are signs lately, however, that perhaps the Ozzie/Twins love-fest may be wearing a bit thin, even with the Bitch Sox and their manager themselves. Ozzie’s been quoted as saying he, “hates the Twins”. He certainly was not appreciative of Carlos Quentin, being hit by a couple of pitches in a game with the Twins at The Cell (is that an appropriate nickname for that prison of a ballpark in Chicago, or what?) a couple weeks ago after Quentin hit a home run in the game. He was convinced that at least the last HBP by Glen Perkins was intentional. Frankly, I’m convinced of it, too. But how can you complain when you pretty much stand on top of the plate the way Quentin does?

Then there was the comment Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves made prior to this series. (Who the heck interviews a bullpen coach, anyway? What’s next, interviewing the batboy? From what I can tell, the bullpen coach’s primary, perhaps only, responsibility is to answer the phone when the call comes in from the dugout to get a relief pitcher warmed up. And this guy is talking trash?). If you listen to it, (starts about at the 27 minute mark) it’s pretty clear that (a) he’s not a Twins fan, and (b) he wasn’t kidding about wanting one of his pitchers to intentionally drill Joe Mauer for the purpose of starting a fight. So when one of  Nieves’ relief pitchers zipped a heater past the bill of JJ Hardy’s helmet Tuesday, I think it’s safe to assume the Twins dugout took notice.

The next inning, when Delmon Young broke for home from 3B on a ground ball to second, I believe he had two things in mind: 1-score the run and 2-if I can knock AJ Pierzynski in to the next galaxy in the process, that’s cool, too. When it became clear the throw was going to get to AJ well before DY could get to the plate, it’s quite possible the two priorities swapped places in Young’s mind.

Bitch Sox fans were enraged. In fact, perhaps their biggest fan (or at least the loudest), “Hawk” Harrelson proclaimed from the broadcast booth that Young should find out what it feels like to have a Rawlings “in his earhole”. (That Hawk… classy as ever, isn’t he?)

Not that Bert Blyleven (or I, for that matter) would say anything too different if a Yankee like Mark Teixeira took similar aim at Joe Mauer, of course. That’s the nature of a bitter rivalry. The team (and its fans) that feels like it’s getting bullied and beaten around by another team becomes blind to anything but exacting revenge. It can cause a team and its fans to lose focus on what’s important… winning the game and competing for a championship.

I know that keeping things in perspective is easier said than done. I know that because when I consider what I think the Twins should do about this escalating level of tension between the teams, I’m torn myself. My head says, “Don’t be stupid, win the games and don’t risk losing anyone important to injury or suspension and, along with him, your grip on the Division.” But my instincts say, “Get the first two outs of the game and then drill Alex Rios in the ass! Get the first punch in, take the resulting inevitable umpire warning to both benches, and prevent the  Bitch Sox from being able to retaliate with impunity.” It’s a tough call.

Here’s another thing that I find very interesting: The near-universal and absolute hatred among Bitch Sox fans for all things and people Twins-related. I could not believe the number of “F*** Jim Thome” comments I read on their boards. Virtually to a person, they feel that the Twins have been, are, and always shall be, dirty players and cheap-shot artists. Reading their comments, you would think they’re talking about a team full of Ty Cobbs over here. I mean… seriously? This obviously runs 180 degrees counter to the widely held (though arguably inaccurate) perception among Twins fans that this roster is too soft… that there’s nobody with any sort of competitive edge… too “Minnesota nice”.

But here’s the thing… my sense is that most of us have always considered the  Bitch Sox to be a rival, certainly, but more of an annoyance than anything else. They had a nice season in 2005 and Thome beat us in game 163 a couple of years ago. But I’ve just never considered them a serious threat to the Twins continued success. The Indians (during eras when they ride their rollercoaster to the top) and the Tigers (more consistently a thorn in the Twins side) tend to concern me more than the Bitch Sox do. The A’s, Angels and F’ing Yankees? Absolutely, as they’ve presented the hurdles the Twins have been unable to clear in recent efforts to get to the World Series. But the Bitch Sox? Eh, not so much.

I realize that those of us who are former Batlings were pretty much obligated to join Batgirl in her hatred of the Bitch Sox “with a white hot fire.” But I always felt that the “hatred” was like something you felt toward an annoying little brother that you know you can just slap out of the way when you get bored with him.

But when I read garbage like what’s spewed in this lovely thread entitled “Drill Baby Drill” from one of the Bitch Sox message boards, I realize that Batgirl may have had it right. Throughout the thread, Bitch Sox fans not only whine about how badly abused their poor players have been by the Twins, but advocate that season and career ending injuries be inflicted upon Delmon Young and Joe Mauer.

So let me conclude with a couple of appropriate, and apparently timeless, Batgirl quotes from 2004:

“…you could fire every player on the Bitch Sox, plus their coaching staff and management and still have a character problem.”

“Put your playing where your bitching is, boys.”

I wish I had Batgirl’s way with words. – JC

An Era ends for the Yankees

photo courtesy of ESPN

Most of you have heard by now that Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, has died at the age of 80 from a massive heart attack.

He really was the focus of a nation-wide Love-To-Hate relationship.  He was the anchor of one end of the spectrum of management and, love or hate him, the vacuum of his loss will rock the boat.

For those Yankee fans out there, we offer our condolences.

More on the Life and Passing of George Steinbrenner.

So, What’s Next?

UPDATE: OK so maybe I was premature in handing Lee to the Yankees, since NY Post reporter Joel Sherman is now (at 2:44 pm) tweeting that the Ms are going in “another direction.” the Rangers have acquired Lee from the Mariners in a deal that is somewhat puzzling, but sure looks to me they paid a VERY high price. Nevertheless, while my comments about the Yankees below are now virtually irrelevant, my views about the Twins needing to just get busy and move on to other targets remain as strong as ever. – JC

UPDATE #2: Interesting stuff. Seems the Yankees are pissed off. This is interesting, in that the Yankees were frustrated with the Ms just a year ago when they were trying to trade for Jarrod Washburn. The Ms did get two of the Rangers top 20 prospects in addition to two lesser minor leaguers, one of which (2B Josh Lueke) has some past “character issues” (to say the least). -JC

I’ve always been a big fan of TV’s “West Wing” series. Throughout the seven seasons that Martin Sheen portrayed the fictional President Bartlet in that series, I’m pretty sure he uttered the question, “What’s next?” more than any other phrase. It virtually became a catch phrase. In one episode, he expounded on the phrase in a terse admonition to his staff. “When I ask, ‘What’s next?’, it means that I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?”

I’m not sure I can describe my feelings about the impending Cliff Lee to the Yankees trade much better than that.

Yes, I was all in favor of making a deal to bring Lee to the Twins, even if it meant overpaying in prospects a bit. But Cliff Lee is going to be a Yankee. OK, fine. I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?

There are a couple of things you can do when you don’t get what you want. You can whine and cast blame on those who made the decision to deprive you of getting what you want (we’ll call this the Dan Gilbert approach, named for the Cleveland Cavaliers owner who pretty much provided a prime example of it with his reaction to being jilted by his prize free agent player last night). You can also throw a tantrum and set things on fire.

I’m just not sure those approaches are altogether productive and, fortunately, I can’t quite envision Twins GM Bill Smith going with those options either.

I prefer the “What’s next?” approach because, let’s be honest, the Twins need some help and the sooner, the better. So if Lee is not coming to town to help former team mate Carl Pavano deliver us all to the Promised Land (which, in this case, would be the World Series), then let’s focus on other options to get us there.

I know we’ve said a few times that it would be nice to have another option at 3B, but like it or not, I think Michael Cuddyer has become that “other option”. I’m not thrilled, but if it means we get more 420 foot HRs out of Jim Thome’s bat in the lineup, I’ll try to live with it. Frankly, the available 3B options on the market right now don’t exactly excite me anyway. So do your best out there, Cuddy, and try not to hurt yourself.

But for goodness sake, someone please find us some pitching. A top of the rotation starting pitcher like Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt? Terrific! The Cubs are supposedly about ready to start selling off spare parts, so let’s give them a call about Ted Lilly. He’s a rung below these other guys, but on this team, he’d be a marked improvement (but then, the list of pitchers that would constitute marked improvement over what we’ve seen on the mound lately wouldn’t be a short one).

Maybe we shouldn’t be content to settle for just getting one of those guys because, as long as we’re being honest, I think we have to admit we have more than one starting pitcher who isn’t exactly giving his team a great chance to win very often lately. And while we’re in a shopping mood, maybe we should think about a little bullpen help, too.

Is that asking for too much? I don’t think so! A year ago, there was a great deal of debate (and considerable skepticism) concerning whether Smith would make any deals significant enough to really be difference makers. In the end, he brought in Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay, Orlando Cabrera and Carl Pavano. While we could quibble about each player’s ultimate contribution to the Twins winning the Central Division title, there can be no questioning that the Twins were uncharacteristically active in their effort to strengthen their roster for the late season push.

I fully expect Bill Smith to be even more aggressive this month. The Twins can still contend for their Championship rings this season and if you take the time to really look at what their payroll and roster could look like next year and beyond, you recognize that this opportunity could be the best it’s going to get for a couple of years.

“But what about the F’ing Yankees?”, you ask, “Haven’t they wrapped up the World Series by trading for Cliff Lee?”

No. In my mind, they’ve not increased their chances of advancing in the playoffs much at all. What they HAVE done is increase their chances of reaching the playoffs. But wasn’t that pretty darn good anyway? Adding Lee to a rotation that already includes Sabbathia, Pettitte, and Hughes will make them tougher competition for the Rays and Red Sox over the second half of the season, but really what they did was save themselves a first round draft pick which they would have lost to Seattle (or whatever other team Lee ended this season with) by signing Lee in the offseason instead of trading for him now. Bully for them.

But once in the playoffs, they were going to have a tough starting pitcher every game, with or without Lee. It’s not like they were going to be trotting Javier Vasquez out there to start any games, anyway.

So frankly, if the Twins weren’t going to get Lee, I can’t think of many places (at least in the AL) where he would have a less problematic effect on the Twins than with the Yankees. The Twins are done playing the Yankees during the regular season and he’s not going to result in nearly the kind of upgrade to their rotation that he would have to the Rays, Rangers or, God forbid, the White Sox or Tigers.

So the proper response to this turn of events is not to wail about how the Yankees always get what they want (though they do) or to cast aspersions toward the Mariners for getting the Yankees to overpay in prospects even more than the Twins would have (though they did).

Instead, let’s fix our gaze toward Bill Smith and simply ask, “So, what’s next?”  -JC