Episode 73: Kyle Knudson’s Non-Roster Invite

This week on the podcast we struggle through a couple of technical difficulties, and lament the loss of Miguel Sano for the season. This week we take a look in on the Cleveland Indians. We are joined on the podcast by Jason Lukehart (@JasonLukehart) of Let’s Go Tribe to discuss comings and goings for the Indians and what Twins fans can expect from the Tribe in 2014. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

tribe

In this week’s Down on the Pond segment we take a closer look at Twins minor league pitcher David Hurlbut who pitched in Cedar Rapids and Ft Myers last season. Paul commits a beer drinking sin and admits to in on air and is mocked by all. The Twins say goodbye to any hope of signing Johan Santana and there are several jokes made at Delmon Young‘s expense.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews increase the number of underscores in Jay Corn’s twitter handle.

Less than Great Facial Hair from Former Twins

A less than informative blog post follows:

The Twins were off yesterday.  So naturally I was thinking about facial hair because Luis Perdomo has been called up to replace the injured Anthony Swarzak.  Which reminded me of an excellent tournament of Twins mustachioed men recently moderated by The Platoon Advantage.  This entry is not nearly as all-encompassing or interesting as said tournament.  But it is something, and by definition that means it is not nothing.  Enjoy this not nothing.

 

Delmon Young once lackadaisically roamed left field for the Minnesota Twins, now he grows fantastic mustaches.

Delmon Young’s fine mustache. Image captured from Fox Sports Detroit

 

________________________________________________________________

Wilson Ramos used to throw out base stealers for the Twins in the Minor Leagues.  Then someone tried to steal him.  Now, apparently, someone has stolen his mustache.

Wilson Ramos’ missing mustache. Photo Credit: David Phillip, AP.

 

________________________________________________________________

Ron Davis says more by saying less, with his mustache.

Do the glasses make the mustache better, or vice versa. Photo stolen directly from NotGraphs.

 

________________________________________________________________

Then there is Jon Rauch, sporting some type of death metal goatee/beard combo.  Perhaps tied to the death of his success as a reliever.

Jon Rauch and his unkempt facial hair. Photo Credit Sports Illustrated

 

________________________________________________________________

Are you Gary Gaetti?
Sqinty eyes? Check.
Beaver teeth? Check.
Walrus-esque mustache? Check-PLUS!

Gary Gaetti says, “Hello, Ladies.”

 

________________________________________________________________

And finally Jose Mijares, amidst a trio of bearded Royals, using his beard as a chinstrap to keep his hat firmly attached to his head.

Jose Mijares: Football player wanna-be. Photo Credit John Sleezer, Kansas City Star

 

________________________________________________________________

This has been a collection of less than great facial hair from former Minnesota Twins.

-ERolfPleiss

Ebay and the Minnesota Twins

Photo credit: http://www.baseball-almanac.com

I really enjoy collecting random, mostly worthless, Minnesota Twins memorabilia.  My 1989 Kirby Puckett bottle cap coin might be the best example of this.  These types of coins are usually sold for $1 on Ebay, and even then, they’re over priced by the time you have paid for shipping.  Still, I could not help but buying up a handful of them and adding them to the growing pile of Twins junk collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.

My favorite method for acquiring these items is Ebay.  I usually search for “Minnesota Twins” and then sort by items ending soonest.  If I can bid on something that is ending in less than a minute, and pay less than $3, including shipping, I have no problem pulling the trigger.  Several weeks ago I was browsing the quickly expiring Minnesota Twins auctions and I came across a pair of game used pants worn by former Twins player and coach, Rick Renick.  The pants eventually sold outside of my modest price range, but ever since then I have been drawn towards the odd and outrageous Minnesota Twins items on Ebay.  What are the weirdest Twins things on Ebay, and do you need to own them?

To help you make that decision, here are my 10 favorite Minnesota Twins auction listings:

10. Do you have $3,595 extra dollars laying around?  Are you in love with the 1987 World Championship team?  How about buying a 1987 Minnesota Twins World Series trophy?! The item description makes no substantial claim of authenticity, and there is no indication who owned this trophy at the time of the championship (though the author would like you to think it might have been Kirby Puckett’s judging from the auction listing) Enjoy this  “authentic “World Series trophy, it will definitely tie your memorabilia collection together.

9. For only $7.99 this autographed Boof Bonser photograph from 2007 could be yours.  Imagine how jealous your friends will be when they see this 8×10 beauty hanging on the wall of that old fish house that’s been sitting in your back yard for the past 10 years.  Buy this photo if you love awkward stares from number 4 starters.  Don’t buy this photo if you have a jealous lover, because when you love Boof, you cannot love another.

8. Remember when Francisco Liriano was terrible in 2011?  How would you like to own a piece of that miserable history with a Game Worn Jersey!!!  For just a tick under $400 (plus $12.99 shipping) you could own an official game used jersey, that the seller describes and probably maybe kinda sorta game used (at least it has been well worn).  If you have $412.98, and you have not yet bought this, you have the will power of Superman.

7. You might buy this next item if you are Delmon Young‘s biggest fan, and you love autographed rookie cards.  I can’t figure out if the seller is selling just a single card, or a set of four cards, with two that are nearly identical.  Either way, this lot will cost you $375.  Too pricey for me, but certainly not for an eccentric billionaire who hates defense, effort, and tiny lips.  Continue reading

Last Man Standing… and Other Peoples’ Words

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Punto

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

Nick Punto is going to the playoffs.

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

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

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

Delmon Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

So I won’t even try.

- JC

Much Ado About Nothing

Yes, it’s true… “Much Ado About Nothing”, the title of a Shakespearean comedic farce, could well be an apt description of the comedic farce that has become the entire Twins season. In this case, however, its use is being applied to the fan angst over Jim Thome and Jason Kubel getting sent through waivers by the Twins.

Jim Thome in Spring Training... when there was still hope

I think the problem is that Twins fans have become a bit spoiled. We’re accustomed to trade deadlines being among the times of the year when we’re wondering which key veteran “spare parts” GM Bill Smith would/could/should snatch from non-contending teams in return for a prospect or two. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what trade deadline life looks like from the other side of the looking glass. Sucks, don’t it?

A year ago, I authored a post here entitled “When Is A Trade Deadline Not A Trade Deadline”, in which I gave a bit of a rambling, not-so-serious look at the waiver-trade process that teams go through in August. Go back and read it if you care to. It wasn’t my best writing, but I thought there was a line or two that worked. I admit, however, that it seemed a bit more humorous last season, when the Twins were “buyers” this time of year. Maybe I was just in a better mood at the time.

But here’s the deal. A team in the Twins’ situation (hopelessly and painfully going through the motions and desperately trying to find someone… anyone… who they think might be a capable MLB baseball player that can help their team in 2012) is going to put a lot of their roster through waivers in August. Most of those players will finish the season with the Twins. Perhaps, some won’t. 

Jason Kubel

Any player that isn’t under contract for 2012 is a likely candidate to be put on the waiver wire. Thome and Kubel are both pending free agents, so why shouldn’t the Twins see if there’s a contender out there who might give up something potentially useful in return for renting their bats for a few weeks? If the Twins want them back next season (and for some unfathonable reason, they would want to return to this crappy organization), they can bid for their services again this offseason, which they would have had to do anyway. Similarly, fans shouldn’t be surprised if Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan are put on waivers.

Teams also waive players under team control beyond this season that they think may be overcompensated, in the hope that someone will relieve them of the remainder of that contract. Delmon Young was such a player, as manager Ron Gardenhire pointed out yesterday. He told the media that Young was likely to be “non-tendered” (which is what you do to a young player instead of offering arbitration when you don’t want to pay anything close to what an arbitrator might decide he’s worth). A guy like Carl Pavano might also fit this category. The Twins have him under contract for 2012, but if another team claims him, the Twins may just let him go and let the new team pick up responsibility for the remainder of the contract.

Remember, though, just because a team puts a player on waivers, it doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere. He may not get claimed, which on the one hand, means nobody in either league was certain enough that he’d be any help that he was worth taking a chance on having to pay off the rest of his contract, but on the other hand, means he can then be traded to any team. The terms of the trade could then involve the Twins agreeing to eat some contract.

Also, if a player IS claimed, the Twins can pull him back off of waivers one time. This is where the speculation gets interesting.

I don’t think most Twins fans would begrudge letting a guy like Jim Thome get another shot at the post-season. This may (or may not) be his last such opportunity. Similarly, why should we be upset if Kubel, Cuddyer or Nathan get a little unexpected taste of the post-season? At least it would give us someone to root for in October, because nobody else on this team is going to be playing late baseball.

But what if the first team to have the opportunity to grab one or more of these guys off the waiver wire is the White Sox? Would the Twins really do anything to aid the Bitch Sox in their effort to catch the Tigers?

Hell, yes, they would.

Kenny Williams is notorious (among White Sox fans, themselves) for overpaying to acquire veteran players. If he’s stupid enough to give up highly regarded prospects for the Twins’ spare parts, Bill Smith would be an absolute fool NOT to take advantage. OK… so maybe that means it’s not so likely after all, but he SHOULD take advantage.

It’s not very fun being a Twins fan right now. It’s not fun envisioning the players who have brought so much excitement over the past several years suiting up for other teams the rest of the season. But, as they say, baseball is a business. And while our friend Seth Stohs is trying to cheer us up by pointing out that the Twins minor league system is not totally useless, the fact is that it could use some shoring up (by the way, I firmly believe Seth knows more about the Twins minor leaguers than anyone within the Twins organization itself… I’m just not sure whether that says more about Seth or the people actually getting paid by the Twins). When you’re out of the race and you have the opportunity to get something useful for players that have expiring or expensive contracts, you do it. You have to, if you want to have any hope of getting competitive again any time soon. It’s how the business works.

And hey… look at the bright side… the team, as currently constituted can’t seem to score more than 1 run a game WITH Thome, Kubel and Cuddyer, so how much worse can the offense really get without them? Besides, think about how much cheaper tickets on StubHub or on the street corner the day of games are going to be for a while!

- JC

Delmon Young Traded to Tigers

DY is done as a Twin.

Cole Nelson

In a rare intra-divisional trade, the Twins sent Delmon Young to the Tigers in return for high-A minor league pitcher Cole Nelson and a “player to be named later”. Nelson, a native of Edina MN, I believe, has mediocre (at best) stats for the Tigers’ Lakeland affiliate this season. He was a 10th round pick of the Tigers in the 2010 draft out of Auburn.

I’m hoping the PTBNL is the key in this deal. Often, that indicates the player has been identified but was signed less than a year ago. (Players can’t be traded by their original team until 1 year has expired.)

On the surface, it certainly doesn’t look like a strong trade for the Twins, but until the PTBNL is identified, it’s premature to cast a final judgment.

- JC

 

If The Price Is Right

If it’s the All-Star Break, then it must be time for fans to start talking about trades. We are, after all, just past the mid-point of the season and the non-waiver trade deadline is less than three weeks away.

At this point there are three kinds of teams… obvious buyers, obvious sellers and everyone else. The Twins are in that “everyone else” category because they haven’t established themselves as an obvious contender nor have they fallen so far back in the standings that they have virtually no chance of becoming contenders.

So, that means everyone is (or soon will be) posing the question, “Should the Twins Buy or Sell?” To me, the answer is… “Yes, if the price is right.”

What’s that you say, it wasn’t a “yes or no” question? Too bad.

Bill Smith

July trades generally are made between two parties, one a contender and one… well… not. The contender (or “buyer”) has a spot or two to fill to help push them to the top of the standings and/or prepare them to be a stronger playoff team. Their GM has to be willing to do one of two things… or both… (a) give up highly rated prospects or young (read: cheap) MLB-ready players; and/or (b) take on significant salary owed to an established (and often overcompensated) veteran player.

The other party to these trades (the “seller”) has some highly paid veteran players that are either having good seasons or have put up good numbers recently enough that a contending team might be willing to bet they could help put their team over the top this season and that team is looking to restock with young players that will help next season… and for several years to come. They also are likely looking to shed some salary because they recognize attendance is going to be dropping the rest of the season.

I think the Twins, thanks to the very weird season they’ve endured, find themselves in a unique position… they’ve pressed a lot of young players in to Major League action and many of them have performed well enough to demonstrate that they fit the “MLB-ready” criteria that “sellers” are wanting in return for established players. They also find themselves with an abundance of veteran outfielders and pitchers… many of whom will be free agents at the end of this season… that could be attractive to contending “buyers”. Finally, they’re already certain to exceed 3 million in paid attendance, so there’s no need at all to consider shedding salary to be a factor.

Denard Span

It amazes me how many suggestions I’ve read that the Twins trade a Denard Span or a Delmon Young for established relief pitching. That’s absurd on two levels. First, nobody who has top veteran relief pitching to trade is likely to look for expensive veterans in return. They’re going to want young players they can continue to pay the league minimum to for a while. Also, you simply don’t trade players of the quality of Span, Young, Cuddyer, etc., for relief pitching. Ever.  MAYBE you trade your Rene Tosonis and Trevor Plouffes… legitimate prospects (but not future superstars), guys you can (and likely will) find a way to live without in the future… for relief pitchers. The Twins SHOULD be “buyers”… they SHOULD get relief help… and they have enough decent young talent to use for that purpose. There are a lot of decent relievers (meaning better than what the Twins have been trotting out there for middle relief) on the market so it should be a buyer’s market. There’s no need to overpay.

At the same time, the Twins have demonstrated that they can compete without the likes of Delmon Young, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel in the line up. The question is… should they trade away a veteran or two and continue to try to compete without them? If the price is right, sure, why not?

Delmon Young

Of course, you do not just give any of these guys away. Even those who are going to be free agents are likely to be good for compensatory supplemental draft picks if they walk away at the end of the season. But because guys like Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Anthony Swarzak, and Glen Perkins have demonstrated they can be relied upon to play a role with a contending team, the Twins CAN afford to deal SOME of their veterans and still remain in contention in the AL Central Division. If Twins GM Bill Smith can get real prospects in return for one of his outfielders or one of his pitchers, he should go ahead and do it. Would that mean running a risk in the event the Twins get hit with more injuries? Absolutely… but a GM’s job is to evaluate and take acceptable risks.

But what if the Twins do none of this? What if Smith takes a summer vacation and leaves his phone in the Twin Cities? Can the Twins compete if they do nothing at all?

Well, I still think getting some relief help is important, but otherwise… yeah… the Twins could stand pat and make a serious run the second half of the season… and in to the playoffs. How is that possible?

Justin Morneau

It’s possible because, even if Bill Smith takes that long summer vacation, he will be adding three quality veteran players by the July 30 deadline and another… a former MVP… by the August 30 waiver-deal deadline. Delmon Young has been reactivated and Denard Span sounds like he won’t be far behind. Jason Kubel should be returning not long afterward. Justin Morneau’s recovery seems on target for mid August. Name me a contending team that wouldn’t give a boatload to get four players like that over the next 5 weeks! And Smith doesn’t have to give up a thing.

And here’s the bonus, in my mind… many teams (including past Twins teams) expend so much emotion and energy trying to make the surge necessary to dig out of a deficit in the standings that their tank is empty in September and October. They’re worn out mentally and beat up physically. But most of the Twins top players shouldn’t be feeling worn down. Mauer, Morneau, Young, Kubel, Span… they’ll all be far fresher than most players at that point in the season.

The Twins also have enough starting pitching, with Swarzak, Kevin Slowey and Kyle Gibson (again, we’re assuming the GM makes no deals) ready to step in, that any member of the current rotation who gets as much as a hangnail could be DL’d for 14 days, allowed to get rested up, and come back strong.

This is not the time for Bill Smith to overspend. He doesn’t need… in fact can’t afford… another trade where he gives up a top prospect for a relief pitcher, like the Ramos-for-Capps deal a year ago. He can afford to wait for a trading partner who’s willing to overspend and, if necessary, settle for a moderate deal for middle relief help.

I hope he shows patience because God knows the blogging world is likely to urge otherwise.

- JC

THAT’S How Ya Do It!

After attending the debacle Friday night and then reading that Francisco Liriano had been scratched from his Saturday start in favor of Anthony Swarzak, who would be facing off with Jared Weaver, I can’t say I was optimistic about the possibility of witnessing a Twins win Saturday night.

Silly me.

OF COURSE this would be the circumstance under which the wins would put things together to pull out a W!

There was a great crowd on hand, reminding me a bit of the enthusiasm I felt during so many games last season. I think we all knew that the Twins were likely to have trouble scoring much off of Weaver, who’s had a pretty strong year, thus far. But Swarzak was every bit Weaver’s equal as the two pitchers matched one another almost pitch for pitch from one inning to the next.

Toward the 7th inning, Swarzak gave up a couple of pretty deep, well hit balls that found the gloves of Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young. In fact, the defense tonight was very solid all night long. It hasn’t been often that we’ve been able to say that this year.

With one out in the 8th inning Peter Bourjos laced a line drive down the left field line for a double to ruin Swarzak’s no-hitter bid and the crowd immediately rose to give the young pitcher a huge standing ovation. As we sat down, the three 20-something women sitting to my left asked me why everyone had been cheering… they had no idea Swarzak had a no-hitter going. I’m not sure they even knew what a no-hitter was, to be honest. Ah well.

The guy to my right almost flipped out when Matt Capps entered the game to start the 9th inning on the mound for the Twins… but he stood and gave Capps an ovation with the rest of us after his hitless inning. Alex Burnett followed with a clean inning of relief, himself. (Where have THESE versions of those two pitchers been lately… and can we keep them a while?)

And then it was the bottom of the 10th. Lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi took over for Weaver and struck Jason Kubel out looking before giving up a solid line drive single to Justin Morneau. Jason Repko ran for Morneau and righty Kevin Jepson took the mound for the Angels. Michael Cuddyer grounded a single past the SS in to left field and Delmon Young lined a single to center field. Unfortunately, Repko couldn’t get a jump on that single because there was a real chance it could have been snagged by the shortstop (I thought he was going to catch it from where I sat).

A lot of people around me were upset that Repko didn’t score, but to be honest, he HAD to make sure that ball got through. The LAST thing you want is to have him get doubled off 2B to end that inning. He still got to 3B and the bases were loaded with just one out and Danny Valencia at the plate.

The Angels used five infielders, all playing in on the grass, and just two outfielders, but it didn’t matter. Valencia lifted a fly ball to RF and right off the bat, everyone knew it was deep enough to score Repko from 3B. Torii Hunter jogged back a bit but he knew it didn’t matter whether he got to it or not and it landed well beyond Hunter. Game over.

The Twins celebrated on the field and you could just tell this was a win that made everyone feel good… players and fans alike.

I didn’t take as many pictures this trip as I usually do at games and many I did take are far from high quality, but I thought I would post a few anyway… hope you enjoy!

- JC

Pregame fraternization between Torii, Denard and Cuddy, as well as Justin and Russell Branyan

TC Bear fires tshirts in to the crowd

Anthony Swarzak was very, very good

Jared Weaver was also very, very good

Torii Hunter went hitless... but looked good doing it

An appreciative crowd gives Swarzak a standing ovation after he gives up the first Angels hit in the 8th inning

The Angels play a 5 man infield when the Twins loaded the bases in the 10th

Danny Valencia strokes a deep fly ball to right field...

... and the Twins celebrate a much-needed win!

Keep Hope Alive!

“You must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that you’re qualified and you hold on and hold out. We must never surrender. [The Twins] will get better and better. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive. On tomorrow night and beyond, keep hope alive.”

Jesse Jackson at 1988 DNC (AP Photo-Ron Edmonds)

This is what it has come to… I’m resorting to channeling my inner Jesse Jackson.

For those of you too young (or too politically/socially disinterested) to recall, The “Keep Hope Alive!” quote in the first paragraph was the closing line from Reverend Jackson’s speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and he was assuring us that “America” would get better, not specifically the Twins (but if the shoe fits, right?). I may not have agreed with Rev. Jackson’s politics a whole lot, but my goodness the man could work a crowd!

With all the gloom and doom in Twinsville these days, it occurs to me that maybe a little dose of Jackson-like oratory might just be what’s called for (setting aside, for the moment anyway, the inconvenient fact that at the time Rev. Jackson gave his 1988 speech, Michael Dukakis had about a 20 point lead on George H. W. Bush in the polls… so Jackson’s speech didn’t exactly motivate the Democratic faithful enough to drive Dukakis to the White House).

I’m not sure I’m the one to turn to for motivational oratory these days, however. I not only have not posted a lot of commentary here, lately, but I’ve all but completely stopped posting comments on other blogs and podcasts. It’s not that I’ve given up on the Twins. Quite the contrary. I believe that when the “real” Twins get healthy and join Denard Span and Jason Kubel in the line up, this team will bounce back.

What I have given up on are many so-called “Twins fans”. I understand the frustration because I feel it, too. I don’t particularly enjoy watching the Twins lose game after game any more than anyone else does.

But I simply can’t tolerate the volume of the insane (and often inane) opinions regarding the reasons for the Twins’ poor showing, thus far. I listen/read some of the stuff out there and I just want to yell, “It’s the injuries, stupid!” Seriously… does anyone with half a brain think that Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire or any other member of the Twins management should have EXPECTED to have Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko all on the Disabled List at the same time?

You want to know why the Twins can’t win more ballgames? Go back and read this post from Jim Mandelaro, in which he posts the opening day lineup for the Rochester Red Wings. Let me know if you find these names familiar… Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Rene Rivera. That’s right, five members of the Red Wings’ opening day lineup are currently getting regular playing time for the Minnesota Twins (and their opening day starting pitcher, Anthony Swarzak, made a brief cameo appearance for the Twins, as well). The Twins’ bullpen also has been littered with guys who started the season in Rochester.

I think we all have every reason to be surprised that the Minnesota Twins find themselves with the worst record in baseball, 11 games behind the leaders in the AL Central, as we reach mid-May.  But that’s just it… it’s not so much that the Twins are in that position… but rather the Rochester Red Wings are 11 games out in the AL Central and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I know, I know… this is all just “making excuses” for the Twins’ ineptitude. That’s fine, if that’s how you choose to feel. But if you’re one of the people who refuse to acknowledge the role that injuries have played in the Twins’ results, thus far, then there’s a pretty good chance you’re just one of the “fans” who carry so much hate in your heart for everyone in authority with the Twins organization, that you actually come across as being happy about the team’s current struggles, because it allows you to pump up the volume on your “fire/trade/release everyone” rants. If that’s the kind of fan you are, congratulations, I guess. Enjoy yourself… but don’t expect me to listen to your BS.

Denard Span, one of the more prolific Tweeters on the Twins, posted this on Wednesday night: “Before I talk about the heat winning… If ur a genuine twins fan plz be positive and have faith in us bc we haven’t lost faith in ourselve”

Count me in, Denard.

Nobody associated with the Twins likes the way things are going right now and it’s fair to point out when players fail to perform up to expectations. But if you want to be fair, when you point out that six Twins are hitting below the “Mendoza Line” (.200 BA), you probably should also point out that only one of the six was expected to fill a starting role this season, while the others have had to fill in for injured regulars. And in the further interest of fairness, you could mention that three of the six were supposed to be playing in Rochester this season. But, hey… what fun is being “fair” when you can be negative?

This really isn’t rocket science and Tiger manager Jim Leyland knows it. “It’s pretty simple,” Leyland was quoted by media. “When your horses are at the vet, that’s not good. When they’re on the track, that’s good. Their horses will be on the track here shortly.”

I believe that when Mauer, Nishioka, Young, and Thome get back in the line up, this team will score runs. They will win games. Will it be enough to overcome this awful start? I don’t know. Maybe… maybe not. But they’ll be fun to watch again and I’ll enjoy doing so.

In other words, until then… Keep hope alive!

- JC

Just Keepin’ It Real

Wow, that game last night was kinda fun… the way it ended anyway. Not so much the first seven innings, but in Big Boy League, they play nine (or in this case, 10) and it was great to see our guys show some backbone and scratch out a W in the Bronx.

And it’s fine that we were all giddy last night… including the players, if some of their Tweets are any indication.

But today brings another game and the reality that not too much should be read in to that win. Just as I’d caution people not to think Monday’s loss was an indication that the season is going in the toilet or that the Yankees will continue to forever dominate the Twins, let’s not jump to the conclusion that last night’s win gets King Kong off the Twins’ backs, either.

As our old friend Nuke LaLoosh so profoundly stated, “Winning is like, you know, better than losing!” But as the Twins learned last season, pulling off one come-from-behind win over the Evil Empire in that Mausoleum in Bronx (and seriously, that’s all the better Yankee fans can do in terms of showing up for a ballgame? I don’t care what the weather was… that’s a joke. They call themselves baseball fans?) does not, in itself, constitute a reversal of a trend.

I have to kind of like the pitching matchups for the next two games and I’ve held the minority view that the Twins bullpen is actually better than the Yankees’ overall, despite how “vaunted” it is by the media (especially the YES network broadcasters, apparently). I mean really… how many fans would have been screaming for the heads of Bill Smith, Ron Gardenhire, and/or pitching coach Rick Anderson if the Twins would have left Ft. Myers with Luis Ayala in the bullpen (again)?

But we can debate pitching and middle infielding until we’re all out of breath (or our typing fingers fall off) and it really won’t matter in the long run. Yes, the starting pitchers need to stop giving up early gopher balls. Yes, Casilla and Nishioka need to step up their games a bit.

It's time for Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Thome to show up

But no matter what anyone else does, this team’s fortunes are going to be tied to how the heart of the batting order performs with the bat and, so far, they flat out haven’t performed well. If and when Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome start hitting with some consistent authority, this team will win a lot of baseball games. It’s really that simple.

At this point, none of those guys has been able to accumulate as much as a .150 batting average. Yes, I know BA isn’t the be-all and end-all of offensive statistics, but I think it’s safe to say that if you aren’t hitting above .150, chances are none of your other fancy in-depth sabremetric offensive stats are going to be looking too good either.

If all people want to fret about is whether your middle infield or 4th and 5th starters or middle relievers are performing up to standards, then everyone is missing the giant elephant in the room. It’s only five games in to the season, but the problem right at this moment is not the middle infield… it’s the heart of the batting order.

Pardon me for continuing to channel my inner Nuke today, but it’s time for the studs on this team to start announcing their presence with some authority.

- JC