Morneau: “didn’t like our energy”. Join the crowd, Doc.

Over at the Strib, Joe Christensen’s article on Thursday’s game quotes Justin Morneau as saying:

“That wasn’t the same Brewers team we played at our place [in May], and we weren’t the same either,” the Twins first baseman said. “I didn’t like our energy today. We got down early and didn’t show much of a fight. Obviously you give some credit to their pitcher, but at the same time, the energy in our dugout wasn’t very good.”

Following up on that theme, Howard Sinker posted some thoughts on his Strib blog, as well. Howard poses the question of whether the Twins miss a guy like Orlando Cabrera in the clubhouse.

Reading all this stuff about a lack of energy riles me up a bit, to be honest. I spent virtually the entire first 40 years of my life in baseball dugouts. From the time I started going to practices and games for the Albert Lea HS teams my dad coached to the time I started playing ball myself and on through the years I spent coaching CABA and traveling teams, I pretty much figured out what creates energy among a team and what depresses it.

Winning energizes and losing sucks the life out of dugout. It really IS that simple.

Yes, I know all about the rampant amphetamine use among ballplayers that has (supposedly) been curtailed since MLB started testing for the drug 4-ish years ago. I did, after all, read Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four”. (You haven’t read it? Seriously? And you call yourself a baseball fan!? Go read it. Now. The rest of this blog will still be here when you’re finished.)

There’s all sorts of speculation about how player performances (particularly older veterans) are not up to what they used to be because they aren’t as revved up, mentally and physically, as they were when the clubhouse coffee pots were marked “leaded” and “unleaded”… and it had nothing to do with caffeine. I can’t discount the possibility that some players really do have trouble performing at high levels, day in and day out, without a little chemical help.

Shall we take a collection to cure the Twins' "energy problem."

If that’s the Twins problem, then I say we all pitch in and send them a 4 month supply of the energy drink of their choice.

But I honestly believe the solution is more basic. Win more games. Lose fewer games.

Last Sunday the Twins were coming off an emotional extra-inning game against the Phillies on Saturday and were set to face Roy Halladay in an afternoon “getaway day” game. I didn’t see any sign of an energy shortage on Sunday. (I also didn’t see a “B-squad” lineup on the field for the Twins that day, either, by the way.)

After a couple of losses Tuesday and Wednesday, all it really took to KNOW that the Twins were going to phone it in on Thursday afternoon was a look at the lineup cards. Facing the Brewers’ ace, the Twins were Mauerless, had Cuddyer at 3B and Nick Blackburn on the mound. Seriously… how much energy would YOU have been pumped up with if you were in that dugout Thursday?

Here’s a little secret that those who haven’t played the game might not be aware of: Ballplayers can read scoreboards. They know when their starting pitcher has given up bunch of crooked numbers early in a ballgame. If you have to stage a comeback like last Saturday’s once in a while, players can and will rise to the occasion to do so. But when you have pitchers who are consistently digging early holes for themselves and their team mates, it WILL drain the team’s energy.

It would be great if the Twins, as a group, would come together and say, “hey, the Tigers and WhiteSox are playing well and gaining on us, we need to ramp it up and ‘battle our tails off’ every game and blah, blah, blah.” But I’m here to tell you, if the Twins starting pitching does not improve, they will continue to lack energy and continue losing games. Lots of games.

There are two things I think should be done as soon as possible.

1. Replace Nick Blackburn in the rotation with Brian Duensing. I know Blackie has had tough stretches in the past and has bounced back to be productive later. That’s great. I hope he can do it again. But until he gets his crap together, let him work on his issues out of the pen. Duensing has earned a shot at proving he can do it better.

2. Trade for Cliff  Lee. I know this topic is already getting old and people are tired of hearing about it. I know some people don’t think he’d be a good clubhouse guy. You know what makes a starting pitcher a good clubhouse guy? Giving him run support when he busts his butt to shut down the other team. In other words, winning doesn’t just boost energy, it also makes for a happy clubhouse. Funny how that works.

By the way, if this report is accurate, not only will a certain Omaha resident who frequents our blog not be a very happy camper, but it could also make it impossible for the Twins to execute both of the above improvements.

Actually, there is a 3rd thing that should be done immediately. Move Delmon Young up in the order. Gardy is just being pigheaded (again) and there’s no excuse for not having made this move already. It has nothing to do with energy (except that Young has it and Cuddyer doesn’t, lately), but it still needs to be done.

By the way, in case anyone was thinking that there might be an energy boost available in Rochester to help the Twins situation, go read the last couple of posts (June 23 and 24) on Jim Mandelaro’s blog concerning the Red Wings, who just wrapped up a 1-7 homestand. In the final sentence of yesterday’s entry, Jim tells readers that he’s taking a day off Friday (today) to cover the LPGA golf tournament being played (we presume) nearby. ” It’s a welcome respite from the deadly quiet atmosphere of the Red Wings’ clubhouse.” When your beat writer is looking forward to covering a women’s golf tournament instead of your game and hints that the golf tournament might not be as “deadly quiet” as your clubhouse, things are not going well.

Doesn’t sound like we should be expecting newly arrived outfielder Jason Repko to be providing an energy boost, does it? – JC

GoGo Gomez… the new AJ?

With last night’s laughable “performance” by Carlos Gomez, standing and admiring his meaningless moon-shot off of Nick Blackburn after flipping his bat and hitting catcher Joe Mauer, then making some rather mocking “chirping” motions with his hands on his way back to the dugout in response to the words being sent his way by Blackburn and/or Mauer, it begs the question… is Gomez destined to be our next AJ Pierzynski? (And, is that possibly the longest run-on sentence, you’ve ever read? My Journalism teacher would be so disappointed!)

Ever since joining the White Sox, AJ has been the ex-Twin that fans love to hate. He’s just got the kind of personality that grates on people (even his own team mates, apparently). He’s consistently greeted with a loud chorus of booooooooooooos whenever he comes to the plate in Minnesota.

But AJ is clearly coming to the end of his time as a BitchSox and, if you believe reports coming out of Chicago, he could easily be traded within the next two weeks (he becomes a “10 and 5″ player June 14 and earns the right to veto any trade if he’s still with the Tidy Whities at that time).

So perhaps GoGo’s timing is perfect. If we’re going to be in need of a new ex-Twin to demonize, who better than the guy who was the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade and failed to live up to his potential with the Twins?

I will say that, personally, it’s much tougher for me to dislike Gomez than it is AJ. Pierzynski is an intentional irritant. He thrives on getting under the skin of opponents and their fans. With Gomez, I don’t believe that’s the case. I think Howard Sinker at the Strib is right… he’s simply clueless.

I love watching the way he clearly is having fun playing baseball. It’s almost childlike. In fact, delete the “almost”… it IS childlike. I spent years coaching my son’s youth baseball teams and every year we had at least one kid who honestly had no clue about the “right” and “wrong” way to do things. Those kids just loved playing baseball and were completely unaware that you just don’t DO some things…. like over-celebrating a HR when your team is down 12 runs with one inning to play, for example.

Gomez will likely eventually learn that sort of thing. I’d say he might even get his first lesson in his first AB in this afternoon’s game, but that’s just not the way the Twins roll. (He might want to stand clear if he sees broadcaster Bert Blyleven with a ball in his hands during pre-game, though.)

But a part of me hopes he never completely learns. I don’t want to see his unbridled joy dampened. It’s just so fun to watch when he’s playing ball with a smile.

And if he becomes the “new AJ”, that will just make these interleague games with the Brewers that much more entertaining.