GameChat – White Sox @ Twins, 7:10

WOOOHOOOOO!!!  Can’t believe there were people stalking the airports to see if they could see the White Sox arriving in town..  what?  someone else came in?  Who cares?!  The Twins are playing the WS in Target Field!!!!  Sorry if I’m a little focused on baseball right now – haven’t gotten into the football mode, much less care about prima donna players.

ANYWAY…  given my baseball addiction, the off-day was spent doing what? with BASEBALL PLAYERS!  :D  I went over to Park Tavern yesterday afternoon to see Baseball Unplugged (and chat with) Nick Punto, Drew Butera and Danny Valencia.  I didn’t take TOOOO many pics, mostly because it’s a bar and it’s dark but it was a fantastic night with some guys who were obviously having a good time and enjoy their fans!

Special thanks to Nick Punto for making sure that Betsy, I, and the young boy sitting near us all got to ask a question since the guy who does the hosting was on the other side of the bar…  You are a true gentleman, Nick and it was great to spend a little time with you!  AND it means I have an answer to the question that has plagued me for awhile from the horse’s mouth! 

My question was “who is our backup 1B guy if something happens to Cuddyer before Morneau is back in the lineup?!” *knock on wood*  Danny spoke up and said that, if necessary, it is supposed to be his job and they have had him practicing over there just in case.  Drew said that he’d be backing up Danny just in case but that since soooo many people would have to be injured for him to be responsible, he doesn’t like to think about it.  I don’t blame him.

But let’s focus on tonight – Nicky is eligible to start tonight but he’s not out there.  That’s not terribly surprising given how hot Valencia has been but at least it answers the question many fans had been asking.  We have a good lineup out there to face the Sox and I think they are coming off a great series against the A’s which has lifted morale.  I’m not going to honor comments about starting bench brawls during this series because I think that kind of deliberate nastiness is below the Sox.  If it turns out that it’s not, I’ll be incredibly disappointed.  Win TWINS!

Chi White Sox @ Minnesota
Pierre, LF   Span, CF
Vizquel, 3B   Hudson, O, 2B
Rios, CF   Mauer, C
Konerko, 1B   Cuddyer, 1B
Quentin, RF   Kubel, RF
Kotsay, DH   Young, D, LF
Pierzynski, C   Thome, DH
Ramirez, A, SS   Valencia, 3B
Beckham, 2B   Hardy, SS
  Danks, P     Baker, S, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H
Chi White Sox 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 6 14
Minnesota 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 7 16

 

The temptation for this game is to completely ignore the majority of the game – just pretend the first 9 innings didn’t happen because the 10th inning was just THAT AMAZING!!!!  THAT was exciting baseball.  *shiver*

But before we get to the 10th, there really was some decent ball we should talk about.  Baker did not have his best stuff tonight so even though he got a 4 run lead to work with early in the game, he ended up giving most of it up and leaving the game in the 5th.  But offense wasn’t REALLY a problem tonight.  Every time we lost the lead, we came back out and hit some more… and so did the White Sox.  yeesh.  Our bullpen did ok but not great tonight.  Felt like we had to use everybody and we nearly did.  Perk covered well though tonight to fill in for Baker and that’s what we have him up here for.  After that, it was a lot of same ol’ same ol’ – and then Capps blew the save.  It’s going to happen but it’s hard to be boost the confidence of your new team’s fans when that happens a couple times in the short time after you’ve arrived.

However, the highlights include two EXTREMELY awesome catches from people I consider unlikely to do the webgem thing – Delmon Young and Jason Kubel.  WOW.  Seriously, they’ll be played on ESPN.  I’ve heard that Kubel’s catch is #1 on the list for today.  For that excellence, both boys are awarded a pan of warm brownies to share – the gooey, dark, awesome kind.

And that was just the defense – the OFFENSE had their night going too!  Young and Hudson both had homeruns, Kubel had a great triple and Valencia had an unfortunate ground rule double – unfortunate because it would have scored Delmon if it hadn’t left the field.  They all were swinging the lumber pretty well and they all get a great big ice cream sundae for it.  Thanks boys.

And it was hardly an issue but you know there had to be some sort of drama after the comments that came out of the coaching staff of the WS today.  So when a pitch appeared to head hunt JJ Hardy and just BARELY missed him, blood pressures definitely went up.  As an almost immediate response, Delmon came in from 3B and decided to take an unusual approach to homeplate since he didn’t have a chance at being safe if AJ didn’t drop the ball – he totally went for the two-handed bar brawl shove instead of the normal home plate tackle.  It didn’t make AJ drop the ball and he was still out but I think the message was clear enough.  Granted, all that is purely my opinion.

And then we have the 10th inning.  Neither Capps nor Rauch who came in to mop up his mess really had the stuff that we needed tonight – which resulted in the White Sox taking the lead in the top of the 10th.  Ouch.  But we got to the bottom of the 10th with it being a 1 run game…  Delmon did his job and got himself on base.  Then, in a perfectly scripted ‘Casey at the Bat’ scenario, Jim Thome walked up to the plate.  I’m sure that every White Sox fan knew what was going to happen.  Every Twins fan knew what was going to happen.  It has happened so many times before – he just wore the other uniform before.  And then homerun #581 went DEEP into the Target Field plaza.  Turns out it was the first walk-off HIT in the new park.  Took awhile to get it.  But ESPN reported that for Thome, it was yet another cool milestone:  Thome is tied for the most walk off home runs of all time, with 12. He’s tied with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Jimmie Foxx, and Stan Musial.  For that, Jim Thome, you are the Boyfriend of the Day!

and just for the fun of it – you should click on Kbro’s pic of the postgame interview PIE!!

Twins History Lesson: August 16-22

Before we dig in to the events that transpired during the upcoming week in Twins history, I want to take a few moments to mention a bit more about one of the reference sources we use for this feature. We footnote three sources that we routinely check every week at the bottom of each Twins History Lesson post*.

One of those resources, however, warrants a little extra mention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Twins Trivia site just provides a few obscure facts about our favorite team. There is so much more of interest to be found there. Want to know exactly which players have worn your favorite jersey number over the years? It’s there. Too young to remember what Metropolitan Stadium looked like, there are a bunch of pictures (including a link so some pictures of an abandoned “Met” that almost brought tears to my eyes). There are interviews with a boatload of former Twins, as well. And of course, there are all of the facts and figures you would expect from a “trivia” site. I highly recommend the site and you can always find the link in our Twins Blogroll list at the right.

Now, on to this week in Twins history…

Kicking off the week on August 16:

1975: You think having a multi-hit game is a big deal? On August 16, 1975, you needed at least two hits just to feel like you played a role at all in the Twins’ 9-1 win over Cleveland. The Twins set a MLB record with nine different hitters collecting at least two hits. Those hitters were Lyman Bostock, Dan Ford, Rod Carew, John Briggs, Tony Oliva, Eric Soderholm, Steve Braun, Jerry Terrell and Phil Roof.

Tom Kelly

1990: A lot has been made of Michael Cuddyer being moved around the field this season by manager Ron Gardenhire, but on this date in 1990, Tom Kelly took the title of “manager” to a whole new level during a game with the Indians. Kelly shifted Kirby Puckett from RF to SS.. to 3B… and finally to 2B while moving Al Newman from 3B to SS and back to 3B, all in the 8th inning alone.

R.A. Dickey is having a very nice season for the Mets this season after never quite having the sort of success with the Twins that the organization hoped he might in 2009. Reportedly, Ron Gardenhire had wanted a knuckleballer on the staff because he felt such a pitcher could be successful in the climate controlled Metrodome. Given Dickey’s performance for the Mariners against the Twins at the ‘Dome on August 17, 2008, it’s not real  clear what may have made Gardy draw that conclusion. On that date, Dickey tied a MLB record with four wild pitches in one inning. He could have broken the record if not for one additional pitch that found the backstop being ruled a passed ball charged to catcher Kenji Johjima.

August 18 has seen a “first” and a “last” of note over the years:

1966: It may not roll off the tongue as smoothly poetic as “Tinker to Evers to Chance”, but Rollins to Tovar to Killebrew made history on 8/18/66 when Rich, Cesar and Harmon turned the first triple play in Twins history during a game against the Angels at Met Stadium.

1986: Twenty years later, Hall-of-Famer-to-be Tom Seaver struck out 7 Twins in 8.2 innings in a Red Sox win over the Twins to earn his 311th, and final, career win.

Johan Santana

Tell me if this sounds at all familiar, Twins fans… a Twins pitcher walks off the mound during what could be a historic night with his team nursing a 1-0 lead. But having already thrown over 100 pitches, manager Ron Gardenhire puts team and the health of the pitcher ahead of “history” and lets the pitcher know he’ll be turning to the bullpen. Kevin Slowey on Sunday? Nope… on August 19, 2007, it was Johan Santana who had struck out 17 Rangers in 8 innings and was within 3 Ks of matching the MLB record of 20 in a game. There was no Jim Thome to give the Twins a cushion on that day, but Joe Nathan struck out 2 in the 9th to help set the Twins single game team record of 19 strikeouts and seal the 1-0 win. Santana gave up only two hits to the Rangers… both by Sammy Sosa.

Ken Landreaux was having a good season for the Twins in 1979 but when you’re the player a team gets back in a trade for a certain Hall of Famer like Rod Carew, living up to expectations is pretty much a lost cause. Nonetheless, On August 20, 1979, Landreaux came through with a very Carew-like performance as he ripped three extra base hits (double, triple, HR) and drove in six runs in a 10-5 win over the Red Sox.

The Beatles at Met Stadium (Photo by Sully)

Where were you on August 21, 1965? If you were at Metropolitan Stadium, you were among a packed house of screaming fans… but the Twins were nowhere to be seen. The Beatles were playing at the Met that night!

Our look back at August 22 goes back only two years to 2008. Rookie Carlos Gomez set a Twins rookie stolen base record by swiping his 27th base of the season, breaking a club record held at the time by Luis Rivas.

That’s enough for this week, I think. We’ll skip over a few August trades involving guys most of us have never heard of (sorry, Jackie Collum) or prefer to forget (that would be you, Joe Mays) as we anxiously await the inevitable demolishing of the White Sox remaining playoff hopes this week. Go Twins! – JC

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

*We pull this information from a few different sources, including (but not necessarily limited to) Dave Wright’s excellent book, “162-0, The Greatest Wins!”, as well as some  internet sites like “Twins Trivia” and “National Pastime”.

GameChat – Twins @ Indians #3, 12:05

YAY!  I can post the gamechat today!!!  AGAIN, my apologies for missing you all last night.  At least we have today.  (doesn’t that sound like a taudry romantic drama? about baseball?)

Ok, injury updates:  The good news is that ‘Lando is BACK!!  Joe Mauer is BACK to catching – which is great news for Butera who has really earned the day off.  And even better, Lexi’s little experience last night will not require a stint on the DL.  He has a bone spur on his ankle but no soft tissue damage or fractures so … they’ll let him play when the soreness is gone.  But that means that Plouffe, who would have been sent down to make room for Hudson, has to stay to back him up, and it’s Anthony Slama who draws the short straw.  I’m sure we’ll see Slama again fairly soon.

The bad news is that Kevin Slowey is dealing with some pain on the back of his elbow and he’ll be skipping his next start.  Sounds like they’ll be bringing up Perkins to make a start in his spot – and both Liriano and Pavano would like an extra day of rest as the rotation flows so I think the math works out.  Perkins will start on Wednesday against the White Sox if I’m still on target.

The MIA bit is that I haven’t heard a word about Punto’s recovery and if he’ll come back on schedule or not.  I’m definitely going to ask around and see if I can find out.

On to today’s game!  Duensing is out there again and I think he will do well today.  I sure hope it’s still cooler in Cleveland than it is in Minnesota.  And I can’t say that I will miss the throwback uniforms from yesterday.  I still think the hats were cool though. Span is getting a day off and Repko i sout in his spot – from how Span looked at the plate last night, I think that is a very good move. He needs a mental reboot.

Minnesota @ Cleveland
Repko, CF   Brantley, CF
Hudson, O, 2B   Cabrera, A, SS
Mauer, C   Choo, RF
Young, D, LF   Duncan, S, DH
Kubel, RF   LaPorta, 1B
Cuddyer, 1B   Marte, A, 3B
Thome, DH   Crowe, LF
Valencia, 3B   Donald, 2B
Hardy, SS   Marson, C
  Duensing, P     Huff, D, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 5 6 1
Cleveland 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 9 0

 

Well it was REALLY good to get the win today and the series win as well!!  Duensing was a bit rough in the first inning and gave up 3 runs and the defense was a bit rough behind him for a couple innings too.. and there was NO offense from the Twins to speak of.  However, they got their rhythmn together and all three parties managed to get things going. 

Duensing turned in brilliant innings 3-7 and even came out to start the 8th for the first time this season.  ‘Lando had a GREAT day back and even got the game-tying hit.  For that, they both get pastries for doing such a great job.  Gamechat elected Jim Thome as our BOD today though for really getting the offensive ball rolling with a 2 run HR that in NO WAY left room for doubt or review.  Thank you so much  Mr. Thome!

All-Star Game – Who’s on First? I Don’t Know. He’s on Third and I Don’t Give a Darn. (Do You?)

Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine is not only the funniest comedy bit ever done about baseball, it also seems to just about perfectly describe my feelings about the MLB All-Star Game.

It’s a bit sad, really, because (“Because” plays CF) I used to love this game. I got so excited when I found out I got 2 tickets to the 1985 All-Star Game in the Metrodome that I swung a pool cue around and broke 3 beer bottles sitting on a nearby table (the game itself was a bit of a yawner as the National League won 6-1, but I didn’t care). I also remember watching Pete Rose slam in to Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse on television and a number of other great All-Star moments over the years. I never missed the game unless I was playing ball myself.

I don’t really even know why (“Why’s” the left fielder) my feelings changed. It may have been the infamous tie game and the sight of Bud Selig’s “What can I do?” shrug (“What” is on second) that ended the 2002 All-Star Game in a tie. That event led to Selig declaring that home field advantage in the World Series would go to the team representing the League that wins the All-Star Game. I never quite understood how that prevents teams from running out of pitchers in extra-inning All-Star Games, but on the list of Selig decisions I don’t understand, this one probably barely cracks the top 10.

It just feels to me like, for all the bluster about the game, even Major League Baseball doesn’t exactly know whether to take it seriously or not, so why (“Why” is still in LF) should I?

It is refreshing that many of the players still care about it… and I’m willing to give most of them the benefit of the doubt and believe it’s for reasons that go beyond the ASG bonus that many of their agents have had included in their contracts. I feel good for guys like the D’Backs Chris Young, who (“Who” is at 1B) clearly is excited about going to Anaheim for his first ASG. And while I guess I was ambivalent about the whole “Should Steven Strasburg be an All-Star?” question, hearing that a poll of 50 current players resulted in a unanimous 50-0 “NO” vote told me that these guys do care about who (“Who” is on FIRST!) represents them.

Of course, as a Twins fan, it feels good to see two of our guys voted in as starters for the first time since Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew in 1968. That was two years before starting rosters were turned back over to fan voting, by the way. I think a lot of Twins fans have begun to take Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for granted, but this not only serves as a reminder that we are watching two potential Hall of Famers on the field together daily (not to mention shoe-in HOFer, Jim Thome this season), but also demonstrates that the Twins have gotten the attention and appreciation of baseball fans all over the country. Together, Mauer & Morneau have made Twins baseball relevant.

I think it’s great that Delmon Young is included in the “final 5″ vote, even though his chances of winning are slim & none (and you should definitely go vote for him… I did). It’s not that he isn’t deserving, but Kevin Youkilis is such an obvious omission from the AL roster, that I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t double the votes of any other name on the list. To be honest, I thought Francisco Liriano probably deserved as much consideration as Young, if not more.

I don’t know (“I Don’t Know”… third base!) yet which reserves were voted in by the players/managers/coaches as a whole and which were chosen specifically by the ASG managers (the Yankees’ Joe Girardi and Phillies Charlie Manuel), but if it turns out that they chose ARoid over Youk and Ryan Howard over Joey Votto, I think it’s time to take the right to pick ANY pitchers/reserves away from the respective managers.

And don’t be surprised if Girardi replaces CC Sabathia (can’t pitch in the ASG ‘cuz he’ll be pitching Sunday) with Andy Pettite instead of Jared Weaver, who (“Who” is the guy on 1B) not only is more deserving, but the game is being played in his home ballpark. As it stands, only Torii Hunter will represent the Halos. But then an All-Star Game with only FIVE Yankees playing really wouldn’t be an All-Star Game, would it? (UPDATE: Girardi didn’t wait long… he’s named Pettitte to replace the injured Clay Buchholz.)

As for Manuel, if he’s the one responsible for picking Omar Infante over… well… just about everyone else in a National League starting lineup, I think someone needs to require Charlie to undergo a thorough mental health evaluation. That choice is flat out bizarre.

Finally, on the subject of All-Star Games, it really is unfortunate that Twins prospect Liam Hendriks will miss the All-Star Futures Game. (New Britain’s Ben Revere is also representing the Twins organization.) This game gives some of the top prospects in minor league baseball an opportunity to showcase their talents and compete against many of the other top prospects, in addition to giving fans across the country an opportunity to see future stars in action. Hendriks had an emergency appendectomy on Sunday and will be out of action for a month or more. The Aussie has been very impressive (1.76 ERA and 0.845 WHIP) in 16 starts this season, split between Beloit and Ft. Myers. I saw him shut down Cedar Rapids early in the year (7 Ks in 5 shutout innings)  and was looking forward to seeing him match up against the other minor league stars. Get well soon, Liam.

So, am I alone in my general indifference to the All-Star Game and who (for the last time, “Who” is on first!) participates? We don’t have a Twins game to look forward to until tomorrow (“Tomorrow” is our pitcher) night, so let’s do a poll, shall we? I’ll cast the first vote… and I don’t give a darn (Oh, he’s our shortstop!). – JC

Don’t let a loss get in the way of a great celebration

Let’s just pretend the final 2 innings of Saturday’s game with the Rays never happened, shall we? If you’ll join me in that fantasy, I’ll share a couple of pictures from the day, starting with the game ball being delivered by a group of Navy Seals that came in from above.

The Strib’s Joe Christensen tweeted that he thought it was “idiotic”, and that “People came to see baseball, not potential catastrophes.” I dunno… I guess I just think this kind of thing over Independence Day weekend is very appropriate and I applaud the guys.

I also really enjoyed the messages shown on the big scoreboard during play stoppages from Minnesotans currently serving in the Middle East. I can only imagine the pride and emotion felt by their family members.

By the way, I realize not every one of us is as much of a Vikings fan as we are Twins fans, but I read this article over brunch at Hell’s Kitchen and I have to admit that reading about the surprise coach Brad Childress got while on the NFL-USO tour struck a chord. (Yes, it was a bit odd reading the print version of the StarTribune.)

Jim Thome crosses home plate and in to 10th place on the career HR list

As for the game, it was exciting to see JJ Hardy return, of course. Francisco Liriano threw a terrific game as he sat down one Ray hitter after another. But Jim Thome most certainly stole the show today.

Thome lined a home run just inside the LF foul pole (and barely above the wall) in his first at bat, to tie Harmon Killebrew’s mark of 573 home runs… and give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the second inning. But that was just a teaser. In his next plate appearance, Thome launched one in to the Rays’ bullpen for #574 and pass “Killer” in to sole possession of 10th place in the all-time Major League HR list.

Harmon could not be in attendance, but he recorded a message to Thome that was played on the big screen immediately after Thome circled the bases.

Harmon Killebrew delivers a congratulatory message to Thome

In his game story at the Strib, Christensen quoted Killebrew from a telephone conversation after Thome hit #574.

“Good for [Thome]; he’s a good guy,” Killebrew, who hit 559 homers in 21 years with the Twins franchise, said by telephone from Arizona. “I talked to Jim quite a bit when I was in spring training. I told him, ‘Don’t feel bad if you pass me up, because I passed up a lot of guys in my career.’ “

Is that class or what?

Thome and his team mates watch the message from Killebrew

The 23 foot wall in right center field is all that kept Thome from making it a 3-HR day as he doubled in the 9th inning with the ball hitting just below the top of the wall.

So, those of us at the game got to see history, Navy Seal skydivers, another top notch pitching performance by Liriano, the successful return of JJ Hardy (who barely missed a HR of his own when he doubled off the LCF wall in his first AB), another home run by Justin Morneau and a pretty darn good day at the plate by Joe Mauer.

Now, if only they had won the game! – JC

Tellin’ it like it is.

I’ll be honest. While I’ve watched almost every inning of the Twins games this week, I haven’t been devoting as much time to really focusing on the games or on the Twins in general. My mind has been occupied elsewhere (Nebraska in the Big Ten? Where will the Longhorns go? Isn’t it time for the Irish to give up the “independent” foolishness and join the Big Ten?). I know they’ve won some games and lost some games and some guys have looked good and some guys haven’t looked good… and some guys aren’t even showing up. It’s time to do something about those guys. Not the end of July at the trade deadline. Not in a month at the All Star break. Not in a couple of weeks. The time is now. Right now.

We were all excited about the team Bill Smith built during the offseason and, for the most part, about the choices made with regard to who constituted the 25 man roster coming out of Spring Training. This was, arguably, going to be the most talented gathering of players to don Twins uniforms in years… perhaps even decades. This team was no longer going to send minor leaguers out to play on Sundays. Even the “B” lineup would have can’t miss Hall of Famer, Jim Thome, in the DH spot. This team, we felt, wasn’t going to have to overachieve to win the Central Division. They SHOULD win the Division and the talent was there to do some damage in the playoffs once they got there.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we felt that way. But let’s tell it like it is, gang. Twins fans can not feel that way right now. This team, as currently constituted, is still competitive… but it is far from GOOD. In fact, that lineup card Gardy turned in Sunday was an embarrassment.

Yes, there have been injuries. The nagging kind where you really don’t know if you should put the guy on the Disabled List or let him rest a couple of days. And in almost every instance (or so it seems) the result has been an extended absence from the lineup.

One of the things that has endeared the Twins to its fan base over the years has been the way we could enjoy watching young players come up through the organization and be ready to contribute when they get their chance. All five of the starting pitchers came up that way. Denard Span thrived when he got his shot. The list is long.

Suddenly flush with revenues as a result of moving in to their new stadium, the organization uncharacteristically brought in help to fill a couple of holes in the infield this offseason, even while giving Mauer and others big raises, where in the past they may have been traded away at this point in their career. It has been very encouraging.

Now many people weren’t thrilled with opening the year with Nick Punto as the 3B. Personally, I have been in the “as long as the Twins have improved offensive production from 2B and SS, they can afford one mediocre bat in the 9 position” camp. The problem is… they are no longer getting improved (or any) offense from those other infield positions.

A significant sector of Twins Territory (or at least the Twins Blogosphere neighborhood of the “Territory”) is insistently enthusiastic about “giving the kids a shot” whenever someone with the Big League team either gets hurt or is performing so poorly that replacement appears inevitable. That’s fine. I like to see guys who have worked their way up through the organization get their shot, too.  But the time has come to admit that the Twins do not have infield options that are Major League ready right now. Maybe Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia and Matt Tolbert will go on to have fine Big League careers. They seem like good guys who are easy to root for.

But they have no business being on the Major League roster of a team that sees itself as a World Series contender. Not as starting infielders and not really even as utility options off the bench. They just aren’t ready.

And what about that pitching staff? There are some talented young pitchers both in the rotation and in the bullpen. And they seem to be really good guys, too. Lots of reasons for fans to “like” almost all of them. Every member of the rotation has had some very good starts… and some that were pretty ugly. Bert pointed out during today’s broadcast that the Twins’ bullpen has the best ERA in the American League. That’s nice. Everyone out there has had some impressive appearances. But why is it that whenever virtually ANY reliever comes out of the pen, at least one person in any group you may be watching the game with is likely to say, “I wish I felt more confident with him coming in to pitch”?

Maybe JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson will come back from their DL stints healthy and productive. Maybe one or two of the starting pitchers will become a legitimate #1 guy (I’d settle for legitimate and reliable #2 guys at this point). Maybe Ron Mahay and Jose Mijares and Jesse Crain will become more consistently reliable. Maybe Jon Rauch will add a couple MPH to his fastball and we won’t always have to hold our breath every time he comes in with less than a 3-run lead.

But that’s a lot of “maybes” for a team with expectations at the level we have for the Twins.

It’s mid June. The Twins are 2 and a half games ahead of the Tigers, with whom they have a series in Target Field to close out the month. Between now and then, both teams have 4 interleague series. The Twins with the Rockes, Phillies, Mets and Brewers. The Tigers with the Senators (missing their phenom Stephen Strausburg), D’Backs, Mets and Braves.

The truth is, the Twins will not be leading the AL Central Division at the end of the month with a lineup featuring three starting infielders every game from the group of Valencia, Harris, Plouffe, Tolbert and Punto. Unless changes are made now, look for the Twins to be playing catch-up in the second half of the season… again.

I know the Twins have already stretched their payroll beyond anything remotely close to what they’ve historically spent on MLB ballplayers. I also know they don’t like to send their precious prospects around the country in return for more expensive veterans that may or may not be a part of the team beyond the end of the current year. I can’t argue with any of that when you’re trying to build a competitive team over time.

But if the Twins organization is really serious about being more than just competitive in 2010, it’s time to bring in some reinforcements. In recent weeks, the Twins have been linked to several players who are, or may become, available via trade. The names include top of the line starting pitchers like Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee and 3B/1B Mike Lowell, in addition to a variety of middle relief pitchers, such as former BitchSox David Aardsma.

It’s fair to debate whether each of these players, or any others that may become available, would be good “fits” for the Twins. Would they upset team chemistry? Would they stay healthy? Have their better years passed them by? Are they overpriced?  All fair questions for discussion. But there’s really only one question that should matter.

Will the Minnesota Twins win more games… now and potentially in the post season… with this player than with the player currently in that role? If the answer is “yes”, it’s time to make the deal, Mr. Smith. And when the names you’re looking at replacing are Harris, Valencia, Tolbert, Plouffe, Mahay, Crain, and Mijares, how could the answer not be “yes”?

My preference? I want Mike Lowell in my lineup as quickly as he can get to Minnesota. If/when Hardy and Hudson come back, we finally get Little Nicky Punto-Tiny Super Hero in his proper role as utility infielder. I also want one of those top of the rotation guys, Oswalt or Lee (heck, even Jake Peavy is making noise about wanting to be trade again). I know, I know… somebody’s favorite current starting pitcher is going to be asked to move to the bullpen (which shores up the pen, by the way), but when you have World Series aspirations and pitchers like that are available, you go get one. That’s how the big boys play.

Now we find out if the Twins front office believe they have truly joined that exclusive club. The clock is ticking, Mr. Smith.

Tick. Tock.

-JC

GameChat – Twins @ Royals, 7:10

well, Nicky has been put on the DL retroactive to the 16th and Luke Hughes gets to make his trip up north for a bit.  Punto will get an MRI here in the cities just to make sure that nothing else is wrong with those groin muscles.  God forbid that any of us are mature enough to leave that bed of jokes alone.

Minnesota @ Kansas City
Span, CF   DeJesus, D, RF
Hudson, O, 2B   Podsednik, LF
Mauer, C   Butler, 1B
Morneau, 1B   Guillen, J, DH
Cuddyer, RF   Callaspo, 2B
Kubel, LF   Ankiel, CF
Thome, DH   Kendall, C
Hardy, SS   Gordon, A, 3B
Harris, B, 3B   Betancourt, Y, SS
  Pavano, P     Meche, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 2 8 11 0
Kansas City 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 3 6 1

 

I almost think that we should give the BOD to Gil-gah-Meche but room consensus goes to Thome with cookies for Lando!

Yes, it's home plate. Step on it already.

Spring Training Vacation Wrap Up

I’m heading out bright and early Thursday morning, but before I call it a night, I wanted to post one final “Spring Training Report.” (OK, it might not be the final one published, depending on whether a final ‘Jim Crikket Report’ makes an appearance in Howard Sinker’s “A Fan’s View From Section 219″ blog Thursday).

I can’t recommend highly enough this kind of spring vacation, if you’re a Twins fan or a fan of Major League Baseball at all. I’m sure Target Field will be terrific, but you don’t get opportunities to watch talent of this level as “up close and personal” anywhere but during spring training. And the opportunity to check out the Twins’ “future stars” on the minor league complex is a huge bonus, in my opinion.

With that, I’ll leave you with a few images from my last day at Twins 2010 Spring Training.

Outside Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of your Minnesota Twins!

2008 first round pick Carlos Gutierrez gets some help with his change-up grip

Michael Cuddyer doing his Nick Punto impression... and he's SAFE!

Jim Thome and Jerry White doing... something... I don't think I wanna know what.

Anthony Slama... closer of the future?

Ben Revere. His time is coming... soon.

Hammond Stadium Mens Room... with "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" murals

TC Bear with a SuperSoaker... coming soon to an outdoor stadium near you!

Fun in the Ft. Myers sun!

There’s really no excuse for how I feel tonight (Thursday) as I write this. I’m 53 years old. I know better. I’ve been hibernating in Iowa for 5 cold months. I’m in Florida to catch some of the Twins’ spring training for something like the fourth straight year. I knew it even as I stood in the cloudy chill of the mid morning watching Twins prospects going through drills on the minor league complex adjacent to Hammond Stadium.

“You should have stopped to pick up sunscreen, dummy.”

Ah well. It’s not like it’s the only dumb thing I’ve done in the years I’ve been coming down here (and some dumb things, I’ve done more than once), so if I’ve gotten it out of the way early this year, I can live with it (although not particularly comfortably).

But you didn’t come here to read about my pain. You came to read about the Twins’ spring training game vs. the Pirates, so here goes…

The Twins won.

I could tell you about how Carl Pavano struck out former Twin and current Pirate Garrett Jones. I could tell you about Jim Thome hitting his first home run of the spring. I could tell you about so much more. But I’m tired and I’m in some pain. So, instead of writing about what I saw, I’ll show you instead. (Yes, the downside of having a seat 2 rows up and just to the side of home plate is that pictures are taken through the netting of the backstop. I can live with it and I hope you can, too.)

Carl Pavano went five strong innings

Garrett Jones goes down swinging

Jason Jaramillo bows to Ben Revere (ok, not really)

Doc's HR swing! (ok, so he grounded out to 2B... but it looks good!)

Jim Thome and Jason Jaramillo knew this one was gone.

Trevor Plouffe scores around the tag on a SAC fly by Chris Parmalee (background)

That’s it for Thursday. Friday is a trip across the state to Port St. Lucie. It’s a couple of hours away, but with the Twins facing the Mets and a certain former Twins left-handed starting pitcher, I’m sure it will be worth the time! – JC