GameChat – 2012 All Star Game featuring Joe Mauer & RA Dickey? 7pm

Of course I’m very glad that Joe Mauer is at the All Star game – more importantly, I’m very glad that his PLAYING has actually deserved a spot at the All Star game. Would I like to have more than one representative? Of course. Do I think we have other players that are as important to the Twins as Joe Mauer? Absolutely – especially since this IS a team sport people. Do I think that a team’s MVP is the one who should represent them at the ASG? no, not necessarily. If voted on today, is Joe Mauer the Twins MVP? Maybe… Who cares? That’s who’s there for us and I’m glad that it’s someone who is hitting the ball well right now – good for everyone all around.

I am much more intrigued by someone else’s story and the controversy that surrounds where he plays in the game.. NL Pitcher, RA Dickey. I’ve always had a soft spot for him because I really enjoyed watching him play as a Twin. I thought he was good for us, fit in well here and I would have liked to see him stick around. That’s just not how the business of baseball works though sometimes so I have followed his career after he left us and am AMAZED at what he’s doing with the Mets this year. And I’m not alone. The fact that he’s not the starting pitcher has really angered and baffled a LOT of NL fans. I think Matt Cain is also an incredible pitcher and is equally deserving of consideration so I’m not as flummoxed as some east coasters seem to be. I see that not every CATCHER is prepared to handle a Knuckleballer so it makes a lot of sense to start a more traditional pitcher if you think your starting catcher might not be up to the game. More smart strategizing than deliberate slight. This is what you do when you put together a lineup after all.

I planned to do a little profile on RA before tonight’s game just because he’s always been a favorite around here – both for the namesake pitch, his personality and his originality. In fact, I fully intend at some point to feature a review of his autobiography Wherever I Wind Up here on Knuckleballs at a later date. But in my research, I actually found a really well-written piece that I decided to share with you instead – in its entirety which is something we rarely do here. Skip to the bottom if it doesn’t interest you but I find his story to be fascinating.

From NPR:

Pitcher R.A. Dickey’s Tale Is As Wild As A Knuckleball

July 9, 2012

R.A. Dickey’s career as a major league pitcher has been as unpredictable as his signature pitch, the knuckleball.

And on Tuesday night, the New York Mets’ 37-year-old phenomenon will hit a new pinnacle: the pitching mound at baseball’s All-Star Game.

He won’t be starting for the National League — manager Tony La Russa chose Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants for that honor. But the manager says says Dickey will pitch.

This guy isn’t the best story in baseball because he’s the best pitcher in the National League. If anything, Dickey is the pitcher he is because of his story. He believes there is a direct line between the pitches he throws and the person he is, which is the only time you’ll ever hear his fluttering knuckleball compared to a “direct line.”

Back in 1996, Robert Allen Dickey was a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers as a conventional flamethrower. He was 21 years old and about to be paid more than $800,000 to play the sport he loved.

“[I] flew down to Texas to sign my contract, throw out the first pitch … do all the things that I dreamed about doing my whole life as a baseball player. The first thing I had to do when I landed was head over to the doctor’s office to get a physical, and it was there that they kind of were alarmed at what they saw,” Dickey says.

What they saw, or more accurately didn’t see, was a UCL — an ulnar collateral ligament. Dickey was born without that ligament in his throwing elbow. Doctors said he should be in excruciating pain just turning a doorknob, and yet he had no problem reaching 95 miles an hour on the radar gun.

But past performance didn’t matter to his new club. He was damaged goods, and 90 percent of his signing bonus was revoked.

It was a serious setback in the one area of Dickey’s life that was supposed to be a refuge. Dickey’s parents had divorced when he was a child. His father was distant as R.A. grew older, and his mother was loving but a drinker. He was, while still a boy, sexually abused by a baby sitter and a teenager from his neighborhood.

Even as Dickey entered his 20s, he struggled.

“I began to really hate who I was, and, you know, I was having suicidal thoughts and just all kinds of terrible things running through my mind. You know, I was using the unhealthy ways to escape pain,” Dickey says.

Eventually, Dickey found a few things that helped: his mind, his wife, his faith, and a pitch that’s impossible to own. But if you’re dedicated, it can be leased to great effect.

Learning To Throw Like ‘The Jedi’

A knuckleball is confounding, both going and coming, because it’s thrown with almost no rotation. The baseball’s laces interact with the air, turning it into a Godard jump-cut of pitches.

Currently, Dickey is the only regular knuckleballer in the major leagues. It’s a hard pitch to learn, but there is a fraternity of knuckleballers who can offer advice.

“The people that poured into me and lent me their wisdom and acumen were Tim Wakefield, Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro,” Dickey says. “And so speaking from that experience I can tell you that there’s nobody on this Earth that knows more about it than they do.”

Dickey calls those former major leaguers “The Jedi Council.” In addition to throwing a quirky pitch, he loves Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings. He names his bats after swords in Beowulf, and the music he has cued up over the stadium PA when he walks up to bat is the theme to Game Of Thrones.

There’s also Dickey’s literary side. His revelatory memoir, Wherever I Wind Up, is clearly written by a lover of language who entertained thoughts of becoming an English professor.

And then there’s the side of Dickey that wants to teach others his recondite skill. Though Cy Young award winner Frank Viola is the pitching coach of the Savannah Sand Gnats, the knuckleball is as baffling to him as string theory. But Dickey eagerly passed along what he knew to minor leaguer Frank Viola III.

“He’s amazing,” the elder Viola says. “R.A. invited him to the games he pitched, invited him to his side sessions to watch; they planned on having Frankie tape a couple workouts and then sending it to New York and having R.A. look at it to critique it and get back to him. I mean he just shared his wealth with Frankie.”

Speaking of wealth, Dickey is in line to be rewarded with the first truly huge contract of his career. Last off-season, Dickey scaled Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for exploited women in Mumbai, then published his memoir. In it, he dwells on the interplay between his psyche and the knuckleball.

“Oftentimes the more cerebral you are about pitching, the more apt you are to make small changes that might take you out of where you really need to be,” he says. “So for me, there’s a fine balance between being self-aware and really believing in what you can produce on the field organically.”

So far, Dickey has produced back-to-back one-hitters, 10 straight wins, a 12-1 record and his first All-Star invite.

For opponents he’s produced befuddlement; for the Mets, he’s helped produce a winning record. And every fifth night he produces the only extant link in the chain of a confounding and fascinating pitch.

So, with all that? yeah, I’m looking forward to watching him pitch even if it is for the “opposing team”. At least he’s not a Yankee, right? ;)

National League

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American League
C. Gonzalez DH COL D. Jeter SS NYY
M. Cabrera CF SF R. Cano 2B NYY
R. Braun LF MIL J. Hamilton LF TEX
J. Votto 1B CIN J. Bautista RF TOR
C. Beltran RF STL P. Fielder 1B DET
B. Posey C SF A. Beltre 3B TEX
P. Sandoval 3B SF D. Ortiz DH BOS
D. Uggla 2B ATL M. Napoli C TEX
R. Furcal SS STL C. Granderson CF NYY
M. Cain SP SF J. Verlander SP DET

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

NL All-Stars

5

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

8

10

0

AL All-Stars

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

0

OUCH! That just SUCKED for the AL. I’m pretty sure that no one expected such a tough outing from Justin Verlander – including him – but yeah, that was most definitely not his best.

It was fun to get to watch RA finally come out for an inning. It wasn’t anything all that exciting but he did hit Konerko with a pitch which is kind of fun.. *grin*

I decided I was too tired to wait for who was finally decided upon for the MVP.. gotta admit, I didn’t really care all that much but it’s reportedly between Sandoval & Melky Cabrera.. whoever gets it, congrats.

Everyone Needs a Break

Considering the lack of any games of real importance going on in Major League Baseball at the moment, there sure seems to be a lot of “stuff” flying around the perimeter of the game, agitating the media which, in turn, agitates the masses (or is it the other way around? I’m honestly not sure).

I’ve tried to get fired up about some of it or at least interested enough to give a damn about any of it, but it’s just not happening. But I’ve been embarrassingly absent as a contributing member of this group of bloggers lately, so I’m determined to say SOMETHING about at least a few of the items that have passed for “news” in and around the Twins and the rest of MLB the past few days.

R.A. Dickey’s snub

Dickey deserved to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game. He knows it. So does Tony LaRussa. So does Buster Posey, the catcher that the voters erroneously voted to start behind the plate for the NL.  He deserves to start more than Matt Cain does. Even Matt Cain knows it and apparently said so out loud. In fact Dickey deserves to start more than Posey does, but that’s immaterial, I guess.

He’s not starting for one reason and one reason only. He throws an 80 mph knuckleball. Posey has seen it as a hitter, I would imagine, and since he’s apparently never caught even a 60 mph amateur version of a knuckleball, he’s none too anxious to learn how to catch Dickey’s for the first time in front of 40,000 fans and at least a handful of people who tune in to watch the ASG on TV.

As a former knuckleballer myself (though I doubt mine ever even reached the 60 mph level), I should be outraged at the injustice of this discrimination against Dickey. But I’m just not. Hopefully, he got to spend some time yesterday working in the bullpen with one of the NL’s catchers so neither party gets embarrassed out there when Dickey inevitably enters the game.

I’m really happy for the guy because he’s a great story, but I just can’t get worked up about the fact that he’s not starting the game.

Reggie’s dis of Bert, Puck and other Hall Members

I really stopped caring what Reggie Jackson said about anything the day he became a Yankee, but if there was one of these items that did get under my skin a bit, it was Jackson spouting off about how certain recent Hall of Famers didn’t deserve the honor of being enshrined in Cooperstown. The first Tweets I saw indicated he specifically referred to Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett. The next Tweet I saw pointed out that Reggie’s results when facing Bert in their careers were… well let’s just say that Reggie didn’t get to Cooperstown based on how he hit against Blyleven.

Bert Blyleven

Eventually I saw that Bert himself Tweeted that Jackson had called to apologize, relying on the old, “my comments were taken out of context,” line of BS. But whatever, at least the guy apologized. He apparently did likewise to others that he lumped in to the “unworthy” category. Again, however, I just couldn’t get too worked up over this. After all, as much as I loved both Puckett and Blyleven as players, I have to admit that their on-field HOF credentials were both marginal, so while Jackson should probably keep that kind of opinion to himself, he’s entitled to it and it’s not an altogether unreasonable opinion. I don’t think the BBWAA gets it right all the time, either, and I’m actually a “big Hall” guy.

I did care enough, however, to seek out the actual SI article that the quotes came from. I came away thinking that it’s really too bad he said the stuff he said about the HOF, because the rest of the article is very good. Ironically, the underlying theme of the article is how Reggie has changed and no longer prone to making outlandish comments and feeding an oversized ego.  Then he has to go and say that he’s going to get up in front of the HOF dinner next year and tell the other members that they all need to do something about keeping guys like Puckett, Blyleven, and others, out of their club in the future. It’s a shame.

Now we read that he’s been invited to stay away from Yankee Stadium for daring to say that A-Rod’s accomplishments are tainted because he admitted to using PEDs. Again, should he have given that quote, considering he’s still collecting a “special assistant” check from the Yankees? No. But he’s not exactly alone on an island with that opinion.

Anyway, it all just seems like more drama than it really should be.

Royals fans dis Cano

Speaking of things that are made bigger than they should be, apparently thin skinned Yankee fans took a major exception to the way the Kansas City crowd treated Robinson Cano during the Home Run Derby Monday night. Fans booed Cano loudly when he was introduced, mostly because after originally publicly stating that putting Royal Billy Butler on the Derby team would be the right thing to do, he changed his mind and didn’t select him after all. Of course, I think just the fact that he’s a Yankee makes him worthy of a pretty loud boo, but maybe Kansas Citians need more than that.

Anyway, not only did they boo him beforehand, but lustily cheered every “out” Cano made when the defending Derby champ came to the plate for his cuts in the first round. They got lots of opportunities to cheer, too, because Cano got completely shut out. No home runs in 10 cuts. With his dad pitching to him.

Anyway, Yankee fans apparently lit up Twitter with comments bashing KC fans’ treatment of Cano. I guess it’s easy to see why they’d be upset, though. After all Yankee fans are generally so well known for how politely they treat players of other teams, right? I guess the rest of us are all just supposed to acknowledge that anyone associated with the F’ing Yankees is entitled to be shown due respect.

Yeah, this is another not-so-big deal to me. Get over it and move on.

Prince Fielder wins the HR Derby

Yeah, I enjoyed watching the Derby. Prince Fielder can hit a baseball a LONG way. I also love the remodel job done on the stadium in Kansas City and it remains very high up on my list of favorite ballparks, so I enjoyed seeing it host the event. But neither the Derby nor the winner matter to me at all.

Mauer the lone Twins representative at the ASG

I’ve covered this before. Mauer deserves to be at the ASG, in fact the voters screwed up voting Ranger Mike Napoli as the starting catcher. I’d have liked to see Josh Willingham go, but there are just a lot of All Star worthy outfielders and very few catchers. And when you’re on a team that appears headed to its second consecutive 90+ loss season, you probably will just get one representative. Joe was the correct choice and anyone who doesn’t think so, while entitled to their opinion, is simply wrong.

By the way, Napoli is one of THREE former Cedar Rapids Kernels on the AL All Star Game roster. Napoli joins two other former Kernels (both now with the parent Angels) Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Trumbo represented well in the Derby Monday night and Trout is… well… if you don’t know who Mike Trout is, then you clearly care less about Major League Baseball than I care about the Home Run Derby.

Home Field Advantage

It’s been a decade now since the infamous tie game that led Bud Selig to decide that the ASG should matter more and declared that the winning league’s representative in the World Series would have home field advantage.

Bud Selig

I swear I have heard this thing bashed on every sports talk show for a week. I feel like I should care, but I don’t. It’s not a perfect solution to the trend of these games becoming poorly played and poorly managed exhibitions, but after the sham of a Pro-Bowl the NFL put on a few months ago, MLB needs to make sure the game counts for something if they want players to give any kind of effort whatsoever… or even bother to show up.

And at least it gives me another excuse to post my favorite Bud Selig picture of all time.

That’s it… enjoy the All Star Game if you care to watch it. If not, hold on tight and we’ll begin the second “half” of this exciting Minnesota Twins season in a few days!

-          JC

Twins All Stars – Today’s and Tomorrow’s

Apparently, when Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s name was announced as the team’s representative to the All Star game, the Twinsville Twitterverse lit up with tweets condemning his selection. I didn’t notice this so much, myself, which is perhaps a testament to the intelligence of both those who follow me on Twitter and those I personally follow.

Joe Mauer

From what others were writing, however, it seems that a significant segment of Twinsville does not believe Joe Mauer is All Star worthy and/or they believe Josh Willingham was more worthy. Whichever the reason, those fans are wrong, of course. Not only is Mauer worthy of being named to the team to represent the Twins, he should have been voted by fans to start the game over the Rangers’ Mike Napoli.

Napoli’s split line is .235/.335/.438 for an OPS of .773. Mauer’s is .324/.414/.445 which gets him an .859 OPS. Napoli does have 12 home runs, of course, but nobody with a lick of baseball sense would consider that stat alone to be enough to overcome 86 OPS points, especially given the difference in stadiums the two call home. No, there’s absolutely no rational reason for Napoli being the starting AL catcher over Mauer. The fans blew that one. Of course, you won’t hear the talking heads mentioning that because Napoli is playing for the two-time defending AL champion (and World Series loser) Texas Rangers.

I did see someone raise the “but he’s not a real catcher” argument yesterday, in regard to Mauer. Yes, he DHs and plays some first base. But guess what, so does Napoli, who’s played more than 20 games at 1B himself this season. Smart managers (and even not-so-smart ones like Gardy and Ron Washington) find a way to give their catchers… especially those that hit like Mauer and Napoli… some time off from duty behind the plate in order to keep them healthy.

Josh Willingham

I would have liked to see Josh Willingham get his first All Star selection. Maybe if one of the AL All Star outfielders can’t participate, he could still get selected, but it’s not likely. Willingham’s year is All Star worthy, but every year there are All Star worthy players who don’t get selected and they’re usually from teams that have lost more games than they’ve won. Just as every year there are players named to the All Star team who are less worthy than others and they’re usually from the team managed by the guy managing the All Star team. This year is no exception. Ron Washington had seven “managers choice” slots to fill. Four of those selections had to come from teams that had no representative voted in. The other three selections were all members of his Rangers team. To the victor goes the spoils, I guess.

Willingham isn’t on the All Star team for three reasons: (1) He plays a position that requires him to compete with a lot of All Star worthy players; (2) He plays on a bad baseball team in a mid-level market; and (3) He is not the best player on his team.

I’d actually boil that down to one big reason he isn’t on the All Star team: The Twins starting pitching has flat out sucked for most of the season. If the Twins had better pitching, their offense is good enough to  have them in contention and they wouldn’t be relegated to the “must have a representative” class of teams. He would be getting the recognition he deserves as one of the top Free Agent pick-ups off the past offseason and his name would be getting mentioned as one of the best hitting outfielders in the league.

So, those of you who want to complain about Josh Willingham not being selected to the All Star team, lay off of Joe Mauer. It isn’t his fault. Blame Ron Washington, if you like, but he’s just doing what managers do every year… reward the guys in his own clubhouse. If MLB didn’t want managers to do that, they can stop it easily by simply taking the manager’s choices away. The real blame for Willingham’s “snub”, if you feel he was snubbed, gets laid at the feet of Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, Liam Hendriks, et al.

Speaking of All Star snubs, I can’t help but wonder why nobody is up in arms over Trevor Plouffe not being selected. He arrived on the scene in Minnesota about the same time phenom Mike Trout arrived in Disneyland and their stats since arriving are similar (though Trout is admittedly the far superior defender). If Ron Washington is really serious about setting his Rangers team up with home field advantage in the World Series this time, you would think giving some consideration to arguably the hottest player in the league for the month of June might have been in order.

Trevor Plouffe

It’s hard to argue that Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera, the two third basemen on the AL roster, don’t belong. They certainly do. But if I were the AL manager, having a late inning option as a pinch hitter and a guy who could play pretty much any position on the field other than pitcher and catcher (though, admittedly, none of them particularly well) would be an option I might consider valuable.

I’m certainly not arguing that Plouffe SHOULD have been selected over anyone who was so honored, but just pointing out that Willingham isn’t the only Twins player that the team’s crappy overall performance may have cost an All Star spot.

Speaking of Plouffe, I know we’re all waiting for his bubble to pop because there’s no way he keeps up the level of offensive productivity he’s shown in June (and the first day of July), but he’s riding just about the hottest offensive streak I’ve seen in a long time. There’s understandably a lot of attention paid to uber-prospect Miguel Sano down in Class A Beloit, but isn’t Plouffe pretty much putting up the kind of numbers that most of us dare to even hope Sano will put up some day? Over the last four weeks, his split line is .311/.376/.744 for a 1.121 OPS. Yes, small sample size warning is applicable, since that covers only 24 games, but still… that’s one heck of a four weeks!

Plouffe was the Twins’ first round draft pick in 2004 and it seems like we’ve been waiting around forever for his productivity to reach his potential. His stats over the course of parts of eight seasons spent in the Twins’ minor league system were unremarkable, if not downright disappointing, for a first round pick (.258/.320/.406 .726OPS). That said, he put up a 1.019 OPS in 51 games at Rochester last season, so his current hot streak is not completely out of nowhere, either.

Miguel Sano

Sure, his defense still needs work, but trust me when I tell you that, by comparison, Miguel Sano makes Plouffe look like Brooks Robinson at third base. Most people still believe Sano will eventually need to be moved to a less challenging position, though the organization is still holding out hope that he can learn to play a passable third base. Plouffe, on the other hand, didn’t really even start to learn the position until he was thrown in there at the Major League level earlier this season.

And here’s the best part… Trevor Plouffe JUST turned 26 years old a couple of weeks ago. Pitchers around the league won’t allow Plouffe to put up numbers at his recent levels forever, but while he’s hot, he’s certainly got the potential to be one of the few interesting stories to follow through the remainder of this disappointing Twins season. And if he keeps improving year-to-year, by the time Miguel Sano arrives in Minnesota, it won’t matter whether Sano can play 3B, because that position will be claimed for the foreseeable future by Trevor Plouffe.

- JC

GameChat – Brewers @ Twins #3 1:10 pm

The Twins need a win today to salvage a season split with their boarder buddies, the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Twins will have their work cut out for them this afternoon facing Milwaukee’s ace, Zack Greinke.  To make matters worse, if the Twins do manage to scrape out a couple of runs against Greinke, Minnesota will have to rely on a struggling Nick Blackburn to keep them in the game.  In his last two starts opponents have hit Blackburn to a line of .310/.370/.452 (BA/OBP/SLG), turning every hitter into the 2012 version of Angel Pagan.  And his line is even worse against current Brewers.  Tough to win ball games like that.

Matt Capps is out with a sore shoulder until at least Tuesday, but both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are in the lineup today for a very “unSunday Lineup” Sunday Lineup.

Here is the rest:

Milwaukee Brewers

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Minnesota Twins
Aoki, RF Span, CF
Morgan, CF Revere, RF
Braun, LF Mauer, C
Ramirez, Ar, DH Willingham, LF
Hart, C, 1B Morneau, 1B
Green, T, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Weeks, 2B Doumit, DH
Ransom, SS Dozier, SS
Maldonado, C Carroll, 2B
_Greinke, P _Blackburn, P

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 R H E
Milwaukee 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 15 1
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 20 2

15 innings take a LONG time to play, 4 hours and 50 minutes with a rain delay thrown in for fun.

Nick Blackburn went just 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, all earned while throwing 101 pitches.    The Twins we down 4-1 heading into the bottom of the 7th and erupted for 3 runs to tie the game at 4.  That’s the way the score remained for 8 more innings before a Denard Span RBI single in the bottom of the 15th scored Brian Dozier from 3B.

For 9 innings of scoreless work, the Minnesota Twins bullpen (Nearly ALL of them, Burnett, Burton, Perkins, Duensing, Gray and Swarzak) falls just short of Father’s Day BOD honors.  As a consolation prize, LeCroy24Fan has agreed to mail them $300 to share. Enjoy it.

His 4/8 performance, with a double and game winning RBI earn Denard Span the coveted BOD.

Denard Span thanking fans for the Father’s Day BOD.

The Twins are off tomorrow to rest their bullpen, and start a 6 game Inter-League road trip against the Pirates on Tuesday night.  Remember, no DH in games played in NL parks,  so if Mauer’s leg is still a little beat up he’ll likely get a couple extra days rest and his bat will be out of the lineup all together.

GameChat – Twins @ Indians #2, 6:10 pm

Let’s see of PJ Walters can keep up the good work he’s been doing since arriving in Minnesota. The Twins are going to need all the pitching help they can get, as it appears that Carl Pavano could be headed to a stay on the Disabled List.

TWINS

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INDIANS
Span, CF Choo, RF
Revere, RF Kipnis, 2B
Mauer, C Cabrera, A, SS
Willingham, LF Lopez, Jo, DH
Morneau, 1B Brantley, CF
Doumit, DH Kotchman, 1B
Dozier, SS Damon, LF
Plouffe, 3B Chisenhall, 3B
Carroll, 2B Marson, C
  _Walters, P   _Tomlin, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 7 12 0
Cleveland 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 9 0

Whew. The Twins finally get a win this season over the Tribe. Scoring four runs in the first inning was a great start, but PJ Walters couldn’t hold that lead and it was all tied up after five innings. Fortunately, the Twins weren’t done scoring, while their bullpen successfully shut out Cleveland over the final four innings.

The BOD award came down to a split vote, so tonight we have three winners sharing the award. Brian Duensing relieved Walters with two out in the fifth and kept the inherited baserunners from crossing the plate and went on to pitch 2 perfect innings. On the offensive side, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer not only both homered, but also each drove in three of the Twins’ 7 runs. For their efforts, Brian, Trevor and Joe are our Boyfriends of the Day.

Brain Duensing

Joe Mauer

Trevor Plouffe

 

Stop With the Premature Trade Talk Already

I know Twins fans aren’t quite accustomed to dealing with having their team be uncompetitive right out of the gate, but that’s no excuse for being rediculously stupid.

It seems like some folks just don’t know how to enjoy the rare good performance when they see one. No, it has to be immediately followed by, “Let’s trade him!”

Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau’s wrist is feeling good and he’s hitting the ball well! Let’s trade him NOW!

Ryan Doumit’s had some clutch hits! He should be traded while he’s hot!

Denard Span is getting on base and playing a decent center field! Trade him for a boatload of pitchers, right now!

Josh Willingham hit a walkoff home run! It’s time to trade him, NOW!

Listen carefully, please… May 30 is never “the time” for a non-contending team to trade productive veteran players for prospects. Why? Because Major League GMs are not idiots… in May. They aren’t going to see one home run in May and think, “Wow. I want that guy and I’ll trade away my best pitching prospect to get him!”  At least not for another several weeks.

Ryan Doumit

Should Twins General Manager Terry Ryan be listening to offers for most of his productive veterans? Absolutely. There’s nobody on this roster that should be “off limits” right now. Some of the contracts may make certain players (that would be you, Mr. Mauer) untradeable for all practical purposes, but that doesn’t mean Ryan shouldn’t listen if a fellow GM thinks he has an idea that would work.

But May 30 is for listening… for determining which teams might have interest in certain players… but not for trading.

Frankly, nobody is desperate (read: stupid) enough to give enough in return, yet.

The Red Sox, Tigers and Angels are off to slow starts, but they are far from being desperate… yet. The Indians and Orioles, although finding themselves in better positions than they perhaps expected heading in to the season, still have some holes to fill. But they are far from desperate… yet.

It’s desperation that makes for unequal trades and we all know that fans… Twins fans in particular, it seems… tend to overvalue their players and thus expect more for them in return for a trade than other teams are likely to be willing to give up. There is simply no trade Ryan could make on May 30 that would make anyone in Twinsville happy, unless it happened to involve a player that a particular fan has some screwy personal grudge against.

First, you have to at least get past the upcoming draft. Until then, neither the Twins nor potential trading partners know for sure what their respective organizatinal needs are, nor where they have sufficient depth to afford the luxury of trading away a decent prospect or two.

Perhaps more than any other professional draft, the MLB draft is a crapshoot. Players can’t be counted on to make an immediate impact at the Major League level and, in fact, they can’t really be counted on to ever play Big League ball. So, despite all the fan chatter about how teams need to draft pitching or power hitting or speed because of the perception that the organization’s current MLB roster is short on that particular talent, teams almost always draft what they believe is the “best player available” when their turn comes around. You simply don’t know with any level of certainty what your organization’s needs will be by the time a particular kid is ready to play Big League baseball.

As a result, it’s only after the draft is over that you can judge with any precision what kind of talents you should be targeting in the trade market… and it’s only after the draft is over that you or potential trade partners can accurately judge which talents they may have a surplus of and can thus afford to send off in a trade.

That’s when phone lines between GMs start to warm up.

Denard Span

Even then, real interest doesn’t often reveal itself until July rolls around and desperation doesn’t kick in until later that month. That’s when teams convince themselves that they need a toolsy lead-off hitting center fielder or a versatile switch-hitting back up catcher with a little pop, especially if they’ve got team-friendly contracts.

For guys with big contracts, the “time” to trade them might not come around until August, after the non-waiver deadline passes. That’s when desperation really sets in and teams become willing to take on big contracts and overpay in prospects, if they think the guy could help them bring home some sort of championship this year.

I think we all understand the reality of 2012. Every GM in baseball will have Terry Ryan on speed dial and Ryan is going to make some deals. I don’t especially like that, but it’s the reality that comes with being an underperforming last place team. But that doesn’t mean I want him giving away every veteran on the ballclub without getting guys who are pretty damn close to being Major League ready in return.

Some people may be willing and even eager to ship current players off for a couple of “organization players” who will never be more than roster fillers for Rochester or New Britain (or whoever next year’s AAA and AA Twins affiliates are). I am not one of those people.

I want… I expect… to see a much better product on the field next season and if Ryan can’t get players in trade that should be expected to contribute to this team being more competitive in 2013, then I’d just as soon see the Spans, Doumits, Morneaus and Willinghams still wearing Twins uniforms next year.

And nobody is offering that level of talent, especially the potential top of the rotation pitching talent the team desperately needs most, on May 30.

So how about we just stop with the, “Twins need to trade so-and-so right now,” crap? No, they don’t.

- JC

(All photos: Jim Crikket, Knuckleballs)

GameChat – Oakland Athletics @ Minnesota Twins 1:10pm

Happy Memorial Day, Twins fans.

For me, Memorial Day weekend was always a time when our family went on a camping trip.  In the last three years I have been camping about 15 times.  Mostly overnight trips, but a few week long adventures in the boundary waters.  I just love camping.  Something about spending time in the woods, sleeping in a tent and cooking food with a fire that really excites me.  But here’s the thing, those last 15 times I have been camping, it has rained EVERY TIME.  Not just passing showers or an occasional drizzle.  I’m talking about wind and thunder and lightening and everything.  I tell people that if they need rain all they have to do is invite me on a camping trip.  And that has me thinking about the Twins.

Despite the Twins’ tough early schedule it seemed like the Twins were catching a lot of teams while they were down.  Twins played the Red Sox and Yankees and Angels and the Tigers this season and each team was struggling to string together stretches of good solid baseball.  Enter the Twins.  It seems like every time one of the Twins’ opponents really needs to turn things around the Twins are more than happy to do it.  So MLB owners, if your team is struggling, all you have to do is invite the Twins to town.

Oakland was 22-21 before their current 5 game losing streak, perfect time for them to visit Minnesota…

Here are the line ups for the Twins and Athletics:

Oakland Athletics

@

Minnesota Twins
Weeks, 2B Span, CF
Crisp, CF Mastroianni, RF
Reddick, RF Mauer, C
Gomes, J, DH Willingham, LF
Inge, 3B Morneau, 1B
Suzuki, K, C Doumit, DH
Ka’aihue, 1B Dozier, SS
Cowgill, LF Plouffe, 3B
Rosales, SS Casilla, A, 2B
_Blackley, T, P _Diamond, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oakland 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 4 10 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 2 x 5 6 2

How about that, a Twins win!  What a great birthday present for our very own CapitalBabs!  Happy birthday, Babs, hope you enjoyed that one as much as the rest of us.

Serious Boyfriend of the Day material! (Photo: Craig Lassig/AP)

Scott Diamnd pitched pretty well through the first 6 innings before running into trouble in the 7th and being lifted after just one out.  The bullpen gave up a run in the 8th but the Twins battled back with two runs in the bottom of the 8th thanks to a Justin Morneau double that scored Joe Mauer and a sac fly from Ryan Doumit to score Josh Willingham.

For his RBI double Morneau is today’s BOD.  What a swell guy.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Detroit Tigers @ Minnesota Twins #3 1:10pm

 

The Twins need a win this afternoon to avoid being swept at home by the Detroit Tigers.  Minnesota will send P.J. Walters (2.95 ERA) to the hill to face off against Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the suddenly smashing Detroit lineup.  The Tigers counter with Rick Porcello (5.29 ERA) who has managed to completely baffle both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau throughout their careers.  Mauer and Morneau COMBINED are hitting just 7/37.  The good news is that 5 of those 7 hits are for extra bases, so if they can get wood on the ball, they should be in good shape.

Tough to know for sure which version of the Twins we will see today.  They were playing solid fundamental baseball for about 10 days, and then the wheels fell off in Chicago and they have not been the same since.  Baseball is fun to watch when it is plated the right way, and it is agonizing when done poorly.

Ron Gardenhire mentioned on 1500ESPN this morning that the Twins would be bringing up another pitcher after this series.  They’re looking for another relief arm to replace Francisco Liriano‘s spot in the bullpen.  Shortly thereafter the Twins tweeted that they’ll be calling up Jeff Manship to replace Erik Komatsu who has been DFA’d for release or assignment.  This is an interesting move for the Twins as Komatsu (claimed off waivers from St. Louis) was the Cardinal’s Rule 5 Draft Selection from the Nationals so if no other team puts in a claim on him he’ll either need to be returned to Washington or the Twins will need to work out a trade to keep him in their system.

Here are the lineups:

Detroit Tigers

@

Minnesota Twins
Berry, CF Span, CF
Dirks, LF Revere, RF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, C
Fielder, 1B Willingham, LF
Boesch, DH Morneau, 1B
Avila, C Doumit, DH
Peralta, Jh, SS Plouffe, 3B
Kelly, RF Casilla, A, 2B
Raburn, 2B Carroll, SS
_Porcello, P _Walters, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 12 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 12 0

 

And just like that, Detroit sweeps Minnesota.

The Twins took a lead into the top of the 9th inning and then Miguel Cabrera took a hanging Matt Capps breaking ball to deep center field to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.  The top of the Twins order couldn’t scrape a run together in the bottom of the 9th and that was the ballgame.

Despite the loss the Twins again received a quality start from P.J. Walters, giving the Twins 6 innings and giving up just 2 runs (both in the first inning).  Alexi Casilla had a nice game for the Twins as well, going 3 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base and an RBI.

Have a happy Memorial Day tomorrow, everyone.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #1, 9:10pm

And we’re back.

Two days ago the Minnesota Twins were no-hit by Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels.  Yesterday, presumably, the Twins licked their wounds and prepared for a three game set in Seattle.

Part of that preparation involved designating Major League Strike-Out King Clete Thomas for assignment to make room for Erik Komatsu, claimed off waivers from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  Komatsu is a typical lead-off type hitter, reaches base at a solid clip but has never really hit for power.  The move is yet another piece of evidence that the Twins think Ben Revere needs more “seasoning” in the Minor Leagues and an opportunity to play everyday.  Sean Burroughs, who was designated for assignment this past Tuesday to make room for Drew Butera, has cleared waivers and will join the AAA Rochester Red Wings.

Don’t forget: Ron Gardenhire is taking the weekend off and Scott Ullger is serving as the acting manager.

Here are the lineups:

 Minnesota Twins

@

Seattle Mariners
 Span, CF  Ackley, 2B
 Carroll, SS  Liddi, 3B
 Mauer, DH  Suzuki, I, RF
 Willingham, LF  Montero, C
 Doumit, RF  Seager, DH
 Valencia, 3B  Smoak, 1B
 Parmelee, 1B  Carp, LF
 Casilla, A, 2B  Saunders, M, CF
 Butera, C  Ryan, SS
  _Pavano, P   _Vargas, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

 Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

3

5

0

Seattle

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

2

8

1

 

Carl Pavano pitched 6 effective innings giving up just two runs before turning the game over to the bullpen.  In the top of the 7th the Twins took advantage of a Mariners error and a Joe Mauer infield single to score 3 runs.  The bullpen pitched 3 scoreless innings, striking out 5 batters and the Twins hang on to win.

Photo Credit: CapitalBabs

Boyfriend of the Day:

Brian Duensing gets some baked goods for holding the lead in the bottom of the 7th but the real hero of the day is Jamey Carroll.  Not only did he break the Twins’ hitless streak in the top of the first inning, he finished the day 2-4, with a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI.

 

Two Weeks In: Who Is This Team?

I swear if there’s one thing I’ve grown more tired of than people using small sample sizes to “prove” how good or bad a player is, at this still-early point in the season, it’s people who do so while even admitting that they’re using small sample sizes. Let’s be brutally honest here, statheads, stats over a single two week period, even if it’s the first two weeks of the season, are almost completely worthless.

That’s one reason that, despite the disadvantage I have of living in blacked out Iowa, I’ve made considerable efforts to hang out in the local Cedar Rapids sports bars as often as possible this month. This allows me to actually watch the Twins, rather than just look at the box scores, to judge who’s doing well and who isn’t. Naturally, it also gives me the opportunity to purchase overpriced beer and fried food, but that’s just a sacrifice I’m willing to make for my team and our readers.

One thing about having a blog like this is that you eventually feel compelled to write something, even if almost everything you have to say has most likely been expressed elsewhere. With that said, here’s what I think about what I’ve seen of the 2012 Minnesota Twins:

I don’t know what to think.

Are they the team that might just as well have been using toothpicks for bats in their opening series sweep at the hands of the mighty Baltimore Orioles? (That’s the American League East Division LEADING Baltimore Orioles to you, Mack!) Or are they the team that took two of three games from Albert Pujols’ Angels? Or the one that got swept by Joe Nathan’s new buddies from Texas? Or the guys that have taken two out of the first three games from the Evil Empire in Yankee Stadium, no less?

It’s probably just stating the obvious, but since that’s one of the things I do best, here’s a rundown of a few things we probably have found out about this season’s edition of the Twins:

Spring Training numbers mean zip, zilch, nada, not a friggin’ thing.

  • Remember all those good vibrations we were getting in March from Francisco Liriano? Three starts in to the season and he’s the same head case he was last year. Maybe he’ll turn things around yet, but man has he looked bad after being pretty much unhittable in Ft. Myers.

    Luke Hughes, we hardly knew ye

  • For the second season in a row, Luke Hughes put up very impressive numbers in Spring Training. The same Luke Hughes who’s now been Designated for Assignment because the team needed his roster spot for Jason Marquis on Wednesday and Hughes is out of options. I suppose he COULD pass through waivers, but expectations are that some team will claim him and he’ll get a chance to join another organization’s Big League roster. Best of luck to Luke (unless he ends up with the F’ing Yankees or White Sox, of course).
  • There was a lot of hand-wringing in Spring Training over Justin Morneau with many people pretty much writing off his career. He’s attacking the ball at the plate with an intensity we haven’t seen since before his head came in to contact with a Blue Jay knee at second base almost two years ago. Three home runs in the two games he’s played at Yankee Stadium so far this week isn’t too shabby.

Josh Willingham can hit baseballs really, really well. Yes, defensively, balls hit in his direction can turn in to an adventure, but this is a fan base that’s been watching Delmon Young in LF for a couple of years… we can deal with Willingham. Especially if he keeps hitting the ball consistently. You can’t get much more consistent than starting the season with a 12 game hitting streak.

Reports of the demise of Joe Mauer and Denard Span were a tad premature. Both are still really good at baseball. Mauer still hits in to too many 4-6-3 double plays, but as is the case with Morneau, we’re seeing a version of Mauer we haven’t seen on the field in far too long. Span looks poised to reclaim his spot atop the rankings of AL lead-off center fielders.

Jamey Carroll is pretty much exactly what we thought he was… a solid shortstop that will field the balls hit near him and make good throws to first base. If the position hadn’t been such a disaster last year, that might not be big news, but I enjoy not having to hold my breath every time a ground ball gets hit that direction.

Alexi Casilla is really bad… or really good… face it, none of us have figured that out for sure ever since the Twins got him in return for JC Romero. We still don’t know, but I like the Lexi that’s been playing in Yankee Stadium this week.

The bullpen hasn’t sucked. Again, faint praise, perhaps. But given the angst most of us felt about the situation and the fact that a couple of guys that were counted on to fortify the pen have either been injured or pushed to the rotation, things could be much worse out there. I’m a bit nervous about Glen Perkins, though.

So with all of this stuff going well, why the hell have the Twins lost twice as many games as they’ve won?

The answer, of course, is a familiar one. This team has a rotation that simply is not very good and the pitchers are being backed up by a defense that’s not much better. I don’t need two weeks worth of statistics to tell me that’s a dangerous combination.

Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak have looked marginally promising. Carl Pavano looks to be what we all know he is… a marginal, but gutsy, innings-eater. Maybe Jason Marquis will be something similar. Nick Blackburn hasn’t been awful, but his ceiling isn’t terribly high, not to mention this “mystery shoulder tightness” thing he came down with this week.

The bottom line is that we still really don’t know what to expect from this team after two weeks. The rest of April will continue to be a challenge, due to the brutal scheduling this month and the iffy pitching situation, but there’s nothing like a couple of wins against the F’ing Yankees at their place to raise spirits a bit. Win another game to claim the series tonight and I may not be able to contain my giddiness!

- JC