GameChat – Twins @ Indians #3, 12:05 pm, WFTC29 & am1500

WOW do I wish I had been able to catch some of last night’s game!!!  I LOVE a good pitchers’ duel!!!  Blackburn is giving me the shivers again and I love it.  Looking now at the end of the regular season, we have 6 starting pitchers to rotate through – given our history with injury, that sounds just about perfect.  I am looking for the next step in Slowey’s progress today.  For all that it wasn’t the outting anyone wanted last time, it wasn’t actually a BAD outting.  I am looking for continued improvement today.  I’m sure he is too.  Good luck, Kevin!

Minnesota @ Cleveland
Span, CF   Brantley, CF
Hudson, O, 2B   Cabrera, A, SS
Mauer, C   Choo, RF
Kubel, RF   Hafner, DH
Cuddyer, 1B   Nix, J, 3B
Thome, DH   Brown, J, LF
Young, D, LF   LaPorta, 1B
Valencia, 3B   Valbuena, 2B
Casilla, A, SS   Gimenez, C
  Slowey, P     Talbot, P

 

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

 

Well that was a lot less drama than the 12 inning marathon last night.  LOL Not that that is a bad thing but it was good to start definitively and just keep it that way.  Mitch Talbot really had a problem in the first inning – I’ll give him credit for trying to keep at it anyway.  There was a meeting on the mound after the first batter and he said, no, let me see if I can get loosened up – but no, the Twins quite obviously took advantage of the fact that his pitches were NOT where they were supposed to be.  And Masterson just didn’t quite seem ready when he came in to replace Talbot.  He got it figured out for the innings that followed but his defense also couldn’t figure out how to play clean baseball.  I’ll never forget seeing Thome waved home from second on a Valencia single - his face said, “really!??!” but he made it.

But the Twins didn’t slouch or play down to the Indians today.  There was some REALLY nice fielding and Kevin DID continue his progression.  He’s obviously still working to get back to free & easy on his delivery and not there yet.  He was on a pitch count so he only pitched through the 5th inning.  However, the outting was solid and he got himself out a jam in the 2nd inning with only 2 runs and managed to keep it pretty good from there.  Perkins had two great innings relieving him and in general the bullpen kept a lid on everything.  So the whole pitching staff get’s all-you-can-eat peanuts on the plane ride home.

I’m choosing to award special treats to Delmon Young and Alexi Casilla for some BEAUTIFUL throws for outs that just made me happy so they both get ice cream bars – just to encourage them to keep up good fielding.  We’ll call that positive reinforcement.  ;)

And the BOD for today is awarded to Michael Cuddyer!  For the record, he was not only a leader in hitting and RBI today but he’s been a real workhorse for this team since Morneau went down.  All the announcers seem to remind everyone of how many days straight he’s played since then with no time off but I think it goes beyond the physical effort of playing every day.  The mental effort of being prepared for anything and still telling your manager and your entire team, “I’m here guys, let’s play” is just not something that should go unnoticed.  So congratulations, Cuddy, you are today’s BOD!

Boyfriend of the Month for August: Dead Heat at the Wire

The folks who have gathered in our GameChats handed out 22 Boyfriend of the Day (BOD) awards in August (a few more than the actual number of Twins wins because we had some co-BOD games mixed in there). Heading in to the final game of the month, there were no fewer than eight players tied for the lead in the Boyfriend of the Month battle. That’s a far cry from the month of July when Delmon Young had his monster month and walked away with BOM honors.

But before we get to this month’s BOM award, let’s take a glance at where the race for Knuckleballs’ Boyfriend of the Year stands heading in to September. This race is all but over, folks. It will take someone getting awfully hot down the stretch to overtake DY’s lead in the BOY race, given that he holds a 12 to 7 lead over Francisco Liriano on the year. Frankie’s grip on “runner up” honors is much more tenuous, however. Fellow rotation members, Kevin Slowey and Carl Pavano have racked up 6 BODs each, while the group of Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Danny Valencia all are still within reach of Liriano with 5 BODs a piece.

Turning back to Boyfriend of the Month… as it turns out, it was very appropriate that Valencia and Michael Cuddyer wrapped up the month of August with co-BOD performances against the Tigers on Tuesday night. Heading in to that final game, those two guys joined Mauer, Liriano, Slowey, Jim Thome, Scott Baker and Brian Duensing with two BOD awards during the month, making August by far the month with the largest number of players earning multiple awards.

But with their efforts on Tuesday, Michael and Danny did just enough to separate themselves from the pack and earn co-Boyfriend of the Month awards for August! – JC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. A huge thank you to Joe Christensen at the Star Tribune for sending out via text message (and his blog) a link to this column by Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin. It’s a terrific read for anyone who saw games at the Met, the Dome and Target Field (and a pretty darn good read even for those who didn’t). If you only have time to read one more article online today, make it that one. – JC

GameChat: Tigers @ Twins, 7:10 pm

While the entire baseball universe has their attention focused on “the Jake” in Cleveland tonight to await the appearance of the White Sox’ latest savior, Manny Ramirez, the Twins just need to focus on taking care of business against the Tigers. The media can focus all they want on whether ManRam will cut his dreds to conform the the “appearance” standards of the Bitch Sox top Bitch, Jerry Reinsdorf… the Twins should just go about the business of winning the Division.

That said, I do find it somewhat amusing that the Sox are paying Manny over $122,000 per game and he’s spending the first one on the bench.

So tonight, DY gets a partial day “off” as he DH’s and Repko gets a turn in left field. Let’s hope Brian Duensing keeps up the splendid work he’s been doing lately! Go Twins! – JC

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TIGERS @ TWINS
Jackson, A, CF   Span, CF
Rhymes, 2B   Hudson, O, 2B
Raburn, LF   Mauer, C
Cabrera, M, 1B   Kubel, RF
Peralta, J, SS   Cuddyer, 1B
Inge, 3B   Young, D, DH
Damon, DH   Valencia, 3B
Wells, C, RF   Repko, LF
Avila, C   Hardy, SS
Galarraga, P   Duensing, P

 

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

 

The guys certainly have developed a bit of a flair for the dramatic!

Have to give Brian Duensing a LOT of credit for overcoming some pretty poor defensive play behind him the first couple of innings that resulted in 3 unearned Tiger runs. After that, he shut the kitties down. A giant DQ Blizzard of the flavor of his choice is Brian’s reward.

Meanwhile, after sleepwalking through the first five innings, the offense finally woke up and swung the bats. Danny Valencia went 3/4 with a big RBI and two doubles. Michael Cuddyer came through with some big 2-out ribbies. And for finally figuring out how to exorcise the assbats, Danny and Michael have been voted our co-Boyfriends of the Day!

Pitching and Defense (and Reincarnation)

Nick Blackburn

I read a few articles and posts on Tuesday about Nick Blackburn (“is he back?”, etc.). You can’t draw conclusions based on one start, but given how anemic the offense was and how the defense failed time after time to come up with a big play (or even a few routine plays) Monday night, there’s no doubt Blackburn deserved better results than he got. When you get 7 good innings out of him, you need to capitalize on that opportunity. The Twins failed to do so Monday night.

Then, apparently just to prove that failure wasn’t a fluke, the Twins turned around and wasted a nice complete game by iron man Carl Pavano on Tuesday night, too. True, the offense at least got on the board last night and yes, you can argue that an umpire call here or there might have erroneously gone against the Twins. Still, the fact remains that the Twins blew several scoring opportunities and, once again, allowed the Rangers to score runs they didn’t earn due to not making defensive plays that should have been made, particularly in the fourth inning. (In fairness, there were also a couple of pretty nice defensive plays made last night, as well.)

The Twins, as an organization, have clearly made a decision that they are willing to live with more limited defensive abilities in the corner outfield positions (Young, Kubel and Cuddyer will never impress anyone with their range or glovework in the OF). That’s fine, I suppose, but it means they really need a CF with exceptional range and ability. The organization may have expected Denard Span to provide that exceptional range and ability, but he simply has not done so on a consistent basis this season.

Having weak OF defense in the corners AND a mediocre CF will result in a lot of batted balls falling for hits that should be finding gloves. A good Major League CF makes the catch at the low wall Monday night and Denard simply misjudged where the ball was coming down. Would it have been a good play to make that catch? Yes. Is it reasonable for a Major League team to expect its CF to make that play? I believe so. I won’t even waste words on the ball that fell between Kubel and Span last night.

Of course, it wasn’t just outfield play that let Blackburn down Monday night.

Whether it was Hudson’s decision to play shallow RF against Hamilton or a failure by the coaching staff to position him correctly is a fair question to ask, but Hamilton had no business reaching first base on his “infield hit”. Likewise, sure the runner was going on the pitch and bearing down on JJ Hardy as he tried to turn the double play in the fifth inning and you’d like to think the guy you’ve got over at 1B will scoop up most throws that land 5 feet in front of him and bounce up, but it’s hard not to think that Hardy’s sore wrist affected that throw and ended up costing a run.

JJ Hardy is a very good shortstop and he may potentially be the best #9 hitter in baseball, but if his wrist is that sore, Alexi Casilla should be playing SS until Hardy is healthy. The difference between the two of them simply is not so great as to warrant having a Hardy who’s playing at less than 100% in the line up every day. (Oh, and by the way, if Hardy’s wrist is so bad that Gardy had to send Matt Tolbert up to hit trailing by one run with two out in the ninth inning last night, then Hardy should be DL’d to make room for someone who can provide a better bat than Tolbert off the bench.)

All of this, together, has me wondering a bit about how fair it is for so many people to be criticizing the Twins pitching to the degree that’s been going on this summer. I’m sure there are sabremetricians who would be happy to debate various player’s talents with me, but I’ve watched almost every game the Twins have played this season and based purely upon those observations, here’s what I’ve seen in this team’s defense:

Catcher: Several weeks of Joe Mauer with shoulder/toe/whatever problems that clearly affected his ability to throw out runners and even get down and block relatively routine pitches in the dirt.

1B: Nearly two months now of missing Justin Morneau. Cuddyer has filled in admirably, but he’s just passable defensively.

2B: This position may have been the best, most consistently manned, position as Hudson and Casilla have, together, played a pretty good 2B.

SS: Hardy gets to a lot of balls other shortstops don’t but he’s missed a ton of playing time and when he has tried to play with his wrist injury, his throws have been less than perfect. Combine that with having a backup at 1B and you get a few more baserunners than you should.

3B: Once we got past the early-season games that had Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris and Michael Cuddyer at the corner, this has been a pretty well-fielded position. I’m not yet convinced Danny Valencia’s defense is as good as his metrics so far have said he is (I don’t think he charges bunts particularly well and while he has a very strong arm, he seems to have trouble getting the ball out of his glove and getting a throw off at times), but he’s certainly been better than advertised at this point and Nick Punto has fielded the position well, also.

LF: Delmon Young is lighter and he moves better than he did last year, but nobody is going to mistake him for a “good” outfielder.

CF: Denard Span has been average, at best.

RF: Whether it’s Cuddyer or Kubel, you aren’t getting good range in RF and while it was possible for a guy to cover up other deficiencies by figuring out how to play the baggie at the Dome, I’m not sure it’s even possible for anyone to do that at Target Field with all of the various types of building materials that make up the RF wall.

I guess my point is that all things considered, it’s probably not all that surprising that opponents are getting on base and scoring at a higher rate against the Twins this season than we’d like to see and I don’t think you can lay all of that at the feet of the pitching staff. The powers-that-be decided the Twins were going to build a stronger offense in 2010 and that came with a price on the defensive side. Unless you suddenly build a pitching staff full of power pitching strikeout artists, you shouldn’t expect your pitchers to put up numbers comparable to years when you focused on putting a strong defense behind them.

Justin Morneau

Of course, perhaps this is all just a very long-winded way of saying that while this patchwork defense is good enough to beat the Orioles, Royals and White Sox, if the Twins are serious about competing with the Rangers (and the Yankees and the Rays), they are going to need #33.

Finally, one more thought this morning…

My beliefs concerning the afterlife do not include putting any stock in reincarnation. As much fun as I might think it would be to perpetually come back around as one of any number of noble species, I just can’t buy in to the belief that we get to keep coming back to the world again and again. That said… on the off chance that I’m wrong about all this, I just want to submit a request that at some point I get to return to this earth as a pigeon. I’ve already got this 7 foot tall hunk of bronze in Milwaukee picked out to rest upon after meals.

Kirby Kestrel

On the other hand, coming back as a kestrel wouldn’t be such a bad deal either. At least you wouldn’t be concerned about rising season ticket prices. - JC

Game Chat – Angels @ Twins #3, 7:10 pm on ESPN

It’s time for Scott Baker to step up in tonight’s showdown with Jared Weaver and the Angels. The Bitch Sox fell today in another extra inning game to the Royals (how many teams do you suppose have ever played 31 innings of baseball, covering three games, in something like 22 hours?), so here’s a chance to build the lead back up to 5 games over Chicago before heading to the Oven in Arlington.

The Twins have announced that Anthony Slama is on hand and available to pitch out of the bullpen tonight and that Nick Blackburn will meet the Twins in Texas and he will start game 1 of that series on Monday. That gives the rest of the rotation an extra day to rest the arms this week.

Here are tonight’s lineups as we bid “so long” to Torii and his friends and Jason Repko and Alexi Casilla get starts for the Twins.

ANGELS @ TWINS
Abreu, B, LF   Repko, CF
Kendrick, H, 2B   Hudson, O, 2B
Callaspo, 3B   Mauer, C
Hunter, RF   Kubel, RF
Matsui, H, DH   Cuddyer, 1B
Aybar, E, SS   Thome, DH
Napoli, 1B   Young, D, LF
Mathis, J, C   Valencia, 3B
Bourjos, CF   Casilla, A, SS
Weaver, Jr, P   Baker, S, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LA Angels 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 x 4 7 0

We could talk about how this game was really one good inning surrounded by 8 innings of mediocrity. We could talk about how a lot of hitters still aren’t exactly ripping the ball. But when the win sends you five games up on the Bitch Sox, why quibble over details?

Scott Baker was on his game tonight. He sliced through the Angels from top to bottom. And when the Twins needed someone to break the scoreless tie, the rookie, Danny Valencia, stepped up and sent a Jared Weaver fastball 426 feet in to the second deck in left-center field. That appeared to wake up the bats a bit as Orlando Hudson hustled out a 2-out triple. Weaver “pitched around” Mauer and Kubel (that’s code for “throwing them nothing remotely close to the strike zone”). The strategy, apparently, was to get to Cuddyer because he has had very little success against Weaver historically.

It looked like the strategy may pay off as Weaver quickly worked ahead of Cuddyer, but Cuddy just kept fouling off one pitch after another until a conference was held on the mound to discuss what to try throwing next. Whatever the decision was, it worked out well for the Twins as Cuddy laced the pitch in to the LC gap, clearing the bases and putting the Twins up 4-0.

Baker completed 7 clean, shutout innings, providing the kind of performance the Twins have needed out of a starting pitcher and Jesse Crain & Matt Capps wrapped up the shutout.

Plenty of baked goods to go around tonight, but the consensus of the GameChat crowd was co-BOD awards for Scooter Baker and Michael Cuddyer!

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

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*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 @ White Sox, 7:10

Hope you enjoyed your off-day but now we’re back to Twins baseball!

As several of my favorite bloggers have pointed out, we are down to the final 50 games of the season!  And the Twins are officially tied with the White Sox for first place in the Central Division.  That makes this series especially exciting!!  We have 9 games left against the White Sox and every single game is going to count!  If you want to know how much it counts, I really encourage you to read the piece Seth Stohs did for TwinsCentric: 50 Game Season begins tonight!

As far as injury updates go, Joe C was actually kind enough to go check on Nick Punto since I asked!  He’s progressing well from the hamstring strain and is eilligible to come back on Friday.  It’s not known for sure if he’ll be ready to go but it’s at least possible.  Morneau is not going to join the team in Chicago afterall – but he’s continuing his workouts.  Tolby is getting better too – gonna start a rehab assignment.  I’m not sure what is going to happen when all our utility infielders are back on track – we seem to have a few extra now.

Anyway, let’s hope that Baker has his stuff tonight.  He’s going to need to really bring it because the White Sox are going to show up loaded for bear.

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

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 1 4 1 2 0 2 0 2 0 12 14 1
Chi White Sox 0 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 6 10 0

 

*still giggling*  Yes, you read that boxscore correctly.  You see that bit where it says we got 12 runs on 14 hits??  Yeah, 5 HOME RUNS, BABY!!!  I’m really a small ball girl – I love the running of the bases and smart hits and steals and good bunts.  But you really gotta love it when the Twins go to the long ball in Chicago so successfully!!!  We really got to Freddy Garcia right off too.  And the offense was ON it from the top of the order to the bottom.  Thome was having a LOT of fun against his former team – obviously one of the homeruns but more surprisingly, a DOUBLE!  Mauer was 3/5 with 2 runs and once again was a triple short of the cycle.  Kubel had one of the homeruns and 3 WALKS!!  EVERY starter got a hit tonight – it was an offensive buffet supporting a very solid Scott Baker.  He struggled early and gave up three runs in the 2nd inning but pulled himself back into focus and kept them stalled out from then on.  Obviously, that 40th bday party y’all threw for Jim Thome got everyone on the same page!  I love it!  As Kbro pointed out, the image to remember from this game is of Ozzie Guillen with the face/palm.

With all the fireworks from the bats tonight, there was a LOT of discussion about who actually earned tonight’s BOD (including a snide mention of Freddy Garcia ;) ) so just for giving us so many to choose from, the whole lineup gets an all-you-can-eat buffet of baked goods.  But the actual BOD honors as voted go to Michael Cuddyer!  It’s been awhile for him but going 2/5 with a homerun and 4 RBI is nothing to sneeze at.  Good job boys! 

*** Post game note: in order to make room for Glen Perkins to come out to pitch for Kevin Slowey tomorrow, the Twins sent Trevor Plouffe back down to Rochester after the game.  That’s pretty much to be expected I think right now.  Some had asked, “why not Morales?” and my answer is that Gardy still likes that bench bat that doesn’t take away his DH if he’s got Mauer in that spot instead of behind the plate.  Gardy won’t give that up until he has to.  At least we are now back to 12 pitchers on the roster.  I’m just guessing but I really don’t think that Perk will go back down.  When Kev comes back, it will be interesting to see what happens. ***

So, What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sometimes you need a sense of humor

Last night’s loss in Seattle was flat out ugly. The hitters couldn’t hit a soft-tossing pitcher. Nick Blackburn’s sinker wouldn’t sink and he got knocked around by a team who’s 2010 offense has been… well… offensive. Most of us who stayed up to watch/listen to the entire game wondered, after the fact, why we had lost sleep to witness that futility.

But today’s another day and tonight presents a whole new game and most of us will do it all over again.

To get us through the day though, how about a bit of humor? A few quotes from around Twins Territory.

More tattoos than meet the eye?

Ron Gardenhire, on the subject of Jon Rauch’s stiffness in his right hamstring: “It doesn’t affect him when he’s pitching, just when he’s getting tattoos.” I don’t think I wanna know where he’s getting that tattoo if it makes his hamstring stiff.

After getting his “call up” about midnight Tuesday, Matt Tolbert went to Rochester’s Frontier Field to get his equipment, then tried to catch a few winks before his 5:30 am flight: “I worry about oversleeping, so I set a bunch of alarms.” Good thinking Matt. “Sorry I missed the game, Gardy. I overslept,” probably wouldn’t go over real well.

The "biggest second baseman" you've ever seen?

Starting pitchers follow a specific routine on the day of their starts. Apparently, checking the lineup card is not part of Francisco Liriano’s routine. This observation from Frankie after Ichiro led off Monday’s game by grounding out to Michael Cuddyer at 2B: “I was like, ‘What’s Michael doing here?’ I didn’t know he was playing second, so I was really surprised.” Welcome to the club, ‘Cisco… we may have found out about it long before you noticed, but you certainly weren’t the only one “really surprised”.

And what did the Twins “real” second baseman, Orlando Hudson, think of Cuddyer’s performance? “He looks good. That’s the biggest second baseman I’ve ever seen.” Hey, Cuddy… I think O-Dog just called you “fat”.

O-Dawg, in a rare... very rare... quiet moment

Speaking of Hudson… Gardy, can you tell us how Lando’s doing? “He’s really upbeat, I can tell you that, because he’s talking. No, wait, that’s every day.” I suspect Hudson will be in the lineup REAL soon… if only to give Gardy a few minutes’ peace on the bench while the Twins are in the field.

I want to thank Joe Christensen at the StarTribune and Kelsie Smith at the PioneerPress for the quotes… and for giving this tired Twins fan something to smile about over his coffee this morning. – JC