"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Friday, September 30, 2005

Mojo, Eh?

The Twins haven't done well with bases loaded this season, and that's putting it mildly. And Justin Morneau, our lone Canuck, hasn't been doing so well at the plate this season...and that's putting it mildly.

So when Justin came up in the bottom of the eighth for his first and only at-bat of the evening with the bases loaded, two out and the Twins clinging to a 3-2 lead, something had to be done. Mojo had to be created, and quickly!
Confession time: I have, for reasons I won't go into here, a small and selective collection of stuffed moose (Toys! Not real moose! Are you mad?! Who could kill a moose?). The latest addition to the collection is a small moose in a Twins jersey who was duly christened Cordel Justin-Moose.

I reached into my game bag, pulled out Cordel Justin-Moose, pointed his velvety nose in the direction of the plate and said "Justin, I want you to hit that ball many, many moose-antlers away."

And he did. Inspired by the beady gaze of my plush little friend, Morneau ignored his aching elbow and his miniscule, soul-crushing batting average and launched the first pitch he saw into the upper deck for his first career grand slam.

If, in future, you should happen to be at the Dome and look around during a Morneau at-bat to see an otherwise ordinary woman desperately clutching a stuffed moose and muttering in the general direction of home plate, remember the mojo. Eh?

Cordel Justin-Moose recounts his triumph to a rapt Tolie at home after the game.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't Let the Door Hit You

Romero leaves game in snit
Appearance likely reliever's last as a Twin

J.C. Romero probably made his last appearance for the Twins on Wednesday night.

If so, it was a bitter ending.

The enigmatic relief pitcher likely sealed his fate with the only organization he has ever known when he showed up manager Ron Gardenhire and yelled at a coach in the dugout during the Twins' 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome.

"That was wrong," said Gardenhire, who added that he hasn't decided whether Romero will pitch in any of the last four games this season. "Unacceptable."

Romero, who was on the trading block this summer, told the Pioneer Press last month that he would embrace the idea of being traded. The Twins already were expected to shop Romero during the offseason, and Wednesday's incident likely will push general manager Terry Ryan to try to expedite moving the talented but unreliable left-hander.

"It's in their hands," Romero said. "Either we get somewhere (with a trade) or dismiss me."

After hitting two batters in two-thirds of an inning, Romero walked completely off the mound on seeing Gardenhire step out of the dugout and summon Jesse Crain from the bullpen. Romero handed the ball to Gardenhire in passing about five feet away from the mound. After Gardenhire walked to the top of the mound, he turned and appeared to say something to Romero, who never looked back and continued walking slowly toward the dugout.

A television camera caught Romero shouting at bench coach Steve Liddle as Romero passed through the dugout.

"We all know what happened; you saw it in the dugout," said Gardenhire, who plans to meet with Romero today. "That's a little in-house thing that's going to be taken care of expeditiously."

Gardenhire, like a lot of managers, has long emphasized to pitchers the proper protocol for a pitching change, including how to hand the ball to the manager.

Romero, in his fourth full season in the majors, has had a strained relationship with the on-field staff. The staff often has been frustrated with Romero because of his stubbornness and coachability issues.

During a game in 2003, he argued with his catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, on the field. Last season, he was demoted to the minors for a stretch in midseason. And even after pitching well on coming back from the minors, he slumped in September, and Gardenhire reached a point at which he couldn't trust him down the stretch.

Even after all that, the team signed Romero to a two-year, $3.7 million contract in hopes he would gain confidence and settle down.

But Romero continued to struggle this season, although his 4-3 record and 3.47 earned-run average might suggest otherwise. He has allowed almost half of his inherited runners to score (19 of 42). Plus, he has hit six batters, a total more than that of three Twins starters. Romero also has walked 39 batters, by far more than any other Twins reliever.

I'm strapped for time here, so as much as I've looked forward to this inevitable moment since the day I came to understand the concept of the inherited runner, I won't linger to heap scorn on JC's deserving head. I'll just add this last, special message:

Dear JC,
Lefthanded and breathing isn't enough.
Oh, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
P.S. May I suggest the White Sox as a nice fit for you?

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Okay, So It IS That Bad...

Bloody hell.

We're worse than the Royals.

Let the medicinal drinking commence.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Adios, White Sox

Twins @ White Sox, last four games of the season series.

Thursday:Twins 4, White Sox 1
Friday:Twins 1, White Sox 3
Saturday:Twins 1, White Sox 8
Sunday:Twins 1, White Sox 4

Four games. Seven runs. Two errors.

I think the concept of having one's ass handed to one upon a silver platter applies here. The fact that the White Sox have been in a tailspin for weeks only adds insult to the injury.

I know the Twins have been eliminated from both the Central Division race and the AL wild card race, but can't we at least play for pride?

The pitching staff, the only bright light in many long stretches of the season, seems to have finally either worn out or given up. Over the course of the four-game series, they surrendered 35 hits including 5 home runs. While not catastrophically awful, that's far below this staff's standard. 26 of those hits, 4 of the homers and 14 of the 16 runs in the series were coughed up by the starting pitchers.

So, rolling into the last week of the season, the hitting continues to be awful, the starting rotation (now minus workhorses Silva and Radke) is limping badly and the bullpen doing just fine, thanks. We can only hope these guys--especially the hitters because, Johan Santana aside, you can't expect a whole lot from a rotation composed of two rookies, a guy coming off Tommy John surgery and Kyle "Whoops" Lohse--pick themselves up and decide to give us some good memories to carry into the offseason.

But at least we're done with the White Sox, right?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Twins Joke

Q: Why did the pacifist root for the Twins?

(See comments for answer)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

Well, it's offical. The Twins have been mathematically eliminated from the Central Division race.

If this surprises you, I wouldn't mind some of whatever you've been smoking lately.

The Twins are also two games from elimination in the wild card race. Most of the scenarios which would allow the Twins to beat the odds and secure the wild card involve several other teams' planes being lost in the Bermuda Triangle, so let's not hold our breath.

And so, we turn our thoughts to other things.

To hurricane relief--and be sure to check out Batgirl's "Dingers for Dollars" drive.

To the Minnesota Wild, and the return of hockey. Stronger, faster...better?

To September callups. There's something wonderful about every crop of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed rookies. The main attraction of this year's group is that they aren't the guys who blew it all in the first place.

To rooting against the Whine Sox and the Bankees. Go Cleveland! Woo-hoo!

To the coming of winter. Dust now--you might not get another chance. Where did I leave my skates, again?

To the Vikings. (snicker)

And, of course, to next year, when we will mercilessly crush them all with Santana, Liriano and the Mighty Bats of Doom! Muahahahahahahaha!

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In Memoriam

Simon Wiesenthal

"The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest."
--Simon Wiesenthal, 1994

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Weekend Knitblogging (and a Cat)

Projects recently completed:

Twin Rib pattern shawl made with 5 skeins Lion Brand Woolspun (discontinued several years ago, dammitdammitdammit, and found on eBay). Note the funky edging!

Basic socks made with 1 skein Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn. I do love a self-striping yarn.

Projects in progress:

My biggest and best project right now is intended for a gift, so I can't post photos. But I've got a few take-along projects going, too.

Here I'm trying to modify the candleflame shawl pattern into a scarf. The yarn is Lion Brand Jiffy. If this works, I may even attempt a candleflame hat.

Tolie likes it!

The bare beginnings of a pair of ribbed socks using one skein Lion Brand Wool-Ease Sportweight. Knitting socks on two circulars reduces transfers (and lost needles), while doing both at once eliminates that old second-sock "haven't I just done this?" angst.

No time to post patterns or technical details today, but if you're interested in the hows, whys and wherefores of any of the above, drop me a line. :)

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Run Production, Part II

Twins: Is Torii Hunter on the way out?:
Twins center fielder Torii Hunter has put his Golden Valley home on the market -- an indication of his personal uncertainty that he will be with the club in 2006.
The uncertainty appears justified.

The Twins will lay everything on the table over the next several weeks as the makeup of the 2006 roster is discussed, according to two Twins officials with knowledge of the team's offseason plans. Trading Hunter and unloading his large contract will be considered as an option, according to the officials.

Hunter, a four-time Gold Glove winner who broke his left ankle on July 29 in Boston, is one of the core players of a franchise that will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001. He is one of the team's most popular players and was around when the Twins rose from the ashes to become competitive again.

But the realities of the game, the fiscal history of the Twins and things he's picking up on the grapevine tell Hunter, 30, his future might not be as secure as he once believed. So his condominium is on the market.



Correct me if I'm wrong (and I know you will!), but it doesn't strike me as a particularly brilliant idea to try to address the team's weak offense by trading away the guy who's been the team RBI leader for the last 3 seasons running. Not to mention all those Gold Gloves.

Really, mightn't we do better to keep Torii and trade away some pitching and/or some speed and/or some defense to add to the hitting he provides, rather than replacing him with a player or players who may or may not be able to fill his metaphorical shoes at the plate and in the field?

I'm just sayin', is all...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Run Production, Part I

Last night, the Twins notched 14 hits, including 3 homers, took 3 walks and landed two men on base through a Tigers error on their way to a 9-3 victory over Detroit.

They also left 8 men on base, which is fine when you get 19 runners. It is not fine when you get, say, 10 runners and a double play, which is what happened to the Twins with stunning regularity all season. Hitting isn't enough (and they didn't exactly do a crapload of hitting to begin with); you have to bring the runners home.

Let's take a gander at some numbers (rankings are AL only, so it's #th out of 14, and BR=baserunners) for the season thus far:


Please note that BR and therefore LOB does not include runners who reached on an error--I wasn't able to locate that stat and I'm not about comb through every last box score to find them all!

Now, the major components of run production are 1) getting runners on, 2) advancing runners around the bases and 3) preserving baserunners until they can score. Hits and walks get runners on. Extra-base hits greatly increase your chances of scoring by simultaneously creating and advancing runners. Stolen bases advance runners, while strikeouts generally do not, and double plays and getting caught stealing eliminate runners already present.

Note that the Twins are about average in walks, strikeouts and total baserunners, but lagging badly in hits and extra-base hits. They've been simply atrocious about grounding into double plays. They're getting a lot of stolen bases, but offsetting them with far too many failed attempts. The combination of too few baserunners and too few means of advancing them has caused our boys to strand more of their runners than any other AL team.

I knew just from watching this season that we'd be near the bottom, but seeing that "14th" pop up still made me cringe.

Some would say (and I'm inclined to agree) that the best way to win a game is to start out right. Here are the first inning run-production numbers:


Hmmm. Interesting. The first thing that grabs me is the lack of strikeouts, but then I remember that our 1-3 hitters usually include Stewart and Mauer, and all becomes clear. Our stolen base success ratio is abysmal in the first inning; that sure doesn't help, nor do all those [censored] double plays. They do take a lot of walks, but again--Stewart, Mauer, 'nuff said. Otherwise, the first inning comes out looking very similar to the overall performance.

One area the Twins have had a lot of success is in extra innings. They have more extra-inning appearances than any other AL team, and have won almost 2/3 of them. The staff ERA of 2.89 in extras certainly has something to do with that, but you still have to score some runs. Did the Twins do a better job of moving and scoring their baserunners, or are we looking at a situation where the excellent pitching held down the opposition long enough for the bats to finally do something?


Don't read too much into some of these rankings--keep in mind they had more chances than anyone else! But I have to say, having your walks total more than half your hits is impressive--unless of course you choose to fault the hitting rather than praise the walking.

The LOB % is what we're really concerned with here. On the one hand, they're doing a lot less of it than many other teams in extra innings. On the other, they're doing more of it than they do in regulation, and they've been really bad in regulation. I'm inclined to call it a wash--the other team's pitching staff is bearing down harder, and so are our hitters, but not to any significant extent. The majority of the praise for our extra-inning successes will have to go to our pitchers.

So what's the core problem, here? I think it comes back to fundamentals.
  • Know when to swing and when to take a ball.
  • Remember that the hitter's first duty with runner(s) on and less than 2 outs is to advance the runner(s). Reaching base himself should be of secondary concern.
  • Correctly identify stealing opportunities, and know how to capitalize.

While we'd all like to see them reduce their caught-stealing incidents, that's the least of their worries now. The first fundamental is probably the most important for these Twins, who have as a group been swinging at lousy pitches with wild abandon all season. The second is vital, too--swinging for the fences when you're no home-run hitter (and most of these boys are no home-run hitters) is counterproductive to the point of idiocy. I laud their desire to come through for the team, but I deplore the means many of them choose.

I wonder if Paul Molitor would like to hang around after spring training next year?

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Sticking the Fork In

Alas, for the season that might have been.

Recall, if you will, just a few of the bright hopes with which we entered April:

  • a division championship four-peat
  • a 40-homer season for our new first baseman
  • an ROY award for our new shortstop
  • another Cy Young for our ace
  • another delicious set-down of the Whine Sox
  • a World Championship
  • And while the Cy Young is not out of the question, the others are realistically (if not yet mathematically) out of our reach.

    Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence.

    ----------[five minute intermission]----------

    Okay, now stop that.

    We've spent Septembers knowing we weren't going to the playoffs before, if you'll recall, and not all that long ago, either. Just because there will be no postseason in Twinsland does not render the rest of the season meaningless.

    Take a good long look at the September call-ups. Unlike the last few years, we'll actually get to, because we're not worried about keeping the regulars in top playing form. They've got the whole offseason to work out, after all.

    Consider next season: Who will be leaving? Jones? Lohse? Mays? Hunter, perhaps, in a trade? Rivas, please? Who might we acquire, and at what cost?

    And most importantly--what can the team (coaches, players and front office) learn from the hideous cluster**** this season has turned into? This leads us into the question of what went wrong in the first place (to put us in the third place--ha! Okay, not so funny...), and toward that end I'm chewing on some geekish data for future posts. But for now, let's just work on remembering that there's still something to cheer for.

    And don't forget to root against the damn Yankee$, who could actually (Can it be true? Let it be true!) join our Twins in going home after 162, for once.

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    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    Weekend Catblogging

    Smile for the camera!
    Tolie (left) and Poo (right)

    Poo explores the delights of the CatSitter DVD.
    Moments after this photo was taken, she fell off the chair while attacking the TV screen.

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    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Hockey, Baseball and Points In Between

    Last night, we (TBL, Mr. TBL, and our buddy PuckHead) headed across the river to watch the Saint Paul Saints take on the Gary (Indiana) South Shore RailCats in Game 2 of Round 1 of the Northern League Playoffs.

    (Yes, Virginia, there IS playoff baseball in Minnesota this year!)

    En route, we were afforded--and seized!--the chance to meet Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who is just about the nicest guy this side of the international date line. Asked about the new, smaller goalie pads which are being implemented this year, "Roli" displayed a mightily bruised and, it turns out, broken finger which was injured as a result of insufficient coverage by the new-length blockers.

    Note to the NHL--we fans wanted the pads to be narrower, not shorter. Leaving goalies' body parts exposed was not supposed to be part of the deal, guys...

    We arrived at Midway Stadium halfway through the anthem and proceeded to our sweeeeet front-row seats. We were surprised and pretty much appalled by how empty the stadium was, especially considering how hard it was to get tickets to the last ten or so regular-season games there.

    Having such excellent seats inspired me to bring my trusty digicam, so here are a few images from the game.

    Saints starting pitcher Mike Meyer

    Meyer again. Looks good, doesn't he? But appearances deceive, as Meyer gives up nine runs (seven earned) in four innings of work.

    Saints third base coach (and former Twins shortstop) Jackie Hernandez, who rumor has it spends the offseason entirely on horseback.

    A straight-ahead shot from our ten-dollar seats, with no zoom employed. And they have real beer there, unlike the Dome. Who could ask for anything more?

    Saints second baseman Justin Hall in the field. The Saints fell apart defensively, bobbling to the tune of four errors.

    A Saint at the plate. The Saints would smack 13 hits before the end of the evening.

    The St. Paul boys put on a mighty rally, but it wasn't quite enough to win the day. The series moves to Gary tied at one game apiece.

    So, jazzed up by our hockey encounter, the Saints rally and postgame fireworks, and the coffee we consumed to keep ourselves warm in the unexpectedly cool evening, we headed back across the river to Twinsland. You know the saying that all good things come to an end? Well, this good thing ended when a guy in a big ol' steel-framed car made a left turn directly into our aluminum travel-pod.

    We're all okay. Let's just get that out in the open right now.

    I have never been so frightened in my (admittedly fortunate) life as I was during that split second between seeing those headlights headed way-too-directly for us and the impact itself. Then there was an instant of mind-numbing relief as I concluded that I was neither bleeding nor indeed experiencing any pain at all, followed immediately by a bolt of hysterical worry for my husband and our friend the driver, succeeded by more relief as both professed to be just fine, thanks. That's a lot of emotion for the span of about five seconds, so it was no real surprise when the nervous shaking set in and we all ended up standing on the corner comparing hand tremors.

    The driver of the other car was fine, too. He was even able to drive away after the nice police officers took down our information. The aluminum travel-pod, alas, gave of its own structural integrity to protect ours and had to be left where it sat, slowly leaking fluid(s) unidentifiable by streetlight.

    A few phone calls in the bright light of day turned up various minor aches and pains among our party that went unfelt in the adrenaline-soaked haze of the evening's end, but nothing requiring medical attention, thank God/dess. And a twinge here and there is good for the soul, don't you think? We shouldn't be allowed to forget our fortunate escapes too quickly.

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    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

    This is how you break your fans' hearts:

    1. Fall behind 5-0 in the first two innings, including a soul-shriveling grand slam in the second, after which your starting pitcher hits the showers.
    2. Ride your bullpen through the middle innings while you cobble together a slow rally with a run here, a run there, until finally you lead 7-6.
    3. Maintain said lead through two scoreless innings.
    4. Get two outs in the top of the ninth, then surrender the tying run, followed promptly by a three-run homer that nearly punches a hole in the teflon roof of your sad excuse for a ballpark.
    5. Go down meekly 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

    At the time of this writing, the Twins have, for the second game in a row, fallen behind 5-0 only to mount a rally, and now lead 8-5 going into the 7th.

    Cross your fingers!

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    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Stat Geek Needs a New Fix

    Does anyone out there know of a site where I can get my stats sliced by game outcome? I've got an idea simmering for what should be a very interesting analysis, but I need to know things like Twins team BA and OPS in wins versus in losses to make it happen. Pitching stats, too! Drop me a comment if you know of a site that offers those splits.

    (Apologies for the long hiatus--there was going to be weekend knitblogging and a Twins post today, but I've been both busy and a bit under the weather, so alas...)

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    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    A Much Better Record

    More points in favor of awarding Carlos Silva the Bright Spot in a Dismal Season Award--found this tidbit in the Star Tribune:

    KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Even on a night when Carlos Silva wasn't at his best, he still showed precision control Tuesday and moved closer to a 101-year-old pitching record.

    Silva gave up four runs but didn't walk a batter in 6 2/3 innings of the Twins' 7-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals. For the season, Silva has given up just eight walks in 180 1/3 innings.

    In the department of walks per nine innings, Silva's number is 0.40. The American League record in that category is 0.69, set by Cy Young in 1904.

    'It's not like I don't want to walk anybody, so I'm just going to throw the ball right to the middle,' Silva said. That might have been a message for the hitters. But Silva hasn't issued an unintentional walk in his past 50 innings.

    'Walks will kill you, and we talk about that a lot,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'Our pitchers believe in that. Silva really believes in it, obviously.'

    Can he do it?

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