"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

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ah-ha?

The parental unit is in town for an extended weekend, so posting will continue to be sparse until mid-week.

Could we, might we, finally have an answer to the puzzle of how Rondell White could go from a darn near .300 career hitter to...this? An answer which does not involve the concept of the "head case"?

Twinsbaseball.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- All season long, Rondell White has been puzzled as to the reason behind his continued struggles at the plate.

But now, both he and the Twins hope that the answer has been found.

White was absent from the club on Saturday as he went to Cincinnati to meet with Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who performed the surgery on his left shoulder last season. The Twins designated hitter has been experiencing tightness in the shoulder for some time but thought that it was just a normal after-effect of the surgery.

Talking to his doctor once again proved otherwise as Dr. Kremchek told White that he had sewn up the shoulder a little tighter, due to the number of times during White's career that it has popped out of place. With that knowledge, White decided to go see the doctor for a second opinion on what might be his next step.

"Rondell has been trying to figure out himself why it's been such a struggle because he's always hit whenever he's played," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The only explanation is, he's had some shoulder soreness and thought it was normal from the surgery. He felt pretty tight and obviously the tightness is not allowing him to get up to the ball."

Okay, I really don't know whether to feel relieved that Rondell seems to have not lost his mind and that they may finally have an answer to his inexplicable difficulties, or to bang my head against a wall that nobody thought maybe recent shoulder surgery might have something to do with the lack of hitting.

Sigh.

In other news, Matt Guerrier may be able to start tossing the ball again next week, after having his thumb broken by a line drive a couple of weeks ago. Which is good, 'cause once we get him back, we can ship Lohse off to Rochester again.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

8 Str8

I am giddy, I tell you. Giddy!

My Twins, your Twins, our oh-god-I-can't-look, just-tell-me-when-it's-over Minnesota Twins won their eighth straight game last night. It was their fourth straight win on the road, and up until this streak the St. Paul Saints could have beaten them on the road. With one outfielder tied behind their bench.

And this is how it happened:

In the first, Radke gave up a homer. Yawn.

In the second, Cuddy went BOOM! At this rate, I'm going to have to start forgiving him for 2004 soon.

In the third, Radke gave up a three-run tater. Whee.

In the seventh, Kubel got a single. It may have been his first single of the season, I'm not quite sure. Then Bartlett got his second hit of the night and if Terry Ryan had been sitting next to me I think I would have beaten him about the head with my copy of The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball because of all the freakin' time Bartlett spent doing that for Rochester instead of for us. And then Tiffee (pinch-hitting for Radke) got a single and Kubel made it all the way home on that gimpy knee of his. Castillo came up and hit a grounder to the shortstop, and Bartlett broke the sound barrier coming home and Tiffee snuck over to third while they were getting Castillo out. Punto followed that up with a double and ta-da! Tie game!

In the top of ninth, Castillo singled and stole second, Punto walked, and Joe Mauer got Punto out at second but put Castillo on third and himself on first. And then whatever poor schmuck was pitching dealt wild to Cuddy and Castillo scored. Twins lead! Good thing, too, 'cause Cuddy grounded out to end the inning. And we all know how much I hate leaving runners on third.

In the bottom of the ninth, oh...how can I put this? It's a sensitive issue, and not something I like to broadcast. Step a little closer, I'll whisper it to you.

Joe Nathan blew the save.

So, anyway, on to the tenth. Justin Morneau led off the inning, and as he stepped up to the plate rumor has it he turned to the umpire and said, "It's not the Cup, but I will make sure that Canada gets something tonight." And he took the first pitch he saw and sent it on its merry way to British Columbia.

And Joe Nathan came back out in the bottom of the inning and proved that a win is as good as a save any day.

-------------------------------

Tonight: Silva v. Rodriguez

Thursday: Liriano v. Clemens (Be still my beating heart! Oh, and take him down, 'Cisco!)

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Yeah, That's A Little Spooky

Pulled from the comments on Batgirl:


"Anyone else think it's a tad bit spooky that we make .500 with 34 wins and 34 losses?"
--Nanaree

It took a seven-game winning streak from a team that previously could hardly string two wins together to get to 34-34. It's quite an achievement, really.

Almost like they climbed on someone's back.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Weekend Recap

My final guest appearance on Batgirl.


Minnesota @ Pittsburgh, 6/16-6/18
W 4-2, W 5-3, W 8-2

Oh.

Oh, my.

My word.

A sweep. On the road, even. Without the benefit of a DH, no less. (Though some will say, and others already have, that has been true all season.)

Two sweeps in a row. Nine home runs over the last two series--four for Kubel, three for the Doctor. 31 runs. 54 hits. 26 walks. Staff ERA of 1.42. 53 strikeouts. 11 runs, 9 earned. A seven-game winning streak.

Hit-and-runs were executed, bunts were placed, bases were stolen. Bats went BOOM! And BOOM! And BOOM! again. Pitchers pitched out of jams and sometimes went multiple innings without creating any. Bases were loaded, and runners were then brought home.

Fans were given hope, and that hope was not cruelly crushed. It was not even mildly dented. Tricky plays were executed. Ordinary plays were executed. Third place was snatched from Cleveland's jaws.

Who are these people, and what have they done with our Twins?

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Just Another Day

This post was written while guest-posting on BatGirl. (You may need Batgirl's nickname guide to get through this one if you're not a regular BG reader.)



Are you sitting down? You should sit down. This is going to come as something of a shock.

You know the Twins? The Minnesota Twins?

They won a road game.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Settle down! No need to start packing for the Apocalypse just yet. Now, if they should win the series, then by all means do start scanning the horizon for horsemen.

It was an epic pitchers' duel, hearkening back to the great Santana/Schilling matchup of '06, made all the more dramatic by the thunder and lightning and Biblical amounts of rain outside the window for those of us watching in the Twin Cities metro.

The young guns on the mound were stupendous. For the Twins the 'Cisco Kid was sitting the bitches down left and right, right and left, and even the occasional switch. And our batters faced Pirates' pitcher Ian Snell with this look on their face like "huh??" after every pitch. There was remarkably little assbattery involved, really.

Digression: I noticed early in the game that Cuddyer looks like he hasn't slept in a week. And not the good kind of not sleeping in a week, either. What's up with that? Infield needs a scoop!

But, you see, 'Cisco made a wee tiny mistake in the third, and there was a runner on, and then inning after inning went by and nobody who wasn't a pitcher did nothin'. And it was starting to look a lot like just another day on the road for the Twins. To wit, a loss.

Especially in the 6th when 'Cisco fielded a bunt and kinda overthrew it in the Doctor's general direction and the runner moved to second with one out. But 'Cisco is 'Cisco, and he doesn't give a fig for your runners in scoring position, oh no. He just got himself two outs and left the guy standing there at second wondering if everyone had forgotten about him. They had.

But then in the 7th, all of a sudden, our boys solved the puzzle of Ian Snell. LNP walked. The Chairman singled (naturally). He Who Sleepeth Not doubled and LNP scored. Thus endeth the shutout. Yay!

Next the good Doctor hit a sacrifice fly (because he cares nothing for personal glory; the team is all), and the Chairman came home and we were TIED. Wow.

And then Sweetcheeks came up with one out and a runner on third and I admit I kind of put my hands over my eyes. But Dick said something about a single and I looked up just in time to see Cuddy cross the plate.

So the Twins were leading 3-2 and Snell got the hook and Damaso Marte came on and did what he usually does to the Twins, curse him, which is send them back to the dugout. 'Cisco came back out for one more inning, which turned out to be just long enough for him to get one more strikeout and reach a career-high eleven Ks.

"Just another day," Liriano said. "I strike out a lot of people."

Just another day for YOU, 'Cisco. You and your Santana-like hotness. But a very special day for us fans back home.

So the ninth rolls around and we still have a lead and poor worn-out Nathanator is warming in the pen, which I don't understand because Boo did great in the 8th. So I think to myself, I think, "Self, we need some more runs. If only to give poor Joe a little wiggle room. Or twitch room, as the case may be."

Well, the good Doctor and Sweetcheeks must have been thinking along the same lines, because they both singled. And Lewwwwwww came up and put a decent bunt down third base way, which is good 'cause Gardy had this cute little cocktail dress with matching heels all ready for Lew to wear back to the hotel if he didn't, and then...

...my cable went out.

%$!# storm.

Of course WCCO radio had turned into the Weather Channel while I wasn't looking, so I crossed my fingers and turned on my computer in the middle of an elecrical storm. And I'd like to say I did it for you, dear readers, but that would be untrue. My cable went out with runners in scoring position and I had to know what happened.

And Gameday told me that they walked my boy Bartlett because he's dangerous with that bat, I tell ya. Then the Pirates changed pitchers, and the new guy walked Rondell White with the bases loaded. We had a TWO run lead! And then there was some striking out.

So the Nathanator comes on, and I'm a little worried because frankly he threw more pitches the night before than he had in the entire month of April. But I should not have worried, because he is the Nathanator and 1-2-3! The Pirates got Nathanated.

And the Twins won. On the road.

It's true.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

How Sweep It Is

This post originally appeared on BatGirl.



*yaaaaaaaaaawn*

Hmm. Posting before coffee. This should be largely unintelligible. Ah, well, BatGirl will forgive me. She's the forgiving sort. I've just got to remember not to slip up and talk about that time in Reno when she...er, never mind.

Ahem. Moving along.

Let's see. Trying to remember the game. I was there, you know. But until the coffee hits, the memory's a bit shaky. However, I made notes! Yes, planning ahead. Here they are...

Kubel. Boom.

Oh, right. Kubel hit his fortieth home run of the series last night. It was a pretty one, too. Yes, Kubel got out the boom-boom stick again. Or, in the spirit of the sweep, the broom-broom stick.

Right. No puns before coffee. Got it. Stop throwing things, I bruise easy.

Bartlett--diving stop, baserunning, ABs

Oh, yeah! Did you see Bartlett last night? Did you? There's yer leadership, right there! Having good at-bats, getting hits, running the basepaths like the devil (or, alternatively, a plane ticket to Rochester) were on his heels, and making a sweet, sweeeet diving stop in the field.

And I'm not just saying that because he's my #2 boyfriend. (Yes, Boo, you're still #1.)

Ortiz launches moon shot destined to hit Killebrew banner, bounces off speaker to plunk down in front of Torii for a single.

Okay, now that was the single funniest moment of the season thus far. And the luckiest. Then again, I've always wanted to see someone hit one of those banners... But we'll save that honor for the good Doctor, eh?

Silva out. Knee?

No, thank the baseball gods (who are just and kind and hey, thanks for the sweep, guys). Just a cramp. Little charlie horse in the ol' hammy. He's fine.

And was is just me, or were we treated to the 2005 Edition Silva? You know what it was, of course. He wore his socks the right way. The baseball gods smile upon those who wear their socks the right way. Yes they do.

8th: need three pitchers for one out. Bad Justin--no hockey!

Just when the game was cruising along and we're all thinking Papi's speaker-ball will be the most exciting moment of the game, the 8th inning happened. Boo gave up a hit and hit a guy, then Reyes came on and got a grounder to the Doctor, who kinda fumbled it. A lot. Enter the Nathanator, who predictably sat down the first bitch he faced, but then decided to keep things interesting--sac fly/run, single/run, single, popup. But we still had a two-run lead.

They have a lefty sidearmer. Scary.

Not so scary in reality (he let an inherited runner score and dealt us a walk and a hit in the process), but the mere concept of facing a lefty sidearmer gives me the shudders.

Uh...Joe?

Nathan's ninth was, well...a little nerve-wracking. It started out great, with a groundout and a popout, and the loud annoying Boston fan a few rows behind me finally shut the bleep up.

Then there was the single and the stolen base. And then there was Papi, still steamed about that speaker-ball and about getting released all those years ago which is hardly fair because it worked out great for him but there's no accounting for grudges. And Papi smoked a run-scoring single and the Nathanator's laboring at about a gazillion pitches and looking a little peaked, too.

But Joe had a little talk with his glove (he does that, have you noticed?) and my sources tell me his glove said "Snap out of it! You are THE NATHANATOR. THE NATHANEST OF JOES. Sit that bitch down."

And he did.

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

Tonight, Liriano pitches AND bats! 6 pm Central, don't miss it.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flag Day

I'm posting over on BatGirl while BatGirl is out of town. This post originally appeared there.



tap-tap-tap

Is this thing on?

tap-tap

Um, hi. I'm infield. Usually I post over at Third Base Line (there's a link in the sidebar somewhere, if you're curious), but BG asked me to entertain you all while she's lolling on the beach in California. (I expect souvenirs, BG!) I tend more toward sarcasm than sass, but I'll do my best.

Let's just ease into this with that old standard, the running commentary...

Inning the First
Radke loads the bases with one out, partly thanks to Kubel and Bartlett both losing Big Papi's popup in the teflon roof (2010...2010...), but he gets out of it with a couple of popups that actually find gloves.

The Red Sox? Leaving the bases loaded? In the first inning? Against RADKE? Inconceivable! Good job, Brad! Now cut it out with the baserunners, already.

Inning the Second
Boston starter Matt Clement seems to be on a personal quest to throw as many balls as humanly possible without actually walking in a run. He probably wishes he'd walked Jason Kubel, though, because Kubel takes the one and only strike he sees way, way up into the right field upper deck, to heights only Morneau had heretofore reached. One hopes Justin isn't territorial about his landing spot; the last thing this team needs is pouting power hitters.

Boy, is this game starting off SLOW, though. After just two and a half innings, an hour has gone by and Radke and Clement have racked up over 100 pitches between them. "Efficiency" is not the word of the day in the early goings.

Inning the Third
In the bottom of the inning, Clement loaded the bases without any "help" from the roof by issuing three straight one-out walks. Then Torii Hunter came up to the plate and did what he does best--hit into a double play.

New rule: with runners on and less than two out, we pinch-hit for Hunter. I don't care what freakin' inning it is.

Inning the Fourth
Kubel comes within a sneeze of having a two-homer game. Everybody wants Rondell White to get on base, including Matt Clement, who helps him out with a ball to the shoulder. Jason Bartlett (free at last!) welcomes himself back to the big leagues with a single to center. I'm so happy for him I jump right out of my Birkenstocks. Then we get a run the old-fashioned way on a Castillo double. Fast-forward to Joe Mauer's two-out at-bat, when the AL batting leader...grounds out to second??? Oh, say it ain't so, Joe...

Inning the Fifth
Dick & Bert interview Johan Santana. They barely get past "congratulations on your 1000th career strikeout" before Radke gives up the inevitable tater, a solo to Coco Crisp. It's kind of a relief to have that out of the way, really. You knew it was coming, you just hoped it wouldn't be one of those soul-crushing 20-run homers.

Okay, now, see? Hunter + runner on 1st = grounder to the shortstop. Thank the umpire for calling him safe--it could have gone either way. Morneau is out at 2nd. Clement deals a four-pitch walk to Kubel and then leaves the game with some sort of physical problem (as opposed to the six walks). Some guy named, appropriately for Flag Day, Van Buren comes in and gets Rondell White to pop out to short to end the inning, which is kind of like getting my cat to beg for cheese. She just loves cheese. Especially havarti.

Inning the Sixth
Bartlett bobbles a grounder, drops it, grabs it up again and STILL gets the double play started. Now that's impressive. And just a teensy bit lucky.

And, in the spirit of the eternal maxim "he who maketh the great play to end the half-inning, batteth to open the next", Bartlett smacks his second hit of the night as he leads off the bottom of the sixth. Ah, hits from the shortstop...how divine.

Castillo's at-bat takes about ten hours, since Van Buren feels the need to throw three pickoffs for every pitch, but he finally coaxes a walk. Punto puts on a bunting clinic to advance the runners, and Van Buren can pitch to Mauer (yikes!) or intentionally walk him but then face Cuddyer with the bases loaded. Talk about Scylla and Charybdis. Whew. Glad I'm not him. He goes with the intentional walk.

Bartlett nearly gets nailed in the back with a pickoff attempt at third. Wouldn't it have been funny if the ball had sailed off into left? Cuddy's bases-loaded walk is worth a snicker, though. Hey, free RBI! Van Buren trudges off to celebrate Flag Day in the dugout.

Did I mention it's Flag Day? Oh, yes, it is. And with the bases still loaded Justin Morneau plants his flag in the left field bleachers. Oh, Canada!

Inning the Seventh
Go, Radke. Sit. Relax. Enjoy the rare and wonderful luxury of run support. Let Willie Eyre face the Red Sox for the first time. He needs the experience. Besides, he wears his socks the right way.

Inning the Eighth
So, someone decides to jump out of the stands and go running all over the field until they're tackled by the Boston batboy. This makes Willie Eyre laugh too hard to pitch straight, and he gets the hook after two straight two-out walks. Breathe, Willie. Breathe.

Inning the Ninth
Lohse comes on in relief with a seven-run lead. You'd think this would make me feel secure, but oh please by all that's holy don't let him blow this I'll do anything really I will just get us out of this game with a win.

Hey, whaddaya know? He did it!

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About Freakin' Time

Bartlett's back; Batista's out

The Twins gave their roster a jolt late Tuesday night, designating third baseman Tony Batista for assignment and promoting Jason Bartlett from Class AAA Rochester.

Bartlett will join the team tonight and replace Juan Castro as the team's starting shortstop.
Buh-bye, Tony. You tried really hard for us, we know you did, but sometimes these things just don't work out. Best of luck. You're leaving third base in the capable hands of Luis Rodriguez. And Nick Punto. And Terry Tiffee. And Juan Castro. (Hmm...a four-way platoon. Yeah, that's gonna last.)

Bartlett went 1-for-4 Tuesday against Indianapolis, leaving his average at .306. He leads the International League with 23 doubles.

Castro is batting .231 with a .258 on-base percentage.

"We need to change it up a little bit," Gardenhire said. "Bartlett's been playing his tail off. We called down there today again, and he's doing everything you can possibly do, running all over the place, taking charge of the infield and doing what it takes to be a big-league shortstop.

"So that's what we're hoping for."
I'm still trying to figure out where this perception that he wasn't playing his tail off before came from. 'Cause I just never saw it. Saw some mistakes, sure. But lack of effort? Nah. Oh, well--as long as he's really out of the doghouse, now, we can just let sleeping dogs lie.

Bartlett received word after the Red Wings suffered a 2-0 loss to Indianapolis.

"I knew something was going to happen sometime soon," Bartlett told the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. "It's a little bit of a shock, but I've kind of been waiting for it."

During spring training, Bartlett was considered the favorite to win the Twins' starting shortstop job. But just before camp ended, Gardenhire picked Castro as his starter, sending Bartlett to Rochester with instructions to be more of a vocal leader.

"I've been more vocal than I've been," Bartlett said. "They wanted me to be [more vocal], and I started doing it."

Okay, yes, sleeping dogs, etcetera. Can I just say one thing? He could have learned to be "vocal" HERE. There, I'm done. 'Nuff said.

Welcome back, Bartlett. Good to see ya.

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Hot Hot Hot

Is there a better way to start a home game than watching Johan Santana strike out the side? Is there? Because if there is, I'd like to hear it.

That knee-buckling changeup of his buckes my knees, too. Is it warm in here, or is it just Johan?

Oh, and look--his 1,000th ML career strikeout, at the ripe old age of 27, in the 4th inning. It also happens to be his 8th strikeout of the game. And, could it be? Oh, yes, it could! That milestone strikeout nudges him into the ML lead in strikeouts (he already had the AL lead), over Pedro Martinez and Carlos Zambrano.

And then late in the game, when Johan makes one teensy little mistake to Jason Varitek, Michael "All Is Forgiven" Cuddyer--who is now batting cleanup in a rare show of lineup sanity--comes up in the bottom of the same inning and fixes it.

And then, oh... Inning after inning, scoreless on both sides. Eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh. No "W" for Johan, alas. In the bottom of the twelfth, further tragedy! Jesse "Inexplicable" Crain gave up a run, and it seemed nigh impossible that the Twins could come back in this lowest of low-scoring games.

Joe "Godlike" Mauer struck out looking. Truly, we were doomed, for if Mauer strikes out all is lost. Yes? Yes. And to add injury to insult, Cuddyer was then hit by a pitch. Justin "BOOM!" Morneau hit a ground-rule double, which only confirmed our bad luck, for Cuddy could have scored on a standard double.

But then the tide turned. For Boston chose to walk Torii "Let's Make Two Outs" Hunter, which has got to go down as Bonehead Move of the Week.

Which brings us to Jason "But I LIKE It Here" Kubel. On a 3-2 count, Kubel hit a game-tying sac fly to right field, and there was much rejoicing. And then that sac fly slipped over the baggie with a millimeter to spare, and ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Four runs for the Twins!

That was, of course, the Twins billionth grand slam in the last week. And yet each one is still special and precious. Oh, and Kubel, sweetie? We like it when you're here, too.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Media Round-Up

  • Mauer wins AL Player of the Week (multiple sources)
Can we say enough about this guy? He's leading the AL in season batting average, and he hit .625 over the week in question, reaching base four times each in five straight games during that span--and he's the only ML player ever to do that. And yet he's still not in the top 5 vote-getters for AL All-Star catcher. Which just goes to show that having the public pick All-Stars is kind of like asking a teenager to choose the best-made jeans, regardless of brand. The label will win every time.


  • Morneau feeling good: "This was the first series that my swing has felt good for the whole series -- instead of one game or two games," Morneau said [after the weekend series against the Orioles]. (twinsbaseball.com)
Yes, Justin, your swing felt good to all of us here in Twinsland this weekend, believe me. Crash! Bam! Boom! Music to my ears.


  • The struggles of Torii Hunter at the plate were part of the reason for Cuddyer being moved up to the cleanup spot for the Twins on Sunday. Over his past seven games, Hunter has recorded just four hits with one RBI, so Gardenhire made a decision to move the center fielder down to sixth in the order and bumped up Cuddyer and Justin Morneau to the fourth and fifth spots, respectively. (twinsbaseball.com)

Okay, so, you know what? I'm not an ML manager. And there are lots of very good reasons for that. But the fact that Torii "GIDP" Hunter does not, never has and never will belong in the #4 spot? Pretty obvious, even to yours truly. He is truly one of the great defensive players of our time, but, ah...not so much with the cleanup hitting.


  • The good news: Just one day after Guerrier took a screaming line drive from the Mariners' Richie Sexson off his pitching hand in the sixth inning, the diagnosis was a little better than expected. While the Twins doctors still determined that there indeed was a fracture in Guerrier's right thumb, the pitcher will not have to don a hard cast as first thought. Instead, Guerrier was wearing a soft cast that will be on for approximately four weeks, depending on how the injury heals. (twinsbaseball.com)

Four weeks? Witness TBL perk up in much the same way Pooie does when she hears the can opener. They were saying eight, before. Yes!

I've never really understood why so many people roll their eyes and shudder when Guerrier is mentioned. I think they got him confused with Joe Roa or something, back when he (Guerrier) first came up. This guy has been a rock, folks. Starter got shelled? Call Guerrier, he'll settle things down. Need someone in the 7th after you went through the whole bullpen yesterday? Call Guerrier, he'll pitch twice a day if you let him. He gave us a 3.39 ERA in 43 games/71 innings last season, and considering how he'd sit in the bullpen for a week or more and then suddenly be needed for 10 innings over four days, that's damn good. And this team needs him. Desperately.


  • The bad news: The Twins placed Guerrier on the 15-day disabled list Friday and recalled Kyle Lohse from Triple-A Rochester to replace him in the bullpen. (twinsbaseball.com)

We are f***ed.


  • [DH Rondell] White enters tonight's game against the Boston Red Sox batting .190, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been playing him less and less. With Jason Kubel batting .279, and looking more comfortable by the day, the Twins have no intention of sending him back to the minors, which puts White in line to go [when Shannon Stewart or Ruben Sierra return from the DL]. (Star Tribune)

Remember how excited we all were when White was signed? Finally, a proven, professional hitter, we cried. Which just goes to show you, this team can turn even the best hitter into a fair imitation of a spastic chimp. Heck, it's not just possible--it's tradition!

  • Besides White, the team is also losing patience with third baseman Tony Batista (batting .236 with five homers and 21 RBI), and shortstop Juan Castro (.234-1-14). (Star Tribune)

Losing? Once again, the fans are way ahead of the curve.


  • Terry Tiffee, already on the roster, is a candidate to replace Batista at third, though the team has concerns about his defense. (Star Tribune)

Hey, does Luis Rodriguez play for this team anymore? 'Cause he plays a pretty good hot corner. I mean, he's no Corey Koskie, but you can't ask some poor kid to try to be Corey Koskie. Not gonna happen. But he's a switch-hitter, and he can run some, too.


  • And there is talk of an upcoming promotion for shortstop Jason Bartlett, who entered Monday batting .306 with seven errors in 56 games at Rochester. (Star Tribune)

#$%@.

*#&?!$^.

&*^%$#*@!!

Did you know that it is actually physically possible to expel steam from one's ears? It's true.

So, nearly three months after the Twins decide to send down "the future at shortstop" in favor of a fair-glove, no-bat utility guy whose glove has since gone from fair through middling and is now leaning toward "yikes!" under the strain of playing every day, there is talk? TALK?! How 'bout some action over here?

Okay, listen. I love the Twins. I adore the Twins. They're my boys of summer, and if the Dome isn't Giamatti's "green field in the sun", well, it's what we've got, and the clock is ticking. I'm not harping on the Twins because I don't love them, or because I don't have any faith in them. I do.

But some of the stuff that's been going on lately? When I was growing up Down South, they had a phrase for things like this: "crazy-makin' ". It's a good phrase. It says a lot.

And the Twins, as an organization, from the GM right on down to the last futility infielder, last season and especially this season, are crazy-makin'. Every day it seems like there's something new, something that makes us all go, "what the hell are you thinking??"

If it's not inexplicable personnel moves from on high, it's boneheaded plays in the field, or it's bringing in a pitcher in the eighth inning of a close game to face the very same guys who beat him like a mule the night before, and then wondering to the media why on earth he couldn't get them out. Or (speaking of the media) it's a player getting a new hole ripped in the morning paper for one lone wrong move, while another guy does something abso-bleepin'-lutely stupid every other freakin' day and there's nary a peep from the bench.

It's Jason Bartlett wasting away in Rochester because Juan Castro "looks good out there".

It's shoehorning Carlos Silva back into the rotation before he's even come close to proving that he has his stuff back.

It's Torii Hunter batting 4th.

It's bringing up Kyle Loshe instead of Pat Neshek. Or anyone else with a pulse.

It's trotting out the same underperforming batting order day after day for weeks on end, and being startled when it produces the same result day after day for weeks on end.

It's bemoaning Scott Baker's "slow pace" when his starts average well under three hours total game time.

It's creating a huge hole on the left side of the infield and then blaming the pitchers for all those hits that zip through it.

On that note, it's letting Corey Koskie slip through our fingers three times in a little over a year. Has anyone else noticed that we haven't done much winning since he left? I'm just sayin', is all...

This team, it doesn't have "champion" written all over it. But you look at what we've got between Minnesota and Rochester, and what we could have had the last two trading and free agent seasons, and it could have been so much more than it is. The 2006 Twins could have been a good team, a winning team. A team worthy of the devotion we the fans still heap upon it.

If we didn't love our Twins, we wouldn't be so bloody frustrated about all of this.

It's crazy-makin', I tell ya.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Game Re-Crap

In the first inning, the Twins scored two runs...but it would have been three, if not for Lew Ford's baserunning blunder. And then Boof Bonser coughed up two homers for three runs in the bottom of the inning...but that would have been only one run if Juan Castro (Free Jason Bartlett!) had handled Mauer's throw to catch Jose Lopez stealing with two outs.

The Twins started out the second inning with two singles, then failed to even advance the lead runner to third. In the bottom of the inning, Boof let loose his third homer of the night thus far, a two-run shot.

In the third, Torii Hunter decided that the third base coach's "STOP!" signals do not apply to him, and was thrown out by a mile at home. If he had listened to the man who is paid to make these decisions for him, the Twins would have had the bases loaded with one out. But at least Boof didn't surrender a dinger in the bottom of the inning.

In the fourth, Joe Mauer drove in a run. How 'bout that? And Boof didn't give up a tater.

In the fifth, TBL dozed off a little.

In the sixth, Willie Eyre (the only Twin who wears his socks the right way) gave up a single and an RBI double with two outs. He filled first by drilling a guy--oops--and was lifted for Dennys Reyes. This, in retrospect, turned out to be a big mistake. Because Dennys threw a ball, and then a strike. And the strike, it was like the strikes Boof Bonser threw early on. Which is to say, it went over the wall. Oops.

In the seventh, TBL dozed off again, and woke up...

...in the eighth, with two out, bases loaded and Michael Cuddyer at the plate. The Twins had scrounged up a run somehow (it was revealed this morning to have been a bases-loaded walk to Joe Mauer), and TBL made some sort of comment about how you could tie this thing up right now, Cuddy, and maybe there would be some forgetting about 2005 here in Casa Liberales. And sure enough, Cuddy launched the Balloon of Happiness with one mighty swing.

Not much happened until the bottom of the eleventh, when Jesse Crain (Free Pat Neshek!) faced Carl Everett with two outs, and Carl Everett introduced the Balloon of Happiness to the Blowgun of Reality.

So.

Anybody got any duct tape?

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Since You Asked...

Pulled from the comments on a previous post:

She-Ra wonders:
So what the heck is going on with Castillo and Morneau? Do neither of them speak enough baseball to say "I got it!"? Seems like that's at least the third time in the last few weeks that I've seen them stumble over each other in the field.
An interesting question. While I have waxed eloquent (or at least long-winded) on the Twins' recent defensive woes, I had not until now considered the possibility of a language barrier. After thinking long and hard, I have come up with two hypotheses I consider equally probable.


Hypothesis #1: No Hablo Canadian

The Dominican Republic is a long, LOOOONG way from Canada. So it's only natural that certain Canadianisms would be somewhat confusing to a Dominican. So when the ball plummets toward the infield, and Justin yells, "I've got it, eh?", poor Luis doesn't quite know what to think.

He hears, "I've got it", but he also hears a question. So he thinks, perhaps Justin is unsure that he really has it. But Justin needs to be confident in himself, so I will back off and let him catch it. He takes a step back.

But wait, he thinks, if he is not sure he has it, perhaps he does not have it! I must get it! And so he moves forward. And Justin, seeing Castillo keep going for the ball, thinks Castillo didn't hear him, and tries to get out of his way.

And the ball hits the turf.


Hypothesis #2: Whatever You Say, Eh?

On the other hand, it wouldn't be strange if, in the excitement of a play, a man lapsed briefly into his native tongue, would it? So there's the ball, coming in right between them, and Castillo cries, "Lo tengo!"

But Justin, not being a Spanish speaker and also thrown off somewhat by the crowd noise, hears "Go tango!" And it seems a little strange, really, but he hasn't been in the big leagues all that long. He wants to win Gold Gloves and hit a lot like Luis does, so he bows to the unfathomable wisdom of the veteran and does a little dance step...away from the ball. And Luis forgets the ball because, well, his teammate is doing the tango. Alone. In the infield.

And the ball hits the turf.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Familiar Faces

The Rochester Red Wings won 9-7 over the Durham Bulls this afternoon.

Jason Bartlett went 3-for-5 with two singles, a triple and three runs scored. Closer Pat Neshek (who is going to be a familiar face to Twins fans, hopefully soon) ended the game by striking out pinch hitter Luis Rivas.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Sign on the Dotted Line

I am beginning to believe that somewhere, deep in the bowels of the Commissioner’s Office*, there is a file. It probably looks much like any other file, but it is not. It contains thirty contracts. Not player contracts—team contracts. These contracts, between the MLB and the teams, lay out the rights and responsibilities of each team.

For instance, I feel secure in positing Atlanta is contractually entitled to win its division 19 years out of 20. However, they are obligated to collapse in the playoffs every time. The Yankees promise to be the defensive laughingstock of the league in return for being allowed 60% more arrogance than any other team. And we all know what the Cubs contract says.

Folks, if I’m right (and I think I am), the Twins need a better agent. What sort of moron agreed to a 75% sucking ratio on each decade? And to never, EVER sign a 40-home run hitter on penalty of falling below the Royals in the standings? Could someone please explain why we had to agree to stomp mercilessly on the dreams and hopes of 87% of our promising young players just to get a little Field Turf? And that clause stipulating that every third roster move must be decided by throwing darts at the Minnesota and Rochester rosters can’t be legal. It just can’t.

The good news is that the stale air clause and bad food rider are null and void when the new ballpark opens in 2010.

*Should I have referred to bowels and Bud Selig in the same sentence? Perhaps not.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday Roundup

Check out the Baseball section of my Favorites menu, because I've added some fun new links for you.

There's the official Minor League Baseball site, which underwent some huge revisions in the offseason and now features Gameday play-by-play! Keep up with those Red Wings, folks.

We've also got "TwinsCards.com", which is kind of like digital Nirvana for baseball card lovers who also happen to be Twins fans.

And last but not least, the brand-spankin' new blog "Thank You, Brian Sabean", which focuses on the three great players we stole received from Giants GM Brian Sabean in trade for AJ Pierzynski.

Also, in the Diversions section, those of you who enjoy a British sense of humor should love my sarcastic friend Dan's blog, "Blue Man Sings the Whites".


Back to this blog, TBL is woozy from the allergies and the rage over the jerking around of young players, so today you get the old standby "Who's Hot, Who's Not".

Last 7 Days

Hot:

  • Joe Mauer, .500/.533/1.247(!), 14 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, 3 doubles, 3 RBI.
  • Tony Batista, .294/.333/.804, 3 RBI, 3 doubles
  • Francisco Liriano, 11 innings, 0.00 ERA, 5 hits, 10 strikeouts
  • Juan Rinc√≥n, 5 innings, 0.00 ERA, 2 strikeouts, 1 save

Not:

  • Torii Hunter, .222/.207/.577
  • Rondell White, .222/.222/.500
  • Boof Bonser, 12 innings, 6.00 ERA, 13 hits

Last 30 Days

Hot:

  • Joe Mauer, .402/.449/1.016(!), 16 runs, 18 RBI, 9 walks
  • Torii Hunter, .340/.407/.921, 20 RBI
  • Johan Santana, 36 innings, 3.00 ERA, 2 wins, 43 strikeouts
  • Francisco Liriano, 24 innings, 1.13 ERA, 3 wins, 26 strikeouts

Not:

  • Luis Rodriguez, 23 at-bats*, .130/.200/.330
  • Juan Castro, 65 at-bats, .231/.261/.584, hit into 5 double plays
  • Brad Radke, 35 1/3 innings, 5.60 ERA, 13 walks
  • Willie Eyre, 8 innings*, 6.75 ERA, 4 walks

*maybe he'd do better if he, um, got to play sometimes?

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Season Thus Far, Part 2

In winning the last game of May, the Twins posted their first winning month in 2006 with a record of 15-13.

And now, the details.

Twins team stats for May 2006:

CategoryStatValueAL Rank
(of 14)
ML Rank
(of 30)
HittingBA - Batting Avg .28834
OBP - On-Base %.342713
OPS - On-Base + Slugging %.771613
H - Hits28124 (2 tied)
R - Runs149410
HR - Home Runs2412 (2 tied)24 (3 tied)
XBH - Extra-Base Hits84818 (2 tied)
GIDP - Ground Into Double Play259 (3 tied)18 (4 tied)
K - Strikeouts13724
BB - Walks781023
PitchingERA - Earned Run Average 4.19414
IP - Innings Pitched249.0n/an/a
H - Hits2791325
R - Runs129514
ER - Earned Runs1164 (2 tied)12 (4 tied)
HR - Home Runs31616
BB - Walks Allowed672 (2 tied)2 (2 tied)
K - Strikeouts22912
WHIP - Walks & Hits Per Inning1.397 (2 tied)16
K/BB - Strikeouts Per Walk3.4011
P/IP - Pitches Per Inning16.205 (2 tied)13 (3 tied)
FieldingFPCT - Fielding %.98012n/a
E - Errors2112n/a
DER - Defense Efficiency Rating.66114n/a
SB - Stolen Bases Allowed124n/a
CS - Caught Stealing83 (3 tied)n/a
% Caught Stealing.4003 (2 tied)n/a

Analysis: At the plate

Say, that's more like it. Now, they really need to work on taking more walks and hitting for extra bases, and the Twins' proud tradition of grounding into double plays at every conceivable opportunity especially with one out is still going strong. But scroll down, take a gander at April's hitting stats, and then look at May's again. Looks like a whole different team, doesn't it?

Which is good, because no one wanted to see the April Twins again.

Analysis: On the mound

The good news is, Twins staff shot up to #4 in the league based on ERA in May. The bad news is, #s 1, 2, and 3 are all in our division. Crap!

And yet, to practially halve the team ERA in a month is no mean feat, and our boys should be proud. They gave up a metric crapload of hits, but got so many strikeouts, double plays and well-timed infield flys that they managed to wriggle neatly out of most of their own jams. I personally would rather see the bags a bit more empty as we stride boldly into June, but if stranded runners are all they're offering, I'll take 'em.


Analysis: In the field

Holy meltdown, Gloveman. The Twins' hitting and pitching skyrocketed past the league median in May, and yet they barely posted a winning record. Here, we see a big part of the explanation. Errors abound! Lowest defensive efficiency in a league that includes the New York "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gloves" Yankees!

And three--THREE!--of those 21 errors happened in the outfield. Only one was committed by a pitcher. None by the catchers. Which puts 17 errors in 28 games on the infield.

I promised myself I wasn't going to do this, but I just can't hold it in any longer.

Juan Castro has 7 errors in 41 games with the Twins and is hitting .238/.265/.580.
Jason Bartlett has 7 errors in 46 games with the Red Wings and is hitting .304/.320/.763.

WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO WE HAVE TO LOSE BY BRINGING BARTLETT UP?!?!?!?!

[This post has been temporarily interrupted while the blogger receives treatment for self-inflicted cranial bruising.]

----muzak----

----muzak----

----muzak----

[We now rejoin our scheduled post.]

So anyway, we've got an infield displaying the approximate competence of Enron management. Which begs the question: What's to be done?

First base is not a concern here. Morneau's doing fine. He has two errors on the season and a .995 FPCT, which places him squarely in the middle of the AL pack for first basemen.

At second, Castillo is obviously having some trouble adjusting to the Dome. He's a Gold Glove fielder who is only one error shy of his 2005 total already. He's also missed a few days with nagging injuries which may be fouling him up in the field. I wonder if a rotating Punto/Rodriguez/Castillo platoon in the Dome for a few weeks, with Castillo making all feasible road starts, would help ease him into the Dome and out of those injuries?

At short, we have Juan Castro. This guy is an excellent defensive utility infielder, but the strain of the day-to-day grind is starting to show in both his hitting and his fielding. He had two errors in April, five in May. His range factor has decreased markedly in the last few weeks, another sign of trouble. As you all know, I'm for solving this by bringing up Jason Bartlett. Even if JB came up and did his best Bret Boone imitation, there would be a couple of weeks of much-needed rest for Castro before the next demotion.

At third, Tony Batista, who is doing as well as can reasonably be expected of a slightly pudgy guy in his thirties who's never borne any resemblance to Corey "MINE!" Koskie. Which is to say, he's a mediocre fielder, but he tries. He does quite well with the balls he gets to, really, but his range is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. Unfortunately, this infield needs a little more right now. Luis Rodriguez has performed well in the hot corner in the past, and Terry Tiffee is waiting in Rochester. But do the Twins then release Batista? He's not a BAD player, you hate to just toss him out on his ear. Another platoon situation, perhaps, with Batista backing up our fly-ball pitchers and Rodriguez getting the start behind the others? Or does Gardy just need to be more willing to pull him for a defensive replacement in the later innings of close games?

It's a conundrum, and I'm glad it's not my job to solve it. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be actively solved. Gardy has his guys he's stuck on, and the only way they come out of the lineup for more than a day is via injury. I think that stubborness cost us a lot of games last year, frankly. I think it's cost us some this year.

And maybe there's the biggest problem of all. We've got ourselves a manager who did a great job with a group of players that was primed to win, but seems lost and confused with a team that has struggles that are not temporary in nature, and will not change without decisive leadership.

We've got some damn fine young players marking time in Rochester because they need to "figure things out" and "work through some issues". But where do you send a manager to do the same?

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