"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

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Case You Missed It

TBL was fortunate enough to be at last night's game, and to have her trusty digicam with her. If you missed the on-field festivities, here are a few shots that somehow got taken without someone's waving hand/cap/head in the way.

You should be able to get a larger version by clicking on the images; full-size versions of at least some of these will eventually appear on my Flickr page.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, #34

There's been a good bit of talk this season about how the number 34 keeps popping up for the Twins since the death of THE #34, Hall of Famer and legendary centerfielder, Kirby Puckett.

To refresh your memories:

  • The Twins have worn the number 34 on their right uniform sleeves all season, as a tribute to Kirby.
  • The ballpark bill, after years of wrangling, cleared the state Senate on a vote of 34 in favor, 32 against.
  • The Twins won their 34th game of the year (May 10th at Rangers) 4-3.
  • The Twins' 34th road game was a win (June 8th at Mariners, 7-3). The start of a 9-for-10 streak that put the Twins at .500, this game is marked by most analysts as the game in which the Twins season turned around.
  • Their 34th home game was also a win (June 25th vs the Cubs, 8-1). The Twins had 34 at-bats in this game.
  • After starting off the season with two months of consistent sucking, the Twins put together a stunning seven-game winning streak (in the midst of a 21-for-23 rampage starting June 8th) to pull to the .500 mark on June 18th, putting their season record at 34-34.
Chalk up one more. Last night, in the bottom of the eighth inning of the win that officially admitted the Twins to the 2006 postseason, the Twins' greatest slugger in 19 years stepped to the plate. He had inexplicably gone over a month without a home run, but on a 3-2 count Justin Morneau swung his mighty bat with two runners on.

And hit home run #34. To center field.

How about that?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Media Round-Up

Blogger's note: TBL is mad busy lately, what with the baseball and the cubicle and the piracy and the very occasional need for sleep, not to mention the other writing projects which have been as sadly neglected as this blog. So, y'know, there will be posts when TBL has a few minutes to spare and enough caffeine to string together a sentence.

From twinsbaseball.com:

Nathan's save made him the first Twins pitcher to record at least 35 saves in three consecutive seasons.

"We need a whole team effort," Nathan said. "We need runs scored, our starters to pitch well, the other hands in the 'pen getting us there, so I think this stat is definitely more of a team effort, and this milestone recognizes what our team has been able to do."

Nathan's comments are a reflection of the Twins' team mentality. And with Minnesota's magic number at just two, it leaves open the possibility to clinch a playoff berth as soon as Monday, if the Twins beat the Royals and the White Sox lose in Cleveland.

TBL says: Go, Cleveland!

Also from twinsbaseball.com:

Players try many different things to get through the long season, but it's what shortstop Jason Bartlett hasn't done that's been the key to his success.

With his start on Sunday, Bartlett extended his streak of consecutive games played to 92. It's by far the longest stretch that he's ever played in his career.

"I think it's all mental," Bartlett said. "I talked to [former Twins infielder] Ron Coomer the other day about it and he agreed that to keep going, you tell your body that it's not tired and remember it's all in your head. That's what I'm trying to do."

But while this stretch has been tough, it's also given Bartlett the chance to show how consistent he can be at the position. His dominant presence at shortstop has made the Twins hesitant to give him even just one day off while the club pushes for a playoff spot.

"I think it's a character builder for Bart," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Knowing he can do it and still find a way to go out there and get it done. ... [He's] a little worn out, but it's something he's really learning from."

Gardenhire has been so impressed with Bartlett's play that he described the 26-year-old on Sunday as the most consistent shortstop the organization has had since Greg Gagne, who played for the Twins from 1983-92. Bartlett has made so many routine plays recently that an error in the second inning of Saturday's game was a bit of a surprise to Gardenhire.

"When you see him throwing the ball low yesterday, you were just like, 'Wow,' because he's been so consistent," Gardenhire said. "Bart's really has done everything that you can ask this year. His performance been great for this team."

Knowing that those types of errors, which came a little more frequently for him last year, are now looked at with surprise is something that has given Bartlett a lot of pride.

"I think my presence out there helps the team, and that's big for me," Bartlett said. "With me and Nick [Punto] on that left side, I think the pitchers have more confidence. They know that a lot of balls are going to be caught. It's good to be the guy out there that can give the team confidence."

TBL says: So, is that enough "leadership" for everyone? Good. Because if TBL sees any stupid moves with our shortstop next spring training, TBL's going to have to come down there and bang some noggins together. TBL's pacifist ideals do not extend to mismanagement of her baseball team.

Still twinsbaseball.com:

Matt Guerrier had been waiting a long time for his first Major League win, and his teammates sure made it worth the wait.

Guerrier's eyes were a tad blurry after Saturday's win, as he was doused with champagne and a shaving cream pie. Considering that Guerrier had gone 88 appearances without a victory -- the longest active streak in the Majors -- it seemed to be an event worth celebrating.

But with falling just short of earning a win so many times, Guerrier said it wasn't until he got in the clubhouse that he really let himself appreciate the win.

"A couple times this year, I did think about getting a win out there on the mound, and it affected the way that I threw," Guerrier said. "This time I tried to put it out of mind ... it's just good to get it out of the way."

TBL says: Well good for Mr. Underappreciated. Nice to see his teammates made a big deal of it for him.

And one more from twinsbaseball.com:

And while there is quite a bit of excitement around the club at the prospect of just making the playoffs by earning the Wild Card, it's not the only thing the team is looking to secure this week. There is a feeling that the division would mean so much more to the club that has dealt with plenty of obstacles this season.

"We want the division," Bartlett said. "It would be such an extreme to go from 12 ½ games out to win the division. That would really be an amazing story."

TBL says: That is a story TBL would very much like to write about. Get hopping, boys.

From TwinCities.com:

If they win the division, they would have completed one of the greatest comebacks in major league history. Minnesota was 12½ games back on May 27. Only five teams have recovered from being 12½ or more games out to finish in first place, recently Seattle in 1995.
TBL says: Shhhh! Don't jinx it!

From StarTribune.com:

Twins catcher Joe Mauer put himself in terrific position to win the American League batting title heading into the season's final week, but he'll have to fend off two Yankees to do it.

Mauer went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, pushing his average to .347.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is officially second in the AL, at .339. But Jeter's double-play partner, second baseman Robinson Cano, is batting .341.

Cano missed 35 games because of a hamstring injury, but he needs only four plate appearances tonight at Tampa Bay to get back on the leaderboard and 22 more before the season ends to qualify for the title.

Players need 502 plate appearances, or 3.1 per game, to qualify for the batting title. Mauer has 582. If he holds on, he'll become the first catcher to win the AL batting title, and the first catcher in either league since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

"You guys keep reminding me about it, but I haven't really thought about it," Mauer told reporters after Sunday's game. "All I know is we've got to win two more games to get to the playoffs, so I'm pretty excited about that."

TBL says: Is it just TBL, or is Joe Mauer too good to be true? He's young, he's cheap, he throws out basestealers, he calls a good game, and he's led the AL in batting practically since spring training. And he's also friendly, humble and selfless?
TBL is far too cynical to buy this. He must kick puppies in his spare time or something.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Alas, Poor 'Cisco

I think the Twins' site headline and subtitle sum it up:

Worst realized with Liriano injury
Young star's short comeback ends with a thud

Check any blog, local newspaper or major sports site and I bet you'll find a post or three about this sudden end to Liriano's season and what it means/might mean/could mean to the Twins' playoff chances. So I'm not going to go into detail about that. Seems obvious to me--he's out, he might need surgery, he could even miss a year, and this does deal a blow to our postseason hopes. A fatal blow? Time will tell, but I don't think it's necessarily so.

I heard the comment yesterday, "I hope this doesn't turn Liriano into another Joe Mays." I'll let you take a moment to massage that wince out of your facial muscles. But as painful as the thought is, the wrong injury at the wrong time can derail any career, no matter how promising. And again, only time will tell. And waiting sucks. For him, infinitely more than for us.

Here's hoping for the best.

Good luck, 'Cisco. See you in the spring...?

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wiccan Sign Allowed on Soldier's Plaque

For those of you who have been following this story with me over the past several months, here's a welcome update.

Sgt. Stewart's memorial plaque (but not his headstone) WILL bear the symbol of his religion. Not (alas) because the VA finally got off its collective ignorant ass and approved the pentacle symbol, but because the State of Nevada (bless them) stepped in and dealt with the situation.

Wiccan Sign Allowed on Soldier's Plaque
RENO, Nev. - The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan won state approval Wednesday to place a Wiccan religious symbol on his memorial plaque, something the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had refused.
'I'm honored and ecstatic. I've been waiting a year for this,' Roberta Stewart said from her home in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.
Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan last September when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter. Four others also died. Stewart was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
He was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize and therefore prohibits on veterans' headstones in national cemeteries.
But state officials said they had received a legal opinion from the Nevada attorney general's office that concluded federal officials have no authority over state veterans' cemeteries. They now plan to have a contractor construct a plaque with the Wiccan pentacle - a circle around a five-pointed star - to be added to the Veterans' Memorial Wall in Fernley.
'The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone,' said Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. 'But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country.'
Wiccans worship the earth and believe they must give to the community. Some consider themselves good witches, pagans or neo-pagans.
The Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There is also an emblem for atheists.

Now, to correct the headstone problem. If you haven't yet emailed the VA to protest their inaction, now's the time.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Un-freakin'-believable (In A Good Way)

Think back two months. It was just a few days before the All-Star Game, and although the Twins had a very good June, they were about a jillion games out of first place in the Central Division. And before June? Loading the bases with no outs and failing to score was less surprising than squeezing a run or two out of the situation. I do believe we led the league in stranded runners. On the rare occasions that the Twins hitters remembered that you have to get back home before the third out to score, the pitchers were so confused by these unprecedented happenings that they completely fell apart out there.

Now, if you went into the All-Star break believing that the Twins had a real shot at the playoffs, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line. I'd like to question you extensively with a view to figuring out how anyone so optimistic survived to adulthood.

And then, you know, after the All-Star break the hitting continued and some mistakes were rectified and some pirhanas were specially shipped in from Rochester, NY. But behind the fierce hitters with their pointy teeth was a rotation of JOHAN!, The Duct Tape Shoulder, CISCO!, The Amazing Longball, and I Can't Bear to Watch.

But CISCO!, it turned out, was pitching through some pain when maybe he should have been talking to a doctor about that pain, and the end result was a trip to the DL and a rotation of The Duct Tape Shoulder, JOHAN!, The Amazing Longball, I Can't Bear to Watch, and Oh Please God No Not Again.

And then, of course, The Duct Tape Shoulder became The Broken Shoulder, which led to the Amazing Vanishing Pitcher. So then, for a while, the rotation was JOHAN!, The Amazing Longball, I Can't Bear to Watch, Oh Please God No Not Again, and This Is A Top Prospect?.

And somehow, don't ask me how, I really don't know, in the midst of all this chaos and nail-biting and hair-pulling and the sudden reappearance of whole racks of ass-bats, the Twins have pulled into the Wild Card lead and snuck up on the Detroit Tigers in a big way and with just a couple more steps they'll be able to reach out and grab that kitty's tail and give it a little kitty coronary, 'cause those Tiggers sure didn't see the Twins coming, did they? But you can't blame them, because NOBODY saw the Twins coming.

Along the way, I Can't Bear To Watch has transformed himself into Boof Bonser: Serviceable Starter, and This Is A Top Prospect? has edged his way into the role of Hey This Kid Might Be Okay. Also, we hear that CISCO! may pitch in the bigs again as early as this week.

And now, the cherry on TBL's sundae, her favorite undervalued longman is finally getting a shot at the rotation.

Guerrier gets a starting nod

MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Guerrier has been waiting a long time for his first Major League win.

Having gone 87 appearances without a victory to make him the active leader among Major League pitchers, Guerrier has shown plenty of patience in waiting out his first "W."

That patience might not have to last much longer, as it was announced on Saturday that Guerrier will get the start on Tuesday in place of Scott Baker. It will be the first start for the right-hander in the Major Leagues since he made two for the Twins in 2004.

"I'm not saying it's going to be easy," Guerrier said of getting that first win. "I'll be on a pitch limit and everything, but I'll go out there and see what happens."

Getting back to being a starter, the role in which he has spent most of his career, is something that Guerrier had hoped he'd get the chance to do. There had been musings, with the Twins' recent rotation struggles, that Guerrier might get another shot as a starter, especially after he threw 49 pitches in his outing against Detroit on Thursday.

"People have always said stuff like, 'Do you think this is something that's going to come?'" Guerrier said. "I didn't really even think about it. I didn't want to think about that and have it not come, but I was very excited when [Anderson] told me today."

So, the rotation now reads: JOHAN!, The Amazing Longball, Mr. Underappreciated, CISCO!, and The Serviceable Starter.

Now, if Silva can just find his sinker (last sighted somewhere south of Birmingham) and the pirahnas keep those teeth nice and pointy, we'll be nigh invincible.

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