Tag Archives: Minnesota Twins

Stab #1 at “The ‘pen”…or…”Who ya gonna call?”

     By now, most every fan knows what this picture was supposed to mean…except this season, it will no longer have a reference to Bobby Jenks, who was non-tendered by the White Sox this off-season and (according to reports) decided to not accept the White Sox offer to return for a chance to compete for the club’s still vacant closer’s job, before accepting a set-up man role with Boston.  Thanks for the memories Bobby, but YOU GONE.  

The question is: Who’s Ozzie gonna call from the old bullpen this season?

(Hint: The answer is NOT Ghostbusters…)  Now, Twins-busters?  Okay, I’m listening…

Matt Thornton: The most dependable arm we have, and you can make a case that he is one of the elite late-inning relievers in all of the game right now.  The only question is: Is he ready to assume the (still) vacant closer role that was capably occupied by Bobby Jenks since 2005?  Some say “yes”, some say: “why mess with a good thing?” or better yet: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”…we know what we’ll be getting from Thornton.  Lights out, (usually in dominating fashion) relief 9 out of 10 times.  Does that mean he’ll duplicate that success as a closer?  This is where the risk comes in for me.  My wish would be to add a closer from the FA market (Rafael Soriano is the best available, and could still be had for the right price…but is that the direction that KW will go?  Should he, with several closer options (albeit none with a proven track record) already on the roster?  Can he, with the budget already near an all-time franchise high?  Inquiring (and impatient) fan’s minds want to know!

Chris Sale: The Rookie (not even officiallyone yet either) phenom who went from 1st Round Draft pick (13th overall) in June of 2010 to set-up/closer for the White Sox by September…he’s the wildcard in our bullpen, as to whether he’ll: 1) begin the season in the starting rotation (due to Jake Peavy’s uncertain timetable for a return from his season-ending surgery last year, then go to AAA to remain a starting pitcher,  2) remain a part of the starting rotation even after Peavy’s return (which would likely mean that one of the current starters would leave via trade), 3) start a few games (if necessary) until Peavy returns, then return to his role as flamethrower in the bullpen, possibly as the closer?, or 4) stay in his role as flamethrower (again, possibly as the closer) from the onset of the 2011 season?  Decisions, decisions…at least this one is a good one to have to make, as we are talking about what looks like a special arm for years to come.

Jesse Crain:  Had a great year last season for the arch-rival Twins (and most notably against us head-to-head), so the assumption can be made that we got stronger by not having to face a guy that literally dominated us in key late-inning situations.  Addition by subtraction?  And hopefully, he can duplicate that dominance for us against his old mates…that would be ideal.  His role has been middle to late inning roles, setting up for closer, but from early indications has the makeup and ability to be a possible closer.  His acquisition was especially key to replace the defection of FA J.J. Putz who siezed an opportunity to become the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Let’s hope Crain can help us forget all about the one year White Sox wonder that was JJP. 

Sergio Santos: Quite possibly the most under-rated arm that we have in our bullpen.  Considering that he is a converted position (Shortstop) player, and how short of a time that he has been a pitcher, his progress is remarkable.  If he continues to improve, add pitches to his arsenal, and keep the walks low…might very well be in a position to himself assume the closer’s role.

Tony Pena: Proved to be a valuable contributor, especially late last season as he made several spot starts and did surprisingly well for the club in that role.  He is a hard-throwing righty who can be used in mop-up, swingman, middle, and late-innings situations.  It’s both a shame and a blessing that he survived (and mostly thrived) while Scott Linebrink (traded to Atlanta) never lived up to his “set-up man extraordinaire” billing. 

Will Ohman: Newly acquired lefty whose arrival confused most of us.  Clouding the projected use of Chris Sale, as seemingly the 3rd lefty in the bullpen.  Regardless of his role (in place of Sale or in addition to Sale), he was clearly added to help neutralize those LHH in key spots of games, namely Morneau, Mauer, Kubel, and maybe one Jim Thome again…just as long as he is better than Randy Williams, that’s all I care about.

Another pitcher: (hopefully soon) to be named, or one that earns a spot with an impressive Spring Training showing (or one that at least shows a bunch of promise, since you couldn’t have been any more impressive than Greg Aquino last ST, who still has yet to get a call…) this list is a deep one of names ranging from unproven but promising minor league relievers, to former major leaguers who are trying to recapture former success.  If one of 10-12 names can be this year’s Sergio Santos/Boone Logan/Chris Sale (or better known as that guy that came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot)…there may not be a need to add a more expensive FA name to an already strong cast who will be our key to success ala 2005, and not our achilles heel, ala 2010.  Here’s hoping THIS ‘pen will be the former, as on paper, it looks to have the goods.

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Not exactly what you had in mind, is it?

     Well,  if this is what some Twins fans that I have conversed with recently meant by: “making noise in the postseason this year”…I am left to ask the obvious question: What noise exactly was made?

     That’s really all that needs saying, the rest would be perceived as “piling on”, and by the looks of the twins.com comment threads since the Twins were officially eliminated from this year’s postseason, I couldn’t possibly say anything new that hasn’t already been expressed by other White Sox fans, Yankee fans, fans of baseball in general, and (surprisingly enough) from some very disgruntled Twins fans themselves…

     And just for a refresher, you might want to go back and re-read my earlier letter that served as the catalyst for this “kinship” between myself and the good folk of the Minnesota Twins fanbase… http://baseballjones.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/an-open-letter-to-the-minnesota-twins-and-their-fans/

     It may read a bit differently today, than it did a short 3 weeks ago.  They say: “How quickly things change” (as in how short a time it took for your team to be riding so high, and now reduced to utter failure)…but in this particular case, it’s more like: “Some things never change” (as in you still cannot beat the Yankees, and thus advance out of the first round, or even begin to pretend to make any “noise” by winning at least 1 game in a series against them), or even better: “The more things change, the more they tend to stay the same” (like my feelings about the Minnesota Twins organization,  and the ever-firm allegiance and loyalty to my Chicago White Sox) …and

(as promised)…

 

Sincerely, (your pal) WhiteSoxLifer

“Lookin’ forward to doing it again in 2011″

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Is today the end of the road, Twins fans?

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Things we know, and things we don’t…

   First off, let me just say that once you’ve gotten used to 7 months of continuous baseball, and then it’s gone for a few days?  That’s tough to deal with.  I forget this each season.  This year (again), I am reduced to watching the postseason without a favorite dog in the fight.  So, when the dog fighting continued yesterday, with a triple header on TBS, I was at once and again, in baseball heaven.

   Let’s get down to cases.  Here’s what we know about my little adopted pet project, The Minnesota Twins…OOO-for the last 10 postseason games.  That is NOT good.  Is it better to make the playoffs, only to choose to not participate in them?  More (I’m positive) on that later.  Next, OOO-for the last 7 against the Yankees in the postseason.  Again, not good, and we may be WAY past ownership and mental blockades here.

   The Twins had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers by catching CC Sabathia on a night that he clearly was not his sharpest.  They had the home crowd on their side, as witnessed by the chorus of childish groaning after each close pitch was called a ball.  [Side note: Get real folks, it was old after the first 5 times you begged.  I know you paid for your tickets, but really. ] I highly doubt there will be a second such opportunity the next time (if there is a next time this PS) that you face Carston Charles. 

File that one under: Bungled

   Now, another thing we know is that the winner of Game 1 , has been the eventual winner of 12 straight ALDS series.  Talk about your uphill climb.  Let’s get to the game, in cliff-notes fashion:

Congratulations go to Francisco Liriano

for waiting until the 6th inning to shit himself this time.

Congratulations to Jim Thome for still being the Jim Thome that White Sox fans had come to the realization that he was not clutch when it mattered most.  Now, you know what we meant Twins fans (is Thome still your homie?)…enough said.

Congratulations to Ron Gardenhire for giving us all the opportunity to witness the pitching talents of Jesse “Crainwreck” Crain.  Can you say: True Colors?  I’ll spare you the Cindy Lauper video clip, this one hurts enough, I’m sure.

   And one last thing we know:  The Yankees not only have a switch that they can flip to the “On” position, but they damn near snapped it off by putting a 6-spot on the Twins in 2 innings…something not easily done in the postseason, when you are supposed to be facing the best pitchers on the opposing staff.  Can you say: Quicker hook?  These defending World Champions are battle-tested, AND battle-proven warriors.  They took the Twins best punches, and then proceeded to pull the old Ali “rope a dope” to pull this one out.   And, IF the Twins even have a switch to flip, it is painfully obvious that they are still fumbling around in the dark to find it…try the other side of the room, guys…you’ll soon find it?

   Okay, enough about Game 1, it’s in the books.  It’s time for: Things we don’t know…We don’t know if Carl Pavano is up to this challenge of trying to even this all important, and pivotal Game 2 of a short series (best of 5).  This happy-go-lucky guy who apparently has endeared himself to his teammates by being “Mr. Laughs” in the clubhouse…we don’t know if he’s: Funny = Ha Ha, or Funny = sad clown, smiling to keep from crying.  I mean, the moustache is funny, as long as you aren’t the guy wearing it….we’ll see which one he is after tonight. 

 To continue, we don’t know if Andy Pettitte is still “as big as they come” AP, or an older, watered-down version of his usual, dominant postseason self.  We don’t know if the Twins can/will respond…I don’t think THEY even know, as bad, and as one-sided as this match-up (notice that I can’t even call it a rivalry) has become in recent years.  And finally, we don’t know if Mariano Rivera will ever show any sign of being human.  Got Mo?  This guy is the Terminator on the postseason stage.  The only “cracking” that ever seems to happen with him, are the opponent’s bats being reduced to kindling for the fire.  Scoop ‘em up, Twins bats boys, and make a pile.  You may need it soon enough to stoke that fire for the long, cold, Winter ahead….

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Time to flip that switch, Minnesota Twins….if there is a switch.

Woo Hoo!  We clinched the AL Central again!!!

Uh oh!  I think we may have forgotten how to win…maybe we weren’t that good?

Oh boy, we sure don’t have much confidence in the post-season, given ALL of our recent failures…

Could this be ANOTHER LONG OFF-SEASON?

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Do they have a “panic room” at Target Field?

By all accounts, this is a wonderful new stadium, this Target Field.  Built for the Minnesota Twins.  I wonder though, did the architects of this magnificent structure (given the past recent history of this successful regular season baseball franchise) have the foresight to have provisioned for what is becoming a frequent problem?

Recently overheard at a Twins game:  “Um, excuse

 me, can someone please tell me where I might find

the safest place in this stadium?  I am feeling a bit

uneasy about what has been going on around here

lately, and I don’t want to….well, let’s just say that I would feel a whole

lot better if you can direct me to the basement…why the basement?  Well, you see we’ve been

losing a whole bunch lately, and looking downright awful while doing

it.  I mean these games aren’t really as important, but….OH FUCK IT,

does this place have a PANIC ROOM?!!!???”

If they do, it’s likely Standing Room Only in that bad boy…but  if they don’t, they had better build one awfully quick!  Storm clouds on the horizon…and a big ol’ knot in the stomach I bet…

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A Refresher Course for some “chippy” play

I recently posted a blog that received a little bit of attention from Twins fans, where in part I described my own displeasure with some questionable play from our Division rivals to the North.  Now, of course, I have my own view of what happened, and all others are equally entitled to theirs.  Go figure that there might be a variance between the two sides, depending on whether you were on the giving, or the receiving end of the following events.  Just to refresh everyone’s memory, I give you my own perspective on perhaps why these events transpired in the first place.  Not really a true case for “causation”, but more of a “linkage” between past and (recently) present…Allow me to set this up for the viewers.

First, we have the Twins left fielder, Delmon Young.  Having a wonderful break-out season to be sure, but on this particular evening, made a curious choice.  Please notice the path he takes toward home plate

Shocking?  Certainly not.  This is a part of baseball.  An attempt to dislodge the ball from a waiting Catcher has always been an acceptable part of this game, and likely will remain, and be repeated numerous times in the future.  For my money, I love a game played hard, and with passionate effort.  Notice the picture I included of a perfectly acceptable, clean play.  Own your actions, and I have no problem.  But, in the video clip, did this player have other intentions?  Hard for me to say, but this is certainly in question.   Was he interested at all in scoring a run on this play?  Sure didn’t look like it to me.  Even the simplest of slides would have made for a very close play at the plate, and any attempt at an artful slide would surely have resulted in a safe call, given where AJP was standing with the ball.  Delmon attempted neither kind of slide.  He went “the long way around the barn” to initiate contact, and not just your normal forearm to where the glove (with ball inside) was located, but this was your garden-variety forearm shiver to the head, and not only the head, but the facemask.  Wouldn’t a guy trying to knock the ball free from a catcher (again, a certainly acceptable brand of hard-nosed baseball) at least target where the ball was?  This is how I viewed the play.  Others have obviously viewed it differently, and one jack-ass continues to insist that I don’t know what I am talking about, and have much to learn about the basics of baseball, just becasue I didn’t see it his way.  Who is right?  Watch it again, then “Holla” back at me, and let me know your thoughts.

This next video gem, I submit just for some additional fun.  And for someone who has a very definite opinion on what the motivation behind the last “incident” might have been…I thought it was relevant to today’s topic.  I give you: Exhibit A, your honor.  Mr. Young, in his finest hour, and as evidence of possible “probable cause”…or would this be, “precedent”?  or maybe just plain stupid, ignorant and embarrassing?

Classy stuff, huh?  Somebody took Delmon’s manhood away (maybe that’s how his pea-brain works) and he just had to act out?  Something a 4-year old might do.  Try to set aside the bias you have from he being a very popular, and productive member of your team (this season anyway) if you can, and look at it purely from a psychological/behavioral perspective.  Still proud?  Is THIS how real intellectual baseball fans understand how the way the game “should be played”?  How proud are we, really.  Yeah, I guess I am confused, and need some education on how real baseball fans see things, because if this is what is acceptable?  Color me lost.

Do I really need to say much more?  The only thing that creeps to mind, might be:  Yeah, those Twins, they sure can pick ‘em.  They do everything “the right way” don’t they?  Homegrown talent?  No.  Model citizen?  Not exactly.  Didn’t stop them from acquiring him via trade though did it?  And people ‘boo’ AJ Pierzynski?  He runs his mouth, wow, call a cop.

Now, let’s shift gears a bit, and take a look first at some recent history that may have contributed to another event that received a fair bit of attention and discussion from our collective fan bases…roll the clip

Certainly, on the face of it, nothing really to get too excited about.  One of many games played on a normal calendar day during the MLB season.  And, really just 1 of 18 games played annually between Division rivals, right?  I didn’t think too much about this drubbing given by our White Sox to those pesky Twins after this night, after all, it is a LONG season, and many more games still left to play, so no bigee.  Now, let’s fast-forward ahead later in the season…

“Just a bit inside” and high, and head high for that matter.  “Purpose pitch”?  Thrown with purpose, absolutely.  Purpose achieved?  Usually when you have a pitch delivered from a pitcher, and it obviously “gets away from him” and hits a batter in a place that was not intended, you’ll clearly see that pitcher turn his head, or make some sort of (any sort of) unknowing gesture.  The proof is usually in the body language, but absent of any, what is the normal observer supposed to think?  If somebody out there can please send me video evidence that is contradictory to what I have seen, I would be grateful to see it, AND reform my opinion on the matter.  I won’t be waiting by the old in-box though.

Check out Pavano again, in the few shots you can see him in.  Does he even approach the home-plate area to at least give the appearance of concern (false or otherwise genuine?)  Nope.  Does Mauer even bend down as a gesture of concern?  Not that I saw.  You know what would have been a classy gesture?  If Gardy had come out of the dugout as a show of concern for a fallen player.  I am not saying that he had to come over to Ozzie and say anything, or even do anything that remotely resembled something that would communicate that this was an unintentional act.  Maybe just a few steps as feigned concern for the safety of another human being?  No?  Even in Football, a sport much more known for its violence, and intense rivalry between teams, with years of bad-blood brewing between arch-enemies, you will still find a moment when an opposing man is down in a heap (and feared injured), often a player from the opposing team will come in and kneel down to offer comfort, and maybe add an obligatory pat on the back, or the touch to an arm or something…This case?  Nothing.  Oh well, to each his own…are we still on different pages as far as how things may be perceived from our fan perspective.  Are we crying, or being too sensitive?  Do we just “not understand” how real baseball fans think?  Or maybe we see it through our own filter, is that possible?  Try to place the shoe (or the forearm to the face, or the fastball to the nose) on the other foot to see how you might have swallowed that pill.  Just sayin’.  You might have had a few choice words on the topic had the roles been reversed.

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Which costume from the “Wizard of Oz” does Justin Morneau secretly wear?

You know, Justin Morneau is a pretty good ballplayer.  The problem is, he can’t seem to stay healthy enough to stay on the field.  To the Twins credit, they seem to play very well without him…making a great run to force (and win) a game #163 against the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 2009 season, and now again this season, putting an incredible 2nd half stretch of winning baseball together to run away with the AL Central Division…again, without their star First Baseman. 

So, I guess my only question today is this:  With all of this spare free time that this ballplayer has on his hands, you know, since he can’t seem to stay on the field to help his team…what does he do to entertain himself?  I had heard through the grapevine that Justin was a huge fan of the classic movie, The “Wizard of Oz”.  So much so, that he enjoys dressing up like some of those classic characters.  I have to wonder, which one is his favorite?

Is it the Tinman?

Is it The Scarecrow?

Is it The Cowardly Lion?

OR, is it The Wizard, himself?

Of course, you’ll remember that the Tinman was lacking a heart

And, The Scarecrow, he needed a brain.

The Cowardly Lion?  He just needed some courage.

But, The Wizard, he was thought to be able to deliver all things to all people, when in reality…he was a fraud…”Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain”

I bet its a tough choice when all four costumes are hanging there in the closet right in front of you…so hard to choose just one, since they all fit so well.  You know, when you are a professional athlete making MILLIONS of dollars, you can have these kinds of things tailored to fit like a glove.  Money is no object, since the fans, they willingly and mindlessly fork it over to see their favorite heroes give it their very best, their maximum effort on the field each and every game.  What I suspect it comes down to each day for Justin, is which one do I feel like wearing today?  Each apply, and each seem to work as an excuse outfit to wear to the ballpark.  Especially since the uniform doesn’t need to be dusted off, because there’s just no telling when he might play again.  No rush though, the Twins are in the playoffs without him, again.  Now, exactly how valuable is he?

But, I’ll tell you what, winning or not…that’s an awfully expensive seat on the bench that Mr. Morneau is warming.  Get well soon, Justin…or not.  It doesn’t seem like the team is missing him much.

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Color Me UNimpressed…

Since I am reduced to watching MLB through a different set of eyes, not having a “dog in the hunt”, I have noticed that I now see things a bit differently.  Case in point:  Let’s take last night’s menu of action.  How did the MLB contenders present their case for future preparation/hopeful postseason success?  Well, what I saw from the Minnesota Twins was not very inspiring.  Have they already clinched the AL Central?  Yes, and it looks like they are in “coast mode”.  After playing the role of scratching post for the Detroit “Kitties” to the tune of a 10-1 drumming, should there be any real cause for concern here?   Consider a few things before responding.

1) “Frankie” Liriano removed himself from the game very early after it was obvious that whatever he was doing, wasn’t working, and wouldn’t be working for any longer of an extended appearance.  I think I heard the reason was a “stomach virus”?  Is that a nice way of saying that he shit his pants, and didn’t want to go through his pitching motion with soiled drawers any more than he already was forced to?  Or maybe this is an indication of a more serious problem, like (god forbid) a more serious injury than was first reported, or evidence of an even more serious condition: Quitting early when the results aren’t favorable.  Either way, former or latter, it does not bode well for the Twins who I figured were probably counting on this kid to do some heavy lifting in the postseason as one of the starting pitchers in the abridged version of a rotation.  Feeling pressure now?  Wait until you face those Yankees, “swinging from their heels” in the ALDS, imagine how that “turtle head” peeking out of the old butt crack will be inching its way out then?

Uh oh, Mauer better make ANOTHER TRIP out to the old mound, and for Christ sake, bring the toilet paper!

2) I followed the Yankees trailing the Red Sox 10-1 early in their game, only to see them rally back to place the tying run at the plate before finally succumbing to Jonathan Papelbon 10-8.  Did they quit?  Didn’t look like it to me.  They have something to play for though, as they are fighting with the Rays for the AL East Division Title, with the eventual “loser” earning the Wild Card spot.  But wait, isn’t the best record in the AL still up for grabs?  You might think that this would be an important factor to consider with home field advantage such an important consideration, especially when you are as proud of your new home field as Twin fans are.  This might motivate all teams involved toward continued high levels of play, and not falling into a “desirable” mode of resting key starters and “getting your rotation just the way you want it” like I have heard as excuses from Twins fans as reasons for past postseason failures.  I would worry that those other 2 “beasts of the East” might be honing each other’s blades right down to the wire, and that the team that was coasting to the finish line that is a 162-game season might be getting a little complacent.  But why worry about that, right?

You have a masterful field leader in Ron Gardenhire to keep the charges inspired, ready, and sharp as a marble razor with how he has proven that he can lead his past successful (6 Division Titles in 9 years, right?) squads to ultimate levels of readiness and preparedness.  No cause for concern there at all (6-18 postseason record).

With the AL postseason match-ups still far from being decided, you have to wonder how it will all pan out.  I hadn’t even mentioned a “Cinderella” Texas squad (also still having something to play for on the cusp of closing out their “quest for the AL West”) who will be trotting out Cliff “Minnesota didn’t need me” Lee, and his impressive post-season resume.  The left-handed version of a dominating, shut-down pitcher rivaled only by CC Sabathia.  Speaking of leftys with impressive postseason resumes, didn’t Andy Pettitte pitch last night on the short end of tough outing?  Did he “beg out” when he didn’t have his best stuff?  Big difference between Veterans who have been in a big spot, and those youngsters who have not.  I call it the “Fight vs. Flight” factor.  I got a pretty good idea that Pettitte WON’T be squirting in his compression pants at the sight of whoever he is facing come October…talk about been there & done that.

In closing, forget about even mentioning what inspiring ball is going on in the National League (Giants, Padres & Rockies engaged in battle, another Cinderella Reds story, and the impressive dominance that is still the Phillies)…since these Twins (because of all previously mentioned factors), next sniff of a National League stadium will likely be next season’s Interleague schedule.  You know, I kind of like this Twins analysis/reporting…with not much else to focus on, I may just make THIS postseason, a personal project of mine.  Now, wouldn’t THAT be fun.

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“Ease his pain!”

Thank Christ!  Losing streak = Ovah!  Check that, Thank the Marks Brothers.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, has taken as many arrows for these 2 “least of our brothers” all season than I have, and believe you me it was hard & steady work. 

Hey Kotsay & Teahen:  If you never contribute another single thing to the success of the Chicago White Sox for the rest of your lives (careers) on the South Side, just know that I had your backs, and from the bottom of this fan’s heart, THANK YOU for easing WhiteSoxLifer’s pain.  Your timely 2-out hitting ended this putrid, rancid 8-game skid…and just when it looked like we would never win another game all season, you two pulled on your “big boy pants” and finally decided that enough was enough.  For this I will be eternally grateful.  And although it may only be  a temporary fix, it certainly soothed my “Win Jones”.  Thanks again Boys.

And, PS-  Remember this image, Twin fans…

We may be simply playing out the string, but your days of false dominance in 2010 are also dwindling.  Enjoy them while you can, because you may be joining us in the “land of irrelevance” in as soon as 30 days…

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