Sunday, August 1, 2010

Eight Games, Tough Love, and a Shiny New Closer

So I go on a little mini vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior and a whole bunch of stuff happens while I'm gone. Thank goodness for my Blackberry so I could refresh Twitter every three minutes for trade updates and plug into to listen to the games (turns out that the only baseball we could pick up on the radio when we were in Two Harbors was the Brewers...not that there's anything wrong with that).

Not the least of the commotion is this nifty little season-high eight-game winning streak. Nothin' wrong with that, I tell you what. Granted, those eight games were against the likes of the Orioles, the Royals, and the Mariners -- each cellar dwellers in their divisions. But the Twins needed to win those games; it's a good thing that they did. Tampa Bay coming up is going to be a challenge -- here's hoping the Twins built some momentum. Kind of like when riding a bicycle and you pedal hard on the downhill part so that you have don't have to pedal as hard on the upcoming uphill part (a technique I wish I had employed on vacation, which might have prevented that embarrassing near-fall and need to walk my bike up the rest of the hill...but I digress).

So, hi, Matt Capps. It was crazy: I was sitting around the campfire and then, between rounds of Twenty Questions (I almost won with "dixie cup"), I glanced at my phone to see that the Twins had traded hot-shot catching prospect Wilson Ramos and some guy named Joe Testa (man, I need to brush up on the minor-leaguers) for relief pitcher Matt Capps and some cash. I also saw the fans' reaction -- and, boy, did the fans react. Whew. I guess the general consensus is that while Capps is a serviceable pitcher, and he does address a need, perhaps giving away the top prospect might be overpaying just a tad. Ok, I understate -- some folks were downright livid.

I, on the other hand, am pretty content with the trade. Wilson Ramos, because he's the fourth man on a catcher depth chart led by some guy named Joe Mauer, isn't really helping the big club much. So, really, his only value for the Twins was what he could bring in a trade. There were rumors that he may have been a big piece in a possible trade to land Cliff Lee, but he suffered an oblique strain. Who knows if that's true (the possible trade part), or if it was really a factor (the oblique strain part), but the fact that Ramos has a history of injury can't be ignored -- he may not have been all that and a bag of chips once teams look at his medical records. I do wish him well with the Nationals.

It's true that the bullpen was a little thin. Blackburn was sent down, and, as much as it breaks my heart, it needed to happen. Waiting for long-relief opportunities wasn't helping him. And if he couldn't be trusted as a starter, he can't really be trusted as a reliever. Regular work in the minors will not only help him with his mechanics but also his confidence. I hate it that it had to come to this, but...tough love, I guess. So with Duensing taking Blackie's spot in the rotation, the bullpen was thin. It's good the Twins picked up someone who can help strengthen it.

I also appreciate that the Twins front office recognized that Jon Rauch isn't the closer they needed him to be. Nothing against Rauch; he did fine since he was named the closer at the beginning of the season, but he doesn't really have blow-'em-away stuff. And I think it started to show and opponents were beginning to figure him out. Many bloggers and other experts think the "save" is overvalued, and therefore this trade was unneeded. But, I tell you, in a close game in the ninth, I want to have all the faith in the world in the man on the mound -- I just didn't with Rauch.

That's not to say that I will have all the faith in the world in Matt Capps -- he'll have to earn that. He does have a history of falling apart. But, with Rauch, Guerrier, and Crain at the ready, I feel pretty good about the whole thing.

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