Monday, August 30, 2010

Doing Something Good, Again

UPDATE: I just wanted to let you know that Dewluca has graciously set up a Facebook page for this project (see the comments section for the link). Also, since watching Jim Thome hit homers is so much fun, I've decided that I'll also donate a food item for every tater he mashes. This is gonna be fun!

September is almost here. The summer is winding down, school is about to start, football is ramping up. It's easy to kind of check out on the Twins' season.

But, this is the time the Twins need us most. They're pushing to the playoffs; the call-ups are coming soon. It's just getting good.

About this time last season, I was tired of watching this team flounder and piss away the rest of the season. I needed a fun boost to keep hanging with them. At the same time, I knew I wanted to make a food donation to my local food shelf and I was looking for a way to know how much to buy. So I decided to pledge two food items for every Twins win. Now, as then, I like Twins' wins much better than Twins' losses.

My pledge worked much better than I expected. For one, the Twins must've been truly motivated by my idea, because they pulled it together and won the division. Also, I wound up donating way more than I thought I would -- I figured it would be 30, maybe 40 items. Turned out it was 66 (actually 70).

I had so much fun, I'm going to do it again. For every Twins win from Sept. 1 until the day they're cleaning out their lockers, I pledge two food items. Last year, I pledged for opponents' losses too, but that just seems like bad karma, so I won't do that. To make up for those items, I'll kick one in here and there as my whim strikes me (for such fun things as complete game wins, cycles, dramatic walk-off hits, etc.).

Again, I pledge to find good, healthful foods that families can use, plus few treat items.

I challenge you to join me in this pledge. It's fun, and it makes you feel good. And as far as making the Twins win, it can't hurt and it might help.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Twins at Mariners: Hanging Out with Good People

Friday -- Twins 6 - Mariners 3
Saturday -- Twins 1 - Mariners 0
Sunday -- Twins 1 - Mariners 2

Record: 75 - 56, 4 1/2 games ahead. Magic Number: 28

This series featured opportunities to hang out with some fun people and watch great pitching. All three starting pitchers this series were very good and very fun to watch (too bad the bats couldn't help Pavano a little more on Sunday).

On Friday night, Scotty was pretty impressive. It was nice to see him coast along.

Unfortunately, even though I directly requested that Randy Flores make a good first impression, he didn't. I didn't enjoy seeing the bases loaded with no outs.

Then, when Guerrier came out in that situation, I admit, I was pretty nervous. I love Matty, but I know he's been struggling a bit lately (perhaps overused? Again?). But, boy, did he ever cowboy-up -- foul pop and GIDP! Very hot.

Oh, and I guess I need to welcome Brian Fuentes. At least I know who he is. So welcome Brian. It was a funny story when I first heard the news of his claim. My husband and I were hanging out with our dear friends, and their son told me that the Twins got Brian Fuentes. I said, "no, no, no. That was Randy Flores a couple of days ago." Ha. I didn't find out until I got home that the young man was right. Which kind of predicted my new tendency of confusing those two names. Be warned, there's a very good chance if I say "Randy Flores" I mean "Brian Fuentes," or vice versa.

Or not -- I'll try to be careful.


Saturday I went to another great viewing party -- this time a combo effort by Sooze and TwinsCentric. It was a fun time hanging out with a bunch of great Twins fans and bloggers. I custom-made a t-shirt just for the event: the front featured my little logo girl, and the back said "Chicks Dig the Infield Fly Rule." Also, the famous k-bro k-brownies showed up with me. I think everyone's getting tired of them though; I had a hard time getting rid of them.

Nick Blackburn gave us an awesome game to cheer for, too. In fact, it was smokin' hott! Not only did he strike out Ichiro three times, he totally blew him away. Ichiro was totally over matched in his final at bat. When Gardy took Blackie out after he walked Chone Figgins, I admit that my heart was a little sad. It wanted him to get the CGSO. However, my head realized that bringing in Brian Fuentes in that situation was a good move -- this was exactly why the Twins got him. And he brilliantly struck out Russel Branyon. That's the first impression I liked to see.


Sunday morning, my family and I went to the State Fair. We did the typical fair things we always do: the Grandstand and Coliseum vendor booths, Ye Olde Mill, the Sky Glide, all our favorite TV stations' and radio stations' booths, bacon, milk, cookies, turkey sandwiches, lemonade, and the Twins booth.

Behind the Twins booth, they had a wiffle ball field set up. As I watched Tony Oliva pitch to little kids (cute!), I heard a voice I recognized. I turned around to see Bill Smith. He was chatting with some fans, so I shuffled his way. My guys wanted to go look at some Ford trucks (I don't know why), so they left, and I waited for Mr. Smith to finish with those other folks.

When it was my turn, he shook my hand and greeted me warmly. The first thing I said to him was, "so Brian Fuentes made you look like a genius yesterday." He said his wife said the same thing. Since no one else appeared to be waiting to talk to him, we hung out for quite a while. I told him I was really enjoying this season and that I was really happy that the team have some great guys on it -- we may have some stars like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but they're not bratty stars like Carlos Zambrano. He said those kind of players don't stay on the Twins very long. We talked about how great Jim Thome is and how the fans seem to really like him. And he said that he really admires Michael Cuddyer because he's such a team-oriented player and that he's so willing to do what's asked of him (Cuddy's played six different positions this season). Bill Smith was very patient talking with this dorky fan and he's great to visit with. He's a really nice guy.

Later, Carl Pavano pitched a good game, -- a wild pitch and a slow outfielder as his only downfalls -- but it wasn't meant to be, I guess. Bummer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Twins at Rangers: Narrow Escape

Monday — Twins 0 - Rangers 6
Tuesday — Twins 3 - Rangers 4
Wednesday — Twins 3 - Rangers 4
Thursday — Twins 6 - Rangers 4

Record: 73-55, 3 1/2 games up

Whew. That was close. That series was ugly, but it could've been horrendous.

On Monday, the Twins narrowly escaped being no-hit thanks to Joe Mauer. No, really, THANKS Joe Mauer. No one wants to be no-hit. And as much as I love historical pitching performances, I don't like them when they happen against my Twins.  Even though it would have been a combined no-hitter, it still would've been historical — I guess they're more rare than single-guy no-hitters. (To be fair, I don't know that for sure, and I'm too lazy to look it up. Someone on Twitter said that — I don't remember who (sorry) — so, ... yeah. This is one drawback to following a bunch of people: someone says something cool four days ago, and there's no going back to find it.)

So, by the time Wednesday's game was over, it looked pretty clear that the Twins would be swept. As if being swept in a regular series wasn't bad enough, being swept in a four-game series would've been almost unforgivable. They were facing Cliff Lee in the final game — this didn't look good.

But, happily, the Twins escaped certain embarrassment, got it together and took the last game. Liriano was stellar, and the offense shook off their yips. Although, it did help that Cliff Lee kind of stunk. Which leads to talk about him "phoning it in" for the Rangers ever since he went there.

These rumors neither surprise nor upset me.


I guess I should give a nice polite welcome Randy Flores. I really need to follow National League teams more, since the Twins seem to gather their pitching staff from there.

So, Randy, welcome to the Twins. I don't know anything about you, so feel free to make a good first impression.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Angels at Twins: Royal Love

Friday -- Angels 2 - Twins 7
Saturday -- Angels 9 - Twins 3
Sunday -- Angels 0 - Twins 4

Record: 72-52; 5 games ahead

I'm in a loving mood this morning. So I thought I'd spread some around...

Brian Duensing -- Aww, honey. It looks like you're all growed up to be a real pitcher. Also, it made my heart sing when you tried so valiantly to come in for the ninth. I'm so proud.
Jim Thome -- Another triple -- your second of the year. I love triples. It's so cute when you have to run.
Jason Kubel -- Ok, so home runs aren't quite as adorable as triples, I do still love them when you hit them. So keep it up.
Any Lefthanded Person Not Named Glen Perkins -- I love you because I honestly think you might be able to help the bullpen. With Mahay and Mijares hurt, and Glen Perkins being (ack) Glen Perkins, you've got a real shot.
Scott Baker -- Rocking the goatee and pitching shutout innings. Very sexy indeed.
Danny Valencia -- That home run was pretty impressive. And you're so cute, I could just give you a big squeeze (in a totally non-creepy way, of course).
Michael Cuddyer -- You not only fought off like 692 pitches from Jered Weaver -- some of which are one you typically strike out on -- and then finally hitting a juicy double, you also sacrificed your ego and intentionally looked silly on the basepaths so that Kubel could score from first. Also, did you see what you did to Weaver's face? I thought his forehead was going to burst. Bonus love for that.
Kevin Slowey -- Get well soon, honey. Again.

And, last but not least, The Kansas City Royals -- You took an excruciatingly cruel scheduling snafu against the White Sox, and beat them two of three. In extra innings. For all three games. All within 24 hours. Thank you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

White Sox at Twins: Fortune Telling

Tuesday: White Sox 6 - Twins 7 (Thank you Jim Thome for showing the White Sox that you love the Twins more than them.)
Wednesday: White Sox 6 - Twins 7 (Joe Mauer finally hits his first Target Field homer, then apologizes for it taking so long. What a nice boy.)
Thursday: White Sox 11 - Twins 0 (Ouch)

Record: 70 - 51, 4 games ahead

I gotta admit, after Tuesday's and Wednesday's dramatic, come-from-behind wins, I may have been a little caught up in the excitement of it all. And maybe, just maybe, I allowed myself to think things like "if we can sweep them, then we're a shoo-in for the playoffs." Actually, I was feeling pretty cocky. But, in my defense, I wasn't the only one. Even ESPN folks were saying that Thursday's game was a "must win" for the Sox and that they might be done if they didn't win.

But then Thursday's game brought Twins fans right back to earth -- and not so gently I might add.

You know the tired old adage hopeful baseball fans like to use, especially at the beginning of the season: "it's a marathon, not a sprint." And, while at this time of the season no longer qualifies as a marathon, it isn't sprint-worthy yet either. I guess it's more of a 5k. There isn't a whole lot of time, but a lot can still happen.

With that much season left, trying to predict the playoff picture in the AL Central is a lot like using one of those paper fortune tellers girls make in middle school.

As of today, the future is still unpredictable. The Twins and the White Sox both know what they need to do to get what they want. Heck, even the Indians aren't mathematically eliminated yet.

Every game in the season is important. A win in April counts the same as a win in September. But now, there's a lot less time to try to recover from any extended slump -- there is no waiting a few weeks for a hot streak to begin. There's time for the proverbial pendulum to swing, but not necessarily enough time for it to come back. It's all a matter of execution.

Yeah. The Twins' chances for making the playoff look pretty good today. And it doesn't seem like they'll have to fight off a colossal collapse. But we just don't know.

So the whole "oooh, the Sox's season is over, the Twins are gonna run away with it" attitude I was sporting was premature. I'd better watch out, or else fortunes might change.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: As They See 'Em

Bruce Weber. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires. New York, NY: Scribner, 2009, 356 pp., $16.00 (cover price). ISBN 978-0-7432-9413-3

If you've been a fan of baseball, at any level, for more than 15 minutes, you have an opinion on umpires. For better or worse, whether they're right or they're wrong, whether you notice them or not, there they are. But no one really knows much about them. As critical to baseball as the pitchers mound or home plate, the umpires are also the most criticized, and often the most threatened, part of the game. So it's good to see things from their perspective.

Bruce Weber allows us to look into this odd fraternity of officials with artful and interesting thoroughness. He covers all aspect of umpiring from schooling, to toiling in the minors, to making it in the bigs, to the history of the profession, to the current state of umpiring. Every topic that has an impact on the men (and very few women) who are charged with representing the rules of the game is covered in this great book.

Well-researched and packed with first-hand accounts, this book is rich with interesting detail and fascinating examination. Weber not only does his homework thoroughly, but he also attended an umpiring academy and officiated a few games himself.

Baseball is prone to cliche and hyperbole, but Weber's accounts and descriptions are so well written and creative, this book is quite engaging and enlightening. While he reveals the umpires' perspective favorably, he remains honest and neutral. And even though it's robustly complete, it's not dry or stodgy. He inserts plenty of humor and cleverness to make this book charismatic.

I really enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot reading it. I highly recommend reading it if you care about baseball or umpiring at all; it's worth your time. Grade: A

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A's at Twins: Sweep out the Ugly Shoes

Friday -- A's 3 - Twins 4
Saturday -- A's 0 - Twins 2
Sunday -- A's 2 - Twins 4

Record: 68-50, 3 games ahead

Well, isn't that nice. A very groovy sweep, with the added bonus of gaining some ground in the division (thanks Tigers!). I like it a lot!

I've gotta admit, I didn't catch much of Friday's or Saturday's games. (I'm really really bummed that I missed Duensing's gem -- I was hanging out with friends who wanted to watch the Vikings preseason game. I know, I know, but they're great friends anyway.)

So, since I went to Sunday's game, I'll talk about that. I had a wonderful time.
  • Beautiful day for baseball. After the recent hot and humid streak Minnesota's been having, it was an absolutely glorious day. It was maybe a bit breezy, but not too chilly.

  • Ok, I know I'm a grown woman. Heck, even my kids are grown. But I bought myself a package of Twins Silly Bandz.
  • (If you don't know what Silly Bandz are, don't worry about it. You'll find out soon enough.)
  • Remember the breeze? Well, it's a lot swirlier inside the ballpark. To which, my husband proclaims "it's too windy, there's no way anyone's hitting a homerun today." This comes into play later.
  • The 9-year-old girl who sung the National Anthem was fantastic. 
  • Twingo! I've never done Twingo -- I don't know why; it just never happened. But I quickly learn that it's kind of hard...I mean how often does one see CI, K-PB, or 7-4 anyway? This also comes into play later.
  • I want to hug Jason Repko. Ain't no way Delmon Young makes those catches.
  • About the fifth inning or so, I find myself shushing guys around me for saying words that rhyme with "bo bitter." Yes, I'm superstitious. 
  • About the same time, I notice Kevin Slowey is getting into some 3-ball counts, but he's been also getting a lot of called third strikes. 
  • My son seems to have every play that happens printed on his Twingo card. And when Slowey plunked Mark Ellis, he won. He got a t-shirt.
  • (He thought it was lame, so he gave it to me.)
  • Remember the wind and what my husband said about it? Yeah, well Jim Thome went ahead and proved him wrong...right after I told my mom "Jim Thome is horrible against lefties." I guess he showed us, huh? It was awesome that the guy who caught that hot tater was wearing a Thome shirt.
  • And then the booing...Kevin Slowey had pitched 7 innings of no-hit baseball, and Gardy took him out and went with Rauch to start the eighth. Many fans were not happy about it. And said so. I agree with Gardy's decision -- Kev just missed a start with elbow soreness; there's no need to re-sore it. Also, he was beginning to pitch erratically and leave some pitches up; he was getting outs by sheer luck. When he hit Ellis, it was pretty clear he was done. Gardy made the right choice. I don't really blame the fans for booing, though. It was turning out to be a special game, and we wanted it to stay that way. It's not very often that an average fan gets to see a no-hitter, and we were mad that it wasn't going to happen this time. Gardy may have made the right decision, but it doesn't mean we have to like it. For what's it's worth, I didn't boo. I don't ever boo (well, that's not exactly true; I've been know to boo an umpire or two). But I did groan when I saw Rauch come out. I would've rather seen Guerrier or Crain.
  • Rauch rewarded my groaning by giving up two doubles, and both those runners scored. So much for that. Crain makes it a little interesting by throwing a wild pitch, then getting one of those famous 6-5-4-6 fielders' choices. But then he gets one of those Slowey-esque called third strikes.
  • This was my first chance seeing Matt Capps live. Single. Double-play. Ground-out. I'll take it.
  • If there was any negative about this game, it was that the Twins left 12 (twelve!) men on base. Not good. Not good at all. But, as long as they win...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Twins at White Sox: Please Pass the Antacid


Tuesday -- Twins 12 - White Sox 6
Wednesday -- Twins 1 - White Sox 6
Thursday -- Twins 6 - White Sox 1

Two of three baby!

Record: 65-50, 1 game ahead

I've gotta keep this one short, but I couldn't let series go without mentioning it.

How much fun was that, anyway? But I tell ya, it sucks to have chronic acid reflux, because this series was pretty stressful. First place in the division is at stake here, and no one wants another game 163.
  • Scott Baker was shaky and gave up five runs. That's usually a recipe for losing, and often very nerve-racking. Twins fans don't like their nerves racked. Fortunately, the Twins scored early and often, so it all turned out good.
  • Glen Perkins (ack!) pitched like the Glen Perkins (ack!) I remember. And, apparently, when a Triple-A pitcher is on the mound, the Triple-A defense plays too. Stressful and maddening.
  • Fransico Liriano was both brutal and brilliant. He got in jams, and got out of jams. Fortunately, the brilliant won out. And when Guerrier came out to get that final bases-loaded out? Yeah, I was a, tense.
So, all of the above combined to give me this:

But, for as stressful, nerve-racking, sticky, strenuous, tiring, wearing, jumpy, keyed-up, and onerous these games were, it's sure fun. All games are important, but games with the closest rival with only, what?, 48 games left in the season, are a blast! If my stomach can handle it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Breaking Down Carl Pavano

Minnesota, Meet Carl. Carl, Meet Minnesota.

A little over a year ago, the Twins traded pitching prospect Yohan Pino for Carl Pavano. I figured this was another timeworn move to acquire "veteran presence" the Twins are always searching for. Visions of Ramon Ortiz, Livan Hernandez, and Sydney Ponson haunted me. To say the least, I was skeptical -- and I admitted as much when the trade happened. I found it odd that he made it through waivers, and Cleveland was willing to trade within the division. His numbers with Cleveland weren't great either -- 9-8 and 5.37 ERA and he missed some time with neck and shoulder soreness.

Part of my negativity toward him stemmed from the unfavorable depiction of him in Joe Torre's (ok, Tom Verducci's) book The Yankee Years. He had a horrible 4-year stint with the Yankees, where he was given a large contract, and due to injury and ineffectiveness, gave them very little return on investment. So a history of being injury-prone didn't do much to convince me this was a good move.

But, he had a reputation of having success against the Tigers. This was important as the drive towards the playoffs progressed.

Playoffs and Beyond

For the final months with the Twins, Pavano wasn't stellar, but he was solid. And he did have some success against those Tigers -- the Twins won two of the three times he started against them. He finished the season 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA. His contribution probably helped the Twins make up ground in the division.

But he really showed off his worth during the ALDS against the Yankees, but unfortunately, his efforts fell short due to no run support (7.0 inning pitched, 5 hits, 2 solo homeruns, 9 strikeouts).

So, as the off-season moved along, the Twins must have seen something they liked, because they offered him arbitration. Now it's common for teams to offer arbitration to their stud free agents in order to receive some extra draft picks if the player signs with another team. But, teams have to be careful what they wish for and can only really do that for players they wouldn't mind keeping; there's a chance the player will accept.

Pavano must have liked the Twins experience too, because he did accept. And then he did the national sports radio interview circuit, saying all the right things with the proper amount of enthusiasm for the club and the community. So, with a $7,000,000 contract, the Twins made him their fourth-highest paid player for 2010.

What Have You Done For Us Lately?

So far this year, that contract offer has seemed pretty savvy; he's having an excellent year. So far, he's 14-7 with a 3.28 ERA. But the most notable stat is the 5 complete games, two of them shutouts. The last Twin to have that many was Brad Radke in 2001 with 6.

However, in his last few starts, he's shown some signs of fatigue. The term "dead arm" has been thrown around the blogs and sports articles. But in his most recent start, he's shown a little more sharpness again. I think he'll be fine.

He's also become a good leader in the clubhouse. He's experienced a lot in the big leagues, from a World Series win with the Marlins to, well, the Yankee Years. And both he and Gardy have stated that he's not afraid to speak his mind. Which, to me, indicates that he's handing out praise and criticism to the younger pitchers as appropriate. I suppose he's kind of a peer-review pitching coach. I think that's exactly what the team needs.

Perhaps the Twins finally found the real "veteran presence" they've been looking for all along.

The 'Stache

Ok, we can't talk about Pavano without talking about the centerpiece of his season -- the oft talked-about 'stache. It seems as if he started pitching exceptionally since he started growing it, at the expense of his appearance. Is it coincidence, or is it some facial seven-locks of Samson thing? Of course, he's coy when he's asked about it. "It's just for fun," is all he'll say about it. But I tell you what, he's got to be superstitious about it. At this point, there ain't no way it's going away.

The Catcher

As a result of Pavano's outspokenness, he decided that Joe Mauer isn't the best catcher (gasp!) while he pitches. He claims that Drew Butera's smaller frame is less distracting and allows him to move side to side better. This annoys many fans and bloggers greatly because they consider Butera an offensive liability. Joe can DH on days Pavano starts, but that keeps hitters like Jim Thome out of the line up.

However, I don't think having Butera catch Pavano is a problem. Gardy has admitted on separate occasions that he is looking for ways to rest both Mauer and Thome an adequate amount to keep them fresh and healthy. Opportunity granted. And Mauer says he doesn't mind -- of course, he's Minnesota-nice, what else is he going to say?

But, I think the real reason Pavano wants Butera behind the plate is because he needs him there. Pavano is notoriously bad at holding on base runners, and opponents know it. This year, Butera is much better at gunning down potential base stealers than Mauer. Butera has a caught-stealing percentage of 44%, allowing only 14 stolen bases out of 25 attempts (catching 11). Mauer, on the other hand, has thrown out only 27%, allowing 36 of 49 attempts (getting only 13).

The Future

So if (a very big IF) Pavano continues at this impressive pace, and if (another very big IF) the Twins return to the playoffs, then the seven million is worth it. But then what?

Good veteran pitching is rare and special...and worth a lot of money. And, as a free agent, he'll probably draw interest from almost every team (well, maybe not the Yankees), which will likely drive up his value.

Of course the big question will be whether he can keep it up. Is 2010 a true indication of his ability, or an anomaly? What will a fair deal be? Will big money equal trouble again? With the Joe Mauer contract kicking in next year, what can the Twins afford? Will they even want to bring him back?

With all these questions, I guess it's best to focus on the present, and keep hoping for the best.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Twins at Indians: Jim Thome Goes Home-y

Friday -- Twins 6 - Indians 7
Saturday -- Twins 7 - Indians 2
Sunday -- Twins 5 - Indians 4

Record: 63 - 49, 1/2 game back

Jim Thome and the Cleveland Indians go way back. He was drafted by them in 1989, and he broke into the big club in 1991 at 20 years old. He spent 12 years there, and then, after 3 years in the NL, he came back to the division with the White Sox for 2 1/2 years. And, once again in 2010, he's back in the Central. So if anyone knows how to hit in The Jake/Progressive Field, it's Jim Thome.

During Friday's game, as he steps in the box to pinch hit in the 9th inning, I can hear fans booing. I'm sure Jim can hear it too. Booing? After 12 years of stellar service to your lowly organization, you're booing? Jim Thome? Ok, fine. So, in a noble attempt at retaliation, he decides to tie the game right then and there with a lovely, wait, no? It's not a homerun? What? It sure looks like a homerun...over the line, off the railing. Right; give the umpires the power of replay, and they still don't get it right. So, a double it is. Sure, the runs still score, but it's not as fun this way. And for a guy who's getting up there in years, and whose homeruns kind of matter because, well, they're kind of milestones, this is tantamount to a real insult.

On Saturday, Thome doesn't play. But the cameras show him looking all proud as his former teammate Kenny Lofton is inducted into Cleveland's Hall of Fame. That was kind of cool to see.

Sunday, as the DH, he decides to do his best to show the Cleveland fans that he knows full well who he plays for now, and he goes 2 for 3 with a walk. Oh yeah, he also blasts a 2-run shot -- a no doubter, no need to review.

Nice work, Jim.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

When Baseball and Bad Spelling Collide: Poster Edition

My teenage son is a typical boy who likes sports. His room is wallpapered in posters of athletes of all ilks. Consequently, he really enjoys his subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids. He looks forward to getting it every month, especially since the center pages pull out to make a poster of an athlete. 

His very favorite baseball player is Albert Pujols (yeah, he's a Cardinals fan -- I have no idea where this comes from). So, this month's edition of the magazine was especially thrilling as the poster was of Sir Albert himself. He immediately hung it up.

When he showed it off to me, well, something stood out and practically hit me in the face...

I've already expressed my displeasure on spelling names wrong, right? Yeah, well double that. You'd think that Pujols has been around long enough -- he's certainly good enough -- to have his name spelled correctly on the sidebar. This is Sports Illustrated, fercryingoutloud!

Who knows? Maybe the layout designer thought he smelled funny and was using a texting shortcut to express that (get it? P.U.-lols).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Twins at Rays: Alternate Universe

Monday -- Twins 2 -  Rays 4
Tuesday -- Twins 4 - Rays 6
Wednesday -- Twins 2 - Rays 1 (13)
Thursday -- Twins 8 - Rays 6

Record: 61-48, 1.5 games back

Earlier today, I listened to a podcast about quantum theory and parallel universes (totally over my head, by the way), but if you think about it, this series seems to have "anti-Twins" and "just odd" written all over it.

  • Carl Pavano, who had been the go-to-guy to end a losing streak by pitching brilliantly, ended a winning streak by pitching dully. 
  • Rays rookie pitcher Jeremy Hellickson pitched like a big-league Cy Young Award winner, then gots sent to AAA 17 minutes after his game.
  • The Twins pitching staff, who coming into the series had given up the fewest walks in the MLB, gave up a crapload of walks.
  • The Twins defense, which is usually pretty solid, looked like it was playing on quicksand.
  • Scott Baker, who had been struggling, pitched crazy-amazingly.
  • Kevin Slowey, who had been stalling on the mound and shaking off the catcher lately, pitched quickly, efficiently, and crazy-amazingly.
  • The Twins bullpen, which had been great lately, blew leads in two games.
  • The two games in which the Twins bullpen blew leads, the Twins won.
  • The Twins were on the road, and they caught some breaks.
  • Jon Rauch, an obviously-grown man, contracted a (usually) childhood virus (hand, foot, and mouth disease).
  • The Twins, who had spent the last decade trying to get out of a domed stadium and had finally succeeded, saved the series split by the grace of the domed stadium ground rules.
  • Jason Kubel, probably the shiest guy on the team, has totally earned the right to strut his stuff. Picture this: as the Twins fly to Cleveland, Kubes walking up and down the plane aisle, shaking his booty and singing "I'm a model you know what I mean, And I do my little turn on the catwalk, Yeah on the catwalk on the catwalk yeah, I do my little turn on the catwalk..."

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.