Wait. Only a Month to Go? Yikes…

Yep, I know, I should be updating this more often, but forgive my lack of entries lately while I still continue to get my life sorted out and find full-time work again so I can get back into some kind of settled routine. In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts from the past few weeks.

  • Glen Perkins may, apparently, file a grievance against the Twins for the way they handled his recent injury. I hope it gets settled. I always liked Glen, but it’s clear he couldn’t cut it as a starter and has been really inconsistent, despite showing occasional signs of brilliance.
  • Justin Morneau is in a slump again. I like this guy, I think he’s a huge talent, and there’s no denying his value to the Twins is immense. But despite this, he seems to end up going into a slump every single damn season, and always at the most inappropriate time. As many fans noticed, both Justin and Joe Nathan were also whining in the press a couple of months back about how the Twins organization don’t bring in enough new talent via trades, and yet both of these players have been instrumental in recent Twins losses because of  their lackluster performances. Of course, both are still hugely valuable players and are usually dominant factors in any Twins’ success, but perhaps they might need to think before they speak or just go about their business quietly and efficiently like Jason Kubel.
  • Matt Tolbert and Brain Buscher were both brought back up from Triple-A at the expense of some exciting younger prospects. This kind of bugs me. Both Tolbert and Buscher have proven to be decidedly below average in the majors over the past couple of years, but still the Twins won’t take a chance on some of the newer prospects who they deem “not ready”, despite tearing it up in the minors this year. I find this kind of sad as it seems to be something the Twins have done well in the past. True, not every youngster is going to cut it in the big leagues, but one Denard Span is certainly proof of what can happen if you give an unknown young’un a shot. What’s worse, is reading purported stories like this one, which imply that Matt Tolbert’s ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘hard work’ are enough to make him a success, despite his proven lack of talent and ability. What is he, a bloody cheerleader? The crap that spews forth from Ron Gardenhire sometimes is enough to make you crazy.
  • Jon Rauch, now a Twins’ relief pitcher after being traded from the D’Backs, has scary googily eyes, but whenever he’s on the mound, I can’t help staring at his neck tattoo which looks to be about the size of Alaska.
rauchtattoo.jpgphoto: David Wallace/The Arizona Republic
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Shouldn’t This Be Fun?

Firstly, I apologize for not updating this sooner. What with being jobless and out of my usual routine, I’ve not felt particularly inspired to write posts here when I have more important things to concern myself with right now.

But to be perfectly honest, the Twins have hardly been inspiring lately either. Earlier in the season, such performances would usually have entailed me ranting on this very blog, but sometimes it’s like flogging a dead horse. I think all us ‘fans’ know what’s wrong with the Twins right now, but it doesn’t seem many of these issues are being addressed by the management folks.

The most disappointing factor of the season so far is the obvious weakness of the AL Central. To be honest, I sometimes think none of these terms deserve to go to the play-offs, but of course, someone has to. Strangely enough, even as many games as the Twins are back, there’s still a chance they could make it, but it’s a very, very slim chance admittedly. With the talent in the Minnesota line-up, this team should have ripped the AL Central apart, so their lack of good performances this year have made it all the more troubling. 2009 was really the Twins best opportunity in a long time, and they’ve pretty much screwed it up, and it’s all been because of one thing: terrible pitching.

Still, I almost hope they do kind of give up on their divisional hopes. One thing that’s alarmed me about watching the Twins lately is that they just don’t seem to be having any fun. They don’t appear to be enjoying themselves. Sure, it sucks to lose a lot, and teams like the Nationals and Pirates are well used to it, but the Twins look miserable out there, and it just goes to show: expectations are a bitch. If good things wouldn’t have been expected of Minnesota this year, maybe everyone could have enjoyed themselves a bit more, but right now, it looks brutal out there. It’s not always the losing that matters, it’s how completely and utterly the Twins have been outplayed, especially in August. It hasn’t been much fun for the fans either.

But, if the Twins are pretty much done for this year, there’s still a few good things to look forward to. If the pressure is off them a little, perhaps they can shake things up good and proper in September and be the pesky little troublemakers they usually are. There could be the opportunity to finally see some classy players from the Twins’ minor league affiliates brought up to the majors like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Danny Valencia, Armando Gabino, and Steve Tolleson. Perhaps some of the comedy bullpen clowns like Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain will finally be sent down. Starters like Nick Blackburn and Anthony Swarzak are having horrible games out there, so they’d benefit from some time to work on that, while the Twins bring up the young arms and let them demonstrate what they’ve got… and there will be nothing to lose.

And of course, there’s one very important thing to look forward to, and that’s Joe Mauer and his hunt for the .400 average. The way things are right now, it’s not impossible by any means that Mauer could reach that golden number. The odds are still against him, but it’s going to be fun watching him try. Joe Mauer is still, completely and utterly (at this particular time of writing), 100% AL MVP for 2009. Plenty of other players have had great seasons so far (like Mark Teixeira) but nobody has been quite as brilliant as Joe Mauer (and evidently, Joe Posnanski agrees) when it comes to being the most valuable asset on a team. Joe Mauer has shined both offensively and defensively, and if he doesn’t get the award this year, it’ll be a travesty. But that’s a good word to describe the Twins’ season so far, so anything could happen.

Crushed!

After their successful midweek sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the Twins were quickly brought back down to earth with a resounding thud, being swept by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in three games.

The Halos scored an incredible 35 runs, thoroughly decimating a sorry looking Twins who have now dropped to one game under .500, and yet they still remain merely three games back, which I think says more about the weakness of the AL Central than it does about the abilities of this year’s Minnesota team.

Even though Nick Blackburn pitched effectively on Friday evening, and the Twins opened up a 5-2 lead, the Angels came back to tie it up in the eighth inning due to the familiarly ineffectual Minnesota bullpen. A six-run eleventh inning then completed the comeback, humbling the Twins who really should have done a better job holding their lead, as the Twins finally lost 11-5.

On Saturday, Anthony Swarzak gave up six runs, and not to be outdone, the bullpen chipped-in for five more. The Twins were in it early on, matching the Angels with two-run second and third innings, but the Halos were far more relentless and once again crushed Minnesota 11-6.

If those two games weren’t ugly enough for Twins fans, Sunday didn’t bring much joy either. Glen Perkins was his usual ineffective self, and the Angels ran out 13-4 winners.

It’s worth noting that on Friday, LA catcher Mike Napoli went 4-for-6. On Saturday, he went 3-for-5. And on Sunday, he didn’t even play, yet the Angels still put 13 runs on the board. Despite Minnesota’s thorough inadequacy this entire weekend, there’s no doubt in my mind that this Angels team really looks the part. Against overwhelming odds, Mike Scioscia has done an incredible job with his team this season. Even with injuries to star players like Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, and the tragic death of Nick Adenhart, this team has played like champions these past few months, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t go all the way, providing their starting pitching can settle down.

Minnesota on the other hand… Well, as I mentioned above, somehow they’re still in it, and now move on to face three at Cleveland and then three at Detroit. While it’s true that they’ve fared far better this year against AL Central opposition, these upcoming games will be crucial. Cleveland may be a little depleted personnel-wise, but now the pressure is off them, they put up an excellent showing against the aforementioned Tigers this weekend, so they’ll be no pushovers as usual.

Dick & Bert consistently harped on about a Carlos Gomez throwing error in the game on Friday night, and other defensive miscues here and there this weekend, but the simple fact remains that the Twins were outdone not only by an Angels team who are far stronger and quicker than them offensively, but more importantly, Minnesota’s starting pitching and bullpen sucked huge donkey balls and won’t be able to take this team all the way if they continue to put up performances like that. Make all the excuses you like, if the pitching doesn’t get it done, this team will be thoroughly held back from ever succeeding.
 

The Twins Made a Move

In a stunning move that will undoubtedly be sending shock waves throughout the land, the Minnesota Twins actually made a trade move before the deadline today. It’s true! It really happened! A’s short-stop Orlando Cabrera is now a Twin, and the organization didn’t have to give away an outstanding prospect like Danny Valencia but instead gave up a still very good prospect by the name of Tyler Ladendorf, who’ll no doubt go to Oakland and become the greatest player ever in the history of baseball.

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photo: AP/Ben Margot

This seems like a positive move for Minnesota. I doubt Cabrera will be stunning (though you never know, he’s been scorching in July so far), but he can’t be any worse than what we’ve got now, and the Twins apparently got some cash too. More than anything, sometimes such moves can provoke a bit of excitement for fans and players alike, and it was encouraging to see the Twins doing something to address their weaknesses at the very least.

Still, the Tigers and White Sox both boosted their rosters with pitching talent instead, something I think the Twins might have been better off doing. The Tigers got Jarrod Washburn from Seattle, while the White Sox had to give up four good prospects to the San Diego Padres just for the single, currently injured arm of Jake Peavy. Now don’t get me wrong, Peavy is an ace, no doubt about it, but this looks more like a move for the future as Peavy will probably get maybe 4-5 starts this season when he’s back from the DL at the end of August. But if post-season play is in the future of either the Tigers, Sox, or Twins, those extra arms could prove very useful, and the Twins might regret not bolstering their starting pitching sooner.

Welcome to the Twins, Orlando! Look forward to seeing you at the Dome tomorrow to take some sweet revenge on the Angels.

It’s Been a While…

… Since I last wrote, but I think with good reason. Unfortunately, the company I worked for had to shut its doors and lay off not just me, but 50 or so other people. It’s a real bummer being unemployed in this tough economy, and the start-up I worked at, even though it had a brilliant and well-received product, fell victim to both these difficult economic climes and a few poor management decisions along the way.

So with all this time on my hands you’d think it’d be an ideal opportunity to write about the Twins any time I liked, but it really doesn’t work like that for me. This blog was mainly started as a diversion, a nice respite during a regular work day and an opportunity to take a break at lunch time and focus on something else. Now I have all the time in the world, it’s actually a lot harder to get motivated, and of course I have more important things on my mind. However, with a little time to get over the harsh realities of life, I will bounce back.

So how about them Twins eh? Just when you think they’ve finally given up the ghost and decided to die peacefully, they turn it around again and start to realize they’re still in this thing. I’m still not sure if they can last, but they just don’t want to die either, so I suppose that’s encouraging. After a nasty three days in Oakland (Heather and I somehow managed to attend the only game they played well, Tuesday’s 3-2 tenth inning win), the trip to Los Angeles was not much better as the Twins dropped three of four to the Angels. But that final game victory was followed by a sweep of the White Sox back home, and what with some better looking production from the usually less-than-stellar lower batting order, Minnesota now finds itself just two games out of first place again.

Can they keep it up? It’s hard to tell right now, as throughout the season the Twins have consistently switched from dazzling to deadbeat from day to day. They pretty much just scraped by the White Sox taking advantage of their mistakes, but to be honest, if “doing just enough” is what it takes, so be it. Admittedly, for a change, it was nice to see the OTHER guys imploding instead of us.

However, the Twins starting pitching will have to remain confident, and with 100 games behind us now, the repercussions of any extended losing streaks are far greater than they were earlier in the season. Right now, the Twins do have a good chance of finishing first, but they probably have an even better chance of finishing third, as the race with Detroit and Chicago remains tight. They may need to make a trade move to acquire another pitcher. With Kevin Slowey out for the season, Nick Blackburn having ‘issues’ after the All-Star break, Francisco Liriano with a potential wrist problem, Glen Perkins being merely ‘meh’ all year long, and Scott Baker not being able to shut teams down, unless the Twins get some help in that department, they’re going to have a tough time against their main rivals this year.

If I’m unfortunate enough to be unemployed for a while, I hope, at the very least, I can enjoy the Twins playing competitively again, but if there was ever a time for Minnesota to finally make an exciting move before the trade deadline, I think that time is now. I’ll be stunned if that happens, knowing this organization and its somewhat ineffectual management, but delighted if it actually does, and it would certainly show fans looking forward to outdoor baseball in 2010 that they can truly compete with the big guys.

Yet More EPIC FAIL

As both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays showed earlier this season, sometimes being 10 runs in front is not enough to win a game. On Monday night, the Oakland Athletics rallied from being 12-2 down at one point in the game to beat the Twins 14-13 in the end.

Anyone who saw the game though, even when Minnesota was 10 runs up, knew that a victory for the Twins was not a foregone conclusion by any means. After Jason Kubel made it 3-0 in the first with his 16th home run of the year, the A’s immediately bounced back to make it 3-2. Things then looked to be going the Twins’ way after Justin Morneau cranked a grand-slam, and followed that up with a three-run shot the next inning, but still the Athletics kept stringing together hit after hit to make sure they were never really out of it.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Pitcher Nick Blackburn never looked in command of his pitches, and the Twins’ defense was fairly lackluster all night, but the fatal blow was struck in a seven-run seventh inning by the A’s. With the Twins’ comedy bullpen trio of Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel (whose start had been suspiciously good prior to this game and was due to implode any moment), and Jose Mijares on display, Matt Holliday’s grand slam tied things up and was topped-off by Jack Cust’s solo home run shot to make the game 14-13 in Oakland’s favor.

Sure, the Twins had let a big lead slip, and to be honest, didn’t really deserve to win after giving it all up so stupidly, but in end, it was a controversial umpiring decision that settled the affair. In the top of the ninth, Michael Cuddyer was called out sliding into home plate on a passed ball, and it was very, very clear from the replay that he was safe by a mile. That poor decision pretty much cost the Twins the game, and it was a cheesy way for the A’s to finally get the victory. Of course, it’s easy to blame an umpire, but when you’ve given up 14 runs in a game, you pretty much deserve everything you get.

cuddy-slide.jpg

photo: AP/Yahoo!

Still, Oakland needs what little joy it can muster in what’s been a poor season for them so far, and in the end it was a shame there were only around 10,000 folks at the Coliseum to watch their epic comeback as this once historic franchise continues to struggle. In the meantime, it was yet another terrible meltdown for the Twins, and a bullpen performance which was almost hilarious and tragic in its ineptitude.

I’ll be there tonight (Tuesday), and frankly, I’ll settle for a 9-0 blowout A’s win rather than what transpired on Monday night.

Twins Take Texas

It was a pretty good weekend for the Twins, all things considered. Minnesota managed to take two games out of three from the Rangers, and only narrowly missed out on a sweep when RA Dickey gave up a walk-off home-run to Ian Kinsler on Sunday evening in extra innings.

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photo: AP/Yahoo!

Glen Perkins didn’t start Friday’s game too well. After giving up a two-run shot to Josh Hamilton, I’m sure many Twins fans were having nightmare flashbacks to his Yankee Stadium meltdown earlier in the season. However, the Twins prevailed. Carlos Gomez’s two-run triple tied things up in the next inning and this was followed up by a vital three-run homer by Jason Kubel shortly after. The bullpen performed impeccably and the Twins ran out 5-3 winners.

On Saturday, Scott Baker had one of his best outings of the season so far, so it was good to see him regaining some confidence. Baker pitched eight innings, giving up just eight hits and one earned run. The Twins’ offense did just enough, even if it wasn’t spectacular, and Minnesota won 4-1 to take the series.

Sunday, however, was a weird one. The Twins showed very little offense, and even Texas seemed a little jaded too. Francisco Liriano had an unspectacular outing, which started promisingly, but then faded. In an I don’t believe what I just saw! moment, Nick Punto went 3-for-4, and even hit a home run, while Joe Mauer went 0-for-6. Mauer was a pitifiul 1-for-13 the entire series, and his average dropped to .358, leaving him behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is at .363. Despite this, the Twins still took the series, and it’s a promising sign if the other guys on the team can perform well when our star players are slumping.

With Detroit being swept by the Yankees in three very close games, Minnesota moved to two games back in the AL Central, but once again, they can’t rely on how the other teams are performing in the division if they’re not winning games themselves, so a sweep of Texas would’ve been a far prettier outcome. Now the Twins move onto Oakland where they split a four-game series in June. They better win Tuesday at the very least, because I’ll be in attendance at the Coliseum!

In other intriguing Twins news, the organization signed veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a Minor League contract.
The guy is 39-years old so I’m not sure how confident we can be about his fielding abilities these days, however he’s certainly a quality hitter, and considering the other duffers the team have been putting at second base like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, I doubt Mark Grudzielanek could be any worse.

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photo: Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune