Monday, September 25, 2006

The Debate

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I know Yogi – it’s never over til it’s over, right? Well, now it's over, and starting tonight the Twins face a decision. Will they try like hell to catch the Tigers by the tail, or ease their foot off the gas in hopes of setting up their rotation and resting some key players?

There’s some mixed signals coming out of Twins camp regarding this. Manager Ron Gardenhire doesn’t anticipate a big celebration if the Twins clinch their playoff spot, since they’ll still be gunning for the AL Central championship. On the other hand, there is NO WAY Santana will be starting next Sunday if the Twins have clinched a playoff spot. In his weekend radio show, Terry Ryan talked about the division race being the focus. But he also talked about Brad Radke returning to the mound at least one more time this year (likely Thursday), which is hardly the type of gamble a team in a tight division race would take.

There aren’t a lot of strong arguments for either side. Wild card teams have done very well in the playoffs the last few years, overcoming whatever scheduling disadvantages they might encounter. Furthermore, the Twins haven’t been particularly strong at home in the playoffs in this millennium, winning just two of eight games from 2002-2004, so it’s not like dome field advantage is critical. Finally, if the Twins play games 1, 2 and 5 on the road, it allows Johan Santana to battle on the road twice, and can give rookies like Boof Bonser or Matt Garza some starts at home.

But that argument also demonstrates why it isn’t critical that the Twins juggle their starting rotation. Other than making sure Santana starts game 1, does it really matter if Bonser or Carlos Silva starts Game 2? Or Radke or Garza for that matter? Picking a pitcher from the middle of the Twins rotation is like choosing a fortune cookie from the basket at Kwan’s – until you open it, does it really matter which one you chose?

The best reasons behind the debate are far more nebulous. In support of chasing tigers, the Twins don’t want to face the Yankees in the first round, who seem to have some kind of evil mojo in the Dome come playoff time. The best reason for accepting the wild card berth is that some important players in the lineup and bullpen could probably use the rest. Is a short respite going to undo a season’s worth of strain on Torii Hunter’s foot, Joe Mauer’s hamstring, or Juan Rincon’s shoulder?

It isn't the importance of the debate that makes it popular. It's the accessability. A fan doesn’t need to be armed with much knowledge to have an opinion on rest, or the Yankees, or the importance of home field advantage. But for all the hand-wringing, it’s hard to see that the final choice will make much difference.


DrJubal said...

Allow me to throw out a crazy alternative opinion. Santana doesn't do well in April. Santana didn't do particularly well in Yankee Stadium in October the last time we tried this. Is it a cold weather thing?

Would it perhaps make any sense to have him go for game 3?

Walter Hanson said...

Is this a real Twins fan? Not start Santana for game one? Will the Yankees be so confident in victory they will start a minor league instead of Johnson or Musina?

We have won our playoff games in Yankee stadium when Santana pitches and usually it's game one. The problem has been we can't win the home games and barely lose game two.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to throw in a quote from ESPN's week 1 power rankings of the Twins.

"Everybody's preseason darling in '05 can't do any worse, can they? Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer must become offensive leaders."

Must they?

Anonymous said...

Santana has 11 career playoff innings at Yankee Stadium. He has yet to surreneder a run. (He did once leave early due to cramping.) His worst playoff outing ever was the last playoff game that the Twins have appeared in -- at home -- against the Yankees.

Intern Thomas said...

And by worst, you mean the Twins were up 3 runs in the 8th inning and should have won?

We want Santana pitching every game possible in the playoffs, no matter where he is.

BD57 said...

Look, if we're going to win it, then somebody has to beat the Yankees.

I like our chances better than the A's or the Tigers, so let's go do it.

Batgirl said...


Anonymous said...

Firstly let me congratulate Twins fans on the playoffs, you people earned it. As a lifelong Sox fan, my team generally isn't in the playoffs so if possible I've rooted for Twins to go all the way once we were out of it. Most Sox fans I know do the same. For the first time in my life I'm considering not doing so as a result of the behavior of Twins fans. I've always held the Twins to be a classy organization and this is why Sox fans, players and broadcasters have routinely praised their style of play and hustle. But lately I only see this reciprocated with a complete lack of class. Outside of the ultimate evils of the Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs no team more routinely disrepects our incredible history, fans and team. I believe our teams are at a crossroads, where we can continue as friends and good natured rivals or we can descend into all out hate. I'd hope to avoid putting the Twins in the same category as the Cubs which is why I'm writing this now. All I'm saying is think about it, are we really as bad as the Yankees? As bitchy as the Cubs? As unbearable as the Red Sox? Think for a second about all AJ did for you before you boo him. Maturity and friendship should go beyond name calling and disrespect. This is an olive branch between our fans before we cross the boundary into all out Cub level hate, because once that boundary is crossed a Sox fan will never cross back. During the contraction scare I wrote emails arguing in your favor because I thought of the Twins as a friend to my team. Just think about what you're doing before you disrespect us in ways we've never disrespected you and kick us while we're down in a way designed to be both personal and hurtful.
yours in baseball
Sox fan

HrbekIsMyHero said...

To the anonymous White Sox fan:

You present a lucid, cogent and classy post. I would only offer that the "feud" between Sox and Twins fans is usually only carried on at nasty levels by true zealots, who should be ignored or muted at all levels. Most of the recent dislike even more moderate Twins fans express toward the White Sox centers on a few fairly obvious problems with some, not all Sox fans. To wit:

1) You are a big market team. You spend money as a big market team. Therefore you earn the wrath, justifiable or no, of mid and small market low spenders who don't like the current fiscal disparities. Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, and yes White Sox fans often deride the Twins for "not having the balls to spend the money to contend...or not showing up to ball park in droves to support their team" forgetting we fans don't set the payroll and the Twin Cities population is dwarfed by that of NY, LA, and/or Chicago. Read the White Sox interactive board for examples. "I hate the Twins, they're cheap, they don't love their team...etc." It's annoying. You and your fans did not "do anything" to deserve more payroll and thus a better team, other than live in a larger market. Put that to bed and you'll feel a lot better. Read my lips: You are not entitled to a winner because you live in a big market. Repeat ad infinitum until it sticks in your head.

2. For what its worth, the Twins too often portray themselves as "the little engine that could..." and it gets a bit sickening even to most of us, but the cold hard reality is the Twins and Terry Ryan have blown you out of the water 4 years out of 5 with a payroll far less than yours. It wasn't a league wide conspiracy or anything like it. You just lost. Every year prior to this one, all we heard from the White Sox players and fans, was something to the effect of "you were LUCKY, we had the better team." Bullstuff. You got played...four years out of five. Period. Buehrle whining, "the Twins won't win a series in the playoffs" is a classic reason why we hate the White Sox. Blow it out your collective ear. You are not guilty of this offense. But admit when you lose, that you LOST. God did not deprive you of a championship, and games are not won "on paper."

There are many more such problems, but I don't have time to roll them all out for you. I must admit that until the collective population of Sox fans kneel before Ron Gardenhire's throne and admit that they have been INFERIOR five of the last six seasons, despite higher payrolls, and better teams "on paper", we will continue to despise you. That and the fact you play in our division....that could be some of it too (wink).