Hmm. Apparently, the Oakland Athletics do not enjoy losing on the road. In fact, it apparently makes them so gosh-darned mad that they return home with cold hard steely determination in their hearts to make their next opponent suffer as they have just been made to suffer. This suits the Twins just fine, as the Mighty Mighty Elephants spent the weekend laying waste to Ozzie’s boys at the Coliseum, even as the Twins pulled out a somewhat improbable 3-for-4 in Cleveland.
Your standings as the sun rises Monday morning: Minnesota sits one game back of the Tigers, and a previously unthinkable four games ahead of Chicago for the wild card. Better yet, Detroit and Chicago will spend the next three days beating each other up as the Twins take their last breather of the season and head for a three-game set with the sputtering Red Sox.
- Speaking of the A’s, they continue to be exceedingly unhappy with their ballpark, and this weekend, they broke off negotiations for an extension of their lease. It’s no secret in the Bay Area that, if the team can’t get a new ballpark soon in Alameda County, they’re interested in moving down the road a piece to Silicon Valley, where they would become known as the San Jose IT Nerds.
- Full disclosure: one factoid in the above item may not, technically, be true.
- Going back to Sunday’s decisive 6-1 Twins victory in Cleveland, Intern Sam found it very hard to know what to make of Scott Baker’s performance. He certainly didn’t look good, in the sense of having dominant stuff, or in the sense of consistently hitting his spots, or in the sense of making a lot of hitters look foolish. But, um, he gave up one measly run and won a game his team wanted desperately to win. Not trying to stir anything up here. Just suggesting that if I were a manager or GM of a major league team trying to get its rotation set for the playoffs, I would have no idea how to interpret Baker’s Sunday line, or how to use it to measure his possible future usefulness.
- When the Twins hit Fenway Park this Tuesday, they won’t have to worry about facing rookie sensation Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning. Actually, they may not have to ever worry about facing him in the ninth again. The Sox closer, who is a near shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year, is done for the season and says that he expects to be in the starting rotation when 2007 opens.
- Boston may have fallen well out of contention in the last few weeks, but the Twins certainly aren’t foolish enough to look past this series. Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield has frequently hypnotized Minnesota hitters in the past (though not this season – he gave up four runs in 6 innings to Minnesota for a loss back in June); Boof Bonser, as well as he’s pitched lately, is no match for even a diminished Curt Schilling on paper (yes, yes, games aren’t played on paper); and of course, a trip to Fenway Park was arguably the final nail in the Twins’ coffin last season, when Torii Hunter broke his ankle and the last of the air seemed to come out of the ’05 squad. None of this is meant to suggest that the Twins shouldn’t be able to take this series. It’s just meant to say that for all the perennial talk about the mystique of Yankee Stadium, there may not be a tougher place than Fenway for a visiting team to come away with a solid series win. (Especially when Neil Diamond is really on his game…)
- There’s certainly no love lost between sports bloggers and the mainstream sports press, especially in Minnesota, where our plethora of substandard columnists often overshadows the generally strong work turned in by many of the beat writers for both major dailies. But for Intern Sam’s money, all the Souhan and Sid blather in the world can’t dull the shine of a really good Patrick Reusse column.
Reusse comes in for no small amount of criticism around these parts, mainly because he’s a cranky old coot who spends a lot of time appearing on talk radio and does not suffer fools gladly. But in an era when most sportswriters seem unaware that good, evocative writing is a part of their job description, Reusse continues to turn in some of the most artfully written reports to be found anywhere in America.
His roundup column after Saturday’s victory was a case in point – no offhanded speculation, no silly attempt to create a storyline where there was none, just a well-written description of what happened on the field and in the manager’s office after the game. And in the process, we even got to read the real story regarding why Glen Perkins was suddenly called up after days of hearing that it would be someone else. That, people, is journalism, and it’s why we still need the old ink-stained wretches around.
- ESPN’s lack of even-handedness in choosing which teams to put on its air is well established at this point. (The latest bit of evidence: the national airing of Sunday’s 863rd Yankees/Red Sox matchup of 2006 despite the total lack of any playoff implications at all on a day when at least five other games were full to bursting with playoff storylines.) As many have argued, ESPN is a business, not a public service, and there are Yankee and Sox fans everywhere, so why shouldn’t they air what more people want to see? (It’s a fair point, and lest anyone think this debate is confined to American baseball, go ask a Canadian from Alberta or Ottawa how they feel about Hockey Night in Canada’s game selection.)
- Over in the Ozzie Guillen Is Batshit Crazy file, his Ozness apparently threw a fit this weekend upon learning that the A’s have banned alcohol from their clubhouses. On the one hand, you would suppose that the White Sox would have bigger problems to worry about at the moment. On the other hand, after the weekend they just had, wouldn’t you want a drink?
- Finally, Intern Sam knows that the National League might as well be playing its games in Guam as far as most AL fans are concerned, but he feels compelled to report, nonetheless, that the Philadelphia Phillies (with apologies to Cubs fans, the worst team in NL history) are in serious danger of actually making the playoffs for the first time since 1993. (You remember that year, right? It was the one with John Kruk! And Lenny Dykstra! And gritty, gutty Darren Daulton! And, um… mitchwilliamsandjoecarter. yeah. so. forget we said anything.)
More than that, the Phightin’ Phils actually have a player on the verge on hitting 61 home runs, and while it’s true that 61 isn’t the actual record anymore, it’s probably still the record for players not taking horse pills, so that’s gotta be worth something. Anyway, the Phils’ late surge sets up the possibility, however remote, that Minnesota and Philadelphia could meet in the World Series, in which case at least two members of the GameDay online family would spontaneously combust. Just so you’re all warned…
But ESPN is also a news-gathering organization, and over the last few years, the anchors and reporters who are supposed to cover the entire American sporting world have clearly been told in no uncertain terms that the news they report should reflect the business interests of the company first and foremost. In case anyone was still in doubt as to the way ESPN handles its journalistic decisions in the SportsCenter newsroom, Fynal Cut has you covered.