The Twins wrapped up a 7-3 road trip Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, and reduced their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to two. But catching Detroit for the division lead may still be harder than anyone thought a few weeks ago.
Even assuming Minnesota wins their first game against Kansas City on Monday night, thus reducing the idle Tigers’ lead to one game, they will still have to make up two full games to win the division, since Detroit won the season series between the two teams. Furthermore, the White Sox will likely be in full spoiler mode when they arrive at the Dome for the final three games of the season, and they would naturally take great joy in sending the Twins into the playoffs on a bad note.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will play their last six games at home against Baltimore and Kansas City. As noted in this space two weeks ago, schedule matters, and Detroit really caught a break with all the cupcake opponents on the back end of theirs. Of course, given how close the win-loss records of the AL playoff teams are, who wins the Central may not make a lick of difference. Still, overtaking the Yankees for the best record in the league looks at least as achievable as overtaking Detroit, and that Dome-field advantage can be a doozy, so what the hell, why not just keep winning?
- One of the biggest questions for the Twins’ field staff has been how they would use Johan Santana during the last week of the regular season and the opening round of the playoffs. Would it be worth starting him on the last day of the season, if it could mean the difference between hosting the A’s or playing at the Yankees? The answer, apparently, is no.
- Whether it will be a serious start, or just an opportunity for Twins fans to say goodbye to a class act remains to be seen, but Brad Radke is tentatively scheduled to start Thursday’s game against the Royals.
- One thing that seemed to be sadly lacking around the Twins clubhouse in 2005 was a sense of humor. From rumors of clubhouse scraps to a decidedly defeatist attitude in press quotes, it was abundantly clear that the ’05 Twins just weren’t having a lot of fun. Patrick Reusse says those days are most decidedly in the past.
- Speaking of humor, you think that Sports Illustrated article about A-Rod was blistering? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Batgirl’s got her hands on anadvance copy of Mpls/St. Paul’s upcoming expose on the Twins’ head piranha and tiny superhero…
- Free agency has never been a big part of Terry Ryan’s team building strategy, and this look at the big-money free agents of 2006 by LaVelle Neal suggests that Ryan may be saving himself a lot of headaches as well as cash.
- That having been said, LaVelle also believes that Torii Hunter is worth the $12 million the Twins would have to pay him in 2007 if they pick up his option. The case for Torii: he’s fourth in the league among center fielders in RBI and home runs, and there’s a strong likelihood that his defensive prowess will return after the stress fracture in his left foot heals in the offseason.
- The Twins’ new ballpark may be in line to get some sort of leftist pinko commie environmental certification. Perhaps they can sell the naming rights to Ralph Nader…
- In one of those bizarre tales of Yankee greed that seem to rear their head a few times each season, the Pinstripers are informing their season ticket holders in no uncertain terms that the reselling of tickets on sites like StubHub will not be tolerated. They’re even banning some of the offenders from buying postseason tickets. “The letter… doesn't accuse the ticket-holder of doing anything illegal when he sold the ducats to games on May 28 and June 9. But according to the note, the sale, resale or transfer of tickets at any price is a violation of the license agreement.” Way to hold onto your most loyal fans, there, New York.
- Okay, we admit it, we’re at a loss. Does this make RFK Stadium the worst ballpark in the majors? Or the best? (Warning: this item is probably safe for work, but you might not want to click it while anyone’s reading over your shoulder.)
- Finally, the news is a few days old at this point, but the case of two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, who are now staring down 18 months in prison for the heinous crime of refusing to reveal the confidential source who allowed them to blow the Barry Bonds steroid story wide open, is well worth another look. There has never been an absolute legal right for journalists to maintain confidentiality, but until quite recently, the courts gave journalists wide latitude in such cases, believing that the value of a free and unfettered press justified such confidence in their methods.
That’s all changed, in large part because of the Bush Administration’s decision to aggressively pursue a “reining in” of the media establishment in various federal court cases. The overall wisdom of that course is highly debatable and not really a subject for a sports blog. But many in the sports media are incredulous at what is being done to their colleagues in the name of justice.