Saturday, May 06, 2006

Link of the Weekend

by Intern Sharkey

It’s time for a grab-bag edition of the Weekend Links, powered by the new Pearl Jam album (although, for this column, maybe Loverboy is more appropriate).

  • Big series with the Tigers this weekend (four years ago who could have seen that coming?). Hopefully Jim Leyland keeps his pants on.

  • Among Leyland’s former players are Mike Redmond and Louis Castillo. No word on if Leyland’s pants superstition inspired another.

  • It’s hard to tell if Silva’s game on Thursday was due to a fix in his mechanics, or due to facing the Royals.

  • I think I know how to fix Kyle Lohse, too. Have him switch bodies.

  • About half way down this Baseball America chat, Matt Meyers compares Santana and Liriano to the Big Unit/Schilling Arizona combination that won a World Series. Of course, to win the World Series, it helps to be higher than fourth in your division.

  • I’m glad Nick M. is feeling optimistic.

  • Maybe old Carl is paying more for this new stadium than we thought.

  • Even the worst ballpark food isn’t this bad.


  • Hopefully SBG never gets this mad at Gardenhire.

  • The Mighty MJD brings you: If NBA Playoff Teams Were 80s Sitcoms! My favorite:

    Memphis Grizzlies: The Dom DeLuise Show
    Both were cancelled quickly, although you can’t deny that both were also helped out quite a bit by the beards on their stars.

  • On the topic of the NBA, I hope, if nothing else, that you’re all watching the Suns/Lakers series. Those 6 games (with game 7 tonight!), along with the insane Cleveland/Washington set (Damon Jones!), Chicago putting up a fight with Miami, Dirk solidifying his title as “Best Foreign Guy” over Pau… Awesome first round. Nope, no link there.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Links of the Day for 5/5/06

by Intern Pseudofool

Twins Chatter has surfaced again with a recent entry giving Ryan’s take on the stadium fiasco.

Jewscott attempts to answer the question on everyone’s mind “What’s wrong with the Twins anyway?” Apparently, everything.

Will Young has been posting regularly. He’s smart, articulate and provides you with neat graphics that don’t have to make sense or draw conclusions because, well, there just so neat. I especially like the May 2nd entry.

Here’s a discontinued Twins blog for posterity or nostalgia or to poke fun at failure or something.

Mainstream Power Rankings: has us at 15th, has us at 25th, Foxsports has us, also at 25th, and has at 24th, for a grand total of 89th place, which doesn’t seem real good to me, but you can’t put too much stock in those mainstream journalists anyways.

Flashback: At this time last year, the Twins were 16-11. And to think we’ve since added, Rondell White, Luis Castillo, and Tony Batista. Who new Joe Mays and Jacque Jones meant so much, er, wait they’re not playing very well either.

Links of the Day for 5/4/06

by Intern Snarky

Report card time
Seth hands out grades to the Twins for the month of April, and it ain't pretty. A lot of Twins got some explaining to do - Torii, Morneau, Rondell White, Lohse, Radke, Silva and Guerrier all are looking at probation. Perhaps Seth and Gardy should meet for some kind of conference.

Things could be worse
Over at Twins Without Spin, we are reminded that our present pitching woes are nothing compared to some terrible performances in the past. Perhaps the embodiment of suckiness was former Twin TerryFelton, who had an arm destined for a career at a correction facility (0-13 in '82). I'd take Lohse over him any day.

Not so fast
The Twins don't get credit for catching an escaped sex offender. Please, we'll take any win we can get at this point.*The middle finger* ... David over at the Contrarian Bias has throwntogether a couple of good analysis pieces today. First, he points his Contrarian finger at the middle of the Twins line-up. Then, he let's us know that our middle relievers aren't so hot either. In fact, the way we often judge our middle relievers is pretty meaningless.

Need a pick-me-up?
How about Delmon Young throwing a bat at an umpire? Way to show those scabs!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Allard. Bared.

by Twins Geek

The following is also included in this week's Dugout Splinters, which is inserted in GameDay, the independent program sold outside of the Metrodome prior to Twins games.

In retrospect, the success of 2003 might have not been such a good thing for the Royals. Before 2003, they had already jettisoned most of their future when they traded away Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye, and it was assumed they would do the same with Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney. General Manager Allard Baird, who had overseen years of failure, was likely on his way out the door. It was just a matter of time before the Royals scrapped pretense and really started rebuilding.

Their fast start in 2003 changed everything. Their young pitching, considered by most to be a couple of years away from maturity, fueled that start. It saved Baird’s job, vested Sweeney’ contract, persuaded them to hold onto Beltran an extra year and gave hope to a fan base where there really wasn’t any. The next offseason was spent signing older veteran bats to support a young pitching staff that had already seen its best days. It also began a downhill slide that looks like it will be extended to its third year in 2006.

The biggest question for any rational outsider is how Allard Baird is still the GM of this team. He’s finishing his sixth year on the job, and they’ve averaged just 66 wins per year, even including the fluky 83 wins in 2003. His organization has been blessed with high draft picks and has traded away superstar players like Damon, Dye, and Beltran for prospects. Yet their minor league system is ranked 23rd overall by Baseball America and hasn’t been ranked above 19th over the last five years. I take that initial sentence back. The biggest question isn’t “How does he still have this job?” The question is “How can I convince him to join my fantasy league?”

Baird has his strengths – or rather strength – and it’s on display in this year’s Royals team. Baird has an exceptional knack for finding underachieving veteran hitters who still have some gas left in their tank. Nobody is lucky enough to grab Emil Brown, Matt Stairs, and Raul Ibanez (now a Mariner) and have them turn into productive offensive players. He found some other candidates this offseason with Mark Grudzielanek, Doug Mientkiewicz and possibly Reggie Sanders. That’s a skill that would be invaluable to a contending organization with a solid core of young talent.

That organization is not the Royals, nor has it been for six years. Nor will it be as long as Baird is GM.

Links of the Day for 05/03/06

By Intern Jimmy

Shaking Things Up: April taught the Twins a couple hard lessons. For one, Twins pitchers certainly can’t rely on their reputation any longer. Time to prove on the mound what has been the hallmark of this franchise in the 21st century. Second, enough giving hitters obligatory batting spots based on career numbers. The only numbers that matter are the last month’s laughably low marks of production. A shuffling of spots below the top 3 was in order. Gardenhire finally had the gumption to drop the deplorable duo of T-Phat and RoWhite down in the lineup for the Mariners series, occupying the 7th and 8th spots respectively. A little humble pie to help them get their groove back. Gardy’s move paid dividends Tuesday as both knocked in and scored a run.

Baby Steps: The scheduling gods couldn’t have set this up better to help the Twins regain their confidence and reclaim their swagger. As the 2nd bottle of the season 6-pack is cracked, it’s hard to imagine May tasting as skunky as April. While the Pioneer Press stops short of saying a miracle will save the season, I say baby steps. Baby steps in beating Seattle with Santana returning to his dominant form. Baby steps to sweeping two from the Royally Bads. Baby steps to three redemptive opportunities against the Tigers this weekend to flush the memory of the Detroit debacle down the toilet. Baby steps to .500 baseball by winning 2 of 3 in Texas, where Rangers pitchers are equally adept as the Twins at inflated ERAs. Baby steps to finding exactly what the team is made of hosting the defending champs for a pivotal 4-game series. There’s no reason to worry about October just yet. Let’s see what kind of team May offers and go from there. But if you need proof, here are some recent examples of early season turnarounds.

The Offense Is There, You Just Have To Look For It: To cope with the Twins hitting woes, it’s encouraging to know that the minor leaguers are not falling prey to the majors’ plight. Six players are hitting .300 or better for Rochester (AAA). Catcher Chris Heintz leads the team at .370 a clip while eventual Twins call-ups Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett are staying sharp until their services are needed on a full-time basis. At New Britain (AA), two 1st round picks are making good on their potential. Denard Span, 2002’s 20th overall pick, is hitting a cool .341 while scorching the base paths with his blazing speed. SS Matt Moses, 2003’s 21st overall pick, is hitting .324 with 3 HRs on the season. Beloit (A) boasts another team leading catcher, Caleb Moore, hitting .347 on the season- what is it with the Twins stockpiling smooth swinging catchers? Also, 1B Erik Lis is carrying a .306 average with 4 HR in 78 at-bats since being called up from rookie ball.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Links of the Day for 5/2/06

by Intern Thomas

It’s a new series, a new week and a new month., which means it’s time to forget about the Tigers and April and focus on the what’s coming up for the Twins as they attempt to climb back into the divisional race.

  • Next up is the Mariners, a team that, after winning their last two games to take their series in Baltimore, is forced to travel from one of the best parks in baseball (where I will be taking in a game on Tuesday) to the Metrodome. Lookout Landing has an open game thread for the game if you’re interested in discussing tonight’s matchup with some Mariner fans, or if you just want to defend “Circle Me” Bert’s broadcasting honor.

  • In the not so distant future, some Twin will be playing in the All Star game. If you want to try and stuff the ballot box for Mauer Power, Luis Castillo or Shannon Stewart, you can start voting online. If you want to try and get T-Phat or Castro to Pittsburgh this year, well, good luck.

  • If you’re more of a realist, or you just don’t want to get your hopes up again only to have them dashed one more time by the pitching juggernaut that is Runylevs Hernandez, Aaron Gleeman’s take on April is probably right up your alley. The comments aren’t exactly happy fun thoughts either, though sadly, they aren’t exactly out of line. After reading Gleeman, it’s worth it to take a peek over at Twins Without Spin, where he discusses what the Twins should do once they decide to cut their losses on the season.

  • And, as bad as it’s been, remember that it can always get worst. At least none of the Twins’ position prospects, despite getting jerked around by management, have taken it out on an unsuspecting umpire. And while T-Phat hasn’t done much with his bat, that’s a good thing if you consider that it means he’s avoided using it like A-Rod did in Baltimore.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

On Big Dogs

by Twins Geek

The following is also included in this week's Dugout Splinters, which is inserted in GameDay, the independent program sold outside of the Metrodome prior to Twins games.

We spend a lot of time in GameDay and here talking about the minutia of baseball. We’ll debate the impact of Tony Batista’s on-base percentage. We’ll ponder whether Jason Bartlett’s range is more important than Juan Castro’s quick release. We’ll write a 1500 word story comparing the relative merits of swapping Shannon Stewart and Luis Castillo in the batting order. It’s fun and somewhat worthwhile, in the sense that the pursuit of excellence is worthwhile.

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that if the big dogs aren’t hunting, then nobody’s belly is full, and all the navel-gazing in the world isn’t going to change that. Right now the Twins have six big dogs that aren’t just struggling, they’re enduring some one of the worst stretches of their career.

The middle of the Twins lineup is an absolute mess. The Twins cleanup hitter, Rondell White, went 5 for 33 (.152 BA) on the latest nine game road trip – and improved his batting average. The next hitter, Torii Hunter, had just two hits in thirty at-bats on the road trip. Which equals the numbers of hits that #6 hitter Justin Morneau had. Combined, the three of them are hitting .177 on the season.

And things are even worse in the middle of the Twins rotation. The Twins expected Kyle Lohse to show he can be one of the better pitchers on the staff. They were right. His ERA is the 3rd best of the starting pitchers, but it’s still 8.77. Terry Ryan claims that Brad Radke has the best stuff he’s had in years, but is struggling with his “location”. That’s true, since the ultimate location of Radke’s pitches has been the outfield bleachers. Carlos Silva has matched Bradke in giving up home runs but has made them count a bit more as evidenced by his 10.31 ERA. He also leads the league in hits against.

So, how exactly does one fix all that? The Twins AAA club has as many options as any in major league baseball, but they don’t have three starters ready to throw 200 innings, and they don’t have three hitters that can be plugged into the middle of the lineup. Nobody does. Nobody ever has. There is no quick fix for 2006. The Twins are going to need to play the hand they have been dealt.

Alternately, there is just as little logic in rushing to look forward to 2007. Each of these dogs is going to improve over the rest of the season, simply because they can’t do a whole lot worse (or if you want a more statistical explanation, they’ll “regress to the mean”). The Twins have three months before the trade deadline, so it’s not like they need to be in a hurry to rebuild.

There comes a point where there are no bold moves left to make and where refinements and adjustments just don’t have any affect. Instead, one simply must wait and watch and see what happens. After a series of player meltdowns that defy all attempts at prediction, the Twins have reached that point. So must Twins fans.

Links of the Day for 5/1/06

Powered by Intern Sam

Has there ever been a weekend this soul-crushing, this hope-draining, this mind-numbingly awful? Three straight days of dark clouds, slow rain, and utter baseball humiliation can suck the life right out of a guy, to the point that, when Intern Sam woke up Sunday morning to discover that all of the cedar planks holding his patio fence together had rotted away at both ends and fallen into the driveway, his first thought was, “Well, of course they did. Planks rot, rain falls, supremely talented first basemen swing at the first pitch and pop it up with men in scoring position, and starting pitchers give up nine earned in less than an hour of work.” It’s hard to stay rational and look for solutions at a time like this, and a quick glance around Twins Territory indicates that most of us aren’t even trying…

  • It’s now official – the Twin Cities sports press has turned on the Twins, with a ferocity I wouldn’t have predicted even a week ago. This morning on KSTP-AM’s Sunday SportsTalk, Pat Reusse and Jim Souhan spent the 11-o’clock hour indiscriminately ripping into nearly every Twins player and coach. (Sorry, there’s no archived audio available online.) Their joint assessment: Torii Hunter is pouting over the loss of Jacque Jones and the rest of the core group from the ’01-’04 seasons and is making no effort to correct his swing or offer leadership in the clubhouse; Brad Radke is ready to retire and doesn’t seem to care where his pitches go anymore; the coaching staff seems completely at a loss as to how to even begin turning things around (Reusse added, probably correctly, that if Tom Kelly were still the manager, Hunter would either be taking better at bats or would be in a platoon situation in center field); and the team as a whole will be lucky to win 75 games this season.

    Hyperbole aside, (and particularly in Radke’s case, the Strib’s twin rays of sunshine almost have to be a bit off base – a pitcher who has been the embodiment of professionalism his whole career suddenly decides to go out in a blaze of indifference? Brad may indeed be cooked, but it’s unlikely that he’s dogging it on purpose,) it’s hard to argue with much of what was said on the show. Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of increasingly desperate suggestions from the fan base…

  • Jason Williams and Gordon Wittenmeyer did another of their conversation columns this weekend, trying to come up with reasons to keep the MetroDome around once the new stadiums are approved. (Yes, we know, we’re jinxing everything. Sorry. We’ll take full responsibility if Zygi Wilf and Larry Pogemiller actually succeed in derailing the ballpark. But they probably won’t.) It’s a short column, because, c’mon. The Dome is a useless heap of concrete and Teflon and the dynamite can’t be placed soon enough, and anyone who says otherwise either hates baseball, or was born after 1980 and has never left Hennepin County.

  • From the Putting It All In Perspective File, former Twins reliever Steve Howe died in an auto wreck late last week, and got what amounted to one final sad shake of the head from the baseball world for his trouble. If Barry Bonds is the poster boy for everything that went wrong with baseball in the 1990s, Howe (along with Dwight Gooden) represents the cocaine-soaked roller coaster that was major league life for all too many players in the 1980s. Howe could have been one of the best relief pitchers of his generation, and all too briefly, he was. But it didn’t last, and Howe became just one more cautionary tale coaches could use to remind rookies that life has consequences.

  • On the plus side of baseball life in the Twin Cities, the first St. Paul Saints preseason game is this Thursday. Forgotten about them, had you? Mike Veeck’s team may have lost some of its considerable luster over the past few seasons – an increase in annoying commercial tie-ins, the Twins’ three-year run of playoff baseball, several controversial league changes, and the loss of legendary PA announcer Eric Webster all contributed to a sense that the Saints weren’t as “special” as they had once been – but a night at Midway Stadium is still one of the best bargains in town, and contrary to what you might read elsewhere, the baseball isn’t half bad. Oh, and if you think the diehard Saints fans (and yes, there are plenty) aren’t a bit worried about what a new Twins ballpark might mean to them, you’ve got another think coming…