Friday, August 11, 2006


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Powered by some of the finest facial hair this side of Gen. Burnside, it’s on to the links.

  • Even the power of the ‘burns wasn’t enough on Thursday; the Twins dropped 1/2 game behind Chicago after losing to Toronto, 5-0. The Twins couldn’t muster a rally off of Jays starter Ted Lilly, who pitched 6 shutout innings. The White Sox held on to beat the Yankees, 5-4.

  • Seth runs down the minor league system here. Alexi Casilla, acquired in the JC Romero trade, continues to play extremely well.

  • Of course, Seth’s pitcher of the month might be familiar. Uber-prospect Matt Garza makes his major league debut against Toronto tonight. The Twins need a lift after the loss of Liriano; hopefully, Garza will be able to provide it.

  • Speaking of Liriano, ESPN has the latest here. I’m no doctor (I just play one on TV), but the injury, as described, doesn’t sound cataclysmic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the F-Bomb being dropped out of the bullpen over the last few weeks, if the Twins are still seriously in the hunt. As for starting… I’m not holding my breath.

  • The home nine clocks in at #4 in ESPN’s power rankings. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

  • The action-packed game of baseball at its finest.

  • And finally, for next Friday’s links, I hope to bring you an interview with Farney.

GameDay 1st Annual PreGame Party

Hey gang,

Sorry about the lack of a post from Vegas yesterday. Cory Caouette (the return of Wolves Geek!) and Jesse from Twinkietown were kind enough to write the Dugout Splinters this week. You can find the Twins side over at Twinkietown, and the first half of the Blue Jays below. As for the second half...

Well, how about you check them out before the game on Saturday when we meet up at the Town Hall Brewery? The GameDay crew will be there at 4:30, along with free GameDays and appetizers for snacking. We'll talk a lot of baseball and get the inside story on Vegas. Good times.

I hope to see you then,

To Shea: Touché

Powered by Cory Caouette (Wolves Geek)

To the national media and to most Twins fans, the Blue Jays’ July 19 demotion and eventual July 22 trade of Shea Hillenbrand was viewed as addition by subtraction, similar to the local ballclub’s maneuvers with the likes of Tony Batista and Bret Boone. After all, Hillenbrand had posted a notice on the clubhouse wall comparing the team to a certain ill-fated cruise vessel, not to mention (according to reports) left the team for four days without providing proper notice to manager John Gibbons. However, as all things become clear with time, perhaps the move of the hitter who boasted an .848 OPS coming into July shed some light on some serious problems north of the border – problems that winning just three of the first thirteen games of the post-Hillenbrand era, effectively knocking them out of the playoff hunt, have now brought fully into focus.

There was no mistaking the offseason splash that Gibbons and GM J.P. Ricciardi made with such big-name signings as A.J. Burnett (5 yrs./$55 million), B.J. Ryan (5 yrs/$47 million), and Bengie Molina (1 yr/$4.5 million), as well as a trade that added former World Series MVP Troy Glaus to a hot corner already crowded with an impressive group: Lyle Overbay, Corey Koskie, Eric Hinske and Hillenbrand. The mistake, it seems, was in unmet promises made to some new and old Jays during their respective courtships. First, season long frustration revealed by 2003 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay on local television – both with pitch count limitations he claims to have never been privy to and Gibbons’ misuse of a bullpen that has blown four Halladay leads. Then Ryan, whose signing with the Jays made him the highest paid reliever in history and certified him as a bonafide closer, reportedly isn’t happy with Gibbons’ trigger-happy and unpredictable approach to his role, as evidenced by the 15 outings in which he has pitched more than the hallowed one-inning closer maximum.

All seemed fine on July 18, though, as the Jays were just four games out in the AL East, despite horrible fortune on the pitching side, losing starters Gustavo Chacin, Ted Lilly, and Burnett for significant stretches due to injury. That’s when Ricciardi’s apparent penchant of promising the world without either telling or asking the manager, Gibbons’ notorious hot head, and the ability of anyone to keep clubhouse matters within the clubhouse finally appear to have come home to roost. As Hillenbrand complained publicly about being promised a defensive role and only being allowed to DH, and Gibbons fumed over Hillenbrand’s having left the club to deal with something as “trivial” as the adoption of a child (despite Ricciardi’s admitted knowledge and approval of the leave), the whole matter blew its top. Gibbons then challenged Hillenbrand to a fistfight in the locker room, the confrontation once again entered the public record (limiting Ricciardi’s trade options), and less than a month later the Jays are eight games out of the wild card and nine games behind the surging Yankees in the division.

Oh, and did I mention that Molina is now complaining that he was promised an everyday role and is on pace to catch 98 games this season? I didn’t have to, it’s up front and center on the team’s official website. Makes you wonder if the Jays even bother with doors in the clubhouse to go behind.

On the Hill

Blue Jays: A.J. Burnett (3-5, 4.81 ERA)

  • 2005(FLA): 209 IP, 12-12, 3.44 ERA, 198K

  • 2006: 63.2 IP, 75H, 58K, 13BB, 9HR

  • Remember the A.J. Burnett that had executives buzzing during last year’s hot stove? This is him in name only. Burnett followed a 5.97 ERA in July with a 6.30 start to August. He did get a decent start last week against the White Sox and continues to find a way to strike hitters out, but when he leaves the ball over the plate, watch out – the league is slugging .454 against him.

Twins: Matt Garza (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

  • 2005 (between rookie and low-A affiliates): 4-4, 3.59 ERA, 75.2 IP, 89 K, 67 H

  • Garza’s call to the Twins is as much out of necessity as it is out of performance. Look to the right to see more on his impressive 2006.

  • Garza carries a mid-90’s fastball, a change and a couple of breaking balls.

  • Being called to The Show within two seasons of being drafted doesn’t happen very often. Not even Joe Mauer did it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Geek in Vegas (II)

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Betting on sports. Drinking all day. Watching a half dozen baseball games at once. You’re probably wondering exactly how you can get to Vegas right about now, especially if you’re married with kids.

I hear you. For a half dozen years I preached to The Voice of Reason about the wonder that is Vegas, and received nothing more encouraging than an eye roll. Now, TVOR will be the first to sign up for a trip.

Las Vegas is Disney World for adults, and I mean that in the most reckless and wonderful way possible. Remember when you were a kid, and wanted to do all those things you couldn’t because you weren’t old enough? And now you laugh at your kids when they tell you they wish they were grown-up, because you know all the responsibility that accompanies it? Well, welcome to Vegas: adult fun without responsibility.

Which brings us to rule #1 about Vegas: DON’T BRING THE KIDS. Bringing kids to Vegas is like visiting a strip club blindfolded. Why, exactly, would you want to be there? You don’t have the irresponsibility. You don’t have the grown-up fun. You’re running interference half the time for events you’d prefer the kids don’t see. I know EXACTLY how tough it is to line up a sitter for several nights for the kids. I understand not being able to do it. But there is no compromise position. If you can’t dump the kids, then put Vegas out of your mind and take ‘em to the Dells. At least then half of your family will have fun.

But let’s say that you think you can dump the kids. Or even better, that you were really smart, and never had them. How can you talk your spouse into that trip to Sin City? Here are a couple of suggestions….

1. Bring friends

I’m not totally sure that Vegas is made for spouses. Mostly, it’s for friends. Guys want to do guy things, like spend hours upon hours in front of a wall of cathode rays. Ladies like to ladies things, like drink frozen margaritas by the pool. It’s nice to have another couple so you don’t end up doing these things alone.

Also, Vegas nights often end weird. We’ll get to the gambling rules tomorrow, but the bottom line is that when you gamble late at night, you will want the night to end at different times. Winners want to keep winning, and losers run out of money and fun. Being with a group gives you more flexibility for quitting at different times.

2. Vegas is for relaxation

Don’t chince on where you stay in Vegas. I’ve found that the hotel needs to have at least three things:

A pool for her.
A sports book for me.
A food court for when we want/need to eat fast.

She needs to understand that she’s going to be able to spend a good part of the day sitting by the pool and having someone bring her frozen drinks. And another good part of the day sleeping in. And another part of the day eating romantic dinners. Did I mention the dinners yet?

3. Romantic Dinners

Vegas is filled with great places to eat, and only half of them are buffets. Plan a couple of late-night nice dinners, something that she can look forward to all day. Anything after 8:30 likely won’t get in the way of your sports gambling, because Vegas is two hours behind Minnesota. When you’re spending your fourth solid hour gazing open-mouthed at the Brewers/Pirates game, that reservation will buy you a world of good will. Plus, frankly, she deserves it for putting up with you. (Make sure you have reservations before you arrive in Vegas.)

OK, on to the baseball stuff…

The Twins
I expect when Brad Radke retires, he’ll mostly be remembered for his control and consistency. But I’m also going to remember performances like yesterday’s, times when he rose to a challenge in a big game and executed flawlessly. I’ll admit it. I didn’t think he had that in him anymore. Gawd, I hope this team makes it to the playoffs for him.

The Outfield
Lost in Crain’s outing on Monday night was that the big inning was made possible on Michael Cuddyer getting a late break on a short fly to right field. Last night, the outfield came up just a bit short two more times. First Hunter (granted, at a full gallop) had a ball go off the heal of his glove. Then he also got a late break on a short fly ball. Maybe there’s something going on with the fielding eye in that stadium, but the outfield defense has not been an asset for the Twins this series.

Tyner’s arm
Except for Jason Tyner, who has been exceptional. His throw yesterday to gun down Ordonez at the plate was Hunterrific, and far beyond what I expected. I didn’t think he had a shot at that play. Tyner has answered every question this year about whether he can be a starting major league center fielder. He won’t be an all-star at the position, but he won’t hurt a team either.

The Bets
Let’s get this over with. I lost $100 bucks last night on two extra-innings games. In the first, Mariano Rivera blew a save. In the second, the tying run was made possible by a strikeout/passed ball AND an error on the catcher ON THE SAME PLAY. Nice work Navarro, you punk.

For today’s games, I got nothing. Mostly because I’m still bitter. I should know better than to bet on the Yankees, even if they are facing the White Sox. When I go online to publish this, I’ll try and find something.

Other Stuff

  • Ryan Freel gets Catch of the Year. Honestly, it looked like a commercial for an energy drink. It was that good.

  • Another wonderful moment in yesterday’s Padres/Mets game when Shea rose as a single unit to applaud Mike Piazza. Sports is the best kind of drama.

  • Five words you don’t hear every day: Dmitri Young with a triple.

  • I suspect that if put to a general election, a law allowing people to pummel cigar smokers with 2x4s would gain approximately 108% of the vote.

  • Hey, tough young studs. Here’s something to keep in mind when you’re putting that tattoo around your bicep. In approximately 12 years, you’re going to be pushing a baby stroller around some public place, and your two-year-old daughter is going to be throwing toys and bottles out of the stroller, strictly because she likes watching you stop to pick them up. And it will be ten times more amusing to everyone around you because of your ring of thorns.

  • Batting third for the Yankees yesterday was Bobby Abreu. So let me get this straight. The best lineup in the major leagues was able to trade for – strike that – was able to purchase a #3 hitter at the trade deadline for little more than money. Three words: HARD SALARY CAP.

  • Some of the best casino stories seem to come out of mens restrooms…

    “Oh what a night. Late September back in ’63….”

    That’s what I hear sung by a tipsy gentleman over at the sinks. He leaves, and two minutes later, when I’m at the sinks, I hear:

    “Oh what a NI-I-I-GHT! Doo-da-doo-da-doo. Doo-da-doo-da-doo.” coming from a different pleasantly buzzed guy standing at the urinals.

    Apropos of nothing, it’s exactly 5:55 PM.

    You gotta love Vegas.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Geek in Vegas (I)

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You’re going to have to excuse the uneven and consistently late updates you’ll see this week. A few months ago, The In-laws of Reason offered to take the kids for a week, and The Voice of Reason and I froze in the headlights of an oncoming vacation.

A week without the kids? What do we do? Get stuff done around the house? A romantic week at the North Shore? A ballpark tour? The decision was made after a simple question was asked – What is the polar opposite of a week with our children?

A: Vegas.

That’s not quite true, of course. For instance, overseeing The Boy usually involves accepting some kind of (usually losing) gamble. And life with The Chatty Chatty Princess resembles a variety show. And certainly, your average week with them drives us to drink. But it doesn’t allow us unfettered irresponsibility very often, and that seemed awfully appealing.

So, the bottom line is that I’m in Vegas, a couple of time zones away, and my ability to access the site is limited. So is my desire to spend a lot of time writing. On the other hand, I have a ton of time to watch Twins games (God Bless Sports Books) and plenty of stories to tell, so it might be an interesting week to stop by.

(Of course, if you really want to hear all the stories, you should take advantage of GameDay’s 1st Annual Pre Game get-together this Saturday at 4:30 at Town Hall Brewery. Features include some free appetizers, free GameDays, and a still-irresponsible Twins Geek. Hope to see you there.)

“He’s not the same.”
Tigers announcer Rob Allen summed up yesterday’s game in four words, and might have unintentionally written the Twins’ playoff chances eulogy. For 2.2 innings yesterday, Francisco Liriano was hit hard but escaped without damage. That with a hit by Magglio Ordonez, and after one more trip through the Tigers order, there wasn’t any question that he wasn’t the same. It was certainly apparent to the Twins coaching staff, who pulled Lirano after four innings.

That same conclusion was apparent for several outings now, but Twins fans had been hoping it was just a case of “tired arm” or some other malady that could be overcome. I suppose by noe, in the Twin Cities, we’ve already heard a report about what’s going on with Liriano’s arm. But whatever te situation, the biggest answer remains “He’s not the same.” The Twins, for about the tenth time this season, are going to have to find a Plan B in the short term, and hope this resolves itself prior to the playoffs. If that even matters.

Bet, bet, bet on the home team
One of the cruelest ironies of sports betting is that the closer you are to a team, the more you know about them, the less you can bet on them. For instance, yesterday the Twins were –145 against the Tigers, meaning that you had to bet $145 dollars to win $100. Talking with the taxi driver on the way to the hotel, he said he was thinking about taking that bet, and I warned him against it. I brought up Liriano’s arm problems, the4 fact the the Twins had hadn’t beaten the Tigers in Detroit, and that they had played in 120 heat the day before.

Meanwhile, I want to win some sports bets, but I absolutely can’t take the other side. Can’t. Instead, I take the “under”, which was set at 8, meaning if the total runs scored are less than eight, I win. It seemed like a nice compromise.

It wasn’t. By the time the Tigers scored four runs (which was the fourth inning), I’m left to either root for the Twins to win, or for me to win my bet, because both can’t happen. The moral (which, dammit, I knew) is that you can only bet on your team when you think they’re going to win. If there’s doubt, or you have to walk away. And, unfortunately, looking at the matchups for the rest of the Detroit series, I’ll be doing a lot of walking.

I suspect that Jesse Crain is receiving more than a little criticism online today, and I don’t want to pile on. And, furthermore, I understand that my reaction to his outing yesterday is biased by the fact that he blew my over/under bet. And I understand that there weren’t a lot of other options.

But why the hell was Crain in that game in the seventh inning? (start Rant) And can we replace that lump of fluff between his ears with any material capable of maintaining some electrostatic current? Crain’s peripheral numbers haven’t been terrible this year, but it seems he manages to at least get the team into trouble about 75% of his outings. It isn’t that he’s not throwing well. It’s that he’s not pitching.

There was no doubt in my mind that the Tigers would at least add a run against him in the seventh, and that’s been the case for about four months now. And Gardenhire KNOWS this. He’s known it longer than I have, and longer than the media has commented on it. There’s a reason they called up Neshek, and dammit, there’s a reason that Reyes is working so many late game situations. And it’s that Crain can’t be trusted with the seventh any more.

Crain should only be trusted with the bottom of the order in any relief situation. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday, but if Reyes is available, even against right-handers, he has to be used. Crain has had four months to turn things around, and he hasn’t, and how he should only get the innings that are otherwise unavailable for others, like Willie Eyre is. (end Rant)

More on betting
I won money on the Angels/White Sox game yesterday, betting Buehrle really does suck, and that his last outing versus the Royals wasn’t the sign of a turn-around. I was only partly right. Buehrle’s line is going to be deceptive today, because he gave up a lot of runs late in the game, but he pitched well for most of the game. More bad news for the Twins.

The reason I won the bet is because Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar was very good. He’s been very good for several starts in a row now, and is providing the kind of performance the Angels need now that Colon is questionable. He’s officially a very safe bet, both in sports books and in fantasy baseball right now.

Today’s Bets
I like some Asian pitchers today…

I like the White Sox to lose again, since they’re playing the Yankees, and Wang is on the mound. Tell’ em Wang. We just bought land around the Great Wall of China. On the GOOD side.

I also am throwing some money down on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (Did you know that Tampa has a major league baseball team? It’s true.) They’re heavy underdogs against the Mariners, and I think Jae Seo is being underestimated a bit.

Quote of the Game
TG: Lookit Bartlett. Doesn’t he look like Johnny Depp? He looks exactly like Depp. Nobody agrees with me on this. It’s like I’m taking crazy pills.
TVOR: Yeah- actually, he’s a lot cuter.
TG: Um, OK.

Links of the Day

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As seems to happen, different people in different parts of the web are taking a look at the same thing at the same time. Personally, I think that’s great, since it makes it a lot easier for me to organize my links post, but it does seem rather odd when random topics are written about at the same time (as opposed to something obvious, like the Twins hitters performing like Albert Pujols playing for an American Legion team).

Today’s example is the RBI (or RsBI if you’re more of a Baseball Prospectus kind of person). Carter Hayes takes one angle on the topic, looking at the last times that the Twins had a 100 RBI man at each position and how that compares to the rest of the AL. John Walsh of the Hardball Times takes a different approach, trying to find a way to add more meaning to the stat and also envisions a situation that hopefully occurs should the Twins win the Wild Card and face their nemesis from 2003 and 2004, the Yankees, in the playoffs.

And now it’s time for some non RBI related links:

  • This is one more example of the type of announcers that other teams employ and that poor, innocent users like myself are subjected to when we watch a Twins game against a team from a larger market.

  • Chris Constancio thinks the Twins turned Kyle Lohse into the 2009 version of the 2005 version of …Kyle Lohse.

  • So long as Rick Anderson was right about the severity (or lack thereof) of the Cisco Kid’s injury, I think he’ll wind up on this list at the end of the year.

  • I wonder if Radke and Johan name their wins, or if the lack of run support the past few years has made them give up on the idea?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Links of the Day for 8/7/06

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With the KC sweep in the books, the Twins now sit just one half-game off the wild card lead, in a tie with Boston. The Blue Jays and Angels are tanking, and it looks increasingly as if the AL Wild Card will be a down-to-the-wire race between Minnesota, Chicago, and Boston. (We might as well throw the Yankees in there, too, since they still have 11 games to play against the Red Sox, and the East lead could swing wildly between them before the season ends.) So who has the edge, schedule-wise, among those four teams? It’s actually an awfully close call. Here’s a look at how many games each of the contenders has left to play against sub-.500 teams, .500-plus teams, and head-to-head matchups against the other contenders:


Against Teams Under .500: 23 games remaining (9 Home, 14 Road)
Against Teams Over .500: 29 games remaining (17 H, 12 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (6 H, 9 R); 9 against Chicago

The Twins are the only team in the wild card race to still have a series left to play in the home parks of all three other contenders. However, they’re also the only contender without a truly scary stretch of games left in their schedule. For every three-game set against Chicago or Detroit, there’s a nice cushy landing on the likes of Baltimore and Kansas City right around the corner.


Against Teams Under .500: 21 games remaining (15 H, 6 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 32 games remaining (13 H, 19 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (6 H, 9 R); 9 against Twins

From Aug. 18 to 26, the Sox play 10 straight against the Twins and Tigers without an off day. Seven of those games are on the road. In fact, you could make an excellent case that Chicago has the toughest row to hoe to make the playoffs. Still, if they manage to hang near the top, they may just control their own destiny: their last three games of the season are at the MetroDome.


Against Teams Under .500: 20 games remaining (11 H, 9 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 32 games remaining (18 H, 14 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (11 H, 4 R); 11 against New York, including two(!) doubleheaders and one five-game series at Fenway.


Against Teams Under .500: 23 games remaining (9 H, 14 R)
Against Teams Over .500: 31 games remaining (17 H, 14 R)
Head-to-Head: 15 games remaining (7 H, 8 R)

With any luck, either the Sawx or the Yanks will dominate their remaining head-to-head matchups, thereby taking the East out of the wild card equation entirely. But history suggests that won’t happen, so it will be vitally important for the Twins to play well at both Fenway and the Stadium in September.

  • It was over 100 degrees in Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, and to Royals’ fans, it must truly feel like they’re living in hell. It’s hardly any fun to watch this kind of a sweep, just because the Royals have really never done anything to us, and any Twins fan worth his salt can remember when it was our ballpark that sat sad and nearly empty, when our fans were the ones trying desperately to remember the last time they’d actually enjoyed a major league baseball game. Sunday’s dismal finale sold a measly 14,064 tickets, and the camera shots of the stands showed that there must have been thousands of no-shows.

  • (By comparison, the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League drew 7,809 to their game on Saturday night, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that the T-Bones park officially seats 4,365. This is awfully reminiscent of the years in the late 1990s when the St. Paul Saints occasionally outdrew the Twins, and it all puts Intern Sam in mind of the catchy jingle he heard at a T-Bones game a few years back, sung to the tune of The Flintstones theme song: “T-Bones! Meet the T-Bones! They’re a baseball team here in KC… They’re just like the Royals, ‘cept they win their games, and parking’s free!”)

  • How bad is it in Kansas City for a fan right now? This is as close as the bloggers can get to optimism about the future: “The Royals have a plan, and insomuch as continuing to live represents a dogged determination to not die, well, the plan's working.” Oh, well. At least they have Dougie Baseball to chat with…

  • The Matt Garza countdown is officially on, and the PiPress says he could join the team midweek. Mike Smith will almost certainly become the third Twins pitcher to go up-and-back to Rochester inside of a week after giving up four runs and three walks in three innings, and Terry Ryan is about out of options for the fifth starter’s spot. Furthermore, the organization was apparently impressed by Garza’s last start, in which he followed orders to start throwing something other than fastballs, and got excellent results.

  • Yeah, yeah, we know there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect until he at least makes it to Double-A, but apparently, the kid Terry Ryan picked up in the Kyle Lohse trade may have a promising future as a major league reliever…

  • …and speaking of everyone’s favorite melodramatic malcontent, he’s off to a pretty good start in Cincinnati. Gordon Wittenmeyer still thinks the trade was a mistake, and that the Twins would be in better position to contend with Lohse in the starting rotation. Jason Williams, as usual, feels differently.

  • Did everyone but Intern Sam already know that Justin Morneau has a maple leaf tattooed on his right bicep? That’s just… really hot.

  • When a highly touted prospect starts to fade, it gets some attention. But by the time that prospect has fallen far enough to drop completely off the radar screen, most fans have already forgotten he ever existed. Unless the prospect is Matt Harrington, who was drafted five times and never saw a minor league field. Harrington’s fall from grace was unique, certainly, but it could also serve as an important cautionary tale for inexperienced young athletes coming into contact with serious money (and the various slimeballs that such largesse attracts) for the first time.

GameDay's 1st Annual Pre Game Party

Hey gang, we have a chance to talk baseball in person.....

This Saturday (the 12th) we'll have GameDays' 1st Annual Pre Game Party. It'll be 4:30 at Town Hall Brewery (within walking distance of the Dome). We want to say a big Thank You to all our readers, so we're buying some appetizers for snacking and bringing free copies of GameDay. We'll all get plenty of chances to talk baseball face to face (gasp) and brainstorm stuff we can do to make the program and web site better. Then we'll all walk over to the 6:00 game.

I hope you can all make it so I can meet you (or meet some of you again).
John Bonnes

Johan Santana's Perfect Game (3 stars)

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How far would you go to see the simple purity of a perfect game? And how much further would you go to hide the joy of that simplicity? Those are the questions that are thrust upon Ben (Jonathan Wemette) when he and his roommate Paul (Kevin Albertson) struggle through the final three innings of that game that everyone knew Santana would someday have.

Ben and Paul are the two different camps that follow baseball today. Paul is more traditional, reveling in the Fox Sports Net theme, and anxious to date Marny Gellner so he can meet Dick and Bert. Ben is that geeky side, citing statistics and labeling Francisco Liriano “Johan Santana 2.0” because “he’s a strikeout pitcher like Santana, but he’s ALSO a groundball pitcher”. They’re both baseball junkies and superstitious to a fault, especially Ben.

However, analytical Ben isn’t comfortable with the simple joy he feels of being a “sports guy”, and that’s especially true because he’s now dating the sophisticated Claire (Heather Hannigan). He hasn’t told her anything about his love for baseball, let alone his superstitious streak, and tonight they’re going to see her friend’s performance art show at the Walker. Ben attempts to hide the truth from Claire, while still trying to maintain their relationship AND providing the mojo Santana needs, form the core of the conflict for this comedy.

It’s a solid idea and reasonably well written. I felt like the first half stumbled a bit on the “guy” angle, lacking some subtlety, and carrying unreasonable premises too far for their slapstick possibilities. Ben’s character (and his relationship with Claire) wasn’t developed well enough early enough to make sense of why he was so desperate to hide the truth, which made the theatrics less effective, and a little puzzling.

For instance, the guys discover that holding hands is brining good luck. But why must the guys hold hands when the Twins are batting, and wouldn’t that have made for better theater? For half the inning, Ben could be perfectly normal, but for the other half of the inning, he would’ve acted crazy. That twist would have provided just as many (if not more) laughs, and it would have been more clear why Claire kept sticking around through Ben’s psychotic episode.

It recovers well in the second half. The sight gags get funnier, Paul appears less cartoonish, Claire more understandable, and we see more of the relationship between all three characters. The show moves from slapstick to more layered comedy, resulting in a distinct improvement.

Like the rest of the case, writer Jonathan Wemette (also Ben) is very young,, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that he seems to have a better sense about relationships between people than relationships between guys (and yes, there’s a difference). However, his script really shines in its ability to provide detail about the culture clash central to the show. Wemette knows his baseball, both from an analytical and traditional fan perspective, and the script is peppered with little insights. He’s equally adept exploring Claire’s theatrical world, and several of the most clever lines are when Claire in on her cell phone with her manic performance artist friend. (“No, most performance venues don’t come with a chainsaw as standard equipment.”)

The acting was solid, though not all challenges are met. Wemette has the heaviest load, and isn’t totally up to the task, though I don’t think the script helped him out much. Albertson is pretty good at the slapstick aspect and added depth and detail to what could have been a very flat character. Hannigan did a fantastic job playing the role of unknowing wet blanket while still remaining likable, which was essential in this story.

I felt it was worth the hour and $12 required to see it, and my friend thought it was even better than that. If you’re a baseball fan, the sprinkled Twins references throughout the script shine like gems (or should it be diamonds?) It successfully bats around the subject of sports and our culture and relationships, while still remaining entertaining. And finally, there’s a certain excitement about following a possible perfect game, whether or not it’s fictional. Johan Santana’s Perfect Game isn’t perfect, but it provides a simple pleasure, like baseball. And I'm not ashamed to say that.


Johan Santana's Perfect Game is showing for one more week at the Fringe festival, with shows Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information and tickets, click here.