The Sweep Taste of Defeat: The 0-7 Minnesota Twins

Written by :
Published on : April 12, 2016

 

 

Author’s Note: I wrote this after we got swept by the Orioles, but it mostly holds true, added commentary after getting swept by the Royals and a loss yesterday to the White Sox in italics.

 

 

The Twins are again staring down the barrel of having the worst opening record in baseball for the second year in a row (only the Braves losing today will keep us neck and neck in a fight for last place), but being a Minnesota sports fan requires being a perennial optimist even in the face of heartbreaking defeat (see: 2015-16 NFC WildCard Game) and I’m, strangely, more hopeful about this year than I was last year.

 

 

So let’s start with the bad so far:

 

If we can’t beat the Orioles, we’re gonna have a bad time

 

Baltimore does have a lineup that hits homeruns, and that was the difference-maker in every one of the three opening games that we lost to them. However, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Would we have won Monday’s game if they hadn’t completely botched the rain delay and given both starters only two innings apiece? Maybe, I’m still hopeful that Ervin Santana can be as close to an ace as we have on the Twins, but we have to own up to the fact that Kyle Gibson looked flat out bad during his start and even though Phil Hughes was lights out through 40 pitches, the wheels started coming off the rails after that. In addition, our next two starters, Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco don’t show much promise either.

 

Milone showed signs of being a guy who can paint corners last year but his velocity has never been great and when his control is off guys jump all over him. Nolasco who has never had an ERA under 5 since he’s been with the Twins, and his 4 year/$49Million contract just make me want to curl up in the corner and cry. Our bullpen doesn’t look much better. Glen Perkins has yet to return to All Star closer form. Jepsen, who looked damn good last year as a setup man gave up a game-losing homer last night and Casey Fien is a bum and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

 

Yeah, we also got swept by the Royals, but they won the World Series last year so…

 

Where’s the beef?

Miguel Sano

 

On the offensive side, we’re looking anemic. We’ve scored two runs per game in every game so far this year. We’re basically the Leroy Hoard of baseball right now. (For those out of the loop, Hoard was the backup to Vikings’ legendary running back Robert Smith who famously said, “Coach, if you need one yard, I’ll get you three yards, if you need five yards, I’ll get you three yards.”) Our sluggers who we have counted on to produce have been pretty lackluster so far. Guys like Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier have looked pretty stymied at the plate, Dozier, who lead the team in HRs last year, went totally hitless in the first series. If we want to start winning, we’re going to need solid at bats from everyone in our lineup, especially guys like Dozier and Sano.

 

Yep. This just got worse after the first series. Beyond not having good hitting, we are striking out WAY too much. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Byung-Ho Park all have 11 Ks in 19 ABs. That, combined with no power when we DO get hits is a game killer.

 

But, dear readers, it’s not all gloom and doom, there are some bright spots!

 

Taking the D-Train

 

Twins defense has a ton of potential. The oldest player in our starting outfield is Eddie Rosario who is 24 and he hit the most triples IN THE MLB last year despite the fact that he didn’t get called up until May, plus he has a serious cannon. Then you have Byron Buxton, still technically a rookie this year although he played a significant amount of time last year. Buxton has already made several highlight-reel plays so far this year and is one of the fastest center fielders I’ve ever seen. Miguel Sano, who hit 18 homers and racked up 52 RBIs in just 80 games last year while mostly DHing, has been moved out to right field to keep him in the everyday lineup. There were concerns about his ability to play outfield at all as Sano came up as a third baseman, and there have been a few hiccups along the way so far, but Sano worked with former Twins outfield great Torii Hunter this offseason to get his ducks in a row and he’s made some pretty killer grabs already.

 

Add to that Danny Santana who can literally play any position on the field other than catcher or pitcher, and solid starters at every infield position including All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar who may actually be the Twins solution at Short which has been a nagging issue for us over the last decade. I’m not sure what this feeling is but I think it’s the absence of terror when you look at the field and no-one on the field is a stopgap player who wouldn’t make most teams’ AAA roster. Feels good man.

 

Danny Santana pulled his hamstring in KC. Eduardo Escobar has committed 3 of the team’s 4 errors since I wrote this. So. You know…

 

Hits Not Unusual to be Loved by Anyone

 

While some of the guys we were relying on to get hits have yet to put good wood on the ball so far this season (yeah I said it) some of the guys we weren’t expecting to hit well have been getting it figured out. The jury’s still out on Byron Buxton who was atrocious at the plate in 2015 and spring training but banged two doubles in a row on Wednesday night. Danny Santana who actually got sent down to AAA because he looked like he was going to poop his pants and cry during every one of his at bats in 2015 is not only hitting the ball well but also nailed maybe one of the most perfect bunts I’ve seen in a long time.

 

Joe Mauer, who, admittedly, had his bell rung a few too many times when he was catching for the Twins, looked like he was trying to see the ball through a couple thirteen-fourteen bong rips last year, so far this year he’s looked pretty sharp and even cracked a home run during the last game of the series. The Twins also added Korean superstar Byung-ho Park (please no Cornholio jokes, even if for a while we thought we were going to trade away our third baseman, Trevor Plouffe, aka TP for our Byung-ho) who looks solid at the plate and last year set the Korean League all-time record for home runs in a season.

 

Buxton is terrible, BHP is terrible, Eduardo Nunez went 4 for 4 in our crippling loss to KC on Saturday and then got hit by a pitch right in his god damned wrist in his 5th at bat. So. You know...

 

 

There are few bright spots in our pitching game so far, non-roster invitee Fernando Abad has looked solid, Ryan Pressley has thrown surprisingly well so far, we still have yet to see what Ervin Santana can do in a full game and Kyle Gibson usually has the yips for his first game or so and then remembers that he has a brutal slider and dominates. However, I’m confident that this team is going to gel, we’re going to bring that Paul-Molitor-stubborn-bastard-ness to this season and start frustrating teams and winning games. The Minnesota Piranhas are going to make a comeback this year, and teams aren’t going to know what hit them until they’re underwater and chewed to the bone.

 

This mostly stands, Pressley looks okay but the rest of our bullpen is probably making him look that way as they are all pitching like they’ve never seen a baseball before. That said, this gif while Pressley was on the mound I think perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this season so far, just a lone garbage tumbleweed drifting across the mound as Pressley pounds one into the dirt.

 

 

 

How I feel.

 

 

But until next time, like the song says, “Cheer For The Minnesota Twins To-Day!”

 

 


SBS Remembers: Disco Demolition Night

Written by :
Published on : April 7, 2016

 

Flashback to 1979. Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. A double header with the Chicago White Sox hosting the Detroit Tigers. But the second game would never be played because of an incident we affectionately call Disco Demolition Night. Let’s jump into the time machine and zip back to 70’s to give you the whole crazy story.

 

The set up

To really understand the scene we must understand the attitude of the city. The era of Saturday Night Fever was dying and the folks in Chicago were over Disco. Popular FM disc jockey, Steve Dahl, on local 97.9 WLUP aka The Loop was leading the anti-disco movement on the airways of the windy city. In an effort to boost ticket sales, the White Sox held a promotion partnered with Dahl and the radio station. The details were that Steve Dahl planned to blow up a bunch of disco vinyl between the double header games as a stunt. Fans only needed 98 cents and an unwanted disco record to enter the stadium. Brass at Comiskey expected around 20,000 fans but 50,000 showed up.

 

 Steve Dahl (in helmet), model Lorelei Shark and son of owner of the White Sox

 

The stunt

Steve Dahl had planned to explode a crate of records in an effort to ring in the death of disco. But there were so many people at the stadium and their albums were not collected so fans threw their records onto the field. Just think, a wave of flying discs covering the the grass like a fleet of UFO’s coming to earth.

 

Dahl came out to huge cheers. He did his best to get the crowd to riot level energy and then BOOM! A literal explosion and with that, all hell broke loose. Thousands flooded the diamond. Other fans who couldn’t get tickets snuck/broke into the park. Security was useless. Totally out numbered and hopelessly out gunned.

 

disco demo 2

 

Could you imagine being at a modern game where this happened? That’s such a foreign thought. And all this hostile energy is over what? Dance moves? Hip thrusts? I’ll stop talking for a bit and we can all enjoy this amazing photo.

 

DiscoDemolitionNight

 

The conclusion

Riot police had to be called in to help disperse the rabid locals. But the damage had been done. The explosion plus all the extra foot traffic completely destroyed the lawn at Comiskey. Looking back, maybe Disco Demolition Night wasn’t the best idea. I mean just the demolition could have been enough to wreck the playing surface but the full scale riot was the icing on the cake. The next day, the baseball Commissioner ruled that the White Sox had to forfeit the contest based on the fact that it was their own actions that caused the delay of the game.

 

ScoreBoredSports is here to remind you that in 1979, the Detroit Tigers got a win over the Chicago White Sox because the residents of Chicago really hate a particular type of music. That’s hilarious. And pretty sweet.

 

 

Disco.

 

 


2015-16 NHL Season Preview: Central Division

Written by :
Published on : October 3, 2015

 

Welcome to ScoreBoredSports.com’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview for the Central Division. Early last year, people wondered whether or not the Central was a division that featured seven playoff-caliber teams. The defensive profligacy of the Stars, continued stagnation in Winnipeg, and a dismal Wild season only saved by the heroics of a castaway goaltender, destabilized that dream. This year, the division’s outlook is not as rosy, with the customary dismantling of the Championship Blackhawks underway, questions surrounding uneven rosters in Colorado, Winnipeg, and Dallas, and the all-important question of when Patrick Roy will finally kill a man on the ice by the sheer venom of his hubris.

 

 

central division
Image by Roger Pretzel

 

Central Division:

  • Blackhawks
  • Avalanche
  • Stars
  • Wild
  • Predators 
  • Blues 
  • Jets

 

Falling

 

Chicago Blackhawks:

Quenneville and Toews will need to do a lot to keep the Blackhawks contending this year.

 

Well, might as well get this out of the way: the Blackhawks will not be as good this year. As salary cap issues forced Stan Bowman and co. to dismantle this fantastic roster, so, too, did their Stanley Cup aspirations crumble. They’ve shed key championship pieces like Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, Antoine Vermette, and Brandon Saad. Gone, too, are Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp, each of whom played valuable minutes in a spectrum of roles. More pressing is the cloud that looms over the season in the form of a sexual assault allegation against Patrick Kane. No matter the outcome, nor the increasingly troublesome nature of the case, this inexorably will affect the team’s ability to concentrate and focus on the games at hand, whether Kane is present or not. But if any team has the structure to withstand such turmoil, the stalwart Hawks are the squad to do it.  When a team is a dynasty on the level of these Hawks, every player tends to ooze leadership.  The overall fall from surefire contender to a low playoff seed is an easy fall to predict, but make no mistake: this team still features the game’s best defenseman in Duncan Keith, the game’s best leader in Jonathan Toews, and the game’s best coach in Joel Quenneville. They added players on the cheap that have good potential to be productive, such as Ryan Garbutt and Artem Anisimov, and Trevor Daley might slot into a second-pair defensive role quite nicely.   They are likely to make the playoffs, but fight for every inch along the way.  It’s an ever-crowding West, but the Hawks still have too much on their roster to be silent come playoff time.

 

Winnipeg Jets:

There’ll be a lot more of this from Pavelec and the Jets this year.

 

I’m mainly concerned that this team is what it is, which is not a contender — and stagnation kills in the NHL. Trading Evander Kane for Tyler Myers may have shielded the tender fans in Winnipeg from whatever hangups they had about Kane, but Myers looked uneven in the playoffs. I’m just not convinced he’s Chara 2.0, or ever will be. I can see the appeal of a towering defense featuring Dustin Byfuglien and Myers, with massive slap shots and punishing hits aplenty; but I can also see, just beyond the hulking giants, a terrible goalie in net. Ondrej Pavelec is not an NHL starter, but boy has he started a lot of NHL games. I know you might be thinking “but look at his numbers last year, they’re quite good!” Maybe, but he’s not. He will be bad this year, don’t trust this false hope of a 50-game blip. Pavelec will be bad again; Michael Hutchinson has offered tepid promise, but remains far from a proven commodity.  The team’s above-average PDO (tied for 8th in the league) also suggests that the returns their forward crop offer may too be diminishing. This is a team that performed above average and is unlikely to shoot or stop the puck that well again, plain and simple. Their off-season of doing essentially nothing but reintegrating 23 year-old KHL refugee, Alex Burmistrov and re-signing the aging but adequate, Drew Stafford is a paltry re-load for a team that didn’t look like much in the playoffs. They’ll need continued development from young Mark Scheifele after a promising first full NHL season last year, but even so, I don’t see it this year in Winnipeg.

 

Rising

 

Nashville Predators:

Colin Wilson and the team celebrate the fact that I know who he is now.

 

Here’s an interesting fact: Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, and Craig Smith are different people. Who knew? In researching the Nashville Predators roster, I must have done at least three major spit-takes, ruining my wife’s computer (twice). Contrary to my initial impression, those aren’t randomly-generated white guy names; they are, apparently, all unique individuals that each score between 30-50 points a year, are usually good for around 20 goals, and can play multiple positions. That’s so incredibly useful now that Nashville has a first line of players to reliably score in Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, and breakout All-Star candidate, Filip Forsberg. This marks a potentially powerful triumvirate if Ribeiro can continue to provide steady distribution, Neal re-ignites his potent shot, and Forsberg continues to develop on his current track. Throw in useful players like Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom to provide spine and leadership, and a reclamation project in Cody Hodgson, and this team is balanced and versatile. Most importantly, take a look at that loaded defense. Remember top draft pick Seth Jones? Yeah, he’s still that good. Shea Weber trudges along mercilessly firing 20 goals in a year while bludgeoning everyone in his path. There’s all kinds of depth and skill in Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and newly-inbound veteran Barret Jackman, siphoned from a division rival, no less. Most importantly, Pekka Rinne is back and, barring another serious health condition like the one that robbed him of his 2014 season, should continue to be one of the game’s elite keepers. It says a lot that he was able to bounce back from that scary bacterial infection following hip surgery, and put up one of the best seasons of his career. Watch out for Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette to harangue his way to some serious contention for home ice in the West.

 

Contender

 

St. Louis Blues:

Tarasenko re-signed to win some Stanley Cups and drink some beers…. And he’s all out of beer.

 

Will this be the year that Ken Hitchcock finally finds the right X’s and the perfect O’s for the perennially-underachieving Blues? Since he assumed the head coaching position in St. Louis, they have been consistently excellent in the regular season, finding enough firepower to accent a stalwart defense. Yet they’ve never been past the first round, and have foolishly ridden an ever-rotating goalie carousel toward soft playoff exits. Last year, they looked to be a powerful force against an inexperienced Wild team, yet squandered home ice in game five against a still-scorching Devan Dubnyk. Vladimir Tarasenko was about the only player who came out of the series looking good for the Blues.  This past summer didn’t spell doom, but rather, an ultimatum: last chance.

Looking at this year’s squad, there’s some potential for addition by subtraction in losing Barrett Jackman, as his off-season departure opens up space for younger players like Petteri Lindbohm and Robert Bortuzzo to step in and add a bit of pace in the back end. Other than that, they mainly added depth in Kyle Brodziak, and secured Vladimir Tarasenko for eight years.

This is a team that tended heavily toward defensive play last year, with a 49.5% ratio of offensive to defensive zone starts (essentially a composite of how and where each player on the team is deployed and used). This indicates that King Kenny’s attention to defense hasn’t fallen away like his career as a world-renowned breeder of exotic birds. And though it may not be true that Ken Hitchcock was ever a decorated breeder of tropical birds, doesn’t it feel like he should develop a passion outside of hockey? I just worry.

Anyway, in spite of the Blues’ craven history of disintegrating at crucial moments, the future looks just as bright as last year’s Division-winning team’s could have been. The aforementioned Tarasenko is the crown jewel in an offense laden with high-level two-way players like David Backes, and the newly-acquired Troy Brouwer, but it seems like they’ll need more pure offensive value out of Paul Stastny, who, on balance, had the worst season of his career in 2015. The Blues continue to have questions in their goalie rotation, with Brian Elliott losing favor to Jake Allen in the last third of the year and into the playoffs (until Allen turned in some poor performances of his own). Yet the answer doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, so the hope is that Elliott can regain his peak form and Allen can use his time as a backup to learn what it means to be a true NHL starter. With a loaded roster and a championship-winning coach, the sky isn’t even the limit; only the Blues can hold themselves back at this point.

 

Other Thoughts:

  • As much as I’d like to offer some insight into the Wild’s season, I feel like Devan Dubnyk’s incredible run in net last year disrupts my ability to really figure out what kind of team this is. Unfortunately, my highly sophisticated intuition tells me that it will be nearly impossible for Dubnyk to reproduce such a run.  However, late-career goaltending surges are not out of the question.  Dwayne Roloson, somehow, took a 2011 Lightning team to within a game of the Cup final at age 41; this came after an up-and-down career in which, excepting another strange run to the Cup final with Edmonton five years earlier, he never really established himself as a top-tier keeper.  Probable Ted Nugent disciple, Tim Thomas, burst out at age 33 from being a spotty starter to a four-time all-star, Stanley Cup, Vezina, and Conn Smythe winner.  So there’s some hope that Dubnyk, now 29, will take that seemingly random leap into excellence.  Smart money says that won’t be the case, and the Wild might re-discover some of their early-season malaise from 2014-15.  One thing I do know: Jason Zucker needs to pass the fucking rock.  Dude had 21 goals and 5 assists last year.  That’s like, Rick Nash-level selfish, bro.  I’M OPEN ON THE POINT, ASSHOLE.

 

  • Once again, Colorado boasted high puck luck with one of the NHL’s best PDO numbers, yet still managed to be a big mess.  A clue: the Avalanche had the league’s second-worst Corsi percentage, also known as Shot Attempts on NHL.com (the stat combines shots, shot attempts, and blocked shots, the idea is to measure how a player impacts the team’s ability to direct the puck at the other net).  But beyond any of the numbers, the Avs just sucked last year, so we can’t really say they’re falling.   Picking up veteran blueliner Francois Beauchemin should strengthen the hapless defense, and the addition of Blake Comeau, who had excellent possession numbers last year with a high personal Corsi percentage, should hopefully help in that department.  Ultimately, Patrick Roy is a an inflamed gonad and he will always be lesser than a Red Wing;  never forget 12/02/95, you Stanley Cup-winning chump!

 

  • Did you know that, according to the Weather Channel, it will be 86 degrees and partly cloudy in Dallas, Texas, on the opening night of hockey season??  I’m deeply tempted to leave my comments at that for the Stars, but they’ve done enough to at least intrigue me over the summer.  I don’t think they’re due for a significant push forward, nor a slump, but there’s potential for some impact with the summer acquisitions of skilled Cup-winners Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, and former Cup-winner Antii Niemi in goal.  But each of those players is on the wrong side of thirty, and who knows how much is left in the tank.  The Stars again play it cavalier with a thin defense, especially after losing one of their few NHL-ready defenders in Trevor Daley in the trade for Patrick Sharp.  Under the guidance of their General Manager, former Detroit Red Wing head of scouting and all-around hockey savant, Jim Nill, the Stars strengthened their team through the middle last off-season, acquiring Jason Spezza as a formidable second-line pillar.  The problem is that they neglected to carry six viable NHL defenders, and the team looked ghastly out of the back last year, allowing 257 goals, good for 4th-worst in the NHL.  I don’t really see enough movement on this front to shift the terrain in any significant direction; the goaltending situation continues to compound the team’s defensive woes, now with two potentially over-the-hill Finnish keepers bringing great experience, but diminishing skills.  Even the strong development of promising rookie D-man John Klingberg would be insufficient cover for such a porous defense.  Yet, with the likes of Tyler Seguin and unlikely Art-Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn, the team have an elite duo of firebrand offensive talent atop solid cast of top-six forwards.  The questions persist: can this Dallas team mature and take care of the puck in their own end? Does the combination of Kari Lehtonen and Niemi have enough in the tank to turn out wins with a shaky defense in front? Does the influx of former Chicago Blackhawk championship teammates create some sort of old-man spark?  Can you see the ice around my enormous cowboy hat made of beef jerky?

 

Stay tuned to your favorite internet tube for part 3, coming soon! 

 


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