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!”

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


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