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 IV, Part II: Which Number Should Every AL Team Retire Next?)

Written by :
Published on : March 27, 2016

 

During the upcoming 2016 season, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose, Mike Piazza and Wade Boggs will have their numbers retired by the Mariners, Reds, Mets and Red Sox, respectively. And that got me thinking about which players should be next in line for those honors. We already did the National League. Now, lets do the Junior Circuit.

 

Angels

Finley

 

 

Retired Numbers: Gene Autry, Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan, Jimmie Reese, Jim Fregosi.
The Angels are in kind of an odd predicament since their most obvious choice of position players is 24-years old and their current center fielder. They could go with Darin Erstad or Tim Salmon from the 2002 team. Or that goddamn Rally Monkey. But my choice would be Chuck Finley. He’s their all-time leader in wins and innings pitched and pitchers WAR. Plus, he’s local to Newport Beach. Oh, and after a very messy divorce with 80’s Babe, Tawny Kitaen, where she accused him of steroid use, marijuana and alcohol abuse, Finley responded, “I can’t believe she left out the cross-dressing.” Like a drifter, he was born to walk alone.

 

Astros

Oswalt

 

Retired Numbers: Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio.
I’d say Lance Berkman, if he wasn’t a giant homophobe. Not that Houston is some kind of progressive place. And my second choice would be Cesar Cedeno, if he didn’t also murder his girlfriend in a Dominican hotel room in 1973. And, I’m not kidding, he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and fined $100. That’s not a typo. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Anyway, I guess that leaves us with Roy Oswalt. I think he only kills deer. And he’s the all-time Astros pitching leader in WAR. Plus, he might have some sort of superpower. I say that because while he was in the minors he suffered from a shoulder injury until he was electrocuted while fixing his pickup. After the incident he exclaimed to his wife in his Mississippi accent, “My truck done shocked the fire out of me and my arm don’t hurt no more.” Case closed.

 

Athletics

Henderson

 

Retired Numbers: Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson.
The Athletics have played in Oakland since 1968, but their history goes back to 1901 in Philadelphia. So all-time greats like Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Eddie Plank and Lefty Grove haven’t been recognized by he organization. Or any organization for that matter. And I think they should be. Those guys all won multiple World Series championships for a team that was named the Athletics and it’s not like the team changed its name or its logo to generate a new identity since they moved. All they have to do is slap an old Philadelphia logo on a banner with their names on it like their bay area brethren Giants do with the New York Giants and call it a day. Of course, you might want to include Connie Mack and Home Run Baker and Chief Bender and Herb Pennock and Mickey Cochrane. My point is that the A’s existed before your older brother bought his Bash Brothers poster. They should recognize their heritage or change their name. It’s not like ‘Athletics’ makes much sense 115 years later. Hey, Rickey Henderson was raised in Oakland. Name them after him. The Oakland Rickeys. Either that or do what I said earlier.

 

Blue Jays

Halladay

 

 

Retired Number: Roberto Alomar.
As much as I want to give it to Joe Carter for his epic walk-off in 1993 or Jose Bautista for his epic bat flip in 2015, the best Toronto Blue Jays player of all-time (in terms of WAR) is actually Roy Halladay. He might have gotten more publicity on the Phillies. He might not have been as flashy as Roger Clemens in his two seasons with Toronto, but Halladay is the closest to great there is for a franchise without any great players. Phil Niekro played there in 1987. Roberto Alomar only played there for five seasons. Dave Winfield was there for one. Rickey Henderson was there for one. Paul Molitor was there for three. Frank Thomas was there for two. And good luck convincing me it’s Tony Fernandez or Carlos Delgado. Unless Bautista sticks around and surpasses everybody, they should retire #32.

 

Indians

Lofton

 

 

Retired Numbers: Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Earl Averill, Mel Harder, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, the Indians Fans.
Okay, Tris Speaker was in the Klan. But somebody needs to explain to me why the Indians never honored Nap Lajoie. Because he had a falling out with the team manager in 1914? That’s stupid. And while we’re at it, the Indians could also honor Cy Young of the defunct Cleveland Spiders. But it looks like the best choices for now would be Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton. They were fun, right? And I can think about them while I attempt to block Tris Speaker out of my mind forever.

 

Mariners

Ichiro

 

 

Retired Number: Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey had to be first. They did the right thing. But the Mariners also haven’t reissued the numbers of Edgar Martinez, Lou Piniella, Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson or Ichiro Suzuki, so all those guys are definitely on the horizon. Which is awesome. Because I don’t have do do anything. I could say, “What about Felix Hernandez?” but it seems like the Mariners are already on it.

 

Orioles

Mussina

 

 

Retired Numbers: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr.
Uh, it’s Mike Mussina. What are you guys doing? Unless they’re waiting for Mussina to get into the Hall of Fame, I don’t see the reason for waiting. We could discuss George Sisler and Bobby Wallace of the St. Louis Browns. Or even Boog Powell. But Baltimore should quit with the whole not retiring Mike Mussina’s number thing.

 

Rangers

Rodriguez

 

 

Retired Numbers: Johnny Oates, Nolan Ryan.
They should just rename the American League West, ‘The Nolan Ryan Division’ since 3 out of the 5 teams in the division have retired his number. Anyway, the Rangers’ relatively short history is riddled with Jose Canseco’s steroids. So this all depends on how we feel about Ivan Rodriguez. Then realize that the next best choice is Rafael Palmeiro. I guess we’ll see what Hall of Fame voters do next year with Pudge. So unless somebody wants to honor Adrian Beltre or Kevin Brown or somebody else from those Ron Washington-led 2010 and 2011 teams that came oh-so-close (Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Neftali Perez, Washington himself), the Rangers will probably be stuck with someone Canseco injected in the butt cheeks.

 

Rays

Longoria

 

 

Retired Numbers: Wade Boggs, Don Zimmer.
The obvious choice is Evan Longoria and also probably the only choice. The team has only been around for like, five minutes and all of their other good players (Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, James Shields, David Price) are currently on other rosters. Longo or nobody at all.

 

Red Sox

Evans

 

 

Retired Numbers: Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice, Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs.
The Red Sox have not reissued the jerseys of Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield or Skinny Roger Clemens. So I’d guess all three numbers will get retired at some point. Well, maybe not Skinny Roger Clemens. But if they did, that could leave an opening for Skinny Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh. But my main question is, what do the Red Sox have against Dwight Evans? Other than Skinny Clemens, he’s their best choice. Sure, this is another team that could honor Cy Young (and there’s a statue of him at the site of old Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston). Or they could continue to go the 2004-2013 rout with Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Curt Schilling. But we’ve already established that everybody must hate Curt Schilling, bloody sock and all. And it probably shouldn’t be Manny. So Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia are next. If, and only if, they can explain to me why they hate Dwight Evans.

 

Royals

Paige

 

 

Retired Numbers: Dick Howser, George Brett, Frank White.
Okay, what about Leroy “Satchel” Paige? He played on the Kansas City Monarchs. And it’s not like they’re going to give it to Amos Otis or Willie Wilson any time soon. You could make a pretty decent argument for some of their pitchers from the eighties and nineties like Kevin Appier, Mark Gubicza and Bret Saberhagen. But Paige is clearly a better choice. And he even played for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. Sure he was 59-years-old and only pitched in four innings of one game. But that’s more amazing than anything most people I’ve already named have ever done. I’m sure this current group of players (Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Greg Holland, Wade Davis and manager, Ned Yost) will have a say in the end. But for now, give it to Satchel.

 

Tigers

Trammell and Whitaker

 

 

Retired Numbers: Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, Willie Horton, Sparky Anderson, Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Hughie Jennings, George Kell, Heinie Manush.
Okay, stop everything. The Tigers still haven’t retired the numbers of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell? Who’s in charge of this shit, Rick Snyder? The racist ghost of Ty Cobb? Get it together! You rip #1 off of Jose Iglesias and #3 off of Ian Kinsler right now, Detroit. I don’t want to see anybody in that shit ever again, you got me?

 

Twins

Mauer

 

 

Retired Numbers: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Tom Kelly.
We’ve already established that none of the old Senators are going to get a fair shake in Minneapolis. So it’s gonna have to be Jim Kaat or Joe Mauer. Kaat has 16 Gold Gloves as a pitcher, for Chrissakes. I could throw in World Series MVPs, Frank Viola or Jack Morris, just for funzies. But I think everybody knows it’s going to be Mauer.

 

White Sox

Faber

 

 

Retired Numbers: Luke Appling, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Ted Lyons, Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko.
Red Faber is the best pitcher in White Sox history, played his entire career for the White Sox and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And he was the last legal spitballer in the American League. I don’t know what gives. Hall of Famer, Eddie Collins, also played on the South Side for 12 years. And Ed Walsh, who has the lowest ERA in baseball history at 1.82, also played on the Sox for most of his career. So yeah, they’ll probably give it to Mark Buehrle or Robin Ventura. Because who in Bridgeport would look up lame shit like history?

 

Yankees

Jeter

 

 

Retired Numbers: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Thurman Munson, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Ron Guidry, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte.
We end where it all began. When Lou Gehrig gave his famous, “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech it was the 4th of July, 1939 and the Yankees were making Gehrig’s #4 the first retired number in Major League history. Which is kind of appropriate since the 1929 Yankees were also the first team to permanently adopt numbers, anyway. All that being said, it’s Derek Jeter. I mean, it might be Paul O’Neill. But it should be Jeter.

 

 


Six Ways to Deal with Being Let Down by your Baseball Team

Written by :
Published on : August 7, 2015

Well, here we are. Early August and the Minnesota Twins are set to break my heart again. This is a team that lost 6 out of their first 7 games, including losing 12-3 at the home opener, then bounced back for a sweet, fleeting moment to have the best record in the AL in July. Now, in the back-end of the season, they’re chipping away one loss at a time toward the .500 mark and the depths that await beyond.

 

As a Minnesota sports fan, I’ve gotten used to crushing disappointment. The Vikings’ last-moment loss to the Falcons in 1998 in the playoffs after winning 15 games in the regular season, the second-highest post-season losing streak in MLB history (which is currently active and, assuming we get to the post-season this year, could launch us into the number one spot as we are only one game away from first place etc. etc. boo hoo yadda yadda.)

 

 

To misquote Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s rumination on the nature of being Irish after the death of JFK, “I don’t think there’s any point in being a Minnesota sports fan if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.” What’s my point? Over the last 30 years of triumph and tragedy (mostly tragedy), I’ve developed some coping mechanisms for when it all comes crashing back to earth. So here are six ways to deal with being let down by your baseball team.

 

1) Think about how stupid the other team is.

Josh Donaldson is a big, fat crybaby. Every time he strikes out he whines to the umpire, even if he struck out swinging. Alejandro Rodriguez looks like Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler had a baby with John Leguizamo. How much of the Yankees’ bullpen could fit into one pair of CC Sabathia’s pants? There’s no end to the stupidity of whatever team your team is playing against, even and perhaps especially if they’re winning. Give it a shot. It’s fun.

 

 

2) Remember that this is a building year.

Basically any year when you don’t get deep into the playoffs can always be written off as a building year. The only time when this doesn’t apply is when your team sells the farm for some big names only to fizzle-out mere months later (I know this to be the case because I live in Oakland where A’s fans are bitching pretty hard about this right now). There’s always next year, keep your head up.

 

 

3) Drink.

This one may seem obvious. That doesn’t make it any less effective. Drinking and kibitzing about baseball (or sports in general) is a time-honored tradition. Legend has it that beer was actually invented so some Mesopotamian dudes could hang out in a (literal) Man Cave and complain about the astronomical ERA of a Sumerian southpaw named Grong.

 

4) Watch YouTube videos of times when your team was good.

The Internet has revolutionized the art of wallowing in your own misery. From Facebook stalking ex-girlfriends to saying mean things to celebrities on Twitter, the Internet has a veritable cornucopia of tools you can use to grovel in the basement of despair. Watch some Randy Moss highlights, maybe relive Game 163 (which happened on my 25th birthday).

 

 

5) Drink some more.

Once you’re getting deep into the season and it’s starting to look bleak, it might be time to bust out ol’ grandpappy’s cough medicine and take a few slugs. Ahhh the soothing comfort of whiskey.

 

6) Remember that football season is right around the corner.

When every new day dawns, we’re one step closer to football season; another four months of opportunities for disappointment! Huzzah! I heard that Teddy Bridgewater guy is looking pretty good though, and this is going to be the year that Cordarrelle Patterson learns how to run a route, I just know it!

 

 

I hope this has been useful (specifically looking at my Tigers and A’s boys right now) and don’t forget, tomorrow’s another day, keep ya head up.

 

 


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