Saturday, April 30, 2005


Thursday, April 28, 2005


Even with the White Sox losses Tuesday and Wednesday in Oakland, Chicago at 16-6 is off to their best start since... oh, since noneofustwinsfansreallycare. Probably the early '80s when Tony LaRussa was in the Old Comiskey dugout wearing the SOX softball uniform. Now all of a sudden you can't venture into decent society without tripping over giddy South Side fans who believe their GM in one offseason has brilliantly copied the Twins formula for winning the division and now it's all over but for the champagne and speeches.

I'm still not buying it. It looks like the Sox won't slip to 4th place like I brazenly predicted last month, but I still don't see them running away with the division, either. Some Twins fans have asserted that the ChiSox will fall apart by midseason because "it's what they always do," and I've heard the accusations that we're starting to sound like Yankees fans who used to believe their team would forever own the Red Sox because it had been that way for generations and so they regarded their superiority as a birthright. But I won't claim that the standings of the last 4 years dictate that the White Sox must fail again. I have my reasons to believe that Chicago will fall apart. Ozzie's "smart ball" cannot hold.

Let's talk about why.

The Sox have a .309 team on-base pct. David Schoenfield mentioned this in his ESPN column this week, so I'll get it out of the way to start. Through 22 games, the Sox are hitting .262/.309/.395, and their 47 walks ranks last in the league. Now, I don't know if they can improve on that the rest of the year; but there has been a lot of hype about the Small Sox playing a new brand of exciting "smart ball" to kick off the season, and I think it's only fair to point out that if a team plans to win with streams of singles, walks, bunts, and aggressive baserunning rather than power, it had better improve upon that .309 on-base pct. and 2.14 walks per game. And not by a little.

The bats driving the Sox offense have been Everett, Konerko and Crede, the usual #3, 4, and 8 hitters in the lineup. So?

Carl Everett used to be a good hitter with some pop who knew how to control the strike zone; but in the four seasons since he became an overnight sensation and hot button talk show topic as Crazy Carl, menace to umpires, authority on child discipline, and Biblical scholar who didn't believe in dinosaurs--oh yeah, and the All-Star CF for the Red Sox--sightings of his old skills at the plate have been rare. From 2001-4, he hit .270/.338/.455, and really even that line is inflated by his one good season split between Texas and Chicago in 2003. Last year he was frequently hurt and overweight, and regressed to bat a lousy .260/.319/.402 in 82 games. Right now he's whacking a hacktastic .276/.306/.500; which may be OK as long as he keeps up his pace for 37 doubles and 29 HR, but I wouldn't count it. Certainly if he were my team's #3 hitter, I'd feel concerned.

Paul Konerko is hitting .241/.333/.544, an 878 OPS which represents about as much value as he's ever shown he can give. He might hit for a better avg and on-base pct., but it's not a given. In 2003, he hit .234/.305/.399 for no apparent reason. I'd say it's more likely that his on-base stays about the same but his slg pct. comes down towards his .481 career level. Right now he's hitting like an All or Nothing guy. If his power dips into a slump, what's left in the cleanup spot but a whole lotta Nothing?

Joe Crede is driving the ball like it's set on a tee, posting a line of .315/.367/.479 so far from the bottom third of the order. Looks great, especially from a guy who hit .256/.304/.434 through his first 1402 plate appearances in the big leagues. Now, it's possible that at age 27 he's about to have a breakout, career-making year. He was a pretty good hitter in the minors. But White Sox fans should consider that a bonus if it happens, not a given. I'll tip my cap if he's still doing it down the stretch.

Some fall-off by those three may be compensated by improved production from Aaron Rowand and Jermaine Dye. Rowand is mired in a slump dating back to last September, but otherwise he had a big breakout season in 2004. Dye probably won't put up a 506 OPS all season, as he is now; on the other hand, he made a habit of disappointing the A's in recent years, and put up a 514 OPS in an injury-shortened year of 2003. Even if Dye picks himself up, he's not someone to count on to carry an offense if Everett and Konerko falter. He's an average corner outfield bat, at best.

Oh, I am sometimes reminded by Sox fans that they just have to hold out for Frank Thomas to return, and all will be well. In other words, the New Style of Smallball is going to work because the emblematic icon of the Sox Old Style of Slugball will be coming back next month on his gimpy ankle to drive the show. Frank's a great hitter, still better than people give him credit for being anymore, but he's turning 37 next month and last Fall he had a bone graft and two screws inserted into his ankle. He's gonna come back and hit like an MVP again?

I guess he better. I don't see anyone else in the Sox lineup, with the possible exception of Rowand, who looks capable of stepping up to carry the offense if Everett and Konerko get hurt or slump. As things stand, even with Everett and Konerko doing about all they can do, Chicago ranks 8th in the AL with 100 runs scored. Oh, by the way, they're also outperforming their Runs Created figure by about 9 runs. Did I mention that? The other shoe is going to drop on this lineup. It's just a question of when.

What about the pitching? The New Small Sox are built around pitching and defense!

Seeing that the Sox are a ridiculous 9-2 in one-run games so far only leads me to expect some regression to the mean, as well. People commonly believe that a strong bullpen leads to a better record in one-run games, but I have never seen a direct correlation. For instance, Florida right now has the best bullpen ERA in the majors, yet the team is 0-4 in one-run games. Seattle, the Angels, Houston, and Minnesota round out the Top 5 on the bullpen ERA chart, and their combined record in one-run games is 16-17. The #6-10 bullpens on the chart represent teams with a 10-18 record in one-run games. Add 'em up, you'll see that the 10 best bullpens in the majors by ERA have helped their teams to a combined 26-39 record in one-run contests this season. The White Sox bullpen ranks 12th on that list, or 6th in the AL.

The White Sox might keep up that kind of success in tight games all season, like I might run the craps table at the Bellagio all night and walk out a millionaire. It could happen, but good luck.

OK, let's look at the Sox rotation....

Mark Buehrle is one of the better pitchers in the league. I wouldn't be shocked to see him sustain his current 3.89 ERA. It's the same number he put up last year, in fact. But what about the rest of this Gang of Five?

Freddy Garcia currently has a 2.83 ERA through 5 starts. I know Garcia pretty well from his years with the Mariners; his talent can be awesome to watch when he's on his game. In 2001 and the first half of 2002, he put it all together to become an All-Star and legitimate Cy Young contender. He seemed to be on the cusp of great things. Since July 2002, he's been more of a great enigma. Is he a head case? Does he party too much? Is there a mechanical problem? Is he tipping pitches? Has he been hiding an injury? Who knows? The only thing you can count on is that he'll tease you with stretches of greatness for a month or two, only to go back into the tank again for no apparent reason. Right now he's representing the apex of his ability. The last two and a half seasons, Freddy the Flake has posted a 4.44 ERA in 506.2 IP. That's the general ballpark figure I'd expect him to post by the end of the year.

Orlando Hernandez is sporting a 2.35 ERA, but a 1.70 WHIP. His page at ESPN claims he's 35; Baseball Reference online says he's 39. I say, exactly. He's nearing the end of the line and hasn't had anything like a full season in good health since 2000. He missed all of 2003, pitched just the second half of last season for the Yankees and made only one postseason appearance, despite being their best pitcher down the stretch, because his arm was hurting again. By the time the Twins meet up with Chicago again in August, I don't expect El Duque to be a factor.

Jose Contreras? He pulled up lame with a bad hamstring in his last start. He was hit or miss in New York, as well as after the trade to Chicago last season, and got labeled as someone who couldn't handle pressure. Still a lot to prove. We'll see.

Jon Garland, I have been impressed by him lately. He's getting some wicked movement on his ball that I don't remember of him before, and that 1.80 ERA is just silly. About as silly as it would seem if Kyle Lohse did the same thing over his next 5 starts. That's the problem for Chicago. I don't expect Kyle Lohse to win the Cy Young this year, nor Jon Garland and his 3.30 K/9 rate.

The Sox defense does look significantly improved so far, but glovework can only do so much to mask shaky pitching. Remember the Sox pitching staff ERA rated 11th in the AL last season, and was the worst after the All-Star break. The key figures on that staff are back, and I'm not too impressed by the additions of Hernandez, Dustin Hermanson, and Luis Vizcaino. It's gonna take some kind of alchemy to turn that lump into gold. What we're seeing now is just pyrite. I don't see Kenny Williams' master plan panning out.

Not this year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


I just want to shine a light on a new project created by AaronGNP at Twins Territory (aka AaronSpew at , called WikiTwins, an online Twins encyclopedia modeled after the Wikipedia, a free-content encyclopedia written by volunteers which can also be updated and edited by anyone. In effect, WikiTwins will be a continuously evolving store of information about the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club, written by Twins fans. I think this has the potential to be one of the most fascinating and useful baseball resources on the internet, and I'm very excited that Aaron has adapted the concept for this purpose and created the foundation for the project.

Go check it out and see how you might contribute....

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Twins Killings

If you've been following the Twins this season, no doubt you have been part of the chorus of voices wondering, "Why can't these guys get a hit with runners in scoring position?" Or maybe it's not for you to wonder why, but just to pull at your hair and scream G'AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!

In any case, it's been the great aggravation to us all lately, wasted chances to drive runners in. So would it surprise you to know that the Twins lead the league in OPS with runners in scoring position?

It's true. Not only that, but they lead the AL in both on-base pct. and slugging pct. with RISP, and also home runs. The team batting avg. in that situation is right up at the top, as well. Through Monday, the Twins are hitting .331/.412/.535 with 10 HR with runners on 2nd and/or 3rd base. I am not making this up, nor am I talking about the Twins in Bizarro World. See for yourself.

Yet the team ranks 8th in RBI with runners in scoring position, and sits at 9th in total runs per game.


One might guess that the Twins are also running themselves out of too many innings, but the team has stolen 13 bases in 17 tries, a productive success rate of 76 percent. The problem isn't strikeouts, either. The Twins have struck out fewer times than any other team in the AL, and barely the second-fewest with runners in scoring position.

The apparent answer explaining the subpar run production probably doesn't surprise you: we know almost by osmosis that the Twins lead the AL by grounding into 14 double plays with runners in scoring position, 6 of them coming with the bases loaded. And while the team has generally done exceptionally well with runners in scoring position, they have hit a measly .154/.138/.154 when the sacks are full.

By checking the Run Expectancy Matrix at the Tangotiger site and looking at each situation in which the Twins have hit into a double play, we can gauge that the team should have scored 28.5 runs, on average, from the runner situations just before hitting into the double play through the end of the inning. After hitting into a double play, however, the Twins scored just 4 runs from there to the end of those innings. So, assuming the average run potential for each situation, these double plays possibly cut down on the team's scoring by about 24-25 runs.

In four losses to the White Sox alone, Twins batters stepped up to situations which should have led to 11 runs scored through the rest of the inning, on average, and yet hit into 8 double plays and the team had to settle for 3 runs instead. Six of the double plays came in the two losses last week, decided by 5-4 and 3-1 scores, when the situations should have led to 7.75 runs on average for the Twins, yet the team had to settle for 2 runs.

The twin killings are killing the Twins right now, or at least it looks like the primary difference in the division race so far. Well, that and the excessive amount of home runs allowed by Twins pitching: 26, second most in the AL. Despite holding opponents to a .294 obp (3rd lowest) and a 1.15 WHIP (2nd, a hair behind Chicago), the 3.99 ERA by the staff rates a mediocre 7th in the league. But that's another topic, perhaps for another time.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Tigers 6, Twins 4

The definition of a slow starter:

Dating back to the beginning of the 2002 season, Brad Radke in March/April has been 7-10 with a 5.85 ERA. In all other months since then, he's 28-16 with a 3.72 ERA.

His track record indicates that he should turn the corner in May and start pitching like a man who deserves his accolades as the leader of the rotation and staff ace for life, but meanwhile it's sho 'nuff frickin annoying to see him consistently putting his team in a hole every time he starts a game this month.

The #1 pitcher in the rotation is simply failing at his role as a stopper, as someone who sets a strong tone for his team; and maybe his offense could relax and score some more runs for him if they weren't pressing so hard to make up for the early deficit he's creating every time out. Through 5 starts this season, opponents have put up 10 runs in the 1st inning against Radke; the one time he escaped the 1st with a clean slate, it was only thanks to some great outfield defense by Hunter and Jones in last Tuesday's game against Chicago.

Maybe Radke's storied control has been a liability of late. If all batters know that he's going to be offering plenty of pitches over the plate, why shouldn't they get comfortable and wait for something that looks good to drive? Couldn't it help to mix in some calculated wildness now and then?

Again, his track record indicates that he should find his groove shortly after May Day, and perhaps we can take comfort in that thought. On the other hand, if our #1 pitcher isn't going to show up until the second month of the season, maybe it's only right that he gave the Twins a "discount" in agreeing to stay with the club last winter. This week I doubt anyone in Boston regrets missing out on Radke and settling for Matt Clement instead. If this goes on much longer, when is it fair to wonder whether Radke is just another athlete who stepped up in his contract year but then got complacent after signing a new deal?

Just pull yourself together, mon. Offering pallid excuses for today's performance, such as, "I didn't pick up a ball the last two days, and that didn't help matters. It was kind of tough all game," should be beneath you.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Father of Jasmine, Father of Our People

Johan celebrates his first Mass this morning....


Creative inspiration comes from AaronSpew at the board, who made a similar photo of Pope Luis during spring training. Check out Aaron's photoblog by clicking here.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Tigers 5, Twins 4 (10 inn.)

Care to explain why Terry Mulholland was on the mound for the 8th, 9th,
and 10th innings tonight?

I hesitate to ask for a "reason," because I suspect reason's got nothing to do with it. So I'll settle for hearing a good excuse.

It was a 3-3 tie in the 8th, before Mulholland promptly gave up the 4-3 lead and narrowly avoided worse by escaping a bases-loaded jam. Since when did Terry Mulholland become a go-to guy in the 8th inning of a tie game, anyway? Gardy got away with using Mulholland to protect a 1-run lead in a similar spot last weekend in Cleveland, because the offense padded the lead before he finally coughed up a 2-run homer in the 9th which wouldn't affect the outcome, but the manager knows he was pushing his luck, doesn't he?

We are talking about a 42 year-old pitcher, dependent upon his location, guile, and determination more than anything else, who allowed batters to hit .327/.371/.481 off him while posting a 5.18 ERA last year. The average batter sort of became Johnny Damon or Lyle Overbay when Old Terence was on the mound. I thought he was on the roster for his leadership, his rubber arm, and to mop up games, spot start, or eat innings in a pinch. We may quibble over whether he's the right man even for that role, but I thought at least the definition of his role was understood. How many times would you like to take your chances with a guy throwing offspeed junk to a succession of Lyle Overbays, one after another, in a tie game?

Apparently Gardenhire has decided he likes the thrill of gambling against the house odds. Or did he just decide the rest of his pen would be unavailable tonight unless the Twins actually had a lead?

I see that Juan Rincon pitched the last two games: 18 pitches yesterday, 11 pitches on Wednesday, after he'd been rested for 4 days. He was probably available, but I could see the manager holding him back in this case. J.C. Romero pitched yesterday, 9 pitches after he'd been rested 3 days. Certainly available, but maybe you'd like to save him for a lead--or the 10th inning of a tie game. Guerrier pitched long relief yesterday and wouldn't be the right man for tonight, anyway. OK. Joe Nathan? Pitched 29 pitches over the last two days, but the Book of Orthodox Management would tell you to save him for the lead, anyway. Who else?

Jesse Crain! I swear I saw Jesse Crain warming up in the 8th inning. He threw 20 pitches yesterday against Kansas City, but otherwise should have felt rested. He's been doing fine to start the season: in 4.1 innings, he has a 1.15 WHIP and 0.00 ERA. Batters are hitting .250/.333/.250 off him. Is there a good excuse for why Crain or Romero wouldn't have come out for the 8th... the 9th... or the 10th?

Keep in mind that in the 10th the Tigers had due up: Rodriguez (RHB), Guillen (Switch), and Monroe (RHB). Why would a manager extend Mulholland, a soft-tossing lefty, for a third inning with those hitters coming up? Wouldn't you prefer a righty who brings a little heat to keep your team in the game? Does the manager just not trust Jesse Crain at all?

Someone might say that Gardy's hands were tied because so many relievers had to pitch the previous afternoon; he needed Mulholland to eat innings, just in case the game dragged on all night. But given 3 available setup men and the closer, the manager ought to be able to string together several innings out of his core relievers if covering a 15-inning game was his concern. And why not save Mulholland as the last resort, even if that was his biggest concern?

Then again, we are talking about the manager who would send Terry Tiffee back to AAA because he still can't give up his 4th Catcher. Like I said, reason's got nothing to do with it.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Feeling Much Better

Here are some pictures of Isabella taken since she came home from the hospital. As you can see, she's looking bright and active, better than ever.

Playing with her favorite mouse...

And a slippered foot, another favorite target...

I'd like to send out a special Thank You to Dr. Kathy Rausch at the Animal Emergency Clinic in St. Paul for the care she gave to Isabella over the weekend. When we brought the kitten in on Saturday, it appeared to the staff at the clinic that Izzy may have ingested a poison, but none of the tests revealed a cause for her symptoms and we didn't know how she might have got into any toxic chemicals, either. We were told that otherwise she might have a neurological problem that was shutting down her system, which we had our own reasons not to believe but some of the staff felt fairly confident that it explained her symptoms.

It would have been easy to accept that as the most likely diagnosis, just try to keep her comfortable, and monitor her condition until Monday morning when they could have passed her on to our regular vet to run more tests and figure out what to do with the case. Honestly, I had the impression that some of the staff would have felt satisfied with that plan. But Dr. Rausch on the overnight shift last Sunday/Monday kept thinking about the problem, looking into reference books to test her brainstorm theories, until she finally gave us a call at 4:30 Monday morning to tell us about her idea that Izzy could be ill because of a blood circulation problem with her liver. It was a tricky diagnosis because a direct confirmation wouldn't show up on the tests available at the clinic, so it wasn't a sure answer, but the pieces fit in a way that made sense. She recommended taking Isabella straight to the U of M that morning for an ultrasound and immediate specialized treatment, and later the tests at the University showed that her diagnosis was right.

Isabella is alive today, and given a successful surgery she should have many years ahead of her, because Dr. Rausch wasn't satisfied with the easy probable guess. She went above and beyond the call to find a solution that better fit the evidence she had onhand, and she took the time to engage us in thoughtful conversations about Izzy's condition and what could be done, and for all she did we are deeply grateful.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Apparently Blogger was down for some kind of "scheduled maintenance" earlier today. Good idea to do that on a Thursday evening, guys, and thanks for letting your users know in advance. And by "in advance," I mean "10 minutes after the site went offline." Well done.

Well, I guess I'm in no position to give you pithy and insightful remarks about the Twins today, anyway. The last two games haven't been on local TV, and I don't know Aaron's super secret for getting around the blackout to watch the RSTN feed from Kansas City. Won't it be nice when the club finally gets this Victory One issue settled? We'll never miss another Twins game, and certainly not when Johan is pitching. Seeing the Twins on TV again will be such a treat. I've almost forgotten what it's like. Johan Santana still pitches for us, right? I assume so, but I can't be sure. Between internet outages and TV blackouts, news from Minneapolis to St. Paul can travel slowly when I have to rely on the pony messengers and pigeons to keep me informed.

No, I've heard rumors through the grapevine about this afternoon's game: that the Twins had 22 baserunners and this time scored roughly half (yow!), LeCroy and Ford combined for 7 hits in the #4-5 spots in the order, and Gardy sent Gassner and Guerrier out to get roughed up yet somehow Terry Mulholland avoided an appearance. I guess Old Terence only pitches the 7th and 8th with a 1-run lead now. I also get the impression that the Twins won in some dramatic fashion, but you know how it is with rumors on the grapevine. The Metrodome could implode, and by the time word got across the river to me tomorrow I may hear, "Ron Gardenhire is a toad." As if I needed the confirmation, thanks. So don't quote me on any of this. You heard nothing from me.

But if you're interested in a little gossip, how about this: my sources tell me that backup Catcher Mike Redmond left today's game with bruised ribs and little birdies circling his cranium after Mike Sweeney crashed into him at home plate. I hope he's doing well, of course, but if I were the sort of guy to spread conspiracy theories... well, isn't it interesting that one of the Twins' backup catchers should go down with a minor injury the day before Justin Morneau is due to return from the Disabled List and would otherwise force a roster move? Now is a certain team manager relieved to avoid letting go of one of his fetish items tomorrow, or what? What's Corky Miller been up to in the last 24 hours, anyway? Hey, I don't know! I'm just saying....

We'll see what happens Friday.

Meanwhile, they say Michael Restovich is hitting .348/.375/.565 (a solid .309 adjusted Equivalent Average) in his first 10 games and 24 plate appearances with the Colorado Rockies. But remember, you heard nothing from me.

In lieu of solid information or insight, however, if you've read this far I have a treat for you. Well, it's a treat for you if you enjoy silliness and the absurd.

I give you,
Leonard Nimoy. (Quicktime movie) Peter Jackson, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wheezy in the Windy City

White Sox 3, Twins 1

The Twins had 14 hits, a walk, and a batter hit by a pitch, yet could only score one run in the 9th when Matt LeCroy drove in Shannon Stewart with a pinch-hit single. Our offense left 12 runners on base, 6 left in scoring position, batted 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and grounded into 3 double plays. It looked an awful lot like the previous night, in other words. In the two games combined, the Twins had 33 baserunners and cashed in 5 runs. Like a well-oiled machine, fans. The team brings those fireworks home today to take on the Royals. Ticket windows open at 8 am.

Intellectually, I know about regression to the mean. I know the offensive performance the last two nights was a fluke. I know the offense will not bat .208 with runners in scoring position every series. Still, even for two games that kind of production is slow torture to watch as a Twins fan, and I'd like to unleash my anguish on somebody. Yet I couldn't even enjoy ranting at Luis Rivas last night, since he had no part in the game until Gardy sent him in to pinch-run for LeCroy in the 9th. What is a frustrated fan to do?

Must we go through this every year? Stop me if you've heard this story before... The springtime crowing from the South Side of Chicago about how this year the White Sox Are Gonna Rule, and our team putting up feeble resistance in the early head-to-head matchups until we're about forced to admit that, yes, it looks like the Hosers have our number this time, before the Twins finally get their backs up and start collecting a pound of flesh in vengeance when August and September roll around. In short, it's like The Seven Samurai or Torii's kung fu video collection played out in a baseball season. And I dig the Kurosawa parallels as much as the next connoisseur of the aesthetic, but it would be nice to see the boys show a little artistic range this season. Mix it up a little. Maybe dispatch our nemesis before the end of Act One this time, so we can move onto other plot developments? Sounds like a summer blockbuster to me. A real crowd-pleasing popcorn flick.

No. As it stands, we won't see Chicago again until August 15, well after El Duque should be sputtering on fumes or collecting checks in the trainer's room. So I guess we'll be looking at the same old script.

At least for now, we did get to enjoy a little clinic on outfield defense put on by Torii and Jacque last night. Brad Radke pitched a fine game, but those two and Joe Mauer went above and beyond to make him look good.

The Sox would have put up a run in the 1st inning, as per Radke's custom, when Carl Everett lofted a flyball to CF which looked like it should easily score the speedy Scott Podsednik from 3rd base; but Torii rifled a throw home on a hop, and Mauer blocked Podsednik off the plate with his shinguard and tagged him out after the runner had slid past home. Then, after a Radke wild pitch advanced a runner to 3rd base, Paul Konerko hit a dying flare into RF only to be robbed by Jacque, diving and rolling to catch the ball just above the turf.

In the 6th inning, after Konerko had hit a homer out to CF, Aaron Rowand drove a ball into the RF gap and shifted gears to go for a double, but Jones made a throw unusually both strong and accurate to get the out at 2nd base. Then with a runner on 3rd, A.J. Pierzynski hit a deep drive to CF headed for the top of the wall, but Torii leaped against the padding to bring it down and end the inning. After the game, Torii blamed himself for getting a bad read on a Joe Crede liner over his head in the 5th inning, which brought in one run and led to Crede scoring another. He said, "I lost the game with a bonehead play." But he and Jacque together saved Radke from giving up at least 4 more runs on the night. He shouldn't be so hard on himself.

As long as he busts out the whipping stick and gets this offense untracked, like soon, all is forgiven. It's a long road back to Comiskey on August 15, and many stories to tell along the way.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Those Middle Innings Are a Doozy

White Sox 5, Twins 4

I recently saw someone refer to Brad Radke as a "poor man's Greg Maddux," meaning that he's of a similar type of pitcher but not as expensive because, well, Brad Radke is no Greg Maddux. He's never going to have a plaque hanging in the Hall of Fame. So how could we similarly characterize Kyle Lohse? Is he the poor man's Brad Radke?

Last night he had a Radke-esque game going through 5 innings, complete with the solo home run conceded in the 1st inning and the 2-run job to put a little wrinkle in the game in the 5th. He just needed another one or two clean frames to make it a classic "pretty good except for a couple mistakes" Radke start. Just pitch a clean 6th inning, and today we might be saying that Lohse had an encouraging start. Six good innings, just a couple mistakes, he kept the team in the ballgame. But he didn't have it in him.

The #2 hitter Tadahito Iguchi pulled a 2-2 pitch on the inside corner to LF for a single. Then Carl Everett, who had homered in his first at-bat of the game, came up for his third meeting with Kyle. Lohse grooved a ball down the heart of the plate, and Everett yanked it into the RF seats like he'd been calling for the pitch. That would prove to be the decisive difference in the game.

Getting through the middle innings has been an ongoing problem for Lohse. In the past three years, he's done a respectable job of holding batters to a .251/.309/.403 line in the first 3 innings of games. In innings 4-6, that line shoots up to .309/.363/.495. This year the difference is even more starkly drawn: .188/.188/.438 in the first 3 innings; .405/.425/.730 in innings 4-6. Is it a problem of stamina, or do most hitters just turn into All-Stars after they've seen his stuff a couple times?

One would think that someone who supposedly has "the best stuff on the staff" wouldn't have such trouble keeping batters off balance more than once or twice through the order. But there it is.

The Twins must think the world of Lohse's raw talent in order to show such patience in waiting for him to work through his growing pains as a starting pitcher. He's made 32+ starts in each of the past three seasons, and never had to accept a regular role in the bullpen. As the club has other options coming up from the farm, however, maybe it's time to cut bait on Lohse's development in the rotation and convert him into a short reliever to compliment Juan Rincon and J.C. Romero.

Isabella at Home

The most popular patient at the U of M Small Animal Hospital is home again this afternoon, looking bright and alert. Aside from the shaved leg where she had an IV, and her shaved tummy because she had an ultrasound, you'd hardly know how sick she had been only yesterday. The staff at the hospital are amazed. They felt very pessimistic when they saw her yesterday morning, but now they feel pleased with her progress and offer an optimistic prognosis. The ultrasound revealed a large shunt outside the liver, which means it should be fairly simple for a surgeon to attach the appropriate veins to her liver in a couple weeks to get it functioning normally. Meanwhile, her liver has been partially working, so we should be able to keep her stable until surgery with a regulated diet and medications.

So, good news. Isabella seems to be on her way towards recovery, better than ever.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Get well, Izzy Pop

I've spent the morning with my kitten Isabella at the U of M Small Animal Hospital. She took ill suddenly this weekend, and the doctors think she may have a liver problem or else some kind of neurological disorder. They're running tests to discover for sure, and we hope that she may have a surgery in the next day or two to fix the problem. For now, bear with me, but my mind isn't really so much on the Twins. Tomorrow may bring better news and a lighter state of mind. Think happy thoughts.

UPDATE (7:45 pm): She is responding well to treatment and the doctors expect that she may be taken home tomorrow afternoon. They need to run more tests to confirm the diagnosis, but they think she has blood poisoning from a liver shunt--meaning that the blood vessels did not attach to the liver during her early development like they normally should, so proteins and wastes have been bypassing that filter and building up in the blood. If her condition stabilizes at home over the next week or two, she may have surgery at the U to reroute the vessels and bring her back to her usual whirlwind self. She still has a long ways to go, but right now the prognosis looks much more favorable than it did even this morning.

Thanks, everybody, for your words of support.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pepper! with SBG

Oh, I almost forgot to plug this--D'oh! But today I am the guest on Stick and Ball Guy's weekly game of Pepper! Be sure to visit him if you haven't already; he publishes an excellent blog covering the Twins and other Minnesota sports teams. And if you're here only to see my cats, also drop by his site on Saturdays for Lucy's Catblogging featuring their two cats, Jags and Theo.

Thanks, SBG, for having me on this week. I enjoyed it.


Today the star of Catblogging is none other than the kitten, Isabella.

Something lurks on the horizon...

On the prowl...

Playing in my lap...

Izzy toasts El Presidente and his VP, and Batgirl upon her blog's first anniversary

Back in the clubhouse with Ornette (looking to escape) and O'Malley

Caged Tigers

Twins 10, Tigers 4

The Detroit Tigers before coming to Minnesota this week:

And the Detroit Tigers on their way out of town tonight:

Nice kitties!

Oh, Brad Radke toyed with them in the 1st inning, the way I do when I let Isabella catch up to her tassle--because it's so cute when she chomps down on it and pulls it close to her belly so she can kick it with her hind legs, trying to be so veee-shus--before I cruelly pull it away to get her to chase it again. Brad let them get a head start in the 1st after he issued his first walk of the season, to the lucky Carlos Guillen, and gave up singles to "San Juan Slim" Rodriguez and Satchelmouth Young. Ron-DL White hit a sac fly to make the score 2-0, and oh the kitties just thought they finally had a kill. But then Radke quietly tugged away the string, and that would be about all the fun the furry little beasts would enjoy for the evening.

Tiggers pitcher Nate Robertson had a smooth 1-2-3 first inning, but started to throw as if he were distracted by a tassle in the 2nd, when the Twins tied the game with a couplawalks, a couplahits, and a pitch that plunked Shannon Stewart after the damage was done. His problems continued in the 3rd inning, as Torii Hunter led off with a double hit high off the baggy. After LeCroy moved Torii over with a groundout, Robertson caught Lew Ford's jersey with another brushback pitch that got away. Then Jacque Jones hit a fairly routine grounder to the 2nd baseman Omar Infante, who threw to 2nd base to get Ford and possibly start the double play but instead skipped the ball into leftfield. Ford scampered over to 3rd base; and when Michael Cuddyer walked on five pitches, the bases were loaded with one out for Mike Redmond.

Normally you'd hate to see a batter swing at the first pitch in that situation, when the pitcher is reeling and just walked the previous batter on five pitches, but hack away Redmond did--and yet laced a single in front of RF Marcus Thames. Ford scored, and when Thames bobbled the ball, Jones came around to put the 5th Twins run on the board.

Meanwhile, the cameras repeatedly showed Detroit manager Alan Trammell watching his team unravel, and I'd swear I have never seen a manager so close to tears. Capt. Bess said to me, "Is he going to get fired?" And that was about the size of it. Fired, or maybe led in front of a firing squad. He had the look of a man suddenly faced with his own mortality, realizing that it all wasn't what he hoped it would be, and now he's done. I'm not sure if he needed a warm blanket and a teddy bear, or a shot of whiskey and one last cigarette. After he got on the plane tonight, I wonder what he and Kirk Gibson talked about. It's a long ways from the Bless You, Boys of 1984, isn't it?

Well, Cuddyer let them off the hook when he foolishly tried stealing 3rd base off ol' Slim--who cracked me up when he looked into the Twins dugout, cocked his finger to his temple like a pistol and brought down the hammer. You don't mess around with Slim. It's suicide, I know. Then Rivas ended the inning with a groundout, and the game coasted for an inning until in the top of the 5th, Radke gave up a single to Craig Monroe, then the first pitch to Thames got away and ran up into his ribs.

Would you think Radke did it on purpose? Marcus Thames hadn't done anything to that point but pop out to the shortstop and bobble a ball that allowed the Twins a run; so he'd be an unlikely target for any retaliation. It wouldn't make any sense to avenge the two Twins hit-batsmen at that point anyway, since plunking Thames brought the tying run to the plate with no outs in the 5th inning. Yet home plate umpire Ed Hickox concluded that it must have been done on purpose, so he warned both benches. And Gardy uncorked his first tirade of the season on him.

Here's an actual screen capture from FSN:

I haven't seen him so mad since someone suggested there might be snow in Southtown back when I was a wee kid.

Neverthless, Hickox would not be moved, and tossed Gardy from the game (not literally, but wouldn't it be fun to see an umpire try?); but Gardy did apparently leave a few embers under his team to smolder over the next couple innings. Radke coolly closed out the top of the 5th inning by inducing a pop-up and a double play ball. Then LeCroy led off the bottom half with a deep drive to the Kirby Spot at the wall in centerfield, headed for the seats, but Craig Monroe made like Kirby in '91 and robbed Big Country of his tater. I wouldn't normally advise taking taters away from Matthew LeCroy, but it was sure brave of Monroe to try it. No matter: Lew Ford would draw a walk and Jones drove him home with the Twins' first triple of the year.

Radke gave back the run in the 6th by allowing 3 singles to the heart of the Tigger order, but it was just another tease. Facing Kyle Farnsworth (are Cubs fans tonight calling him Lyle?) in the bottom of the 6th, Rivas on an 0-2 pitch neatly kept his hands back and slapped a hanging curve into rightfield to lead off with a single, and Stewart followed with a walk. Farnsworth then recorded a couple outs, but LeCroy followed with a single up the middle to score Rivas. The former Cubs pitcher next started Ford with a 2-0 count, then delivered a flat fastball down the middle--and Leeeewwwwwwwwww turned on it and ripped the pitch into the Old GA to cap the Twins scoring for the night. (Matt Guerrier apparently gave up a solo HR to Ron-DL in the 8th, but it was so inconsequential I'd forgotten about it until lichty helpfully reminded me. Mea culpa.)

10-4, Twins. How SWEEP it is!

As you can see, Isabella is quite contented and sanguine:


Thursday, April 14, 2005


Twins 8, Tigers 4

Kyle Lohse is a lightning rod for abuse from Twins fans online, a catalyst for our angst. Members of the Batgirl community have assigned him the dual personality of Kyle and his evil twin Lyle, in acknowledgment that he can be a force for good as well as an agent of the craptacular, but mostly when he's on the mound and will run into the first sign of trouble, we assume the worst.

Maybe he touches a nerve because we've seen stretches of brilliance from him, we know he has the stuff to be a solid pitcher if not an All-Star, and it's hard to figure why he can't consistently get it together. Or, maybe we just need our own personal whipping boys to absorb our angst so that we can still feel cheered by the rest of the team despite the fact that, in baseball, they're all going to fail us more often than not. If Luis Rivas did not exist, would I have to invent him?

Early tonight, Kyle had teeth gnashing again when he coughed up a home run to Brandon Inge, continuing the Twins starting rotation's streak of putting the team in a 1st inning hole; but the offense picked him up with 5 runs in the bottom of the inning, and Kyle held it. Last year he often had trouble dealing with such good fortune, and it seemed that he might give away a big lead again when he started the 2nd inning by yielding a double to Rondell White and an RBI single to Carlos Pena. But then he induced Craig Monroe to ground into a double play, struck out Marcus Thames, and that settled him. He and the team would coast to a fairly comfortable victory from there.

The Twins' early comeback got a rolling start with a pair of infield singles hit by Bartlett and the Chairman, and the engine ignited when Terry Tiffee doubled to rightfield to score the first run.

Here's hoping that Tiffee just kicked off the countdown towards roster sanity, when Cooter Miller gets his pat on the back and a ticket towards parts unknown. Joe Mauer says his knee is feeling fine; there have been no reports of soreness or inflammation since the season began. As long as the 4th OF is the DH and Morneau/Tiffee is playing 1st base, that leaves LeCroy available on the bench as an emergency Catcher just in case The Knee acts up. Tiffee tonight just framed a vivid illustration of his potential value to this team. Once Morneau returns, barring an unforeseen injury, is there any remaining reason to keep Fat Elvis on the roster?

Bear with me, I'm just excited to see Tiffee come up and make such an immediate impact. Shades of Lew Ford last year, when he was the last man cut in spring training because Gardy had priorities other than picking the best players for his OF reserves, but he got an opportunity to come up in the first week and flourished. Tonight Tiffee hit a double and a homer and drew a walk in 5 plate appearances, driving in 3 runs from the cleanup spot. Not bad for somebody who was in Rochester, New York, earlier in the day. Keep it up, fella. Don't even leave Gardy the option of sending you back down.

Most of the offense purred like a kitten tonight: Bartlett, Tiffee, and Mauer each had multiple hits in the #2-4 slots. Jacque Jones hit a 2-run blast over the baggy in the 1st inning; he and Torii Hunter each drove in 2 runs from the #5-6 slots. Lohse ran into some turbulance in the 6th inning, after the offense had staked him to a 7-2 lead, but left in good shape in the 7th with 1 out, a runner on 1st base, and a 7-4 lead. J.C. Romero struck out the only two batters he faced to put Lohse's night in the books, Juan Rincon struck out the side in a scoreless 8th inning, and Joe Nathan pitched around a couple hits to close out the win.

There should be no angst in Twinsville tonight. The team played with the confidence of champions; and if Dmitri Young hasn't received the message yet, perhaps a sweep tomorrow can drive the point home.

Brad William Radke, you're up. And I think you're due to get with the program.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

That's a Big 10-4, Roger

Twins 5, Tigers 4

Cuz we got Joe Mays on the mound

Ain't that a beautiful sight?
We got Joe Mays on the mound
He's gonna pitch... all night!

Remember the days? The Twins marketing department started airing that radio jingle in the Spring of 2002, sung to the tune of the theme from Convoy, which is not only a fun, kitschy tune but it also tells the story of one of the great, kick-ass movies of the '70s. And I say that as a man who has his own DVD copy of Sense and Sensibility and recorded Carrington off the cable last week. A guy who doesn't appreciate Emma Thompson is only half a man, I say. Likewise, Convoy. I hear that tune and I'm feeling stoked and ready to outrun the smokies, good buddy, and back in the early days of Oh Two I felt particularly kopacetic to be reminded that "we got Joe Mays on the mound." Damn right, that was a beautiful sight.

See, Joe Mays in Oh One was one of the best pitchers in the American League, maybe even the best. He just nipped Mike Mussina for the top Adjusted ERA in the league. He was third in Innings Pitched, fifth in WHIP, and Bill James' Win Shares rates him as the most valuable AL pitcher that year. He was a workhorse who kept the ball in the infield for 7+ innings, game after game, and if the Twins offense in 2001 had given him just decent run support he very well could have won 25 games. If he'd been a marquee name or pitched for a respected team that year, he might have won the Cy Young award--instead of the undeserving, walking hormonal imbalance from the Yankees who probably had never even seen an Emma Thompson movie until the last Harry Potter came out. It felt good to hear about Joe Mays and the Rubber Duck in the Spring of 2002. The Twins were gonna rule the Central with that rotation of Mays-Radke-Milton-Reed-Lohse, and the kid Santana looked pretty hot in spring training as well. Nothing but blue skies and open road ahead.

Then, of course, almost immediately Mays hurt his elbow, and the radio jingle had all the current relevancy of a CB radio in the age of the worldwide web. Mays pitched through his injuries until midway through the next season, when he finally made way for Johan Santana in the rotation in June 2003 and admitted he needed surgery shortly thereafter. (Btw, Aaron mentioned this in his blog, but I had the same thought when I heard Bert praising Mays for pitching through his injuries in 2002-3. Why is that "to his credit," Bert? Seems willfully reckless and stupid to me. See, this is one reason I don't really trust the club to do the right thing with Carlos Silva now, until they prove otherwise.) After a long rehab, he's back; with Carlos Silva on the shelf with his knee injury, Joe Mays is as relevant to the Twins' hopes for success as ever.

He seemed mostly on his game last night against the Tigers. A bit wild, walking four batters, but maybe some wildness and unpredictability can work to Mays' advantage. If he's not going to strike out batters with dominating stuff, some wildness might give him the edge he needs to keep batters off balance and guessing. Mostly he kept balls on the ground and didn't get hit hard. Even the run in the first inning was driven in with a "seven-hopper" (in the words of Dick Bremer) through the 2nd baseman's area which Luis Rivas should have fielded if he hadn't been shaded so far towards 1st base and/or so slow to react to it. In fact, the hit was so weak that Jason Bartlett was able to get over from the SS position to knock it down, on the RF side of the dirt cutout. Still, Rivas could only get close enough to wave at the ball.

So I'm giving Mays a break on that run in the first inning. He only screwed up on an 0-2 pitch to Craig Monroe, a lousy hitter who seems to hit a home run in every series against the Twins. Clearly there are cosmic forces at work in that case, beyond our understanding or Joe Mays' power to control them.

It was an encouraging start, and the rest of the season should be an interesting test case of the Law of the 4.5 K/9 Line: that being that it's prohibitively difficult, if not downright impossible, for a pitcher to sustain a consistent level of success, without relying on a wicked knuckler, when his strikeout rate is below 4.5 per 9 innings. Mays' strikeout rate has dropped every year since he was a rookie in 1999, flirting with the 4.5 line with a 4.74 K/9 in his great 2001 season, and sinking well beneath it in the subsequent two years while he was hurt. Can he reverse that trend this year? Will it be good enough if he can just get back to that 2001 rate again? How successful can he be if he can't get many eager hackers swinging and missing?

Just some thoughts to keep in mind as we track him through the season. Last night was an encouraging beginning--and 3 K's in 5 IP represents a 5.14 K/9... swell! I'm rooting for you, Jo Jo. Keep on truckin'. OVER!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen....

Mark this day on your calendar.

As of this morning, the Yankees and Red Sox are tied for last place in the AL East (3-4), both teams have a negative run differential, and New York actually has the worst run differential in the American League (32 RS/44 RA, .346 ExWP).

A fluke or a harbinger of the fall to come?

M*A*S*H Updates

La Velle reports that after further medical examinations of Carlos Silva's knee, the team doctors for the Twins and the Wild agree that the meniscus tear may not be as serious as initially thought. He may be able to pitch again within a few weeks, without surgery; but Silva will get one more opinion before deciding what to do.

Considering the track record of Eric Milton and Joe Mauer, two Twins players who prematurely returned from similar injuries only to aggravate the injury and wind up on the shelf for another year, color me skeptical.

The club also announced that Justin Morneau's second CT scan and a MRI exam revealed no damage. Good to hear, although it must not give him too much comfort to be told that the tests can't explain why he still feels dizziness and headaches. I've had personal experience with mysterious pains which multiple doctors and their tests can't explain, and no drug makes the symptoms go away. The way I'm feeling, how can the tests say everything looks normal?? You don't have to be a hypochondriac, in that kind of situation, to start lying awake half the night imagining what kind of stealthy ailment might be killing you. The kid has my deep sympathy. I hope the doctors are giving you some peace of mind, Justin, and you're feeling better even as you wake up this morning. Take care.

For those wondering about a follow-up on Mariners pitcher Bobby Madritsch, who came out of his start against the Twins last week with tears in his eyes and holding his left arm: an augmented MRI revealed a torn capsule in his left shoulder that may require season-ending surgery. If you're familiar with the M's history with young pitchers going down with ruinous arm injuries... sigh. It's like the Twins and their damn meniscii. Sad.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Revenge of the Meniscus

You've probably heard the news that Twins pitcher Carlos Silva has a torn meniscus in his right knee, and will be out until the All-Star break if he has the damaged tissue removed, or possibly all season if he has it repaired. Before last April, how many of you ever heard of a "meniscus" (Dr. Jane, put your hand down) or had any idea of where it might be located in your body? I would have guessed it was somewhere between your tonsils and your adenoids, something you'd never miss if the docs took it out, and losing it might even clear up your sinuses. Now we all know exactly what and where it is (thanks, Dr. Jane), because a Twins player 'tis a nobody 'til somebody wants to take his meniscus out.

So the Carlos Silva Special Clinic will be on hiatus awhile; kids, tell your parents they can mail in for refunds, or apply all fees paid towards a Twins Flex 40 plan or another season package which gives you priority for postseason ticket strips (in the upper deck above rightfield). This is a setback, but should we be sweating it too much? If the Twins trust the talent they have in reserve, they should be able to patch together a replacement for what I expected out of Silva this season.

Even in his successful outing to start this season, the Mariners batted .346/.346/.500 against him. Last year, opponents hit .310/.342/.462 against Silva, and he had just a 3.37 K/9 rate (strikeouts per 9 innings). At his best, he walks a tightrope and depends on a lot of good luck to help the balls hit off him to find his fielders' gloves. Studies have shown that the odds are against young pitchers with a K/9 rate below 4.5 to sustain a consistent level of success for long. It helps him to have such fine control (he walked just 35 in 203 IP last year, and none last week in Seattle); but if he continues to let the hitters put everything in play, sooner or later more of those hits are gonna go where his fielders ain't. Unless he developed a strikeout pitch over the winter, I expected his ERA to regress north towards 5, if not higher.

It will be a challenge to replace 190+ innings in the rotation, but I look at it like the Twins just lost a #5 calibre starter. If Gassner, Baker, and anyone else who gets an audition can wrangle an ERA below 5.00 for that slot, the team shouldn't feel Silva's absence on the mound much. One door closing could be an opening for another pitcher to shine here. I feel optimistic that someone will step forward. Dave Gassner, front and center. Here's your moment.

Da Meathook Speaks

Bulletin board material from the Motor City:

Bold prediction? Detroit Tigers first baseman Dmitri Young won't see the Twins until Tuesday's series opener at the Metrodome. But after Detroit finished its series with the Indians on Sunday, Young has apparently seen enough to make some predictions about the outcome of AL Central.

"This is our rival right here," Young said of Cleveland. "Forget the other teams. I think it's going to come down to us and them. Just look at the different positions, look at the matchups. The matchups are pretty similar."

The Twins have won the last three division titles and are many experts' pick to take a fourth-straight championship. When a reporter asked him about Minnesota, Young shrugged.

"Us and Cleveland," he said.

Granted, the Tigers have the best run differential in the Central after the first week. In fact, they're the only AL Central team with a positive run differential to this point. But... a) it's only one week, b) the Tiggers are 3-3 just like three other teams in the division this morning, and c) this is mighty talk from someone who's been playing in Detroit the last few seasons.

Dmitri, in the three seasons since you signed with Detroit in 2002, your team is 15-41 against the team which has won the Central division in each of those years. You might want to learn to crawl before letting your mouth run off like that.

Shades of Bobby Higginson in April 2001, when he complained after dropping five games to Minnesota in the first week that a team on the rise like his club shouldn't be losing to teams like the Twins.

I hope Torii Hunter gets wind of these comments. This could be a very interesting Tigers/Twins series starting Tuesday--and we haven't seen much of that since April 2001, have we?

Thank you, Meat!

Isabella in Rare Repose

Isabella loves Johan Santana, and enjoyed all the batters swatting at and missing all those balls offered by Pedro and Smoltz on Sunday afternoon as well. She's not so keen on what she saw of the Twins on Friday and Saturday, however, and she would be so glad if just one of the kitties in this house would be her friend. But as you can see, her life here is pretty cushy. She could get used to this, I think.

More baseball blogging from frightwig in the afternoon....

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Return of A.J.

White Sox 5, Twins 1

Deja vu, all over again. If the Twins were to play another team's home opener next week, would that club also roll out an old junkball pitcher who would flummox our hitters and take the game by a 5-1 score?

Orlando Hernanedez did look very sharp, but tell me about it when he's made 30 starts and still looks sharp down the stretch. I'm sure he can be an asset to Chicago for about half the season, but I wouldn't count on him past July. We're talking about a pitcher of indeterminate age who sat out the first half of last season after missing all of 2003, made 15 starts down the stretch for the Yankees, then broke down again just before the postseason. In the last 4 seasons, he's pitched more than 100 innings just once, when he worked 146 innings in 2002. Like last year, he missed about half the season in 2001, as well. Would you sign that guy to a 2-year deal? (Also remember that half of Carlos Lee's money went to this guy; the other half went to Lee's older, less productive replacement in the batting lineup, Jermaine Dye.) I think the ChiSox could be better off if they used El Duque as an occasional longman out of the pen for the first half of the season to keep him fresh for the stretch drive, but fine by me if they want to burn out his arm by the All-Star break.

Kyle Lohse also looked sharp for 5 innings, but then Paul Konerko and Dye got into his head in the 6th. After Lohse had retired the first batter of the inning and seemed to be cruising, Konerko worked 9 pitches out of him after starting behind in the count, 1-2, and smacking the last pitch into the LF seats. After that, Lohse started Dye off at 0-2, but Dye fouled off a couple pitches before hitting a single. I think the combination of those two at-bats just rattled Kyle. He started Aaron Rowand with 2 balls, then left the fourth pitch out to get hammered. Presto, the Twins are down 3 runs and Lohse is run out of the game. It was like an inverse of Radke and Santana's starts this week. Mostly strong, but the lapses at the end tarnished the rest of his good work. Keep ya head up, Kyle. You can't let them rattle you so easily.

I hate to see the Twins lose the home opener to Chicago; but, so it was a loss in a Kyle Lohse start, and our hitters again had trouble with a wily junkballer. OK. I'm not all that upset. Let's go get the series with Rad and Johan on the mound, boys.

I feel more disappointed in the Metrodome fans who booed A.J. Pierzynski when he was introduced before the first at-bat in his return to Minnesota. Why were you booing, people? As a Twin, he was one of the best players on the team that revitalized this franchise; he made the All-Star team, he helped lead the Twins to two division titles and hit the home run off Billy Koch that won Game 5 of the 2002 ALDS. He was accessible to fans and media; I can't recall him ever saying a bad word about the fans here. He didn't leave for a money grab or because he felt "disrespected"; he was traded away. After he was traded to San Francisco, he was about the only departing player who didn't seem bitter towards the Twins. All the guy ever did in Minnesota was play hard, and practically every day. He was solid on the field, and good to fans off it, and he had a a master gamesman's knack for getting into an opponent's head. I don't care if he did sign with the Whine Sox. At least for his first at-bat in his first game back at the Metrodome, he deserved to hear a loud ovation from every last Twins fan in the building.

Thank you for all you did for us in Minnesota, A.J. Pierzynski. You have my best wishes, just as long as you're not hitting any game-winning homers off Joe Nathan or bowling over the Chairman. May Chicago be your springboard to bigger and better things. Cheers.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sharing Spaces

Gusto and O'Malley: A Sweet Tableau...


Sharing the Treehouse

The Spirit of the Season

Uh-Oh. Big Calico Cornered by Li'l Kitten

Shhh! Little Calico Sleeping! Don't Disturb!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

En ycl p dia Br w & Th C se of the Mis ing Le ters

SBG over at his blog asked me, "What's with the missing letters?"

I already gave him this answer, but in case it may be of general interest, I'll post it here as well. Do I need to make a FAQ file? Feel free to fire more questions at me in the comments thread. I loves to get comments. Change the subject or suggest topics, if you wish. I'll take queries or suggestions on just about anything. G'awn, give me a whirl.


The missing letters... any combination of these possible answers may be true:

* it fascinates/amuses me when I see missing letters or burned out bulbs in restaurant/store signs

* they're lost in the memory hole

* some letters are obscured in flickering sundappled shadow

* I'd like to encourage people to fill in the blank spots with their own letters of choice

* it is my tribute to Fawlty Towers; later I may re-arrange the letters or even make up entirely new phrases that sound like the original title. Would you read a blog called Sundrizzled Snood?

* Eventually, the letters will form the name of the blog's true title: Little Canada (of Anaheim).

* it's nothing but nonsense fun.

The Wu of Pitching; or, Triage in Safeco Field

Twins 4, Mariners 1

Absolutely one of the last things I want to be seeing when I tune into a Twins game...

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

In case you missed it, that was Justin Morneau in the 8th inning after a Ron Villone pitch struck him in the head. He spent at least a few minutes lying on the ground, although time in my house may have stopped still, but he appeared cognizant while the trainer and coaches talked with him and it was encouraging to see him walk off the field under his own power. Gardy said that when they asked Justin if he knew where he was, he replied, "On the ground in Seattle." It also looked like the pitch mainly hit his helmet, and the plastic didn't break, so I am optimistic that he'll be OK. Nothing that a hockey puck hasn't done a hundred times before, eh?

Prior to that accident, we were treated to a Carlos Silva Special Clinic--pay attention, you youngsters out there--on how to induce groundballs with minimal effort. It's almost Zen-like in its simplicity. The Wu of Pitching. A living haiku: 7 innings pitched, 68 pitches thrown, 9 scattered hits, no walks, no strikeouts, 17 groundballs, 3 flyballs, a solo HR allowed as a courtesy to the Birthday Boy Bret Boone. That's a W, kids. Videos and T-shirts for sale in the lobby. See you again next week, and bring a friend.

Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan closed out with 2 scoreless innings. Matthew LeCroy's 3-run blast in the 4th inning off Bobby Madritsch had given the Twins the lead for good; a Jacque Jones RBI single in the 8th just put a neat ribbon and bow on the package. The series goes to Minnesota. Now it's just back home and a day off to prepare for the big home opener and smackdown of the hated ChiSox, and here's hoping that Justin Morneau will be well and get back with us soon.

Take care, kid. We'll keep a light on for you.

My best wishes to Bobby Madritsch, as well. He's traveled a long path to finally begin a season as a member of a major league rotation, and I've looked forward to seeing his talent develop with the M's this year. He's the goods. My heart went out to him, seeing the look on his face as he rubbed his shoulder in the 5th inning. His whole history and fears about his future seemed to be expressed in his eyes. I'm glad to hear that it's only a "strain"--they didn't find any tears in his arm. You take care too, Mads. I hope you have a quick recovery.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Resto Is Now a Rockie

Rotoworld reports that Michael Restovich has been claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies.

Meanwhile, I imagine Eduardo Perez should give a big lift to the Devil Rays lineup over the next five or six years. He looked good on SportsCenter last night, losing that flyball in the roof at the Trop. Pathetic. I see that Charles Johnson had an auspicious first day with the Rays, as well--begging out of the lineup and taking a leave of absence for some mysterious personal reason, which Rays GM Chuck LaMar took care to note is NOT a "bereavement leave."

"The organization gives him until noon Friday to come back," LaMar said. "If he's not back by then, he will be placed on the restricted list without pay. ... We hope to have him back by the weekend. We will get the situation straightened out."

Said Sweet Lou: "I'm glad we have the day off tomorrow. Look, we'll get by this. Right now, different things are hitting us from different directions. We'll get through it.

"Obviously, something's bothering the young man that makes this necessary. I haven't had to go through this very often as a manager, thank God. But we'll get through it. These are all setbacks. We're not awfully deep as it is."

And yet you can afford to let good young talent walk away to Colorado, Lou, so I guess you have that going for you. Looks like you folks really got your shit together....

Anyway, when I was speculating on potential destinations for Restovich last week, I had this to say about Colorado:

Colorado - The LF is Matt Holliday, who hit .290/.349/.488 as a rookie in 2004, but in Denver that translates to just a 98 OPS+ (100 being the adjusted league average), and on the road he hit a miserable .240/.287/.367. In RF, they're giving a shot to Dustan Mohr. (Or, "Mohr's the Pity" as Capt. Bess calls him.) Need I say mohr? Brad Hawpe and Cory Sullivan wouldn't seem to block out Restovich, either. Hawpe is a lefty bat who mashed AAA pitching last year but struggled in his callup to Denver and needs to show that he can hit lefty pitching. Sullivan is another lefty bat who missed all of 2004 recovering from elbow replacement surgery(!), last playing at AA in 2003, and should be in AAA this season even if he is swatting balls all around the yard in spring training.

Dustan Mohr just went on the 15-day DL with a strained left calf, which he hurt while celebrating the Rockies' victory yesterday. Brad Hawpe is a lefthanded prospect expected to get most of the playing time while Mohr is out. The Rockies have high hopes for Hawpe, but as I noted, it remains to be seen whether he can handle lefty pitching in the majors. Cory Sullivan is the other reserve OF on the 25-man roster, hitting a double in his first major league at-bat on Monday, but he's also a lefty and should return to the minors to make way for Restovich, once Mohr comes back.

So it would seem that in the next couple weeks Michael Restovich should get an opportunity to platoon with Hawpe or pinch-hit for him against lefthanded pitching. Then he ought to compete for playing time with Dustan Mohr (oh, the irony), or at least settle in as a RHB off the Rox bench. This time, let's hope he gets a real chance to play.

Johan Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Inning

Twins 8, Mariners 4

It started out like one of those days when you stub your toe on the bedpost, there is no hot water in the shower, somebody put an empty milk carton back in the fridge and ate the last muffin, your newspaper is missing, the car won't start, and you wonder why you even got out of bed. Games aren't supposed to begin like that when Johan is pitching. He is blessed. His favorite greeting is "Happy Birthday," because every day is like a birthday when you are Johan Santana, and he is the gift to our world. He doesn't have a bad day, not these days, does he?

Maybe it was Ichiro's doing. Ichiro has a special magic of his own, being the only player in baseball who can change a game with a 20-foot squib-groundball up the 3rd base line. That's all he did to kick off the game, yet even Johan was powerless to stop him from teleporting to 1st base. The next thing he knew, he had walked the rookie Jeremy Reed on a close 3-2 pitch at the knees, and up came Adrian Beltre. Beltre drove a hard liner to Centerfield which probably should have been a single, but perhaps could have been an out if Torii Hunter had been playing in straight CF or shading into the LF gap. With a righty pull-hitter at the plate, facing a lefty who is known for his change-ups, shouldn't he be in straight CF or probably the LF gap? Yet, inexplicably, Torii was shading way over into the RF gap like he expected Beltre to go the opposite way. Does Ichiro also have the power to cloud men's minds? Baffling. Because Torii was out of position, he could only collect the carom off the wall as Beltre coasted into 2nd base with a double. Presto: 2 runs in, a man on 2nd, no outs, and even Johan may have wondered to himself whether it was too late to draw the curtains and climb back under the covers.

Up came Richie Sexson, the bogeyman in Brad Radke's dreams Monday night, and the nightmare inning only got worse for Johan when Sexson banged a pitch off the LF wall to drive in Beltre. 3-0, and still no outs. They're killing Superman, and what can you do? Who do you turn to, if not him? He retired Bret Boone on a groundball to 1st base, but Raul Ibanez knocked a single to RF that scored Sexson for the fourth run of the inning. Johan then had Ibanez picked off, but the sneak made a dash for 2nd base, Morneau's throw was in the dirt, and Ibanez was standing safely in scoring position. That just ain't right. A bad day was turning into an embarrassing fiasco; and, like I said the other night, I hate to see either team embarrassed in these matchups.

Leave it to Cuddy Bear, though, to dispel the bad dream and bring comfort to Johan. It is what cuddy bears do best, isn't it? Randy Winn threatened to knock Johan out of the game with a hard smash down the 3rd base line, but Micheal Cuddyer dove to his right and popped up like Brooksie with a skip-throw across the diamond that just nipped Winn at the bag. A brilliant Web Gem. Johan followed by striking out Miguel Olivo, the nightmare was over, and order was restored to Johan's World.

The Twins offense needed awhile longer to respond to Johan's call for aid, because Gil Meche was dealing for the first 4 innings. For those who may not be familiar with Meche, he is sort of the M's own Kyle Lohse. A talented enigma, all the stuff in the world but he can't put it together for a full season. One can count on Gil Meche to be brilliant for about half the season each year, but the other half he's hurt, out of gas, can't find the plate, and/or just serving more meatballs than Trattoria Mitchelli. For four innings last night, he was brilliant. Then he started the 5th inning by giving up singles to Ford, Cuddyer, and even Luis Rivas (who had a good game, I must say). Bases loaded, up comes Shannon Stewart, the man many Twins fans believe to be the team MVP or most indispensable bat in the lineup. Stewie chopped a beautiful double-play ball to the Shortstop. Groan... except the man busted ass to get up the line, and he beat Boone's relay throw to 1st. One run in, and then Jason Bartlett continued his good start on the season by driving in another run with a single up the middle. 4-2, Seattle. One out, runners on 1st and 2nd. Up comes the Chairman, Joe Mauer.

This is where M's manager Mike Hargrove thought he'd get clever. Although the M's had the lead and his starting pitcher had yet to finish the 5 innings needed to qualify for his 'W,' he thought he'd go to a lefthander to wipe out Mauer and Morneau, and possibly Jones if needed, and nip the Twins comeback rally in the bud. A sound idea; until the M&M Boys prove they can handle lefty pitching, every manager in the league will be throwing waves of lefties at them. It's solid textbook thinking. Perhaps Grover's mistake, however, was sticking too close to textbook orthodoxy, which told him that the 5th inning was too early for his best lefty setup man. Instead, the situation called for his lefty "middle reliever." As of last night, that role was filled by Matt Thornton.

As Thornton warmed up, Capt. Bess asked me, "Who's he? Should I know him?"

I replied, "He belongs in AAA. And, no."

To be fair to Thornton, though: he has some zip on his ball, and he didn't really screw up with the M&M Boys. Joe Mauer just won their battle with classic Twins Baseball. On a 3-1 count, Stewart and Bartlett took off running, the M's Shortstop Wilson Valdez (no, I never heard of him before, either) moved over to cover 2nd base, and Joe Mauer knocked the pitch perfectly through the hole on the left side, right where the SS would have been. Stewart scored, Bartlett rounded to 3rd. The baseball gods must have smiled at such beautifully executed fundamentals, for then the runs came raining down like gifts from heaven.

Next came Morneau, and Thornton took him to a 2-2 count and got Morneau to start after the next pitch, high and outside. Morneau checked his swing but got enough of the ball to send a high flare out to LF. Ibanez was shading deep and into the gap, however, and the ball fell just beyond his diving reach. Yes--gifts from heaven, I said. Bartlett scored, Mauer moved to 2nd base. Then Hunter rapped a 1-1 pitch back up the middle, Al Newman risked The Franchise by waving Mauer home, and the Twins had a 5-4 lead even though Morneau was thrown out sliding awkwardly into 3rd.

I guess Hargrove thought he could extend Thornton's outing to one more batter; no doubt he knows like most of us that Jones generally morphs into Luis Rivas when faced with a lefthanded pitcher. Throw up & in, mixed with some sliders low & away, and he'll be hacking at air. Thornton started him with a called strike, then tried to throw a slider low & away. But he got all of the plate, and I mean all of it. Jones was sitting on the pitch, and he crushed it deep into the RF seats. Ballgame.

That's all Johan and the bullpen would need to take a win back to the hotel. Santana pitched a 1-2-3 5th inning, and the bullpen allowed only 2 hits in 4 scoreless frames. J.C. Romero looked very sharp in his 1.2 IP, I felt encouraged to see. The Twins capped the scoring in the 7th when Morneau singled off Shigetoshi Hasegawa, advanced to 2nd on a groundout, and came home on a Jones single up the middle.

It didn't turn out to be such a bad day for Johan and the Twins after all, did it? Cy Young held the line after that crazy 1st inning, the offense ignited and took the lead thanks to perfect execution of good ol' fundamentals, and the bullpen brilliantly delivered the happy ending to the evening. The series is tied at 1-1, the Twins are out of the Central Cellar (Hellooooo, Cleveland!), and we have more baseball on TV early this evening. Happy Birthday to everybody in Twins Territory!

And Happy Birthday to you too, Bert.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Victim of More Bad Management

An anonymous comment below points out that the Devil Rays designated Michael Restovich for assignment today, after signing Charles Johnson. This means the club has 10 days to trade, release, or put him through waivers. But did you see why he's been DFA'd?

Count the pitchers on their 25-man roster.

Just because the Rays would rather carry 12 pitchers and Eduardo Perez instead of keeping Michael Restovich doesn't make me wrong. If the club has Travis Lee at 1st base, backed up by a 35 year-old Perez as the primary RHB off the bench, Alex Gonzalez at 3rd base, no corner OF reserves, and 12 pitchers on the roster but can't find a spot for Restovich, that's all just a poor reflection on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

But then they are the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, aren't they?

If we start pointing to decisions made by the Devil Rays to justify moves made by Twins management, look out--we're in trouble.

Rain On My Parade

Mariners 5, Twins 1

Since I am originally from the Seattle area, people on bulletin boards often ask, which team do I want to win when the Twins meet the Mariners? When it comes down to it, where is my heart? Mostly, I just root for a good game. I hate to see either team embarrassed. Later in the season, I might choose sides just based on which team is in a tighter race and needs the wins. Since my expectations for the Mariners are modest this season--I think a .500 record would be a reasonable measure of success for them--I guess I'd rather see the Twins take 2 games out of this series.

Besides, I genuinely like the Twins. I am a Twins Fan, and it's more fun to root for the Romans when living in Rome, anyway.

Seattle got one up on Rome yesterday afternoon, 5-1. The M's didn't embarrass the Twins, but then the Twins didn't have much going for them, either. Brad Radke had his classic "pretty good 7 innings except for a couple mistakes" kind of outing, including the usual bomb in the first inning; and, yes, afterwards the Dazzle Man obliged to describe the performance like so, as he practically apologized for not picking The Annointed Ace for Life as one of his three Stars of the Game. As I was driving out to the Bulldog to watch the game with a gathering of Batlings, Big Game Brad had us in a 3-0 hole while I was still stuck in traffic on West Lake Street.

Brad, this is a kind of Holiday for me, Opening Day, and you're pouring rain on my parade before I even got to climb aboard the float. I'm not in the mood to allow you credit for looking good except for the "couple mistakes" that weren't so pretty. In fact, I'm not above pointing out that the "couple mistakes" includes your own throwing error that let Ichiro reach 2nd base before coughing up Sexson's first home run. I'm not giving you a pass. That kind of grading scale is for our troubled young Kyle, because we want to encourage him as long as he's trying his best, or Silva because any contributions he makes to the rotation seem like an unexpected bonus. I expect more of the supposed Staff Ace on Opening Day. You're supposed to set a tone. Am I wrong?

Good for Richie Sexson, though. First pitch he sees as a Mariner, officially, he drills over the scoreboard pub in LF. The next time up, he launches another cookie over the wall in straight CF where not even Torii Hunter could reach it. There's a first impression that people are going to remember awhile. Welcome back to the Northwest, stringbean.

Good for Jamie Moyer, as well. After a poor 2000 season, M's fans wondered then if he was too old and washed up until he came back and put up a 20-6 record and 3.43 ERA in 2001. This spring he's in the same position again, following a poor 2004 season. Is he too old now, or does his change-up exist outside of linear time? Let's just say that I thought I heard him humming Moonlight Sonata as he left the game in the 6th. If you're not sure what I mean, perhaps I can explore that theme tomorrow.

As for the Twins, I was pleased to see Jason Bartlett deliver an RBI single. Joe Mauer had a hit and stole a base (gasps in the Bulldog as he took off, relieved cheers when he slid in safely--headfirst--and stood up under his own power). He also got credit for throwing out Ichiro trying to steal 2nd, although replays showed Ichiro was clearly safe behind the tag and rightly protested.

"I got an opinion of that call for ya, RIGHT HERE!"
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Luis Rivas and Jacque Jones made Dazzle's Stars of the Game list for a couple nifty defensive gems, but I missed seeing both as I was still stuck in traffic. Jones played against the lefty Moyer today and had a hit, but wildly chased three pitches by the lefty "Neveready Eddie" (a name I saw a Seattle fan hang on our old friend this spring training) as he struck out in the 9th.

Seeing Mauer and Morneau go down meekly against the lefty Ron Villone in the 8th, and Jones chasing Eddie's junk in the 9th, I'm reminded that neither of our M&M Boys put up good numbers against LHP last year--and of course Jones has always been reduced to banjo-picking by nearly anyone who can sweep the plate from South to North. This could be a real problem until the young lads show they can hold their own with the southpaws, or else Gardenhire resolves to pinch-hit for them in the late innings of close games. In the latter case, wouldn't it be nice to have a decent righty bat off the bench besides LeCroy, somebody more dangerous than Nick Punto? Oh, if only the club had such a player around to consider in spring training this year.... Ha.

Do I sound like a Twins fan? I wouldn't complain like this if I weren't, would I?

Go get 'em tonight, Johan.