Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hang on, I'll Get Around to the Game in a Minute....

There's an item on the wire this morning headlined, "More stressed-out Australian pets being put on anti-depressant drugs." An estimated three to six percent of cats and dogs in Australia are being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The telltale signs: "tail-biting, circling, pacing, shadow-chasing and excessive grooming," according to the Daily Telegraph.

The AFP news service supplies this photo, presumably of one such stressed-out kitty, although I must say I've seen worse-looking cases.

(AFP/File Photo)

What is causing this crisis of pet psychosis Down Under? Vet Robert Stabler, who will deliver an address on the issue at a conference of the Australian Veterinary Association this week, says the problem may be caused partly by homes being located too close to shops and schools. It sounds to me like a certain doctor is trying to pull a keynote address out of his ass just days before heading out on a junket to Sydney--am I right, Bob? Getting much sun, doc? How's the UV light been this year? Because I'm concerned about whether this crazy pet behavior may be at all related to the ozone hole; or, more pertinently, whether there's something in the atmosphere that's also affecting Johan Santana.

Yes, if you want to make a name for yourself outside Australia, Dr. Robert, you have to tackle the big issues.

Well, what is there to say about Johan last night, anyway? He started the game in classic Radke fashion, grooving a ball down the middle to Vernon Wells that put the team in a 3-0 hole in the first. Then he cruised along to the 5th, when I felt he got unlucky. With 2 outs and Ken Huckaby on 1st, Reed Johnson hit a looping fly up the LF line which is often a catchable ball, but Shannon Stewart either got a late break or was shading towards the gap and couldn't get under it. Meanwhile, Huckaby (a Catcher, generally a class not known for swiftness on the bases) cruised into 3rd and Johnson waltzed into 2nd with nary a fear of Stewart's weak arm. Maybe Stewart should have caught the ball, maybe not, but allowing both runners to take two bases on the hit is just weak defense. And it hurt: Shea Hillenbrand then stepped up and sent a soft liner just over Luis Rivas' glove, scoring both runners.

In the 6th, Frank Menechino led off with a flyball that again is often an out, even routine in this case. I don't think it was even within 10 feet of the warning track, and yet it got over Torii Hunter's head. After Johan struck out Koskie, Orlando Hudson then stepped up and crushed a pitch into the so-called Home Run Porch, which I may take to calling the SCHRP later this summer--so only you faithful readers, the hip crowd who knew me when I was just playing the clubs, will know what I'm talking about. Perhaps I can do a whole column in acronym shorthand at some point. Well, those of you in the armed services and the text-messaging addicts might dig it, anyway.... Now where was I?

Oh, yeah. Hudson crushed a pitch out over the plate, and that was it for Johan. A depressing line for him; but with the help of some better outfield defense, it could've been one of those "pretty good except for a couple mistakes" kind of outings that are Radke's bread and butter. Alas. I guess even the thought of Johan settling for "pretty good except..." is depressing. So let's look at the three bright moments in the game....

1) Justin Morneau shook off any lingering grogginess he may have felt after his birthday party at the Hotel Joe to absolutely crush the first pitch he saw from reliever Vinnie Chulk in the 6th, high into the seats above the baggie--and, by the way, if there is going to be a "Home Run Porch" in the Metrodome, those seats should be it. Really, when a club is gifted with two young lefthanded hitters like Morneau and Mauer, what kind of marketing genius decides this year to put the "Home Run Porch" moniker on the seats to their opposite field? The RF seats are not only to the lefties' power field, but the baggy is the shorter distance from home plate and fans in those seats are high above the field as if looking down from a porch. Don't they think about this stuff?

Anyway, Torii Hunter also smoked a line shot into the SCHRP in the 4th, and it was cool, but Morneau's blast was just awesome to behold.

2) In the 8th, Jacque Jones made an excellent run-and-leap grab over the wall in foul ground that put his two counterparts in the outfield to shame for the evening. Even down 8-3 at that point of the game, Jacque was hustling to turn a long strike into the 2nd out. Kudos.

3) The warm ovation for Corey Koskie when he was introduced for his first at-bat. Given the Metrodome crowd's weird proclivity for booing even once-popular former Twins like Matt Lawton and A.J. Pierzynski who did nothing but play well for the Twins until Terry Ryan traded them, I wasn't sure what to expect for Koskie's reception, but it's nice to know that at least we all can agree that Koskie's a swell guy who deserved a warm greeting from his old fans. Welcome home, you hockey puck. It's good to see you.

Oh, and this doesn't qualify as a bright moment, but I'll close by noting that Juan Castro last night was 0-for-5 and made a low throw on one play at 2nd base which inexplicably was not scored an error. In a world where the manager may fill out the lineup card based on whatever action he's most recently seen, we'll see if this means Jason Bartlett will be playing again tomorrow. Come to think of it, has anyone noticed Gardy excessively pacing in circles, chasing his shadow, or grooming himself to distraction?

I hear there's a man in Australia who may have some ideas on that.


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