Monday, August 15, 2005

What Might Have Been, What Never Will Be, and What It Is, What It Is

I saw just one Twins game this weekend, the Santana-Haren matchup on Friday. Yet another fantastic pitchers' duel, a pleasure to watch except I got anxious watching Gardy leave Santana in the game after he'd put the tying and winning runs on base, his pitch count was at 105, and the A's best player was up to bat--and Gardy did so for no reason but to give Santana every chance to notch a personal stat that is practically irrelevant in this era of specialized bullpens.

However, Santana got Chavez to loft a gentle flyball to Left-Centerfield, which Lew Ford managed to clasp in his glove despite Shannon Stewart once again bumping into him, as in Cleveland, at the moment the ball arrived. So, the point is academic. Congratulations, Johan. I still hate seeing Gardy managing like his pitcher's statsheet is his top priority in the game. If the team loses because a tiring starting pitcher gives up a hit to Eric Chavez, it still matters even if the Twins were 8 games down in the standings, doesn't it?

Sunday's 2-1 victory kept the team within 7 games of the A's, sustaining Minnesota's slim hope in the Wild Card race at least another day. When the Twins headed for New York three weeks ago, I said the stretch of games through this past weekend were critical to the season. If the team couldn't hang with New York, Boston, and Oakland, then forget the whole thing. The 13 remaining games with Chicago would be for nothing but pride. Turns out, I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel, but that's my faith flying in the face of reason.

The Twins over the past three weeks lost 4 of 6 series and posted a 7-12 record. They were tied with Oakland at the start of the stretch; now they are 7 games back. Nope, they couldn't hang. Or, more precisely, the offense didn't hold up its end, as usual. Of course the slump didn't just start in the last few weeks. We've watched the batting order sputtering along since... oh, May. Since about the All-Star break, however, it takes no acute genius to see it's turned into a massive Heartbreaking Work of Staggering. A real three-hankie tearjerker.

Post-break, the Twins have scored 111 runs (3.58 rpg) while allowing 121 (3.9 rpg). The expected record for the period should be 14-17, but the team is 12-19.

The Twins offense since the break is the worst in the AL. If it had scored as much as the #7 offense in the same period, which is Chicago with 4.86 rpg, the team would have scored 151 runs. Given that level of offense, the expected record since the break would have been 19-12. The team record then would be 67-50, still 8 games behind Chicago but 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland. Assuming the improved record would have included just one more win against Oakland, the Twins would be still leading the Wild Card race, too.

That's if the offense was just mediocre instead of mierda over the last month.

No, honestly, I doubt this team is suddenly going to start winning enough games to leap past the Jays, Indians, and Yankees while making up 7 games on the A's, or 8 on the Angels. Even if the Twins bats improve to mediocre and the team can play at a 19-12 (.613) pace the rest of the way, we're looking at 88 wins to finish the season. That hasn't been good enough to win the AL Wild Card spot since the Orioles in 1996. The A's are on a season pace to beat that by 5 games; but if they maintain their post-break run differential, they could be expected to finish with 100 wins. Even if Oakland's hot pace kicks them to the top of the West and out of the Wild Card race, that still leaves Minnesota with the problem of running down four teams and passing at least a couple that are likely to finish with more than 90 wins.

Let's say 94 wins is the target goal. For the Twins, that would require a 34-11 record (.756) down the stretch, which includes 22 games against teams currently ahead of Minnesota in the standings. Yeah, right. I think my faith just flew out the window. Nobody's pitching is great enough to carry this Twins offense to those heights. Starting today in Chicago, it's just all about pride.


At 8/16/2005 1:28 AM, Anonymous edolee said...

I agree it is probably over. Note that the 2003 Twins had the same record at this point and won 90 games though... so I suppose there is still a shred of hope left.

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Computer News
Google plans instant-messaging system, report says

Google Inc. is set to introduce its own instant messaging system, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday, marking the expansion by the Web search leader into text and also voice communications.

Citing unnamed sources "familiar with the service," the Los Angeles Times said that Google's Instant Messaging program would be called Google Talk and could be launched as early as Wednesday.

Google Talk goes beyond text-based instant messaging using a computer keyboard to let users hold voice conversations with other computer users, the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's product plans.

If confirmed, the combined computer text and voice-calling service would put Google in competition with a similar service pioneered by Skype, which has attracted tens of millions of users, especially in Europe, to its own service.

Separately, independent journalist Om Malik on his blog at pointed to technical clues that suggest Google is preparing to run an instant messaging service based on an open-source system known as Jabber.

Jabber technology would allow Google instant message users to connect with established IM systems that also work with Jabber, including America Online's ICQ and Apple Computer Inc.'s iChat, Malik said.

"This is the worst possible news for someone like Skype, because now they will be up against not two but three giants who want to offer a pale-version of Skype," he wrote.

Earlier this week, Google said it was branching out beyond pure search to help users manage e-mail, instant messages, news headlines and music. It introduced a new service called the Google Sidebar, a stand-alone software program that sits on a user's desktop and provides "live" information updates.

Over the past year or so, the company has expanded into e-mail, online maps, personalized news and more.

The product push comes as rivals Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL are all pushing to upgrade existing instant messaging systems and expand into new Internet phone-calling services.

Google's moves take it beyond its roots in Web search and closer to becoming a broad-based Internet media company.

With instant messaging, Google would be breaking into a market in which its major competitors boast tens of millions of subscribers to their established instant messaging services.

America Online, with its AIM and ICQ brands, counts more than 40 million IM users in the United States alone. Yahoo has around 20 million and Microsoft's MSN Messenger numbers some 14 million users, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data.

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