Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not Bad, Kiddo. For Pitching with a Knife in Your Back.

They really have it in for Scott Baker.

Listening to Dick & Bert in the 1st inning tonight, you would think that this season so far has been nothing but a disaster for Scott Baker. He has a problem with leaving pitches "up in the zone" like no other pitcher you've seen, and every inning in which he takes the mound feels like an interminable wait in the dentist's chair.

Oh, didn't you know? Baker has an awful tendency to work at a snail's pace, or so they say. Dick even let slip (ooops!) a conversation he had with Gardy today around the batting cages, where the Twins manager confided that during Baker starts it feels like the team always spends 5 minutes in the dugout and 15 minutes on the field. Don't tell anyone else. I'm sure that was supposed to be a secret.

Never mind that this observation may be a more damning indictment of the Twins offense than of Scott Baker. No, the point is, our boy seems to share Jason Bartlett's chronic affliction of "a lack of urgency." (In case you haven't heard that bit of inside gossip, that's Terry Ryan's latest excuse for keeping Bartlett on the farm.) Young Baker is not aggressive. He dawdles. So when the rest of the team falls asleep and fails to score runs or catch the ball in the field, that's really Scott Baker's fault, too.

Is this any way to talk about one of your best prospects on the team, just because he's been going through some growing pains lately?

Of course, you know why it's being done. The team mouthpieces have been talking like Carlos Silva's return to the rotation was practically a done deal almost since the day he lost his spot. All he had to do was find that Magic Sinker again, and room would be cleared for him. After 5 appearances out of the bullpen, it's obvious from listening to Dick & Bert that Gardy has seen enough to know that Silva is ready for reinstatement. He just needs a kid to slip up, and clearly Scott Baker is the one presently marked to take the fall.

If I may pretend to be Jim Souhan for a moment: this organization jerks around more kids than The Zipper at the State Fair. (Hey-oooooooh!) What's one more on the old Tilt-a-Whirl, eh?

Seriously, it's not right. And it's particularly sad to hear Bert Blyleven, who should know better, reduced to characterizing any pitch above the belt that gets hit to a hole in the defense as another Scott Baker mistake. In the 1st inning tonight, Baker threw a pitch up & in to Orlando Cabrera, which Bert would normally praise as just the sort of thing a pitcher needs to do in order to keep the batters off-balance. In this case, however, Cabrera fought off the pitch for a bloop-double up the line, so it became an object lesson in what happens when Scott Baker leaves his pitches up. Shortly afterwards, I think Dick brought up his inside dope on the kid's slow pacing.

It's not right, and you can see it's getting back to Baker, too. When he came off the field after that inning, he looked like he had 50 pounds strapped to his back. He knows.

One might wonder how the manager is helping Baker by encouraging all this negative talk which could only be dispelled by near perfection for a string of outings in the next month, but then is helping Baker really the point here?

I see now that Baker has been chased from the game after giving up 4 runs in the 5th inning, and that's likely the justification Gardy will need to announce that Silva will replace Baker in the rotation. If he doesn't tell the media tonight, I expect him to announce the change within a couple days. Really, though, it hardly mattered whether Baker gave up that homer to Juan Rivera tonight or stumbled in his next turn, or maybe the turn after that. You could tell by listening to Dick & Bert in the 1st inning, the kid was a marked man even before the game began.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Another Thousand Words

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Minnesota Twins pitcher Brad Radke tosses a towel after being replaced by Matt Guerrier during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis, Wednesday, May 24, 2006. Radke gave up 6 runs and 11 hits as the Indians went on to shut out the Twins 11-0.
(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Notes from Underground on the New Ballpark

Most Twins fans are celebrating the news of the Twins ballpark plan finally passing the state legislature last weekend, but I have mixed feelings about it. Like I said on Batgirl's site: by this point, I feel a bit like I've been served with a juicy Polish sausage--after I've been working a long shift at the Hormel factory. I've seen too much of what goes into it to really savor the meal.

On the one hand, outdoor baseball. I'm generally in favor of it.

On the other hand, it's too bad that the deal finally pushed through because some politicians had enough of their arms getting twisted. From what I've heard, it's essentially the same plan that wasn't good enough last year. Did the club or Hennepin County make any substantial changes to their proposal this time around?

I would have liked to see the club make more concessions to the public by offering a greater share of the profits generated within the ballpark. I don't think that happened. Now I see a minor groundswell in the online Twins fan community to get the park named after Kirby Puckett. My friends, my poor, naive dears. That is so sweet. So sweet to believe that Carl Pohlad would let sentiment get in the way of a $40 million windfall, to dream that he might actually give a damn about your wishes. Have you forgotten who you're dealing with? Did you think that any of this is really about you?

No, I'm sorry. The ballpark will not be named after Kirby, Carew, or the Killer. If I had my way, it might be called El Palacio Presidencial with each gate posted by a regimental guard who would salute the fans with cries of ¡Viva Santana! every 15 minutes on gamedays. Oh, and Gameday would be the official program, sold inside as well as outside the park. But that will not be happening, either.

The Twins didn't insist on owning the naming rights for nothing. Their marketing people may tease you with rumors of names like Puckett Park, or maybe something to honor Carl's late wife Eloise, just so you know they have a heart and gave the notion some serious consideration. But in the end, some local corporation is going to write a fat check and the place is going to be named after a medical research company, a bank, a chain of electronics stores, Post-It notes, or maybe Spam.

For those who haven't already left in tears, I'll make a final prediction here: by 2015, most of the Twins promises related to the new ballpark will prove to be hollow. The dreams of local economic development, an influx of free-spending fans who keep coming back just to feel the thrill of outdoor baseball, and a payroll that lets the GM roll with the big boys... poof. It won't happen; the histories of such projects in other cities typically show a lack of longterm benefits either to the local economy, the box office, or a team's payroll. I expect there will be crying about the location, the crowded transportation access, and the lack of a roof on those dates when it's too cold, too wet, or unbearably hot and humid, as well. Even now, the Twins probably have a contingency plan to stir up the cries to retrofit the park with a roof, circa 2013, if only someone else could step up to pay for it, of course.

But, despite my mood, I hope that the committed baseball fans in Minnesota are left with a first-class ballpark to enjoy. If it can't be Camden Yards, I'm encouraged to see that the early artist renderings indicate that the idea men have something better in mind than Miller Park. As long as they don't try to copy that monstrosity in any way, the place should be alright. After all we've been through, isn't that the least we could expect? It's all most of us wanted, really. A nice spot outside that's better than what they got in Milwaukee.

Carl, Jerry, Dave. Dick & Bert. You got your funding.

Now don't fuck it up.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's Dubya Thinking?

This is the President stepping to his podium, as he's about to deny the news that the government is broadly monitoring domestic phone calls and keeping a secret database of Americans' phone records.

Look at those eyes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What's Gardy Thinking?

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