View from Section 220
as I mentioned yesterday, I had the great opportunity last night to attend the
Twins game with Howard Sinker. You may know Howard as the blogger of the
Star-Tribune blog called A
Fan's View... from Section 220. I really was looking forward to sitting
there and talking Twins and baseball with someone with so much knowledge and
passion for the game. As I mentioned, Howard was the Twins beat writer for the
Strib from 1983 through the World Series in 1987. That had to have been a pretty
incredible time. Since then, he has kept busy writing and doing other jobs with
the paper. Anyway, the conversation throughout the game was terrific. We talked
about everything from situational plays, to blogging, to bloggers, to commenters
on blogs, and much, much more. In summary, it was just a really enjoyable
experience for me. I thought I would share my thoughts on the game as I watched
from Section 220 and talked with Howard. So some of these points will be a
corroboration between the two of us. I just can't take full credit.
- While waiting for Howard, I did buy a
Gameday Magazine outside the
Metrodome. If you are able to get to any of the Twins games this weekend, or
this month, be sure to pick up your copy. There are several really great
articles in there, and then there is one by me called Four Sleeper Prospects
to Watch. To find out which four prospects I picked, be sure to pick up your
Gameday Magazine outside the
Dome the next time you're at a game.
- It was a pretty cool experience right from the start. I met Howard
outside the Will Call area, and when he got there, we walked through the
Twins Office entrance. That's definitely not something I could do by myself.
When we walked in, there was Scott Leius talking to someone. You know
me, I just walked by thinking, "Wow, that's Scott Leius." I suppose
there are some people reading this site who are too young to remember
Scott Leius, but for a kid who was 16 during the 1991 World Series, it
was pretty cool. Jim Rantz was also in the area.
- We went to our seats, after Howard went to the Press Box and got some
game notes. I thought that was pretty cool... until he told me that they can
be downloaded online. I still went on thinking it was pretty cool!
- Like me, Howard keeps score during the game. I always do as a memory
thing. I can go back and remember an at bat or situation, or who knows,
maybe 20 years from now, when Evan Longoria's career is approaching
its end, I can show people that I was at the first game in his career in
which he did not get a hit!
- The seats were in the front row of the upper deck, just outside of 1B.
We were at a great angle to see everything. Really, if you are within about
the first five rows in the upper deck, it is a very good seat.
- I was happy that Jason Bartlett got a nice little applause when
his name was announced before the game. I always liked Bartlett. I
appreciated his range and his arm, and despite his sub-.200 batting average
so far this year, I think he is a solid hitter. That said, I think that
Brendan Harris was a nice return for him, along with Jason Pridie and
- Livan Hernandez started on the mound and we were wondering if we
would see any 59 mph readings on the radar gun. Well, the lowest we saw was
61 mph. Livan was typical Livan. Six innings, five runs (3 earned), eight
hits allowed, three homers allowed. He struck out just two, which is normal,
but he walked three, which isn't. As he was struggling along the whole game,
getting into trouble and somehow getting out of trouble, we kept noting that
we could already hear Gardy talking about how 'crafty' he was, or that is
the type of performance we want from Livan, etc. In reality, it wasn't a
very strong performance, but it was somewhat a minimization of how bad
things could have been.
- Part of what helped Livan out was the rocket arm of Joe Mauer. He
threw out Jonny Gomes in the second innings. He then caught BJ
Upton trying to steal second in the fifth inning. In both cases, I noted
how the throws were on the bag and thrown on a rope. It is impressive on TV,
but to see it live is incredible. At one point, Howard made the comment that
Mauer would be worth the money even if he was just a .230 hitter because of
his defense. I just can't disagree. The fact that his 3-4 day raised his
average back to .300 is really all a bonus. If he adds power, terrific, but
at some point, I think Twins fans need to realize just how valuable Mauer is
to the team as a catcher.
- One comment I made before Justin Morneau's first at bat was that
there are several at bats where he just looks lost, like he will swing at a
slider and miss it by a foot. I said that you never see the likes of
Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz,
Albert Pujols or other power hitters take many bad swings. I think if he can
ever get to that point in his approach at the plate, he will take a huge
step forward. In the meantime, Morneau hit a couple of pitches later off of
the baggy in RF for a long double. In other words, he's already pretty good,
but there is still room for improvement.
- Wednesday Twins home games... you know what that means... Dollar Dog
night by Hormel. You know what that means... lots of college kids there,
many of whom know nothing about baseball and are just there to drink. Uggh!
These are the types that start the wave in the 8th inning of a tie game and
watch it go around the Dome while the actual game is going on. These are the
types who are playing with a beach ball while Joe Nathan is trying to close
the game in the bottom of the 9th.
- By the way, there are a couple of other things that are strange to me.
First of all, when an opposing pitcher throws a pickoff throw to 1B, why do
many in the crowd boo? It makes no sense. Pickoff attempts are part of the
game. It's even better when you have someone behind you who says "Play the
- Or, who started the whole concept of throwing home runs balls back onto
the field when the opponent's player hits a home run? Seems like it was, or
would be, a Wrigley Field kind of thing, right? In this game, the Rays had
three home runs. The first was in the upper deck in right field. So, the guy
who caught it was coaxed into throwing it back. He took the opportunity to
show off a little bit and threw the ball almost all the way to 1B. Somewhat
impressive actually. The second homer, a laser by Eric Hinske,
bounced back into the field. Denard Span threw it into the stands in
center field, which was nice, but no one could catch it, so it bounced back
onto the field. Delmon Young had to go get it, and flipped it into
the stands. So, when Shawn Riggins homered to tie the game in the 6th
inning, the fan in LF decided to just throw it softly back onto the field.
It rolled toward Young, who picked it up and threw it over the CF fence,
into the pulled up bleachers where there were no fans. I actually thought
that was a great idea. Don't throw it back to a fan who decided to give it
up. Seriously, if I catch a home run ball in a game, I could not be able to
throw it back. That doesn't just happen every day. I don't care if I would
get booed for a batter or two. It's just not worth it.
- Back to the game... Jason Kubel is on a tear. He had a big RBI
double down the right field line. He also ripped a shot up the middle for a
single. He is not a fast man, but who cares, he can flat-out rake!
- BJ Upton is incredibly skinny!
- Carl Crawford in a bit of an enigma. Fantasy baseball players see
him as a star because he can fill stats in so many areas, including (or
especially) stolen bases. He can hit over .300 with his speed. He plays a
solid left field. He is also a big guy and at 225 pounds, you might think
that he will develop more and more power. The home run he hit off of Livan
in the third inning might have been the longest home run I have seen in
person. Of course, as talented as he is, he makes some strange decisions on
the baseball field. Remember his base running gaffes a year ago? Well, his
diving/sliding catch of Mike Lamb's foul fly ball was an impressive
catch, showing his speed, range and athleticism. However, since he had to
dive to catch it, and the eventual winning run would score if he caught it,
it was incredibly non-smart for him to make that catch. It would have been
better for him to let it drop foul and take your chances that Lamb might not
be able to make a productive out in the next pitches. The only way you catch
that ball is if you are able to catch it in position to make a strong throw.
- Wasn't it nice to see Delmon Young be the one to score the run
because of Crawford's unintelligent decision? Young was certainly amped up
for this game. In his early at bats, he was swinging a bit wildly, even more
wildly than he does normally. It was nice to see him get that solid single
to lead off the ninth.
- Like Young, I'm sure Brendan Harris was happy to get two hits off
of his old team, including a big one, a bloop single, in the 9th. I think
it's fair to say that the Twins are the big winner so far in the Twins/Rays
trade. Jason Barlett is hitting just under .200 after his 1-4 game.
He also had a big error that led to two Twins runs. Matt Garza is
going to be out for a while with his arm injury.
- James Shields went five innings for the Rays. They then brought in
Kurt Birkins, who was making his season debut after coming off the DL
earlier in the day. He pitched a quick, easy sixth inning. Then the lefty
started the 7th inning by striking out Denard Span. The, with Joe
Mauer and Justin Morneau coming up, Joe Maddon took
Birkins out and brought in righty Dan Wheeler. That is a moved that
begged the question of WHY? When Joe Mauer hit a solid single, it was
again more than questionable. Wheeler got Morneau to hit into a double play
to end the inning, so it ended up fine. But you have to wonder what the
logic was there!
- After the Mike Lamb sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, there was
still a runner on 1B and Nick Punto was due up. We both wondered if
the blog commenters were talking about pinch hitting for Punto in that
situation. But we both agreed that we would have let Punto stay in the game
in that situation. The Twins had a one run lead with three more outs to get.
Defense was the key at that point. So, that was the right decision.
- How about the Twins bullpen usage the last three games? On Monday in
Detroit, it was Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek, the A team, if
you will. On Tuesday night, it was Jesse Crain. Last night, it was
Dennys Reyes, who hadn't pitched for ten days, and Juan Rincon
who got the job done. I think that is important on several levels. Guys like
Crain, Reyes and Rincon are going to be valuable to the team in allowing
Guerrier and Neshek a few days off. If Gardy can use those guys in the 7th
and 8th innings with confidence, it can only help.
- I can't help but really be impressed with Denard Span. Seriously,
the guy is a natural in the outfield. I also like the types of at bats he
generally has put together solid at bats, taken pitches and hit the ball on
the ground. Will he ever post a .750 OPS? Probably not, but that doesn't
mean he can serve no purpose to a big league team.
- There has been plenty of talk about the Twins sending Carlos Gomez,
not Denard Span, down when Michael Cuddyer comes off the DL.
He has struggled of late. Well, last night he had a solid single to left
field on a 1-2 pitch. He also had a bunt single down the 1B line. Each time,
he stole second base. I'm still in favor of giving him a day off sometime,
but I don't think he should be sent to the minor leagues.
that's what I've got today. I would encourage people to check out Howard's
A Fan's View... from Section
220 blog. It really is a good perspective. I enjoyed my time with him
and talking and watching baseball. I hope to get to more Twins games this summer
and am set up for a few. It's just fun to watch a game live!
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