Friday June 18, 2004
TWINS COMPLETE SWEEP OF EXPOS
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
NEW DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK
FATHER'S DAY WEEKEND SPECIAL
GUEST COLUMNIST: DR. BUCK FORD
"None of you can ever be proud enough of being the child of SUCH a Father who has not his equal in this world-so great, so good, so faultless. Try, all of you, to follow in his footsteps and don't be discouraged, for to be really in everything like him none of you, I am sure, will ever be. Try, therefore, to be like him in some points, and you will have acquired a great deal." -- Victoria, Queen of England
DON'T FORGET - Be sure to remember that Sunday is Fathers Day.
How many of you spent countless hours in the backyard/front yard/street playing catch with your father? How many times did you say, "Hey Dad, will you hit me some grounders?" Well, if you had a dad like mine, the answer was always "Yes!"
There are so many great examples of Father/Son combinations in baseball. Think Bobby Bonds was proud of his son Barry? Do you think that Ken Griffey Sr. is anxious to see his son Ken Griffey Jr. crack his 500th homer. I bet that Cal Ripken Sr. was just as proud of his big league son Billy as he was of future Hall of Famer, Cal, Jr.
Well, today's guest columnist is just as proud a father as any of them, and for good reason! Dr. Buck Ford spent countless hours following, coaching and supporting his son and current Twins outfielder Lew Ford through years of youth baseball, soccer, football, track and more. Mr. Ford was kind enough to take some time to write a special Father's Day message for this website. Also, he sent me a number of great pictures of Lew from his youth through recent years and fatherhood of his own. Check them out here.
So, without any further ado, here are some thoughts by Dr. Buck Ford:
FATHERS DAY MESSAGE
My name is Buck Ford. I am Lew Ford’s dad. Seth offered me an opportunity to write a Fathers Day commentary regarding Lew. I decided to take Seth up on the offer.
God blessed me with two fine sons. I love both of them. Lew is the oldest by a year and a half. I am happy for Lew that he is living his dream. He knows what it is to dedicate himself to a goal, and to pursue it with a passion. It is a great feeling, and he is living that feeling right now.
Lew has his supporters. There are people who have followed Lew and his career ever since he began playing T-ball in the youth baseball leagues of Port Neches, Texas. Port Neches is located in Southeast Texas. It is a residential community located between Beaumont and Port Arthur. Oil refineries and a complex of prisons drive the economy down there.
Football has always been king in those parts.
Lew’s grandfather, Lewis Ford, was a head football coach at Port Neches back in the 1950s. His 1955 football team won the state championship. I, as well as Lew and his brother, played football for the local high school team, the Port Neches-Groves Indians. Their colors were purple and white.
I write all this because this is a part of our character. There is a loyalty and a tradition that is shared among all graduates of Port Neches-Groves. It is a transcendent, intrinsic quality. It is said that PN-G graduates bleed purple. I have purple blood, and so does Lew.
Despite the overbearing presence of football, baseball is widely popular down there. Lew began playing with a ball as soon as he could begin handling one. He loved balls. In his toddler years, he always had some sort of ball in his hands, and would love to throw it or kick it. Lew loved balls.
The first sport Lew got involved in was soccer. I believe he was about 4 or 5 years old. He was good at it. He was already ahead of the other kids who played, because he had been kicking balls around all his life. But he was quick footed, and focused, and had a strong kick. He continued playing club and school soccer through 10th grade. He was good at it. He even made a select team that toured England one summer.
At about 5 or 6, Lew began playing T-ball. Lew wasn’t a big kid. We used to call him “Little Lew.” But Lew had a focus, and an agility, and an intuition about balls. In T-ball, Lew would play the pitcher position. He would bend over in that “ready” position, his arms relaxed and swaying. His cap and glove would be a little too big for him. His eyes would focus intently on the ball resting on that “T”.
There was a chalk-drawn circular arc about 10 feet in front of the plate. Balls hit off the “T” had to pass this arc in order to be in play. When a kid hit the ball off the “T”, Lew would immediately pounce on the ball like a cat, pick it up, and out-run the batter to first base. This was the way it was the entire T-ball season.
Lew’s son, Jake, played T-ball this past spring. I was telling Lew’s wife, Cori, about how Lew played T-ball. Cori told me that my description sounded exactly like the way Jake plays.
Lew went through Rookie League (7-8 year olds), Texas League (9 year old), Little League (10-12 year olds), Pony League (13-14 year olds), and Colt League (15-16 year olds). He also played Babe Ruth League when he was 18. The All Star team he was on went to the Babe Ruth World Series in Trail, British Columbia.
With Lew’s birthday being on August 12, his peer group in the baseball leagues was a grade behind him in school. He always looked more mature and poised and talented than his peer group in these leagues. He wouldn’t look bigger than the others, but much more skilled.
In those community baseball leagues, he played pitcher and shortstop. In high school, he played outfield and pitcher.
Lew’s always had a live arm. As a pitcher, he was exceptional. His best pitch was his fastball, but he could also throw a curve. He looked good pitching. In fact, when he walked on at Texas A&M in the fall of 1995, the Aggies didn’t know whether to put him in the outfield or develop him as a pitcher. They played him at both positions. In the spring of 1996, Lew went to Seminole Junior College in Oklahoma. At Seminole, Lew played centerfield, and was a relief pitcher.
Lew’s always had speed. He ran track in local community summer track meets. He always won his races. He was intense at the starting line, got the first jump out of the blocks, could accelerate very quickly, and finish strong.
Lew’s always had a live bat. Even though he wasn’t very big, and even though he was called “Little Lew,” his bat was live. As a 10-year old, he went to a 10-year old All Star tournament. He hit three home runs during the tournament. There weren’t many 10-year olds his size hitting nice looking home runs over the fence.
As Lew progressed through the leagues, and into high school, his bat became noticeable. He hit with power to all fields. He also had speed to run out infield hits. Balls were energized when they left his bat.
I always wondered where Lew’s power came from. He never looked to be that much more muscular or bigger than his peers. I videotaped a home run he hit at a high school tournament in Nederland. The ball was blasted over dead center field.
I looked at the sequence in slow motion, frame by frame. It looked as though, when the bat met the ball, that Lew had channeled every bit of energy and force in his body into the contact point on the head of that bat. I could see his legs, hips, torso, shoulders, arms, and hands all focused and channeled to deliver his energy, and it was delivered right at the point that the bat met the ball. I thought to myself that this was all natural and intuitive. Lew had the ability to put everything he had into delivery on the baseball.
I’m proud of Lew. I’ve followed him throughout his career, and I’m still following him. I watch all the games on Direct TV.
Lew has worked hard for where he has gotten. He has persevered. Lew has always had baseball talent, and has always performed exceptionally well in baseball. However, it seems at times it has not been recognized.
In 1998, Lew was a first team All American at Dallas Baptist. He set their single school batting record, batting .507. This was over the course of over 50 games! At the time, I thought that was incredible. I still do. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing T-ball league, or Little League, or whatever league. You bat over .500, that’s good.
Scouts talked to Lew, but he wasn’t drafted.
We were disappointed, and somewhat disenchanted, but Lew came back the following year and had another good season at Dallas Baptist. He ended up drafted by the Red Sox in ‘99. We were excited.
When Lew hit pro ball, he got an agent. Lew told me that the agent told him, “They have guys in pro ball that drive in runs, and they have guys that score runs. You have to position yourself to be either one of those two guys.” Lew told me they have a lot of guys in pro ball that position themselves to drive in runs. Lew told me he was going to position himself to score runs.
In 2000, his first full year of Single A ball was in Augusta, GA. He had a good year. He stole 52 of 56 bases, and established their single season batting record by batting .315. He had 74 RBI from the leadoff spot. Baseball America identified him as the best defensive outfielder in Class A. The Sporting News identified him as the Best 5-Tool Prospect in the Red Sox organization. He led minor league baseball in runs scored with 122 (he also led minor league baseball in runs scored in 2002). We were excited for him.
A day or two after the close of the minor league season, Lew was traded to the Twins. I think his coach in Augusta had spent some time in the Twins’ system. We didn’t know anything about the Twins, but Lew looked at it as an opportunity.
After getting in the Twins organization, we saw the situation in regards to its talent. The outfield situation was competitive. Twins fans know the situation; it was—and still is—a very competitive situation.
I am proud of the way Lew responded. He didn’t back down, but worked hard and did his best. The competition forced him to better himself and improve. He did that. I’m proud of him. I also respect and am proud of all the other outfielders in the organization. They are all good people. Lew speaks highly of all of them.
I want to give my reaction to the stories that are written about Lew. I don’t doubt that any of these stories can be true. Lew does have a mathematical mind. He was an honor student; he made straight A’s through school. He may have some peculiar ways about him that come honest. My wife Wanda Carole recognizes that there’s something about being a Ford that is unique. They have their ways. Not in any way is it a slight on their character—the Fords have good character and integrity, but Fords have other traits that can be funny at times.
Lew has an immediate family that loves and supports him. His wife Cori is great. She has followed and supported Lew through all these years, and been right there with him as they lived in various cities in the US, Mexico, and Venezuela while pursuing his minor league career. She was right there with him, along with his two sons, Jake and Jordan. She’s a great mother to the boys, and a great support to Lew. Wanda Carole and I agree that Lew would not be where he is today without the support of Cori. We love her.
Lew’s mother and I divorced each other in 1980. Lew’s family and extended family from both sides love and support him and are excited about his success. His cousins, step-families, extended family and extended step-families—they all keep up with him daily and are excited about his success. Lew has a lot of love and support from his family. Sometimes I hope we don’t all wear him out by our calling and emailing checking up on him so often. He does his best to accommodate us and make us happy.
Seth, I’m glad you gave me an opportunity to share some of my thoughts about Lew. I always tell Lew I love him when I see him or talk to him. I wish him the best.
PS - For information about Port Neches-Groves High School, feel free to check out:
www.pngfootball.com: this is a website that I created back in 1999. I haven’t updated it for a while, but it can give you an indication of what coming from PN-G is like.
www.pngindians.com: a very good website about the Indians.
Thanks again, Mr. Ford. I know I found this to be an incredibly fun and interesting read. I am sure that those who read it will as well.
If anyone has any questions or comments about what you read, or if you would like to pass along any thoughts on Lew to his father, I would be happy to forward them along to Buck Ford. So, any comments, please e-mail me.
"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." -- Sigmund Freud
TWINS SWEEP EXPOS
Twins 6, Expos 4
Another come-from-behind-win for the Twins last night gave the Twins another interleague sweep and kept the Twins in first place.
Matt Guerrier made his major league debut. In 4 innings, he gave up three runs (2 earned) on six hits. He walked one and struck out three. I actually thought he did quite well for a first start. First, I don't think the Expos hit him that hard. But also, he was able to work himself out of some tough situations, such as the runners on second and third with 1 out situation in the 4th.
My question about Guerrier is this: How do you pronounce his name? When I've talking about him, I pronounce his name GARE-EE-ER. On the telecast last night, they pronounced it GUH-RUR. Any help would be great!
So, the Twins fell behind 3-0. Then the comeback began. Doug Mientkiewicz hit his first home run in a long time, a solo shot in the 6th to cut the lead to 3-1. In the 7th, with 2 outs and Michael Cuddyer on first base, Matthew LeCroy pinch hit for Terry Mulholland. LeCroy hasn't played since Monday because of a bad knee. He took a hanger by Livan Hernandez and deposited into the bleachers in left center field to tie the score. LeCroy hobbled slowly around the bases.
One of the great things about baseball is this, anything can happen, momentum can change, a slump can be broken in one at bat. Lew Ford had a couple of tough at bats earlier in the game, but in the 8th inning, with 2 strikes on him, he was frozen by a Hernandez curveball. For some reason, the ump called it a ball. Soon after that, Ford drilled a single into right field, his first hit of the game, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. After Corey Koskie was hit by a pitch, Torii Hunter came up. He has really been struggling just to put the ball in play and had some bad at bats earlier as well. However, he went up there with a plan and on the first pitch, he took a fastball out over the plate and found the gap in right centerfield to score Ford from second and move Koskie to third. Jacque Jones came up, and it is well chronicled how much he struggles against left-handers. And yes, he just hit a high hopper for a ground out, but it was enough to score the runner, Koskie, from third for an important insurance run.
In the bottom of the inning, Tony Batista singled in a run off Grant Balfour to cut the lead to just one. Joe Nathan was brough in and got the final two outs of the 8th to end the threat.
The Twins added an insurance run in the top of the 9th with a Cristian Guzman RBI single. Nathan finished the 9th inning to give the Twins the sweep and record his 18th save of the season.
A good start by Guerrier with excellent relief from Terry Mulholland, and Aaron Fultz. Then we got to see some mettle and toughness from close Joe Nathan to end it. Cristian Guzman led the offense with a 3-5 day at the plate.
And hey, the game actually drew an attendance of 10,044. Crazy! Well, at least that was the announced attendance. Whether there were actually that many people there is debatable!
In other news, the Marlins beat the White Sox 2-1 last night. Also, the Sox traded closer Billy Koch to the Marlins. I would assume that he will be just a set up man there and pitch before Armando Benitez comes in to close.
In recent years, a trip to Milwaukee to play the Brewers was considered a walk in the park. The Brewers were bad. However, the Twins always struggled with them. Well, because of the Richie Sexson trade, and obviously much more, the Brewers have a very respectable team and present a formidable opponent for the Twins.
here are the scheduled pitching matchups for this weekend's series:
Friday - 7:05 - Carlos Silva (7-3, 4.00, 1.43, .310) vs Ben Sheets (5-4, 2.66, 0.90, .202)
Saturday - 6:05 - Brad Radke (4-3, 3.20, 1.22, .283) vs Wes Obermueller (3-2, 6.49, 1.52, .295)
Sunday - 1:05 - Johan Santana (4-4, 4.84, 1.29, .264) vs Victor Santos (5-2, 3.50, 1.41, .267)
The Twins starters have been good the last 8-10 starts. Carlos Silva seems back on track after two tough starts against the White Sox. Brad Radke has clearly been the Twins best starter, but gets no run support. And Johan Santana has had two straight great performances. However, please look at Ben Sheets' numbers one more time. The record is good, but look at the ERA, WHIP and Opponent Batting Average. Those numbers are remarkable. He has struck out 89 batters in 88 innings. In a word, He's good! It should be a fun, competitive series to watch.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Twins after the sweep of the Expos and what you're looking forward to with the Brewers series. How do you think Matt Guerrier looked? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Redwings 4, Columbus 3 (11) - 3B Luis Rodriguez provided the offense as the Redwings beat a very veteran Columbus Clippers team last night. Rodriguez went 4-6 with 2 doubles on the night. LF Todd Dunwoody had two doubles in five at bats. CF Brian Simmons went 2-5 with his 8th home run and two RBI. Catcher Chris Heintz didn't start, but he still went 2-2 to raise his season average to .323.
Gary Glover got the start on the hill for the Redwings. He gave up three runs on nine hits in four innings. Brent Schoening came him and pitched three scoreless frames. Joe Beimel pitched a shutout inning. Jesse Crain pitched two shutout innings (2 Ks). Kevin Hodge got the win by pitching a 1-2-3 11th inning.
NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS
New Britain 9, Trenton 10 (6) - Boof Bonser has been pitching very well of late. That was not the case last night. He started and lasted just 3 1/3 innings. In that time, he gave up 10 earned runs on 11 hits and a walk. Pat Neshek came in and didn't allow another run in 2 2/3 innings. Fortunately, the game ended with just six innings complete. For the Rockcats, BJ Garbe was 2-2 with a double and a walk. Kevin West hit his 14th home run and, Garrett Jones hit his 8th.
FORT MYERS MIRACLE
Miracle and Jupiter were rained out.
THE SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Swing3, South Bend 2 - Errol Simonitsch pitched another gem last night. He improved to 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA with his 8 inning performance. He gave up two runs on just five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Julio DePaula earned his fourth save with a scoreless ninth. LF Justin Arneson led the way with a 3-4 performance. DH Dusty Gomon had a double in three at bats.
Any questions or comments on the Twins minor league system, e-mail me.
Advertisements - I would like to get your opinions on them, if you don't mind sharing your thoughts. If you look on the left side of this screen near the top, you will see SethSpeaks Sponsors. There are links to a couple of companies that have asked me to advertise for them on my site and been willing to pay me varying amounts (so, be sure to click on those links to see what they are!). In the last week, three other companies have come to me with offers to pay me to advertise for them. To this point, I have said that I really just like doing the Text Link Advertisements. I really would rather not get into anything like Pop-ups because I think they are annoying, even if they are no big deal since all you have to do is X out of them. Anyway, I'm just interested in some input from the readers about what you think. Obviously I would like more money. Also, if anyone out there owns a company and would like to link to this site, e-mail me and we can talk! Thanks for listening.
TWINS AUTOGRAPH PARTY - I just got some e-mail from the Twins on their annual Autograph Party. It will take place on the plaza outside the Metrodome on Saturday, June 26, from 11:30 - 5:15. Current Twins will sign autographs from 12:30-2:00. Twins Alumni will sign from 2:30-4:00. There will be a live memorabilia auction from 4:00-5:15. There will also be a silent auction throughout the day. Oh, and the Twins will play the Milwaukee Brewers at 6:10 that night!
I went to the Autograph Party last year for a couple of hours. The event is free to get into. If you would like to get autographs, you will need to buy an autograph card for $25. Of course, the money all goes to charity. I actually took a few pictures of the event, which you can find in my Photo Album, so check those out. I did go through the tent with all the Silent Auction items. I got goose bumps seeing all of the stuff. Autographs bats and balls and helmets and pictures of current and former Twins players. There are also autographed paraphernalia players from other teams or other sports. There is some great stuff.
Will I be going again this year? Well, we will have to see if I can find anyone to go with me. I would love to hang out there all day! I think it would be a lot of fun to talk to some of the players if possible. I know that I went there with my sister last year, and we both agreed that this event would be wonderful to take a 5-10 year old kid to. But it is also great for the adults. I don't like all of the autograph hounds. When I say that, I don't mean guys like me, who would love to get autographs just to collect for myself. I would also love to go there and just shake hands with the players, and maybe take a picture with them to capture the moment. No, what I mean are the adults who show up with five dozen baseballs or a couple dozen bats and sprint from line to line. They aren't there to enjoy the opportunity to meet with the players. They are there to capitalize on the event. They will be selling much of what they acquire. That is why I have absolutely no problem with the team charging money for the autograph cards.
So, in summary, if at all possible, head to the Metrodome on June 26 for the Autograph Party.
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK - I would like to again get your input on a topic that I happen to find very interesting. As I have mentioned time and time again, I would encourage everyone to read and bookmark the Baseball Savant website. It is well worth the read every time he writes. About once a week, David updates each team's Pythagorean Numbers, meaning, based on a team's Run Differential, you can predict what record a team will end up with. Here is how the American League Central will look at season's end, according to these numbers:
1.White Sox 98-64 (+7)
2.Tigers 83-79 (+5)
3.Indians 79-83 (+6)
3.Twins 78-84 (+3)
5.Royals 61-101 (-12)
The Savant begins his analysis with this:
The Twins really do have to consider themselves the luckiest team in the AL. They really can't hit ranking 10th in the AL in runs scored per game, and their pitching/defense isn't much better ranking 8th in the AL in runs allowed per game, but here they sit a half a game out of first place in the AL Central.
So, the question of the week is this... Why do the Twins consistently have a better actual record than they "should" according to this measure? For a little background information, consider this:
Season Pythagorean Number Actual Record Differential
2000 69-93 69-93 0
2001 81-81 85-77 +4
2002 86-75 94-67 +8
2003 85-77 90-72 +5
So, as you can see, using Run Differential to predict a team's season record is relatively close. However, the Twins are an extreme exception. Most team's actual records are even closer to their Pythagorean numbers. But over the last three seasons, the Twins have won 17 games more than they should, 20 more if you count this year's numbers too.
To use a small example, remember the Twins/White Sox first series of the season? The Twins won two one-run games, but the White Sox won the other game big. So for the series, the Twins were outscored like 18-8 (numbers approximate). By that, the Twins should have lost 2 out of three, but instead won 2 out of three.
Therein lies the question... why is that? David and I have spent a lot of time discussing this issue. What is it about the Twins or their style of play that accounts for this?
Please think it over and e-mail me your responses. I will post your thoughts sometime next week. Thanks!
And again... Recently, I got an e-mail from The View from the Bleachers. It seems that the first round of voting in The World Series of Blogs is complete. I want to thank those of you who voted for this site. Somehow, SethSpeaks received enough votes to win the AL Central vote and advance into the playoffs. So, I hate to do it, but I guess it doesn't hurt to ask, right? If you want, be sure to head over to The View from The Bleachers and vote in The World Series of Blogs! I am in contention in the American League with Athletics Nation, Blue Jay Way and Firebrand (Red Sox). As of last night, I was getting absolutely crushed, so help me out, check out the site and vote early and often!
That is it for me for today. Have yourself a great Friday and a wonderful weekend!!! As always, if you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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