Monday July 26, 2004
Twins Win 2 of 3
Other Twins Notes
Next Up? Sox/Twins
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Good morning everyone! It was a good weekend for the Twins as they took two of three from the Baltimore Orioles. The minor league affiliates performed well, especially Saturday when all six affiliates won their games. Trade rumors continue to swirl all around the Twins. With the trade deadline on Saturday, plenty will happen this week, and when we come back next Monday, there could be much to write about! There were a couple of other interesting baseball things from the weekend including a near no-hitter and an impressive brawl between A-Rod and Jason Varitek in which David Ortiz may have added some games to his current suspension.
Oh, and I would be remiss not to at least give 'big ups and much respec' to Da Ali G Show. If you get HBO, you should absolutely watch this 1/2 hour sketch comedy Sunday nights at 9:30 (central time). I watched it last night and I have not laughed that hard for SO long. I was laughing out loud! I mean, it is some of the funniest TV ever! When he interviewed Pat Buchanan was great. I loved when he was his Kazakistan character. Every skit is hilarious! If you're not watching, you 'better recanize!!' I give it "Two Thumbs Up!"
Just so I don't babble on too much, let's get to the topics... I hope you enjoy! If you have any other thoughts, questions, or comments, or ideas for future postings or research, please e-mail me.
Well, the Twins won two of three games in Baltimore over the Orioles this weekend. But I want to start out with one other bit of information first. There is so much negativity about the Twins, it seems, and I am as guilty as others. Players personnel decisions, lineup and rotation choices, what the Twins need as the trade deadline approaches. Frequently the tone taken in these discussions is so negative. Again, I am as guilty as anyone in this, but at the same time, I do try to be positive about it. Maybe here is something that will help.
American League Standings
New York Yankees 61-36 .616
Texas Rangers 55-41 .573
Minnesota Twins 54-44 .551
Boston Red Sox 54-44 .551
Chicago White Sox 52-43 .547
Oakland A's 53-44 .546
Anaheim Angels 52-46 .531
Cleveland Indians 50-49 .505
I think I make my point. The Twins have the 3rd best record in the American League right now. Yes, they have had little infield production. They have dealt with an almost unfair number of injuries. Their best hitters have been Lew Ford, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Ford wasn't even on the opening day roster. Morneau just got called up. Joe Mauer has missed a lot of time due to injury. Yet, with all of that, our Twins are leading the American League Central by 1/2 game over the Chicago White Sox as they are set to begin a three game series in Chicago.
And, let's be honest. For all the glory that the media wants to throw toward the Yankees and Red Sox, both teams have issues of their own. The Yankees have a lot of egos and Jason Giambi's situation does not look good. Their pitching staff has been affected by injuries to Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown and inconsistency from Jose Contreras and their 5th starter merry-go-round. The Red Sox have a strong lineup, but they are so terrible on defense that any team may be able to steal a game, or even a series from them.
And that brings us to the most recent Twins trade rumors. With Justin Morneau proving that he has to be in the lineup every day, it creates an issue with Doug Mientkiewicz. Morneau has shown that he is a decent first baseman. Is he in Mientkiewicz's league defensively? Of course not, but who is? Morneau can catch the ball when it is thrown to him at 1B. It will also force the other infielders to actually try to make good throws.
One rumor going around is that the Red Sox have an interest in Mientkiewicz. First, the Sox are one of those teams that value the type of player that Doug is. He takes a lot of pitches. He walks a lot. From a more 'traditional' look at his numbers, he has also hit .300 in two of his last three seasons. Add on all the walks, and you've got a strong on-base percentage. Now factor in just how good defensively Mientkiewicz is. Think of all the errors he could save the likes of Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Bellhorn. Now, what would the Twins get in return for Mientkiewicz? My opinion is that if the Twins could get 3B Kevin Youklis straight up for Doug (which they likely couldn't), they should jump all over that. He could step in at 3B next season for the Twins in place of Corey Koskie. That would free up Michael Cuddyer for an offseason to prepare for 2B. 1B would be Justin Morneau's and the lone question in the infield is how ready Jason Bartlett is to take over at SS.
By making that move, it would in no way affect the Twins chances of landing the Pirates Kris Benson. Apparently, they started by asking for Justin Morneau. The Twins said no. Then they asked for Michael Cuddyer. Again, the Twins declined. Apparently they have some interest in Michael Restovich and a minor league pitcher. As long as that pitcher is not named JD Durbin, Scott Baker or Jesse Crain, I am all in favor of that trade, even if the Twins can not retain Benson after this season (which could, if they off Benson arbitration, mean a couple of additional draft picks next year anyway).
That's why I love this time of year. I can pretend I am the Twins GM. I can pretend to know exactly what the Twins should do to get better. But do I? No more than anyone else. But I absolutely love trying to picture all of the possible scenarios! In less than a week, we will know if the Twins make a deal, who they add, who they trade, or whether they chose to stand pat. There are options, and I really don't think that any of them are bad!
TWINS GET TWO W's from O's
These are the types of games that the Twins will have to win if they really want to win the AL Central crown for a third straight year. Baltimore, despite an offense that includes newcomers Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmiero, is one of the worst teams in baseball. In the past, the Twins have had much trouble in games like this. This weekend though, the Twins took care of business and took the series.
The Orioles are celebrating their 50th season in Baltimore with occasional retro jersey days. This whole series, the Twins were in their old powder blue uniforms. Actually, I really like that. Seeing Nick Punto playing shortstop each game and diving all over, he just looked right in that 1980s Twins uniform. Others didn't look so comfortable. All I know is that the whole stirrup look is absolutely terrible, and I'm very glad no one really uses those any more.
I have to admit, I did watch a lot of the Twins games this weekend, but not all of them. I would do housework during some of the game, and yesterday, even mowed for 45 minutes. But, I will not miss an at bat of Lew Ford's or Justin Morneau's if I can at all help it. Both are so fun to watch and can do some things!
Friday - Twins 7, Orioles 3
On Friday, the Twins got to face John Maine. Maine is a top prospect in the Orioles organization. This type of pitcher has been another challenge that the Twins have had struggles with this year as well as in previous years. But, they had no problems with John Maine. Actually, part of the problem Maine had was just throwing strikes. He was wild both out of the strike zone and in it. In 3 2/3 innings, he walked three and gave up seven hits, giving up four runs, before being replaced. Torii Hunter led the way with three hits including a double. Corey Koskie was quite productive after really struggling the previous week. He went 2-4 with a walk and his 14th home run. He drove in four runs. Nick Punto went 2-5. Jacque Jones was 1-4 with an RBI and... a walk. Luis Rivas was 2-5. Lew Ford went 0-2, but walked three times, twice intentionally. Carlos Silva was the beneficiary of the run support. He improved to 9-7 with a 4.48 ERA. He gave up three earned runs on nine hits (no walks). In 6 innings, he struck out two. JC Romero, Grant Balfour and Joe Nathan pitched the final three innings without giving up a run.
Saturday - Twins 2, Orioles 4
The Twins continue to get great outings from Terry Mulholland in the 5th spot. He gave up two runs in six innings and four hits and a walk. Joe Roa gave up an unearned run and got just one out. Aaron Fultz got his guy out before Juan Rincon gave up another unearned run in 1 1/3 innings. The sad part of this game was that the Twins weren't able to do much of anything off of Sidney Ponson, one of the worst pitchers in baseball. With the win, he improved to 5-12. The Twins had just four hits. Matthew LeCroy had two of them including an RBI single in the 2nd inning. Justin Morneau went 1-4 with a 4th inning RBI single
Sunday - Twins 8, Orioles 4
The Twins got contributions from everyone against yesterday to gain the series victory. They gave starter Kyle Lohse some early run support. Lew Ford hit a sacrifice fly and Torii Hunter singled in another run in the first inning. In the second inning, Ford singled in Michael Cuddyer (who had doubled). The next batter was Justin Morneau, and he deposited a hanging two-strike curveball onto Eutaw Street, beyond the right field fence. With Lohse on the mound, it was never really safe. In the second inning, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmiero and Javy Lopez had three straight hits to put two runs on the board. In the fourth inning, Tejada scored on a Karim Garcia sacrifice fly to cut the Twins lead to three. But, in the top of the fifth, Corey Koskie came through again with an RBI single. But, Melvin Mora doubled in Brian Roberts to cut the lead back to three. But, in the top of the sixth, Michael Cuddyer led off with a long homer to dead center to give the Twins the final 8-4 win.
All nine starters had at least one hit. Shannon Stewart was 3-4 with a walk. Justin Morneau was 3-5 with his fifth homer and three RB (Note the view we will hopefully see from Morneau the next few months and for hopefully the next decade!). Michael Cuddyer was 3-4 with a double and a homer.
Kyle Lohse grabbed his fourth win of the year with his five inning performance. He hadn't thrown excessive pitches, but he had really labored. I know many think that Lohse simply needs the work to regain some confidence. My opinion is that he left after five innings with a lead and Gardy let the bullpen get a win. Lohse's ERA over the last 10-12 starts had actually not been bad at all (under 4.00). However, he has just not earned any wins. Of course, you know how I feel about the "Win" stat, but at the same time, Lohse has to be hearing way too much about his won-loss record. So, getting him an actual win may be a way to help him get confidence. JC Romero struck out three in his two innings. Grant Balfour and Aaron Fultz each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
OTHER TWINS NOTES
St. Paul native and former Twins DH Paul Molitor was officially enshrined into baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He was joined in this year's class by Dennis Eckersley. Back in December, I made my predictions for who would be voted in and I picked both players to be selected in their first at bats. Molitor's numbers are just too good to ignore. Eckersley did a lot as a starter, went through some problems and then he became the first real 9th-inning closer in the game under the tutelage of Tony Larussa.
Sidenote - Tony Larussa gets a lot of credit as being a good manager, maybe even great. Why does he not get more of a backlash for completely ruining the career of Rick Ankiel? Seriously, if there is a poster child for why not to put too much pressure on a rookie or young player, particularly in the playoffs, it is Larussa choosing to go with the young Ankiel in Game 1. That was the beginning of the end for his career. Yet somehow Larussa remains unscathed in that. Just curious.
Eric Milton threw a no-hitter for the Twins in 1999 against the Anaheim Angels. Yesterday, he had a no-hitter into the ninth inning when a Michael Barrett bloop double was misplayed by defensive replacement Doug Glanville in centerfield. Milton stayed in the game and got two more outs before leaving the game after giving up two runs and their lead. Milton is having a great-record season aided almost entirely by great run-support. I'm still happy with what the Twins received in return for him (Silva, Punto and Bobby Korecky), but I am happy that Milton is healthy and pitching well enough to put up good win totals!
Also yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays recalled former Twins reliever Michael Nakamura for the third time this year. They also purchased the contract of Sean Douglass, who went to spring training with the Twins this year.
NEXT UP? THREE WITH THE WHITE SOX
Another big series between the White Sox and Twins begins today when the two teams, separated by just one-half game in the division, begin a three-game series. Obviously this is still just July, so the results of this series are not huge in the big picture, but in terms of confidence, this is a huge series for the Twins to prove to themselves that they can compete with the White Sox. Now, it is important to note that the Sox are without Frank Thomas for the next 6-8 weeks. They are likely without their best player, Magglio Ordonez, for the rest of the season as well. That helps, but the Sox are still loaded on offense. Both teams seem to have set up their rotations to throw their three best pitchers. And, a note to all those who think that Brad Radke is over-rated because he is "nothing but a .500 pitcher," take a look at the "other" numbers comparing Radke and Mark Buehrle. ERA - Radke 3.82, Buehrle 3.86, WHIP (Walks + Hits per inning pitched) - Radke 1.20, Buehrle 1.27, Opponents Batting Average - Radke .281, Buehrle .278. All a pitcher can do is pitch, right? He can't control how many runs the offense scores for him. The Twins don't score a lot of runs. The White Sox are near the top of the league in runs scored. And, because of that, Buehrle is 10-3 while Radke is sitting at 6-6.
Monday - 12:10 - Brad Radke (6-6, 3.82, 1.20, .281) vs Mark Buehrle (10-3, 3.86, 1.27, .278)
Tuesday - 7:05 - Johan Santana (8-6, 3.44, 1.03, .209) vs Freddy Garcia (8-8, 3.19, 1.15, .226)
Wednesday - 1:05 - Carlos Silva (9-7, 4.48, 1.46, .335) vs Esteban Loaiza (9-5, 4.85, 1.43, .282)
Any thoughts on the Twins or White Sox, or what could happen in this series? Will the Twins make a trade? Should Doug Mientkiewicz be on the block? Is Kris Benson the guy (since Randy Johnson will not come to Minnesota)?? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
Friday - Redwings 8, Louisville 4 - Jason Kubel led the way for Rochester offensively while David Gassner won his league-leading 12th game on the season. Kubel, the Twins top offensive prospect still in the minor leagues, went 3-5 with four RBI. Gassner improves to 12-6 with a 3.21 ERA. In 6.1 innings, he gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks, while striking out three. Kevin Hodge pitched the final 2.2 innings to record his third save of the year. He didn't even allow a baserunner. Jose Rabe went 2-3 with a walk. Jason Bartlett was 2-4 with a walk. Michael Restovich was just 1-4 but connected for a home runs and drove in two runs.
Saturday - Redwings 3, Louisville 1 - Seth Greinsinger pitches well. That should be a headline because it is so surprising. He went 6 inning and gave up a run on four hits and a walk. Brent Schoening pitched the next two innings without giving up a run. He struck out three. Finally, Jesse Crain pitched a perfect, two-strikeout 9th for his 19th save. Michael Restovich led the offense with an RBI in a 3-3 performance.
Sunday - Redwings 10, Louisville 9 (11) - It took a little overtime, but the Redwings won their third straight game over Louisville. Willie Eyre started and went six innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk. He did strikeout six. Beau Kemp pitched the next two innings and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks, but he struck out four. Joe Beimel struggled, giving up two runs on three hits in just 2/3 of an inning. Finally Adam Johnson got the win by pitching the final 2 1/3 innings. He gave up a run on four hits. The offense was led by Alex Prieto who was 3-5 with his fourth homer and two RBI. Luis Rodriguez was 3-6 with a double and two RBI. Augie Ojeda was 2-6 with a double. Jason Kubel had just one hit, but it was his 7th home run. Juan Diaz hit his 10th home run in just a partial season with the team.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Friday - Rockcats 6, Binghamton 2 - Boof Bonser grabbed his sixth win of the season with six solid innings. He gave up two runs (1 earned) on six hits and four walks. He also struck out eight. Kevin Cameron pitched the final three innings to notch his 1st save. He gave up just two hits and struck out three. His season ERA now stands at 0.47. Matt Scanlon went 2-4 with an RBI. Seth Davidson, Kevin West and Ryan Owens each had RBI doubles.
Saturday - Rockcats 5, Binghamton 2 (12) - Garret Jones just continues to rake. He went 2-3 with a walk, a homer and four RBI. JD Durbin also made another strong start. He went 7 innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and four walks. Jason Miller pitched the 8th inning. Travis Bowyer continues to be amazing. He pitched the next 3 2/3 innings without giving up a run. He gave up four hits and a walk, while recording six strikeouts. Jon Pridie got the save.
Sunday - Rockcats 2, Binghamton 5 - Mega-prospect Scott Kazmir made his third AA start for the Mets farm club. The youngster performed great. He allowed just a run on five hits and two walks in his seven innings. He struck out seven. The Twins countered with Colby Miller. He went six innings and gave up five runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out five. Erik Lohse pitched two scoreless relief innings. Kevin West was 1-2 with a double and two walks. Gabby Torres also had a double.
FT. MYERS MIRACLE
Friday - Miracle 5, St. Lucie 9 - Alex Romero led the offense by going 2-4 with a double. Jose Morales went 2-3 with a triple and two RBI. John Thomas started and went four innings. He gave up four runs (just one was earned) on seven hits and three walks. He struck out five. Nick Blackburn gave up an unearned run in his inning. Josh Gray went 1 2/3 innings and gave up a run on a hit and three walks. Manny Tejada went 2 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits and struck out three.
Saturday - Miracle 6, Sarasota 4 - Francisco Liriano pitched very well for his sixth win of the year (with an ERA of 3.87). He gave up four runs on nine hits in six innings. He struck out five. Ricky Barrett pitched a scoreless 7th. Then Pat Neshek came in and recorded his third save with two perfect innings, and three strikeouts. Kaulana Kuhaulua went 3-3 with a single, double and triple... and a walk. Alex Romero was 2-3 with two walks. Danny Matienzo was 2-4 with a walk and a double. Trent Oeltjen was also 2-4, with a walk.
Sunday - Miracle Day Off - No games scheduled in the Florida State League.
SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Friday - Swing 0, Peoria 5 - The Swing didn't, and collected just three hits. They had doubles from Ryan Spataro and Kyle Geiger. Glen Perkins made his first Class A start and went 3 2/3 innings. He did not allow a run. He gave up two hits and walked four... he struck out two. Not a terrible first outing, although I'm sure he'll want to bring the walks down. Billy Mauer came in and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk. Peter Tautor gave up three runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out four. Matthew Hines continued to be unscathed with a scoreless ninth.
Saturday - Swing 3, West Michigan 2 - Scott Tyler came back from a poor start with a very strong one. In 7 innings, he gave up two runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out 10. Jay Sawatski got the save by pitching two perfect innings, striking out two. Scott Whitrock had two doubles in three at bats. Kyle Geiger was 2-3 with an RBI.
Sunday - Swing 2, West Michigan 9 - Again, the Swing had just three hits on the game. They did take seven walks though. JR Taylor and Brock Peterson each had a double. Chris Schutt gave up six runs (5 earned) on nine hits. He struck out seven. Matthew Hines finally gave up a QC run. Actually, he gave up three earned runs in an inning, on four hits and a walk. Tristan Crawford didn't allow a run in 2 1/3 innings.
Friday - E-Twins 4, Bristol 1 - The E-Twins got some good pitching and added some good hitting as well. Dennis Medina gave up two runs (1 earned) on seven hits and a walk. In six innings, he also struck out 11 batters. Jason Bowlin struck out two in the next two innings. Frank Mata recorded hits seventh save with a scoreless ninth. David Winfree led the offense going 3-4 with a double. Trevor Plouffe was 2-3 with a double, a walk and an RBI.
Saturday - E-Twins 9, Bristol 2 - The E-Twins really got the bats going this game. Johnny Woodard went 3-4 with his fourth homer and 2 RBI. Landon Burt was 2-5 with a double. Trevor Plouffe was 2-4 with his 2nd homer. David Winfree was 2-4. Jay Yaconetti was 1-4 with his first homer, and 3 RBI. Steven Duguay improved to 3-2 (with a 2.52 ERA) with seven strong innings. He did not allow a run and did not walk a batter. He gave up five hits and walked seven. Jonathon Martinez allowed the two runs in his inning. Although he did strike out two. John Williams struck out the side in the ninth.
Sunday - E-Twins 0, Bristol 8 - This game was suspended due to rain in the 3rd inning with the E-Twins not playing so well.
RICKY WILLIAMS RETIRES
Much is being made of Dolphins RB Ricky Williams decision to retire from the game of football. Obviously, he has left the Dolphins in a tough spot. With just a week before training camp, their top running back is probably Travis Minor. I do think Minor could be fine, but he is no Ricky Williams. From a football standpoint, this definitely hurts the Dolphins. They may have to try to make a deal before the season starts.
I have heard people say that the enigmatic Ricky Williams did not truly love the game of football, that he didn't leave and breathe football. He is being ridiculed for that. I happen to admire Ricky Williams now more than before for being willing to give up something that was expected of him, just to make himself happy. He is giving up tens of millions of dollars in this decision. He is likely alienating himself from south Florida for some time. And you know what, he probably doesn't even care, and I think that is very cool.
Ricky Williams was a very good running back who seemed to get better in some aspect of his game every season. After a round rookie season, Williams worked very hard to get stronger and trimmer and faster, and it brought him much success. So really, he is leaving on the top of his game. If you've watched any SportsCenter coverage the last couple of days, you hear him compared to the likes of Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Robert Smith, who all left the game before they had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. The common ground between these four running backs? Intelligence. Brown was doing some acting and has also been a social activist. Sanders has chosen to stay far from the limelight. Robert Smith, until the last couple of weeks when his book was completed and being marketed, has also stayed quiet about things, but he is clearly on a different intellectual level. I have a lot of respect for these guys for having the guts to stay away from the game.
Have you seen the Outside the Lines types of shows where former Houston Oilers great RB Earl Campbell appears on it and needs help just standing up, walking steps or any movement. The Running Backs of the NFL take a major beating every game. Ricky Williams got a lot of touches the last couple of seasons. He is still strong and in tip-top shape, and he wants to keep it that way. He is currently traveling the world with Lanny Kravitz. He will be walking up mountains, and he wants to continue to be able to do such things.
Some have said that Ricky Williams is a 'waste of talent.' That is so unfair. All of us wish we could play in the NFL, or MLB, or the NHL, or the NBA. We seem to think that if someone like Ricky Williams chooses to go in a different direction with his life, it's the wrong choice. Maybe it's a waste of financial gain, but it isn't a waste of talent. It is exactly what I said, a choice that Ricky Williams has to do something different in his life. The key thing that I have heard is that he says that he is happy now for the first time in a long time. That is really all the matters, right? Maybe he was playing football to please others, or because that's what was expected of him. That's not reason to play. No, he is making this decision for himself, not for anyone else, and that is the way it should be!
Should in another year or so Ricky Williams decide that he again is ready to take on a football season, that too is his decision. Second guess him if you want, but in the end, remember whose decision it is, and how he feels about it. That's all that matters.
The only people that I do feel bad for are the guys playing fantasy football. Those that are in leagues that have already drafted. Williams is a top 5 running back and hence would be drafted quite high. So, whoever took him can not be happy!!
And on that note, I am going to call it a day! I hope you have a great week! As always, if you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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