Tuesday August 10, 2004
TWINS LOSE AGAIN TO A'S
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Good morning to everyone!
Remember when, at the All Star Break, the Twins trailed the Chicago White Sox by a half game? Now, the Twins have themselves a comfortable (for now) five game lead in the American League Central. The surprising thing, to some degree, is that the lead is not over the White Sox. With their 13-11 win last night, the Cleveland Indians jumped in front of the White Sox and into second place. The two teams have gone back and forth the last few days by playing against each other.
In my preseason predictions, I actually predicted that the Indians would finish ahead of the White Sox in the division. If I was smart, I would forget to mention that I thought that the Kansas City Royals would finish in second, behind the Minnesota Twins.
We talk, read and hear so much about the White Sox. They have a lot of the same players that seem to choke every year. I mean, this year, they made a couple of trades in the last couple of weeks for a couple of guys (Everett and Alomar) that didn't help them go anywhere last year.
I think it's time to give the Cleveland Indians organization, their players and GM Mark Shapiro a little bit of credit. Remember early in the 2002 season, Shapiro, who had just taken over the job, started making a lot of trades and being honest with the fan base of the Indians saying that they would not compete for a division title until 2005? That decision was met with a mix of understanding and upset fans.
Lets take a look at the series of events over the last few years that have helped shape the current Indians roster:
6/1/01 - Indians trade Jacob Cruz to the Colorado Rockies for minor leaguers Josh Bard and Jody Gerut
Jacob Cruz had played 72 games with the Indians from 1998 to 2001and done very little. To get two players who have contributed at the major league level is a coup for the team. After serving as a backup to Einar Diaz much of the 2002 season, Bard was the Indians primary catcher in 2003, catching 91 games. He was just a stop gap starter until Victor Martinez was ready for full-time duty, which I think it is fair to say he is now, based on his All-Star production this year. Jody Gerut came out of nowhere really last year to put up a very impressive rookie season when he hit .277with 33 doubles, 22 homers and 75 RBI in 127 games.
10/24/01 - Declined the option on Juan Gonzalez
I know there are a lot of Juan Gonzalez fans out there. But lets just remember that this guy has not done anything for a long time. Sure, he starts every season hitting well. Then he comes out with some mysterious injury and doesn't seem to make much of an attempt to come back. The same thing has happened the last two or three years. I mention this transaction on here, because the decision not to pick up his option just continued to show that the team was headed in a different direction.
11/14/01 - Hired Eddie Murray as hitting coach.
Hiring a Hall of Famer who has both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs has to have an impact on a young team, right?
12/11/01 - Traded Roberto Alomar (and two others) to the New York Mets for Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, Billy Traber and Earl Snyder.
At the time, this trade did not make a lot of sense. Alomar was coming off a strong 2001 season. Matt Lawton had been a big disappointment with the Mets. Alex Escobar was a huge prospect (who has never panned out and was actually designated for assignment yesterday by the Indians). Billy Traber is actually getting some rehab innings after Tommy John surgery last August. In his brief big league experience, he showed signs of a good future. Well, it ended up that it was the beginning of the end for Alomar. He was terrible and people said it was an adjustment to a new league. Ends up, he hasn't been good since. Lawton returned to his Twins form this year with a very solid campaign.
5/21/02 - Released Brady Anderson
Just another example of out with the old, so that he wouldn't take at bats away from the young guys.
6/7/02 - Traded Russell Branyan to Cincinnati for Ben Broussard
The Indians had a history of trading some big prospects (Richie Sexson, Sean Casey, Brian Giles) for short-term help. Branyan was believed to be the next big powerful slugger. When he was traded, people didn't like it. This has turned out to be a good trade. Branyan has been a journeyman and hasn't really contributed for anyone. After missing time because of an ankle injury he suffered at the Dome, Broussard has become the every day 1B for the Indians and is contributing greatly.
6/27/02 - Traded Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to Montreal for Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens.
Bartolo Colon was clearly the best available pitcher on the market. He was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA when the trade was made. He went to Montreal who was making a run at an NL playoff berth and went 10-4 for them as well. But I think it is fair to say that the Expos gave up too much. OR... Mark Shapiro and his scouting staff is GOOD! Brandon Phillips was a Top 3 prospect in all of baseball who has yet to make his mark in Cleveland. He is, however, hitting .319 now at AAA. Cliff Lee has proven to be a very solid big league pitcher this year. Lee Stevens was included just because the Expos needed to make a dollar-for-dollar deal and Stevens was making enough money to make it close. And, Grady Sizemore's inclusion really tilts the trade in the direction of Cleveland.
7/11/02 - Charlie Manuel is fired, Joel Skinner takes over as Manager
It was pretty clear that Charlie Manuel did not want anything to do with the rebuilding process. He was fired in favor of a temporary manager who would let the young guys play.
7/19/02 - Traded Chuck Finley to St. Louis for Luis Garcia and Covelli "Coco" Crisp
Chuck Finley was pretty much done at this point too. He had to be convinced to accept a trade, but he was willing to go to St. Louis for what ended up being the final two months of his big league career. Luis Garcia hasn't done much, but Coco Crisp is really making his mark with the Indians this season.
7/28/02 - Traded Paul Shuey to the Dodgers for Ricardo Rodriguez, Francisco Cruceta and Terry Mulholland.
Paul Shuey was making too much money and hurt all the time! The Indians got rid of his salary and got some young players. However, I only include this transaction in this because it also includes Terry Mulholland.
7/30/02 - Trade Ricardo Rincon to Oakland for Marshall McDougall
Ricardo Rincon came to the Indians from the Pirates in exchange for Brian Giles. He became a tough LOOGY for a bunch of years and still is for the A's. McDougall has really just been some depth at AAA, providing some power. He is probably best known for his college career at Florida State.
10/29/02 - Eric Wedge named manager
I thought that Joel Skinner had done a nice job, but the team decided to go with the very young Eric Wedge to manage the team. It is hard to argue with his success. Skinner is now the 3B coach again.
12/6/02 - Traded Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese for Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette
Diaz was the teams catcher for a couple of years. He was definitely a defensive catcher, we hope, because we know he could not hit. Victor Martinez was waiting in the wings and the Indians found a team willing to take on Diaz excessive contract. Ryan Drese is pitching out of his head so far this year. The Indians did quite well landing North Dakota native Travis Hafner. Hafner was supposed to hit in 2003. Well, he battled injuries, and didn't. But he is absolutely busting out this year!
8/25/03 - Traded Brian Anderson
Another veteran signed and then traded. An excellent strategy for a rebuilding team. You will see the team did this a number of times. It is a strategy that the Twins employed quite well.
10/17/03 - Declined options for Mark Wohlers and Ellis Burks
Getting rid of more veterans. As good a career as Ellis Burks had, his injuries really hurt him and his teams. It was best that the Indians not keep him around. First, he would have been hurt and also, he would have taken ABs away from younger players.
11/14/03 - 12/21/03 - Outrighted, purchased the contract of and then non-tendered Danys Baez
This situation was really a mess that was not handled well. But in the end, it was a case of getting rid of Baez, a guy who just never really put it all together in Cleveland.
12/26/03 - Signed Ronnie Belliard
Belliard had always been a decent hitter, but nothing spectacular. This is probably the type of signing where the team hoped he would push Brandon Phillips and when Phillips was deemed ready, Belliard would be shipped out for prospects. Well, Belliard has been good. He was named to the all-star roster and has been great. At just over $1 million, he has been quite the bargain.
3/28/04 - Traded Ricky Gutierrez to the Mets for a Player to be Named Later.
The Twins made their current roster with this type of move. Trading an older, bit-part to a "contending" team for prospects. Of course, it will take a couple of years to see how these prospects pan out, but Gutierrez served little purpose in Cleveland so to get anything for him is great.
4/4/04 - Traded Milton Bradley to the Dodgers for Franklyn Gutierrez
Bradley was suspended a few days earlier because he did not run out a pop out. The team made it known that, as good as he can be, his days with the team were done. To get another top prospect in Gutierrez for him under those circumstances is really quite impressive. It really prepares the team to have strong depth in the organization.
6/26/04 - Signed Aaron Boone
Here is yet another sign that the Indians are going to make a strong push for the AL Central crown next year. It is unknown if Boone will be able to contribute this season, but he should be ready to go by next year. He could really help them.
7/21/04 - Recalled Grady Sizemore.
And, not to be overdramatic, but the Sizemore call up almost represents the final piece to the puzzle. He is the one young prospect who had not yet made his big league debut. He will now get a couple hundred big league at bats and be fully ready for 2005. Jhonny Peralta is hitting .333 at Buffalo and will likely take over for free agent Omar Vizquel next year. He has spent time with the Tribe before though.
So, there you have some of the main transactions that Cleveland has made in past two years. What has it led to? Here is their seemingly typical lineup:
LF Matt Lawton (.288/.361/.449, 17 doubles, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 18 SB)
SS Omar Vizquel (.300/.364/.406, 21 doubles, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 14 SB) - received from Seattle in 1993 trade for SS Felix Fermin.
DH Travis Hafner (.324/.413/.602, 34 doubles, 22 HR, 88 RBI)
C Victor Martinez (.300/.367/.522, 26 doubles, 18 HR, 83 RBI)
3B Casey Blake (.280/.362/.484, 23 doubles, 19 HR, 61 RBI)
1B Ben Broussard (.279/.381/.449, 21 doubles, 8 HR, 52 RBI)
2B Ronnie Belliard (.299/.370/.420, 38 doubles, 5 HR, 48 RBI)
RF Jody Gerut (.252/.335/.399, 26 doubles, 9 HR, 44 RBI)
CF Grady Sizemore (.304/.409/.482, 4 doubles, 2 HR, 11 RBI)
OF Coco Crisp (.275/.318/.424, 18 doubles, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 14 SB)
There you have the offense. This group has put up strong numbers all year. Where they may be hurt, however, is in the pitching staff. The team had two pitchers be named All-Stars this year (CC Sabathia, Jake Westbrook) and one who very easily could have been (Cliff Lee). After those three, there are question marks.
CC Sabathia - (8-6, 3.83, 1.29 WHIP) - continues to get better each year.
Jake Westbrook (9-5, 3.37 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) - we all asked why he was selected to the All-Star game instead of Johan Santana. Well, we may have a conspiracy theory as to why. Jake Westbrook came to the Indians in 2000 with Zach Day (who was later traded for Milton Bradley) and Ricky Ledee, from the New York Yankees. We see that Joe Torre not only likes taking his own players, but also his former players, and maybe even just some former farm hands! But he has been very good.
Cliff Lee - (10-4, 4.77, 1.50 WHIP) - some believe he will be a top level left-handed starter for years to come. Again, the Bartolo Colon deal was just a tremendous trade for the Indians.
Well, at this point, the Indians are playing very well. They have a record three games above .500. They have a young, yet very talented nucleus of players. These are many of the same guys that came up last year and struggled in their first year in the big leagues. And now... they are right about where the Minnesota Twins were in 2001. The Twins team had a number of young players just getting into their second or third big league seasons. They challenged the very veteran 2001 Cleveland Indians team into July before the Indians ran away with the division. However, it was 2002 when the Twins took over the AL Central.
That logic would tell us that the Indians will not win the division until next year. But don't count this team out. That lineup can score. These three starters give their team a chance to win. This is a good team. They're just young, so keep an eye on them!
And, the Twins and Indians will play each other 13 more times this season starting on Friday. The results of those games could very well determine the AL Central champion.
Any thoughts on the Cleveland Indians? Can they challenge the Twins for the division? Where do the White Sox stand in this? Please feel free to e-mail me anytime and let me know what you think.
TWINS FALL TO A'S IN SERIES FINALE
The Twins and A's played a lot of baseball in their four game series. 47 innings. It isn't good when the Twins were really hoping to get a long performance from Kyle Lohse. However, Lohse was able to get the team into the 7th inning still in the game. He gave up four runs on eight hits, but he also walked four. After that, however, the bullpen imploded. Aaron Fultz came in and gave up three runs on two hits and a walk, while getting just two outs. Jesse Crain came on with runners on in the 8th. He gave up two hits and walked two (one intentionally) giving up one earned run. Juan Rincon, who they were hoping not to use again, ended up pitching a scoreless ninth.
On offense, Jose Offerman continues to take advantage of any playing time he does get. He was 2-4 with a double and a triple. He scored the Twins first run on a Justin Morneau single. Jacque Jones was 2-4. Luis Rivas hit a solo homer, his seventh. Lew Ford continues to take a lot of walks (5 in the last two games). Yesterday, he was 0-3, but got on via the walk twice.
The Twins now head west, to Seattle, for some late-night baseball. Here are the scheduled pitching matchups:
Tuesday - 9:05 - Terry Mulholland (3-5, 5.14, 1.59, .319) vs Gil Meche (1-5, 6.51, 1.84, .319)
Wednesday - 9:05 - Brad Radke (7-6, 3.61, 1.14, .269) vs Bobby Madritsch (2-0, 2.12, 1.12, .246)
Thursday - 3:35 - Johan Santana (11-6, 3.34, 0.99, .203) vs Ryan Franklin (3-10, 4.93, 1.45, .294)
The Twins have called up RHP Matt Guerrier today. With the pitching staff being very overused, it'll be nice just to have another arm available. Terry Mulholland pitched again on Sunday, so I don't know how long he will be able to go tonight.
Also, Edgar Martinez announced that this will be his final season. He has always been a very smooth swinging, great hitter. Is he the game's best DH ever? Harold Baines fans may argue. I'm not sure whether you'd consider Frank Thomas a 1B or DH. But needless to say, Edgar Martinez needs to be in the discussion. Is he a Hall of Famer? I don't think so. Doesn't mean he wasn't a great player though.
TWINS/AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Here are the AL Central Standings through last night's 13-11 victory over the White Sox.
Minnesota Twins 62-49 .558 ---
Cleveland Indians 58-55 .513 5.0
Chicago White Sox 55-54 .505 6.0
Any thoughts on the Twins or this Seattle series? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
Redwings 4, Buffalo 6 - David Gassner went six innings and gave up four runs on nine hits and three walks. Jeromy Palki threw two scoreless relief innings. Kevin Hodge took the loss, giving up two runs in two innings. Former Twin Jack Cressand improves to 9-1 (with a 4.89 ERA) for Buffalo. Alex Prieto went 2-4. Jason Kubel had a two run double. Michael Restovich batted 7th and was 2-4. Michael Ryan batted 8th and he was 2-4.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Rockcats 5, Akron 2 - Francisco Liriano had another impressive AA start. He went 5.2 innings and gave up just one run on five hits and three walks. He struck out five. Jim Abbott picked up the win with 1.1 relief innings. Bobby Korecky pitched the final two innings to record his 21st save. Garrett Jones continues to hit. He was 2-4 with his 22nd home run. Jake Mauer went 2-4 with a double.
FT. MYERS MIRACLE
Game 1 - Miracle 2, Clearwater 1 - Justin Olson made a strong start. He went six innings and gave up one run on four hits and three walks. He struck out 8. Levale Speigner got the win with two shutout innings in relief. Ron Perodin was 2-4. Danny Matienzo was 2-4 with a double and a triple. Alex Romero hit his 2nd home run, and Garrett Guzman hit his 3rd.
Game 2 - Miracle 2, Clearwater 0 - In the second game, the Miracle got a one-hit shutout from Matt Yeatman (4 innings), Ricky Barrett (2.1 innings) and Pat Neshek (0.2 innings). They had just five hits themselves, but it was enough. Alex Romero went 2-3 with a triple. Elvis Corporan had a double.
SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
Friday - Swing 7, Lansing 0 - Scott Tyler threw another strong game. He went 6 shutout innings allowing just four hits and four walks. He struck out seven. Tristan Crawford threw the last three innings, allowing just one hit. Denard Span had a nice 3-4 day, with a double and a triple and two RBI. Omar Burgos went 3-4 with a double. Alex Garcia went 2-4 with 2 RBI.
Friday - E-Twins 8, Johnson City 4 - The E-Twins got another hitting display from Deacon Burns. he went 4-5 with two doubles and 2 RBI. Javier Lopez was 2-4 with 2 RBI. David Winfree hit his 6th home run. John Williams started and went 5 innings. He allowed a run on six hits and two walks, while striking out seven. Dennis Medina pitched two scoreless innings. Jeff Mousser struck out three in his inning, but allowed two runs on three hits and a walk as well. Frank Mata gave up an unearned run in his inning.
Thank you very much for stopping by this website and please continue to do so. Have yourself a great week! If you ever have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
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