Monday, September 8, 2008
Gotta be honest. I donít have a lot to write or say today. I know that the Twins are just 2.5 games behind the White Sox. I know very well that this team could do something very good in their next three games. I know that the AL Central race is not quite over. But losing two out of three to the Tigers at home this weekend was incredibly depressing. Why? Because the same issues that caused the losses on the road continued to happen at home in this series. The defense made some errors. The offense didnít come through. The starting pitching actually wasnít bad (thatís been pretty consistent), but the bullpen was bad again twice. And in those two games, they lost.
Those things, we kept telling ourselves, were only happening because they were playing on the road. Sure, bad hitting, fielding and relief pitching are only a road thing, those troubles wonít carry over and into the Dome, right? And Friday night, the Twins destroyed the Tigers, so the assumption was all was right with the world. And Scott Baker pitched great on Saturday. He got the first out of the 8th inning, then gave up a hit. With Curtis Granderson batting, Gardy brought in Dennys Reyes. You canít blame him. It was the right call. Reyes just made a really bad pitch and Granderson tied the game. Matt Guerrier came in and gave up two hits, the second a two run homer to Magglio Ordonez. Sunday, it was Craig Breslow who couldnít get the big outÖ and I only say that because again, Gardy made the right move by going to him and Breslow has been excellent.
One thing that is annoying to me though is the usage of the September call ups. The bullpen has been horrible, but instead of trying to use the likes of Bobby Korecky, Phil Humber and Jose Mijares, we continue to see the same chorus of relievers working in those same situations. Now, again, I understand it. Gardy is likely thinking, Hey, these are the guys that put us in this position for 140 games this year, I have to stick with them. Another theory is that you donít want to put young or inexperienced pitchers into those situations. Well, if the veterans arenít getting the job done, and havenít been for awhile, why not give the other guys a try. In all honesty, who would you rather see come into a 7th or 8th inning situation right nowÖ Eddie Guardado or Jose Mijares? Bobby Korecky or Jesse Crain? Phil Humber or Matt Guerrier? Does that mean those guys will get the job done? Not necessarily, but there would be a feeling of hope.
Likewise, the lineup hasnít changed. I thought I had picked up on a trend last week when Matt Tolbert started at 3B two games in a row against right handed pitchers. I feared that Tolbert had taken over the 3B job from Brian Buscher. Thankfully, Buscher started all three games against the Tigers. But I wouldnít mind seeing Jason Pridie platoon with Carlos Gomez in CF. I know Gomez is a huge part of the future and needs to play in a pennant race, but at the same time, who do you feel gives the Twins a better chance to win, Carlos Gomez or Jason Pridie? I know Pridie hasnít had a hit yet, but I do feel that if he were allowed to play a full game, he might relax and really perform. Defensively, the reports are that he is every bit as good as Denard Span which isnít terribly far behind Carlos Gomez.
Nick Punto has taken over the shortstop job. Honestly, that isnít a huge deal. The other options are Adam Everett, Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert, so Punto isnít a horrid option. He had a nice stretch of games a week or so ago and that has kept him in the lineup. I would like to see a mix of the other three get a chance.
The rest of the positions, I get it. I know that people donít want to hear it, but we again have to point out how young this team is. Those young players need to experience the successes and failures of a pennant race. Letís not forget that the Twins donít only want to be involved in a pennant race in 2008, but also in 2009 and 2010 and for years beyond that. Who are the key cogs to those future teams? Mauer and Morneau? Obviously. Jason Kubel? Alexi Casilla? Carlos Gomez? Delmon Young? The Five Young Starters? Jesse Crain? Denard Span? Matt Guerrier? In other words, this experience is so important to all of them, and they are key to the Twins future. They need to play. I understand that.
It has just turned very hard to watch. When the Twins lost the lead on Sunday afternoon, I quickly changed from my Twins t-shirt to my Adrian Peterson jersey (from Walmart, thanks, bloggers donít make much Ė or in my case any Ė money!). Could I turn away from the Twins? Of course not. Iím a die-hard. But there will be plenty of those fair-weather fans that started following the team in mid-June but now will be spending their Sundays thinking football.
Iíll be there through thick and thin, but this team gave us reason to hope. They were incredibly fun to watch. Itís not as much fun right now, when a late-game lead means very little. But here is a request - keep your heads up. Donít bash the Twins out loud. There is enough of that going on. I know there is at least one person in your office that probably doesnít know much about the Twins and doesnít follow them as closely as you do, who will make a couple of remarks. You know they probably just watched a highlight on the news, or read a headline, or maybe just watched an inning or two. To those types, tell them some positives. Tell them that this team is worth watching and worth following, even if youíre biting your teeth through it! The truth is, there is a lot that this team has done, and there is a lot to be excited about regarding the future of the Minnesota Twins. I know Iím not ready to throw the white flag yet. I hope youíre not either.
If you want to hear a lot more of my thoughts on the Twins, please listen to last nightís Marty Andrade Twins Weekly Round Table podcast. He and I talked about several Twins topics, including the bullpen, the lineup, the prospects and much more for an hour. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts. ††
The Ft. Myers Miracle came two wins shy of their ultimate goal. With a 9-1 loss to Daytona last night, the Miracle season comes to an end.
Last night, Cole DeVries got the start and gave up five runs in the first four innings. Joe Testa gave up a run in his inning. Oswaldo Sosa gave up a run in his two innings. Matt Williams came in and gave up two runs in his two innings. The Miracle managed just five hits. The run came on an 8th inning single by Whit Robbins. Steve Singleton was 1-3 with a walk.
On Saturday night, the series began quite well for the Miracle. Matt Fox started and threw six shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked two and struck out ten. Rene Tosoni, who was 2-3 with a walk in the game, hit a solo home run that gave the Miracle a 1-0 lead. But Carlos Gutierrez Ė who in the previous series was highlighted as the teamís top performing pitcher Ė got just two outs before giving up three runs on four hits. Jose Lugo got the next four outs. But then David Shinskie gave up two runs on four hits in his inning to create the final score of 5-1. Juan Portes also had two hits in the game. †
In my mind, there were two guys vying for that AL award, Quentin and Morneau. Coming into the games today, here were their statistics:
Justin Morneau - .311/.388/.516 with 40 doubles, 21 home runs and 109 RBI.
Carlos Quentin - ..288/.394/.571 with 26 doubles, 36 home runs and 100 RBI.
If you're just going to go by OPS, Quentin is the clear winner. But I happen to think that the MVP award is about more than just OPS. Justin Morneau is a slightly better than average defensive first baseman. Carlos Quentin is a below average defensive left fielder. You could make very strong arguments for both of these two. But the fact that Morneau will now be able to add to his numbers, and in general, continue to help his team when it is most important gives him the clear advantage.
I am not one who believes that the MVP must come from a division winner. I am one who believes that the player should be from a team that competes for a division title until late in the season. That makes both of these guys eligible. It likely takes two members of the Texas Rangers, Milton Bradley and Josh Hamilton, out of the equation. I don't think there is a clear cut MVP candidate for the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston hasn't had an obvious choice this year (no, not even Dustin Pedroia) again as it has in the past. The Angels, for as big as their lead is in the AL West, have had a very balanced team.
I definitely don't think that a pitcher should win the MVP. I am one of those guys who says a guy that helps a team every fifth day is not as valuable as a guy who plays every day. That takes the easy Cy Young choice, Cliff Lee, out of the discussion. And, I wouldn't not vote for a closer simply because he generally pitches about 65 out of his team's 1,450 or so innings. So, that takes Francisco Rodriguez out of my discussion.
I also believe that the term "valuable" should mean something. That word has a much different definition than the word "best." I also believe that that value is compared to the league, not just his position. And although I do think that Joe Mauer is a viable MVP candidate and does have more "Value" or VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) than Morneau.
As soon as Justin Morneau hit his grand slam in the fifth inning tonight, I knew I had better get my thoughts written down. That home run alone is not a reason to vote for Morneau. But it is a reminder of what Justin Morneau can do to help the Twins in the season's final month that, unfortunately, Carlos Quentin will not be able to do for the White Sox.