White Sox Factor Loom Large in Twins\Tigers Play-in Game

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By Soxman

Tip your cap to those scrappy Twins.  They became your 2009 AL Central Division Champions in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever watched.  12 innings of exciting action, where neither team would go quietly into that good night. As I watched the game closely, I could not help but marvel at how much of an impact the Chicago White Sox had on this game. Confused?  Well then, read this break:

1.    The Chicago White Sox won four of the last six games against the Tigers to essentially force them into the tie-breaking game.

2.    Miguel Cabrera, who was almost traded to the White Sox in 2008 for Josh Fields, Aaron Poreda and others, homered in the game.  He also played on the Marlins when Ozzie Guillen was the third base coach.

3.    Former White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez, singled in Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, whose favorite team growing up was the Sox.  Ordonez also hit a crucial HR in the 8th to tie the game.

4.    Orlando Cabrera, a member of the 2008 AL Central Champion White Sox, give the Twins the lead in the 7th.

5.    Matt Guerrier, a 10th round draft pick by the White Sox in 1999, nearly blew the lead by walking two and giving up a run in two thirds of an inning.

6.    Jon Rauch, a 3rd round pick by the White Sox in 1999 pitched two thirds of a scoreless inning in the 7th.

This Twins team also has to draw some comparison to the 2005 Chicago White Sox as they are a team built primarily on speed and defense, and relying on smart baseball to win.  They also lost one of their best power hitters for the season in Justin Morneau, who interestingly enough was passed over by the White Sox in 1999, in favor of Jon Rauch.  In 2005, we lost Frank Thomas to a broken foot and were forced to use Carl Everett in the DH spot.

In 2005, we had to rely on a “rookie” push down the stretch to fill critical holes.  Bobby Jenks stepped in at closer for the injured Dustin Hermanson, just as Brian Duensing filled in as a starter in place of probable staff ace, Kevin Slowey, who broke his wrist earlier in the season.

Regardless of your hatred for the Twins as a Sox fan, you have to respect what they have accomplished, given their injuries and payroll. They now face their biggest test, defining the biblical identity of David when they face the Goliath New York Yankees.  On paper, this should be a fairly easy victory for the Yankees right?sox-harmony

After all, the Twinkies haven’t won a game in New York in over two years.  They are 0-7 in the regular season against the Yankees as well.  For those who claim that the post season is a brand new season, history is not on your side.  In two previous playoff series against the Yankees, the Twins are 0-2.

So why not be optimistic about beating a team whose collective salaries are more than triple your payroll?  How about the phrase “Fear most those who have nothing to lose?”

You could also argue that momentum is on the Twinkies side.  Despite the Yankees having the best regular season record in baseball, the Twins ended the season, 17-4- acting as baseball’s hottest team when it mattered most. Four intensely emotional games of baseball, 7 if you count their last series against the Tigers, extra innings, a tired bullpen, and a 3:00 a.m. touchdown in New York to play a 5:00 p.m. game: the Twins would not have it any other way.

If ever there were an underdog to love, it is the 2009 Twins.  My competitive hatred will resume after this season ends.

Twins vs. Tigers: Who Do Sox Fans Cheer For?

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By Soxman

Two teams, one game, and the winner moves on to the postseason while the loser goes home for the winter.  Sox fans know this scenario oh too well as we needed the famous “blackout play-in game” in 2009 to earn our central division crown.  For Twins fans, it is as Yogi Berra says, “dejvu all over again!” So as the Twin vs. Tigers game on Tuesday approaches, several perplexing questions are likely peculating through White Sox fans minds:twins_logo

Who do I cheer for?  Is it wrong be interested in this game at all?  To pick a side?  Can I cheer for my enemy and still be called a Sox fan? As Hawk Harrelson would say:  “YEEEEAAASSS.” Before you read my pick, understand a couple of  things.

First, while I’m a diehard Sox fan, I’m also a fanatic of the game of baseball…period.  A tiebreaker represents all that is exciting in this game, even if a team only needs 87 wins to reach the postseason. Second, there is no right or wrong answer in this equation.  That’s the beauty of the game. Let’s examine some points of debate:

The “ex” Sox factor
The Tigers have Magglio Ordonez and former coaches Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont. “O wee OOOO…MAGGGLIO,” left Chicago via the Scott Boras express, and the perception among Sox fans was he used the Sox to get a better offer from the Tigers.  It was the first shot heard ’round the Cell, that the Sox would refuse to play ball with Boras. The Twins have Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Orlando Cabrera and World Series Hero Joe Crede. Crede was a “Don’t Stop Believin” voice of the 2005 World Champion Sox.
Advantage:  Twins.


The Underdog Factor

Often synonymous with payroll, this year there is even more at play.  The Twins will be without their best power hitter Justin Morneau, and defensive stalwart Joe Crede, who both are out with back issues. The Tigers are without Dontrelle Willis and Joel Zumaya. Team Payroll?  Detroit has the 5th highest in baseball at just over $115 million. The Twins rank 24th at about $65.3 million. Advantage:  Twins

The Economy
With the flaying automobile industry and a depressed economy, Detroit has been referred to as a city “that needs the play-offs” as an emotional shot in the arm. Opponents argue, the Detroit Red Wings domination should be plenty.  People then counter argue with the Detroit Lions. Seriously though, according to a 2007 census study, Michigan has a 12% poverty rate, while Minnesota has an 8.1% poverty rate. Advantage:  Tigers

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Always the Bridesmaid Factor

While the Tigers won the AL Pennant in 2006, they did it as the AL wildcard team and have never won an A.L. Central Title since the 1998 realignment. The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, their 4th in team history. The Twins have won the AL Central 4 times since 1998. They last won the World Series in 1991, their third in team history. Advantage: Twins by numbers, Tigers by Underdog Factor.

The Sox Hate Factor
This is pure opinion here.  I hate the Metrodome as a Sox fan because of our record there.  I hate the Metrodome as a baseball fan, as it’s a horrible place to watch a game.  I respect the Metrodome as an outsider because of the electric advantage it gives the Twins.
Detroit Tiger fans invade U.S. Cellular Field at a far greater rate and with a higher rate of irritability than Twins fans do.
Advantage: Tie

For me, its always about the underdog, or the little guy.  I’ve got to go with the Minnesota Twins.  With a total team salary that is 45% less than their opponent, and two of their better players injured, it’s amazing they made it this far.  Say it is so Joe…Crede that is. So for now….big gulp….larger swallow…Go Twins!  At least it’s not the Cubs.

And as Sox fans we can always say that we helped the Twins get there by taking 4 of 6 from the Tigers to end the season. To Twins Fan and Sportsbank Writer Peter Christian, remember who said your team would be here in August?  You can remember me in the Call Outs. Now that all the information has been presented to you, who are you cheering for Sox fans?

The Detroit Tigers: Winning the Stupid Way

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By H. Jose Bosch

I’ve already said here on The Sports Bank that the Tigers are in first places despite winning ugly. What I hadn’t realized at the time is that the ugly is not only on the field but also off it.

Detroit’s top five paid players make up roughly 58 percent of the team’s payroll (fifth highest in the league) and it’s safe to say their combined contributions to the team are not equivalent to what they are getting paid for.

Here’s an on-the-surface assessment of the Tigers’ five-highest paid players. (Three batters, two pitchers)

Batters (M. Cabrera, M. Ordonez & C. Guillen)

.294 BA, .449 SLG, .358 OBP, 29 HR, 108 RBI

Pitchers (D. Willis, J. Bonderman)

1-5, 10.50 ERA, 18 K, 31 BB

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Miguel Cabrera ($14.4 million) is the second-highest paid player on the team and he’s earning his keep and severely skewing the above combined stat line with his great averages and accounting for nearly 50% of the three players combined plate appearances. He’s the team’s leader in batting average (.333), slugging percentage (.551) and on-base percentage (.397). He also leads the team in driving in runs and is tied for 2nd in home runs.

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However, Magglio Ordonez ($18.9 million) and Carlos Guillen ($10 million) have little pop (combined .248, .317, .345, 8 HR, 48 RBI) in their bats and both have missed significant time due to injury or just plain sucking. That’s not even the worst part.

The worst part is the money they are flushing down the toilet to two terrible pitchers. The Tigers are paying Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis $22,500,000 combined this season to have an output less than that of a journeyman starter. Together they don’t even make up a crappy pitcher. Yet this talent-deprived Franken-pitcher would be the third-highest paid player in the league (and $4 million more than the current highest-paid pitcher in the league – Barry Zito).

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No first-place team is wasting as much money on its five highest paid players. The Los Angeles Angels come the closest. They also have three batters at the top of their payroll (Guerrero, Hunter and Matthews Jr.) and the Angels’ big 3 have similar combined stats to the Tigers’ big 3 in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage (Mostly due to the fact that Cabrera skews the averages so high due to so many more plate appearances than Ordonez and Guillen). However the Angels’ trio has driven in more runs (121-108) in 135 less at-bats and most importantly the Angels boast a record that is 8 games better than the Tigers.

New York’s three best hitters are also among the five highest players on the team and one of them (Alex Rodriguez) hasn’t even played the entire season. Kick and scream all you want about the Yankees spending but at least their players are earning their pay (for now) and winning a much tougher division.

Worse than the high paid hitter’s failures, no team’s highest paid pitchers even come close to the Tigers’ futility. Just to see what a good team spends its money on, the Yankees’ two highest paid pitchers (4th and 5th on the overall payroll) are a combined 20-11, 3.68 ERA, 222 K and 106 BB.

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Dave Dombrowski should be given credit for making Detroit baseball relevant again. The Tiger GM convinced owner Mike Illitch to open the purse strings and spend like a stay-at-home mom on QVC’s Web site. However to this point, the Tigers have only put together one remotely successful season under Dombrowski and the 2006 World Series run was more fluke than a great plan constructed by Dombrowski. I think 2007 and 2008 proved that.

The problem was and is Dombrowski’s fear of arbitration and his inability to play the market to his advantage.

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The Bonderman and Willis contracts were a direct result of trying to avoid the apparently fearful situation of arbitration. Maybe I don’t have a great grasp on the concept, but no player has won more than $10 million in arbitration and that player was Ryan Howard who had already won an MVP Award prior to that mediation. Surely neither Bonderman nor Willis was going to come close to that figure and break the bank, even if they won their cases. But rather than bite the bullet for a year Dombrowski offered very stupid contract. He also did this with Nate Robertson (3 years/$21.25), who is being paid $7 million this year to not be on the active roster.

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Bonderman may have convinced the front office to give him a longer contract after arbitration, but his numbers dipped significantly from 2006 to 2007. Robertson had a losing record in 2007 and should’ve just been released, but even if he wasn’t, Dombrowski would’ve had an easier time dropping him after 2008. Same goes for Willis.

Had Dombrowski given himself the chance to see how unhelpful those three pitchers were, he might’ve saved himself roughly $40 million of the past two seasons, money that could’ve been spent on a more reliable third starter or to shore up the bullpen.

The Guillen and Ordonez contracts aren’t as much of a problem; Dombrowski just didn’t know how to use the market to his advantage. Last season the Tigers should’ve been sellers and both Guillen and Ordonez were shoppable. Hindsight is 20/20, but despite both players contributing very little this season, the Tigers are in first. It makes Dombrowski look foolish for holding on to these parts when he clearly could find parts to throw together and make a competitive team in a mediocre division.

Today, Dombrowski is staring at a team with major holes in the bullpen, at the back of the rotation and a team with little pop from the left side of the plate. Not to mention that the team’s second best “hitter,” Brandon Inge, is playing through a serious knee injury and both Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson are underperforming.Bad contracts make most players on the team unmovable and there is little depth in the farm system, a problem that could’ve been solved by making some deals last season.

Detroit is defying all conventional wisdom by remaining in first place this far into the season with the team it has. But it has been in spite of Dave Dombrowski’s decision-making, not because of it.

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