Jim Thome Wins AL Player of the Week

Jim Thome

The man that has hit more home runs against the Minnesota Twins than any player in the history of baseball is making Twins fans forget all 57 jacks he clubbed against his current team. [Read more…]

Joe Mauer in a Slump?

Joe Mauer

Can’t believe what you’re reading?  Well your eyes are not deceiving you, the words Mauer and slump might be together in a sentence for the first time in Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer’s 27 years on this planet. [Read more…]

Mauer Keeps it Small Market, Gives Fielder Fans Hope

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Prince Fielder and Joe Mauer are two very different MLB players.  The one thing they could have in common—a desire to buck the trend of big market baseball and stay with their respective clubs, steering clear of the free agent market free-for-all. 

If Joe Mauer’s eight-year $184 million deal Sunday sounded a lot like Mark Teixeira’s, your memory serves you correctly. As Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio walked around Maryvale Ballpark in Arizona Monday, his checkbook was probably burning a hole in his pocket. But before he pulls out his pen, Mark knows three things matter when it comes to Fielder: Milwaukee’s ability to cough up a comparable chunk of coin, the projected long-term success of the ballclub and the returning talent on its roster. [Read more…]

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 exchange: Tigers-Twins showdown

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By H. Jose Bosch and Andy Weise

The Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins are the only real reason to keep track of baseball this week. For those of you lost in college football and the NFL, the Tigers are just two games ahead of the Twins and tonight is the first game of a big four-game series between the two clubs.

Twins fan Andy Weise and I exchanged e-mails about tonight’s game and the series.

HJB-My first question to Andy is why, WHY! do the Twins always come back despite being so mediocre during the regular season? I mean, off the top of my head I can remember just one season in recent memory where the Twins were clear cut better than everyone else. The rest of the time they just seem to stew in crappiness with everyone else until the last few weeks of the season. (I ask this because I respect the hell out of them for balling up late in the season, something the Tigers have had trouble doing.)

AW-Well it’s nice to see the respect. I don’t have the hatred for the Tigers like I have had for Cleveland and Chicago White Sox but I was disappointed last year in the Tigers vs. White Sox game that if Detroit one, the Twins would win the division and head to the playoffs.
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The Twins overachieved last year, in my opinion. They had an extremely young staff that did fairly well and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer finishing in the top five for the MVP race proved that they have the star power to carry this team. It’s clear though that inconsistency in pitching has hurt them a lot this year. Guys like Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano have been big time busts, they lost Kevin Slowey to injury and they’ve had to rely on guys like Carl Pavano down the stretch, not ideal!

What about the Tigers? Where do you see the problems on your team that have put them in a position where they could lose the division this week? They seem to have some big names in pitching and hitting but why haven’t they closed this thing out yet?

HJB-Those big name pitchers and hitters haven’t gotten the job done consistently. Edwin Jackson, who was a pleasant surprise of a Cy Young candidate, has gone 6-5 with a 4.80 ERA in the last two months of the season. Magglio Ordonez, who can reach base, just doesn’t have pop in his bat. Curtis Granderson is an electric player, but this season he’s been an awful lead off hitter. And the bullpen has chosen the final weeks of the season to pitch like we all thought they were: mediocre.

Don’t even get me started on the Jarrod Washburn deal. I would make that trade again but I want to just take a golf club to that freaking knee and put it out of commission for good.

And don’t be down on Pavano. He’s been a Tiger killer of late. Speaking of pitchers, look at the probable match ups:

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) v. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) v. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) v. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) v. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)

There are only two pitchers on this list I’d trust (Verlander and Pavano since he’s been a Tiger killer of late). Everyone else would make me nervous. Who do you like in this series?

I’m going to be optimistic and say Porcello, Verlander and Robertson can pull off wins. What’s your perspective?rick-porcello-kevin-youkilis

AW-I thought the Tigers getting Edwin Jackson was going to be a huge move. He looked good with Tampa Bay last year and I always see the Tigers making moves I wish the Twins would make. And you’re right on Pavano; he’s given the Twins a boost that they really needed with more than half of their rotation not helping this year.

As I look at the match ups for this series, tonight’s game features two guys who really need to step it up and show their team’s they can pitch in a big game setting. I do think Porcello is the better pitcher of the two right now but Blackburn has a little more experience. Tuesday’s match up with Duensing and Verlander will probably feature the best match up of them all. If the Twins can keep it close and get to the bullpen once Verlander goes out, I think Minnesota can come away with that one. Do you like Bonine against Pavano? I don’t know much about your guy but that might be a slugfest of a game. And finally, Baker versus Robertson is a good one given that the Twins haven’t hit good against lefties. Baker needs to rebound after his loss to the Tigers a couple Sunday’s ago and I think he can do that.

Offensively, Michael Cuddyer has to keep playing the way he has been playing. The Twins need production from some the lower part of the order too. Nick Punto looks like he’s finally getting some good at-bats and Jose Morales has proved that his bat can help too.

I think the Twins have to win 3/4, they can afford to lose one but not two. I think game two and four will be the ones where the Tigers are favored to win.

HJB-I’m conceding the Bonine game right now. I have zero confidence in him. I agree with your assessments of the other games, which worries and excites me at the same time. As a Tigers fan I’m going to be a nervous wreck but as a baseball fan I know these are going to be some epic games and a nice appetizer for the postseason, especially for the guy whose team makes the playoff (*cough*me*cough*).

verlanderThe only thing that worries me about the Verlander game is he has a tendency to give up a big inning late in his start and as you alluded to earlier, the Twins bullpen is pretty solid Detroit’s has shown flashes of brilliance but I’d rather spot them a 2-3 run lead rather than go into the bullpen with a tied game or (eeek) trailing.

Everyone in the lineup is a tough out; they just haven’t done it on a consistent basis (except for Miguel Cabrera). If there was ever a time for the line up to be clicking on all cylinders, it’s during this series. Some of the changes the Tigers made, like getting Adam Everett and Gerald Laird, were done because we didn’t need more sluggers and we needed a better defense in tight games. Now we’ll see how the moves pay off. These are going to be tight games and I don’t think Detroit can expect to slug its way into the postseason during this series.

Last question Andy. If you asked me the one thing I NEED to see in this series to make me feel good it’s a solid bullpen. As I said, I think these games are going to be close and Detroit will need the ‘pen more than ever (especially when Bonine and Robertson start). What’s the ONE aspect of the Twins’ game you want to see at its best during this series?

AW-One? Haha, I don’t know if there is just one. Off the top of my head I have two right now — starting pitchers cannot afford to let the game get out of reach early. If the starting pitchers for the Twins struggle early and let the game get out of hand, I’m going to worry. I’ve seen plenty of comebacks lately and some big innings from the Twins but I just don’t think they have the firepower to do that too much more. The pitchers have to keep the games close or protect leads if we have them.

The other thing like I pointed out earlier — Twins need to get offensive production from the infielders outside of Cuddyer. Punto, Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher and Alexi Casilla, whoever they send out from all these guys, they have to produce some offense. It hurts the Twins big time if they can’t get some guys on base for the top of the order to hit home.

It’s nice that the race is only two games right now and the teams have four games head-to-head. You can’t ask for anything more exciting at this point. Overall both teams have been extremely inconsistent and probably do not deserve to make the playoffs but rules are rules, the division winner will make the playoffs and head to New York to face the Yankees when all is said and done.

There will be a live blog of tonight’s game at Michigan and Trumbull. Check it out!

Are the Minnesota Twins the team to beat in the AL Central?

joemauer2

By Joe Storms

The highly anticipated three game weekend series between the Twins and Tigers will hopefully give baseball fans the drama and excitement of a September divisional battle that otherwise seems to be missing this season.  The Twins trail the Tigers by 4 games with 16 games remaining for both teams.  But does Minnesota have a realistic chance at stealing their first division crown since 2006?

The Twins and Tigers play each other 7 times in the final 16 games, but Detroit also has the added challenge of facing the Chicago White Sox 6 more times before the division is decided.  The challenges for Detroit don’t end with just the schedule either.  The pitching staff suddenly seems full of holes as recently acquired starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn is out of the rotation for the time being with a knee injury.  His replacement for Sunday’s game, Nate Robertson, has battled his own injury problems this season and since the start of 2008, is 1-2 with an ERA of 6.57 against the Twins. Their starter for Saturday is ace Justin Verlander, but he too has struggled against Minnesota.  Since 2007, the right-hander has suffered a 1-4 record with a 5.40 ERA at the hands of the division rival.  Also, All-star Edwin Jackson seems to be slowing down after a strong season as he is only 2-2 with a 6.03 ERA in his last five starts, which also could raise a legitimate concern about 20 year old rookie sensation and Friday night’s starter Rick Porcello.  Already having pitched 148 innings this year, does he have the conditioning and arm strength to avoid the end-of-the-season slump that plagues so many young pitchers when they first enter the majors?

rickporcello

Meanwhile, the Twins have also faced injury problems of their own but seem to be rallying around it, unlike the Tigers who have lost 7 of their last 10.  They have scrapped together a four game win streak since learning their former MVP, Justin Morneau, is done for the season due to a stress fracture in his back.  A struggling Morneau of late may have even been holding back the Twins.  Since August 15th, when Morneau’s batting average finally dipped below .300 for the first time since April 28th, Morneau batted .100 (7 for 70) and the Twins have posted a respectable 18-13 record.  A closer look, however, shows that they are 9-1 in games without Morneau and only 9-12 when he played.  A big reason is due to timely hitting and guys stepping up their game to compensate for his absence.  The Twins are hitting .274 with runners in scoring position this season but in those games without Morneau the number jumps up to .352.  The main reason for the jump is due to Michael Cuddyer and MVP candidate Joe Mauer as both seem to have stepped up their play with the first baseman out.  In those 10 games, Cuddyer is batting .419 with 13 RBIs, 6 doubles and 5 homeruns and Mauer is hitting .500 with 9 RBIs and 3 homeruns.

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Minnesota and Detroit enter the weekend series and the last few weeks on the schedule fighting for their playoff lives while battling key injuries with questions and concerns sprinkled through their lineup.  The Tigers lately have played like they are just holding on and hoping time runs out on the Twins.  Even though Detroit has a 4 game lead in the division, the eventual winner will be the team that overcomes the obstacles, rallies around each other and gets hot at the right time.  It has all of the makings for an exciting finish…

Minnesota Twins: Blindly Watching

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By David Palmer

You know that scene in The Ring with the empty chair sitting in front of the snowy TV.  That has been my TV for the last six weeks.  Being caught in a ferocious DirecTV service battle since the end of May, it has really cut into my sports and overall television viewing.  With that said, I haven’t been able to watch many Twins games over this period and have been forced to either listen to the local radio broadcast, go to a bar, or god forbid follow play-by-play online.

dangladden

Side Note: I have a serious grievance against the Twins radio booth.  John Gordon is killing me softly.  I totally understand his place in Twins history and his community involvement, but I can’t stand his broadcasts anymore.  I know the Twins are slowly weaning him off, by giving Dan “The Dazzle Man” Gladden a share of the play-by-play during games, but it is becoming more and more excruciating listening to Gordon.  He rarely gives inning/score/out updates, but he will tell you the pitch count about 35 times an at-bat.  He mixes up players more than anybody should when it’s their f’ing job to say who is running/hitting/fielding.  When a ball is in play he waits until the play is over to dictate what just happened.  So, say Mauer hits a ball up the middle with two men on, you have to wait 10-15 seconds before you know if was hit into a double play, a run scoring hit, caught by the centerfielder, or whatever the case may be.  Believe me, when you’re used to instant gratification on TV, it’s a loooong 10-15 seconds.  Let the record show I have no beef with Gladden, but good god can we get a young up-and-coming broadcaster to sit next to him.

Even though I haven’t been watching Twins games, I have been following just as closely.  This has given me a unique perspective from which to see things from.  Since I have been relying solely on other people’s opinion (via: newspaper, blogs, sports-talk radio, radio play-by-play, etc…), I hear almost nothing but hyperbole from either side.  Everything is blown waaay out of perspective.  It all seemingly changes on a daily basis, usually depending on a win or loss the night before, they are either the worst team in the AL or ready to start contending for a World Series.

So, now that we’ve made it to the All-Star break and the end of the season’s first half we can take a look at where the Twins have been this year, where they are right now, and where they’re going to be at the end of the season.  One thing I can say about our team is that we haven’t had too many highs or too many lows thus far.  It would be a terrible roller coaster.  We have been pretty even keel with no losing streaks longer than 6 games and no winning streaks longer than 4 games.  Coincidentally, those streaks were one after the other.  We performed well against the National League…again, going 12-6, and especially took care of business against the Brewers winning 5 of 6.  On the other hand we got absolutely clobbered by the Yankees this year.  Our season series is already over with them winning all 7 games.  In the words of Pedro, “I’ll just tip my hat, and call the Yankees my daddy.”
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Some pleasant surprises from the first half have been: Jason Kubel becoming a legitimate DH threat and clutch hitter, Joe Crede playing in 68 of a possible 89 games, Nick Blackburn becoming the ace of the staff, and R.A. “The Sun God” Dickey and his dancing knuckleball and rubber arm.  Some major disappointments from the first half: Alexi Casilla running a 5K backwards in his development, Delmon Young’s plate discipline, fielding and base-running, as well as Baker and Liriano’s collective suckiness.

Right now we sit in third place at 45-44, four games behind Detroit.  Luckily we play in one of the weaker divisions and have a lot of divisional games yet to play.  What scares me is the fact the Mauer and Morneau have been absolutely red hot in the first half and we aren’t doing any better.  If either or both of them cool off at all we are in serious trouble.

Red Sox Twins Spring Baseball

Nick Punto Update: It has been awhile since the last update and I can’t exactly say he’s swinging a hot bat, but he nudged himself over the Mendoza line at .201.   In a recent interview not even Gardenhire could deny that Punto is a terrible hitter, but covered for him by saying he does so many other things to help the team win.   Lets break this thing down:  Punto is sporting a pedestrian .974 fielding %, 16 RBI, a 1:1 BB:K ratio, and a beastly 4 extra base hits.  Which one of those is helping us win?

So, where are we going to land at the end of the season you ask?  I think a heated three-team race for first will ensue between the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox.  All three seem to have an equal number of flaws, and it will baseballpunchlikely come down to injuries and who ever helps themselves the most at the trading deadline.  In the end, I believe the Twins will prevail.  They have the deepest lineup, the better defense, and the best closer among those three teams.  Don’t expect the drop-off offensively from Morneau we say last year.  He has taken better care of himself and the extra rest at the All-Star break has to help.  And, Denard Span should have a better second half with his dizziness problems hopefully behind him.

Having successfully alleviated my issues with DirecTV this week, I look forward to a second half of Twins viewing from the comfort of my chair.  I’m just hoping I don’t die in seven days after writing this.