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.
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.”
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.
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 likely 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.
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