Archive for the 'baseball' Category

Game 1. This is the playoffs guys.

October 4, 2006

Went to the Metrodome yesterday to take in game 1 of the ALDS between the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland As. I didn’t like what I saw. The Twins were useless against Zito which was bad enough, but Gardenhire made a few decisions that weren’t exactly “playoff caliber”. I expect some of you will think to yourselves, “here goes another ‘fan’ thinking he can outcoach the manager.” Hell, I might even think that way. Anyway, here are the problems I had with the Twins and some of the decisions that were made both in-game and more globally.

Inning 1. Luis Castillo ekes out a lead-off walk, from a very “walk-prone” pitcher in Barry Zito. Now is the time for “small ball”. Let Punto move him over to second with a bunt. Nope. Gardy sends him and he’s thrown out. I like a stolen base as mush as the next guy and if it’s successful you set a nice tone for the game, but there is also the inverse of that. A couple more pitches and were on to the second inning.

Inning 2. Make Zito actually throw a few pitches! A 1-2-3, eight pitch inning.

Inning 3. Eleven pitches this inning. Why is Phil Nevin in the lineup? He sucks against lefties (.243 for the season, .211 with the Twins), has really done nothing for the Twins (8-42, .190BA, 1HR, 4RBI), and is this team’s 2006 version of Bret Boone. Then I saw that he got two dingers off of Zito in Texas. OK. I understand. He still sucks.

Inning 4. Twelve pitches. Castillo gets another walk to lead off the inning and this time Gardy has Punto do what he should have in the first. It goes for naught however as Mauer slaps another ball into the ground and Cuddyer does nothing with his opportunity.

Inning 5. Thirteen pitches. White gets a two-out double and Mr. October, Phil Nevin, weakly pops out to end the inning.

Inning 6. Things are getting desperate. Bartlett pops out on one pitch. Castillo gets on base again — a single. Punto pops out on the FIRST PITCH. Mauer shows some discipline and gets a walk and then Cuddy ends things with a ground out.

Inning 7. Eight pitches. Someone (Rondell White) finally got to Zito with a homerun to left. Reyes and Neshek are warming up in the pen (this will be important later).

Inning 8. Bartlett takes five pitches to get a nice lead-off double. Castillo misses on a bunt and then he decides on his own to try to hit (this was confirmed by Gardenhire). He grounds out weakly on the third pitch to third. Three pitches later (Punto – 2, Mauer – 1), nada.

Inning 9 (top). Even after not getting Bartlett across in the eighth, the crowd was finally into the game and then… Jesse Crain — to meet Frank Thomas. Why? The Twins are down by one. The crowd is in the game. Neshek (a crowd favorite) is ready — and not someone Frank has seen much (0-1). To be fair, Crain had a decent September, but he’s got nothing that Thomas hasn’t seen. Neshek or Reyes were the right choices here. BOOM. As soon as it cleared the fence, you just knew the Twins…

Inning 9 (bottom). …would score a, now meaningless, run in the bottom of the ninth. Cuddyer got a dome-triple and scored on Hunter’s ground out. Throw in Morneau and Rondell White’s non-clutchness and you’ve got a 3-1 loss.

Did Santana pitch great? No. Did he pitch well enough to win? Maybe. If the Twins don’t start hitting and if Gardy doesn’t start treating this like the playoffs, it’s going to be a short playoffs season for the Minnesota 9.

For a time it looked like a lost season…

August 26, 2006

A couple of months ago I pledged to eat my 22-year old wool Twins Cap if they ended the season ahead of either the White Sox or the Tigers. It seemed like a pretty safe bet. The Twins sucked. They sucked hard. With “players” such as Tony Batista, Rondell White and Ruben Sierra brought in at the beginning of the season to bolster a young, inexperience lineup, I saw little hope. That hope fled even further when Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart went down. Even with Morneau hitting better and Mauer hitting more than missing, Johan couldn’t pitch every night (and he really needed to the way Radke was winding down his career).

So you see where the lack of confidence came from.

A funny thing happened — they ditched the old guys and brought in the youngsters that should have been with the team at the beginning of the season (if you’re going to bring in some free agents, bring in some decent ones). Since then, they’ve gone 50-19 and have been the best team in the league. They’ve passed Chicago, and if they win tonight could be only four games back of Detroit with a month left in the season.

That hat is looking scared. I’ll eat it, but it will have been worth it to be able to enjoy a season such as this.

Go Twins!

“Jump on board, bitches! I’m going to carry us tonight.”

March 6, 2006

It’s been reported that Kirby Puckett announced, “Jump on board, boys! I’m going to carry us tonight,” prior to Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. This may have been the “clean” version. Kirby was known at the time to use the “B” word pretty liberally. Three innings later he robbed Ron Gant of extra bases and with Terry Pendleton on first, probably saved a run with an amazing leaping grab in left center. A few innings later he pushed a run across with a sac fly. And then, in the bottom of the eleventh when the rag-armed lefty Charlie Liebrandt came in, he told Al Newman and pitching coach Rick Stelmaszek, “I got this guy! It’s over.” When the ball sailed over the wall, Jack Buck exclaimed rather calmly “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” Kirby Puckett is was the most dynamic player I’ve ever seen and all information is pointing to his death this evening after a massive brain aneurysm. What a blow. I heard the preliminary announcement at about 11:05AM on Sunday morning on the radio. I went numb.

I spent hundred of nights listening to Twins games on the radio and watching on TV when Kirby was playing. It took me a couple of years to really get my heart back in the game after his career was suddenly cut short by glaucoma. We never got a chance to say goodbye. Never got a chance to see him one last time in the pinstripes he, Hrbek, Viola, Gaetti, Laudner, Lombo, Brunansky, Blyleven, Senor Smoke and Larkin ushered in.

Kirby’s life started to unravel after his retirement, but from what I knew of him, he will forever be the player to who all others are compared. A true Hall of Famer and the greatest player in Minnesota history (in my mind and many others). There will never be another “Puck.”

Goodbye. Which way is it to Cooperstown?

the best baseball game (i’ve ever attended)

August 24, 2005

So we got 4 tickets to last night’s Twins/White Sox game from a National Night Out drawing a month ago. At the time the Twins were in a downward spiral without much upside. I was down on the squad. Field loves to go to games as much as I do so we planned it out. It fell on his cousin’s 5th birthday so we took him and my brother-in-law. I got excited a few days ago when it became apparent that it would be Johan Santana against Freddy Garcia — a clash of Venezuelan stud pitchers. What a game it was.This game had everything; great pitching, amazing fielding (three wall-rocking-game-saving catches), and one moment that will live in Twins lore for ages. Santana gave up a hit on the first pitch of the game, so I figured at least if the game was in hand (or out-of-hand) inthe 7th, we’d be able to sneak out if the kids were getting antsy. Everytime Santana pitches you’ve got a shot at seeing a no-no. Santan was masterful as he has ever been but the real story was Garcia. A no-hitter (although I’d have scored Cuddyer’s ball down the third base line a hit as opposed to the official scoring of E5) through 7 innings was something to see. Jacque Jones came to the plate to start the 8th and swung for the fences — which he accomplished with a monster shot to right-center. Garcia didn’t even turn to watch. With that one curveball he lost the no-hitter, the shutout and the game.

The crowd noise was unbelievable — the loudest I’ve heard at a game since game 6 of the World Series in 1987 (number 2 on my list of great baseball games I’ve attended). Nathan came in and apart from the walk he gave up shut them down in the ninth for the save.

Try to imagine giving up only one hit in 8 innings and losing the game. It’s pretty rare. In fact it’s only the second time in 106 years of White Sox baseball that it has ever happened. It’s also only the second time in Twins history that they’ve won a game with only one hit (that happened just over 41 years ago).

Best Twins game of my lifetime? Maybe not (remember Jack Morris’ performance in game 7 of the 1991 World Series?), but damn close in that regard also.

One more great aspect — the game was over in 2 hours and 8 minutes. Sheer (almost) perfection.