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The Bleacher Bums: September 2006 Archive

Phil and the prospects

Posted at 9:26 AM on September 1, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Late last night the Twins made some intruiging roster moves. Firstly, they acquired Phil Nevin from the Cubs off waivers. I do remember that he put on quite a show when the Cubs were in town earlier this season, and had a lot of pop in his bat. Hopefully he can shore up the DH spot, and even fill in at first. (He also is a emergency catcher. Didn't he used to play third, too?)

The Twins also called up a few players from the minors. Scott Baker is back, and catcher Chris Heintz is in to spell the tiring Mauer. Possibly the most intruiging one of them all is Alexi Casilla, who should round out the piranhas with his blazing speed. (Casilla, who was acquired for JC Romero, started the season in A ball and batted .331 with 12 doubles, 33 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 78 games before being promoted to AA, where he proceeded to hit .305 with 19 stolen bases in 43 games.) Love it.

Limiting mistakes

Posted at 11:40 AM on September 1, 2006 by Ben Tesch

It's kind of sad seeing that the bar for Carlos Silva's starts are now down to simply "limiting his mistakes", meaning he's bound to make a bunch and you just hope that he keeps the number low.

Is the new stadium really good for the fans?

Posted at 1:03 PM on September 4, 2006 by David Zingler (5 Comments)

There is nothing more American than a family attending a Major League Baseball game under the clear blue sky. The smell of freshly cut grass, the wafting aroma of roasted peanuts and the wholesome fun that ensues represents what is good and pure.

Of course, that’s what stadium proponents say when drooling on the blue prints of the Twins proposed new ballpark. Take the kids out the game, it’s a tiny slice of the American Dream after all.

That’s nice, but has anyone stopped to consider that fewer people will pay more money to see the Twins play in person when their new stadium is complete? The tax payer funded project will likely be smaller, have more “premium seats” and less (if any) general admission. You can forget about the $6 nose bleeders, that’s for sure.

With less supply and more demand for their product, the Twins will probably pare down their trademark list of promotions and specials which will make it more difficult for working families to load up the minivan and take Susie and Johnny to the game.

But don’t let that dishearten you, the CEO’s and other heavy hitters of the local business community will be able to wine and dine their clients in unprecedented luxury (at least for Minnesota). Imagine a first class suite equipped with the latest Cambria countertop, leather massage chairs, plasma TVs, and a decadent buffet complete with an ice sculpture and champagne fountain.

You better try imagining it, because you’ll never experience it unless you can land a baseball in the bed of a pickup truck from the upper deck (or something like that).

So, while we love the idea of a new, state-of-the-art baseball stadium and acknowledge the many short comings of the Metrodome, maybe we should also examine why the stadium is being built and who stands to benefit from it the most.

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Strange weekend

Posted at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Bert drops an F-bomb on live television and gets suspended, Rondell's 2-run homer wins it for Boof's strong Tampa Bay homecoming, and the Twins are back in the wild card lead after the Red Sox tie the White Sox in the bottom of the 9th and then win it in the 10th. Also, suddenly encouraging news about Liriano, who feels great and is going to start throwing BP. How was your weekend?

Jeff Reardon's journey through the darkness

Posted at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2006 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

The heart of Jeff Reardon's darkness
"The funny thing is, when I went in for the surgery, because I was so depressed then, I actually didn't care if I woke up, which is a tough feeling," Reardon says. "I had a heart stent put in a couple of years ago, and I was very scared when my son was alive; but this one, I wasn't nervous because I was so bad with the depression. I figured if something happens, it happens."

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And they're off!

Posted at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2006 by Ben Tesch

BaseballRace.com: Watch any baseball season standings horserace style!
You can view any major league season, split by league or division (even wild card races), as an animated, date-by-date race between the various teams you choose.The data goes back to 1901, and includes every game of every season up through yesterday.

You can watch the '51 Giants win the pennant by a nose, '75 Reds beat the pack by several lengths, or the '88 Orioles break a leg out of the starting gate. Very cool. Give it a shot and post any particularly good races in the comments.

Is the dawn of a new era upon us?

Posted at 2:19 PM on September 6, 2006 by David Zingler

The Vikings open their 46th season next week (the countdown toward disappointment begins....now) and that usually means a sharp drop in media coverage and fan interest in whatever the Twins are doing. For example, when the local nine clinched their first of three straight division crowns back in September 2002, all anyone could talk about was the two extra points Vikings kicker Doug Brien missed in an overtime loss to the Bills that same day.

I however, am sensing a shift – an opportunity for the Twins to take top billing. The Vikings always had the star power: Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Cris Carter, but that’s not the case anymore. The Twins with Johan Santana, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are clearly a more exciting team than the Brad Johnson and Darren Sharper led Vikings.

Another thing helping the Twins is that they are actually in a pennant race this time. In 2002 and 2004 it was a runaway and in 2003 the White Sox collapsed in the season’s final weeks. This year should be different. I, for one, say this shift is a long time coming. The Vikings, with all their glitz and glamour, always choked in the end, while the Twins have delivered titles to this state.

Any smart sports fan will put the Vikes on the back burner and ride it out with the Twins. It’s the only chance we have for a happy ending.

Just a flesh wound

Posted at 3:43 PM on September 6, 2006 by Ben Tesch

The guttiest player in baseball?
Jim Caple asks if there is any player who has sucked it up for his team this year more than Brad Radke. Not only has he had a torn labrum for the past couple years, but he's been pitching on it with a side shot of cortisone ever since (and not too shabbily). A good read, plus he chimes in on the whole Bert Blyleven thing.

The curse of Kyle?

Posted at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2006 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

It might just be a coincidence, but the Reds pick up Kyle Lohse and are now in a downward spiral, and the Twins lead the AL wild card. Cincinnati has lost Griffey to yet another injury, lost Guardado for the rest of the season to a torn elbow, and lost the wild card lead to the Giants while going 3-11 in their last 14 games. Two of those 14 games were Kyle Lohse starts, where he's given up 9 runs in 11.1 innings, and received only 1 run in support.

Did I forget to mention they also have Grant Balfour, Eric Milton, Juan Castro, and already jettisoned Joe Mays?

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Statistically speaking, we should be in

Posted at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Labor Day is welcome sign for leaders: First place on holiday usually means trip to postseason
Since baseball expanded the playoffs in 1995, 73 of 92 leaders (67 first-place clubs and 25 other teams either in sole possession or tied for first in the Wild Card standings) went on to reach the playoffs.

That's a 79.3-percent success rate for the teams on top when the fireworks subsided on Labor Day. Conversely, only 20.7 percent of the leaders, or 18 teams, missed the playoffs after leading on Labor Day.

The good news for the Wild Card-leading Twins and Padres is that of the 25 Labor Day Wild Card leaders during the past 11 seasons, eight were not leading when the season ended, and yet two of those made the playoffs as division champions. Six of the 25, or 24 percent, missed the playoffs.

Leaving on a midnight plane to Scranton

Posted at 1:40 PM on September 8, 2006 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

From Franchise Tax by Jeff Passan:

"Francisco Liriano is not the type of player with whom a team should mess around, and he certainly is not the type of player on whom to thrust a maybe/we’ll-see/let’s-play-it-by-ear scenario.

And all of this is confusing, too, because baseball prides itself on a few simple rules. You show up on time. You respect the game. And you do not put a franchise pitcher on a commercial jet headed to Pennsylvania in the middle of a pennant race because he might throw 50 pitches to live minor-league batters."

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Stadiums and primaries

Posted at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Twins stadium main issue in House primary race
State Rep. Neil Peterson, of Bloomington, faces a Republican challenger in next Tuesday's primary election. Peterson's opponent is upset about his support of the tax increase for the new Twins stadium, and hopes voter discontent over the ballpark tax helps his campaign.

Liriano looking good in rehab start

Posted at 11:26 AM on September 10, 2006 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

Liriano pitched 3 no-hit innings last night for Rochester, and looked sharp. He was even lauded by Glen Perkins, who came in for Liriano and pitched the other 6 innings and gave up only 1 hit.

Liriano is now scheduled to start Wednesday against Oakland, who by the way have the best record in baseball since the break.

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Town Ball

Posted at 1:53 PM on September 10, 2006 by Ben Tesch

In case you didn't catch it, be sure to not miss Tom Crann's feature on town ball.

A nice homecoming.

Posted at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2006 by Josh Lee

I leave town for a week, and this is what I come back to: 12 runs on 15 hits; triples by Punto, Tyner, and Castillo; Punto with two runs and three RBIs; Torii more or less singlehandedly manufacturing a run against a porous Detroit defense; and did I mention the 15 hits? And those were all supporting performances; the actual star of the game was, of course, Johan Santana. Santana had 59 pitches after three innings, and was visibly frustrated by the home plate umpire's inconsistent strike zone. So what does he do? Gets his next six outs on strikes. Because that's what Cy Young winners do.

I wonder what might happen if I were to go out of town again? Maybe something crazy, like Liriano re-entering the rotation, or Radke playing catch with a broken shoulder. Nah, that's crazy talk.

Phil Nevin -- The happiest Twin

Posted at 7:54 PM on September 11, 2006 by David Zingler

He’s played for 7 teams, hit over 200 big league homeruns, compiled over 1,100 hits and appeared in an All Star game, but Phil Nevin has yet to taste the sweet success of the postseason. On August 31, he found himself back home in San Diego while his team, the last place Cubs, enjoyed an off day. With the waiver-wire trade deadline looming, he was expecting a phone call.

“I knew I was probably going to go somewhere that day,” Nevin admitted. “This was one of the spots I was hoping to go.”

It was widely reported that the slugger lobbied for a trade to the Twins by placing a last minute phone call to friend Ron Gardenhire. Nevin however, downplayed that talk.

“I’ve known Gardy for awhile and we talk once and awhile and that happened to be one of the times we talked,” the 35-year-old explained. “I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

Whatever the case, Nevin is now a very happy member of the Twins. “It is everything I expected when I came over here,” the former #1 overall draft pick commented. “I was looking forward to being part of this group. It seemed like they always played hard and worked hard and I was right on. I am having a good time so far.”

Helping him have a good time are his new, young teammates, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. “It’s fun watching them work everyday,” Nevin said. “They are not just good players, they are good people. They come to the park, they work hard. This is something they like doing, you can tell that by being around them everyday. They are making me feel real young.”

It’s been a hectic year for the former All Star. After beginning the season in Texas, he was dealt to the Cubs on May 31. In the two stops, the California native hit 21 homeruns with 64 RBI.

“I am packing a lot of bags,” Nevin said of his well-traveled campaign. “It’s been a great experience. I’ve played with a lot of guys and made a lot of good friends and I am looking forward to helping this team win.”

Following the August 31 trade, many expected Nevin to step into the Twins DH slot full time. So far that hasn’t happened, but the 12-year veteran says he is comfortable with the situation.

“I’ve got it,” Nevin said when asked if he knew his role. “I am going to be in there against lefties. Whatever I am asked to do…if I come to the park and my name is the line-up, I’ll go out and give it everything I’ve got.”

You get the feeling that Nevin isn’t concerned about numbers or playing time at this point in his career. He’s with a team that has the postseason in its sights and that’s enough to keep the former stalwart happy.

“Obviously, everyone wants to play (in the postseason),” he pointed out. “This could be my first opportunity and that would be great. We have a lot of work in front of us, but I am looking forward to the next three weeks and hopefully several weeks into October.”

Basement bocce ball... and a brawl?

Posted at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Minor leaguers involved in St. Paul brawl
Fort Worth defeated the Saints at Midway Stadium on Sunday to win the championship of the American Association. Police spokesman Tom Walsh says players from each team later encountered one another at Half Time Rec, a bar near the stadium. Walsh says when police fficers were summoned, they found 20 to 30 people throwing punches.

A 15-year contract?

Posted at 9:22 PM on September 12, 2006 by Ben Tesch (3 Comments)

In case you don't pay attention hockey, New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro just signed a 15-year contract. DiPietro's deal is believed to be second only in length in North American sports to the 25-year pact Magic Johnson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981.

I looked into this a little bit, because there happens to be a blog just about baseball contracts. Here are the longest contracts on each team (not including extensions worked in later):


  • Angels: Kendry Morales, 6 years (huh?)
  • Astros: Lance Berkman, 6 years
  • A's: Jason Kendall & Eric Chavez, 6 years
  • Blue Jays: AJ Burnett & BJ Ryan, 5 years
  • Braves: Mike Hampton, 8 years
  • Brewers: Rickie Weeks, 5 years
  • Cardinals: Scott Rolen, 8 years
  • Cubs: Derrek Lee, 5 years
  • Devil Rays: Carl Crawford, 4 years
  • Diamondbacks: Stephen Drew, 5 years
  • Dodgers: JD Drew, 4 years (pays to be a Drew, huh?)
  • Giants: Barry Bonds, 5 years
  • Indians: Grady Sizemore, 6 years
  • Mariners: Adrian Beltre, 5 years
  • Marlins: There is noone on this team with a contract longer than 1 year, which just sounds completely ridiculous. Yet somehow the GM and manager have 3-year contracts?
  • Mets: Carlos Beltran, 7 years
  • Nationals: Jose Vidro, Christian Guzman, Brian Lawrence and Brian Schneider, 4 years
  • Orioles: Miguel Tejada, 6 years
  • Padres: Chan Ho Park, 5 years
  • Phillies: Pat Burrell, 6 years
  • Pirates: Jason Bay, 4 years
  • Rangers: Kevin Millwood and Hank Blalock, 5 years
  • Reds: Ken Griffey Jr, 9 years
  • Red Sox: Manny Ramirez, 8 years
  • Rockies: Todd Helton, 9 years
  • Royals: Mike Sweeney and David DeJesus, 5 years
  • Tigers: Magglio Ordonez and Justin Verlander, 5 years
  • Twins: Torii Hunter, Phil Nevin and Johan Santana: 4 years
  • White Sox: Jim Thome, 6 years
  • Yankees: Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, 10 years

This leads me to this question: Do you think we will ever see a contract like DiPietro's in baseball? 10 years is the max right now. Will the right combination of loyalty and monetary risk ever coincide that a 15-year (or even 25-year) deal would ever happen? Would you sign anyone playing right now to that kind of contract? Pujols? Howard? Liriano? A-Rod?

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Catching up with Kielty

Posted at 9:53 AM on September 13, 2006 by David Zingler

kielty06.jpg

The season couldn't have begun any worse for Bobby Kielty. Caught in a bizarre roster shuffle, the outfielder found himself at Triple A Sacramento, back in the minor leagues for the first time since 2002.

"It wasn't fun by any means - getting sent down," the former Twin explained. "I don't think it's fun for anybody, everybody's goal is to stay in the big leagues. Everything worked out OK, but it was definitely a grind for the first month of the season....Now that I'm here, everything's working out."

All I wanted was to get back up as soon as possible," Kielty continued. "Luckily some things happened to get me back up here really fast. The atmosphere down there isn't as good, the motivation (to play) isn't as great -- it's definitely an eye opener. It makes you think about how long you could possibly be playing the game when you get sent down. I think that's the one thing everybody thinks about."

Primarily used against left handers, Kielty has provided a boost off the A's bench, posting solid numbers (.273/.333/.437, 7 HR, 30 RBI) in limited duty. Although one thing has been missing from his game - the walks. In 245 at-bats the normally patient hitter has garnered just 21 free passes.

"(My walks are down) probably because of sporadic playing time," the 30-year-old commented. "Normally I am up there and am really able to work the count, but with sporadic playing time I try to be real aggressive and without seeing a lot of pitches you can't track the speed as well as normal. They're down, but that doesn't mean that am not a patient hitter, this year it's just kind of been that way."

The main topic of conversion in Oakland regarding Kielty however, has nothing to do with stats. Last season he debuted a fiery orange afro that gained the attention of the fans and earned him the nickname 'Ronald McDonald'. He even dressed up like the fast food icon and juggled for the fans. When he showed up this spring with a shaved head, the reviews were not good.

"When I shaved my head everyone in the stands was mad and wanted Ronny Mac back," Kielty chuckled. "The fans starting chanting 'Ronnie Mac, we want the 'fro back', so I am trying to grow it back and give it to 'em."

Last year I had a ton of people...all wearing orange wigs in right field," the 6-year-veteran said of his cult following. "It was kind of cool to see that. And they did a troll doll day for me - a Bobby Kielty troll doll, that was fun."

The A's meanwhile, have more serious business to attend to. In the midst of another torrid second half run, the team has some breathing room in the AL West and looks headed to the postseason. "We're laid back, we get along real well," Kielty said of his scruffy teammates. "There's no cancer-type guys. Everybody's focused on one thing, that's getting to the playoffs and winning, that's the main focus. There is a lot of intensity as far as the games are concerned. We're out to try to make the playoffs, that's the bottom line."

Kielty, who had 7 at-bats during the Twins postseason run in 2002, hopes to have a bigger role this time around. "If it's a lefty, I may get a chance to play," the candid outfielder explained. "If a righty is throwing, I don't think they are going to play me much. I always have to be ready."

Uh oh Liriano

Posted at 12:50 PM on September 13, 2006 by Ben Tesch (3 Comments)

After 2 scoreless innings, Liriano threw a bad pitch that was well wide and short, and immediately came off the mound, had a quick talk, and was pulled. He may have blown out his arm. I would venture to say that the outlook of him coming back against this season is not good, unless we hear some less drastic news later.

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Prediction time

Posted at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2006 by Ben Tesch (6 Comments)

Alright folks, 17 games left. A 10-game road trip to Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, and then Kansas City and Chicago at home. Liriano's done for the season. The Twins are 1.5 games behind in the division, and 1.5 games ahead in the wild card. What's going to happen?

  1. Who's going to win the Central?
  2. Who's going to win the wild card?
  3. Who's going to win AL MVP?
  4. Will Morneau reach 40 homeruns?
  5. Who's your vote for the annual rookie hazing pageant? (Boof with afro, Kubel as Catholic school girl, Rabe as a keg of beer)

Answer in the comments.

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Howard making (real) History...

Posted at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2006 by David Zingler

With 16 games to go, Ryan Howard sits at 56 homeruns. Ten years ago, this would have captivated the nation, but the syringe-soaked era of the late 1990s and early 2000s have left us all a little jaded.

If the Phillies slugger does surpass the 61 homerun mark, what does that mean? Since we now have steroid testing and there is nothing to suggest the contrary, we have to assume he’s clean. When you consider that Mark McGwire won’t talk about it, Sammy Sosa denied it only after it was dragged out of him and the mountain of evidence against Barry Bonds, the most logical assumption is that they were not.

I think using asterisks is silly and erasing records is ridiculous, but, to me, Ryan Howard will be the standard that homerun hitters are judged by in the future if he hits No. 62. As for McGwire, Sosa and Bonds; they’re just beginning to get what they deserve....

Things are getting weird

Posted at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2006 by Ben Tesch (6 Comments)

So Liriano gets a second MRI and it shows no new damage. There was a pop and some pain, but the exam comes back exactly the same as the previous one? Weird. Someone better figure this thing out, because if he needs surgery, he should get it now. He supposedly didn't need it before, but obviously there's something going on. Is there an elbow specialist in the house?

Also, suddenly the Twins are only 1 game behind the Tigers, after their half-comeback in Cleveland. The Twins explode in the second half of the game, with Torii and Rondell of all people having the best hitting nights. Not only did the Twins end up getting 9 runs on 15 hits, but they collectively left 31 batters on base. 31! Weird.

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Where do they get this stuff.

Posted at 1:07 PM on September 15, 2006 by Bob Collins (3 Comments)

Hi there. The Bleacher Bum folks locked the door this morning, but -- and don't tell anyone this -- I still have my key from when I helped inaugurate this thing last year. Shhhh. Mum's the word.

However, feel free to spread this around. John Gordon, the Twins announcer, makes stuff up as he goes along, I think. OK, so you're a big Twins fan and you've been listening for years and you've already figured this out. Fine, just add this to your drawer full of little slips of paper with the John Gordon slip-ups.

I'm a big Cleveland Indians fan, as many of you know. And, yes, I actually do appreciate the sympathy cards. So, I'm listening last night and Gordon is going on about the woes of the Cleveland Indians and he says.

" And what has REALLY killed the Indians this year is.... their lackof speed on the basepaths. Grady Sizemore is the only fast player they have."

OK, he got the last part right, but he swung and missed on the former...by a lot...an embarrassing swing, actually.

Everyone who can say Joe Azcue knows that what's killed the Indians this year is their lack of a bullpen.

Don't believe me? Go here. You'll note the Indians have scored more runs this year than every other team in Major League Baseball with the exception of the Yankees and the White Sox. If their lack of speed on the basepaths were "really killing them," that's where it would show up. It doesn't show up. Why? Because it's nonsense.


If you go here (SI), you can see the team's relief pitching stats. Yep, that's a 4.88 ERA sitting there with a .276
opposition batting average. Be glad you didn't get to experience Fausto Carmona up close.

But the bottom line? Wouldn't it be great if we could depend on our baseball announcers to put a little work into these sorts of things? And if something so obviously wrong still gets on the air, what else is wrong?

I'm starting to wonder about their words of hope for Francisco Liriano's return next year.

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Getting good when we need them to.

Posted at 3:45 PM on September 17, 2006 by Josh Lee (2 Comments)

The Twins lost on Friday night in a game that Johan Santana started, and stranded approximately 400 baserunners during their series in Cleveland. Somehow, though, they managed to win three out of four behind Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, and Scott Baker. Those names don't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opposing batters, but they've all shown marked improvement lately, which gives fans a lot of much-needed hope after saying goodbye to Liriano for the season.

You know who else has improved lately? Torii Hunter, who has led Minnesota in home runs and total bases so far in September, at a time when the team's overall power has dipped a bit while everyone fights their late-season fatigue. Torii may not be the face of the Twins anymore (the torch was passed as soon as Joe Mauer slapped those fake sideburns on that kid), but his bat is still pretty important, and it's getting hot just when the team needs it the most.

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Off Day News: Blyleven releases R-Rated Comedy CD: "Circle This, @%$*!"

Posted at 10:46 AM on September 18, 2006 by David Zingler (2 Comments)

Bert Blyleven knows how to make the most of opportunities. The man who turned his fascination with circles into a region-wide craze is now set to cash in on his recent bad press, “Mom always told me that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” Blyleven laughed.

The FSN color commentator received a five game suspension for using a profanity on air during a pre-game show earlier this month. Blyleven said he believed the piece was being taped. It was during the suspension that the 55-year-old decided he should try his hand at comedy.

“I was bored to death during the suspension,” the former hurler admitted. “People are always telling me how funny I am and Dick Bremer always laughs at my on-air jokes – and those are clean. I thought that if I could add some more ‘colorful’ language, it would be a top seller.”

In the album, titled “Circle This, @%$*!”, Blyleven discusses baseball, the Hall of Fame, juvenile pranks like hot foot, Dick Bremer, bad ties, the Metrodome roof, circles, California math and birthdays. Blyleven says all profits will go to charity and sees no risk involved with the venture.

“I’ve already got a lot of money, a loyal following and Hall of Fame resume,” he explained. “What’s to lose? If people don’t like it, it’s no skin of my @#%.”

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The panic button

Posted at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2006 by Ben Tesch

detnews.jpg

This was the cover of the Detroit News last week, which included this lovely article detailing their potential late season choking. ESPN.com's Wright Thompson follows up and surprisingly finds out that the team is much calmer and more confident than the fans and sports media about things. Who'da thunk?

Be the Twins GM

Posted at 9:27 AM on September 20, 2006 by Ben Tesch

The 2007 GM Cheat Sheet
TwinsGeek put together a fun exercise:

Your mission (impossible), should you choose to accept it, is to create a competitive team for 2007 while keeping the total payroll under $67 million (a pretty realistic guess as to next year’s total).

We’ll get you started. We’ll fill in most of the blanks with players who will likely be back, including listing their approximate salaries, along with some assumptions, in case you want to challenge any of the core positions.

Below that, we’ll list the positions where there will be more debate, and list some of the players (and how much they cost) for each of them. You can build your team, and compare it to how Ryan does this offseason – just make sure it comes in under $67 million. (Or figure out how you’re going to get Carl to part with more.)

Hank Aaron polls open

Posted at 11:58 AM on September 20, 2006 by Ben Tesch

You can now go place your vote for the Hank Aaron Award, which is for the "best overall offensive performer". It looks like it should be a tight race in both leagues. If you wish to sway people's votes, state your case in the comments. (And no, just because last night Morneau got 5 hits and Ortiz got none, that doesn't mean he wins.)

Closing out Corky's season....

Posted at 12:36 PM on September 20, 2006 by David Zingler (1 Comments)

Sure the Twins are in a heated pennant race, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a little time out to check up on Corky Miller. Our favorite catcher was called up by Boston on August 6th and played the next day going 0 for 4 in a 7-6 loss to Tampa. The Cork Man was then sent down on August 15 without appearing in another game. He is now 1 for his last 55 (.018) in the big leagues.

At Triple A, the news was better. The International League fan favorite finished the season in Pawtucket, playing well. In 65 minor league games (2 with Tacoma), the Corkster hit .260/.346/.505 with 13 homers and 36 RBI. Here’s to hoping Corky has a great winter and gets a big league hit next season....

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The Twins way

Posted at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Twins are making the system work
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe gives a nice rundown for the Boston fans on who these people are that keep beating the Red Sox.

Also, the Twins got a second opinion on Liriano's arm. Turns out it was the same as the first.

Little fish, big bites.

Posted at 11:48 PM on September 20, 2006 by Josh Lee (1 Comments)

That Schilling guy is a pretty good pitcher, but he only lasted five innings against the Twins, despite only giving up one run on seven hits. The piranha attack pressured Schilling for 104 pitches to get to Boston's relief early, and without Papelbon at the end of it, Boston's bullpen isn't all that intimidating. The Twins kept nibbling at the Red Sox's heels, and bled seven runs off of Boston in the final two innings of the game to win, 8-2.

The big hit of the game, though, was less of a piranha bite and more of a shark attack. Torii Hunter's three-run homer was his second shot over the Green Monster in two nights. Torii currently has 28 homers and 90 RBIs. If he stays on anything resembling his current hot pace, the Twins would finish the season with two 30-homer players and three 100-RBI guys. That would be the first time this has happened in Minnesota since -- well, has this sort of thing ever happened?

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Get your playoff tickets.....

Posted at 1:02 PM on September 21, 2006 by David Zingler

Twins playoff tickets went on sale yesterday without much fanfare. As far as I know they haven’t sold out yet.

Thanks to an alert friend, I got mine; anyone else out there jumped on the bandwagon yet or are you just waiting for it to become official?

You can't win 'em all

Posted at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Minnesota entered yesterday's game with a .001 lead in the division over the Tigers, after they had lost earlier in the day to the Orioles. In a strange turn of events, Johan finally lost a game. Sure, it's his first one since the All-Star break, but it's coming at expense of his MVP considerations when it's this late in the season when everyone's finally paying attention. It probably doesn't help that Ortiz hit two homeruns as well. ESPN.com had a "Who's the MVP?" poll yeserday and Santana barely registered. Morneau easily beat him out in the midwest, even. What will it take for Santana to get the MVP? Will the big markets simply win out? Will the voters look at the numbers at the end and see Johan's utter dominance and value to his team?

City Pages goes Twins-crazy

Posted at 3:00 PM on September 22, 2006 by Ben Tesch

In case you hadn't noticed the controversial cover already, this week's City Pages is chock-full of Twins articles. Be sure to pick it up sometime this rainy weekend (or check it out online, if that's your preference), while watching the Twins magic number get lower and lower.

Guerrier's first win.

Posted at 7:48 PM on September 23, 2006 by Josh Lee (3 Comments)

Tonight's game between the Twins and Orioles was a long, sloppy affair, featuring plenty of double plays, numerous fielding errors, some questionable baserunning decisions, some questionable calls by umpires on questionable baserunning decisions, and appearances by approximately 157 pitchers. Only one of them could get the win, though, and when the Wheel of Pitching Fortune stopped spinning, the arrow pointed to Matt Guerrier, who finally got his first major league win in 89 career appearances. Zoinks!

Also: Rondell White went 4-for-4 tonight, to bring his batting average for the season up to .244. When you think about how long it took him to get over the Mendoza Line, that otherwise mediocre number starts to look pretty remarkable. The Comeback Player of the Year award will probably go to either Frank Thomas or Jim Thome, but if they had a Comeback Player of the Half-Season award, White would have to be a pretty strong contender.

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Playoff matchups

Posted at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2006 by Ben Tesch (4 Comments)

Well, here we are. 1 week of regular season baseball left, with the Twins magic number to get into the playoffs at 2, and still 1.5 games out of first. If things stay where they are right now, the Twins would play the Yankees, who are undoubtedly a tough foe in the playoffs. Classic David vs. Goliath. (By the way... Yankees payroll: $194m, 93 wins. Twins payroll: $63m, 92 wins. $131m buys you 1 win?) If the Twins win the division (which is something they are shooting for) they would play the A's, who are one of the best teams since the break, are batting a league-best .298 in September, and may have Rich Harden back at full strength.

Who would you rather play against? Which team would give the Twins the best chance?

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Why Santana isn't the AL MVP

Posted at 3:22 PM on September 25, 2006 by Ben Tesch

Why Santana isn't the AL MVP
Buster Olney has presented an eloquent MVP case for Santana over the last couple of weeks. Now comes the counterpoint from Jayson Stark.There seems to be a voting culture and history thing working against Johan, which isn't really something he can do anything about.

Twins clinch.

Posted at 10:18 PM on September 25, 2006 by Josh Lee (1 Comments)

Oh my goodness. On any other day, an 8-1 whooping of Kansas City would not be that big a deal. Tonight, though, the Twins provided all kinds of entertainment, starting with the starter. Boof Bonser pitched an excellent 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits. After bopping up and down between Minnesota and Rochester for most of the season, Boof has settled in as just the kind of starter the Twins need, throwing strikes, letting the fielders help him, and eating some innings.

That's not all, though: Justin Morneau hit a three-run home run in the 8th, his 34th. Morneau broke a 120-at-bat homerless streak to remind everyone that there's a reason he'll be showing up on a lot of MVP ballots next week.

That's not all, either: Torii Hunter hit a two-run dinger in the 7th, to make it 30 on the season. Not only is that a career high for Hunter, but that gives the Twins two 30-homer guys for the first time since 1987. I hear that was a good year for Minnesota.

And this year now officially has a chance to be a pretty good one for Minnesota as well: tonight's win, combined with the White Sox's 1-14 loss to Cleveland, guarantees Minnesota a playoff berth. On top of that, the Twins are only a game behind the Tigers and Yankees for the best record in the AL, which wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

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Garza Takes Wild Ride in Stride

Posted at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2006 by David Zingler (3 Comments)

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Matt Garza's name was on the lips of baseball fans before most had ever seen him. A first round pick in 2005, Garza was a hot-shot prospect that dominated Single, Double and Triple A hitters this season and became first name mentioned by general managers when Terry Ryan called to talk trades. No Garza, no deal was their mantra.

In fact, the only reason Alfonso Soriano isn't suiting up for the local squad right now is because Ryan wouldn't part with his top prospect. "It was in the paper, my dad told me about it," Garza said of the trade rumors. "I really didn't worry about it too much. If they had called me and said 'You're going (to Washington)', obviously I gotta go. I didn't pay attention too much. I still had to take care of business (at Rochester), not worry about trade talk."

He was however, flattered to hear his name mentioned along with established superstars like Soriano, "It's big....it made me feel good," the 22-year-old admitted.

Finally on August 11, Twins fans finally got to see what all the fuss was about. But things didn't go as planned. After striking out two of the first three hitters and igniting the home crowd, Garza got rocked and was pulled after giving up 7 runs in 2 2/3 innings.

"I was fine," the rookie said of his major league baptism. "I was a little upset that it didn't work out the way I wished, but not everything does. I kind of just left everything out there. I needed to calm down, slow everything down and make my pitches. I had the stuff to stay here, I showed I could get people out, I just had to make better pitches."

Garza has shown he can learn on the fly. After a rough start, he's won his last two starts and mixed in a strong relief outing. Baby steps, but not bad for a guy who began the season in Ft. Myers.

"I've been learning a lot since I've been going out there," Garza commented. "It's a different kind of pitching, a different level of pitching. I've just been picking up little tricks of the trade here and there from older guys like Radke, Santana, Silva and guys in the bullpen like Nathan, Crain, Reyes and people like that. Watching them is just as helpful as me being out there. It's a blast -- each time I go out, I feel like I am getting better, making less and less mistakes."

Now that he's settled into big league life, Garza's next challenge is dealing with the increased innings. "I've never gotten up this high before," the former Fresno State star explained. "My first two years of college, I didn't combine for this many innings. It's new land I've got to venture into, I've got to condition more and do what I can to stay here."

Mainly a fastball pitcher in the minors, Garza has incorporated a full repertoire of pitches since reaching the big leagues. He credits pitching coach Rick Anderson for his quick development.

"He's changed a lot of stuff and helped me stay down in the zone," the young hurler said of Anderson. "He kind of lets you do your own thing and if he sees something wrong, you're in danger or it's not going to work then he'll tell you. Obviously, it's your choice to fix it and everybody wants to be good, so they fix it."

The 2006 season has been a memorable one for Garza. He's moved up three minor league levels to the big leagues and made key starts for a contending team during their pennant run. "It's been everything I've worked for, trying to get to the big leagues," the easy going Californian said. "I got here, and it took me less time than I thought, now I've got to work to stay here."

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Watch out, Ernie Lombardi

Posted at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2006 by Ben Tesch (2 Comments)

Well, it's finally starting to happen. The Twins are in the playoffs and people are starting to look at the near-final numbers. You know all that talk about how great Detroit, St. Louis, and the Mets and Yankees are? Guess who's tied for the third best record in baseball? (And just think where we'd be if we didn't tank the first part?) Mauer is a few days away from becoming the first catcher to win a batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942. Gardenhire has now brought the Twins into the playoffs 4 times in his first 5 tries. Cito Gaston (89-93 Jays) and Larry Dierker (97-01 Astros) are the only other two to do that. There are some pretty gaudy statistical seasons that are happening by the team and several particular players. Any amazing/suprising facts that you'd like to share in the comments?

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For White, admitting the problem was the toughest step

Posted at 10:44 PM on September 26, 2006 by David Zingler

Rondell White knew something wasn’t right. June was nearing an end and the Twins DH was hitting 100 points below his career average and had yet to homer. His surgically repaired left shoulder was costing him precious bat speed. The proud veteran however, couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

“I knew it was my shoulder, I knew in my heart, but I never make excuses and thought I could play through it,” White explained. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but my agent said ‘say something, say something’, he knew my swing wasn’t the same. He asked me what was wrong; I told him my shoulder felt tight.”

When he finally went public with the problem, White felt he was greeted with skepticism. “Everybody thought I was crying wolf, that’s what I think,” the 34-year-old commented. “I think people thought I was making excuses, but I never make excuses.”

White’s problems began last August when a dislocated shoulder ended his season. The Georgian underwent rotator cuff and labrum surgery and a grueling rehabilitation process that offered no guarantees. In fact, White said that if he were a pitcher, his career would likely be over.

Following a minor league rehab stint in July, White began to feel like his old self. He’s hitting .316 with 7 homeruns in the second half playing mostly in leftfield. “I feel way better when I am in the field, but if they want me to DH, I’ll DH too,” the 14-year-veteran commented. “It’s a lot of stuff, man. I’ve been through a lot – an operation, rehabilitation – I wasn’t myself (the first half).”

The early struggles have made the second half success even sweeter for White. A member of the 1994 Expos team that was robbed of a postseason birth by the infamous player’s strike, White’s only playoff experience consists of a one game stint with the Yankees in their 2002 ALDS loss to Anaheim.

“I just remember that I went 1 for 3 with a homer,” White smiled when discussing his post-season past. “I am staying positive about it.”

He also hinted the Twins were ready for his former team if they happen to meet next week, “Everybody expects the Yankees to win the whole thing every year anyway,” White quipped. “We are going to go in there and do what we need to do and hopefully come out with a win.”

With his tumultuous campaign winding down, the veteran gave a candid evaluation of his season, “First half, an F+, second half a B+, overall I’ll give myself a D,” White stated. “I look at it more like first half and second half, you ask me after the playoffs, I’ll give you everything.”

MLB pulls podcasts from iTunes

Posted at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2006 by Ben Tesch (2 Comments)

Major League pulls podcasts from iTunes
Major League Baseball's internet arm has withdrawn podcast clips of baseball games from Apple's iTunes Music Store to increase its control over how games are displayed online.

As Grant Robertson puts it, MLB is "upset about being placed in with the riff raff (otherwise known as fan podcasts about baseball), MLB has decided to pull its podcast from iTunes, forcing fans to resubscribe through its own MLB.com. Pundits are quiping that the move shows the unease that some digital content providers have with Apple's growing digital media presence, and that may be so. This dispute however, boils down to MLB throwing around lots of weight, as it's accustomed to..."

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Justin Morneau: What a difference a year makes

Posted at 5:01 AM on September 28, 2006 by David Zingler (3 Comments)

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Last year at this time, we were trying to figure out what went wrong with Justin Morneau. This year we are handicapping his MVP chances. What is behind this dramatic turn of events?

"I learned a lot from last year," Morneau explained. "(I learned) how to deal with it if I struggle or go through a rough stretch or anything like that. I learned not to be too hard on myself. I learned from experience - facing the different pitchers and the bad at-bats. It's just a different feeling this year; I go up there expecting to get a hit. It's been a lot more fun.

"Maybe I wasn't ready for what happened this year to happen last year," he continued. "I don't think I was. I don't know how I would've handled it. I know this year how to deal with things a little bit (better)."

His newfound stardom has resulted in more attention. Something the often shy, quiet slugger is learning to deal with. "I don't like opening up the paper and reading...quotes about my myself," Morneau admitted. "I don't really like to see myself on TV or anything like that."

Most expected the big Canadian to hit for power and make a run at 30 homeruns, but his batting average, consistently hovering in the .320s has been a pleasant surprise. "In the minor leagues I always hit for average," the 25-year-old commented. "I didn't really start hitting for power in the minor leagues until the last couple of years I was down there. I always wanted to be a good hitter - a complete hitter - that's my main goal. Homeruns are a bonus...if you use the whole field, you'll hit for a higher average."

Like his team, Morneau struggled early and caught fire in June. There are two very different reasons for that, "One of my buddies gave (a Todd Bertuzzi Canucks t-shirt) to me and I started wearing it in June and we starting winning and I started hitting, so I've worn it ever since," he laughed.

There was also a watershed chat with this manager, "(The discussion) had to do with focus and my ability to do better than I was," Morneau stated. "It was more (Gardenhire) telling me that there was a lot expected out of me and that he could see me doing it. It gave me confidence."

Whatever the reason, Morneau is now a leading candidate for MVP, something that surprised even him. "(The MVP) is obviously not something you come into a season (expecting)," the 4-year-veteran pointed out. "Obviously, your goal is always to be the best at your position, be one of the top players, that type of thing. You always want to be the best and have other people recognize you and the team. It's a good feeling to know that people are paying attention to the Minnesota Twins a little bit this year."

Once on pace to top 40 homeruns, Morneau has recently experienced a lull in long ball production. The 6-4 first baseman however, says the bone spurs in his left elbow are not the reason for the dip, "No, I've been having good at-bats," he responded when asked about the tender elbow. "When I get hot, I can hit homeruns -- 10 in a month. At least now I am not making outs, having bad at-bats trying to hit homeruns. I am still having quality at bats, still driving in runs, that's the most important thing. The main thing for me is the RBIs, the homeruns just happen."

The injury dates back to last year, "I never got the (bone spurs) taken out," Morneau commented. "I'll probably get them taken out after this year. They said I didn't really need to, so I opted not to. It was fine for most of the first part of the season. I just know how to deal with it this year, do my exercises, ice it and take care of it. It doesn't get too bad. There's tendonitis in there too. It's the same thing as last year, but this year I know not to take too many swings."

While his elbow may not have completely healed, his relationship with Torii Hunter has been fully mended. The pair got into a highly publicized clubhouse skirmish late last season in which punches are rumored to have been thrown.

"(The incident) was blown way out of proportion," Morneau asserted. "Me and Torii have always been friends. We just had one little disagreement; I guess you would call it. We talked at Twinsfest, put it all behind us. I was as happy as anyone for him when he (hit his 30th) homerun, I know he's been waiting for it. He was happy for me when I hit my 30th. It was amazing to see him get it - how hot he's been the last month."

In a season spent exorcising demons, Morneau slayed an especially ugly one earlier this month when he homered off Yankees reliever Ron Villone. It was the first time he faced the nasty left-hander since an April 2005 beaning to the head sent him to the DL. "That felt pretty good," he admitted. "It was the situation too; it was a one-run game and I hit a three run homer and that was pretty cool."

Because Morneau is arbitration eligible this winter and is likely to place highly on most MVP ballots, a big raise will be in store for him. Don't expect the increase in salary to break up Minnesota's most well known roommates however, "I don't know why we'd change anything," Morneau of his living arrangement with Joe Mauer, "but, that's a along way away."

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What happened to the Indians

Posted at 1:29 PM on September 28, 2006 by Ben Tesch

J.P. McIntyre has a two part series about what happened to the Cleveland Indians this year. Just as Naps fan Bob Collins noted, it was not their lack of speed, but their lack of bullpen. J.P. breaks down the stats to give a better picture of Mark Shapiro's handiwork.

Playing baseball, blind

Posted at 4:39 PM on September 28, 2006 by Ben Tesch

ESPN.com is currently highlighting this terribly interesting interactive feature on beep baseball, wherein blind players play the game of baseball. There are a few modifications of course, but it looks amazing! Do not miss this one.

The Return of the Radke.

Posted at 10:57 PM on September 28, 2006 by Josh Lee (3 Comments)

Before tonight's game, I thought to myself, "this is basically a rehab start for Brad Radke. If he can pitch four decent innings, that will be enough." When a guy spends a month on the DL after pitching most of the season with a broken shoulder, and when that guy is the one you're hoping to count on to be your third starter in the playoffs, you don't need to overtax him. When a guy carried his team through those empty seasons in the late 90s, anchored it during its rebirth in the early 00s, and was a pivotal part of its turnaround this year -- while pitching with a broken shoulder -- he doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone. When a guy causes you to get choked up every time he pops up in those sentimental fan appreciation ads that the Twins have been running lately, he's already given you more than enough, and anything else you get from him is gravy.

After five innings, in which Radke gave up only three hits and one unearned run while inducing three double plays, I thought to myself, "why the heck is Gardy pulling him so early?" Tonight, Brad Radke didn't look like a guy whose arm fell clean off his torso a month ago, and he didn't look like a guy making a farewell start as he drifts towards retirement. He looked the kind of player you read about in stories, the kind that comes back from innumerable setbacks and against all odds, to pitch like he's never pitched before -- or even better, to pitch just as well as he's ever pitched, which is pretty darn good.

Oh, and what's this? Is this a tie between Minnesota and Detroit for first place in the AL Central? Why, I think it is.

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There's always next year

Posted at 9:28 AM on September 29, 2006 by Ben Tesch (3 Comments)

Seeing that this team is going nowhere this year, it's time to start looking ahead to the 2007 season schedule, since the team will likely turn to its farm system for the rest of the year and become a farewell tour for its players who are either retiring (Radke), not playing up to expectations (Batista, Morneau) or moving elsewhere (Hunter, Stewart, etc).

(Editor's note: This post was initially written on June 8th. Please excuse any untimely or inaccurate information. :)

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How hard is it to lose a division title these days?

Posted at 11:48 PM on September 30, 2006 by Josh Lee (1 Comments)

Not to downplay the value of home field advantage, but I don't think it will be the end of the world if the Twins end up as the wild card team in the playoffs -- just ask the Angels, Marlins, and Red Sox. Minnesota might even be better off having Johan Santana anchor the team on the road, and letting The Unsinkable Brad Radke and The Mystery Fourth Starter get the benefit of the homer-hankie-waving crowds at the Dome.

At any rate, we can assume that the Twins aren't too stressed about where they end up finishing, based on their mailed-in performance against the White Sox in what was supposed to be (and technically still is) a season-defining final series. I'm totally in favor of saving yourself (and your knees, Messrs. Castillo and Mauer) for the playoffs, but there has to be someone other than Michael Cuddyer who feels like showing the fans a good time and doing something wacky, like getting on base.

Despite their best non-efforts, though, the Twins are still in contention for the division title. I never thought I'd be keeping one eye on a Royals-Tigers game in September, but here I am, sighing with relief at the sight of Zach Miner getting knocked clean off the mound in the first inning by Kansas City, who have chosen an interesting time to suddenly learn how to score runs. Here's hoping for entertaining end to the regular season!

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