Posted at 6:01 AM on September 21, 2007
by David Zingler
As promised, here is the second half of my discussion with Justin Morneau on Wednesday:
DZ: Joe Mauer has drawn some criticism for the first time lately, does that bother you to see your teammate - especially a close friend like him - go through that?
MORNEAU: I try not to pay attention to that stuff.
DZ: There's been the injuries and talk of him switching positions.
MORNEAU: If you're hurt, you're hurt. You can't help that. Joe's tough and if he thinks he's going to hurt the team by being out there...If he's not healthy, it's going to hurt us more than help us...He's also the best catcher - defensively, in my opinion - in the American League. The way he calls a game, I don't think there's any chance he'll be looking at another position.
DZ: Earlier this week you said that participating in the Homerun Derby affected your swing. You're not the first guy to say that, what is it about that event?
MORNEAU: You are out there trying to pull the ball, hit it in the air and do a little more than you normally do. The adrenaline gets going...and you get into bad habits. That's more of an excuse because I've done it before (in the minors) and been all right.
DZ: Despite the disappointments this year, is there anything positive you can take away from the season?
MORNEAU: There's a lot of positives - we had two guys drive in 100 runs again, (I made) my first All Star team...we had a lot of young pitchers that got some experience. Any year of experience you can get - another 600 at-bats - is key to your development. Anytime you can go out there and play 150+ games, you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about the other teams.
DZ: Do the struggles of this year put last year in perspective - how special it was?
MORNEAU: The struggles of the team or...
DZ: The team and yourself in the second half.
MORNEAU: I don't know...I think everyone has been kind of spoiled around here.
DZ: I agree; some people are overreacting to this season.
MORNEAU: Yeah. We've made the playoffs four out of six years; there aren't too many teams that can say that besides teams with payrolls over $100 million.
DZ: You weren't here in the late 90s - it wasn't pretty.
MORNEAU: There were times they were close to losing 100 games...there were some rough times here - we've got some good players and we have a chance to have a good team next year.
DZ: You haven't hit lefthanders as well this year, are they pitching you differently?
MORNEAU: Every nasty lefty that comes into the game, I get to face in the 8th inning. I play everyday so I get to face C.C. (Sabathia) four or five times a year...my power numbers are still decent against lefties, my average isn't the same but I've hit some balls hard, had some good at bats, it's the difference of probably six or seven hits with how many at-bats I've had between being closer to last year's numbers.
DZ: Terry Ryan is resigning as general manager - he'll still be around here - do you have any stories/memories of him?
MORNEAU: He's done a real good job putting together this team. People don't realize what a tough job he has...if Torii doesn't get signed back or Johan or Joe, it's not his fault. He's got a budget to work with. If you sign all of those guys for what they are going to get paid, you are going to have a team with four players on it, with the payroll we've got. It's tough decisions to make...he's done a good job with what he's got.
DZ: I've talked to players who've said he takes a lot of time to get to them.
MORNEAU: He knows all of his players. He reads the reports of all of the minor league teams. He makes you feel like you belong in the organization. He doesn't beat around the bush - he'll tell you when you are doing a good job and when you need to work on something, hell let you know. He'll never lie to you and he's not a guy who will go around talking behind your back. If he wants to talk to player, he'll sit down with that player and treat him like a man.
Posted at 10:18 AM on September 21, 2007
by Chris Dall
While we dissect the various reasons for the Twins failures this year, and ponder the uncertain future, fans of the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets are biting nails, pulling out hair, and consuming antacids by the barrel as their respective teams slowly lose their grip on first place.
If things continue to go as they have for the past few days, what's happening in New York and Boston will rank among the biggest September collapses in baseball history. The Mets had a 7 game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies on September 17th. They then proceeded to get swept by the Phillies last weekend, and now have lost 6 of their last 7 games and seen their lead shrink to a game-and-a-half. The only other team to see that large a lead shrink at that late a date is the 1964 Phillies, who led their division by 6.5 games on September 20. But losing a 7 game lead with 17 games left would be unprecedented.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Red Sox fans are witnessing a collapse eerily similar to 1978, when they held a 14 game lead over the Yankees in July and still lost the division. This year, their lead over the Yankees stood at 14.5 games in August. Now it has shrunk to a game-and-a-half.
What's going on? Well, there are many theories, some with more credence than others, but perhaps the main reason is that both teams are seeing their bullpens implode. Boston relievers gave up a 6 run lead to the Yankees last Friday night, and then gave up 3 runs and 4 runs on consecutive nights against Toronto. The Mets held 3 separate 4-run leads over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, and blew all three. Then, last night against the Florida Marlins, Met reliever Jorge Sosa lost a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the ninth to the Florida Marlins, in a game the Mets lost 8-7.
Yes, fans of many teams, including the Twins, will say they'd rather see their teams in the thick of a pennant race than playing out the string, but I'm not sure if watching a team fall apart at the absolute worst time is something to be wished for.
For more thoughts on this subject, check ESPN's "Pity Party."