How About More Morales?

At this past Saturday’s game
versus the Astros in the Metrodome, Gardy used back-up catcher Jose
Morales in a tough, late-inning pitch-hitting situation in place of the
free-swinging Carlos Gomez. Morales proceeded to foul off pitch after
pitch until he eventually laced a double to left center and put the
tying run on second base. His solid at-bat gave the Twins a chance to
steal the game back from Houston.

It’s obvious that Gardy has
a lot of a faith in the bat of Morales, but after watching the
converted second-baseman behind the plate earlier this season, we all
saw what he can’t do and that’s throw out base runners. With 55
at-bats, this kid is hitting .364 and shows no sign that we’re
witnessing a fluke.

Nick Punto is hitting a mere .221 with an
on-base percentage of .312. Neither Alexi Casilla nor Matt Tolbert has
seen their average rise above the Mendoza line for any significant
length of time. So why can’t the Twins un-convert Morales and plug that
sexy bat back into second base? Has he forgotten how to play it or was
he never very good? (Really, if you know why they moved him, let me know. I can’t find that explanation anywhere.) Is he too slow? I don’t buy it as an excuse. The speed of Punto,
Casilla, and Tolbert doesn’t help the Twins when they use it mostly to
hustle from the batters box back to the dugout. Besides, there have been second basemen who did just fine without amazing wheels. Jeff Kent, anyone?

The Milwaukee
Brewers are a team that can put up some big, nasty numbers in that runs
column and it’s time that the Twins make the most out of the talented
bats in their lineup. Let’s see if Morales could be the answer at one
of our revolving door positions and get the team primed for that big
Detroit series next week.

Sayonara Ayala!

If you wait, beg, plead, and hope long enough, you may just get what you wish for. The Twins bullpen has been a nightmare this season. Crain simply couldn’t command all of his pitches and was giving up dingers left and right until the organization sent him down for some retooling. Ayala has been nearly as bad. I have been begging Ron Gardenhire, Bill Smith, and the Twins powers that be to admit that this guy just wasn’t cutting it and give someone else a shot. Okay, I was really just begging to my television, but you get the point. Finally, they made the move.

Ayala has been designated for assignment and Bobby Keppel gets the call. Keppel’s numbers look good in triple-A (3-3, 2.43). Will that translate into the majors? Who knows? What I do know is that he’s not likely to do worse than Ayala was doing and sometimes the unknown really is better than the known. I usually have a lot of faith in Twins brass, but sometimes I fear that they have trouble swallowing their pride when they’ve been smitten by a newly signed free agent or a regular who they believe is back on track. In this case, I’m just happy to see a move made. Better late than never.

The Ninth Inning Debacle

You saw it. I saw it. We all saw it. Going into the 9th inning in last night’s game the Twins had a 10-0 lead and it looked like there was a shot for a Minnesota pitcher to actually go a full nine innings for the first time in well over one hundred games. Heck, I could almost see Bert’s drool running down my screen.

But after a long battle with Hannahan which ended up with Oakland getting just their 3rd hit of the game Baker walked the next hitter. That’s when trouble really hit. Gardy got Jesse Crain up in the bullpen and it was obvious that Baker was distracted by that.

Now my question is this. Who’s to blame?

If you ask Blyleven, it’s Baker. He repeatedly said (with disdain) during the broadcast that Baker doesn’t seem to “want it” enough. It’s true that Baker was distracted and maybe even looked like he wanted to come out. But if he’s out of gas, shouldn’t he admit it?

This is Anderson’s job. When he sees Baker stumbling out on the mound, he needs to get up, go out there and assess the situation. Give him a rousing pep talk if that will get it done. If Baker’s just completely gassed, then so be it. Get him out. To me, it looked as if everyone wanted to see a complete game so badly that they were ignoring the situation in front of them and the Twins can’t afford to have Rick Anderson on that bandwagon.

Oh…and can we just give up on Jesse Crain already?

Baseball Players Having Fun? Unacceptable!

You know it will happen again this fall. Each week Cincinnati Bengals fans (and opponents) will wait to see what kind of touchdown celebration Chad “I Make Up My Own Nicknames For Me” Johnson will perform. Ugh. I hate it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those old school guys who thinks that pro athletes shouldn’t display emotion or have a little fun now and then. But when something is that premeditated and done for personal self-promotion, I think it’s tacky.

So, that being said, did you see the hubbub over Aubrey Huff’s fist pumping yesterday? The story has it that the Orioles don’t care for Joba Chamberlain’s fist pumping displays when he pitches, so Huff declared to his teammates that he would do a little fist pumping of his own if he ever tagged one off of Joba. And so he did. I like it. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with Joba’s displays either. I don’t think he’s trying to show anyone up when he punches the air, he’s just letting out some intensity. I say that…and I’m a guy who’s ready to hate just about anything the Yanks say, do, or represent.

Now, I think I need to rate a couple of the displays we’ve seen in the past.

Lastings Milledge’s high fives to the fans.
I loved this one. He had no intention of showing anyone up. He was just a youthful guy showing his youthful enthusiasm. No harm done. Oh…and as a bonus he brought some of the fans into the game by slapping hands with them. I applaud that.

Jeffry Leonard’s “One Flap Down” Home Run Trot
Pathetic. It was a gimmicky thing he concocted to make himself stand out. I would have drilled him if I was a pitcher.

Manny’s Spontaneous High Five
Man-Ram makes a running catch and then runs up the wall and high-fives a fan while making the play before throwing the ball back in. Loved it. It was spontaneous, harmless, and gave that fan a little story for the rest of his life.

The Washington Nationals Cheer from the Bench
While this one was odd, I found that I liked it. Have you ever seen a college baseball game? The dugout is constantly chattering and cheering. Again, it just seems like the team is having fun and I can get behind that. If it rattled the pitcher, he is obviously a bit too soft.

It’s fun to watch a guy like Big-Z pitch because he’s constantly boiling over with emotion. Anger, joy, frustration…they’re all right there on his face.

Smell ‘Em!
This little gimmick that was cooked up by Redmond a couple of years ago was just plain fun to watch. It’s purpose? It rallied the team together. I honestly wish we saw a lot more things like this (or the Ray’s team mohawks or the Cowboy Up Red Sox) in baseball.

In short, don’t stand at the plate and glare at the pitcher while your homer goes over the fence. Don’t yell at the third baseman when you run by so he drops the ball (Yeah, I’m talking to you A-Rod). Those are bush league moves. But it’s okay to have fun. It’s good for the team, the game, and the fans. After all, like Crash Davis said, ” So relax! Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK? Fun goddamnit.” Well put, Crash.

The Head Game

A lot of my friends say that baseball is just plain boring. I guess I can see what they mean, but I can’t agree. They want constant action, big collisions, and athletes playing to the crowd like lead singers in a rock band. That’s just not baseball. Baseball is a head game. Half of what happens on the field is a direct result of the players being mentally ready for it before the pitch is thrown. What’s the situation? What if it’s a ground ball? A deep fly? How fast is that guy on second? How good is that left fielder’s arm? Every pitch of every game, the variables change and each and every player on that field needs to think about the situation at hand and be ready to react.

I love watching that.

My friends used to be a little ho-hum on Cal Ripken Jr. because he wasn’t making as many acrobatic play out there at short. Everything he did looked routine. Easy. The reason that it looked that way was largely due to his prowess with the mental part of the game. Ripken was in the right position to field the ball before the pitch was thrown.

Baseball is a game that gives hope to guys with moderate skills, but a good head for the game. (see: Eckstein, David) It has little patience for those who have the tools but don’t learn the rest. Of course I bring this up today because the Twins lost patience with Alexi Casilla…again. Does he have the skills to be a Major League ballplayer? Definitely! He has a great arm and speed to spare, but too often he’s not where he should be or simply doesn’t understand the variables of the play at hand.

I don’t think Casilla will be gone too long. He has too much to offer with those skills. It could be that he’ll need a change of venue or a different coach to ever really make that leap, but I think he’ll get there. In the mean time, I’m anxious to see what Tolbert can bring to the table. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him in the past.

My All-Metrodome Team

Okay, okay. I know. I said I’d be a little more off the beaten path, but I’m still warming up! I’m sure every Twins blogger wants to take a crack at his or her own All-Metrodome team at some point. Without having dug in too far just yet, I can’t help but to think that it will be a fairly easy selection. Here we go.

Starting Pitchers:

Johan Santana – How many Cy Young winners have we really had?
Bert Blyleven – Put him in the Hall already!
Frank Viola – One of our all-time greats. You had to love Frankie-V.
Brad Radke – He was a rock for the team for many of the Dome’s years.
Jack Morris – Yeah, that’s right. I’ll add him in just for that one game if nothing else.


Rick Aguilera – I was ready to type Joe Nathan until I really looked at Agi’s stats. He
                      was a great closer for almost a decade in the Dome! Why don’t I remember
                      him better? Oh yeah, it was the 90’s.


Joe Mauer – Two batting titles and stellar defense. Enough said.

First Base

Kent Hrbek – More homers and rbi than any other Twin during the Metrodome era. I think
                   Morneau is a better player and will have better career stats at some point, but
                   he’s not there yet.

Second Base

Chuck Knoblauch – Played in the 1991 Series and was solid, if a bit arrogant.

Third Base

Gary Gaetti – This one’s not even close. He was a stud at third for 9 years.


Greg Gagne – Guzman had potential, but Gags was at short for both World Series. Just a
                    solid, solid player.

Left Field

Dan Gladden – Maybe not the most spectacular player, but a gritty spark plug for both of
                      the World Series teams.

Center Field

Kirby Puckett – Greatest Twin of all time. Period.

Right Field

Tom Brunansky – I remember where I was the day he was traded. Tommy Herr? Nooooo!


Tom Kelly – I love Gardy, but 2 rings, baby. You have to give it to TK.

There you have it. Let me know if I’ve missed the boat on any in your opinion!

The Control Game

    Twins fans remember it well. A fly ball would jump off of the bat of division rival’s bat and for a split second, it didn’t look good. But, when the television would switch shots to center field, you knew it would be okay. Torri was on it. Not only did he have scary-fast reactions to the ball when he roamed the Dome turf, he took the right angle and timed his leap. It was beautiful to watch. It was as natural as can be. And every bit of it was under control.

    Control is a vital part of what we fans like to call the “Twins style of baseball.” Do the little things right. It means when it’s time to lay down a bunt, the batter can put it down in fair territory on the first or second try. It means hitting the cuttoff. It means pulling the ball when you need to move a runner over to third. Heck, it even means just throwing strikes, but that’s rarely an issue for our boys.

    There are two ways that I suspect that we’ve drifted away from that part of “Twins baseball” lately. One is easy to see. I’ll give you a hint: Carlos Gomez. Wow. Talk about a kid with a mountain of physical ability but a complete lack of control. From tracking down flies to swinging out of his cleats, Gomez seems to be red-lining all the time out there. When Span made his way back to the bigs last season, that was what stuck out for me the most. he started playing the game under control. He waited for his pitch. He took controlled swings. He simply slowed down a bit.

    Our esteemed manager is not without blame here either. In Sunday’s loss to the Indians, he made all the right moves until Span came to the plate in the ninth.  Runners on first and second, no outs, and a very good bunter at the plate. Lay one down, take the double play out of the equation and you almost guarantee that Morneau has a shot at tying the game before it’s all said and done. I think Gardy wanted to ride the hot hand in Span and it seriously back fired.

    Play the small ball. Play in control. That’s what keeps the Twins consistent and keeps us in the race every year.