Fire Gardy

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Archive for September, 2008

162+ The Dream Dies

This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end It hurts to set you free But you’ll never follow me The end of laughter and soft lies The end of nights we tried to die – The Doors

Well folks, that’s it. The dream is dead, the season is over, this is the end. We’ve finally successfully given the division away, proving that we did indeed want it less.

Mauer finished his season 0-3, stumbling to the batting title as embarrassingly as possible. Morneau finished in a 10-59 slump, sacrificing the MVP trophy to the hated Red Sox. The rest of the cast of characters … just as bad, just more anonymous.

The only thing good about this game was that Blackburn looked great, holding the White Sox to one run in 6.1 innings, and that one run game on a 10,000 foot home run by Jim Thome in the seventh inning. He looked great. This game was not Blackburn’s fault. And I’m absolutely not confident we would have done anything better if this game were at the dome. We just didn’t hit. We didn’t show up.

Visions of warm champagne were filling our heads as we flailed at pitches and choked as hard as we know how.

But now that the season is over, we can finally consider the fact that this is better than anyone (other than myself — my World Series prediction died hard tonight) thought this season would be. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cuddyer’s t-shirts with “162+” on them were thought to be a joke to get the guys to play hard in a down year — but who could have known just how cruel that message would be in the end?

It’s too soon to look forward to next season; instead, it’s the right time to sit back and reflect on the good times. It doesn’t seem like it now, but there were plenty. Seriously. Close your eyes.

Gomez hit for the cycle.

Mauer won a batting title.

Morneau finished 1 RBI behind Hamilton for the AL title.

Morneau won the home run derby over the very same Hamilton.

Slowey threw two shutouts.

Liriano appeared to get his stuff back.

Jose Mijares emerged as a future setup man.

Baker can handle pressure.

Keep thinking. It was a good season. We could have won another game or two here or there and got into the playoffs, but so could the White Sox — let’s not play that game. It’s a loser’s game.

But this is the end of laughter. This is the end of the last night when our dreams died.

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Preview of game 163

Game 163 is scheduled to start at 6:30 tonight, in Chicago (which is a travesty I won’t address again).  The white sox are starting John Danks against the Twins’ Nick Blackburn.  Both starters have pretty ugly numbers against the opponent. Danks is pitching on three days rest, while Blackburn is pitching on five days rest.  Danks has terrible numbers while on three days rest, and given the total number of innings he has pitched this year and given his relative inexperience this can’t help him.  That extra day should help Blackburn because he is in the same boat. High innings total, young arm, etc.  Not sure what else to think.  Guillen used four relievers yesterday (Thorton, Dotel, Linebrink and Jenks) I’m guessing most of them will be available today since none pitched more than one inning. I think Thorton only faced a few batters, so I’m sure he will be asked to come in and get Mauer-Morneau out at some point late in the game.

I think this game will be close, but I honestly don’t like our chances. We play like children on the road, and Blackburn has been pretty unimpressive in his last few starts. Especially the ones on the road.  Will gardy start Cuddyer against the lefthanded starter instead of Kubel at DH?  Probably. Not sure if that is wise considering the do or die nature of this game.  Also, I think the game is on TBS, not sure if it will be on FSN as well. 

Go Twins.

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Now What?

Well, the Twins have played 162 games and their fate is still TBD.  The White Sox host the Tigers this afternoon (1:05 central) in a makeup game from earlier this month.  If the Sox lose, the division is ours. If they win, we play in Chicago tomorrow to determine the final playoff spot in the AL.  The winner of that game heads to Tampa (actually St. Petes) to play the (Devil) Rays.  If my math (not California math, real math) is correct the Twins will be starting Nick Blackburn, unless Slowey is able to pitch.  Looks like the White Sox will start John Danks, who last pitched (poorly) against the Indians on Friday.  He will be on short rest, which benefits the Twins. Although he only pitched 4 innings on Friday night.  I would prefer Slowey, but if he isn’t healthy I guess we really have no choice.  The bullpen should be rested after Baker went 7 strong yesterday and an off day today. 

Playing in Chicago is not ideal of course, but us having the off day today and the White Sox not having one plays in our favor.  I am not wild about the matchup, that is why we need to cheer really hard for the Tigers.  The only thing they have to play for is a tie for last place, instead of occupying the cellar solo.  Finishing behind the Royals is pretty much the worst outcome to a season, so maybe they will want to win.  Or maybe they will get a kick out of messing up a divisional rivals playoff chances.  Who knows, but I just hope they don’t mail it in an conceede defeat before the first pitch.

Another question I have is why is there even is a “tie-breaker” game?  Why doesn’t the team with the better record head to head just win the division? I’m not just saying this because the Twins won.  A tie-breaker should only be played if the season series is split. 

Go Tigers!

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At Least We’re Not the White Sox

Talk about a letdown. The Twins came out flat last night, and it looked like they couldn’t wait for their at bats to be over so they could eagerly jog back to the dugout. That’s not exactly the attitude I’d like to see in the heat of a pennant race.

Mauer got his hits and they didn’t help. Morneau continues to play like he doesn’t want to be the MVP. Span/Casilla/Gomez looked like a bunch of rookies. Liriano apparently thought it was April again. Nothing went right for us last night in that brutal defeat.

Except one thing — the White Sox also lost to the Indians. They put up a whole lot more fight … but still fell 11-8. And for all you Twins fans out there who are down on the Twins, know this: it could be worse. The White Sox “fans” at New Comiskey US Cellular Field Stadium were booing their team in the top of the first inning, and didn’t stop all game, despite the attempted comeback and the close game. We may have felt too good after sweeping the Sox and set ourselves up for a fall, but the Sox have apparently been broken. And Chicagoans, like rats, are the first to abandon ship.

And I heard tell that MLB has decided to change the time of the Twins game today. Instead of starting the game at 7, they’re starting it at 3. I’m guessing this has to do with Fox’s Mega Bribe of MLB, and that since this is an important game they have to do everything they can to minimize the number of people who are able to watch it. Since the game starts before 6, I won’t be able to watch it on MLB.TV, and they’ll be showing the Cubs on Fox here in Chicago. It’s immensely frustrating, as I’m sure you can imagine. I feel like it’s Sunday, when I have to watch the Bears (or Hallmark made for TV movies) instead of the Vikings every week. I thought this was America!

Okay Twins. It’s back to must-win time. We can’t hang our hats on that thrilling extra innings win on Thursday, even though every player seems to think it was the peak of their careers.

Go Twins.

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Where is my broom?

“I might take a sleeping pill tonight. And a glass of vodka,” Guillen said. “Twenty-seven innings and we only had one good one. We wasted 26 innings in this town.” -Ozzie

I hate to use the term “emotional roller coaster” so I won’t.  That was a wild game.  Slowey looked unhittable for three innings, then the wheels came off.  He couldn’t get a guy out in the fourth inning. After retiring nine in a row on thirty pitches, he decided to stop throwing strikes.  However, lets not talk about the top of the fourth anymore.  I think the key to this game was getting two runs back right away.  We didn’t go into shutdown mode after they put up a six-spot in the top of the inning. We knew we couldn’t rely on hitting a grand slam at some point followed by a solo shot, so we had to start the comeback right away.  Two runs here, a run there, a few more later on.  That is how the Twins comeback.

How about that bullpen?  They have thrown ten scoreless in the last two games.  If you had told me that a week ago I would have slapped you in the face.  I think Ozzie allowing Jenks to pitch a third inning was questionable. I’m assuming his reasoning was “Jenks at 70% is better than the next guy in line at 100%”, which I tend to agree with.  Karlos had probably his best game of the season, maybe tied for first with the time he hit for the cycle (also against the White Sox). 

Granted a lefty was on the mound, but I don’t like Gardy’s decision to pinch hit for Kubel late in the game.  Kubel is one of our best hitters and I think he could have done some damage. Not that it matters, we won anyway.

I have a theory about why this team has played so well this season (September swoon not included):  Our players are young enough that they don’t realize the pressure of the situation.  I get the feeling Gomez, Span, and Casilla would be playing the same way if we were ten games out.  I have no facts or evidence to back that up, but this is the internet and I don’t need them.

Shifting gears for a minute, how bad would the NYMets be WITHOUT Santana?  They are in the midst of collapsing AGAIN and he is the only reliable player on that squadron.  He has to be frustrated, granted the Twins bullpen hasn’t been much better of late, so he can’t have that much buyers remorse (I’m not sure I used that term correctly, but again its the internet, I do what I want).

Hopefully Gardy and the rest of the coaching staff keeps the team focused and they don’t have a letdown against the Royals, who have quietly been playing well.  The white sox get the indians at home, with Cliff Lee going on sunday.  The magic number is now 4. Go Twins.

Also, USC lost.  Good day all around.

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There you are bullpen…..

We’ve missed you.

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous every inning of this game, especially when the ones that featured Breslow, Bonser, and Mirajes.  Good thing each of them didn’t last long (innings that is, not pitchers).  I thought Blackburn did a great job pitching out of jams, granted he got himself into those jams but its a good sign that he doesn’t lose focus and just gets guys out.  You can’t blame the guy for giving up a homer to Junior, he is probably the greatest hitter of our generation.

I don’t think its possible to stress how much those four near perfect innings of relief were.  The combination of Breslow, Bonser, and Mijares gave up a total of one hit and one walk in four innings.  That is pretty damn impressive considering just how bad the relief corps has been of late.  Blackburn just didn’t seem to have his best stuff but he still managed to get through five innings and only give up two runs to this powerful White Sox lineup. Ken Griffey, Jr. was responsible for both of them.  I think the bullpen appreciated that effort by Blackburn and decided to pick him up and make sure he got the win. Now, if I find out that the bullpen has been deciding when they want to pitch well, and when they want to pitch poorly I will kill them all.

On the offensive side of the ball the Twins were pretty boring but did what they needed to do.  Outside of Gomez we only struck out twice (Gomez struck out 3 times, I think we should start calling him Karlos).  We drew four walks and positioned ourselves on the bases so we could score two of our runs on outs. Both fielders choices (i have no idea if both of those should be plural) by Joe Mauer.

Nathan made it interesting, but with the help of Karlos his linescore looks like he just allowed one harmless walk. Instead of nearly giving up a double to AJ that was catch-able by one center fielder in baseball, and throwing twenty pitches, only ten of them for strikes.  I’m starting to notice some Mark Fidrych tendencies in Nathan, hopefully that doesn’t lead to full blown craziness.

Tonight is the surgeon Kevin Slowey, Amy Nelson has a good piece about the Twins young pitchers, especially Slowey on ESPN.com. I really like how we bookended this series with Baker and Slowey, in my opinion they are our two best starters, 1a and 1b if you will. Enjoy the game tonight. Any predictions on the lineup Gardy puts out there? I think you have to stick with the normal lineup versus righties. Buscher at third, Kubel DHing. Thoughts?

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out-sox-ing the sox

There is no reason Jason Kubel should sit ever again.  Hitting that second homer off of a lefty should secure him a spot in the lineup tonight against White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle, if not it probably means gardy will still be drunk when he makes the lineup card.  I think he pretty much has to go with the same lineup tonight, Mauer and Morneau kill lefties, so you can’t sit them (and they are our two best hitters so you never should sit them based on “the percentages”), Kubel should play, he is our third best hitter (as sirsean asked me rhetorically in a text message last night “do david ortiz and ryan howard sit against lefties?”), and you can’t possibly sit Span after what he has done both offensively and defensively lately.  Cuddyer just hasn’t done much to earn a spot in the lineup, and going forward each game is more important than the last so we can’t afford to have one guy in the lineup who is “getting his timing bacK”.

Lets hope Blackburn feeds off the energy of the crowd, and the momentum of the last two good outings by starters.  Thoughts on the lineup for tonight? or the game in general?

UPDATE: I just read over on Joe C’s blog post from last night that Cuddyer will indeed play tonight. I’m assuming that he will DH, so looks like Gardy ignored the first sentence of this post. Thats a bummer, dude.

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Twins-Sox series preview

As many of you know, the Twins and White Sox start a pretty important series tonight at the dome.  The match-ups have been set.  Its Vazquez-Baker tonight, followed by Buehrle-Blackburn tomorrow night, and Floyd-Slowey is the matchup for the finale on wednesday night.  Some people say that all three games are must wins for the Twins. I agree with these people.  We have won something like 5 of our last 6 home games against Chicago, a trend that needs to continue.  

If we sweep the series we are a half game up, if we only win two of three we are 1.5 games back.  The Sox still have that make-up game to play with the Tigers due to the rainout a few weeks back. This will only be played if necessary.  We play KC at home after the White Sox, and the Sox go back to Chicago to play the Indians.  

Thoughts on the series? Does anyone think the Twins can afford to lose one of these games?

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Who is responsible?

After this season mercifully comes to a close in a little over a week we will ask ourselves “who is responsible?”. So lets just do that now.  Someone MUST be held accountable for the Twins disastrous stretch run. But who? (or whom, I’m not sure).  The first suspect will be this site’s namesake, Ron Gardenhire. His terrible in-game management (notice how I said “in game” meaning lineup construction, bullpen management, not shooting Scott Ullger in May, etc.) has been magnified down the stretch run. Everyone seems unfocused, especially the defense.  They have made dozens of boneheaded plays that have led to crucial losses.  Gardy has clearly done a bad job of managing by not only using a dart board to determine who will come out of the bullpen, but it seems as though he never reminded anyone we have been in a pennant race for the past month or so.  I was reading about the firing of Ned Yost and I noticed he has basically managed his team to a similar record and playoff positioning as Gardy this season.  So why was Gardy not fired as the team floundered down the stretch?  If you say because “nobody expected the Twins to be in the race in September” you are an idiot.  That is a terrible reason.  Just because everyone (baseball writers, what the hell do they know anyway) thought we would be in the AL Central basement, doesn’t mean we get a free pass to be sucky.  Yeah it was fun, but the fact remains we ARE (or were, depending on your state of mind) in it.  Preseason expectations should notdictate how decisions are made during the season.  I’ll say this, Gardy probably should keep his job because he has done a lot for the team in the past and he has gotten a lot out of a pretty mediocre and untested bunch of guys.  However, if you are Ned Yost, you have to be a little upset. He basically lost his job because he didn’t live up to the hype, and Gardy surpassed the hype and kept his despite the two teams being in near identical positions. Moving on….

Next up in the firegardy.com blame game is Wild Bill Smith.  He seemed to have overplayed his hand in the Johan deal, and we ended up with players who really aren’t all that good.  Neither of the three packages looks all that great now, but since I write for the Internet (presumably out of my mother’s basement) I can second guess anyone and everyone.  Gomez was exciting for about one game, then became frustrating. Humber didn’t look so hot in the minors, but Mulvey looked decent.  The Red Sox package would have been good, Lester has been a hell of a pitcher, but Ellsbury, like Gomez, started off hot and seemed to really flame out. I didn’t look up any numbers on him, but I’m pretty sure he is platooning with Coco Crisp now.  I would probably be more excited if the Twins had started Gomez in AAA, or sent him down earlier this summer when it became apparent that he was totally over-matched at the plate.  I still support the Garza trade because the Twins finally showed willingness to part with one of their 35 good, young pitchers for some hitting. Young still has tons of upside (he is only 22) and really hasn’t been all that bad this year. He started off slow, but has been playing well in the second half.  The way the twins draft and scout players we can replace Garza. It would be a shocker if we developed a talented hitter in our system, its just not how we roll.

Is it totally unfair to blame individual players for being bad? Probably.  Most of that can be traced back to the coaching staff, who stuck with terrible players for too long. Consistently using Guerrier down the stretch even though it was pretty obvious he was unreliable? I guess it isn’t his fault Gardy kept calling his name.  Sticking with Livan (who was named “Ace” of the first half for the team by MLB.com, because he had 10 wins) for several months too long, again not his fault. Is he supposed to call up Bill Smith and say “I’m pretty terrible at my job, you should fire me”?  If only it were that easy.

Thoughts? Who else is to blame? Ozzie Guillen? Me? The people wearing pink Nick Punto jerseys (who can be blamed for pretty much every problem worldwide)?

4 comments

The Long Ball Streak Ends, Along With All Hope

Last week we were talking about the Achilles heel of the Twins’ pitching staff (one of them, anyhow) — the home runs.

At the time, we’d given up 155 HR, ranking 12th in the AL. The worry was that our weakness perfectly complements the White Sox’ strength, and that that harms us significantly.

Evidently, someone in the Twins clubhouse was listening, because they’ve really gone out of their way to prove that our fears were warranted.

In the third inning of the second game on Saturday, Perkins gave up a three run home run to Salazar. On Sunday, we gave up 7 runs on 5 homers to the Orioles (Salazar, Markakis, and Montanez). On Monday, we gave up 3 runs on 2 homers to the Indians (Shoppach and Choo). Then on Tuesday, the first four runs we gave up against the Indians were on two home runs (Garko and Cabrera). The streak finally ended in the third inning on Tuesday when a Punto error moved a runner to third and a Liriano wild pitch let the run in.

So, over the course of under four games, we gave up 17 consecutive runs via the home run (on 10 homers). And the only thing that managed to finally end the long ball pain was the Twins’ other major weakness — defense. (Team defensive efficiency of .694, 20th in baseball.)

Mark this moment. 7:10 PM, Central Time. The Twins are down 8-1 in the 3rd to the Indians and the White Sox are up 4-1 in the 4th over the Yankees.

To quote Dick Bremer: “… one of the most unsightly innings of the year.” Indeed. It’s fitting. Almost poetic.

This precise moment may be the end of the Twins’ dreams of contention in 2008. The 17 consecutive runs via the home run aren’t the reason for the end — they just irrefutably demonstrate why the end came.

It was nice while it lasted. And now that the pressure’s off, maybe the Twins can start hitting and/or pitching and/or defending like major leaguers again. It’s gotten too much like watching the Vikings, and I for one can only tolerate that wretched experience once per week.

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