The Twins continued to stumble this weekend, dropping a series to the division-leading Tigers that they really shouldn’t have. They’re supposed to be able to handle Gallaraga — and they didn’t. They roughed up Verlander and newly acquired Pavano shined. They smacked around the Tigers’ new toy Washburn, but “ace” Baker handed them more than we were able to score.
We’ve now lost seven of our last nine games, and are sliding pretty rapidly out of contention. The team is kind of up and down right now; winning big, losing big, losing close — but never winning close. This weekend really demonstrated the team’s penchant for that — and it does make it feel like we’re closer to being good than we probably are. It’s getting really easy to look back at all these close games and pick out ones that we really should have won, that were just out of reach, that slipped from our grasp at the last moment.
Of course, it doesn’t really work that way. You can only hope that we regress back to the mean in the near future — but it’s worth pointing out that the only accepted way to reliably outperform .500 in close games is to have a good, well managed bullpen with talented arms. I don’t think I have to point out that the Twins don’t have one of those; in fact, they don’t have any part of that. It’s a bad bullpen, with little talent, and it’s managed poorly.* I don’t think we’ll be winning more than our share of close games in the coming weeks.
* I think it’s worth pointing out that this doesn’t matter. Gardy could be The Official Genius Of Bullpen Management Of All Time, and the pen would still suck — there’s no amount of “putting guys in at the right time” that can paper over the fact that none of them can get through a scoreless inning.
As you can probably tell, I’m not feeling very optimistic right now about the Twins’ chances. But at least the early returns on the Pavano acquisition have been promising, and there’s always the chance Smith stays active on the waiver wire like he said he would. Realistically, though, it’s probably time to start taking what enjoyment you can from the games without hoping too much for a win, or being broken too much by a loss.
That it’s happened in early-mid August is somewhat disappointing, but that’s later than many teams.
But since this is an offday, which I still hate, let’s get some craziness in here. It’s time to start cheering up, folks.
- For those of you who like a little schadenfreude — I personally don’t get off on it, but I know a lot of people love it — it must feel good to see the Red Sox get swept by the Yankees and drop to 6.5 games back … and into a tie with the Rangers for the wild card. If Boston fails to make the playoffs this year, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them go on a Yankee-esque spree over the offseason … except without a free agent class as top heavy in talent.
- I’m not a big rumors guy, but this talk of Alex Rios going to the White Sox on waivers frightens me. The mass media thinks it’s a great move for the Blue Jays to shed that salary — oh noes, he’s signed for the next 5 years! — because Rios isn’t currently living up to the hype he created by being fairly awesome at a young age. I think it’s kind of funny about Rios — nobody really knew who he was while he was building up a case as a pretty damn good player, all of a sudden people noticed and he got a big contract and they started paying attention, and he’s struggled a little bit to make the leap. So, given that he stumbled just while people were doing what they could to overrate him, the pendulum has now apparently swung back in full force. When Ken Rosenthal says the Blue Jays would simply be better off getting rid of his salary for nothing, that means he’s “rated” pretty low. On the other hand, Rosenthal is kind of a nut, and he tries to create news, and he seems to have something against the Jays right now,* and Rios’s contract is actually a bargain. I really hope the White Sox don’t get their greedy little mitts on Rios — that’d be a much more significant acquisition than Peavy, and would make their outfield (and lineup) pretty ridiculous. Can Bill Smith block this somehow? Do I have to go to Comiskey and start cutting phone lines or something?
* Remember all that “Halladay will be traded, I guaran-god-damn-tee it, because the Blue Jays suck now and will suck next year and will always suck so they don’t deserve Halladay as much as real teams like the Yankees and Red Sox” nonsense? Well, Halladay didn’t get traded. And Rosenthal still hasn’t backed down on his bullshit. Or apologized to Jerod Morris for screaming at him for reporting things as if they’re true when you pretty much just made them up on your own. Just saying.
- I saw this morning an article about the interesting possibility of the collective bargaining agreement changing (soon?) to add a slotting system to the draft. I think Calcaterra’s take is better than the original article, so if you’re going to read only one then go for Calcaterra’s (as usual). It’s a good point that players who are drafted aren’t even eligible to be in the union — and most minor leaguers don’t get to apply to be in the union either. You have to wait until you’re on a 40 man roster. (I suppose that might be one reason the Twins talk about “rewarding” players by putting them on the 40-man, even though that sometimes leads to us losing a promising prospect in the Rule 5 draft.) I’m totally in favor of a slotting system in the draft, and it’d neuter the new strategy of the wealthy and successful teams to keep their farm system stocked — paying way over slot for guys who slipped past where they should have gone due to “signability concerns.” Take that out, and the draft’s ostensible goal — crappy teams get better picks so maybe they’ll get less crappy — is a little bit closer to reality. It may actually be possible that this changes in the next few years, and I’d be pretty happy about it.
- Interesting article today over at The Hardball Times about the monster seasons being put together by Justin Morneau and Prince Fielder. It concludes with a bit of a fantasy slant, but the analysis of Morneau is pretty good: > While he had a great 2006, Morneau did not deserve the MVP that year. However, this season, he could top 130 RBIs and 39 home runs based on his ZiPS projections, which would actually beat his 2006 numbers. His wOBA is over .400 for the first time in his career, though it is still not at an elite level. This has a lot to do with his low OBP and walk rate. His walk rate has increased to 12.2 percent this year, but it is still far from great. His career OBP stands at .353, which trails Fielder’s career mark of .379. >Morneau’s limitations in getting on base have dragged his runs totals down. Even in his 34 homer season in 2006, he only scored 97 runs, and he has never topped 100. He isn’t a horrible run scorer, but in comparison to other first base options he could be better. It is worth noting that Morneau has a shot at his first 100 run season this year, but again, he could be scoring a lot more runs if his walk rate were better.
I’ve complained about Morneau’s awful plate discipline in the past, and pointed out that I’m impressed that he’s able to hit with such power and draw as many walks as he does while seeming to have intermittent (at best) ability to recognize a breaking ball and a penchant for chasing unhittable pitches low and away. Given that it’s literally the only thing keeping him from being one of the elite players in the game. (I mean moreso.)
Oh. And there’s one last thing. If you’ve gotten this far, you might want to do a little more reading. So I’ll send you over to Posnanski, where he’ll talk in his typically longwinded and brilliant style about what it means to “quit,” especially when you’re talking about a team sport. You know how people always say stuff like “oh, the team just quit,” or “yeah they lost, but at least they didn’t quit,” et cetera? Well, that’s what he’s talking about. And I think he hits it right on the nose.
Quitting in sports isn’t about QUITTING. No, I think it’s about something else. While I don’t think that players ever stop TRYING to do well, I do think that in a bad environment players will stop believing that any of it matters very much. And I think that comes closest to what we’re talking about here. This might not be the best comparison — and you might not even relate to this — but for me there was always a very different feeling when we played baseball games around the neighborhood than we we played official Little League games. Sure, we TRIED in the neighborhood games. I would suggest we tried just as hard as we ever did in the real games. But we weren’t wearing uniforms, and we didn’t have coaches, and we we didn’t have dirt infields, and there were no repercussions for messing up other than your friends busting your chops. There was this sense that the Little League games MATTERED in a way that the neighborhood games did not. You played with a certain attention and inspiration that was missing in the neighborhood games.
Although I will say that I always felt the extra attention and inspiration in the neighborhood games much more than in the official games. Maybe they shouldn’t have forced us to wear those stupid looking uniforms.
And after reading Posnanski’s post, would you say the Twins have quit? I wouldn’t.
That is all. Hopefully it tided you over a little bit while you contemplate why the Twins seem to have so many offdays lately.3 comments