Tag Archives: Baby Jesus

Hope For Sale, Get Your Hope!!

If you missed Part 1 of BR’s reaction to the first weekend of the 2012 MLB season, you can find it here. Part 2 covers the western half of the BR rivalry. That is right, ladies and gentlemen, the Twin Cities finest purveyors of hope, your 2012 Minnesota Twins.

Even though the Twins’ record is markedly improved from when Part 1 was written, all is not well in house that Mauer built.

Not even the power (see $$$$) of the Mouse himself was enough to pen a happy ending for the Alberts' road trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Twins are currently 2-4, fresh off two semi-dramatic wins at home over the Anaheim Alberts of Los Angeles, brought to you by Disney. No doubt, the recent wins were exciting. In fact, aside from the recent addition of excellent, local micro-brews like Fulton to Target Field taps, these wins were the most excitement this field has seen since Big Jim Thome stroked his 598th HR last August. But hey, don’t worry, we only have 320 months worth of payments left on that tab!!

In spite of those recent wins, this year’s team is ripe for savagery. It is almost too easy to point out that a team that was one of the worst, from a pitching perspective, did literally nothing to add to the strength of either the rotation or the bullpen. In fact, with the loss of former horse Joe Nathan, it is more reasonable to say that the Twins let one of the worst staffs in the league get worse. Add to that the recent news that staff “ace” (read into those quotes however you want to), Scott Baker, is going to have to undergo season ending elbow surgery and 2012 Twins pitching staff offers little in the way of inspiration.

In fact, to call the Twins’ staff a collection of 3s and 4s might be generous. The current stable of starters is: The Moustache, The Artist Formerly Known As The Franchise, Nick Blackburn, Someone Called Liam Hendricks, and Jason “That Is Right, I Am Your Marquis Free Agent Signing” Marquis. A generous projection would be an average ERA around 4.25 with 150+ innings from four out of the five. IF, and that is a Hrbowski sized if, the Twins can get those numbers from their starters, the offense might be able to keep them in some games.

Though, to call the 2012 Twins offense consistent or reliable would be a bold-faced lie. There is promise there, but that is about it. There are still more questions than a Tim Tebow new conference.

Twins fans are hoping the Baby Jesus embraces his role as Messiah and starts spraying balls into Target Field's cavernous gaps.

Messers Mauer and Morneau started the season off relatively well. Both have driven the ball and have had decent ABs during the first two series. But, neither one of them has ever had an issue producing when they are healthy. Their health is the key. Morneau (an admitted man-crush of this author), almost gives off a vibe of fragility when he digs in. Every AB is like playing hot potato with a pin-less grenade. He will rip a ball to the outfield and as he digs around first, you find yourself thinking things like, “Stay put!!”……”This is no time to be a hero!!”……”It is a marathon not a sprint” Then, as he is retreating to first, your competitive side pipes up, “Wait a minute, be man, stretch that thing out”…….”At least force a throw?!?” If this is what is going through the minds of most fans, it has to be 10X more difficult to reconcile that battle as a player. For years, you played the game one way, now, both Mauer and Morneau are having to learn how to manage those natural instincts.

Even though there is a serious concern as to whether the M&M boys really will melt under the lens of Minnesota fandom, other pieces in the line-up are looking promising. Free agent signee Josh Willingham is making Michael Cuddyer look like the poor man’s Josh Willingham, cranking 4 HRs to start the season and assuming the mantle of role model for young players. And, super rookie, Chris Parmelee has kept his hot streak from spring training alive.

All is not lost (yet) in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Even though things are likely going to have to go oh-so-right this year as often as they went oh-so-wrong last year for this squad to make any noise, spring has a funny way of giving fans amnesia. Hope is an easy beverage to consume on a beautiful, Minnesota spring day. Taking that into account, most of us do not need anything crazy like a deep playoff run, but, instead, we would be happy with a return to relevancy. As financiers of this fancy new park, at this point, it seems like little to ask for. Aww hell…..screw it……pass the hope.


AL Central Preview (With A Throwback Twist): Part 2

In case you missed Part 1 of Border Rivals’ 2012 AL Central Preview, you can find it here.   Without further adieu (seriously, who likes adieu), lets get it on.

Minnesota Twins

The focus of Part 2 is on the other half of the Border Rivals rivalry. That is right, fresh off 99 losses, bi-lateral leg weakness, and concussion-like symptoms, ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Minnesota Twins.

Thome was in Minnesota just long enough to hit his 600th and win the fans' hearts (that lumberjack commercial was solid). Then, in line with the 2011 season, he was gone.

To say 2011 was a difficult season for Twins fans is like suggesting the recent Tibetan hunger strike was a couple monks dieting for a cause. Twins fans experienced the following (in no particular order): more than uni-lateral leg weakness (Mauer), a Hall of Fame milestone (Liriano’s no-hitter), a milestone for a Hall of Famer (Thome’s 600th HR), concussion-like symptoms (Morneau), additional concussion-like symptoms (Spansy), elbow pain (Baker), twisted ankle (Kubel), the departure of a Hall of Famer/fan favorite (Thome again), an appointment with Dr. James Andrews (Kyle Gibson), and a litany of other maladies and strange happenstances (remember, it hailed during a game in May), that made 2011 both memorable and oh-so-forgettable.

The success of this season hinges almost entirely on three things: Mauer and Morneau’s return to their MVP form, the health of the starting rotation, and the squad’s ability to play “Twins” baseball — defense, advancing the runner, and making the routine play.

Mauer and Morneau are both coming off their worst seasons as professionals. It was so bad that, on more than one occasion, both guys were hearing boo birds for the first time in their careers. Particularly for the Baby Jesus, the idea that THE hometown boy would get jeered by the hometown fans, is nigh on unthinkable.

This spring, the M&M boys have shown glimpses of their old form. Mauer is making solid contact, even if he is not hitting HRs, and Morneau is pulling the ball with authority to right field. Ultimately, the key to both men having successful seasons might be the same: managing their playing time. That burden falls on Manager Ron Gardenhire. It is not an enviable task, convincing superstar players to assume a reduced role. But, putting them on a platoon (Morneau with more time at DH and Mauer at 1B) will likely decide whether they return to their All-Star forms. If they play at that level, the Twins will feature a fairly solid line-up that will put runs on the board.

In terms of the starting rotation, Moonshot Scott Baker is already injured. He will start the year on the disable list. That is exactly what the Twins did not need. With Brian Duensing moving to the bullpen, an injury to the starting rotation means either Duensing gets stretched out, or, a call-up will have to occur. That being said, if this is the only set back the rotation experiences this season, that would be a win.

Fransisco Liriano has pitched well this spring, though, he has gotten hopes up before. If he even returns to even 75% of his 2006 form, the Twins staff will sneak up on some people. The stuff is there. It is the execution that has been the problem. The Twins also need steady performances from Nick Blackburn and veteran Carl Pavano, though, if betting were legal, those steady performances are more likely than Baker being healthy and Liriano being The Franchise again.

American businessman Jim Rohn said that success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. If the Twins are going to push for a playoff spot this season, they need to embody that quote.

As for the last key, defense and fundamental play, local football coach/legend, John Gagliardi, adapted a famous phrase from American businessman, Jim Rohn, and made it the Johnnie way: “Success is making the ordinary plays, extraordinarily well.” The Twins need to make sure that, defensively, they emulate that mantra. Free agent signing, Jamey Carroll, while not the sexy free agent acquisition that teams with a new stadium should be locking up, could be the engine that drives that “ordinary” approach. Carroll plays solid defense at both middle infield positions. That will be a nice change from last season.

Carroll also handles the bat well and could be a very effective #2 hitter in this line-up. The blockbuster signing of Josh Willingham gets the pulse racing to about the same degree as Carroll.  Though, he has hit in spacious ball parks before. And, even more importantly than his hitting, he is a veteran that could help fill the void left by the departure of Mr. Glue Guy, Michael Cuddyer. That void might be the most important intangible to this season’s success and Cuddyer’s departure cannot be overstated. The Twins are really going to miss him this year.

Baseball, like no other sport, requires that the locker-room have a cohesiveness to it. Unless someone steps up to lead this squad,  give them an identity, and bring them together, it could be another long summer for those at Target Field hoping to see something resembling a baseball game. Here’s hoping, for the sake of the rivalry series (so sue us, we are a little selfish), that someone assumes the mantle of Mr. Glue Guy.

Prediction:     78 wins. 3rd in the AL Central