Tag Archives: Jamey Carroll

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

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The Twins Are Seriously Interested In Pursuing Free Agent X

How did that ole Tom Jones diddy go…hope is in the air??

Pitchers and catchers have reported to Fort Meyers, FL for the start of the 2012 Minnesota Twins spring training camp.  Leading the way were marquee free agent acquisitions C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt.  They are the power arms signed to bolster one of the more battered staffs in the American League.

Santana never pitched at the Twins new palace, though, neither has any other first rate starter for the home squad.

Not only were Twins pitchers some of the most fragile in league, when they did pitch, they did their best to disprove the notion that Target Field is a “pitchers” park.  Wilson and Oswalt should anchor a Twins staff that is in desperate need of the type of stopper that can pick the ball up every fifth day and inspire a squad.  The Twins have not had a guy like that since two-time Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, toed the rubber for the home nine.  Fortunately, a new stadium and increased payroll flexibility, have allowed the Twins keep their promise to their fans and put a competitive squad on the field, year in and year out.

All right, hold on, hold on, hold on.  Don’t get your Homer Hankey in a knot.  I know what you are thinking, “You chucklehead, the Twins did not sign any of those players.”  If you read the previous couple paragraphs with a bittersweet regret, welcome to the 2012 Twins fan club.  It is cold.  I hope you brought a coat.  At the very least, you are going to need layers.

Not once, during the entire offseason, were the Twins ever reported to be in the discussions for a marquee free agent.  Some of the lists of interested teams for the players referenced above grew to more than half the league, but, never once were the Twins included.  As a contributor (not exactly voluntarily) to the architectural wonder that is Target Field, this is frustrating.

We, as citizens, were told that building a new stadium would allow the Twins to remain competitive with other “big” spending teams.  And, at first, it seemed like that might be true.  Homegrown talent, turned superstars, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer were all paid considerably well.  To borrow from another 60s legend, the times, they were a-changin’.

Unfortunately, a series of freak injuries (I mean, bi-lateral leg weakness, seriously?!?!) and a 99 loss season have precipitated a shift to that approach.  In fact, the mastermind behind the Twins run in the late 90s and early 00s, Terry Ryan, was rehired to do the task his self-appointed mentee, one Bill Smith, could not complete: build a championship team.

When you have players in your starting line-up that were draft by the Expos, that should be a warning sign.

The return of Messer Ryan also meant the return of his penny pinching approach.  Cue the Jamey Carroll, Jason Marquis, Ryan Doumit, and Jason Willingham signings.  That is right, the expectations for this year’s squad are tied to a 39 year-old journeyman shortstop, a reclamation project at C and P, and a well-traveled slugger that may or may not be capable of slugging.

Just one time, it would be nice to pick up the local newspaper (okay, who I am kidding), click on the sports section for one of the local papers, peruse the headlines for the day, and see that the Twins were seriously interested in pursuing big name, Free Agent X.

Unfortunately, this year, all the “headlines” were “made” by the signing of undervalued free agent veterans.  More succinctly put, there no marquee signings, only Marquis signings.  Here is hoping that Sean Bourroughs really is the next Josh Hamilton.  Personally, I am going to hold off on getting my Bourroughs All-Star jersey until after training camp breaks.