Tag Archives: Joe Nathan

The Demise Of Frankie K

In May of 2006, the Minnesota Twins decided to bring young phenom, Francisco Liriano, out of the bullpen to relieve the struggling Carlos Silva on a permanent basis. For those reminiscing of the days when the Twins actually made trades, Liriano was a part of the impressive bounty that the Twins received in the trade of A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants. Quick aside, it makes no sense that Twins fans boo Pierzynski when he comes to town. Prickly personality aside, him being traded landed the Twins Joe Nathan, Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Considering Pierzynski was little more than a rental for the Giants, that is an incredible haul. Alright, back to the phenom.

Liriano burst onto the scene just Nuke, repping a left arm that had been touched by the Gods.

Liriano did not just “enter the starting rotation,” he kicked the door down and, to borrow a phrase from Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, “announced his presence with authority.” Liriano absolutely dominated his way through the 2006 season to the tune of a 12 -3 mark that included multiple rookie of the month awards and a microscopic 2.19 ERA. During this period of dominance, it was not uncommon for him to out-duel his fellow pitching savant, Johan Santana. He even earned himself a nickname, Frankie K. He did not just strike people out, he made people look foolish. All Star caliber players would walk away shaking their head after chasing Frankie’s slider, a pitch that, not only broke late, but literally snapped off like it had fallen off a cliff.

By the All-Star break, Frankie had officially arrived. And, even though Santana’s future with the team was uncertain, Twins fans talked themselves into believing that there was a chance that they could lock down two of the best young arms in the league. There was no ceiling to how strong their staff could be with Johan and Liriano leading the way.

Then in the fall of 2006 Liriano experienced stiffness in his throwing elbow. After a stint on the DL and multiple failed attempts to rehab the elbow, Liriano decided he needed to undergo the infamous Tommy John surgery to repair the tendons in his elbow.

The phenom missed all of the 2007 MLB season.

Frankie's slider made certifiable All-Stars look like junior varsity hacks.

When Frankie K returned in April of 2008, he did not look the same. His slider did not have that same sharpness it had before. Instead of swinging over the top, players could foul off the slider and sit on a fastball. Frankie started the season 0-3 with an ERA over 11.00 and he was promptly sent to the minors. We did not know it then, but, this may have been the beginning of the end for Frankie K.

In fact, Liriano’s situation might best compared to that climatic, emergency room scene that appears at least once a week in every medical drama on TV, think House or ER. You know the scene, Dreamboat Dr. Y valiantly attempts to save Patient X. Maybe the Patient flatlines once or twice, has to be resuscitated using compressions or a defibrillator, but, Dreamboat brings the patient back from the brink. The outlook appears good and then, without notice, tragedy befalls Patient X again. And round and round it goes, until, ultimately, Patient X finds love and is cured or tragically passes in the arms of their significant other.

If the beginning of 2008 was our first sign of trouble, Liriano got compressions when he went to the minors. He went 10-0 with a 2.67 ERA. The outlook appeared good. He received an August call-up and promptly went 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA. His pitches still did not appear to have their pre-Tommy John sharpness, but, the results were there.

Not even Rick Anderson and his glorious soup strainer could bring Frankie's back from the brink.

Then, 2009 happened. An entire season spent on the brink. 5-13 with an ERA of nearly 6.00. This crash appeared to be it. Liriano was done. Not even Dr. Dreamboat (Pitching Coach Rick Anderson) and his bag of tricks could save Frankie K. But, like any good medical drama, it was not over just yet.

2010 was a bit of a renaissance year for Frankie K. He did not return to his 2006 form, but, he looked stronger. His pitches, while not quite as nasty, were still very effective. In our medical drama analogy, Frankie K had beaten the flatline yet again. It took a defibrillator (think all of 2009), but, he made it. Twins fans started thinking, like any person rooting for the protagonist, this just might actually work out.

Alas, 2011 was a return to the 2009  form. That blasted flatline. Frankie “Not So Much” K gave up 24 runs in his first 23 innings. Even in his best single game performance, a no-hitter in May, Frankie gave up 6 walks. He would finish the year with a 9-10 record and ERA just north of 5.00.

2012 was going to be Frankie’s last chance. Either he would bounce back with a vengeance, returning to his 2010 form, and become the effective pitcher everyone knows he can be, or, he would continue his fall, leaving only a shadow his former self. Through 3 games, Frankie is 0-2 and has an ERA that is just south of infinity. In his most recent tilt with the New York Yankees, you could tell many of the Yankee hitters were having a hard time distinguishing whether or not the game had started or if they were just taking extended BP. While the time of death has not yet been declared, the plot seems to be trending towards this being an unhappy ending. Here’s hoping Frankie beats the odds, finds true love, and wins the Cy.


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.