Tag Archives: Twinks

Winnersville, USA — Well That Did Not Last Long

All of the major Minnesota sports teams (Vikings [only just], Twins [Morneau showing his MVP form], Lynx [Minny’s best squad] were victorious this past weekend. The border rival Packers got dominated at home by Alex Smith. No seriously, that Alex Smith. Heck, even the not so major squads managed a victory — yeah, I am looking at you Gophers football. Even though you did not lose to Oregon State (another shout out to Sconnie sports), you have to beat a real college squad for me to get too excited.

Augustus and the Lynx saw their winning streak snapped, but they are still the most dominant squad in town in their respective league.

The weekend’s success continued into Monday night as the Twins pounded their neighbors in the cellar, Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, the run of Ws could not continue. The Twinks were embarrassed last night — promising rookie Scott Diamond was lit up like promising rookies sometimes are. And, the WNBA powerhouse Lynx took a night and did their best 2010 Timberwolves impression, solid offense, but no defense, in a loss to Chicago.

But, a 9 to 1 drubbing and the end of a winning streak might just be the dose of reality Minnesota fans needed.

Sure, the Vikes won a thriller on Sunday. They are the new darlings around town. Apologies to Messers Parise and Suter, you have to be playing for us to count you. But it took a seriously miraculous series at the end of game — Ponder moving the offense down the field quickly for a game tying 55 yard FG by Blair “Thunder Leg” Walsh — to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Fresh off  a win like that, the fan in me wants to guzzle the Ponder Kool-Aid….okay….that did not come out right….never mind….let’s move on….anyway, I want to believe we are witnessing his “jump” to the next level. This is the heady, stud QB we heard all about. He finally has the weapons he never had at FSU. And, he has a sturdy enough line that he is not being pressured like a Harvard hoopster in a government class. Unfortunately, the cynic in me, the one that has been Brett Favre’d, Gary Anderson’d, Morriss’d, and Denny Green’d, is yelling not to get my hopes.

A buddy of mine put it perfectly, when talking about the Vikes’ win, he said that after the DIII legend embarrassed Chris Cook for what looked like the game winning TD, he was in disbelief. Not surprise,  just disbelief. That is a perfect assessment of where we are at as fans. Vikings fans have been conditioned to expect the let-down, so when it happens, it is not a shock. It is a coping mechanism. Psychology 101. So instead of surprise, there is only the disbelief at how the squad managed to give away the game.

Maybe this year’s team is going to be different. The fan in me wants to believe it is.

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Changing The Paradigm

This year has brought another frustrating season for Twins fans. Now, I know what you are thinking, thank you Captain Obvious, if I wanted to get commentary from John Madden, I would have spent my afternoon on YouTube!! Hear me out.

The Common Man has been one of the few advocating that the Twins stay the course and resign Frankie K.

The interesting thing about the frustration that most Twins fans have expressed this season is that it has helped illustrate a potential larger flaw in Twins territory.

If you listen to the local microphone jockeys or read the birdcage liners, the chorus of what the Twins organization should do is pretty consistent. Give up this season and build for the future by trading their semi-valuable pieces (i.e. Frankie K or Span) in the hopes that the prospects they get in return will contribute to the team’s success down the road. There is problem with this line of thinking. It is a small market team’s philosophy. We need to change the paradigm in Twins territory.

As anyone who took a high school civics class might recall (my class was early so I had to look this up), a paradigm (pronounced PARA-DIGGUM – for kicks) is essentially an observable pattern. In social sciences, it is often described as a pattern of behavior.

As much as Twins fans irrationally hate him, advocates of moving pieces point at this trade as the reason why the Twins should be sellers. Unfortunately, the results from this trade have been the exception, not the rule.

For years, following the success of the 87′ and 91′ squads, Twins fans became accustomed to the small market paradigm for running a team. Low payroll, draft smart (usually below slot), and make savvy moves at the trade deadline (i.e., A.J., Shannon Stewart, etc.). And, because the address was 900 S. 5th St (aka the Homerdome), this made sense. In fact, considering our Midwestern sensibilities, this approach seemed to fit.

Well, no more. When the people of Minnesota ponied up the cash for Target Field, that mindset should have changed. Unfortunately, we are still stuck in our small market way of thinking and behaving. You see, one of the key differences between small market and big market clubs is that, at the trade deadline, big market clubs are always looking to add. Have you ever flipped on the four letter network and heard a story about the Red Sox or Yankees selling at the trade deadline? Of course not. They are always buyers.

Now, I get it, the Twins will never be the Yankees or Red Sox. Fair enough. Even I am not crazy enough to suggest that they should be. However (raise your hand if knew that was coming — well done), there is a more apt comparable of what they should strive to be in our own division.

In 2009, the Chicago White Sox were in 3rd place in the AL Central. Even though they were sort of in the race, most baseball people felt like they did not have the pieces to contend with the Tigers and Twins. That did not stop GM Kenny Williams from going out and getting ace pitcher Jake Peavy from the Padres. Yes, he gave up a decent prospects, in particular Clayton Richard, but, Peavy has pitched, and pitched well, for the White Sox for the past three years. This year he has been the anchor for the Sox and has helped keep them atop of the division. Richard has only just now started to show flashes of being a legitimate big leaguer. As a bigger market club, you have to be willing to pay the premium for that bona fide ace. The Padres asked for Richard. Williams paid it.

Greinke’s return to the AL Central is exactly the kind of big market move the Twins should make. With a new deal negotiated as part of the trade, he would be the anchor of the starting staff for years.

Right now, there are two big pitching names on the market: Zach Greinke and Cliff Lee. Either one would look fantastic in a Twins uniform. Both would require GM Terry Ryan to deplete the prospect bin (think some combination of Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, or maybe even recent indie film star Miguel Sano). That said, with Greinke (provided he would resign) or Lee, a resigned Frankie K, and a healthy Scott Baker, the Twins would have the beginning of a fairly decent starting staff. Combine that with a decent offense and promising young bullpen, a trade to get Greinke or Lee is the prudent move for an up and coming big market team. In the race or not, it makes the Twins better now and in the immediate future.

The question is, will we as fans put enough pressure on the organization to change our current paradigm and force Ryan to make the bold move? I for one, sure hope that we do.

New Faces, Same Old Rivalry

Both teams involved in the I94 rivalry come into this weekend’s series with losing, though, semi-competitive records in their respective divisions. Let’s hear one for our sponsor this weekend…parity!!!

The Crew are the more respectable of the two, checking in at 16-22, good for 4th in the NL Central, and only 6 games back. The Twinks are a ghastly 12-26, good for the worst record in baseball, and yet, are still only 10 games back in the AL Central. Only might seem a bit “glass half full,” but, consider that they would be 13 games back in the AL East or NL West.

The Twins come into this weekend’s series hot, fresh off their first sweep of the season. Will they get to use their brooms again this weekend?

In terms of momentum, amazingly, the Twins have that market cornered right now, winning their last two games. Sweeping the division rival Tigers in Detroit. The Crew have lost two in a row and four of their last five. However, that is nothing that a little home cooking with an ancient rival won’t fix.

The Crew are 4-2 against the Twinks the last two years and have been particularly dominant in Milwaukee. The pitching sets up nicely for the Brewers who will run Estrada, Yo, and Greinke to the hill in this weekend’s tilt. The Twins are countering with Scott Diamond (more on  him later) Carl Pavano, and Jason Marquis.

Needless to say, particularly with Pavano and Marquis, the Miller Park scoreboard operator should consider asking for a bonus this weekend, he is likely going to be working overtime. In fact, does the scoreboard at Miller Park have an infinity symbol? Marquis has been pitching lately like a guy challenging that frontier. To call his recent outings glorified batting practice is an insult to batting practice pitchers everywhere.

That lack of quality starts, in large part, has driven the Twins into a youth movement. Hence, Scott Diamond. Diamond is a 6’3″ lefty who has dominated in his first two starts since his call-up on May 8th. Diamond joined fellow youngster, P.J. Walters in the rotation as the Twins, who are using the spaghetti method of building a line-up, want to see what they have in these young arms.

The youth movement has been even more prevalent on the offensive side of the ball. Of the Twins 12 position players who see the most innings, 8 of them are not yet 30 years old and 5 of them are not even halfway through their roaring 20s.

The brightest star of these diaper dandies has been SS Brian Dozier. Dozier is hitting almost .300 with 5 extra base hits while playing stellar defense. He really has been a sorely needed spark and, should there be any kind of turn around, he will definitely be considered the guy who help initiate it.

FedEx snafu aside, at least the Crew’s nine figure guy Braun is delivering. Not sure Twins fans are as happy with their guy Mauer at the moment.

The Crew have yet to stoop to the Twins level of desperation, refraining from calling up all their young prospects. Instead, sticking with the “veterans” (Braun, T-Plush, Weeks, and Hart). Although, even those veterans are still relatively young. Brewers fans should be happy about the core of young players that the organization has to build around. And, on top of that, the Crew do have some guys in the minors who look like they could be contributing soon.

Pitcher Tyler Thornburg is dominating at Double A. His 1.91 ERA and 9.8 SO/9 are downright filthy. If the back end of the rotation continues to struggle, he might just force the Crew’s hand. His teammate, Khris Davis, is also raking at Double A. Stuffing the stat sheet in all the counting categories while roaming the OF at Huntsville. Though, unless the Brewers decide to trade Plush or Hart, Davis probably will not get the ABs he needs to justify a pre-September call up.

As of right now, only the Twins have fully embraced the youth movement. It would not shock me to learn that their is some sort of underground expressway from Target Field to Rochester. Barring a turn around, hopefully the Twins see enough out of their young guns that they can be player at the trade deadline in terms of moving talent (Span, Burton, etc.) for additional prospects. The Brewers have the prospects knocking on the door to follow suit and embrace their own youth movement. Though, the memory of last year’s run to the NLCS may cause them to hang on to hopes of another playoff run a bit longer than is appropriate.

The nice thing is, regardless of the new faces, the rivalry goes on. It is still Twins v. Brewers. And that always makes for a good time.

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.