Thursday, April 29, 2004

All the Negativity in This Town Sucks

Mid-day notes: For those of you still looking for it, the DTFC forum has moved to a new address. Our link on the left side is now correct (I know a lot of people were panicking!). Also, the Twins are on Channel 45 tonight so be sure and check out this page tomorrow for a new post from Ryan. We're going to plan on having new posts every day, even most weekends, quite regularly. Enjoy!

What is it with Minnesota Sports and nothing ever being good enough? The Twins are in first place and all some people want to say is, “yeah, but so and so is troubling...” Many parts of the team people worried about coming into the season, such as the bullpen, have worked themselves out. Yet, we focus on what's not working or even the problems that arise from what is! It's really too bad because this is a great team and we are stressing ourselves out over it's flaws.

Everyone is very worried about Lew Ford. Instead of reveling in his outstanding play we talk about his playing time. As long as he produces it doesn't matter. Gardy is going to find a spot for him. We don't need to trade Torii Hunter or any of the other outfielders yet. We should also stop searching for flaws in other players ahead of Lew and no he cannot play second or short.

The middle infield is troubling and is talked about more than anything. It's been 2 weeks of slumps. Both players have talent and can't possible play this bad forever. I'm not saying either of them are that good, but a certain two players in NY are having similar problems that no one thinks they wont pull out of. These things happen in baseball. It's not necessarily a bad time for both of them to struggle so badly with the rest of the lineup hitting the cover off the ball.

The starting pitching has struggled. It might not be as good as everyone expected. Carlos Silva has pitched pretty well though and the rest of the guys are at least keeping the Twins in most games. The team has been lucky that it hasn't suffered from its poor starts. The starters are working through their problems and seem to be making progress. In the meantime we should be grateful the bullpen has stepped up in ways no one expected.

Speaking of that bullpen, why are we so worried about Joe Nathan? He was a great set-up man before this year. Great setup men often become great closers. He is 6/6 in saves and averaging over a strikeout an inning. Not half bad! He makes the ninth a little exciting, yes, but he gets the job done. What more can we ask? The point is he is not LaTroy Hawkins of 2001 yet. His velocity is another complaint. This is normal for him and seems to be improving. This is something to cheer. Nathan had major arm surgery several years ago after which he became a better pitcher with low velocity. He is doing just fine.

Terry Ryan let Mike Nakamura go early in the season when the team needed another pitcher. We all worried, why he would do such a thing? Give up a young guy with talent: why? The team has talked more about Brad Thomas then it did about Nakamura. The team obviously didn’t think that highly of Nakamura. He is up with the Blue Jays and doing a very good job, which is great for him. For the Twins he was not the right option at the time, so they called up Seth Greisinger. The Twins front office has some very smart people, and know what they are doing. Nakamura had done nothing to prove himself and the Twin's bullpen has been great so far. It seems like a win-win situation for everybody.

So many positive things have happened for this team. They are fun to follow and hitting the cover off the ball. No one ever could have expected the kind of production some guys such as Henry Blanco, Juan Rincon and Lew Ford have given them. Instead of talking about the negatives, let's think about how lucky we are to have such a great group of players. The team has too much depth, so that isn't a problem. They are likely to hit a snag in the road at some point, naturally, and then some changes will have to be made. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. I love the intrigue but I also need to learn to be patient, take it all in and just enjoy this first place team. If a player is worth supporting when he is doing well, he is worth supporting when he is down.

Team Positives:
Best Record in the American League!
Lew Ford: Leading the League in Hitting
Joe Nathan 6/6 in Saves
JC Romero: Back to His 2002 Form (Wednesday nonwithstanding)
Juan Rincon: the "Vulture" with 4 Wins!
Carlos Silva: Solid 3 Wins
Jaque Jones: .329 4HR 17RBI
Doug Mientkiewicz: .312 AVG
Nick Punto’s Hustle
Mike Ryan: the Professional Hitter
The New Turf
Unlooked for Production From Veteran Players Jose Offerman and Henry Blanco
Muholland, Roa, Rincon and Roa All With Sub .300 ERAs
Johan Santana and Kyle Lohses’s Recent Starts
Hunter off the DL and the Rest To Follow Soon (hopefully)
ETC. ETC. ETC…
If you would like to add your own positive takes on the team let me know in the comments section.

Johnny

(Title copyright of the Common Man)

The Comeback Kids

Note: For those of you unable to access the DTFC forum, try our new link. The URL had been changed but you should be able to get there now. Enjoy today's entry!

Entering the 2004 season, a lot of so-called “experts” predicted that our beloved Minnesota Twins would falter this season and relinquish their AL Central crown to someone else, for a variety of different reasons. The main grounds for this argument stemmed from the Twins’ losses of key talents like LaTroy, Eddie G., The Gambler, and A.J. (not to mention my former favorite Twin, Milty). The other oft-cited reason was that this “transition” version of the Twins just wouldn’t have the same clubhouse comradery and chemistry as those back-to-back division championship teams. In fact, I seem to recall a certain current Twins player (*cough* Doug Mientkiewicz *cough*) expressing the same concerns.

I, along with many other Twins fans I know, scoffed at this sentiment. Unless you play for the Yankees, I believe that chemistry is something that comes hand in hand with winning. When you win, all of those intangibles inevitably fall into place. When you lose, things don’t run as smoothly.

Where the 2002-03 versions of the ballclub came to be known in some circles as the “Contraction Kids”, the 2004 version is quickly establishing itself as the “Comeback Kids”. I’m sure some of you have undoubtedly seen this statistic already, I think it is still extremely telling: the Twins have rallied for 11 of their 14 wins this season and are also 9-6 when the other team scores first. Of those 11 wins, I would consider about 5 of them to be bona-fide “comeback” wins: the first two vs. Cleveland, the 9-7 win over KC, and these past two wins over Toronto.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s wins have especially impressed me. I can imagine how easy it would be to roll over and lose faith in both situations. On Tuesday, you’re down by three runs going into the ninth, you’d been soundly beaten the night before, and Miguel Batista is cruising. I was as excited as anyone when I heard Gordo’s surprised voice say “…this one might have a chance to be a home run…and, it is! Touch ‘em all, Jacque Jones!” My roommate, a Bostonian, couldn’t quite understand why I was jumping around for joy. “Twins win! Twins win!”- I can’t imagine a more appropriate time for celebration than hearing those four words.

Wednesday’s game was one of highs and lows. I thought that the Twins had it in the bag when they took a 5-1 lead going into the eighth. Kyle Lohse had pitched his best game of the season (he bailed himself out big-time with that 1-2-3 double play in the sixth), and we had our best reliever in J.C. coming in to preserve the lead for our pseudo-closer in the ninth. Then, the roof caved in. J.C. loaded the bases with two outs, and Kevin Cash hit a sinking liner that bounced off Stewart’s glove (and then ricocheted off his body!), which turned into a three-run double. It would have been a difficult catch, but it didn’t seem like Stew got the greatest jump in the world. Jacque probably comes up with that ball.

The Comeback Kids never say die, however. Good ol’ Sweet Lew (who is still the official player of this blog) started to shift the momentum back towards the hometown nine with his leadoff single in the bottom of the inning. A couple clutch hits by Michael Ryan and Stew, coupled with some bizarre mistakes by the Jays’ Terry Adams led to 4 more Minnesota runs. What a game!

These past two wins have sent out a clear message to the rest of the American League: these Comeback Kids are here to stay.

Notes: I’ve got a couple of quick questions that I would appreciate an answer to in the comments section below: When is the DTFC forum going to be back up? Also, why can’t we get video highlights from Twins games over at mlb.com? Does anybody know?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Why Not?

We're trying to take some pressure off of Lou-Lou, not having him think about all those other things [when batting so high]. He can just see the ball and get good pitches to hit. Maybe he'll relax down there."

This comment from a guy who took a month to drop Rivas to the bottom of the order. This is the same organization that a couple of years ago was leading its division and shuttling Matt LeCroy between AAA and the majors. In the meantime batting him cleanup for the big club. Reading that comment it would be easy to conclude that Lew Ford has struggled as much as any Twin.

Everyone knows that all Lew has done is hit since his return to the majors. Why the Twins feel they have to baby him and how they base their lineup decisions is sometimes baffling. Who better to hit at the top then somebody who is capable of getting on base and driving in runs? Heck, he's even got some speed. Instead the Twins would rather have him "relax" at the bottom of the order while a stiff is collecting extra outs at the top. The plan now is to bat Doug Mientkiewicz in the two hole. This is not bad as it puts three guys with a knack for getting on base at the top. Last night Lew batted fifth, a place you would expect him to be at this point so Gardy has not completely lost his mind.

Why Lew though? The organization didn't baby Justin Morneau last year at a time it probably should of. He broke in batting right in the middle of the order and was moved down only when he couldn't cut it. Lew has done everything possible to this point and yet the Twins continue to not believe in him. If he is not currently relaxed, what kind of numbers can we expect when he is! Batting in front of the 3rd and 4th hitters the 2nd guy in the lineup gets more good pitches to drive then just about anyone else. Could it just be that the Twins have decided what kind of player Ford is and no matter what he does he wont change their mind? In the meantime we are likely to more Guzman and Rivas at the top then Sweet Lew. The higher Lew bats, as long as he has the hot hand, the better.

Notes -
Joe Mays pitched to the coaches yesterday and performed well. It is good to see Joe on track for a late season return to the majors. Remember, he has not been healthy since his great 2001 campaign. He may not be all the way back when he returns this year but next year expect him to earn his paycheck. It's too bad he has not been able to live up to expectations. He's a great guy and great competitor.

I still can't see the games so I missed an amazing win last night. It's good to see the big hits keep coming. Look for a great outing from Kyle Lohse this time out. He is due and coming off several gutsy performances. That's it for tonight. It is a busy time of year with school ending. At least I've been able to catch former Twins the last couple of nights on TBS.
John
johnbetzler@hotmail.com

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Who's on Second?

Costello: All I want to know is who’s on second?!

Abbot: Like I said, Who’s on first. Luis Rivas is on second.

Costello: Oh. (long pause) Would it be possible for Who, What, or I Don’t Know to play second instead?


I’m sure most Twins fans out there are asking themselves the exact same question as Costello: isn’t there ANYONE else that can play second base for the Twins besides Luis Rivas?!? Rivas went 0-3 again in Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays, lowering his batting average to .197 and his on-base percentage to .222 (he’s also the not-so-proud owner of a .550 OPS). Now, I fully realize that we are less than 20 games into the regular season, but it is becoming more and more apparent every day that Luis Rivas is not the long-term (or even short-term!) solution at 2B.

I know we went through the same debate last year when Rivas started so poorly, but enough is enough. It appears that Rivas has digressed (or remained stagnant) in nearly every facet of his game since his promising rookie season of 2001. His plate discipline has not improved, his defense has possibly gotten worse, and he is no longer the base-stealing threat he once was. I, for one, am thoroughly disappointed.

The thing is, do the Twins have anybody better? Here are the candidates:
Nick Punto: Punto is seemingly the best replacement candidate that we currently have on the major league roster. However, I hate to bust everyone’s bubble, but Nick Punto is not the answer either. At best, he is the Twins version of Bo Hart: short, scrappy, singles-hitting middle infielder. And Punto takes the “singles-hitting” thing to new extremes: in 134 major league at-bats, he has exactly 3 extra base hits (for those of you scoring at home, that works out to be a .276 slugging percentage- only about 1000 points lower that Barry Bonds’ this year). He may work out fine in the short-run, but he is far from a long-term solution. Punto almost makes Rivas look like Bonds.

Michael Cuddyer: I’ve seen a lot of statheads over at the DTFC champion the Cuddyer-as-2B cause. Right now, I’m going to rain on that parade. Michael Cuddyer, simply put, is not a second baseman. He never was a second basemen (although I’m aware he was drafted as a shortstop) and he will never be a second baseman. I do think he could someday be an adequate third baseman in the majors (note the term “adequate”) but he simply does not posses the hands, the footwork, or the instincts to be a second baseman at the major league level (to borrow a term from Bert Blyleven). Anyone who has any baseball-sense whatsoever and has seen Cuddyer play second EVEN ONCE will agree with me. There is no doubt in my mind that he would out produce Rivas easily, but I would not put up with his inferior defense to gain the fairly modest offensive benefits- he’s not Jeff Kent yet remember. Also, let’s not forget this is the same organization that gave up Todd Walker for next-to-nothing, because they were so disgusted with his defense (and attitude).

Minor League candidates: Luis Rodriguez, Alex Prieto, and Jason Bartlett
I’m not sure if any of these AAA players are actually candidates to ever play second base in the majors. Rodriguez is the current 2B for the Red Wings, but it’s obvious the Twins don’t think that highly of him as a prospect (besides the obligatory spring-training invite). He’s only 23, but he’s also 5’9’’ 180 (or so he says). His stats say he’ll probably be a career minor league filler, which is too bad. No power, little speed- a bad combination for a guy hoping to break into the bigs. Prieto is a AAA infielder, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t play second all that much. And it is unlikely that the Twins would have Bartlett, who they have been grooming as a shortstop, break into the majors as a second baseman.

There you have it. Even though he sucks (as I have repeatedly stated), Luis Rivas is currently the Twins’ best option at second base. I hope he can turn his season around, but my faith is dwindling. In the meantime, let the search for Who, What, or I Don’t Know begin.

The Middle-Infield Dilemma

Let me begin by stating that I can no longer defend Luis Rivas. It takes a lot for me to abandon one of my favorite players and this is still not one of those times. When he first came up there was a fire in him. He played baseball like it was supposed to be played. There seemed to always be a huge smile on his face and he had a knack for getting a big hit and occasionally driving the ball into gaps. His defense was close to spectacular. The sky was the limit. This is why I fell in love with him and refuse to believe he can't still be great player for the Twins.

Both middle infielders have been terrible to this point and something needs to be done. The Twins have options. They are not necessarily attractive. Making a change at this point would send a message to both players that it is time to step up their play. The in-house replacements include Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bartlett, and Nick Punto. The team also has a glut of outfielders available to trade.
The Twins should demote Rivas much like was done with Tori Hunter and Joe Mays in 2000. Both players were terrible at the times of their demotion. After spending time in the minors building back confidence they came back to star for the 2001 team. The biggest support for Rivas comes from him being so young. So young that it is too early to give up on him. He hasn't had the at-bats to accurately show what kind of major leaguer he can be. He appears to be mentally strong enough to handle a demotion and come back stronger. The Twins should send him down and let him play his way back to the majors. After feasting on AAA pitching for a month or so he might be ready to return to the majors and play at the level everyone expected 3 years ago. That would be a huge upgrade over anybody who takes his spot in the meantime.

Cristian Guzman is an enigma. Ever since hurting his shoulder on a head first slide in 2001 he hasn't been the same player. Before that he was a rising star. People forget that his injury was largely the cause of the team's second half collapse. The young Guzman was fast, exiting and an igniter for the offense. The question is whether or not he is capable of getting it back and if he can do it while still playing with the Twins.

Guzman was a better hitter when he was driving the ball; he needs to start doing it again. He is terrible because he has been told to hit the ball on the ground. That he doesn't particularly like to work hard is also a hindrance on the situation. Somebody needs to tell him to take the reins off and just play. If he gets hurt again that's really too bad. Right now he is playing his way to an early retirement. Is he capable of being the Guzman of old? Yes, but probably not this year which means it will more then likely have to happen for another team which is sad for anyone who saw him before. Guzman is not likely to see time in the minors anytime soon though so the Twins need to decide what to do with his position.

No matter how much people hate to hear it Cristian Guzman is still the best option at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. The only way the team upgrades the position is through a trade. With Rivas in the minors the team is going to have to play Nick Punto at second about half the time. Punto has never hit at any level. What he brings to the table is speed and hustle. Cristian Guzman on the bench is worthless to the team; they might as well replace him. He doesn't play any other positions or steal bases. Benching him may cause him to slump even further to the point that the team might as well release him, which would leave an even greater void at the position. It's better to leave him out there and pray.
John
johnbetzler@hotmail.com

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Sunday Conversation

For a little change, John and I decided to hold our first online "Sunday Conversation", per ESPN. In it, we're just talking baseball. It's a little long, but hopefully you enjoy reading it and keep coming back for more. If you're a first time visitor, be sure and check two of our best entries thus far: my "Babe" Blanco story, and John's Victory Sports letter. Email us at twinsfan21@msn.com (Ryan) or johnbetzler@hotmail.com. If you think this is something we should make a regular feature, drop a comment below. Thanks, and be sure and stop by tomorrow for a new post.


John: We need to talk baseball! Can Ryan come out to play?
Ryan: Sorry about that I forgot about the conversation.
Should we still do it?
John: Yeah, let’s do it man! I saw your post on the forum, vintage Ryan.
Ryan: I saw that.
John: I almost slammed you but I restrained.
Ryan: I'm a realist, what can I say?
John: 6/6 is pretty good with a nasty slider.
Ryan: It was darn close.
John: Have to make it interesting, adds to the excitement. Could be worse, he could be Latroy. So, I have a plan for Rivas. Do you remember when Hunter and Mays absolutely were terrible a couple of years ago? Why don't we send a message to Rivas and sent him down? I really think Luis has got potential.
Ryan: I wouldn't be opposed to that plan.
John: He doesn't necessarily have the fragile psyche of Guzman
Ryan: The thing is who would play second base in the meantime?
John: See everybody is so exited about Punto and I really don't think he's the answer.
Ryan: I'm not sold on Rivas' "potential" or Punto's talent.
John: Well something is wrong with Rivas; I'm finally admitting it. Punto is an over hyped Hocking though. What he has to offer is that he's not Rivas or Guzman.
Ryan: admittance is the first step in recovery, good for you john :-). Punto isn't much.
John: Um, I don't have a problem Mr. I’m off the Nathan wagon, wait I'm back on.
Ryan: I'll admit I'm not on the Nathan bandwagon. I won't be until he proves he can close night in and night out.
John: Yeah, 6/6 is pretty terrible. Who’s going to close then? The grass is always greener and Crain is far from ready
Ryan: I honestly don't know who will close
John: Romero is great and I'd love to see him close.
Ryan: I would too
John: But then we'd lose him in what I'll call the Bill James innings, plus who knows if his heads on straight enough to handle it.
Ryan: What are these Bill James innings?
John: Well, you remember the big thing last year with Boston was that sometimes the 7th inning is more important then the ninth and right now Romero's that guy for the Twins.
Ryan: I think Romero is more like the 8th inning guy for the Twins.
John: Well yeah, but they can use him whereever they really need him, which is really good for this bullpen. Granted Nathan would be good in that spot too.
Ryan: Gardy has been using him almost exclusively there.
John: Granted Nathan would be good in that spot too.
Ryan: Very true. I think they are inter-changeable
John: Nathan's done everything well at this level though and deserves his shot. He's been just fine to this point. When he gains velocity watch out.
Ryan: We need to stick with him until he falters.
John: His slider is supposedly off the hook. He will not falter.
Ryan: I hope it doesn't happen.
John: I think he's better suited to close mentally then Romero whose admittedly a head case.
Ryan: See we don't know that at all. I think J.C. could handle that role quite well. He's got a fiery personality
John: Let's see, his let his own catcher got in his head last year. That doesn't bode well for ninth inning pressure.
Ryan: He just needs the right situation.
John: I agree and his stuff is stellar.
Ryan: No questions about his stuff.
John: Lets see if he can keep this up. It's only 10 innings.
Ryan: His walks haven't been awesome but MUCH better than last year.
John: Well it helps when you throw strikes. And the rest of the bullpen, what do you think of it so far?
Ryan: I'm impressed with most of the pen, thus far.
John: Me too, I'd say Ryan's done a great job of molding the pieces together.
Ryan: I didn't think TR had it in him again to piecemeal another stellar pen.
John: What is the infatuation with crappy vets though? You think Gardy learned that from TK? I knew TR had it in him.
Ryan: Lighting striking twice, what are the odds? The 2001-2002 pen had more talent than this one does. For instance, Latroy always had tons of talent.
John: Yeah but it took Anderson to harbor it. A Tony Fiorie hasn't emerged yet.
Ryan: Joa Roa, that's this year's Fiore :-).
John: Maybe, I'd say they need Roa more then they ever needed Fiorie though.
Ryan: Very true.
John: What was so great about Tony is that he was still one of the last options.
Ryan: But with these injuries they'll need him more and more. The key is Grant Balfour. They need him back ASAP.
John: Oh good, I thought for a minute you were going to say Roa was the key. Heaven help! Remember Balfour's yet to prove anything. Side note about people who are so upset about Nakamura, why, he's done nothing. There's a reason they let him go. I didn’t even think he was that good.
Ryan: Well, he did strike out the side in Toronto today. If that means anything.
John: The only thing he had going for him was being young. It means nothing.
Ryan: I'm not a huge Nakamura booster either. Time will tell.
John: Look what Douglass did for Toronto and that earned him an outright. Didn't a catcher strike out the side last week for somebody?
Ryan: I was never impressed with Nakamura's stuff either.
John: He's just another crappy reliever.
Ryan: He's deceptive.
John: If he pans out no big deal. Good for him.
Ryan: He was good for 2 outings or so last year, and then people figured him out.
John: He had no control!
Ryan: The same will happen in Toronto.
John: It only took them 2 outings? Wow, he's worse then I thought.
Ryan: I don't remember exactly but it was close to that. He didn't pitch all that much.
John: Oh well, once again there's a reason he didn’t pitch.
Ryan: I have faith in TR.
John: Me too.
Ryan: Thomas was the guy he hated giving up
John: he's done too many things right lately to doubt him, I'm wish I could say the same about Gardy.
Ryan: that's a topic for another day :-).
John: There was barely a word about Nakamura.
Ryan: Exactly!
John: your right:-).
Ryan: The scout in him dismisses Nakamura instantly.
John: Just wait though; he got something good back for Thomas even if it turns out to be cash.
Ryan: I think Boston would be wary of trades made with the Twins. We've screwed them over before.
John: You would think. Seattle Too! I heard Baltimore is ready to deal with us though. What do you think of my boy Hunter now? Lew who?
Ryan: I never said Torii wasn't good, but Lew is still the man. Always will be.
John: But who should be playing center for the Twins?
Ryan: Oh, Torii Hunter without a doubt. As much as I love Lew.
John: Good I was afraid for a second.
Ryan: We should probably trade him soon and get the most back that we can.
John: Trade Lew? Why, he's cheap. So you don't think he can keep it up?
Ryan: Not at his current pace
John: Why name him our Official player then?
Ryan: Because he's still awesome
John: Smells like Bandwagon jumping to me.
Ryan: He's got a great name.
John: He's alright, he'll be solid.
Ryan: Oh no, he's more than alright.
John: Maybe, we'll have to see how he adjusts.
Ryan: Lew can bat .300 over a full season.
John: I want to see more Cuddyer. The Twins need to quit wasting him. He’s being jerked around again.
Ryan: I was disappointed to see Offerman batting third today.
John: Obviously.
Ryan: Cuddy should have been at first base
John: I'm sure KC was happy though. Cuddy needs to play everyday.
Ryan: Cuddy did get the start out in left however, which was nice to see.
John: There is no reason for him to sit 2 straight games like he did last week.
Ryan: Exactly, especially with all these guys injured.
John: It was an o-fer today, though.
John: Gardy messed with his timing. It's now or never to see what they have.
Ryan: Put up or shut up. We've got a ton of guys like that. Ryan, Rivas, Guzman, and Cuddyer.
John: Well at least the middle infielders have been given chances.
Ryan: Myriad chances.
John: The organization is having a tough time putting players in situations where they can succeed
Ryan: That depends on how you look at it.
John: The reason this team got so good is because they were allowed to play through problems.
Ryan: Look at Carlos Silva! I had extreme doubts about their move for him.
John: Well that's true but when you have no other starters anywhere!
Ryan: But it looks to be the right one!
John: One name for you, Seth Greisinger.
Ryan: Balfour could have easily been a starter!
John: Silva even went 7 today
Ryan: They could have signed another Rick Helling.
John: Balfour might not even pitch this year.
Ryan: Heaven forbid another Helling.
John: Balfour’s injury really worries me.
Ryan: Me too.
John: Helling will be better then people think.
Ryan: I was really counting on Balfour to anchor the pen with J.C.
John: I don't know why, he's got a good arm but I want to see more. I want to see more from Lohse too.
Ryan: Don't kid yourself. Helling will be mediocre at best.
John: You think?
Ryan: No doubt.
John: He's home and his mechanics are fixed.
Ryan: He has very little left in his arm.
John: I think he's in the perfect situation to succeed.
Ryan: That might be true.
John: He has a good defense behind him.
Ryan: But he just doesn’t have the talent anymore.
John: Anderson has worked bigger miracles. He's got more talent then Muholland.
Ryan: Name one besides LaTroy.
John: Romero is back on track. Fiorie in 2002, Kenny Rogers was pretty good last year under him.
Ryan: But the Gambler is still pretty good this year and Anderson had little to do with his success.
John: Well he didn't forget what Anderson told him.
Ryan: sure... I love Anderson as much as the next guy but let's not get ahead of ourselves. He's still only one man. The pitchers themselves have much more to do w/their own success.
John: All I know is the pitchers have confidence in him. Which is a good thing. You know whom the Twins should sign? We should really pick up Aggie. See if he can still throw.
Ryan: !!!
John: He's not that old
Ryan: Aggie's like 45! At least!
John: The Bullpen would set up really good though. He can still get her done.
Ryan: That’s as dumb as signing Trombly again.
John: Um, lets not.
Ryan: We all know how that worked out.
John: Yeah, ouch, but Aggie deserves another shot.
Ryan: Now I think you're losing it here John
John: I’m not. I'm just trying to go for a fantastic ending. I miss Mauer. The teams wining and every thing are great but I feel like we are being cheated by not being able watch him.
Ryan: I got to see him play his only complete major league game, I feel lucky.
John: Well aren’t you special?
Ryan: I think Joe will be just fine when he comes back.
John: So, if LeCroy gets back first do you catch him or Blanco?
Ryan: I rotate the two.
John: The offense guy in me wants LeCroy.
Ryan: Blanco has shown that he can't play every single day.
John: LeCroy opens up so many more options despite how Blancos played.
Ryan: Blanco’s been slumping.
John: He's terrible. I love how you equate a 3 game slump with showing that he can't play. Why don't you just site the last 5 years instead? It would add more credibility.
Ryan: I would if I could :-), I've been impressed with how LeCroy's defense is coming along though. He used to be unusable and now he's slightly below average. He still can't throw anyone out.
John: Yeah he's still terrible behind the plate, kind of like you.
Ryan: He's half decent now. I can't believe though that TK would anoint him the starter in '99.
John: He was the team's top prospect.
Ryan: Mr. Defense!
John: TK was the same guy who played Koskie in right.
Ryan: I think the catching situation will be just fine in both the long and short term. As will the Twins.
John: We actually have some good depth at the position.
Ryan: For many years to come.
John: I think the Twins have come out and proven themselves so far. They have sent a message for the rest of the league better to take notice.
Ryan: We will see what happens when we're out of the Central.
John: We’ll be right up there until we have another slump like last year.
Ryan: That’s when the real test will begin.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

State of this Blog Address

Well, it has officially been one week since this site, Twins Chatter, went public. It sure seems like a lot longer to me, I know that! But opening week has been a great experience for John and I, although maintaining a blog has turned out to be more work that either of us expected. We've had a ton of entries posted already- I have something like 6 actual posts, and John has about 5. We've even had a couple of creative columns that I know a lot of people found entertaining- my Blanco "article" and John's letter to Victory Sports. We're gonna try and keep things fresh around here, to get you all coming back for more.

Site traffic has been better than expected. It's great to have an avenue like the DTFC Twins forum to spread the word to a large group of die-hard Twins fans. I know a few people around the Northfield area also read this blog on a regular basis, which is good to know. We've also been able to procure links at The Bad Twin, Aaron's Baseball Blog (although you really have to look to find us there), and even at Twins Geek! Thanks a ton John Bonnes! Hopefully enough people will see our link over there, as if we could even get a tiny fraction of the Geek's traffic it would be mind-boggling. Also, I'm sure the boys over at the Baseball Boys will be linking us soon as well, because I know Eric checks out the site. Also, our John would also never forgive me if I failed to mention Will Young, who I know he reads religiously.

Our number one supporter has been Seth from over at Seth Speaks. He helped introduced us and has mentioned the blog a few times already, including on Friday. Seth is a great guy and you should all check him out if you haven't already.

Now, I come to the actual point of this post. We here at Twins Chatter want to know what YOU, the reader, think of our site thus far. What have we done well? What have we not done as well? Do you think the content is interesting? Do you like the writing? What aspects do you like and think we should expand upon? Does the site look okay- are you still having problems loading it? Any thoughts you might have I strongly encourage you post in a comment below. We really would like some feedback in order to give us a new direction or reassure us about our current path. If you don't want to post a comment, e-mail me at twinsfan21@msn.com or John at johnbetzler@hotmail.com. Either way is fine.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. This post will remain at the top all weekend long, so that as many people as possible will see it. Also, if you're so inclined, you can check out my running recap of Friday's Twins game that was on TV. Man, was it great to watch a game on TV! Who would have thought that I, a poor college student, would have attended more games at Metrodome (3) than I've seen on TV (2)! Friday was an awesome win for the Twins, and it exposed the weak KC bullpen a whole lot more (like they needed more exposure).

Don't forget to post a comment below or e-mail us with your thoughts. We really want to know what you think! Also, look for the first guest columnist to appear next week. Go Twins!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Running Game Summary: Twins vs. Royals 4/23

Note: The following was done during the Twins vs. Royals game on Friday on Channel 45 KSTC. I did it for fun and for the benefit of the people in over in the DTFC who couldn't get the game on TV. It's really long, so don't feel obligated to read it all or anything, unless you were unsure about something that happened during the game. I included a few points of analysis, as well as describing the events during the game, and my own reactions. I wrote it in real time, so some parts may seem a bit haphazard (as they have not been edited after the fact). It was a great win for the Twins, although the Royals bullpen kind of handed it to them on a silver platter! Enjoy.


A little bit of a different look for the lineup tonight. Stewart gets the day off (slight injury) and has been replaced by Michael Ryan in both the leadoff spot and leftfield. Curious decision by Gardy to lead off Ryan, as I don't think he is your prototypical leadoff hitter by any stretch of the word. Offerman is DHing once again, which is disappointing. I agree with John that Cuddyer should be getting some more at-bats, and tonight seems like a perfect opportunity. No other surprises in the rest of the lineup. For the Royals, Sweeney isn’t in the lineup. Kyle Lohse is probably relieved; Sweeney has hit an absolute bomb off him last week. He looks like he’s gonna hit the ball out every time he steps up to the plate. For fun, I'm totaling the number of Victory Sports ads that appear during tonight's telecast. There were two already before the game.
# of Victory Sports ads so far: 2

1st inning: The Twins go in order in the first. Appier slipped on a tough comebacker… it’s been raining all day, so conditions could be tough. Graffinino leads off the game with a single, but is promptly picked off by Lohse. Where was he going with Beltran at the plate? I realize the Royals want to get something going, but don’t do it with your best hitter (and Twins killer) in the box. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Beltran flies out and Gonzalez works a walk. Stairs walks on four pitches; Lohse is all over the place so far. Not a good sign, but hopefully he’ll find it soon.

This is what happens when you fall behind in the count. Randa worked a 2-2 count, and Lohse grooved a fastball that he smacked for an RBI double. Maybe Rick Anderson can calm him down here.

Lohse falls behind Harvey 3-0 but is able to get a ground ball that Guzie makes a nice play on to retire the side. 1-0 KC after one inning complete.

2nd: Koskie leads off the inning with a nice AB and rips a double down the line. Good to see Koskie aggressively attacking once again. In a strange turn of events, Appier is forced to leave the game after pitching to Koskie. Dick and Bert are speculating that the injury was caused by the funky play he made on Mientkiewicz in the first. We’ll have to wait and see for more. Jimmy Gobble comes out of the pen to relieve him. This is still good news for Twins fans, as we roughed Gobble up pretty good as well last week. Poor Offerman though: he was 8-18 lifetime against Appier. Jones also had some good stats against Appier

Damn Offerman- chases a high fastball and can’t do his job done (get Koskie over to third). But no need to fear! Jacque Jones comes through (against a lefty even!) and drives home Koskie with a solid single to right. Sweet Lew, who looks at menacing as Sweeney right now, flies out to left. You could make a good case for Lew as AL player of the month. He stacks up extremely well against everyone else in the league. Blanco flies out to end the mini-threat.

In the bottom of 2, Bert starts off by spouting some crap about how it takes the visiting pitcher some time to become accustomed to pitching off the mound, because the bullpens are so enclosed. Bert, you don’t need to make any excuses for Lohse. He’s a big boy now.

Wow. The ancient Benito Santiago pokes a pitch about 6 inches off the plate into right for a single, but is promptly erased on a fielder’s choice. KC then tries a little small ball and pulls off a successful hit-and-run with the rookie SS Blanco. One of the cheapest base hits you will ever see, but it was a very tough pitch to get the bat on. Nice job by the rook.

Lohse gets a key strikeout of Graffinino on a very sharp breaking ball, but hangs an off-speed pitch to Beltran who lines a double down the right field line, scoring both runners. It’s been a tale of two innings thus far: in the first, Lohse was throwing too many fastballs. Here in the second, he’s throwing too many off-speed pitches (changes and curveballs). Not looking good thus far. Gonzo reaches out and pokes a curve into center to score Beltran and make it 4-1 KC. Gonzalez was fooled slightly but was able to keep his hands back despite bailing out a little.

Stairs walks for the second time already today, but Lohse is able to induce a flyout from Randa. Mike Ryan got a terrible jump on the ball but recovered soon enough to make a diving catch. Nice catch, but he shouldn’t have had to dive if he had gotten a better read.

Score after 2: 4-1 KC

3rd: Apparently, Appier re-injured his elbow. I don’t remember: was that elbow the reason he hadn’t pitched since last September? Guzie starts off the Twins with a nice single to left, but Ryan grounds weakly to second. Terrible baserunning play by Guzie: he ran right into the tag by the second baseman. You have to stop there and make him tag you, or somehow make it more difficult for them to turn two. Rivas has a nice idea by attempting a bunt for a base hit, but Gobble makes a nice play and nips him at first.

Dick and Bert have a nice conversation with Dave St. Peter, who talks about the ballpark bill in the Legislature. Naturally, the conversation quickly turns to Victory Sports.There is some speculation that the Victory Sports situation will hurt the hunt for a new ballpark; that would be a true tragedy. If I had to chose between watching the Twins on TV and a new park, I chose the new park every single time.

Meanwhile, Lohse has an impressive 1-2-3 inning. A couple of groundouts to Koskie, and a nice strikeout on a sharp breaking ball. Well, now we’ve talked about Victory on air but I’m still waiting for the next Victory Sports commercial! Come on Twins, don’t let me down! :)

After 3 complete: still 4-1 KC

4th: St. Peter now moves on to the next obligatory topic: Field Turf. Nothing new here; I agree with him when he says that the surface has already gotten much better since even the beginning of the season. I attended Opening Day and this past Wednesday, and the turf looked much more playable on Wednesday. Not nearly as “puffed up” as it looked on Opening Day.

In the meantime, Koskie shoots a one out double down the line, his second double of the game. Let’s see if Offerman can do something this time…nope. Jose grounds one up the middle, but Tony Graffanino makes a nice play and throws out the not-so-speedy Offerman at first. Jones pops out to end the inning. The Twins waste a nice scoring opportunity.

I thought perhaps Lohse had found his groove, but he leaves a fastball belt-high to Graffanino after retiring the previous batter, and Graffanino rips a double to left-center. I find myself agreeing with Dick and Bert: why not walk Beltran in this situation and set up the double play? The point is moot a couple of pitches later as Lohse throws a wild pitch that advances Graffanino to third. Nice effort by Blanco, but there was not much he could do. Beltran promptly drives him in with a sac fly to deep center. Just our luck, it seems. Gonzo flys out to end the inning, but the damage is done.

After 4: 5-1 KC

5th: The rain is coming down pretty hard now; perhaps we can get this game canceled before its official! It’s not likely, but I can hope, can’t I? Lew Ford, the Official Player of Twins Chatter, hits a hard ground ball to short that Andres Blanco makes a nice play in the hole to get Lew by a step. Snakebit! Blanco and Guzman are retired, and the game is now official. Dang.

The rain is now very noticeable on TV, but Lohse seems to be unaffected on the mound. I don’t know how long that will last however. His strike-ball ratio is actually pretty decent: about 60-37 or so. He is approaching the 100 pitch barrier, but I have a feeling Gardy will send him out for another one as he retires the Royals in order in the fifth. Let’s get some offense going here Twins!

After 5: still 5-1 KC

6th: The rain is really coming down hard now. If this keeps up that much longer, this game will not continue uninterrupted. Ryan leads off the inning with a single to right, but Rivas pops out to second base. However, Graffanino drops the easy popup! Strange, but the Royals obviously force Ryan at second. We could have really used something positive there by Louie.

It has gotten so cold and rainy, Dougie Baseball is even wearing batting gloves! They don’t help him as he flys out to right. The ball is just not carrying at all tonight, and that is to be expected with the adverse conditions. Koskie is looking like Superman today- tonight is the first game he has had 2 extra base hits in the same game since June of last year! I know he was hurt last year, but that is an astounding stat! Unfortunately, the Twins waste the leadoff single by Ryan as Koskie flys out to center.

Aha! Another Victory Sports ad. That brings the grand total up to three! I’m thinking the final total will be 6 commercials by the time the game is over.
# of Victory Sports ads: 3

Lohse retires the leadoff man in the sixth, but Aaron Guiel ends an ugly 0-22 streak with a double down the leftfield line, the fourth double of the day for KC. Blanco lays down a nice drag bunt down the first base line. Dougie slips after he fields the ball, but I don’t think they have the speedy Blanco either way. The Twins can’t afford to fall any farther behind. Lohse gets a big popup from Graffanino and is lifted by Gardenhire in favor of Aaron Fultz. Lohse’s preliminary line: 5.2 innings pitched, 5 ER, 9 hits. I guess now he has thrown 100 pitches. Not great, but I was glad that he battled his way through to the sixth and saved our bullpen a bit.

Futlzy does his job quickly and retires the dangerous Beltran on a lazy fly to right. Let’s wake the bats up!

After 6 complete: 5-1 KC

7th: Offerman leads off the inning with a drive to right that Gonzo makes a nice running catch on. JJ lays down an impressive bunt single, and Santiago slipped as he fielded the ball. Lew Ford, official player of Twins Chatter, pops out in the infield. Here’s a stunning fact: Sweet Lew is 0-3 today! What gives Lew?! Blanco bloops a nice duck-snort (baseball slang for looping liner) over first base and reaches with a gift double, Jones advancing to third.

Dang it! Guzman puts a charge into one, but Beltran makes a nice over-the-shoulder catch in deep centerfield. This was our best chance yet to put a crooked number up on the scoreboard, but the Twinks once again go scoreless.

Futlz has a slighty counterintuitive inning in the 7th, retiring all three righties he faces but allowing the only lefty (Stairs) to reach base. I’m starting to doubt whether or not the Twins can mount a charge/comeback before the game is over.

After 7: still 5-1 KC

8th: Scott Sullivan is out to start the inning. Gobble did a stellar job out of the pen, with 6 scoreless innings of relief. Michael Ryan shoots a grounder to the hole on the left side, but Ryan hustles and beat’s Randa’s throw to first. Nick Punto is in to hit for Rivas- a good move by Gardy because I think Rivas would have no chance whatsoever against the side-winding Sullivan. Punto has a nice QAB (quality at-bat) and works Sullivan for a walk. Let’s see if Dougie can take advantage of the situation.

Minty swings and belts a long fly to deep center, but once again the expanded Kauffman Stadium keeps it in. I’m sure Gordo and Gladden were hyperventilating in the radio booth, telling audiences that that the ball was “Way back, Waaaaay back and… CAUGHT!” In actuality, it wasn’t even to the warning track. Ryan tags and goes to third. Punto steals 2nd on the next pitch without a throw.

Finally! Corey Koskie comes through in the clutch! He lines a triple into the right field corner, scoring two. What a game for Koskie! What a game for my two fantasy teams (on which I have Koskie)! Tony Pena yanks Sullivan for Curtis Leskanic. Can the KC bullpen implode again? We shall soon see…

Offerman really REALLY needs to get Corey home from third, but naturally he strikes out on three pitches. Terrible at-bat. I had hoped that a veteran like Jose could at least put the ball in play.

But this time, it’s not Jacque Jones that picks Jose Offerman up, but Benito Santiago. He lets a Leskanic breaking ball slip between his legs, scoring Koskie from third! JJ quickly grounds out, but the Twins have made it a game once more. Best thing is, the Royals don’t have a closer to come in next inning! The score is now only 5-4 KC. (Another Victory Sports ad quickly follows, bringing the grand total up to 4).
# of Victory Sports Ads: 4

“Joa” Roa is in to start the bottom of the eigth for the Twins, but Santiago leads off the inning with a line-drive single to left. For some reason, Michael Ryan was playing about 20 feet from the fence in left and the single dropped in front of him. I realize we’re playing to prevent a double, but why so deep?

Guiel continues his “hot” hitting with a line drive single right past Roa. This is not what the Twins need right now; we need Roa to keep us within one run.

Obviously, runners at first and second is an obvious bunting situation. Not only that, but the Royals have rookie Blanco up at the plate. He squares to bunt, but pulls back and slaps a hard grounder to third! Koskie snares it and wins the race to third to force out Santiago. What a huge gaff by KC! I can’t believe Pena wouldn’t have him bunting in that situation! Graffanino then flys out to center, which would have undoubtedly scored Santiago from third. Gardy quickly pulls Roa and brings in J.C. to switch Beltran over to the right side of the plate.

I am very close to spouting off a solid stream of obscenities as J.C. walks Beltran to load the bases. Up steps Gonzo, who is 5-10 lifetime against J.C. Fortunately for my mental state, Gonzo pops out to Dougie on the first pitch to end the threat. Whew! We’re going to the ninth!

Score after 8 innings: 5-4 KC

Leskanic is back out there to start the ninth, and walks Lew on four pitches. Blanco, who is bunting for some reason (oh Gardy, ye of so little faith), pulls back on two consecutive strikes. The Twins try a hit-and-run, but Blanco’s popup lands in foul territory. Blanco’s gritty at-bat ends in a soft lineout to right. Guzie somehow, incredibly, works yet another walk from Leskanic, who is all over the place now. Can Michael Ryan take advantage?

YEAH!! Michael Ryan lines a base hit over second base to score Ford and send Guzie over to third! Ladies and Gentlemen, the Michael Ryan you saw last September is back with a vengeance!

It doesn’t matter which member of the Kansas City bullpen is pitching, as they’re all equally terrible. Reyes comes in and promptly walks Punto to load them up. Then, unbelievably, he walks Mientkiewicz on four straight! KC has four (count ‘em, 4!) walks this inning and the Twins take their first lead of the ballgame.

Corey Koskie, in the midst of a terrific game, quickly falls behind 0-2 but manages to lift a sac fly to center. Another huge plate appearance for Koskie, and he comes through once again. Ryan scores as Punto scampers over to third.

I officially cannot believe this: Reyes walks Offerman. Granted, it was a nice at-bat for Jose, but major league teams should not EVER walk five batters in the same inning. The Twins have scored three runs thus far yet have just one hit in the inning. Pena, obviously disgusted, pulls Reyes for Nate Field.

You can really see just how frustrated Pena is by the fact that he brought in a righthander (Field) to face Jacque Jones. That sure doesn’t happen too often. Jones flares one into short left, but Aaron Guiel makes a terrific sliding catch to save another couple runs. Dang it! The score is now 7-5 Twins after 8 and a half innings.

Gardy once again leaves J.C. in there to start the 9th inning, to face the left-handed hitter Stairs. This is the same manager that would bring in Eddie G. to start the 9th even if the league’s top three right-handed hitters were due up. J.C. does his job and gets Stairs to fly out to short center before Gardy brings in the “closer” Joe Nathan.

Nathan looks very impressive against his first batter Joe Randa, freezing him on a killer cutter right on the outside black. Great pich! My heart begins to flutter however as Ken Harvey lines a hanging breaking ball into right field for a single. It was unjustified, as Nathan gets Santiago to ground out harmlessly to Koskie. Twins Win, Twins Win!

Final Score: 7-5 Twins

I don't think there were many people reading this towards the end, but that's okay. It was kinda fun for me, and it's a great way to stay involved in the game (think of it as keeping score with words). Thanks for stopping by. If you think this is a good/bad idea, drop a comment below.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Who's in Center?

There has been much recent talk of who should play center when Torii Hunter returns from his injury. While no one has exactly given his job away, the general feeling seems to be shifting in Lew Ford's favor. Torii Hunter will start when he returns and Ford is going to have to find at-bats elsewhere. There will be many people who will argue with this and complain that he is better then Hunter. Mark this down: Torii Hunter belongs in center when he returns to the team.

Torii remains the Twins All-Star, arguably their most popular and recognizable face. His presence legitimizes the lineup. He has produced big numbers at the major league level and his defense is a huge asset in centerfield. That is why he is paid as much as he is. He gives the rest of the team confidence when he is out there. He is a veteran in a lineup who sets an example for the young kids.

Lew Ford has had an excellent couple of weeks. Despite the fact that he has hit at every level, there is no certainty that he will keep it up when pitchers adjust to him. His numbers have got to come down and he lacks the power potential of Hunter. His ceiling is not very high and he is more likely to be traded then given a starting job with the Twins. There is a reason he started the year at AAA. Yes the Twins wanted him to play everyday but he is also buried on the depth chart at every position except center. Given a full season, I think Michael Cuddyer can be expected to put up better overall numbers. With his short swing, Ford is an excellent pitch hitting option off the bench and his patience at the plate is refreshing. With a full time job there are too many unknowns. Will he continue to be patient when he hits a slump and how long will that slump last? His defense is above average but far below the level of Hunter.

Despite Ford's recent production he is not a valid option to hit in the middle of the order. While Hunter is sometimes erratic, he drove in 102 runs last year and has averaged 26 homeruns the last 3 years. He has proven that he can hit in the middle of the order and produce, something the Twins are in need of at this time. Ford is more of a bottom of the order guy at this time because of his lack of power. People have to respect Hunter's right-handed bat and his potential to take them deep when he is in the lineup. He is the best option to break up the rest of the lefties in the middle of the order.

Torii is paid like a star and has done nothing to warrant losing his job to a two-week phenom. Those who advocate trading him would be disappointed in the value the Twins would receive in return. They are unlikely to get fair market value trading away their star and the team would be worse off as a result. Everyone complains about last winter’s free agent losses and the team turnover. Many of the same people have encouraged a possible trade of Hunter. It makes no sense.

On a side note, people have suggested that Ford should platoon with Jacque Jones upon Hunter's return. If this risks upsetting Jones's hitting against right-handers it is not worth it. While it is true Jones struggles against lefties his hitting has taken off since becoming a full-time player, and to take that confidence away from him may cause more harm then good. This is an issue I don't believe many people have considered.

The Twins play Kansas City this weekend and Hunter is unlikely to return, due to the field conditions. It should be a telling series. If the Twins go out and play like they did last weekend they will further expose the Royals as a flawed team. If the Royals are able to come back and take 2 out of 3 or sweep, it could be 3-team race this year. After watching last weekend’s games, the Twins are not going to be able to play as well but Kansas City is not a playoff caliber team. They have no pitching. The Twins starting pitching is likely to improve at about the same time their hitting cools off. It should be a fun weekend for Twins baseball.

John
Contact me at johnbetzler@hotmail.com

Sweetness=Greatness

First off, I want to tell everybody to check out John’s latest post below, a creative letter to Victory Sports and the cable companies from a recovering Twins “addict”- I think it’s hilarious! It’s also extremely relevant today because of the recent news about this alleged “progress” in the Victory Sports negotiations. Hopefully, the governor stepping in will help, but I seriously doubt it.

By the way, I was one of the approximately 5% of Minnesotans who were actually able to see yesterday’s disappointing 11-9 loss to the Tigers. I was one of the 15,158 people in attendance at the Metrodome, and it was a lot of fun (it always is). Twins baseball is still one of the best deals in town, as for $9 I was able to get a ticket (student discount night), two hot dogs (Dollar-a-Dog night), and a pop (ironically, my most expensive purchase!). Talk about a steal!

After watching the game, I have made a momentous decision in the history of this blog, one that will either solidify my place in history forever or doom me to eternal anonymity: “Sweet” Lew Ford is now the official player of Twins Chatter! I’m sure he is absolutely thrilled to receive this honor- closed circuit to Lew, I expect my complimentary season tickets to be delivered by Thursday.

Even though Brad Radke was horrific against these new-and-improved formula Tigers, Ford was once again “en fuego”. He went 3 for 5 with a 2-RBI triple. Boy, can he fly around the basepaths! He also made two nice plays in the outfield, including an impressive sliding catch. Ah, the wonders of Field Turf, as such a catch wouldn’t have even been possible in years past. I’ve been a Ford supporter for a while, but I have been utterly floored by his performance this season. Sure, no one can play this well forever, but if he can even play at a fraction of the level he’s at right now Lew Ford is going to be a solid major leaguer for a long time. I’m not advocating that he replace Hunter (yet), but I think this makes Jacque Jones even more expendable. Whether or not that is a good thing for Jacque’s trade value, I don’t know. Whatever the case may be, I’m actually not that sad to see that Torii suffered a mild setback today.

On another note, the enigma that is Brad Thomas was dealt to the Red Sox on Wednesday for the ever-available Player to Be Named Later or Cash. Thomas may have talent, it didn't look like he would ever put it together for the Twins. I’m glad Terry Ryan was able to get something in return. John reminded me of Ryan’s excellent track record when dealing with Boston, so hopefully this PTBNL will turn out to be the next Lew Ford! We here at Twins Chatter wish Brad the best of luck with his new organization

That’s all I’ve got for today. Again, be sure and check out John’s “letter” as it is well worth reading. It sums up my personal feelings as well. Thanks for checking out the site and keep spreading the word!

P.S. I just want to thank Seth for mentioning us in semi-regular feature “Blog Spotting” on Tuesday. It was our best day ever in terms of traffic and we appreciate it a lot!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thank You Victory and Cable Companies for Giving Me My Life Back

Dear Victory Sports One and Charter Cable,

I'm writing to express my sincerest thanks for having been relieved of my worst addiction: Twins baseball. For the last 11 years I have spent my summer nights in front of a television, watching the games with my mood hinging on every pitch. I thought I was happy, but I had no idea. I would struggle through the winter months waiting for opening day and dread the November boredom. Then you guys came along and took it all away. Finally, now I'm free.

Did you know there are actually things to do at night during the summer? Only recently have I realized that by doing my homework in the month of April I get better grades come May. Some people even go out to movies and visit with friends around a friendly table of cards. I'm still learning, but cribbage is quite riveting, and I've only lost $200 so far playing poker. Every now and then, someone will mention the Twins and for a second my affliction returns. However, soon I'm able to put the quickly fading memories away and get back to what I am told is “real life”.

Never before have I had a better relationship with my family. It's been months since I've made them angry by shushing them right in the middle of a big pitch. We no longer have conversations where I'm half-listening and mostly just watching the game. I used to be really confused when they would come home and bitterly inform me that I had missed another wedding: this time my own! Turns out all the conversations had taken place during the game! What did they expect? Now, I actually respond to their questions. Today, I found out that my sister is actually 17 and not 12 as I had previously thought! I guess when you put back all those summer months they add up in a hurry. There is even a little time left over in my nights to do some chores for my dear mother, who has mysteriously gained a new bounce in her step of late.

My acne has cleared up with the decline in my stress level. Because I cannot watch the games, it is very difficult to feel connected to the team. Without this connection it’s not quite as terrible when Radke gives up 6 runs in 2 innings or Rivas grounds into yet another double play. The box score is just not as brutal as seeing it happen live. I tried getting my fix from the radio back when I was still addicted. Wouldn't you know it, Radke gave up the 6 runs and all they said was "Oh, by the way this just happened while we were talking about Dazzle's playing days or some guy Gordo sat next to on the plane." With the drama and the climax gone my blood pressure has decreased and I'm sleeping again.

Because of you I feel like a normal person. I can sit quietly in my room and not wake anyone by cheering on a game winning double. When I talk to people I do not over-whelm them with fast facts about players that really no one should know. For once, even I can communicate with the casual fan and have him understand me. It’s quite liberating to say the least. I wake up in the morning and I don't have to correct the newspaper game recaps. There is no more hurrying as home as fast as I can to catch the first pitch. Did you know that there are actually roses to stop and smell? Strange.

Most of all though, thank you for taking away Dick and Bert. Dick has steadily improved throughout the years but for someone who watches a lot of baseball, it’s amazing how little he understands. I can't tell you how frustrated I would get listening to him talk about how Guzman was “right up there with Garciaparrra and Tejada for best major league shortstops”, shortly after he had grounded into a base loaded double play. Bert on the other hand was getting me in trouble at school. Someone would claim that he didn't belong in the Hall. Since I spent so many hours on that couch listening to his commentary, I had grown attached and thus an obligation to defend him. Next thing you know (and 287 wins later), I've got a bloody nose and the other guy can't see straight. Since he and I have become estranged my medical bills have drastically declined.

Now I'm asking you to please take your time getting any deals done. Baseball may be in my blood but I'm really enjoying seeing my friends again. The time I have spent with my family is creating lasting memories and girls are actually noticing me now that the nervous ticks have gone away. Because of you guys I can actually say five sentences without mentioning the Twins, which has greatly improved my performance at job interviews. I must admit I miss Dick and Bert, but I think I was growing a little too attached; I was even starting to dress like Dick, tie and all. Thank you for freeing me of the countless hours that I would otherwise have spent following the team that I love so much. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover you also took the time to ensure that I would not be tempted by the Channel 45 game of the week since we don’t get it here in Mankato. That's right, I'm an addict so I can't have any Twins but I can watch the White Sox- the fastest way to a cure such an addiction I’m told. I have seen the light and now I must go towards it.

Sincerely,
John Betzler
Recovering Twins Addict

Bonus Material: Who Are These Guys?

Note: I have been having some computer problems tonight and don't have time to formulate a proper entry. I'm going to the game tonight (hopefully) so that will make for an interesting column tomorrow I hope. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy the following, scheduled to appear in the April 22 issue of the St. Olaf school newspaper "The Manitou Messenger". I had to dumb down the content a bit to appeal to a wider audience, but I still think its a pretty good summary of the Twins season thus far.

Quick, name the Twins’ top performers so far this season. Torii Hunter? Not exactly. Corey Koskie? Not even close. Johan Santana? I wish.

The surprises keep don’t stop there. The Twins are only 13 games into this young season (through Monday) yet they’ve already had five key players land on the disabled list, including one-third of their entire starting lineup. And here’s perhaps the biggest surprise of them all: the Twins are still remain tied for first place in the American L Central, and they wouldn’t be there without major contributions from such household names as Henry Blanco, Jose Offerman, Lew Ford, Joe Roa, and Aaron Fultz.

I know what you’re thinking: didn’t Jose Offerman retire like, four years ago? Since when do the Twins have Henry Blanco? Who are the other three guys? Who the heck are ANY of these guys?

“These guys” are the glue holding together a team that is only a shadow of its former (2003) self, one decimated by free agency, trades, and injuries. Tightfisted owner Carl Pohlad wouldn’t pony up the dough this winter to re-sign relief pitchers LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was traded to save money and make way for “├╝ber-prospect” Joe Mauer. Pitcher Eric Milton was also traded for monetary reasons.

The Twins recovered and thought they had adequately filled those holes going into spring training, but then the injury bug decided to bite- and boy, what a bite it took. Fifth starter Rick Helling broke his leg in early March. Reliever Grant Balfour injured his shoulder a week before the season started. Then the carnage turned brutal: catchers Mauer and Matthew LeCroy took the fall in the season’s third and fourth games respectively, and All-Star centerfielder Torii Hunter was injured only a couple days later. The Twins were just entering a relatively easy part of their schedule and could ill afford to fall too far behind in the standings.

As it turns out, Twins fans had nothing to worry about. Blanco, a 32 year-old backup catcher with a career .219 batting average, has looked like the second coming of Johnny Bench by hitting .344 with 3 homeruns and 10 RBI in Mauer’s absence. Offerman has shown a knack for coming through in the clutch and is hitting over .300. “Sweet” Lew Ford (recently called up from AAA) has been absolutely lights-out as Hunter’s replacement, hitting .407 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in his first eight games. Journeymen relievers Fultz and Roa have pitched a combined 15 innings and allowed only 3 runs. Whoever said “help comes from the most unlikely of sources” sure wasn’t kidding!

Meanwhile, the old standbys Doug Mientkiewicz, Shannon Stewart, Brad Radke, and Jacque Jones have also been playing well of late. Set-up man J.C. Romero looks to have successfully rebounded from a sub par 2003 season and has returned to the form that made him one of the game’s top relievers in 2002. Although the starting pitchers have struggled somewhat thus far, the Twins are currently the best hitting team in the American League. This is an offense that has the potential to score a lot of runs this season, enough to make up for any possible shortcomings on the mound.

The Twins may have won the last two AL Central titles, but is 2004 shaping up to be a dogfight to the bitter end. Each of the Twins’ opponents has their own obvious strengths and weaknesses. The Chicago White Sox have always had plenty of talent, but have never been able to put it all together and usurp the Twins. The Kansas City Royals, this year’s trendy pick to win the division, have a potent offense but serious question marks in their pitching staff. The Cleveland Indians have some good young players, but are still at least a year away from contention. The Detroit Tigers made some key free agent acquisitions over the winter in a desperate attempt to improve on last year’s 119-loss season, but they are still woefully lacking pitching depth. The Twins, despite their losses, have an excellent chance to make it three in a row.

Slowly but surely, the Twins are even getting healthy again. Hunter returns this week, and LeCroy soon after (Mauer had minor knee surgery and will require about two more weeks of rehab). In the meantime, our “super-subs” are playing well beyond expectations and keeping the team right were it belongs: at the top of the standings. Personally, I don’t care if these “no-names” are supposed to be good or not. In sports, it all comes down to winning. As long as you win, it doesn’t matter what your name is.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Under Appreciated Twins

I'm a big fan of Peter Gammons. He has great insight into the game and has always been a big supporter of the Twins. Imagine my surprise today when I discovered his latest article on things under appreciated before the season and the Twins were not included. Perhaps this was a result of the confidence Gammons had in the team from the start, but even so he's left it up to us to go through what both the national media and fans at home did not see going into the season.

Many members of the national media simply wrote off the Twins and their 2 straight division titles before the season, claiming they could not compete with the likes of the White Sox and Royals. This team has jumped out to a fast start and now sits tied atop its division. In doing so it has handily swept the Royals while revealing their many flaws. It has done this by overcoming several devastating injuries. The Twins have shown that they are not about to go away despite a few large free agent losses.

Their fast start can mostly be attributed to their incredible amount of depth. While its true they have been lucky so far with the likes of Henry Blanco others such as Lew Ford have hit the cover of the ball and shown why they could be starting for most teams out there. Even a much-maligned bullpen has come through tossing the most innings in Baseball while keeping the team in most games. With garbage-heap pickups Aaron Fultz (1.08 ERA) and Joe Roa (2.70) both having ERA's under 3 as of Sunday it's safe to say Terry Ryan's judgment of talent has been under appreciated as well. Add to that the 8 scoreless innings of J.C Romero, Joe Nathan’s first couple of saves and the solid work of Juan Rincon and the Twins have the makings of a strong bullpen.

Few anticipated the offensive output the Twins have shown. Everyone is hitting the ball well including off-season pickups Jose Offerman (who looks like the Jose of old), Blanco and Nick Punto. The Twins have been able to overcome adversity by having anyone they plug into their lineup hit. Too many people focused on the team’s bullpen and the strength of its starters. They forgot about this team’s potential to drive in runs.
Here at home fans find themselves rediscovering how valuable Brad Radke is to this team. Before the season many were ready to anoint Johan Santana the Ace of the staff, but it has been Radke who has delivered 2 quality starts and stability to a rotation still finding itself.

Some have grumbled about the ability of Joe Nathan to close out games. Having little experience coming into the season they worried that he would struggle. The kid has come in and got the job done reminiscent of Rick Aguilera where he gets himself into trouble and pitches out of it. Relax Twins fans; the one time he was roughed up was a non-save situation. His velocity is down so far but everything he has done to this point in his career points to him being a successful closer. With him getting the job done the rest of the bullpen sets up quite nicely.

The value of Shannon Stewart to this club has been shown in the last couple of weeks. His signing was questioned as being too much to pay for another corner outfielder but this guy makes the offense click. He gets on base as evidenced by his .306 average with 13 walks! Shannon Stewart is a professional hitter whose value has been under appreciated by both Twins fans and the rest of baseball, as he remains the team MVP to date.
So there you have it, just a few little things Gammons left out of his article today. The Twins are still going strong and will be even tougher to beat in the next month when they see the return of many starters. Yes, Florida's off to a great start but the Twins too have something to brag about as all the doubters have found out.

Notes (a la Gammons style):
It was great to see Griesinger and Roa give the Twins a good combined start on Sunday. This apparently has earned Griesinger a second start, which will probably determine his future with this team. If he performs well it would be great but I'm afraid Gardy may fall into the Hector Carrasco, Bob Wells, Tony Fiorie trap of gaining confidence in a mediocre pitcher and then taking way too long to realize he is not major league caliber. Obviously Griesinger is still in his prime and has some talent but has shown little in his brief stint this year and throughout his career.

I'm increasingly impressed with J.C Romero who looks like the pitcher of old. When he's on, he's un-hittable and he seems to have harnessed his control so that his wildness no longer is a hindrance. Obviously it's early but he looks ready to keep it up. My only worry is his possible overuse to this point in the season. He's the pitcher Gardy trusts the most and as a result it has got to be tempting to use him every game.

Luis Rivas had a pretty good weekend showing signs of coming out of his slump. He always kills Royals pitching but it might be just what he needed to jump him back into the hitting mode.

No matter how overrated I think Torii Hunter is, what an amazing human being he is! I have had the pleasure on several occasions to be around him and he lights up the area. What he did on Sunday by giving Jerry White his Gold Glove Award was incredible. He is a great role model for kids and it'll be good to see his smile back out in center in the next week.

Braves Still Struggle Under Curse of Henry "The Babe" Blanco

APRIL 19, 2014
ATLANTA, GA- The Atlanta Braves, some of you may remember, won 12 consecutive division titles from 1991 through 2003. And as most Braves fans are painfully aware, in the ten years since then they have won exactly zero. Not a single one. Most Braves fans will tell you that one man can be blamed for this "curse", and his name is none other than Henry Blanco. Ten years after they let him walk, the Atlanta Braves organization is still regretting their fateful decision to not re-sign the soon-to-be Hall of Fame catcher after the 2003 season.

"Even though I was the architect behind all those great playoff teams," says former Braves GM John Schuerholz, "the one decision that I regret the most is letting Blanco go. It probably would have saved my job and the fortunes of the entire franchise. I still don't know how Terry Ryan knew he would blossom into a perennial All-Star at age 32. All I can say is no one ever doubted his genius after that move."

For those of you who don't remember, Blanco was the Braves backup (and Greg Maddux's personal) catcher during both 2002 and 2003, playing in 81 and 55 games each year respectively. He only posted a combined .202 BA with 7 HR and 35 RBI over that span, but the Twins' Ryan knew when he signed Blanco to a $750,000 deal in the winter of 2004 he had gotten a huge bargain.

"I knew there was something special about Henry," said Ryan, the mastermind behind the Twins five World Series victories in the '00s, "When we signed him, he was only supposed to be a backup for this kid named Joe Mauer. But Mauer struggled with injuries his entire career and never really panned out. Luckily, we had Hammerin' Hank to anchor the middle of our lineup that year [2004] and the rest is, well, history."

"History" is putting it modestly. Blanco became the Twins starter only a couple games into the 2004 season and immediately began flashing the form that will make him first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016. He hit .344 with 41 HRs and 135 RBIs and was named the both the American League and World Series MVP that year. He would go on to average a .335/38/128 over the next eight years, firmly solidifying his place as one of the best catchers of all-time.

"I always knew Henry had it in him," commented current Braves manager Bobby Cox, now 73 years old and in his 35th season as a major league manager. "I told Johnny [Schuerholz] to hold on to him because he really showed some flashes during his time here, but he wanted to go with this Estrada kid. We all know how that worked out." Johnny Estrada hit .221 as a Brave in 2004 and was out of the game within two years.

Since Ryan "stole" Blanco off the free agent pile, the Braves and Twins franchises have gone in completely different directions. The Twins became the "team of the 2000s" with their five championships in six years (anchored by Blanco, ace Johan Santana, flame-throwing closer Jesse Crain, and outfielder "Sweet" Lew Ford). The 2004 Series win also netted the Twins their state-of-the-art stadium, Pohlad Park, which helped vault them into the top five teams league-wide in terms of revenue.

The Braves, on the other hand, quickly became the laughingstock of the National League. Even the lowly San Juan Expos have posted more .500 seasons (1) than the Braves (0) since 2003. But Cox (along with long-time pitching coach Leo Mazzone) remains optimistic about the future.

"I can feel it in my bones," says Cox. "This is going to be the year that J.D. Drew stays healthy and has a breakout season."

Meanwhile, the Twins are gearing up for yet another championship run. But Twins fans will never forget the man who almost single-handedly turned a low-budget playoff contender into a perennial power way back in 2004. A man who will always live on in the annals of baseball history. A man named Henry Blanco.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

For Starters

Largely as a result of my frustration with discovering I was unable to watch the Twins on Friday, I decided to attend my first game last night. It was an exiting game where the Twins were able to overcome Kyle Lohse's control problems and an early deficit to pull out the win. The new turf really adds to the experience and I sat right by the foul pole in left field, which offered an excellent view of both the field and the bullpen. The one part of the game I found troubling was the performance of Kyle Lohse.

Somehow the Twins need to get their starting pitching back on track. Radke set the tone earlier this week and by all reports Santana wasn't as bad as the stats indicate but Kyle Lohse has really struggled. If the Twins are going to repeat he needs to be one of their horses. Carlos Silva who has been borderline solid to this point never has been a starter before in the league and Rick Helling's career era is 4.77. Last night Lohse was wild all game and gave up a couple of long balls. He fought all night to barely throw more strikes then balls. The radar gun didn't show that he was over throwing but I wonder if he has been a little exited at the start of the season knowing that the team needs him more this year. At this point he has been rather inconsistent in his career and he needs to show that he has the mentality to be a good pitcher in the league. If he doesn't turn it around which I'm confident he will it's going to be a long year for the bullpen which is improved but will never show it if overworked.

My guess is this staff is going to struggle a little bit longer then settle down into their roles. The bullpen will come together and weed out the bad pitchers just in time for Crain and Durban to be ready for a call up. Radke needs to be the calming forces in the rotation something he has at times excelled at in his career and at others really struggled with.

For Santana it's one thing to know you’re a good pitcher and go out there and show everyone and another to have a bunch of expectations. It might take him awhile to adapt to these. He has shown in the past that not only is he a bit touchy physically but sometimes mentally. Still, he was the team’s best pitcher last year and they need him to come around. Friday night was an encouraging start but his success is going to hinge on his confidence in the changeup.

So far I've been impressed with Silva although I've yet to actually see him pitch. He has kept the team in the game, which if the bullpen comes together is all the Twins need from him. It's odd to have a starter with only 2 pitches but if the Erickson comparisons are accurate he should be just fine. Hopefully he'll continue to throw 5-6 innings an outing while allowing just a couple of runs. The bullpen is going to need to be rested enough to pick him up though.

The fifth starter is really a wild card spot in baseball. It's one of the few positions where anything good you get seems to be a real bonus. Rick Helling is capable of having a solid year. He's comfortable with a pitching coach that seems to understand him and playing at home. If nothing else he's going to give the team much needed innings and experience. He was the first injury for this team and having him back will settle things down.

I must confess I've never seen Greisinger pitch, at least that I remember. I assume like most ex-Detroit pitchers at one point I have seen the back of his jersey after watching another Twins hit go over the fence. The Twins can't expect much from him other than to bridge the gap first to Helling and then to Durbin. He has been hit hard to this point in the season and his career. Using him for one start allows the team to not mess up the rest of their bullpen rotation with anything they get out of him being a major bonus.

That's it for today; we'll attempt to get into the state of the most worked bullpen in the majors sometime in the next couple of days. A few other observations from Saturday night’s game;

Neither Luis Rivas nor my new favorite player Michael Cuddyer was in the lineup. This is my justification for not calling up Morneau quite yet as I think it would take away from Cuddyer's at bats. Now is the time for him to prove himself and he needs the chance although not at second where he would make 45 errors a year. The kid has produced at every level but has never really been given a shot to even work through a slump in the majors. At 25 he is at a crossroads with more potential than others such as Matt Lecroy. The team also needs to see if he is ready to take over third next year should they choose not to resign Koskie. The bottom line though is that he's the best option to split up the lefties in the lineup until Hunter or Lecroy comes back. Offerman could then be used in spots where he will be more successful.

“Sweet” Lew Ford can straight up play. He’s got a nice short swing and is capable of hitting the ball hard somewhere every time up. Somehow the Twins need to make room for him on this team. He plays a solid centerfield although he was a little deep on some balls last night. I’m not sure what the infatuation is with Tori Hunter. He is awesome in center but his hitting continues to frustrate. You would think that someday a light would click and he would realize that with 2 strikes he’s probably going to get an outside breaking ball that he should lay off of it, until then he is simply over-rated. When he returns Ford is hopefully destined for the bench and not triple A where his short swing can best be utilized as a pitch hitter. Ford has earned his way on this team and a level of excitement surrounded every play he was a part of last night.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Get To Know Em

It's a beautiful day; the Twins have won two straight and schools just about done. What's not to love about this time of year? Brad Radke proved to everyone last night that he is worth the money. I only wish he could perform like that every time out. Ryan hit it on the head with his take. Brad has little margin for error, hence all the huge innings that occur from barely missing his spot. What's even more significant about last night is that he did it against the Indians in Cleveland, a place that has always been his house of horrors. If he can overcome those demons anything is possible. The Twins needed this last night; he calmed down what had been a hectic storm since the first game of the season. It also sets a tone for Santana and Lohse to hopefully follow. Regardless, the team now has a rested bullpen ready to go tonight should Santana trip on his way to the dugout or something.

I've already talked extensively about Luis Rivas in the last couple of days but here are a few final points. He is a solid major league second basemen who gives the Twins exactly what they need from his position. He's never going to be a star but he's also not going to continue having nights like last night. Being in a slump does not constitute sucking. 4 years ago people were talking the same way about Tori Hunter and Joe Mays right before their big seasons. It's really to early to tell on Rivas. The Stengel quote must have been from his senile Mets days. It's ludicrous to write off a young player who has been injured and has in the past contributed at the major league level. Also, the reason Rivas bats second is to give Gardie the flexibility to pitch hit for him as he did in the opening game with Cuddyer. It gives him flexibility he would not have with someone like Doug batting there. For now Rivas is the best option and it’s only a matter of time before he comes out of his slump.

Tonight's game is on TV so many of us will get our first chance to watch the team in just under a week. Listening to the radio is great but it doesn't fully capture the feel of the action and I'm rather disappointed in the quality of the broadcasts. I know why the Twins need to hold out for Victory but I fear it’s going to be a long wait making it a difficult time to be a fan.
Thanks for stopping by to check us out, tell your friends and feel free to email me at johnbetzler@hotmail.com if you have any comments.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Opening Day!

"It's a great day for a ball game; let's play two!"
-Ernie Banks

Hello and welcome to Opening Day here at Twins Chatter! Even though some of you may have noticed the link over at sethspeaks.net on Wednesday, today is officially the first day that my all-new Minnesota Twins blog will be going public. If you have read the biographical columns from earlier this week you already know that here at Twins Chatter, we care about the customer. That's why we're giving you two bloggers for the price of one, each and every weekday. Now, I can't guarantee that we'll both write everyday, but you'll get two very different takes on Twins baseball each time you visit.

I debated long and hard about what to write for my first Twins column, but I have decided to go with the old standby: yesterday's game. Now, I didn't actually "see" the game (like the vast majority of you I'd assume-don't even get me started on Victory) except through the eyes of John Gordon and his trusty sidekick, Danny Gladden. For one game out of 162, last night's 3-0 victory over Cleveland was actually very telling. Here's what we know so far:

-Luis Rivas officially sucks (usually I avoid such a crude word, but it actually works quite well in this situation)
-Brad Radke may be grossly overpaid, but he can still twizzle and twirl it with the best of them (8 IP, 4 H, 5 K's)
-The baseball gods haven't abadoned us completely, as Dougie Baseball looks like he'll be okay (day-to-day with a mild ankle sprain)
-Maybe Joe Nathan can close games... but he's no Eddie (whoa- never thought I'd say that)
-The formerly disembodied spirit that is currently taking residence within Henry Blanco hasn't left quite yet (he went 1-3 w/a walk)
-Luis Rivas sucks

And that's what we know so far. Seriously, I was very encouraged by these last two games in Cleveland, especially Thursday's win. Radke's first two outings were very disappointing, and I was beginning to wonder if we would have to wait until mid-summer again for the real Brad Radke to show up. Hopefully, we won't. Because Radke relies almost exclusively on his lights-out control, he has very little room for error. Too often it seems he is either "on" or "off"- not a exactly desirable trait for a supposed staff ace. Maybe now the light switch will stay "on" for a while.

Rivas' performance, on the other hand, was not encouraging in the least. Nothing to get the critics going than an ugly 0-5 performance with 6 men left on base. He also had a boot on extremely routine play and grounded into yet another key double play with the bases loaded. I doubt even his double-play partner (and partner in crime) Christian Guzman could top that performance in terms of futility. I say all this mostly because my fellow blogger John is a big Rivas booster and he will undoubtedly post an entry soon defending his man. Stay tuned, although personally I don't think he's up to the challenge :).

Anyway, I'll keep this initial Twins offering to a reasonable length so as not to turn any of you off. Also, be sure to check out John's first Twins entry, which should be up by Friday afternoon. Feel free to post your comments/thoughts/suggestions in my topic over at the DTFC. My screen name is twinsfan23. Also, you can e-mail me at twinsfan21@msn.com.

P.S. On the Rivas tangent, I think Charlie Saeger hit the nail on the head when he referenced Casey Stengel in his description of Louie's alleged "potential" over at Baseball Primer: "Rivas is 24, and in 10 years, he has a chance to be 34."

Couldn't have said it much better myself.

My Twins Background

Wow, what a start to already appear in Seth's blog (which I highly recommend to everyone)! The best place to start with something like this is to know who's doing the writing. My name is John Betzler and I'm a freshman at Mankato State this year. Ryan and I have been friends since third grade and the majority of that time we have been in love with the Twins. Ryan's actually become a legend back in Northfield for his knowledge and passion of the game. He was a high school catcher so he knows what he's talking about. He's also blessed to be an amazing writer. That said, I add a little different view of the game then he does. That's what makes this blog unique and hopefully interesting.

Sadly, I discovered the Twins just after the World Series years. I was introduced to the game back in 1993 and I was instantly hooked. I remember staying up late to watch Griffey Jr. break the consecutive games with a homerun record against our Twins. The first game I attended was against the Indians, the infamous 22-inning affair. The night before I stayed up late praying that the game would go 18 innings so I could get to watch more baseball. The game remained tied through the 22nd inning when Pedro Munoz (my name at the DTFC) came up and hit a shot to end the game. It was 1:30 in the morning and definitely my most memorial Twins moment. The strike in 1994 broke my heart. I was burned a couple more times in the mid-nineties by the Scott Klingenbecks and Stohoviak's of the world. When Kirby retired, I prayed that it was all one big joke. I got my first big taste of a playoff run that year (1996) when we printed playoff tickets but really were never that close. This whole time I can remember playing Strat-O-Matic on the bus with Ryan and talking about how good it would be when Todd Walker got to the bigs. We couldn't figure out what was wrong LaTroy and we thought this Brad Radke kid could be pretty good. We got to watch Eddie Murray get his 3,000th hit here and Molitor get his at Kaufman stadium. These were the moments a Twins fan lived for, as the team wasn't very good (obviously). Unlike Ryan, I never lost hope but I did come to accept that I would never get a winning team. When the Vikings blew it in 1998 I became a true one sport man.

The Twins have been the center of my life. I have spent countless hours beside my grandfather learning the game. It has allowed me to connect to him in ways I otherwise never could have. At the turn of the millennium there were so few fans out there it was getting bleak; people even seemed to be turning against T.K. Even the best of fans were growing tired of the losing, but not I. I'm not sure if I sensed something special or if it didn't matter to me. I supported T.K., one of the best managers of all-time and the young kids he was teaching to play the game. TwinsFest that year was empty and Ryan and I got just about everyone's autograph. We even spent a significant part of our day off at Channel 9's booth where a crowd of about 10 people gathered to listen to a couple of Unknown ballplayers Joe Mays and Torii Hunter. These guys were funny and you could easily tell that they loved to play the game. Both guys still had a long ways to go to stardom, however. In 2001 it all seemed to come together and for the first time there was winning baseball team to watch. These Twins played the game right and they rallied around being the underdog.

Watching winning baseball changed everything for me. Suddenly it mattered who won! No matter how hard I tried not to I got excited. It broke my heart to see them get swept by Tampa Bay (August '01) and then have their playoff backs broken by yet another LaTroy meltdown against Cleveland. Still, now there was hope. I spent the whole winter praying contraction was a myth and I could feel the excitement building when they were allowed to live. That year we made it back to the playoffs and suddenly it was cool to be a Twins fan. Its amazing to go to games and feel the energy, something that never used to be there. Our lovable Twins gave us a playoff victory to savor against Oakland before coming up just short to the champs. Last year they built on their legacy and continued to set themselves apart in my mind. Aside from Tony Fiore, I felt like everyone of them was my guy. What's great about the Twins is that every player has a unique history to everyone of us that has grown up watching their careers.

That's my Twins experience of the last 11 years. Its late and there is so much more I could add but I think your just going to have to pick up on it through the columns that follow. Ryan and I share some unique experience but we have some very interesting perspectives on the team and the game. I think there is something special about anyone who can have fun just talking about the Twins for hours without another care in the world. That's who this site is for: the fans. We are not statheads, though some may appear here, we probably wont have much insider information, and some us can't even see the games right now (!) but we are all about the intrigue and discussing what happened, what's happening and what's going to happen. Honestly, I think you'll enjoy this site if for no other reason then that you love the Twins and this is one more place to read about them.