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 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

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.