Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Last night the Twins bats came alive against someone who was supposed to end all their playoff hopes, Freddy Garcia. It wasn't enough. The team battled back from an early deficit and continued to battle through the middle innings but in the end it wasn't close. This year it has been exceedingly difficult for the Twins to get the White Sox's number. Ever since the Garcia trade, experts around the country have proclaimed the race all but over and the Twins have done little to dispel this belief. The team has seemed content to lie down and take their beating in the hopes of making a move in the race at a later date and it is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch. Wednesday night's game was filled with the good, the bad and some real ugly for the home team.

The Good -
We'll start with the good because it's simply the easiest pill to swallow. Joe Mauer was what every fan has been told he would be. He had perhaps his best night last night blasting 2 homeruns. The first of which was far from meaningless in getting the team back in the game. Don't expect him to make this a regular thing just yet in his career. What he showed is that he came to play. Right now he is one of the few hitters in the lineup who looks comfortable at the plate. Maybe it's time for the Twins to consider moving him up in the order. I know the team wants to continue to play Mientkiewicz but it would be better for him to continue to struggle lower in the order. There is less pressure down there and I think part of Doug's problem is that he is too be too hard on himself. Let him work his way back up to being one of the team's only patient and thus a valuable hitter. In the meantime a flip flop in the order with Mauer may be a win-win situation for both.

Freddy Garcia pitched like Freddy Garcia. He is not the second coming of Randy Johnson or Josh Beckett. He is never going to put a team on his back and carry them to a pennant. He is a very good pitcher whom the White Sox probably over paid for. He is not an Ace and it is a great sign that the Twins touched him up. Last year the White Sox added Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett about the same time and everyone picked them to beat the Twins. It's amazing how fast people have jumped off the Twins bandwagon in the national media. Maybe it has something to do with them actually getting outscored by their opponents. Nevertheless, it's July 1 and they are only a game out of first. They may or may not be able to make a move in the next month but they will have several important players returning from injuries such as Shannon Stewart. Then you consider that their pitching appears to be coming alive and they are fixing some bullpen issues and you realize this is a very strong team. What the Twins need to avoid is falling 8 games behind the White Sox this year because they will not be able to make up that kind of ground again.

The Bad -
Brad Radke was due for a poor outing. It was a much hyped match up and he allowed his team to fall behind early. What really makes it bad is that he finally got some run support and just kept giving it back. Radke has been a rock for the past month for the club so it's hard to fault him for one game. It's just too bad it came against division rivals whom the Twins entered the game tied for first with. This was a game the Twins needed to win if only to send a message that they weren't going to just give up. The hitters tried to answer the bell with Guzman's three run homerun and Koskie's homer to open the home half of the 6th. It wasn't enough for Radke last night.

The Ugly -
The White Sox came into our house and have taken the first two games as the Twins continue to struggle against them this year. The Twins have now lost 4 straight and given the White Sox the lead in the division. What's worse is that they don't even look capable of beating the Sox. They battled for half the game Wednesday night while only delaying the inevitable. The White Sox are a flawed team, not the powerhouse many are making them out to be. When the Twins needed it most last night their pitchers could not keep the balls in the park. They have let the Sox come in and outplay them. They are playing like a team that wants to repeat the mistakes of last year and fall way back in the standings. This year though, they wont be able to come back. It is disgusting baseball to watch. There is a reason the Twins had the better record coming into the series. They are the better team they just don't seem to know it. Many people write them off because they have been outscored this season and say their success is luck. The problem with that reasoning is that the White Sox had a better differential in each of the last two seasons in which the Twins not only beat them head to head but won the division outright. It's not luck that helps the Twins win games, it's the fact that the Twins play the game right and are able to win more close games. The Sox pound the ball and crush teams but are supposed to run into a buzz saw when push comes to shove because pitching and defense are what really wins. The Twins have failed to back that up so far this year and it makes it ugly to watch.

One More Bullet to Fire:
His name is Johan Santana and he has recently become the Ace the Twins envisioned in the off season. He has been nearly unhittable in his last 4 starts with an ERA under 2 and 39 K's. If ever their was a cure for the Twins woes it would be him. Couple that with the fact that Jon Garland is pitching for the Sox and the team will salvage the final game of the series today.

Fifth Starter Debate:
It is very apparent the Twins don't have an in-house option at to fill this position. Scott Baker would be a mistake although I don't agree with the Adam Johnson comparison. Baker has not yet done enough to warrant such a promotion. I don't like the idea of piecing together starts with Muholland and Roa either. I wouldn't mind seeing Roa actually get a chance in the role as his position in the bullpen has become redundant. I don't think he would succeed but at least he would stabilize it until a better option can be found. I'm afraid the Twins will bring someone in just to do so and he won't be any better then either of the other two who failed. There are always plenty of Rick Helling type pitchers on the market and there is a reason for that. It was not a mistake to let Rick Helling go, the pitcher the team does miss is Munro who has helped the Astros in their fifth starter role.

Bullpen Issues:
The team has a plan to fix it's bullpen but will it work? It isn't enough to expect JC Romero to suddenly be fine and that Jesse Crain is going to come up and be consistently dominant. Neither move will fix the problems that have belied the pen as of late. The 7th inning has been a disaster with starters getting stretched out too long and just about every reliever failing to record key outs. I would like to see Grant Balfour emerge in the role but every time he looks close he has an outing that's not so good. The pen is a mess that isn't going to fix itself anytime soon.

That is it for today here at Twinschatter. We hope you enjoy our content as always. If you have any comments feel free to drop them below or email me at We are always looking for ways to improve ourselves so any suggestions are also welcome. Hopefully the team will go out and finally beat the White Sox tonight, salvaging the series and a tie for first.