Monday, July 05, 2004

Much Ado About Very Little

Hello and welcome to Twins Chatter, your source for insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage. I hope you all a happy Independence Day weekend.

I don’t have a whole ton to say today for a variety of reasons, the most notable of which being that Sunday was a holiday and also that today is actually John’s turn to write.

The Twins rebounded somewhat from last week’s five-game losing streak to take two of three from the Diamondbacks this weekend in Phoenix. While this was rather encouraging, it by no means signals an end to the Twins’ struggles. Both Friday and Saturday’s wins were unspectacular. I hate to be a pessimist here, but for example: on Friday, Kyle Lohse blew an early 5-0 lead, the Twins scored 3 unearned runs (that can be viewed as either good or bad, but either way it reflects poorly on the D-Backs), and Guzman committed a key error himself. On the positive side, J.C. looked like the J.C. of old for three strong innings, and Matty LeCroy once again delivered with a clutch pinch hit. Saturday, Grant Balfour and Juan Rincon dominated for 4 innings, striking out 8, but the Twins left a whopping 17 men on base (yet managed to score 8 runs). Yesterday, we were predictably shut down by Randy Johnson, but I’m willing to overlook that as an inevitability. The bottom line is that the Twins aren’t out of the woods yet. The D-Backs are a very flawed team that a contender should beat, and the Twins were able to exploit their myriad weaknesses.

Sunday also saw the announcement of the 2004 All-Star Game selections. As expected, closer Joe Nathan is the Twins’ lone representative. He has been one of the top relievers in the game this year, posting a 1.19 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while converting 23 of 24 save opportunities. Not many criticized the Pierzynski trade this off-season, but I can’t imagine too many people expected it to work out as well as it has for the Twins thus far! There really weren’t any Twins that were snubbed this year either, and Patrick Reusse over at the Strib wrote a great piece describing why the the Twins only deserved one All-Star. I usually dislike Reusse, but this column was a pleasant surprise.

About a month ago, I predicted that Nathan and Radke would make the team this year if Brad started winning some games. Obviously, that has not been the case and no one batted an eye when he wasn’t named. If Radke was 8-3 right now instead of 4-3, I think he would have made it. Lew Ford, the Official Player of Twins Chatter, didn’t make the initial 31-man roster but is one of five candidates in the final online fan vote for the 32nd roster spot, a relatively new feature that began three years ago. Lew has absolutely no chance of winning, as Hideki Matsui and his Japanese supporters will no doubt stuff the “ballot boxes”, but nevertheless it’s nice to see Lew get a little national recognition. For what it’s worth, I encourage you to click here and vote for Lew as many times as you can.

The weekend series also saw a little lineup shake-up. Doug Mientkiewicz was FINALLY moved out of the top of the lineup and sent to the 7/8 hole. He responded with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs, so maybe he’s turned over a new leaf. I’m still a little skeptical, however. Dougie’s demotion signaled the promotion of Joe Mauer to the #3 spot, and the 20 year-old only responded by going 5-8 with a double, triple, homer, and 2 RBIs. He seriously puts all our other “veteran” hitters to shame, as he’s already better than most of them. In 27 games (82 at-bats), Mauer is hitting .317/.394/.682 with 6 HRs (!) and 13 RBIs. I have been very surprised by the amount of power Joe has displayed already, as his current pace says he’ll hit about 25 homers this year given 350 at-bats (a fairly generous number for someone who missed two months). He’s already erased any doubts I held about him being a special player.

Well, that’s enough rambling for one day. Don’t forget to get out and vote for Lew. Also, if you’ve been having trouble accessing this site lately, please drop a comment below or e-mail me at Blogger has been very unreliable as of late, and we may be in the market for a new domain name in the near future. Also feel free to post your comments about any topic I covered today and I’ll be sure and respond when I can.