Thursday, July 22, 2004

As the Wheels Turn

The Twins are most certainly turning things upside down right now.  With yesterday's strange 7-5 win, a duel of the grand slams, over the Tampa Bay Deviled Hams (I have decided that I can call them that again) the hometown nine extended their winning streak to four games, almost right on the heels of a five-game losing streak.  This is very reminiscent of last year's streaky team, which seemed to either sweep or be swept in almost every series for a large portion of the year.  But with just nine days remaining until that magical July 31st deadline, one wonders if recent events will have any impact on whether or not the Twins' brass makes a trade.

Kris Benson
I have said on more than one occasion that I would love for the Twins to acquire the Pirates' Kris Benson, but there have been some interesting developments lately with this case.  Benson has been pitching very well of late, While the staff has been pretty solid of late, I think that the rotation would benefit from a veteran like Benson.  Terry Mulholland, as much as I love his recent performance, probably can't keep up this Jamie Moyer impression for very much longer.  And Kyle Lohse has just been so darn infuriating (i.e. inconsistent) for this entire season that I hate to think what will happen when we need him for a big game against the Sox in September.  He simply hasn't been getting the job done.

However, Pirates' GM Dave Littlefield seems to think that he can receive enough talent in return for a guy with a 4.25 career ERA to turn his franchise around.  Littlefield has been quoted as saying that he wants a major league ready player and a top prospect (plus more possibly) in return for Benson.  For the Twins, that translates roughly to perhaps Michael Cuddyer and J.D. Durbin in exchange for Benson.  Every Twins fan (and Terry Ryan I assume) will tell you that a trade like that is utter hogwash.  Littlefield will get nothing near what he is demanding for Benson, who will cost almost $3 million for a two month rental.  It doesn't matter that Benson is probably the best pitcher available on the market: he simply isn't worth that much in a trade.  A more realistic (and fair) trade would include perhaps Michael Restovich and borderline prospect like Adam Johnson.  I doubt the Pirates will find anyone stupid enough to give in to their excessive demands, so it is probably just a matter of who offers the best mid-level prospect.

Bret Boone
Now this one is pure speculation (started perhaps at the other day) but it is intriguing nonetheless.  It is rumored that if the Mariners are unable to find a taker for the struggling Boone they may just release him as they did with Rich Aurilla and John Olerud.  But as Seth suggests, why not have the Twins trade them some token players (Rivas, Restovich, or Adam Johnson) instead?  If he's released, the M's will have to pay his salary for this year anyway, so you'd think that they'd be happy to get a warm bucket of spit in return.  But there are definite issues here--Boone's option, his injury status, whether or not the Yankees want him--but it's still fun to think about.  Can you imagine if the Twins all of a sudden had a legitimate power threat at second base instead of the Black Hole (i.e. Luis "The Place Where At-Bats Go To Die" Rivas) that currently resides there?  Excuse me now while I drift into a state of contented bliss...

I would be excited if the Twins were able to acquire either of those players, and ecstatic if they acquired both.  However, the latter is obviously just a misguided pipe dream.  If you're in the mood for more trade speculation, there have been a number of well written articles dealing with the subject.  Today, Twins Geek has a very enlightening post about Paul Wilson as a trade candidate and also predicts the upcoming uproar that will occur when the Twins don't match the White Sox next (inevitable) blockbuster trade.  Jimmy Souhan over at the Strib helped fan the speculatory flames with his article the other day.  And as always, the DTFC Twins' Forum is rocking with all sorts of opinions on the trade situation, including some very interesting ideas from numerous hardcore Twins fans.

That's all I've got for tonight.  I appreciate the recent upsurge in support I've received since John left me flying solo last week, as it gives me a lot of confidence and motivation to write something new each day.  If you have any thoughts on the topics discussed here, feel free to drop a comment below or email me at  I almost always respond in a timely matter to both forms of communication.  Good night everyone.

p.s. Also, if you haven't read the paper yet this morning, be sure and read this article by Souhan and I'm sure you'll get a snicker or two from it (I know I sure did!).  Dougie is all paranoid that he has been Pipped, and in his desperation he's saying all sorts of crazy stuff!  I love it!

That's the Way (Uh-Huh Uh-Huh) I Like It

Now that's more like it.

The Twins collected a season-high 17 hits in their impressive 12-2 victory over the D-Rays, a victory that seemed oddly out of place in a post-April world. Are these the same guys that had only scored five runs once in the past week and a half? The improbable return of Henry "Babe" Blanco? Lew Ford hitting homers? Stranding just seven base runners? Just what exactly is going on here?

On a more serious note, the Twins sorely needed a game like yesterday's. The mini-sweep of the Tigers was nice, but the Twins' offense still did not look very impressive. Although there have been numerous other offensive "breakout" games this year (a 16-4 victory over the Rays on June 1st springs to mind), perhaps this is the one that finally counts. I'm still very skeptical, but you never know.

Wednesday's laugher aside, it is time to move on to the REAL issue: Doug Mientkiewicz is eligible to come off the 15-DL today (Thursday). Mientkiewicz took batting practice on Wednesday, One thing is known for sure--Justin Morneau is not the one that will be sent down to clear space for Dougie. He went 3-5 today and has looked like one of the team's best hitters since his recall. Since the Twins have 11 pitchers, that means a position player has to go. The only real candidates are Rob Bowen (just called up from AA), Jose Offerman, and Michael Cuddyer. But, as Patrick Reusse (is it just me or has he gotten a lot better lately?) writes in his column today, the Twins would like to keep both Cuddyer and Offerman. And I don't think that Terry Ryan would call up Rob Bowen just to demote him a couple days. However, I think that demoting Bowen is the right move in this situation if indeed the Twins are set on activating Mientkiewicz. The Twins will be able to get by with Blanco and LeCroy catching, which is what they did during Mauer's previous two-month absence. Bowen is nothing more than injury insurance, which is a luxury that the Twins cannot afford right now. If TR doesn't want to demote Bowen, then he is going to have a very tough decision to make.

Logjam on multiple fronts
For the sake of argument, let's assume Morneau, Cuddyer, and Offerman stay with the team when Mientkiewicz is activated. I also heard Gardenhire quoted as saying that Shannon Stewart is recovered enough to begin playing the outfield, a development that further complicates matters. In my mind it should be irrefutably obvious that Ford is a much better outfielder than Stewart, even when SS is completely healthy, but I'm sure Gardy will defy logic and insert the weak-armed Stewart into left the first chance he gets. That leaves the Twins with four outfielders deserving of extensive playing time. Ford could DH, but then where will Morneau play? Who sits if/when Mientkiewicz begins throwing away his four at-bats on a nightly basis? I personally think Mientkiewicz should serve as nothing but a late-inning replacement for Morneau until he starts to hit again, but that probably won't happen.

No matter what Gardy decides to do (sit Dougie, DH Morneau, or DH Lew) Matthew LeCroy is the one who stands to lose the most. With just two catchers (hypothetically, of course) Matty's role would be as a platoon player. He has looked terrible at the plate of late, and his days as a starter on this team are over. As much as I liked his power potential, he simply hasn't produced enough in the DH slot and should probably accept his new role as pinch hitter/backup catcher.

Then there is always the possibility that a trade could help free up the logjam. If the Twins could find a taker for Dougie Baseball and/or Jacque Jones, both problems would be solved. But Terry Ryan has said again and again that the Twins will not make a trade just for the sake of making a trade.

Anyway you slice it, Gardenhire has some serious decisions to make in the near future. Which veteran player will be relegated to the bench or to a platoon role? Can he live with just Henry Blanco and Matthew LeCroy as his only catchers? Whatever choices he does make, this quote makes me think that Gardy finally realizes that "his guys" aren't always the best ones for the job:

"I can't worry about anyone's feelings. At this time of year, all I can worry about is doing what I think will give us the best chance to win ball games."

Whether that means putting his nine best players in the lineup each day remains to be seen.