Monday, July 26, 2004

Starting Things Off With a Bang

Going into this week's crucial three game series with the White Sox, the Twins were a team that was winning in spite of myriad distractions.  Doug Mientkiewicz is about to be traded.  Other Twins (like Michael Cuddyer) were rumored to be on the block.  Kyle Lohse and Ron Gardenhire were disagreeing about his approach on the mound.

To top it all off, the Twins had not played very well lately against their rivals from the South Side, losing 7 of their last 8 by a combined score of 65-30.  That includes a seemingly-devastating three game sweep at the Metrodome late last month.

But the 2004 Twins have shown a resilience that reminds us of their improbable run to the AL Central Division crown in the second half of last season.  Yesterday they came out fighting and showed the White Sox that the road to the playoffs still runs through Minnesota, no matter how much Kenny Williams mortgages his future for a chance at the post-season this year.  This attitude was never more apparent than in the 8th inning when a charging Torii Hunter flattened ChiSox catcher Jamie Burke after tagging on a fly ball to right field.  That play (which was a very clean play in my opinion) sent a clear message to the Sox: we ain't goin' nowhere.

Overall, this was a pretty well played game by the Twins.  They got to starter Mark Buehrle early, collecting 10 hits in the first four innings of the game.  Every Twins fan has heard countless times from the likes of Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven that the key to beating Buehrle is scoring early, and on Monday the Twins were finally able to do so.  Brad Radke was vintage Brad Radke, changing speeds and hitting his spots with the fastball, generally just keeping the Chicago hitters off-balance all night.

Without Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez in the lineup, the White Sox offense is considerably less fearsome (or at least seemed to be on Monday).  No doubt, Carlos Lee, Jose Valentin, and Paul Konerko are still dangerous hitters, but without those two big boppers in there a pitcher actually has places where he can relax and get away with a bad pitch or two.  Instead of having a legitimate power threat in spots 2-8, opposing pitchers now have much less to worry about after Konerko bats in the #5 hole.  It remains to be seen what (if anything) Williams does to address this, since Thomas is out for at least another month and Mags might be done for the season.  However, he is limited in the chips he has to throw around after making four significant mid-season trades the past two seasons.

Let's Start Getting Ahead of Ourselves

Although nothing had been announced in terms of a Doug Mientkiewicz trade as of late Monday, speculation came to a feverish pitch in Twins country today.  Where would he go?  Who would the Twins get in return?  Why exactly did they tell him in advance?  It is the last question that has had me scratching my head since I published yesterday's post.

What could the Twins possibility stand to gain by informing Mientkiewicz of their imminent decision?  Did they feel that they "owed" him the courtesy of this advance notice because he had been such an important part of the team for the past three seasons?  If you have any theories, please, enlighten the rest of us.

The fact that nothing happened today did sway my belief that something will happen with Mientkiewicz within the next couple of days.  First of all, there is the fact that neither Terry Ryan nor Ron Gardenhire came out and publicly stated that Mientkiewicz was not going to be traded.  If there was no/little truth to the rumors then TR would have most certainly stated as such to the press.  Second of all, Kris Benson made his final start for the Pirates tonight, going six innings while allowing four runs in a loss.  Lastly, the fact that Mientkiewicz may play again for the Twins makes it unlikely that the team would go too long with him still on the 25-man roster.

And what if Benson is the player that the Twins land--where does he fit into the whole equation?  Personally, I think that he will make a good #3 starter for the Twins.  As solid as Carlos Silva has been this year, he is probably not the guy that you want to send out there when you NEED a standout performance.  Kyle Lohse, the #3 starter at the beginning of the season, has been disappointingly inconsistent and I feel should be relegated to the #5 spot if indeed the Twins acquire a starting pitcher.

Well, that's all the Twins Chatter I've got for you today.  I just want to thank everyone for dropping by on what was a record-setting day for us yesterday (200 visitors) and for all your positive comments and support.  As always, if you have anything to say about the topics discussed today feel free to drop a comment or e-mail me at  Tomorrow marks the (hopefully) triumphant return of John Betzler to this space, in case some of you had forgotten that Twins Chatter actually has two writers.  Thanks again for stopping by and good night.