Happy Monday to you all...
Welcome to another edition of my Baseball Notes.
It was an interesting weekend in Major League Baseball. A big name was cut loose. The longest hitting streak of the year was ended. And there were some interesting match-ups and series outcomes. Let's take a look...
First, probably the biggest news of the weekend was Frank Thomas' release from Toronto. Frank got off to his usual slow spring start (although the power numbers weren't awful - .167-3-11), so Manager John Gibbons decided to give Frank a day off. Frank responded by going on a rant in the media about the club deliberately benching him so that he wouldn't meet incentive clauses in his contract. Sound familiar? He did the same thing in Chicago. The next day, Frank was released. Well GM J.P. Riccardi referred to it as a "mutual decision". Sure. Whatever.
I applaud the Blue Jays for cutting bait with a under-performing, cancerous player, but now the question becomes, where will Frank land? There have already been cries from some Twins fans to bring the Big Hurt to Minnesota. I couldn't be more against this idea. So in that vein, the following is my open letter to Twins G.M. Billy Smith:
Congratulations on the series victory over Cleveland. I was one of many Twins fans with strong concerns about your starting pitching staff. But giving up only 5 runs over 3 games against one of the better lineups in the league is reason for some optimism.
But I'm concerned that some optimism could lead to a potentially disastrous decision. I'm speaking of the signing of Frank Thomas. I can't possibly urge you strongly enough to NOT sign him.
I know that you're fairly content with platooning Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe in your DH spot. But I also know that on some level you have to be tempted to put another big stick in the middle of your lineup to offer some protection to Justin Morneau.
Frank Thomas should NOT be that guy. And for that matter, you can consider my comments as echoes of my feelings for Barry Bonds.
You have a young ball club with a lot of easily-influenced, inexperienced players. Frank has a well-earned reputation for being a clubhouse cancer. And what you lack is a strong veteran presence with enough gravitas (read: Torii Hunter) to counter-act the baggage that Frank would surely bring with him.
Someone else in the AL will surely overpay to put Frank in their lineup. You should allow that to happen and then rest comfortably in the knowledge that that's one team you don't have to worry about gelling together and grinding out wins against you. Frank's presence simply won't allow it.
Please take my advice to heart. Most Twins fans have accepted that you're building towards the new Ballpark in 2010. Don't torpedo the process with a panic signing like this.
Lifelong Twins Fan
You folks have no idea how much I hope that works!
Lot's of great baseball this past weekend. I'll mention some of it in the "Dans Favorite Teams Update (DFTU)" a little later, but I wanted to mention one game in particular.
I'd been hearing rumblings all spring from some of my Brewer Fan friends about a youngster named Yovani Gallardo (yoh-VAH-nee gai-YAR-doh). Sunday was my first opportunity to check him out as he took the mound against the Reds. Here's his line:
Pitchers IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-Str ERA
Y Gallardo 7.0 4 1 1 3 4 1 112-68 1.29
Not too shabby to say the least. Didn't look to me like he had sick stuff. But he was especially good at getting himself out of trouble. He'll want to work on improving that Strike/Ball ratio for sure, but for a first start of the year, he gave the Brewers a solid chance to win, and that's all you can ask.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, Eric Gagne gacked another game up and they lost. Will you people PLEASE start writing Doug Melvin and get this clown released already?! Please! How can you prove my NL Central pick wrong with this goat in your bullpen?! Come on Crew fans... pick a side!
Next, I'd like to do some pimping - no Mom, not THAT kind of pimping. For those of you with iPods (or without for that matter, but I don't know specifically how it works without one) you should check out a couple of Podcasts that I'm a big fan of.
First off, if you can't get enough baseball, check out ESPN's "Baseball Today" podcast (the audio, not video version - there's a difference). Hosted by ESPN fantasy baseball guru Eric Karibell and ESPN.com special writer Peter Pasquarelli they cover all the latest news in big-league baseball. Maybe that's more baseball than most people could handle, but I encourage you to at least check out the April 17th version, say about the 13:30 mark. There you'll find a special guest appearance by yours truly! Okay, it's only via email, but hey, they mention my name! My Internet fame is spreading by the day!
(end shameless self-promotion... but seriously, check it out!)
The other Podcast I'm completely addicted to is also an ESPN.com offering, "The BS Report with Bill Simmons". If you've ever read any of the Sports Guy's columns on Page 2 of ESPN.com, the podcast is a logical extension. Bill's honestly one of the funniest, most creative writers out there and his podcasts are equally as entertaining. I highly recommend checking it out.
Finally it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update (DFTU)!
Minnesota Twins: After losing 4 out of 5, the Twins responded by taking 2 out of 3 at home versus the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker both had strong outings versus the Tribe. Baker didn't get a win out of it, but he put his club in a position to win, and as I mentioned earlier, that's as much as you can ask for, especially from a young pitcher. The one game the Twins lost in that series was the second start of the season for Francisco Liriano. He certainly looked better than in his first outing, but it's equally clear that he's got a ways to go before he comes close to the dominant form he displayed in 2006.
The Twins' offense still hasn't gotten untracked, but then again, Michael Cuddyer is still on the DL and it doesn't look like he'll be back til maybe the end of the week. Hopefully he'll give the middle of the order a little boost.
The Twins have today off and are headed out west for a mini-West Coast swing. 3 games in Oakland followed by 3 in Texas. Always nice to visit Arlington when it's not in the middle of the summer sweltering season. Both teams are beatable, so it'll be interesting to see how the Twins fare on this road-trip.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The Dbacks also took 2 out of 3 in their weekend series with the Padres. Dan Haren picked up the win Friday night. Edgar Gonzalez gave his club a Quality Start on Saturday. Randy Johnson pitched 5 solid innings on Sunday before getting shelled in the 6th. Johnson's still building up his stamina after limited work in Spring Training, so Manager Bob Melvin is going to have to be very careful with how long he leaves the veteran lefty out there. It really looked like Randy was out of gas in the 6th. Most of his pitches were up in the strike zone and weren't moving much at all. That, my friends, is a recipe for a crooked number.
But the offense is still red-hot. Even in the Sunday game, Arizona put together something of a comeback, getting the deficit down to 6-4 before the bullpen was unable to hold it.
And speaking of offense, you'll recall when I mentioned last week that at some point Justin Upton would start hitting 3rd? Well I didn't realize it was going to be as soon as Sunday. Now J-Up hitting in the 3-hole had a lot to do with CF and usual Lead-Off hitter Chris Young having the day off. With that, Melvin slid his normal 2 and 3 hitters up to the 1 and 2 spots and dropped Upton into the 3-hole. How did Justin respond? 1-4 with 2 K's. Not as hot a performance as he had been having, but it's only one game.
One more offensive note: Eric Byrnes' 14-game hitting streak was snapped on Sunday. And as usually seems to be the case, he was standing in the On-Deck circle in the bottom of the ninth when the game ended. So close! But at least he can now shave that pathetic mustache he'd been growing while the streak was alive. I'm all for athletes with colorful personalities - and Byrnes definitely fits that mold - but that's no excuse for bad facial hair!
The Dbacks play 2 more at home starting tonight versus the Giants, then head on the road for 3 against the Dodgers and 3 more against the Padres.
That's all I've got for today. Hope you liked the update I made to the blog, including the "Read More..." links on the front page. Seems like it cleaned things up a bit. As always, any suggestions for improvements you might have are more than welcome.
Have a good start to your week. If you behave yourselves, I might try to cobble something together for Wednesday! If not, please check back Friday for my weekly wrap-up!