Friday

Apologies, Trade Deadline Fallout & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

We've reached the end of another week. Congratulations to all of us. On the day where many here in Minnesota honor the 1-year anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse, that doesn't seem like such a small feat.

But we here at the Sports Take try to keep things light and entertaining and even on a day where our minds turn to a tragic event, there's still room for a laugh or two. So with that in mind, today I'm going to offer up the first ever Official Sports Take Apology. Then I'll run down the two big trades from yesterday's Non-Waiver Trade Deadline and how they both directly affect my favorite teams. Finally it's this week's edition of the DFTU.

The future is much like the present, only longer.
- Dan Quisenberry (1953-1998), American right-handed relief pitcher in Major League Baseball who played primarily for the Kansas City Royals

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First off today, I have to offer up an Official Sports Take Apology to Milwaukee Brewers fans. I acknowledged in Monday's column that predicting that the Crew would take 3 out of 4 from the Cubs at home had the potential to put the whammy on them. I had no idea that it would contribute to a Cubs sweep though.

And it wasn't just a sweep, it was 4 games of North-sider domination. The Cubs out-scored the Brewers 31-11 over the 4 games. They beat the Brewers best two pitchers in the first two games of the series. And if Brewer pitchers never see Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano again, it'll be too soon.

Now in my defense, this July swoon by the Brewers wasn't limited to the Cubs series. They had dropped 2 of 3 to the Astros prior to hosting Chicago. But I still take responsibility for whatever bad magambo I dropped on Milwaukee by predicting that they'd win the series.

Sorry about that Milwaukee fans. My bad.

Next up I'm talking trades. There were two major deals that went down before yesterday's 3pm CT non-waiver trade deadline. And each of them affected one of my favorite clubs.

First off, the Chicago White Sox - who just finished dropping 3 of 4 to the Twins, more on that later - acquired OF Ken Griffey, Jr. from the Cincinnati Reds. In return the Reds receive a pair of minor leaguers: IF Danny Richar and RHP Nick Masset. Neither are considered future superstars, but both are major league ready.

Obviously my first reaction to this trade involved several words which I won't print here as this is a family blog! But after considering the implications for a while, I'm not sure this is the death-blow for the Twins division championship aspirations that I initially thought it'd be.

Griffey is a sure-fire hall of famer. No doubt. And he'll definitely add some power to Chicago's line-up. But a lack of power-bats hasn't been Chicago's weakness this year. Their bullpen and starting pitching have been. And neither of those elements got any better. Plus Griffey will have to play mostly center field for the Sox. And at 38 years-old, I'm not sure if Griffey has the kind of legs to cover the amount of ground you'd like in center. And with Jermaine Dye and Carlos Quentin as your corner outfielders, they're not speedy enough to cover all that much ground either. Bottom line, the White Sox defense might have actually gotten a little worse with this deal. So unless they're planning on out-scoring everybody 12-10, I'm not sure they got that much better.

The other major deal of the day was Manny Ramirez being traded from Boston (whom I hate) to the L.A. Dodgers. It was a 3-team deal with the Red Sox (whom I hate) getting OF Jason Bay from the Pirates, and the Pirates receiving 2 prospects each from Boston (whom I hate) and Los Angeles.

On the plus-side for me, Boston (whom I hate) got worse in this deal. Don't get me wrong, Jason Bay is a nice player. And at first glance, his stats are nearly the same as Manny's. Bay's hitting .282 with 22 HR and 64 RBI, while Manny's hitting .299 with 20 HR and 68 RBI. But Bay's spent his entire big league career in Pittsburgh. And all due respect to the Pirates, but playing there can't really be compared to the pressure-filled, constantly-in-a-pennant-race situation he'll face in Boston (whom I hate). Manny, on the other hand, seemed to revel in that pressure. He thrived on it.

If you want a statistical representation of how a hitter deals with pressure, look at their batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP). Manny's is .309. Bay's is .216. That's a huge difference. I'm not a Manny fan. I can't stand all his antics. But I do respect his ability to hit in critical situations. As one of my favorite columnists, John Buccigross, says, "Manny is clutch. And clutch is everything."

On the down-side for me, Manny now becomes a fixture in the middle of the Dodger line-up. The Dodgers are chasing the Arizona Diamondbacks. And while I've been a fan of the moves that Arizona made, L.A. just got a lot better. I fully expect to see the "motivated Manny" show up in L.A. and hit something like .450 for the rest of the year, just to show Boston (whom I hate) what they lost. I don't mind the idea of sticking it to Boston (whom I hate) so much, but if it happens at the expense of the D'backs, I'm not going to enjoy it so much.

So ultimately, Manny in L.A. worries me a lot more than Griffey in Chicago. Still, it wasn't the most enjoyable trade deadline I've ever witnessed!

Finally this week, it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 60-48, in second place in the AL Central and a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox.

While I do feel awful about how things turned out for the Brewers as compared to my prediction, I couldn't be happier about the Twins exceeding my prediction and taking 3 of 4 from Chicago to shrink their deficit to only a half-game. Especially since all 3 victories came against left-handed starters. The Twins' record against lefties this year has been woeful. But they peppered Chicago pitching for a total of 26 runs over the 4 games.

And as "clutch" as Manny Ramirez may be, Justin Morneau has been equally so for the Twins. He's hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games, batting .380 with 10 doubles, six homers and 21 RBIs during that time. If the Twins end up winning the AL Central, Morneau has to get very serious consideration for MVP.

The one blemish on what was an otherwise wonderful series for the Twins was the behavior of some knuckleheads in the crowd last night. In the seventh inning, Twins RF Denard Span was hit by a pitch after squaring around to bunt. The home plate umpire initially awarded Span his base, but was over-ruled by the 3rd base umpire who ruled that Span had offered at the pitch. If a batter swings at a pitch, misses and is subsequently hit by that pitch, it's ruled a strike. Replay showed that Span had clearly pulled his bat back and was trying to avoid the ball, so the 3rd base umpire's ruling was incorrect. But the 3rd base ump's ruling stood.

The bad call brought Twins manager Ron Gardenhire out of the dugout to argue. But as Gardy acknowledged after the game, managers are not allowed to argue balls and strikes, which is technically what Ron was doing. This led to an automatic ejection for Gardenhire. Not wanting to be cheated, Ron went into his standard melt-down routine, yelling, waving his arms and kicking at whatever's nearest to him. As he finally started to leave the field, he gave in to his frustration and drop-kicked his hat. It makes no sense, but it was fairly colorful at least.

Equally as colorful was the response of several Twins fans, who decided to vent their displeasure at the bad call by tossing their hats onto the field. Now, throwing anything onto the field is considered grounds for a fan's immediate removal from the stadium. And while hats aren't going to hurt anybody, that blanket rule does exist for good reason. And that reason was unfortunately very much in evidence last night.

After the first few fans tossed hats onto the field, several others wanted to get into the act and either didn't have a hat or didn't want to lose their hat. So they started throwing whatever was at hand onto the field. That included balls and a few of those plastic beer-bottles. Obviously that crosses a line. Hats aren't going to hurt anyone, but an unexpected baseball to the side of the head can be terribly dangerous. To whit, an outraged Ozzie Guillen stormed onto the field and ordered his players back into the dugout until order could be restored.

It was truly embarrassing. Here the Twins are on the verge of taking 3 of 4 from their division rival and these idiots in the stands decide to risk a forfeiture of the game by tossing stuff onto the field. Truly, truly stupid. The hats in response to Gardenhire's antics I can almost understand, but to start throwing other items onto the field over one bad call accomplishes nothing, and in fact risks losing your team the game. I dearly hope that Metrodome officials were able to identify some of the perpetrators and ban them from future games. Unacceptable people. It's flat out unacceptable.

And just when you thought Twins fans could take a breath, here come the Cleveland Indians, with whom the Twins have had a chippy history as well. The Tribe visit for 3 games this weekend, before the Twins head out west to face the Mariners next week.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 56-52, in first place in the AL West and 2 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

So far so good for the D'backs. They've won 8 of their last 10 including the last 3 in a row. Is it a coincidence that those have all come against NL West competition? Probably not. But you can only play the teams they put in front of you. And it's not Arizona's fault that the NL West is so awful this year.

But now here comes Manny. The D'backs are in the midst of a 4-game series with the Dodgers, and it appears the last 3 of those will come with Ramirez in the line-up. Maybe my fear is unfounded. Maybe "disruptive Manny" will show up and cause all kinds of headaches for Joe Torre and his staff.

But as I said earlier, I fear that Manny's going to go crazy and try to double his RBI total over the last two months of the year. Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but with Manny? You never really know.

Needless to say, I'm anxious to get home tonight and check out Game 2 of the series.

After the D'backs hopefully dispatch the Dodgers, they return home for some NL East competition as they face the now Jason Bay-less Pittsburgh Prates and the Mark Texiera-less Atlanta Braves. Another opportunity to run off some wins, D-backs fans!

That's all for today folks. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I'm off from work on Monday, so it's 50-50 as to whether I'll get a column up that day. But either way, you can count on more ST goodness on Wednesday! Until then, thanks for reading!

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