Leftover Friday Rant & Game Commentary

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another blissful summer week. Can you believe it's August already? I know it's cliche to say, "Gee, hasn't Summer just flown by?" But I guess the reason it's so cliche is because there's a lot of truth in it. At least it feels that way in the ST offices.

Fortunately, there's still plenty of baseball left to be played. And we're inching every closer to the beginning of the college football season when I'll bring you, my valued readers, the very finest in mediocre college football picks!

Until then, baseball it is! Today I've got a rant that I meant to include in Friday's blog but forgot. Hey, it happens! Then I'll give you my second ever Running Game Commentary from the Twins/Tribe tilt I attended on Sunday.

"When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane."
- Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter

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As you may recall from Friday, I offered up an Official Sports Take Apology to the Brewer fans for putting the whammy on them with my prediction. Lost in my zeal to make nice with Crew nation was the criticism of their Skipper that was so richly deserved.

I'm referencing the 4th game of the 4-game series that the Brewers completed with the Cubs. Obviously it was a huge series for both teams. The Cubs rose to the occasion. The Brewers didn't. And that was never more evident than in the series finale.

Once again, the Cubs teed off on the Brewers. Only this time Milwaukee lost its composure. The ninth inning was a rough one. It started in the top half when Eric Gagne was ejected for throwing behind Cubs OF Jim Edmonds. And that was after buzzing Edmonds inside twice. Go figure that he was ejected?

Gagne's comment after the game? "The umpire told me I can't go inside."

Apparently the inside portion of the plate extends behind a guy's knees in Gagne's world. Don't say I didn't warn you about this clown Brewer fans. I tried. I really did.

Then in the bottom half of the ninth, 1B Prince Fielder was ejected for arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire. As we've discussed in the past, arguing balls and strikes is an automatic ejection. But Prince wasn't to be deterred. Not only did he argue (and in quite colorful terms if my lip-reading skills are up to snuff), but he refused to leave the dugout for several minutes, delaying the game while accomplishing absolutely nothing.

And where was Brewer manager Ned Yost during all of this hullabaloo? In the dugout doing his best "deer-in-the-headlights" imitation.

My first thought as I watched the second of his players get run out of the game was, "He's got to go out there and get thrown out."

But as my colleague Mike Max reminded me Tom Kelly got thrown out a mere handful of times in his 15 year major league managerial career. And nobody can question his ability to lead a team.

So okay, Ned didn't have to go get thrown out. But in my opinion he should've at least gone out there and stuck up for his guys. As much of a waste of a roster spot as I think Gagne is, and as melodramatic as Prince can be, they needed their skipper to go out there and stand up for them.

Managing a team in any professional sport is a daunting, thankless task. If your club loses, you take the blame. If they win, the players get most of the credit.

You know what separates perennial winners from perennial losers? The talent of the athletes between the two isn't as disparate as you might think. What separates the two is leadership. When coaches and veterans convince a team to all pull in the same direction, to think of "we" instead of "me", you get a competitive team.

That's not an easy task. Professional athletes are rewarded for individual accomplishment. Yet to create a winner, they need to be convinced to put team goals ahead of individual ones. And that starts with the coach.

There are moments in a season, where a coach/manager has the opportunity to step up and help unify his club. And that 4th game of the series was one of Yost's opportunities. And he blew it.

Even if he didn't want to get thrown out, he could've at least gone out and gotten between his guys and the umpires and reasonably stuck up for his guys. Even though in both cases, his guys were clearly out of line, seeing their skipper stand up for them even when they're wrong tells a team a lot about his commitment.
Conversely, if the players don't see their manager putting himself on the line to win, they'll inevitably start to ask why they should bother sacrificing anything themselves. And that's a recipe for a tank-job.

I'm not saying that the Brewers are going to crash and burn. I honestly hope they don't. But there's no doubt that there was an opportunity lost there. And if they do crash and burn, you can look back to that game and that missed opportunity as one of the reasons why.

Finally today it's time for another ST Running Commentary. Sunday I attended the Twins/Cleveland rubber-match at the Metrodome. Here's how it went:

Pregame: Sunday was "First Responder Day" at the Metrodome. There was a ceremony honoring the police, fire and medical personnel who responded to the 35W Bridge Collapse. There was also a ceremony honoring the volunteers who helped find Keith Kennedy, the autistic man who wandered away from his camp and was lost in the woods for 7 days. Keith even got to throw out a ceremonial first-pitch. It was pretty cool.

Sunday also marked the return of Twins LHP Francisco Liriano. The Twins didn't make any moves at the trade deadline, so bringing Liriano up to the big club was their way of trying to add talent for the pennant-push. Twins fans fondly remember the Liriano from 2006. The Liriano who went 12-3 and struck out 144 batters in his 16 starts. The Liriano we knew before Tommy John surgery.

But now he's back. And he's been dominating at AAA Rochester. So let's see if he's really all the way back or not!

Top 1st: A good start for 'Cisco. He sets down the Indians 1-2-3, including 2 strikeouts. All the more impressive because he's got to be amped up with adrenaline as he returns to the majors.

Bottom 1st: Matt Ginter sets the Twins down 1-2-3, but not as conventionally. Grady Sizemore makes a diving catch to rob Denard Span of a hit. God I hate that guy (Sizemore). If he was on my team, he'd be my favorite player. But he's not. And I hate that.

Top 3rd: Liriano starts to struggle. Two walks and an error by Brendan Harris load the bases, but Liriano gets out of it, striking out the final batter of the inning.

In the midst of the inning, I have an epiphany. Batting 9th for the Indians is Asdrubal Cabrerra. I don't know why, but I love the name "Asdrubal". It just sounds cool. I tell my mom that I'm going to name one of my kids Asdrubal regardless of whether it's a boy or a girl. She immediately sprouts 5 gray hairs. Think about it though. "Hey Asdrubal. Go get Uncle Mark a beer!" I'm telling you, this could work!

Bottom 3rd: Brendan Harris leads off the inning. I turn to my dad and say, "Here's his chance to make up for..." and am promptly interrupted by Brendan smoking a ball deep to left and out. Twins lead 1-0.

Top 4th: 'Cisco's still scuffling. Another walk and a base hit with one out create another threat. But he promptly works his way out of it, getting a ground ball double-play. A glance at the Out of Town Scoreboard reveals that Kansas City has jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the White Sox. Could the Twins grab the lead in the Central? We'll see...

Top 5th: Another jam for Francisco. A base hit, sacrifice bunt and yet another walk put a couple more ducks on the pond for the Indians. And once again, they fail to capitalize. How many jams is Liriano going to have to get himself out of here? Cleveland has 3 hits. The Twins have 1. Twins lead 1-0. God I love baseball!

Bottom 5th: The Twins break things open a bit. Jason Kubel walks. Then Mike Lamb (I call him Chop) rips a triple down the 1st base line, scoring Kubel. Brian Buscher follows Chop's RBI with one of his own, singling in the 3rd run for the Twins. Twins lead 3-0.

Top 6th: Liriano finally has a quick inning. He sets the Indians down 1-2-3, getting his guys right back into the dugout after they extend his lead. That's huge.

Bottom 6th: Jesse Crain's warming up in the bullpen. Looks like Liriano might be done. Span leads off the inning with a bunt-single. Nick Punto follows that up with a frozen rope down the 1st base line. The same spot Chop hit his as a matter of fact. And it's the same result: an RBI triple. A wild pitch from Cleveland brings in Punto to score. Twins lead 5-0. Kansas City now leads 10-0 over Chicago. Looking good!

Top 7th: Francisco's out. Jesse Crain starts the inning. Too bad they couldn't let 'Cisco throw to one batter so the crowd could go nuts for him when he leaves the game. But his pitch count was getting up there and it's probably for the best. Jason Kubel loses a ball in the roof which leads to Cleveland's first run. And oh boy did he lose it. The ball landed a good 30 yards away from him. Oof.

Nick Punto makes a stellar defensive play to end the inning. That's going to really annoy my brother who wishes the Twins would be starting that vaunted veteran, "Anybody But Nick Punto" at second base. Sorry Mark. Don't worry. Asdrubal will be bringing you a beer at any moment.

Top 8th: Jason Kubel's taken out of the game in favor of Delmon Young. Delmon Young, defensive specialist?! Ouch Kubes. Ouch. Matt Guerrier comes in to pitch and promptly gives up a round-tripper to Ben Francisco. The fan in left who got the ball manages to resist the taunts of the great unwashed masses and refuses to throw the ball back on the field. Kudos to them! 5-2 Twins after 7 1/2. Suddenly it's a save situation. Bring on Joe Nathan!

Bottom 8th: Juan Rincon comes in for the Indians. And gets booed?! What are you booing people? The fact he got released by the Twins? Or that he dared to get another job with a big league club? Seriously. The man has pharmaceuticals to pay for. Enough with the boos. Denard Span leads off the inning with a solo home run. Cancel that save situation. 6-2 Twins. and 12-2 Royals over the White Sox. Or is that Chiefs over the Bears? Hard to tell.

Top 9th: No save situation. No Joe Nathan. Dennis Reyes takes the hill instead. Suddenly I'm afraid. But my fears are quickly put to rest as Reyes retires the Indians 1-2-3 to finish the game.

So the Twins win 6-2 and take the series 2 games to 1 in front of an announced crowd of 39,818. Think Twins fans were excited to see 'Cisco? Yeah, just a bit. Liriano earns his first win since June of 2006. Combined with the White Sox loss, the Twins are now in 1st place in the AL Central. I like how that sounds. Almost as much as I like the sound of "Asdrubal"!

That's it for today. I'll have more on Wednesday. Until then, thanks for reading!

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