Friday

Random Notes & DFTU


Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the end of yet another week. Since I had a long weekend last week, I fully expect this weekend to fly by. I'll blink and it'll be Monday, I'm sure. But I think I'm going to give The Dark Knight in IMAX another try this weekend, so hopefully I'll have that to report on come Monday!

So in today's Sports Take, I'll give you a series of random notes. None of the subjects inspire me to write a full-blown segment, but they're worth passing along in a shorter form. Then it's this week's DFTU. So let's get to it!

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.

- Ring Lardner (1885-1933), American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical takes on the sports world, marriage, and the theatre.

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*First off, I want to pass along Cathy in Maple Grove's thanks to those of you who went out and bought a Blizzard on Miracle Treat Day yesterday. This was a brilliant promotion. Not only did it raise a ton of money for a worthy cause, but it gave us all a wonderful excuse to indulge ourselves in something we would've wanted anyway!

*Next up, I have to disappoint ST reader Jeff in Des Moines by mentioning the F-word. That's right, the Favre saga has come to a conclusion. And what a dud of an ending! Of all the possible endings to this melodrama, Farve ending up in New York is the least climactic one I could think of. He doesn't have a better-than-average chance to win a Super Bowl. He doesn't get to play against the Packers. Sure it adds some spice to the Jets/Patriots rivalry, but I don't know that it changes much in the power structure of the AFC.

And make no mistake about this one point folks: the Packers won. They didn't have to take Brett back after they'd moved on organizationally. They didn't have to trade him or release him to a division rival. They didn't even have to trade him to another team in the NFC. They got a reasonable return from the Jets - they're virtually guaranteed a third-round pick and very likely will get a second rounder out of the deal. And they can be reasonably assured that though they may not win the way they did last year, neither will Brett.

Sorry Jeff. But I had to get that out.

*I also want to direct you to a brief column and chat session by ESPN's baseball analyst Jerry Crasnick: http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=21838

In the column Jerry gives you his opinion on who'll win the AL Central and why. Plus there's some interesting debate in the chat session. I think there are very valid arguments for both the Twins and the White Sox. But I fear that the mega-road trip that the Twins have to take to make room for the Republican National Convention may cost them their shot. Either way, it's going to be a damned fun race to watch! Check out the article. It's a nice short read. And for the record, just because I think the White Sox have a slight edge doesn't mean that I'm taking Keith's bet (check out the "Comments" on Wednesday's column if you don't get the reference).

Sorry Keith. No bet.

Finally today it's this week's DFTU (Dan's Favorite Teams Update)!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 63-51, in second place in the AL Central and a 1/2-game behind the Chicago White Sox.

I know my Minnesota readers are going to be disappointed in my saying that I think the White Sox have a slight edge down the stretch. And I understand and welcome your criticism.

But consider the following numbers. The Twins have 48 games left heading into play tonight. 21 of those are at home where they're 39-21. 27 of those are on the road - including a 14 game trip at the end of August/start of September - where they're 24-30. If they maintain those paces, they'll finish the final 48 games 26-22. That gives them a final record of 89-73.

Could that win the division? Possibly. But keep in mind that over the last five years, the AL Central champ has won an average of 94.6 games, and never less than 90.

And, though I don't want to overwhelm you with numbers, keep this last one in mind as well. The Twins starting rotation, as currently constituted, won exactly 13 games last year. Combined. That's a stunning lack of experience for a starting staff on a contending team. And it's why I was moderately surprised when the Twins cut ties with Livan Hernandez (who's now pitching for the Colorado Rockies - D'backs fans rejoice).

I do remain hopeful. The Twins have defied convention throughout this season. So it's entirely possible that they'll carry that to the end and win the division. But realistically? I have to also be skeptical. Chicago has a lot of talent and plenty of guys left from their 2005 Championship run.

Hold on to your hats Twins fans. The stretch-drive cometh!

The Twins are in Kansas City for 3 games before returning home for a 9-game homestand in front of that 14-game mega-road trip.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 59-56, in first place in the AL West and 1.5 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

Manny Ramirez is hitting .565 with 4 home runs and 9 RBI in 6 games for the Dodgers. Be afraid Arizona fans. Be very afraid.

Fortunately for the Snakes, they have only 6 more games left with the Dodgers. And 3 of those are at the friendly confines of Chase Field. But all that means is that Manny probably won't kill them directly.

Indirectly however, he has L.A. right in the thick of this race. And contrary to some dopey pundit I heard the other day, the NL Wild card is not coming out of the Western division. Sorry folks, but it's division title or bust.

So what do the D'backs have to do to win it? First of all, they have to maintain their pace within the division itself. Against NL West opponents, they're 29-15. 28 of their last 47 games are against division opponents. So if they keep up their current pace, they should walk with the division title.

Secondly, they have to figure out their bullpen. Brandon Lyon is fairly well entrenched in the closers role. And John Rauch seems set as their set-up man. But the middle-relief is still a mess. Tony Pena has been rocked in his last few outings and Chad Qualls has vacillated between lights-out, and lights-very-much-on. Juan Cruz is finally back off the DL, so hopefully his presence will help to settle things down.

Arizona made the playoffs last year based in large part on their incredible success in 1-run games. You win 1-run games because your bullpen keeps you close enough for the closer to wrap it up, or for the offense to catch up in the end. So the D'backs have find a couple of guys to regularly bridge the gap between the starters and the back-end of the bullpen. Of course, that's far easier for me to say than for Bob Melvin to do. Good luck Bobby!

I'm also mildly concerned about starting pitcher Dan Haren. I'm all for the reasonable extension that Arizona signed him to this week. It's always a risk signing a pitcher to a long-term contract (see: Zito, Barry), but Haren's as deserving as any pitcher can be. But he hasn't had his best stuff over his last couple of starts. He's gotten enough run support to earn wins in both of those games, but they haven't been easy wins by any stretch.

It could be just a rough stretch for him. Or he could be a little gassed. Either way, if he doesn't bounce back strongly in his next couple of starts, it'll be time to get really worried. The bullpen's shaky enough. If one of their ace starters starts to falter, things could get ugly in a hurry.

Arizona wraps up a 4-game series with the Braves this weekend before heading to Colorado (please let Livan pitch in this series, please) and Houston.

That's all for this week folks. Have a comfortable and relaxing weekend and I'll be back on Monday with more of the finest throne-room material you can find in the blogosphere! Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. well I agree that 90 wins could end up being the number to get. I counted up the number of series each team plays contenders, and by my count, chicago has 6 series against contenders and the twins only have 4 (i'm officially counting the tigers out). Should be an exciting finish. Way to over achieve TWINS (and white sox for that matter)!!

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