Monday

5-11-09: Notes

Hello again everybody...

Hope your weekend was good. I had a pretty damned decent one myself. I raised my record at Twins games this year to 3-1 by attending Saturday night's 9-6 win over the Mariners at the Metrodome. It wasn't my kind of game, but I went with my brother and nephew, which helped to make it more fun that it might have been otherwise. Making at-bat by at-bat predictions with a 5 year old might sound like a recipe for craziness, but when he's the first one to get one right, and it comes on an at-bat from his favorite player, it's pretty damned fun!

This is one of those Mondays where there's a lot to mention, but none of it causes me to go on a full-column length rant. When that happens, it's Notes time! Let's get to it...

"If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it."
- Pierre Callois


I can't seem to find any reliable information as to who this guy is. But I take issue with his premise. I put tomfoolery into my computer three times a week, and so far, I haven't had any problem finding people willing to criticize it. Fortunately, I'm happy to receive that criticism, since I think it serves to make me a better writer. And since the whole point of writing the blog is to engage people, mission accomplished!

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Here are some weekend Notes for you...

One steroid user leaves, another one comes back... I talked about Manny on Friday, so I think you know where I stand on that. As an interesting juxtaposition, as Manny began his 50 game suspension, A-Roid returned from his hip surgery.

Friday night, Alex Rodriguez made his first appearance for the Yankees this season. And on the first pitch he saw? Home run. That's it. The Yankees are winning it all! Oh, wait. He went 1-10 after that at-bat? Maybe not so much on the World Series bit.

Thanks to the Manny-ness of it all, there wasn't the avalanche of steroid-related media attention surrounding A-Roid's return that you might have expected. But that doesn't mean his return's going to spark the Yanks to the division lead. The Yankees have a lot of problems outside of A-Roid. Their bullpen is a mess. All the more so since it appears Mariano Rivera may have lost it. And their starting pitching is a long ways from being settled.

Oh, and one last Manny note? Dodger owner Frank McCourt has said publicly (because why wouldn't you want clubhouse business conducted publicly) that he wants Manny Ramirez to address his teammates.

Why? Exactly what purpose does this serve other than to make McCourt look like he's a "tough love" kind of guy? So Manny comes into the clubhouse and says what? Remember, he hasn't admitted to anything other than using a substance for a "personal medical issue". What's he going to say? "Sorry guys, there was this gal on the last road-trip. We were having dinner and all and suddenly I realized that the third base coach was waving me in, only I wasn't going to be able to make it. That's when I knew I had to get me some HCG!"

Come on. This is another dumb publicity stunt by an arrogant owner. Frank, I know you feel dumb paying this clown $25 million, not to mention being on the hook for another $20 million if the guy exercises his option for next year. But this "come apologize to your teammates" demand doesn't make you look any smarter.

You want to make a statement? You want to show the world you're going to be tough on people? Tell Manny, "thanks but no thanks". Tell him to stay home and you'll call him about Spring Training in 2010. Yes, his contract's guaranteed and you have to pay him either way. But telling him you'd rather play the rest of the way without him actually says something.

I know it'll never happen, but I'd certainly respect that move a lot more this "calling Manny to the Principal's office" nonsense.

Evan Longoria, Albert Pujols, Zack Greinke and Johan Santana are all better than you... In the case of some of us, that should be fairly obvious. But when you look at the numbers these guys are putting up, it's fairly eye-popping.

Longoria is threatening to become a legit Triple Crown contender in the American League. He's tied for 4th in hitting at .358. He's second in the AL with 11 home runs (and second on his own team as fellow Ray Carlos Pena leads the AL with 13 dingers... how are these guys only 15-18?!). But his most impressive stat is his RBI total: 44. To put that in perspective, he's got 10 more than his nearest AL competitor, and 11 more than the National League leader. Not impressive enough? Do the extrapolation. He's got 44 RBI in 31 games. His team's played 33. So if he keeps up that pace over the last 129 games (at his current rate, he'd play in 121 of those), that means he'd end up the season with somewhere in the neighborhood of 216 RBI. Hack Wilson owns the single season record with 191 in the 1930 season. That means Longoria would eclipse Wilson by a full 25 RBI. Is he likely to maintain that pace? Probably not. But it's still a damned impressive start.

Pujols is attempting a Triple Crown of his own in the National League. He's hitting a robust .330. Unfortunately, that's only good for 12th in the NL. That'll change. These days, finishing a season over .330 is usually good enough to win you a batting title. Albert does lead the other two triple crown categories. He's got 12 home runs (one more than than Adam Dunn of the Nats) and 33 RBI (one more than Jorge Cantu of the Marlins). Pujols' numbers aren't getting the same buzz that Longoria's are, but I think that's because we've become a bit desensitized. We've grown spoiled enough to expect these kinds of numbers from Pujols. It's like Lindsey Lohan doing something insane. We've grown to expect that. But if Anne Hathaway publicly claimed she was dating women and got busted every other day for drunk driving, that'd generate a lot more talk!

Zack Greinke is just sick. He's tied for the league lead with 6 wins. With pitchers the number of actual wins isn't as important as the number of times he puts his team in position to get those wins. Since AL pitchers don't hit, they can't really affect whether their team scores enough to win. But if he holds the opponents down often enough, the wins will come. And boy are they in Greinke's case. As impressive as his 6 wins are, it's his ERA that has jaws dropping. He leads the majors with a 0.51 ERA. The nearest competitor in the AL is Erik Bedard of Seattle with a 2.53. That's over a 2 run per 9 inning difference! And Greinke's going for the pitching version of the Triple Crown as he leads the AL with 59 strikeouts. An unbelievable start to the season for a guy who 3 years ago sat out most of the season with an anxiety disorder.

Johan Santana is trying to match Greinke's start. Again, using the Lohan metaphor, he's not getting the same attention because we've come to expect numbers like this from Johan, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. His ERA is a minuscule 0.91. He's got more competition in that category than Greinke does, with 3 other NL pitchers holding ERA's less than 2.00. But to be below a 1.00 after 6 starts is damned impressive. Johan's tied for second in the NL with 4 wins (one less than Chad Billingsley's 5). And he's 3rd in the NL with 54 strikeouts (4 less than Tim Lincecum's 58).

So could we have 4 Triple Crown winners? Probably not. But these four guys are out to amazing starts and should be a must-watch any time you get a chance to see them! (In that vein, Santana's pitching for the Mets tonight on ESPN at 6pm central... check him out!)

And finally...

The Twins are too damned nice... There was an excellent article by ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian over the weekend about Michael Cuddyer and the way he symbolizes the "Twins Way" of playing baseball.

I certainly don't want to knock the "Twins Way", but it seems to me that one of the things this club lacks is a killer instinct.

At the game on Saturday, I mentioned to my brother that when the Twins had Felix Hernandez in trouble early on, they needed to go ahead and drop the hammer. Saturday night they came through. But Sunday, when they had Erik Bedard in trouble early on, they didn't. Nick Blackburn came through with 7 shutout innings for the Twins, but it wasn't enough because the Twins' offense only managed 2 runs against Bedard, when they could easily have touched him for 5 or 6.

Considering the struggles that the Twins bullpen has had early on this year, the offense can't afford to leave that many runs on the bases. Especially against a pitcher as good as Bedard. You don't get that many chances to put a whipping on a guy like that, you can't afford to let them pass when you do.

So how does a ball club develop that "killer instinct"? I'm not entirely sure I can answer that. If you look at teams that have it, it seems like there's one of their star players who's just plain ornery. I hate the Red Sox's Kevin Youklis, but if he were a Twin, he'd be one of my favorites. Yes, he gets a little too over the top with the emotional outbursts in the dugout from time to time. But on a team of nice guys, it might help to have someone with that kind of edge. Someone to bark at the fellas when another chance to score some runs is slipping through their fingers.

It's a tough balance. You don't want to fundamentally change the chemistry that's made the Twins as successful as they've been. I'd just like to see it tweaked a bit so I don't have to watch more games like Sunday's.

There's your notes for a Monday. Please feel free to add a comment with any of your thoughts below.

I'll be back on Wednesday. The second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown is coming up on Saturday. I may have to hold off predictions again til Friday depending on the draw. But I've already got a pretty good idea who I'm picking. And since that's the case, I may just jump into the previewing on Wednesday. We shall see!

Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. I know you're not knocking the "Twins Way;" of course not. But I just have to say that as a lifelong Twins fan - but not a sports fan as a general rule - I'm perfectly happy with only two Series championships but a bunch of guys I'm don't have to be ashamed to admit I root for. The day they give up their committment to character-related excellence is the day I stop following the Twins.

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  2. I hear you. And I don't disagree.

    Someone mentioned Don Baylor on my Facebook page. And that's exactly the kind of guy I'm talking about.

    Played the game the right way, but played it with a little edge. Kept guys from getting too complacent.

    I'm just saying I think they could use a guy like that right now.

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