8-12-09: Wednesday DFTU?

Hello again everybody...

No, you didn't mis-read the title of today's column. Let me explain.

The last couple of times I've told you that I've had a Friday off of work, I've still indicated that I intended to do a column that day from the home offices. And both times I've failed to follow through on that intention. Not from a lack of desire to follow through. Rather I just found myself with other things that took priority.

I'm sure you understand.

But this time, rather than build up your hopes only to let you down, I've decided to just flat tell you: I'm off Friday and the odds of me getting a column up aren't good. Plenty to do, and most of it will be away from the home offices, ergo no column.

So that's why you get an early DFTU this week. Fair enough?

I thought so.

Without any further ado, let's get to the getting!

"Nice guys finish last, but we get to sleep in."
- Evan Davis, (1962 - )British economist, journalist and presenter for the BBC

If sleeping in is indicative of being a nice guy, I might be the third-nicest guy on the planet!

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But when it comes to updating my people on my favorite teams, I never sleep on you! Okay, I rarely sleep on you. Actually... never mind.

Let's just get to the updating, shall we?

It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 54-58, in third place in the AL Central, 3 games behind the White Sox for second place and 5 games behind the Tigers for first.

8-1 (L), 2-1 (L), 10-8 (L), 11-0 (W), 8-7 (L), 14-6 (L)

Those are the scores from the last six Twins games. See a pattern? In only one-third of them were the Twins able to hold the opposing team below eight runs.

Eight freaking runs.

That's not pitching, that's putting it on a tee and letting the other team have a whack.

What's even more disconcerting is that the one win in those six was courtesy of Carl Pavano, who they just acquired last week. That means that the team they were actually counting on having for this year, has been nothing short of god-awful.

Last week I set up a series of "ifs" that could lead from the acquisition of Pavano to an improvement in the Twins pitching. Obviously, outside of Pavano's one start so far, those dominoes haven't fallen.

And now with last night's announcement that LHP Glen Perkins has been put on the disabled list, they may never fall. The Twins have purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Manship from AAA-Rochester to replace Perkins on the roster. And all indications are that he'll be immediately inserted into the bullpen.

That means that for the time being, LHP Francisco Liriano will remain in the rotation. The same Liriano who's lost his last three decisions. The same Liriano who hasn't won a game since June. The same Liriano who's confidence is so shattered at this point, that a move to the bullpen was being discussed as a mercy move.

But due to injury, the Twins just don't have much of a choice. They're thin in the pitching department at their upper minor league levels. That's evidenced by the fact that Manship wasn't even on the 40-man roster. Kevin Slowey was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to create an opening for Manship.

I know this all sounds rather fatalistic. And to a degree it is. And yet, I still can't quite put that fork in the Twins.

I mentioned last week the weak schedule the Twins have going forward (though if you're going to give up 14 to the Royals, that may not matter). And the fact of the matter is, Detroit and Chicago simply aren't that much better. Both of those clubs have had ample opportunity to run away and hide with the division lead, and neither one of them has done it.

The Twins are on the verge of falling out of this race. But they're not out yet! (At least I hope not!)

Minnesota has another go with Kansas City tonight before wrapping up that series tomorrow afternoon. Then Friday, Cleveland comes to down for a 3-game weekender. I'm going Saturday night, so you may expect a Running Game Commentary next week!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 52-62, in fourth place in the NL West and 17 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

The nice thing about one of your favorite teams being out of the playoff hunt, is that expectations are low. So when anything good comes along, it feels all that much better.

And it's in that vein that I give you the story of Trent Oeltjen.

Oeltjen was signed from his native Australia by the Minnesota Twins in 2001 and spent the next seven years slogging his way through the Twins farm system. Last year, he hooked on with the Tucson Sidewinders, the AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oeltjen had performed well in the minors, but was never considered a top prospect. But with the rash of injuries to this years Arizona club, he finally got the call, and he's made the most of it.

In his 25 plate appearances, the kid's hitting .500, slugging 1.042 and has an OPS of 1.542.

Obviously that's a small sample-size, and the advance scouts haven't really found his weak spots yet, but the kid's become an immediate darling of Arizona fans.

Not only because of the numbers he's put up, but because of something much simpler. He smiles... all the time.

Oeltjen is like a kid in a candy story. Every time the camera focuses on him be it on the base paths, in the field or even in the dugout, he's flashing a toothy grin. Like he doesn't know how long this will last and is determined to enjoy every second of it while he's there.

And when you combine a winning smile with great play, you have an instant fan-favorite. He received his first standing ovation after singling in the 8th inning last night. Why a standing-O for a single? Because it was his last chance to hit a home run and complete the cycle. So even though he was unable to finish it off, the fans wanted to show him their appreciation for his performance.

It's hard to see how an attitude like his wouldn't be infectious. And since the playoffs are out of reach, there isn't a ton of pressure on this club. Combine a fun clubhouse with a lack of pressure, and who knows what you might end up with?

I'm not saying they can make the playoffs, but it'd be fun to see them go on a run and threaten the .500-mark by the end of the year!

The D'backs finish up their series with the Mets today. After an off-day tomorrow they welcome the division-leading Dodgers to town over the weekend.

That's going to wrap it up for today, and likely the week. Who knows, maybe the muse will grab me on Friday. I'm just trying to limit your expectations!

I'll be back Monday at the latest. So until then, thanks for reading!

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