Monday

5-17-10: My Baseball Conundrum

Hello again everybody...

So how was your weekend?

Mine was... um... interesting.

Lots of resting and relaxation, which is good. But two-thirds of the time I was watching my favorite team get their brains beat in by the big, bad Yankees.

As for the other third? Well, that's what I'm going to talk about today.

Before we get to that, a quick Preakness review. My Preakness picks streak? Dead.

Lookin at Lucky who got a horrible trip in the Derby, got an ideal trip in the Preakness and spoiled Super Saver's bid for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

I watched the race, and it was obvious as they made the turn, Calvin Borel asked Super Saver to go. It was equally obvious that the horse had no intention whatsoever of actually going. There was more traffic around Super Saver in the Preakness than there was in the Derby, but it's not like he got blocked. He just didn't fire. Lookin at Lucky, on the other hand, stalked the pace smartly and when the time came, fired home for the win.

So for the 32nd straight year, we're without a Triple Crown winner. I said it back in 2008 when Big Brown failed to complete the trifecta, that if a horse that was so clearly superior to his competition couldn't get it done, I'm not sure it'll ever be done again. Obviously, we didn't have a horse with anywhere near that kind of talent in this year's crop of three-year-olds.

The money in horse racing is clearly in breeding, not racing. And since thoroughbreds are bred more for speed than stamina these days, it doesn't seem likely we'll see a horse capable of winning three races in six weeks any time soon

It's too bad really.

What's also too bad? The return of “Dan's Baseball Jinx”. I'll explain...

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Right after the quote!

”I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.”
- Harry S. Truman (1884 - 1972), 33rd President of the United States


You want to annoy the crap out of people? Tell them the truth...

And the truth is, my baseball jinx is back!

Let's rewind the clock to Friday. I told you in Friday's DFTU that I was both terrified and excited for the series with the Yankees. Well my excitement was quickly squelched and my terror, tragically confirmed.

Things started out well enough. Scott Baker was sharp, retiring nine of the first ten batters he faced. A.J. Burnett, on the other hand, was all over the place. He loaded the bases in the second inning and walked in the opening run of the contest.

I wasn't even all that concerned in the 4th, when Baker stumbled and gave up two runs. He worked his way out of trouble and kept the boys in the game.

The teams traded runs in the fifth. Joe Mauer hit only his second home run of the season, and Mark Teixeira doubled in the Yankees third run of the game. It was still a one-run contest. The Twins were still in it.

Then came the seventh inning, where the Twins plated a pair of runs. One off of Burnett, one off of reliever Damaso Marte. The Twins had the lead, had gotten into New York's bullpen, and were set to finally break the Yankee curse.

Oh, but then came the bottom half of the inning. Baker gave up a pair of hits to start the inning and was relieved by Brian Duensing. Duens got Brett Gardner to strike out, and was asked to intentionally walk Teixeira.

Then came the game-changer. Ron Gardenhire, who I defend far more often than I criticize, made a head-scratcher move for the ages. He brought in Matt Guerrier to face Alex Rodriguez.

But Dan, Guerrier is the Twins best right-handed reliever! Clearly he's the guy you'd want facing a tough right-handed hitter in a critical situation, right?

In this case? Not so much. A-Roid was 4-for-6 lifetime off Guerrier, including three (count them, three) home runs.

So what happened? An A-bomb, from A-Rod (copyright John Sterling), and just like that, it was 7-4 Yankees. The Bombers tacked on an insurance run in the 8th, though it was quite superfluous.

Explaining his decision after the game, Gardenhire said:

“We're always aware of the numbers. I know he has been good against Matty. Sometimes you can't do anything about the numbers. We're going to go with our best pitcher at the time.”

Again, usually I'm going to give Gardy a pass, but I just can't in this case. Would he have gotten killed if he had brought in Jesse Crain in that spot, and Crain gave up the Salami? Sure he would have. But in that case, at least he could point to the numbers and say, “hey, A-Rod's hit three homers off of Matty in just seven at-bats and its my job to put guys in situations where they have the best chance to be successful.”

Instead, he had to go with “sometimes you can't do anything about the numbers.” Not the best defense in a game driven by numbers and statistics.

So the Twins failed to get the monkey off their back in Game 1 of the series, but they had a chance to come right back in Game 2, right? And hey, FranKKKKie was on the mound! This was going to be the one, I just knew it!

Woops! My bad!

Liriano gave up a run in the first and a run in the second and the Twins were in a hole they'd never get out of.

The Yankees tacked on 5 more runs before the Twins got rid of their goose-egg. Liriano got through six innings, giving up only three of the seven runs, so technically he gave his club a quality start. But once again, he was inefficient with his pitches, needing 101 tosses to get through those six innings. Yes, he struck out seven and didn't surrender a walk, but the Twins need him to go later in games if he's going to truly be their ace.

On the other side, Andy Pettitte continued his winning ways against the Twins. Pettitte is now 10-5 against Minnesota after holding the Twins scoreless through six and a third. Three Yankee relievers later, the Evil Empire had won the first two games of the series in convincing fashion.

So what's a guy to do? I watched my boys get their brains beat in for two straight games at the hands of their ultimate nemesis. That brought us to Sunday, when I made a momentous decision...

I wasn't going to watch.

I'd love to say that I was hoping to reverse the magambo by not watching, but the truth was that I was just sick of it. I was sick of the Twins battling their tails off to get within sniffing distance of beating the Yankees, only to choke. I was sick of seeing New York bomb Minnesota straight from the get-go. Sure, in my heart of hearts, I hoped not watching would somehow shake up the juju and lead to a win, but I'd firmly convinced myself that a sweep was imminent and I simply wasn't going to be a party to it.

I'm sure by now, if you don't know what happened, you have a pretty good idea. The Twins won 6-3 in thrilling fashion, and I missed it.

Based on texts I was receiving as well as reading various game stories, here's what happened...

The Twins jumped out in front again, this time on Justin Morneau's ninth home run of the season. But the Yankees quickly responded with two runs in the second and one more in the fifth for a 3-1 lead that, based on the previous two games, would likely hold up for the sweep, right?

Not so fast my friend! (Copyright, Lee Corso)

In the eighth, the Twins loaded the bases against Yankee set-up man, Joba Chamberlain. With two outs in the inning, New York skipper Joe Girardi went to the 'pen for one of those patented Mariano Rivera 4-out saves.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that pre-ordained result. Rivera walked Jim Thome, who was pinch-hitting, to make the score 3-2, New York. That brought Jason Kubel to the plate. Coming into the game, Kubel was hitting .224 with a .661 OPS. He had only five extra-base hits in 98 at-bats this season. Against Rivera, he had only two singles in his six plate appearances. Not numbers to make you feel confident against the most storied closer in modern baseball history, right?

So what does Jason do? He took the first pitch for a ball, then got a cutter he could handle and parked it in the right field seats. A-Roid had his Grand Slam in Game 1. Kubel answered in Game 3. That made it 6-3 Twins after seven and a half.

That brings us to the eighth. This time, Gardy brought in Duensing to face A-Roid. Duens got him to ground out to third (leaving many Twins fans to wonder what would've happened had he stayed in the game to face Needle Boy in Game 1). Brian gave up a walk to Jorge Posada, but got the boys back in the dugout without any further damage.

That brought us to the ninth inning and Jon Rauch's first opportunity to try and close out a game against the Yanks. (I still wasn't watching, but I was getting regular texts at this point.) Two singles to open the inning wakened memories of Game 2 of last year's ALDS against New York when Joe Nathan blew a save with a gofer-ball to A-Roid.

With two on, Rauch struck out Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner to get the Twins within one out of finally breaking the curse. Mark Teixeira, who had hit a moon-shot the day before, was the Yanks final chance. Big Jon struck him out looking on six pitches.

The curse is dead, long live the jinx!

The first two games, I watch and the Twins lose... The third game, I don't watch and the Twins win.

So on the upside, the Twins finally got the monkey off their backs and beat New York. On the downside, I'm left with a conundrum.

Clearly I can't watch a game til the Twins lose. Worse, even if that string is broken before they play New York again a week from tomorrow, I can't watch them play the Yankees until they drop a game to them.

Do you have any idea how hard that's going to be?!

But I'll do it. Not because I really think my watching or not-watching has any direct effect on the games. Instead, it's because I have a healthy respect for “that which cannot be explained” in the game of baseball.

A guy hitting .224 hits a Grand Slam against the most clutch closer in baseball history?! When stuff like that happens, the baseball gods are clearly at work, and I know better than to get in their way.


That's going to wrap things up for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with more sports-inanity for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!

7 comments:

  1. I believe "that which cannot be named" is called age. Rivera's what, 15 years older than when the Yankees won their first WS? I know he's lasted a long time as a closer, but it will catch up, and even easier to lose it during the regular season than the playoffs.

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  2. In this case, perhaps you could point to age.

    But I was speaking more of the weird, the wacky, the inexplicable that occurs on a weekly basis in baseball.

    That's why anybody who wagers on baseball regularly (say, perhaps, on the Cardinals -250) is a candidate for professional help!

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  3. To quote the All Mighty Crash Davis "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!"......Baseball is, has and always will be a rare game in which superstition has the ultimate say. From not mentioning a No-Hitter to pre game meals to batter's box rituals, the game has it's unwritten rule of believing in streaks. And you, Dan, for better or worse have to respect the streak and forsake watching."a player on a streak has to respect the streak. You know why? Because they don't - -they don't happen very often." .....You owe it to the ballclub, the fans and the Baseball Gods to see (or not see in this case) it through. :)

    ~ Goresy

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  4. It's utterly criminal that I didn't include that scene in my original discussion!

    Thanks Frank, for making me sound slightly less-crazy!

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  5. i didn't watch yesterday...but i'm watching tonight. maybe you're just bad luck when they play the yankees? or maybe they just like getting spanked by the yankees. or maybe the yankees are just satan and someone needs to do an exorcism on them.

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  6. true. that's entirely possible. lol

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