Friday

6-11-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

It's Friday, and that means another weekend is nigh.

It also means that it's time for the DFTU. Yes, yes, I know you missed out on it last week, but perfect games nullified by blown calls don't happen every week!

As I'm so fond of saying, the DFTU may be delayed, but it shall never be denied!

And as a bonus, I'm bringing back a member of the DFTU stable that you don't traditionally see in the Summer months! Which one is it? Let's get to the Updating and find out shall we?

Right after the quote...

”The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.”
- Andre Malraux (1901 - 1976), French author, adventurer and statesman


Okay, so that's kind of a bummer of a quote to lead you in to your weekend, I know. But I included it for two reasons. One, because it took me five times reading it before I had a clue what he was talking about. And two, because when I looked up his bio, and saw his picture... well you tell me:



Is that straight out of “near-suicidal French philosopher D-bag” central casting, or what?!

But enough of making fun of the French. There'll be plenty of time for that coming up in the World Cup!

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No, instead it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 35-25, in first place in the AL Central and 4.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers.

What is it with this team and sweeps?!

Nine times this season, the Twins have started a three-game series by winning the first two, but only twice have they broken out the brooms and finished off the sweep.

I thought for sure it was coming last night. The Twins had taken the first two from the Kansas City Royals*, and it were facing Bruce freaking Chen in the the series finale. Chen had a career mark of 0-2 vs. the Twins with a 5.75 ERA. Time for the Twins to feast, right?

(*- Aside: For some reason I keep forgetting how awful the Royals truly are. And then they come in to town and remind me all over again. I feel so much pity for Royals fans, it's difficult to describe. This team does literally nothing well. Their pitching is terrible, their offense is anemic, and their defense is sloppy to a level you'd scarcely believe. Considering how long it's been since they've been relevant, you have to feel for the fine folks in Kansas City.)

Had the real Twins managed to show up before the seventh inning, it might have been. I'm not sure what ballclub those nine fellas who were out there for the first six innings belonged to, but it sure wasn't the one I've been watching all year.

Scott Baker couldn't throw it over the plate without getting crushed. Denard Span somehow forgot to tag up on a fly-ball out and got thrown out at second base, which cost the Twins a run they sorely could've used later in the game. And for the first time since July 26th, 2003, the Twins committed three errors in a single inning (stat courtesy of Kelly Theiser of MLB.com). Yes, the same team that leads the major leagues in fewest errors committed, booted three plays in one inning. Two of them courtesy of Nick Punto, who's only on the club because of his hustle and defensive prowess!

What the devil was going on?!

Whatever it was, the Twins snapped out of it in the seventh, remembered this was the Royals bullpen they were facing, and mounted a furious comeback. Five runs in the seventh and two more in the ninth got them within a run, but they couldn't quite finish it off, and KC won 9-8.

(Remember when I said that run Denard brain-farted them out of would've been nice? Yeah. Bummer.)

So once again, the Twins failed to put a team away in a series. It's been a maddening pattern. Oddly, it's one of several troubling patterns for a team that's 10 games over .500. Their batting average with the bases loaded is so depressing, I choose not to print it. And the inconsistency of their starting pitching has many a Twins fan scratching their head.

And then there are the injuries...

Orlando Hudson was finally put on the DL this week after missing several games due to the wrist injury he suffered thanks to a collision with Denard Span. He'll be eligible to come off the DL next week. Then word came after the game last night, that J.J. Hardy, who's been battling a sore wrist of his own, was placed on the DL after the cortisone shot he took on Tuesday didn't have the desired effect.

Their injuries have forced the Twins to contort their line-up in ways heretofore unimagined. Matt Tolbert - hitting a robust .152 - has been hitting second in the line-up for some reason. That's not a typo. A division-leading club has intentionally chosen to bat a guy hitting .152 second in their line-up. Somewhere Connie Mack is spinning in his grave. While Tolbert did manage to plate a run last night, he's single-handedly killed more rallies this week than I care to count.

After putting Hardy on the DL, the Twins called up Trevor Plouffe from AAA-Rochester. Plouffe filled in nicely last month for Hardy, and will likely take over at shortstop, allowing Punto to shift to second and Tolbert to have a spot on the bench.

All that being said, it's hard to complain. The Twins have the largest lead of any of the division leaders. They're 10 games over .500. And they've traditionally done very well in interleague play which starts up again tonight. If they can tread water until Hudson and Hardy are able to heal, they'll be just fine.

As mentioned, it's AL vs. NL time again. Starting tonight, the Twins welcome the Atlanta Braves to town for three games. Francisco Liriano (5-3) takes the mound to face Tim Hudson (6-1) for Atlanta tonight (weather permitting) in what should be a dandy of a game. Tomorrow (again, weather permitting) it'll be Nick Blackburn (6-3) trying to bounce back from a couple of horrid starts against Derek Lowe (8-5). The finale on Sunday will match Kevin Slowey (7-3) versus Kris Medlen (3-1).

It should be a fun series with plenty of mentions of 1991 to go around.

Minnesota's off on Monday before welcoming the Colorado Rockies to town for three starting Tuesday, and then hitting the road next weekend.

Like I said, I'm not going to fret too much. At least they're not the...


Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 24-27, in last place in the AL West and 12.5 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

I won't ever declare a team “done” until after the All-Star break. But if the Snakes are still 10+ out at that point, we can stick a fork in them.

The Dodgers are the third team to spend a decent amount of time in first place (joining the Giants and Padres), and while none of those teams seem to want to run away with the division, they're all clearly better than the Diamondbacks.

Arizona's been so desperate that when Detroit finally cut ties with troubled right-hander Dontrelle Willis, the D'backs couldn't move quickly enough to sign him. And in typical D-Train fashion, he gave the Snakes a quality start in his debut, going six solid innings without giving up a run. What's so typical about that? The fact that he followed that performance up with a four-inning, two-run, and six-walk performance last night. Inconsistency? Thy name is Dontrelle.

But I can't bag on Willis too much. He's not the reason Arizona lost last night. No, once again the bullpen squandered a valiant effort by the Diamondback offense. This time, it was Chad Qualls acting the role of “gas can”, giving up four earned runs in the ninth inning (ballooning his ERA to an other-worldly 7.77) to gift-wrap a win for the Braves. And that was all after they'd dug themselves out of the hole that Cesar Valdez had put them in with his 5-earned-run-surrendering performance in the fifth.

Can you tell I'm a bit disgusted with the club at this point?

What really has me edgy is that there are no clear fixes available for the club. Sure, they could fire the manager, but they tried that last year without any success. Why go to that well again? They could try firing the General Manager, except that on paper, everybody thought that this club had a chance to contend. The GM can only put the players on the field. He can't make them perform. There's a lot of money locked up in their young talent, so it's not like they can readily turn-over the roster.

So what on earth are they going to do?

I have no idea.

Whatever improvement this club hopes to achieve over the rest of this season is going to have to come from the guys who are there right now. Given the youth on the roster, I have a hard time seeing them trying to wheel and deal at the trade deadline. Who are they going to move? Ian Kennedy has pitched well enough that you might get a little value for him. But the only other player that I can even conceive of them moving is Dan Haren. And if you move your ace, that's the “throw in the towel” move of all time.

Basically, what I'm saying is that Arizona fans should brace themselves for a long, difficult summer. Maybe something will click and they can get this thing turned around. But I really doubt it. I think folks should get real comfortable looking at the D'backs in last place out West. I don't think it's changing any time soon.

Arizona hosts St. Louis in the only intra-league match-up this weekend. Tonight, Rodrigo Lopez (2-4) takes the hill, squaring off against Jaime Garcia (5-2). Tomorrow night Dan Haren (6-4) goes for the Snakes opposite Adam Ottovino (0-1). The series wraps up on Sunday with Edwin Jackson (3-6) facing Chris Carpenter (7-1).

The D'backs finally get to join in on the interleague fun starting Tuesday as they travel to face the Red Sox (whom I hate) for three before moving on to Detroit on Friday.


Oh, but we're not done. I said there was a bonus-team this week. And that team is the...

Wisconsin Badgers: It's June for heaven's sake. There's no Badger record to report!

So why am I referencing the Badgers. Because all indications are, they're about to get some new competition.

An announcement is expected this afternoon that the University of Nebraska is set to become the newest member of the Big Ten (now 12). And if the dissolution of the Big 12 proceeds as expected, they may be the first of several.

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the coming conference expansions (more on that in a minute), but if said expansions are a given, then I couldn't be happier to see the Cornhuskers be the first team to join the Big Ten.

My best friend of over 25 years, Lon in Forest Lake (you can read his interesting musings in his blog With a Grain of Salt) and his entire family are life-long Nebraska fans. In fact, courtesy of his dad, Larry in Maple Grove, I'm planning on seeing my first ever game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE, this fall. And since both of our favorite college football teams wear red, we've always found it easy to root for each other.

Now? Let the rivalry begin!!! There's already been an epic Facebook thread written where Lon fired statistics at me trying to predict Nebraska's competitiveness with Wisconsin, while I did my best to discredit those attempts. Throw in a typical “stir the pot” comment from our mutual friend Josh in Maple Grove, and I think we might have the makings of a yearly friendly-wager! And of course, you can never have too many of those!

But as excited as I am at the arrival of Nebraska, I still do have reservations about conference expansion as a concept.

It appears that the Pac 10 (which as already announced that it will be welcoming the University of Colorado to its ranks) and the Big Ten will essentially be dividing the choice Big 12 schools amongst them, while leaving the lesser members to scramble to find new conference homes. There's talk of six teams (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma state in addition to Colorado) bolting the Big 12 for the Pac 10 - good lord only knows what they'll call it after all's said and done. And Missouri has offered everything short of hookers and blow to entice the Big Ten to invite them to join Nebraska as Big Ten initiates.

If that happens, you'll have two mega-Conferences - at least. One in the Midwest and one on the West Coast for sure, and I doubt that's where it will end. It wouldn't be a stretch to believe that the SEC would try and annex a few teams from the ACC to try and keep up. And that would likely force the ACC to raid the Big East again to try and keep its ranks filled.

Wherever that crazy game of musical universities stops, we're likely to be left with fewer major conferences, which could well have the effect of further concentrating the power currently held by the six BCS conferences.

I fear that's not going to be a good thing.

It's been tough enough for conferences like the Mountain West to gain access to the BCS Bowl Games as it is. If the Pac 10 expands to 16 teams, and eschews a conference championship game in favor of having it's division champions each gain automatic bids to BCS games, as rumored, that will mean even fewer opportunities for mid-majors to take on the big boys. And what's good for a newly-expanded Pac 10 will have to be good for the Big Ten, or the SEC, right?

You can see how once these dominoes start falling, there's no real telling when or where they will end.

But all of that shuffling could have one other Big Ten-beneficial effect that I'm in favor of... it could finally force Notre Dame's hand towards bringing their football program to a major conference affiliation.

If the BCS Bowl bids start getting chewed up by mega-conferences, that not only means fewer opportunities for mid-majors, it also means fewer opportunities for independent teams, i.e. Notre Dame. Plus, if the Big East gets raided yet again by the ACC, that could further weaken the conference where Notre Dame sends the rest of it's sports. All in all, the Big Ten would become not only an attractive option, but a necessary one.

So as you can tell, I'm really at a loss as to how to feel about the whole thing. I love the Nebraska addition. I'm in favor of bringing in Notre Dame. But I fear for the integrity of the post-season if it's completely dominated by mega-conference teams.

The only thing certain in this life is that everything changes. Brace yourselves folks, because change is a'comin' to college sports in a big way.


That's going to wrap things up for this week. Have a safe and relaxing weekend. I'll be back on Monday with something moderately entertaining... I hope.

(I'll at least tease you with my intention to bring you my 2010 All-Star Ballot at some point next week... I know... you can't wait!)

Until then, thanks for reading!

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