Hello again everybody...
I know most of you are enjoying a well-earned respite today thanks to the federal holiday, but seeing as the State Fair is still technically in progress, I have to be at work, and that means I might as well bang out a column, right?
Especially since I left you hanging on Friday!
Sorry about that and all, but I got some last-minute access to Twins tickets Thursday night, and 13 innings later, I left Target Field around 12:15am, hence, no time to write for Friday.
I know you all understand.
But I'm back today and there's plenty to get caught up on. That means it's Notes time...
Right after the quote.
”The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), theoretical physicist, philosopher and author
Perhaps this is a bit lofty when I'm about to discuss sports, but if anybody else can figure out the mystery of baseball, I'd love to hear their explanation. Actually, I sort of hope they can't. Like Einstein said, the mystery is part of the beauty!
Labor Day Notes
The Twins go 5-1 to start their homestand while the White Sox sweep two road series... so Minnesota's lead in the Central is 3.5 games.
Speaking of mysterious, if anybody can figure out how these two clubs are winning at this pace, I'd love to hear that explanation too!
The White Sox have a decimated bullpen, their line-up goes quiet for long stretches, and their manager may kill their most recent trade-acquisition any day now. And yet they keep on winning. Granted, their six wins on the road were in Cleveland against an awful Tribe squad and in Boston against the starting line-up from Pawtucket.
Still, those wins count all the same in the standings, and the Twins aren't going to get a pass because Chicago's playing bad ballclubs.
The Twins have had shaky starting pitching, made all the worse by Thursday's marathon. Scott Baker lasted only two innings in that start before leaving due to elbow soreness. And the extra four innings not only taxed the bullpen, but required the Twins to use two starting pitchers in relief.
That forced GM Bill Smith into some deft roster gymnastics. It's one thing to call up some pitching help from AAA Rochester. It's another thing to have to call up guys who aren't currently on your 40-man roster. Somehow the Twins made it work.
And not only did they make it work, they made it work to the tune of a 3-game sweep of the West-leading Texas Rangers.
Of further concern to Twins fans is their suspect defense. The Twins organization has always prided itself on playing high-quality defense, but this season has been far from their best. Thursday's game against Detroit would've been over in regulation (the Twins held a four-run lead at one point) were some difficult-but-makeable defensive plays made.
The infield has been battered by injuries, meaning plenty of playing time for guys who aren't as good defensively as the starters. Michael Cuddyer has been as good as you could hope for backing up Justin Morneau - out since July with post-concussion symptoms - but there's no question that Morneau is better defensively, and that some of the balls Cuddyer's been unable to scoop might have turned into outs with Morneau at first.
In the outfield, Delmon Young is still a daily adventure in left. Denard Span can cover plenty of ground in center, but he's failed to make some catches you'd hope your centerfielder would, and his average arm has allowed more extra bases than you'd like (as evidenced yesterday when he failed to throw out Nelson Cruz at third on fly ball to medium-center). Jason Repko has proven to be a great defensive replacement in right, but his light-bat makes it tough to have him in the starting line-up every day.
I still believe the Central is the Twins' to lose. But the White Sox simply won't go away, which means the Twins won't be able to rest players down the stretch, making their goal of a playoff series victory all the more difficult to achieve.
Can you believe the NFL season starts Thursday?! …because I can't.
I know, I know. I said virtually the same thing about the start of the college football season last week. But I had to work on Saturday, so I missed most of the games, making it not feel quite real I guess.
On Saturday, Twitter was all abuzz with news about teams cutting players to get down to the 53-man roster limit. Yet somehow it still didn't create a feeling with me that the season was imminent.
Maybe Thursday will change all that. Ever since Favre showed up at Winter Park to join the Vikings for a second season, buzz has been building over Minnesota's season-opener against the '09 champs, the New Orleans Saints.
Oh yeah, and the Saints happen to be the club that beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Oh yeah, and the Saints are the club that used Favre for target practice. Oh yeah, and the Saints are the club who injured Favre's balky ankle in the first place.
I fully expect Vikings fans to be frothing at the mouth come kickoff-time Thursday night. And to be honest, that may be more entertaining to me than the game itself.
Don't get me wrong, I'll watch, but I certainly am not feeling the same sense of anticipation for the NFL season to start as I was last week for the college openers.
Did you see the Twins Legends Game yesterday? …because it was a lot of fun.
I know the Twins didn't invent the concept - the Yankees have held “Old Timers Day” for years and years - but I have to give the organization a ton of credit for putting on a fun and memorable event.
Not only were the Twins able to gather a bevy of alumni players for a 3-inning game - though it didn't look easy, I mean Greg Olson was here for what... one season? I suppose being a native Minnesotan helps - but they gave away souvenir fedoras to the first 10,000 fans in attendance. I regret not going to the game for the promotion if nothing else!
The game itself wasn't exactly a display of baseball-brilliance. John Castino had to leave the game after his back stiffened up in warm-ups, and perhaps the most memorable moment was Kent Hrbek trying to slide and catch a foul pop up, only to have his knee dig into the turf and tear out a two foot swath. Still, it was fun to watch Twins alumni out on Target Field enjoying themselves and enjoying the wonder of outdoor baseball in Minnesota.
Oh, and did I mention the umpires? Members of the local media were selected to help officiate the contest. Don Shelby got the plate (and, no surprise, hammed it up on numerous occasions) while Randy Shaver, Joe Schmidt and Jim Rich got the bases. Definitely a nice touch.
I don't know if the Twins plan on this being an annual event. Perhaps only once every three or four years or so to give the fellas a break. I just hope it happens again sooner or later, because I know I'll make a point to be in attendance if it does.
That's going to wrap things up for today. If any of you were eagerly anticipating my college football break-down from last weekend. No worries... that's coming on Wednesday!
Until then, thanks for reading!