Hello again everybody...
We've done it once again! The weekend is nigh, and it's a special one since it sees the end of yet another baseball regular season.
For some teams (the Diamondbacks) it's a merciful finish to a terrible season. For others (the Twins) it marks the accomplishment of one goal - a division title - and the beginning of a quest for more hardware - an American League pennant and a World Series trophy.
That means there's a lot of Updating to do, so let's get right to it...
Right after the quote.
“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”
- Alfred Hitchcock (1899 - 1980), English filmmaker and producer
That's why I stick to the written word folks... bladder endurance!
It's Friday, and that means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 93-66 and have long since clinched the AL Central championship.
And it's a damned good thing they have.
Look, intellectually I know that the sweep in Detroit and dropping two of three in Kanas City doesn't really mean anything. The Twins have been trying to get healthy and when you don't have Joe Mauer in the lineup for 9 straight games, eventually you're going to have a losing streak.
It's especially meaningless since neither the Rays or the Yankees were able to seize control of home field advantage in the AL.
All that being said, however, it was a difficult stretch to be a fan. In your head, you know what's happening and not to fret, but in your heart, it pains you to see your club go through a terrible stretch like that as they approach the postseason.
More troubling than any of the lineup issues was the problems with the pitching. There weren't injuries there. These were the guys you're going to count on heading into October getting pounded by an injury-depleted lineup in Detroit and Kansas-freaking-City.
I know that mentally, a let-down after a title is clinched is only natural. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch.
I just keep telling myself that as long as they play well against Toronto, then none of the Detroit or Kansas City nonsense matters a lick. That's my story... and I'm sticking to it.
Of course, it didn't start well last night as Francisco Liriano gave up 5 runs in his 5 1/3 innings and the Twins got bombed 13-2. But most of the relievers that got lit aren't going to be on the postseason roster, and they got Mauer and Hardy back into the line-up while looking fairly crisp defensively.
I know, I know. I might be reaching a bit there, but with the club headed for the post-season, I need all the positive thoughts I can muster.
The Twins have three more to go in the regular season, and the pitching match-ups look like this:
Friday: Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.83) vs. Ricky Romero (13-9, 3.79)
Saturday: Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.44) vs. Sean Marcum (13-8, 3.63)
Sunday: Nick Blackburn (10-11, 5.55) vs. Marc Rzepczynksi (3-4, 5.56)
Hopefully the boys finish out strong! Remember, Game 1 of the ALDS begins on Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on TBS, check your local listings!
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 64-94, in last place in the NL West and 26 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
At least they can't lose 100 games?
I don't know. How many positives can I come up with for what's going to be the last appearance for Arizona in the DFTU in 2010?
Clearly this was a lost season for the Snakes. I was skeptical about those who suggested that Arizona might compete for the division title. But I certainly didn't foresee them finishing dead last either.
Last week I told you about the hiring of Kevin Towers as the new General Manager. The more I hear about his plans, the more I think it was a great move. The D'backs set a new record for most strikeouts by a team in a single season on Wednesday. That can't continue, and according to Towers won't be tolerated.
While I've spent time in the past saying that I didn't have a huge problem with 3B Mark Reynolds' strikeout totals (a position which I stand by), the cumulative strikeouts by the team were a large part of their offensive troubles. So to hear Towers make that a point of emphasis is encouraging.
Also encouraging is his focus on pitching. Remember, the success that San Diego is currently enjoying is based in no small part on Towers' philosophy of “pitching first”. The Diamondbacks have some talent in their starting staff, but the bullpen is going to need a serious off-season makeover. It sounds like Towers is just the guy to do it.
One final bit of news, it sounds more and more like Kirk Gibson is going to have the “interim” label taken off his title as field manager. Most stories I've read indicate it will be a two-year deal, which is short, but understandable since Towers' deal is only two years long itself.
I know with that record it seems like Arizona is a long way from contending, but I'll point again to San Diego who went from worst to contenders in just one season. It can happen folks. Don't give up hope!
Before the D'backs are allowed to saunter off into the off-season, there are three more games with the Dodgers to complete. Here are the match-ups:
Friday: Zach Kroenke (0-0, 21.60) vs. John Ely (4-9, 5.10)
Saturday: John Saunders (3-6, 4.40) vs. Chad Billingsley (11-11, 3.61)
Sunday: Rodrigo Lopez (7-15, 5.02) vs. Ted Lilly (9-12, 3.71)
Have a good off-season boys. Hope is renewed in March!
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 4-0 (0-0 in the Big Ten).
Here we go!
The Big Ten season kicks off in earnest this week as the Badgers travel to meet the Michigan State Spartans.
For those of you who missed Wednesday's column, I'll briefly recap my feelings: I'm freaking terrified of this game.
Not because I think Michigan State is a markedly better club, they're not.
What scares me is the opportunity for this to be one of those flukey, storybook seasons for the folks in East Lansing. They already have a made-for-Hollywood victory over Notre Dame. Head coach Mark Dantonio made an uber-gutsy fake field goal call in overtime to beat the Irish.
He then proceeded to have an heart attack later that night.
He missed last week's non-conference finale as he recovered from surgery, but will be back coaching from the press box this week.
Sounds like a movie script a bit, doesn't it?
Also distressing is the notion of taking an somewhat undisciplined club on the road to open the Big Ten Slate.
Wisconsin has turned the ball over only four times (two interceptions, two fumbles), but has put the ball on the ground a worrisome seven times in only four games. Eventually if they don't get their ball security issues cleared up, those numbers are going to skew the other way and cost them some ballgames.
While their penalty numbers aren't bad (averaging only 25 yards of penalties per game), it's when they've come that has been a problem. Too many penalties in the red zone will turn touchdowns into field goals. And in the Big Ten, that'll cost you games as well.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the Badgers surprise me with a superlative effort on Saturday. I just think this game has all the makings of a close loss for Wisconsin.
Kickoff is at 11am central on ESPN/ABC, check your local listings.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild finished their preseason slate last night with a 0-4-2 record and are en route to open the season in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday.
This is another case where I hope I'm wrong.
While the Wild did an admirable job adding to their depth this off-season, they still lack the big-time talent necessary to be a factor in the playoffs.
As G.M. Chuck Fletcher continues to re-make the roster, the hope for this season is to compete for a playoff spot.
Last season the Wild dug themselves a hole right out of the gate with a 2-7-0 start over the first couple of weeks of the season. They improved as the season went along and even had a couple of downright hot streaks, but it was never enough to allow them to truly compete for a postseason berth.
It's difficult to judge how things will go based on the preseason slate. Teams use the preseason to give younger players looks with the big squad, and you're not always fielding/facing true NHL level rosters.
That being said, the Wild haven't given fans much to be encouraged by. Yes, there is young talent here. Yes, they've gotten deeper at Center. But there have still been way too many of the same mistakes deep in their own end, spotty goaltending, and somnambulant special teams.
Those are the things that cost Minnesota dearly last year, and it doesn't appear - at least early on - that things have changed all that much.
Last year there were excuses about learning a new system. This year, you can't fall back on that. I know the changes that Fletcher and head coach Todd Richards want to make can't be made overnight, but the Wild are already seeing fan discontent at the gates. Their “consecutive sell-outs” streak was broken by the first preseason home game. And based on the games since then, there's no indication that they're in danger of starting another streak soon.
I hate to sound so pessimistic in the first appearance for the Wild this season, but the truth's the truth folks.
Maybe they boys will soak in a magic sauna in Finland and things will start clicking. But if they get off to a similarly slow start (like 2009-10), then this could be a loooooooong season!
Opening day is on Thursday as the Wild battle the Hurricanes in Helsinki. The puck drops at 11am central time, again, check your local listings!
That'll wrap things up for this week. Have a safe and restful weekend!
My plan is to be back on Monday to take one final Peek at the Picks before getting ready for MLB postseason madness on Wednesday!
Until then, thanks for reading!