February 2007

Poster Shop Boys 4, Mona Lisas 4 (10 innings)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Well, that was a blast. Gordon Edes, always a pro, took our ribbing like a champ. He said Minnesotans have been lighting up his e-mail all day. Go easy on him, now. After all, the guy was at the Dome when the Gophers beat Iowa — an actual Glen Mason triumph.

I stopped at the mall and found a sports store. Sure enough, they had a poster of Torii Hunter with the words “Big Game Hunter.” Perfect. The security guards let me bring right into the Louvre.

Then the Poster Shop Boys went to work. Matt Garza: six up, six down — wow! Look out Sidney Ponson. Garza struck out Big Papi with a nasty breaking pitch past his hands to end the first inning.

Scott Baker looked terrible, giving up four runs. But trailing 4-1 in the fifth, Joe Mauer hit a three-run homer off Julian Taveras to tie it. An opposite field blast for Mauer, the Big Game Hunter of the Night.

The Twins had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Red Sox right fielder Alex Ochoa made a cannon-like throw to nail Luis Rodriguez at home plate. The game ended in a 4-4, 10-inning tie. Good stuff. We’ll have lots more in our early editions with La Velle and Souhan both on the scene.

The best little poster shop in Florida

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

I’ve got an errand to run before heading to tonight’s Grapefruit League opener between the Twins and Red Sox. Think I’ll buy a poster and hand it right to my friend, Gordon Edes from the Boston Globe.

In the Globe’s spring training preview, Edes wrote an ode to Fort Myers that included this sentence:

The Minnesota Twins also train here, but unless you are from the Iron Range, going to watch the Twins play instead of the Sox is like going to a poster shop instead of the Louvre when you’re in Paris.

For my money, Gordon is one of the most talented scribes in the country. But with this line, he swung and missed.

The Red Sox do have their Mona Lisas. Their list of famous (if overpriced) celebrities includes Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, J.D. Drew and Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka. Their spring stadium, City of Palms Park, is cozier than Hammond Stadium, and Sox games are the toughest ticket in town.

But spend a day at the Lee County Sports Complex, watching the reigning MVP (Justin Morneau), Cy Young (Johan Santana) and batting champ (Joe Mauer). Spend a day strolling between fields where Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor roam. Spend a day around this uncommonly accessible pro sports franchise.

Then spend a day watching the Red Sox, whose training fields are two miles down the road from their spring stadium. Spend a day watching Manny being Manny, etc. Spend a day getting trampled by the obsessive fans of Red Sox Nation. And I think you’d agree: They can have their Louvre. We’ll take the little poster shop any day.

The new BALCO?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

It looks like Major League Baseball is bracing for another steroid scandal. This time, the feds have raided pharmacies in Orlando, Fla., and Mobile, Ala., and it appears they are zeroing in on an Internet distribution ring for steroids and human growth hormone.

The Albany Times-Union reported yesterday that drugs from the Mobile lab were allegedly received by former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, admitted juicer Jose Canseco and newly signed Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthew, Jr.

I covered Matthews when he was a San Diego Padres prospect and again with the Baltimore Orioles, and he was one of the nicest guys in both clubhouses. That doesn’t make him innocent, but I’ll wait for more proof before assigning guilt. As a baseball writer, I also have to brace for other names associated with this story. That’s become a regular part of this job.

Oliva, others snubbed again

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Once again, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee elected nobody.

The biannual announcement was made Tuesday, and Tony Oliva received 47 of 84 votes (57 percent). Players need 75 percent of the vote to get in. Ron Santo came the closest with 57 votes (70 percent), followed by Jim Kaat (52, 63 percent), Gil Hodges (50, 61 percent), Oliva, Maury Wills (33, 40 percent) and Joe Torre (26, 32 percent).

Since the Veterans Committee was reconfigured earlier this decade, it hasn’t elected anyone, snubbing the field in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Oliva, who received similar vote percentages in the previous two elections, left the Twins spring training complex 30 minutes before the announcement, not expecting good news.

“If it happens, it would be a surprise,” Oliva said. “The way it’s set up now, it’s very hard.”

Balfour, back from Tommy John, surfaces with Brewers

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The Twins remember when Grant Balfour was throwing 96-98 miles per hour fastballs, dominating for stretches as a rookie in 2004, offering the promise of another power arm in the bullpen. But like Francisco Liriano, Balfour had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in May 2005.

After spending 2006 rehabbing in Cincinnati’s farm system, Balfour is starting to turn some heads again this spring with the Brewers, according to today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.