May 2007

Twins sweep and the Blizzard of Oz

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Ozzie2.jpgSwept at the Dome after blowing a 6-1 lead to the Twins on Wednesday, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen praised the Twins (of course), blamed himself, told his team to look in the mirror and basically went off the deep end. Couch that. Ozzie wears his emotions on his sleeve and often goes off the deep end. But I thought this stuff was pretty deep:

“There’s no doubt they outplayed us. We looked like Little Leaguers over there. It’s embarrassing to come out and play games like that. … It was a pathetic week. … This ballclub better look themselves in the mirror and think about what they’re going to do.

“I’m willing to take the blame. I will take the blame like I always do. The 25 guys we’ve got down there, they better look themselves in the mirror.

“I keep blowing smoke when we face [the Twins]. But I know a little bit about baseball, and that’s a baseball team out there. A good one. Know what I mean? People say look in the mirror, play like those guys play. They compete as a team. They get you as a team, and that’s why they win, and that’s why they have five or six division titles. No one gives it to them. I’m the only one in baseball who ever gives those guys credit. Because they deserve credit. They come here, they show up and kick our butt.

“Right now, it’s not only the Twins. Everybody in the American League is going to take advantage of us. Like I said before I’m going to take full responsibility for this. If you’re going to blame somebody, blame me. And meanwhile, those 25 guys they’re professionals, they get paid pretty good money, and they’ve got to do their job.

“Offense, defense, pitching, manager, coaches, we all stink. Kenny [Williams], everybody who’s part of this organization, I don’t think they should be happy with this ballclub.”

“I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to do a job, and I’m not doing my job right now. Obviously, I’m not. We’ve got to get out of here and forget about this, and continue to play better, if we can. If not, somebody else will.”

(Are changes coming?)

“That’s up to Kenny Williams. I’d love to. I mean, I’m sitting here watching this from July last year to right now, same bull. I’m going to get fired? Good. Is this team going to get better having me out of there? I’d be too happy with it. But as long as I’m here, we’ve got to play better. As long as I’m here, we have to play better. And if this ballclub would play better without me and my coaching staff, we have to step it up. I’m embarrassed. And I don’t even play. Not that we got beat, the way we performed.”

Yankees free fall benefits Twins

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

There were some great responses to the “Your turn to play GM” post, and I’ll come back to that at a later time. I’ll be laying low in blogland for a while, working on a Sunday enterprise piece that Twins fans won’t want to miss. Last night, my wife and I were in Hopkins, with Tony Oliva and his wife, listening to their son, Ric Oliva, play blues guitar. The Twins game was on TV, and we got to talk baseball with Tony, as he watched the hitters he still counsels demolish White Sox pitching.

My uncle Steve will cringe about all this name-dropping, but in the course of reporting yesterday, I had phone conversations with Rod Carew, Jim Palmer and Kent Hrbek. So, let’s just say I’ve got my work cut out for me, trying to write words that do this story justice. In the meantime, stay tuned to La Velle’s blog for the quickest updates.

And as you get ready for Twins/White Sox today, here’s something that struck me this morning. The Yankees’ incredible struggles are a very good thing for the Twins. Not many thought the wild card could come out of the AL Central again this season, but that’s exactly what would happen if the season ended today. Twins are 5 1/2 back of Cleveland, but only 4 back of Detroit in the wild-card race. Buster Olney’s blog at (subscription required), included this interesting tidbit today:

• The Yankees … have reached the point where they will almost require a historic comeback to make the playoffs:

The Yankees’ deficit in the division race is 14.5 games. Only one team has won a division or league with a deficit of greater than 14 games — the 1914 Boston Braves.

The Yankees’ deficit in the wildcard is 8.5 games. Only four wildcard winners have overcome greater deficits than that — the ’95 Yankees (who were once nine games out), the 2001 Athletics (once 10.5 games out), the 2003 Marlins (11.5 games out), and the 2005 Astros (11.5 games out).

Only two other times have the Yankees had a larger deficit in May — 1984: In the year in which the Tigers started 35-5, the Yankees fell 17.5 games out in May. 1913: the Yankees were as much as 18.5 games out in May.

Your turn to play GM

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

First, a Memorial Day leftover: The commenters on this blog, who miss nothing, wondered why Johan pitched to Konerko with first-base open in the sixth inning yesterday before A.J.Gate XLV started. Great question. Something I didn’t get to yesterday was this postgame quote from Gardy:

“We had the one situation where we sent Andy [Rick Anderson] out there to talk to Johan about walking Konerko and pitching to A.J. … Jo wanted to go after Konerko. It kind of stunned me in the dugout, and I let him go after Konerko.”

Manship.jpgOn the morning rounds, I found a Q&A with Jeff Manship over at Seth’s blog. Of course I read it because, as some have noted, I seem to have a Man Crush on on Mr. Manship.

Also, there was Aaron Gleeman’s post about how starting the year with Ponson and Ortiz in the rotation already cost the Twins 2-5 wins and could eventually cost them 6-8 wins by season’s end. Far be it from me to get into a Battle of the Blogs with Mr. Gleeman. The guy is so smart, he would chew me up and spit me out all over his laptop. But as you saw from my weekend post, I respectfully disagree that the Twins screwed up.

Eric in Madison, this got to me: “Joe, You ought to be in politics; you successfully use specious argument to prove a point that nobody argued. Comparing Ortiz’s deal to those others is absurd; that wasn’t the choice. Ryan doesn’t get any kudos for being smart enough not to sign Pavano, sorry. … On another note, can I chide you gently about getting scooped on the irritated Garza story by the other paper?”

You want to antagonize me, Eric, antagonize me. Chide away. La Velle and I spend seven days a week monitoring this team in the interest of our readers. We’re not perfect. We might miss sometimes, but I guarantee you we battle through our share of quality at-bats.

Hindsight.jpgSo for those who’ve rolled their eyes at my recent pitching argument, for those who suggested my weekend post was nothing but a strawman argument, it’s your turn, now. I’m giving you $10 million to spend on the 2007 Twins payroll, with Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson still un-signed. I’m giving you a pair of 20-20 hindsight glasses and two months of data from the current season. You can spend that money on any players you wish, just be sure to leave the Twins with an Opening Day pitching rotation and a contingency plan for injuries. Go ahead because right now, maybe I can’t see it. In other words, counter these arguments with some actual suggestions of your own.

P.S. If I sound surly this morning, perhaps it’s because a certain airline turned my wife’s return flight from San Francisco yesterday from a 3:45 p.m. departure into a red-eye. She’s upstairs sleeping as I write this.

Twins 10, White Sox 4: A.J. strikes again

Monday, May 28th, 2007

The Metrodome was quiet Monday. Handed a 3-0 lead in the second inning, Johan Santana had allowed the White Sox to go ahead 4-3 in the sixth.

All of a sudden, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came storming out of the dugout, screaming at the umpires. His venom seemed to be directed at first-base ump Greg Gibson. Then the replays started flashing on TV – shots of A.J. Pierzynski apparently stepping on Justin Morneau’s foot as ran to first base to end the sixth inning.

Gardenhire was livid. The hat was off. It was hard to make sense of it all at first, and we’ll be spending the postgame getting to the bottom of it. The word in the press box is that A.J. spiked Morneau twice today. Looking at my score sheet, sure enough, it’s possible. Pierzynski’s three at-bats went 5-3, 4-3 and GDP 6-4-3. When Morneau came up the next inning, Pierzynski got right in his ear, but Morneau seemed to blow him off completely. Home plate ump Larry Vanover got between them, ending the one-sided conversation.

For now, if you didn’t watch, just know that the Twins put together a five-run rally the very next half-inning. Torii Hunter put the Twins ahead 5-4 with a run-scoring infield chopper, and Mike Redmond hit a three-run double into the left-center field gap. We sat here wondering if Pierzynski would get drilled with a pitch his next time to the plate. Alas, Ozzie Guillen used Toby Hall to pinch hit for Pierzynski in the ninth inning.

UPDATE: A.J. met with Gardy after the game. Everything sounds cool.

“It was just a misunderstanding,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve already talked to A.J. It’s done with. After the game, I met with A.J. back there, and he explained it to me. That’s good enough for me. That’s over with. I was just reacting to an umpire pointing to our dugout and telling us to be quiet. That really irritated me.”

Sounds like Pierzynski “brushed” Morneau’s foot in the sixth inning and came close, stepping on the inside of the bag in the second.

“I didn’t feel anything,” Pierzynski said. ”I guess [Morneau] thought there was [contact]. If there was, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do anything. … I’m sorry he thought that. I have nothing but respect for him and Gardy.”

Reusse was on the scene in the White Sox clubhouse. You’ll read more about this in our first editions. And, oh by the way, the Twins are back to .500, at 25-25.

Memorial Day game thread: Twins/White Sox

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Ramon Ortiz had a meeting with pitching coach Rick Anderson and Ron Gardenhire this morning before batting practice. No official word yet, but as La Velle reported today, it appears Ortiz is being sent to the bullpen. … Joe Mauer is not in the lineup, but he’s out here for batting practice. Minnesota’s most famous symbolic beard is still unshaven, meaning he’s not ready to return from the DL. Updates to come.

Update: Ortiz is heading to the bullpen, and the Twins will call up a pitcher to start Friday, Gardenhire said. He wouldn’t say who, but it’s going to be Kevin Slowey. Take it to the bank. … Mauer ran the bases this morning, and now it’s sounding like a Friday return at Oakland. Twins are off Thursday, and teams always tend to use open dates as a chance to get extra assurance that a player won’t re-injure himself. … As for Jeff Manship – thanks for the heads up in the comments section! — it sounds like he left last night’s game with a strained hamstring. Might go on the 7-day DL as a precaution, but as one Twins guy told me, they like to give the minor-leaguers a one-start break this time of year anyway.

Correction: Just spoke to Jim Rantz. Manship has a mild groin muscle strain. Will miss a start, but it’s still uncertain whether he’ll go on the 7-day DL.

Twins: Luis Castillo 2B, Nick Punto 3B, Michael Cuddyer RF, Justin Morneau 1B, Torii Hunter CF, Mike Redmond C, Jason Kubel LF, Jason Bartlett SS, Jason Tyner DH. Starting pitcher: Johan Santana.

White Sox: Darin Erstad CF, Tadahito Iguchi 2B, Jim Thome DH, Jermaine Dye RF, Paul Konerko 1B, A.J. Pierzynksi C, Joe Crede 3B, Juan Uribe SS, Luis Terrero LF. Starting pitcher: Jose Contreras.

Metrodome. Scheduled first pitch: 1:10 p.m.