Nobody to blame but themselves (and Phil Cuzzi)

Posted on October 10th, 2009 – 2:00 AM
By Howard

Well, that was craptastic. Yes, I know that word is probably beneath the dignity of our slice of the Internet, but the only other ones I can think of are a little bit too vile, and I would regret seeing them attached to my name when looking back some day at my body of cyberwork.

The Twins gave away Game 2 in so many ways: Leaving 17 men on base… Gomez’ run-erasing baserunning gaffe… Leaving 17 men on base… Nathan’s pathetic ninth inning… Leaving 17 men on base… Young and Gomez swinging at first pitches in their bases-loaded at-bats in the 11th… Leaving 17 men on base… Nathan’s pick-off throw into center field in the 10th… Leaving 17 men on base… Kubel’s four strikeouts… Leaving 17 men on base.

So while Nathan’s performance will likely be the one that stands out over time, there were plenty of other people who contributed to the Game 2 demise.

As Joe Mauer said afterward, “We could have won the game earlier.”

Gotta like that for understatement.

Mauer made his comment when he was weighing in on the hubbub surrounding the blown call in the 11th by umpire Phil Cuzzi, who ruled Mauer’s fly ball foul when it clearly dropped about 10 inches inside fair territory. Called correctly, it would have been a ground-rule double. According to SI.com, Mauer went so far as to imply that Kubel’s at-bat could have ended differently if Mauer had been on second base instead of first (with the single he got after the blown call) because there wouldn’t have been the big hole between first and second that resulted from him being held on base. Kubel singled through that hole to right.

I also can’t help but think about the pitch that hit the muumuu that Brandon Inge wears for a baseball jersey during Tuesday’s Game 163. You know, the one that would have given the Tigers a lead in the 12th inning if it had been properly called. (Wearing a uniform top four sizes too big isn’t against the rules.) As Twins fans, we can be outraged by one call and whimsical about the other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be called on our inconsistency.

This is probably petty, but the thing that seems to be bugging me most about these first two games is what the Twins have done to rehabilitate A-Rod’s reputation as a post-season puddle of ineptitude. He had two key hits in Game 1 and the game-tying homer off Nathan, which included that smarmy look-at-me fist pump toward the Yankees dugout — just so he could make sure they’d all been watching, I guess. Lame.

The Twins have proven beyond doubt that you can beat a favored team without playing excellent baseball.

It’s just that when you reach a critical mass of mental mistakes, individual meltdowns and game-long bouts of ineptitude, you’re not likely to beat the New York Yankees — or even the New Britain Rock Cats.

***

There’s been a lot of blog comment chatter about the Chip Caray/Ron Darling team that’s calling the games on TBS. Normally, I stay away from critiques of network announcers because, frankly, I don’t expect much from them. However, I can say without hesitation that listening to Caray and Darling is like hearing an audition tape from a couple of guys in Moose Jaw. The omissions and mistakes are painful. I’m still trying to figure out who the “Spanish players” are on the Twins’ roster, a conversation snippet from Game 1. Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol? Darling often sounds like he’s trying to figure out what Caray just said.

Richard Sandomir, who writes about sports media for the New York Times, offered the other day: “Every announcer makes mistakes, but Caray’s lips form a pattern of an announcer out of his element.” For Sandomir’s entire takedown, go here.

It’s kind of sad to write this. I remember listening to Chip’s grandfather, Harry, do White Sox games (which was before he started the doing the Cubs). When I was in college, and cable was rare enough that you had to go to a dive bar in Bloomington to watch the Cubs on cable, Harry was there watching them (he was in town for a Twins-White Sox game) and he bought me a Budweiser.

At least on Sunday, I’ll be at the Dome so I won’t have to listen to Chip ‘n’ Ron The baseball in this series so far has generated enough pain. The broadcasters needn’t add to it.

***

Saturday morning update: There’s a query below asking if I’m “going to own up to my miscall” about the Twins starting Gomez in center field for Game 2.

No, I’m not.
As the questioner points out, Span made a catch early in the game that I don’t think Kubel makes. And I’m not sure if Span, who doesn’t have Gomez’ range in center, gets to Posada’s fly ball that led off the sixth. And Gomez’ two-out walk — yes, a Carlos Gomez walk — started the two-out, two-run Twins rally in the eighth.

So, yes, Gomez made an egregious error that went a long way toward costing the Twins the game. But  calling the decision to start him a “miscall” in short-sighted and revisionist.

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