Guest post


Silly baseball and a Twins sweep

Monday, August 24th, 2009

(Note from Howard: This is the last of three posts from frequent commenter Jason, who spent the weekend in Kansas City and guest blogged about the Twins three-game sweep of the Royals. Thanks to him for handling this space so gracefully.)

Baseball is sport that uses a lot of acronyms. RBI, ERA, and OPS have become pretty common, but on a true Sunday in every sense of the word at Kauffman stadium, a less common baseball acronym came into play: SPF. I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t about suntan lotion (Although we needed that, too). No, SPF stands for Silly Plays on the Field, and the Royals once again didn’t disappoint any of the 18,680 in attendance looking for a few powder blue SPFs to go with the sunshine.

The official scorer would have you believe a different story, but the Royals once again reminded us why whoever ends up winning the AL Central this year should contact Torii Hunter about how to ship a case or two of dom perignon to the Kansas City clubhouse. It started when the Twins scored the first run of the game in the top of the third thanks to botched play by Royals third baseman Mark Teahan, allowing Orlando Cabrera to reach base and Denard Span to score. It was scored as an earned run even with the error, but Teahan could’ve either turned an inning-ending double play on the ball (Cabrera isn’t exactly immune to DPs) or he could’ve cutoff Span at home and the inning would’ve ended harmlessly with a Joe Mauer fly ball in the next at-bat. Next we saw one of the worst baserunning plays of the year when David DeJesus inexplicably failed to move from second to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brayan Pena in the bottom of the sixth after DeJesus led off the inning with a double. Yes, DeJesus later scored anyway, but it still went down as a classic Royals SPF.

But if those two plays weren’t bad enough, Josh Anderson would not be upstaged in the SPF department on this weekend. Wedged between two Michael Cuddyer homeruns in the seventh inning that still haven’t landed, Anderson completed his personal SPF sweep by going jelly fingers on a baseball moving at the speed of a 2-foot putt, allowing Denard Span to reach third standing as three runners scored. The play was ruled a triple, but just as was the case Friday night, only an official scorer found on the family trees of both Span and Anderson would pretend the blunder had nothing to do with Span reaching third.

Add up all of the Royals’ SPFs and combine them with Cuddyer’s moonshots and by the end of the inning you had a Twins lead that even our bullpen couldn’t relinquish. Kudos to Gardy for helping that cause by leaving Pavano in after he loaded the bases in the seventh.

After the game, the boys and I reflected on a weekend filled with SPF by spending a few minutes on the newly remodeled outfield concourse next to a statue of Royals greats George Brett and Frank White (An 8-time Gold Glove winner). Clearly, those days are long gone in KC. By the way, TV does not do Kauffman’s remodeling justice–you have to experience it for yourself.

Thanks to Howard for letting me guest post and thanks to Charlie, Brett, Neil, and the other Jason for a great weekend of fun. A sweep, lots of sunrays, and plenty of SPF ended up making for a fantastic late summer weekend. We left the ballpark with big smiles on our faces asking one question: When do we play the Royals again?

Guest Post: Filling the park in Kansas City

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

(Note from Howard: When frequent commenter Jason Iacovino he told me that he was going to Kansas City for the weekend, I figured he’d be a perfect candidate to file on behalf of the Twins fans who made the Twins. Jason is an attorney and a play-by-play announcer for KRFO Radio in Owatonna, MN. He’s a 2001 graduate of the University of Minnesota, with a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication and a 2006 graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.)

You think our season is over? Take a peek at where Kansas City ranks in the standings. All props go to the 33,000+ that showed up for what was a meaningless game for a team that is 18.0 GB in the AL Central on Saturday night. Of course there were plenty of Twins fans like us, but I handicapped the crowd at 62:38, Royals fans. That’s called understanding how good you have it. I haven’t been to Fenway, Wrigley, or New York, but I sincerely believe Kauffman Stadium is the best baseball experience in America.

Basically, you have the field and the fans, both intimately connected, and that’s about it (except for a monster HD screen). No tacky in-your-face advertising, no annoying pre- or post-game gimmicks…just baseball, up close and personal.

Saturday it was a battle of which bullpen wanted to lose it more. As it turned out, Kansas City won that contest. So thanks to an Oakland win, we’re still hanging on that limb. Brian Duensing impressed, but Gardy apparently wanted to make it interesting by bringing in Bobby Keppel with a 6-2 lead in the sixth after Duensing threw just 80 pitches. Who knows, he may have been on a pitch count, but that move spelled disaster from the word “Go.” Then Crain came in to put more gas on the fire, but it wasn’t enough for a hometown comeback win on a night when they packed Kauffman.

It was another adventure in right field that made the difference. The boys and I watched the replay from our hotel no less than seven times and debated if Josh Anderson screwed up the Cuddyer double in the ninth. I’m convinced he did. He pulled up lame on a ball that could’ve easily been caught. That move made Cuddy, aka ‘Not My Fault,’ a hero in an ugly battle of bullpen ineptitude. And if KC is looking for a villain, you could arguably pin both losses on Anderson. But who cares, I’ll take the win. Way to go, Cuddy! Way to go Twins!

Thirty-three thousand came to see a game that had no meaning. Not bad, KC. We had a blast…friendly locals, great views, and Josh Anderson absolutely could hear what we threw his way after Cuddy’s sand wedge fell in for the game winner. If you haven’t been to Kauffman, it’s a must-see. We’ll have it good next year, but we won’t have the pregame atmosphere these guys do.

Hey, our patchwork lineup and pitching staff snuck us another W, so I’ll cheer hard for some “My Local Hardware Store” brooms to be in play by the end of Sunday’s game.

Don’t give up, Section 220…and don’t pass up the chance to experience Kauffman–tailgating to the final out–it’s unbelievable.

Guest Post: Jason’s on the road with the Twins

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

(Note from Howard: Sometimes I’ve thought to myself that frequent commenter Jason Iacovino has enough to say that he should get his own blog. When he told me that he was going to Kansas City for the weekend, I figured he’d be a perfect candidate to file on behalf of the Twins fans who made the Twins. Jason is an attorney and a play-by-play announcer for KRFO Radio in Owatonna, Minnesota. He’s a 2001 graduate of the University of Minnesota, with a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication and a 2006 graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.)

When I was in little league, the worst player on the team took right field. The Royals reminded me why Friday night. So went Day One in Kansas City for Jason and the boys…

The Twins kept a finger on the playoff limb they are hanging from Friday night, despite once again falling behind early, because the Royals’ right fielders behaved like Little Leaguers while our All-Star closer got the job done with a mulligan. The boys and I are still scratching our heads as to why Josh Anderson wasn’t charged with 2 errors for his misplay of Denard Span’s triple-turned-homerun, which ended up being the signature play in Friday’s game. Perhaps Howard, an official scoring veteran, can enlighten us, but it seems obvious that Span would not have scored on his liner to right but for two misplays by Anderson–the first which allowed him to stretch a double into a triple, and the second which allowed him to score.

Either way, it was a Bad News Bears moment that energized a Kansas City hotel bar filled with Minnesotans who up until that point were more interested in cheering a Brett Favre drop back than anything the Twins did.

But in the end, the Twins stole the show. A two-out, two-strike ninth inning homerun by pinch hitter Brayan Pena ended up only prolonging the fireworks show that Kauffman Stadium generously provided for visiting Twins fans after Joe Nathan closed the deal with his mulligan in the tenth. While tonight we witnessed those fireworks from our eleventh floor hotel room, tomorrow and Sunday we’re eager to see some Joe Mauer fireworks at Kauffman in person, which to me is the best ballpark in baseball.

And for my money, Trey Hillman is more than welcome to give Anderson or Willie Bloomquist right field for the rest of the weekend.

Friday night won’t be remembered for Favre’s 1-for-4, for Casilla or Go-Go’s rejuvenation to a Punto-less lineup, or for a blown save by Nathan in a rare second half save opportunity–it will be remembered for one hilarious play by the Royals which reminds us how lucky we are to have Kansas City in our division. Basically, Josh Anderson suffered a Tavaris Jackson moment in right field, except this time it was for Minnesota’s benefit.

As such, we hang from that playoff string another day. The rest of the weekend should be fun…here’s hoping I don’t need a Joe Nathan mulligan on the golf course this morning.

Guest post: Jeff writes about the Angels (and the Twins)

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Howard’s note: Frequent commenter Jeff in So. Cal sat through the pain of the Twins-Angels series last weekend and filed this report about watching the team that’s coming to the Metrodome this weekend, and what the Twins could learn from them. Also, La Velle and Joe (and sometimes myself) now have our Twitter thoughts landing on our Twitter page at startribune.com/twins. You can join in by adding #stribtwins to your tweets. Enjoy the weekend.

I have been attending just about every Twins game at Anaheim Stadium since I moved to Southern California back in 1978. I must say that it is impressive of the increased amount of Twins fans now showing up to support the Twins. I am guessing, but it sure looked like a quarter of the fans last Saturday were Twins fans. We just did not have much to cheer about the first three games. It was not always like that here, but I sure wish that the Twins had played a better brand of baseball to reward all of their fans who followed the team to Anaheim.

It became clear to me watching this series with the Angels that Mike Scoscia really has his team playing  fundamental, aggressive baseball. In my opinion, he is hands-down the American League Manager of the Year, plus they were doing it with two of there best offensive players out with injuries! This team just has no quit in it and they keep battling until the last out. It reminded me of how the Twins used to play the game.

I hope that Bill Smith took notice of how the Angels play the game right now. What do you think the chances are of the Twins going 9-1 without Mauer and Morneau in the lineup? That is essentially what the Angels did without Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter. The Angels, like other perennial contending teams, surround there superstars with good complimentary players. When there is a glaring need, their management goes out and tries to get the player they think is going to help push them to the top.

The Twins are blessed right now with three guys in the middle of the lineup who are probably the best in baseball. Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel are having a year that is one for the ages. I cannot think of another team that has a better middle of the order right now.

Those three had a great weekend in Anaheim. The problem is that the rest of the team just wasn’t playing well (even though that changed during the White Sox sweep). For as good as those three guys are, our middle infield is just as weak. This team just cannot rely on those guys every night.

There is still room for a lot of optimism for this Twins team and the near future. This year’s version of the Twins is the youngest team in the American League. We also have the fifth-highest average attendance — trailing the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and just behind Detroit. They are also set to enter next season at Target Field, which should boost attendance.

The Central Division is still there to be had as it appears nobody is going to run away with it. The Twins just have to add some players who will compliment our great hitters,  instead of dragging them down every game.

Please, Bill Smith you not only owe it to the fans you owe it to the great players you have already. It will finally send a message to all that you want to win — and win now!!

Childhood memories of Billy Martin

Friday, July 17th, 2009

(Howard’s note: Section 220 commenter Jeff in So Cal  grew up in the Twin Cities and, after reading Patrick Reusse’s recent column about Billy Martin and the 1969 Twins, wrote this to share some unique memories about his family’s relationship with Martin. Nice to have baseball back today. I’ll be on MPR at noon talking baseball with Gary Eichten.)

There was a time when MLB coaching staffs had to work a second job in the offseason as their salaries were not that great. Billy Martin worked a second job in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas too during the mid to late ’60s. Grain Belt Beer was one of the biggest sponsors of the Twins back then. Billy Martin worked for Grain Belt during the offseason doing promotions, giving speeches, and generally a good will ambassador of Grain Belt and the Twins. His day to day job was actually visiting the beer distributors and go with them on their routes to meet customers to promote the beer.

My Father owned a Grain Belt Beer distributorship back then and that is how my family and I got to know him. In the offseason he would occasionally come into town and he would ride in the truck with my Dad and go to tavern owners talking baseball. He would even help my Dad unload his truck from time to time to help him out. My Dad would sometimes let me miss school when he was in town just so I could ride along with them.

I heard Billy tell his stories of those great Yankee teams and of course his stories of Whitey Ford and the great Mickey Mantle. Wherever he went there was always a crowd that was mesmerized by what he had to say. He always made it very clear that he was very proud of being a Yankee but he was also very proud to wear the uniform of the Minnesota Twins. He often compared our teams to those great Yankee teams.

It always saddened my Dad to always hear how much of a drunk Billy Martin was. I can tell you that I never saw him drunk. My Dad said that when he was with him on the route he always drank in moderation and was always very accommodating to everyone. My Mom and Dad would have him over for dinner after the days work was done and he was the very best guest a kid could ask for.The next morning he was at the warehouse bright and early ready for the next day. My Mom and Dad always liked him and appreciated his help with their business. I can tell you I was in 7th heaven talking to him and that just fueled my love for Twins baseball that still burns today and for the rest of my life.

I am not saying that he did not have a problem with alcohol but in those days all I can say is that my family and I never saw it. I think he knew he had a responsibility and he did not want to let anyone down.

That Twins team of 1969 in my opinion was the best Twins team ever with their blend of power and speed. The aggressiveness on the base paths came from one person .. Billy Martin! Look up the stats of that Twins lineup and you will be amazed. We could really use some of those guys in our lineup today. Unfortunately we ran into a Baltimore team that was one of their all time great teams too.

That 1969 team was Billy Ball before anyone had ever heard of Billy Ball!! In closing I just want to say that Billy Martin was very well respected by me and my entire family. He will always be held in high regard and I am the better for having known him.