Monday, October 12, 2009


What a shocker folks -- the Twins drop three straight against the Yankees, and go down with hardly a whimper against the Evil Empire. If you're keeping track at home (which I am), that's nine straight postseason losses for the Twins under the Ron Gardenhire regime, and that's only a part of eight straight losses at home in the playoffs. The last Twin to win a playoff game at the Metrodome was none other than Joe Mays, whose gem in the first game of the 2002 ALCS against the Angels stands as the last home victory for the Twins in the Metrodome. This run of postseason futility that the Twins are experiencing is just a perfect example of what the priorities are here in the Twin Cities. Playoffs are gravy to Ron Gardenhire, and he apparently just doesn't care if they win or lose in the playoffs. They're just happy to be there. And this philosophy has translated to an abysmal, embarrassing 6-18 mark in the playoffs under Gardenhire. Considering this, what's the point of even winning the division? If you're just going to play like bird droppings in the playoffs, why tease your fans to think that you actually might win something of actual significance? But no. Winning the perennially weakest division in baseball is hotdish for Ron Gardenhire. It makes me sick to my stomach. This is why I was pessimistic about the Twins hot stretch -- because it gives the illusion that this season was a success. Dude -- you've won the division five times in eight years. Why not try a more challenging goal? I think that winning the division was a bad thing for the Twins, as they'll use the division title as proof that they don't need to improve their ballclub for 2010. In reality, this team should be shaken up, but we know any real change (i.e. canning Ron Gardenhire) will never happen.

The Twins seem to be embodied (at least to those observing the team from a national level) by Nick Punto -- that scrappy, "hard-nosed," talent-deficient excuse for a ballplayer -- and that's really hard for me to accept. Punto may have had some of the best offensive numbers for the Twins in the three-game sweep, as he went 4 for 9 at the plate, but he was there in the eighth inning to put the nail in the coffin that was the Twins season. His baserunning blunder cost the Twins the season, and is yet another example of why this man has no business being a Single-A player, much less a starting player on a playoff team. For some reason he thought that Denard Span's chopper over the mound went into the outfield, and of course he wasn't looking at his third-base coach to see if he should score -- barreling around third was Punto, and Derek Jeter smartly threw home to force Punto to return to third, but he returned too late, and instead of having runners at first and third and nobody out (the Twins were down 2-1 at the time), Punto ran his team out of their season. What I said to myself after that predictable boner was "Nick Punto is the stupidest player in franchise history. Nick Punto is the stupidest player in franchise history." As far as mantras go, that one caught on pretty quick. Seriously though -- the fact that this guy has any words of praise go his way is gut-wrenchingly pathetic. I'm shaking my head in shame right now, having to be a fan of a team that plays Nick Punto on a regular basis. I was thinking about this hard-to-accept fact, too: Nick Punto's played here for six years. SIX YEARS. And he'll be here for probably another six. At the end of his career, he's going to be one of the longest-tenured Twins in franchise history. Why? As Tracy Chapman once sang, Give me one reason, Ron Gardenhire, why Nick Punto is on a major-league roster.

I'm done with this team, finally, for this season. Let me tell you -- it was a maddening adventure to document this sad-sack bunch of characters for nearly six months. I know I'm in the minority when it comes to ragging on guys like Ron Gardenhire, but I've found that the Re-Education Center has been amazingly therapeutic for me. In the past (and especially in 2008) I was unable to contain my rage when I watched the Twins. Often I'd bang a fist on my coffee table in frustration and shout obscenities at the TV screen. But once I started this website, I found it much easier to accept the Twins' patheticness. Now when I watch the games, I find their errors and futility comedic and humorous, and I look at Ron Gardenhire as if he were one of the Keystone Kops of the early silent movies. The guy is such an Andy Kaufman joke -- not at all funny, a little creepy, definitely pathetic, and tragic at the same time. I will go to my grave saying that Ron Gardenhire is the worst manager I've ever seen in my life, and I will continue to say that on this site. By putting faith in guys like Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto, Ron Gardenhire lost this series before it even started. It reminds me of a Modest Mouse album title of a few years back: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. If there's anything that sums up the 2009 Twins, it's that right there.

It was a blast to do this, and I thank everyone who put in their two cents. Whether you agreed with me or not, I appreciate those who took the time to support this site. I'll keep it updated every once in a while in the offseason (I do plan on doing a 2009 Season Wrap-Up and Postseason Awards sometime within the next week) and I'm considering doing this again next season. I really enjoyed what my neighbor Hank Rickenbacher did when he had the reins, and I'd like to hear more from him next season. If you have any suggestions on how to make the MTRC better, I'd love to hear from you. And I'd like to do another segment of Reader's Mail, so feel free to get questions and comments in to my e-mail: Thanks again everyone!

Photos: (1) AP/Jim Mone; (2) AP/Kathy Willens; (3) AP/Charlie Neibergall; (4)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

OCTOBER 9, 2009 -- NEW YORK 4, MINNESOTA 3 (11 innings)

Wow. Unbelievable. As I've said before, you can't lose these games unless you try, or unless you're just in a new category of "pathetic" that I'm just unaware of. Leading 3-1 going into the botom of the ninth, Joe Nathan gives up a single and a mammoth home run to Alex Rodriguez to give up the lead, and then Mark Teixeira comes back in the 11th inning with the game-winning homer off Jose Mijares. Ron Gardenhire didn't do anything during the game that lost the game outright; rather, it was his filling out the lineup that lost the game for the Twins on Friday. I think I thought out loud at least three times as to why Carlos Gomez is even on a major-league roster, much less in the starting lineup in a playoff game. The guy is such absolute doggie do-do that it's hilarious that people actually give the Twins a chance in this series. If I would have known that Gomez would have played Friday, I might as well have just slept through it. Unbelievable that Ron Gardenhire is that stupid. Manager of the Year my ass.

What's even funnier than that is that Brendan Harris propelled the Twins to what would have been a win, and Harris wasn't even in the starting lineup -- Matt Tolbert was, of course. It had to take a pulled muscle to get Tolbert out of the game, and there was Harris, providing the go-ahead triple in the sixth, the key hit to set up the two-run eighth for the Twins, and chipping in on defense with a miraculous Web gem later in the game. The bottom three guys in the Twins lineup -- Gomez, Tolbert, and Punto -- that's Washington Nationals "bad", Pittsburgh Pirates "bad." And you still should have won the game -- unreal. I'll give Punto props, as he delivered a clutch two-out hit in the eighth to put the Twins on top (that hit will probably keep him around for another four years). But I'm not giving Ron Gardenhire props, who I hope was joking when he told TBS reporter/snappy dresser Craig Sager that Punto was "the second best athlete on the team" next to Joe Mauer. That quote prompted me to look up the word 'athlete' in the dictionary, because I don't think Gardy and I are on the same page so to speak. Here it is from

a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill. (my emphasis)

OK -- so it doesn't necessary say they have to be good at sports, but merely a participant. But using the modifier "second best" implies that they are good at a particular sport, which just seals the deal -- Ron Gardenhire is the most idiotic, demented, insane man in the game of baseball. If you can hit .220 and play average defense, kids, you're a gold medalist in one man's book. Wow.

Let's get back to Gomez, who was the clear goat in the game. The guy can flat out fly, which was apparently the reason (defense, Gardy'd say, too) that he is even on the postseason roster. Yet Gomez is one of the absolute worst baserunners I've ever seen in my life, and that stupidity cost the Twins a run in the fourth inning. Tolbert actually came through with a hit off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett, sending Seldom Young home with the first run of the game. But wait -- Gomez tripped over his own shoes rounding second and was tagged out trying to go back to second before Young touched home plate, thereby nullifying the run scoring. Just an idiotic turn of events there -- Gomez should be trotting into second base and planting himself there. You're not going first to third there in a million years (I suppose the moronic Gomez probably thought he could), and at the very least, force a run-down so you ensure that the run scores. That blunder was basically the difference in the game, as Gomez proved to everyone, this time on a national scale, that he doesn't belong in the big leagues. But at least Gomez acknowledged his error in a postgame interview, offering his apologies by saying it was "my bad." Oh, OK. I needed that, Carlos.

But that wouldn't be enough for a guy who sucks as bad as Gomez. He had to come through again in the 11th inning, when the Twins started the inning with three straight singles. Seldom Young lined out on the first pitch he saw from reliever David Robertson; that's to be expected from Seldom. Then Ron Gardenhire has Carlos Gomez hit for himself. Huge mistake, Gardy. I'll quote myself from my Doghouse post on Gomez that I wrote way back in June: "This is what Gomez means to me: if the Twins are down by a run in the late innings and the tying run is on third base with one out, Gomez is the last hitter I want at the plate. I'd rather have a pitcher at the plate -- Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Joe Nathan, hell, even Nick Punto. Gomez folds in the clutch like it's nobody's business, and it's the listless hitting approach and non-existent instincts that make him a Doghouse Denizen for life." Pretty much the same scenario, except that the Twins were tied and would have gone ahead if Gomez can just get the ball in the air. Nope. Instead, he takes one of the most pathetic swings I've ever seen in my life and taps out to first base, and Teixeira throws home to force the runner. Harris flew out after Gomez, and Teixeira would end the game leading off the bottom half of the eleventh. Hooray, Ron Gardenhire! That stroke of managerial prowess lost you another game in the Bronx!

I would like to add that right field umpire Phil Cuzzi delivered one of the absolute worst calls I've ever seen in my life in the eleventh, such a bad call that it makes Mike Muchlinski's infamous home-plate call to end the Oakland Disaster look like a great call. I've always wondered why MLB has outfield umpires in the playoffs; it seems to me that it just means that two more umps can get the calls wrong. Cuzzi is literally fifteen feet away from watching Joe Mauer's fly ball land at least two feet fair and he calls it foul. What's more, outfielder Melky Cabrera touched the ball with his glove! The guy is planted stationary on the field watching nothing but the foul line, and he still gets it wrong. It's just like Richie Garcia's vomit-inducing call in the '96 ALCS when he said that Jeffrey Maier didn't lean over the fence and turn a fly ball into a home run -- the only thing that these outfield umps can do is screw up calls. Now, a lot of people are going to look at that call and do a Gardy and blame the loss on the umpires, but it's hard to tell what would have happened if Mauer had been on second base. Jason Kubel probably would have been trying to "get the guy over to third," i.e. pull the ball on the right side of the infield, and who knows if he would have gotten a hit or not. It likely would have still been up to Seldom Young and Carlos Gomez to blow it in the clutch. And there's no excuses to leaving SEVENTEEN guys on base. But Phil Cuzzi -- jeez, are you that much a Yankee fan or are you simply blind?
Photos: (1,3) AP/Julie Jacobson; (2,4) AP/Kathy Willens; (5) Reuters Pictures

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Butt-kicking #1 goes pretty much as planned on Wednesday night, as Brian Duensing can't get out of the fifth inning before taking his team out of the game, and the offense can't provide that clutch hit when it needed it. This game was very much a return to a simpler time, namely May of this year, when the Yankees laid a four-game sweep at the hands of the Twins using the same formula. The Twins did get ten hits -- six of them in the first three innings -- but were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. One of their runs came on a passed ball, and the other due to a Michael Cuddyer single. And the Twins had a 2-0 lead in this game, but like so many contests against the Yankees, their lead was extremely short-lived. It lasted a whole three batters, as Douchebag surrendered a game-tying blast off the bat of Derek Jeter in the bottom of the third. Nick Swisher's double put the Yankees up for good in the fourth, and Hideki Matsui clocked a mammoth home run off Francisco Liriano (on the postseason roster for some reason) to put the game out of reach in the fifth.

One of the biggest plays in the game may have been in the top of the first inning, when Denard Span led the game off with a double off C.C. Sabathia. Orlando Cabrera failed in his opportunity to get Span over to third, but Span ended up on third due to a passed ball, but Joe Mauer struck out and Cuddyer flew out, giving the Yankees and everybody else watching a good idea of what was about to come. Frankly, nothing about the Twins' failing in the clutch was surprising when you know how Ron Gardenhire manages his teams against New York. As I've said before, with Gardenhire being absolutely owned by the Yankees, he's of the mindset that the Twins have to play a perfect ballgame when they play them. It's pins and needles baseball whenever the Twins face the Yanks, and that's a philosophy that probably loses more games than it would win them. Every failed opportunity is thus magnified, and momentum swings are that much more apparent. The same thing happened in the seventh inning, when the Twins were already down by four runs. They had runners on second and third with one out, but again, Span flew out weakly to the outfield, not nearly deep enough to score the run, and Cabrera struck out pathetically to end the threat. How were the Twins able to win 17 out of their last 21 ballgames? By getting clutch hitting, and that simply didn't show up on Wednesday night.

They were also driven to win the division by some pretty good starting pitching, and that, too, didn't appear to be the case with Brian Douchebag on the mound. Some people had been saying that, hey, the Yankees had never seen Duensing before, so maybe that's a good thing. What I'm struggling to understand is Ron Gardenhire's logic in starting Duensing. His regular turn in the rotation would have been last Saturday against the Royals, but Gardy pushed up both Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano to start those two games, probably because he'd want his best pitchers to pitch in important ballgames. But then he lets Brian Duensing start the first game of the playoffs? This is a perfect example of the demented ideology that Ron Gardenhire has instilled on the team. It's more important for Gardy to win the division than to win something of real importance, say a World Series. Their goal every year is only to with the Central, and as we saw on Wednesday, the playoffs are simply "gravy" to Ron Gardenhire. That's why he couldn't care less if Duensing pitched or not -- hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff Manship starts Game 3. How are games against Kansas City more important than playoff games against the Yankees? If it was up to me, I would have thrown Blackburn in Game 1 on three days' rest, and then countered with Pavano in Game 2. There's no excuse for Brian Duensing to be on the playoff roster, much less pitch the pivotal Game 1 in the playoffs. But, as we all know (and accept, which is the difficult part), mediocrity is just fine with us Minnesotans, and we're just happy to be in the playoffs. Except me -- I'd actually want to see us win a real title, and I won't accept anything less. Anything less is a tease, plain and simple.
Photos: AP/Julie Jacobson

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OCTOBER 6, 2009 -- MINNESOTA 6, DETROIT 5 (12 innings)

I've got to tell you guys -- with a little salt and pepper, crow actually doesn't taste that bad. I'm more than happy to eat a little crow, however, after the Twins completed their miraculous comeback to win the Central Division title (or, as Ron Gardenhire calls it, the Holy Grail). In many ways Tuesday's tiebreaker was a whole lot like the majority of Twins games -- plenty of missed opportunities by guys that are deservedly in The Doghouse, some lucky breaks that go the Twins way, and in the end a Doghouse Denizen gets the game-winning hit. I kind of saw Alexi Casilla's game-winner coming, as he had failed to score the winning run a few innings before due to his stupidity; granted, that was on a Nick Punto sacrifice fly, and at least God has a sense of humor, or at least good sense, because Nick Punto just cannot win the biggest game of the season for the Twins. All in all, it was a whale of a game, and now they get to go to the Bronx and throw Brian Duensing to the wolves. I've heard it all been said -- "anything can happen in October" -- but a Twins win over the Yankees here would be nothing short of apocalyptic. Whatever. Go get 'em, Douchebag.

I had the pleasure (I guess) of watching most of the second half of the game at a local watering hole, and it was there that I found some startling facts out about certain Twins fans. One, that some Twins fans actually like Matt Tolbert, which I thought was damn near impossible. I thought the only reaction any person could have regarding Matt Tolbert was that he was absolute garbage on the baseball diamond. Another was that a lot of people were surprised when Matty Guerrier delivered his most timely Matt Guerrier Special of the season. I predicted Guerrier would blow the lead once Orlando Cabrera put the Twins ahead in the seventh with his home run (everybody was just going nuts over Cabrera, saying that he'd been the biggest piece of the puzzle and the key for the Twins' turnaround!) and got some knowing glances once Magglio Ordonez promptly tied it off Guerrier in the eighth. These "fans" also weren't livid when Ron Gardenhire, in his infinite wisdom, burned his bullpen by the eighth inning and had to get two innings out of Joe Nathan, then had to turn to Jesse Crain and Bobby Keppel to preserve the tie. Crain gave up the lead, and the Twins were bailed out only because Ryan Raburn lost Michael Cuddyer's liner in the lights and misplayed it for a triple. Keppel gave up the lead, too, but umpiring saved the Twins big time in the 12th. With the bases jammed, Keppel clearly grazed Brandon Inge's jersey with a pitch, but home plate umpire Randy Marsh didn't see it that way, and that turned out to be the biggest call of the game, as Inge would force out a runner at home and Gerald Laird struck out to end the inning. As always, the Twins rely on a little bit of luck, both with their ballpark and the men in blue.

I probably could go on further about the game, but let's just leave it at that. It was a terrific, exciting thriller that will go down in Metrodome lore. It's almost too bad that they have to get their butts kicked by the Yankees; if only that could be the swan song on the Teflon Treasure. As mentioned before, Duensing pitches today for the Twins at 5:07 local time, and he opposes Twins killer C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia's 13-8 with a ERA just about 3 in his career against the Twins, and he seems to pitch exceptionally better when there's something on the line. Like everybody says, anything can happen in October, and the Twins are hot. But as Tuesday's contest showed, the Twins' biggest problem remains the bottom of the order. How many times in the game did Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto come up with the game on the line? How many times did Ron Gardenhire let those two slugs hit? That will come back to haunt them against New York, mark my words.
Photos: (1)AP & Star Tribune/Brian Peterson; (2)AP/Tom Olmscheid; (3)AP/Paul Battaglia

Sunday, October 4, 2009


The Twins' win on Sunday clinches a tie for the division title, and with the Tigers' win over the White Sox, for the second straight season the Twins will play in a one-game playoff for the right to go to the postseason. Before I continue, I would like to first thank my good neighbor "Hammerin'" Hank Rickenbacher, who graciously stepped in for me at the last second while I attended to a medical emergency. No need to worry about me -- it just so happened that a young person down in Iowa was recently stung by a nasty swarm of bees and the people down there needed an apiarist's knowledge as to containing the bees. To make matters worse, I knew the victim of the attack, and I felt compelled to drop everything (even during a pennant chase) and drove down to just outside of Dubuque. The one thing about apiary science that drew me to that field was its unpredictability, and it's the one thing that keeps my retirement only half-serious. I'm happy to report that all is well with the person affected by the bees, and I'm back here with a hive of those pesky suckers and I'm going to do a little research that just might be slacked on if there's some postseason whoopin' that the Yankees need to get to later this week. But anyhows, thanks a bunch Hank for the yeoman's work on the site.

As has been the case lately, the Twins' offense took control early, as they jumped on Royal starter Luke Hochevar with two home runs in the first inning. Jason Kubel would add a second three-run home run (I think that's the second time this season that Kubel's had a game in which he's hit two three-run blasts) and Seldom Young would also notch a second home run. Carl Pavano and the middle relief let KC inch back into the game, getting within four before the Twins blew it open in the later innings. So Sunday's game against the Royals will not be the Metrodome's swan song for major-league baseball, as at least one more game will be played there: Tuesday, 4 PM, Scott Baker vs. Rick Porcello. Imagine, for a second, if you're Porcello, who's 20 years old, one year removed from Single-A ball and pitching for the Tigers in the 163rd and potentially final game of the season. That story aside, the Twins are playing hot and the Tigers have languished for three weeks; not to mention the obvious home-field advantage that the Twins have. The Twins should easily win Tuesday's game. Easily. They've got their best pitcher on the mound opposing the Tigers' #3, their bats are clicking and they're at home. There's no reason to think that the Twins can't win, except for the fact that they're the '09 Twins, who are the baseball equivalent of a CD filler-song; something not good to stand alone on its own, but forgettable enough not to lament its brutality when surrounded by actual quality. In fact, it might be more memorable if the Twins lost Tuesday, as people would remember how favored the Twins were, only to lose. If they do drop the game, it'd probably be something pathetic like a 1-0 loss. Hmm, that sounds familiar...

Photos: AP/Jim Mone


Good morning everyone. My name is Hank Rickenbacher. Unfortunately Howie is dealing with an emergency at the moment. Now don't get too worked up, everything will be just fine. But he could not watch yesterday's game, so he asked me, his neighbor for going on 22 strong years now, and also treasurer of the local social club we started together (Association of Recreational Cartographers, Apiarists, and Needlepoint Enthusiasts), to put up this internet blog today. Old Howie says I'm quite the carmudgeon but my dear wife Betsy likes to say it's just that every now and then I wake up on the long side of the bed, especially when it comes to my beloved Twins.

And what an interesting time to be a Twins fan. Yesterday they were going up against Zack Greinke, one of the best young pitchers in the division. (I've noticed a lot of young bucks are named Zack these days.) The Twins needed to win to put pressure on the Tigers, who were playing the dysfunctional White Sox later in the day. Things were looking bleak. But as Mickey Mantle once said, it isn't quite over unless the fat lady is singing. And the fat lady is quiet as a doornail today.

Nick Blackburn continues to emerge as the closest thing to a big-game pitcher (or player) the Twins have. If only he could be consistent all year we might have a true ace on our hands. He outdueled Greinke to the tune of four hits and two runs over seven. Of course after giving up a double in the eighth to Miguel Olivo, Gardenhire yanked Blackburn before the line drive even hit the carpet. Talk about knee jerk (though no one should ever give up doubles to Miguel Olivo).

Up until that point Blackburn had given up just a lone moon ball to somebody named Jacobs that is apparently Kansas City's cleanup hitter. The score was 4-1 thanks to a four-run sixth for the Twins, an inning which serves as devastating verification of the first rule of pitching in the major leagues: DO NOT WALK NICK PUNTO. Ever, ever, ever. I could practically hear snickers coming from the Twins dugout. Fast forward to two outs and Punto on third, and Mauer rips a screamer to right for a 1-0 lead. (I know this won't make me many friends, but it's about time Mauer got a clutch hit.) Even though the broadcasting geometry fanatic Bert Blyleven was sure this would be enough to win the game with the way Blackburn was throwing, Mauer's hit was only the tip of the icebox. With a bases-clearing double (an assist must go to Royals right fielder Teahen, who took a line as if he wanted to hug the center fielder instead of catch the ball), Delmon Young now has more RBIs in the last two games than in his entire Twins career. Now, I don't want to promote violence or anything, but the Twins may want to get an opposing pitcher to throw at Young again as in Detroit, as it seemed to wake him up from the 2-year nap that has been his Twins career.

The lead of course did not last as Mijares got back at his teammates for calling him out after Thursday's melee by promptly giving up a moon ball to the light hitting Alex Gordon, undoubtedly the longest ball that kid has ever hit, probably by double.

I had a bad feeling about where this game was going, but in the bottom of the eight Cuddyer hit a nice home run and the Twins won 5-4. Good win, but I don't think the Twins can count on Young to carry them for another game. Cabrera was the only other Twin with 2 hits, and while he's a nice player he isn't going to make anyone forget Zoilo Versalles any time soon.

So today is the last game at HHH Metrodome. And let me say good riddens. I for one have not been to a Twins game since they left the Met. I don't think Wilbur Doubleday intended for the national past time to be played indoors. Plus Humphrey was a yes man and soft on everything, and I don't know why we should name ballparks after him. I told Betsy I'd never go to the Metrodome as long as it was named after that hippie, and it looks like I made it. I'm looking forward to next year, or rather next June 20th, as that's about the only time the weather will make it worth going down to Target Field. Although with all the crime and drugs and littering in Minneapolis, I'm not sure I'll make it to the new ballpark either.

The Twins go for the sweep today. With the Tigers loss last night, the Twins just need to win to ensure a playoff on Tuesday. They are going to trot out Carl Pavano on three days rest, while the Royals will throw Luke Hochevar. Game time is 1:10. Thanks to Betsy for the help and to Howie for the chance to do this. Here's hoping the big guy will be back tomorrow.

Photos: (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Saturday, October 3, 2009


They wouldn't be the 2009 Twins if they don't let a game against the 95-loss Royals in which they led by ten runs get far too interesting, as Kansas City scores the final seven runs in the ballgame but still loses by three. It was all probably a ploy to allow Joe Nathan to break the Twins' single-season saves record with his 46th save of the season, one-upping ex-Twins great Eddie Guardado's mark set in 2002. Though it got much too tense than it should have late in the ballgame, a win's a win, especially considering that Jake Peavy went out for the White Sox and totally dominated Detroit, and the Twins are still alive and kicking, one game out with two to go. If the Twins are to win both games against KC (a tough task considering they've drawn Zach Greinke today), Detroit will have to also win out to take the division without a one-game playoff. The scenario is so eerily similar to 2006, when the Tigers struggled for the last month of the season and limped into the playoffs while the Twins had been the hot team, getting into the playoffs on a high. As things often go, those patterns didn't stay true to form, as Detroit was the team that turned it on in the playoffs, getting to the World Series, and the Twins' season, which for all intents and purposes had ended on the last day of the regular season considering the lack of effort they gave forth in the ALDS against Oakland, was a stupendous flop for me. If the Twins win the division, they're going to celebrate their asses off, and then likely play some of the most embarrassing baseball anyone's ever seen against the Yankees. The biggest problem of this franchise is its mindset -- that a Central Division title is the end-all goal. That mindset owes a whole lot to its major endorser -- Ron Gardenhire.

As for Friday's contest, it appeared that the game was over by the second inning. Royals starter Lenny DiNardo was knocked out early after surrendering a Seldom Young grand slam in the first inning, among six hits he gave up in an inning-plus of work. Jason Kubel notched his 25th home run of the season in the 4th inning, and the entire Twins offense was clicking. In a trip back to simpler times, every Twins starter had at least one hit except Nick Punto, who so often loves being the exception to the rule offensively. Even Matt Tolbert got two hits, making it that much more possible that Ron Gardenhire decides to have a little more confidence in the Punch-and-Judy-meister. Jeff Manship got his first major league win, silencing those doubts as to why a guy who's pitched like regurgitated pumpkin seeds in the big leagues is pitching with the season on the line. The bullpen made it interesting, as always, as the vaunted combo of Crain-Mahay-Keppel allowed the Royals back in the game. On a side note, why is Bobby Keppel in the major leagues? This guy is such absolute garbage is hard to understand how he could make the St. Paul Saints or the Wichita Wingnuts, let alone a major-league roster, let alone a "contending" major league club. Remember the Oakland Disaster? The one game the Twins will look back on after this season and say, "why couldn't we keep a ten-run lead against a last place club?" Well, Keppel was a big part of that, and that question was nearly asked again on Friday, but luckily for the Twins, they held on, and, like Maxwell House, they're in it 'til the last drop.
Photos: AP/Jim Mone

Friday, October 2, 2009


Scott Baker and the Twins stave off elimination for one more day, as they beat the Tigers in a messy affair that featured a bench-emptying non-skirmish over some hit batsmen. Baker was classic Baker, throwing 105 pitches to get through five innings, but it was good enough as the Twins bats were alive against Nate Robertson and the Tigers. Thirteen hits were spread throughout the Twins lineup, including three by Seldom Young and two by Nick Punto. Orlando Cabrera busted the game open in the eighth with a bases-clearing double that extended the lead from 4-1 to 7-1. For the Twins to win a game in which they committed four errors in the field is miraculous in its own right. All in all, it was a sloppy game, but one in which the Twins absolutely needed to win, and the tease will continue until the final weekend of the year.

The scenario is this: if the Tigers can merely take two out of three this weekend playing against the White Sox at home, they're in the playoffs, no matter what the Twins do. The Twins need to win at the very least two games against Kansas City and hope that the Tigers either get swept or win one game. The problem is for the Twins that Zach Greinke pitches on Saturday, and the way the Twins' bats were not producing in pressure situations against Greinke last Sunday, it's going to be extremely tough for them to win that ballgame. So if you can assume that Greinke will lead the Royals to victory on Saturday, that means that the Twins must hope that the White Sox sweep the Tigers. Hey, it's happened before -- remember 2006, when the Twins won only one game against the Sox in the last series of the year, but still won the division thanks to the Royals sweeping the Tigers at Comerica? And Jake Peavy pitches tonight against Detroit, and he shut them down with relative ease last week. So the Twins have a chance, and the last series at the Metrodome will have at least something on the line for the many fans that will choose to attend. It will be a little different scenario than in 1981, when the Royals helped turn out the lights at Metropolitan Stadium. In those days, guys like Hrbek and Gaetti were just getting their first taste of the bigs, while veterans like Pete Mackanin and Rob Wilfong got the majority of the playing time. Nick Punto would've fit right in on that squad.
Photos: (1) AP/Duane Burleson; (2) AP/Paul Sancya

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The Twins are now on the brink of elimination, thanks to a pitiful hitting performance off spot starter Eddie Bonine and terrible pitching by Carl Pavano. After scoring two runs off Bonine in the first on four hits, Jose Morales grounded into a double play, knocking the wind out of the Twins' sails and serving the Tigers really well. Bonine was on the ropes in the first, and had Morales delivered a hit it likely would have ended the night for the Tiger pitcher. Instead, he keeps the damage to a minimum and then watches his offense come back on Pavano and the Twins. The second inning was a classic Detroit hit parade, as Pavano gave up two singles and a walk before back breaking hits by Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead. The real nail in the coffin came in the fifth, when Magglio Ordonez cleared the gap with a double that extended the lead to 7-2 and effectively put the Twins away. For all the "good" that Pavano has given the Twins -- just listen to Bremer and Blyleven laud Pavano as if he were the second coming of Johan Santana -- he's been supremely average with the Twins, going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA. Granted, when you have yuksters like Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins in the rotation before Pavano came over to the Twins, you'll sure as heck take those middling numbers. But when it counted, Pavano failed miserably, and if that was his last start as a Twin, "au revoir."

The Twins' backs are officially against the wall, as they sit three games back with four to play. Thursday's game is an absolute must-win, and in all reality they need to win out while the Tigers need to win no more than one more game. In other words, the Twins have a 4% chance of winning the division, according to the ESPN number crunchers. But at the very least, their win on Tuesday clinches a winning season for the Twins, which was something that looked bleak a few weeks ago. After the season I plan on doing a season summary of the Twins and I'll express more there, but what I think is the real tragedy here is that the last two weeks are going to make the previous five and a half months seem insignificant. People are going to remember the 11-2 run and, because of that, consider the season a success, yet another example of the Twins "always being there at the end." It's that sort of thinking that needs to be re-educated, as I think the Twin Cities are the only market in the country that accepts this sort of second-place mediocrity. More to follow next week.
Photos: AP/Paul Sancya