MN Twins Bandwagon

I officially jumped on the MN Twins bandwagon last night when I tuned in to watch a Twins game for the first time in I don’t know how long. I had my doubts, too, because I tuned in during the fourth innning and the White Sox were up 2-0.

In the fifth, Joe Mays gave up three runs and yet I stuck with it and I was rewarded in the seventh when the Twins got a run off a solo shot (does he hit any others?) by Matthew LeCroy and again in the nineth when the Twins rallied for three more runs to pull within two points. They lost, of course, 6-4, but the thing is, this time I believed they would come back and win it. They had the look team that believed they could do it. You could’t say as much for them for most of this season.

So, I jumped on the bandwagon last night. I was pretty much running along side it since August 18th. That was when Patrick Reusse began the first of his four part series on the 1965 Twins. That article got me reading but I ended up reading every story about the Twins because, of course, the previous evening was the day that Johan Santana had a shutout going against the White Sox until Konerko hit a solo shot off him in the nineth. Santana no-hit the White Sox for six innings and shut them out for eight.

I’ve been following them in the newspapers ever since and now I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, largely because they’ve got a chance at a wild card spot.

In my own defense, I must point out that I usually follow the team through thick and thin, so there’s no need for a bandwagon. But, damn; there were such high expectations this season. I really expected them to kick butt. Yet they never really got it together. And, honestly, it just sucks watching a team win one run game after one run game when you have such high expectations for them. And after Torii Hunter went down, I figured Terry Ryan would say, well, that’s the season and if Ryan gives up on the season, it’s just too painful.

I’ve watched bad Twins teams for an entire season and enjoyed it. The difference is, I didn’t expect them to do anything. It’s a huge difference.

But I do need to apologize to the Twins in general and Johan in particular for my atypical bandwagon-jumping ways. Any team that can trot out such a phenomenal pitching talent, deserves an apology.

So in the best tradition of President Clinton: I’m sorry.

NFL Hall Of Fame Game

God bless America! I finally got my fix of real NFL football. It was the Hall of Fame game, a pre-season tradition that started I don’t know how many years ago but they’ve been broadcasting it for maybe a decade now, maybe less, but it has always been this early. As much as I love baseball, it has definitely lost the title of America’s game to football.

There is now a 24-hour NFL Network on cable; the NFL draft has become a huge media event; the Madden NFL football video game is a phenomenal success, far outselling it’s baseball counterparts, which, again, builds generations of fans. The NFL also does a far better job of marketing itself–especially to black youth. Major League Baseball has seen a steady decline in the number of black players. Finally, the NFL has structured their economics and draft so that at the beginning of any given season, any team has a legitimate chance of making it to the Super Bowl. That’s in glaring contrast to MLB, where teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox with their massive payrolls that allow them to buy all the talent they need to win a championship. That leave fans like those of the Twins despairing when they have to face large-market teams in the playoffs and their pitchers have to face All Star after All Star up and down their lineups.

So there’s just as much as a reason why the Yankees and the Red Sox are always in the playoffs as there is that I always feel the Vikings have decent chance of making the playoffs year in and year out.

Saint Paul Saints Baseball

You can read the title to this post literally.

On their way over yesterday, The Veteran and Phone Assassin took Energy Park Drive and as a result had to pass Midway Stadium. A Saint Paul Saints game was underway and, as they passed the stadium, a foul ball was hit out of the stadium just in time for them to watch a baseball (pictured) fall out of the sky and bounce on the street toward them. Their timing was so immaculate that The Veteran merely slowed down, opened up his car door, and scooped up the ball off the street without even stopping.

He called me immediately and said "Have I got a present for you! It literally fell into our laps." If you doubt me, you can see from the picture that the ball is labeled as an "Official Ball" of the Northern League, the league in which the Saint Paul Saints play.



As I mentioned on Opening Day, I’ve been all psyched to play softball this season. I joined a City Sports Connection softball team this Spring, and I’d been both looking forward to and anxious about playing. I’ve been anxious because I haven’t played baseball or softball since high school.

So last Monday was my first game and it was brutal.

My goal was not to embarrass myself. I failed. Mercifully, they put me in right field where I forced myself to be acutely aware of game situations–okay, there’s one out and a man first and second, if it’s a pop fly, then blah blah blah, if it’s a grounder, then–so I wouldn’t make stupid mental errors. When I got up to bat, I hit a single and when the batter after me hit a single up the middle to the second baseman, I promptly froze and didn’t run to second and got tagged out.


Later, the only ball hit my way was a slicing line drive that was just barely fair and curved away toward the foul line. I took the wrong angle and just barely didn’t get there in time to keep the ball in front of me.

I wanted to crawl under a rock.

I knew I was not going to have problems hitting the ball because some time ago I went to the batting cages at St. Paul’s Rice and Arlington Sports Dome and could hit 75-80 m.p.h. pitches but that wasn’t what worried me. Not only did I have to worry about my fielding, then I also had to worry about keeping my head in the game. Baseball is a lot harder than football because you can’t ever not think and just rely on your athletic ability.

After the game, when I said goodbye to everyone, it was clear that I had my work cut out for me to gain the respect of my male teammates.

So today was my second game of the season but the first game in which I attempt to redeem myself from the utter athletic humiliation I suffered in my debut.

Happily, I succeded.

The one ball that came my way, I fielded cleanly and tossed to the infield uneventfully. With bat in hand, I got on base every time I stepped to the plate and I didn’t force any runners out. Most significantly, though, I didn’t make any mental errors running the bases.

During a game, I never consciously keep track of my stats or plays. If I made good enough plays, I figure I or someone else will remember it after the game. But the funny thing about today–and a sure symptom of my depth of my humiliation–is that I kept tract scrupulously of my stats: I had three singles, two doubles, two RBI, and I scored two runs myself.

I’d never imagined that one could be needy over sports!

Minnesota Twins Baseball

I played catch with The Veteran yesterday in preperation of playing my first season of softball this summer, so I’m all psyched about MLB opening day.

Hope springs eternal every March and April as baseball fans assess their team’s chances for winning their division and advancing in October and this year is no different for this baseball fan and his hopes for the Twins as they prepare for tonight’s 4 p.m. season opener at Seattle.

This year, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Twins will not only win their fourth straight division title, but that they have a great shot at advancing to the World Series. It ain’t just the locals that are optimistic: The Twins have opened some eyes at ESPN, with 7 of ESPN’s 19 "Experts" (otherwise known as writers) picking the Twins to make it to the World Series this year, and 4 of them picking them to win the series. Two of ESPN’s biggest names, Jayson Stark (who is calling the Twins the Patriots of baseball) and Peter Gammons have the Twins taking the series. Buster Olney (who also picked the Twins to win it all) has them ranked as the fourth best team in the Majors.

While the Twins did lose Koskie to Toronto and Guzman to the Nationals, I doubt their losses will prove to be crippling. Koskie is a great fielder at third and has some power at the plate, but he was injured most of the time. I can’t remember when, or if, he has played an entire season without missing significant time to his bad back or some other such ailment. Cuddyer will be a downgrade in the field but he’ll probably be healthier than Koskie, so at least we’ll have consistency in that corner and he’s no slouch at the plate, either.

Guzman was pretty amazing at times at short but he could also make some boneheaded plays due to lack of concentration and, except for the year that he was a ridiculously talented triples hitter, he just isn’t that phenomenal at the plate.

Nevertheless, shortstop is the biggest question mark the Twins have as they open the season with rookie Jason Bartlett manning the position. Bartlett will likely be an improvement at the plate and he’s proven himself to be improved defensively, but he is a rookie and will probably make rookie mistakes that we’ll have to live with. Yet he has enough talent for Gammons to pick him as a Rookie of the Year candidate.

Pitiching, again, is the strength of this team so there is little concern there.

The biggest is whether Joe Mauer can remain healthy enough to catch every day. The Twins aren’t yet convinced of that because they’ve got four catchers (Mauer, Redmond, LeCroy, and Corky Miller) on their opening day roster in order to take it easy on Mauer at the beginning of the season.

If Mauer stays healthy and contributes every day, then the Twins lineup will have more pop this year and the Twins should be capable of both winning more games (how many one- or two-run losses did Brad Radke have last year?) and advancing deeper into the playoffs.