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Friday, June 27, 2008

How SWEEP It Is!

Sorry, I couldn't resist the cheezy title. I feel like I'm writing for the homepage on ESPN.com. Anyway, it is quite sweet as the Twins have pulled off their third consecutive sweep and are riding a nine game winning streak. Here's some sweep thoughts...

* Twins are currently 12-3 in interleague play.

* Twins have won 12 of their last 14.

* During the 9 game winning streak, the Twins have outscored opponents 56-19.

* Wednesday night the Twins took over the top spot as the team to score the most runs in the AL Central which includes huge lineups like Chicago and Detroit.

* In the past 6 games, the Twins have defeated 4 different Cy Young pitchers with a combined total of 11 Cy Young awards: Randy Johnson (5), Brandon Webb (1), Jake Peavy (1), and Greg Maddux (4).

* Twins starters are 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA during the 9 game winning streak.

* Scott Baker picked up both the win and his first major league at bat against the Padres Thursday. Twins pitchers are batting an astonishing .333 (6-18) and have struck out only 5 times in interleague play. Perhaps, we don't want to use a DH.

* Justin Morneau belted his 12th homerun of the season and picked up his 60th, 61st, and 62nd RBIs which rank him 2nd in the American League behind Josh Hamilton.

* Brendan Harris extended his hitting streak to a career high 8 games and hit 2 homeruns in the very big Petco Park. Harris seems to be heating up.

* Brian Buscher continues his torrid start. Since being called up on June 12th the thirdbaseman is hitting .386 with 14 RBIs. Say it with me, "Enjoy the bench Mike Lamb!"

* Once down by 6.5 games on June 12th, the Twins hot streak has brought them within a half game of the Chicago White Sox for first place in the division.

* Don't look now, but this hot streak looks eerily similar to the two long streaks the 2006 Twins rolled off during interleague play that year. In case you forgot, 2006 was a playoff year along with a MVP, a Cy Young, and a batting title.

* Tomorrow night the Twins continue interleague play and will do so at home at the Metrodome as they begin a 9 game homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers. Nick Blackburn will take the hill for the Twins against Seth McClung.

Tell me readers which sweep thought do you find most interesting?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Twins prepare for Peavy

Twins start a short three game roadtrip in San Diego tonight as they get set to face last year's Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. The Twins are enjoying Interleague play thus far posting a 9-3 record against the Junior Division... I mean National League.

The Twins will send Kevin Slowey to the mound to face off against Peavy. Peavy is recently returning from the DL and only has a 5-4 record on the year, but has the capability to shut any lineup down on any given day. Slowey should be able to handle the Padres lineup which has struggled to score runs this year. As long has he can keep stud 1B Adrian Gonzalez in the ballpark Slowey should be ok. Gonzalez is having an amazing year already with 21 HRs and 65 RBIs.

In other news... Joe Mauer finally takes over the top spot in All-Star balloting for the American League starting catcher. Mauer had trailed Boston's Jason Varitek who is hitting a measly .230. Mauer deserves the spot and I don't want to see a starting All-Star lineup composed of only Red Sox. So keep voting for Mauer and also get Justin Morneau ahead of Boston's Kevin Youkilis. (Morneau also is more deserving)

I leave you with another one of my favorites in Baseball Tonight's "Battle of the Band" series. A bluegrass band call Punch Brothers, which stars Chris Thile, member of one of my favorite bands Nickel Creek and arguably the best mandolin player in the world. Enjoy...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twins complete perfect homestand

I knew the Twins could and needed to sweep the Nationals, but what a great week to pull off a sweep of the Diamondbacks as well (and in such great fashion). Friday night I watched the Twins score seven runs on the Randy Johnson, Saturday night, the offense had another big inning scoring six runs off of Micah Owings and Chad Qualls, and Sunday the Twins were able to rough up 2006 Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb, for five runs.

I'm not sure what was more exciting, watching the offense come alive or seeing Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Livan Hernandez all pitching quality starts three days in a row. The staff looked great the entire week against Washington and Arizona and this was great to give the bullpen a much needed rest. Over the six game homestand the starters went 6-0 with a 1.76 ERA in 41 IP with 22 strikeouts.

The series sweep of the Diamondbacks could't have come at a better time as the Chicago Cubs swept the White Sox narrowing the Sox's central lead to just 1.5 games. The Twins are streaking right now winning six in a row and eight of their last nine. The Twins have had great success against the National League this year and hopefully the good luck can continue this week. After an off day today the Twins head to San Diego for a three game set before heading back to Minneapolis for a long nine game homestand agains Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland. Tomorrow night the Twins will face 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. Peavy will certainly be a tough matchup, but if the Twins can defeat the strong righty the Twins will have beaten the past two Cy Young winners and arguably the two best pitchers in the National League in the same week. That would be sweet!

If you're a Baseball Tonight fan you will have seen their current "Battle of the Bands" segment showcasing nine different musical groups performing their rendition of baseball's national anthem "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Here's one of my favorite versions so far, John Pizzarelli's jazz twist...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Twins sweep Nats, prepare for D-Backs

The Twins went out and executed this week sweeping the Washington Nationals, the team with the NL's worst record. The sweep was needed to get over .500, keep up with the White Sox sweep of the Pirates, and gain momentum as the Arizona Diamondbacks head to town.

This young Diamondbacks club is having a great season and will be a very tough challenge for the Twins this weekend. For the first month of the season, Arizona was hands down the best team in baseball, after a rough may they've seemed to turn it around but have had ample opportunities to run away with the weak NL West division, but only remain 4.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The strength of this club lies in its pitching. Tonight Scott Baker will take the mound for the Twins and gets to faceoff against the ageless wonder, Randy Johnson. Sunday the Twins face 2006 Cy Young Winner, Brandon Webb.

Tonight Michael Cuddyer will be suffering from "Randy Johnson-itis" as Ron Gardenhire calls it, as he will be missing the game due the birth of his first child. I however will be at the game and I'm quite excited to watch the most intimidating pitcher in my lifetime The Big Unit take the mound against the Twins. Let's hope we can keep some of that offense from yesterday!

It's also Dan Gladden Bobblehead night tonight, so I better get my act together and get to the dome early to pick up my miniature Dazzle Man.

If any of you were worried, I checked yesterday to see what happened to the Metrodome section "Rincon's Kids" ever since his released. The section has been eliminated, leaving only "Reyes' Ninos" and "Cuddy's Buddys." For further proof examine exhibit A.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Even More Crazy

This time I didn't say it, but I stumbled upon an article written by Joel Sherman in Sunday's New York Post. The article was about the New York Yankees monitoring the trade market on Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia. It's widely regarded that the Yanks could be a favorite to land C.C. especially after the recent loss of their staff ace Chien Ming Wang. Many belive the Yanks won't budge at the Indians request of the young Yankee pitchers after the Bronx Bombers refused to part with their young arms for Johan Santana this offseason. I don't care who he goes to as long as he is out of the division.

Now onto the crazy part. In the same article Sherman mentions the Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder as a surprise name that could emerge on the market by the July 31st trade deadline. Sherman suggests the Yankees and Mets as big players if Fielder is on the block, but also suggests the Dodgers, TWINS, and Royals as teams that could also have interest.

I'm not sure what's more weird, the fact that Sherman included the Twins or the Royals. Now there is no denying we'd love to have a bat like Fielder after Morneau (even more than Adrian Beltre!) in our lineup, but I was shocked to see the Twins mentioned. I don't know if Sherman heard something or simply thought of teams that could use some offense. First of all, Fielder would have to be the DH as Justin Morneau would win the award as the more superior defensive first baseman, but I would guess the Brewers trade demands would be quite steep.

Again, who knows how big of a rumor this is, and Fielder will most likely still be with the Brewers at the end of the season... but this one is really fun to dream about!

Check out Joel Sherman's article here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Call me crazy... Twins should trade for Beltre

Yesterday's firing of Seattle GM Bill Bavasi got me thinking... the Mariners, with the worst record in baseball, are entering rebuilding mode. Virtually anyone on the roster not named Ichiro is for the taking. Maybe it's because I'm sick of watching Mike Lamb take horrible at bats, maybe it's because I think it's because I belive this 2008 Twins roster is only a player or two from winning the division, but I think trading for Mariner thirdbaseman Adrian Beltre would be a risky, yet potentially rewarding move that could be a difference maker in the central division.

Now I'll try to convince you. In 2004, Adrian Beltre had his career year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a contract year and the young slugger hit .334 with 48 homeruns and 121 RBIs finishing 2nd in the MVP race behind Barry Bonds. It was a classic example of a fluke season in a contract year and the Seattle Mariners fell victim. That offseason the Mariners signed Beltre to an awful, 5-year $64 million deal. Beltre has never matched his '04 numbers or even come close.

So you may be asking, why would the Twins want a player like this? Well, for starters Seattle would be willing to give Beltre for roughly 30 cents on the dollar. They want to unload him, get rid of his bad contract, and start over. Yes I admit, the reason this deal will never happen is because the Twins won't want to take the $6.5 million Beltre is owed for the rest of the season and the $13 million he is owed next year, but what if they took chance. What if, we trade our own bad thirdbasmen Mike Lamb and his 2-year $6.6 million deal and a AA prospect. I truly belive that's all it would take to pry Beltre away from the Mariners. The remaining year and a half on Lamb's contract off the books would cover what the Twins would owe Beltre for 2008, and then we'd be taking a chance on his $13 million in 2009. I think Seattle would be so willing to part with Beltre we could even get them to pay part of Beltre's contract.

Besides the money, do I want the Twins to pull the trigger on some big named player with one good season? Well, although his '04 number were a fluke/performance enhanced, Beltre has alwasy been a pretty solid player. This year his batting average is suffering at .225 but he does have 14 HRs, 30 RBIs, and 34 runs scored. His homerun total would be leading the Twins and his offensive production would greatly outweigh that of Mike Lamb or any other Twins thirdbaseman. Beltre also brings a Gold Glove which he won last year at 3B. Despite his poor batting average this year, Beltre is a lifetime .269 hitter who has hit .276, .268, and .255 over the past three seasons since joining the Seattle Mariners. Over those same three seasons Beltre hit 26 HRs with 99 RBIs in '07, 25 HRs with 89 RBIs in '06, and 19 HRs with 87 RBIs. Beltre's current homerun pace would actually eclipse his past numbers as he is on pace for 33 homeruns.

Certainly, Beltre isn't as big of a player as his contract is, but I see this acquistion as a high risk/very high reward situation. I know this is the last type of deal the Minnesota Twins make, but part of me seems like it makes sense. This trade doesn't fit into the Twins 2010 projected plans, but Beltre's contract would be off the books after the '09 season. Plus, it's not like Lamb was the long-term solution at 3B either. The Twins have no forseeable quick solution at 3B in the minor leagues and I think Beltre could fill a huge void this year at 3B and in the lineup. Also, as hard as it is to believe since Beltre has been in the majors since 1998, the man is only 29 years old. Next year, he'll be 30 years old and in his contract year. He'll certainly never get a deal again like he did from the Mariners, but he will be hungry and looking to prove himself... who knows what type of numbers he could put up for Minnesota after leaving a pitcher's park in Seattle to the hitter friendly Metrodome.

I'm pretty confident that this random thought of a deal that came to my head last night will never happen, or even cross GM Bill Smith's mind, but it certainly makes me wonder what if... don't you???

Monday, June 16, 2008

On the campaign trail

The Twins faltered in the finale in Milwaukee, but still were able to pick up a series win taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers. With the Colorado Rockies handing the White Sox two losses the Twins reduced their deficit to 4.5 games; however, the Twins are still two games under .500 and only one game ahead of the Indians and a game and a half ahead of the Detroit Tigers. After a day off today, the Twins head home to the dome for six game homestand that included three games against the Washington Nationals and three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. I'm excited for the Diamondbacks series, but lets hope the Twins can first sweep the Nationals starting tomorrow.

Speaking of Washington D.C. and politics, two Twins are making their case to start in the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium next month. As catcher Joe Mauer has seen his batting average rise, his All-Star votes also rise. Mauer now trails Boston catcher Jason Varitek by just 41,000 votes. Mauer clearly deserves the starting nod over the old Red Sox catcher, but it's always tough to pass the big media markets of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Justin Morneau also sits in second place for AL 1st baseman trailing another Sox member, Kevin Youkilis, by nearly 300,000 votes. Certainly a hefty amount of votes, but Morneau has enough time to make up this difference. The reason I dedicate today's post to this topic, well... the Twins are now offering a chance to win four lower club tickets and a ball autographed by both Mauer and Morneau if you cast your votes for the two Twin stars. If you have 10 minutes to waste, you're eligible to vote up to 25 times so let's get our stars in the starting lineup on July 15th.


Interesting thing to look for in the National/Twins series, the Young brothers - Dimitri and Delmon - take the field together for their first time in a regular season game.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finally a win... Liriano on the way?

The Twins grabbed a very badly needed win last night agains the Cleveland Indians. The offense came to life scoring six runs with a big five run third inning. Jason Kubel smashed his 8th homerun of the season and Justin Morneau had a solid game driving in three runs.

Nick Blackburn returned to form allowing just two runs over seven innings and striking out five. Blackburn struggled in his first start after being hit in the face off of the bat of Bobby Abreu in the Yankees series. All and all it was good win, the bullpen still looked exhausted and allowed three runs to make the game close in the 7th inning, but Joe Nathan came in and shut the door for his 17th save of the season.

Livan Hernandez takes the mound tonight and hopefully the Twins can win a series on the road in Cleveland.

In other Twins news...

Kelly Theiser of MLB.com reported that Francisco Liriano could soon be called up from AAA Rochester to join the big league club. Liriano allowed only one run over six innings striking out seven batters. The lefty has been regaining both his control and his confidence. In his past three starts, the former All-Star has gone 2-0 posting a 2.45 ERA.

Manager Ron Gardenhire stated that if Liriano returns it will certainly be in the rotation and not in the bullpend under any circumstance. The timing of Liriano's return could be nearly perfect. The rotation has been struggling a bit lately and if the Liriano of old returns and claims the role of staff ace it would be a huge addition for this team. Since the departure of Johan Santana the Twins have lacked that shut down starter to help stop losing streaks like the six-game streak the Twins just suffered.

Despite Thesier's report, I would forecast about two more weeks before Liriano's return. It would be great to see him by the end of the month, and if not I would certainly expect to see him after the All-Star break. Here's to hoping....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tribute to Ken Griffey Jr.

Just when I thought we'd escape Chicago with one win our bullpen imploded and we were left with an ugly 4-game sweep and a 6.5 game deficit in the AL Central. Enough Twins news for today... on to something more important.

Ask any boy (now man) between the age of roughly 19-26 who there favorite baseball player was growing up and you're very likely to receive the same answer: Ken Griffey Jr. I know Junior was certainly my boyhood hero. His status in my mind was so high that when my elementary teacher would ask me to write down my hero I felt guilty putting Junior when I knew I was supposed to put Albert Einstein, George Washington, or my dad.

Anyway, yesterday Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th homerun joining an elite club of five other members: Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Sammy Sosa. It's hard for me to not wonder what if and think that this 600th homer should really have been his 700th. And think that the despised Bonds' time as the Home Run King would be short lived with Griffey passing Barry in the next three years; however, Griffey's illustrious career was sidetracked by injuries and for us devoted fans we'll simply have to always wonder what if. But for now.... we must just enjoy Griffey's accomplishment.

For complete coverage on Griffey's 600th, check out MLB.com The Natural. Look at the photo archive from "The Mariner Years." For any more proof of Griffey literally being "The Natural" during the steroid era look no further than the picture of Griffey and Mark McGwire at the 1998 All Star Game.

I really enjoyed this article by ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, remembering the breathtaking Griffey.

Monday, June 9, 2008

One more...save our pride

So when I posted last night I completely forgot that the Twins and White Sox are playing one more game this afternoon as a makeup for the April 10th rainout at U.S. Cellular.

Glen Perkins will be starting for the Twins against Jon Danks of the Sox. As much as I want the Twins to simply get out of Chicago and move past this series, let's hope they can come out hard today and take one game back from the Sox and salvage their pride. First pitch in about 45 minutes...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ugly Weekend

Compared to most of the Twins' blogs out there on the web, I'd like to think I'm generaly one of the more positive Twins bloggers. However, I struggled to find anything good about the White Sox's swift three game sweep of the Twins over the weekend.

Last week I watched the Twins lose two out of three against Baltimore because of their inability to score runs despite solid pitching. This weekend it didn't matter who was pitching. Nick Blackburn fell Friday giving up seven runs, Livan Hernandez was the victim surrendering seven runs on Saturday, and Kevin Slowey was hit hard today giving up eight runs. The Twins offense managed to score only 10 runs in the series compared to the 33 from the White Sox.

After attending the two ugly losses to the Orioles last week at the dome I wondered why this club was just 1.5 games out of first place and had a legitimate chance at winning the division. Then I remembered how well the Twins had been playing against the AL Central (18-9 at the time). Enter in a three game sweep by the White Sox and you get a second place club that is not only 5.5 games back from the first place Sox, but also a club that falls below the .500 mark.

I'm certainly not throwing in the towel yet because I truly do believe this team can make the playoffs. After two full months it's clear the AL Central is not as deep as we thought it to be. The Tigers and Indians haven't shown any signs of turning things around; however the White Sox have been playing great baseball. The Twins must play .500 ball against non-division opponents and continue to play good baseball within the division (excluding this weekend).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Draft Thoughts

With the 14th pick in the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft, the Minnesota Twins select..... high school star Aaron Hicks from Long Beach, California. (Now wait four years until you ever hear his name again!)

Yes, it is hard to sometimes get excited for the MLB draft, it certainly doesn't carry the same magnitude or at least immediate impact as the NFL or NBA draft; however, the past two days are an important crapshot for stockpiling the Twins organization with some jokers that hope to turn into aces.

I personally am quite excited for Aaron Hicks. He's a five-tool player who the Twins have had on their radar for quite some time. A great athlete with tremendous potential, Hicks could someday be a star for the Twins in the outfield. Of course, you may say we don't need another outfielder right now. This is true, but Hicks is still raw and probably four years away from the big leagues and I agree with the Twins philosophy of simply drafting the biggest talent regardless of position. ESPN analyst and senior writer for Scouts Inc., Keith Law, had this to say of Hicks,

In terms of tools, Hicks is one of the top three or four players in the draft. He's first-rounder as an outfielder and a pitcher. He is relatively unpolished, so he should take a long time to get to the majors. He's gotten by a lot on strength and bat speed for now. The Twins will have to work with him on his hitting approach. He has a chance to be a switch-hitting Andrew McCutchen, one of the top prospects in the minors.

The Twins turned some heads with their second pick, Carlos Gutierrez, a right handed closer for the Univeristy of Miami Hurricanes. Gutierrez is the closer for the #1 college team in the country, but was on no one's radar as a first round pick. This is certainly a gamble for the Twins. Many scouts say Gutierrez has no other pitch under than his great fastball. He also missed the entire 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery. The reports certainly stack against the right hander, but the Twins have a history of drafting players ahead of their projected position and receiving high returns on their investment. Just look at last year's #1, Ben Revere. Law had this to say about the 27th pick,

Now this is the biggest surprise of the first round so far. Gutierrez is another college closer whose fastball tops out at 94 with sink. But he doesn't have a viable second pitch, not even a breaking ball. I don't think a team should take a player with only one pitch in the first round. But the Twins have always had success with power arms out of their bullpen.

With their third pick in the first round, techincally the supplemental round, the Twins went with another college pitcher, Shooter Hunt from Tulane University. The 6 foot 3, 200 pound righty has been lights out for Tulane this year holding batters to a .144 average against and striking out 12.2 batters per 9 innings. Hunt was ranked as the 11th best prospect overall by Baseball America and fourth best among pitchers. After taking a risk with Gutierrez, it seems Hunt could be a very solid pick who may be able to move quickly through the minor leagues. Plus, now we have a guy in the system named Shooter!

This concludes first round coverage. I'll have to do some more research into the later picks. The tricky part about this whole process is we may never hear from these guys ever again, but hopefully someday we'll be anxiously waiting as these three guys tear up the minor leagues. I think there is a bright future in store for Aaron Hicks if he continues to work hard and develop. Gutierrez and Hunt could add some depth and strength to the minor league system and may contribute to the big league club quicker than expected. Only time will tell....

Get to know Mr. Shooter Hunt up close and personal here:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I have internet!

Long story short, I have internet access, I'm moved into Minneapolis, and I'm ready to start blogging again!

In honor of this big day, I'm headed to the day game today against Baltimore. Scott Baker (2-0) returns from the DL to make his start against Baltimore's Garrett Olson (4-1).

The Twins remain just 1.5 games behing the AL Central leading White Sox. The Twins are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are really playing solid baseball. Each day it seems like a new hitter steps up and has a big day. The other night Delmon Young had 3 doubles and 3 RBIs and its been great to see Joe Mauer hit 2 homeruns this week including 1 last night that went with his 3RBIs. I know Mauer doesn't hit for power and I'm ok with that as long as he hits above .300 but it's still very nice to see a little pop from his bat. I'm still waiting for Delmon to hit his first homerun of the year. I certainly haven't been thrilled with Young's play not only at the plate, but even in the field. But I haven't given up on him yet and there is a lot of season left to play.

Let's hope the Twins can win the series this afternoon and finish this homestand above .500 at 4-3 before they hit the road for an 11- game roadtrip.


The 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft commences this afternoon. The Twins have three selections in the first round including the 14th, 27th, and 31st picks. The 27th and 31st picks are supplemental picks from the loss of Torii Hunter to free agency. Look for coverage of the new Twins tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Don't Stop Reading

Dear MVB readers,

I apologize for another delay, and this time a long delay. After graduation I have been going through the process of moving out of college and into my new place in Minneapolis. The move is pretty much over, but thanks to wonderful Comcast I haven't had internet for the past 8 days. Thus, the long awaited posts.

I sure hope you dedicated readers haven't given up on me. I promise the MVB blog to return shortly with internet being installed tomorrow. With living in Minneapolis I will be more in touch with the Twins as I already go to two of the Yankees games this weekend and will be catching at least one of the Baltimore games this week.

So please be patient with me and I promise a renewed blog. Go Twins!


the MVB