Category Archives: Twins v. Brewers

Explaining the Twins’ Fabricated Fiscal Cliff

I have been a Twins fan for 25+ years. The MLB network rebroadcast Game 7 of the 1991 World Series a few nights ago and, even writing about that game triggers memories of watching it on my parents living room floor. Seeing Dazzle Man Dan Gladden and his gorgeous mullet trot to home plate with the winning run. My face inches from the TV because I had to make sure I had heard Jack “Yeah, my son is not me” Buck correctly, the Twins had just won the World Series. Those were great times.

Despite its shortcomings, Twins fans had a lot of great memories in the Dome. A lot.

In spite of its shortcomings, Twins fans had a lot of great memories in the Dome. A lot.

As I have gotten older, I have watched my team change. The Dome got older and, what was once a novelty, became a punchline. Twins fans were told that, because of revenue restrictions relating to the Dome, the Twins’ only way to compete was to draft and develop in-house talent. Amazingly, we did.

From 2001 to 2006, the Twins were competitive for the division title each year, somehow managing to even win it a few times. Unfortunately, we never rekindled the ’87 or ’91 magic and got back to the World Series. However, those teams did accomplish one significant thing: they built Target Field.

The quality of the teams in the aughts finally helped get the legislature off its sizable rear and on board with a state-financed ballpark for the hometown nine. And what a ballpark it turned out to be. Target Field is one of the most enjoyable sports venues in the country. There are few, if any, that can equal its atmosphere.

Prior to the opening of that palace we call a ball field, Twins management assured the fans that the state’s commitment to the team, remember, we built the stadium, meant a more significant payroll and, hopefully, a more consistently competitive team. Aside from a magical (though abbreviated) playoff run in 2010, its inaugural season, Target Field has not hosted any playoff games. What is worse, the “financial commitment” that the Twins assured fans would come has been severely lacking.

Dollar dogs are great! See, I am fiscally responsible too!!

Dollar dogs are great! See, I am fiscally responsible too!!

Oh sure, they gave big money to hometown boy/team savior Joe Mauer. But if you do not think that contract will pay the Twins back ten fold during Joe’s lifetime, maybe you should just stop reading now. I am not sure I can get through to you. Heck, the Twins even threw $80 million at AL MVP Justin Morneau. I can almost hear the ghost of Carl Pohlad, “SEEEEEEEE…we are huge spenders…what are you trying to do? Get everyone all fired up for no reason? Here, have a dollar hot dog”

Rather than focus on those two reasonably large contracts, though they are the only two the Twins have signed in the last 10 years, let’s focus on overall revenues. This is the critical piece. If the Twins are balancing a financial mess each year, as we have been lead to believe, one would expect their operating margins to be razor thin.

From 2006 to 2011, the Twins operating income, the money that the Pohlad family deposits in the bank, was just a touch north of $140 million. $140 million. That does not feel razor thin. And it is not like that number is skewed by one or two massive years. In fact, Twins operating income has been like a metronome, knocking out right around $20 to $25 million a year for the last six years.

But what does that mean? After all, baseball is a big dollar business. Maybe $140 million is chump change. Right? I mean, maybe?

Well, for comparison’s sake, the Detroit Tigers (Twins’ division rival and comparably-sized metropolitan fan base), lost just south of $60 million during that same time period. But, you know what else they lost: two World Series.

Like the Twins, the Tigers realized a sizable bump in their operating income when they opened Comerica Park in 2000. They immediately returned that money into the team. Unlike the Scrooge McPohlads, who are unwilling to have a year where they bank less than $15 million, Tigers owner Michael Ilitch has followed through on his promises to use the revenues generated by the new stadium to build a championship contending team. He has made mega-deals with Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and countless others.

Hang on though, in full fairness and disclosure, that is only half the story. We should also take a peek at the net worth of each owner to make sure that Michael Ilitch is not some uber-wealthy (by owner standards), championship-crazed nut who can afford to stop at nothing to win. Our friends at Forbes put Michael’s net worth at around $1.7 billion. A lot of cash to be sure. However, the Scrooge McPohlad family’s net worth is approximately $3.6 billion. Gee, only $2 billion more.

That is right! THE Kevin Correia. And for ONLY $5 million a season.

That is right! THE Kevin Correia. And for ONLY $5 million a season.

Despite that almost incomprehensible difference, two billion dollars is a TON  of money (actually it is two tons if we are talking c-notes), the news broke today that the Tigers re-signed Annibal Sanchez to a 5 year, $80 million deal. This on the heels of the Twins recent mega-deal, the signing of the domitable Kevin Correia to a 2 year, $10 million deal. So, the ownership group, the McPohlads, that could have signed 12,449 Annibal Sanchez contracts, or 6,801 Zach Grienke contracts, and still have more money than his division rival.  Instead, that owner signed super-5th starter, Kevin Correia. Just. Brutal.

What is brilliant about the whole situation? There is no outrage. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. For some reason, the good people of Minnesota have embraced the “little engine that could” mentality. Twins fans wear their “small market” badge with pride! It is a marketing coup on the same scale as the pet rock and the Honey Boo Bot. Not only are people are paying money for this, but there is demand for everything Twins.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a huge fan of frugality. I grew up that way. And I get it, we pinch our pennies here in the Midwest. We are sensible people. But that is the crazy thing, there is no reason for it. Not only have the Twins not been in financial straits the last 6 years, they have actually been generating a substantial profit!! Like, swan-dive-in-the-bank-with-the-dollar-sign-on-the-outside profit.We should not be frugal for the sake of being frugal. Not when the goal is to win.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist.

In the classic Brian Singer flick “Usual Suspects,” Kevin Spacey’s character, borrowing a line from Charles Baudelaire, a 19th century French poet and philosopher, informs the cop interviewing him that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.

I am no 19th century French poet, but the greatest trick the McPohlad family ever pulled was convincing Minnesota that our club’s stinginess is reactionary and not a choice. I have $140 million reasons why nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, there is no fiscal cliff for the Minnesota Twins. Only a gold-lined road from Target Field to the McPohlads’ bank. If this happened in Philly, where the fans are more…aggressive…for lack of a better word, Target Field would nothing but a pile of rubble. But not here in flyover country. While we are busy pinching pennies for the McPohlads, they are pinching us for millions.

Winnersville, USA — Well That Did Not Last Long

All of the major Minnesota sports teams (Vikings [only just], Twins [Morneau showing his MVP form], Lynx [Minny's best squad] were victorious this past weekend. The border rival Packers got dominated at home by Alex Smith. No seriously, that Alex Smith. Heck, even the not so major squads managed a victory — yeah, I am looking at you Gophers football. Even though you did not lose to Oregon State (another shout out to Sconnie sports), you have to beat a real college squad for me to get too excited.

Augustus and the Lynx saw their winning streak snapped, but they are still the most dominant squad in town in their respective league.

The weekend’s success continued into Monday night as the Twins pounded their neighbors in the cellar, Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians. Unfortunately, the run of Ws could not continue. The Twinks were embarrassed last night — promising rookie Scott Diamond was lit up like promising rookies sometimes are. And, the WNBA powerhouse Lynx took a night and did their best 2010 Timberwolves impression, solid offense, but no defense, in a loss to Chicago.

But, a 9 to 1 drubbing and the end of a winning streak might just be the dose of reality Minnesota fans needed.

Sure, the Vikes won a thriller on Sunday. They are the new darlings around town. Apologies to Messers Parise and Suter, you have to be playing for us to count you. But it took a seriously miraculous series at the end of game — Ponder moving the offense down the field quickly for a game tying 55 yard FG by Blair “Thunder Leg” Walsh — to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Fresh off  a win like that, the fan in me wants to guzzle the Ponder Kool-Aid….okay….that did not come out right….never mind….let’s move on….anyway, I want to believe we are witnessing his “jump” to the next level. This is the heady, stud QB we heard all about. He finally has the weapons he never had at FSU. And, he has a sturdy enough line that he is not being pressured like a Harvard hoopster in a government class. Unfortunately, the cynic in me, the one that has been Brett Favre’d, Gary Anderson’d, Morriss’d, and Denny Green’d, is yelling not to get my hopes.

A buddy of mine put it perfectly, when talking about the Vikes’ win, he said that after the DIII legend embarrassed Chris Cook for what looked like the game winning TD, he was in disbelief. Not surprise,  just disbelief. That is a perfect assessment of where we are at as fans. Vikings fans have been conditioned to expect the let-down, so when it happens, it is not a shock. It is a coping mechanism. Psychology 101. So instead of surprise, there is only the disbelief at how the squad managed to give away the game.

Maybe this year’s team is going to be different. The fan in me wants to believe it is.

Tweets From The Cutting Room Floor

With the Twins’ 2012 season essentially in the books before Labor Day, fans have found creative ways to channel their frustrations with management. Some rail away in the online comments section of the local bird cage liners. Others make their voice heard on fifty and one hundred thousand watt radio.

The volume of Twins fans’ displeasure has increased these past few weeks.

But, there is another, little known venue where fans are commenting on the state of the team. Though, unless you are a top-secret management insider, those comments go unheard. The silenced source of fan angst that I am referring to is the Twins Twitter feed at Target Field.

If you have been to a game in the last couple of years, you may have noticed the “live” Twitter feed that the team displays on the right center field scoreboard. In order for your tweet to have a shot at appearing on the board, you need to include #MNTwins in your tweet.

As you may have guessed, critical tweets do not appear in the feed. It is only the true believers or 14 year old girls commenting on Joe Mauer’s “cuteness” who ever crack the feed and are able to revel in five seconds of social media glory. Presumably, it is some lowly intern’s job to edit out the negative tweets. Though, considering the Twins notoriously stingy payroll, it would not surprise me if this was part of Bill Smith’s new gig.  From signing boat anchor contracts to censoring the Twins Twitter feed. It almost sounds like a promotion when you put it like that.

Bill Smith’s potential new gig aside, the following are what we think the tweets that do not make the feed might look like:

“Just saw @Yoshi “Buckner” another ground ball. Are we past labeling him a homeless man’s version of Kaz Matsui? #MNTwins #MissingPunto “

@JasonMarquis has pitched incredibly well…for the Friars this year. The exact kind of veteran leadership the Twins were hoping for when they signed him.

“@JasonMarquis with another quality start!! Though, can someone explain why his jersey says Padres on it?? #MNTwins #SPsGalore”

“”Average attendance 35,000 a game?!?! P.T. Barnum wasn’t kidding. In fact, at 35K, the MN birth rate must be higher than one a day. #MNTwins “

“@Liam Hendricks leads the British Open after two rounds. Wait, Liam pitches in the MLB? Not really though? Really?!? #MNTwins #StillSPsGalore”

“@LewFord back in the show? @TerryRyan step away from that phone. We are not trading for him. Even if the O’s throw in 2 boxes of popcorn. #MNTwins”

“@DLViceChairCarlPavano has nearly 3 times as many career starts as all the current Twins SPs. #MNTwins #StillSPsGalore??? “

“@ZachGrienke is getting ready to make his Twins debut…riiiiiight…so about that. #MNTwins #AnotherBlockbusterTradeDeadlineDeal”

“Well, it might be 8-0 Tigers in the sixth, but, Target Field’s Helmet Nachos are going to get me through tonight’s game” #MNTwins #NoJokeHelmetNachos”

Okay, so even if  the above tweets are not entirely legit, except for that last one, you get the drift. My guess is that lowly intern (or Bill Smith) is going to be awful busy these last six weeks.

Helmet nachos aside, if you are interested in heading to a game to try and crack the Twitter feed wall of censorship, skip on over to Ticket King or solid deals on Twins tickets. Plus, if you are in the sweet seats, it is less likely that you get plunked with another home run ball surrendered by a Twins pitcher.

Changing The Paradigm

This year has brought another frustrating season for Twins fans. Now, I know what you are thinking, thank you Captain Obvious, if I wanted to get commentary from John Madden, I would have spent my afternoon on YouTube!! Hear me out.

The Common Man has been one of the few advocating that the Twins stay the course and resign Frankie K.

The interesting thing about the frustration that most Twins fans have expressed this season is that it has helped illustrate a potential larger flaw in Twins territory.

If you listen to the local microphone jockeys or read the birdcage liners, the chorus of what the Twins organization should do is pretty consistent. Give up this season and build for the future by trading their semi-valuable pieces (i.e. Frankie K or Span) in the hopes that the prospects they get in return will contribute to the team’s success down the road. There is problem with this line of thinking. It is a small market team’s philosophy. We need to change the paradigm in Twins territory.

As anyone who took a high school civics class might recall (my class was early so I had to look this up), a paradigm (pronounced PARA-DIGGUM – for kicks) is essentially an observable pattern. In social sciences, it is often described as a pattern of behavior.

As much as Twins fans irrationally hate him, advocates of moving pieces point at this trade as the reason why the Twins should be sellers. Unfortunately, the results from this trade have been the exception, not the rule.

For years, following the success of the 87′ and 91′ squads, Twins fans became accustomed to the small market paradigm for running a team. Low payroll, draft smart (usually below slot), and make savvy moves at the trade deadline (i.e., A.J., Shannon Stewart, etc.). And, because the address was 900 S. 5th St (aka the Homerdome), this made sense. In fact, considering our Midwestern sensibilities, this approach seemed to fit.

Well, no more. When the people of Minnesota ponied up the cash for Target Field, that mindset should have changed. Unfortunately, we are still stuck in our small market way of thinking and behaving. You see, one of the key differences between small market and big market clubs is that, at the trade deadline, big market clubs are always looking to add. Have you ever flipped on the four letter network and heard a story about the Red Sox or Yankees selling at the trade deadline? Of course not. They are always buyers.

Now, I get it, the Twins will never be the Yankees or Red Sox. Fair enough. Even I am not crazy enough to suggest that they should be. However (raise your hand if knew that was coming — well done), there is a more apt comparable of what they should strive to be in our own division.

In 2009, the Chicago White Sox were in 3rd place in the AL Central. Even though they were sort of in the race, most baseball people felt like they did not have the pieces to contend with the Tigers and Twins. That did not stop GM Kenny Williams from going out and getting ace pitcher Jake Peavy from the Padres. Yes, he gave up a decent prospects, in particular Clayton Richard, but, Peavy has pitched, and pitched well, for the White Sox for the past three years. This year he has been the anchor for the Sox and has helped keep them atop of the division. Richard has only just now started to show flashes of being a legitimate big leaguer. As a bigger market club, you have to be willing to pay the premium for that bona fide ace. The Padres asked for Richard. Williams paid it.

Greinke’s return to the AL Central is exactly the kind of big market move the Twins should make. With a new deal negotiated as part of the trade, he would be the anchor of the starting staff for years.

Right now, there are two big pitching names on the market: Zach Greinke and Cliff Lee. Either one would look fantastic in a Twins uniform. Both would require GM Terry Ryan to deplete the prospect bin (think some combination of Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, or maybe even recent indie film star Miguel Sano). That said, with Greinke (provided he would resign) or Lee, a resigned Frankie K, and a healthy Scott Baker, the Twins would have the beginning of a fairly decent starting staff. Combine that with a decent offense and promising young bullpen, a trade to get Greinke or Lee is the prudent move for an up and coming big market team. In the race or not, it makes the Twins better now and in the immediate future.

The question is, will we as fans put enough pressure on the organization to change our current paradigm and force Ryan to make the bold move? I for one, sure hope that we do.

New Faces, Same Old Rivalry

Both teams involved in the I94 rivalry come into this weekend’s series with losing, though, semi-competitive records in their respective divisions. Let’s hear one for our sponsor this weekend…parity!!!

The Crew are the more respectable of the two, checking in at 16-22, good for 4th in the NL Central, and only 6 games back. The Twinks are a ghastly 12-26, good for the worst record in baseball, and yet, are still only 10 games back in the AL Central. Only might seem a bit “glass half full,” but, consider that they would be 13 games back in the AL East or NL West.

The Twins come into this weekend’s series hot, fresh off their first sweep of the season. Will they get to use their brooms again this weekend?

In terms of momentum, amazingly, the Twins have that market cornered right now, winning their last two games. Sweeping the division rival Tigers in Detroit. The Crew have lost two in a row and four of their last five. However, that is nothing that a little home cooking with an ancient rival won’t fix.

The Crew are 4-2 against the Twinks the last two years and have been particularly dominant in Milwaukee. The pitching sets up nicely for the Brewers who will run Estrada, Yo, and Greinke to the hill in this weekend’s tilt. The Twins are countering with Scott Diamond (more on  him later) Carl Pavano, and Jason Marquis.

Needless to say, particularly with Pavano and Marquis, the Miller Park scoreboard operator should consider asking for a bonus this weekend, he is likely going to be working overtime. In fact, does the scoreboard at Miller Park have an infinity symbol? Marquis has been pitching lately like a guy challenging that frontier. To call his recent outings glorified batting practice is an insult to batting practice pitchers everywhere.

That lack of quality starts, in large part, has driven the Twins into a youth movement. Hence, Scott Diamond. Diamond is a 6’3″ lefty who has dominated in his first two starts since his call-up on May 8th. Diamond joined fellow youngster, P.J. Walters in the rotation as the Twins, who are using the spaghetti method of building a line-up, want to see what they have in these young arms.

The youth movement has been even more prevalent on the offensive side of the ball. Of the Twins 12 position players who see the most innings, 8 of them are not yet 30 years old and 5 of them are not even halfway through their roaring 20s.

The brightest star of these diaper dandies has been SS Brian Dozier. Dozier is hitting almost .300 with 5 extra base hits while playing stellar defense. He really has been a sorely needed spark and, should there be any kind of turn around, he will definitely be considered the guy who help initiate it.

FedEx snafu aside, at least the Crew’s nine figure guy Braun is delivering. Not sure Twins fans are as happy with their guy Mauer at the moment.

The Crew have yet to stoop to the Twins level of desperation, refraining from calling up all their young prospects. Instead, sticking with the “veterans” (Braun, T-Plush, Weeks, and Hart). Although, even those veterans are still relatively young. Brewers fans should be happy about the core of young players that the organization has to build around. And, on top of that, the Crew do have some guys in the minors who look like they could be contributing soon.

Pitcher Tyler Thornburg is dominating at Double A. His 1.91 ERA and 9.8 SO/9 are downright filthy. If the back end of the rotation continues to struggle, he might just force the Crew’s hand. His teammate, Khris Davis, is also raking at Double A. Stuffing the stat sheet in all the counting categories while roaming the OF at Huntsville. Though, unless the Brewers decide to trade Plush or Hart, Davis probably will not get the ABs he needs to justify a pre-September call up.

As of right now, only the Twins have fully embraced the youth movement. It would not shock me to learn that their is some sort of underground expressway from Target Field to Rochester. Barring a turn around, hopefully the Twins see enough out of their young guns that they can be player at the trade deadline in terms of moving talent (Span, Burton, etc.) for additional prospects. The Brewers have the prospects knocking on the door to follow suit and embrace their own youth movement. Though, the memory of last year’s run to the NLCS may cause them to hang on to hopes of another playoff run a bit longer than is appropriate.

The nice thing is, regardless of the new faces, the rivalry goes on. It is still Twins v. Brewers. And that always makes for a good time.

The Maturation Of The Ax Man

The list of successful Canadian baseball players is not a long one. Joey Votto and Justin Morneau are probably the most well-known contemporaries. Larry Walker and Fergie Jenkins are the more recognizable names from days gone by. Overall, Canada is definitely more known for producing talent that can perform on the ice, rather than the baseball diamond.

Tastes in foreign entertainment aside, Ax Man has been as consistent and reliable as the Secret Service. This was a guy who did not miss.

That being said, for the last three years, Crew supporters have had the privilege of watching a relatively unknown Canuck, John Berton Axford, lock down the ninth inning like the Secret Servi…well…you get the idea. Axford has basically dominated since arriving on the scene. He earned his first save in 2009. He notched 24 of them in 2010, grabbing the Brewer’s closer role, and never looking back. The Ax Man was officially born.

In 2011, the Ax Man took his act to a whole other level. He has always had the Rollie Fingers wanna-be moustache.  But, unlike other imposters, he actually has shown the skills to match it. And, as his hair grew, it almost seemed like he was the modern day Sampson, shrinking his ERA and converting save after save. Ax Man started a streak that would run to 49, only falling last week in a wacky game against those lovable losers, the Cubs.  During that streak, the Crew was spoiled by Ax Man’s consistency. When you have a good closer, it is easy to forget how nerve-racking the 9th inning can be (just ask a Twins fan how it is working out since Joe Nathan departed and Fat…I mean….Matt Capps took over).

Though, what might truly be the best thing about Ax Man is the understated way in which he has gone about dominating the National League. I mean, even this guy’s intro music, “New Noise” is from underground punk rocker, Refused. Nothing about this guy is flashy. But, his numbers scream dominance and, a less grounded individual (thank you for those Canadian sensibilities) would let it go to his head.

And, even though the compensation for most MLB closers is significantly inflated. Having a reliable and steady presence to handle 9th inning duties is a luxury to be enjoyed. Just ask the Yankees. When the great Mariano Rivera went down a couple weeks ago shagging fly balls, he was replaced by the talented, though unproven, David Robertson. In Robertson’s second save opportunity, he promptly gave up 4 runs and blew a game against divisional rival Tampa Bay.

Not sure if it is the hair, the moustache, or just his overall swagger, but, the Ax Man definitely has IT.

The Crew are fortunate not to have to worry about that. They have a guy who has IT. IT. Talked about often. Rarely properly defined. IT is that intangible that only a select few relievers have to draw upon when their back is up against the wall. Call it swagger, call it irrational confidence, Crew fans call it Ax Man. The good ones, the ones you know who have IT, usually have a snarl on their face when they take the mound. Almost a, “wait, you think you can hit me??” attitude. Ax Man has been snarling at hitters for two plus years and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Now, does that mean Ax Man is never going to blow another game? Absolutely not. In fact, Ax admitted as much, quite hilariously I might add, in a self-deprecating letter to the media announcing his wife’s delivery of their second child (turned out to be false alarm). However, amateur comedy and psychoanalytical skills aside, Ax is a luxury that Crew supporters should enjoy. There are only a select few teams that have 9th inning guys as reliable as the Ax Man. It is easy to take that kind of consistency for granted. Personally, I am going to try to sit back and enjoy the ride.

#KeepTheFaith

Going into yesterday’s series with the Seattle Mariners, your Minnesota Twins were 6 – 18. Not only are they sporting the worst record in baseball, but they are also fresh off an absolute drubbing at the hands of the ABC Angels of California (and maybe Nevada if the money was right), capped off by Jared Weaver’s masterpiece no-hitter.

On Thursday, Twins President Dave St. Peter tweeted that Twins fans should just #KeepTheFaith. Keep the faith. Oh David. Dictionary.com’s primary definition of faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing. Let’s break that down.

Perhaps David should lay off the email machine for a while. Or, maybe get a twittering lesson from his 13 year old.

If Mr. St. Peter is suggesting that we are supposed to have confidence in or trust in Twins management, then I would politely ask him to provide even a morsel of evidence supporting the fact that greener pastures are .on the way. He might be looking for awhile. The Twins starting pitching staff currently boasts an ERA just north of 7.00. Its offense, on the other hand, is scoring only a tick or two higher than 3.5 runs a game. And, unlike last year’s squad, which was decimated by injuries, this year’s team has been relatively healthy (minus Morneau’s recent wrist scare). There is no evidence to suggest that this particular squad is going to bounce back or return to respectability. The “Hunt for 100″ (losses) seems like a very attainable goal at this point.

Now, some big league ball clubs have uber-prospects in their minor league system that can ride to a club’s rescue – think – Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, etc. Unfortunately, the closest thing the Twins have to an uber-prospect is on a strict regiment of rubber ball squeezing in his attempt to return from Tommy John surgery. Kyle, we do wish you the best. Your return cannot come fast enough.

Apologies to Joe Benson’s family, but, I am not sure he is equipped to handle the role of savior. The mop does not inspire confidence.

So, with Joe “Dirt” Benson being the best the Twinks have to offer (see a description here), pardon us for being skeptical about our prospects for this year. We have no proof to believe otherwise.

But hang on, the secondary definition of faith is belief that is not based on proof. Well, perhaps David was on to something. At 6 – 18 and with a starting staff that might have a hard time challenging the current Gophers line-up, faith might be exactly what we need to have. But, with no uber-prospects less than three years away (sorry Miguel, you seem great, but you are still only 18), it is hard to believe a turnaround is on the way. So, keep the faith? I for one, am passing on that Kool-Aid. I am going to keep my fan card and weather the storm with the rest of Twins country. But, I am not happy about it. #TrustButVerify #DoubtIsFaith’sWiserOlderBrother.

The Demise Of Frankie K

In May of 2006, the Minnesota Twins decided to bring young phenom, Francisco Liriano, out of the bullpen to relieve the struggling Carlos Silva on a permanent basis. For those reminiscing of the days when the Twins actually made trades, Liriano was a part of the impressive bounty that the Twins received in the trade of A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants. Quick aside, it makes no sense that Twins fans boo Pierzynski when he comes to town. Prickly personality aside, him being traded landed the Twins Joe Nathan, Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Considering Pierzynski was little more than a rental for the Giants, that is an incredible haul. Alright, back to the phenom.

Liriano burst onto the scene just Nuke, repping a left arm that had been touched by the Gods.

Liriano did not just “enter the starting rotation,” he kicked the door down and, to borrow a phrase from Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, “announced his presence with authority.” Liriano absolutely dominated his way through the 2006 season to the tune of a 12 -3 mark that included multiple rookie of the month awards and a microscopic 2.19 ERA. During this period of dominance, it was not uncommon for him to out-duel his fellow pitching savant, Johan Santana. He even earned himself a nickname, Frankie K. He did not just strike people out, he made people look foolish. All Star caliber players would walk away shaking their head after chasing Frankie’s slider, a pitch that, not only broke late, but literally snapped off like it had fallen off a cliff.

By the All-Star break, Frankie had officially arrived. And, even though Santana’s future with the team was uncertain, Twins fans talked themselves into believing that there was a chance that they could lock down two of the best young arms in the league. There was no ceiling to how strong their staff could be with Johan and Liriano leading the way.

Then in the fall of 2006 Liriano experienced stiffness in his throwing elbow. After a stint on the DL and multiple failed attempts to rehab the elbow, Liriano decided he needed to undergo the infamous Tommy John surgery to repair the tendons in his elbow.

The phenom missed all of the 2007 MLB season.

Frankie's slider made certifiable All-Stars look like junior varsity hacks.

When Frankie K returned in April of 2008, he did not look the same. His slider did not have that same sharpness it had before. Instead of swinging over the top, players could foul off the slider and sit on a fastball. Frankie started the season 0-3 with an ERA over 11.00 and he was promptly sent to the minors. We did not know it then, but, this may have been the beginning of the end for Frankie K.

In fact, Liriano’s situation might best compared to that climatic, emergency room scene that appears at least once a week in every medical drama on TV, think House or ER. You know the scene, Dreamboat Dr. Y valiantly attempts to save Patient X. Maybe the Patient flatlines once or twice, has to be resuscitated using compressions or a defibrillator, but, Dreamboat brings the patient back from the brink. The outlook appears good and then, without notice, tragedy befalls Patient X again. And round and round it goes, until, ultimately, Patient X finds love and is cured or tragically passes in the arms of their significant other.

If the beginning of 2008 was our first sign of trouble, Liriano got compressions when he went to the minors. He went 10-0 with a 2.67 ERA. The outlook appeared good. He received an August call-up and promptly went 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA. His pitches still did not appear to have their pre-Tommy John sharpness, but, the results were there.

Not even Rick Anderson and his glorious soup strainer could bring Frankie's back from the brink.

Then, 2009 happened. An entire season spent on the brink. 5-13 with an ERA of nearly 6.00. This crash appeared to be it. Liriano was done. Not even Dr. Dreamboat (Pitching Coach Rick Anderson) and his bag of tricks could save Frankie K. But, like any good medical drama, it was not over just yet.

2010 was a bit of a renaissance year for Frankie K. He did not return to his 2006 form, but, he looked stronger. His pitches, while not quite as nasty, were still very effective. In our medical drama analogy, Frankie K had beaten the flatline yet again. It took a defibrillator (think all of 2009), but, he made it. Twins fans started thinking, like any person rooting for the protagonist, this just might actually work out.

Alas, 2011 was a return to the 2009  form. That blasted flatline. Frankie “Not So Much” K gave up 24 runs in his first 23 innings. Even in his best single game performance, a no-hitter in May, Frankie gave up 6 walks. He would finish the year with a 9-10 record and ERA just north of 5.00.

2012 was going to be Frankie’s last chance. Either he would bounce back with a vengeance, returning to his 2010 form, and become the effective pitcher everyone knows he can be, or, he would continue his fall, leaving only a shadow his former self. Through 3 games, Frankie is 0-2 and has an ERA that is just south of infinity. In his most recent tilt with the New York Yankees, you could tell many of the Yankee hitters were having a hard time distinguishing whether or not the game had started or if they were just taking extended BP. While the time of death has not yet been declared, the plot seems to be trending towards this being an unhappy ending. Here’s hoping Frankie beats the odds, finds true love, and wins the Cy.

Hope For Sale, Get Your Hope!!

If you missed Part 1 of BR’s reaction to the first weekend of the 2012 MLB season, you can find it here. Part 2 covers the western half of the BR rivalry. That is right, ladies and gentlemen, the Twin Cities finest purveyors of hope, your 2012 Minnesota Twins.

Even though the Twins’ record is markedly improved from when Part 1 was written, all is not well in house that Mauer built.

Not even the power (see $$$$) of the Mouse himself was enough to pen a happy ending for the Alberts' road trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Twins are currently 2-4, fresh off two semi-dramatic wins at home over the Anaheim Alberts of Los Angeles, brought to you by Disney. No doubt, the recent wins were exciting. In fact, aside from the recent addition of excellent, local micro-brews like Fulton to Target Field taps, these wins were the most excitement this field has seen since Big Jim Thome stroked his 598th HR last August. But hey, don’t worry, we only have 320 months worth of payments left on that tab!!

In spite of those recent wins, this year’s team is ripe for savagery. It is almost too easy to point out that a team that was one of the worst, from a pitching perspective, did literally nothing to add to the strength of either the rotation or the bullpen. In fact, with the loss of former horse Joe Nathan, it is more reasonable to say that the Twins let one of the worst staffs in the league get worse. Add to that the recent news that staff “ace” (read into those quotes however you want to), Scott Baker, is going to have to undergo season ending elbow surgery and 2012 Twins pitching staff offers little in the way of inspiration.

In fact, to call the Twins’ staff a collection of 3s and 4s might be generous. The current stable of starters is: The Moustache, The Artist Formerly Known As The Franchise, Nick Blackburn, Someone Called Liam Hendricks, and Jason “That Is Right, I Am Your Marquis Free Agent Signing” Marquis. A generous projection would be an average ERA around 4.25 with 150+ innings from four out of the five. IF, and that is a Hrbowski sized if, the Twins can get those numbers from their starters, the offense might be able to keep them in some games.

Though, to call the 2012 Twins offense consistent or reliable would be a bold-faced lie. There is promise there, but that is about it. There are still more questions than a Tim Tebow new conference.

Twins fans are hoping the Baby Jesus embraces his role as Messiah and starts spraying balls into Target Field's cavernous gaps.

Messers Mauer and Morneau started the season off relatively well. Both have driven the ball and have had decent ABs during the first two series. But, neither one of them has ever had an issue producing when they are healthy. Their health is the key. Morneau (an admitted man-crush of this author), almost gives off a vibe of fragility when he digs in. Every AB is like playing hot potato with a pin-less grenade. He will rip a ball to the outfield and as he digs around first, you find yourself thinking things like, “Stay put!!”……”This is no time to be a hero!!”……”It is a marathon not a sprint” Then, as he is retreating to first, your competitive side pipes up, “Wait a minute, be man, stretch that thing out”…….”At least force a throw?!?” If this is what is going through the minds of most fans, it has to be 10X more difficult to reconcile that battle as a player. For years, you played the game one way, now, both Mauer and Morneau are having to learn how to manage those natural instincts.

Even though there is a serious concern as to whether the M&M boys really will melt under the lens of Minnesota fandom, other pieces in the line-up are looking promising. Free agent signee Josh Willingham is making Michael Cuddyer look like the poor man’s Josh Willingham, cranking 4 HRs to start the season and assuming the mantle of role model for young players. And, super rookie, Chris Parmelee has kept his hot streak from spring training alive.

All is not lost (yet) in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Even though things are likely going to have to go oh-so-right this year as often as they went oh-so-wrong last year for this squad to make any noise, spring has a funny way of giving fans amnesia. Hope is an easy beverage to consume on a beautiful, Minnesota spring day. Taking that into account, most of us do not need anything crazy like a deep playoff run, but, instead, we would be happy with a return to relevancy. As financiers of this fancy new park, at this point, it seems like little to ask for. Aww hell…..screw it……pass the hope.

We Have To Play 159 More Of These…

Well, both the squads in the Border Rivals rivalry got off to a GLORIOUS (think Frank The Tank in Old School) start to the 2012 MLB season. Due to the fact that they have a number higher than 0 in the left hand column in the standings, we will recap all the Brewers’ action first.

Someone should have told Yo that spring training was over and that this one counted. Definitely not a performance to remember.

The Crew took on the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. With Yo taking the mound in Friday’s tilt, the Crew had to like their chances. Unfortunately, Yo decided to get one of his semi-seasonal  “blow up” games out of the way early this year. Classic Yo. If he could just limit these games to one or two a year, his ERA would likely compete with the best in the league. Or, if he could learn to keep a 3 or 4 run outburst from turning into 6 or 7, like the really good ones do on their off days, he would finally realize the immense talent that he possesses.

Saturday’s matinee saw Zach Grienke squaring off with former Cardinals ace, Adam Wainwright. The Brewers made Wainwright look like the guy coming off Tommy John surgery that he is. They really made him work for every out he got and took him to the wood shed a bit for 3 ER in only 5.2 innings. Corey Hart got things started with a mammoth HR in the 2nd inning and the Crew never looked back. Rickie Weeks continued his hot start, smashing a HR in the 8th off of Ranger-killer Fernando Salas.

So, this is what popped up when we Wiki'd Lance Lynn. All seriousness aside, apologies to his mom and sister, he does have a page. He just has a round face.

Unfortunately, Sunday saw a repeat of Friday’s result.  The Crew made spot starter and Cardinals long reliever Lance Lynn look like the second coming of Dizzy Dean (Googlebox him on the interweb — that one was from the way-back machine). Lynn scattered 2 hits and struck out 8 Brewers. He mixed up his pitches and flummoxed the Crew’s line-up. On top of that, Randy Wolf decided to throw the Cardinals’ hitters a little extra batting practice. He “scattered” 9 Hs in 5 innings and, an already heavily used Brewers pen got another chance to pitch some extra innings. This includes a less than wonderful performance by the Ax-Man, who gave up a 3 run HR to someone called Suger Shane Robinson. Not a great start to the season.

Despite the less than sterling start to the season, there were some positives to the homestand. Weeks and Hart have started the season strong, Braun jacked his first bomb of the year, and Zach Greinke looked like a potential Cy Young candidate. PLUS, the Brewers travel to Chicago to take on the Cubs for a 4 game set. Definitely an opportunity to get some momentum going in this very young season. Like “they” say, you cannot win your division in April, but, you can lose it. Just ask a Twins fan.

Look for that recap tomorrow…