Tuesday, April 1, 2008
1 Down, 161 To Go
NOTE – I tried to update this last night, but something is wrong with a server somewhere. If you are able to read this this morning, it means that it is OK somewhere. Hopefully whatever this issue is, is corrected quickly!
I was pretty excited about last night’s Twins opener. I couldn’t wait to find out the lineup. I couldn’t wait to just watch a real game. I did, however, have two meetings in the afternoon, so I wasn’t able to react to the starting lineup as posted by Joe Christensen in the early afternoon. As you can imagine, I have one comment on the starting lineup, but mainly I will try to stick to my notes on the game itself. The Twins and Angels played a very good game with the Twins holding on to a 3-2 win. Here are my thoughts:
· Well, you have to know what my thought is on the lineup. I almost have to think that I could run for the president of the Free Kubel campaign. Gardy’s recent unwillingness to name a regular DH should have been the warning sign. Again, please don’t take this as an anti-Craig Monroe bullet point. I like Monroe and have no problem with him being a part of the Twins roster. However, Jason Kubel has some impressive pop in his bat. He knows how to work a pitcher, and as you all know, he was the Twins best hitter throughout the 2nd half of the 2007 season. There is no denying any of that. And yet, on Opening Night 2008, against a right hander with a cutter and a slider and a curveball, it was the right-handed Craig Monroe starting at DH instead of the left-handed hitting Jason Kubel. Gardy can call it a ‘gut feel.’ He can claimed to have looked at some numbers. He can say whatever he wants. Not playing Jason Kubel in that game is inexcusable. If I thought it was a one game, fluke kind of thing, it wouldn’t bother me. But Gardy’s history is certainly not to favor Kubel. So, I expect much more of the same throughout the year, and that is truly unfortunate.
· And, I want a separate bullet point to point out that it has nothing to do with the fact that Monroe went 0-3 while Jason Kubel later came in as a pinch hitter and recorded a (bloop) double. Monroe could have gone 4-4 with a double, triple, two homers and eight RBI and it doesn’t mean that the decision was right.
· The rest of the news of opening night was positive… starting with the crowd. As you would expect on Opening Night, it was a packed crowd despite the snow storm outside. And when Torii Hunter was announced, they did cheer. And I really don’t have a problem with that. If you look back at the entirety of his career in Minnesota, you will find that he really did a lot. First and foremost was the defense and the Gold Gloves. No, he hasn’t been the great defender the last two or three years that he was earlier in this decade, but he did a great job. Offensively, he was anything but consistent, but add up his numbers and you will find that he is in the Top 5-10 in Twins history in a lot of categories.
· It was a bit annoying to hear Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven talk almost angrily about the few fans that did boo Hunter. As much as Hunter did for the Twins and in the community and for newspaper writers looking for quotes, there were plenty of reasons that booing was not completely uncalled for. From the punch that was meant for Morneau but hit Punto, to leaving the team because he was hurt, to questioning younger players, to bashing the organization from Tom Kelly to the front office, from bashing the Twins for not negotiating with them but when they did make him an offer he didn’t even consider it, to spending the 2007 season telling fans and media from every city that he would love to play for their team. Believe me, there were plenty of reasons to boo Torii too. The argument that he ‘laid it all on the line’ and ‘played hard all the time’ just doesn’t fly. They all do that. They all work hard and try there best. Notice that no one has ever questioned Nick Punto’s heart or desire either.
· Thankfully, newly crowned CF Carlos Gomez stole the show from Torii. He definitely had a great game. First at bat, he doubled right down the 3B line. Second at bat, he laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line for a single. He then stole second. Then he took a walk and stole second. He then struck out. He played a very good centerfield as well. In short, he did everything to show just how exciting and electric he can be. That was a great start in showcase type of atmosphere. The challenge for Gomez will be not to get too amped and to take each game and each at bat on its own. As much as he is adjusting to the league and the pitchers, they are going to be adjusting to him. The really great players are the ones who figure out what the pitchers are doing to get them out quickest and make those adjustments. I think Gomez will be fine, but it isn’t going to look that easy for him every night. That becomes the challenge for Twins fans. Tonight, we got to see just how good Gomez can be and how much excitement he can bring to the game. That isn’t going to happen every night, and Twins fans need to remember how young he is and how much he still has to learn. He’s going to be special, but we need to be patient.
· In the first inning, Gomez doubled and then Mauer singled him in for the first run of the game. That was picture perfect. However, in Mauer’s second at bat, he grounded out weakly to 2B, advancing Gomez to 3B. Blyleven and Bremer praised him, and I thought it was horrible. I realize Mauer is the second hitter, not the third hitter, but his job should not be just to ground out weakly to advance Gomez to 3B. What a waste! Sure, if the count is 1-2 and you can advance the runner, great. But the count was 3-1, a hitter’s count, and it was clear that all Mauer wanted to do was ground out. What makes it worse was that Michael Cuddyer then took a couple of pitches right down the middle for the 2nd out meaning that there was no value in wasting Mauer’s out. The next time up, Gomez again stole second with Mauer up, and then Mauer grounded to 2B again, advancing Gomez to third. I understand that the goal is to score a run, which is good, but when a guy has the ability to get on base 40% of the time, like Mauer will, why give up the chance at a big inning?
· Justin Morneau… don’t be afraid to hit the ball where it is pitched.
· Livan Hernandez with a very impressive Twins debut. He threw 104 pitches in seven innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits. He walked none and struck out just one. Very impressive… but don’t forget just how impressive Ramon Ortiz was at the start of last season, through the month of April. Hopefully he can keep it up.
· It should be fun to start watching some of the young guys pitching, with Boof Bonser, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker making the next four starts for the Twins.
· It was nice to see Mike Lamb contribute with an RBI single, and Brendan Harris record a couple of hits. Delmon Young will certainly be batting third at some point this season.
· By the way, seriously, how dominating was Pat Neshek in his inning. He struck out two lefties before giving up a bloop double to Gary Matthews. Then he struck out Vlad Guerrero on a couple of BIG swings!
· Finally, with the weather and massive amounts of snow expected in the Twin Cities, do you think that the question of a retractable roof will come up a time or two?
I will try to get to the minor league updates tomorrow. I see that the rosters of the Rochester Red Wings, New Britain Rockcats and Beloit Snappers are updated, but not sure on the Ft. Myers roster still. I’ll also try to find out any players released. Have a great day!