August 31, 2002

Moving day

Sorry about the lack of an entry today.

I have been moving into my dorm room at the University of Minnesota all day.

I might post something later tonight, but otherwise check by tomorrow for your regularly scheduled blogging.

August 30, 2002

Halleluja!

It looks like a strike has been averted, as the players and owners have reached a new collective bargaining agreement.

I was one of the people who thought there would be a strike of at least a few days, but I am glad I was wrong.

I am not completely informed about all the facts of the new agreement yet, but I think I know some basic points...

The agreement lasts through 2006.

This sounds pretty good to me at this point, but I wish the agreements could be longer than 4 years (2003-2006).

But as long as they have an agreement and the games go on, I am happy - at least until September of 2006.

The owners agreed not to eliminate any teams until at least 2007.

This is like a bonus to me, as I didn't even know this was a possibility.

And, of course, my beloved Twins (and the Expos) are the main beneficiaries of this.

Hmmm....Your 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Central Division champion Minnesota Twins!

Has a nice ring to it, huh?

And who is gonna stop us? Detroit?! Kansas City?! Cleveland?! Chicago?! HA! Detroit and KC have been "rebuilding" since I was a fetus, Cleveland is aiming to be competitive in like 2035 and Chicago, well, I guess Chicago might be our biggest challenger.

The minimum salary will be raised from 200,000 this season to 300,000 next season.

I don't know if there are other raises in place for 2004, 2005 or 2006 or what, but I have to say that I like this part of the deal.

I believe that if the union needed to fight for players wages, it should have been for the players making the minimum and more importantly, players in the minor leagues.

I don't think anything having to do with minor league pay raises is in the agreement, but it should be.

The 8-year minor league veteran playing some small midwestern town, making 15,000 a year, is a guy whose pay is worth fighting for, but I guess you can't have everything.

The players accepted a random testing policy for steroids.

This is obviously a good thing, although I will remain cautiously optimistic on how well it will work.

Both sides agreed to a world-wide draft.

Like the steroid testing, I will believe this is a good thing, but I will be cautiously optimistic about it's effectiveness.

The amount of rounds have not been disclosed as of yet.

Now they just need to start televising the draft and baseball nerds like myself can have some real fun.

As far as the two most important issues, revenue sharing and luxury taxing, I haven't heard anything yet about the exact figures that were agreed upon.

All I know is, I just sent in my request for Twins playoff tickets and I will be watching baseball games tonight.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

August 29, 2002

My day at the Dome

I just got home from the Metrodome, where the Seattle Mariners beat the Twins 2-0.

It was kind of a depressing day to be at the ballpark, with the strike looming and the strong possibility that this could have been the last Twins game of the season and even the slight possibility that this could have been the last Twins game ever!

Nonetheless, it was a good game.

The Mariners got a great performance out of Jamie Moyer, who I must say, is a lot of fun to watch.

He tops out at about 85 MPH, but he makes hitters look absolutely silly with his great changeup, which he is confident enough to throw in any situation.

When he is on, the hitters are off balance and they just miss hitting a lot of balls really well, which causes a lot of pop ups and easy fly balls to the outfield.

The Mariners also got the best game of Desi Relaford's life.

Relaford (who was hitting .239 coming into the game) singled in each of his first two at bats.

Then, with the score 0-0 in the 8th, he homered, giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead.

And that was enough to win it, as the Twins couldn't get a run across against Moyer, Arthur Rhodes and Kaz Sasaki.

A few random notes on my experience at the ballpark...

Before the game, a guy sitting in the row in front of me said to two women, "When the Twins come onto the field in the first inning, I'm going to boo them."

Later he said, "I can't wait until Denny Hocking comes up, I'm gonna boo him a ton!"

Sure enough, when the PA announcer said "and now....your Central Division leading Minnesota Twins..." the guy booed like crazy.

And when Hocking came to the plate for his first at bat, he booed even louder.

He saw me looking at him and said, "You know why don't you?"

I nodded my head "yes" (very condescendingly), but I don't think he bought it, because he kept trying to explain.

He struck me as a pretty big idiot, so finally I said, "Denny Hocking can't do a lot about it and I don't come to the game to boo my favorite team."

That finally shut him up, thank god.

Later he was trying to explain to the same two women that they should boo everyone on both teams, but cheer for Rick Reed like he was, because "Reed voted against the strike in 1994" (his words, NOT mine).

I would guess that the guy was just slightly pro owner!

I don't even know what side I am on to tell the truth.

I just want to see baseball being played.

And I am certainly not going to come to the ballpark to boo my favorite team.

As for Denny Hocking, even if he is to blame (which I really don't think he is) I can think of a pretty long list of people involved in this debacle that I would boo before him.

Plus, he has had some really great anti-Selig quotes this year, which I always love.

Rick Reed continued to pitch very well.

He went 7 1/3 and gave up only the one run on the Relaford homer.

He also struck out 8 guys and walked only 1.

The best way to describe Reed's demeanor on the mound is that he always looks like he is constipated.

I don't really have a punch-line for that, I just felt the need to inform everyone.

Mike Cameron got picked off of 1st base for the 3rd time in the last 2 games.

Cameron singled to center in 5th.

Reed immediately threw over to first and somehow caught Cameron napping.

It wasn't even particularly close.

I just don't see how a guy could get picked off again after getting picked off twice (including once in the 9th inning of a 2-1 game) the night before.

I don't even think he was going to be stealing and his lead wasn't that big.

The funniest thing about it (aside from the looks of amazement and great heckles coming from the fans) was the reaction of Lou Piniella when Cameron got back in the dugout.

Cameron, like anyone who screwed up would do, stayed at the opposite end of the dugout from Sweet Lou.

Piniella just sat at the other end of the bench and looked down at Cameron.

Finally, after about a minute, Piniella stood up, yelled something in Cameron's general direction, put both his palms up in the air and then just sat back down.

Sitting on the third base line has some perks.

The Twins tried to bunt for a hit at least 5 different times in the game, all of them aimed at the 3rd base line.

Torii Hunter tried to bunt his way on in the 2nd.

Doug Mientkiewicz tried in the 4th.

Dustan Mohr tried in the 5th.

Tom Prince tried in the 7th.

Denny Hocking tried in the 8th.

And all 5 of them went foul.

The best of the bunch was Mientkiwicz, who, for the 2nd time in the series, dropped a near perfect bunt down the third base line, only to see it go foul at the last minute.

When you are down a run or two in the late innings, there is absolutely nothing that beats seeing the old "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" speech by John "Bluto" Blutarski on the Jumbotron.

Combine that with the opening of "Welcome to the Jungle" and you have yourself some guaranteed adreneline and some serious comeback hopes.

Oh, and if you don't know who John Blutarski is...shame on you.

I think we are past the point where we need to be hearing "Proud to be an American" during the 7th inning stretch.

Stick to "Take me out to the Ballgame."

The Twins do a lot of stuff with the Jumbotron between innings (including playing commercials! Yuck!) but the best is definitely the "Kiss Cam."

Basically they go around the park and show various people sitting together, framed with a hearts graphic and the words "Kiss Cam."

The people see themselves on the screen and are supposed to kiss.

You get the basic boyfriend/girlfriend kiss (they smile at each other and then do a medium length kiss on the lips).

The basic old married couple kiss (the husband is usually not aware they are on the screen, so the wife just grabs his face and kisses him on the cheek very quickly while the husband looks confused).

The newly married couple kiss (usually arms and tongues are involved, a Coke or Sprite is knocked over and the kiss takes a while).

The just friends/brother and sister non-kiss (the people try to pretend that they don't see themselves on screen and then try to play chicken with the camera, seeing if they can look like they are ignoring it longer than the camera can stay on them).

And finally you get the camera man's attempt at humor non-kiss (two big fat guys sitting next to each other or a couple of local sportswriters sitting in the press box - which is sometimes the same thing).

If I ever see Heidi Klum at a Twins game, I'm paying off the guy in charge of the "Kiss Cam" and I'm finding a way to sit next to her.

A few things I overheard from the people near me...

"That LeCroy sure is fat."

"Why does Cameron have his hat like that [in the picture they show on the Jumobotron], he looks like an idiot."

"Bret Boone has got to be on something, just look at him!"

"Is Jacque Jones French or does he come from one of the Islands?"

All in all, a good game (even though the Twins lost).

I kept thinking how awesome it would have been if, in like the 5th inning, the PA announcer would have suddenly interupted the game and said:

"An agreement has been reached between the players and owners and there will not be a strike. Playoffs ticket information is available at all ticket booths. Thank you."

At this point, I am not very optimistic about my chances of seeing October baseball, but I am still holding out some hope.

As Mr. Blutarski so elequently put it, "When the going gets tough...............................the tough get going!

Who's with me?!?!"

August 28, 2002

Poor Pedro

I've been watching the Yankees/Red Sox game on ESPN.

Pedro just got the hook.

This game is just a complete mess for Pedro and the Red Sox.

Pedro got the first batter of the game, Alfonso Soriano, down 0-2 and then got him to tap a grounder to third base.

Shea Hillenbrand let the ball go under his glove and Soriano ended up on second base.

The second batter of the game, Derek Jeter, bunted a ball toward third base.

Hillenbrand was playing way back and couldn't get to the ball in time, Jeter got a bunt single.

The third batter of the game, Jason Giambi grounded out to shortstop, scoring Soriano from third.

So now Pedro is already down 1-0 in the first inning, through no fault of his own.

The fourth batter of the game, Bernie Williams, hit a ball right at Garciaparra at shortstop.

Nomar tried to pick it, but instead the ball wound up a foot behind him, after bouncing off his glove.

Williams reached on the second error of the inning.

Pedro somehow managed to get out of the 1st only down 1-0.

And he pitched very well after that.

The problem is, the Red Sox couldn't score him any runs.

And Grady Little decided to leave Pedro out there to start the 7th inning, even though he had already thrown 110 pitches through 6 innings.

So Pedro starts the 7th.

He walks Rondell White.

He hits Soriano with a pitch.

White steals third, partly because Hillenbrand was playing in on the grass and couldn't get back to the bag in time to apply a tag.

Jeter grounds out, scoring White from third.

And he walks Giambi.

So now he is down 2-0, he has thrown 126 pitches and he has one more out than he had at 110 pitches.

Pedro gets the hook and Alan Embree comes in and gives up a 3-run homer over the Green Monster to Bernie Williams on his 3rd pitch of the game.

I love Pedro, he is my favorite pitcher and I think he is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.

I almost feel like he deserves better, especially than what he got tonight.

In summary:

His defense stunk.

They committed 3 errors while he was in the game, including 2 in the first inning that led to the first run of the game.

And the errors aren't even counting the two plays Hillenbrand didn't make, Jeter's bunt and White's steal (which ended up costing Pedro another run).

His offense stunk.

As I am writing this, it is the top of the 8th inning.

The Red Sox have 2 hits (both by Carlos Baerga), a walk and 0 runs against Yankees' starter Mike Mussina through 7innings.

His manager stunk.

Little did not take him out after 6 innings and 110 pitches.

This with one of the most fragile pitchers around, a guy that they like to give an extra day of rest whenever possible.

Sometimes teams amaze me.

They want to protect a guy by giving him as many days of rest between starts as possible and then they go and let him throw 130 pitches in a start!

His bullpen stunk.

Embree comes into a 2-0 game and within 3 pitches, it is 5-0.

Pedro's final line:

6.1 IP

5 H

9 K

4 BB

3 ER

126 pitches

1 Loss

Sometimes life aint fair.

August 27, 2002

Streaking A's

About a week and a half ago I decided that I would root for the Seattle Mariners to win the AL West.

As a Twins fan my reason for this, at the time, was very simple...

I figured the Yankees would finish with the best record in the AL and win the AL East.

I figured the Twins would win the AL Central.

I figured the two other playoffs teams would come out of the AL West.

So, in that scenario, the Yankees would play the Wild Card winner and the Twins (my team) would play the AL West winner.

I was pretty confident in the Twins' chances of beating the Mariners (as they did tonight, 5-2) in a 5 game series.

But mostly, I wanted no part of the Oakland A's.

Turns out I didn't know how right I was.

Oakland has now won 14 games in a row, and have taken a 3 game lead over Anaheim and a 3.5 game lead over Seattle in the AL West.

So much for the A's getting the Wild Card and avoiding the Twins (or more correctly the Twins avoiding them) in the first round of the playoffs.

Here are the the win-loss records for Oakland pitchers during the streak:

Barry Zito 3-0

Tim Hudson 3-0

Mark Mulder 3-0

Cory Lidle 3-0

Aaron Harang 1-0

Jim Mecir 1-0

14 straight wins and only one win by a relief pitcher.

And the Big 4 are each 3-0.

Here are the combined totals for the Oakland starting pitchers during the streak:

GS Inn. ERA. W. L K/9 W/9 H/9

14 99.2 2.25 13 0 5.4 1.9 6.2



Now that is getting it done.

Only once has a starter failed to go at least 5 innings (not so coincidently the one game that a starter did not get the win).

Only once has a starter allowed more than 4 runs (again, in the one game that the starter didn't get the win).

The pitcher in the game that the starter did not get the win? Aaron Harang.

However, in the playoffs, teams are going to be seeing a steady diet of the Big 4 (mostly the Big 3 with a little Cory Lidle mixed in).

Here are the totals from each of the Big 4 during the streak:

Zito:

G Inn. ERA. W L K/9 W/9 H/9

3 20.2 1.74 3 0 7.4 2.6 5.2



Hudson:

G Inn. ERA. W L K/9 W/9 H/9

3 24.2 1.82 3 0 5.5 0.7 7.7



Mulder:

G Inn. ERA. W L K/9 W/9 H/9

3 22.2 3.17 3 0 4.4 0.8 6.7



Lidle:

G Inn. ERA. W L K/9 W/9 H/9

3 23.0 0.00 3 0 4.7 1.6 3.5



The A's are looking pretty good heading down the stretch, as far as pitching goes.

I would assume that the A's rotation for the opening round of the playoffs would be:

Zito - Hudson - Mulder - Lidle - Zito

With the Twins' lefty dominated lineup (Jones, Koskie, Ortiz, Mientkiewicz, Pierzynski) I am having nightmares about facing Zito twice and Mulder once in a 5 game series.

At this point, as a Twins fan, I think I would rather play the Yankees in round 1 (as strange as that sounds).

The problem is, even if the A's continue to stay hot and overtake the Yankees for the top spot in the AL, the Twins will still be stuck playing Oakland in round 1.

You see, if the A's finish with the top record in the league they would play the Wild Card, unless the Wild Card comes from their division (which it would if Seattle or Anaheim wins it), in which case they would play the #3 team.

And you guessed it, that would be the Twins.

So really, instead of rooting for Seattle to win the AL West (thus making it NY/OAK and SEA/MN in round 1) I would probably be better off rooting for Boston to beat out Seattle and Anaheim for the Wild Card (thus making it NY/MN and OAK/BOS in round 1).

I have waited 10 years for the Twins to make the playoffs again and I've had to deal with all of the contraction talk and the stadium crap and all I wanted in return was for the Twins to play the Mariners in the opening round of the playoffs.

Is that so much to ask for? Apparently.

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