May 31, 2004

Some of y'all might be with this, and some of y'all won't

While watching the Twins lose to the Devil Rays yesterday afternoon, I found myself extremely frustrated for no apparent reason (other than the score, of course). I tried to think of why exactly I was feeling this way and ... well, to quote DJ Kool, "Let me clear my throat."

At the count of three

I want everybody in the place to be

To make some noise if ya down with me

One, two, three

Hit me with the horns Tony

Keep makin' noise, keep makin' noise, yeah, oh

Here we go now, here we go now, here we go now

Here we go, here we go, now listen

Some of y'all might know this

And some of y'all don't

Some of y'all might be with this, and some of y'all won't

But listen, let me clear my throat

Oh, have mercy babe, Ha!

I hope ya don't mind, let me clear my throat

When they called Justin Morneau up at the start of last month, the Twins said all the right things about playing him every day, getting him at-bats and all of that good stuff. As usual with the Twins though, talk is extraordinarily cheap.

Morneau's everyday playing lasted exactly a week. Then, with the Royals starting a left-handed pitcher on both May 29 and May 30, Morneau did not play. Morneau is a young left-handed hitter who has struggled against lefties in his few at-bats against them in the majors thus far, so I suppose I can see why they would bench him. Personally, I would never sit him out twice in a row, but there's at least a line of thinking present that I can see.

Well, yesterday the Twins played Tampa Bay and the Devil Rays started Rob Bell, a right-handed pitcher (and a bad one at that). And, once again, Morneau found himself on the bench. I have to say, I just don't get it.

Why have him in the majors to sit on the bench, even against lefties? This is a guy you want to be the future of your offense, the big bopper in the middle of your lineup, but you don't have the confidence in him to play him against a couple of lefties in May? And we're not talking Randy Johnson and Barry Zito here, it was Dennys Reyes and Jimmy Gobble.

With Rob Bell and his career ERA of 5.88 on the mound, what possible reason could there be for not playing Morneau? He's killed the ball in the few at-bats the Twins have given him thus far, hitting .292/.370/.542, and he hadn't played in two days.

But no, the Twins had Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and Matthew LeCroy at DH. Now I love LeCroy and I am glad to see him in the lineup, but why not stick him behind the plate? Instead, the Twins continue to give Henry Blanco tons of at-bats, despite the fact that his deal with the devil lasted only a couple weeks and ran out a long time ago. Blanco is hitting .136/.177/.186 in 59 at-bats this month (and yes, I realize he hit a homer yesterday ... so what?).

With Joe Mauer out, this was a chance to give LeCroy a long look behind the plate, to see if perhaps he could be the long-term answer as Mauer's backup. Instead, they play Blanco's incredibly weak bat and leave Morneau on the bench.

I love the Twins and I happen to think they are a well-run team and organization. If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to win like this on such a small budget. With that said, they do so many things that just make absolutely zero sense to me.

I suspect Morneau will be sent back to Triple-A when Mauer returns from the disabled list this week or, if that's not the case, when Luis Rivas comes back from the DL shortly after that. And then Morneau will hit .350 with huge power at Rochester, Henry Blanco will hit .190 in Minnesota, and the Twins will wonder why they can't score any runs.

Tell me what's wrong with this picture ...

- The Twins have one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

- He destroys Triple-A pitching.

- They call him up and say they will play him every day.

- He goes 3-for-3 in his first start and hits .292/.370/.542 overall.

- They bench him for three straight games.

And then, if my guess is right ...

- They send him back down to Triple-A.

There is a disconnect between logic and action, between planning and following that plan here that is incredibly frustrating to watch, year after year after year, player after player after player.

It could be worse, of course. The Twins, even with all of their obvious faults, are far from the worst team to root for. Still, there's no reason they have to be difficult to root for at all.

I was daydreaming the other day about just how young and how cheap the Twins could get all of a sudden, perhaps as soon as next year. It's nothing more than a dream, of course, because the people actually in charge of making decisions don't think like I do, but bear with me.

C    Joe Mauer

1B Doug Mientkiewicz
2B Michael Cuddyer
SS Jason Bartlett
3B Corey Koskie
LF Lew Ford
CF Torii Hunter
RF Jason Kubel
DH Justin Morneau

Throw in a bench of LeCroy, Nick Punto, Alex Prieto, Michael Restovich and Michael Ryan, and that is a group that includes one player over 30 (Koskie) and three players who make more than the league minimum (Koskie, Hunter, Mientkiewicz).

I think -- and I don't know the exact contract situations -- that the total payroll of those 14 position players would be somewhere around $20-22 million, and that's with Corey Koskie counted at $7 mill (he's a free agent).

That is a team I could root for, a team that would be fun to watch play and, more importantly, watch develop and improve. It would also leave about $35 million to put together a pitching staff, which would give Terry Ryan plenty of interesting opportunities.

I've said many times that this current Twins team has a chance to do something that is normally very difficult, which is contend for the postseason and completely rebuild all at the same time. They have the young established major leaguers to do it and they have the young, major league-ready prospects to do it. They won't, of course. That's just not how they operate.

Instead, they'll pay Shannon Stewart $6 million to provide average offense, they'll bring back Cristian Guzman and/or Luis Rivas to suck up outs and drive me crazy, and they'll leave prospects in the minor leagues, much to the delight of the lovely people of Rochester, New York.

Talent or experience, that's what it comes down to in my mind. I'll take talent over experience every single time, especially when the talent is young and cheap. I sometimes wish the Twins thought the same way.

And while they're at it, it'd be nice if they wouldn't lose 5 out of 7 to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

New article at The Hardball Times: Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part One)

Today's picks:

Montreal (Armas) +170 over Atlanta (Wright)

Milwaukee (Sheets) -110 over Los Angeles (Weaver)

Tampa Bay (Abbott) +160 over Minnesota (Silva)

Toronto (Halladay) -140 over Seattle (Meche)

Chicago (Loaiza) -115 over Oakland (Redman)

Boston (Arroyo) +125 over Anaheim (Colon)

Total to date: -$915

W/L record: 73-91 (5-3 yesterday for +385. At least it's under -$1,000 now!)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

Don't Call it a Comeback

Last week, after my computer gave up living and my internet connection crapped out on me, I asked for donations from my loyal audience in order to help fund a new computer. The thought being, of course, that you've enjoyed the completely free reading material that I've provided both here and at The Hardball Times over the past two years, and also that a new computer would help me produce more material for you to enjoy in the future.

I left the entry up all weekend to try to raise some more money, but mostly because writing anything new was difficult with my computer situation.

Well, now I'm back ... at least sort of. My trusty laptop is still broken, but at least my internet hookup is fixed. So that's the good news. The great news is that you guys are far more generous than I could have imagined.

The donations started flowing in immediately after I posted my plea for help in the wee hours Wednesday morning. In all, 81 of you donated something, and because of my readers' incredible generosity, I was able to order a new computer over the weekend. It should be here in about a week.

So thank you to everyone who donated, from those of you who pitched in $1 to those who gave a little more. It made me feel great to know that you value the entertainment and information you get here enough to help me out financially. All 81 of you should feel good about what you've done; you did a very nice thing and I really appreciate it.

Okay, enough about money and computers ...

The Minnesota Timberwolves held off elimination with a Game 5 win at home on Saturday night, behind Kevin Garnett's 30 point/19 rebound/4 assist effort. The Wolves and Lakers play Game 6 tonight, and I fully expect the Lakers to finish them off without a ton of difficulty.

Barring the unthinkable, which is the Wolves winning three straight to take the series (not gonna happen, sorry), I think the Timberwolves' 2003-2004 season basically sums up what it's like to be a sports fan. Or at least a sports fan outside of New York and Los Angeles.

They struggled for 15 years. First they were just plain awful (this lasted far longer than it should have), then they drafted Garnett and got pretty good and they simply couldn't win a playoff series, and now this year they finally got over the hump and got out of the first round.

Kevin Garnett wins the MVP, the big moves they made during the offseason for Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell paid off, they took care of the Nuggets in the first round and squeaked by the Kings in the conference semi-finals.

And then, after all that, they run up against the Los Angeles Lakers, winners of three of the past four NBA titles, in the Western Conference finals. This isn't your younger brother's Lakers team either, this is a squad that is totally beatable. And the Wolves were the team to do it -- they were playing well and they matched up nicely with the Lakers.

So what happens? The Wolves' second-best player, Sam Cassell, arguably the best point guard in the league this year, severely injures his back and hip and is basically out for the entire series. Some games he tries to play and lasts 43 seconds and some games he just sits out completely.

And not only is Cassell out, the Wolves are without his backup, Troy Hudson, who had ankle surgery earlier in the month and is not even on the playoff roster. Hudson torched the Lakers in the playoffs last year and he would have made a huge difference this year. Instead, without Cassell and Hudson, the Wolves have either played without a point guard altogether or with Darrick Martin, signed off of the waiver wire earlier in the year, running the show.

I guess if I had to describe this season in one word it would be "tease." Now, it was one helluva fun tease, but still a tease. I could move to Los Angeles tomorrow and live there for the next 50 years and no one would ever convince me that the Wolves, with a healthy Sam Cassell, wouldn't be playing in the NBA Finals.

But that's sports. A team struggles and improves, disappoints and surprises, and then when they finally get in a position to win the championship, a star player gets hurt.

Wait 'til next year, right?

And finally ...

I usually reserve this space for a whole bunch of Twins talk, but today I've decided that since I haven't posted anything Twins-related in several days, I have enough interesting stuff to say about the team that I posted it over at The Hardball Times, for everyone to see.

I know it upsets some people when I write stuff over there and not over here (I still don't understand this), but hopefully you realize that you can simply click on the link to the article provided below and read it, whereas people who don't stop by this blog on a regular basis but do go by THT every day will also have a chance to read it this way.

Twins Notes (by Aaron Gleeman)

Aaron takes a look at the ongoing struggles of his favorite starting pitcher and examines whether or not the Twins might actually have a new second baseman ... finally.

Have a good Memorial Day and I'll see you back here tomorrow ...

New article at The Hardball Times: Twins Notes

Today's picks:

Montreal (Hernandez) +155 over Atlanta (Ortiz)

St. Louis (Marquis) -120 over Pittsburgh (Benson)

San Francisco (Rueter) -120 over Arizona (Daigle)

Colorado (Jennings) +170 over San Diego (Eaton)

Kansas City (May) +110 over Detroit (Knotts)

Tampa Bay (Bell) +155 over Minnesota (Greisinger)

Toronto (Hentgen) +155 over Seattle (Moyer)

Baltimore (Lopez) +160 over Boston (Lowe)

Total to date: -$1,300

W/L record: 68-88 (11-13 from Wednesday to Sunday for -175 with one non-bet because of a different starting pitcher.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

May 25, 2004

Will Blog for Food

I complained about my computer problems yesterday and three of you were kind enough to donate money to me, completely unsolicited. I don't want to sound sappy, but stuff like that always makes me feel great.

It also got me thinking that perhaps, if I begged just a little bit, a few more of you might be willing to donate a little of your hard-earned money to help me get a new computer. I figure it won't take much. For instance, if every person who visited this blog yesterday donated just $1, I'd have a new computer sitting here by next week.

Now, I realize a huge percentage of you are appalled by the idea of giving me your money, and I can't say that I blame you. That said, I know from past experiences that there are many of you who aren't against donating a little cash in exchange for all the free baseball articles you've been reading here for the past couple years.

A blogger who shall remain nameless suggested to me yesterday afternoon that I should "hold my blog for ransom" and tell you that "I won't write anything else until you donate enough for a new laptop." I would, of course, never do that. Still, pumping out quality material here and at The Hardball Times on a regular basis is going to be tough in my current situation, and it'll get even harder when I have to head back to school.

So, here's what I am proposing ... If you've been stopping by here on a regular basis for a long time and you feel like you wouldn't mind donating some money, you can click on the following PayPal link and send some funds my way within seconds.

Like I said, if everyone donated one dollar, I'd be in good shape, so don't feel like I'm asking for millions here. If you've been reading this site for a year and you think it's worth 10% as much as a newspaper subscription, then send me $10. If you think you get a dollar's worth of enjoyment from this blog every month and you've been reading for 15, send $15 my way. If you've been stopping here since the blog's inception (August of 2002) and you think each day is worth about a penny, put yourself down for $6.

If you want to really get charitable and donate by the word, you should know that I've written 820,659 words prior to today. At one cent per word, that works out to $8,206.59, assuming of course you've read every single word. If you have, then perhaps I should be the one paying you. If you think every 1,000 words are worth a nickel, that works out to about $40.

Finally, I know there are those among you who are completely insulted that I would ever ask for money in exchange for what I provide here. The only thing I can say to those of you is sorry. Like I said, I don't blame you, although I sometimes don't understand why you'd get so upset about it. After all, there are plenty of blogs out there asking for and receiving donations all the time, so my begging isn't unique. For other examples, feel free to click here or here or here (just to link a few).

If you think giving a little cash to help fund a new computer is a good idea, do it. If not, don't. I'll say this ... If you guys come up with enough money to help me get a new computer, you won't be hearing me beg for money again any time soon.

So, please, give until it hurts. Or not. Your call.

See ya Monday ...

New article at The Hardball Times: Fighting the Mendoza Line

Wednesday's picks:

San Diego (Eaton) -115 over Colorado (Jennings)

Toronto (Hentgen) +130 over Anaheim (Colon)

Oakland (Redman) +140 over Boston (Lowe)

New York (Mussina) -130 over Baltimore (Lopez)

Cleveland (Sabathia) -120 over Seattle (Moyer)

Tampa Bay (Bell) +110 over Minnesota (Greisinger)

Detroit (Knotts) +130 over Kansas City (May)

Thursday's picks:

Florida (Penny) -120 over Cincinnati (Harang)

Detroit (Robertson) -100 over Kansas City (Anderson)

Toronto (Halladay) -120 over Anaheim (Washburn)

Seattle (Meche) +115 over Cleveland (Westbrook)

Friday's picks:

San Diego (Lawrence) +110 over Milwaukee (Davis)

Arizona (Johnson) -130 over Los Angeles (Alvarez)

Seattle (Piniero) +225 over Boston (Martinez)

Cleveland (Lee) +125 over Oakland (Zito)

Chicago (Garland) -120 over Anaheim (Escobar)

Saturday's picks:

Arizona (Webb) -105 over Los Angeles (Lima)

Minnesota (Santana) -110 over Kansas City (Reyes)

Chicago (Rauch) +105 over Anaheim (Sele)

Detroit (Bonderman) -100 over Baltimore (Cabrera)

Sunday's picks:

Montreal (Ohka) -110 over Cincinnati (Valentine)

San Diego (Valdes) +110 over Milwaukee (Santos)

Atlanta (Ramirez) +120 over Philadelphia (Milton)

Anaheim (Lackey) +140 over Chicago (Schoeneweis)

Seattle (Franklin) +260 over Boston (Schilling)

Total to date: -$1,125

W/L record: 57-75 (2-4 yesterday for -190. Whatever I had last year, I've officially lost it.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

May 24, 2004

Double Ugh

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have had plenty of computer-related problems in the past. They crash, they break, they won't plug in, they won't hold a charge, they won't connect to the internet. You name it, I've had it.

But everything was going smoothly yesterday. I was on my laptop that I've had for several years and there hadn't been any problems in months. Then, wouldn't you know it, the screen blew out. Now, I don't know enough about computers and laptop screens to know exactly what happened, but I do know that anytime something is wrong with the screen, you're basically screwed.

I had a problem with the screen on a laptop I had about four years ago and was told, basically, that it would be cheaper just to buy a new computer than to try to fix it. I remembered this as I stared at the blank screen in front of me.

With this most recent screen catastrophe, I didn't really have the option of just buying a new one since ... well, that takes a lot of money. So like any enterprising, poor laptop owner, I found a screen from a PC and just plugged it in.

It works, of course, the same as batting Jose Offerman in the cleanup spot works. The actual spot is filled and someone with a bat in his hand will come to the plate after the #3 guy hits, but it's not a situation that can go on for very long.

But okay, I was dealing with it. Then, just a few hours later, the connection to the internet stopped working. Just stopped, out of nowhere. Actually, I was in the middle of typing up an article for later this week.

I tried all sorts of dumb things to "fix" it and then finally called Road Runner. They told me "the modem is broken" and that "someone can probably be out there later in the week."

Keep in mind now that this is a fairly new modem, since we had to replace it within the last year as a result of the last one dying a similar, mysterious death.

So, as I type this sad tale to you, I am working on a laptop with a completely black screen, plugged into a PC monitor that sits atop a TV table in my room (thus ruining the entire point of a "laptop"). My connection to the internet is dialup AOL, which is just as awful as I had remembered it. As I told my mom last night, "It's like 1996 all over again."

I'm not quite sure how I am going to fix this problem. The Road Runner person showing up at some point in the next year would be nice, but I won't count on that. How I will go about getting a new computer is even less certain. I looked online for prices and they went from "Man, that's a lot" to "I want to kill myself."

Anyone feel like getting me a new computer?

Today's picks:

Florida (Beckett) -120 over Cincinnati (Wilson)

Los Angeles (Ishii) -110 over Milwaukee (Santos)

Arizona (Fossum) +195 over San Francisco (Schmidt)

Oakland (Hudson) +140 over Boston (Schilling)

Texas (Rogers) +130 over Chicago (Schoeneweis)

Detroit (Maroth) +115 over Kansas City (Gobble)

Total to date: -$935

W/L record: 55-71 (1-2 yesterday for -100.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

Twins Notes

Since this blog has sort of turned into the home of my thoughts on the Twins and anything unrelated to baseball since the launch of The Hardball Times, here are a whole bunch of semi-random thoughts on everyone's favorite AL Central leaders ...

Justin Morneau is back up, thanks in large part to Shannon Stewart's various foot injuries. The news on Stewart is not sounding particularly promising (first he had one injury, now he has that injury and another injury), so it looks like Morneau should be here for quite a while.

Lew Ford will take over for Stewart in left field and Morneau will (hopefully) be the regular designated hitter. I believe Morneau has the potential to be the best hitter the Twins have had in a very long time. At the very least, he has a good shot at being their best power hitter since Harmon Killebrew.

Now, a frequent topic of discussion here and other places regarding the Twins has always been their vast amount of quality LF/RF/1B/DH types. Before Stewart went down, they had him and Jacque Jones starting, with Lew Ford and Michael Ryan on the bench. Doug Mientkiewicz was at first base and Matthew LeCroy was catching and DHing. Michael Cuddyer was playing all over the field and, of late, was subbing for Corey Koskie at third base. And then of course they had Michael Restovich and Justin Morneau down in Triple-A, and in the last year or so they got rid of Bobby Kielty and Dustan Mohr.

Some might say that bringing Morneau up right now, in the middle of the year, is simply creating even more of a logjam. After all, if Stewart somehow makes it back in just a few weeks, then where do you play Lew Ford if Morneau is at DH? When Joe Mauer comes back next month, where does Matthew LeCroy get any at-bats? Where does Cuddyer fit in when Koskie is back at third base? It is, as they say, "a great problem to have," but it is still a problem.

Here's my feeling ... holding back Justin Morneau because you have too many other options without him is silly. He is the option. When he is ready -- and I would assume the Twins have decided that time is right now -- there is no one on the roster or in the entire organization who should hold him back.

Think of it this way ... say you're going out with five different women. You like them all, they all have good qualities and they are all attractive and nice. You've been trying to juggle them as best you can. Some you see on the weekends, some you see during your lunchbreak from work, some you go out to dinner with on weeknights.

Then Jessica Alba comes along and hits on you one night. She comes on very strong and makes it obvious that she is interested in something serious with you (sort of like Morneau was doing at Triple-A). Do you say no to Ms. Alba, because she will only further complicate things with these other women? Hell no.

You put Jessica into the top spot in the rotation. Any time, day or night, that she wants to see you, you make it happen. If this means you don't see some of those other women as often -- or maybe not at all -- then that's just the way it has to be.

Matthew LeCroy, Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich, Michael Ryan and even Lew Ford (and Kielty and Mohr before them) are these other women. Justin Morneau is Jessica Alba.

Don't you see the resemblance?

Now, I do have one way to ease the logjam and create some additional at-bats for the other women. Quite simply, put an end to Jose Offerman's career with the Twins.

Offerman was brought on as a "veteran bat off the bench" but has turned into quite a bit more than that, thanks in part to injuries and in part to Ron Gardenhire strange-but-predictable infatuation with him.

While Offerman has not been horrible, he has not been anything special either. He started very fast, which is the best way to earn undeserved playing time for the rest of the year, and has faded of late. On the year, he is hitting .235/.363/.412. Like I said, not horrible numbers by any means, and if Offerman could handle second base on a regular basis, I'd be ready to elect him president. He can't though.

Instead, he is taking at-bats at first base and DH. With Stewart, Mauer and Koskie out, that's not much of a problem. However, all indications are that at least Koskie and Mauer will be back relatively soon. Let's assume for a moment that Stewart also returns by the end of next month, at which point the everyday lineup might look something like this:

C    Joe Mauer

1B Doug Mientkiewicz
2B Luis Rivas
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Corey Koskie
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Torii Hunter
RF Jacque Jones
DH Justin Morneau

Of course Luis Rivas is also hurting right now (sore groin) and you never know when the Twins might sour on him (never, is my guess, but I'm a pessimist). Still, I'll pencil him in at second. Personally, I would stick Michael Cuddyer there and just forget about his defense for a while.

With those guys playing everyday, it leaves the following players without regular jobs:

Lew Ford

Michael Ryan
Jose Offerman
Matthew LeCroy
Michael Cuddyer
Nick Punto
Henry Blanco

As soon as I was comfortable with Mauer's ability to play 4-5 times per week, I would let Blanco go, but I really doubt that will ever happen. The fact that he's hitting .116 this month won't sway the Twins as long as he continues to be old and good at throwing out baserunners. I think Matthew LeCroy has shown that he is quite capable behind the plate, particularly if we are talking just a start or two per week.

But okay, assuming Blanco stays, then you need to get LeCroy some at-bats by playing him as the third catcher, letting him get some time against tough lefties in place of Morneau at DH, and making him your primary pinch-hitter. He deserves more time than that, but I'm not going to cry bloody murder on this one.

The next guy with a spot on the bench is Lew Ford. Now, Ford has done absolutely nothing but hit the snot out of the ball every chance he has gotten with the Twins. He's at .338/.400/.535 in 73 career games, including .338/.393/.503 this season. He's not a .335 hitter, but the man can hit, and he's also a good defensive outfielder at all three spots.

He is, of course, a great fourth outfielder, just as any number of starting outfielders in the major leagues would be great fourth outfielders. He also deserves a chance to play every day. As long as Stewart is hobbled, that will happen, but once he returns there's just nowhere to play regularly. I would put Ford and Jacque Jones in a strict platoon out in right field, with Jones playing against righties and Ford against lefties.

Before everyone jumps on me about how Jones is hitting lefties this year, let me just remind you that he was hitting lefties well early last year and still ended up stinking against them for the season. It takes more than 50 decent at-bats to wash away years and years of suckitude, at least in my mind.

So now you've got LeCroy scrambling for playing time at C, 1B and DH, and Ford looking for work in all three OF spots. That still leaves Cuddyer, who would normally get some action in the OF, but will have to scrap for time at 2B and 3B in this situation.

That makes three guys, all relatively young, all ready to play every day, and all trying to find two days a week where they can get into the lineup.

I'm fine with Michael Ryan only serving as a pinch-hitter and I'm fine with Nick Punto being the utility man (although I'd play him over Rivas at second base, just like I would with anyone else in the Minneapolis phone book). Still, all of this leaves Offerman to further complicate things.

He'll take away at-bats from LeCroy at 1B and DH, he'll take away at-bats from all three (LeCroy, Ford, Cuddyer) as a pinch-hitter, and he may take away time from Cuddyer at 2B and 3B. And there's just no reason for him to do so. As long as Offerman can't handle a middle infield position on a regular basis defensively, there is no reason to have him on the team.

When Morneau was in Triple-A and a bunch of guys were hurt, it was fine. I didn't like it, but it was fine. Now that Morneau has claimed 1/9 of the everyday time and guys are starting to come back from the DL, Offerman is just taking up space. And that space would be better off being given to more deserving, more qualified, younger players like Ford, Cuddyer and LeCroy.

Assuming there is no chance of displacing Rivas at 2B, here is how I would construct the bench, once everyone is healthy:

C    Matthew LeCroy

IF Nick Punto
IF Michael Cuddyer
OF Lew Ford
OF Michael Ryan

No Blanco, no Offerman. The funny thing is, if you finally bit the bullet and got rid of Rivas, putting Cuddyer at second base (with Punto as his defensive replacement/spot starter), it would actually create a spot on the bench for Offerman. As you all know, once Rivas is gone, everything else is just gravy, including keeping Offerman.

You can't tell me you wouldn't be excited to see this lineup on a regular basis:

C    Joe Mauer (LeCroy vs. LHP)

1B Doug Mientkiewicz
2B Michael Cuddyer (Punto when Silva is pitching and late in games)
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Corey Koskie
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Torii Hunter
RF Jacque Jones (Ford vs. LHP)
DH Justin Morneau

That is an offense with only one weak link, at shortstop. That group is strong from top to bottom and it could score an awful lot of runs.

And finally ...

What can I say about Johan Santana? I've been his biggest backer for quite a while now and I've been talking him up as the next great starting pitcher. Quite simply, he has not been good this year. He has mixed in some very nice performances, just enough to keep getting my hopes up, but the overall numbers are just awful.

I'm not sure what to say. I'm inclined to think that he is injured, but who knows. It's still early, but a 5.60 ERA is plenty to get worried about from someone who was dominant as a starting pitcher in each of the past two years (18-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 31 starts, to be exact). Plus, he had offseason surgery to clear bone chips out of his elbow.

If you'd have told me Santana was going to be disappointing this year, I would have believed it. His being great was no sure thing. But what he's done so far is beyond disappointing, it's troubling.

Nothing to do but wait it out, I guess. I'll say right now that I won't be shocked if we find out in a few weeks that something is wrong with him physically.

New article at The Hardball Times: How Long is a Fluke a Fluke?

Today's picks:

Arizona (Webb) +140 over Florida (Pavano)

Atlanta (Thomson) -100 over Montreal (Day)

Anaheim (Lackey) +110 over Toronto (Miller)

Total to date: -$835

W/L record: 54-69 (1-4 on Friday for -405 with one rainout. I stink.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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