September 1, 2005
Thirteen hits. Two walks. One hit by pitch. Zero runs.
For a while now, I've simply been disappointed with the Twins' hitters. Yesterday afternoon's game, in which they reached base safely 16 times in nine innings and failed to score a single run against the worst team in baseball, may have taken that disappointment to a new level. In fact, what I'm feeling for this team now has very little to do with disappointment.
I get excited when Joe Mauer comes to the plate, root like hell for Justin Morneau to snap out of his funk, and hold some optimism that Jason Bartlett can hit well enough down the stretch to keep Ron Gardenhire from yanking him around again next season. Aside from those three players, the emotion I feel most often now while watching the Twins at the plate is contempt.
At some point the offense was just struggling, but that is no longer the case. They still can't hit a lick, of course, but now they are compounding the problem by playing sloppy, uninspired, fundamentally lacking baseball. They don't hit for any power, yet they don't execute simple plays to move runners over or drive them in from third base.
Yesterday afternoon, for instance, Mike Redmond reached on an infield single with one out in the eighth inning and Bartlett followed with a double. Brent Abernathy pinch-ran for Redmond and the Twins had runners on second and third with one out, Michael Ryan at the plate, and the game tied at 0-0. I'm sure you can take a wild guess as to what happened with this prime scoring opportunity.
Royals reliever Mike MacDougal bounced a pitch to the backstop, at which point Abernathy broke from third base and found himself in no man's land when catcher Paul Phillips fielded the ball cleanly. Phillips threw back to third, Abernathy was out by several feet diving back to the base, and suddenly Ryan had two strikes on him with two outs and a runner on second base. He proceeded to strike out and yet another seemingly easy scoring opportunity was wasted.
In some ways, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. Or at least this camel's back. I can no longer handle being emotionally invested in this team doing well, because I can no longer stand to watch them fail miserably in situations that call for little more than proper execution of fundamentals. Too often the hitters in this lineup can't bunt a runner over, can't hit a fly ball to the outfield with a runner on third base, and can't even make contact at the plate when just about anything besides a strikeout will get the job done.
That's all fine if you're the Red Sox or Yankees, but this is a team that now ranks 12th or worse among the 14 American League teams in homers, total bases, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and Isolated Power. If you're going to hit like it's the 1960s, you need to play the rest of your game that way too. Instead, the Twins neither hit for power or "do the little things," and the end result is really ugly to watch.
Remember all that stuff we used to hear about the Twins "playing the game the right way"?
(And I'm not even going to talk about the errors -- both mental and physical -- committed, other runners thrown out at various places, double plays hit into, and the fact that the best reliever on the entire team didn't make an appearance in a 1-0 game while a 42-year-old with a 4.94 ERA was on the mound when Denny Hocking -- Denny Hocking?! -- scored the winning run.)
Today's Picks (93-84, +$685):
Minnesota -16 (-110) over Tulsa
Oakland (Haren) -110 over New York (Leiter)