April 19, 2006

Twins Notes

Before I get to some baseball talk, I want to thank everyone who offered up their support yesterday after I wrote about my sick 6-year-old Boston Terrier, Samantha. The response was truly overwhelming--50 comments, several dozen e-mails, and a few entries on other blogs--and hearing everyone's stories about the dogs they've loved and lost made me feel a little better about the whole situation.

Unfortunately, we learned yesterday that Sammi has at most two months to live, and the specialist at the University of Minnesota indicated that it's more likely that she'll begin to go downhill quickly within a month. I was sort of expecting to hear that, but the news was made harder to take by the fact that she had a really good day yesterday, walking around the house without any problems, going up and down the stairs a few times, and hopping on the bed to take a nap with me in the afternoon.

For now we are going to let her be, but we plan to move quickly once she starts to suffer. I tried to make peace with her being seriously ill once we signed on for the CT scan last week, but now that there's an actual timetable involved it is certainly a lot more "real." She won't last the entire summer, she won't be around when I leave to attend the SABR convention at the end of June, and she probably won't even be here when my family from Milwaukee visits in two months.

If only because I need to take my mind off Sammi for a while, here are some Twins notes ...

  • I don't have my usual collection of notes for last night's game--although it was a great one with tons of interesting subplots--but in light of how the game ended I wanted to point out these quotes from Nick Nelson of Nick & Nick's Twins Blog in the comments section here earlier this week:
    Has Michael Cuddyer ever come up with a meaningful hit? ... [W]hile at times a capable major league player, Cuddyer is one of the worst players under pressure that I've ever seen.

    [...]

    There are various aspects of Cuddyer's track record that lead me to believe he simply does not handle pressure well. ... While Cuddy has put up respectable numbers in his career, he rarely seems to do his damage at opportune times.

    And then we have this:


    As Will Hunting would say, How you like them apples?

    Incidentally, Cuddyer has hit .272/.365/.500 in "Close & Late" situations over the past three years, and in response to Nelson's comment Will Young provided links to multiple games when Cuddyer has come up with big hits in the past. In other words, Cuddyer might be a lot of things, but someone who wilts under pressure probably isn't one of them.

    (To be clear, I'm mostly just giving Nick a hard time. I like him, think he does a nice job blogging, and enjoy his comments here. I just think he has irrational feelings about Cuddyer and immediately thought of the comments he made when Cuddyer went deep to win the game. Plus, a few minutes after the game he instant messaged me and said: "Look, I know what you're gonna say, so all I can ask is ... go easy on me.")

  • Here's a picture of Sammi watching while Lew Ford coaxes a hard-fought, game-tying walk off Francisco Rodriguez:


    And here's a picture of Sammi just a short time later, moments after Cuddyer won the game with a walk-off homer:


    Much like Nick, she didn't have much faith.

  • I wonder what J.C. Romero's thoughts on the Angels' bullpen are now?
  • A longtime reader who goes by the name "Barry Metropolis" in the comments section recently had a chance to hear Twins general manager Terry Ryan speak to his University of Minnesota law school class. Metropolis wrote up the experience at his blog and included all sorts of interesting and fairly revealing details about what Ryan reportedly said.

    Among the highlights: Ryan said Rondell White's at-bats have been "terrible" ... During his own playing career Ryan spent too much time "drinking, chasing, and carousing" ... He's worried about Francisco Liriano's arrest for drunk driving and doesn't want him to become "another Dwight Gooden" ... Torii Hunter may not be back next season because of his high salary ... A's general manager Billy Beane is "smarter than some people give him credit for."

    There are a lot more interesting notes in what was a lengthy write-up, and I found Ryan's extended comments on Liriano particularly fascinating. I feel somewhat uneasy quoting specific passages--I wasn't there to witness Ryan's talk and given the nature of his comments I'm unsure if he was under the impression that what he said would show up in writing somewhere--but if you're curious, check out Metropolis' blog for the full story.

  • Speaking of Hunter possibly not returning next season, Johnny Damon said last week that he'd be willing to move from center field to make room for Hunter on the Yankees. I said this offseason that trading Hunter would be a good decision, so I certainly won't be heartbroken if he leaves after the season. However, given his potential trade value over the past couple years it will be a shame if Hunter leaves without the Twins receiving anything in return. Cashing Hunter in for a top prospect like Philip Hughes while clearing about $10 million off the books would be nice.
  • Whenever Johan Santana gets roughed up against Toronto the local media (and specifically Shecky Souhan) speculates about the Blue Jays stealing signs. Jason Varitek and the Red Sox apparently agree, because when playing the Blue Jays they plan specifically for the sign-stealing. As Varitek told the Boston Herald: "They're known for relaying signs at second. They always have been and they're good at it."

    Of course, the bigger issue is perhaps why sign-stealing hurts Santana more than it does other pitchers. After all, the Blue Jays have knocked Santana around, but last year they ranked fifth among AL teams in runs scored and the year before that they ranked 12th. I'm guessing that when it comes to Santana struggling against Toronto a bigger deal is made of the sign-stealing than is probably merited.

  • Monday in this space I wrote that one of Ron Gardenhire's biggest weaknesses as a manager is that "starting pitchers are almost never pulled from a game until they've gotten themselves into trouble." Sure enough, on Tuesday he left Carlos Silva in the game to give up eight runs on 12 hits. Here's what Gardenhire had to say after the game:
    It just didn't work out for us. It just kinda got away from us at the end.

    Not quite. It actually "got away" from the Twins in the middle, when Silva gave up two runs in the fourth inning and three more runs in the fifth inning, but Gardenhire stubbornly left Silva in long enough for things to get really ugly. Last night Kyle Lohse stuck around long enough to see six runs cross the plate (with another two runners on base).

  • Jason Williams of the St. Paul Pioneer Press had an interesting article last week about the Twins' pursuit of Frank Thomas this winter. The article reports that Thomas and the Twins talked during the offseason, but the Twins turned to White instead because they were concerned about Thomas' injury status and wanted to get something worked out with a new designated hitter quickly.

    Thomas has long been one of my favorite players and I would have loved to see him end his career with the Twins. On the other hand, his ankle injury remains a question mark and has basically sapped him of the ability to do more than jog around the bases, and like White he's struggled thus far. With that said, Thomas still has tons of power and a great eye at the plate, which is something the Twins certainly could have used in the middle of the lineup.

  • Remember how I kept bugging the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal, to write something in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Jay Rainville's season-ending shoulder injury? Well, he finally did last week. I consider this a morale victory, even though it took about a month for news of the injury to make it into the paper. I'm hopeful that one day I will be able to use the newspaper as my personal message board, coaxing reporters into printing whatever I bug them about.


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