August 14, 2006

Twins Notes

  • David Andriesen of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had an interesting article last week about the lost art of stealing home, which included this Twins-related note:
    It has never been a common offensive weapon, but there was a time stealing home wasn't such a rarity. Ty Cobb pulled it off 54 times in his career. Jackie Robinson famously, and controversially, did it in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, maybe or maybe not beating the tag by the Yankees' Yogi Berra. Rod Carew had a field day in 1969, stealing home seven times.

    Since Robinson retired in 1956, however, Carew (17 career steals of home) and Paul Molitor (10) have been the only players to retire with at least 10.

    A sidebar to the article listing "the most audacious home invasions since 1900" includes this one:

    CESAR TOVAR, ROD CAREW, TWINS (May 18, 1969)

    Tovar, also famous for spoiling five no-hit bids during his major league career, led off the third inning with a single off Detroit starter Mickey Lolich. After Lolich balked him to second, Tovar stole third. Lolich then walked Carew. Two pitches later, Tovar and Carew teamed up on a double steal, Tovar swiping home and Carew pilfering second. Then, with Harmon Killebrew batting, Carew caught Lolich napping and executed a straight steal of home.

    Sure enough, I headed over to Retrosheet to look at the boxscore for the game in question and found the following play-by-play listed:

    TWINS 3RD: Tovar singled; Lolich balked [Tovar to second]; Tovar stole third; Carew walked; Tovar stole home and Carew stole second; Carew stole third; Carew stole home; Killebrew struck out; Oliva popped to third; Cardenas walked; Mitterwald made an out to left; 2 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Tigers 2, Twins 2.

    Amazingly, all that running was for naught, as Mickey Lolich recovered to pitch a complete game and the Tigers won 8-2.

  • Here's an amusing note from the Chicago Tribune:
    Jacque Jones and Angel Pagan both failed to hit cutoff men during Thursday's loss in Milwaukee. Do the Cubs have to give their outfielders a refresher course on the fundamentals?

    "It's not about teaching as much as executing," [Dusty] Baker said.

    Baker said Pagan "panicked" when he lost a ball at the wall and made a wild throw, while Jones is trying too hard.

    "You saw earlier in the year, Jacque was throwing low," Baker said. "Now he's trying to compensate and he's throwing high. The next step is in the middle. He knows.

    "Sometimes you start thinking about throwing out everybody instead of just doing what you're supposed to do. We talked."

    It's interesting that Jacque Jones' problems making consistent throws from the outfield and inability to hit left-handers have suddenly become noteworthy issues, because they were rarely mentioned while he was in Minnesota. The Chicago media is far from perfect, but they deserve credit for viewing someone like Jones with a far more critical eye than anyone covering the Twins ever did.

    A Cubs fan who read up on Jones' press clippings this offseason was probably shocked to see him bouncing and air-mailing throws all over the place or hitting .186 against southpaws. Meanwhile, he's just doing what he's always done, which also includes hitting .311/.350/.543 against righties. That showing the same flaws in Chicago gets far more attention than in Minnesota is revealing.

  • Thanks to a site called Excruciating Baseball Lists, we now know the Twins' all-time leaders in walk-off RBIs:
    Harmon Killebrew    11
    Kirby Puckett 11
    Kent Hrbek 10
    Rod Carew 9
    Tom Brunansky 9
    Larry Hisle 8
    Jacque Jones 8
    Tony Oliva 7
    Gary Gaetti 7
    Brian Harper 7
    George Mitterwald 7
    Cristian Guzman 7
    Rich Reese 7

    I'm not sure what to do with this information, exactly, but I find it oddly fascinating.

  • Here's what the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, reported about Francisco Liriano's injury status in Monday's Minneapolis Star Tribune:
    Francisco Liriano's throwing session Tuesday will consist of light tosses from 60 feet, with a chance he'll back out to 90 feet. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said the session will last for just a few minutes as they check to see whether there's any pain in Liriano's elbow.

    Liriano is in the middle of a shoulder and elbow strengthening program in an effort to return to the lineup. He's out indefinitely, but the club quietly is hoping he will return at the end of the month.

    Here's what Twins beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer reported about Liriano's status in Monday's St. Paul Pioneer Press:

    Despite a report that injured rookie Francisco Liriano could begin playing catch as soon as Tuesday, the medical staff said that the all-star pitcher is to remain completely shut down from all throwing until his status is re-evaluated next weekend before the team heads on the road.

    Until then, Liriano, on the disabled list because of a chronic strain in an elbow ligament and weakness in his shoulder, is scheduled only for physical therapy under a trainer's supervision.

    LEN3 reported that Liriano will throw today and quasi-quotes pitching coach Rick Anderson saying that the session with last "just a few minutes." Meanwhile, Wittenmyer reports that the team medical staff said Liriano will not throw today and instead will "remain completely shutdown" until at least the weekend.

    Two reports about the exact same story published in competing newspapers on the very same day, yet they contain completely contradictory information. And they say bloggers don't always provide the most reliable information.

  • Speaking of Wittenmyer, he and fellow Twins beat writer Jason Williams apparently have a weekly debate in the Pioneer Press. I say "apparently" because I haven't actually seen a print version of the Pioneer Press in years and "debate" because more accurately calling what Wittenmyer and Williams do a "train wreck" might hurt someone's feelings. Here's an example from this week's version:
    Gordon: That's exactly why I think this team has a chance--heart. As in, a heart of the batting order that the Twins haven't had since Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. Justin Morneau alone provides the kind of legitimate power and run production that make this lineup formidable enough to win on nights it doesn't get its best pitching. That's the difference between this team and those three-peat division winners.

    Jason: Yeah, your theory really worked well against Toronto junkballer Ted Lilly on Thursday night, didn't it?

    Gordon: Look, Bill James. I know you're a baseball expert and everything, but even the 1927 Yankees were shut out every once in a while.

    While doing a "chat session" on the Pioneer Press' website, Williams once famously responded to criticism by telling a reader: "You have no idea what I do. NO IDEA." Upon further reflection, I've come to realize that I do have a pretty good idea of what Williams "does." The difficult part, for me at least, is figuring out how a major newspaper allows him to do it.

    Incidentally, I'd comment on Wittenmyer's brilliant "Look, Bill James" catch-phrase, except I can't quite figure out if he was attempting to insult Williams, James, or both. Keep up the great work, guys!

  • The New York Times has featured columns about the Twins a surprising number of times this season, with Pat Borzi penning the latest on how "Liriano's eagerness leads to a lesson in honesty."
  • Twins first-round pick Chris Parmelee signed quickly and has gotten off to a tremendous start in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .286/.362/.556 in 39 games. Parmelee's 40-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't very encouraging, but smacking eight homers and 17 total extra-base hits in 133 at-bats is extremely impressive in the GCL.

    If you take out Parmelee's numbers, the rest of the GCL Twins have hit 15 homers in 1,370 at-bats (one every 91 at-bats) and the entire league has 228 homers in 19,369 at-bats (one every 85 at-bats). Perhaps the Twins won't have to wait another 19 years for the next 30-homer hitter.


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