May 9, 2007

Twins Notes: Dates, Stories, and Batista's Return

  • An MRI uncovering bleeding in Joe Mauer's injured quadriceps muscle wasn't enough to stop Extra from naming him one of "America's Most Eligible Bachelors." The write-up about him on the show's website is pretty amusing, and includes the following tidbits and well-crafted prose:
    He's super hot, and he'll make $4 million this year. ... But behind all that fame and fortune is the humble heart of a regular Joe. ... Joe's not the flashy type, but get this, ladies: he owns four houses, loves to shop for shoes, and wants to be married! ... So for those of you keeping score, Joe can tell you what it takes to get to home base!

    Not since Seth Stohs' last blog entry has someone made such extensive use of exclamation points in an article about a baseball player! Also, you'd think that someone who's "keeping score" would know that home is a plate, not a base. Anyway, Mauer is quoted as saying, "I think I'll be a great husband," which is essentially like throwing chum to a bunch of sharks. Sure enough, accompanying the article there are dozens of comments from women hoping to get a date with Mauer.

    Most of them were smart enough to use only their first name or an alias, but someone named Erica Yohre was lucky enough to have her parents post a comment making the case for Mauer to date her. So if Mauer is looking for a girl who comes from a family that does things like try to get their daughter hooked up with a famous athlete by posting comments that he'll never see on a tabloid show's website, she's the girl for him. Assuming she hasn't died of embarrassment, of course.

  • During Saturday afternoon's game against Boston, FSN showed highlights of the Red Sox hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers off Yankees starter Chase Wright earlier this season. Once the clip ended, play-by-play man Dick Bremer immediately began telling a story about how the Twins also hit four straight homers back in 1964. Thanks to the miracle of TiVo, here's an exact, word-for-word transcript of what Bremer said:
    Back in 1964, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jim Hall, and Harmon Killebrew hit four straight home runs. Earl Battey was the next hitter. And I checked with Tom Mee, the Twins' media director for many years, who was in Kansas City for that game. He said in the old Kansas City ballpark, it was a long way to left field and it was his opinion that Earl Battey tried to hit the ball to right field after the four guys ahead of him hit home runs. And Earl Battey hit one about two-thirds of the way off the fence in right field. He almost became the fifth Twin to homer in a row.

    That's a fascinating story and Bremer told it very well, but unfortunately it's apocryphal. It narrowly avoids being simply "not true" because many of the scene-setting details are accurate, but the whole thing begins to fall apart once Earl Battey steps to the plate and the climax is an outright lie. So, which part is actually true? Well, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall, and Harmon Killebrew did hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers against Kansas City in 1964.

    To be exact, it was May 2, 1964. With the game tied at 3-3 in the top of the 11th inning, Oliva led off by homering to right field off Dan Pfister. Allison followed with a homer to left field and Hall made it three straight with a homer to right field. Pfister was then yanked from the game, with Vern Handrahan replacing him. Killebrew greeted the new pitcher with a homer to left field, giving the Twins a 7-3 lead after four consecutive solo homers. So far so good, right?

    Just as the Bremer-Mee story claims, Battey then stepped to the plate with a chance to hit the Twins' fifth straight homer. It's possible that he "tried to hit the ball to right field after the four guys ahead of him hit home runs," but that's where the potential for truth ends. Rather than "hit one about two-thirds of the way off the fence in right field," what actually happened is that Battey struck out looking. Seriously. No drama and no near-homer, just a called third strike. So much for all that.

    It's amazing that Mee has somehow remembered the events so wrongly given that he supposedly was at the game in question while working for the Twins. Beyond that, not only has he apparently been telling a fictionalized version of the story to people, Bremer was perfectly willing to relay it to what is a relatively substantial television audience without so much as checking the tale's most basic elements, all while doing his very best to play up the story's made-up drama.

    The whole thing struck me as too good to be true when Bremer said it Saturday and within about 30 seconds my suspicions were effortlessly confirmed via multiple sources. Setting aside Mee's faulty memory, it's a shame that Bremer and FSN couldn't have taken the same amount of time that I did to confirm his story before passing it off as reality. Then again, I suppose not everyone can be expected to have the same sort of credibility as a blogger.

  • Over at one of my absolute favorite blogs, U.S.S. Mariner, Dave Cameron wrote about "three trades that should happen tomorrow" and suggested a Scott Baker-for-Wladimir Balentien swap between the Twins and Mariners. Baker is pitching well at Triple-A so far this year and I think his long-term value is a lot higher than most Twins fans (and maybe even the Twins themselves) give him credit for. With that said, it's a deal that I'd consider.

    Here's what Cameron wrote about why Balentien might be attractive to the Twins:

    Josh Rabe, Jason Kubel, and Jason Tyner are not the kind of guys who should be splitting at-bats at a power position for a team with playoff aspirations. The Twins could use a left fielder with some power, and with Torii Hunter's looming free agency, it would help if he was right-handed and under contract for more than just one year.

    Balentien is a right-handed hitter who's always shown big-time power in the minors, but his plate discipline and strike-zone control have been wildly inconsistent. The skills are definitely there for him to be an impact bat and he's hitting .333/.407/.585 with eight homers in 32 games at Triple-A despite not turning 23 years old until July. Of course, Terry Ryan hordes pitching to no end and "doesn't care about home runs," so don't expect Cameron's suggestion to happen.

  • Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but I took this comment from Sidney Ponson as a jab at the Twins' defense: "I have to start doing something or change my mentality to striking people out instead of letting them hit the ball." There's some truth to that, because the Twins' .637 Defense Efficiency Ratio with Ponson on the mound is horrible, but it'd also help if he threw more strikes and kept the ball in the ballpark for the defense to catch.

    As a very wise man once said, "When you start throwing everyone else under the bus, there won't be anyone left to keep you from getting run over." (OK, I made that up just now, but it sounds pretty good.)

  • Despite continuing a recent trend of filling his Minneapolis Star Tribune columns with exaggerations and hyperbole meant solely to stir up controversy, I agreed with an awful lot of what Patrick Reusse wrote this week about the Twins' lack of offense and Ryan's risk-averse management style. I'll avoid discussing the crux of the piece, because it's worth reading the whole thing, but I wanted to point out this sarcastic excerpt regarding Lew Ford:
    No, the Twins don't need to trade one of the surplus pitchers for a 25-year-old outfielder with a chance--not when Lew Ford, a.k.a. TLFSPIBH, is on the comeback trail from his knee surgery.

    Once again over the weekend, there were breathless questions addressed to Ryan about Ford's recovery. The audience was told he could be back within a few days.

    Wow! The Twins soon will be getting their boost from The Least Fundamentally Sound Player in Baseball History. And your guy Leewwww! should be particularly helpful against those troublesome lefties, against whom he chopped away at .206 (21-for-102) in 2006.

    Sure enough, just a couple days later the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, wrote the following in an article about Ryan shooting down talk of the Twins needing to trade for a hitter:

    Ryan pointed out that the Twins will eventually get healthy. ... Ryan added that Lew Ford, who had knee surgery in spring training, could be activated by the end of the week.

    Ford isn't being painted as the savior that Reusse suggests he is, especially by LEN3, but it's true that prior to Mauer going down, injuries to mediocre players like Ford were constantly being brought up by the fans, media, and team to "explain" the Twins' lack of hitting. It was as if being without Ford, Rondell White, and Jeff Cirillo is enough to crush an entire offense. Meanwhile, as Joe Christensen pointed out on his Star Tribune blog, injuries haven't hurt the Twins any more than other teams.

  • I'm not sure exactly what to make of the fact that Sid Hartman agrees with me on something, which is why I had mixed emotions after seeing the following headline attached to his column: "Lack of Depth Haunts Twins." As the old saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day (I'll leave it to you to decide which of us is the broken clock).
  • As bad as the Twins' offense has been, at least they're not the team that's turning to Tony Batista this time around.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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