October 12, 2002

Nok Hockey, Steaks and a 2-1 ballgame

I watched last night's ballgame at my aunt and uncle's (and cousins') house (as opposed to the privacy of my own closet, aka dorm room), so I didn't take the notes that I usually do.

So, instead of a more detailed recap of the game's events (like I did for game 1) I figured I would just do a Larry King style "notes" entry, complete with tons of non sequiturs, just like Larry does himself.

Here we go...

How is it possible that, during my nearly 20 years on this planet, I did not discover the wonders of "Nok Hockey" until last night?!

I've played countless games of "Air Hockey" in my time and I even had my very own miniature Air Hockey table, but my first experience with Nok Hockey came last night.

I think my total record was 4-4 last night, but it should be noted that of those 4 victories, none of them came against anyone older than 12.

Still, not bad for my first day as a Nok Hockey player, I think I am well on my way to becoming a solid player for many years to come.

Speaking of which (oops, so much for the tons of non sequiturs)...

My uncle apparently has a long and successful history of Nok Hockey playing.


He has tons of trophies and he was telling me about tournaments he played in and all sorts of stuff.

It's like a whole 'nother world has been opened up to me!

(I was 0-2 against him last night, by the way)

We had T-Bone steaks for dinner before the game, which brought to mind (as almost everything does) a great Seinfeld episode.

"Hey, we should call you T-Bone!"

The second batter of the game, Cristian Guzman, hit a ball in the hole at shortstop that David Eckstein got to in plenty of time, but his throw bounced a few feet in front of first base, Scott Spiezio couldn't pick it and Guzy ended up safe on first.

On the play, my uncle had two points that he made:

1) "Eckstein has a horrible arm."

2) "What happened to Guzman's speed?!"

Okay, so #2 is a question and not really a point, but you get the idea.

Eckstein does has a very bad arm, especially for a shortstop.

Of course, he wasn't always a SS and was actually switched there in the middle of last season.

That said, he has very good range and he makes the plays the majority of the time.

I would much have rather have him defensively than Cristian Guzman or Derek Jeter.

Although, if you could somehow morph Jeter's arm and Eckstein's everything else, you would have a hell of a defensive shortstop.

And Guzman's speed is way down from what it was prior to this year.

He isn't hitting nearly as many triples, he suddenly stinks at stealing bases and he is just noticeably slower in almost everything he does.

I suspect it is the result of an injury or two, which is sad because I think Guzman was probably the fastest base runner in the American League before this year.

I like Ron Gardenhire as a manager and I think the players really like him too (which is just slightly more important than me liking him).

I think he generally does a good job with in-game managing and he seems to do an excellent job with off-the-field stuff.

However, I think the one area that he is weak is lineup construction, particularly against left-handed starting pitchers.

Not so much the batting order (although anyone that bats Guzman #2 could stand to improve a little bit in that area) but specifically his "platooning" techniques (or lack of).

He refuses to put Jacque Jones on the bench against lefties, which is a huge mistake, despite the double he finally got last night.

Last night he suddenly comes to the conclusion that Michael Cuddyer's defense in right field is too bad to take, so he decides Cuddyer (a right handed hitter) should be on the bench against Jarrod Washburn.

That is bad enough considering we can use all the right handed hitters (especially ones that have a history of clobbering the ball in the minor leagues) we can get against lefty starters, but it is even worse when his new RF is Dustan Mohr and his .203/.293/.338 against southpaws this season.

Of course, Mohr got 2 hits last night, so maybe Gardy had a "feeling" or something.

And finally, as I have talked about numerous times, my favorite Minnesota Twin continues to sit on the bench against right-handers, left-handers and ambidextrous pitchers.

That's right, FREE BOBBY KIELTY!!!!!

.291/.405/.484 should not be on the bench.

Basically, I just wish he would "play the percentages" a little more against left handers.

Corey Koskie had the "golden sombrero" last night (aka 4 strikeouts).

Not a good night for our young Canadian friend.

Is anyone else sick of seeing Franciso Rodriguez?

Now I am just hoping that, at some point, me writing an entry about him earlier will somehow jinx him.

How he ever gave up any runs in the minor leagues is beyond me.

He now has 14 innings pitched in the Major Leagues.

In those 14 innings:

26 strikeouts

5 walks

6 hits

3 wins (all in the playoffs)

Meanwhile Gardenhire has his own Francisco Rodriguez in Johan Santana (whom I also wrote an entry about earlier).

Santana led all of Major League baseball in strikeouts per 9 innings.

But while Mike Scioscia is willing to stick Rodriguez into any close game for 1 inning or 3 innings or whatever, Gardenhire decided to use Johan for 1/3 of an inning in last night's game.

While I am on the subject of Gardy and relief pitching last night...

There was absolutely no need for him to do what he did (use 4 relievers) in the 7th inning.

He took Eric Milton out after 6 innings and brought in Latroy Hawkins to face 3 straight right-handed batters.

Latroy walked Bengie Molina to start the inning, Benji Gil sacrificed Chone Figgins (who ran for Molina) and then Latroy gave a up "single" to David Eckstein.

Okay, so Latroy didn't do very well (although if Rivas catches the Eckstein ball, he easily doubles Figgins off of second base), but bringing him in to face 3 straight righties made sense.

The Gardy brings in Johan to pitch to Darin Erstad, who hits a grounder to second which Rivas throws home to get Figgins at the plate.

And that was it for Santana, as he was lifted and Mike "Heehee" Jackson was brought in to face Tim Salmon.

Jackson walked Salmon and he was then yanked in favor of J.C. Romero.

Gardenhire used 3 pitchers after he took Latroy out, simply because he wanted Mike Jackson in the game to face Tim Salmon?!

Why not leave Johan in to pitch to Salmon, which would allow you to save Jackson AND Romero, because Johan (a lefty just like Romero) could then also pitch to Garret Anderson.

Lefty, righty, whatever, Johan is a better choice than Mike Jackson.

If I were managing last night's ballgame (which is pretty unlikely, just so you know) here is what I would have done with the pitching:

1) Take Eric Milton out of the game after 6 innings, with the scored tied 1-1 (exactly what Gardy did).

2) Bring Johan Santana into the game and treat his appearance as if it were a "start."

That is, leave him in there, basically, until the game is over, one way or another.

I am a huge believer in playing percentages and I am defininitely a fan of brining in a great lefty reliever to shut down a left-handed hitter (and the same with a righty reliever and a righty hitter).

But to bring a guy in to face one batter just because he is right-handed defeats the purpose.

Mike Jackson is right-handed and so is Tim Salmon.

But Mike Jackson is not dominant against right-handed batters (.288/.322/.424) and Tim Salmon is not horrible against right-handed pitchers (.280/.368/.503.

So there is no point in wasting Johan Santana because you need to get Mike Jackson in there to face Salmon.

Santana is a better choice to have face Salmon and the choice becomes even more when it also means you don't have to use 2 other pitchers in the process.

Okay, rant over.

During the regular season, Juan Carlos Romero gave up a total of 3 home runs in 291 at bats against hitters.

Last night, he gave up the game winning homer to Troy Glaus.

That's playoff baseball for you.

I didn't really get a chance to hear much of what Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons had to say during the game last night, but I did catch one beauty.

Steve Lyons (talking about Eric Milton's knee injury): "Milton pitched a long time with the injury this season before he finally decided to have the surgery."

That statement is not just incorrect, it is an absolute lie.

Do they not have any notes in front of them? Do they not have meetings with the teams to discuss details of the season? What the heck is going on?

Eric Milton heard his knee "pop" while warming up in the bullpen a couple of minutes before his August 6th start against Baltimore.

He did not throw a pitch in that game and immediately went to the hospital to have knee checked out.

He had surgery a couple of days later.

If announcers stuck to just saying idiotic things, I wouldn't really mind so much.

But when they say things that just are not anywhere close to being true, I get mad.

Especially because they are the ones that are announcing the Twins game to a national audience, most of whom probably haven't seen the Twins play in about a decade.

Troy Percival looked good in the game last night, but the Twins came real close to getting 2 hits off of him in the 9th inning.

Alex Ochoa (the RF) and Garret Anderson (the LF) each made very nice diving catches to prevent singles (at least).

Ochoa was in as a defensive replacement for Salmon.

I bet that a defensive replacement making a great defensive play must make a manager feel like an absolute genius.

At this point Percival looks a lot more hittable than Rodriguez.

Eric Milton looked great last night.

That is two awesome starts in a row, so he is definitely back 100% from the injury.

If we make it to a game 7, I feel fairly confident having him on the mound.

Of course, he would be facing Jarrod Washburn in that game 7.

Washburn was also pretty awesome last night.

He struck out 7, didn't walk a single person and gave up only 1 extra-base hit (the game tying double to Jones).

Anaheim pinch runner Chone Figgins has got to have the worst speed-to-base running instincts ratio in the entire history of organized baseball.

He should have scored on the Eckstein line drive that Rivas almost caught.

And if he wasn't going to score on that play, he shouldn't have been in a position to be doubled off.

Either a) score on the play and have the possibility of making a double play if Rivas holds onto the ball or b) don't score on the play and do not be in a position to be doubled off if Rivas holds on.

Of course, Chone chose c) which was find a spot that is an equal distance between 2nd and 3rd, stand there for several seconds and then jog casually into the third base.

Oh, I almost forgot...

If you are going to bring Mike Jackson into the game to face 1 right-handed batter, make it Troy Glaus!

Glaus' splits against lefties and righties:

vs lefties - .298/.389/.534

vs righties - .230/.337/.422

Gardy wasted 3 pitchers in the 7th so that he could get Romero and Santana to each face lefty batters and Jackson to face a righty batter.

Okay fine.

And then in the 8th he lets Romero face a right handed batter that absolutely demolishes lefties and struggles against righties.

There is something not quite right with that logic.

And yes, I am still bitter about the home run.

My mom has been watching a lot of this series and last night she made he first big baseball comment to me about the Angels:

Mom: "Their first baseman is a really good player isn't he?"

So my mom watched the Angels play 3 times in a week and the main thing she noticed (or thought she noticed) was that Scott Spiezio is a really good player.

I think maybe the soul patch with the red hair coloring threw her off or something.

If I never hear about Doug Mientkiewicz and Alex Rodriguez going to high school together again, I will be a happy man.

That tidbit of info has been official run into the ground.

Torii Hunter made a hell of a catch on that ball Salmon hit in the first inning.

It looked an awful lot like the one he made in the All-Star Game off of Superman.

And Jacque Jones made an almost equally great catch in the left field corner on Garret Anderson's drive in the 3rd inning.

Anderson came about 10 combined feet short of hitting 4 homers last night.

And finally...

The line of the night didn't come from Thom Brennaman or Steve Lyons.

It came from my cousin Amy.

She likes to mimic people's voices and apparently one of her favorite ones to do is my voice.

So after a little while I said to her (jokingly), "One day someone is gonna beat you up," and I made a fist.

She looked at me for a minute and said, "You have fat fingers."

Game 4 tonight.

Radke vs. Lackey.

This is the game the Twins have got to win.


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