March 2, 2003

Wrapping up the Weekend (I saw actual baseball!)

Before I get to today's entry, I want to make sure that everyone that is interested in entering the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest gets a chance to do so. I posted it on Friday and it was up through the weekend, but if you haven't entered it yet (and you want to), please make sure you do so. So far I've gotten about 50 entries, but I am hoping to get 100 before the March 24th deadline. If you wanna learn more, just click on the link below:

Enter the 1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest!

I actually watched the Twins play yesterday!

Sometime around noon I got an email from "Ryan," a reader of this site, and he told me that he was in Rhode Island and was watching the Twins/Red Sox game on local TV there.

I was at home for the weekend and we have DirecTV, so I immediately checked to see if the channel he was talking about was "NESN," which is the one the Sox games are on during the year. Sure enough, I switched the channel just in time to catch Manny Ramirez hitting his 3-run homer in the 3rd inning!

Right after that, former Twin David Ortiz hit a double into the left-centerfield gap that Torii Hunter eventually chased down. One thing I noticed immediately was how big Torii has gotten. Not fat, but way more muscular, particularly in his chest and arms. I'm a little worried about this development, as tons of muscles and bulk aren't something I want my gold-glove centerfielder adding in the off-season.

Then, an inning later, Jeremy Giambi took Tony Fiore deep. The Red Sox have got to hold some sort of record for most barrel-chested potential DHs on a single roster, with Ortiz, Millar, Mirabelli, Giambi, Ramirez and probably 50 guys that I didn't mention.

Brad Radke started the game and pitched 2 scoreless innings and then Fiore came in and gave up the 4 runs off 2 homers. More than any other pitcher on the team, Fiore strikes me as the best candidate for a complete implosion, so seeing him give up 2 homers right away wasn't very comforting.

Dustan Mohr went yard off Ramiro Mendoza to start the bottom of the 4th inning. Mohr looks like he also got quite a bit stronger during the off-season and he's got a slightly more upright batting stance this year, which might be an attempt to hit for a little more power.

Jacque Jones hit a 3-run homer early in the game and, later in the game, had simultaneously one of the worst and best bunts in baseball history. He tried to drag it down the first base line and instead he popped it straight up in the air. Amazingly, the ball landed right in between the first baseman (Ortiz) and the pitcher (Willie Banks) and Jacque got himself a single. The Red Sox announcers immediately started talking about how the team's first base defense looks horrible so far this year.

On the very next pitch, Chris Gomez hit a grounder to shortstop and Nomar misplayed it. Not only didn't they make mention of shortstop defense, but the official scorer actually gave Gomez a hit on the play! Crazy. At this point, baseball should just get rid of "errors" as they become completely worthless when official scorers give them out (or don't give them out) willy-nilly.

The Twinkies ended up winning 6-5.

I know it was just a meaningless spring training game in the beginning of March, but it sure did remind me how much I miss baseball!

My mom came into my room in the 4th inning and saw me staring, mesmorized at the screen.

She said, "What are the staring at?"

I said, "BASEBALL!"

Besides playing the Red Sox, the Twins got hit with some bad news over the weekend...

Eric Milton had been having some problems recently with the knee that he originally had surgery on last season and it was announced over the weekend that he would need to have a second surgery on it. According to what I've read, he'll likely miss about 2 months, which would mean he'll miss the first month or so of the regular season.

The bad news is obviously that Milton is going to need a second surgery and will not be able to start the season on time. He's certainly not Randy Johnson, but he's one of the best pitchers the Twins have and, at this point, he's the guy I would want on the mound in an important playoff game. To me, the worst news isn't that he'll miss the first month of the year, because that's really not a huge deal. The worst news is that we don't really know how he'll respond to the surgery and we have no clue as to whether or not he'll be able to truly come back in the 2 months and pitch like he has in the past. Last year he really struggled after coming back from the 1st surgery, so who knows what will happen this time around.

I really can't help but feel like the Twins training staff deserves some blame in regard to Milton. He's been having swelling problems with the knee for at least the last few weeks (and possibly longer) and yet nothing has been done about it. All I kept reading was that it was "no big deal" and that Milton would "tough it out." Well, now he needs surgery and, instead of dealing with this 2 months ago, they are dealing with it now and he's going to miss significant time within the actual season.

The good news here is that Johan Santana, whom I have been yapping about for some time now, will likely get a chance to begin the year in the starting rotation. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it a thousand more times: Johan Santana has the most long-term potential of any player - pitcher or hitter - in the entire Minnesota organization. He's a special player and I think he will take a huge step up this year, in no small part because he'll get a chance to start every 5th day.

I posted the Milton story as a "Clutch Hit" on and I also made this bold prediction: Johan Santana will lead the American League in strikeouts in 2003.

Obviously that isn't very likely, but it is definitely bold! At the very least, I think he'll finish in the top 5 in Ks, but that doesn't sound as exciting as saying he'll lead the whole league.

With Milton's injury and Johan stepping into the rotation it really is amazing how quickly a team can go from having a great deal of depth in an area, like the Twins had with starters, to almost no depth. Now Santana is in the rotation and someone, possibly Grant Balfour (whom I also really like a lot), will need to join the bullpen. And if another starter goes down? Who knows who'll replace him in the rotation.

The Twins got some more bad injury news in the form of Bobby Kielty, whom I have been yapping about even more than Santana, going down with a "strained oblique muscle." He is likely going to miss "2-3 weeks" which won't affect his availability to start the year, but may put him behind schedule as far as simply getting ready to play. Kielty probably needed to catch a few breaks to get a starting job this year (either at DH or RF) and this certainly isn't going to help.

In non-Twins news...

For all you fellow Barry Bonds-worshippers out there, this fact will interest you: Barry hit a homer on the first pitch he saw this spring...and he hit it off of Mark Prior! From what I've read about it, it may have traveled about 10,000 feet if it hadn't smacked into a flag pole.

Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, Barry hit his 2nd homer of the spring off of John Halama yesterday. I'd say that I think Barry is in for a big year, but, well, that seems fairly obvious at this point.

Check out Superman's last 3 seasons and try not to drool all over your keyboard:

Year      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B      BB     SO

2000 607 .306 .440 .688 49 28 117 77
2001 664 .328 .515 .863 73 32 177 93
2002 612 .370 .582 .799 46 31 198 47

I'm not sure what the most impressive stat in that 3-year period is. The .333 batting average? The .512 OBP? The .782 SLG? The 168 homers in only 1,359 at bats (1 every 8 ABs)? The 492 walks in only 439 games? The 492/217 walk/strike out ratio? I guess I'd cop out and say "all of the above."

Oh, and the kicker in all of this?

He's done it in the most severe pitcher's park in baseball!


By the way, have I mentioned I saw baseball this weekend?!

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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