April 17, 2003


At what point does a player take all the decision making away from a manager and simply force himself into the everyday lineup? I'm not exactly sure what that point is, but I'm pretty sure Bobby Kielty is getting damn close to it.

Kielty hit 2 mammoth home runs last night, both to deeeeeeep right-centerfield. His season totals now look like this:

AB     AVG     OBP     SLG      OPS    HR    2B    RBI    RUN

31 .387 .441 .741 1.183 3 2 7 5

I know it's early. I know it's a small sample-size. I know the Twins have a lot of good hitters that deserve playing time. But for love of God, will someone please FREE BOBBY KIELTY?!

Kielty has played in 8 games this season. He has a hit in every single one of them. He is OPSing at 1.183 right now and he hit .291/.405/.484 last season and has consistently posted .380-.400 OBPs and good power numbers throughout his minor league career. Yet, he is currently 10th on the team in at bats and has been a "healthy scratch" (to use a hockey term) in 7 of the 15 games this season.

I like Matthew LeCroy and I like Michael Cuddyer, but right now neither of those guys should take a single at bat away from Bobby Kielty. I just don't know what more he can do to convince Ron Gardenhire of the obvious, which is that he deserves to play every single day. Here's hoping Gardy's eyes were opened a little bit by the two bombs Bobby hit last night. But if they haven't been opened by Kielty's 348 plate appearances last year and his 30 this season prior to last night, well, like I said, I'm not sure what else he can do at this point.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) the other guy I have been wanting to free, Johan Santana, is also playing about as well as humanly possible. Here is what Johan has done so far:

G      IP     ERA    H    SO    BB    HR    OAVG    OOBP    OSLG

6 12.1 0.00 7 16 3 0 .159 .213 .182

Having a good reliever and a nice spot-starter/pinch-hitter is certainly a nice thing, but having a starting pitcher and a starting outfielder is even better.

It does make me feel good to know that the two players that I have taken up a cause for and have discussed and promoted endlessly over the last year or so are both performing exceptionally well. I mean, I would look pretty dumb if I talked about them every week since August and Kielty was hitting .180 and Johan had a 6.50 ERA, right? As it stands now, I am looking pretty damn good and I like that. Of course, I'd like it more if Bobby had 50 at bats right now instead of 31 and Johan was getting set to make his 4th start of the season this weekend.

I saw Kielty interviewed on TV last night and he was asked how he feels about not being an everyday player. His answer was basically that he'd obviously like to play as much as possible, but that he works just as hard no matter what role he is in - whether that is taking extra batting practice following days he doesn't play or getting himself ready to pinch hit in the late innings when he doesn't start. It's about as good an attitude as a player can have and I really admire that. I also admire the fact that every single time he has been given a chance to play this season (and last season) he has produced, without exception. He isn't going to keep getting a hit in every game he plays, but there isn't a doubt in my mind that he would be one of the best hitters (if not the best) on the Twins if he was just given a chance.

I really like Ron Gardenhire and I think he is a good manager and has done an excellent job with the Twins thus far. But it bothers me quite a bit that he doesn't see the potential in Bobby Kielty and I'm just hoping he comes around sooner rather than later. Keep hitting Bobby, you'll get your chance eventually (I hope).

While Kielty was putting on his power display, the Twins had their best all-around game of the young season.

Kenny Rogers was brilliant, striking out 9 hitters in 8 innings, without walking a single hitter or allowing a single run. The Twins pounded out 13 hits, walked 3 times (I'd still like to see a little more patience) and scored 6 runs.

Torii Hunter continued to snap out of his early season slump. After the final game of the Toronto series on the 14th, Torii was hitting .116/.167/.186 and looked completely lost at the plate. Then he hit a homer and a single in the first game of the Detroit series and followed it up with 2 doubles last night. He's still got an awful long way to go before his numbers stop looking horrendous, but that doesn't matter as much as him producing good at bats, which he did in the Detroit series.

Michael Cuddyer came into last night's game hitting .167 and bumped that all the way up to .205 with a triple and a single, plus he also walked once. Corey Koskie hit his first homer of the season and Chris Gomez got himself 3 hits and is now batting .467!

It's funny how a series against the Tigers can really make a team look sharp and confident and snap people out of funks. Hopefully the Twins are feeling good right now, because the Yankees are coming to town this weekend and they'll need all the help they can get.

If they can somehow manage to split the New York series, they then head to Kansas City for 3 and then Chicago for 3. There is a decent chance that they could be in first place by a game or two about 10 days from now, which would please me tremendously.

Switching to a different topic...

I know this website is actually called Aaron's BASEBALL Blog, but occasionally (2-3 times in the last 9 months, according to my count) I like to talk about my second favorite sport, basketball.

As many of you probably know, the NBA regular season ended a couple days ago and the playoffs are about ready to start. My team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, finished with a franchise-best 51-31 record and got themselves home-court advantage in the first round for the first time in the team's history. That's the good news.

The bad news is that they are the #4 seed in the West, which means they play the #5 seed in the West. I was just about 100% sure that was going to be the Portland Trailblazers, until they absolutely fell apart in their final game of the season and lost to the Clippers (yes, the Clippers) by 14 points, dropping them to the #6 slot and propelling the 3-time defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers into the #5 spot.

So, the Wolves finally work themselves into a position where they get home-court advantage and what do they get for it? Well, they have to play probably the best #5 seed in the history of basketball, a team that has won 3 NBA titles in a row and, last time I checked, still features 2 of the best 3-4 players in all of basketball.

I'd love to see the T-Wolves get over that first-round hump finally, but it just isn't gonna happen. The home-court gives them a fighting chance, but Shaq and Kobe will be way too much.

As long as I'm giving out NBA predictions, I might as well go the whole 9 yards and tell you my thoughts on all the first-round matchups...

I like Dallas over Portland, in what should be a pretty easy series for the Mavs, probably wining it 4-0 or 4-1. The Blazers are a complete mess right now, fighting with each other and losing games left and right. Once in a while they step up and play as a team, but it's rare and the Mavs are a better team anyway.

The Kings will destroy the Jazz, in what may be Karl Malone's last post-season in Utah. I remember just a few years ago when the Kings were the upstart team that just barely crept into the playoffs and they kept getting matched up with the Jazz in round one. Those were tremendous games, with Jason Williams going against John Stockton and Karl Malone matching up with Chris Webber. Now, just a few years later, the Kings are head and shoulders above the Jazz (who barely crept into the playoffs) and should dispose of them pretty easily.

In the final West matchup, I like the Spurs over the Suns, probably in 5 games. Tim Duncan is a wonderful player and he has a very underrated supporting cast. Guys like Tony Parker, Malik Rose, Emanuel Ginobili and an on-his-last-legs David Robinson play good defense and give the Spurs just enough scoring to compliment Duncan.

Over in the East, I think the easiest call is the Sixers over the Hornets, in what should be a 4 or 5 game series.

The toughest one to pick is probably Boston and Indiana, because both teams have been up and down all season long and who knows which teams will show up on which nights?

Indiana is a much deeper team, but that doesn't matter as much in the playoffs. And the Celtics have the best player in the series in Paul Pierce. One of my theories on the NBA post-season is that, when in doubt, go with the team that has the best player. For some series, that is easy. Duncan and the Spurs, Webber and the Kings, Iverson and the Sixers. For others, it isn't as simple, but in the Indiana/Boston series, Paul Pierce edges out Jermaine O'Neal. What about Antoine Walker? I happen to think he is one of the most overrated players in the league and I am not particularly fond of players that shoot 38%, especially ones that are 6'9". If this series doesn't go at least 6 games I'll be shocked, and I will go with the best player theory and pick the Celtics.

The top 2 seeds in the East each face difficult first-round opponents. The Bucks (the 7th seed) and the Magic (the 8th) aren't really that good, but they do things that will make them tough opponents in round one.

The Bucks play an up-tempo game with tons of shooters on the court at all times and have been known to just click every once in a while and win a game by 25 points. And the Magic have the best offensive player in basketball in Tracy McGrady, so they are very dangerous.

I like the Nets over the Bucks, because New Jersey has the best player (Jason Kidd) and they play very good defense, which is key when going against all the good offensive players on Milwaukee.

The Detroit/Orlando series all depends solely on one thing: The health of Ben Wallace.

You take a look at the Detroit roster and tell me how they could possibly win the most games in the conference. Here are their top 9 guys in minutes played this year:

Ben Wallace

Cliff Robinson

Richard Hamilton

Chauncey Billups

Corliss Williamson

Chucky Atkins

Michael Curry

Mehmet Okur

Jon Barry

That is basically a group of over-achievers and castoffs from other teams. Quite a few of those guys weren't even drafted and most of them are with their 2nd or 3rd team in the last few years.

The glue that holds it all together, the person that allows a collection of role players to win 50 games and get the #1 seed in the East, is Ben Wallace. This might sound like hyperbole, but I don't think there has ever been a player that has been as valuable as Ben Wallace while scoring as few points as he does. Now, the fact that he can't score shouldn't be seen as a positive, but it simply shows how tremendous he is in the other parts of the game.

Ben Wallace is quite simply a monster defensively and on the glass. He averaged 15.4 rebounds per game this season, #1 in the entire league (which amazingly saw only

6 players averaged 10+ boards per game this season). He is basically a taller, not crazy Dennis Rodman, and I mean that as the highest compliment possible.

Wallace also averaged 3.15 blocks per game, which ranked 2nd in the NBA, and tossed in 1.42 steals/game for good measure.

Offensively, he is very poor. He is pretty much limited to dunks, layups and, if he's feeling good, shots in the paint. He knows his limitations though and doesn't go shooting 15-foot jump shots. He shot 48% from the floor this year, which ranked 22nd in the league.

At only 6'9" (the same size as Antoine Walker, who is content standing behind the 3-point line lauching threes) Ben Wallace is a major force capable of dominating a game without scoring and he is one of the most valuable players in the NBA. If he is not healthy enough to play or plays and is limited, the Pistons suddenly become a team completely lacking any sort of rebounding ability and their defense suddenly has a massive hole in the middle of it.

If Wallace is healthy, they will win the series. If he isn't, Orlando will win it easily. He is that good.

So, assuming Big Ben is healthy, I like LA, San Antonio, Dallas and Sacramento to advance in the West and Detroit, Boston, Philly and New Jersey in the East.

And after round one? Well, I like the Lakers to beat anyone and everyone they go up against. I don't see how anyone could pick against them at this point. Sure, they got off to a horrible start and "only" won 50 games, but this is the same team that has won the last 3 titles and they still have Shaq and Kobe, which is all that matters. Plus, they have gone 30-9 since a loss to New Jersey on January 24th.

Think about that. The 3-time champs still have Kobe and Shaq and they are 30-9 in their last 39 games? That's good enough for me. The only team in the world right now that can beat them is Sacramento, but I just don't think the Kings will be able to do it. Sacramento's one big advantage over LA is their depth, but that is much less of a factor in the post-season. Plus, when the games get close, the Kings know they can't go to Chris Webber and his neverending supply of crappy little jump-hooks in the lane, so they go to Mike Bibby, who is an excellent shooter and a very good player, but not someone a team should be counting on to carry them in a playoff series. Meanwhile, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, who is the first guy I would want taking the final shot for my team in a game that mattered.

Who do I like to make the Finals out of the East? I am not sure, but I know it won't matter one bit. The real NBA finals will take place in the Western Conference Finals (just like they have the past several seasons) and the Timberwolves will give LA a better test than anyone out of the East ever will.

That said, GO WOLVES!


Here are two conversations overheard by Yours Truly in the cafeteria yesterday:

Conversation #1 (Two guys from another dorm - one with a not-so-nice cafeteria - sitting at a table, ready to leave):

Guy 1: Hey, before we go, should I grab anything?

Guy 2: Like what?

Guy 1: I dunno, they have everything here. Do we need anything to take back to the room, like ketchup or something?

Guy 2: Hey, grab a bunch of hot sauce packets.

Guy 1: Why?!

Guy 2: We can throw them at people's doors tonight.

Guy 1: Good idea (Grabs about 50 packets)

Conversation #2 (Two girls sitting at a table, discussing what they did last night):

Girl 1: Craig came over last night and he was so high.

Girl 2: Oh yeah?

Girl 1: Yep, but he's so funny when he's like that; everything he said was funny, I couldn't stop laughing.

Girl 2: Really? Even though he was high?

Girl 1: It's like he's so much more illiterate when he's high, you know?

I actually chuckled out loud when I heard that last line and the two girls heard me and looked at me. There are two interesting things going on in that sentence:

1) She thinks the guy is more clever when he's high, but she says he's more IL-literate instead of literate.

2) Literate, illiterate - it doesn't matter, because neither of those words have anything to do with what she was trying to say.

LITERATE - lit-er-ate

1) Able to read and write.

2) Familiar with literature; literary.

3) Well-written.

ILLITERATE - il-lit-er-ate

1) Unable to read and write.

Unless this kid came over to her room and started reading and writing...

Today's picks:

Philadelphia (Wolf) +135 over Atlanta (Maddux)

New York (Clemens) -140 over Minnesota (Radke)

Detroit (Cornejo) +160 over Kansas City (May)

Cleveland (Rodriguez) +200 over Chicago (Colon)

Texas (Thomson) +210 over Oakland (Zito)

Saturday's picks:

Arizona (Kim) +120 over St. Louis (Simontachi)

Florida (Burnett) +115 over New York (Trachsel)

Chicago (Prior) -160 over Pittsburgh (Wells)

Philadelphia (Padilla) +115 over Atlanta (Hampton)

San Francisco (Moss) -115 over Los Angeles (Ashby)

Chicago (Stewart) -155 over Cleveland (Anderson)

New York (Pettitte) -150 over Minnesota (Mays)

Total to date: + $860

W/L record: 32-32 (Not a good day for me yesterday. I went 0-4 and lost a total of $405.)

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

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