May 4, 2003
Mission: FREE BOBBY KIELTY - Status: ACCOMPLISHED
Mission: FREE JOHAN SANTANA - Status: ACCOMPLISHED?
A little warning for this week: Entries may be somewhat light and/or non-existent because this is finals week for me. In the past I have always used the blog as a reason to procrastinate when I am supposed to be studying or writing a paper, so I'm guessing you won't see any dropoff in entry length or frequency, but I just wanted to let you all know that the possibility does exist.
You may have noticed that the "FREE JOHAN AND BOBBY" graphic on the left side of the page no longer includes "BOBBY." Well, that's because one of my two missions has been accomplished: Bobby Kielty has been freed! I said I would take him off the "Liberation Watch" when he reached 15 straight games started, and that occurred on Friday night against the Red Sox. So, the liberation movement is now focused entirely on Johan Santana, although Kielty could come back into the mix at any time I suppose, depending on Ron Gardenhire.
I don't want to jinx it, but Rick Reed left his Saturday afternoon start against Boston with a "strained back" and it is possible that Johan Santana may take his spot in the rotation for a short period of time, while he recovers. While this certainly isn't "Mission Accomplished" for freeing Johan, it is a step in the right direction. Any time Santana can get some starts it is a good thing and, as the number one "Oppressor," Rick Reed being out of comission for a while isn't the worst thing that could happen.
The added bonus here is that Rick Reed has it in his contract that he gets a one-year extension for next season (for like $8 mill) added on to his current deal if he reaches 188 innings pitched this year. A short stint on the DL or even one missed start will probably end all chances of him reaching that mark, which is good news for the Twins and their payroll.
So, officially, Johan Santana is still on the Liberation Watch. As long as he is simply filling in for an injured starter for a few games, he is still in need of freeing, and will thus remain up on the left side of this page.
For those of you wondering how Johan is doing, he picked up his first win of the season against the Sox on Friday and currently sports a 1.31 ERA in 20 2/3 innings pitched.
Okay onto today's business....
In what shocked the heck out of me and probably most Twins fans, the Twins took 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox - in Boston - over the weekend. The one game they did lose was to Pedro Martinez, which was to be expected. Pedro's line for the game was awesome:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT
9 5 1 1 0 12 0 107
Simply vintage Pedro. No walks, a ton of strikeouts and an all-around dominating performance. I know this sounds weird, but I was actually happy to see Pedro dominate the Twins.
Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have them beat Pedro, but the pitching matchup was Rick Reed versus Pedro Martinez, so I was pretty sure the Red Sox would be winning anyway and I am a huge fan of Pedro's.
It looked like the Twins were all set to be dominated by a starting pitcher in yesterday afternoon's game too. Tim Wakefield had a shutout going through 5 innings and the Twins looked pretty helpless against his knuckleball. Then something just happened in the 6th inning and the floodgates opened.
Dustan Mohr got a bloop double down the right field line and Cristian Guzman reached on a bunt single, to put runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs. So the Twins had a rally going, but they still weren't getting solid hits against Wakefield by any means. That changed when Corey Koskie drove a high knuckler off the wall in left centerfield, scoring the first Twins' run of the game.
Matthew LeCroy followed with a sharp single to left field, scoring Guzman. After Torii Hunter popped up for the 1st out of the inning, Todd Sears drove in the 3rd run with a sac fly to centerfield and then Michael Cuddyer scored the 4th run with a triple down the left field line. The best thing about Cuddyer's triple was not that it scored a run for the Twins, but that it allowed the viewing audience the chance to watch Matthew LeCroy score from 1st base. You haven't lived until you've seen LeCroy chug around third base, desperately in need of oxygen, on his way to sliding into home for the tying run. Shockingly, LeCroy strained a hamstring on the play and later left the game. I hope he isn't injured, because he has really been hitting incredibly well lately.
Boston's bullpen pretty much stunk in the series, as they have all season long. Pedro pitched a complete-game in the middle game of the series, so they didn't get a chance to ruin his start. In the other two games the bullpen combined for 6 innings pitched and 11 runs allowed. A lot has been made over the fact they are using a bullpen alignment without a "closer." As I have said numerous times before, I don't think that is the issue, as much as the quality of relievers is.
For example, Tim Wakefield left the game yesterday after 6 innings, with the score tied at 4. The Sox then used the following 4 relievers to finish the game:
I have said numerous times that I think saving your best reliever to pitch the 9th inning with 2 and 3 run leads is silly, so I am in complete agreement with what the Sox are doing. That said, I don't know that they have enough good relievers, no matter what alignment their bullpen has.
Mike Timlin, Ramiro Mendoza, Alan Embree, Brandon Lyon. Those guys are good, solid relievers, but when I look at the Twins' pen and see J.C. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins, Eddie Guardado and Johan Santana...well, I'm glad my team has who they have.
Boston has depth in the bullpen and that is going to help them as the year goes on. Plus, some guys (Mendoza, Embree, etc) are just pitching poorly right now. They'll get it straightened out eventually, but it's certainly not a great bullpen, regardless of what you think about the importance of having a closer.
It is now May 5th and the Twins have played 30 games. They are sitting at 15-15 and I think I am pretty happy with that, considering the way some of the season has gone. They have lost 6 games in a row two different times already, were beaten in all 7 games they played against the Yankees and have a 6-7 home record - yet they are right at .500 and are on their way to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series.
Here's what the AL Central standings look like right now:
TEAM W L GB
Kansas City 19 9 ---
Minnesota 15 15 5.0
Chicago 15 16 5.5
By the way, in case you are wondering, the Royals are just about done. I am predicting they will be out of 1st place by the middle of the month.
The first round of the NBA playoffs are finally over and I think it would be a good idea to take a look at the predictions I made before they started. Let's take a look, series-by-series:
"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."
"I like Dallas over Portland, in what should be a pretty easy series for the Mavs, probably wining it 4-0 or 4-1."
I got this right and, at first, it was looking like a brilliant prediction because the Mavs won the first 3 games of the series. But, they dropped the next 3 and beat the Blazers in a tough game 7 yesterday.
"The Kings will destroy the Jazz, in what may be Karl Malone's last post-season in Utah."
The Kings won the series 4-1, including winning the last 2 games by 17 and 20 points.
"I like the Spurs over the Suns, probably in 5 games."
The Spurs won, but it was a little closer than I thought. They needed 6 games.
"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."
Again, I got this right but it was closer than I expected. The Sixers won the series in 6 games.
"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? One of my theories on the NBA post-season is that, when in doubt, go with the team that has the best player.
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 [and Paul Pierce]."
"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. If Wallace is healthy, they will win the series. If he isn't, Orlando will win it easily. He is that good."
The Pistons were down 3-1 to the Magic, but fought back and won the series in game 7 yesterday. Ben Wallace was an absolute monster in all 7 games. His rebound totals: 13, 16, 22, 24, 21, 17 and 12. That's an average of 18 rebounds a game! He also blocked 23 shots and had 22 steals! Incredible.
"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."
Not bad, huh? I went a perfect 8-0 for the first round.
I wasn't planning to make picks for the second round, but I might as well see if I can keep the perfect record going...
Detroit over Philly in 7.
New Jersey over Boston in 7.
Los Angeles over San Antonio in 6.
Sacramento over Dallas in 6.
Milwaukee (Sheets) +185 over Chicago (Clement)
Philadelphia (Padilla) -110 over Arizona (Batista)
Detroit (Cornejo) +185 over Baltimore (Johnson)
Boston (Lowe) -160 over Kansas City (May)
Total to date: + $680
W/L record: 57-57 (Friday's picks were a mess. I went 1-5 and lost $555!)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****