September 20, 2004

Game Over

Much like Chicago's entire season, last night's game was over a lot sooner than the White Sox had hoped, as Mark Buehrle, who Minnesota TV announcers Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven made sure to tell us had guaranteed the Twins wouldn't celebrate on his watch, gave up two two-run homers in the first inning. The game started at seven and the champagne was chilling in the visitor's clubhouse by 7:15.

Adding insult to injury, one of the homers came off the bat of Torii Hunter, whom Buehrle and the White Sox were not particularly happy with after last week's Minnesota sweep. Overall, Buehrle gave up seven runs off of 10 hits in eight innings, including four homers.

Given the early 4-0 lead to work with, Carlos Silva was surprisingly effective, further cementing his spot as the Twins' #3 starter come playoff time. Silva improved to 13-8 on the season and, despite a miniscule strikeout rate and a batting average against that has been above .300 all year, his ERA dropped to a very solid 4.26. Silva has been particularly effective in the second half, going 5-1 with a 3.91 ERA since the All-Star break and 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in September.

The nice thing about being able to clinch the division title this early -- Minnesota is the second team to clinch a playoff spot, after only St. Louis -- is that the Twins now enter a very rough patch of their schedule, perhaps the most difficult road trip of the season that lasts 10 games and includes trips to Chicago, Cleveland and New York, and there's absolutely zero pressure on them.

Obviously they'd like to finish the season strong, in part because it's just something you want to do and in part because it could impact playoff matchups and homefield advantage. However, I'm not even sure which playoff matchup I'd rather be faced with at the moment.

Would you rather have to beat the Yankees three times in five games, with three of them coming in Yankee Stadium, or would you rather have to beat the Red Sox three times in five games, with three of them coming in the Metrodome?

There are, I'm sure, those among you who have very strong feelings on that question, and I'd love to hear from you about it. As for me, I'm really not sure what I think, although I hope to examine the issue a little more closely at some point later this week.

In the meantime, since I didn't have much to say here yesterday and the Twins clinching another division title has me surprisingly calm and quiet, here are a few more thoughts I had since last we spoke ...

People Actually Read This Stuff

One of the cool things about having a blog with a reasonable audience is that you never know who might actually read what you've written.

In the realm of baseball, I've had a number of fairly well-known people, both from within baseball organizations and from the media, contact me after I've written something about them or something they felt strongly about. Hell, I once wrote something negative about a U.S. military guy who sang the National Anthem before a World Series game, and he e-mailed me just to let me know that he was aware I was bashing him in a public forum. (Yes, I'm a complete scumbag.)

Anyway, last Friday I wrote a short note about a poker player named Paul Phillips, who has a blog of his own that I really enjoy. Paul apparently read what I wrote about him and was particularly amused by the line, "I have to admit that the first time I ever saw him, playing a World Poker Tour event, I thought he came across as a massive jerk."

We exchanged a few e-mails, which made my weekend (yes, I just said exchanging e-mails made my weekend). He ranks pretty high up on the "celebrities I've e-mailed with" list and he's certainly made himself a fan for life, although I get the feeling he was just fine with me thinking he was a jerk.

Sadly, I did not receive e-mails from Mark Cuban, Donald Trump, Daniel Negreanu, Jon Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Cuddyer, Luis Rivas, Curt Schilling, Johan Santana or any of the other subjects of last Friday's entry.

I did, however, get this e-mail from someone who, shockingly, failed to identify himself:

You're a loser. If you ever come to Comiskey, I'll snap you like a twig. Why don't you stop writing about Mark Cuban and football and other crap that you think you know a lot about, and write about baseball? That's what this bozo blog is supposed to be about, right? Also, if you think that fat loser BatGirl is going to sleep with you just because you quoted her sorry blog, forget it. You're probably the only pimplier, more disgusting, Mountain Dew guzzling blogger than her. Furthermore, nobody cares about the classes you take in that second-rate journalism program.

A lot of readers of this blog get hung up about what it's "supposed" to be, as if there's some guideline other than the dumb title I hurriedly came up with when I created it on some random day a couple years ago. If I changed the title at the top to read, simply, "," would I cease getting complaints that I stray from baseball? Oh, and here's a news flash: I write a lengthy article solely about baseball nearly every day at The Hardball Times.

Seeing as though this particular e-mailer is clearly a White Sox fan, you'd think he'd be fine with me taking time away from mocking the White Sox to talk about other subjects that "I think I know a lot about." Perhaps if the White Sox had given the Twins a little more of a fight atop the American League Central I'd have some more interesting Twins-related stuff to write about and I would stick only to baseball. See, you can blame the White Sox for anything.

Incidentally, I've actually been to Comiskey Park U.S. Cellular Field and felt at no time like I was in danger of being snapped like a twig. As far as I can tell, you guys are a lot more interested in attacking the blindside of first base coaches.

Also, as far as I know, Bat-Girl is happily married and certainly not at all impressed by me quoting her blog entries. I do, however, have it on pretty good authority that Phil Rogers gets very excited when I quote him in this space and Joe Morgan prints out the blog entries that he's mentioned in and makes a scrap book of them.

As for me, I'm not very pimply, at least not since about the ninth grade, and I haven't had a Mountain Dew in a minimum of five years. Plus, I'm not sure what kind of insult saying someone is a "Mountain Dew guzzling blogger" is meant to convey.

Other than that, it's a perfectly fine e-mail. Thanks for writing.

The NFL on TV

I don't understand what FOX and CBS are doing with the NFL games. Each Sunday, I'm treated to every NFC North (I almost typed "Central") game, simply because I live in Minnesota and the Vikings play in that division.

Now, sometimes that's okay, like when the game is Green Bay (or like it was Sunday, Green Bay against Chicago). However, most of the time it is something like the game I had on CBS Sunday afternoon: Detroit versus Houston. Seriously, why would anyone not in Detroit or Houston want to watch the Lions and Texans? And it was the same thing last week, when FOX showed me the spellbinding Lions-Bears contest.

In baseball, there are decisions made to show different games because of location, but it isn't taken to nearly the same extreme as the NFL broadcasts. In other words, ESPN and FOX don't take a Red Sox-Yankees matchup off the air in Minnesota to show us the Royals playing the Devil Rays just because Kansas City plays in the Twins' division.

I just don't get it. While I was watching the Lions and Texans, two teams that will struggle to win a dozen games between them this season, I was missing Denver at Jacksonville and Indianapolis at Tennessee. CBS only shows games where the visiting team is from the AFC, so I won't bring up the fact that I also couldn't see Carolina at Kansas City or Atlanta at St. Louis.

In fact, if I were to rank all of Sunday's games in order of how much I wanted to watch them, I'm fairly certain Detroit-Houston would have been at the very bottom of the list. But hey, Detroit is sort of close to Minnesota and the Lions play the Vikings twice a year, so Minnesotans must care about watching Joey Harrington week after week!

Of course, all of this NFL stuff only mattered until about 1 p.m. on Sunday, at which point I turned on Johan Santana and the Twins and all was right in the world once again.

Fantasy Football Update

This might be the last update on my fantasy football team that you get this year, because I lost for the second straight week and am now officially embarrassed by the team (and my abilities as GM). I entered last night's Vikings-Eagles game trailing my opponent by 12 points, with Eagles running back Brian Westbrook left to play. Westbrook had his second straight good game, with 138 total yards, but unfortunately my opponent also had Philadelphia kicker David Akers still accumulating points, so I lost.

So now I'm 0-2 and, for the second straight week, I left Curtis Martin on the bench while he put up big numbers. Of course, for the second straight week I think starting Edgerrin James and Westbrook over him was a sound decision (particularly since they both had good games), but Martin now has 347 yards and four touchdowns in two games and he hasn't done me one bit of good.

Of course, my luck is that James is now listed as "questionable" for Sunday's game against Green Bay, which would normally give me a chance to finally put Martin in the starting lineup. However, Martin and the Jets have a bye this week.

Also, this just in: Jeremy Shockey stinks.

Football Picking Update

Fortunately, I do far better picking teams than picking players (and choosing when to play them). After starting my defense of the "NFL Experts Picks" championship over at Seth Speaks by going 13-3 picking winners in Week 1, I went 11-5 in Week 2. I know that's not all that exciting to read about, but I have to do something to keep you from thinking I'm a total loser when it comes to football.

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

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