May 1, 2005

Twins Take 2 of 3 From Angels, Santana is Human

  • Damn. It was sad to see Johan Santana's winning streak come to an end like that. Not that I'd have preferred to see him pitch horribly and get blown out or anything, but you know what I mean. Santana pitched extremely well, save for two pitches, and the Twins' lineup was helpless against Bartolo Colon. Then, once Colon left the game with an ankle injury the eighth inning, the Twins did what they have done best so far this season, loading the bases with one out and grounding into a double play.

    The loss was Santana's first since the Tigers beat him on July 11, 2004. The interesting thing, aside from the fact that it took him 21 starts to lose another game, is that the loss to Detroit was very similar to the loss to the Angels yesterday afternoon. Santana gave up just two hits to the Angels yesterday, both of them solo homers, and lost the game 2-1 because the lineup couldn't score him any runs. Santana also gave up just two hits against the Tigers last July, one of which was a two-run homer, and lost 2-0 because the lineup couldn't score him any runs (literally this time).

    Incidentally, Santana is now 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings through six starts this season. After six starts last year, he was 1-0 with a 4.59 ERA and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The Twins, meanwhile, are 15-9 after two dozen games this season, the exact same record they had through 24 games last year. They were just 10-14 through 24 games in 2003 and 14-10 through 24 games in 2002. In other words, everything is right on schedule.

  • Here is a sequence (courtesy of's play-by-play summary) from the bottom of the first inning Saturday night that I hope to see several hundred more times over the next dozen years or so:

    - Joe Mauer walked.
    - Justin Morneau homered to right center.

    Kelvim Escobar couldn't find the plate in the first inning, so after he started Morneau off 2-0 Angels pitching coach Bud Black came out to have a little chat with him. I imagine Black's message was something along the lines of "throw strikes," because Escobar's next pitch was a chest-high fastball right over the heart of the plate. Needless to say Morneau hit the ball a very long way. It would have been a three-run bomb if Jose Molina hadn't picked Jason Bartlett off first base in the middle of Mauer's plate appearance.

    Aside from yesterday's 0-for-4 performance, when no one could hit Colon, Morneau has been in an amazing zone since coming off the disabled list. Here I was worried about whether or not he would be the same hitter after being beaned in the head by Ron Villone in the first series of the year, and all Morneau has done is go 14-for-33 (.424) with two homers, three doubles, and nine RBIs in his first eight games back in the lineup.

  • Bartlett isn't in quite the same zone. He had a rough night Saturday, getting picked off after walking in the first inning and then making an error on a would-be double play in the second. He went 1-for-7 during the series, lowering his batting average to .246, and was benched in favor of Juan Castro yesterday. One thing I was glad to hear about Bartlett is that he has been working on handling inside fastballs more effectively. To my completely untrained eye, that has been his biggest weakness at the plate thus far. Basically, if a pitcher gets ahead of him in the count and jams Bartlett inside, he pops the pitch up for an easy out.
  • It was great to see Michael Cuddyer come through with a big game Friday night, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. I have long been one of Cuddyer's biggest supporters, so his annual inability to get off to a decent start has me very frustrated. One good game isn't going to change that, and he's still taking a lot of good pitches and swinging at a lot of bad ones right now, but that's the sort of game he needed in order to give himself a little more time to get in a groove. Until proven otherwise, I will continue to say that Cuddyer is capable of hitting .270/.340/.450 or so given 500 at-bats.
  • Since each Twins TV broadcast is heavier on the new-ballpark talk than the last, I have to voice my one major concern. If you're going to go through all the trouble of finding an acceptable site for a new ballpark, getting the necessary funding approved and collected, and then building the actual structure, why build something without a retractable roof? In other words, if you're going to undertake a project of this magnitude, something that only comes along a couple times a century, why do it in a half-assed way?

    Because it's going to cost 20% more? So what? If you've already got a plan for 80% of the funding needed to build the best possible ballpark that could be built in Minnesota, why not hold out for that last 20%? The extra money may seem like a big deal now -- and perhaps it would be a deal breaker, I don't really have any idea -- but in 10 years it's going to be just as big deal when games are being snowed out like they were in Detroit.

    If you're going to do this, you have to do it right, and for a ballpark in a cold-weather state like Minnesota that means the ability to go indoors every once in a while when the weather dictates. Even without considering the potential for freezing temperatures and snow ruining games and hurting attendance, simply being able to end all potential for rainouts from April to October seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

    UPDATE: Here's what Angels beat writer Mike DiGiovanna wrote in the Los Angeles Times after visiting Minnesota over the weekend: "There has been a big push in the Twin Cities for a new open-air stadium to replace the Metrodome, but proponents of such a facility should take note: There were snow flurries in Minneapolis on Sunday morning, and the temperature outside the dome at game time was 40 degrees."

  • And finally, those of you who bravely made it this far may notice that there is now a place for comments at the very end of each entry. I have long been very anti-comments for a number of reasons, but I enabled commenting yesterday afternoon and am still trying to iron out some of the kinks. My goal (aside from cutting down the number of e-mails I get) is to figure out how to turn them on and off for specific entries, so we can have occasional discussions without leaving open the possibility of everyone bashing me and arguing with each other on a daily basis (which, as I've seen on far too many other blogs, is what tends to happen).

    Until I figure out how to do that, however, I think I'll leave them open as a sort of experiment. So, feel free to comment away and I'll try to stop in as often as possible throughout the day to take part in whatever discussion is going on. However -- and I can't stress this enough -- I will not stand for personal insults in the comments. If you want to talk baseball, that's great. If you want to talk poker or Elisha Cuthbert or any other non-baseball topic, that's just fine too. But keep it civil, both to me and to everyone else in the comments. And if you posted something and it suddenly disappears, that probably means I thought you were being a jackass.

  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Hardball Questions: Kevin Youkilis (by Ben Jacobs)
    - The New Sox (by Aaron Gleeman)
    - Getting Graphic (by Studes)
    - State of the Site: Help Wanted (by Aaron Gleeman)

    Today's Picks (26-17, +$1,055):

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