July 27, 2005

Ah, Much Better

There's nothing like a little offense, some Johan Santana, and a win over the Yankees to make you forget (temporarily, at least) all the Twins' problems.

Santana wasn't dominant (a pattern that is concerning in itself), but he managed the game very well and shut the best offense in baseball down for seven innings. And while it took them until the seventh inning to break through, the lineup got on base and drove runners in, both of which have been rare since the All-Star break.

Of course, the skeptic (or maybe pessimist) in me feels the need to point out that the Twins managed just one run in six innings against Al Leiter and Felix Rodriguez, while stranding runners all over the place, and when they finally did some damage it came against Tanyon Sturtze, Scott Proctor, and Alex Graman.

When a 39-year-old pitcher with a 6.20 ERA who was released by a contending team earlier this month starts the game, is relieved by one guy fresh of the disabled list, two guys with career ERAs north of 5.00, and another guy with an ERA above 20 (yes, twenty), and seven runs still seems like a major offensive explosion ... well, you know you've been struggling.

And then, of course, the Twins were about five feet away from a Bernie Williams three-run homer tying the game in the eighth inning. Thankfully it drifted just foul (I may have given up on the season right then and there, otherwise), Joe Nathan came back to strike Williams out on the next pitch, and Juan Rincon was saved from a complete implosion that would have cost Santana his 10th win of the season.

But seven runs are seven runs and a win is a win (especially at Yankee Stadium), and I'll gladly take both at this point. Plus, Joe Mauer continued his outstanding month at the plate, Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart each had three hits, and Justin Morneau hit a home run off a lefty (albeit a lefty just up from Triple-A). Hell, Bret Boone even made a nice play at second base, which immediately became the lead clip on his Twins highlight reel.

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I was thinking about Jason Bartlett's situation yesterday and it occurred to me that it is a good example of a fundamental difference between mainstream media coverage of a team and whatever it is you want to call the coverage people like me give a team. (Half-assed, perhaps?)

All we've been hearing over the last couple weeks -- whether in the newspaper or on blogs, from players and coaches or radio show hosts and the average fan -- is that the Twins are in major need of and are desperately searching for some additional offense.

We've heard daily rumors about Bill Mueller, Kevin Youkilis, Kevin Millar, Alfonso Soriano, Shea Hillenbrand, and Joe Randa, and the team picked up Boone off the scrap heap in the hopes that he could find a time machine and give them some much-needed right-handed power. Yet when is the last time someone with an audience larger than a few thousand hardcore fans brought up Bartlett's name in the conversation?

Bartlett was impressive enough this spring to earn the starting shortstop job, he hit .332/.417/.475 at Triple-A last season, and now he's hitting .330/.399/.467 at Triple-A since being sent down this year. Oh, and he plays a position that the Twins have been filling with a career .228/.269/.337 hitter who is batting .249/.268/.383 this season.

I'm not saying Bartlett is the solution to this team's problems offensively, but with the amount of time and the number of words spent on "fixing" the lineup, how is it possible that Bartlett gets completely ignored? How many teams are simultaneously searching the globe for any hitters with a pulse while they have a shortstop hitting .330 at Triple-A for the second straight season?

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I always like reading the local newspapers' take on Santana when the Twins travel to a new city. Here are a few articles on Johan from this morning's New York papers:

- Santana May Be a Marked Man, but He Earns High Marks (New York Times)

- Yanks fall to Santana's evil ways (Bergen Record)

- Santana is stifling again (New York Daily News)

* * * * *

According the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Twins sound close to signing Dennys Reyes to a minor-league deal:

The Twins offered a minor league contract to free-agent pitcher Dennys Reyes late Tuesday night and appeared Wednesday to be close to acquiring the veteran left-hander, a move that could signal a trade this week of a pitcher off the big-league staff.


Reyes' agent, Oscar Suarez, said late Wednesday the pitcher's choices were between the Twins and New York Yankees, who made a similar offer. He said he planned to go over the options with Reyes on Wednesday night, including the chances for a quick return to the big leagues with either club.

As for the idea a Reyes deal could be a precursor to a Twins trade of a pitcher — possibly left-hander J.C. Romero — before Sunday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline, Ryan said, "I wouldn't read too much into it. We have an opening at AAA."

Reyes would be a solid pickup, although I don't think he should make the Twins any more willing to lose J.C. Romero. Reyes had very good numbers against lefties this year (.208/.311/.264), but it is a very small sample and he was knocked around plenty by righties (.359/.464/.508). Over the previous three seasons, his numbers were a lot more balanced and simply not very good: .296/.370/.459 against lefties, .281/.361/.455 against righties.

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WILD CARD       W      L     WIN%      GB
Oakland 55 46 .545 ---
Minnesota 54 46 .540 0.5
New York 53 46 .535 1.0

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Circle the Wagons: Running the Bases Part I (by Dan Fox)
- Buyer Beware (by Ben Jacobs)

Today's Picks (82-70, +$1,060):
Cleveland (Lee) +105 over Seattle (Meche)

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