June 7, 2006

Twins Notes

  • Remember last week, when I complained about Ron Gardenhire leaving Joe Nathan in the bullpen while Jesse Crain pitched multiple sudden-death innings on the road? Well, it happened again last night. At this point I'm no longer surprised by anything Gardenhire does, but I am mad at myself for staying up until one in the morning just to see Carl Everett hit a walk-off homer against the Twins' worst reliever. The Gardenhire File keeps getting bigger.
  • Already this week two different columnists for the Minneapolis Star Tribune have mentioned the possibility of the Twins trading Kyle Lohse to the Brewers. Patrick Reusse reported that Terry Ryan asked Milwaukee for Bill Hall, while Sid Hartman suggested that the Twins ask for Corey Koskie. I'm not sure which demand is crazier, although at least in Ryan's case it's only a rumor.

    Hall is 26 years old, makes close to the minimum salary, can play anywhere defensively, and is hitting .264/.317/.582. Koskie is hitting .270/.353/.509 in 51 games while platooning at third base. It's laughable that anyone--from Ryan all the way down to Hartman--thinks that the Twins can get either of those guys for a pitcher who had an 8.92 ERA and is now making $4 million to pitch at Triple-A.

    Why not ask for Prince Fielder? The sad part is that the same people trying to shoot the moon in a trade for Lohse now were the ones who didn't think it was a good idea to deal him when he actually had some value. If Ryan can get anything close to Hall or Koskie for Lohse, don't you think he would have jumped at the chance about a month ago?

  • The amusing thing about Hartman is that possibly getting Koskie for Lohse isn't even close to the most ridiculous thing he's written about the Twins this week. Instead, this beauty gets the prize:

    One reason the Twins are having trouble scoring runs is that two of their better hitters, veterans Shannon Stewart and Ruben Sierra, are on the disabled list.

    Yes, not having Ruben Sierra has surely killed the offense. Any time you lose a 40-year-old who batted .229/.265/.371 in the previous season it's understandable that runs would be tough to come by. After all, it'd be crazy to wonder whether a team thinking that guys like Sierra had significant value in the first place might indirectly be responsible for poor offense. Crazy, I tell you.

  • Speaking of Lohse, Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle wrote an interesting article about him earlier this week. Among other things, Mandelaro notes that "the Mets sent two scouts ... for Lohse's solid start last Sunday" and discusses whether or not Lohse could return to the Twins after reportedly burning several bridges.

    I have no real inside information beyond a few choice pieces of gossip, but I'd be shocked if Lohse pitches for the Twins again. He has a 1.50 ERA and has held opponents to a .176 batting average in four starts at Rochester, but a 12-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24 innings at Triple-A isn't particularly impressive.

  • In addition to doing a nice job subbing for the injured LaVelle E. Neal III as the Star Tribune's Twins beat writer, Reusse has also pumped out some good baseball columns recently. I particularly enjoyed the column looking at Bobby Cuellar's role in Francisco Liriano's development:

    "Bobby Cuellar," Liriano said. "He's the man."

    Cuellar was the Rochester pitching coach. He was hired away from the Twins organization by Pittsburgh to serve as manager Jim Tracy's bullpen coach this season.

    Liriano said Cuellar refined the young lefthander's delivery to throw more strikes, taught him a new changeup grip and worked with him to make the slider more reliable.

    "I probably would not be in the big leagues, not yet, without the help from Bobby Cuellar," he said.

    Back when Johan Santana was at Triple-A Cuellar is said to have taught him what is now arguably baseball's best changeup, which almost immediately led to Santana becoming an elite pitcher. Setting aside the fact that the Twins somehow let Cuellar leave the organization, why exactly isn't he a pitching coach somewhere? And when is he eligible for the Twins Hall of Fame?

  • At the risk of using up my monthly allotment of compliments directed at someone in the mainstream media, I want to point out how good Reusse has been at subtlely sneaking some criticism and overall pithiness into his beat-writing duties:

    Gardenhire ordered a sacrifice bunt from Cuddyer in the eighth inning. He said it wasn't a reflection of Cuddyer's skid as much as the tight nature of the games the Twins play with the A's in Oakland's ballpark.

    Cuddyer popped up the bunt for an out and the Twins wasted an eighth-inning scoring chance. Gardenhire said, "He can bunt; Michael's a good bunter."

    Apparently, this was detected in batting practice, since he has four sacrifice bunts to go with 1,136 career at-bats.

    I complain about the lack of a critical eye that is applied to the Twins by the local media and some people take that to mean that I want a column ripping the team every day. The truth is that I'd gladly settle for situations like the one above, where a writer simply applies a bit of skepticism and objectivity to something a member of the organization says. As my praise of Reusse and ongoing support of LEN3 should attest to, I have a great deal of respect for beat writers who do their job well.

    What I don't respect is someone who thinks their job is collecting a bunch of cliche-filled quotes after each game and allowing the Twins to use the newspaper as a daily press release. As St. Paul Pioneer Press Twins beat writer Jason Williams once said in between passing along his weekly note about Juan Castro not hurting the team offensively: "You have no idea what I do. NO IDEA."

  • Speaking of Williams, he was asked about former Twins outfielder Michael Ryan and responded that Ryan is a "nice kid, but doesn't have the mental makeup to stick in the big leagues." As Ron Burgundy would say: "You stay classy, Jason Williams!"
  • Speaking of Castro, check out this blurb from the preview of tonight's Twins-Mariners matchup on MinnesotaTwins.com:

    Player to watch

    Nobody questions Juan Castro's glove, and his bat hasn't been bad, either. But the Twins could use a bit more punch from Castro, whose usual slot in the bottom of the order can be a tablesetter for the hitters at the top of the order. Castro's success can go far in helping to jumpstart an anemic offense.

    In the history of mankind, how many sentences have been written that are less accurate than "Nobody questions Juan Castro's glove, and his bat hasn't been bad, either"? A half-dozen? Ten, at the most? I can't fathom that someone who writes such a statement--in this case a person named Justice B. Hill--could possibly have watched the Twins play this season, but presumably that's a major part of his/her job with MLB.com.

    Ignoring the silliness about Castro's increasingly sloppy defense, he's hitting .238/.262/.315 for a .577 OPS that ranks fourth-worst in the entire AL behind only Juan Uribe (.561), Joey Gathright (.545), and Rondell White (.436). In other words, out of the 110 AL players with at least 150 plate appearances 106 of them have hit better than Castro, about whom a professional journalist just wrote "his bat hasn't been bad." Wonders never cease, although my reading the Twins' website does.

  • Here's an interesting note about Torii Hunter from the Chicago Sun-Times:

    [White Sox general manager Ken] Williams, who has made a career out of flying under the radar, reportedly has inquired about the availability of Minnesota Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, but the current asking price is way too high.

    The good news is the Twins' front office has told Minnesota reporters that they are not against dealing within the division.

    "Everybody is interested in Torii," [manager Ozzie] Guillen said. "But right now I don't think we're interested in him because, first of all, it sounds like he's going to cost a lot, and we don't know if we can sign him past this year. If we didn't have a center fielder for the future, then maybe Kenny would think about it. But right now we have a center fielder for the future.

    "I don't think we're going to give up on Brian [Anderson]'s future. To get Hunter, it's going to cost you a lot of players. I don't think Kenny Williams will do that. Everybody needs a player like him, but it won't be easy for us to do that right now."

    In doing my Rotoworld gig this morning, I noticed that a similar note popped up in several Chicago newspapers.

  • I talked about first-round pick Chris Parmelee along with the rest of the Twins' draftees in this space yesterday, but Dean Spiros of the Star Tribune wrote a lengthy piece about Parmelee that's worth reading. My favorite part is that after visiting the Metrodome for the first time prior to the draft, Parmelee said (presumably with a straight face): "I absolutely loved the field. Too bad they're going to move out in a couple years."
  • Remember when people were complaining about Joe Mauer's lack of power? For some reason that has quieted down quite a bit now that he's hitting .370. I was planning to write something this week about exactly how good Mauer has been so far this year, but Stick and Ball Guy beat me to the punch with his excellent look at where prorating Mauer's numbers for a full season would place him among the best seasons in Twins history.

    Mauer's big numbers have received a surprising lack of attention and I'm shamefully guilty of being part of that, but the nice thing is that if he keeps hitting like this for much longer there's no doubt that the media will eventually swarm. Between watching Santana and Liriano take the mound two times a week and reading about Mauer chasing the batting title, perhaps I can learn to let all of the Twins' problems sort of glide by.

  • On the other hand, maybe not. At 25-33 the Twins have the third-worst record in the American League, ahead of only the Devil Rays (24-36) and Royals (14-43). And dating back to last season Gardenhire's boys are now 73-89 over their last 162 games.

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