Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

After tonight’s game, it’s difficult to say that the Minnesota Twins aren’t the best team in the AL Central. This isn’t meant as disrespecting the Cleveland Indians. It’s simply meant as a compliment to the Twins for the season they’re having.

It’s fair to say that Jake Odorizzi, tonight’s starting pitcher for the Twins, didn’t have his best stuff tonight starting out. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka, the Braves’ 22-year-old starter, kept putting up perfect innings the first 3 innings. Unfortunately for Soroka, the Twins tend to figure pitchers out by the 4th inning. That’s what they did tonight.

Bookending the Twins 4th inning rally were Nelson Cruz, who beat out a 2-out infield chopper to start the rally, and Luis Arraez. How appropriate that the Twins’ elder statesman (Cruz) and the youngest Twins rookie (Arraez) would put the Twins ahead 2-0. Yes, the Twins lead the MLB in homeruns but the Twins are very good hitters, too.

Odorizzi settled down and gave the Twins another quality start (6 innings pitched, 1 earned run) but failed to earn the victory. After the Twins’ bullpen let the Braves tie the score 3-3, the Twins got 2 sterling innings from Trevor May, who earned the victory.

Once again, the Braves recorded 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately for them again, they had to face Luis Arraez again. Arraez broke his bat but the ball landed softly in left field. That prompted Rocco Baldelli to pinch hit for Ehire Adrianza. He picked Miguel Sano be was playing for an extra base hit. Had Arraez gotten an extra base hit, Baldelli said he’d likely have picked a different pinch-hitter. Here’s why I’m thankful Arraez got a single:

I’ve been watching Twins baseball since 1966. Back then, the Twins’ slugger was Harmon Killebrew. The announcers then said that “When Harmon hit them, they stayed hit.” Today’s announcers could say the same thing about Sano’s longest blasts. To steal a phrase from announcing legend Joe Garagiola, Sano “is strong enough to hit it out of any park in America — including Yellowstone.”

This is a special Twins team. Whether they’re good enough to win the Twins’ third World Series championship is another matter. Make no mistake, though, about this. This Twins team is as good as the 1991 World Series championship team, at least thus far.

Baseball lost one of its greatest ambassadors last night when Yogi Berra passed away. As a result, baseball fans old enough to remember Yogi lost a man with a wayward way with words. Baseball fans knew Yogi for the things he said. One of his famous sayings was that “I never said most of the things I said.”

Yogi’s most famous quote, though, was “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I had the good fortune of hearing Joe Garagiola, the former play-by-play announcer for NBC’s Game of the Week, explain why the quote made sense to him. Part of the backstory is that Garagiola and Berra grew up in the same neighborhood in St. Louis, MO. The neighborhood was at the top of the hill overlooking downtown St. Louis. The road, Garagiola explained didn’t run north to south or east to west. When you got to the top of the hill, the only road up there ran a circular route.

Yogi was more than just the best quipster in sports history. He was an outstanding player with the hated New York Yankees. Yogi “won three American League MVP awards and 10 World Series titles.” The Yankees of those years were loaded and then some. When Joe DiMaggio retired, they replaced him with a kid named Mickey Mantle. It isn’t surprising that baseball writers half-kiddingly said that the Yankees were the best team in baseball and that their Triple-A team was the next-best team in the game.

At another point in the early 1960s, the Yankees had Yogi as their starting catcher, Elston Howard their starter-in-waiting and Johnny Blanchard as their third string catcher and part-time outfielder. Howard later went on to win the AL MVP Award.

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. Tonight, they clinched their third World Series championship in less than a decade. Here’s the mob scene after the clinching out:

Boston becomes only the second team in baseball history to go from finishing last one year, then winning the World Series championship the next year. They join the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to go ‘worst to first’ and win the World Series.

St. Louis had a great year. Mike Matheny is a great manager. Still, this was Boston’s year. Any team with a nucleus of Big Papi, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in the starting lineup and Jon Lester and John Lackey at the top of the rotation has a shot at winning it all.

Adding Mike Napoli in the offseason, then addding Jake Peavey during the season were master strokes. Of course, it can’t hurt when Big Papi hits .688 in the World Series and Napoli breaks Lou Gehrig’s RBI record with 14.

People are right to question President Obama’s commitment to the First Amendment. Recent scandals show the Obama/Holder Justice Department is willing to trample on reporters’ First Amendment right to gather and disseminate information. In a bygone era, that was known as reporting.

The Obama/Holder Justice Department’s assault on the First Amendment isn’t limited to intimidating reporters. George Will’s column offers proof that they’re willing to stretch their campaign of censorship to college campuses:

Responding to what it considers the University of Montana’s defective handling of complaints about sexual assaults, OCR, in conjunction with the Justice Department, sent the university a letter intended as a “blueprint” for institutions nationwide when handling sexual harassment, too. The letter, sent on May 9, encourages (see below) adoption of speech codes, actually, censorship regimes, to punish students who:

Make “sexual or dirty jokes” that are “unwelcome.” Or disseminate “sexual rumors” (even if true) that are “unwelcome.” Or make “unwelcome” sexual invitations. Or engage in the “unwelcome” circulation or showing of “e-mails or Web sites of a sexual nature.” Or display or distribute “sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials” that are “unwelcome.”

In short, the DOJ is lending its autharitorian boot to students’ throats. This isn’t just about censorship. It’s about censorship without the right to due process:

Under 2011 rules that establish a low standard of proof, Kaminer says, “students accused of harassment are to be convicted in the absence of clear and convincing evidence of guilt, if guilt merely seems more likely than not.” And schools are enjoined to “take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment,” including “taking disciplinary action against the harasser” prior to adjudication. So the OCR-DOJ “blueprint” and related rules not only violate the First Amendment guarantee of free speech but are, to be polite, casual about due process.

The DOJ’s actions in putting these guidelines together is appalling. They’re disgusting, too. The thought that a student could be ‘convicted’ of making “unwelcome” comments just on the basis that it’s likely they’d be convicted is disgusting.

This isn’t about eliminating true sexual harassment. It’s about censorship. If “unwelcome” comments are harassment, then everything is potentially harassment.

When the Education Department was created in 1980 (Jimmy Carter’s payment to the National Education Association, the largest teachers union, for its first presidential endorsement), conservatives warned that it would be used for ideological aggression to break state and local schools to the federal saddle. Lukianoff says:

“Given that the [OCR-DOJ] letter represents an interpretation of federal law by major federal agencies, most colleges will regard it as binding. Noncompliance threatens federal funding, including Pell grants and Stafford loans.”

The message is clear: Obey or the students get hurt. What’s interesting is that the DOJ would sign off on this unconstitutional mandate. This is the type of case that SCOTUS would swat down with a 9-0 opinion.

I’m not surprised by DOJ’s decision. They’ve shown they won’t hesitate to intimidate reporters. Why would it be surprising that they’d be willing to impose censorship (First Amendment) without due process (Fifth Amendment)? That’s as surprising as finding out Bill Gates made money last week.

Steve Benen’s article says that the economy has improved during President Obama’s time in office. Considering the state it was in in late September, 2008, it’s almost impossible for it not to be.

Benen’s chief argument appears to be the job growth during President Obama’s administration. Benen’s chief sub-argument apparently is that private sector job growth should be the only measurement of job growth. That’s an incredibly silly argument since robust economic growth is needed to sustain the public sector.

The reason why there’s been so many jobs lost in the public sector is because we’ve had anemic economic growth. The euphemism for anemic economic growth is “the new normal”, which is a remnant philosophy that I first heard during the Carter administration.

At the time, interest rates were sky high. (When a friend of mine bought his first house, he paid 16% interest.) Experts talked about the likelihood that we’d never see interest rates lower than 9%. The economy was so bad that Sen. Hubert Humphrey teamed with Rep. Augustus Hawkins to push through the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment And Balanced Growth Act to artificially spur job growth.

Another storyline amongst liberals was that the presidency was just too big for 1 man. Conservatives like George Will argued to the contrary, saying that the presidency was too big for the current president, Jimmy Carter.

Will was vindicated when President Reagan took command in 1981.

As an amateur baseball historian since the mid-1960’s, I well remember Baltimore’s fiery manager Earl Weaver. George Will, a huge baseball fan, once wrote this about Mr. Weaver:

Time was, the Baltimore Orioles’ manager was Earl Weaver, a short, irascible, Napoleonic figure who, when cranky, as he frequently was, would shout at an umpire, “Are you going to get any better or is this it?”

The point of the baseball analogy is to give a political answer to Earl Weaver’s question. With President Obama, this is it. Things won’t get better. The economy won’t see any dynamic growth spurts. There won’t be any dramatic job growth numbers as long as President Obama is president.

Certainly, we won’t see job growth like September, 1983, when 1,100,000 jobs were created. Yes, that’s 1.1 million jobs created in a single month. We won’t see 11,000,000 jobs created in 4 years while Bill Clinton was president and Newt Gingrich was Speaker. That’s creating an average of 275,000 jobs per month for 4 years.

By contrast, President Obama hasn’t strung 3 straight months of 275,000 jobs growth together.

Americans don’t yet know that things will improve decisively with a conservative in the White House and the GOP controlling the House and Senate. They’ll soon know that, though. That’s what campaigns are about.

History is repeating itself. Once again, we elected a man who isn’t qualified for the job. Once again, our president is arguing that the economy is stagnating and it’ll never get better.

Americans know better than that. They know that this administration is what’s holding this nation back. We haven’t gotten lethargic, which this president has suggested. We’re just treading water until we get a real president again, one who isn’t prone to making stupid decisions about gas pipelines, a president who isn’t prone to letting regulatory agencies kill important jobs.

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Based on information contained in MAPE’s statement, thinking people must ask these simple questions:

  1. How long have MAPE and other PEU’s been coordinating with Gov. Dayton and the DFL on Dayton’s shutdown?
  2. Have MAPE and other PEU’s planned on a lengthy shutdown?

Here’s the information on the MAPE website:

Shutdown Eve Vigil and Cookout Join your fellow state employees and concerned citizens as we witness a solemn and historic event, the literal closing of the Capitol symbolizing the state government shutdown. Prior to the vigil, there will be a cookout at 411 Main from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Shutdown Eve Vigil
Pre-Vigil Cookout Thursday June 30th
9:00-11:00 PM
State Capitol Steps
St. Paul

Shutdown Eve Cookout
Thursday June 30th
6:30-8:30 PM
411 S Main St
Saint Paul

We know this is a very stressful time for state employees. If you have questions about the memorandum of understanding, health insurance or other issues please call our information line at 651-287-9672.

In addition, MAPE is working with other unions to hold a shutdown resource fair where members can seek guidance and assistance. The Resource Fair will be 3:00-7:00 PM on Wednesday June 29th at 411 S Main St in Saint Paul.

Ongoing Events: Throughout July, MAPE members will continue to show solidarity and put pressure on elected officials to end the budget impasse.

End the Shutdown Rally As we approach the one-week mark of the shutdown we will return to the Capitol to ask our elcted leaders to compromise and find a solution.
Wednesday July 6th 4:30 to 6:30 PM
State Capitol Front Steps

Team MAPE Legislative Phone Bank Help us contact MAPE members in key legislative districts and ask them to call their legislators.
Tuesday July 5th
3:00-6:00 PM
MAPE 1st floor 3460 Lexington Ave North Shoreview, MN

Coalition Ring of Fire Lit Drops Drop literature in targeted districts asking constituents to contact their legislators.
Saturday July 9th 10:00 AM
Multiple locations around the state
Contact for more info.

Team MAPE Legislative Phone Bank Tuesday July 12th
3:00-6:00 PM
MAPE 1st floor 3460 Lexington Ave North Shoreview, MN

Coalition Ring of Fire Lit Drops
Saturday July 16th
10:00 AM Multiple locations around the state
Contact for more info.

The most noticeable thing in MAPE’s statement is what isn’t there. Notice that these dates didn’t include the routine disclaimer that all dates are subject to necessity. The next most noticeable thing in MAPE’s statement is that they’ve got these events scheduled out over the next 3 weeks. That’s pretty extraordinary event planning for something that might be concluded without a shutdown.

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As a passionate, lifelong Twins fan, it was difficult to read this news:

Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew said Friday he will no longer fight his esophageal cancer and is settling in for the final days of his life.

The Minnesota Twins released a statement on Friday from Killebrew, who said he has “exhausted all options” for treatment of the “awful disease” and that the cancer is incurable.

“It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end,” he said. “My illness has progressed beyond my doctors’ expectation of cure.”

The 74-year-old Killebrew said he will enter hospice care.

“I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends,” he said, thanking fans and well-wishers for their support and encouragement. “I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with (wife) Nita by my side.”

One of my favorite memories as a teenager is thinking back to the night I met Mr. Killebrew. He was the featured guest at the grand opening of the St. Cloud Crown Auto store on Division Street. Every kid that played Little League or sandlot baseball was there. (Or so it seemed.)

Harmon wore as big a smile that night as he did throughout his illustrious career. Throughout his illustrious career, Harmon was as great an ambassador to the game as has ever lived. Simply put, Harmon wasn’t just one of the 5 greatest home run hitters of all time (behind Ruth, Aaron & Mays). Harmon was a true fan of the game. Besides, he was one of the greatest gentlemen to ever play the game. (In that respect, the Twins have his modern-day equivalent in Jim Thome.)

Let’s remember that Harmon essentially played his entire career in spacious outdoor stadiums. As spacious as Target Field is, it would be swallowed up by Old Met Stadium with room to spare. Just to the right field side of center field was 430 feet. The power allies were 365 feet in left, 370 in right. Down the lines were 343 in left, 330 in right.

Had he played in the Metrodome, I’d argue that you should’ve tacked at least another 100 onto his home run total.

Typical Harmon home runs weren’t the type that just landed 6-7 rows deep in straightaway left. They were “no-doubters” as Herb Carneal used to say. I remember watching Harmon shatter a seat in the upper deck at the Met on the nightly news. It was estimated that that ball travelled 535 feet. Suffice it to say that the wind wasn’t blowing out that day.

Joe Garagiola had a saying reserved for the biggest mashers. He’d say [fill in the name] can hit the ball out of any park in America, including Yellowstone. That would’ve fit Harmon to a Tee.

Now baseball is losing one of its greatest ambassadors, one of its great gentlemen. It’s a sad, sad day for this over-grown teenager-at-heart to think that the man who provided so many great memories will soon be leaving us.

If baseball had more Harmon Killebrews, it’d still be the most popular sport in America. In fact, America could use more decent, straightforward people like Harmon.

Harmon, I’ll miss hearing you in the Twins booth twice a year. May God pour out His blessings on you.

Yes, yes, yes. John Boehner is the new Speaker. Congratulations. Now for the important stuff: Rikalbert Bert Blyleven is finally & officially a member of the most elite fraternity in sports: the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This ends what’s been the longest ongoing travesty in modern sports history. That Bert wasn’t picked a decade ago tells me that too many baseball writers don’t have a flipping clue about Bert’s greatness.

I was reminded today that people used to criticize him for tipping his curve by sticking his tongue out. On FSN, Roy Smalley summed it up perfectly, saying “That’s like saying Nolan Ryan tipped his fastball by grunting.” Mr. Smalley, you’re exactly right. It wasn’t like a hitter was going to hit Ryan’s fastball or Bert’s curve when they had it working.

I can recite Bert’s impressive numbers from memory: 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts, 242 complete games during a 23 year career. That only tells part of Bert’s story.

Bert was a great teammate, possibly the greatest prankster in MLB history. He also took alot of pressure off Frankie ‘Sweet Music’ Viola, which allowed Mr. Viola to relax and blossom into the Twins’ co-ace in their first Twins’ World Championship season.

TK will tell you that he was a better manager anytime he handed the ball to Bert, which is typical of TK. What TK, Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner will tell you is that Bert was as great a competitor as has ever played the game. How great a competitor?

In Bert’s last season with the Texas Rangers, Bert was out for different parts of the season with a groin injury. In September, he pitched a game against the Angels. (Back then, they were known as the California Angels.

Late in the game, the eighth inning, Bert reinjured himself, prompting a visit by the pitching coach. The coach asked Bert how he was. Bert’s simple reply was “Look at the scoreboard.” Bert carried a no-hitter into the eighth. The message was sent. That’s the night Bert threw his only no-hitter.

I remember watching the 87 World Series. ABC assigned Al Michaels, Tim McCarver & Jim Palmer to cover the Series. In Game Two, Bert’s curve was really working. I remember Palmer ridiculing the Cards for “sitting on Bert’s curve.” Palmer added that “It’s not like they’re going to hit it anyway.”

At the end of this, I’m still left with this thought: How the BBWAA didn’t elect him to the Hall of Fame a decade ago is one of life’s biggest misteries, one of life’s greatest injustices.

Congratulations, Bert. You’ve been a Hall of Famer in my mind for years. It’s great that the BBWAA finally noticed and gave you this richly deserved honor.

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This afternoon, the Twins took another step towards proving that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the AL this October. While it’s true that the Twins pitching staff still has to prove that they can put win streaks together with well-pitched games, 2006 phenom Francisco Liriano’s performance today has Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson smiling.

After a bumpy start, Liriano settled into a grove, striking out eight Red Sox hitters in an efficient 7 innings of work. After throwing 37 pitches the first two innings, Liriano used a mere 97 pitches total for his 7 innings. That’s an impressive average for a ground ball pitcher. It’s just short of fantastic for a pitcher with 8 strikeouts.

Once Liriano got command of his fastball, the Red Sox hitters started taking more defensive swings. They weren’t getting around on Liriano’s fastball, which was routinely timed at 93-95 mph. That made them all the more susceptable to Liriano’s slider, considered by some to be among the best in the game.

What the Twins have lacked in pitching consistency has been more than made up for by the Twins’ hitters. Today, the Twins’ backups combined with Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer for a 15 hit attack. included in this year’s Twins’ reserves is Jim Thome. Today’s batting order was Span, followed by Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, J.J. Hardy & Nick Punto.

It’s worth asking these questions: When was the last timt the Twins had a 7th hitter as dangerous as Jason Kubel? Or an eighth hitter as dangerous as J.J. Hardy?

Beyond the potent lineup & Liriano’s dominant pitching, one thing hasn’t gotten the recognition that it deserves: the Twins’ defense. This is another stunning fact. Thus far this season, the Twins have played 10 games & committed just 1 error. The Twins are the only AL team that still hasn’t allowed an unearned run this season.

The final mind-blowing stat that Twins fans should smile about is that they’ve won their first 3 series this year against the Angels, White Sox & Red Sox. Last year, those teams had a combined winning percentage of .558. The Twins lost their season opener to the Angels, then reeled off 5 straight wins before losing in Chicago. Now they’ve won the series against the Red Sox in impressive fashion.

People are noticing. Now it’s a matter of sustaining a high level of play for the rest of the season. With this lineup and with the Twins’ defense & pitching, this should be a fun season to be a Twins fan.

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Yesterday, I heard another person talking about whether Curt Schilling should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Everytime I hear that question, or when people ask whether Tom Glavine should be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he retires, I see red.

It’s time to dispense with the niceties.

As a Twins fan, I don’t know how people can talk about Curt Schilling without first talking about the disgrace the BBWWA heaps on itself because they haven’t inducted Bert Blyleven & Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame already. It isn’t that I think Tom Glavine & Curt Schilling aren’t HoF-worthy. It’s that I’m certain that Bert Blyleven & Jack Morris are worthy.

Let’s examine things from a statistical perspective. Bert Blyleven struck out 3,701 hitters over a 22 year career, a figure that’s still in the top 5 all time, even surpassing the great Walter Johnson’s totals by almost 200. He threw 60 shutouts, which still is in the top 10 all-time. He threw 242 complete games, far outdistancing Mr. Glavine’s or Mr. Schilling’s statistics.

That’s before we start talking about his curveball, which, when he was on, was simply unhittable. Other than Nolan Ryan’s fastball, Bert’s curveball was the dominant pitch of his era.

That’s before talking about his 287 wins & his winning 2 World Championships. That’s before talking about all the wins he would’ve gotten had he played on good teams all his career. Had he played on his era’s equivalent of the Yankees or the Braves, you’d likely be talking about adding an additional 50 wins over his career.

Jack Morris is also Hall-worthy. Baseball writers like talking about Schilling being HoF-worthy because of his bloody sock game in the ALCS. There’s no denying that that was one of the great games of postseason history. There’s also no denying that it pales in comparison to Jack Morris’s complete game, 130-pitch, 7-hit shutout masterpiece of the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. I’ll admit that I’m biased because I’m a Twins fan who watched every pitch of that game. That said, that isn’t Mr. Morris’s only qualification.

Mr. Morris won 3 World Series chanpionships. Each time, he was the ace of the staff. He also finished his career with 254 wins, nearly 70 games above .500.

As much as Mssrs. Blyleven & Morris deserve to induction into the Hall of Fame, they pale in comparison to Tony Oliva’s credentials. Tony O is the only player in history to win the batting title his rookie season. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he demolished the so-called Sophomore jinx to repeat as AL batting champion.

Tony O was the greatest hitter I’ve ever watched. That’s significant because I watched Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett & Joe Mauer on an almost daily basis. While those names don’t match Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio & Mantle, they aren’t chopped liver either.

To this day, Rod Carew will state without hesitation that Tony O was his hitting mentor. That alone should be Hall-worthy.

That’s before talking about his winning 3 batting titles in his career. That’s before talking about his winning a Gold Glove for defensive excellence.

The reason why Tony hasn’t been inducted into Cooperstown is because, in August, 1968, he suffered a debilitating knee injury. He wasn’t the same since. Nonetheless, he still rebounded to win another batting title. Had they invented arthroscopic surgery before that time, he probably would’ve put up spectacular numbers, possibly even gawdy, numbers.

As it was, Tony O still averaged 170 hits per full season, certainly an impressive figure.

It isn’t a stretch to say that Tony Oliva was one of the top 25 hitters of all time, which certainly should qualify him for Cooperstown alone. Mix in his 3 batting titles & his Gold Glove & you’ve got solid Hall of Fame credentials.

It’s time that the idiots in the BBWWA stopped asking whether Curt Schilling should be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer & finally correct the injustice they’ve visited upon Mssrs. Oliva, Blyleven & Morris.

Anything less is unacceptable.

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