Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

I just finished listening to John Hinderaker & Brian St. Paul Ward interview Clark Griffith. With Opening Day right around the corner (Monday), I’m prone to thinking about the Griffith family’s legacy.

First, let’s start by saying that Calvin Griffith’s Twins were the last team who made their living off of the baseball team. That meant, in the free agency world, that they couldn’t pay big dollars for their players. That meant losing players like Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew through free agency.

That also meant that they had to have a prolific farm system to replenish their talent & stay competitive.

That they did with gusto. It also meant that they had to make great trades. That they also did quite well. In 1982, Calvin moved the Twins into the Metrodome. It’s also the year that they started a youth movement that culminated with Carl Pohlad accepting the World Series trophy in 1987.

1982 marked the year when Frankie ‘Sweet Music’ Viola joined a couple Twins’ farmhands named Gary Gaetti & Kent Hrbek in the lineup. That’s also when they added Tom Brunansky to their starting lineup by trading second baseman Rob Wilfong & relief pitcher to Gene Autry’s California Angels.

Not surprisingly, Cal won that deal. HANDILY. Brunansky quickly learned how to play the right field baggie better than any player at the time. Many was the time he’d barehand the ball off the baggie & hold a runner to a single. Those foolish enough to run on him in those situations usually got thrown out handily. (That isn’t unlike what Michael Cuddyer’s been doing the last couple years.)

Another Twins farmhand played a major role in their winning the 1970 AL West division championship. His name is Bert Blyleven. Not surprisingly to true baseball insiders, Bert was part of the 1987 rotation, along with Sweet Music & Les Straker, that brought the World Series Trophy to Minnesota.

While it was Mr. Pohlad who accepted the trophy, the team was built by Calvin Griffith.

Another key addition to the Twins’ championship teams was a fireplug from Triton Junior College in Illinois. His name was Kirby Puckett.

After Jim Eisenreich, who played his high school ball here at St. Cloud Tech, was put on the disabled list, the Twins called up Kirby. In one of the great Twins’ stories of all time, Kirby arrived by commercial airlines to Anaheim, where he hopped on a taxi, which he took to Anaheim Stadium. The Twins clubhouse guys had to pay the taxi driver. That night, all Kirby did was start his major league career with a 4-for-4 night.

The Twins of the 1970s were a good team, with their best team that didn’t win the AL West was 1977. That group could hit & hit & hit some more. Lyman Bostock, who was later tragically killed in the prime of his career, teamed with Rod Carew & Larry Hisle to form an offensive juggernaut. That’s also the year that Sir Rodney his .388, at the time the highest batting after since Ted Williams’ hitting .406.

During the 1960s, the Twins had a great pitching staff, highlighted by Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant, Jim ‘Kitty’ Kaat, reliever Al Worthington, Camilo Pasqual & Jim Perry. We shouldn’t forget Tommy Hall & Boswell, either.

In 1969, another Twins farmhand played a crucial role in the Twins winning their first division title. That man was Rich Reese, quite possibly the best fielding first baseman in the game at the time. Reese, Kent Hrbek & Doug Mientkiewicz are easily the three best defensive first basemen in Twins history.

With this being the Twins’ last season of domed baseball, we’re about to come full circle. We’ll finally play our games outdoors again. Alot has changed since Calvin Griffith sold the Twins to Carl Pohlad in the summer of 1984, not all of it good.

What still can be said, though, is that the Twins still play the game right. Their farm system is still one of the best in baseball. They still respect the game. Thanks to the Twins’ system, men like Tom Kelly & Ron Gardenhire would fit into Calvin Griffith’s organization as they fit into Carl Pohlad’s organization.

That’s a tribute to the Griffith family. Thanks to their traditions & skill, Twins fans like me have had alot to cheer about Twins baseball. Personally, I’ve been enjoying Twins baseball since my first game in August, 1966. That Sunday afternoon, I watched the Twins score 9 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to defeat the Baltimore Orioles. Later that year, I watched those same Orioles sweep the defending World Champion LA Dodgers, shutting them out the last 3 games of the World Series.

Finally, no article chronicling the Twins history would be complete without mentioning Tony Oliva. Fans back then gave him the nickname Tony O. Baseball writers simply knew him as the best hitter of his time. He still is the only player in major league history to win a batting title as a rookie. He’s also the only hitter to back that up by winning it again his sophomore season.

There aren’t many people who can say with a straight face that they taught Rod Carew the nuances of hitting. In fact, there’s only one. His name is Tony Oliva.

Twins fans have had alot to be thankful for the last 40+ years, thanks in large part to the foundation that Calvin Griffith built.

Thanks Calvin. Twins fans really owe you & your family alot.

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I can’t believe I almost forgot this but it’s time to wish Harmon Killebrew a happy birthday. Harmon turned 72 today. It seems like just yesterday that I was watching Harmon playing at Metropolitan Stadium down in Bloomington. (Yes, it was first called Metropolitan Stadium before it got nicknamed The Met.)

My first Twins game was in August, 1966, against the Baltimore Orioles at the Met. When the Twins rallied for 9 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, Harmon & Tony O were in the middle of the uprising.

I can’t honestly claim to have attended the game when Harmon hit a shot into the upper deck in left against the Angels but I was there the next day when Haromn hit one off the facing of the second deck against lefty Lew Burdette. Utterly crushed the ball. The ball hit off the centerfield side of the scoreboard, which meant it was in the power alley portion of the outfield. Easily 450+ feet.

Harmon was a gentleman’s gentleman, too. I’m proud to say that I met Harmon in St. Cloud when Crown Auto opened at 24th & Division. He came there & signed autographs for well over an hour. What’s neat was that Harmon smiled the entire time. He was joking much of the time.

If I’m sounding like a Twins homer, well, that’s because it was impossible not to be if you grew up during that era. With Harmon, Tony Oliva & Rod Carew anchoring the batting order & with Jim Kaat, Jim Perry & a young Bert Blyleven (Bert was a 19-year-old rooking 1970) anchoring the pitching staff, the Twins had a ton of talent.

BTW, if Harmon played today, he wouldn’t have finished with 573 HR’s, which was 4th best at the time. This Baseball Almanac diagram shows the difficulty of hitting a ball out in the power allies. It was entirely possible to hit a ball 405 feet into the leftfield power alley & get robbed of an extra base hit by Paul Blair. In today’s game, a ball hit 405 feet in a power alley wouldn’t even warrant a chase. It’d clear every park in America, with the exception of Yellowstone, by 20 feet. More times than I care to remember, Harmon had doubles that landed at the base of the 430 foot sign just to the rightfield side of centerfield.

That’s only one side of Harmon, though. Harmon still shows up in Ft. Meyers every spring to work with that year’s power hitters. Many is the lesson that Justin Morneau & Michael Cuddyer have learned from Harmon. In future years, I’m certain that players like Jason Kubel & Delmon Young will learn from him, too.

That’s part of the Twins’ magic. Rod Carew & Tony Oliva teach the kids hitting, with Rod working with guys like Denard Span, Alexi Casilla & Carlos Gomez on bunting. Paul Molitor spends time workingh on baserunning.

Now you’re seeing why it’s easy being a Twins fan. If you love baseball played right, it’s impossible not to love them. They play the game right. Day after day, game after game, season after season.

I’d like to think alot of that’s happened because it all started with Harmon. Happy Birthday, Harmon. You’re the best.

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Despite losing a three game series to the Chisox this week, people are noticing that this Minnesota Twins team isn’t a team to be taken lightly. Friday’s Twins news couldn’t have been much worse. The results from the field, though, gave the team, and their fans, reason to hope.

The worst news of the season came Friday evening when the Twins announced that Pat Neshek would be sidelined the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Nick Punto was scratched from the starting lineup with a sore left hamstring. Brendan Harris left the game after injuring his hamstring, too.

With all that bad news, you’d think they wouldn’t have a chance to defeat the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. But defy the expectations they did, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, then reclaiming their lead in the next inning.

Boof Bonser didn’t have good stuff tonight, though, which was why he lasted only 4+ innings, giving up 6 runs while throwing 96 pitches. Nobody in the crowd of 25,000+ would’ve been upset if that’s how the game ended.

Unfortunately for Boston, they aren’t the only talented young centerfielder. Friday night’s game was the first that pitted Jacoby Ellsbury, the man at the center of last winter’s Johan Santana trade talks, against Carlos Gomez, the man who is the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade to the Mets.

Neither player disappointed the crowd, with Ellsbury stealing his 14th base this season and throwing out Delmon Young at the plate with an assist from Dustin Pedroia.

Unfortunately for Bosox fans, he was the second best centerfielder in Friday night’s game. That’s because Carlos Gomez’s ninth inning at-bat against Jonathan Papelbon changed the game. That’s because Gomez stole his 14th and 15th bases tonight. That’s because his 15th steal of the season got him to second base with two outs in the ninth.

Young Mr. Gomez didn’t stay there long, though. He raced home with the winning run when Mike Lamb blooped Papelbon’s 1-2 cutter just inside the leftfield line.

This week has been a coming out party for Gomez. He’s shown improved patience at the plate in big at-bats. He also became the first Twins player to hit for the cycle since Kirby Puckett hit for the cycle on Aug. 1, 1986.

Ellsbury is the more polished player right now but Gomez is improving week to week. Once he reaches his potential, Gomez and Ellsbury will be the elite AL centerfielders for a decade or more.

What’s impressive to me, though, is how this Twins team didn’t quit when the World Champions took a 6-5 lead. Bonser didn’t pitch well. The defense was adequate at best. The keys were the hitters having a good approach at the plate and the best bullpen in baseball pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.

Beating an elite closer like Jonathan Papelbon with a come-from-behind walkoff basehit is definitely the right way to open a homestand.

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Watching last night’s Twins game was as fun as fun gets for a Twins fan. Livan Hernandez pitched a masterful complete game. To say that he wasn’t the best player on the field, though, is understatement.

If someone wanted to nominate Nick Punto, who set a personal best with a 5 RBI night, as the best player last night, most nights they’d have a strong argument.

Not last night.

Carlos Gomez, affectionately nicknamed Go-Go by his teammates, simply took the game over, starting with his opening at-bat. That’s because young Mr. Gomez became the first Twins hitter to hit for the cycle since Kirby Puckett turned the trick on August 1, 1986.

Critics will say that he’s erratic, which I agree with…for now. He led off the game with a homerun on Mark Buehrle’s third pitch. Gomez didn’t break out a homerun trot reminiscent of Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer. His trip around the bases was more of a blur than anything.

The blur was back in his third at-bat, a line drive triple into the right certfield gap. That was followed by a double which White Sox centerfielder Nick Swisher misplayed, allowing Gomez to get to third standing up. Gomez’s miraculous night at the park was capped off when he pounded one into the dirt. Sox reliever Ehren Wassermann got a glove on it but couldn’t field it cleanly. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez barehanded the ball and threw to first just missing getting the out at first.

Wednesday night should get Twins’ opponents worried because Gomez is still learning the game. He’s still raw. He’ll have a number of ups and downs this season. When he gets everything figured out, though, he’ll be a dominant offensive force. He has more range than Torii Hunter ever had. Gomez’s arm isn’t as accurate as Torii’s but it’s a mistake to think you’re gonna run on him.

One other think about that game in 1986: Bert Blyleven struck out 15 Athletics that night, including his 3,000th career strikeout. He also pitched a complete game. The next morning, Kirby stole the headlines.

Let’s just say that Livan Hernandez can relate to Bert after last night. That’s what happens when a charismatic centerfielder takes a game over.

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In a nutshell, tonight was a perfect way for the Twins to start the season. As near as I could tell, nobody was thinking about Johan not being the opening night pitcher. Livan Hernandez pitched a strong game, giving up 7 hits & 2 earned runs in 7 nearly effortless innings.

Torii Hunter got greeted with a hearty ovation, then disappeared until newly re-signed Joe Nathan struck him out with a high fastball in the ninth.

Most importantly, Twins fans got to see what a disruptive force Carlos Gomez can be. They didn’t have to wait long, with Gomez leading off the Twins’ with a double down the third base line. He scored when Joe Mauer singled one hitter later.

In his next at-bat, Gomez pushed a bunt down the first baseline. Angels’ first baseman Casey Kotchman fielded the ball, making a quick toss to second baseman Howie Kendrick. It wasn’t close. When Mauer fell behind in the count, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called a pitchout. Gomez, though, had gotten a great jump & was in safely easily. Unfortunately, the Twins stranded him at third this time.

By the time of Go-Go’s third at-bat, the Angels had tied the game at 2. When Go-Go walked, the fans knew what was coming next, as did the entire Angels team, the vendors & quite possibly even little babies who had fallen asleep. It didn’t matter. Go-Go was in easily with his second stolen base. Shortly thereafter, he scored to untie the game for good.

After that, Livan settled into a nice groove, only throwing 7 pitches in his seventh & final inning. Pat Neshek struck out the side in the eighth before handing the ball off to Nathan for his first save of the season.

It’s hard not to love young Mr. Gomez. Twins beat writers Joe Christensen & LaVelle E. Neal III have repeatedly said that it’s a feast or famine thing with Go-Go. If this is what the feasts are like, he’ll instantly become a fan favorite. I’ll repeat what I[‘ve said elsewhere: If he hits .260-.275, he’ll steal 75 bases without breaking a sweat.

I still expect the Twins to struggle with consistency this season because they are so inexperienced. That said, this is a more talented Twins batting order than they’ve had in ages. It’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out but tonight was a great glimpse into how potent this lineup can be.

UPDATE: I’m not the only one who thought Monday night’s opener was perfect:

After the game, Twins closer Joe Nathan raved about what Hunter did for the Twins, then about what Gomez promises to do. “He was outstanding,” Nathan said. “That’s pretty much as perfect a game as you could write up for the guy.

“When he gets his wheels going, it doesn’t look like he’s running, it looks like he’s floating across the field. He’s a special talent.”

Don’t expect me to argue, Joe.

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Tonight at the Metrodome, a new era of Twins baseball will be introduced. As a fan, I can’t wait to see the new & improved Twins. Yes, I intenttionally said new & improved because I believe that will be better. That begs several questions. Here’s the first one on Twins fans’ minds:

How will the Twins replace Johan Santana?
A: Simply put, they won’t. You don’t just replace the second best pitcher in baseball. (Sorry Twins fans but I’ll take Mr. Beckett from Boston in October.)

For years, the Twins have relied on their pitching & defense far too much. We’ve gotten spoiled with Torii’s range & strong arm. Now he’s gone, replaced by Mr. Gomez, who appears to be faster than a speeding locomotive, though the arm is pretty erratic.

You can’t say that Delmon Young’s & Michael Cuddyer’s arms are erratic, though. There won’t be many players taking an extra base on those arms. Most of the ones that tempt fate will get thrown out. Michael Cuddyer’s power arm more than compensates for his range. As strong & accurate as Cuddy’s arm is, it’s my opinion that DY’s arm is even stronger & more accurate than Cuddy’s.

The place that worries me most defenively is third base, with second base another trouble spot. As often as not, Mike Lamb’s throws are in the dirt, which isn’t a good habit for a third baseman to get into. At second, Brendan Harris doesn’t have the range Twins fans have gotten accustome to. If too many balls make it through those sections of the infield, don’t be surprised if they shift Harris to third & start Matt Tolbert at second.

The weakness of the team is its starting pitching. That isn’t to say that they don’t have some talented pitchers. Clearly, Francisco Liriano has electric stuff if he returns to 2006 form. Many is the time I watched hitters like Jim Thome all but give up when he’d throw his slider. He’s starting his season with a minor league rehab assignment but Gardy’s already said that he’ll return after two minor league starts to build up his pitch count.

Based on his performance last year, I think that Scott Baker has top of the rotation stuff. His flirtation with a perfect game last year showed me that he’s got the stuff & the right makeup to win.

The sleeper in the rotation, in my opinion, is Nick Blackburn. He’s got good stuff. Most importantly, though, is that he gets it. He’ll only get better at setting hitters up as he gains more experience.

The three X factors in the rotation are Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser & Kevin Slowey.

When he was younger, Livan was a dominant pitcher. He isn’t dominant anymore. When he keeps the ball down, he’ll do well. When he doesn’t, he’ll have a difficult time. The good news is that he’s a dogged competitor.

Boof dropped alot of weight this offseason. There was no question that he has quality pitches, with his curve being his out pitch. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any question that he wore down too quickly. Hopefully, that’s in the past. When he wore down, his pitches flattened out. That isn’t a good thing for a pitcher who relies alot on breaking pitches.

As for Slowey, I’m still waiting for him to develop an out pitch. He’s got nice control of his pitches but they’re all very hittable. Good hitters foul off alot of pitches until they get a pitch to their liking. If he gets off to a slow start, expect Philip Humber to get an early call from Rochester.

I got a chance to watch Philip Humber (the H is silent) pitch a bit this spring & was impressed. He’s got a good fastball that tops out in the 93-95 mph range & good command of his breaking pitches. Best of all, he didn’t appear to be afraid to throw any of his pitches at any time in the count.

The good news is that the bullpen is loaded, with Joe Nathan signed for the next 4 years (three years with a club option for the fourth year.) Pat Neshek is strong setup man, as good as there is in the game really. Matt Guerrier is invaluable in his long relief role. The bullpen should be stronger with the return of Jesse Crain, though I suspect that it’ll take time for him to trust his arm after undergoing season-ending surgery last season. Dennys Reyes had a great season two years ago but came back to earth last year, mostly because of injuries. We’ll see how Crain & Reyes rebound from injury-laden seasons.

Now for the good news. The Twins lineup is the best it’s been in ages.

Carlos Gomez, aka Go-Go, isn’t a classic leadoff hitter. He isn’t terribly patient in working the count. He more than makes up for it with his speed. What little I saw of him, I’d say he’s the fastest runner in baseball, including Ichiro & Jose Reyes. Dan Gladden said that Gomez hit a routine two-hopper to short & beat it out by a step. That’s pretty impressive.

The old baseball maxim is that you can’t steal first, which I can’t argue with. The good news is that Gomez is an excellent bunter. Barring the third baseman playing half the way between third & home, though, they won’t have a chance of throwing him out.

Hitting in the second slot is Joe Mauer, who is healthy to start the season for the first time in a couple years. If Go-Go hits .260 or better, Mr. Mauer will see alot of early in the count fastballs. If that happens, expect him to return to his 2006 form.

Cuddy moves into the third slot after hitting cleanup off & on. He’ll have lots of chances to drive in runs this season. He now has a longterm contract so he’ll be able to focus solely on baseball. He’s quietly become the clubhouse leader, especially taking Delmon Young under his wing. That’s something that’s sure to yield immediate benefits.

Justin Morneau also has a new contract that will keep him in a Twins uniform well into the next decade. In 2006, he started off poorly, then was the most dangerous hitter in baseball the last 4 months of the season. Last year, that pattern flipped. He started off strong before struggling the last 2 months of the season. Alot of that had to do with pitchers pitching around him. They’ll pay for it this year if they try that.

Which leads to our fifth hitter, Delmon Young. Patrick Reusse likes to say that Torii Hunter his .251 for New Britain when he was 22. Then he mentions that Delmon Young hit .288 with 13 HR’s & 93 RBI’s in the American League as a 22-year-old. After watching him with Tampa last year, it’s obvious that the sky’s the limit with DY. With a little experience, there’s no reason why he can’t be a consistent .320, 30 HR, 120 RBI guy for a decade.

Earlier I said that Cuddy has mentored him by just helping him feel comfortable in the clubhouse. The other good news from Spring Training is that he was mentored by Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva & Rod Carew. With that type of annual mentoring, there’s no reason why he can’t develop into a dominant hitter.

After that, the Twins’ DH will actually be productive. Platooning there will be former Twin-killer Craig Monroe & Jason Kubel. Kubel came on strong last year, hitting .364 for August & .325 in September. His post-All Star game batting average was .303, giving the Twins solid production.

After that, though, things get a bit dicy. Mike Lamb is decent enough with a career .281 average. After that, Brendan Harris has some pop in his bat. Still, he’s nothing more than a decent hitter. Rounding out the batting order is Adam Everett. Everett is your typical no-hit, good-field shortstop.

I don’t expect the team to contend this year but I don’t buy into the notion that they’ll fight to stay out of last place this year, either. If the starting pitching is better than expected, it’ll be because Liriano regains alot of his 2006 form, Baker continues the strong progress we saw last year & someone like a Philip Humber or a Nick Blackburn comes out of nowhere to surprise. I’m not counting on that not because they aren’t talented but because they’re inexperienced.

The good news is that tonight in the Metrodome, a new, & hopefully better, era of Twins baseball begins. The components are in place. All it’ll take is time for all the pieces to fit together. The faster that happens, the better off they’ll be.

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While the Barry Bonds travesty played out, people kept saying that there wasn’t proof of him using steroids. That lame defense just came to a crashing halt. Here’s the details:

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds tested positive for steroids in November 2001, just a month after hitting his record 73rd home run of the season, U.S. prosecutors said on Thursday.

The allegation came in a legal filing in his steroid perjury case that referred to Bonds’ long-time trainer, Greg Anderson.

“At trial, the government’s evidence will show that Bonds received steroids from Anderson in the period before the November 2001 positive drug test, and that evidence raises the inference that Anderson gave Bonds the steroids that caused him to test positive in November 2001,” U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello wrote.

The U.S. government made the assertion in a document that asked a federal court to reject Bonds’ motion last month to dismiss the charges that he lied about past steroid use.

This isn’t a shocking revelation. Anyone who had watched him go from being a skinny youngster to where he is now knew that he’d been taking steroids. In fact, people have been saying for years that Bonds’ single season homerun record was the direct result of steroids. Just look at his stats. If you eliminate his record-setting season, the best he did was 49 home runs in 2000. In 21 full major league seasons, he hit 40 or more home runs 8 times: in 93, 96-97 and 2000-2004. It wasn’t a stretch to think that he was using steroids during his record-breaking season.

I’m a baseball purist. That’s why Bonds’ single-season record should come off the books. Once you eliminate the 73 home runs he hit in 2001, he falls short of the 700 mark, putting him well behind Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth, which is where he should be.

Baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned Shoeless Joe Jackson after the 1920 season for his part in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which the Sox fixed the outcome of the World Series. I don’t see a major difference between the Black Sox Scandal and what Bonds did.

That isn’t the only trouble he’s in:

In December, the record seven-time National League Most Valuable Player pleaded not guilty to lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

I’m not a lawyer but I’ve gotta think that that’s a big problem for Mr. Bonds. I don’t see how he can test positive for steroids in 2001, then tell a federal grand jury in 2003 that he’d never used performance-enhancing drugs.

It would be appropriate to have him spend some time in a federal prison for lying to a grand jury. It would be a disgrace if he didn’t get convicted and if he didn’t spend time in prison.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

With most of the Twins’ offseason attention focused on trading Johan Santana, it’s understandable that Twins fans were apprehensive. Today, the Twins gave their fans reason for optimism by signing Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer to longterm contracts. According to the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal, Justin Morneau signed a 6 year, $80 million contract while Michael Cuddyer signed a 3 year, $24 million contract with a team option for a 4th year at $10.5 million.

The best news of the weekend is that Twins GM Bill Smith says that today’s deals won’t stand in the way of them negotiating with Johan Santana in the hopes of keeping him with the Twins. While I think keeping Johan is improbable at best, the thought of keeping him here the next 4+ years excites me.

Signing Johan would give the Twins a rotation of Santana, Lirano, Baker, Perkins & either Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn or Boof Bonser. Their bullpen would be solid, too, with Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain and Dennis Reyes setting up Joe Nathan.

The biggest news this offseason that nobody’s talking about is that the Twins lineup is much improved. If the Twins don’t trade Johan for a starting centerfielder, they’ll sign either Corey Patterson or Kenny Lofton. Personally, I hope it’s Lofton because (a) he isn’t aging, (b) he’s still productive & (c) he’s got a great veteran presence in the lineup.

Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that the Twins keep Johan & sign Lofton. Here’s what their batting order would look like:
Leadoff- K. Lofton, CF
2nd- J. Kubel, DH
3rd- J. Mauer, C
4th- M. Cuddyer, RF
5th- J. Morneau, 1B
6th- D. Young, LF
7th- M. Lamb, 3B
8th- A. Everett, SS
9th- B. Harris, 2B

They’ll likely be a bit weak at the bottom of the lineup but they’ll more than make up for it with the top & middle of the lineup. When the Twins traded for Delmon Young, I loved the move because he has the potential of being a superstar. He’s got one of the strongest, most accurate arms in baseball. He’s a power hitter. He’s got pretty good range defensively, too. He’s got the tools to become the Twins best hitter by 2009.

Having a middle of the lineup inhabited by Mauer, Cuddy, Justin & Young would be imposing at minimum.

Something that people haven’t thought much about is how good the Twins will be defensively. On any other team, losing Torii would be devastating defensively. If they sign Lofton, he’ll be solid defensively in terms of range, though he doesn’t have Torii’s throwing arm. Whatever they lack in center, they’ll more than make up for on the corners. Teams won’t take extra bases on Cuddyer & Young because they’ve got the two best throwing arms of all the corner outfielders in baseball. PERIOD.

The infield defense should be pretty solid, too, especially with the addition of Adam Everett at shortstop. While Everett’s bat isn’t a plus, everything I’ve read said his defense will be a positive. The reports I’ve read say that he’s got above average range, a strong arm & picks everything hit in his direction. Justin Morneau hasn’t made people forget about Doug Mientkiewicz or Kent Hrbek defensively but he’s improved defensively each year. The scouting reports on Brendan Harris & Mike Lamb are solid, too.

I’m not convinced that this is going to be a major rebuilding year. It might turn out that way but I won’t think that until I know Johan’s status. Until that’s settled, I’ll just be thankful that they’ve locked up 2 important players like Cuddy & Morneau for the foreseeable future.

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That’s what this report seems to indicate. In my opinion, that’d make Boston the odds-on-favorite to repeat as World Series Champions. That’s why I think the Yankees are rethinking their offer of Philip Hughes, Melky Cabrera & some minor league outfielders. Here are the particulars of the latest rumor:

ESPN.com reported on Thursday that the Red Sox and Twins have discussed a potential deal in which center fielder Coco Crisp, left-hander Jon Lester and promising Minor League shortstop Jed Lowrie would head to Minnesota along with one other prospect in exchange for Santana.

Later in their article, that “one other prospect” is identified as right-handed pitching prospect Justin Masterson. This isn’t the Twins’ dream trade. That’d include Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Coco Crisp. Still, getting a major league ready shortstop prospect, the winning pitcher in this year’s World Series game, along with Torii Hunter’s replace & a solid pitching prospect will help the Twins restock for their next title run.

Combine that with their trade for Delmon Young, a legitimate 5-tool player who’s only 22 years old & I’d say that Bill Smith will have accomplished alot in his first 2+ months as Twins’ GM.

All that said, the Twins shouldn’t rush into this trade. Perhaps it’ll frighten the Yankees into sweetening their offer, which presumably included Philip Hughes, Melky Cabrera & a couple talented minor league outfielders. The Yankees have to know that the Red Sox getting Santana while keeping their starting lineup essentially intact will make the Red Sox the dominant team in baseball for the next 5+ years.

It’s my opinion that this forces them to part with both Hughes & Joba Chamberlain in addition to Melky Cabrera. Failing to do that relegates the Yankees to playing second fiddle to the Red Sox. That isn’t something that the Yankees will like.

Based on this report, I don’t see how the Yankees won’t sweeten their offer. They can add other players, including Dan Haren, but wouldn’t they really be coming out of this offseason losing ground to the Red Sox?

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That’s the headline I never thought I’d see. Here’s what Bonds is charged with:

Baseball superstar Barry Bonds was charged Thursday with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs.

Here’s the link to the actual indictment. Here’s some of Bonds’ grand jury testimony:

Q: I know the answer – – let me ask you this again. I know we kind of got the into this. Let me be real clear about this. Did he [Anderson] ever give you anything that you knew to be a steroid? Did he ever give a steroid?
A: I don’t think Greg would do anything like that to me and jeopardize our friendship. I just don’t think he would do that.
Q: Well, when you say you don’t think he would do that, to your knowledge, 1 mean, did you ever take any steroids that he gave you?
(a) A: Not that I know of.
…………………………..
Q: Okay. So, 1 got to ask, Mr. Bonds. There’s this number associated on a document with your name, and corresponding to Barry B. on the other document, and it does have these two listed anabolic steroids as testing positive in connection with it. Do you follow my question?
A: I follow where you’re going, yeah.
Q: So, 1 guess I got to ask the question again, I mean, did you take steroids? And specifically this test is in November, 2000. So I’m going to ask you in the days and weeks leading up to November, 2000, were you taking steroids–
A: No.
Q: – – or anything like that?
A: No, 1 wasn’t at all. I’ve never seen these documents. I’ve never seen these papers.
Q: So, starting in December 2001, on this page. again, there’s BB here, which obviously are consistent with your initials; correct?
A: He could know other BBs.
Q: Correct. But BB would also be your initials; is that correct.
A: That’s correct.
Q: In January 2001 were you taking either the flax seed oil or the cream?
A: No.
Q: And were you taking any other steroids?
(e) A: No.

The White House issued this statement after Bonds’ indictment broke:

President Bush, a former baseball team owner who has spoken against steroid use,
is “very disappointed to hear this,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. “As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball.”

If they’re able to convict Bonds on these charges, his single season home run record could be wiped out. If that happens, Bonds would be well short of Hank Aaron’s record, which would put a big smile on my face.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative