World Series Game 3: Effective Problem Solving

How do you get back into a series trailing two games to none? Have guys who have hit well throughout the rest of the season, hit well again.

How do you endure a third straight game of Joe Buck? Talk to your friend in Seattle and put the game on mute until the computer screen freezes and your spared any more inanity.

How do you convince your undergrad neighbors that they don't actually HAVE to turn up the bass while butchering their way through a game of Rock Band when you want to go to sleep?


No seriously, I'm asking: How do you convince your undergrad neighbors that they don't actually HAVE to turn up the bass while butchering their way through a game of Rock Band when you want to go to sleep?


World Series Game 2: Congratulations are in order

Congrats to Matt Cain and all the Giants fans who have found clever word plays to be made of that name ("Cain is Able!" "You Cain't Touch This!" "Beware the CandyCain forest and go home to your Gumdrop Mountains!"--okay that last one wasn't really there...but I'm not as smart as San Fransiscans.)

Congrats also to CJ Wilson, the Peanuts From Heaven favorite non-Minnesota pitching nerd. You pitched well...you deserve better than an L in the history books and we hope you get another shot at the big W.

And congrats to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver who proved once and for all that they could count: "That's the fifth straight ball.....six balls in a row....seven consecutive balls...and that's eight straight consecutive balls in a row!...NINE! etc." This of course took place during the disastrous eighth inning when, with two outs, the Texas bullpen became the gang that couldn't throw straight.

I wondered: what was the cause of this debacle? Could it be a release point problem? Over worked arms from last night? Changes in the strike zone throughout the game? Honestly, I have no idea because instead I was treated to Buck and McCarver impersonating The Count on Sesame Street. Thank god they didn't talk about batting averages ("Josh Hamilton is hitting: 1...2..etc, etc....345....346 with runners in scoring position!! bah-ah-ahhhhhhh!!!")

Here's hoping we have some thrilling games ahead (and that we don't have to say goodbye to baseball in a scant 4 games)


World Series Game 1: The forgotten thing about duels...

At least one person ends up wounded or dead.

That, in retrospect, was the flaw with all the hype and analysis of the first game of the world series. All we heard was pitching duel this and pitching duel that, and what we got was one of the highest scoring World Series games ever. Turning that duel into a draw, and sending both Lee and Lincecum off the mound, bloody, battered and a little bit astonished.

Was Cliff Lee awesome coming in? Yup. Was Tim Lincecum a two-time Cy Young winner? You betcha. Was it reasonable to assume that two great pitchers, in the so-called "year-of-the-pitcher" would make game one all about the pitchers? Yes.

And therein lies the other flaw: we keep expecting for patterns to hold, for the favored team to win the game in the manner proscribed by the stat-crunchers and pundits throughout the internet--the same stat-crunchers and pundits who didn't give either of these teams much chance to make the World Series in the first place.

Nothing can be predicted. Nothing can be foretold. And predictions are bound to proven wrong.

Hmm...maybe we can use that to our advantage...I PREDICT THE WORLD SERIES WILL BE BORING! (heh, now we're in for a good one)


Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Stinky and I have been talking throughout the LCS and, strangely that's how we feel. It's odd to be elated in Twins territory right now, I know. But if we put aside our personal pain for a minute we can see happy people, and deservedly happy people at that. There's no doubt about it though, we should be happy for them, no matter what we feel personally.

Last year it was the Yankees V.s. the Phillies, pure pinstriped snootery v.s. what some have called "the Red Yankees". It was hard to watch...in part because so many teams go decades without world series trips or victories and those two teams seem to be ensconced in championship entitlement. Where was the underdog? Where was the heart? Where was the basic human dignity that any other team would have brought to the table?

Mercifully, though the same series was in the offing this year, we will be spared the pain. Instead we'll see one team who has never ever been to the World Series (Texas) play a team who's last World Series Title came before the Rangers were even created. We'll see my compadres in grodie hair (Lincecum and Wilson...an inspiration to the kids, both of you) versus the single greatest ambassador of nerdery in America today (CJ Wilson). And in the end one group of fans who have been waiting for 50+ years will finally get their reward.

It stinks that we lost. It stinks that we lost to a team that played like chopped garbage against the Rangers. But it's over and done with now, we can obsess over postseason strategizing (to arbitrate or not!!) or we can watch and love the last few minutes of summer before succumbing to the long dull winter. So bring on the World Series and the joy and pain associated with it. As long as there's human decency afoot I'm a happy man.

P.s. I know Stinky's got her favorite, maybe if we all ask politely she'll come and tell us why.


Heavy Duty Hardware

As the playoffs role on, Stinky and I wanted to make a small shout out to a Twin who had a great season and deserves to take home an award that recognizes his superb contribution to not only Twins Territory but all of America. You can help him obtain this accolade by following the link below and casting your vote in recognition of his awesomeness:

It takes a great man to wear a psuedo-caterpillar on his upper-lip all year, to with stand the taunts and jeers of visiting teams and remain strong in the face of adversity. Carl Pavano did all that AND avoided the embarrassment of getting foodstuffs trapped in his lip jacket.

A Man, a Minnesotan, A Mustachioed Defender of Freedom!


Clash of the Talking Heads Playoff Edition!

**Note: with so much ink being spilled over the various championship serieses, I decided to wait until I had something meaningful to say before blogging again. Then I reversed that decision when I realized I could do more snarky commentator analysis!

Tonight's Contestants: Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and John Smoltz (the flagship team of TBS coverage, responsible for both the Yankees/Twins divisional series, and the ALCS)

Credentials: Ernie Johnson has been an announcer for over 30 years but, as an Atlanta boy, has been largely confined to Ted Turner's monolithic hold on NBA games, it wasn't until TBS bought out the division series' that he won the right to get back into baseball. Ron Darling pitched 12 years for three teams, made an all-star team and now announces for the Mets telecasts (he also speaks Chinese and French!). And John Smoltz is so flippin' accomplished that his wikipedia page doesn't even condescend to mention a piddling announcing job: 8 All-Star appearances, a Cy Young award, pitched in 5 World Series, and an accomplished accordionist.

Analysis: With most two-man teams you get two perspectives: play-by-play from a guy who's really just a big kid with a well modulated voice, and in-depth analysis from a former player. If you add a third man to that mix and you would hope that he offered something different...not in this case! Darling and Smoltz are both pitchers. Darling and Smoltz both know what's happening on the diamond. But, while Smoltz delves into minutia to explain just why release points and elbow angles and stutter steps by lead runners make such a difference, Darling ends up paraphrasing the action in his own words. Personally, I think Darling is dead weight, but he does provide some of the worst tangential comedy you could ask for when you're trying to watch a baseball game!...So...bright side?

Meanwhile Johnson is reasonably serviceable in the play-by-play chair. Much better than the jack-wagon Chip Caray we all learned to hate last year. Johnson is less prone to Yankee-induced-drooling than Caray was, though, as always, the Yankees induce lots of unnecessary amazement (Jeter jump throws! (and-doesn't-get-the-base-runner-but-that-doesn't-matter-because) HE JUMP-THROWS!!!!). The biggest problem for Ernie Johnson the baseball announcer is that he's battling 20 years of Ernie Johnson the basketball announcer. I keep waiting for him to say: "And the Portland Trail Blazers take the field!" or "Great shot to right field by Dirk Nowitzki!" or "what do you think Charles Barkley?!?" He never does of course, he's too professional to do that but his hyper-active enthusiasm makes more sense in the up-and-down ceaseless action hard-wood game than the languid, philosophic diamond-based game. And when the lulls are most pronounced he's clearly casting about for any topic to get a laugh out of his buddies in the booth (Darling's amenable, but John Smoltz for laughs NO MAN!!)

Rating: 2.5 Blylevens. There's nothing spectacular about TBS coverage team, though Smoltz is great for the nerd in me, and it's always fun to cock an eyebrow of doubt at Ron Darling's mannerisms. But as long as we're stuck with national coverage, these guys will do fine.


And then there were four

So we're out of the playoffs, as are Bobby Cox, those devilish Rays, and the communists of Cincinnati (just kidding Reds fans!). Sadder still for me, I'm back in Ohio away from the warm, tater-tot-casserole scented embrace of Minnesotans. But if anything can pick me up and give me new hope it's cheering for a new team in the Championship and World Series.

One of the nice things about being in a constant state of transit for 11 hours at a time, it gives you plenty of time to ask irrelevant questions (If tuna is chicken of the sea, and manatees are sea cows, what is sea bacon?) and plot blog related shenanigans.

In that spirit I'm happy to give you a set of recommendations about which team you ought to cheer for in the next round of playoffs. But rather than listing their pros and cons, I just popped a few variables into Netflix and saw what they recommended. (In case you've not yet encountered the awesomery of Netflix: after listing things you generally like--shown at left--recommendations are generated on the right, but of course, it's not just baseball!)


Season in review: DAG NABBIT!

(Please forgive the delay in this post, it's always easier to write about heartache when you've gotten a little bit more distance from the moment it all turned to crap)

Sunday an incredible day today. Shining sun, warm weather, leaves turning all golden and gorgeous and whatnot, and yet, for the first time since March there's no baseball to look forward to. It just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like we should be done yet, our team was too good, our stadium too pretty, our season too fun to be over so soon. But no matter how much I hope for a breaking news bulletin that says: "18 Yankees tested positive for steroids yesterday, they will forfeit all postseason wins and be permanently disbanded"...I don't think it's going to happen, so it's time for a long cold winter of bupkus.

Let's be honest about this: The New York Yankees are very good at baseball. They play better than we do most times we play them, and, not coincidentally they win most of the games we play against them. Now, that doesn't mean that I think they're a better team than we are, or that we are doomed to an endless slog of postseason failure, it just means that they are entitled to a little success now and then...of course, they've had 27 seasons of success...so...they've had their turn, now it's time to share with the other children. But "play well with others" has never been part of the Yankees' mission statement.

So, we lost, again...and while I wish I could say that I inured myself to the loss...I was pretty bummed. Watching the last outs with Stinky at the Country Bar in Uptown, you could just feel an encroaching sadness as we all sat, sipped our drinks and silently started our countdowns until spring training. We are, once again, part of the vast majority of teams who spend the winter muttering "wait 'til next year..."

Personally, I don't like to naval gaze about defeats, no talk radio, no ESPN analysis, just a little time to heal the wounds. Stinky made probably the best analysis I've heard as we walked out of the bar, which is that while we have a great team that does well over a long season, they aren't really built for the playoffs. In the playoffs you need one or two dominant front end starters. Since most of these pitchers cost about as much as a lifetime's supply of solid gold ice cream parfaits, we don't usually get them. (Even our attempted trades for guys like Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt get shot down, presumably because Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt don't want to be awesome). And, while Liriano can dominate at times, he doesn't do it consistently (unlike Johan...sweet, sweet Johan), and without consistent pitching our hitters feel like they have to do it all themselves.

During the regular season our hitters don't get so neurotic because you can lose one day and get another chance for the next 7 days in a row, but in the playoffs, you lose one day you only have two more shots, and that's it. So our hitters freak out when we fall behind because there's no margin for error, so everybody tries to be the hero rather than just being their regular old awesome selves (witness, Messers Mauer, Kubel, Thome, Cuddyer and Valencia who swung for home runs approximately 180% of the time). But if we have great pitchers, there's less chance of falling behind and, as a result less need for our line up to press. So we need a pitcher or two, and as I see it, we've got two options, one: have every Twins fan sell their liver so we can afford to sign a great starter who will shut down teams in the playoffs; two: kidnap and brainwash Felix Hernandez, Zach Greinke and Ubaldo Jiminez.

Those plans should work, but until then all we have is the old standard: "Wait 'til next year". There's a long legacy of "Wait 'til next year" teams. The Brooklyn Dodgers were always close but no cigar in the 40s and 50s, the Red Sox had regular runs at the title that came up short from the 60's to the 80s, the Braves fell flat in October throughout the 90s, and this last decade, it was our turn. Painful as these experiences were it made the final victory all the more memorable, of course, we hope not to wait quite as long as the Red Sox did, but we'll win again, and when we do...awesomeness.

So, I guess there's nothing left to do but wait for awesomeness. (Oh, and sell my liver)


Slump Busters

Okay...so optimism didn't seem to work a whole lot better than despondency. We've now reached 11 straight post season losses and, 8 straight against the Yankees (losing a lead each and every time), home field's no kinder than the road and we're once again at the brink of elimination. Even the opportunity to blame the umpires hasn't softened the hard fact that we're staring down the barrel of the ol' elimination cannon once again.

This is still just a slump, a massive slump, a baffling slump, but a slump never the less. Everyone goes through them and then, with a little bit of good fortune, snaps back out of it. The problem is we can't seem to figure out what that little trick is to snap back to reality. Rally caps? No. Counterclockwise homer hanky waving? No. Flying from Ohio to Minneapolis for game 2? No. I still feel certain that somehow, some way there's one tiny thing that, once done differently will lead to our success in the postseason.

So what's it going to take to snap out of this slump, oh Gods of baseball? Do we sacrifice Danny Valencia to the ladies of New York? Should Orlando Hudson take a vow of silence? Do we need to surgically remove Rauch's tattoos, make everybody play the whole game with Groucho Marx mustache glasses, make every Twins fan watch the game upside down? Do you want that greatest of sacrifices: the Chairman's sideburns? PLEASE DEAR GODS OF BASEBALL GIVE US A SIGN!!!!!!


All our problems can be solved...with songs and monkeys

Since Stinky was at the game I hope that her graduate school gives her the time necessary to describe the actual events, situations and emotions of last night. I will simply say two things (and accompany them with movin' pictures):

1) In re: this New York Times Article about our "Damn Yankees" attitudes. I think the only power strong enough to complement my attack monkeys is the power of musical theatre (and for some reason watching this song this morning did make me feel better...of course, I am a theatre geek, but still...start hummin' boys!)

2) I stand by my claim from yesterday that the only way to get a monkey off your back is with a smarter, stronger monkey (possibly armed) and you know who else agrees with me? Stephen Colbert. (Seriously if we plague the yankees with monkeys, gonna be harder for them to hit with men in scoring position/hit at all.)

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Langur Monkey Security
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive


Monkey on our backs

Lots of people have little nagging annoyances, small things that lurk in the shadows of your life and just pounce when you least expect or want them to. Call it the monkey on your back, the depressing little cur that makes you feel like garbage and turns you from a reasonable person into a quaky, shaky mess.

Like a lot of people, I used to smoke. Not a lot, I never made it to a pack a day, but I did make it an unfortunately frequent habit. Having one after work, or two before bed; what difference did it make? I would smoke in private, and return to my compadres a little smelly, but much the same as I was before. I always wanted to quit but had a hard time doing it. When I finally did quit (about 18 months back) it was not without temptation to regress. Even recently walking to and from class with young people puffing away all around me, I thought about grabbing a pack just to quiet my nerves during the thesis-writing process. So, that's my monkey; maybe for you it's chewing your nails, or a maliciously passive-agressive ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, or, like the nation of India, maybe it's actual monkeys.

I think, for the Minnesota Twins, it's not smoking, or nail chewing, or malicious ex-es, or even real monkeys. The monkey on our team's collective back is a simple little thing called: getting whomped by the New York Yankees. No matter how good we feel, no matter how awesome things seem to be going, when those pinstriped punks turn up and we fall behind just a little bit everything seems to get approximately 10 million times worse. We try not to dramatize it too much, we try to play it cool...but...they just...SUCK! They win...and we lose...and we're left scratching our heads with a collective sense of "what just happened?"

This is tough, painful even, but it's made a little worse by the snide condescension that many Yankees fans throw our way. I mean, cigarettes never jumped out of their packs and called me a loser...sometimes monkeys I met in India seemed to be talking about my goatee...but, they were monkeys, they might have thought I scalped a relative. The Yankees? The Yankees seem to take some perverse pleasure in pointing out our failures...in reminding us of how we are unlike them (what with only two World Series titles as opposed to 27). Heck a New York newspaper published this little gem on Monday, assuming that the outcome of our series was a forgone conclusion.

I know that the Twins players have said they don't care, that New York is just that way and so be it. I also know Yankees do not write this newspaper, and that they are probably, pretty nice guys. I'm sure they take playing against us very seriously, it's just that many of their fans are so arrogant and smug that it feels like we're playing with the weight of several million snobbish brats squatting on our backs point out our failures...like a troop of particularly virulent monkeys.

Some day, we'll loose the Monkey off our back. I rarely crave cigarettes, in part because I have friends who remind me that I was a lot smellier than I remember, and that they want me to stay healthy and alive. I've helped friends ignore malicious ex-es, and seen nail biters change their ways. So I'm sure the Twins will find a way to dump the Empire State sized monkey off our backs...someday. Maybe we should try the Indian solution to "monkeys on the back"...MORE MONKEYS!

Good luck Twins, I'll keep the strategic monkey reserves on standby should we need them.

P.s. The New York Times has an article about this same dilemma, but with much more of a musical theatre reference. This might be over-dramatizing, but it's entertaining.


A definition for the day:

Interminable (adj.): 1. Seemingly endless 2. The days between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason.

In an effort to pass the time before the game...once again, let us all bask in the reflected glory of our great and glorious: Chairman Mauer.

(Note: you could watch this video 540 times before game one...but we here at Peanuts from Heaven encourage you to eat, communicate with loved ones and only watch it 529 times.)


Season in review: How do you graph a feeling?

Leaves are turning, rain is freezing and channels are flipping to football in much of the country. But for we fans of the Twins, there's still a little slice of summer to savor as we enter the post-season for the sixth time in the past decade.

Of course, it was never a foregone conclusion, and to prove that I've tried to chart how I felt about this season. Focusing on three main emotions as a fan: Confidence (that we are on the right track and everything will be okay), Concern (that we're deader than dodos, discos and d'alliteration) and Nauseous Confusion (for the plain ol' WTF moments that come up in every season). Below the graph is an explanation of the highs and lows I felt personally...if you didn't that's fine...you probably don't suffer from queasiness the way I do...and there's no drammamine for baseball.
Confidence: signing Mauer, opening Target Field, generally playing like badasses
Concern: Why can't we get a sweep?
Confusion: "Why does the ethics board need 90 billion copies of my research proposal?"

Confidence: Continued excellence, Kubel's walk off in New York
Concern: We can't seem to win bupkus on the Eastern seaboard
Confusion: "It's nice to feel weather again, but baseball players need to toughen up and play in the snow gol' darn it!"

Confidence: We're winning more than we're losing (barely)
Concern: Interleague is hard.
Confusion: "Why won't these African tv execs show baseball from the upper midwest?!?!? And why is everyone listening to that damn Waka Waka song!?!?!? AND DEAR GOD, YOU'RE A BUS DRIVER, DON'T IMPERIL YOUR RIDERS!!"

Confidence: We're still in the race, and no longer have to be distracted by the world cup
Concern: Bad build up to the all-star game, decline in pitching, and: "Justin, get up Justin, please oh please oh please get up Justin"
Confusion: "Who is this kid at third and what has he done with Nick Punto? And should I care?"

Confidence: Learning to love Danny V., feeling quite pleased with our bullpen
Concern: White Sox are still lurking...and...oh god...they got Manny.
Confusion: "Will MLB.tv's blackout policy allow me to watch ANY games?"

Confidence: We're close...we're close...we're close...WE WON!!
Concern: ...Uhhh...guys...shouldn't we win a few against the worst teams in the division?
Confusion: Seriously...they're the Royals! How can they score that many?

Confidence: Home field, and a good campaign by all...well done fellas
Concern: Yankees...but...meh...
Confusion: "What am I going to do after the season ends?"


Canuck Heads v.s. Clutch Hair

Today's game was another battle between forces of good and evil. In the evil corner you have the Toronto Blue Jays, a team determined to reach new levels of foreign jerkitude. They have been eliminated from the playoffs for a month, but continue to insist on trying to win games (you don't see the Dodgers or Mariners doing that!). What's more, as the lone representatives of Canada in Major League Baseball, they do a great disservice to the noble people of the great white north by ignoring the Canadian value of fairness. By hitting a crapload* of home runs against a team that can't hit any in the cold Minnesota air this team has sullied the mighty maple leaf!

*Here's a helpful metric conversion for our readers in foreign lands: a crapload is equal to approximately 24 hogsheads.

In the corner of good was, as usual, the Minnesota Twins. And once again it would not be easy, what with many of our regular players nursing injuries and our pitchers battling stinkitude. Sure enough, held to one run through 4 innings, it wasn't promising. Having our starter waver, wasn't comforting and given the bullpen's experiments in stinkitude recently (all relievers wanna be like starters, ya know) good seemed to be doomed.

A Delmon double to start the 9th? Promising. Mauer and Valencia pop-flies to put us on the brink of disaster? Not so much. (Sidebar: Danny V. We like you, and the home runs you hit, but sometimes base hits are just as cool as homers, so, relax a little okay young fella?) Then Jason Kubel walked (because Running is Stupid), and our beloved Jose "Aquapig" Morales did the same leading to "Sexi" 'Lexi Casilla: who compensates for below-average hitting with above-average facial hair.

Why does that facial hair matter? Think about it man, at crucial moments in the history of our world, great hair has provided the critical boost to those who defend us all from encroaching evil. Samson, Ulysses S. Grant, and today: Alexi Casilla. Huzzah for the forces of good, and huzzah for the power of great hair*!
*Note: In case Alexi Casilla won the game due to his own athletic prowess, we reserve the right to call on the power of great hair again this postseason.


If a Homer Hanky waves in Ohio...does it still have power?

As the Twins blogosphere has diligently reported, the Twins have spent the last week playing like a large pile of dog poo. Or, actually, dog poo would probably do a better job of confusing opposing batters than our starters have this week (they are stinking much more than dog poo, more like...roadkill wrapped in a month-worth of college freshmen's laundry).

But as easy at is to mock the team when they are down, and believe me I have many more similes and metaphors in mind, it really isn't really productive. What's more it just doesn't feel like the fan I want to be. I'm much more inline with bat-girl, who recently tweeted: "The voices in Batgirl's head are telling her this is all her fault."

The voices in my head say that too. Some people might think I'm crazy to car that much, but I honestly feel like I should be able to do something, say something, write something which will somehow stop the slide, change the momentum and save the day for all Twins Territory. I might be a little crazy, but let's be honest, who doesn't have their own personal little traditions? Why on earth do we think that turning a cap inside out and angling it 48 degrees to the right will somehow inspire our hitters to stage a comeback? Why do we yell/plead/pray/scold the bullpen to throw just one good pitch, just one good pitch, come on, you can get out of this inning with just one good pitch? Do we really imagine that Orlando Hudson will look up in the stands, see our rally caps and think: "thank god that guy changed his hat, NOW I'll be able to hit!!!!"? Do we hope that in his post game interview Jesse Crain will say: "yeah, it was a struggle, but once I heard Mrs. Swanson in section 18, row 20, seat 7 tell me to try my slider again, I knew I'd be okay. Part of this win's for you Martha!!!!"? WHAT WE DO DOESN'T EFFECT THE GAME!!!

But we do it anyway. Sure, it's ridiculous, it defies logic, it turns sane, intelligent, normal people into a crazed pack of cursing maniacs; it also lets us feel like we can do something to help the people we care about. My mother used to squirm like mad while my brothers and I played sports, not because she was possessed, but just because she felt so connected to us that squirming in the stands was the next best thing to standing beside her boys as they faced the oncoming hordes. We have spent 159 days and nights with this team, and while we've never shared a meal or had a one-on-one conversation, we feel deeply connected to them, and a would, if they asked, stand arm in arm one the diamond with them. We would gladly tackle Derek Jeter before he could cross home plate, or reach down and pick up Delmon so he could catch a fly ball from on top of the wall. We see them trying, and struggling and ultimately failing and we want to do something, ANYTHING to help them.

So, even though my arm feels like it's about to fall out of its shoulder socket, I'll keep waving my little square of white-cloth whenever we have a man in scoring position. I'll wave it in the middle of my small apartment, surrounded by my research, fully aware that my neighbors must think that I'm nuts. I'll wave it while hollering for JJ to break his bad luck and get something through the infield. I'll wave it, even though the only people who can see me are college kids stumbling home after a night at the bars. I'll wave it because I can't be there, because I can't swing for them, because I want to feel like I'm doing something and because I hope that somehow, Joe Mauer's psychic powers will read my concern and redouble his efforts on my behalf. I'll do it because I'm a little crazy, but if you've spent 159 games watching this team and you don't really care about the players and their successes and failures, then you're much crazier than I am.