AL Eeesh-t

Once again the Twins were the proverbial kittens, forever flailing and stretching but permanently stymied by the Tampa Bay Beams of Light (as the following picture demonstrates)

Getting swept at the hands of Stupid Hipster Johnny Damon and his crew was unpleasant, especially since it brings the Twins record against the AL East this year to 5-12. Most of that has been compiled on the road, but fortunately we have just one more trip to the Eastern seaboard (a four game set in Boston next weekend).

Once we've swallowed the nasty cod-liver oil of our games against the AL East we can focus on winning the division by beating teams in our division...a group of teams we have played exactly 4 times so far and have great track records against.

This is all my way of saying that it's not over yet, so don't sully the litter box or pass on the Meow Mix. Those nasty beams of lights have gone away for a few months--let's focus on the future not the past.

Oh Ps. Please vote in the poll on the right side of the page with your favorite nickname for Matt Capps...and let us know if there's anything that you'd rather have as an option for voting.


Workplace Safety

This season it seems like the injuries never end.

One week into the season, Tsuyoshi Nishioka broke his leg. A few days later it turned out that Kevin Slowey had hurt his shoulder. Then Joe Mauer had bi-lateral leg weakness. Then Justin Morneau had an epic five-day flu. Then Delmon Young got both the flu and some bruised ribs. Now Jim Thome is day-to-day with a strain, and word is Carl Pavano's got the flu.

That's 7 players including 3 starters missing significant chunks of time due to injury or illness. It's getting so bad that Target Field employees might consider replacing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with the theme from M*A*S*H. And while there are all kinds of explanations (limited game play during spring training...Delmon refusing to cover his mouth when he sneezes, etc.) we can only think of one explanation.

We're guessing that the Pohlad's have been using the same Office Safety Film every season for the past 51 years...and well...it might be a good idea to update it...just in case it follows this template

This might work well in the Twins front office...but sadly, it doesn't cover other important things (like stretching/not vomiting on eachother). However, it should be noted that no Twins player has had their head slammed in a filing cabinet in 51 years, the longest such streak in the majors.

Have fun watching the double header today! (We peanuts will check in as we can...but with finals fast approaching it might not be doable)



Day-off Daydream: Root root root for the......?

I've been thinking lately about our team nickname (because with so many rainouts and days off I get stir crazy...so bear with me on this post). I think I first noticed a problem when, while standing at the Metrodome, in middle of the seventh, singing "Take Me Out To the Ballgame" like everyone else I came across that one clunker of a lyric:

Let us root, root, root for the...HOME TEAM

Now, if you got to games anywhere else you can actually use your own team's nickname to fill up those two little syllables "Red-Sox", "Cub-bies", etc. Other teams squeeze their name into the metric requirements ("Mar'ners", "A-A's"), but in Minnesota we're stuck with "Home Team" because "Twi-ins" creates a nasty nasal sounds like the very worst in Minnesota accents, and "Twink-ies" contradicts all the progress we've made toward serious stature in baseball.

Let's face it...we've got an odd team nickname. It's nothing that's going to inspire fear in the hearts of our enemies--truth be told, I've gotten a little ribbing from friends for my allegiance. ("You root for a genetic anomaly?" "Are these conjoined twins? Identical? Fraternal?" etc.) But this is mostly confined to non-baseball fans, as true fans wouldn't want me to fire back about their fondness for hosiery of various colors, or Spanish missionaries, or beams of light. Non-baseball fans prefer their nicknames either ferocious (see the NFL's collection of warriors and jungle cats). After all, cheering a team with a more badass nickname gives you a similar sense of coolness, of danger...you become a tribe, bound together by your colors and your dynamic, awe-inspiring symbol. So I can see how some might find it odd to affix so much time and energy rooting for a team that might as well be called: The Minnesota "Quaint-Observations-on-the-Proximity-of-our-Two-Largest-Metropoles".

I can see how some might find it odd...I can also see how those people are stupid.

Baseball is not a game for ferocity. Yes it started in a bustling city, with immigrants scratching and clawing for hits, runs and respectability. But at its core baseball is a game of simple pleasures: throw a ball, hit a ball, catch a ball. There's not supposed to be any physical contact: no bone-jarring hits or fearsome crashes. Because the rules have changed so little over the past 150 years, it still seems very much like a gentile "national pastime" rather than a flashing neon SPORT! So a collection of fans seems less like an army and more like a little village supporting a group of hometown friends and family.

Cheering for that team without bloodlust, without fury or vitriol is actually one of my favorite parts of the game. Feeling connected with other fans, with a community, with the history of the game and the country--I like that. So yes, I will root for the Twins, just like other people root for the "Ambiguous Northerners", "Beer-Makers" and "People-who-Avoid-Outmoded-Transportation".

I just wish we could figure out a better lyric for Take me Out to the Ballgame.


Clash of the Talking Heads Rd. 9: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

First of all, let's welcome the Twins back to Minnesota. It's not quite time to play: "Hail the Conquering Heroes" yet, but honestly, it would probably feel better to see them start winning at home, than to feel like they were better off with out us. Now, facing the division leading Cleveland Indians, the last place Twins desperately need a win. [I want to pause for a second to let our friends in Cleveland pop their collars, toss their hair and feel genuine pride at that last sentence...got it done? Good...now we must destroy you.]

Second, I've got to apologize for the fact that I may not be posting much this weekend...in addition to the final push for my final finals week, I'm still confined to Ohio broadcast restrictions which means, if the Indians are playing, I can't be watching. (I'll try to keep up either via radio or twitter, but we'll hope the ingenious Stinky can be our woman on the spot)

Third, let us now turn our attention to the greatest question of all: "Can any broadcast team in baseball compete with Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven?"

Tonight's Contestants: Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer of MASN [Note Palmer and Thorne are just two of the 11 people listed as analysts and commentators for Orioles games, but since they are the premier duo AND called all 3 games I watched, they get the attention here]

Credentials: Gary Thorne is one of the preeminent broadcasters in the Major Leagues today. He's covered baseball on ESPN for 18 years, and done games specifically for the Orioles over the last 2. He's also the voice of hockey in America and has covered both Stanley Cup Finals, and the World Series. [He also has a Georgetown Law Degree, and was a JAG corps officer...kind of a career shift but...still...] Meanwhile Palmer is...well, Jim freakin' Palmer. The Orioles all-time winningest pitcher, a three time Cy Young winner and first ballot Hall-of-Famer. He also has a history in the broadcast booth, having been with the Orioles for 16 years and having worked the World Series a few times back in the 90's. All in all, a pretty well-credentialed pair.

Analysis: Sometimes credentials don't translate into talent, but for Thorne and Palmer, they most definitely do. They do their homework, using a plethora of well-researched, germane statistics to explain why teams are succeeding or failing in given situations. Thorne has a solid baseball IQ but mostly points out big picture storylines to the season and works in a quirky sense of humor, so Palmer does most of the explaining. Palmer is pretty solid in his insights, but occasionally fails to connect two topics and has a few problems finding adequate verbiage to describe things. The two men have an excellent rapport with one another and seem to balance each other out, with Palmer pointing out the baseball if Thorne gets too deep into news of the day, and Thorne bringing up action on the field if Palmer gets too deep into nuts and bolts. Best of all, after the dreadful hometown sycophants in Tampa; both men are happy to point out calls that go against the Twins and laud good plays no matter who makes them. (Palmer's umbrage on behalf of both pitching staffs was nice to hear.)

Sample Quote: Thorne: "Gardenhire has said that he wants Liriano to pitch more to contact, but you still see him thinking about strike outs."
Palmer: "Absolutely, Liriano's stuff has been.........Liriano-like"

Rating: 4.5 Blylevens. Seriously, these guys were fun to listen to, maybe that's why so few people actually went to the games, they'd rather just stay in and listen to Palmer & Thorne.


Graphs are the Sunshine of My Life

Whenever I'm down, I try to brighten up my day with a few fail-proof pick-me-ups. I think about my friends and loved ones; I go through a solid yoga flow; I put inappropriate tags in facebook photos of my brother; I destroy a feeble USA Today Crossword puzzle and I cheer the Twins.

Lately, cheering the Twins has not exactly brought joy into the Mudville of my heart. But as good fortune would have it there's a cure for that too! GRAPHS! The fine folks at fangraphs.com will break down pitch velocity, BABIP/inning with Runners on 1st and 2nd and the whole baseball genome. Meanwhile, here at Peanuts From Heaven, we break down much more irrelevant/irreverant things--here now, two graphs that encapsulate our season thus far.

First! Let's look at Runs/Game. Both the "runs" that count as points and help to win the games, and the "runs" people make to the refrigerator to get Ben & Jerry's ice cream to help dull the pain of a poor offense.
Clearly the Twins trail behind the MLB avg., they also trail behind the runs/game that Twins fans believe they would score if given the same opportunity. And while Twins fans have a very high "runs to Ben & Jerry's/game rate" (R2B&J/G), Prince Fielder has gamely contributed as much as possible to the R2B&J/G rate for MLB as a whole.

Next, let's look at the pitching, by measuring both the staff ERA in given innings and how that relates to the percent increase in Ron Gardenhire's blood pressure, and the cumulative amount of tears shed by Twins fans (measured in oz) over the same span of time.
I know it's early yet, but clearly when our pitchers' 4th innings average out to an ERA of 9...that's not good. Nor are plus 7 ERAs in the 9th and Extra innings. It's also interesting to note that while Gardy's blood pressure rises and falls with the team's pitching performance, fans seem to be all cried out by about the 7th inning. (Until we lose in extras when tears of sadness and tears of fury commingle in a bucket o' weepy).

Now, this might make our situation seem dire, but c'mon...if you spend a few minutes trying to graph Ice-cream consumed or Gardy's blood pressure then you realize that baseball is baseball, and however long you look at stats, it might as well be entertaining. Still we look forward to bringing graphs of happiness back just as soon as the team obliges. If you have ideas for graphs feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet them at us (@heavenlypeanuts)...more will come...wether you want them or not.

Enjoy the game and remember happiness is just a silly graph away.


Clash of the Talking Heads Rd. 8: TAMPA BAY RAYS

Well, we're back on the road which means another installment of the Clash of the Talking Heads--wherein I describe the joys & pains of watching another team's broadcast. (Note: I missed the Yankees series with classes and work...so I won't be able to vent any spleen on them--suffice to say the little bit I did hear was filled with talking points and loaded down with stats...but not as smug as I expected)

Tonight's Contestants: Dewayne Staats & Brian Anderson of Sun Sports
Credentials: Staats is a serious journeyman of announcing booths, starting at AAA Oklahoma City in 1973 and touring through 5,000 Major League games with the Astros, Cubs and Yankees before settling down as THE voice of the Rays. Meanwhile Anderson's a journeyman of a different sort: He won the 1994 AL Rookie of the Year with the Angels and after 13 seasons and 82 wins between the Angels, Indians, Diamondbacks and Royals, called it a career and moved into broadcasting.
Analysis: I'm going to come out and admit that three nail-biting losses skewed my attitude, but even from the outset of game one, I felt like something was off. Both announcers were clearly fans of their home town crew, and while that's not a bad thing it can seem a wears a little thin to explain most plays via the: "our opponents are hapless/our team is clutch" paradigm--even if it was pretty accurate this series, it wasn't the only answer. They also tended to prognosticate knowingly what would happen--speaking ahead to batter-pitcher match-ups if there were two men on when the 5th man due came up, or describing the Rays history of 4 game sweeps while down two runs in the 7th. While the two had a pretty solid rapport, they found almost everything one another said to be unbearably witty. Not funny, just witty--so play-by-play would be waylaid for a few pitches so that they could get out a string of self-satisfied "heh, heh, heh"s.
Sample Quote: Staats"And Cuddyer swings and misses WAAAAAAY out ahead of that changeup [hehehheh]
Anderson: "His eyes got real big there [hehhhehehheh] Hellickson sets them up for the fastball and they just never see that great curveball coming [heehhehhhehh]"
Staats: 2-0 to Valencia...
Rating: 1.5 Blylevens--I'm willing to assume most of my analysis was exacerbated by perceived slights during our struggle, but I maintain that there's a lot of simplicity and a LOT of smug chuckling.


Two options for this post

I could use this post to:
a) opine on the issues with our closers, our defense, our hitting; whether or not the fans really could manage a baseball team more effectively than baseball lifers like Ron Gardenhire; whether or not fans and bloggers could assemble a better baseball team than a front office full of baseball pros like Bill Smith; the question of what the team owes the fans--and what fans owe their team; Joe Mauer's injury, illnesses and why some fans doubt his dedication; Joe Nathan's future prospects AND whether or not our fan base will keep coming to Target Field if this continues...

b) Make a cheap joke at the expense of Johnny Damon & Hipsters around the world.
Yeah...it's no contest!
Johnny Damon is surprised you haven't watched "Miller's Crossing" yet because: "it's sort of the Coen Brothers BEST movie...I mean...before they got complacent during their 'mainstream' phase"

Feel free to add your own Johnny Damon Hipster caption in the comments below!


Suggestions for Getting out of a Funk

It seems like every time the Twins get a little momentum--a burst of power hitting, a solid outing by the bullpen, a clutch knock to walk-off with a game winner--something halts us in our tracks the very next day. Win in Toronto? Lose in New York. Pull off a comeback win in the Bronx? Rain out stalls the progress. Great homecoming for Mauer & Nathan? Oakland pitchers wipe out the weekend. Danny V. gives us a walk off win Tuesday night? Liriano's one bad inning dooms the next game.

While it feels inconceivable that our hitters, our pitchers and our defense would be slumping simultaneously...the evidence is right there. But again, in keeping with the whole "positive thinking" thing we're trying out this year--we'd like to make the following suggestions to the Twins as they seek to bust out of this slump on the upcoming road trip:
  • Visit a Zen garden and meditate on human existence and the scale of the universe and how fun it is to hit curveballs.
  • Take a group visit to Denard Span's mom so she can make you warm cookies and remind you that no matter what, people love you and believe in you.
  • Go on a trust building retreat with each other, where pitchers fall back into the arms of their waiting defense (make sure there are extra big gloves for when Matt Capps falls)
  • Blow off some steam by pulling a prank on Joe Mauer by dyeing his sideburns blond while he's asleep.
  • Try something new and exotic, like Baltimore's famous crab cakes! Or pitching a complete game shutout!!
  • If all else fails...Sacrifice two goats and a rooster to the baseball gods (like the one pictured at the right, he'd definitely prefer lady goats just fyi.)
We're with you Twins, rain or shine or fiery hail of dragon dung. Here's hoping something clicks sooner rather than later.


Anything you can do, Cuddy can do better

Again, I could do a whole sack cloth and ashes routine over our current 3-6 start, but honestly...why? It's baseball! It's a game, a form of entertainment and it provides countless hours of distraction all summer long. While you might be deeply emotionally invested, you must admit that the sun will rise, the bird will sing and the earth will keep on spinning regardless of the Twins record. Of course I'd like them to play better, but rather than dissect all our little failings--which increases the pressure on the players and only exacerbates the situation--let's try a little positivity and focus on the Twins renaissance man: Michael Cuddyer!

I joked on Twitter yesterday that since Cuddyer is now playing 2nd the only thing he can't do is play the organ between innings. But honestly...I think that might be the only thing I haven't seen him do. In the majors he has played every outfield spot, 1st, 2nd and 3rd base, AND he did a season at short in the minors. That leaves Catcher and Pitcher, and seriously...give him time, he'll get around to it. As if that wasn't enough, he also runs charity dinners, does radio voice overs and is the go-to interview in the clubhouse. And on top of all that he blogs...he blogs with (trust me as an English teacher) superb use of parallelism and well honed rhetoric!

So now that Cuddy has put the average utility player/community leader/humble blogger to shame, what's left? According to my overactive imagination: Cuddyer will also be spending his off days researching the viability of bacteriotherapy in treating glaucoma and turf toe, speaking to graduate students at the University of Minnesota on Abraham Lincoln's direct influence on the origins of baseball and finishing his neo-pontillistic landscape painting of Target Field in the style of Georges Seurat. At some point this year he will also have to fight James Franco in an intellectual decathlon to prove once and for all who is the true Renaissance Man of modern America. (I think Cuddy will win it by baking an apple pie with a gruyere infused crust.)

Maybe he won't do all those things, maybe I'm being a little hyperbolic, but whatever actually does happen I look forward to more Cuddyer-ific discoveries in the season ahead.


Get Well Soon or 早くよくなってくれ。

I could spend this blog whining about another narrow defeat at the hands of the evil Yankpire army, I could vent my spleen and denounce the entire east coast for ruining the start of our season or I could wag a finger of blame at pitchers, hitters and coaches for the scuffles in Toronto and New York.

But I don't really want to. I'm not a baseball fan because I want to criticize others or because I want my team win every game. I'm a baseball fan because I like the connection to something bigger than myself, I like the feeling of community that develops out of cheering the same group of guys from February through October, until you feel like neighbors, friends or family. And even though he's only been on the team for two short months, and he has only played 6 real major league games, I want the best for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, our new second baseman.

So when Tsuyoshi broke his fibula today in Yankee Stadium, I wilted a little bit. I know that it was a fair slide, I know that it's nobody's fault; but I couldn't help but think: "that poor guy came all the way to the US to pursue his dream job, and after 1 week he has to stop. That's not fair!" I've worked overseas, far away from family and friends. It can be fun and exciting but it's also absolutely terrifying. If you fall ill or get hurt and you suddenly can't do the one thing you know how to do in a strange land, AND you don't have the people you love by your side to help you heal--well that just flat out stinks.

I know that he'll get better, and that his wife and parents can come out to help him, and that another player (Luke Hughes) will come up to help the team, but Nishioka's a Twin, he's one of our own now, and I know that--in our little Twins Territory family--we all want to help our guys feel better. Not just because he's a talented athlete, but because in a baseball crazed community you work together, you win together, you lose together. After the injury was announced Denard sympathized with his new teammate, Nishi and GM Bill Smith apologized to one another, and the twitterverse/blogosphere erupted in frowny faces at the injury. Because, that's the Twins way--health & happiness first, victory...maybe later.

Some people might analyze what a new second baseman means to the line up and defense, some might harangue the pin-stripers for playing dirty, but I keep thinking: "would he like some cookies...a bowl of chicken noodle soup...or Miso...a bento box...some kind of comfort food?" I empathize with Tsuyoshi and just want to use this post to say: "Hayaku yoku natte kure".

Get well soon and let us know about the cookies. Love,
The Peanuts


Happy Delmon Young Day!!

So...last night was awesome, and though our record is still less than sterling, a come from behind win in the Bronx sweetens this whole road trip dramatically. Best of all it came at the hands of Peanuts from Heaven favorite Delmon Young. We've advocated for Delmon before, believing him to be cooler than others thought. We've seen his ability to surprise the opposition and causing so much distraction in the enemy that they are invariably lost within their own minds. (We call this the art of Supraction (TM)--a talent Young shares with Michael "Magic-Man" Cuddyer, and their pet albino tiger)
So when Del blooped a double to right field and supracted Rope Necklace Aficionado Nick Swisher to tie the game, there was much jubilation among we Peanuts. Even more so when Batgirl (the inspirational godmother to this blog) declared today DELMON YOUNG DAY! And because around here we do whatever Batgirl says, we'd like to offer this song to help everyone sing the legend of Delmon Young. {Note: We started this last night on twitter, and envision it as set to the music that starts at 30 seconds, here.}

Attend the Tale of Delmon Young
He beat New York when a bat he swung
He broke the hearts of all Yankee fans, and excitedly ruined their dastardly plans
He stung the ball as few have stung....did Delmon Young
The Yankee Slayer in Left Field!

He plied his trade at Target Field
And there his talent seemed concealed
But in the Bronx he showed his stuff, and proved that the Twins were actually tough
Did Delmon....yes Delmon Young
The Yankee Slayer in Left Field!

Swing your bat and crush, Delmon, make those jerkwads blush!
Delmon beats the punks whose cleats have terrorized!

Attend the tale of Delmon Young
Who made the Yankees feel like dung
Then taught his mates to score some runs, for he wouldn't want to have all of the fun
Not Delmon...not Delmon Young
The Yankee Slayer in Left Field



Clash of the Talking Heads Rd. 7: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

At last we have triumphed over the Blue Jays. And now we are free to return to the land of normal bacon, English measurements, currency not named after ducks and jokes about the Queen. Watching these games was a chore in part because they went so poorly, and in part because I'm still away from Minnesota and can only watch games via MLB.tv. The plus side is this means one last month of posts that show Twins fans what it's like to watch our boys on through the words of other announcers.

Tonight's Contestants: Pat Tabler and Buck Martinez of Rogers Sportsnet

Credentials: Buck Martinez is another baseball lifer. He played the game for twenty years (1967-1987) as a catcher for lesser known, little watched squads in Kansas City, Milwaukee and Toronto, making one trip to the post-season. He's managed the game (including a stint in Toronto at the dawn of the aughts) and has broadcast games with ESPN, TBS and now back in Toronto [Sidenote: fans of EA Sports might remember Buck Martinez as the play-by-play announcer for the baseball games in the 90s...I know the history of the phrase "a can of corn" because every eighth play in those games Buck Martinez explained the etymology of that phrase] Martinez's color-commentator is Pat Tabler, who won a world series with the Blue Jays in 1992 and was a great clutch hitter (.500 with the bases loaded).

Analysis: Competent. Steady. Reliable. A little bland. (Not unlike Canada itself!) With two hitters in the booth they really can't analyze much of the pitching, but do a good job noting the defensive shifts, base running decisions, and hitting styles of all players. They don't really get into any chummy chatter, nobody tells jokes, they simply talk about the game, and when you're full of the rampant enthusiasm of a new season and a new coach it's easy to concentrate on the game. They don't deride the other team, but they don't really mention much more than talking points. They're at their most excited anytime a player hits a fly ball to the outfield, assuming (like many Toronto fans it seems) that fly ball = home run...every time it doesn't turn out they seem slightly surprised.

Sample Quote: Martinez: And BAUTISTA hits it back to CENTER FIELD!!!...Span going back!!!........Makes the catch short of the warning track...one out.

Rating: 2.5 Blylevens. There's nothing wrong with competency--it's important to have. It's just a little less engaging than personality. (My sour mood during blow out games probably doesn't help...but still...)


Throwing in the towel...literally

Well... I don't really know what to say about any of this. So maybe I just won't say much.

Morneau went 0 for 4.
We lost by 10 runs.
Toronto fans threw towels at us. Seriously. Towels. Who throws towels??? AND why do you even need to throw anything at all when you are winning by a large margin. I rest my case.

It also doesn't help that we are starting off our season with what is arguably the cruelest road trip ever designed. Toronto, where we always inexplicably suck, followed by the Yankees, who we always inexplicably suck against no matter where we're playing. We could be playing on Mars and we would still choke against the Yankees.

You know it's bad when the announcers resort to talking about how great it is that tomorrow will be a "nice day" (aka 40 degrees and possibly not rainy). Le sigh. Let's move on.

Towels though? Really???

Our New Hall-of-Famer & Incredibly Accurate Pre-Season Predictions

Happy Opening Day Everyone!! We tried to spruce up the blog a little bit, so now there are pages you can click at the top of the screen, and the first chirps of our brand new twitter feed (http://twitter.com/heavenlypeanuts) are on the right side of the screen.

We're trying to engage our readers more and more at this blog (hurrah for socializing!) and to that end we're proud to post the new Peanuts from Heaven Hall of Fame Plaque of unanimous inductee: NICK PUNTO! [Tumultuous cheers and applause]
Seriously, I know he wasn't everyone's favorite player, but Nick Punto was the model Twin: played hard, always fought, cheered on his teammates, and did it all for a fairly modest salary. It was easy to love watching him play, because you could tell he just loved to play. God Speed Nicky P. We will miss you.

Finally, since every other Twins blogger is doing it we will follow the crowd with our pre-season predictions. Unlike other Twins bloggers though, ours are 100% guaranteed to be right! Behold the power of our brains!
  • Every Major League Team will play 162 games to determine their regular season records.
  • Joe Mauer will have sideburns.
  • 8 teams will receive play-off berths.
  • Joe Buck will irritate baseball fans throughout the nation.
  • The team who scores the most runs in the deciding game of the World Series will win the World Championship trophy.
  • Many, many profanities will be directed at the New York Yankees.
  • Regardless of their final record (or the number of people who read this blog) the Peanuts From Heaven will cheer the Twins all season long.