Ron Gardenhire's Dirty Secret

Last night's game started at 7 and was over shortly after 9, and that was largely because Matt Capps came in to throw a few pitches, give up a run and make sure that Dick and Bert got to do all their in game plugs.

Even though the Twins lost, and team manager/life-sized garden gnome/prototype for crusty managers everywhere Ron Gardenhire looked like he was having a furious internal debate about whether to take a couple

tylenol or a couple shots of tequila, he also looked pretty darned pleased to be leaving the park so quickly. Maybe it was because he got to go for drinks with rival manager/polar opposite/walking twitter feed Ozzie Guillen, maybe it was because he really wanted to watch Real Housewives of Orange County in his hotel room, or maybe it was because Mark Buehrle was pitching.

Mark Buehrle does the things that make Ron Gardenhire happy. He throws strikes (65% of all pitches). He pitches to contact (84% of all pitches, with batters stuck with a .293 average on balls in play). And he makes quality starts (65% of all his starts). This season the Twins staff was a little worse than Buehrle in all those categories (63% Strike Rate, 82% Contact rate, .304 BABIP, just 51% of all games are Quality Starts). Now...Gardy doesn't know or care about any of those stats...he focuses solely on the GSQ: Gardy Scrappiness Quotient. And whereas Buehrle (by virtue of his defense, endurance and beard) rates 94.8/100, current Twins pitchers earn a meagre 51.6/100.

At the end of the day, I can help but imagine Gardy sitting back watching the game, dreaming of the offseason when Mark Buehrle is a free agent, and Gardy can confess his deep and abiding admiration for him. And Buehrle admits that, deep down, he has always wanted to be a Twin. And he signs a fiscally sensible contract, and dons the red, blue and white, and anchors the Twins rotation and leads us to glory and through it all Gardy never has to drink away the sadness and the world is a bright and happy place again. But of course Buehrle wears the black and white, and all Gardy can do is fantasize. Fantasize about Buehrle.


Home Sour Home

So the Twins, our loyal boys in blue, are spending the next few days in Chicago, which must come as a relief after having to spend 11 whole days at home.

I'm not quite sure why, but the Twins sure didn't seem to enjoy their respite from the road. In the 9 games the Twins lost this past home stand they averaged 1.5 runs & 6.5 hits per game, that's clearly down from the season overall, where they've averaged 3.8 runs & 8.4 hits per game. But it's not all declines against the season average! In those same 9 games the pitchers went from averaging 9.5 hits & 4.4 runs per game to 11.8 hits & 6.1 runs per game. (Note: I tried to find a more Sabremetric-y stat as per my older brother's suggestion but I'm still a novice at that...suffice to say: "something, something, something, you'd be better off putting Larry, Curly and Moe at the bottom of the order than Tosoni, Tolbert and Butera")

But enough of this silly math stuff. Clearly the Twins have lost track of what makes playing in Minnesota so special. It's not the number of pretty girls who profess their undying love for Joe Mauer in sign and shirt form. Nor is it the giddy kids, seniors and drunk guys who always find something to cheer for even in the darkest days.

Perhaps it's because they're working, instead of watching tv during the games but perhaps they simply have missed this catchy jingle espousing the greatness of the Land of 10,000 Lakes:

So next time you're in town we encourage you guys to do the things advertised in this ad and more. Perhaps Brian Duensing needs to go camping, maybe Jason Kubel could take a kayak out on Lake of the Isles, maybe Ben Revere and Alex Burnett could start an emo/hip-hop fusion band (hemo?) or maybe our local renaissance man, Michael Cuddyer, should make time for a trip to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Whatever the case guys, please come back ready to win some more games...it's a little tough to watch when you play like Joe Mauer sings. For now, just beat the White Sox and we'll all be happy.

(I'm sorry, that was mean and not constructive...but seriously Joe, I thought singing four part harmony was part of Minnesotan citizenship. Maybe you can slip some voice lessons into your offseason routine.)


It Came From Baltimore!

As if having to endure the Yankees over the weekend wasn't bad enough, the Twins just had to confront the Baltimore Orioles for four games. I don't know what it is about the Orioles, perhaps it's just my imagination, but whenever we face the little black and orange birdies we play a little worse than we normally do. Normally it's not bad enough to lose, or bad enough to get swept...this time it was.

So how did the Twins get swept by the worst team in the American League? How did we manage to drop four straight games to a team whose best pitcher in the series has a mighty 7 wins, and 4.15 ERA? We can't say for certain, but we would bet that it might have something to do with a conversation in the team clubhouse before the first game.

Ben Revere: Oh man!! We have to play Baltimore...Those guys give me the willies!!
Jason Kubel: I know man! Have you ever seen any David Simon tv shows?
Revere: Sure!
Kubel: Man, I just had a Homicide: Life on the Streets marathon, and I'm just getting into The Wire...That city is Crime Central! I bet the whole Orioles team and all their fans are a bunch of criminals and murderers and bad guys!!
Gardy: Jason...those shows are fictional, that's very specious logic and I'm pretty sure Baltimorians can now sue you for libel and slander.
Kubel: You might be right Gardy...but just to make sure that they don't get mad I think we should let them win!
Everybody: YEAH!!!
Gardy: Wait...no! That's a bad idea! Guys, we should try to win!
Francisco Liriano: I don't know Gardy...I'm not sure I can stand to see the big-bird-head logo...it's eyes follow you where ever you go in a room. It gives me the heebie jeebies!
Brian Duensing: Yeah, and I have a totally irrational fear of every bird ever since I accidentally stayed up to watch The Birds when I was 6!
Gardy: Why did you watch The Birds at 6?
Duensing: I thought Big Bird & Snuffy might be in it....
Jim Thome: Yeah, that movie's freaky, and let's not even talk about the ominous thrill of terror that reverberates in the hearts of men when you read one of noted Baltimore resident Edgar Allan Poe's ominous tales of horror!!
Kevin Slowey: Or the fact that their version of cake....is made out of CRAB!?!?
Drew Butera: Let's face it coach. Baltimore is terrifying. So if we all just play really really badly, maybe they'll all take mercy on us and not destroy the Twin Cities.
Everyone: [Random murmurs of agreement] Great idea! YEAH! Let's do what the guy back up catcher batting .163 says!!
Gardy: [Rubbing bridge of his nose] It's gonna be a looooooooooong series...

And it was. Kubel's terror of David Simon tv shows left him 1-13; Thome's panic over Poe left him 0-11; and Drew Butera went 1-12. The pitchers didn't fare much better: Liriano was so spooked he left after 2 innings with an injury, Duensing was so traumatized he left after 2 innings and 7 runs, and Slowey held his Crab Cake anxiety in check to get a lead...and then give it all back in a 5 run 5th inning.

Good news though, no more Baltimore! And since the Twins appear to be trading Jim Thome to the Indians, we can now officially focus on helping him win his first World Series ring by doing what we do best: breaking the hearts of Tigers fans.


Minnesota Joe and the Pitching Mound of Doom

With six weeks left in a--shall we say--craptastic season, we can't help but notice that the Twins are looking a little tired, a little worn-down, a little day-dreamy. So we wonder, what exactly are they thinking about as the season wraps up?

Sure they're thinking: "C'mon Baltimore! Cut us some freakin' slack!", but if you look at Joe Mauer lately he seems his naturally calm appearance seems to have risen to a zen-like state of
serenity. Maybe he's just cooly calculating the statistical potential of next season (can't bat .290 again...right?) or maybe he's thinking back on his childhood dreams again.
I'd bet Mauer dreamed of playing baseball for the Twins. I'd also bet that, like most boys who had backyard adventures in the 1980s, he also dreamed of being Indiana Jones. And now that playing baseball is a reality, I bet he has even more time to day dream about being a Harrison Ford-esque hero...even if that hero also plays baseball.

Picture him walking to the plate as "dum-Da-DUM-DUM-dum-da-dum" echoes throughout the stadium. Leaping over the on-deck circle thingy like a pit of snakes. Smacking a ball to the gap and racing around first like there was a gigantic boulder hurtling behind him threatening to crush him and cause even more bilateral leg weakness! Then slides into second, reaches behind him to pick up his helmet, and laughs softly as the opposing short stop is flattened by said boulder.

Unfortunately, life as Minnesota Joe isn't all double smacking adventures and cute girls in the first row with "Love You" written on their eyelids. No, there are some artifacts better left untouched...but just try to tell that to the buddies who accompany him on his adventures and can't help but get in their own way. Minnesota Joe always starts his adventures with a pitching buddy...and more often than not, that pitching buddy just has to touch the Ark of the Covenant, and before Joe can go out to the mound to swap the pitcher out for a bag of sand (just as effective and far less expensive)...this happens:

Looks just like our starting pitchers lately, eh?

Okay, that might be an overstatement...but I really felt that the Melting Nazi encapsulated my soul while watching the last couple games, and anyway...if you're Minnesota Joe, no matter how many pitchers utterly dissolve into a thin mass of bloody goop under a black trench coat, you're going to stay alive, get the girl and have another adventure tomorrow.

So c'mon Joe, live out another childhood dream: stitch a TC on a fedora, stuff a whip inside your shin guard and change that batting music. Be our very own Minnesota Joe.

(Unless you can find a wookie costume for Morneau in which case you should go for the Han Solo thing instead)


Smells Like Lutefisk, Ya Know?

It was Lutheran Night at Target Field.

This caused several problems. First of all, the EMTs were in over their heads before the game even started when fans began passing out left and right due to wearing Norwegian Sweaters in the 90 degree heat. Secondly, in a sudden reversal of the principles of economics, prices of back row seats shot up 300% because nobody wanted to sit in the front. There was also great confusion when fans tried to sing grace before eating their hot dogs and were unsure whether to "strengthened for thy service be" or "feast in paradise with thee" -a brawl actually broke out in section 214. There was also the 4 part harmony dramz during the national anthem (there were too many sopranos), and the fact that many people were so reluctant to rudely walk in front of one another that they simply refused to go to the restroom at all, which resulted in an unfortunate stinkyness throughout many sections of the stadium.

Down in the dugout, Drew Butera was trying to figure out what to do. He had just gotten in touch with his Norwegian self, and he realized that ordering Pavano to throw certain pitches was not very Lutheran. He decided instead to make "suggestions" to Carl, and then if he didn't like what Carl threw he would call Ben Revere later to complain and maybe also to gossip about Luke Hughes.

Danny Valencia, meanwhile, was having a conniption. "But GUYS," he said. "It's LUTHERAN NIGHT. We can't just score runs against these guys, they get beat up by the Yankees and the Red Sox all the time and it just...it wouldn't be very nice."

"Well," said Cuddy, as he smiled extra-bright and his dimples shone like an exploding supernova. "What should we do then? I mean chances are we're going to hit the ball occasionally and probably get on base sometimes."

Joe Mauer chimed in then - he'd been thinking a lot about this Lutheran niceness and such. "How about I'll wait until there are 2 outs before I get a hit? And then probably no one will score, so we won't make the Orioles feel too bad."

"Gee," said Danny. "That's a great idea! And then maybe we can guilt them into letting us win!!" It was too brilliant (and too convoluted) to fail.

Or not.

And that is how the Twins got smacked down by the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1 on August 22, 2011. There was also some serious fan interference, and some extremely un-Norwegian behavior exhibited by Gardy (awesome) but the important thing you must remember - we lost tonight because of passive-aggressiveness. And also lutefisk.

The Most Constant Presence in Twins Territory

You might not recognize the fellow at the top of this post, but he's been around all season long. So long in fact that he might have been asked to pinch hit when our bench was particularly thin last week. His name is Dissotiera Injuria, or in layman terms, "the Injury Bug".

How much of an effect has the injury bug had on the Twins season? Put it this way: in 126 games the Twins have had 107 line-ups. By comparison the Yankees have fielded 53 squads in 123 games. We're on a pace to have 137 different sets of 9 take the field, that's 137 combinations of players wearing the Twins' red, white and blue. If the entire population of Dassel, Minnesota put on Twins jerseys, they could make that exact same number of rosters.

And hey, who's to say that Dissotiera Injuria is done yet? We must be about due for Danny Valencia to twist an ankle rounding first, or Alex Burnett to dislocate a shoulder in an innocuous warm up session, or Carl Pavano to snap a tendon while packing his suitcase for the next roadtrip, or Drew Butera to spontaneously combust.

Honestly your guess is as good as ours. In this wild season, where few things are certain, the only thing we would bank on is that Gardy will lead the league in Tylenol consumed and the Dissotiera Injuria is going to be around until the last out is recorded.


Throwing an Elbow Minnesota Style

I really thought this time would be different. I thought that I was past caring about how the Twins fared in individual games. I thought that by serenely ignoring the ominous pinstriped cloud heading for Minneapolis, I could stay zen and ambivalent about this whole series.

I was wrong.

After enjoying a nice walk in the early evening we turned on the game just in time to see Nick Swisher hit a three run homer. In seconds, I was calling Swisher more than a few profane names. When Andruw Jones blasted one out deep to left, I turned off the TV before the ball was over the fence. A half-hour later I turned the game back on, and while the little piranhas built a rally for two runs to cut into the Yankee lead, I was far madder about CC Sabathia's petulant tantrum after giving up those runs, than I was happy about the runs themselves.

I shouldn't let the Yankees get to me, but I can't help myself. They turn up, bludgeon the Twins, and leave me feeling worse than an armadillo after getting run over by a semi-truck. It feels like they expect to win, and worse, it feels like the Twins almost expect to lose. We let the Yankees play their game while we play in a fog, just waiting for an umpire's call or flukey hop to justify another loss.

I try not to say what I think the Twins should do--I couldn't hit in Little League, I've never coached and I don't have the experience or information of front office brass, so I trust that baseball pros know more than I do--but last night, just like last May, and last October I found myself wishing that the Twins would follow my advice and do one thing: Throw an Elbow.

There's an apocryphal story that legendary Center Bill Russell never wanted to play dirty and was getting hammered by opponents in the post. After throwing one elbow, in one game, and he stopped getting hassled by the opposition. I can't help but wish that the Twins would do that tonight, start pitching inside to every Yankee batter, knock Texiera on his butt, and be ready to brawl if need be. But that won't happen, we haven't had a real fight with another team since 2003, and it's actually kind of cool to see that the Minnesota Twins, are Minnesota Nice. But that doesn't need to stop us from from throwing an elbow in our own uniquely Minnesotan way: passive-aggressively.

So let's try this: let's have Kevin Slowey quick pitch the Yankees to death. If they get to first base, Morneau can give them the cold shoulder, no chit chat, no banter, just hockey foe death stares. If they get to second Nishioka and Hughes can talk to eachother and pretend that the Yankee isn't there at all. And if they get to third, we'll have a horde of pretty Minnesotan girls squealing when Danny V smiles and offering to give him their phone numbers while telling Jeter and company to get out of the way so they can see Danny more clearly. Then, win or lose after the game, invite everyone in the stadium for a potluck with the team and "oh...yeah...I guess the Yankees could come...but we might not have enough and...we bet they're probably tired still, so...I'm sure they'll understand".

There's my passive-aggressive plan, if you have any other suggestions please leave them in the comments below. The bottom line is that one way or another, we've got to do something differently. Once we do that, once we get a little swagger back and let the Yankees know that win or lose we're going to make their lives difficult every single game, then maybe we won't play like we expect to lose. And we can always remember that when we're in trouble we can just throw an elbow...Minnesota style.


Adieu Dear Delmon, Adieu

As we leave Detroit glowing with victory we must now say farewell to the man we traded when we arrived in Michigan: Delmon Damarcus Young.

Several years ago we Peanuts noticed that Delmon had an uncanny ability to reach base in ways that seemed completely implausible. He seemed to lead the team in pop-ups that got lost in the Dome, singles that skidded off of pebbles and following two weak ground outs with a monstrous home run. He seemed to thrive by surprising and distracting the opposition...so we merged the words and claimed that he "supracted" them. Later we realized that the Twins' resident magician should also be a part of this magical art and developed a whole shtick about Cuddyer & Young, Masters of Supraction (TM).
(You can read all about the origin of Supraction here, and see the complete annals of Delmon & Cuddy's supraction-tastic exploits here)

But as Delmon donned a different jersey and Cuddy sat on the bench nursing an injured neck, we wondered how Supraction would survive and thus imagined the following moments.

[In the Tiger dugout before game 1]
Delmon: So yeah, I could totally teach you guys some Supraction-tastic skillz. It'll totally help win the division and maybe even the World Series!
Miguel Cabrera: I don't know, just hitting the ball hard has worked pretty well for me.
Jhonny Peralta: Yeah, and I use the magical powers of my misplaced "h"...I think I'm okay, but maybe the younger guys like Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson could use it.
Delmon: What do you think coach?
Jim Leyland: [Inaudible mumble, grumble, spit]
Delmon: ...was that a yes or a no?
Jim Leyland: [Grumble, spit, mumble]
Delmon: ...ooookay...here...just watch what it can do...I'm gonna totally supract Liriano in my first at bat because, hey! I'm wearing a different uniform and not in left field...he'll be surprised, he'll be distracted and I'll supract a home run!!
Jim Leyland: [Spit, grumble, mumble, spit]

Of course, Delmon went out and did just that, and Jim Leyland responded by clapping his hands, then mumbling and spitting. The next day, Cuddy, seemed dispirited.

Cuddy: [Sigh]
Jim Thome: Hi there Michael...something troubling you?
Cuddy: Oh, Jim, it's nice of you to ask, but...I don't think you would understand.
Thome: I may not understand, but I'll always listen. C'mon Cuddy...Talk to Thome...
Cuddy: Well, Jim. You know how I like magic and sleight of hand tricks and surprising/distracting the opposition with my myriad skills of awesomeness?
Thome: Boy, I sure do! Your magic is SO COOL!
Cuddy: Well, I used to use those skills to win games with Delmon. And now that he's out there playing for Detroit I just feel...
Thome: Strangely empty in your soul?
Cuddy: Yeah! I mean, I know that Supraction will still be a part of the game, but it will be hard to replicate that old feeling of pure, randomly inspired, Delmon-rific, accidental awesomeness.
Thome: Would you feel better if I tried to Supract people by hitting more homeruns?
Cuddy: Thanks Jim, but your homers are kind of expected...maybe if you suddenly stole third base--
Thome: Yeah.............that ain't gonna happen buddy. But hey, why don't you look for a NEW friend to instruct in the art of Supraction. That way, the spirit of it can live on and on in Twins Territory.
Cuddy: Wow, you really are just, ridiculously awesome aren't you?
Thome: Yeah, pretty much. Wanna hug?
Cuddy: Yes. Yes I do.

And so it was that Cuddy began to search for new masters of Supraction. And in a few short moments he realized that the answer had been standing next to Delmon in the outfield for lo these many months. So yesterday, this happened.

Delmon in the first inning: Doo-de-doo...time to hit the ball really really far, and make all Detroit real happy! [Swings, blasts it to center and starts to trot until Ben Revere snags the ball over his shoulder]...Woah...umm...that was surprising...
Delmon in the fourth inning: Okay...here I go, ready to supract Carl to hell. [Swings and cranks it to right center, begins another double trot only to see Ben Revere run the ball down like a lion running down a gazelle] Woah...did he? What do I...I feel all distracted and...wait a second!
[Delmon turns to the Twins dugout and sees Cuddy grinning at him]

So Ben Revere, quiet, unassuming, broad-smiling, ball-chasing, catcher-running-over Ben Revere has become the latest student in the art of Supraction. We wish Delmon well teaching Supraction in Detroit, but we're even more excited to see Cuddy take on Revere as his Supraction paduwan.


HUGE News Day in Twins Territory

We were all set to ease back in to the blogging scene with short posts on topics that interest us. One today, one tomorrow, nice and easy. Then the Twins went and flipped the script and had one of the team's biggest news days in recent memory.
The biggest thing to talk about is of course, Jim Thome's 600th Career Home Run. The big blast which put Thome into the rare company of one-name power-hitting legends (Ruth, Mays, Griffey, et. al), also put the Twins on top for good en route to a win (another rare feat, at least in recent weeks). While Jimbo's milestone was not nearly as hyped as Derek Jeter's 3,000th
hit, the coverage of his accomplishment has been great to see and hear. ESPN made it a front page story last night, the New York Times gave it a nice write up, and a host of pundits, commentators and personalities have given kind-hearted credit to the humble country boy who reached this level of achievement.

Watching the event itself live was great, and watching Thome attempt to verbalize the experience shortly afterwards was great in a different way. First an interview with his dad might have been the most adorable thing on Twins TV all year; particularly when Poppa Thome teared up and said "[Jim] has always been special even before he hit baseballs" [Suck on that Field of Dreams!]. Then in his press conference hearing Thome call everything about the experience "cool" almost prompted us to get snarky, but honestly, the whole experience was cool, and if I was in that situation at the culmination of my whole career I'm pretty sure "cool" would be more eloquent than anything I could come up with.

And while Jimbo's big day was down right historic, we would be remiss if we didn't mention that a personal favorite of mine, Delmon Young, got traded to the Tigers. Admittedly, Delmon has not been everyone's favorite Twin, but since I purchased his jersey I felt that I ought to give him my irrational devotion and stubbornly believe that he would suddenly learn to lay off sliders low-and-away and practice more direct routes to flies to left. So, while others pointed out his struggles and failings, I kept cheering, and so I have cheered for the last three-and-a-half years.

Naturally, now that he's out of a Twins uniform I won't watch him as much, or cheer for him as fiercely, but I certainly do wish him the very best as his career continues (as long as it happens against teams other the Twins). And, since he's gone I can now invest all of my irrational fandom into believing that Tsuyoshi Nishioka is about to hit a homerun.

At the end of the day the Twins got the Win, Thome got his milestone, Delmon got a fresh start and we fans got a wildly entertaining day of baseball...it wasn't how we planned to get back into the blogging habit...but it was a lot of fun and it prompts just one question:

Can we do that again?


Wha' Happened?

Hey everybody!! We're back from our honeymoon in Thailand! While we liked Muy Thai boxing just fine, we definitely missed the baseball. So, how have things been going since the Texas series?

....oh, really? we've lost 9 of the last 12?

........and we've gone from 6 back to 11.5 back?

............and we didn't add anybody or ditch any underperformers at the trade deadline?

...................and people are posting unconfirmed reports of Gardy's job being in jeopardy?

............................and Cuddy just got hurt?



How 'bout them Minnesota Lynx, eh?!? Go SIMONE "CEASAR" AUGUSTUS!!!!

Seriously though, while we're happy to cheer the lovely ladies of the Lynx (and write alliterative phrases/historical nicknames about them), we'll keep watching the Twins and cheering for them with all that we've got until the season ends, no matter how bad it gets.

So best of luck to the Twins as the head into Detroit and best of luck to our fellow fans as we try to keep the faith and love going through the season.