Archive for September, 2008

Then and Now

September 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Here was the lineup for the Minnesota Twins when they opened this wacky 2008 campaign:

1B: Morneau
2B: Harris
3B: Lamb
SS: Everett
LF: Young
CF: Gomez
RF: Cuddyer
C: Mauer
DH: Kubel/Monroe

As they approach their 163rd game of the season, here’s their current lineup:

1B: Morneau
2B: Casilla
3B: Buscher/Harris
SS: Punto
LF: Young
CF: Gomez
RF: Span
C: Mauer
DH: Kubel

Monroe and Lamb are gone. Everett lost his job when he was hurt and was very nearly released, but for a shortage of infielders at an inopportune time. Cuddyer had one injury after another in a miserable year for him.

So disgusted with Casilla after last year’s indifferent season, the Twins sent him out early in spring training. Punto, after a dreadful offensive season in 2007, was looking at a year being a spare part, used everywhere in the infield (and perhaps outfield) in a reserve role. Harris didn’t make a smooth transition from SS in Tampa Bay to 2B with the Twins, and was relegated to platooning with Buscher, who was a late cut in spring training. Span lost the CF battle to Gomez in spring training and thus was sent to Rochester.

While Gardenhire and Co. should receive great credit for the superb job in reupholstering the squad on the fly, one must look askance at the job the front office did in assembling the 2008 season. The moves that they made going into the season were all mostly flops or washouts.

The big trade of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris? Not so good. Garza was a key member of the AL East Champ Rays (that’s a phrase that sure sounds odd), and Bartlett drew rave reviews. Meanwhile, Young turned out to be a singles hitter and a butcher in LF, and Harris failed at 2B. It’s far too soon to give up on either Young or Harris, but, with one season (nearly) in the books, it certainly looks one-sided.

The free agent signings that the Twins made in the off-season didn’t pan out, either. The left-side of the infield, in 3B Mike Lamb and SS Adam Everett, didn’t work out, at all. Lamb failed to provide any of the offense that they sought at 3B, and was just as suspect defensively. Everett, who wasn’t expected to contribute much offensively, failed to do even that before being shelved on several occasions with shoulder injuries. Craig Monroe, about whom I was optimistic, provided some early HRs (especially when the pitch hit his bat), but was done in by declining bat speed and corresponding lack of production.

Gardenhire is demonstrating that while some of his in-game decisions might leave you scratching your head, he is an outstanding manager over the course of a season. He certainly wants a team that is fundamentally sound, and prefers good defense over everything else. He has also done an excellent job in getting key contributions from Span and Casilla, and should get good marks for his use of the electrifying if sometimes maddening Gomez. Moving him from leadoff to 9th was a wise move. More important, however, was not losing interest in Gomez when Go-Go went through his lengthy slump. Gardenhire stayed with him (with an occasional benching) and Gomez responded with a solid September and brilliant play in the key series against the ChiSox.

This season is evocative of 2006, where the Twins tried to operate with Juan Castro at SS and Tony Batista at 3B. The ballclub struggled mightily, and was driving Gardenhire crazy with the defense on the left side. Finally, they scrapped that arrangement, jettisoning both Castro and Batista in favor of Bartlett at SS and Punto at 3B. The result was a scintillating 2nd half, allowing the Twins to catch and pass the Detroit Tigers on the last day of the season.

We’ll find out in less than 24 hours whether or not this year’s in-season makeover was good enough to get the Twins into the postseason.


One to Go/Thanks, Cleveland

September 28, 2008 Leave a comment

The Twins wrap up their 2008 season on Sunday at the Metrodome, where they’ll try to take one out of three from Kansas City.

After losing again on Saturday, the Twins were once again reduced to rooting for Cleveland to beat the White Sox. The Indians obliged, thus keeping the Twins atop the tradition-laden AL Central by a slender 1/2 game.

Here’s the story: If the Twins win on Sunday, then they’re assured of no worse than a tie for the AL Central lead. If the Twins win and the Sox lose on Sunday, the Sox are done, as the Twins will have an insurmountable 1 game lead If the Twins win and Chicago wins, the Sox will have a makeup game to play against Detroit on Monday (and won’t those Tigers be eager to play that game…).

If the Twins lose and the Sox win, the Twins will be a 1/2 game behind, but the Sox will still need to beat Detroit in the makeup game.

If both teams lose on Sunday, we’re back to where we started, and Chicago must face the Tigers. If they win that makeup game, then there would be a one game playoff in Chicago between the Twins and Sox.

Crystal Clear, eh?

It appears that after the thrilling, emotional series against the Sox, both the Twins and Sox are cooked, both physically and emotionally. The Wednesday and Thursday games were essentially edge-of-your-seat games from the first pitch to the last. I wasn’t surprised in the least when the Twins came out flat on Friday against the Royals. Saturday’s loss, on the other hand, is more troublesome. Instead of the ragged bullpen falling down (although both Boof, who had been superb this week, and Guerrier were awfully shaky), this one is on the bats. With 4GIDP, the Twins couldn’t get a big inning going. They had Gil Meche on the ropes during several innings, but couldn’t come up with a hit to extend it. MVP candidate Justin Morneau is one who’s enmeshed in a nasty slump at an inopportune time. He left 6 runners on base, and hit into one of the 4 GIDP. He’s had just one RBI on the homestand.

The other disquieting note for the offense is that Carlos Gomez, who has once again been electrifying the past two weeks, appeared to be moving a bit gingerly during Saturday’s game. He, too, had missed opportunities on Saturday, with 4 LOB.

Scott Baker, who’s probably been the Twins’ most consistent starter, hurls on Sunday. Meanwhile, in Chicago, veteran Mark Buehrle, on the heels of his season-high 121 pitch effort against the Twins on Wednesday, is coming back on short rest.

And to think that the playoffs haven’t even started…

Victory Baptist Church Missions Conference

September 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Victory Baptist Church of Maple Grove will host its annual Missions Conference Thursday, October 9-Sunday, October 12, 2008, at the church. Come and hear missionaries from various countries discuss what God is doing in their mission field.

There will be a missionary presenting at each meeting during the conference.

Events include:

Thursday, 10/09/08: 7:00PM Service

Friday, 10/10/08: 7:00PM Service

Saturday, 10/11/08: 8:00AM Men’s Breakfast

8:00AM Women’s Breakfast

5:30PM Missions Dinner

Sunday, 10/12/08: 10:00AM Sunday School

11:00AM Morning Worship

7:00PM Evening Worship

Victory Baptist Church is located at 13560 63rd Avenue North, Maple Grove:
1 Block west of 494 on Bass Lake Road.