Posts Tagged ‘Ron Gardenhire’

Random Thoughts for the Midpoint of the 2012 Season

June 13, 2012

As I will be gone for the period leading up to the Fourth of July, I decided to post my midseason thoughts a little early, realizing that they may be out of date by the Fourth.

1. The American League East is starting to come around to what we expected. Tampa and New York are in first, Toronto is falling back. The strange teams are Baltimore and Boston. Did you really think Baltimore would be only one game out this late in the season or that Boston would be last? Both fooled me. Of course if you think about it Buck Showalter is a heck of a manager and the Red Sox are really starting to age. So maybe I shouldn’t have been fooled.

2. Whatever happened to Detroit? Weren’t they supposed to run away with the AL Central and then pummel the opposition in the playoffs? There are three aspects to baseball: offense, defense, and pitching. Someone forgot to tell Detroit you had to be able to catch and throw the ball. Oops. I’m not surprised by what’s happened to the Twins, but I’m saddened. They traditionally do more with less than anyone else and it’s finally caught up to them. Joe Mauer has his average back above .300, but the power seems to be gone. He’s 29 and that’s getting into the age range where catchers start imploding. And Justin Morneau seems to suffer a power drought also, although his average has begun climbing in the last month. Even Ron Gardenhire, a really good manager, isn’t going to get this team into contention.

3. So Albert Pujols was a bust was he? OK, he’s no longer Superman, but he’s not Clark Kent either. It looks like he’ll keep the Angels in contention and maybe get them to either a division title or a wildcard. Can Texas be stopped? Maybe. They remind me a lot of the 1950s-1960s Yankees. The ’50s-’60s Yankees had a series of good enough pitchers who could hold the other team down until the hitters simply bashed the opposition to death. Sound like the Rangers? The difference is that Texas has no Whitey Ford and I don’t know how much that will hurt them when the season draws down. Right now, Josh Hamilton is my MVP.

4. Does anyone understand what’s going on in the National League East? I’m not surprised that Philly is in trouble. Other than their pitching they weren’t all that strong anyway. The team is aging and Chase Utley can’t stay healthy. Hunter Pence isn’t going to be able to carry them and Jim Thome is apparently through (although I’d like to see him catch Sosa on the home run list). It seems the Mets have peaked (sorry, Bill) but maybe I’m wrong on that. I say that because I’m not really sold on either Washington or Atlanta so it’s possible the Mets will come back to win the division. If either they or the Nationals do, it will be one of the season’s great stories. And R. A. Dickey, my current Cy Young favorite is another great story for 2012. I’m not certain a knuckleballer can maintain the pace Dickey is setting.

5. OK, tell me you had Pittsburgh. Sure you did. Me too. I think the Pirates will fall back, but maybe they’ll finally finish over .500 this season (and I’ve got this great bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll let you have for a song). I still think the Cardinals take it, but Cincinnati might prove me wrong. Geez, is Joey Votto having a great season. I guess he’s my MVP right now, but then Lance Berkman was my MVP midway through last season.

6. The Dodgers are in first. Read that again. The Dodgers are in first. See what happens when you get rid of Frank McCourt and his wife. Maybe Magic Johnson is really “magic”. Actually it’s a really weak division and Arizona was a fluke last season. Maybe San Francisco can catch LA (please, God, anybody but the Giants) but they’ve still got to learn to hit. I’ve never been a particular fan of Tim Lincecum, but I’d hate to think he’s through already. So right now, is Don Mattingly manager of the year?

7. As of now my choice for biggest surprise of the year is LA and Detroit gets the nod as the biggest disappointment.

8. There used to be a saying that whoever was in first on the Fourth of July would win the pennant. As we’ve gotten more and more playoffs that saying has gone the way of the dinosaur. My guess is that about half the teams currently in first will win the division and maybe one or two others will get a wildcard. Don’t ask which because I don’t have a clue.

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A Franchise Best

May 20, 2011

Griffith Stadium, home of the Washington Senators (and the Homestead Grays)

The loss of Harmon Killebrew and SportsPhD’s comment about Killebrew being the greatest Twins player got me to thinking. In some ways SportsPhd is right, but if you look franchise-wise (in other words all the way back to 1901) the answer has to be Walter Johnson. So that brings up the question of an All-Twins/Senators team. The slash is there to remind everyone that for much of their history, the Twins were in Washington. So I decided to figure one out for myself and share it with a breathlessly waiting world. Now I’m no Twins expert so I’m willing to admit that this list is probably flawed. It fact, it may be greatly flawed. It was also put together quickly with only a couple days reasearch. So you might want to take it with the proverbial grain of salt. But, it’s my best shot on short notice.

Now the caveats. This is a little easier because I decided to look for only a starting lineup plus a rotation and a manager. If you try to put together a 25 man roster you notice just how weak the Twins/Senators have been at certain positions (like thrid base). That’s actually fairly common. Try it with your own favorite team and see how quickly you start asking yourself “Do I really want to put this guy on the team?” Because the Senators were formed in 1901 there is no need to discount 19th Century players. Also, you’ll notice that the Twins have more players making this team in a shorter period than the Senators. Frankly, the Twins have been better than the Senators, so I’m not concerned with the percentages here. Feel free to come up with your own players and disagree with my selections.

Infield: Almost from the beginning, first base was the biggest hurdle for me. There have been a lot of good Twins/Senators first basemen: Joe Judge, Mickey Vernon, Kent Hrbek, Justin Morneau. None of them are really at the very top of any chart concerning great first basemen. OK, that means none of them are Lou Gehrig, but none of them are particularly close either. Ultimately I went with Hrbek because he was a solid first baseman, his 3-2-3 double play in game 7 of 1991 was one of the greatest plays by a first baseman I ever saw (and the Ron Gant body slam was a play for the ages) and he could hit well. I’m fairly sure that Morneau is probably (“fairly sure” “probably”, how’s that for certitude?) better, but until he can stay healthy and put in enough years I have to go with Hrbek. Second, short, and third are all fairly easy with Rod Carew, Joe Cronin, and Gary Gaetti being obvious picks.

Outfield: I was able to pick a left, center, and right fielder without having to double up on right fielders and drop a left fielder or some such thing. Kirby Puckett in Center Field is an obvious choice and for me Tony Oliva gets right field over Sam Rice. Yeah, Rice has a longer career, but Oliva’s is better, but over a shorter period of time. Old time Senator Goose Goslin get left field for this team. Did you know that Goslin is the only player to appear in every Washington Senators World Series game?

Catcher/DH: You know this is going to be Joe Mauer don’t you? If you think I need to justify that, you haven’t been paying attention to the American League. DH is where I put Killebrew. He wasn’t much of a fielder, but was best at first. I thought long  and hard about him there and if I was certain I was leaving out a great player, I’d move Killebrew to first. 

Starters: Of course this list begins with Walter Johnson, but you guessed that already, right? It’s amazing how far the drop from the team’s best pitcher to its number two is when Johnson is your number one. The rest of the list is good enough, but somehow just completely pales when compared. It’s also a little strange to see such an uneven list when you try to find five starters. I went with (alphabetically) Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pasqual, Johan Santana. I have some reservations about both Pasqual and Santana. Pasqual’s numbers don’t look all that great if you just stare it them, but if you recall how awful some of his teams were, he gets better quick. And Santana just wasn’t there very long, but when he was  he was great.

Relievers: If the quality of starters is uneven, Twins/Senators relievers are amazingly good. There’s a long tradition of quality relievers going all the way back to Clark Griffith and the early years of the franchise. I took Firpo Marberry because he was one of the first truly great relievers and went with Rick Aguilera as the other one. I sort of miss putting in Jeff Reardon or Joe Nathan, but I like the other two better.

Manager: Tom Kelley was easy for me. Bucky Harris won in 1924, lost in 1925. Cronin was in charge in the 1933 loss, and Ron Gardenhire hasn’t won yet. So Kelley’s two wins are double anyone else in franchise history.

As a rule I’m not a big fan of these kinds of lists; there are just too many variables for me, or anyone else, to consider all of them. You inevitably leave off someone you shouldn’t and look like a total fool (trust me, Idon’t need a lot of help with that anyway). They are, however, kind of  fun.  So remember that when you look this over and go “What was he thinking?”  or rather “Was he thinking?”

Picking the Winners, 2010 Style

November 24, 2010

Now all the postseason awards are handed out and there’s cheering in some circles and weeping in others. In some previous posts, I stated my position on the various individual awards. How did I do?

I looked at the awards in two ways. The managers I told you who I thought should win. With the other three awards (Rookie, Cy Young, MVP) I told you who I thought would win. Here are the results, managers first.

I said I would vote for Bud Black and for Terry Francona. I also stated that Francona had no shot at winning, but that I felt he’d done the best job trying to win with what was essentially an ER ward. I did note that Ron Gardenhire was a legitimate candidate to win, but that I personally chose Francona. So I went one for two, getting Black right. That’s better than I normally do. Usually I get the managers all wrong unless someone comes out of left field to win a pennant or something. So I can pat myself on the back, at least a little.

On the player awards I went 5 of 6, which is a lot better than I usually do. Maybe this trying to figure out what the writer’s are going to do is easier than picking the people myself. I got both MVPs, both Rookies, and the NL Cy Young winners. I missed, as I stated in my last post, the AL Cy Young winner. I underestimated the amount of credence the writers would give to the new sabrmetric stats that favored Felix Hernandez for the award. So I guess I had a reasonably successful time picking postseason awards in 2010.

Does it mean anything? Well, my picking doesn’t, but the writer’s picks might or might not (how’s that for being definite?). If you look down the lists of Rookies of the Year and MVPs and Cy Young Award winners you get a mixed bag. In rookie voting you get Cal Ripken and Ron Kittle in back-to-back years (BTW Ripken is the last ROY winner to make the Hall of Fame). Not all of the ROY winners go on to great careers. Sticking with Ripken, he wins the MVP in 1983 and is followed by Willie Hernandez. Not exactly the same quality player, right? The Cy Young gives us Sandy Koufax and Dean Chance in back-to-back seasons. Again, very different quality players. My point is simply that winning one of these awards is no guarantee of long term greatness. So we need to be careful about how much weight we put on these awards.

Having said that, congratulations to all the winners. I hope they go on to great and illustrious careers. Now if the Dodgers could just pick up one or two of these guys…

Picking the Winners: Managers

November 12, 2010

The final of my thoughts on the next round of postseason MLB awards. I’ve said before that I have little idea how to evaluate managers, so this post is more in the nature of who I think should win rather than who I think will win. As to the latter, I have no idea.

NL-Bud Black. I think deep down inside that Dusty Baker will probably win this or maybe it will be Bobby Cox or yet again Bruce Bochy. All of them led their team in the playoffs and that’s generally rewarded. Baker took a team that wasn’t supposed to win and took down the favored Cardinals. For Cox it was his last season and he got the Braves to the wildcard. Sentiment alone might get him the award. Bochy took a team that didn’t hit a lot, but pitched well and won the division on the final day of the season (remember the voting is done before the playoffs begin so the writers don’t know Bochy’s team is going to win the World  Series). As I said, Bochy won on the last day of the season. He did it by beating the Padres, Bud Black’s team. The Padres were picked dead last in an already weak division. With good pitching, decent enough hitting to win close games, and a reasonably decent defense, the Padres took it to the last day. Baring that horrendous 10 game losing streak, they would have won the west. The manager of the Padres, Bud Black, gets my vote for the manager of the year. He had almost nothing to work with and came within an ace of knocking off the pitching rich Giants. He’d get my vote, but if pressed to pick who I think the writers will choose, I guess I’d go with Baker.

AL-Terry Francona. He has no chance, but you have to give him credit for the Red Sox successess this season. Do you know how many of the Red Sox first line everyday players played at least 130 or more games? Exactly four (Marco Scutero, Adrian Beltre, JD Drew, and David Ortiz). That means that half the team was out of the lineup for long periods of time and they still ended up 89-73. Only Drew started more than 50 games in the same outfield position (McDonald and Hall started 50, but not in the same position). A manager has to get some credit for keeping a team like that in contention until late in the season. Only Jon Lester and John Lackey started 30 or more games. Try winning with 60% of your starters getting into less than 30 games. Frankly, as I stated earlier, I don’t think Francona has a chance of winning, but he probably should. Francona is using mirrors and sitll winning. Not bad. And speaking of mirrors, the other guy I’d look at seriously is Buck Showalter. He was there a third of a season in Baltimore and that will surely hurt him. But he won with that team; something no one’s done for a long, long time. I keep asking myslef, “Did he really win with those guys?” Again, if pressed, I’d probably say the writers will pick Joe Maddon, but I wouldn’t. I’d also love to see Ron Gardenhire finally get the credit he deserves.