Posted on: August 2, 2009 9:40 pm
Edited on: August 2, 2009 10:57 pm

.500, is that it for the AL Central?

No Big Moves For The Home Team.

By: Christopher R Torola

The Minnesota Twins are at 52 - 52, 2 1/2 games out of first place. Behind both the Tigers and the White Sox. It looks like a 3 horse race until the end, but most likely one of the teams will drop out of the race before the end. So the question is, Who will join the Royals and the Indians as spectators during the pennant race and play-offs?

The Twins have the easiest remaining schedule, but they did the least of the 3 prior to the trading deadline. They eeked out a trade for Orlando Cabrera, seemingly to appease Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Joe Nathan more than trying to win come play-off time. They need more than anything another starting pitcher. Having lost Kevin Slowey for the season and an uncertainty with Fransisco Liriano's forearm, the Twins will be in even greater need of rotation help as the year goes on. They were also in need of a a 7th-8th inning guy to go with Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares, but failed to do so before the trading deadline passed.

The Tigers and the White Sox both faired better in the battle of the trades. The White Sox got both Mark Kotsay and ACE Jake Peavy to bolster their rosters. The Tigers acquired Jarrod Washburn to round out their rotation. They also have a lot more home games left than the Twins.

I still have faith that the Twins will rally to win the division, but with questionable pitching they will most likely be out quickly come the post season when they have to face off with a team like the Red Sox, who picked up 5 players including Casey Kotchman and Victor Martinez.

Posted on: July 21, 2009 1:46 am
Edited on: July 21, 2009 11:04 am

Worst call ever! Twins A's game one

A terrible call to end the game. Michael Cuddyer was clearly safe at home on a wild pitch. At times like this, baseball needs to open up review to more then just home run calls. This was the difference in the game, and with the AL central being as close as it is this year, could cost the Twins the post season. The picture above shows about the point where the tag was applied.

Why is MLB willing to use replay on home runs, but not a play like this? A common argument is that it would slow down the game, but would it really slow it down any more then watching a manager come puff his chest out at the ump? Even if the average game is 5 minutes longer, is that such a big deal if they are getting the calls right?

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 20, 2009 5:38 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2009 12:46 pm

The moment I fell in love with a game.

"...and we'll see you tomorrow Night!" - Jack Buck

By: Christopher Torola

The day was October 26, 1991. I knew something special was going on because we had even been allowed to watch a baseball game in school earlier in the playoffs. My Dad was at the game that night with his boss. He had never been that big of a fan, but even he seemed a little excited. I was at home, watching the game with my mom... Homer Hankies in hand. It was Game 6 of the World Series, and the Braves were leading the series, 3-2. I was 11 years old.

In the top of the 1st, the Braves were able to get base runners on against Twins' starter Scott Erickson, but were unable to score. In the home half of the inning, rookie of the year Chuck Knoblauch hit a single, followed by a Kirby Puckett RBI triple. Braves' starter Steve Avery got Chili Davis out before giving up a RBI single to Shane Mack (his first hit of the postseason).

In the top of the 3rd, with a runner on first, Kirby Puckett made an run-saving catch high of the plexiglass in center field.

In the top of the 5th inning, National League MVP Terry Pendleton hit a game-tying, two-run home run. In the next at-bat, David Justice just missed hitting a go-ahead homer to right before making the third out.

In the bottom half of that inning, Dan Gladden stuck back with a walk and a stolen base. After advancing to 3rd on a Chuck Knoblauch single, he would be brought home by a Kirby Puckett sacrifice fly. The game was now 3-2 in favor of the Twins.

Top 7. Scott Erickson and Mark Guthrie would load the bases with one out for Twins' reliever Carl Willis. CBS commentator Jack Buck then declared that the series was on the line. Willis gave up one run on a fielders choice, and with the game tied, struck out David Justice to end the inning.

The score would remain locked as Willis went on to pitch a scoreless 8th and 9th. Rick Aguilera then came in to pitch a perfect 10th and 11th, striking out four of the six batters he faced.

Then, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Braves lefty Charlie Leibrandt made his first ever Major League relief appearance. Kirby Puckett was at the plate. The right-handed Puckett took the first three pitches of the at-bat... seeing two balls and a strike. And then it happened. On a 2-1, hanging change-up he sent the ball deep into the left-center seats, leading to my favorite moment in the history of the game.

A jubilant Puckett rounding bases with his fist in the air as the cheers and applause of 50,155 fans (my Dad included) filled the Metrodome, and Jack Buck famously declared, "...and we'll see you tomorrow night!"

The Twins would go on to win the World Series in dramatic fashion, with Jack Morris spreading 7 hits over 10 innings before Gene Larkin hit a walk-off, pinch-hit single to score Dan Gladden in a 1-0 game. Many fans, myself included, still remember it as the best Series to date. 

In Memory of Kirby Puckett

Posted on: July 13, 2009 7:21 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2009 11:55 pm

Mid-Season Report Cards

Minnesota Twins Mid-Season Report Cards

By: Christopher Torola


Catcher: Joe Mauer - Games - 64, BA. - .373, R - 49, HR - 15, RBI - 49, SB - 1 

Not only has Joe Mauer been the the teams MVP, he should be on the short list for MLB's MVP award this year. After missing the first month of the season, he has put up amazing numbers. Most notably, his increased power. Given he has one of the best swings in baseball the jump in power does not seem to be taking away from his MLB leading batting average, which if he maintains, will be his 3rd batting title in just 4 years. Add his amazing hitting numbers with his Gold Glove caliber defense behind the plate and we have an overall grade of: A+.

1st Base: Justin Morneau - Games - 88, BA. - .311, R - 59, HR - 21, RBI - 70, SB - 0

Justin is the Twins' other candidate for both the team's and the American League MVP. He has managed to increase his power numbers while also increasing his batting average. Hitting behind Joe Mauer and Denard Span has really helped Justin's RBI numbers as well, as he is on pace for 130 RBIs, a number that should increase being that both Mauer and Span missed significant time in the first half. Maybe the most under-rated part of Justin's game is his steadily increasing defense. He has only one error at 1st this year and plays in almost every game. Although he was not voted to start at 1st in the All-Star game by the "fans", I tend to agree with the players that voted him number 1 at first base, and strongly beleivethat Justin is the AL's best first base men, not an easy task with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis in the field. Overall grade of : A+.

Closer: Joe Nathan - Innings Pitched - 34 1/3, Wins - 1, Loss - 1, ERA - 1.31, Saves - 23, Ks - 43

Joe Nathan has been one of the, if not the most reliable, closers in all of baseball since taking over the job for the Twins. This year is no exception. Before last year most followers of the Twins, myself included, thought that we would lose Nathan along with Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. When the Twins resigned Nathan to a multi-year deal, they may have made the biggest impact signing of the three. He continues to do an amazing job slamming the door shut in the final inning for the Twins. Overall grade: A+.


Starting Pitcher: Kevin Slowey - Innings Pitched - 90 2/3, Wins - 10, Loss - 3, ERA - 4.86, Walks - 15, Ks -75

Despite average numbers, Slowey has been able to accumulate an amazing win/loss record. He is 10 - 3 which is tied for 3rd best in the American League with Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver. In the mold of Twins pitchers Slowey has excellent control, averaging one walk every six innings. Although currently on the disabled list, he should be back shortly. His overall grade: A-.

Starting Pitcher: Nick Blackburn - Innings Pitched - 123 1/3, Wins - 8, Loss - 4, ERA - 3.06, Walks - 29, Ks -54

Although Blackburn's record is slightly behind Kevin Slowey, he have been the better pitcher up to this point. He has the teams best ERA, 6th best for starters in the American League. He has been able to go late into games, saving on the bullpen. 15 -17 wins is not out of the question is he continues to command his dominating sinker ball. Overall Grade: B+.

Outfielder: Denard Span - Games - 73, BA. - .292, R - 50, HR - 5, RBI - 31, SB - 16

Span has been the lead off hitter that the Twins have been missing for so many years. He has excellent plate discipline taking many pitches per at bat. In doing so he reaches base at a good clip, as seen by his .387 on base percentage. He also, has speed on the base paths and is leading the team in stolen bases. Pair is excellent stick work with his ability to play all outfield positions with great range and a strong arm, and Denard's overall grade: B+.

Left Fielder/DH: Jason Kubel - Games - 77, BA. - .311, R - 38, HR - 14, RBI - 45, SB - 0

 Kubel has finally stepped up with his bat, proving that he can be the Twins everyday designated hitter. He will likely never be better then adequate in the field since early career knee surgery, his bat has kept him in the line up in most games. He will spell players at left field from time to time but is best served as a masher. He definitely has his splits vs. right and left-handed pitchers, hitting under .200 against leftys with no home runs. Against rightys, on the other hand, he is hitting .351 with 14 long balls,  16 doubles, and 1 triple. Overall grade: B

Right Fielder: Michael Cuddyer - Games - 82, BA. - .273, R - 50, HR - 14, RBI - 47, SB - 4

The biggest step forward for Cuddyer this year may be that he is actually playing. Last year seemed to be a series of fluke injuries for the Twins right fielder. After a slow start, he has been on fire at the plate. He also expertly play's the Metrodome's baggy in right field. With his strong and accurate  arm most opponents have learned not to even try take the extra base on him. Overall grade: B.

The current Twins bull pen: Wins - 5, Loss - 2

The bullpen currently consists of Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Bobby Keppel, Brian Duensing, and R.A. Dickey. Guerrier had been great as a set up man this year. Dickey was able to completely save the teams bullpen pitching in both long relief as well as high pressure close game situations. Mijares has been the Twins left handed specialist. Keppel has been great since coming to the Twins, while Duensing is still to fresh to call. The bullpen as a whole has seen its ups and downs, but the crew currently holding down the fort gets an overall grade of: B-.

3rd Base: Joe Crede - Games - 68, BA. - .234, R - 32, HR - 14, RBI - 40, SB - 0

Crede does not hit for average. He also misses a lot of games due to his back problems. I guess it is good that we knew that when he was signed. He does hit for power, and is top of the line at defending the hot corner. If i were grading him compared to what the Twins have had recently at 3rd, his grade would be much higher. As is, overall grade: C+.

The BAD:

The rest of the Rotation. Scott Baker - 7-7 5.24 era, Fransisco Liriano 4 - 9 5.47 era, and Glen Perkins 4 - 5 4.71 era.

None have wining records. Baker and Liriano were expected to be the 1-2 punch in the rotation. Both have started to pick their games up but will need to improve for the Twins to see the post season. Perkins has been about as good as should be expected for a #5 pitcher. Overall Grade: C.


Shortstop : Brendan Harris - Games - 76, BA - .275, R - 30, HR - 5, RBI - 26, SB - 0

Harris has had the ability to ride out a couple hot streaks this season, but has also had extended slumps. He is forced to hit in the 2 hole in the line up, but would be better suited as an 8 or 9 hitter. He has a strong arm at short, but is lacking in range. Overall grade : D+.

2nd Base: Nick Punto - Games - 63, BA - .201, R - 26, HR - 0, RBI - 16, SB - 8

While never know for his bat, Punto is barely holding a .200 batting average, which is pathetic for a major league baseball player. He has great defense, and can make many highlight reel stops, but I would argue that his batting short comings outweigh his defensive prowess. Overall grade: D.

Center Fielder: Carlos Gomez - Games - 77, BA - .235, R - 28, HR - 2, RBI - 18, SB - 7

The Twins would love to be able to go 1-2 with Denard Span and Carlos Gomez, but until Gomez learns some plate disipline, he will continue to be relegated to splitting time in the OF with Kubel and Young. A large number of Gomez's games have been as a defensive replacment, so although he has 77 games, he has only 187 at bats. Carlos Gomez has the raw talent, but until he learns how to be a major league hitter, he will continue to be below average. His defense on the other hand is amazing. His year to date grade is low, but should improve as he gets more at bats. Overall Grade: D.

Left Fielder: Delmon Young - Games - 56, BA - .266,  R - 20, HR - 3, RBI - 25, SB - 2

Delmon has seemed lost at the plate since joining the Twins. His power has virtually disappeared. He has been swinging at the first pitch seemingly more often then not. He is still very young and has plenty of talent, but lacks the defensive skill of Carlos Gomez, which will continue to cause him to split at bats with Gomez against left handed pitching. He has not lived up to expectations since being traded for Matt Garza. With more time Young should improve, but I would be very surprised were it to happen this year. Overall Grade: D-.

Posted on: July 9, 2009 7:03 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2009 7:09 pm

Thank GOD that's over.

Twins limp away from their series with the Yankees.

By: Christopher Torola

The saddest part about this series, other than the Twins failing to win even one game against the Yankees this year, is it seemed like the Yankees weren't really trying that hard. They made multiple base running mistakes, throwing errors, and didn't hit for power until they were extending their lead in the late innings of the third game. I am not sure what it is about the Yankees, whether it might be the mystique or something more tangible, but the Twins do not play good enough baseball when facing the Bronx Bombers. 

The one great moment in the series was watching gifted young outfielder, Carlos Gomez, make a perfectly timed jumping catch to pull back a would-be grand slam off the bat of Alex Rodriguez. It is also nice that Joe Mauer has enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, which he is currently winning by a landslide. None of which changes the fact that the Twins will have as many wins versus the Yankees this year as Justin Morneau had hits in this series; zero.

Today's game, in my opinion, was even hard to watch. Half of the Twins runs were on bases loaded walks, and a third was a result of a throwing error. To me that says that the Yankees gave the Twins more runs than they earned today, even though they did have to take the walks. I imagine it was even hard for Yankee's fans to watch two teams make so many amateurish plays. Their lone bright spot, other then picking up a game on the Red Sox, may be Mark Teixeira finally ending an almost month long homerless streak.

As of now, the Twins are four games back of the Tigers and two and a half behind the White Sox (who misplaced their minor league starting pitcher today... How do you lose a guy the size of Bartolo Colon anyway?) and are in third for the division.

Posted on: July 6, 2009 8:27 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2009 8:36 pm

It took the Tigers 16 innings...

It took the Tigers 16 innings to keep the Twins from tying them for 1st in the division. 

By: Christopher Torola

The three game series the Twins played against the Tigers is what baseball is all about. Each game was relatively close, with the possible exception of Sundays game. It seemed that any mistake a player made at any point was likely to cause your team the game.

The Tigers took the series opener in what was truly a marathon of a game. Kevin Slowey pitched only three innings and gave up six runs, putting the Twins behind right out of the gate. Slowey has since been put on the disabled list, and will have his strained wrist looked at. After giving up a couple runs Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, replaced starting pitcher Luke French with Zack Miner so as not to let the game get away from his team. Miner was able to close out the fifth inning, but only recorded one out while giving up five runs to tie the game. Then in the fourteenth inning, Twins super reliever of June, R.A. Dickey gave up a RBI hit to Placido Polanco one pitch after Poloanco fouled a pitch into his own family jewels. In the top half of the inning Michael Cuddyer hit a RBI single scoring Joe Mauer; however, Justin Morneau got thrown out at third base trying to advance on the throw. Dickey then gave up three more earned runs to Polanco in the sixteenth. The Twins were only able to score one unearned in the top half of the inning, losing a heart-breaker to the Tigers.

Fortunately for the Twins they were able to take the next two games, reducing the Tigers lead in the division to just two games.

Justin Morneau is on a complete tear. He was named player of the week for last week, hitting just shy of .500 and blasting four home runs (including a fountain shot in Kansas City). He was also named to his third straight All-Star game. Although the "fans" selected Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, the players made Justin their top choice.  Joe Nathan, like all pitchers, was selected as one of the coaches picks, and Joe Mauer was picked by the fans to start the game. The only player to receive more votes than Mauer was Derek Jeter, take away what you will from that. Some local fans are upset with the "life-time achievement" pick of Tim Wakefield over over Nick Blackburn, who has lowered his era below the 3.00 mark.

The Twins still have two tough series to get through before the All-Star break though, hosting the Yankees and the White Sox. They will need to play well to hold serve with Detroit, as the Tigers will be hosting the Royals and the Indians.

Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:08 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2009 7:17 pm

Could it be !?!?

The Twins are two games above .500.

By: Christopher Torola

It may have taken until nine games before the All-Star break, but it has finally happened. On this day, July 1st of 2009, Glen Perkins took the mound for what, at first blush, seemed no different then any other afternoon get away game against a division rival; however, on this day there was to be something different. While scattering ten hits and one earned run over seven innings, Glen Perkins did something that Twins' pitchers had failed at eight times on the season... he won a game to get the team to two games over the five-hundred mark. 

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 29, 2009 6:36 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 7:26 pm

A big next two weeks for the Twins!

Take what you can get.

By: Christopher Torola

The Minnesota Twins finished inter-league play on a high-note, taking two out of three games against both the Brewers and the Cardnials. Now they move on to some big games. The three game series at Kansas City is important for the Twins. They need to start really beating up on the weaker teams in the division. A sweep of the Royals on the road would do well to get some momentum going into a tough home stand, which may be needed when the Twins welcome the Tigers, Yankees, and White Sox before All-Star weekend.

The Twins had several positive occurrences take place over the last road trip. Francisco Liriano put together a great game, throwing six strike outs and only two earned runs over seven innings for his second win in as many starts. If he can turn around his season in the second half, the Twins pitching staff could make the move from good to formidable. 

The team also seem to get healthy over this trip. Denard Span rejoined the team Friday and picked up right where he left off, scoring five runs over the last four games. Joe Crede played in all six of the last games, getting eight hits, including a home run deep into the left field stands. Michael Cuddyer also played in all six of the last games, scoring three runs and driving in two more.

There is one Twin that just can't manage to stay healthy. After hurting his ribs sliding head first into first base during the first game of the Milwaukee series, Nick Punto met up with the team in Kansas City, after missing the last five games, but is scheduled to play in tonight's game. Despite the fact that Matt Tolbert, who with some regular at-bats last week is now in the midst of a four game hitting streak.

Now that the Twins are back to playing American League games, we can see Jason Kubel go back to DHing, while Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez replace the pitchers in the batting order. This seems to be the healthiest the Twins have been in a long time, and with a tough set of games going into the All-Star break, we should get a good look at what this team is made of.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com