Friday, June 04, 2004
Same s***, different dayI'm really getting sick of this.
You may remember that in his start against the Royals last week, Johan Santana was cruising along before things completely imploded with one out in the seventh inning. Well, yesterday afternoon, Santana was really cruising along through five innings against the Devil Rays and then things blew up in the sixth inning.
Santana's line through five full innings:
IP H R ER BB SO HRNow, at no point did I say "I think Johan is gonna get a no-hitter today," but he was definitely cruising along and he looked very good. He had the hitters totally off-balance, and he had the fastball/changeup combo working. And, well, he did have the no-hitter going.
Then, just as has been the case this entire year, things fell apart in an instant. Geoff Blum doubled to lead off the sixth inning to break up Santana's no-hitter. Santana got Rey Sanchez to strikeout and then got Carl Crawford on a long fly out to center field. With two outs in the inning, it looked like he would continue to cruise ... and then it fell apart.
Julio Lugo got an infield single up the middle to score Blum, Rocco Baldelli followed with another single, and then Aubrey Huff hit a mammoth three-run homer to deeeeeep right field. Santana came into the inning with a no-hitter and left having given up four runs in six innings, for yet another "bad" start.
I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to watch Santana this year. He is coming so incredibly close to putting everything together for great starts ... only to have it slip away so quickly. It's painful. My reaction to the homer by Huff was highly audible and included the mention of a parent and a word that the dictionary tells me means "someone who engages in sexual intercourse." When combined, the dictionary tells me, they mean "something regarded as thoroughly unpleasant, frustrating, or despicable," which sounds just about right.
The big difference yesterday as opposed to Johan's disappointing start last week against the Royals is that he can't blame the bullpen this time. He got himself into trouble and then Aubrey Huff made him pay.
After his messy sixth inning, Santana stayed in to pitch the seventh and two-thirds of the eighth. His final line for the game was actually pretty decent ...
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT... but "pretty decent" is not what you need when you're trying to bring your ERA down out of the 5.00s.
Santana, of course, got the loss, because the Twins aren't scoring runs anymore. They just aren't, that's how it goes. Instead, they are focusing all of their efforts on making completely mediocre (and worse) starting pitchers look like Cy Young candidates. Don't believe me? Here are the starting pitchers the Twins have faced recently, along with their career ERAs:
Victor Zambrano 4.58Zack Greinke has a nice career ERA, but keep in mind that he's 20 years old, his career is exactly three starts long, and the start against the Twins was his second as a major leaguer.
If you go through a portion of your schedule in which you face Rob Bell twice and guys like Mark Hendrickson, Dennys Reyes and Jason Standridge once, and the best pitcher you face is a 20-year-old rookie, you should be pouring the runs on.
Instead, the Twins scored an average of 3.00 runs per game in those nine games. That's just pitiful and it was made even worse by the fact that they wasted some pretty good pitching in that stretch. The Twins gave up only 4.33 runs per game in those nine contests.
They did have one offensive explosion in the middle of all that crappy hitting, bashing the hell out of Paul Abbott on Tuesday. Funny thing is, even with those 16 runs added in, they averaged just 4.30 runs in the 10 games. The even funnier thing is, the Devil Rays released Paul Abbott and his 6.70 ERA yesterday.
This was supposed to be the easy part of the schedule too. Seven games against the last-place Devil Rays, three games against the last-place Royals, and then three games against the suddenly mediocre Tigers. Well, the Tigers are coming to town today and the Twins are 3-7 in the easy games thus far.
If it seems like the Twins have done this before, it's because they have. Last year, just before the All-Star break, the Twins dropped nine out of 10 games to three bad teams -- Cleveland (68-94), Texas (71-91) and Anaheim (77-85).
Back in 2001, when the Twins surprised everyone with a good first-half and then completely fell apart, they had an incredibly demoralizing stretch in which they surrounded losing two sets of games against the first-place Indians by going 2-9 against Tampa Bay and Toronto, who won 62 and 80 games respectively that year.
It's still very early, so these bad losses aren't as tough to take as they would be in, say, August. Still, I'll say this ... the White Sox aren't going to do all they can to give the Twins the division every year. They might have in 2002, they might have last year and they might again this year, but at some point losing games to horrible teams is going to come back and bite you in the ass.
Some final notes before I call it a week ...
My new laptop arrived yesterday afternoon. Once again, thank you to each and every person who donated money to help me buy this. It is greatly appreciated.
I have to say, my computer situation worked out a whole lot better than I first imagined it would. My old laptop crapped out on me on a Monday, I complained about it on Tuesday, asked for donations on a Wednesday, ordered the new computer on a Sunday, and I am now typing this very sentence on a brand new laptop on Thursday evening.
For those of you wondering (and, believe it or not, I got several e-mails about this), I got an HP Pavilion zx5000, which probably doesn't mean much to you unless you're a computer nerd. It's not the very top-of-the-line model, but it's a nice one. I chose an HP because my old laptop was an HP and, despite the various issues with it over the last two years, I liked having it and it treated me pretty well. I have worked on Toshiba and IBM laptops in the past, as well as the HP, and I found the HP to be the best for what I use it for.
I will, of course, let you know if anything goes wrong, but I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be great to me for the next couple years (and yes, for those of you who read Wednesday's entry about the "Aaron's Baseball Blog Jinx," that last part was sarcasm).
I also want to thank the people who e-mailed me about getting me a deal on a computer from the company they work for or through the company they work for. While it was very nice of all of you, I am a little uneasy accepting something like that, for whatever reason. I'm not sure why, but it just feels to me like asking for individual donations is one thing, but actually getting a computer from a reader is a whole separate issue.
I guess I still have to get used to the idea that there are a lot of people out there, with a lot of different jobs, at a lot of different places, who wouldn't mind doing me a favor or two. Hopefully this laptop will last me long enough that, by the time I need a new one, I'll have no problem calling on you guys for favors.
I am working on what I think is an interesting (and lengthy) article about the Twins' season thus far, which will be posted here first thing Monday morning. So make sure to stop by to check that out.
In the meantime, if you're looking for some stuff to read over the weekend, here are some of my recent articles from The Hardball Times:
- The Magic Twenty (Right Field)
- Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part One)
- Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part Two)
- Twins Notes
Oh, and Pistons in six. (Yeah, you heard me.)
And on that note, have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday ...
Philadelphia (Milton) -110 over Atlanta (Smith)
San Francisco (Schmidt) -155 over Colorado (Estes)
Texas (Rogers) +180 over New York (Brown)
Detroit (Maroth) +130 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Chicago (Garland) +115 over Seattle (Garcia)
Montreal (Ohka) +150 over Cincinnati (Wilson)
Detroit (Knotts) +125 over Minnesota (Greisinger)
Chicago (Schoeneweis) -110 over Seattle (Franklin)
Toronto (Hentgen) +190 over Oakland (Hudson)
Philadelphia (Millwood) -105 over Atlanta (Wright)
Florida (Penny) +105 over New York (Leiter)
Montreal (Hernandez) +120 over Cincinnati (Van Poppel)
Pittsburgh (Vogelsong) +200 over Chicago (Maddux)
Detroit (Robertson) +120 over Minnesota (Silva)
Boston (Lowe) -130 over Kansas City (George)
Cleveland (Sabathia) +135 over Anaheim (Colon)
Total to date: -$1,285
W/L record: 75-97 (1-1 yesterday for +65. Nearly 2-0 for +325, but the A's won in extra frames.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, June 03, 2004
The gift that keeps on giving ... even to the Twins!Yesterday afternoon, before the Twins game, I watched the White Sox/A's game.
It was a very good game, featuring a matchup of two of the best lefty starters in the league, Mark Mulder and Mark Buehrle. Anyway, the end of the game had me smiling, mostly because the White Sox lost, but also because the A's won and it was a particularly good final two innings for Oakland GM Billy Beane.
With Chicago leading 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, Billy Koch came in to close the game. He blew the save, allowing the tying run to score, and the game went into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, Chicago sent Jon Adkins out to pitch and he gave up a walkoff homer to Mark Kotsay. Oakland won 3-2.
Why is this noteworthy? Consider this ...
Both Koch and Adkins were once property of the A's. Koch was their closer in 2002 (he went 11-4 with a 3.27 ERA and 44 saves) and Adkins was Oakland's 9th round pick back in 1998 and a fringe prospect.
Beane traded Koch to the White Sox in a deal that brought Keith Foulke to Oakland, and he sent Adkins to Chicago for Ray Durham. Assuming he could forget about Eric Chavez's broken hand for a moment, I bet Beane was smiling yesterday afternoon.
Those two trades have worked out pretty damn well for the A's.
Durham hit .274/.350/.457 in 54 games for them in 2002, helping them make the playoffs, and Foulke went 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 43 saves as their closer last year. Now, both players left as free agents after their one year (or half-year) in Oakland, but the A's got more than that out of them.
If you add everything up, including all of the subsequent trades of other players involved in the original deals, here's what the two trades ended up being:
54 games of Ray Durham
45 games of Jose Guillen
72 games of Keith Foulke
13 games of Mark Johnson
#24 pick in 2004 draft
#36 pick in 2004 draft
Now, I'm stretching things just a tad, because the A's got Joe Valentine from the White Sox and then shipped him to the Reds for 45 games of Jose Guillen, but they also had to include Aaron Harang and another pitcher in the deal. Still, even if you ignore Guillen (he wasn't that good in Oakland anyway), I think the A's did pretty well here.
Foulke was phenomenal for them last year, the best closer in the AL, and Durham was very good for them down the stretch in 2002.
When Durham signed with the Giants, they got the #26 and #33 picks in the 2003 draft, which they used to select Brian Snyder and Omar Quintanilla. Snyder is a third baseman who is hitting .306/.415/.470 at Single-A, and Omar Quintanilla is a shortstop who is hitting .265/.330/.415 at Single-A.
Then, when Foulke signed with the Red Sox this past offseason, the A's got two more picks as compensation, #24 and #36 in next week's draft.
So, basically, for Billy Koch, Jon Adkins, Daylan Holt and Neal Cotts, the A's got a full season of Foulke, a half-season of Durham, some amount of Guillen, and then Brian Snyder, Omar Quintanilla and the #24 and #36 picks in this upcoming draft.
Meanwhile, Koch has been horrible for the White Sox, Adkins is nothing more than a replacement-level arm, and Daylan Holt doesn't strike me as much of a prospect. On the other hand, Neal Cotts isn't a bad young pitcher and I think he'll have a nice career, but even the biggest White Sox fan in the world would have to admit that Beane made out like a bandit here.
The 9th and 10th innings yesterday afternoon (as well as the game last Tuesday, in which Cotts served up the game-winning homer to none other than Bobby Kielty) are just icing on the cake, and as a Twins fan I couldn't be happier.
New article at The Hardball Times: The Magic Twenty (Right Field)
Tampa Bay (Hendrickson) +165 over Minnesota (Santana)
Toronto (Batista) +160 over Oakland (Zito)
Total to date: -$1,350
W/L record: 74-96 (1-1 yesterday for -20. It was almost 2-0 for +230, but Pedro and his bullpen ruined that.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
This and ThatHere are some random thoughts and notes while I wait for my precious new laptop to arrive ...
I just saw yesterday afternoon that Rob Neyer's ESPN.com column will now be a part of "ESPN Insider." I assume the content of the column will be the same (which is to say excellent), but this means ESPN.com will now be charging you to read them.
Here's the actual announcement, from ESPN.com:
Beginning June 14, you can read Rob Neyer's column four times a week as part of ESPN Insider. You will find Rob's insights at MLB Insider, as well as peppered throughout ESPN.com's baseball coverage.The funny thing is that they make it seem like a good thing: "You can read Rob Neyer's column four times a week as part of ESPN Insider."
Wow, four times a week! The only problem is that you've been able to read Neyer's column four times a week for the past five years or so, completely free of charge. As someone who loves Neyer's writing and as someone who doesn't have a subscription to ESPN Insider, this is very troubling news, though not really that surprising.
More and more, as this whole internet thing keeps evolving, good writing is moving to the pay side of websites. We saw it with Baseball Prospectus and now with Neyer, and those are just a couple examples from the baseball-writing niche. There are probably hundreds of other writers in other areas (politics, entertainment, etc.) who are no longer free to read.
In a way, it's a shame, because one of the really cool things about the internet is the fact that you can get so much great entertainment and information, and it's all at your fingertips. Now it's still at your fingertips, but it's behind the wall of money.
Still, you pay for magazines and books and newspapers and such, so I guess it only makes sense that you'd also pay for good reading material on the internet. I like Rob's work so much that this news actually made me sad and then actually made me think about whether or not I should buy ESPN Insider. Of course, I'm the same guy who was begging for donations to help buy a laptop last week, so you can guess what my decision was.
I hope Rob at least got a nice raise for this. He definitely deserves it.
Yesterday, I complained about the Twins' handling of Justin Morneau and how frustrating their general approach to young players is. Then I saw the following in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
When the Twins called up top hitting prospect Justin Morneau from Rochester, they left open the possibility that he would hit his way into the everyday DH job.First of all, to say that "they left open the possibility that he would hit his way into the everyday DH job" is incorrect at best and a regurgitation of the Twins' spin-job at worst.
The minute they called Morneau up all they did was talk about giving him the job on an everyday basis, allowing him to get his feet wet regardless of whether or not he hit well initially. The day they called him up, Ron Gardenhire said, "I guarantee you that he will be in the lineup, hacking. That's what we like to see."
His guarantee apparently lasts about seven days.
A couple days later, the same writer, Jim Souhan, who wrote the above about Morneau possibly "hitting his way into the everyday DH job," wrote that Morneau was "slated to DH every day."
This is just so incredibly typical of the Twins. For one thing, they jerk around every young player who isn't a crappy middle infielder. For another thing, they like to talk a good game about giving young players long looks and legitimate shots to establish themselves in the lineup. And then, inevitably, they completely change their mind a week later and either bench the guy or send him back to the minors.
It has happened with Morneau twice already and it has happened to Michael Cuddyer a couple times too. If you're going to call up your best prospect for a week and then send him down, regardless of how well he's done, then just say that. Don't give everyone some bulls--- story about how he's getting a real opportunity and then some other bulls--- story about how he's "the leading candidate to be sent down" because he "seems to be swinging for the fences."
So, in addition to lying about the opportunity they were giving him, the Twins are now finding fault with the play of a 23-year-old rookie who is hitting .292/.370/.542. It is almost comical, or at least it would be if I were a fan of another team.
This is similar to what happened to Michael Restovich last year. Restovich came up for a short time and hit .283/.406/.415 in 64 plate appearances, which is very nice production from a 24-year-old getting his first extended playing time in the big leagues. But when the Twins eventually sent him down, they knocked him for being too patient at the plate and for not being aggressive and not "swinging for the fences."
Well guess what? Now that's all Restovich is doing. Thanks to continually being brushed aside by the team, he is now in his third consecutive season at Triple-A, and he's hitting .242/.282/.522.
The Twins should be happy though, because Restovich isn't walking (seven non-intentional walks in 45 games, which is just miserable) and he's definitely swinging for the fences (12 homers and 40 strikeouts in 182 at-bats).
Oh, and just as I suspected yesterday, the Twins sent Justin Morneau back down to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for Joe Mauer. Wanna know the funniest part? Last night's starting DH was Jose Offerman.
The Aaron's Baseball Blog Jinx
On Monday, I wrote about the Timberwolves' 2003-2004 season and talked about how disappointing it was for them to lose a key player like Cassell in the playoffs, after suffering through so many tough years trying to get to this point.
Get this ... I got several e-mails (so it wasn't just one weirdo) telling me that I had "jinxed" the team, more or less, because I was assuming their season would end against the Lakers and talking about the season as if it were already finished.
Their season did end on Monday night, but the bigger point is that there is no such thing as a "jinx." What I say or write has absolutely no impact on the Timberwolves' ability to win games. It just doesn't, I don't care what you say.
Beyond that, even if I had the ability to jinx the team, how can you jinx a team that is down 3-2 in a series? If I write about how the Devil Rays' 2004 season was a disappointing one despite there being 100 games left, am I jinxing them?
This brings up a larger issue, which is this whole concept of jinxing and "knocking on wood" and all that other junk. A lot of people I know like to say stuff like "poo poo poo" or "knock on wood" in response to things I say, and it is incredibly annoying.
And people know it is meaningless too. Sometimes my mom will say "knock on wood" and I'll just look at her and say, "Why would you say that? Do you think that does anything?" She will, of course, say that it has no value and is just silly, but then she'll do it again a few days later.
The whole concept that what some random person says or does or knocks on can have an impact on the actions and lives of other people, often people the person doesn't even know, is beyond silly.
An announcer talking about a no-hitter will not cause a pitcher to lose the no-hitter. Someone knocking on wood will not change the course of events in a given situation in any way. Someone responding to you saying something negative with "poo poo poo" will do nothing but make you think less of the person.
This is just how the world works, people. The words I type on my computer don't cause Kareem Rush to make six 3-pointers, and the fact that you hit your knuckles on the kitchen table doesn't impact anything other than your knuckles and the kitchen table.
With that said, I'd appreciate it if everyone would cross their fingers regarding my new laptop arriving safely next week.
New article at The Hardball Times: Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part Two)
Toronto (Lilly) +130 over Seattle (Pineiro)
Boston (Martinez) -150 over Anaheim (Washburn)
Total to date: -$1,330
W/L record: 73-95 (0-4 yesterday for -415, with two non-bets thanks to pitching changes.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Some of y'all might be with this, and some of y'all won'tWhile watching the Twins lose to the Devil Rays yesterday afternoon, I found myself extremely frustrated for no apparent reason (other than the score, of course). I tried to think of why exactly I was feeling this way and ... well, to quote DJ Kool, "Let me clear my throat."
At the count of threeWhen they called Justin Morneau up at the start of last month, the Twins said all the right things about playing him every day, getting him at-bats and all of that good stuff. As usual with the Twins though, talk is extraordinarily cheap.
Morneau's everyday playing lasted exactly a week. Then, with the Royals starting a left-handed pitcher on both May 29 and May 30, Morneau did not play. Morneau is a young left-handed hitter who has struggled against lefties in his few at-bats against them in the majors thus far, so I suppose I can see why they would bench him. Personally, I would never sit him out twice in a row, but there's at least a line of thinking present that I can see.
Well, yesterday the Twins played Tampa Bay and the Devil Rays started Rob Bell, a right-handed pitcher (and a bad one at that). And, once again, Morneau found himself on the bench. I have to say, I just don't get it.
Why have him in the majors to sit on the bench, even against lefties? This is a guy you want to be the future of your offense, the big bopper in the middle of your lineup, but you don't have the confidence in him to play him against a couple of lefties in May? And we're not talking Randy Johnson and Barry Zito here, it was Dennys Reyes and Jimmy Gobble.
With Rob Bell and his career ERA of 5.88 on the mound, what possible reason could there be for not playing Morneau? He's killed the ball in the few at-bats the Twins have given him thus far, hitting .292/.370/.542, and he hadn't played in two days.
But no, the Twins had Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and Matthew LeCroy at DH. Now I love LeCroy and I am glad to see him in the lineup, but why not stick him behind the plate? Instead, the Twins continue to give Henry Blanco tons of at-bats, despite the fact that his deal with the devil lasted only a couple weeks and ran out a long time ago. Blanco is hitting .136/.177/.186 in 59 at-bats this month (and yes, I realize he hit a homer yesterday ... so what?).
With Joe Mauer out, this was a chance to give LeCroy a long look behind the plate, to see if perhaps he could be the long-term answer as Mauer's backup. Instead, they play Blanco's incredibly weak bat and leave Morneau on the bench.
I love the Twins and I happen to think they are a well-run team and organization. If they weren't, they wouldn't be able to win like this on such a small budget. With that said, they do so many things that just make absolutely zero sense to me.
I suspect Morneau will be sent back to Triple-A when Mauer returns from the disabled list this week or, if that's not the case, when Luis Rivas comes back from the DL shortly after that. And then Morneau will hit .350 with huge power at Rochester, Henry Blanco will hit .190 in Minnesota, and the Twins will wonder why they can't score any runs.
Tell me what's wrong with this picture ...
- The Twins have one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
- He destroys Triple-A pitching.
- They call him up and say they will play him every day.
- He goes 3-for-3 in his first start and hits .292/.370/.542 overall.
- They bench him for three straight games.
And then, if my guess is right ...
- They send him back down to Triple-A.
There is a disconnect between logic and action, between planning and following that plan here that is incredibly frustrating to watch, year after year after year, player after player after player.
It could be worse, of course. The Twins, even with all of their obvious faults, are far from the worst team to root for. Still, there's no reason they have to be difficult to root for at all.
I was daydreaming the other day about just how young and how cheap the Twins could get all of a sudden, perhaps as soon as next year. It's nothing more than a dream, of course, because the people actually in charge of making decisions don't think like I do, but bear with me.
C Joe MauerThrow in a bench of LeCroy, Nick Punto, Alex Prieto, Michael Restovich and Michael Ryan, and that is a group that includes one player over 30 (Koskie) and three players who make more than the league minimum (Koskie, Hunter, Mientkiewicz).
I think -- and I don't know the exact contract situations -- that the total payroll of those 14 position players would be somewhere around $20-22 million, and that's with Corey Koskie counted at $7 mill (he's a free agent).
That is a team I could root for, a team that would be fun to watch play and, more importantly, watch develop and improve. It would also leave about $35 million to put together a pitching staff, which would give Terry Ryan plenty of interesting opportunities.
I've said many times that this current Twins team has a chance to do something that is normally very difficult, which is contend for the postseason and completely rebuild all at the same time. They have the young established major leaguers to do it and they have the young, major league-ready prospects to do it. They won't, of course. That's just not how they operate.
Instead, they'll pay Shannon Stewart $6 million to provide average offense, they'll bring back Cristian Guzman and/or Luis Rivas to suck up outs and drive me crazy, and they'll leave prospects in the minor leagues, much to the delight of the lovely people of Rochester, New York.
Talent or experience, that's what it comes down to in my mind. I'll take talent over experience every single time, especially when the talent is young and cheap. I sometimes wish the Twins thought the same way.
And while they're at it, it'd be nice if they wouldn't lose 5 out of 7 to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
New article at The Hardball Times: Beat 'Em Like They Stole Something (Part One)
Montreal (Armas) +170 over Atlanta (Wright)
Milwaukee (Sheets) -110 over Los Angeles (Weaver)
Tampa Bay (Abbott) +160 over Minnesota (Silva)
Toronto (Halladay) -140 over Seattle (Meche)
Chicago (Loaiza) -115 over Oakland (Redman)
Boston (Arroyo) +125 over Anaheim (Colon)
Total to date: -$915
W/L record: 73-91 (5-3 yesterday for +385. At least it's under -$1,000 now!)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, May 31, 2004
Don't Call it a ComebackLast week, after my computer gave up living and my internet connection crapped out on me, I asked for donations from my loyal audience in order to help fund a new computer. The thought being, of course, that you've enjoyed the completely free reading material that I've provided both here and at The Hardball Times over the past two years, and also that a new computer would help me produce more material for you to enjoy in the future.
I left the entry up all weekend to try to raise some more money, but mostly because writing anything new was difficult with my computer situation.
Well, now I'm back ... at least sort of. My trusty laptop is still broken, but at least my internet hookup is fixed. So that's the good news. The great news is that you guys are far more generous than I could have imagined.
The donations started flowing in immediately after I posted my plea for help in the wee hours Wednesday morning. In all, 81 of you donated something, and because of my readers' incredible generosity, I was able to order a new computer over the weekend. It should be here in about a week.
So thank you to everyone who donated, from those of you who pitched in $1 to those who gave a little more. It made me feel great to know that you value the entertainment and information you get here enough to help me out financially. All 81 of you should feel good about what you've done; you did a very nice thing and I really appreciate it.
Okay, enough about money and computers ...
The Minnesota Timberwolves held off elimination with a Game 5 win at home on Saturday night, behind Kevin Garnett's 30 point/19 rebound/4 assist effort. The Wolves and Lakers play Game 6 tonight, and I fully expect the Lakers to finish them off without a ton of difficulty.
Barring the unthinkable, which is the Wolves winning three straight to take the series (not gonna happen, sorry), I think the Timberwolves' 2003-2004 season basically sums up what it's like to be a sports fan. Or at least a sports fan outside of New York and Los Angeles.
They struggled for 15 years. First they were just plain awful (this lasted far longer than it should have), then they drafted Garnett and got pretty good and they simply couldn't win a playoff series, and now this year they finally got over the hump and got out of the first round.
Kevin Garnett wins the MVP, the big moves they made during the offseason for Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell paid off, they took care of the Nuggets in the first round and squeaked by the Kings in the conference semi-finals.
And then, after all that, they run up against the Los Angeles Lakers, winners of three of the past four NBA titles, in the Western Conference finals. This isn't your younger brother's Lakers team either, this is a squad that is totally beatable. And the Wolves were the team to do it -- they were playing well and they matched up nicely with the Lakers.
So what happens? The Wolves' second-best player, Sam Cassell, arguably the best point guard in the league this year, severely injures his back and hip and is basically out for the entire series. Some games he tries to play and lasts 43 seconds and some games he just sits out completely.
And not only is Cassell out, the Wolves are without his backup, Troy Hudson, who had ankle surgery earlier in the month and is not even on the playoff roster. Hudson torched the Lakers in the playoffs last year and he would have made a huge difference this year. Instead, without Cassell and Hudson, the Wolves have either played without a point guard altogether or with Darrick Martin, signed off of the waiver wire earlier in the year, running the show.
I guess if I had to describe this season in one word it would be "tease." Now, it was one helluva fun tease, but still a tease. I could move to Los Angeles tomorrow and live there for the next 50 years and no one would ever convince me that the Wolves, with a healthy Sam Cassell, wouldn't be playing in the NBA Finals.
But that's sports. A team struggles and improves, disappoints and surprises, and then when they finally get in a position to win the championship, a star player gets hurt.
Wait 'til next year, right?
And finally ...
I usually reserve this space for a whole bunch of Twins talk, but today I've decided that since I haven't posted anything Twins-related in several days, I have enough interesting stuff to say about the team that I posted it over at The Hardball Times, for everyone to see.
I know it upsets some people when I write stuff over there and not over here (I still don't understand this), but hopefully you realize that you can simply click on the link to the article provided below and read it, whereas people who don't stop by this blog on a regular basis but do go by THT every day will also have a chance to read it this way.
Twins Notes (by Aaron Gleeman)
Aaron takes a look at the ongoing struggles of his favorite starting pitcher and examines whether or not the Twins might actually have a new second baseman ... finally.
Have a good Memorial Day and I'll see you back here tomorrow ...
New article at The Hardball Times: Twins Notes
Montreal (Hernandez) +155 over Atlanta (Ortiz)
St. Louis (Marquis) -120 over Pittsburgh (Benson)
San Francisco (Rueter) -120 over Arizona (Daigle)
Colorado (Jennings) +170 over San Diego (Eaton)
Kansas City (May) +110 over Detroit (Knotts)
Tampa Bay (Bell) +155 over Minnesota (Greisinger)
Toronto (Hentgen) +155 over Seattle (Moyer)
Baltimore (Lopez) +160 over Boston (Lowe)
Total to date: -$1,300
W/L record: 68-88 (11-13 from Wednesday to Sunday for -175 with one non-bet because of a different starting pitcher.)
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