Friday, September 15, 2006
If you've ever dreamed about being a scout, this is your chance. Take a look at the instructions and details, and then head to the Twins page and mark down what you think of Batista's aforementioned swing or Rondell White's never-should-be-mentioned arm.
Shortstop Angel Berroa was a late lineup scratch Tuesday after aggravating an injured left foot, apparently while walking through a Minneapolis shopping mall during Monday's open date.Asked to describe the injury, Angel Berroa said, "I was at the mall, just walking around, and today it's sore." That food court can be a real mine field, even for a finely tuned professional athlete.
Part of the reason I'm so sensitive to Souhan's hackiness is that I am, after all, also a hack. It's like "gaydar," except without all the homosexuality (see what I mean?). It's difficult to explain without examples, of course. Thankfully, Souhan wrote a few typical "Shecky" columns this week (one, two, three) about Brad Johnson and the Vikings. Some highlights (or lowlights):
The Purple ... play in a division that could be thinner than Calista Flockhart.There's plenty more where those came from, but that's a solid sampling of Souhan's work. The mark of a true hack is the ability to combine woefully out-of-date pop culture references with incredibly cliched characterizations of players' skills and constant harping on the mere fact that a celebrity had something to do with the game.
For instance, because Tom Cruise simply attended the game, Johnson "looked so excited he could have jumped all over Oprah's couch" and wasn't "defending Brooke Shields to Cruise" when he got worked up after throwing a touchdown. Really? That's funny? If it had been Mel Gibson watching the game, would the Redskins' defense have been "as sloppy as Gibson being pulled over by cops"?
Beyond that, Souhan may want to come up with a different thin actress to use as the punchline for his skinny jokes in the future, because Ally McBeal was canceled nearly five years ago (five years!) and Calista Flockhart has essentially been out of show business since then. At least the FEMA reference was from this decade. Last but not least, calling a receiver "butter fingers" apparently never gets old.
And if you think I'm being overly harsh on poor Souhan, just remember that Shecky himself wrote the following earlier this week in between telling the audience to tip their waitress and enjoy the veal:
Anyone who wants to work in the public eye has to accept being a tin duck in a shooting gallery. Walk it off.Good advice from one of the better tin ducks around.
It's nice having one of the best newspapers in the country print a well-written piece about the Twins every few weeks. I'm hopeful that the newspapers here won't start giving the same type of coverage to the Yankees down the stretch, because I don't think I could handle that. On the other hand, I'm sure Souhan has some great Alex Rodriguez jokes stored up.
Liriano's ulnar collateral ligament is still intact, [Terry] Ryan said, so the rookie All-Star won't need the reconstructive "Tommy John" surgery, which could have kept him from pitching again until 2008.As discussed yesterday, Tommy John surgery is quite common among great pitchers, but avoiding surgery is always positive. However, I'd still bet on Liriano needing some kind of surgery, and perhaps even Tommy John eventually, because it seems unlikely that "rest and rehab" will fix what ails him and avoiding surgery now only to have the problem flare up again next season doesn't fix anything.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Once Upon a Time, The EndFrancisco Liriano's comeback was brilliant. Starting yesterday afternoon for the first time since early August, Liriano set down the A's 1-2-3 in two straight innings. He struck out two of the first six batters he faced, inducing several helpless swings, and gave up his first hit when Nick Swisher led off the third inning with a bloop single to short center field.
One pitch later, the comeback was over.
With Bobby Kielty at the plate, Liriano delivered a pitch and then hopped off the mound, rolling his arm as he bent over. As he walked away from the mound, his left arm limp at his side, the Metrodome went silent. Mike Redmond took his mask off and slowly walked out toward Liriano, wide-eyed. Luis Castillo made it to Liriano first, putting his hand on his back and leading him back to the mound.
Trainer Dave Pruemer met him there, at which point Liriano bent over, placing his hands on his knees. As the conference at the mound grew, Liriano and Pruemer had a brief conversation that probably went something like: "It happened again. I felt something pop." Ron Gardenhire arrived moments after that, at which point Liriano stood up straight again.
After a few words with Gardenhire as seemingly the entire team looked on from two feet away, Liriano received a bunch of pats on the back as he exited the field side-by-side with the Pruemer, making his way to the dugout while the 19,000 fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. And just like that, it was over.
In re-watching the footage, it looks like Liriano first began hurting on his 1-2 pitch to Swisher. He threw a slider, with Swisher narrowly checking his swing, and after his follow-through gingerly walked a few steps off the mound as Redmond appealed to the first-base umpire unsuccessfully. He then threw a mediocre fastball right down the middle on 2-2, which Swisher dumped into center field.
Which pitch signaled the beginning of the end doesn't really matter, of course, but the whole situation unraveled so quickly that I almost had to re-watch it just to realize what had truly happened. After weeks of growing optimism and two perfect, electric innings in front of the home crowd, Liriano's season is now officially over.
I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on the internet, but it seems unlikely to me that this injury is something that will go away with rest. Liriano has tried that twice already, first by skipping a start and then by taking a month off, and each return to the mound only served to make the situation worse. I wouldn't be surprised to learn soon that Liriano needs Tommy John elbow surgery.
While that sounds scary and like a worst-case scenario, it's really not. The surgery would essentially wipe away Liriano's 2007 season before it even began, but at this stage his ability to pitch in the short term shouldn't be the focus. The goal should be doing whatever is necessary to give Liriano the best chance for a lengthy career, whether that comes at the expense of next season or not.
Tommy John surgery, which involves replacing a ligament in the elbow with a tendon from the forearm or leg, is significant and requires a long road to recovery. However, it's a path numerous pitchers have taken over the years with plenty of success. The surgery itself is named after left-hander Tommy John, who was Dr. Frank Jobe's guinea pig back in 1974.
Then a 31-year-old with one All-Star appearance and zero 20-win seasons, John made three All-Star teams and won 20 games three times after returning. He pitched until he was 46 years old, finishing runner-up in the Cy Young balloting twice post-surgery and winning 288 career games (one more than Bert Blyleven). John is the first success story, but the list of "Tommy John survivors" is a long one.
Mariano Rivera had Tommy John surgery in the minor leagues and went on to become arguably the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Eric Gagne and Chris Carpenter underwent Tommy John surgeries in 2000 and 2003, respectively, and came back to win NL Cy Young Awards in 2003 and 2005. In other words, for both the short and long term it's far from a death knell.
Other successful comebacks from Tommy John surgery include John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, David Wells, Matt Morris, Jason Isringhausen, Tom Gordon, Jon Lieber, Erik Bedard, Paul Byrd, Chris Capuano, Billy Koch, and Rafael Soriano. In fact, some estimates suggest that one-tenth of all big-league pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery at some stage of their career.
Friend of AG.com and Hardball Times writer David Gassko is working on a research article about Tommy John surgery for the upcoming Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007. Here's what he said about his preliminary findings when I asked him last night: "Based on my research so far, pitchers appear to do no worse after returning from Tommy John surgery. In fact, they appear to do better."
Losing Liriano is a difficult pill to swallow after he looked so incredible earlier this season and even looked great after returning yesterday, but it's likely that this entire situation is simply a relatively small bump on the long road of what can still be a Hall of Fame career. Whether it's in spring training, next September or the second game of 2008, I look forward to seeing a healthy, dominant Liriano again.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Open Chat: Liriano's ReturnOakland was leading 5-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning last night. Single, wild pitch, walk, double, double, ground out, strike out, strike out, wild pitch, line out.
All of a sudden, Joe Nathan was on the mound closing out the Twins' 85th win. The poor A's didn't even know what hit them. And now they get the F-Bomb this afternoon.
UPDATE: Francisco Liriano looked unhittable for two innings, gave up a leadoff single to Nick Swisher in the third inning, and then left the game after apparently aggravating his elbow injury while pitching to Bobby Kielty. He threw a pitch, walked off the mound while trying to sort of roll his arm, and then put his hands on his knees while everyone came to the mound.
Then Liriano left the game without much conversation, with Matt Garza relieving him. So much for that. Knowing absolutely nothing beyond what I saw and what the Twins have said about the situation in the past, I'd be shocked if Liriano pitches again before spring training.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Twins 9, A's 4ESPN.com columnist and occasional RotoWorld contributor D.J. Gallo had a funny line in his playoff preview last week:
If the playoffs started today, the defending World Series champions would be watching from home. But so would everyone else because if the playoffs started today it would be a complete surprise and none of the teams would be able to get travel plans organized in time.While acknowledging that "if the playoffs started today" is one of sports' most overused phrases, it's worth noting that "if the current standings hold up" the Twins will be matched up with the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. That's not particularly appealing for several reasons, which is why last night's win over the A's was so important.
You see, by beating the A's last night, the Twins actually moved one step closer to playing the A's in the playoffs. Not only have the Twins now won more games than they did all of last season, they now trail the Tigers in the division by the same number of games (1.5) that they lead the White Sox in the Wild Card standings.
Because teams from the same division aren't allowed to play each other in the ALDS, winning the Wild Card almost certainly means a trip to New York while winning the division means welcoming Oakland to the Metrodome. The "be careful what you wish for" part of the latter scenario is that while they didn't look it last night, the A's have quietly played nearly as well as the Twins over the past four months.
In fact, the two teams have incredibly similar stories. The Twins began the season 25-33 and have since gone 59-26, while the A's began the season 23-29 and have since gone 59-32. Beyond that, both teams have dealt with an amazing number of injuries to key players throughout all that winning. With that said, Oakland scares me a whole lot less than New York in a five-game series.
Winning the AL Central seemed out of the realm of possibility when the Twins trailed the Tigers by a dozen games at the All-Star break, but with Detroit slumping and the lead down to 1.5 games, the chances of it happening could arguably be called "likely." And as much fun as it is going back and forth with the White Sox, the Twins' best chance for a World Series will come from winning the division.
In addition to a more favorable ALDS opponent, overtaking the Tigers will give the Twins homefield advantage in the first round and potentially throughout the postseason (thank you, Michael Young). The Twins have won 61 percent of their home games since 2001, including 68 percent this season, and opening-round series that begin at Yankee Stadium haven't been kind in the past.
A couple weeks ago "scoreboard watching" was relatively simple, but now the Twins have three races to keep tabs on:
CENTRAL W L GB WCARD W L GB LEAGUE W L GBI heard a rumor that a local football team played last night. It's a shame they couldn't watch the Twins.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Notes From the Weekend
Bonser doesn't have the stuff to be an ace and he'll always be susceptible to ugly stretches thanks to being homer prone, but he's shown plenty of promise as a rookie. At the very least, Bonser can be penciled into the back of the rotation for the next few seasons at a reasonable price. And yes, getting three pitchers from the Giants for A.J. Pierzynski looks better just about every day.
It's somewhat difficult to trust Liriano fully after he essentially kept his prior arm problems a secret, but this is certainly great news. Barring a setback, he's reportedly scheduled to start Wednesday against Oakland, which means Liriano could start four more times this season. Almost as important is that he'll have plenty of time to build up his arm strength for the playoffs.
It's quite possible that Radke's career is over, but there are a few options that Twins fans can hope for. One is that Radke is able to make it back for one or two regular-season starts and can ready himself for one last postseason run. Short of that, it'd be nice if Radke can simply get himself prepared to be an option for the playoffs, even if means his regular season is over.
And if all else fails, it'd be nice to see Radke take the mound at the Metrodome one last time. If he can't contribute to the Twins' World Series hopes again, perhaps Radke could come in for the ninth inning against the White Sox in the 162nd game of the year, getting the last out of what will hopefully be a blowout win with a postseason spot already clinched.
Friend of AG.com and Rochester Democrat & Chronicle writer Jim Mandelaro had a guest article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune covering the Liriano-Perkins masterpiece.
Many Twins fans seem to have given up on Baker, but I remain confident that he'll develop into a solid fourth starter. Even with his struggles this year, Baker has a 5.30 ERA and 90-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127.1 big-league innings, which is far from disastrous from a 24-year-old. With that said, what the Twins need most right now is simply five passable innings from their starters, and Guerrier likely gives them a better chance at that than Baker.
I think his initial suspension was unwarranted, but at least understand it. That he was suspended for an additional three games seems absurd. The punishment doesn't fit the crime, I don't think Blyleven is any less likely to make the same mistake in the future because of the extra time off, and Twins fans had to suffer through Ron Coomer in Blyleven's absence (although Jack Morris did a great job as a one-game sub).
Of course, I'm a well-known vulgarian, so what do I know?
As long as we can keep that man of principle, La Velle E. Neal III, away from the ballot box, Johan Santana has a shot to be the first starting pitcher to win a big-league Most Valuable Player Award since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971.I'm LEN3's biggest fan, which is really saying something given how tough I can occasionally be on the local media, but even I have to admit defeat when critics bring up his illogical stance on pitchers and the MVP.
UPDATE: Reusse's proclamation that "Santana has a shot to be the first starting pitcher to win a big-league Most Valuable Player Award since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971" is false, as Roger Clemens was the AL MVP in 1986. His overall point remains, of course, but as usual us bloggers shouldn't trust what we read in the mainstream media (or something like that).
It doesn't get any easier with the first-place A's coming to town, but the Twins can realistically be considered co-favorites in the division at this stage given how the Tigers have played of late and are relatively large favorites to get into the postseason as either the division winner of Wild Card. Not only would that have been impossible to believe in June, it would have been hard to believe in August.
And now? It's time to believe.