Friday, July 30, 2010

Twins "cap" their bullpen with all-star closer

The Twins acquired Matt Capps, the all-star closer, Thursday from the Nationals. They had to part with Wilson Ramos, their young catching phenom and the organization's No. 2 prospect, to get Capps, who sports a 2.47 ERA to go along with 26 saves (in 30 tries).

The deal didn't make much sense to me at first. Jon Rauch, the previous closer, has struggled a little in July, but still had filled in admirably for the injured Joe Nathan. And Ramos is a huge chip to give up, especially for a closer, which aren't that difficult to come by. Seems like a steep price. And Ramos could have been used as a bargaining chip for a bigger prize somewhere down the road.

But the more I thought about it, the more the deal made sense. The Twins Achilles' Heel is their starting rotation. Adding another quality arm to the bullpen allows them to shorten games and not ask as much from their starters. Now, guys like Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey won't have to go seven or eight innings. Instead, Gardy can mix and match with a stout group of relievers that includes Jesse Crain (lights-out the past two months), Rauch (did a great job as the setup guy a year ago), Matt Guerrier (as dependable as they come), Jose Mijares (can be unhittable when he's going good), Ron Mahay (he's a lefty) and Nick Blackburn (joke withheld).

That's a huge asset for a team, especially in the postseason when bullpens become even more important.

Also, Capps should be on the roster again in 2011. That will be a ridiculous bullpen, should Nathan regain his previous form when he returns from Tommy John Surgery.

I'm still not one hundred percent sold on the Capps deal, but I'm talking myself into it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tall Ship Festival's name isn't lying

This was going on outside my window at the office this afternoon.



Duluth is hosting the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge®. I was going to try to summarize what it's all about, but this paragraph from http://www.visitduluth.com/tall-ships/ does a much better job (I'm pretty sure, had I tried to summarize it, you'd be sleeping, or dead, right now):

"Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the shores of the world’s greatest lake. It’s a rare chance to catch a glimpse, step aboard, and even set sail on some of the grandest ships of yore. If you'd like to see eight magnificent vessels that harken back to the early days of maritime, set your sails for Duluth July 28-August 3, 2010. Featuring a fleet of international and domestic vessels racing to six cities in the U.S. and Canada, this is Lake Superior’s only port of call for the GREAT LAKES UNITED TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® 2010."

Today was the Grand Parade of Sail. I toss the lingo out there like I have any effin' idea what it means — I don't. From my office window, I watched these amazing ships sail through the harbor, under the lift bridge and into the port. The harbor, teeming with smaller sail and speed boats, looked like an ant hill.

I actually brought binoculars to work (don't judge me). I'm not a big ship aficionado by any means, but when that spectacle is unfolding literally six blocks away, you watch. The craziest image, at least from my office window, was when one of the mammoth vessels — I'm pretty sure it was the Bounty — inched close to the bridge. From my vantage point, which would have skewed the height a bit, the ship looked like it was taller than the Dewitt-Seitz building (if you're not from Duluth, that means nothing to you).

The ship's mast barely cleared the bottom of the lift bridge.

Go here for more incredible photos: http://www.startribune.com/galleries/99592419.html?elr=KArks:DCiUHc3E7_V_nDaycUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiUr

That gallery was on the Star Tribune's website.

Anyway, all this ship activity got me thinking: Why am I not down there? Obviously I was working, but the festival continues through Aug. 3. I'm pretty sure I won't get any closer to Bayfront than my office. I might have ventured down there tonight, but I had lawns to mow after work. And tomorrow wouldn't be a bad idea, but I have more lawns to mow before heading out of town. Early next week? Work, column writing, office time for DAYBA, probably some lawns to mow and sleep.

What's the saying — if you win the rat race, you're still a rat. That's how I feel. It's not like I have some super-important job that I have to be on call 24/7 for, but I'm a pretty busy dude. As are most of my friends and family.

My feeling is that most people — definitely not all, but most — are simply way too busy. Especially in Duluth, and especially in the summer. We get three or four months of truly nice weather. The rest of the time, it's a crapshoot. So we pack as much as we possibly can into those three or four months. Literally, from the beginning of May through the end of September, I'd guess there's three weekends I didn't or don't have plans for.

And my friends and family are the same way. There's ballgames to go to, camping to do, golf scrambles to compete in, bachelor parties, concerts, Twins games, races, more camping, four-wheeling, softball, etc. In between, we're working like slaves so we can enjoy it all.

I'm not suggesting this is a phenomenon resigned solely to Duluth. It's not. But I think it's more prevalent in places like Duluth, simply because of the weather.

And the result is that when a really cool event comes to town, if it hasn't been on our schedule for the past six months, we're not on board. We can't be. It would take too much reshuffling.

And also, this: We're too cynical. The tall ships what? What the hell's that? What do I want to see a tall ship for? That's stupid. Can you imagine how many people will be there? Where would we park? Where would we sit?

Those questions abound. I do it myself, when the reality is that trying something new often leads to a pretty remarkable experience. Well, unless that "something new" is spam. Then it still sucks. But that's missing the point.

Ah, the point. There's probably one wrapped up in all those words somewhere. But as I was cutting grass today and dripping with sweat, I had a lot of time to think. These are the thoughts I had. I tried to make sense of them all, tried to form some coherent, provocative thought. I probably failed. I'm fine with that, by the way.

I guess what I'm getting at is this:

Chuck Norris does not wear a condom. Because there is no such thing as protection from Chuck Norris.

Pretty deep, after all.

* By the way, that photo I pirated (you see what I did there — while writing about old pirate-looking ships, I used the word "pirated" ... snap!) at the top of this post was taken from somewhere/thing called the Mail Online. Might be a London-based paper, which means it's probably an AP photo. Which means it probably shouldn't be on my blog. But I'm crazy. Not as crazy as Chuck Norris, though — did you know he's the reason Waldo has been hiding all these years.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm pretty sure the Royals kind of suck

Why do the smallest dogs bark the loudest?

There is a dog next door, no taller than a beer can, that is yelping at two labs walking down the alley. The labs, both probably in the 75-pound range, could not be any less impressed. Really, you're barking at me? You see me, right?

Little dogs always bark too loud, and too frequently. It's like they're trying to over-compensate for something (not little paws). I actually like little dogs. I like dogs of all sizes. Just seems like the little ones are always the loudest.

Let's move on.

The Twins completed a three-game sweep of the Royals this afternoon. Delmon Young got the fiesta going with an early three-run homer that set the tone, and Brian Duensing was effective through six innings as the Twins moved 10 games above .500 for the first time in close to two months.

I really have no idea what's gotten into Young. His first two seasons in Minnesota, he was average. He had stretches of brilliance, but more often than not, he was an average baseball player. Now? Now he's one of the best hitters in the game.

Take a look at these numbers from twinsbaseball.com:

"Young has now hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games and is hitting .439 in July with six homers and 28 RBIs. His team-high RBI total is now at 79 on the season — 63 of those RBIs have come since May 21."

Absurd stats for a guy that was labeled a bust as recently as a year ago.

I was able to listen to the game on the radio at work today. A co-worker has a big alarm clock at her desk and I stole it and plugged my head phones into it (I told people it was my new iPod). I forgot how good John Gordon, the Twins' radio guy, is. He's getting up there a bit, and might not be as smooth or as "on top of things" as he once was, but he's still a treasure on the air.

After Young's mammoth three-run shot, Gordon bellowed "And the Delmon Young tour continues." Just a great voice, and one that's become synonymous with Twins baseball.

The Twinkies have now won 10 of 13 heading into Thursday's off day. Man, could that thing not come at a worse time. This time of the season, a day off is typically a blessing, but not for a club cruising along at a torrid offensive pace. You want to keep playing, keep riding the momentum. A break can put the skids on that momentum faster than a Nick Blackburn start.

The Mariners come to Target Field for a three-game set starting Friday. Then, the Twins are off to Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Chicago. That's a tough road trip, which makes the mini-homestand that much more significant.

Me? I'm heading to Grand Rapids for a family camping trip this weekend. I'm pretty sure this camping trip will be different than last weekend's. Oddly, just as I start talking about camping, mosquitoes start feasting on me. I seriously can't feel my legs.

That's stupid. I can feel my legs. But I'm still going inside and going to bed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Twins erupt yet again

My buddy, The Chuckster, had a theory about the Twins' recent offensive uprising.

He suggested maybe they all got on the same steroid cycle. It would have been funnier in like 2004, but still a quality joke.

The Twins could probably just trade Jon Rauch. There's really no need for him to be on the roster. He's tall and stuff, but aside from that, he's just ... there. Like the old mustard in your fridge that gets used once a month.

Hey, Jon Rauch is pitching! Speak of the devil. Does Ron Gardenhire read this blog? He probably does, let's be honest, but mid-game?

Danny Valencia had another four-hit night this evening. Call me crazy, but he seems like a better hitter than Nick Punto. Valencia now has 14 hits over his past four games. That's ridiculous. I think I did that once in bar league softball, but still. It's like comparing apples to apple pie. That's not the saying.

Rauch just started a sweet 1-6-3 double play. Well played, big fella.

The Twins have won four in a row and nine of 12. They're creeping. It's the second half, so the timing is about right. It was just last week that I was handing out LVP awards. And now look at TwinkieTown. Singing a different tune.

I made corn on the cob tonight and it turned out fantastic. But then, it's kind of hard to screw up corn on the cob. I called my dad to ask how one would go about cooking such an exotic meal. I thought it was this huge, involved process. Like something where I should have an apron that says "kiss the cook" on. Turns out, you boil water and put the corn in there for 10 minutes.

That's almost easier than cooking Hot Pockets. I will probably stop by the farmer's market tomorrow and buy 664 ears of corn. Are they called ears? If not, they should be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Twins quietly turning it around

Baseball is a weird game.

Throughout June, the Twins couldn't pitch. When they pitched well — a rarity — their offense disappeared. Since the All-Star break, though, the Twins have put both facets together. Their starters are on a roll (they're like butter ... get it, butter goes on a roll?) and the offense has been the best in the majors.

They are currently leading the Royals 19-0. Joe Mauer ended the night with five hits and seven RBIs. Danny Valencia is a triple shy of the cycle. Delmon Young owns another big performance. And Francisco Liriano sparkled through seven scoreless innings.

Just like that, the Twins have won eight of 11 — provided they can hold onto this 19-run, ninth-inning lead. I think they'll be OK.

The sport's nuances, the inevitable ups and downs, are unpredictable. Peaks and valleys happen over a six-month, 162-game season. You never know when a red-hot team will fall into a funk or a previously struggling club will catch fire.

It's part of what makes the game so beautiful.

On a lighter note, I made it back from Country Jam. I won't yet say I survived Country Jam because my body still feels like a piece of soggy Spam. But I made it back. I'm sure I'll post a pic or two, but not now. I don't have that kind of energy, what with all that right-clicking.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm pretty tired, but it's a good tired

How ready am I for Country Jam?

I woke up at 3:50 this morning. Made some coffee, read the paper, stopped and picked up doughnuts on the way to work.

I'm like 65 years old all of a sudden.

Also, I'm tired. Which is a problem, considering KC has informed me that I'm the co-captain for our drive to Eau Claire this evening. We're hauling his camper. It's the size of a small city.

I haven't been the captain of anything since junior high football. We won the city Super Bowl that year, so obviously I have some experience in captaincy. That's probably why KC picked me. Well, that and the fact that I'll be the only other person in the vehicle. But still.

I should probably get a T-shirt made that has an "A" on the front, for "assistant captain." Just to clear up any confusion that may surface at the campground.

Quit thinking, start swinging

Joe Mauer is thinking too much. Need proof?

Mauer, mired in a slump, came to the dish Tuesday in the seventh inning with the scored tied 3-3 and runners on first and second with one out. That's where a stud like Mauer earns his paycheck. Instead, the Twins catcher bunted.

He laid one down.

The reigning AL MVP had no problem leaving the heavy lifting to Jason Kubel, who was, it turns out, in no mood for lifting of any kind.

Here is what Mauer told twinsbaseball.com:

"Probably the biggest thing is [third baseman Jhonny] Peralta playing back. It's just giving me a base hit. It got off the end of the bat a little bit and I didn't get it out there far enough, I didn't execute.

"You factor in all those things, it sounds like a pretty good idea I think. I'm sure a lot of people don't recognize that or realize that. There are a lot of things that go into it. I thought that was the best play at the time."

That's the issue — there shouldn't be "a lot of things that go into it." It was a relatively routine scenario: a base hit would have given the Twins the lead. It happens, though, players getting swept up in mind games when the swing goes on vacation. Rather than simply reacting to a pitch, they try to "think" their way on base.

It's a nasty thing and it gobbles up Little Leaguers and big leaguers alike. Just like that, you can't drive the ball. You're swinging at a butterfly. You try every conceivable solution — shorten the swing, move closer to/back from the plate, try a new stance, take a copious amount of BP.

In such instances, Mark Grace should be consulted for his version of the "slump-buster."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Joe Mauer endorses this 4-6-3 DP

Remember watching Joe Mauer hit a year ago? His at-bats always led to a little daydreaming. We pondered, romantically, the viability of a catcher flirting with .400. Into June, then July. Mauer was magic, turning a flick of his wrists into doubles and opposite-field homers.

Now, when he comes to the plate, I ponder something different. Namely, what's the record for 4-6-3 double plays in a single season?

Scott Baker trying to reclaim LVP award from Kevin Slowey

When Kevin Slowey wrestled the weekly LVP award away from Scott Baker last week, Baker apparently had one thought: I'm gettin' that shit back.

And he is. Baker could very well become the first two-time winner in the long and distinguised history of TwinkieTown's LVP award. There's a word for that: douchebag.

I initially was going to craft a plan to fix the Twins' starting rotation, but then I looked at what their minor league pitchers are doing. Ouch. They aren't doin' much. Some shmuck by the name of Mike McCardell is 0-10 with a 5.79 ERA. He's at Double A, on the fast track to retirement. Or the Mexican leagues.

I've always been pretty high on Anthony Swarzak. Which is apropos, considering Anthony Swarzak always seems pretty high. Wait, he's the dude who admitted to smoking some grass back in the day, right? If not, he should start. Like right now. And when he's baked and eating nacho cheese Doritos and watching The Big Lebowski, maybe he can make sense of his 6.24 ERA and 2-6 record.

Looking over the stats for the minor league pitchers, it's a big, heaping pile of mediocrity. Lots of ERAs in the 5s.

Maybe the Twins can trade Scott Baker for Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt. Straight up.

Some guy in the NHL signed a 17-year contract this afternoon. Ilya Kovalchuk is his name. He signed with the Devils, for roughly $100 million. The dude's 27 years old. I'm 28 and nobody is offering me a 16-year contract. And I'm in my prime. For bean bags, my prime for bean bags.

Seventeen years is a really long time to live in New Jersey.

What else happened today? Probably some other stuff, but I've had a pretty full day. This week's all about getting ready for Country Jam. In a related story, I spent $70 on Coors Light over the weekend. It's been in my kitchen since Saturday. Sitting peacefully in the corner, sweating under the humidity, waiting for ice so the mountains can regain their blue-ish hue.

I was gonna hold out and keep rambling, but the Twins are getting crushed and I'm tired. So I'm going to bed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Twins score four in the ninth to stun Sox

Another dynamite win for the Twinkies.

Down 6-3 entering the ninth, they scored four times to stun the White Sox and win their third straight. TwinkieTown made a rather bold prediction Friday that the Twins looked ready to pounce, ready to begin their ascent up the AL Central ladder.

TwinkieTown appears prophetic.

Also, I've had about enough of Nick Blackburn. Move him to the bullpen. Or Triple-A. Or Ghana. Just move him.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wait, it's over?

The Twins just won a 3-2 ballgame in a lightning-quick one hour, 52 minutes. That was amazing.

Great for the Twins, not so great when you build your night around watching the Twins. Now what to do?

Twins show some life

Prediction: The Twins are about to heat up.

I've been a gloomy Gus regarding the Twins (yes, you read that right — I used the words "gloomy Gus"), but Friday night they finally showed a spark in a 7-4 win over the White Sox. The collective attitude seemed to be, "Eff it, let's do this." It was only one victory, but I think I'm pretty decent at reading and interpreting body language. I'm probably horrible at it, but that's neither here nor there.

They just ... looked different. The past few weeks, big hits often were followed by looks of relief — insert monkey-off-the-back analogy here — whereas Friday they were followed by looks of determination, almost anger. Which leads me to believe they're about to unleash some pent-up frustration on upcoming opponents.

Having said all that, if the Twins go out and lose tonight, they are dead to me.

The Twins' win capped a nearly perfect Friday. I ran in the Park Point 5-Miler, one of the oldest road races in Minnesota.

And I won, too.

That's actually not true whatsoever. I didn't win. I wasn't close to winning. I think the winners crossed the finish line while I was still going through my pre-race stretching. Pricks.

Below is a picture of Lake Superior, taken from Park Point. The picture kind of sucks. I blame Blackberry. And was it awkward taking a picture of the beach, with younger ladies running around in bikinis? It was. Did I feel kind of creepy? I did.



ESPN.com currently has a story about the Yankees not attending this week's funeral for Bob Sheppard, the legendary PA man for the Yanks and New York Giants.

That's awkward.

"To be quite honest with you, I didn't even know his funeral was yesterday," Derek Jeter told ESPN.com on Friday. "Having said that, I don't necessarily think you have to go to a funeral to honor someone. I think a lot of players have honored him. It's the reason why I've recorded his voice throughout the years, and I'll continue to honor him every time I go to the plate for the rest of my career. But I was not aware of it and I don't know how many of the players were aware of it."

Jeter's right: You don't have to go to a funeral to honor someone.

But it doesn't hurt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Twins are back ... and they still kind of suck

Well, the Twins haven't missed a beat.

Kevin Slowey, especially, looks poised to maintain his putrid pitching — he threw three-plus innings tonight as the starting rotation continued its assault on the team's bullpen. And judging by tonight, Slowey and Joe Mauer are no longer BFFs. I don't think they talked the whole night. And considering Mauer made a half dozen trips to the mound as Slowey served up another night of BP, that's pretty impressive. They probably just had a bunch of staring contests.

I'd put my money on Mauer. He hasn't expressed an emotion since 1997, so keeping a straight face would be a breeze.

Justin Morneau is going on the disabled list. I'm pretty sure he's just sick of watching shitty pitching each night and wants to get away. He's probably fine. Good thinking, big guy, good thinking. I'm going on the disabled list, too. Morny and I are gonna hang out and stuff. Maybe cribbage, we haven't got it totally figured out yet.

Good to see Jim Thome come to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the tying run on base. Again, I'm a big fan of Thome, but I can never understand how a guy who's been playing baseball since Jesus C. was in his prime can take a called third strike to end the game. Just swing the bat, stick it out there, wave at the pitch. Do ... something!

If I had to sum up the 8-7 loss, I'd do it thusly: Alex Burnett balked in a run by falling off the mound and making what looked like a last-ditch effort to release the ball by simply dropping it on the ground.

I watched the bulk of tonight's ballgame, and it's been a while since I've seen such poor body language. Just a bad vibe from start to finish. From Slowey and Mauer playing the silent game, to Gardy repeatedly shaking his head in disgust ... heck, even Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven took a few veiled shots at the Twins. Good for them.

It will be interesting to see how they bounce back Friday. They had a nice lead tonight after a six-run second inning, and coming from ahead to lose is always deflating. Who knows. Who cares, right? The Twins are a notorious second-half squad, but if their pitching doesn't improve by about 627 percent, that reputation is bound to take a beating.

I just realized that tomorrow is Friday, which means it's almost time to dish out the weekly LVP award. I'm gonna get it out of the way tonight, because I got a full day tomorrow of early morning golf (free), mowing a lawn (reverse-free) and running in a five-mile race (not free).

So, without further ado, it's time to unveil the second winner of the LVP award. Because of the All-Star Game, it's been a short week. And I really wanted to give last week's award to Kevin Slowey. I'm not passing him up twice. Slowey is this week's winner. His reward? A two-hour pitching tutorial from Bob Wells.

Two words: Brian. Duensing.

By the way, I woke up today at 4 a.m. and watched 20 minutes of the British Open before going to work. The first time I saw the leaderboard, I saw "Daly, 7 under." Apparently, I slept until 1995. You know what? Daly deserves a celebratory beer.

Because I woke up at 4 a.m., I'm going to bed.

What is this, 1995?

John effin' Daly!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brett Favre to Greg Lewis? Yes, yes we can!

ESPN is currently airing the ESPY Awards, and Brett Favre and Gregg Lewis just won for Best Play.

That play still gives me goosebumps. I can vividly remember how I felt watching it unfold. It was far from jubilation, but more a mix of being stunned, disbelieving, afraid to celebrate for fear of Lewis being ruled out of bounds (such is life when you grow up a Vikings fan). Honestly, I was in a state of shock, numb. For as long as I can remember, Favre's been my favorite football player. Didn't matter that he played for the Packers. The dude is real, he's genuine. He has a blast playing football and never relents.

Are there warts? Of course there are. But name a professional athlete without warts. And Favre's setbacks pale in comparison to those of others — the drug abusers, wife beaters and spoiled prima donnas. If his most glaring blemish is an inability to walk away, and a craving for the attention that accompanies his annual cat-and-mouse game ... well, it could be worse. Much worse.

So looking back on that jaw-dropping TD pass to Lewis was pretty cool. Only after the review, and when the official threw both arms in the air, did I grasp the magnitude of what had just transpired. It was surreal, a remarkable throw and an equally remarkable catch.

I think I originally was going to make fun of the ESPYs, and ESPN's ongoing love affair with ESPN. But I got nothing. And you gotta know when to call it a night. Take Nick Blackburn, for example. He takes the ball for a start, and 45 minutes later, he's calling it a night. Now that's a guy that knows when to exit stage left.

Quick story: I got to work this morning at 7, and the clouds were moving in. About 9:30, it looked like it was 9 p.m. — just a breathtaking concoction of heavy rain, persistent lightning, thunder and unfiltered darkness. All of it playing out over a fiesty Lake Superior, which was brimming with whitecaps.

I took a picture. I'm not posting the picture here, I'm just saying I took a picture.

One more thing: Al Davis, in commenting on George Steinbrenner's passing: "He's right up there with me at No. 1."

Hey, Al, reality called — it would like to meet you.

Also, happy 131st birthday to Al Davis.

Oh, and quick prediction for the British Open. Tiger wins in a walk (unless he pulls out, but let's be honest — Tiger's not a fan of pulling out).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jennie Finch: The answer is yes

One of the best things about the All-Star Game is the celebrity softball game on Monday night. Always funny, always filled with big names and even bigger personalities, as well as a few baseball icons from days gone by.

The softball game has become a staple of the Midsummer Classic. It always follows the Home Run Derby, where sluggers take more pitches than they do in a regular-season affair. Which leads to ridiculously long derbies, which leads to a late-starting softball game, which led to this text last night from my buddy, The Chuckster:

"How has ESPN managed to underestimate the duration of the HR Derby for 20 years in a row? The on-screen guide says softball is on starting at 9."

First of all, clearly Chuckster is a bit too emotionally invested in the celebrity softball game, to the point that he's sending angry text messages regarding its tardiness. Second of all, valid point. This same scenario plays out year after year. ESPN slots two hours for the Derby, it lasts closer to three, and softball is pushed way back. Wash, rinse, repeat.

David Ortiz emerged from a watered-down field last night. I watched Ortiz get interviewed by Erin Andrews. Shortly after, I went up to bed and flipped on the TV, only to see Jennie Finch pitching in the softball game. Really, I couldn't have been happier drifting off to sleep — Erin Andrews and Jennie Finch.

I sort of got the feeling that Finch was a little nervous simply because I was watching. It was probably nothing.

Though ridiculously tired, I purposely stayed awake to watch Bo Jackson hit. And Bo Jackson rewarded my resistance to sleep by blasting a Finch pitch not only over the make-shift softball fence in the outfield, but nearly over the regular Angel Stadium fence. No human being, apart from Chuck Norris (any maybe Tecmo Bo), should be able to hit a softball pitch some 375 feet.

Some lady by the name of Colbie Caillat is currently singing the Star Spangled Banner at Angel Stadium. She, too, seems to have a few butterflies knowing that I'm watching. Again, it's probably nothing.

The National League is out to a 3-1 lead. The NL is shooting for its first All-Star Game victory since 1894. That may or may not be accurate. It's been a while.

Just wrapped up my third column for the Budgeteer. The first three have been about lacrosse/soccer, marathon running and flugtag. In a related story, the Budgeteer's sports readership is down to single digits. Maybe I should just write a story about Lindsey Lohan volunteering to help at the Gulf oil spill, where LeBron James is seen beating helpless ducks. Now that would sell papers!

I missed Joe Mauer's at-bat(s) tonight, but I've penciled him in for a 4-6-3 double play and a walk.

George Steinbrenner passed away this afternoon at the age of 80. Love him or hate him, Steinbrenner did what every single sports fan yearns for from the owner of their team: He cared as much as the fans. He wanted to win and he spent accordingly. It's not his fault MLB can't institute a salary cap, and so Steinbrenner did what he had every right to do — he built (bought?) a dynasty. And he was passionate about the Yankees winning. He got pissed off when they didn't. He often had unrealistic expectations, and vented when said expectations weren't realized.

In other words, he behaved like most of us do when it comes to our favorite teams.

The AP is reporting that Nick Blackburn tried to watch the All-Star Game tonight, but he couldn't make it past the fourth inning.

Zing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Twins score more runs than Tigers, win

This All-Star break couldn't come at a better time for the Twins, who have won just two of their past 10 games.

But they rode Carl Pavano, their mustachioed stopper, to a 6-3 win over the Tigers this afternoon to at least enter the break with a positive vibe.

Michael Cuddyer and Matt Guerrier took a page out of Pavano's book and sprouted mustaches for the first-half finale. I've tried to get in on the healing powers of facial hair with a modest soul patch, but I don't think it's working for me. Although I have had a pretty good run recently in bean bags, so who knows.

I kind of attribute that to just mind-boggling talent, though. And beer. Crazy talent and beer.

Ron Gardenhire announced today that Nick Blackburn will remain in the starting rotation after the break. Apparently Blackburn has naked photos of Gardy making out with another man, because there's no other conceivable explanation for the right-hander to keep his spot as a starter. I'm a fan of Blackburn, but he's single-handedly killing our bullpen with these two- and three-inning outings.

He needs a mustache. And beer.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pops wants his arm back

Hey, Nick Blackburn, my dad called — he'd like his right arm back.

All you need to know about Blackburn's 2010 season: He pitched four-plus innings today and it was the longest start of his past six road outings.

Blackburn makes early push for LVP award

Nick Blackburn is making an early push for this week's LVP award.

He couldn't have been any less valuable during his crapfest of a start today. That was a poop platter combined with some urine and a cardigan sweater. Move over, Scott Baker, there's a new sheriff in town.

Kevin Slowey has relieved Blackburn on the bump. Apparently the Twins are just throwing as much garbage as they can at the Tigers and hoping to bore them into submission.

Is Mike Trombley next in line?

I was going to write more, but a buddy just called and invited me over for lasagna.

Long story short, I'm leaving.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's time for the Twins LVP of the Week award

It's time for the Twins Least Valuable Player of the Week Award, an honor making its debut today and sure to become an infrequent edition to TwinkieTown. It's a pretty big deal.

By the way, there is another Twins blog with a similar name. It is called Twinkie Town, and it is way better than this one.

I don't really feel like looking back through the past week's box scores, so I'm just gonna go ahead and give the award to Scott Baker. I thought about expanding the week to include Kevin Slowey's last start, just so I could etch his name on the plaque, but that's not fair. Not to the LVP award or to Kevin Slowey's father.

I've never been a big fan of Baker. Seems like kind of a baby, one of those kids who, in elementary school, would smart off and then flee when it became apparent he was about to get his ass kicked. I have no proof to back that up, but if I had to take a shot at describing 8-year-old Scott Baker, that's what I would go with.

The Twins, a befuddling five games over .500, head to Detroit today for a three-game series to close out the first half and commence a three-day vacation. Weird, seems like they've been on vacation since Memorial Day. I've used a variation of that joke like 67 times the past few weeks. I need new material.

On the bright side, Country Jam is less than two weeks away. I've been excited for Country Jam since I left Eau Claire (site of Country Jam) in 2009. It's a spectacular weekend in which we wake up each morning and indulge in a few cocktails, start playing bean bags around noon and continue indulging in cocktails, go shower around 3 or 4, again while indulging in cocktails, then head up to the concert around 6 and really start to indulge in cocktails. Then we go to a dance and just start dumping the cocktails over our heads. ("Indulging in cocktails" sounds much more respectable than "drinking beer," but let's call a spade a spade — we're drinking beer.)

We repeat that scenario for three days.

When Sunday rolls around, we realize we're no longer in college and that we're going to feel the past three days until roughly October.

The nice thing about Country Jam, at least in terms of the 2010 Minnesota Twins, is that we're pretty much cut off from society. We have our cell phones, but they're dead by Friday and there's really no need to recharge them. There's a country store at the campsite that sells newspapers, which I buy religiously each morning, but it's the size of a church newsletter and there's not a ton if information in it. So if the Twins keep plugging along at a .250 clip, it won't affect my Country Jam.

Back on topic. The Mariners are reportedly anxious to move Cliff Lee. The longer they wait, the more his value drops and the risk of him getting injured (and really crushing his value) becomes greater. At this point, the Twins would have to include all five of their starting pitchers and a No. 4 super-sized from McDonald's to obtain Lee. Slowey looks like he'd be overmatched pitching for the Duluth Huskies and Wilson Ramos may or may not be dead.

Quick tangent about Ron Gardenhire. Why did he turn his back on the so-called small-ball so quickly? The Twins' time-honored style of play has a lengthy track record of success. Sure, it's deviated from true small-ball in recent years with the addition of more power, but the building blocks have remained: bunting, stealing, squeezing, giving up outs to get guys into scoring position, etc.

It's like he fell in love with the pretty cheerleader — in this case, the home run — and became obsessed. And it's not like he's new to the Twins' philosophy; he was raised in it. Pitching, defense, a few big hits, capitalizing on opponents' mistakes, etc. — basically forcing the action. Instead, the Twins sit around and wait for three-run home runs, which is about as exciting as watching Mash.

I need to start the day. LeBron James is a ... Heat. That sounds stupid, but I don't know what else you'd call him. Aside from a soul-less, responsibility-shirking guy who obviously wanted nothing to do with carrying a club on his shoulders, that is.

Honestly, after reading the Cavs owner's remarks following James signing with the Heat, I don't really blame LeBron for fleeing. Dan Gilbert said some of the dumbest things I've ever heard, including a personal guarantee (he used all CAPS for his letter to fans, but since I'm not 6 I am taking a different approach) that the Cavaliers would win a title before LeBron. Gilbert also said you can take that to the bank. So I'm going to Wells Fargo with a copy of that guarantee transcribed on a Post-It Note to see what kind of financial windfall it's worth.

Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Like the Twins, I took the past week off

Like this blog's namesake, I've pretty much taken the past week off.

Here I was, generating all this momentum for TwinkieTown and getting upwards of two hits a week, and I go on a Coors Light-fueled hiatus. And there was so much to write about over the past week — the bumbling Twins and their amped-up pursuit of Clifford Lee, LeBron and the flurry of NBA activity, Sturgeon Lake, Delmon Young realizing for the first time that he's left-handed, and the list goes on and on.

Let's start with an interesting tidbit passed along by ESPN's Buster Olney. Apparently, the Twins have offered Kevin Slowey and Wilson Ramos to the Mariners for Lee. In essence, Bill Smith just made the classic fantasy football offer. Package a couple glitzy — but woefully unproductive — names for a game-changer. Ramos is hovering just above the .200 mark at Triple-A, and Slowey has been sentenced to perpetual viewing of the Tom Emanski video.

It's a solid starting point, but the Twins will have to include at least one more blue-chipper to steal Lee.

At this point, though, will a guy who plays every fifth day do a whole hell of a lot for the Twins? They've morphed into a team of clunkers. What had all the makings of a versatile, dynamic offense has instead become a station-to-station, plodding attack. Sure, they can ring up homers, but when the ball's not flying out of the park, the Twins are uncharacteristically inept at manufacturing runs.

Not only that, but they play defense as well as the Class E softball squad I was on last summer at the Buffalo House — though that's kind of an insult ... to the softball squad. Tonight, Delmon Young was chasing a flyball that wasn't quite routine, and by "not quite routine" I mean he physically had to raise his arm over his head. On the difficulty scale ... the play didn't even register.

But Young, as only Delmon Young can do, muffed it. With Young in left and Jason Kubel in right, Denard Span should be allowed to play center field on a motorized scooter. A fast one. With big tires and everything.

My point? The Twins are one-dimensional after starting the season with a dazzling combination of speed, defense, guys who could hit for average and power, steady pitching, etc. Now? They need to crank it out of the park in order to win. That's a dangerous game plan. (At least it minimizes the potential impact of Scott Ullger.)

Along those lines, Cuddyer needs to — absolutely must — return to right field on a permanent basis. He's a decent enough defensive third baseman, but his batting average is falling faster than BP stock. Platoon Punto and Valencia at third, DH Kubel and give Thome three to four starts a week. There's enough at-bats to make it happen, especially now that the Twins are back full-time in the AL with the DH.

Let's move on. LeBron James is currently flying to Miami to meet with Pat Riley and the Miami Heat (I was gonna do the exact same thing tonight ... that would have been awkward). The Heat already have locked up Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. This juggernaut would be like the 2009-10 Timberwolves — only the exact opposite.

I got a kick out of the ESPN scroll on Tuesday night. Word got out that LeBron wanted to announce his decision during a one-hour special on ESPN. According to souces close to James, the scroll read, LeBron wanted to sell advertising for the special and donate the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The scroll continued to read that "ESPN sources would not elaborate on the special, but would only confirm that both parties are talking" (that's not verbatim, but pretty close).

So ESPN reported that ESPN sources wouldn't confirm a story about ESPN programming? Hey, guy who writes the scroll, pick up the phone and dial an extension! You don't even have to dial "9" to make an external call.

A day earlier ESPN kept reporting on the scroll that Wade was flying back from Chicago to meet with members of the Heat's front office. And then Monday afternoon, the scroll announced breaking news — that Wade was seen entering the Heat's arena with Mickey Aronis, the team's owner. Yeah, you kind of told us that was going to happen for the previous 24 hours. Basically what the scroll said was "Breaking News: We weren't lying!"

I just spent about 200 words on the ESPN scroll.

What else happened? Oh, Brett Favre started throwing footballs to high school kids in Mississippi. He's about on schedule, then.

Other events of the past week included me getting pretty sunburnt. Which tends to happen when you sit on a boat in the middle of a lake for four hours and it's 90 degrees outside, doing nothing but drinking Coors Light, chewing the fat, and taking the occasional lunge into the water.

Anyways, because it's 10:30 and I'm exceptionally tired, I'll leave you with a picture from the weekend — even though it's approximately 632 degrees in my apartment and sleep is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Subjects of the ensuing photo include T-Spoon's dog, Scout, Mr. Blue Mountain, and part of my left hand (notice the death grip that hand has on the can of Coors Light).