Tag Archives: Francisco Liriano

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5 Mysteries More Perplexing Than Francisco Liriano

In 2006, we witnessed one of the most dazzling displays of pitching brilliance since that first dude picked up a ball and started hurling it somewhere. Minnesota”s Francisco Liriano came out of nowhere and destroyed American League opponents to the tune of 12 wins and 3 losses with a miniscule 2.16 ERA () — which was actually inflated by pitching injured in his last starts before going on the Disabled List. But ahhhh the injury… that”s the rub…

Since going under the knife late in “06 and spending the full “07 season on the shelf recovering from dreaded Tommy John surgery, Fransisco has become one of the great enigmas in baseball. Churchill could have been talking about him when he spoke of that mystery wrapped inside of an enigma which was wrapped inside of a riddle. He was talking about Russia… but hey… it works.

When Liriano first appeared back with the Twins again in “08 he was shallywacked. Then, after some time in the minors to get in touch with himself, he came back up and was quite fabulous, raising hopes that he was – in fact – back. Well, 2009 showed that not to be the case as Frankie endured an ugly 5 and 13 campaign with a bloated 5.80 ERA. He did have nearly as many strikeouts as innings, but when he didn”t earn a K, it seemed he was giving up loads of runs. People wondered if he”d ever rekindle the glory…

So then came last year, and Francisco – one more year removed from surgery – gave us his best full season of work. He busted out a 14 and 10 with a 3.60 while striking out over 200 batters. He was back! Right??? Well, the plot thickened this year.

He came out out the gate very poorly, and his starting job was very much up in the air. That was, until he pitched a no hitter against Chicago on May 3rd! Wow. So that happened.

Fast forward to today. As we speak together via this text, Frankie has had a couple more rough starts and another near no hitter since his actual no hit gym. He stands today, along with Russia, as great a mystery as he”s ever been. How will we figure this man out?! What can we expect from him each day he toes the rubber? Grandeur or “good gracious this is bad”?

These challenging questions made me ponder… what”s really more stupefying than this pitcher? What out there today rises to and surpasses the perplexing level of a Francisco Liriano? I came up with these five items for you…

#5 – What Was up with Joe Mauer? Really?!

Reports are that Mauer will return to play for the Twins on Friday. This is undoubtedly good news. Always nice to get an MVP and the best player on your team back. Seriously though, where has this guy been?! He went on the disabled list after nine games this year – we heard that his legs were weak, that because of this other items of his self were weak also, and that he had also developed an epic case of viral influenza. This horrifying concoction proceeded to apparently keep the slugger off the field until late this week. Basically, we were told that Mauer was essentially on the disabled list because he was getting in shape. It”s interesting!

See, I think this really has something to do with women. Wasn”t Joe dating Miss America a few years ago? I believe her name was Chelsea something… I suspect that he had some type of epiphany – that just maybe ending that wasn”t a good idea. I see the possibility that this emotional realization weakened his knees, legs at large, shoulder… and also initiated viral influenza. It”s very mysterious.

#4 – How Did John McCain Win the GOP Nomination in “08?

I would like for the sake of rhetorical purity and shock and awe to say… “I never actually met someone who really wanted John McCain to be President in 2008″. I can”t actually do this because I met three and heard tell of one other. Everyone else was pulling for the Huck or my boy Mittens. I believe that last part may have had something to do with why Senator Mac won, but I”m still not really sure how it happened. He was thoroughly unlikeable, had a slate of downright liberal positions, and was barely able to conceal his disdain for religious righties such as my Fowl self. The man almost ran as John Kerry”s VP in “04!

How??? How?!!! Very mysterious.

#3 – How Did Barack Obama Go from Being a Senator for A Couple Years to Being President?

It”s weird to think about the fact that, in “06 & “07, everyone agreed that Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democrat nominee for President in “08. The fact that a lot of people thought this was a grand idea deserves a mystery paragraph of it”s own. But then, along came this dude from Illinois that had given a great speech once at the Democratic National Convention and had been a senator for a year and a half or so. Suddenly he had displaced Hillary and he was President. What?!

All I really remember about the whole thing was John Edwards was there, getting a haircut… Hillary cried in New Hampshire… there was a crazy Pastor talking about chickens roosting in there homes… and then Obama was being proclaimed as our next President by Keith Olbermann. It was a moment of utter stupefication that I imagine was similar to what the British were thinking at Yorktown when their band started playing “The World Turned upside Down”. Wow! This is… unexpected…

Very mysterious.

#2 – Jim Carey”s Successful Career

I may lose you here, but I”m going to say it anyway. Is Jim Carey funny?! What am I missing here?

Every character he”s ever played has just been a slightly altered version of actual Jim Carey — and that includes the Truman Show by the way. He”s always making crazy faces and being excessive. This is apparently funny to most Americans. It”s mysterious.

#1 – Who”s Advising Obama on Economics?

I”m fairly convinced at this point that it”s one of the Muppets. And Elmo is my guess. That little guy is very energetic, and I know that Democrats really value the zest in a person”s delivery. All the same, you”d think the President would have someone a little bit more… knowledgeable.

Personally I would select either the Count or Sam the Eagle. The Count gives you a certain sense that he understands capitalism, and Sam is just so stinking pragmatic about things that I think he could explain human nature to the Prez. This could be helpful to him.

But as it stands… very mysterious…

In One Fell Swat…

Jim Thome changed the conversation from the awful performance from Scott Baker & the lesser sins Matt Capps of Jon Rauch in the late innings. The lumbering slugger drove Matt Thornton’s 2nd pitch high over the right field wall and into a jubilant horde of Twins fans. The blast was so much more than just two runs on a Tuesday eve.

Obviously, it won an important game. The Twins now lead the Pale Hose by 4 games in the central. But it also represented an epic comeback win in a game the Twins by all rights should have lost. Their starter was hideous, their closer blew the save, and the former closer gave up a run in extras. But the landmass that is Jim Thome refused to take the hint and stole the win for Minnesota anyway.

The nature of the loss is such a swift and painful change in that ephemeral thing called momentum that one wonders if it may just impact the White Sox long term.

'I decided to end these proceedings.'

The whole escapade also has an extra touch of misery for the White Sox beyond all that jazz – as they allowed Thome to flee from the Windy City to the Dodgers at the end of last year’s campaign and refused to resign him in the off-season. As the Chicago designated hitters continue to struggle, James Thome places the knife squarely into the proverbial back of the Sox… playing for their biggest rival.

Additional Nuggets…

  • The MLB Network played WGN’s call of Thome’s blast this evening. It was truly delightful to behold the ever-obnoxious Hawk Harrelson’s downcast spirit at this moment of pain.
  • The Twins are a season high 19 games over .500 @ 69 Wins and 50 Losses.
  • But Scott Baker REALLY was hideous. He is now our 5th starter. Think about it. Who does he slot ahead of? Certainly not the Stash or Franchise. Slowey? No. Duensing?! Well you’d think so, but nay. Nope. Send Scott Baker to Siberia. Do it now.
  • Jason Kubel made an outstanding leaping catch to rob the 80 year old Omar Vizquel of a possible triple earlier in the contest – quite possibly forestalling a White Sox rally.
  • Delmon Young made an intriguing effort to knock the baseball from AJ Pierzinski’s grasp during a play at the plate earlier in the game. He flailed his arms in a push at AJ’s arms and chest. It would not take too much of a stretch to see the play as a bit dirty, and it will be intriguing to see if the Sox perhaps take an opportunity to somehow retaliate and rally their flagging spirits.

TWG Tackles the Twins on a Tear

The Minnesota Twins have roared out of the starting gate, taking all 6 series they’ve played to begin 2010. GooseRadio’s Ryan Howard joins me to celebrate the glory. The state of our starting pitching is first up. Ryan noted earlier this spring that he thought the Twins’ needed to do more to address their pitching needs in the offseason, but what does he think now that Francisco Liriano has rediscovered some magic and Carl Pavano is pitching like Greg Maddux.

We talk Jim Thome and the affect his presence has in adding a heretofore unheard of dimension and depth to the Twins’ lineup. Ryan gives his take on how close the Detroit Tigers might follow Minnesota in the standings this year. Entertainment, Information & a General Sense of Well Being await!

A Tale of Two ‘Aces’

Today at Target Field, the man who has been labeled the Minnesota Twins #1 starting pitcher took the hill. Scott Baker pitched okay through 5 innings, then experienced a raid from the Cleveland Indians, who absconded with an additional 3 runs in the 6th. Baker’s closing box score line:

5 2/3 innings, 10 hits, 6 earned runs

Emotional! Contrast the performance of our #1 starter with this performance, Wednesday evening, from our #5 starter:

8 innings, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts, 0 earned runs

Now that #5 guy in your rotation is expected to be the slouch. The hoser! But, of course, Minnesota’s 5 man is Francisco Liriano. This man appears to be firmly setting out on the comeback trail towards the awesomeness that he provided in 2006. His slider is baffling and biting, but his fastball and changeup are more under control and being made much more use of by the young hurler.

If Liriano continues to provide these types of outings, he has a real chance to usurp Mr. Baker’s #1 billing and ace-dom. Baker’s stats have steadily improved in the past several years, but consistency has been difficult for him to capture over the course of a year. Last year was Baker’s best so far, featuring an outstanding second half. For the first part of the year, though, he was getting smacked around every 5 days. He had a particular affinity for giving up home runs. Our love for Scott has not disappeared with 1 bad start, but there would be an awful lot to like about a Liriano so electric that he pushed the Bake-man down a slot.

Dear Twins: It’s The Pitching, Stupid

OK. All right. Pop the champagne. We did it. We got him.

Sorry. I am excited about the Twins’ signing of Mauer. I really am. But, in a way, the inevitable hoopla surrounding the extension for our hometown hero only serves to underscore the absolute lack of priority the home team has given to an entirely overlooked part of the team.

I mean, I try to be a realistic yet optimistic fan, and even for me, a guy who has never looked at the Twins and seen a probable World Series contender before, things are looking good. We’ve got incredible hitting depth, our defense is sound, most of our assets are locked in, and our bullpen is solid even without the venerable Joe Nathan. This year, to use perhaps the most overused trope in all of sportsdom, could be our year. There’s just one problem, niggling and nagging away under the surface: the starting pitching staff.

Now, it may be slightly less than true that “pitching and defense wins ballgames.” Even the smallest of tykes knows that some rounding of the bases is involved. However, it may be more accurate to state the converse of that tried and true baseball proverb: the lack of pitching and defense loses ballgames.

As I said before, our defense is pretty good – perhaps not as much of a shining ballpark on a hill as it was during the days of Hunter and Mientkiewicz, but nobody’s perfect. Our pitching, on the other hand, has been a problem since 2008, our first year sans Johan and the year that Livan Hernandez was our opening day starter. Yeah. That actually happened.

Fortunately, the Twins quickly put Livan behind them, but a quick look at the pitching roster on baseball-almanac.com shows that not much else has changed (save the departure of Boof Bonser … sigh). While the Twins certainly gained on their 2008 performance last year, that was due more to the maturation of our hitters than it was the development of the pitchers.

And yet, it seems like I’m one of the only people who noticed. Certainly there aren’t too many people within the organization who seem to have it figured out, because this spring we’re stuck with the same old cast of characters, and nary a serious word about picking up pitching talent outside of the organization was uttered during the offseason. Want proof? Let’s take a look at our lucky contestants: the eight most likely contenders for the Twins’ five-man rotation.

1. Scott Baker

Age: 28
Years with the big club: Around five.
The “I can’t believe they’re still holding on to him!” factor: Four and a half out of five balls.

Let me start simply with this: Scott Baker will be our number one pitcher, our proverbial “ace.” His 2009 ERA? 4.37. Not likely for one of the longest tenured Twins currently in the organization and a man who some have rather improbably toyed with labeling a franchise player.

Some argue that Baker provides stability to the pitching staff, a sense of consistency, as it were. From my view of things, the only aspect of his game that is truly consistent is its inherent inconsistency. In his five seasons of outings with the Twins, he’s managed a record of 43-33 – not exactly a reassuring win percentage. Also, it’s worth noting that Baker arguably played worse in 2009 than he did in 2008. His ERA went up by 0.92, and while he won more games last year than two years ago, his win percentage was also better in ‘08. And yet the Twins continue to hang their hat on him time after time.

That’s perhaps the most frustrating thing about Baker. The Twins are known for providing second and third chances to their players (see Rondell White), but Baker’s stay has begun to border on the ridiculous, particularly in light of how the Twins treated prospect Matt Garza, who had a slightly worse record but a much better ERA than Baker when both men played for the team. Rather than giving Garza (who was touted immensely before his arrival at the big league clubhouse) a second chance, they shipped his sorry butt off to Tampa Bay as soon as they could. He then had a bad year followed by the 2009 season, where a lack of run support hampered his success, but for my money I wish the Twins had spent a little more time on him than on Baker.

2. Nick Blackburn

Age: 28
Time spent with the big club: Just over two years, but he only pitched in relief in 2007.
The “I can’t believe they’re still holding on to him!” factor: One half out of five balls.

I like Nick Blackburn a lot. Out of all of the regular starters last year, he had the best ERA (4.03), and he really seems to give it his all when he goes out on the mound. Unfortunately, he’s plagued with a longevity problem.

Before the All-Star break last year, he was 8-5, compared to 3-6 afterwards (in fact, 2009 saw a sort of perfect symmetry record for Blackburn, as he received 11 wins, 11 losses and 11 no-decisions). His 2008 stats are not as pronounced, but there’s a fadeout there, too. It’s clear that Blackburn does have some good stuff, but he won’t do the club much good in the stretch if he keeps hitting the wall mid-August. If it happens again this year, the Twins need to start reconsidering things.

3. Carl Pavano

Age: 34
Time spent with the big club: Two months.
The “I can’t believe they’re still holding on to him!” factor: One out of five balls.

I think I shared the sentiment of many a Twins fan when I saw that the club had signed Pavano from the Indians last August: “How is he going to help?” The man was 9-8 with a 5.37 ERA with Cleveland in 2009, and while he had some fleeting moments of quality – most notably the 2004 season, where he went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA for Florida – you were still looking at a guy who wasn’t too impressive. That’s why it was a pleasant surprise when he put up some relatively decent numbers for the Twins down the stretch – except that they weren’t actually that great.

True, when Pavano was on, he was on, like the October 11 playoff game where he struck out nine Yankees and gave up only two runs over seven innings (granted, we still lost, but it wasn’t really his fault). However, while his age did provide a measure of experience for the younger pitchers to learn from, his stats with the Twins – 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA – were nothing to write home about. His re-signing with the club might be a pretty good thing… or it might not.

4. Kevin Slowey

Age: 25
Time spent with the big club: Just over two years.
The ICBTSHOTH! factor: One half out of five balls.

Kevin Slowey makes sense. He rose rapidly through the minors and was one of the team’s top prospects (noted particularly for his control) for quite some time. He’s really only been around for about a year and a half because of his season-ending wrist injury, but it’s been quite an interesting time.

In 2008, he went 12-11 with a 3.99 ERA – not great, but not bad for a rookie pitcher playing for a struggling team. Last year, his season was cut short (and an All-Star appearance had to be canceled) because of the injury, which sidelined him on the fourth of July. His record at the time? An impressive 10-3.

The dirty little secret, however, was Slowey’s run support. The pitcher sneaked through those 16 starts last year with plenty of help from the home team hitters, enough so that had other pitchers had his luck, it would have been their records that would have been improving instead of his. Need proof? His ERA was 4.86, pretty high for an All-Star. In five of his starts in which he wasn’t the losing pitcher he gave up five or more earned runs. That’s a little disconcerting.

However, as I said, he makes sense. Plenty of stuff he threw last year was great, and he even pitched a shutout in 2008, his first full major league season. However, if he can’t get the run totals down on a regular basis (and if he can’t keep the two surgically-installed screws in his pitching wrist [Yikes!] from bothering him), we could be in for some trouble.

5. Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, or Glen Perkins

Ages: 26, 27, and 27, respectively
Time spent with the big club: FL – Not counting the Tommy John surgery, off and on for just over three years. BD – Off and on last year. GP – Too long, otherwise known as off and on for just over three years.
The ICBTSHOTH! factor: One half out of five balls, Zero out of five balls, and Five out of five balls, respectively.

Now, here we have an interesting bunch. Liriano, Duensing and Perkins are competing for the fifth starting spot, and all three of them can make the case for why the Twins need outside help.

The leader in the competition right now is Liriano, who, as everyone knows, has struggled through far more than his fair share of drama since 2007, when the then rising star and strike-throwing menace was shelved for the season while he recovered from Tommy John surgery. However, word is that he finally got his slider back, and apparently the fear of throwing hard that has plagued him since his return is long gone. If he’s truly back, he’ll be the definite bright spot of the rotation, but nothing’s for sure with him yet.

Duensing had a decent rookie year in 2009, going 5-2 with a 3.64 ERA (some of his innings were in relief). In his five wins (all of them when he was starting), he gave up two runs only once, with the rest of the games showing either a one or a zero in the ER category. That’s solid, enough so that he was tagged to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees (which ended up being one of his worst starts of the season, but oh well). It’s not surprising that he’s back, but he’s currently untested.

Last and least of all is Perkins, who some reports indicate is only still around because the front office likes him. The field managers, however, do not, and they can count Ron Gardenhire in their camp. Though he had a good record in 2008 (12-4) Perkins was mediocre last year, and his ERA was even higher than Slowey’s – a rather fantastical 5.89. What makes it worse, however, is his bad attitude, which many suspect was the root of his “injury” toward the end of last year, when he claimed soreness in his shoulder. The people actually in charge of managing the team want him gone, and I agree.

—-

OK. There you are. Eight pitchers. Most of them have some good things going for them, and with a few of them, it’s mostly upside. But “a few of them are mostly upside” does not make for a pitching staff that has hitters quaking in their cleats. “So none of them matches up to C.C. Sabathia all that well,” you may say. “Big deal!” Well, I might agree (although if they end up facing the Yanks in the playoffs again this year, then it does become a big deal), but I would argue that we don’t even have a pitcher who matches up all that well against a Buehrle, a Carpenter or a Beckett. What we have is a pitching rotation full of players you’d be happy to have as your team’s third or fourth starter.

I understand why the Twins signed who they signed. Locking up Mauer goes without saying, and the move to keep Span was good, and I certainly appreciate the additions of Thome, Hardy and Hudson (word is that reliever Clay Condrey, however, is practically pitching batting practice in Florida). But would it have killed them to get a starter from outside of the organization?

I know the 1987 Twins won the Series with a lackluster record, but that’s not how Major League Baseball works anymore. Think of the 1991 Twins without Jack Morris. We need someone like that. Someone who can come in from the outside and carry the rest of the rotation, someone who can truly mentor these other pitchers and help them improve, someone like, like…

Well, like someone who the Twins don’t have.

The Twins Opener – Recap & Liveblog

This Is the FranchiseWell, the season has begun! Sadly, we took the loss against the Mariners, but reading this moment by moment commentary will console you because I am so delightfully witty. We pick things up in the 3rd, with the Twins down 1 to 0 to Seattle.

8:05 – Good gravy in the morning. Adrain Beltre has a potent arm. He has thrown out the youthful Casilla on a difficult play far to his left.

8:08 – He (Beltre), also appears to have very hard knees. The youthful Punto strayed off third and the Mariners catcher threw behind him. Punto attempted to flee back to the plate and was harpooned by Beltre’s knee. Beltre appeared genuinely concerned for the small man. Everyone is OK.

Thus ends the third inning! Mariners lead 1 to 0.

Greetings and welcome to the top of the fourth inning. The Franchise has mounted the mounted the mound again, and he appears to be doing well.

He has one out before I figure out what’s going on.

Then the legendary Mike Sweeney comes to bat! Berty Blyleven is speaking of Sweeney’s nice-ness and that he is a born again Christian fellow. However, neither of these qualities prohibit Sweeney from grounding out.

Aha. the inning is over.

Top of the 4th

Morneau whiffs! COMMUNISM!

Kubel follows and places a single into left field. He is now batting .500.

Joe Crede follows with his 2nd Twins at-bat. Alas, he is retired by chopping the baseball over to a seemingly blinded Adrian Beltre.

Go-go-Gomez follows this up by promply fisting the orb to the 2nd baseman, who throws the little chap out.

End of four – Twins 0, Mariners 1

Top o’ the 5th

The artist formerly known as Ken Griffey Junior is at the bat. Liriano has him 2 and 2. And the ball is free at least! Griffey hefts the Franchise’s offering into the right field seats.

Twins 0, Mariners 2

fantasy_a_felix_580Bisquick. It would appear Kenneth thinks this is 1995. I wish it was because than I could watch Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz win the World Series. Although, that would be difficult because I would be 10 – not that you can’t watch television when you’re 10, but still. A comprehension issue perhaps.

Redmond just got attacked by half of Russel Branyan’s bat whose structural integrity was undermined by the baseball hurled by the Franchise. But because he is such hearty folk, he is ignoring what Dick Bremer declared to be a bleeding wound and will stay in the game.

And we have now garnered 3 outs.

End 4 and a half. Mariners 2, Twins 0.

The bottom of the fifth is now happening. The man who was moments ago festooned by a bat has now doubled (Mr. Redmond), and the much maligned Nicholas Punto followed up with a single. Runners on 1st and 3rd before you can stand on your head and spit nickels.

No outs, and two on… Denard Span steps up to the plate. He has worked ye olde count to 3 and 1. And he has been walked! 2nd walk of the game for the man with a very baseball-ish name. The bases are juiced, my friend.

BENELUX! Felix Hernandez has caused the diminuitive Alexi Casilla to pop up, resulting in 1 out.

BUT! Cuddyer now has singled and acquired us a run. Twins 1, Mariners, 2.

The great Justin Morneau has not hit into a double play. We are out of the inning. The emotion is great.

Top of 6th

Nothing good cames of this time period. There were three long fly balls, one of which led to a home run that added two runs to the Mariners lead, which is now Twins 1, Mariners 4.

Bottom of the 6th

This was a bevy of failures. Score unchanged!

Top of the 7th

This actually was a really good inning. Liriano pitched tough despite his behind-ness. Finishes up a with a K! Weeee. He’s probably done for the evening, and not a terrible effort.

*My mom called, and I’m not sure what happened in the bottom of the 7th. I can assure you that we did not get any runs because the screen tells me it is so*

Top of the 8th

Hey! This is nice to see! We brought in a reliever and he busted out the whooping stick on the opposing team’s hitters. Luis Ayala! Three up and three down. Twins 1, Mariners 4.

Bottom 8

Felix Hernandez is still in the game, and that is ill news for us. Before my philanges can even type out the fact that Casilla is coming up, Alexi has grounded out and Cuddyer has struck out. Now the venerable Morneau is here again. He lofts a high fly ball to conclude an icky day for the Canadian star. Score unchanged.

The Upward Portion of Inning 9

The Mariners achieve a runner on 1st base – Jesse Crain appears not to have his best stuff. He manages 2 outs, and then Santa Claus (Gardenhire) brings in the left handed Craig Brewslow. Breslow really doesn’t have it! He walks the artist formerly known as Kenneth Griffey the Younger on four pitches! Holy Polly Lobster! A pitching change.

Oh no!!! This is the one guy I expect to make things worse instantly whenever I see him! And here it is. Matt Guerreir of the 5.00 ERA last year (that’s a legitimate statistic) enters the game, and immediately throws one to the backstop so the runners might advance. The batter is Jose Lopez.

1 ball, and two strikes. The ball is struck right betwixt the Crede-ster and the flailing Punto, and scores two runs. Twins 1, Mariners 6. That really wasn’t Guerreirs’ fault, but he really does seem to have skill at betokening bad things. Well, it’s at least over now.

Bottom 9

Very good! The Mariners are offering up another old dude! It’s Miguel Batista for the bottom of the ninth. I remember this dude being an also-ran with that mean guy Schilling and the tall fellow Johnson in Arizona once upon a time.

He is playing around with our Kub-dog now. 2 and 2 and fouling is happening. Yep there’s another foul.

Sadness, the Kub-dog grounds out.

Aha, Joe Crede with his first hit as a Twin-ling. Some goofy fielding on that buzzard helping him out.

Now crazy Gomez is up! It’s 0 and 2 before you can whistle Dixie. There’s the strikeout! We have one out left folks.

Now the young personage who has seized the injured Josephus, the Child Mauer’s roster spot grounds out. So ends the inning, so ends the game.

***

Postlude

I am still experiencing such joy about baseball’s return that I’m not taking this too terribly. Also, Liriano’s outing was actually encouraging to me because his control did look better. It seemed to improve as the game progressed too. He threw all his three pitches for strikes, and got up to 94 with his fastball. So that’s good news. The offense was stifled by an ace – that happens.

Winston Churchill & Joe Crede – A MN Twins ’09 Preview

2652271Winston Churchill once said of the valiant defense of Great Britain by the outnumbered Royal Air Force – “Never before have so many owed so much to so few.” It’s very like this weekend for the Minnesota Twins…. And by “it’s very like” , I mean “not really, but I don’t believe in passing up the opportunity to draw moderately successful parallels involving Winston Churchill”.

All winter, Twins fans have been blitzkrieged by the melancholy voices of print commentators and hosers on The Fan radio saying it was another typical Twins off season. We knew we needed a third baseman and at least another difference making reliever, but yet our miserliness would leave us without either. We would stand pat because that is what we do, by harry. Well take this, you lugubrious denizens of pessimism – we signed Joe Crede!

It’s always delightful to pick up someone who has practiced his trade with your archival, the much-loathed White Sox. Even better, this guy is in his prime at age 30 and has a real history of genuine power hitting potency. Here are even statistics if you so desire to be informed. The issue, of course, is the back problem he’s been experiencing in each of the past two seasons. To dampen the fear that could arise from this – the Twins won’t be paying Joe an excessive amount at all (2.5 million as a base, with gobs of incentives that kick in if he plays certain numbers of games), and they do have Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris to back him up. And onto some other optimism-laden things I’ve just realizing in my newly acquired festive attitude.

Mike Cuddyer has the potential to function almost as a free agent acquisition too, if you think about creatively. Having him to succumb last year to three separate injuries made his 2008 pretty much a wash. It was as if he didn’t exist statistically. Consider this fact alongside the bullpen’s epicly disappointing performance AND the fact that newcomer Delmon Young didn’t proffer the pop we hoped he might. Then realize we were only one goofy playoff game away from making the post-season. A little Cuddy, a bit more power from Delmon, a semi-healthy Joseph Crede, and a bullpen that at the very least isn’t the emotionally perplexing buzzard it was last year combine to give you a situation in which you could even stand to have a little statistical slippage from the M and M boys and still be a real force in the playoff discussion. This is increasing my festive-ness the more I think about it.

All this and we haven’t even talked pitching. That whole buzzard is a horse of a different color. Five youthful hosers that all had some success last year. Scot Baker really seemed to come into his own, and if he could begin to be even more consistent that would be glorious. Glenn Perkins laid an egg down the stretch, but had some very encouraging stretches and showed he is a rather plucky brute. Kevin Slowey has great control and doesn’t appear to be afraid of much at all. Nick Blackburn started strong, faded a bit like Perkins down the stretch, but then had an insanely gutsy performance in the legendary playoff game against the hated Illinois dwellers. A very encouraging statement aboot that man’s potential upside. And then there is the one they call the Franchise – Francisco Liriano. He has gone from insane prodigy to Tommy John victim to something between really good and not so much at points last year. This season, with a full year of action betwixt he and his surgery, I cannot help but experience some glee when I think about what the bloke could do to hitters!

The Messiah Cometh – This Week Volume 8

Barack Obama is the messiah! So says a new ad by John McCain… I weep with joy and mirth and speak of these things and other things regarded to Barack and oil.

Francisco Liriano is back with the Twins and more tears of glee stain my soul… I speak of this.

Perhaps most impressively, we’re joined by special guest David letterman.