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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…
#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…
There was once a King called Ethelred the Unready. He neglected to prepare himself sufficiently for the Vikings numerous interlopings and ended being remembered for it for the next thousand years. Incidentally, it appears he was actually called “Ethelred of the Bad Counsel” instead of “Ethelred the Unready”, but the whole thing was mistranslated. Either way, it”s a good reminder to always be prepared for the worst.
It”s been a week since the worst happened once more. 1 week since the Evil Empire once again exited their banks and laid the smack down upon the Twins once more – sweeping us out of the first round of the playoffs. Last Sunday, I was hanging my head and wanting to weep. How could we make such an appalling effort after all the success and resilience of our 162 games in 2010? How could a hitter like Jason Kubel – who slammed so may clutch hits over the past two regular seasons – be so abominable in October. His in the playoffs: 2 hits in 29 at bats! Bam. And how can a pitcher like Jesse Crain – he of the rediscovered slider and startling regular season efficacy – serve up the heart rending bomb to moneybags Mark Teixeira that set the town for the entire loathsome series?!
It”s continually amazing how the Yankees consistently defeat the Twins. Baseball is notorious for it”s unpredictability. Just yesterday something named Cody Ross defeated the great Roy Halliday. Momentum rules, and whatever you least expect to happen often does. Yet with the Twins and Yanks, as with the old English king Ethelred and the Norsemen, the same dreadful thing continues to come to pass each year. Well, not precisely each year, but it”s taken place in 2003, 2004, 2009, and 2010. That”s pretty bad. What”s more, the method of their victories is just mean. Again this year, they first allowed us a little hope. We leapt out to a 3 – 0 lead in game 1, and Francisco Liriano was pitching dominant fashion. Then the late innings arrived. Suddenly, the empire jumped our best starting pitcher and hit a three run home run off our best middle reliever. They scored off our closer. They made our best hitters look pacific. Emotional times. Obviously the rest of the series was brief and progressively more horrifying.
In the aftermath, we”re left asking why with our visages cradled in our palms. “Other teams beat the Yankees! We”ve seen it on tv! What is going on?!” Indeed. The pain is great. There is no other city, no other spoiled fanbase, no other organization swimming in more dough that deserves to win less than do the Yankees. Yet our hardscrabble warriors are smacked down once more by their tentacles of woe. Here we are once more.
It does help to commiserate with some fellow Twins fans – not all. My dad is one of the helpful ones. The kind of bloke with whom you can share the pain and lessen your own grief through the sharing. However, the Upper Midwest also features folks who glean their insight and angst from the likes of KFAN radio. These guys will only burden you further with unreasonable swipes at Joe Mauer”s contract, the need to fire everyone from Gardy to the ballboys, and baseball”s inherent need for cheerleaders.
Perhaps in the end, the best comfort is found back across all those years in merry old England. For while the huddling English must have thought Ethelred”s foolhardiness would lead to their Viking smack downs going on forever – it wasn”t to be. New kings would come, a navy would be built, and the British Empire would grow to far surpass the Vikings (with the possible exception of those sweet hats). For even in the midst of the greatest trial, hope remains.
And the horrors continue for the Minnesota Twins in Yankee Stadium!
After another series loss to the lovable A-Rod and friends, TWG reaches for the positives. Here’s 5 reasons why the Twins will beat the Yankees again… eventually. Minka Kelly, Barack Obama, good versus evil, Joe Nathan’s elbow, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all make appearances…
After 12 games, the Twins are a spectacular 9 and 3. They”ve emphatically taken series from the Angels, White Sox, Red Sox, and now the Royals. The first three are all considered playoff contenders, and hey – the last one has Zach Grienke. Our inaugural “Diamond Dingers” looks at the highlights of the youthful Twins season…
#1 – The Franchise!
Holy biscuits and gravy! Francisco Liriano looked fantastic in his start against the maroon stockings on Thursday. Not only did he pitch a shutout for his 7 innings, the man”s signature slider was snapping like the days of yore. Using a solid changeup and a fastball with a good deal more zip than it”s featured any time since “06, the Sisco Kid gave the Twins and their faithful a great deal of hope. In addition to the formidable nature of his pitches themselves, it was neat to see Francisco not lose his cool in some early inning jams *difficulties – not delicious jellies and preserves*.
#2 – We”re 9 – 3!
That”s not a bad looking record. The last time the Twins started out with 4 straight series wins and this type of success was in 1987. I was 2! And I”ve heard something fairly positive happened that year? The Twins have looked formidable on the mound, at the plate, and in the field. Their starters have been more than serviceable, their pen capable (even in spite of some recent injuries to Patrick Neshek and Jose Mijares, and their bench (for the first time since the Book of Genesis) has been deep.
#3 – I Haven”t Minded Nick Punto
With a lineup so capable from 1 – 8, having the tiny tumbler at 3rd and batting 9th doesn”t bother me nearly as much. There are moments when Brendan Harris seems to cry out from the bench – “I can hit 100 points higher than this man!”. But when everyone besides Punto keeps launching extra base hits at will, the whole deal just doesn”t seem as key as in recent years. In fairness, Nicholas continues playing stellar defense at 3rd and even offering hits on occasion.
#4 – This Offense Looks Neat
In recent years, every mistake the Twins made caused we fans quite a bit of stress. For we knew that for under blunder leading to an extra run for the opponent, we”d need to score one more too. That wasn”t always easy! Such luminaries as Lew Ford, Luis Rivas, elderly Jose Offerman, wizened Tony Batista, and decidedly advanced-age Ruben Sierra have been the cogs making up good portions of Twins batting orders in the past decade. When Mauer and Morneau weren”t doing their thing, it was often a real struggle to attain scoring. But no longer! With a batting order that can place today”s incarnation of Jason Kubel in the 7th spot in the order (as in Saturday”s game), the “10 Twins sport their most potent lineup since 1987. The off-season acquisitions of JJ Hardy, Jim Thome, and the O Dog Hudson have already born fruit.
#5 – Carl Pavano Has Become Greg Maddux
With Minnesota”s new-found offensive prowess, the only two commonly pointed to questions about the team have been – (a) Who will replace Joe Nathan and (b) How will we make any headway in the playoffs without a genuine ace starting pitcher. Jon Rauch (6 saves in 6 chances through Saturday) continues to make the first query moot. So far, the latter question is being answered capably by Liriano and Carl Pavano. Pavano has been outstanding, winning his first 2 decisions and a 1.38 ERA. In his 13 innings thus far, he”s only given up 10 hits. The most startling and tremendous thing about this old guy has been his great control and the excellent movement on his pitches. These pleasantries lead to the Maddux comparison. Pavano even sports the Maddux-authored 2-seam fastball that looks like it”s going to smack into a hitter”s person and then zings late right over home plate for a strike.
An additional neat feature of the reincarnated Pavano – his mere continued existence is enough to make New York Yankee fans angry. His success makes them angry and sad. Note the link to his statistics in the previous paragraph. His baseball reference page is sponsored by a Yankee fan, harpooning him for his injury riddled 4 seasons in the Yankee-land. That is just awesome!
For more MLB Baseball talk, catch the latest TWG Podcast.
GooseRadio’s David Gregory, the Emperor of Fargo, joins me to talk MLB baseball in 2010.
Target Field’s awesome-ness is praised. Gregory speaks of The Minnesota Twins signing of Joe Mauer and it’s necessity. He also takes a gander at Mauer’s future production, Francisco Liriano’s promise possibly being fulfilled, and what one piece the Twins might need to carry them to a World Series.
General thoughts on the MLB 2010 season are explored. David says this year is just like the Oklahoma Land Grab, with a bit more parity between teams. He doesn’t miss the opportunity to knock on the New York Yankees, however, and points out the different outlook teams like the Twins have to have to compete with the Evil Empire.
The Atlanta Braves are touched on. Jason Heyward is really something, and kind of a pleasantly unusual story for baseball. Does Atlanta have what it takes to give the Phillies a run for their money in Bobby Cox’s last season?
And lastly, can anyone get past the Yankees for the World Championship?
The TWG Podcast surpassed 5,000 listens this week. Here’s Goose with a celebratory look back and some favorite moments…
The Top 5 Most Listened to Podcasts….
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Twin Cities TV guy Mark Rosen induced a cauldron of glee & happiness across the Upper Midwest this week when he reported that the Minnesota Twins had laid the groundwork for a new 10 year contract with the great Joe Mauer. Then, fast a flash, other media bigwigs collectively said that wasn’t the case. It was an emotional roller coaster for Twins followers, giving us hope – bedecked in a catcher’s mask, sideburns and bearing league batting titles – and then ripping it from our phalanges.
The experts are pretty resolute in saying that Mauer (who remains under Twins control for this coming season, but would be a free agent after) will remain in the land of lakes long term, and that a contract will probably happen very soon. All the same, having the jolly news proffered to us and swiftly grabbed back like this makes us realize (once again) just how much his remaining in a Twins uniform means. It got me pondering. There can’t really be THAT many things in our world which are as important as Joe Mauer remaining in this verdant paradise that is the Upper Midwest. Off the top of my head, I thought of 5…
Clearly the redemptive story of Jesus eclipses the retention of Joe Mauer. What with being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, trekking right over a body of water with his feet, coming back to life after being slain by Romans and crazed clerics, and saving the world - you just don’t top that. Even by leading the league in batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage.
2. Your grandmother
They’re the nicest people around. They play games with you and generally humor you when you’re tiny, energetic, and unspeakably annoying to be around in everyone else’s opinion. They oftentimes hoard candy and cookies for you – even when your parents say you’ve had enough. You know she’s awesome. She’s as important as Joe Mauer re-signing with the Twins. But she’d be so much happier if Joe stayed…
3. Churchill’s Decision Not to Negotiate
When people think of World War II, they think something to the effect of – ‘Boy, that was no fun. But it did blow the beans out of an insane, murderous, mustache sporting dictator and a committee of insane, pre-Toyata military dictators in Tokyo.’ But imagine if the analysis was altered and the dictators had won. Many historians believe that’s precisely what would have happened had British Prime Minister Winston Churchill not refused to consider negotiating with Hitler in May of 1940.
France had just been played like a fiddle by Hitler’s armies, Russia was a German ally, and the United States was officially at peace with the Third Reich. The only power on earth standing between Der Fuhrer and European domination was Great Britain. Despite the bleak state of Britain’s military situation, Churchill tenaciously refused to take the advice of some fruit loops within his own government (and the incompetent founder of the Kennedy dynasty and America’s ambassador to Britain – Joe Kennedy) and approach Germany for surrender terms. Instead he declared, “We will never surrender…. Never. Never. Never…”
Churchill’s decision to stick it out, logic be darned, was and is as important as Joe Mauer re-signing with his hometown team. BUT, my guess is that Churchil would have negotiated… with Joe Mauer…
4. Jack Bauer on 24
The entire world threatens to fall apart at its very seams. The US government is infiltrated by a terrible and dangerous person. Nuclear holocaust threatens to consume this terrestrial ball and all those dwelling upon it. There is only one man – Jack Bauer – who can possible save us all. Unfortunately, he is currently being imprisoned for murder by someone impossibly evil – someone who’s really behind everything and has framed this good man to take the fall. Jack must free himself, rescue someone’s aunt, unlock an encrypted computer program, and battle Chinese assassins. THEN he can start think about saving the world. And did we mention there are only 24, 60 minute episodes until everyone is blown to bits and ruthless terror grips the land?
This whole scenario is currently playing itself out for the 8th time. You can see it Monday night’s on the Fox moving picture network. Jack Bauer’s efforts at world preservation are, in fact, as important as Joe Mauer re-signing with the Twins.
5. Barack Obama’s TelePrompter
If the weight of the free world rests upon one man’s shoulders, those are the shoulders of our President. And our President would not be in the position he is today (insert your choice of approval rating one liner) without his ability to command and hold the attentions of the teeming masses of his countrymen and women via his eloquence. AND, there is equally no doubt, that the Commander in Chief’s wordplay owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the machine with the scrolling text upon its screen that notify Obama what shall next emanate from his mouth during a speech.
Therefore, with the eyes, ears, and hopes of the Western World riding upon its steel frame and glass screen, President Obama’s TelePrompter is our last item which is – indubitably – just as important as Joe Mauer’s re-signing with the Minnesota Twins.
On October 27th, we invited you to sign your name to a letter to Joe Mauer. Since we indicated that the letter – asking Joe to stay with the Twins when they offer him a contract extension this offseason – would be sent on this very day, we wanted to provide incontrovertible visual proof that we had indeed sent the letter. Below, you will find images of this letter.
First, here I am holding the printed version of the Joe Mauer letter…
Next, this is myself and the Joe Mauer letter. Note that the additional step of folding the document and placing it inside an envelope addressed to Joe has now been taken…
After that last picture was taken, I absconded with the letter to the post office box marked ‘outgoing mail’ in the ground level of my residence. We do not have visual proof that the last step took place, but my distinct hope is that you will trust my earnest word that it was so accomplished!
Thanks to those of you who signed the letter to Joe! If we get any kind of response from Joe or the Twins we will not rest afore those tidings have been proffered unto you. Amen.