2007: 17 K’s

August 19, 2010

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I still have the scorecard from this game, the best live pitching performance I have ever seen. Here is what I wrote the day after:

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad), and we were all happy that our season ticket package included Sunday afternoon ballgame at which we could celebrate. We started with breakfast where my seven-month old son nearly downed half a pancake, and I enjoyed a veggie omelet with plenty of jalepeno peppers before we headed for the dome.

The rain was a small annoyance, but it’s worth noting that three years from now we probably wouldn’t have had a Sunday afternoon game to watch due to the weather. My family arrived early at the game, as it turned out before the doors opened. It was a bobble head give away day, so there were plenty of people who had been waiting for quite a while in the rain. We went early thinking that we may get our Gary Gaetti bobble heads, but we weren’t counting on it. As it turned out, the doors opened shortly after we arrived, and every member of my family got a Gary Gaetti doll (except for my son, who got a book).

The Gaetti doll was in conjunction with Gary’s induction into the Twins Hall of Fame which was in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the 1987 World Series. There was a nice ceremony before the game that included a reenactment of the final out of the 1987 Series, Gaetti to Hrbek, 5-3. It was great to see the ‘87 team on the field, and even better to see Herbie and the G-Man together.

As a child, I watched Gaetti closely to try and learn how to play third base. There were a few Twins’ games at the dome where I followed #8 rather than the ball, watching where he would stand in different situations. I suppose it was a good example to follow, though I personally didn’t really catch on at third base (not for lack of knowledge about how to play third, however).

I commented to my wife during the ceremony about the gloves popping in the background. Usually the Twins have music playing during the warm ups, but when Gaetti was making his induction speech the only background noise was the snap of horse hide hitting leather; the loudest of which was coming from the Twins’ bullpen, where Johan Santana was taking his warm up tosses.

Santana, of course, went on to strikeout nearly as many Rangers as my Dad is years old, a great birthday present that I would like to take credit for.

I am still holding out hope that one day I will see a major league no-hitter in person, but those hopes were dashed when Sammy Sosa blooped a single to lead off the fifth inning- yet another reason not to like Sosa, who performed his traditional heel kick on a long foul ball later in the game. I was pleased that he had to turn around and return to the batter’s box, and was hoping he would then strikeout (kick your heels for that), but he ended up getting another hit off of Santana, representing the only two hits allowed in an otherwise perfect performance by the best pitcher in baseball.

Santana struck out each Ranger at least once; got Wilkerson and Saltalamacchia twice each; and made Young, Byrd, and Laird look foolish three times each. It was the kind of performance you expect from a Little League pitcher who turns out to be older than all of the other kids.

It would have been nice to see Santana finish the game, but with today’s environment I suppose seeing him  in the eighth was a gift (and I actually would have second-guessed management had Santana showed his face for the ninth with 112 pitches thrown). Nathan had a little bit of trouble closing out the win, but did manage to do so by striking out Michael Young to give the Ranger shortstop the dreaded 0-for-4 with 4 k line.

It was a good enough day to make one forget that this team just scored three runs in three games against one of the worst pitching staffs in the league, and that the post season is a faint hope. None of that really mattered on my father’s birthday, the day that Gary Gaetti was recognized and Johan Santana struck out 17.

A couple of months later I wrote this as part of my series at TwinsCards.com on the greatest pitching performances in Twins history:

Sunday August 19, 2007
HHH Metrodome
Minneapolis, MN

The 2007 season was a bit of a downer for the Twins and their fans, but it did produce two pitching performances that are worthy of this list that I started a few months before either of them happened.

The first came on a Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome. It happened to be the weekend of the 1987 reunion, and the game actually fell on a day in which Gary Gaetti was to be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Fans waited in line on a rainy day to get the Gaetti bobblehead, and filed in to see what was at the time a .500 baseball team try to make its way back into the AL Central race before it was too late.

The other draw, of course, was Johan Santana, whose starts had become events worth seeing a few years ago when he won his first Cy Young award. Once the ceremony honoring Gaetti was complete, and the final out of the 1987 World Series reenacted, Johan took the mound to the familiar sound of Rob Thomas and Santana’s “Smooth” – the song that still brings the best pitcher in baseball to the mound at the Metrodome.

It was a favorable matchup for Santana from the start. The Rangers had an above average offense, but were a collection of free swingers who were prone to striking out. By season’s end, Texas hitters had compiled 1,224 K’s, second most in the league. Santana, of course a strikeout pitcher, took advantage of the free swinging nature of the lineup early and often.

The Rangers didn’t do themselves any favors, of course, but in the end there really wasn’t much they could have done. Santana’s command was clear as he hit the corners with his fastball, change up, and seemingly whatever pitch he decided to throw. Two K’s recorded in the first inning, three in the second, and two more in the third. The rhythm was clear and it wasn’t looking good for Texas. Santana was perfect until the top of the fifth inning, when a Sammy Sosa soft liner found its way to a safe landing in left field. No matter, Santana retired the next three, including two more strikeouts to run the game total to 11 after five innings.

The Twins got the only run they would need in the second inning, when Michael Cuddyer hit a lead off home run to left center.

After trying something new and retiring the Rangers in order without a strikeout in the sixth, Santana struck out three more in the seventh, leaving Sosa’s two out double stranded at second.

With 14 strikeouts under his belt, Santana came out for the eighth inning even though his pitch count was at the point where he might normally be removed. Prior to Santana’s performance, the most strikeouts recorded in a game by a Twins pitcher was 15, done four times, the last by Bert Blyleven in 1986. Santana equaled that mark when he got Gerald Laird swinging for the third time in the game. He surpassed the mark when he got Nelson Cruz to swing and miss. It took him just four pitches to get number 17, when he got Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging.

Santana pumped his fist and tipped his cap to the cheering crowd on his way to the dugout, a sign that he was not likely to return to make a run at the major league record of 20 K’s. From the Pioneer Press:

“I really didn’t make a decision. He did a curtain call before I even got down there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Santana pitched eight record-breaking innings, then walked into history and allowed Joe Nathan to cement the Twins’ 1-0 victory over Texas. “I said ‘Andy, what does that mean?’ (Pitching coach Rick Anderson) said, ‘I guess he’s done.’ ”


That Reminds Me of a Story…

May 14, 2010

The Mariners are up in arms about a report by Tacoma News-Tribune reporter Larry LaRue that Ken Griffey Jr. was unavailable to pinch hit in a recent game because he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse. As I have picked up little pieces of the controversy over the past week, I am reminded of a Jim Souhan column from a few years ago in which he leveled the charge that Joe Mauer had invented a leg injury.

What is intriguing about the two columns is how different the Mariners’ and the Twins’ players reaction to the charges were.

Mariners players have been very publicly shutting LaRue out, to the point where Cliff Lee would not speak at a press conference until the reporter left the room. This was on the heels of a team meeting in which Mike Sweeney reportedly offered to fight the two anonymous players quoted in the original report. Unsurprisingly, nobody took Sweeney up on his offer, leaving the team to conclude that LaRue had simply made the story up. For its part, the Mariners organization has stayed out of the fray, issuing a statement essentially hoping for an “organic” end to the dispute.

In September of 2007, Jim Souhan penned a column in which he expressed the opinion that it was time to move Joe Mauer to third base. Tucked in that column was the somehow related nugget:

In 2007, Mauer – like the Twins – revisited 2005. In spring training he caused a scare with what was termed a “stress reaction.” I’ve spoken with trainers in other sports who have told me there is no such thing.

Souhan flat out said the team’s young superstar and future franchise player had concocted an injury out of thin air. Unlike LaRue, he did not cite team sources, he instead talked to a few of his trainer friends who said there was no such injury (never mind that a Google search at the time turned up several hits on “stress reaction”).

I don’t recall any team push back on Souhan. I don’t recall it even being an issue outside of the Twins’ blogosphere at the time.

It’s not that I am particularly impressed with the Mariners players. The “reveal yourself so I can beat you up” is probably not an effective way to start a team dialogue, and not speaking to the reporter, who simply did his job, comes across as childish. Still, it’s a team sticking up for a teammate.

Perhaps the Twins handled the allegations the right way in 2007 – it is possible that a player or group of players privately communicated disgust with Souhan. Smart money says they didn’t. The 2007 Twins clubhouse was dominated by Torii Hunter, who had questioned Mauer’s toughness in the past. It is likely that team leadership agreed with Souhan’s sentiment, or perhaps had even planted the seed of doubt. In any case, I wonder if, given the new makeup of this team, there would be a different reaction in 2010.


The “Worldwide Leader in Sports”

October 1, 2007

I had some rare time to just sit and watch television Sunday afternoon, and I was looking forward to watching some meaningful baseball. I figured that with four teams challenging for two playoff spots in the National League, there would be a pretty good chance that at least one of the meaningful games would be televised; or, even better would be that I could follow them all. I vividly remember watching ESPN on the final day of regular seasons past as they bounced from game to game trying to catch the significant moments.

Instead of televising any baseball on the final day of the regular season, ESPN and ESPN2’s schedules included a reality show, bowling, horse racing, hunting, and fishing. No baseball. ESPNEWS was covering all things NFL, and would occasionally flash a baseball score. There would be no meaningful baseball for me. I flipped between the Twins and a football game instead (though I was pleased to see that the Vikings were wearing throwback uniforms, otherwise known as “what they were wearing last time I cared”).

Incidentally, I was 1-for-6 in pre-season predictions, 1-for-8 if you count Wild Card teams (though I correctly named four of the eight playoff teams). I guess that’s why I write about history, it’s much easier to be right.

With my prognosticating record, I will skip the playoff predictions, but say that my rooting interest currently lies with Philadelphia.

Born October 1
Roberto Kelly 1964
Jeff Reardon 1955
Rod Carew 1945


What a difference a year makes

September 27, 2007

Then…

Coffeyville Whirlwind, 10/2/2006

Twins Week: Division Champions

centralchamps.jpg
Results

9/25 def kc.gif 8-1
9/26 def kc.gif 3-2
9/27 lost to kc.gif 4-6
9/28 def kc.gif 2-1
9/29 lost to cha.gif 3-4
9/30 lost to cha.gif3-6
10/1 def cha.gif5-1

Weekly Totals 4-3 28 RS 21 RA

In the fall of 1987, I was all of nine years old, and so excited about the Twins division title that I wanted my parents to buy me a “Division Champions” sweatshirt. My mother talked me out of it, suggesting that I might regret having a shirt that only said “Division Champions” after the team won the World Series. The next few weeks were rough at school, seeing that just about everybody else had Twins shirts, but I was confident that I would own an even better prize before the month of October was over.

And so it is today, 19 years later. I will not be purchasing any Division Championship merchandise. Nope, I want my son’s onesie to proudly say “World Series Champions”.

It took a little help from the Royals, but the Twins became the only team in history to take sole possession of first place for the first time after the final game of the season.

I will post the final regular season stats and preview the playoffs tomorrow. Today, however, Minnesota celebrates.

Final AL Central Standings
min.gif96-66 801 RS 683 RA -
det.gif95-67 822 RS 675 RA 1.0 GB
cha.gif90-72 868 RS 794 RA 6.0 GB
cle.gif78-84 870 RS 782 RA 18.0 GB
kc.gif62-100 757 RS 971 RA 34.0 GB

Oh, I almost forgot:
battingchamp.jpg
Final MLB Batting Stats
1. Joe Mauer, MIN .347
2. Freddy Sanchez, PIT .344
3. Derek Jeter, NYY .343
4. Robinson Cano, NYY .342

Now…

A sampling of blog headlines from the past week:

Santana to the Dodgers?

Mauer hernia watch

When did Johan Santana become Brad Radke?

Free Agent Marketplace: CF, Part 1

LeCroy to start at catcher for Twins

Hunter’s Home Farewell


More from local daily archives: Terry Ryan

September 14, 2007

Dennis Brackin, 9/14/1994 (shortly after Terry Ryan was named to replace Andy MacPhail as Twins GM).

A general manager’s job can be divided into three areas: talent evaluation, budget concerns and public relations. Ryan has no doubts about his proficiency in evaluating talent. He has had an active role in Twins’ contract negotiations in the last 2 1/2 years.

It is the spotlight that concerns Ryan. He has shown a preference for working in the background, “a blue jean and flannel shirt guy,” according to Corrigan.

“I’ve had a tough time with B.S.,” Ryan said. “I can’t do that too well. I’ve always wanted people to tell me what’s on their minds, and I’ve obviously done that with them. I think our minor league players will tell you that I’m brutally honest. I won’t sugarcoat.”

Ryan promises to be equally candid in his dealings with the media. He asks only that he be judged on what he says, not how he says it.

“I wouldn’t say I’m going to be the greatest public speaker that’s ever come down the pike, but I’m not worried about that,” Ryan said. “I won’t hide from mistakes. If somebody wants to talk to me, I’ll be there.” The job at hand Ryan knows that 1994 has not been pretty, but he does not believe that signals another year of rebuilding is at hand.

“Some of those guys at Salt Lake City are about ready, and it’s about time they start contributing up here,” Ryan said. “Once you’ve got four or five years in the minors, we should be expecting them to be here, and you look around the diamond at Salt Lake and [Scott] Stahoviak and [Denny] Hocking and [Marty] Cordova and [David] McCarty and [Rich] Becker and [Eddie] Guardado should be ready to contribute. If we get a little luck here and there, we’re going to be all right. This isn’t barren by any stretch.”

Asked if he would be satisfied with a climb to .500 next season, Ryan cringed.

“We should be better than that,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to take a job thinking .500 is good enough. We’ve got a good nucleus, and we’ve got a guy in right field [Kirby Puckett] who can carry a club for a month. We’ve got a closer here [Rick Aguilera] who is one of the premier guys in the league . . . The other thing we’ve got here is a good manager [Tom Kelly].”

Ryan’s first move came a few days later, as reported by Scott Miller in the PiPress (9/16/1994)

On The Day After, new Twins general manager Terry Ryan, as expected, promoted Bill Smith to the position of vice president/general manager and then looked ahead toward the vast unknown.

More on Smith from the same article, who we recently learned will be Ryan’s replacement.

Smith’s promotion gives Ryan a hand in understanding the Basic Agreement and any other rules that a general manager needs to know. MacPhail understood the intricacies of baseball’s rules, and that’s one department in which Ryan – admittedly – is lacking.

Smith’s domain in large part will be rules, waivers and details. As Ryan has done for the past couple of years, Smith also will be placed in charge of negotiating contracts for those players who have been in the majors for three years or less. Ryan now will negotiate the contracts of more experienced players.

“I’m happy,” Ryan said of Smith’s promotion. “He’s a talented guy. It will be a pretty good mix. His assets and strengths are many of my weaknesses, and vice versa.”

Smith, 36, was the Twins’ director of baseball administration for two years before being named assistant general manager on Sept. 23, 1991, the day Ryan was promoted from director of scouting to vice president for player personnel. Smith joined the Twins in March 1986 as assistant director of minor leagues and scouting.

Before that, he was the general manager of the Class A Appleton Foxes, then an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Midwest League.


Here’s the thing…

September 4, 2007

I don’t blame Nick Punto for the current struggles of the hometown nine. There is plenty of blame to go around (although I think the pitching staff gets off without any blame).

Still, he’s hitting .199/.288/.256 this year. I’m starting to take it personally that he still plays every day.

Maybe the worst thing that could have happened to Nick was his incredibly fluky 2006 season. He set career highs in many offensive categories, some weren’t even close. Expectations were high coming into the season, but rather than revert back to form, Punto has had an historically inept season.

We’re told he is a nice guy, and a lot of people are rooting for him. I don’t doubt that. He seems like a nice enough guy, and I would like to see him succeed. The problem is that he isn’t succeeding, and he hasn’t been for quite a while (the most similar hitter to Punto, according to BR, is Herb Plews- I don’t believe that considers Punto’s 2007 numbers).

Earlier in the season, it would have been nice to see the team address the problem at third base in some way other than waiting for Punto to come around. Now that it is too late for any post season hopes, it would be nice to let some of the younger guys play, see if there might be any hope for an in-house solution for 2008.

The message being sent now, however, is that Punto is the guy for next year and beyond, and the organization will wait for him to “come around” – no matter how long it takes. Not a particularly encouraging message for a season ticket holder.

Born September 4, 1980
Pat Neshek
Probably the closer of the future, and a fellow blogger.

Born September 4, 1973
Aaron Fultz
Currently a member of the Cleveland Indians, Fultz pitched for the Twins in 2004.


A (Near) Perfect Day

August 20, 2007

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad), and we were all happy that our season ticket package included Sunday afternoon ballgame at which we could celebrate. We started with breakfast where my seven-month old son nearly downed half a pancake, and I enjoyed a veggie omelet with plenty of jalepeno peppers before we headed for the dome.

The rain was a small annoyance, but it’s worth noting that three years from now we probably wouldn’t have had a Sunday afternoon game to watch due to the weather. My family arrived early at the game, as it turned out before the doors opened. It was a bobble head give away day, so there were plenty of people who had been waiting for quite a while in the rain. We went early thinking that we may get our Gary Gaetti bobble heads, but we weren’t counting on it. As it turned out, the doors opened shortly after we arrived, and every member of my family got a Gary Gaetti doll (except for my son, who got a book).

The Gaetti doll was in conjunction with Gary’s induction into the Twins Hall of Fame which was in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the 1987 World Series. There was a nice ceremony before the game that included a reenactment of the final out of the 1987 Series, Gaetti to Hrbek, 5-3. It was great to see the ’87 team on the field, and even better to see Herbie and the G-Man together.

As a child, I watched Gaetti closely to try and learn how to play third base. There were a few Twins’ games at the dome where I followed #8 rather than the ball, watching where he would stand in different situations. I suppose it was a good example to follow, though I personally didn’t really catch on at third base (not for lack of knowledge about how to play third, however).

I commented to my wife during the ceremony about the gloves popping in the background. Usually the Twins have music playing during the warm ups, but when Gaetti was making his induction speech the only background noise was the snap of horse hide hitting leather; the loudest of which was coming from the Twins’ bullpen, where Johan Santana was taking his warm up tosses.

Santana, of course, went on to strikeout nearly as many Rangers as my Dad is years old, a great birthday present that I would like to take credit for.

I am still holding out hope that one day I will see a major league no-hitter in person, but those hopes were dashed when Sammy Sosa blooped a single to lead off the fifth inning- yet another reason not to like Sosa, who performed his traditional heel kick on a long foul ball later in the game. I was pleased that he had to turn around and return to the batter’s box, and was hoping he would then strikeout (kick your heels for that), but he ended up getting another hit off of Santana, representing the only two hits allowed in an otherwise perfect performance by the best pitcher in baseball.

Santana struck out each Ranger at least once; got Wilkerson and Saltalamacchia twice each; and made Young, Byrd, and Laird look foolish three times each. It was the kind of performance you expect from a Little League pitcher who turns out to be older than all of the other kids.

It would have been nice to see Santana finish the game, but with today’s environment I suppose seeing him  in the eighth was a gift (and I actually would have second-guessed management had Santana showed his face for the ninth with 112 pitches thrown). Nathan had a little bit of trouble closing out the win, but did manage to do so by striking out Michael Young to give the Ranger shortstop the dreaded 0-for-4 with 4 k line.

It was a good enough day to make one forget that this team just scored three runs in three games against one of the worst pitching staffs in the league, and that the post season is a faint hope. None of that really mattered on my father’s birthday, the day that Gary Gaetti was recognized and Johan Santana struck out 17.

Born August 19, 1958
Gary Gaetti
Very appropriate. I had a post of his top games ready to go, but with the events of Sunday I pushed it to tomorrow.

Born August 19, 1949
Pop
I, of course, know him as Dad, but he has started a new role in the past few months as “Pop” and he is the kind of guy that seems like he was born to be a grandfather. Happy Birthday, Pop.

Born August 20, 1960
Tom Brunansky
Another member of the ’87 team that was in town this weekend.


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