Originally posted on “Is It Sports?” by Ryan. These columns filled with random thoughts would eventually be called, “The Junk.”
Star Tribune writer Sid Hartman’s column is basically a mishmash of stories in which he pretends to know everyone involved and mostly doesn’t tell you anything. The bad news is, I really don’t have an idea for an entire, lengthy post, and I didn’t feel up to writing about Day 7, so just like Sid, here comes a whole lot of garbled crap that’s on my mind. Seeing, also, that this is the second time I’ve done this, I should probably come up with a clever name for this type of column. I’ll probably use the first idea you guys give me.
– Some thoughts on the Twins and the A.L. Central up until now. The things the Twins are having problems with are things Ron Gardenhire tries to eliminate, like fielding. I can’t imagine we will have the problems we’ve been having so far with that. Michael Cuddyer still needs to transition to third, and Jason Bartlett is a rookie. Bartlett seems to have snapped out of it, and whatever Cuddyer’s problems are, if they persist, he can be replaced by Terry Tiffee who is only being held to the minors because Terry Ryan felt the need to keep a third catcher, Corky “Corky” Miller due to Joe Mauer’s shake knee. The biggest complaint now about Cuddyer is his rampant insistence on not hitting with runners in scoring position.
That was, also, a huge problem early in the season, particularly during the series in Chicago. We kept loading the bases with less than two outs and not scoring. We see, to have overcome that problem in no small part due to Justin Morneau, the best hitter in baseball that nobody has ever heard of, and the impending nightmare of the AL Central. What happens when the Twins start to hit the longball? During the anemic stretch, Morneau was on the DL with a concussion after being drilled by Ron Villone in the second game of the season. Since he has returned in late April, Morneau is hitting over .400 with a couple of homers. Add that to the fact that Jacque Jones is still batting above .350 and Lew Ford has started to come around, the Twins lineup seems to be in good shape, at least until you get to the 8 and 9 hitters (often Cuddyer and Luis “Mascara” Rivas).
The Twins pitching staff appears to be talented, if not solid. Santana and Radke are always reliable, except when they don’t get any run support, and Carlos Silva has been a gem, again, when he wasn’t on the disabled list. Joe Mays appears to be healthy after missing the past two seasons. Nobody expects him to return to all-star form, but it would be nice to se Joe return to serviceable 4th starter form. The fifth starter Kyle “I would be clubhouse poison too, if anyone paid attention to me” Lohse sports a silly goatee, a closet full of potential and a head full of problems. If he ever sees that potential, he will be like Jon Garland was in Chicago in April. We’ll all say “finally” and still pensively hold our breaths waiting for another breakdown.
As for the rest of the AL Central, particularly the White Sox, I can only base it on what I’ve seen. Every run the White Sox score is valid. Their lineup is stacked and well balanced, for the most part, and I think their pitchers can know they need to hold the opponent under four runs every night and stand a good chance of winning. The problem, then, with the White Sox isn’t their hitting. Mark Buehrle has always scared me. He will absolutely win his twenty this year. Freddy Garcia is a solid #2, and would be the ace in three rotations in his own division. Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez have been exceptionally fortunate. As I mentioned earlier, the Twins showed impeccable skill in not scoring with the bases drunk, but they didn’t get those bases loaded of their own prerogative. Contreras and Hernandez put those runners there due to a scary lack of control. Eventually, they are going to face teams that aren’t slumping or aren’t the Detroit Tigers, and then it’s all over for them. There is a reason neither is pitching in New York anymore. I mean come on, they kept Kevin Brown.
As for the rest of the league, I have a few words of advice. Don’t let Brian Roberts fool you, Baltimore. Don’t you remember the lessons you learned from Brady Anderson? And Philadelphia, don’t let Pat Burrell fool you either. Don’t you remember the lessons you learned from… Pat Burrell? And as for New York, this little April doldrums thing might not be a fluke. Ask the 2004 Mariners what the problem might be.
– So, on my NCAA March Madness game for Xbox, there is a feature in dynasty mode which can cause you to be forced to change conferences. As a result, after season one, I got a two messages. The first “The Big Ten has voted Purdue out of the conference” and “Welcome to Conference USA!” Apparently Cincinnati was a better fit for the Big Ten. But then that got me in a “what if?” situation. I realized it made great sense for both conferences, if you ignore the fact that C-USA is getting obliterated this season.
For Conference USA, you bring in a solid football team with a good fan base. The Boilers play Notre Dame every year, so that’s automatic publicity for the conference, and the other bonus would be a legitimate spoiler to Louisville or TCU or whatever hack team was trying to run the table. As for basketball, every legitimate conference should try for a school from either Indiana or North Carolina. Seriously, the Pac-10 should try to add Valparaiso sometime soon.
For the Big Ten, it makes sense mostly for basketball. Sure it’s a power basketball conference already, with schools like Illinois and Michigan State, but the problem is with the intensity. In the past decade or so, for various reasons, the Big Ten lost Gene Keady, Judd Heathcote, Bobby Knight, and Clem Haskins. Adding Bob Huggins to the mix would bring back a crazy-as-hell coach to a lifeless Tom Izzo conference and put a face, an angry, red, yelling face, to the competition. As for all other spots, who wouldn’t want an in-state rivalry between TOSU and Cincy?
– Other video game news, in one of the most ironic signings ever in a video game, the Detroit Pistons signed free agent Stephen Jackson on my copy of NBA Live.
– I am painfully excited by the prospects of this season in Minnesota. No more headcase wide receiver, but a questionable draft pick by Mikey Tice. The defense is dramatically improved, so no more cold sweats when the opposing quarterback sets up in the shotgun. One of two great things could happen this year. The Vikings could win the 12 games their talent suggest, or equally satisfying, Troy Williamson falls flat on his face and Tice gets ushered out by armed security guards
All right, I can’t think of anything else. I do, however, think the NHL strike will get resolved very soon. Cite me as a source if it happens. And I’m done – Ryan