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The Twins got swept at home against Cleveland in three games over the weekend. The highlight for the Twins had to be the performance of Brian Dinkelman. The outfielder/second baseman collected three hits on Saturday and followed that up with four hits on Sunday. He is now 15-40 (.375) in his time with the Twins this season. Chris Parmelee had two hits on Sunday and is now hitting .364 (12-33) with the Twins. On Saturday, he was 3-3 with a walk and his first big league home run. Joe Benson is 10-37 (.270) in his time with the Twins. Of those ten hits, six are for extra bases. On Friday night, with his dad at Target Field watching his son for the first time live at a big league game, Benson went 4-4 with two doubles and a triple. Everything he hit, he hit hard in the game. He came to the plate for the fourth time, needing a home run for the cycle. On an 0-2 pitch, he hit a line shot halfway up the wall in right-center field for a double. It may have been out of most big league ball parks. All three have done well in their limited big league time which is great to see.
Jim Thome homered off of Joe Nathan in his return to Target Field on Friday night. The homer ended up being the difference in the ball game. When he came to the plate for the first time in the game, the Twins fans ushered him in with a well-deserved standing ovation. He tipped his cap to the crowd. He’s hit 603 home runs in his career, but his shattered bat, infield single was the most unlikely way for Cleveland to take the lead for good in Sunday’s game.
The Twins will play a make-up game today in Yankees Stadium. I’m sure a lot of these young guys will take in the moment, probably be a bit overwhelmed by the stadium, the history of the Yankees, some of the big names on the other roster and the bright lights of the city, and I believe that is part of the reason that the Twins wanted to see some of these guys up, to take away several of those big firsts. The most exciting part of the game today, for me, is that Rochester Red Wings radio voice Josh Whetzel will be calling the game for the Twins. Yes, he had a good opportunity to see many of these players in Rochester this year, so it is appropriate. I also think that he is very good and hopefully he will get a real chance to take over for John Gordon who is retiring after the season.
Lefty Ryan O’Rourke who spent the 2011 season pitching for the Beloit Snappers was my guest on last night’s SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins Podcast. He made 17 bullpen appearances before making 17 starts for the Snappers. He went 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA. He was a terrific guest, so be sure to check out the show.
On Friday night before the Twins game, they announced that Joe Mauer had been diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with ‘mild pneumonia.’ The doctors there encourage two weeks of rest, so the Twins announced that he will be shut down for the season. It marks the end of a very frustrating season for Mauer. He had offseason knee surgery, pushed back too quick in spring training, was put on the DL with the mysterious “Bilateral Leg Weakness”, came back, clearly was not healthy, lacked any power (and yet still hit for decent average and got on base), got on base, got sick a couple of times, and now the pneumonia. It was equally frustrating for Twins fans. First of all, forget the contract. He earned that over the first years of his career, and that’s how it works. Moving into Target Field, had the Twins not signed him, they would have been bashed for still being cheap. Had he gone to the Yankees as a free agent this year, Twins fans would have bashed the team. But instead, he stayed with the team and the fan base, jealous of his contract, bashed him for various reasons. The reality, however, is he was either hurt or sick. If he wasn’t, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have played. Mauer has always worked hard, and his stats speak for themselves. Some of the comments about Mauer have been flat-out unfair. Now, in previous years, I was ridiculed for pointing out that Mauer didn’t always block balls in the dirt. Now, things have turned on Mauer, and I personally think it is unfortunate. Assuming health, there is no reason to believe that he can’t hit .320/.400/.480 again next year, and top the 40 double mark, and get back into double figure home runs.
I get it. We all want answers. Is it possible that there aren’t better answers? Is it possible that they’re still trying to figure it out? Is it possible that we know everything there is to know? Yes, Mauer should maybe be a little more accommodating with the media and talk more about the same questions every single day. I don’t blame him for not. Mauer never talked before. I don’t understand why people seem to think he would or should talk more just because of the contract. People want to question his leadership. He’s quiet. He is who he is. That doesn’t make him bad, and to change who he is because of a contract is ridiculous. He was completely respected before this year, so there is no reason to change that now.
It bothers me a lot when I read people questioning a players heart, or say that they aren’t trying. It’s a ridiculous accusation, most of the time. But unless we have any real stories reported that indicate a lack of effort, it’s never fair. To say that the Twins have given up on Gardenhire isn’t fair. Right now, you’ve got a lot of young guys trying to make their mark in the big leagues. You can’t tell me they’re not giving it their all. You’ve got guys like Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes, who are out of options next year. There’s no questioning their effort. Do you really think guys like Drew Butera, Rene Rivera, Matt Tolbert, Phil Dumatrait and others, who are trying their best to show that they should be kept around for next season aren’t trying? Tsuyoshi Nishioka was also shut down for the season and Justin Morneau will not play again this year. There is still a chance we could see Denard Span in a few games. But again, those are injuries. That’s not lack of heart. Although Mauer has always made things look so easy, it does not mean that he is not giving effort. And now that he’s experienced a frustrating season, filled with injury and illness, it’s unfortunate that apparently many Twins ‘fans’ have turned on him. It’s just wrong!
I sound like a Mauer apologist. As I said before, I was tougher on him in previous years and was bashed for it. This was a frustrating year, and of course we all wanted more from the catcher. I was frustrated by his defense. I was frustrated by all the 4-3 ground outs. I get frustrated by the slow trot down the first base line. I was also frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t play more games this year. In reality though, he probably should have played a lot less than he did.
It’s been a rough season all around. Some people seem to want to rehash the same negativity. People want heads to be chopped. I have never seen anything like the 2011 Twins season, and it is going to be an incredibly interesting offseason for our favorite team. And hey, that’s when we’ll have a lot more analysis. The Twins have free agents to make decisions about, arbitration-eligibles to consider, several players with less than three years of experience will be evaluated, 40 man roster decisions will need to be made. It’s going to be a fun-filled offseason. Enjoy it and get ready for 2012! 2011 has been over for a long time. I know we are reminded of it every day with a new game and generally, speaking, another loss. At some point, don’t you have to chalk it up to a bad season and move forward?
And remember, on Saturday (Sept. 24) during Game 1 of the Twins double header at Cleveland, the TwinsCentric guys will be hanging out at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake. Show up about 11:30 and stay through the game. It should be a lot of fun, and good to meet people!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask in the Comments section.