The Twins have won seven of their last nine and are coming off a 13-1 rip job last night. We couldn't help ourselves, so we called for a roundtable. The usual suspects showed up: Q, Dogg, Fuzz and Marx. Whiskey and some of Jason Castro's wacky tobaccy were present. Read on for strong thoughts on Carlos "Go-Go" Gomez, "Tricky Nicky" Punto, Joe "the wild & crazy" Mauer, and our young "gritty" pitching staff. Touch 'em all!
Q: A quote from the Star Tribune about last night's cycle by Gomez (the first by a Twin since Puck in ‘86 by the way):
Gomez said he’s keeping as many mementos from the game as he can: a ball, bat, etc. I told him the Hall of Fame might be calling, asking him to send something to Cooperstown.
“No, not Cooperstown, my home,” he said, flashing a big smile. “I don’t know. It’s mine. I work hard for this.”
Asked him about that lightning fast home run trot, and he said, “The game today started too late. I say, ‘Let me run the bases quick so the game goes fast.’ ”
He sounds like a 3 year old when he talks, but I get a laugh out of it every time. He did sprint around the bases too. That was awesome.
Fuzz: Gomez is the most exciting player to watch on our whole team and it's not even close. In the dugout after he hit for the cycle, he looked like a kid on Christmas morning. He was beaming and I loved it. You forget sometimes that these players are playing a game they love. The millions of dollars hide the fact that this is still a game and they got into baseball because it was their passion. I found that scene with him sitting in the dugout really refreshing because you don't see that much anymore.
Marx: C'mon, Gomez is exciting but Morneau is still the must watch at-bat if you had to choose one. We were seriously talking about how overmatched he looked less than a month ago and how he was killing us at the top of the lineup. He is going to go through ridiculous swings all season, but he is fun to watch when he is running well and anytime he gets on first base.
Q: Gomez is definitely the most exciting player on the team. He's the most exciting player the Twins have had since Puckett was first starting out--maybe more. I think my favorite part of the cycle was his reaction at first base. He knew he beat the throw and immediately was checking the scoreboard to see if the scorer was going to call it a hit. You could see him talking to Jerry White about it and waiting for the official determination. Once it was official, he was grinning ear to ear. Normally I'm against players going for stats. I don't like it when they know exactly what they are hitting because I feel like it negatively affects their play and their approach to the game. But this was a different, acceptable scenario for me. I have no problem with a guy knowing he's one hit away from a cycle and going for it, especially in a lopsided game like last night. It's like the Mets game earlier in the week when Jose Reyes was an HR away from the cycle, ripped a ball off the wall, and tried to make it all the way home. He was out by a mile, but they were up big at the time and it was worth a shot. That's just fun baseball.
Fuzz: You could even put Mauer in that conversation. Mauer and exciting don't often go together but he's on fire right now. He's easily the toughest out we have and seems to have found his rhythm from two years ago. However, I'd still take Gomez under the most exciting player to watch category. You never know what this guy will do. He sprints around the bases on a bomb last night, which you never see. He has amazing head first dives that carry him farther than anyone I've ever seen. That obviously has to do with his speed, but he jumps 15 feet out and has a hard time holding on to the base on the far end. He's a show every time he plays.
Q: Please do not call Joe Mauer "exciting". He's an extremely talented baseball player and is hitting the ball very well right now, but nothing he does is exciting. If bloop singles and 4-3 groundouts get you going, then I'm sorry you lead such a boring life.
Fuzz: What's your deal with Mauer, Q? You one of those haters? You probably get sick of the kid glove treatment he gets but take that away for a second and look at his stats and look what he's done for us.
He's first on our team in average (.337), first in doubles (did you know that?), third in RBI's (did you think he was that high?), first in OBP (by a long shot), hardly strike's out and walks a ton. Is that not exciting for you? Are you not entertained!?!?!?! (That’s my inner Maximus right there).
Yeah, maybe he doesn't make you soil your pants but the way he plays so soundly and so easily is exciting to me. He also has a pistol behind the plate, which IS exciting as hell. He's not a great interview but his play speaks for itself. He doesn't need to hit homeruns and triples for me--I'm cool with him doing what he does. Should he be hitting in the 2-hole? Probably. But, that's Gardy's deal...
Dogg: Mauer is a great baseball player. You can call him whatever name you want to call him, describe his play however you want but the kid knows how to play baseball. He does everything right on the field and keeps to himself but competes hard every day. I hate when MN fans treat him like JC because he’s not. He’s going to hit for good average but he doesn’t deserve a hand job each time he comes up to the plate like Bonds would. Take him for what it is and that is somebody who will show up and do their job well each day. All-star? Maybe, but lets just take his good for what it is and that is being a solid defensive catcher and a very good hitter.
Q: "He's an extremely talented baseball player and is hitting the ball very well right now"--word for word what I said. I'm definitely not a hater, and those stats are great Aaron, but none of that makes him an EXCITING player. You can be good, hell very good, at what you do and not be exciting. It's not a knock on him as a player, that's just who he is (or isn't in this case). I'm definitely not one of those guys who thinks he's overrated or wants to move him to 3B (worst idea that get tossed around much more often than it should), I just don't find his style of play exciting, and that's what we were talking about.
Fuzz: I read what you wrote, but thanks for mentioning it again in case the readers are retards and didn't pick that up the first time. I understand your assessment, but getting hits all the time, throwing guys out regularly and making the pitchers work every at bat is exciting baseball. Gomez is still the guy in this category but I think Mauer still deserves a mention. You obviously don't.
Dogg: Back to Gomez's night last night, the cycle is so meaningless and the most overrated achievement in the history of baseball. It is a cool thing to shoot for though as a player especially when the score is out of hand like last night. It’s one of those “fun” aspects of the game that every player kind of wishes for in their careers. Most fans will remember which game you hit for the cycle because everybody makes a huge deal out of it. It’s kind of absurd to me that it’s such a big deal but whatever, Gomez accomplished it and looked as happy as I was the first time I saw porn.
I believe Gomez has also shut his critics up for the most part in the past 2-3 weeks. Many critics were begging for him to get demoted to the minors but we here at TK were telling you fans to wait, be patient. He’s just a kid and taking some lumps will help most athletes out. This kid is confident as it comes at all times and those type of players usually find ways out of slumps, which he has. He is atop the leaders in steals and has pushed his average to the .280 mark. When he goes, the Twins go. I have completely forgotten about Johan Santana already!
Q: Why do you think the cycle is overrated? I feel like it is kind of underrated. It shows a true balance in your hitting. To have the speed to leg out a triple plus the power to poke one out is not an easy feat to accomplish in one game. When you add in the fact that you also need two more hits, one of which being a double, that seems like kind of a big deal to me. And I know we don't haven't had the most prolific lineups over the years, but when your franchise goes 22 years in between this being accomplished, I'd say it's a big deal.
Dogg: Well, Q, I thought you were a great baseball mind but not after those “hitting for the cycle” comments. You really think that is a huge accomplishment? Did you really see how Gomez got some of those hits? His bomb and triple were the only legit hits he had all night. Hitting for the cycle usually takes complete luck which makes it irrelevant for me and I believe most baseball fans. Yeah it’s a fun thing to accomplish but that is about all it is to me. Quit getting hard over the frickin cycle.
Fuzz: Ok, gentleman calm down like Mike Tice says. How about our friend Nick Punto this year? He's baaaacckkk! Kidding, but I do love his new role.
Q: Punto...where do I begin. Ok, let me first say that he had a huge double to drive in a couple runs last night. I'll give him credit for that. Now (you knew this was happening), I have two issues with Nicky from last night's game. First is the triple he hit in the 9th. A) it was a meaningless hit because we were already ahead by so much, and B) anyone else on the team (except Gomez) would have stopped at second because we were playing station-to-station baseball at that point, trying to not show up the White Sox. Not Captain Hustle, though. The other MAJOR issue I have is his botched sacrifice bunt attempt. Anyone who follows the Twins should know by now that Little Nicky isn't a great bunter (which is ridiculous for a slap-hitting utility player), but he reached new territory in his futility last night. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Punto managed to bunt into a 2-5-3 double play. Outstanding. What's even better is that Crede got taken out by the slide at 3 and had no intentions on throwing to 1. But then he saw our hero still standing at the plate bitching, and made the nice, easy throw over to get the second out. Punto will be starting soon, I promise you that. But that doesn't mean he doesn't suck anymore, as he proved last night.
Dogg: About Punto, he’s been a nice role player for us this year. The sad part is that he might become our everyday SS, which I don’t like at all. Yeah, he’s great on defense but he’s not an everyday player. I don’t know if Tolbert is an everyday player yet either and Everett sure hasn’t shown us shit besides his noodle arm. If “Tricky Nicky” can hover around .250 and actually get his sac bunts down, then yes, he can be an everyday player but that is yet to be determined. He’s playing well enough now to warrant an everyday position and has the Twins in 1st place once again.
Marx: I agree on Everett. He was supposed to be a gold glove caliber SS, but he looks like Rondell White when he throws. It very well could be because of the injury, but if he can't play defense he's worthless. He also hits like Rondell did for the Twins so that’s not a good combo.
Q: Good call Nic. I think I read today that Lamb is hitting around .205 and Everett at roughly .170--so much for reshaping the left side of our infield this off-season. That's going to mean a lot of Tolbert (a good thing) and Punto (a terrible thing).
Fuzz: Question- Are you guys nervous about our rotation? It's still full of a bunch of young guys that haven't proved shit yet they are hanging right now. Is this going to last?
Q: I think our pitching staff will be just fine. We've already dealt with injuries to 3 different starters and we haven't flinched. Sure, they'll get touched up occasionally, but most pitchers do. We were spoiled by having Santana here for as long as we did. Most MLB clubs not from Boston or New York have staffs that are very similar to ours. When you pitch well for the first couple weeks, you could call it a fluke. As we approach the middle and end of May, I think it becomes something that you can rely on and expect. As long as our bats don't go cold for long stretches, we'll stay in contention thanks to our pitching staff, starters and relievers.
Fuzz: On the pitching front, I am nervous. Will Livan hold this up? I've been dead wrong about him so far, so I hope he keeps proving me wrong, because he's been a pleasure at the top of the rotation. We have dealt with injuries by announcing that we brought guys up but they haven't pitched yet. I don't think that's been dealt with at all. We have no idea how Slowey and Perkins are going to pitch. They have both proved in the league so far that they both need work. What if they suck? That's two spots we will need to worry about. Not to mention that Bonser gave up 6 runs in the first inning the other day showing he's not all there yet either. I'm not resting comfortably with these guys. Not yet.
Q: As far as the pitching goes, I think we have dealt with our injuries well. Guys have pitched on shorter rest, our bullpen has stepped up, etc. That's what I meant at least. True, we don't know what Perkins and Slowey will do in the rotation, but having 3 starters (including the guy who was supposed to be our front-line man in Liriano) go down and not completely falling off the map is a good sign to me. And I know Boof's first inning wasn't great the other day, but he follwed that up with 5 innings of nearly flawless pitching to keep us in the game and allowed us to make that nice comeback. Remember, Livan got touched up for 7 runs a little while ago and then came back with two stellar starts, including last night's complete game. Blackburn gave up a number of runs the other night, but only 3 were earned. If I had to describe our rotation in one word, it would be gritty. They aren't going to have dominant stuff or flashy strikeout numbers, but they get the job done well.
Dogg: I’ve liked our pitching staff since day 1 no matter who is in it because it’s young for the most part. Young kids always seem to compete harder against one another when they are all on one staff. The friends all want to be good but each one of them wants to be better than the next one which makes for great competitiveness. We’ve had some injuries but as long as Livan can stay healthy and eat innings, I like this staff a lot. They all throw strikes and challenge each and every hitter no matter what your name is. Make teams hit the ball to score runs. Our defense is solid enough to make almost every play so our pitchers are doing the right thing in challenging hitters every game. Our bullpen is ridix good and doesn’t need to be talked about even though some of the relievers are struggling a little bit early.
Fuzz: After all that we heard in spring training about this being an off year, you have to be surprised/happy about the first place spot right now. I called this a straight rebuilding year on this site about a three weeks ago, so this is a pleasant surprise for me. The longer they can hold onto this good play the happier I will be. The stats don't prove it, but our lineup does seem better. I think this years team will be a better hitting team than last years team. Again, the stats don't prove this yet, but I think they get there. Another aspect that hasn't been talked about is our bench. It's 20 times what it was last year. We were bringing up Luis Rodriguez for crucial pinch hitting situations. That's absrudly bad. Out of Kubel, Lamb, Tolbert, Punto, Monroe, whoever isn't playing that day is a better options than Rodriguez, Tyner and Lew Ford. Anyways, are you guys satisfied so far?
Q: Am I satisfied? This team was picked by a ton of "experts" to finish either 4th or 5th in the Central, we lost 3 major contributors in Santana, Hunter, and Silva, we decided to give all of our young pitching prospects spots in the rotation at the same time, and we've had a pretty decent amount of injuries. Yet despite all of that we are sitting in first place (albeit in an average division right now) at the end of the first week of May. Yeah, I'd say I'm satisfied.
Dogg: I pinned us as division champs before the season started and I’m sticking with this call. These other teams are full of high-priced talent but really, who are they? They have no identity and it’s showing early in the season. Things better change quickly in this division otherwise all of them will be looking up at your very own Minnesota Twins once again. It’s like back to the year 2000 again. Everybody writes us off and we just win baseball games.
Will we see this again in September? TK is warming up to the idea...