Hey kids, I’m back with another set of tidbits that I was just itching to get off my chest. Hope everyone enjoyed the quick summer roundtables about the NBA Draft, but it’s time to talk baseball and a little bit of Purple. So as those annoying, awful, and incredibly poorly acted Coors Light commercials say, “Let's Vent!”
As we enter July, the Twins head into their most brutal stretch of the season. As has been documented in a previous post, they have to play, among others, Detroit 6 times, New York 3 times, Boston 3 times, and Texas 3 times. It cannot be understated then how important the Twins 14-4 interleague record was. The fact that they were able to beat up on inferior teams and pull within a ½ game (now 2 ½) of the White Sox could prove to be a huge factor in keeping them in the race. Now they need to find a way to keep up the impressive pitching performances and timely hitting against some of the best teams in the game. That means guys like Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn have to continue to be lights out—just like they have been over the last few weeks. The only reason we might crash and burn during this stretch will be our hitting. Having Cuddyer out doesn’t help things (really Mike? A finger, again?), and you know that Gardy will be playing Punto as often as he can.
Begin rant: So explain this one to me. The Twins are in the midst of a 10 game winning streak and playing phenomenal baseball, all without the “help” of Punto. Then the Tricky One comes off the DL and immediately gets a start over a red hot Brendan Harris (10 for his last 27, including a huge homerun, at the time of Punto’s unthinkable start). The result? A Twins loss and Punto putting up the big O Fer. The next day Harris is back in the lineup and the team wins again. Weird. And yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, I will bitch about Nick Punto every single chance I get. Get used to it. End rant.
So get down to the Dome to catch your second place Twins, just in case this momentum doesn’t last (which it might not if Monday’s game against Detroit is any indication—nice fastball, Jesse). And if they make it through this month within striking distance of first place, well then you may as well start printing the 2008 version of the Homer Hanky.
Because of the long season and the high number of games, baseball often gets thrown to the side until the playoffs, but this has been one of the best regular seasons in recent memory. At the midway point, we already have these incredible storylines: the Rays impressive play, Josh Hamilton, the Diamondbacks sharp fall, the Cubs impressive play, Ken Griffey Jr. joining the 600 HR club, the Tigers flat start and current rise, Chase Utley—a 3rd Phillies MVP?, Prince Fielder’s diet, Edison Volquez, the Under .500 Division, Rays-BoSox throw down, those gutty Twins, the potential end of Schilling and Smoltz, the end of Yankee Stadium, the Sidney Ponson Experience, the courting of CC, and Ozzie’s tirades. And we’ve still got 3 months and 82 games to go…
A few mid season awards:
MVP—AL—Carlos Quentin (CHI); NL—Chase Utley (PHI)
This was an easy choice for me. I know a lot of people would put Hamilton here because of his amazing comeback year and high RBI total. But Quentin’s numbers are almost as remarkable and he has held together a first place team when their conventional run producers (Thome, Konerko, etc.) have floundered. As for the NL, Chipper Jones and Lance Berkman deserve consideration, but Utley’s 23 HR’s for a first place ballclub are extremely impressive and he should continue to put up amazing numbers because of all of the talent surrounding him in that Phillies lineup.
Cy Young—AL—Joe Saunders (LAA); NL—Edison Volquez (CIN)
I would have given this award to Cliff Lee, but since the Indians are so incredibly terrible at this point, I just couldn’t do it. With all of the mediocre pitching in the AL, the award had to go to Saunders, who is top 7 in ERA and tied for the lead in Wins for a first place team. Volquez gets the nod in the NL because of his miniscule ERA and because he reminds me of Francisco Liriano circa 2006.
Manager—AL—Ozzie Guillen (CHI); NL—Lou Pinella (CHI)
I know that Joe Madden probably deserves this award for the amazing way that his Rays are playing so far, but I have to give it to the most entertaining managers in all of sports—who just happen to coach in the same city. Ozzie’s outbursts not only motivate his players, but also keep the scrutiny away from their downfalls. Pinella is a much easier choice. His Cubs have had to deal with injuries to studs like Soriano and Zambrano, yet still have the best record in the league.
Playoff Predictions (Revised):
AL—East—Red Sox, West—Angels, Central—White Sox, Wild Card—Twins (homer pick here; most “experts” would tell you that it will be a team such as the Tigers, Rays, or Yankees)
NL—East—Phillies, West—Diamondbacks, Central—Cubs, Wild Card—Marlins (another wishful pick; again, there are more likely candidates including the Cardinals, Brewers, and Mets)
Am I the only one who’s noticed that the Purple have been everywhere in the sports media world lately? Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine had features on Jared Allen recently (as well as a Udeize update), Dr. Z picked us to win the Super Bowl, and the ESPN fantasy rankings have us with the #1 defense and #2 running back (Peterson). Now, I’m not the kind of guy who has a countdown until training camp going on, nor am I the guy that has already participated in multiple mock fantasy drafts (though I know a few people in each of those categories), but I’m really starting to get amped up for this year’s version of the Vikes. I know that the odds are against us, especially given the Minnesota Sports Curse and all, but has there been a Vikings team in recent history with this much hype and high expectations? The months of July and August are going to a lot of fun, and ESPN is going to have a lot of purple on its screens. Oh, and if you’re interested, the gentlemen of TK will be claiming their spots on the parade route sometime in mid-August, so feel free to join us.
Bonus NBA Rambling:
Ok, so I know that the guys already did their predraft roundtable and then discussed the Wolves moves at length on this site, but I have to add in my two cents. Let me preface this by saying that I like trading Jaric’s Contract for Cardinal’s Contract, and Mike Miller should help us out in the shooting department. That said, I really feel like everyone is talking themselves into Kevin Love at this point. We’re talking about an undersized power forward who is seriously lacking on the defensive end of the floor (where we already have multiple players who struggle there as well—Jefferson, McCants, etc.), and whose greatest asset is that he throws an outlet pass better than anyone else in the college game. Do I have that about right? I know K-Lo’s long passes got UCLA some easy transition hoops, but that kind of thing does not translate into the NBA. No one is hustling down for a quick two and that skill will be useless at the next level. What you’re left with is a guy who isn’t tall enough or strong enough to dominate on the boards (plus he’ll be fighting Al for those rebounds), doesn’t have a strong offensive game other than a 5-10 foot jumper, and will get abused on the defensive end of the floor on a nightly basis. Sorry, I’m not feeling it.
**Breaking News—Sources have confirmed that on Saturday, July 12, former major league baseball player and steroid snitch Jose Canseco will be fighting former NFL kick return specialist Via Sikahema in an absurd pay-per-view boxing match. Feel free to make your own joke at this time…