The Twins have just lost two of three from the Tigers at home. Do you consider yourself more of an optimist, or pessimist? When is it time to pull the plug on a season?
Leslie Monteiro: Let's start with the label of optimism and pessimism. I find those labels to be insulting and too holier than thou, IMO. If you are an optimist, especially when things go bad, you become a blowhard and out-of-touch altogether.
If you are a pessimist, then you are waiting and wanting to hope a team fail. I consider myself a realist. I call it the way I see it. I go by what I see, and if something stinks, I will call out a team or an athlete out.
I am not above praising people. If I find something that is remarkable in a good way, I will praise them.
When is it time to pull the plug? It depends how you make the call in waving the white flag. You make the call based on trends, facts, and stuff. I think it's over for the Twins because every Twins reliever is bad. Plus, the relievers look like they are tired, and their arms are just not that effective to pitch. When I look at this type of trend, I cite that as the season being over.
Nick Nelson: That was an ugly series, and the Twins continue to play pretty poorly. They've had some bad luck though, which is bound to turn around at some point, and they have a good chance to regaining a game on the White Sox over the next few days when the Royals come to the 'Dome for three days, while the Sox travel to Toronto to take on a hot Blue Jays club.
Marty Andrade: Optimistic Realist? Fatalistic Optimistic Realist? Superfluous Man? I don't quite know how to properly describe myself, but my attitude towards pulling the plug on the season is simple, it's over when you're mathematically eliminated.
Realistically, it's important for GMs to balance their efforts between the future of the organization and the present, but I would say Bill Smith already has his team well set for next year and even 2010, so there's no reason to hold a fire sale now.
The Twins should continue to play as if they have a chance, which they do.
Josh Johnson: I'm definitely more of an optimimst. Like old saying goes, "it aint over till the fat lady sings" and until the Twins are completely out of it, 2006 taught me to hold on even until the last day of the season. And within the last week, the White Sox have already lost and to injuries (Konerko, were still waiting to hear more on though). So anything can happen.
Can anything be done to help the bullpen besides waiting for them to perform better? What would you do?
LM: Seth Stohs said it best in his blog. Use guys like Philip Humber, Bobby Korecky, Jose Mijares, and Craig Breslow more and see if they are reliable not just this year, but for next year.
There is no reason to trot out the same guys anymore. Of course, it won't happen since Gardenhire is loyal to his guys that helped him win, so look for a heavy dose of Guerrier, Reyes, Crain, and others to blow games.
NN: There's really nothing left to be done at this point. Someone needs to step up. I'd probably give Korecky more of a chance, but outside of that, guys like Guerrier and Crain just need to pitch better.
MA: Play the rookies. Perkins, Blackburn, and Slowey are at risk for arm injury as they are all approaching career highs in innings pitched, and there are some hints of fatigue in their starts.
I'd move them all to the bullpen. I'd shut down Crain and Guerrier for a couple of weeks. I'd let Phil Humber and Boof Bonser into the rotation, and I would have called up Kevin Mulvey and Brian Duensing for some starting action.
Bobby Korecky and Jose Mijares would have expanded roles in tight spots of important games. I would expand Joe Nathan's role to include some eighth-inning work. With Perkins, Blackburn, and Slowey in supporting roles, I think the bullpen could at least give the team a chance at winning. Who knows, maybe the shakeup would get everyone else to shape up, too.
The last two weeks have been terrible for the Twins' bullpen, and I believe it's indicative of some real problem, not just the expected ups and downs of a long season. It's tough allowing rookies and call-ups to be put in situations where games are decided, but that risk needs to be balanced by the fact the Twins are 4-11 over the last two weeks.
It doesn't get much worse than that.
JJ: Not really. Besides acquiring a guy who's cleared waivers, I don't think anything really can be done. I still like the move to bring in , even though he hasn't performed very well. We need more 7+ inning starts from the starters to help the bullpen out. But otherwise I don't see there being a fix until the off-season.
What does 2009 have in store for the Twins and the rest of the AL Central? Where will Minnesota finish?
LM: That's a good question. There will be high expectations of the Twins next year, based on this year's success. Everyone is going to pencil the Twins as division winners. It won't be easy, and it probably won't happen.
Cleveland is a good team that has been plagued with injuries this year. It's hard to believe they will duplicate this performance this year. They have good, young talent that will bode well for the future.
When you have a one-two duo of aces in Carmona and Lee, you are in good shape. The White Sox are always going to be good as long as Kenny Williams is the general manager.
I say the Twins finish in third place next year because I am not sure if the starters are ace material just yet. They are good, but can you rely on them to win every five days? Liriano is that guy, but who else?
The young starters had a good year, and they can be better with experience. With that said, they have to produce to show that they can be even better.
The Twins can't expect Blackburn, Slowey, and Perkins to be great in one start and then be atrocious in another start if they want to be contenders. The starters need to learn how to pitch effectively for seven innings.
One of the reasons why the bullpen fell apart this month is that the starters had to be pulled too often in the fifth inning because Gardenhire wanted to protect the leads, so he used his relievers early in the game, and in the end, it caught up to the relievers.
As for the relievers, I am not sure if they are going to be effective next year. Teams always change relievers every two or three years because they become useless due to too many appearances in the last few years.
NN: That's pretty difficult to judge at this point, without seeing what the Twins and their divisional competitors do during the offseason. With their good, young pitching staff and solid offense, though, I think the Twins can certainly be in the mix for the division title once again.
MA: There are going to be a lot of teams very jealous of the Twins' starting rotation. I would also think the Twins won't have to make very many offseason moves in order to strengthen up the offense.
We might want a shortstop or an upgrade at third base, but beyond that, the Twins should have a formidable offense combined with a solid rotation.
The big question is going to be the bullpen. I think the Twins will have a good one, more so if Pat Neshek can come back from his injury.
I would put the Twins as playoff contenders next year. The White Sox, Indians, and Tigers are also going to have the resources to put together good teams as well.
JJ: Tough to say. I'd think that the Tigers will go out and reload their rotation/bullpen and the White Sox will be strong again. I can also see the Indians having a better season than they had this year, so it's really all up in the air. It all depends on who does what in free agency/through trade. I would think the Twins should be up there since (A) they are young and (B) they have some money to burn. The Twins should be right back at the top of the AL Central in '09.
How big of a football fan are you? Early Viking/Packer predictions, or other NFL ramblings?
LM: I love baseball more than football. With that said, football is one of my favorite sports to watch. There are always surprises in that sport every Sundays during the season, and what better surprise than in the NFL playoffs when the Giants stun the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It does not get any better than that.
Based on the Vikings' Monday night play, they are going to have get more production out of Tarvaris Jackson, who was underwhelming to say the least.
NN: I'm a moderate football fan. I think the Vikings should be pretty good this year. On paper, they have one of the top three or four teams in the NFC, and they should be able to give the Packers a good run for the NFC North crown.
Quarterback is going to be a major issue though, since I don't have a ton of faith in Tarvaris Jackson to be healthy and productive.
MA: I was never a big football fan, but the sport is growing on me. I'm participating in Seth Stohs' "Expert Picks Panel" this year; it's a group of people out to predict the winners and losers in professional football games on a weekly basis. I fully expect to do poorly.
However, my prediction this week that the Packers were going to trample the Vikings is coming true (at least it is right now, I'm in the middle of halftime of the Packers/Vikings game as I'm writing this).
JJ: Huge football fan. Nearly as big of a football fan as I am baseball fan actually. I like the Vikings this year, although it sure was ugly . I like every aspect of our team besides Quarterback and after Monday I'm not too hot about our O-Line or D-Backs although I think the return of and Madeau Williams will be huge for us. I just hope Jackson can turn it around because we're going to ride or die with him. The entire season rests on his shoulders.