Friday, June 18, 2010

Tough Road Ahead

Ron Gardenhire has grown irritated in recent days, apparently with the tenor of questions he's been receiving from the media regarding his club. Kelsie Smith of the Pioneer Press reported on an outburst from the manager earlier this week:
After a five-minute pregame session with reporters, during which Gardenhire fielded questions about Hudson's wrist, Joe Mauer's swing, an increase in team errors, how he believes Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia are handling big-league at-bats and whether he senses the fan base is more fanatical this season, the annoyed manager stood up to leave and hollered, "Minnesota Twins! We're in first place, guys!"
Gardenhire was right. The team is in first place. But they're hardly in the clear and there is legitimate reason for concern about their current status.

They're past Ubaldo Jimenez, but Twins actually just wrapped up a relatively light portion of their schedule. Eighteen of their past 24 games have been at home, and their only road series during that span came against a pair of sub-.500 teams: the Mariners and Athletics. While the Twins did have a few tough series mixed into their recent homestands -- including match-ups against the Yankees and Braves, who may be the best teams in their respective leagues -- they also had weaker opponents like the Brewers and Royals mixed in and they should be expecting to win at home against all comers.

Despite the soft patch in the schedule, the Twins emerge from this latest stretch of games with just a 1.5-game lead on the Tigers in the AL Central, and now they will have to run through a veritable gauntlet leading up to the All-Star break.

First, the Twins will open a National League road trip tonight in Philadelphia. After the weekend series with the Phillies, they'll head to Milwaukee for a three-game set before wrapping up with another weekend series on the East Coast against the Mets. After that nine-game tour of the NL is complete, the Twins will come home to face the Tigers, who are nipping at their tails in the division, and the Rays, who are tied with the Yankees atop the AL East. Then it's back on the road for three games against the powerful Blue Jays and three more against the Tigers.

And then it's the All-Star break, which will probably be welcomed because that is a tough stretch of 22 games with only two days off. Not one series among those mentioned is a "gimme," so the Twins are going to need to step their game up and start scoring some runs if Gardenhire still wants to be touting his first place Minnesota Twins when the All-Star Game comes around.

25 comments:

John said...

Course, the Tigers have gotten to play Pittsburgh, Washington and now Arizona in their Interleague, while the Twins draw Atlanta, Colorado and Philadelphia, all >.500 teams. If the Tigers DIDN'T gain a game or two on the Twins in that time, then something's wrong.

Ed Bast said...

The Tigers also play TB 7 more times, BOS 3, NYY 4, and TOR 8. The Tigers also get the Braves and Mets.

It's not the schedule's fault, the Twins just need to play better.

Anonymous said...

"Gardenhire was right. The team is in first place. But they're is hardly in the clear and there is legitimate reason for concern about their current status."

Is every cloud a THUNDER CLOUD acording to Twins bloggers?

You're correct that the Twins have a rougher schedule up to tha All-Star break v. the Tigers. It seems you consider that the end of the season ;-)

After the All Star break, the Tigers have @Cleveland (3), Texas (3), Toronto (4), @ Tampa (4), @Boston (3), CWS (3), LAA (3), Tampa (3), @CWS (3) and @ NYY (4).

The Twins on the other hand...CWS (4), Cleveland (3), @Balt (4) @ KC (3), Sea (3), @ Tampa (4), @ Cleve (3), @ CWS (3) and Oak (4).

That takes us thru August 20.

To date, just to support Gardy. The Twins are 3 games short of the BEST record in baseball. To read these blogs, one would think the Twins have the WORST record in baseball, with NO HOPE. Is it that reality doesn't fit the meme?

To date the Twins have a better road record than the Tigers, having played a more difficult schedule. AND, I submit the Twins have a somewhat easier schedule the rest of the way.

Granted the Twins and Tigers have to play those games, and maybe all the angst will prove warranted, BUT for people who throw stats around as PROOF of X. Y or Z, WHY can't you look at the whole picture, rather than the glimpse which supports the Thunder Clouds coming?

Regards,

David McGraw

Dan Cook said...

What I don't understand is why players and coaches cop this "you're not one of us, you don't understand" attitude.

Okay, so we're *not* coaches and players, that means we're not allowed to ask the question?

If Gardy doesn't think those questions are fair, then answer them in a way that actually educates the fan base, rather than blowing his stack and storming off in a huff.

To go after the media as though they were uneducated louts - and the in-game broadcasters are equally as guilty of this - is a cop out. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

i am sick of gardy thinking he is above criticism. he gets defensive very quickly. just answer the damned question. he clearly has the support of the front office or he would have been fired for his stupidity already. what is he so worried about? somehow his team wins even though he is a moron.

Anonymous said...

"i am sick of gardy thinking he is above criticism. he gets defensive very quickly. just answer the damned question. he clearly has the support of the front office or he would have been fired for his stupidity already. what is he so worried about?"

Maybe he's a moron, OR maybe he's fed up with fans who CANNOT read the standings. Fans who take peverse pleasure from turning the standings upside down and complaining.

I live exquidistant from Camden Yards & Nationals Park. Those fans (who ACTUALLY have last place teams, unlike Twins fans who act like they do) would kill to have what Twins fans complain about 24/7/365.

Regards,

David McGraw

Schruender said...

I really like Ron Gardenhire, but I hate that line about being in first place. It just isn't professional because while that is the ultimate goal, a team should never let on that is satisfied until the ultimate goal has been reached. It's June. I'm pretty sure Gardy's goal was not to be in first on June 18.

Nick N. said...

You're correct that the Twins have a rougher schedule up to tha All-Star break v. the Tigers. It seems you consider that the end of the season ;-)

You're missing the point. Gardenhire seems to think people should simply be content with the fact that the Twins are in first place and winning at a decent clip (though only about .500 lately). The fact is that they're coming off a relatively fluffy part of their schedule and the issues that people are calling him out on will become far more problematic in the coming weeks if not addressed.

To go after the media as though they were uneducated louts - and the in-game broadcasters are equally as guilty of this - is a cop out. Plain and simple.

Very well put.

Ed Bast said...

David McGraw,

While it's really nice to win AL Central titles, some of us crazy Twins fans would like to see the club, I don't know, compete in the playoffs every now and then. They have a real nice record and all, but at the end of the year, should the Twins make the playoffs, we'll have to play either NYY, TB, or BOS. Right now we are not better than any of those teams. Some of us would like to see the Twins play up to their potential, maybe compete in October.

It's crazy, I know.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

I guess I look at things a bit different. You are correct, the Twins have played .500 since May 6th. IF one were to be optimistic, one might actually realize that IF the Twins play JUST 6 games over .500 in the remaining 96 games that's 90 wins on the season and likely post-season spot.

Quite frankly, I think Gardy is being kind, although it is not necessarily good PR.

While I don't frequent other teams blogs, I consider Twins fans [which I have been since 1957 (starting with the Senators)] the biggest bunch of whiners and complainers on the planet.

I have posted elsewhere that EVEN IF the Twins swept the World Series, the over/under on the posting of the 1st complaint is 30 seconds. I'd bet my house on the under. ;-)

Regards,

David McGraw

Anonymous said...

Ed Bast said:"Some of us would like to see the Twins play up to their potential, maybe compete in October."

So would I. What seems to be missing, when that lament is often posted, is that ending up in 1st place is the ONLY sure way to get that opportunity. Thus, I don't understand complaints about being in 1st place.

The play-offs are a crap shoot. I believe (I didn't go back and check) that the team with the best record in baseball has only won 2 or 3 of the WS beginning in 2000. AND the qualifying team with the 8th best record has won at least once.

It's more about whose fortunate and HOT in October, than who did best up 'til then.

Regards,

David McGraw

Steve L. said...

Dave,

What you fail to take into account with us Twins fans is the fact that the they have basically been the same team for the past 8 years now = Contend for the PLAYOFFS or make it in. When do we contend for the WORLD SERIES?

We've been above average for so long we want to see them take the next step, which I think we would all be in agreement they are capable of doing, but haven't yet.

This is why all this "complaining" comes out.

If our team had sucked for 10 years like the Orioles and Nationals of course we'd be jealous of the Twins, but that's not what has happened. We've been good for so long, but never great, and that's what we want to see.

The situation is very comparable to the fans of said Nat's and O's, to want a "winning season". Look at it in the context of the team's recent histories. Fans of the Yankees were the same way since about 2006 until they won it all again last year.

With that said, I do have to cut Gardy a little slack, I mean, we've got the entire AAA infield (sans 1B) on the MLB roster right now, so we shouldn't expect them to be running away with the division at the moment...

Anonymous said...

"What you fail to take into account with us Twins fans is the fact that the they have basically been the same team for the past 8 years now = Contend for the PLAYOFFS or make it in. When do we contend for the WORLD SERIES?"

Steve L,

I get all that. I have been a Twins/Senators fan for 53 years. Unfortunately, I suspect many of the current fans can't contemplate that this 8 years of mediocracy is the longest continued contending run in my 53 years. Many/Most haven't lived through decade+ of futility and are thus SPOILED.

Also, I have mentioned the play-offs being a crap shoot. Anyone who tries to tell me that the 1987 Twins were the best team in the playoffs that year is nuts. They got hot and lucky and won the WS, which pleased me greatly. YET, they were not in the best 3/4 teams entering the playoffs.

Qualify for the playoffs 1st, then hope to get lucky and win.

Regards,

David McGraw

Nick N. said...

While I don't frequent other teams blogs, I consider Twins fans [which I have been since 1957 (starting with the Senators)] the biggest bunch of whiners and complainers on the planet.

The second part of that statement makes the first part very obvious. There are plenty of over-the-top Twins fans, of course, but the baseball acumen in this city is much better than most.

So would I. What seems to be missing, when that lament is often posted, is that ending up in 1st place is the ONLY sure way to get that opportunity. Thus, I don't understand complaints about being in 1st place.

The Twins won't BE in first place if they keep playing the way they have been. That much is being made obvious by tonight's contest. (The Twins are trailing the Phillies 9-0 as I write this.) There's no reason people should have to wait for the Twins to fall into collapse to begin airing grievances; this club has some real issues and they've been readily apparent even while the team has maintained it's spot atop the division over the past few weeks.

Anonymous said...

"The Twins won't BE in first place if they keep playing the way they have been. That much is being made obvious by tonight's contest."

Nick,

I don't particularly care who is in 1st place on June 25, July 10, August 19 or September 8. One thing I've learned following European soccer and it's 9 month season, which applies equally to MLB is that teams go into and out of form from time to time.

The date that matters is who is in 1st on October 4th, unless there is some new rule this year I haven't heard of.

I'll send a C-note to your favorite charity IF the Twins are not in 1st place on October 4th. You can send $10 to your local Boys & Girls Club if they are.

Just so you know, last year @ August 1st when the Twins were 6/7 games out I posted, maybe on Joe's Strib blog that while it might be close Twins would win based on remaining schedule. Also, I invest in sports 365 days a year and expect to collect on Twins over 83.5 wins (a gift after Nathan went down) and over 87.5 wins.

Regards,

David McGraw

ps: the Tigers are blowing out AZ 5-5 ;-)

Nate said...

David,

Get over yourself. The Twins need to stop adopting an attitude of complacency with simply being an above average team and be motivated to win in every game. Yes, I know full well that we are in first, but it's painfully obvious that we won't be for long if we fail to sort through our problems. And believe me, there is not a single team that doesn't have issues they need to sort out. You should always aim for the stars and celebrate accomplishments along the way. However, true satisfaction should come by achieving the ultimate goal; winning the World Series.

Steve L. said...

"Qualify for the playoffs 1st, then hope to get lucky and win."

If I'm looking at the Twins history with this statement in mind (in the Gardenhire era), they are nothing close to lucky.

And if you believe that the Twins have lost in the playoffs because the other team was more 'lucky', and not better, you're lying to yourself.

I would rather see them play great ball throughout the year and continue that trend through the playoffs to get to the World Series, rather than 'hope' for their 'luck' to change.

You can live in your world of sunshine and pots of gold at the end of Rainbows. I'd rather see the Twins achieve their full potential. Which is a team capable of winning a World Series based on talent and ability, not 'luck'.

Nick says it perfect, the Twins have issues right now that are hurting them, and they won't be in 1st place (now or October) if they aren't solved (injuries, coaching, whatever they may be), which will mean No Playoffs and No chance at a World Series. Which from the sounds of it, even you would be disappointed with...

and:

"What seems to be missing, when that lament is often posted, is that ending up in 1st place is the ONLY sure way to get that opportunity."

Getting the "Opportunity to Compete" DOES NOT EQUAL "Being Competitive". Twins recent history in playoffs is PROOF of that.

Jason said...

SOS thus far, Twins .496, Tigers .493

Anonymous said...

The thing that makes me laugh is Gardenhire has always been given a free pass by the press because he is a nice guy. He can't handle any questions that scrutinize the team because it make him look bad. What a joke can you imagine if he managed in New York, L.A., or Boston. They would run him out of town.

This team will never win anything as long as he is the manager. His whole staff are bums too. Please GM Bill Smith call Paul Molitor he is a proven winner.

Anonymous said...

"I would rather see them play great ball throughout the year and continue that trend through the playoffs to get to the World Series, rather than 'hope' for their 'luck' to change."

Steve L,

You mean like the 2001 Seattle team 116-46. World Series title to boot.


Since the Wild Card era began (1996) there have been 15 World Series.

WS Winners based on Record of Qualifiers:
1st alone...2
1st tied ...1
2nd ...2
3rd...3
4th...4
5th...0
6th...1
7th...0
8th...2

Basic crap shoot, with preference to top 4.

Regards,

David McGraw

AK47 said...

Please stop signing your blog comments with "Regards, David McGraw" We're quite familiar with you and your opinion at this point.

thanatoschristou said...

We are playing mediocre ball. The Twins got off to a hot start and have been shaky since. Mauer and Morneau are slumping and Gardenhire continues to make poor managing decisions. He is great at getting the best out of his players but he is too slow to make a move (there is no way Blackburn lasts this long on most teams). Manship and Duensing should be replacing Slowey and Blackburn.

Anonymous said...

David McGraw,

The Twins were hot last october. Until the playoff started.

Fred Tolliver

Ed Bast said...

Yo Dave,

"The date that matters is who is in 1st on October 4th, unless there is some new rule this year I haven't heard of."

This pretty much perfectly summarizes the mindset around the Twins the last few years: "the important thing is winning the division." For some of us the date that matters is closer to November 4, or whenever the final game of the World Series is played.

Steve L. said...

"WS Winners based on Record of Qualifiers:
1st alone...2
1st tied ...1
2nd ...2
3rd...3
4th...4
5th...0
6th...1
7th...0
8th...2

Basic crap shoot, with preference to top 4."

This may help your argument in your eyes, but I actually think it plays more into mine and discredits your claim of "lucky" teams winning.

Look up those teams who won and see who was playing well going into the playoffs or look at if they were even keeled the whole year (playing good-to-great) or just hot at the end?

I have a feeling all those teams that "qualified" at 4th or worse and ended up winning were of the playing well mold and "luck" had barely anything to do with it.

And a 12-3 score as far as 1-4 qualifiers compared to 5-8 qualifiers proves there are highly better odds if your team is one of the one's that played at a high level for the whole season.

Like I said before, I want nothing to do with "luck" determining the Twins winning a championship. I want their skill and ability to Prove themselves and win it because they deserve it.