Monday, September 27, 2010

Obvious Priorities

When the Twins officially clinched home field advantage last Tuesday with a full two weeks remaining in the regular season, conversation began to center on whether the team would be wiser to take the foot off the pedal, resting up starters for the postseason run, or keep on pushing for home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS.

There's an oft-repeated truism that these things tend to work themselves out. There's a reason it's so oft repeated.

As Joe Christensen writes today, the Twins are dealing with a rash of injuries here as the season winds down. Numerous players are nicked up, most notable among them Joe Mauer, who John Bonnes recently named as the team's 2010 MVP (I'm in agreement.) 

Mauer's knee inflammation continues to be treated publicly by the team as a small matter, but after missing this past weekend's series in Detroit the catcher is no sure bet to be available for even DH duty in the Twins' next series against the Royals, said Ron Gardenhire. 

Mauer stated that his knee "would have to be pretty bad" for him to him to miss time in the playoffs, but that assurance provides little comfort. The fact that not being ready for the ALDS has even crossed Mauer's mind is enough to cause pings of anxiety.

The Twins are already, of course, without Justin Morneau, whose return this year was almost completely ruled out by Gardenhire in an interview with AM-1500 last week (though I continue to cling to a thread of hope that Morneau can come back for bench duty in the playoffs, because it'd just be awesome). On top of that, Jim Thome's back is acting up, J.J. Hardy's knee swelled up yesterday, Denard Span has a bum foot and each of the Twins' top three playoff starters pitched like they were running on fumes over the weekend.

Despite dropping all three of their games in Detroit, the Twins are still just one game behind Tampa Bay in the standings, meaning they've still got a shot at finishing with the American League's best record and guaranteeing home field advantage up until the World Series.

However, considering that the Rays' remaining schedule consists entirely of match-ups against the Orioles and Royals while the Twins have a four-game series against the tough Blue Jays looming (not to mention fact that the Yankees could still easily finish ahead of both teams), it seems as though locking up the No. 1 seed might be something of a pipe dream for Gardy's crew.

But that's OK. It's only one fewer home game during the entire postseason schedule. And that's only if the Rays or Yankees defeat the Rangers in the first round. Bonnes proclaimed last week that there's no room for debate when it comes to the choice of resting up aching starters or pushing for home field advantage. Assuring the health of all key players is top priority, and that's even more evident with injuries continuing to mount and only seven regular-season games remaining.

13 comments:

Matt said...

Momentum heading into the post season is not necessary. Rest up key players and hope for their return to playing health. Worrying about the path to the WS should not be at the fore front, let's get through a gosh dang short series for once first.

Anonymous said...

I really really wanted homefield, but after the poor performance this weekend, I am in agreement. I don't think it's worth the effort it would take at this point to really push all out for that one extra game. If it falls in our lap with our backups playing, cool, but I don't think we should be putting Mauer or Thome in extra games or even innings as a PH just to make a run.

JimCrikket said...

On the other hand... from what we've seen and read about the Yankees and Rays plans for the remaining week, it appears that both of them are focusing more on getting healthy and setting up their rotations than worrying about who gets the best record (or even who wins their Division, for that matter), as well. It could still work out, but obviously the most important thing is getting people healthy.

Anonymous said...

The fact that not being ready for the ALDS has even crossed Mauer's mind is enough to cause pings of anxiety.

Didn't it cross his mind because someone asked him about it?

Scott said...

Have the Twins clinched home field for ALDS already? The Rangers are 5 games back with 7 yet to play. It'd be unlikely that the Twins can't manage 2 more wins but it's not official yet is it?

Dr. Truth said...

I'm not concerned with the sweep really. I am concerned about Mauer though. That quote is pretty disturbing, what kind of competitive athlete would say that? This better not open the door for Gardy to play Butera in the ALDS, is all I can say.

Nick N. said...

Didn't it cross his mind because someone asked him about it?

Possibly, I'm not sure how the question was posed. The fact is that he hardly ruled it out.

Have the Twins clinched home field for ALDS already?

Their Magic Number to clinch is three, with seven left to play (they also have tie-breaker over Rangers). It's not guaranteed, but it's basically a foregone conclusion at this point so I'm treating it that way.

VodkaDave said...

Nick,

On a scale of 1-10 how upset are you that your boy Brendan Harris is being left off the Playoff Roster?

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

So, official the magic number is 3 but since we have the tiebreaker is it unofficially 2?

If the Twins win 2 more they'll be at 94 wins and the Rangers would need to win all 7 to make it to 94 wins.

Dave said...

I think there are proper ways to keep players in a groove while letting them rest up. Put Thome in the lineup but pinch run as soon as he gets on base. Get Mauer in as DH for the rest of the way. Let Pavano make his scheduled starts, but after 5 innings / 80 pitches let Perkins take the rest. DO NOT PITCH MATTY G!!!

Home field is great, but tired dinged up players are more likely to lose at home than rested (but not rusty) players on the road. And who is to say we can't win best record with a conservative lineup approach?

In the end I have no idea how a Target field advantage will play out in the postseason. I just can't imagine it is worth risking injury.

Matt Groff said...

Resting the players is the way to go, obviously you don't want to accumulated rust, but with so many injuries you need to get healthy. This is a good time to get an idea of which of the younger guys can help contribute when in the playoffs. We know Valencia will start at 3B but what about Repko, Butera, Morales, etc etc etc. It'd be tough to go with just Mauer as the Catcher considering how banged up he is, but do we really want gardy to take a playoff spot for butera?

I think keeping Moreau on the DL and the playoff roster is a good idea, by doing that you can bring the extra player and if Morneau makes a comeback, you can make that swap.

Homefield advantage would be nice and unless the rangers hit a roll, the twins are set for that in the ALDS, but I'd still like that extra game at Target Field.

Anonymous said...

Put Thome in the lineup but pinch run as soon as he gets on base. Get Mauer in as DH for the rest of the way.

how can we do both of these? do we get 2 DH spots at the end of the regular season?