Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
Dave Boswell, a right-handed pitcher who won 20 games for the Twins in 1969 before retiring two years later at the age of 26, has died, team president Dave St. Peter announced this morning on Twitter. Boswell was 67.
"Sad day for the Twins with news of the passing of former pitcher Dave Boswell," St. Peter tweeted (@TwinsPrez). "Sympathies to Dave's bride Lou and the entire Boswell family."
Born in Baltimore in 1945, Boswell signed with the Twins in 1963 and reached the majors one year later as a 19-year-old phenom. He went 6-5 for the Twins in 1965, when they reached their first World Series.
In 1967, Boswell notched 200 strikeouts, and he went 20-12 with a 3.23 ERA in 1969. That fall, he locked horns with Orioles lefthander Dave McNally in a scoreless pitchers' duel that stretched into extra innings at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. Boswell pitched 10 2/3 innings, finally giving up a run in the 11th, and the Orioles won 1-0.
Boswell's on-field success was overshadowed by a string of off-field incidents, including an infamous fight with then-manager Billy Martin in August 1969, outside a bar in Detroit. Boswell got into another fight when the Twins were celebrating their 1970 divisional title, and was holding a glass at the time, requiring 23 stitches.
The Twins released him in 1971. He pitched briefly with the Twins and Orioles before retiring.
FORT MYERS, FLA. -- Jason Kubel's eighth-inning strikeout against Mariano Rivera in Game 2 of the 2004 Division Series has haunted Twins fans ever since.
Torii Hunter offered an interesting twist recently in this piece by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, saying a young righthanded hitter turned down a chance to pinch hit in that spot.
But two Twins sources I spoke to this morning refuted that claim, saying there's no chance they would have pinch hit for Kubel in that spot. As our Ken Chia notes in this post, the Twins had two righthanded options on the bench at the time -- Lew Ford and Matthew LeCroy -- as well as the switch-hitting Augie Ojeda.
Ford had a terrific 2004 season, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 1, including a strikeout against Rivera. It's possible, one source conceded, that the Twins asked Ford if he felt like he was seeing the ball well off Rivera for a potential pinch-hit appearance that night and that the answer was no. But those questions get asked all the time. Managers want an honest response, and the bottom line is that even if Ford had puffed out his chance and said, "Heck yeah, I own that guy!" the Twins weren't going to send him up against Rivera instead of Kubel.
This was the 2004 Jason Kubel, the pre-knee surgery monster whose every plate appearance had impressed the Twins. And while Rivera's cutter does tend to make him more effective against lefties than righties, think about that eighth-inning sequence: The first two batters Rivera faced were lefthanders. Justin Morneau singled, Luis Rivas entered as a pinch runner, and Corey Koskie followed with a ground-rule double.
Among the lingering disappointments for the Twins is that Rivas didn't steal second, despite being given the green light against Rivera and Jorge Posada. Had Rivas swiped the bag, it wouldn't have mattered that Koskie's ball hopped into the stands. But you can go on and on with the if-game after a night like that.
So yes, with one out, all the Twins needed was a sac fly from Kubel, and Rivera schooled him, climbing the ladder for a three-pitch strikeout. The Twins lost the game in 12 innings and seemingly never beat the Yankees again -- until Kubel hit a grand slam off Rivera on May 16, 2010.
Hunter and Michael Cuddyer made other good points in Heyman's piece about how the Yankees seem to be in the Twins heads. But the revisionist history about Kubel's at-bat only stirs bitter memories. We'll ask Manager Ron Gardenhire for his thoughts when he does his press briefing later today, but I'm guessing he'll have a different recollection than Torii.
Did the Yankees purposely tank their 2010 division title chances to set up another postseason matchup with their favorite punching bags from Minnesota? I see why GM Brian Cashman’s comment could be construed that way, but that’s not how I’m reading it.
On Sunday, Cashman was explaining why he supports baseball’s decision to add another wild-card team to each league.
“We’re exhibit A,” he said, according to the New York Times. “We conceded the division two years ago because of the previous setup. I don’t want to take anything away from Tampa Bay’s Eastern Division title, but we didn’t try to win the division. We tried to line ourselves up for the playoffs, and that worked. We wound up sweeping Minnesota and going to play the Texas Rangers two years ago because we got our guys healthy and ready to go.
“The division title in essence, the way that wild-card situation was sitting, it was rendered meaningless. Whether you were a wild card or a division champ, it really meant nothing more than a T-shirt and a hat.”
The Yankees knocked the Twins from the AL Division Series in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010. The last two were sweeps, and New York now has a nine-game postseason winning streak against Minnesota.
To my knowledge, Cashman never has said a disrespectful thing about the Twins. He praised them before and after each of those Division Series victories and showed complete class each time the Yankees moved on to the ALCS. Regardless who they played, the Yankees learned it was more important to enter the postseason healthy and set up their rotation than to fight for division titles and home-field advantage.
Cashman’s comment simply explains why the new system will be better. Instead of diluting the pennant races, it should help enhance them. A team that doesn’t fight for its division title, purposely settling for a wild card berth, would risk having its entire season derailed in a one-game showdown with the other wild-card team.
Baseball has until March 1 to decide whether to move to a 10-team playoff format for this fall, and it’ll definitely be in place for 2013. The sooner the better.
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