Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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The Pirates try to secure their first winning season since 1992 tonight in Milwaukee.
Former Twin Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates, and former Twin Justin Morneau will bat cleanup and wear a new number: 66.
I guessed that was a result of the intense hockey fan paying homage to Penguins great Mario Lemeiux. I was wrong.
``Nope,'' Morneau said. ``It's just 33 times two.''
Morneau wore 33 during his prime with the Twins. Is 99 a possibility? ``Nope,'' he said. ``There's only one 99 for us Canadians.''
He means Wayne Gretzky, of course.
``I wore 27 in '05,'' he said. ``And I wore 27 in the first World Baseball Classic because Larry Walker was there. in spring training in 2003, I wore 61.''
I admitted I had forgotten all of that. ``I only have one person's number to remember,'' he said.
Wednesday afternoon, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he plans to keep Morneau in the cleanup spot because of Morneau's experience, and experience in pennant races. ``He's been through this,'' Hurdle said.
Tuesday night, Morneau went 3-for-3 with a walk as the Pirates came back to beat the Brewers.
``That was needed,'' he said. ``You want to have good at-bats, but at the same time you want to have quality at-bats and have an impact. I think that was a good day for feeling like a part of the team. You're kind of jumping into somebody else's party. You want to feel like you contributed, that you're not just along for the ride.''
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
Had a long talk with Justin Morneau that provided the basis for today's column. I couldn't fit all the good stuff into the newspaper, so here are Morneua's responses on a few other topics of interest:
Do you leave the Twins bearing a few regrets?
Morneau: ``Yeah. A World Series would have been the No. 1 thing. We got to theplayoffs and couldn’t find a way to get it done. It seemed like a key player was injured every time we got there, and when you’re matching up with a team like the Yankees that has so much depth, you need every guy that you have. In '06 we’re missing Frankie (Liriano), who was the best pitcher in the game at the time. And then in '09 and '10 I was hurt, and who knows what happens? I couldn't control the injuries. It’s part of playing the game. That’s something you wish didn’t happen but that’s part of the game.''
What was it like to be traded and wind up walking into the Pirates' dugout during a game?
Morneau: Crazy. Crazy. Really weird. For a few innings I looked out there, being on a different team, it took a little while to settle in. Once I made a few plays and atook a couple of at-bats, it started to sink in, and I started to realize it’s still baseball. Different team, but still baseball. It’s odd. At the same time, it was exciting.
Can you see yourself playing for the Twins again?
Morneau: I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. That’s too hard to answer that right now.
What was your favorite moment as a Twin? Maybe the game-winning home run off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in 2006?
Morneau: That one went through my head. The favorite one for me would probably be sitting in the dome the last day of the season in 2006, watching the game in Kansas City up on the screen, when nobody left the stadium. That’s not something you could ever script or plan. That just kind of happened. That was something we all shared with the fans and our teammates. That was insanity. That was probably my favorite thing I can think of.
Did you consider retiring when you were dealing with concussion symptoms?
Morneau: I had to think about it, but to say it was considered, no. To say it was close, no. But was it a realistic possibility? Maybe. It’s hard to say. Going through it, it felt like I wasn’t getting better. If I physically wasn’t able to go out there, to be cleared by a doctor to play…
Will you still live in the Twin Cities?
Morneau: Well, we live in Arizona during the winter. Corey Koskie came back. It might turn out to be a good thing. You go somewhere else and see what it's like, and you realize how great the Twin Cities are.
You've started hitting homers like your old self in the last month. Have you found your swing?
Morneau: My swing felt more like my swing. It's hard to put a finger on it. Those pitches I was missing or popping up early in the year, I felt like I was squaring up. I hit them in some of the right ballparks to hit them in, too. I just hope it continues for this month and next month and we have some fun.
Do you have any reassessed career goals?
Morneau: Winning. Just winning. Hopefully I get to play a few more years and enjoy wherever I'm at. Right now this is a good place to be.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow from Milwaukee. Sunday on the station we'll have the Gardenhire show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Sports Talk with me, Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann from 10-noon. I'll be calling in from the Vikings game in Detroit.
As a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I have a Hall of Fame vote. I often wish I didn't. I'm not sure any of us are qualified to judge who belongs in the Hall. I don't really want the responsibility, and I frequently disagree with my brethren about judging athletes linked to steroids or rumored to have used steroids, and about our fitness to judge the ``character'' of a candidate.
But I vote because I feel it is my responsibility. In recent years, I've been voting for Jack Morris. I felt that even though his statistics make him a borderline candidate, I recognize him as a dominant pitcher who performed his best in big games and ate up an incredible number of innings. I greatly value innings, because having your ace on the mound is a great advantage to your team. Call it VORP: Value over Relief Pitcher.
While I've voted for Morris, I have not campaigned for him, because I understand the arguments against him: He did not dominate in vital categories like ERA and strikeouts, and he pitched for mostly good teams, which elevated him in the dubious category of pitcher victories.
In a piece writte by Stuart Miller for the New York Times baseball blog, Miller notes that Morris may be about to get his lucky break. He's on the same ballot as a number of players tainted by steroid use or rumors. Morris, who received 66.7 percent of the votes last year, may make it because he is viewed as a clean player.
I disagree with that approach. I will vote for players regardless of their reputations because I don't believe I, or any of my peers, are qualified to discern who used performance enhancing drugs and who didn't. We just don't know and we shouldn't pretend that we do.
More interesting about Miller's piece is that he writes something that contradicts what I've heard from many sabermatricians.
The longstanding argument in favor of Morris has been that he pitched just well enough to win, meaning he would pitch to the situation, giving up more runs and hits when he was far ahead, which could damage his stats without hurting his team.
The longstanding argument from stat-heads has been that pitchers do not pitch to the situation, and that there was no proof of Morris doing so.
Here's the key portion of Miller's piece:
``(Morris) has fallen short for 13 years because he is a classic borderline case, with plenty of arguments both for and against him. He never was dominant in terms of E.R.A., WHIP or strikeouts — in the American League, he finished in the top 5 in E.R.A., WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings just twice each — but he knew how to win. That sounds a bit like an intangible, and it is, but Morris won 254 games by pitching to the situation — when his team gave him more run support he pitched to contact, striking out and walking fewer batters, allowing more hits and more runs.
The closer the game, the lower the opposing team’s batting average against him. And most significant, he rarely missed a turn and almost always went deep into games, averaging 33 starts and nearly 7 1/3 innings per start from 1979 through 1992.
That also was invaluable to his teams, since he kept lesser starters off the hill and allowed the bullpen to rest. (This was a guy who rang up 64 complete game losses.) He also led the 1984 Detroit Tigers and the 1991 Minnesota Twins to World Series, turning in one of baseball’s greatest performances with his 10-inning Game 7 shutout in 1991.''
That is the best summation of Morris' career I've ever seen, and it bolsters my reasons for voting for Morris for the Hall of Fame.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey, and on with Tom Pelissero at 6:40. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib
So why would the Twins place Denard Span on the disabled list two days before they're allowed to expand their roster for September callups?
I think there are two reasons.
1. They want to bring up Matt Carson, a corner outfielder who played well in his brief stint with the team. Because they sent Carson down a week ago, they can't call him up again unless he's replacing someone who is headed for the DL. Thus, the move.
2. Reading between a lot of lines, I also think the Twins are tired of waiting for Span, who has been ``day-to-day'' for a long time. This is a way of telling him that he's driving them nuts and that they'd rather play other people at this time, anyway.
Other notes from the Twins' 5-4 loss to Seattle:
-Twins lost 8 of 190 against Seattle this season.
-The Twins have lost 17 of their last 21 against the Mariners.
-Josh Willingham had two bat at-bats with runners in scoring position early in the game, then dropped a line drive in the sixth that prolonged the Mariners' four-run sixth. He also hit his 32nd home run.
-Brian Duensing's record is now 3-10 with a 5.26 ERA.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 6:30 tonight and 2:05 tomorrow. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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