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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Denard Span on Friday got picked off in the first inning, got caught off base on a line drive in the third inning, and dropped a fly ball that preceeded the grand slam that ruined Francisco Liriano's otherwise dominant outing.
For all the time we spend analyzing statistics, new-wave statistics and pitching matchups, it's amazing how often games are won and lost on baserunning plays, and mistakes that don't count as errors, and what I would call ``awareness'' plays - throwing to the right base, backing up throws, taking the extra base.
Span improved his batting average on Friday night but may have cost the Twins the game.
Span's a quality guy. I think he's also sensitive to chatter. I wonder if he was a bit off because he's worried about getting traded.
The Twins are desperate to upgrade their starting rotation and their organizational pitching depth. The Twins wouldn't trade Span because they don't like him; they would trade him because he's a valuable and affordable player, and teams like the Washington Nationals are New York Yankees are looking to aquire outfielders with speed and respectable on-base percentages.
Yes, Liriano was dominant, striking out 15 in eight innings. Yes, he's pitched very well of late.
But do I trust him? No.
That's the subject of my column in the Saturday paper. To sign someone to a long-term deal, you have to trust them. Liriano has been erratic for years now. And if the Twins don't sign him to a long-term deal, they need to trade him now, while his value is at its highest point in more than a year.
No, I don't think Adrian Peterson did anything wrong.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Tom Pelissero and I will host Sunday Morning Sports Talk outside the ballpark from 10-noon this Sunday, after running the Ron Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10.
And if you're interested in the London Olympics, Rachel Blount and I will have a series of profiles running between now and the start of the games. On Sunday, we'll run my feature on Hugh McCutcheon, the women's volleyball coach of the US Olympic team who will take over the Gopher program in the fall.
Cool, very interesting guy. And, no, the feature is not all about the attack on his in-laws in Beijing.
Here's what went wrong during the Twins' 6-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night:
-The Twins fell to 8-23, worst record in the bigs by 2 1/2 games.
-Starter Jason Marquis threw 39 balls in 87 pitches and lasted just four innings. He was brought to Minnesota to throw strikes and eat innings and did neither.
-Trevor Plouffe, in the first game of a tryout at third base that could determine the course of his career, ran into a tag play at second base and failed to call for a popup that he should have caught, a popup that fell between him and Marquis.
-Centerfielder Denard Span forgot how many outs there were.
-Erik Komatsu failed to pick up the third-base coach and, with the ball in rightfield, stopped at second before getting thrown out at third.
-Alexi Casilla got a forceout at second base and forgot to look home to prevent a runner from scoring.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he saw things that you don't see ``in high school ball.''
This was disgusting. This is a flat, unintelligent team filled with guys who shouldn't be in the big-leagues.
Plouffe is not a winning big-league player. Casilla is not an everyday big-league player. The starting rotation is awful, and the best competitor among them, Carl Pavano, hasn't cracked 90 mph this season, indicating he's probably pitching with an injury or in pain.
The bullpen has actually been pretty good. Brian Dozier looks like a player. Josh Willingham has produced. Joe Mauer has stayed healthy.
Other than that, this season has been a washout.
To think the Twins played this poorly the day two key players were demoted - Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and Danny Valencia to AAA.
It may be time to trade Denard Span. The Nationals are still interested and have a surplus of pitching. Make the deal.
And if the Nationals want Plouffe or Casilla or a part-time outfielder, so much the better.
-I'm hearing the Twins like Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton in the June draft. While the Twins are desperate for pitching, Buxton projects to be a big-league star.
-Wrote about the Vikings' stadium for the Friday paper. My take: Minnesota will have an amazing array of sports venues once ZygiDome gets built.
-Joe Mauer is hitting .270 with one homer. Being healthy doesn't help a whole lot if he can't swing the bat with authority.
-Bring up Ben Revere. If you can write a lineup with Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni, you can find enough playing time for Revere.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow for my daily update with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday.
-If the Twins keep looking for competent outfielders, they could give Matt Carson a look. He's a veteran minor-leaguer who's hitting .295 for Rochester.
-Thank you, Tiger Woods, for making me feel better about my golf swing.
-I really wish the Twins had been lucky enough to land Bryce Harper. This team needs someone who competes like that.
-The Timberwolves, when semi-healthy, were so much more entertaining than most of the teams in the NBA playoffs.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Twins' hitters were just as bad as you thought they were on their just-concluded road trip.
Per the Twins' press box notes, here are some of their performances in Anaheim and Seattle:
-Joe Mauer: 1-for-17, 1 RBI.
-Josh Willingham: 1-for-18
-Danny Valencia: 2-for-17, 1 RBI
-Denard Span (MVP?): 5-for-24
-Trevor Plouffe: 0-for-8
-Chris Parmalee: 1-for-19
-Alexi Casilla: 4-for-21,1 RBI
-Jamey Carroll: 3-for-21
Remember when Joe Mauer not playing was the Twins' biggest problem?
Well now he plays every day and he's not making an impact. He's hitting .278 with one homer in 97 at-bats. He gets on base, but that's not of much use in a lineup where nobody can drive him in.
With Justin Morneau on the disabled list, there are only two active Twins with more than one home run: Willingham with 5 and Ryan Doumit with 3, and he had one before hitting two yesterday.
Today the Twins will turn to Brian Dozier for a boost. I just hope Ron Gardenhire lets Dozier get comfortable near the bottom of the order. Dozier should eventually be a good big-leaguer, but putting him in the second spot in the batting order would be a bit much for a rookie right now.
Anyway, Mauer is a prototypical No. 2 hitter, and batting him third doesn't do him or the lineup any favors. He doesn't hit for power or drive in runs.
On to the Twins' starting pitchers:
They're 4-16, and their four wins is the fewest by a starting staff in the big leagues. The starting staff has allowed the most runs (111), most home runs (29), and second-most hits (185) in the big leagues. They have the fewest strikeouts (74) and highest ERA (6.73). Opponents are hitting .322 against Twins starters. Again, that's the worst in baseball. (Source: Twins pregame notes)
Tonight, the Twins face Jered Weaver, who pitched a no-hitter against the Twins in his last start.
One sidelight: The Twins committed zero errors on their 1-5 road trip.
What's most amazing about the Twins' 6-15 record is how many things have gone right for them this year.
Less than a month into the season, it looks like Josh Willingham was an excellent signing, that Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit are as advertised - Carroll an excellent fielder and Doumit a versatile guy with some pop. And all three are professionals.
Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have been iron men, with Mauer playing every inning of every game and Morneau even volunteering to play first base when the Twins were happy to leave him at DH.
But in baseball, when your starting pitching fails, your team fails, no matter how your position players are faring.
Enter Sunday's game, the Twins' starters' ERA was 7.01, easily the highest in the American League. Jason Marquis hung in for six innings on Sunday, and the Twins won, 7-4.
The Twins' current problem is also their everlasting problem: Amassing starting pitching quality and depth.
Remember, they traded for Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Carl Pavano. There are two home-grown pitchers in their current rotation - Liam Hendricks, who is trying to prove himself, and Nick Blackburn, who is trying to reestablish himself.
When the Twins stunk in the '90s, it was because they lacked starting pitching. When they competed in the 2000s, it was because their starting pitching improved dramatically.
The 2012 Twins are much improved over the 2011 Twins in many ways. But unless their starting pitchers improve, they'll be doomed to the same fate.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday with Reusse & Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Here's what I gathered during the Twins' workout at Camden Yards on Thursday morning:
Jim Palmer is still a great storyteller, at his best when he needles Earl Weaver in absentia.
Ron Gardenhire really likes his lineup. He'll start Chris Parmalee at first, Ryan Doumit in right and Justin Morneau at DH. Trevor Plouffe probably won't get a lot of at-bats early in the year, because Doumit is Gardenhire's backup catcher and he can't pinch-run or use a defensive replacement for him without losing his backup catcher.
Gardenhire is very encouraged by Morneau's body language and attitude.
Jared Burton will start the season as the most likely rigththanded setup man, but Glen Perkins will be the true setup man. Anthony Swarzak will be the long reliever.
Gardenhire, told no team has ever gone from 99 losses to the playoffs in one season, said: ``We would be the first. We want to be the first.'' Which reminded me that often Gardenhire's worst teams (2005, 2007, last year) were the ones facing great expectations, and his teams often overachieve when facing lesser expectations.
The early-season schedule is brutal. I don't see this team contending, and I would be surprised if it wins 81 games. to do better than than, Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps will have to be outstanding.
The American League has become incredibly powerful. There are six superteams - the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers - and the Blue Jays may not be far behind. And then there is a clump of teams who need a dozen things to go right to contend, like the Twins.
I'm covering the opening series in Baltimore, then coming home to cover the Twins' first home series. Please follow Joe Christensen and myself this weekend. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'm writing about Carl Pavano's highly-interesting career for tomorrow's paper.
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