TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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Posts about Vikings

Insanity in the bullpen

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: January 18, 2011 - 11:13 PM

In the wake of the Twins' quick exit from the playoffs last year, as I prepared myself for the offseason by looking through the team's financial particulars, I came to one clear conclusion: "The Twins would be insane to bring back Matt Capps."

In my blog post discussing the subject, I surmised that the Twins and arbitrators would overemphasize the value of Capps' saves, comparing him to other closers with similar totals. I concluded that "it's not hard to imagine Capps at least doubling his $3.5 million salary in 2011."

Of course, there was little doubt that the Twins would be bringing back Capps. They obviously overvalue the heck out of him, otherwise they wouldn't have traded away a top prospect to have him come in and close when they already had a guy who was adequately handling the job.

So I wasn't at all surprised when I heard that the Twins had tendered Capps a contract at the early-December deadline. The decision created a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that kept growing and growing until the inevitable news came through yesterday: the Twins and the arbitration-eligible Capps have agreed on a one-year, $7.15 million deal.

In justifying the move on ESPN 1500 yesterday afternoon, after Phil Mackey astutely pointed out that the team could have kept two of its other departed relievers by not tendering Capps a contract, general manager Bill Smith said that the Twins want a good closing option should Joe Nathan be unable to fill the role. As if Capps -- who was non-tendered by the Pirates following a terrible campaign just a year ago -- is all that different of a pitcher from Jesse Crain ($4M next year), or Jon Rauch ($3.5M).

The Twins are talking out of both sides of their mouths with regards to Nathan. On the one hand they claim that they're very optimistic about his recovery, to the point where they apparently won't carry any trustworthy setup men other than Capps and Mijares. On the other hand, they're spending over $7 million on insurance at the closer position, where they've already got $11.25 million invested in what has been illuminated as a mistake of a contract. (I was on board with that extension myself at the time, but let's face it, losing Nathan had virtually no effect on the team's outcome last year.)

Meanwhile they refuse to spend $5.8 million -- the amount in J.J. Hardy's new one-year deal with the Orioles -- on insurance at shortstop. Even if you don't think Hardy should start, he's a drastically better backup plan than anything they have and it seems at least as risky to count on the perpetually underachieving Alexi Casilla to be a competent starting shortstop as it does to count on Nathan to close.

In what world is closer a more valuable and irreplaceable position than starting shortstop? And how would the Twins not be more aware of this than anyone? They've cycled through bad shortstops faster than the Vikings go through quarterbacks over the past decade but they've had no trouble turning solid setup men like Eddie Guardado and Nathan into All-Star closers.

What's that saying about insanity and trying the same thing over and over again while expecting different results?

Change or no change?

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: January 4, 2011 - 8:19 AM

On Monday afternoon, the Vikings suprised absolutely no one when they named Leslie Frazier as their eighth head coach. Another coaching change for a team that has had three head coaches in the past six years.

On January 4, 2002, the Minnesota Twins named their 3B coach Ron Gardenhire as their new manager. He replaced Tom Kelly who had been manager since he replaced Ray Miller as Twins manager during the 1986 season. Kelly had been the Twins 3B coach prior to that. 

On January 10, 2002, the Minnesota Vikings named Mike Tice their full time head coach. He had taking over the reigns from Denny Green a few weeks earlier. Tice's contract ran out after the 2005 season, and Brad Childress was brought in from outside the organization in January of 2006. As well all know, Mr. Childress was relieved of his duties six weeks ago. Frazier became the interim head coach and as had been anticipated for about the last year, he was named the team's head coach on Monday. 

The Vikings have had three head coaches in the last six years and four head coaches in the past ten seasons. In the last decade the Vikings have made the playoffs three times. The Twins, on the other hand, have had two managers over the past 25 seasons. In the last decade, the Twins have been to the playoffs six times. 

This blog is not to say that one ownership methodology is better than the other. The Twins practice and preach continuity and with it, they have remained an annual contender and playoff team in the AL Central. The Vikings have made several changes in the past decade. They have just three playoff berths, but their run to the NFC Championship game earlier this year was sure fun to watch. (Note - a good point raised is that the Vikings have had three ownership changes since 1998. It's difficult to run an organization on continuity when that is the case.)

The Twins ownership was known as frugal for a lot of years in the Metrodome, and rightfully so due to very low revenue streams. With the arrival of Target Field, the Twins have spent on payroll, increasing their payroll from just $65 million a few years ago to about $100 million in 2009 and upwards of $120 million in 2010. The Vikings have spent at least the salary cap in most of the years. In 2010, Zygi Wilf went way beyond the salary cap (in an un-capped season) in an attempt to "go for it." How did that go?

Will a new coach change the fortunes for the Vikings after one of the most disappointing seasons in the Vikings history? Brad Childress had lost his players completely. If there is one thing that will never happen, it is Twins players quitting on Ron Gardenhire. 

There are a lot of similarities between the Vikings and the Twins. Some positive traits. Some negative traits. It will always be amazing for me that the Twins have been the much more successful team the past decade and yet this remains such a Vikings state and region. 

Here's to Leslie Frazier being the right guy to take the Vikings back to the playoffs, and to Ron Gardenhire for hopefully being the guy able to take the Twins to that next level. All I know if 94 wins in the regular season is a pretty good place to be.  Is one management philosophy better than the other? What has firing and re-hiring done for the Vikings? What has continuity done for the Twins? 

Everyone can have a different opinion, and no one is right, and no one is wrong.

Still building from within

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: December 21, 2010 - 4:43 AM

Look back a decade: Torii Hunter spent a couple of seasons making people wonder about his skills before becoming a star. Look back a generation: Frank Viola spent two seasons with a five-plus ERA before blossoming. Tell me why Casilla is utterly hopeless?

Howard Sinker in his A Fan's View blog yesterday made a tremendous point. It is important to remain patient. Of course, in Viola's third year, he posted a 3.21 ERA over 257.2 innings. I think Alexi Casilla will be fine. I think that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be just fine. Will either post a .730 OPS? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that they won't fill their roles adequately. I just don't think that offense will be the biggest issue for the Twins in 2011. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, is where there are question marks, but the cupboard is not empty.

What I would like to see is if 29-year-old Scott Baker, in his seventh season with the Twins, can hit 200 innings (or post a sub-4.20 ERA) for just the second time, and earn his $5 million salary. I'd like to see Kevin Slowey, in his fifth big league season, be 100% healthy, and see what he can do. He threw 199 innings in 2007 between Rochester and Minnesota. I'd like to see Nick Blackburn get back to going 11-11 with an ERA between 4.03 and 4.05 like he did in 2008 and 2009. As bad as portions of their 2010 seasons were, none of this is unrealistic. They have done it before. Along with that, maybe Brian Duensing can prove a lot of us wrong and put together another strong season in 2011, hopefully the full season as a starter. And, Francisco Liriano put himself back in discussion for best pitchers in the league (which is also helped by Cliff Lee moving to the NL). If healthy, he can still continue to improve.

So, if Carl Pavano leaves for greener pastures in places like Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh, it really is not the end of the world. What are the odds that he could post a 3.75 ERA again or throw another 221 innings in a season? Not terribly good.

The Twins have a history of building from within, or giving opportunities to players who have come up through their system, and to stand behind them through struggles. We have seen it time and again. And for the most part over the last decade, it has paid off. The Twins have used free agents to complement their core of home-grown players. Last year, there wasn't a solid internal option at second base, so they signed Orlando Hudson.

Last week, the Twins lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier to free agency. It is likely that they will not bring back Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch or Ron Mahay either. Fans, understandably, are up in arms about the lack of certainty in the Twins bullpen. There is no certainty that Joe Nathan will return to form in 2011. Jose Mijares is immensely talented, but he was up and down in 2010. Matt Capps is the given in the Twins bullpen, and he is what he is (a solid reliever). Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks.

Twins fans don't want to hear about someone like Glen Perkins being a bullpen option in 2011. There are also a lot of guys with little or no big league experience being mentioned as options. I understand that is scary. We want certainty in the bullpen, right? Certainty, in this case, would have been retaining Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier because they are veterans, right? But if I read the comments here at the StarTribune.com blogs or many Twins blogs, most blog commenters were not big fans of Jesse Crain. Most blog commenters were not exactly confident when Matt Guerrier would come into games. But aside from Rafael Soriano, Brian Fuentes and Type A free agent and former Twins pitcher Grant Balfour, few relievers have been more reliable than Crain and Guerrier. And you didn't want them back. So, who would be out there at this stage that could be counted on more? I am a proponent of signing RHP Jose Veras and LHP Hideki Okajima, but in each case, there are reasons that their 2010 team non-tendered them. Certainly not guarantees.

Simply stated, there are very few reliable relief pitchers from year to year. Most (or at least many) relief pitchers are failed starters. There are a lot of injuries. It is in the bullpen where you can find diamonds in the rough. It's where guys (like Guerrier) who are out of options to get an opportunity, and a few take advantage of it. Look at the Yankees' David Robertson. In 2009, he was a question mark. In 2010, he was getting put into some pretty big situations for the pinstripes.

With that said, there are a lot of options for breakout types in the Twins bullpen. Remember that they only need three or four of these guys to produce for the Twins in 2011:

  • Anthony Slama - It amazes me that many Twins fans seem to think he can't contribute to the team. Are people really willing to say that a poor 4.2 inning debut in the big leagues tells us that he can't pitch up there? Really? His 1.95 ERA over four minor league seasons mean nothing? His 12.5 K/9 means nothing? His 1.06 WHIP? His 2.44 ERA in one-plus seasons at AAA mean nothing? Bloggers and blog commenters have been clamoring for Slama for a few years, and now they'll give up on him? Because of 4.2 bad innings? I think Slama can be a solid 7th inning guy.
  • Alex Burnett - he has a chance to be really good. He came up as a starter, a successful starter, but in 2009, he moved to the bullpen. Despite not pitching in AAA, and only a short time in AA, he was on teh Twins Opening Day roster and spent most of the first half with the Twins. He struggled as the season went along, but he has great stuff and will definitely be back with the Twins, eventually pitching late innings.
  • Pat Neshek - It amazes me how quickly some Twins fans turned on the sind-winding reliever. Yes, his velocity was down. I get that. But this year, he will get an actual offseason of working out and preparing, not an offseason of rehabilitation. Will he come back and be as incredible as he was in 2006 and 2007? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm willing to give him that opportunity.
  • James Hoey - Similarly, there was a lot of excitement about Hoey with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007. The righty throws hard and was generally thought to be the closer of the future with Baltimore. And then he had shoulder surgery, and he worked his way back up the ladder. His velocity is back. The strikeouts are back. He will need to cut down walks, but he is a power arm that the Twins bullpen needs.
  • Rob Delaney - Delaney was undrafted in 2006 and dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, including AA. AAA has been more of a struggle, but consider that in 80 AAA innings, he walked just 23 and struck out 92. Sure, his one inning in the big leagues last September wasn't pretty. He looked nervous and gave up a homer, a single and a walk before getting the three outs. But again, I've heard some say that he can't handle the big leagues because of that one outing.
  • Kyle Waldrop - It surprised a lot of people that the Twins didn't protece Waldrop after a terrific 2010 season with the Rochester Red Wings. Since returning from his shoulder surgery, he has been incredible out of the bullpen. After 20 games in Ft. Myers, he posted a 1.46 ERA in 31 New Britain games. He posted a 2.57 ERA in 2010 in Rochester, but his ERA was at ONE halfway through the 2010 season. Yes, he was not good in the Arizona Fall League, but he still has a chance to be a very good, groundball reliever.
  • Glen Perkins - A left-hander who did succeed a few years ago as a starter, he looks to be a lefty reliever in 2010. Of course, he doesn't get left-handed batters out, so I just don't know how he can contribute, but stranger things have happened when players get opportunities.
  • Eric Hacker, Yorman Bazardo, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzak, Chuck James - These guys could all get an opportunity for a long relief role. Manship filled the role toward the end of 2010 and could do so again, but the others are options.
  • Carlos Gutierrez - In a podcast just last week, Gutierrez informed me that he wants to pitch out of the bullpen, that it is where he is 'at home.' However, he acknowledged that spending the last couple of years as a starter has been valuable in helping him develop secondary pitches. I'm frequently asked who could be the 2011 version of Danny Valencia. Kyle Gibson certainly could come up in June and contributed as a starter. Carlos Gutierrez could come up in June and really help out the Twins bullpen.

Are any of those big name acquisitions? No. They are internal options. Can any of them contribute to the Twins in 2011? Absolutely. Can three of four of them join Nathan, Capps and Mijares to form a solid bullpen? Defintely. Am I just trying to be positive here? Probably. But can the internal choices be equal or better than the external, high-cost free agents? Absolutely.

The Twins historically have relied upon their own players, on building from within. It's been a philosophy that has worked well for them. Even if their payroll has gone from $65 million to $100 million to $115 million, there is no reason to start spending foolishly on free agents or giving up the farm for players who might help. Can the Twins win the division with their current roster? I think so. It'd be tough, but I would not put it against them.

To be fair (and honest), I have been immensely frustrated with the Twins offseason. I expected them to wisely stay away from high-dollar free agents. I thought we might hear more about trades than we have. The Twins might soon spend a lot of money for two or three years on a guy who is already 35 years old. They could also give two years to a 40 year old one-dimensional player. I'm sure those moves will make a lot of fans happy. Maybe I'm strange. I figure there are six or seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so I still hold out that the team will add an impact player, the type of player who can make a difference without breaking the bank. But I don't know that the team is better. I also don't know what the Twins plans are, or their contingency plans are (if Pavano and/or Thome were to sign elsewhere). No one does because the Twins front office is great at not letting information leak We can't all be Jim Breen!

Finally, Twins fans need to remember one important thing... at least the Twins and their stability is a lot better than following the Vikings and their chaos this year!

MORE TO READ TODAY:
Here are a few more articles for you to peruse throughout the day:
·         JJ Stankevitz has been a frequent guest of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. He does a great job as the blogger for the White Sox site on Examiner.com. He is also a student at the University of Missouri where he writes for KBIA Sports Extra as well. He recently had the opportunity to meet fellow Missouri student/alumni and current Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. The results were a terrific article on Gibson.
·         Parker from Over the Baggy posted an article on the blueprint for a bullpen.
·         Needless to say, Fanatic Jack is Dazed and Confused about what is going on with the Twins offseason. It is really hard to disagree with him.
·         Twinkie Town has now completed its Top Ten Twins Prospects and you can now vote for Twins Prospect #11. Roger Dehring is going a great job of running the polls, and the discussion is terrific for anyone interested in Twins prospects.

So Close, So So Far

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: October 7, 2010 - 10:51 AM

Boy – it sure felt like a win. This was what you want. Actually, this is what you want any number of ways. Let’s count them, shall we?

 
  1. CC Sabathia’s up to his old tricks, hitting a prime target on the Twins to send a message. (Not just a prime target, by the way, but an ex-teammate.) And instead, it backfires, as a Twins team leader gets his pound of flesh – times two. Not that Jabbathia would miss a few pounds of flesh.
 
  1. Liriano messes up exactly the way he shouldn’t mess up – by walking the anemic-hitting Brett Gardner. Then, with Gardner running on the pitch, Jeter singles to left field but Gardner can’t advance to third because of the respect he needs to show to Delmon Young’s arm. Liriano induces three outs from the middle of the Yankees order as Target Field sways with … what exactly? Excitement? Passion? Those words capture the emotion, but not the force. I’m going to go with: Will. If Gardner takes the extra base, a run scores. Instead, the Yankees road gaffe saves the Twins a run.
 
  1.  Because Jabbathia has trouble oozing all the way to first base, Orlando Hudson manages to go first to third on a ground out to first base. A few pitches later he scores on a wild pitch. Another run that sloppy baseball cost the Yankees. The Twins coast through innings four and five with a 3-0 lead.
 
  1. The second batter in the sixth inning, Mark Teixeira, doubles, but that’s what Teixeira is supposed to do against left-handers. The formula for survival is simple – take care of ARod, who is anemic against lefties. Then, limit the damage until you get to the latter half of the Yankees order. This is how any professional left-handed pitcher approaches this situation. It is nothing that the Twins ace cannot handle.
 
  1. The collar has tightened. The game is 3-2 on a hit by Jorge Posada that cleared Orlando Hudson’s glove by ¾ of an inch. But now Curtis Granderson and his .215 career batting average against left-handers is up against Liriano, the Twins ace left-hander. The bleeding will be stopped, and the bullpen should be able to hold it from there, right?
 
  1. The game is tied, the bases are loaded, and CC Sabathia has shown just how tired he is - throwing eight of his last nine pitches out of the strike zone. He’s facing a right-handed hitter that has hit .304 in the second half of the season, with a .363 on-base percentage. And of course, Target Field is as loud as it can get.
 
By the way, for those of you laying blame, don’t underestimate the damage that Hardy did in this game. Yes, he had a double early and displayed his solid defense. But in this at-bat, he watched (appropriately) strike one. Then Sabathia threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone, just like he had done for each of the previous two batters. And Hardy struck out on them.
 
  1. The game is tied going into the last three innings, which means this game is going to be decided by the bullpens. Perfect. What’s more, the Twins best reliever also gets to face the top of the Yankees order, including two guys who have struggled against right-handers like him. That is exactly the matchup the Twins were hoping for.
 
  1. The Twins are down, but there are runners on first and second and Jim Thome strides to the plate – versus a right-handed pitcher? Yep. Because the Yankees had already used their only reliable left-hander, and because Young had singled off his the right-handed replacement, Thome was going to get his cuts against the Yankees third best right-handed reliever.
 
  1. Against, the Yankees eighth inning setup man Kerry Wood, the Twins draw a walk and then luck out on an infield hit. Mariano Rivera isn’t warmed up yet, and so JJ Hardy gets his chance with speed on the basepaths.
 
 
Nine. That’s a nice number for a baseball game - but you could count more. Delmon Young’s fly ball to the edge of left field? Granderson’s double that was two feet short of a fly out? Teixeira’s home run that looked foul most of the way to the right field bleachers?
 
This felt like a win. And yet….
 
You might need to be a glutton for punishment to be a Vikings fan, but at least those losses only last three hours. A playoff series lasts days, and seemingly each day has at least a half dozen moments like these. Vikings fans at least get the band-aid ripped off fast. You’ve got to man up to be a baseball fan.
 
And you really, really, REALLY need to man up to be a Twins fan in the postseason. You’ve got a few hours left to prepare. Tonight let’s get something that does more than just FEEL like a win.
 
 
Hey, you’re not done. There is LOTS more great baseball stuff today, and you might want to soak it in. One way or the other, there isn’t a ton of baseball left this year.
 
Seth goes over the highlights of last night’s game and his thoughts.
 
Tonight’s game is a lot earlier, giving you absolutely no excuse to not join me in celebrating/venting about the game afterward. I’ll be on the patio at Sneaky Pete’s, a stone's throw from Target Field. I'll be assisting Justin Gaard in a postgame call-in show on KFAN AM 1130. Come in (of call in), talk Twins, and join me for a beer. After tonight, I think we deserve it, don’t you?

 

Twins Awards 2010

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: September 28, 2010 - 8:25 AM

The Twins regular season is nearing its completion, so it is time to start handing out some awards for the season. E-ballots were sent to many Twins bloggers and media types and they were asked to vote for Twins MVP, Twins Pitcher of the Year, and Twins Rookie of the Year. 24 responses were received. A huge Thank You to those who contributed to this:

·         Paul Allen is likely best known for his role as the Voice of the Vikings for KFAN, but he does terrific work on his nine to noon radio show at KFAN and KFAN.com. He also is the track announcer at Canterbury Downs.
·         Darren “Doogie” Wolfson works for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities as well as co-hosts Twins Wrap on 1500espn. He also writes a Your Voices blog for StarTribune.com.
·         Phil Mackey is on-air from 12-2 each weekday with Patrick Reusse and writes extensively on the Twins at 1500espn.com.
·         Howard Sinker was a Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune, and now he does a great job with startribune.com and blogs A Fans View from Section 219.
·         Phil Miller was the Twins beat writer for the Pioneer Press for a couple of years. He did help the Startribune.com Twins coverage some this season, worked for FSNorth.com, Baseball America and now covers Gophers football for the Star Tribune.
·         Dan Hammer is the host of The Dan Hammer Show on am740 in Fargo, an affiliate of KFAN.
·         Judd Spicer writes about sports for the City Pages.
·         The TwinsCentric Guys:
o    Seth Stohs – SethSpeaks.net
o    Nick Nelson – Nick’s Twins Blog
o    Parker Hageman – OverTheBaggy
o    John Bonnes – TwinsGeek.com.
·         Twins Bloggers:
o    Andrew Bryz-Gornia – Off the Mark
o    Topper Anton – Curve for a Strike
o    Betsy Bissen – For the Love of the Game
o    John Meyer – Twins MVB
o    Andrew Kneeland – Twins Target
o    Shawn Berg – On the Road with Shawn…
o    Kirsten Brown – K-Bro Baseball Blog
o    Cody Christie – North Dakota Twins Fan
o    Josh Johnson – Josh’s Thoughts
o    Eric Johnson – Undomed
o    Dan Wade – Baseball Daily Digest, among others.
 
Let's work through the awards, starting with the MVP: 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Most Valuable Player is:
 
 JOE MAUER.
 
In an honor that I’m sure will mean as much to him as his 2009 American League MVP from the BBWA, Mauer racked up 14 of the 24 first-place votes among our panel. The smooth-swinging left-handed catcher is having another very solid campaign in 2010. In 133 games so far, he is hitting .331/.407/.473 with a career-high 42 doubles. His home run total has dropped from 28 in 2009 to just nine in 2010, but it appears much of that can be blamed on the move to Target Field as little has changed in Mauer’s approach at the plate. Much of Mauer’s value comes from his defense as well, where he has won two Gold Glove Awards in the last two years.
 
Delmon Young broke out in 2010 and showed more of the potential that fans have been waiting for since the Twins acquired him before the 2008 season. He finished second in the vote and with four first-place votes. Young was terrific from May through July when he kept the team a float. Defense is obviously a question mark in his game, but he is sitting at .298 with 19 home runs and 107 RBI including many big two-out, clutch hits.
 
Jim Thome came to the Twins on a one year, $1.5 million contract with the understanding that the Twins would limit his playing time in an effort to help him through the season. The Twins limited his playing time appropriately and the now-40 year old Thome has provided far more than anyone could have hoped for, on the field and off. In 105 games, he has hit .280/.412/.631. In 335 at bats, he has 16 doubles, an incredible (for him) two triples and a remarkable 25 home runs. His 1.043 OPS would be his best since 2002. He’s been everything the Twins hoped for, and more. He received two first-place votes.
 
Pitching is the name of the game, and in the fourth and fifth spots are the Twins co-aces. Francisco Liriano received three first place votes and put together numbers that resembled what he had shown in his ill-fated 2006 season. Carl Pavano provided an incredible consistency for the pitching staff. Through much of the season, he could be counted on for innings and quality starts. He led the pitching staff in innings and complete games, and had a pretty cool mustache.
 
Despite not playing since that fateful July 7th game, Justin Morneau finished sixth in the voting. He was a leading contender for AL MVP at the time of his concussion. The manager’s choice, Michael Cuddyer finished seventh in our voting. His versatility and willingness to play anywhere when needed was vital to the team. Danny Valencia was promoted in June when Cuddyer was put on the bereavement list. He was expected to be sent back to Rochester three or four days later, but another injury provided him an extended opportunity, and he has been a huge spark plug for the Twins ever since, playing well both offensively and defensively.
 
Brian Duensing got the remaining first-place vote but still finished ninth. Duensing made the team as a second left-handed reliever, but did so well in that role that he started getting more crucial assignments and he came through. Then around the midway point in the season, the Twins needed an arm in the rotation, and Duensing responded by going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA.
 
It was a tough year to crack the Top 10 in this Twins vote. Jesse Crain and his remarkable bullpen work finished out the top 10. Orlando Hudson filled a Twins need in the #2 spot in the batting order and at 2nd base. He played as expected (well) and finished 11th. Jason Kubel hit another 20 home runs and finished 12th.
 
TwinsCentric Votes:
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Joe Mauer 40 10 10 10 10
Francisco Liriano 25 5 6 6 8
Carl Pavano 23 6 8 4 5
Delmon Young 17 8 5   4
Jim Thome 15 3 1 5 6
Justin Morneau 15 2 2 8 3
Brian Duensing 8 4 4    
Jesse Crain 5   3   2
Michael Cuddyer 3 1   1 1
Orlando Hudson 3     3  
JJ Hardy 2     2  
 
The Ballots

Here are all of the ballots:
 
 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
John Bonnes
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Doogie Wolfson
Phil Mackey
Howard Sinker
Phil Miller
Anthony Maggio
Dan Hammer
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Cody Christie
Dan Wade
Betsy Bissen
John Meyer
Judd Spicer
Eric Johnson
Josh Johnson
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Paul Allen
Topper Anton
Andrew Kneeland
Eric Olson
Joe Mauer
211
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
8
8
6
8
5
8
6
8
8
6
Delmon Young
145
8
5
 
4
5
6
8
5
8
4
1
8
8
6
10
10
10
10
8
5
8
4
 
4
Jim Thome
124
3
1
5
6
2
8
5
8
6
1
8
4
6
8
 
6
8
6
10
10
3
5
5
 
Francisco Liriano
103
5
6
6
8
8
 
3
2
2
5
5
 
2
5
3
3
4
5
 
 
10
10
10
1
Carl Pavano
91
6
8
4
5
6
 
6
6
 
8
4
 
4
 
6
4
5
 
 
 
4
6
4
5
Justin Morneau
70
2
2
8
3
1
 
2
1
1
 
6
6
 
2
2
5
 
1
6
6
2
 
6
8
Michael Cuddyer
44
1
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
4
6
 
5
5
1
 
1
 
4
4
3
5
3
 
 
Danny Valencia
35
 
 
 
 
 
 
4
 
 
2
2
 
3
4
5
2
3
2
2
2
 
 
2
2
Brian Duensing
33
4
4
 
 
4
 
 
 
5
 
 
 
1
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
10
Jesse Crain
23
 
3
 
2
3
 
 
 
3
3
 
 
 
 
4
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
Orlando Hudson
15
 
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
 
 
2
3
 
Jason Kubel
12
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4
 
 
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
4
 
 
 
 
Denard Span
6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
 
 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Jon Rauch
5
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
JJ Hardy
3
 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
Jason Repko
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Year is:
 
FRANCISCO LIRIANO.
 
 
Liriano, at times, reminded Twins fans of his amazing 2006 rookie season. At times, he dominated. He recorded over a strikeout per inning, issued few walks and a miniscule number of home runs. His numbers looked very good, while those advanced pitching statistics show he was as good as anyone in the league at things he could control. He received 17 of the 24 first-place votes among our panel.
 
Carl Pavano provided the veteran leadership that the Twins and their fans hoped for. He not only pitched very well, but he pitched well over 200 innings. He frequently saved the bullpen with complete games. He could be counted on nearly every start for seven or eight innings and three runs or less. He received six first place votes.
 
Brian Duensing finished in third place in our vote and received the final first place vote. Pitched incredibly out of the bullpen and then really helped the team as a starting pitcher in the second half.
 
In mid-May, most Twins fans, bloggers, media and others had given up on Jesse Crain. Since then, he has been the Twins best, most reliable relief pitcher. He earned a lot of fourth place votes, a lot of third place votes and even a second place vote. He has been vital to the Twins success.
 
Jon Rauch, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey tied for fifth but were far behind the top four.
 
TwinsCentric Vote:
 
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Francisco Liriano 19 5 4 5 5
Carl Pavano 17 4 5 4 4
Brian Duensing 10 3 3 2 2
Jesse Crain 10 2 2 3 3
Kevin Slowey 2 1     1
Jon Rauch 1     1  
Nick Blackburn 1   1    
 
The Ballot:
 

 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Phil Mackey
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Topper Anton
Phil Miller
Dan Wade
Anthony Maggio
Paul Allen
Andrew Kneeland
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Josh Johnson
Eric Johnson
Eric Olson
John Bonnes
Dan Hammer
John Meyer
Cody Christie
Judd Spicer
Howard Sinker
Betsy Bitsen
Francisco Liriano
106
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
4
4
4
4
4
4
2
Carl Pavano
93
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
2
2
4
4
4
4
4
4
3
5
5
5
5
5
5
4
Brian Duensing
66
3
2
2
3
3
3
3
4
4
3
3
2
3
3
3
2
3
2
3
3
2
2
5
Jesse Crain
51
2
3
3
2
 
2
2
3
3
2
 
1
2
2
2
4
2
3
2
2
3
3
3
Scott Baker
7
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
2
3
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jon Rauch
7
 
1
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
Kevin Slowey
7
1
 
1
 
2
1
 
 
1
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Matt Guerrier
4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
1
1
1
 
 
 
Nick Blackburn
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
Matt Capps
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Brian Fuentes
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1

 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Rookie of the Year is:
 
DANNY VALENCIA.
 
This was clearly the easiest vote of the group. Danny Valencia received all 24 first-place votes, and in fact, there was very little competition. That does not, in any way, minimize just how terrific Valencia's rookie campaign has been. He has hit for average, shown power of late, and despite recent struggles, his defense has been remarkable.
 
TwinsCentric Vote:
 
 
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Danny Valencia 20 5 5 5 5
Alex Burnett 7 1   3 3
Drew Butera 6 3 3    
Matt Fox 1       1
Jeff Manship 1   1    
Trevor Plouffe 1     1  
 
 
The Ballot:
 

 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
John Bonnes
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Doogie Wolfson
Phil Mackey
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Topper Anton
Dan Hammer
Anthony Maggio
Paul Allen
Betsy Bissen
John Meyer
Judd Spicer
Andrew Kneeland
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Cody Christie
Josh Johnson
Eric Johnson
Eric Olson
Howard Sinker
Phil Miller
Dan Wade
Danny Valencia
120
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
Drew Butera
32
3
3
 
 
 
 
3
3
 
1
 
 
3
 
 
3
3
3
 
1
 
3
3
 
Alex Burnett
18
1
 
3
3
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
 
3
3
 
 
 
Matt Fox
14
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
3
 
3
 
 
 
1
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
1
Jeff Manship
6
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
Wilson Ramos
5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
3
Luke Hughes
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
Trevor Plouffe
1
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
So now you have had the chance to review our 2010 Twins MVP, Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year. What do you think of the results? How would you vote? What would your rankings be? Leave your comments year.

_______________________________________

  • At about 7:20 on Tuesday morning, John will be on The Power Trip morning show on KFAN.
  • Yesterday, the Twins announced the Kyle Gibson was named the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Joe Benson was named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. Both will be on tonight's SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast at 10:00 central time.

Morneau's head

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: August 3, 2010 - 11:31 PM

The whole sports world was aflutter yesterday after reports arose that Brett Favre has been informing his teammates that he won't be returning for this season. It's yet another chapter in a seemingly endless drama, but I'm confident that when it's all said and done, Favre will be starting for the Vikings against the Saints in their season opener.

The matter that is weighing on my mind is a far more ominous and immediate concern, and that's the continued absence of Justin Morneau from the Twins' lineup. The slugging first baseman sustained a concussion in early July against the Blue Jays, and a month later his return to the lineup still is not in sight.

Morneau was a human wrecking ball over the first three months of the season, posting a stellar .345/.437/.618 hitting line to go along with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. While the Twins offense slumped at times early in the season, Morneau did not, as he kept on pounding the ball while looking more comfortable and disciplined at the plate than ever before. It seemed as though this might finally be the year that Morneau kept on hitting through the end of the campaign and clearly established himself as the American League's most dangerous offensive first baseman.

Then, on that July 7 game in Toronto, Morneau suffered a seemingly innocuous injury when he hit his head against the knee of Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez while trying to break up a double play. The woozy Morneau initially expected only to miss a couple games, but days have stretched to weeks and those weeks have now stretched to a month. How much longer will it be? No one seems to know, but one can't help but be alarmed at today's report via MLB.com that Morneau "was not feeling as good Monday as he did Sunday following a light workout back in Minneapolis."

This tells us that Morneau is not particularly close to returning, perhaps confirming a report by USA Today's Bob Nightengale from a couple days ago that the first baseman is "still likely weeks away from returning."

Concussions are the most tricky of injuries. They can confound even the most respected of physicians, and there is generally no treatment capable of curing the effects of the injury. Either Morneau's headaches will go away with rest or they won't, but either way it's something that will largely have to happen on its own.

In seeing Morneau's post-concussion effects continue to linger on, one can't help but be reminded of another former Canadian Twins slugger, Corey Koskie. After spending several outstanding (and, in my opinion, often underrated) seasons in a Twins' uniform, Koskie signed with the Blue Jays following the 2004 campaign. After the '05 season, the Jays traded Koskie to Milwaukee, where he sustained his fateful concussion in a July game against the Reds.

At first glance, Koskie's injury was as minor as Morneau's. Patrick Reusse recounted the situation in a 2007 Star Tribune column:

Koskie was chasing a looping fly ball that day in Miller Park. "My only chance to catch it was to put my head down and run to the spot," he said. "When I got there and looked, the ball was behind me. So, I bent back and reached, caught the ball, and hit the ground."
Koskie crashed onto his back. His head didn't clearly slam to the ground, but his neck whiplashed. The ball popped from his glove and Bill Hall caught it for the half-inning's final out.
"I thought I was OK, but when I went up to hit, the pitcher was out there somewhere ... like he was behind a TV screen," Koskie said. "I felt nauseous. I was woozy. I slapped at a couple of pitches and fouled them. I got to a 3-2 count and remember thinking, 'What happens if I draw a walk here and have to run the bases? I won't be able to do it.'
"As it turned out, I struck out. And when I got the dugout, I told the trainer, 'This isn't going to work,' and left the game. I assumed I would be back in the lineup the next day."

But he wasn't. In fact, that ended up being the last regular-season major-league game that Koskie would ever play in. At the age of 33, the third baseman's career as a baseball player was effectively done. But the effects of the injury stretched far beyond Koskie's career. For years after the concussion, he regularly dealt with headaches and nausea. I recall reading stories suggesting that at times Koskie couldn't even manage to play with his young children. The story was heartbreaking.

Now, plenty of other baseball players have experienced concussions and bounced back without issue. In fact, Morneau himself took a pretty nasty hit to the head early in the 2005 season, and it's now a distant and oft-forgotten memory. But post-concussion syndrome is very real and as Koskie's situation proved the effects can be long-lasting and extremely serious.

Baseball is a secondary concern for Morneau right now, but it's going to be a real shame if the Twins are forced to play through the final months of the season without him for a second straight year. When he was healthy, his bat was easily the best in the lineup. Being without Morneau's outstanding (and expensive) bat for the remainder of the season would be devastating. I don't even want to think about the complications that could arise if the issues stretch beyond September.

Hopefully, Morneau can eventually put this injury behind him return to the lineup at full strength down the stretch. The Twins will need him.

But, however long the recovery takes, please (PLEASE) don't accuse the Twins' first baseman of being "soft." Concussions are nasty business.

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