Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Baseball isn't football.

Yes, football is perfect for the mainstream, no-attention-span, ignorant masses, who are driven by pre-packaged, commercialized instant-gratification. And, yes, there is nothing wrong with football, per se, it's a nice little diversion during the months there is no baseball, but it's just not the same.

There is no ebb and flow in a football season. There are only 16 games. You lose the first four, and you are probably fucked. It's simplistic.

Baseball, however, is not. It's a 162 game emotional decathlon: Anger, joy, frustration, confusion, shock, dismay, euphoria, hope, hopelessness and...I dunno...let's say whimsy.

If you allow yourself to be overcome with every little feeling you will never be able to make it through. You have to be able to rationalize, and put each little moment in perspective. Pragmatic passion.

And that's the thing about a baseball season, you can't judge everything (or almost anything, really) on one game. One inning. One pitch. One at-bat. You can't do it, because a team with 100 wins loses 62 times. A hitter with a .300 batting average, gets out 70% of the time. And a guy as pretty as J.J. Hardy gets shot down at the bar...okay bad example. But you get my point.

Baseball is about choosing your team and sticking by them through the thick (Jose Mijares) and thin (Drew Butera's batting average) of an entire season. You can't bail out at the first sign of trouble, and you can't condemn them after a two-game losing streak.

Baseball is about patience and the ability to apply yourself to something without needing that instant, fleeting gratification. There is no clock to tell you when the game is over. There is no countdown to the conclusion. It goes on until somebody wins, and until somebody loses.

And somebody will lose.

And the team that loses, regardless of who they are, will lose, and lose a lot.

Maybe pragmatism has little place in the life a sports fan. Maybe it's silly to advocate for pragmatic passion, because, really, how can passion ever be pragmatic? How you feel at a given moment is how you feel, and trying to put everything in perspective one minute, one hour, or even one day after that moment can be next to impossible.

But it's when you allow yourself to be overcome those little moments that you lose sight of the big picture. Everything becomes jaded and you become sucked into negative spiral. You live and die with each little moment and become jaded by the insecurities that one failed step bring, and lose sight of the bigger, grand scheme of the entire season.

It's only one at bat, one pitch, one game after all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week Three Random Thoughts...

...Delmon Young may be svelte these days, but the dude still looks awkward as hell trying to catch a fly ball. Also, I think he needs a nickname and I am leaning towards calling him Sveltemon. Who is with me?

...Everyone who is complaining about the Twins issues with RISP needs to calm down. Yeah, the Twins are struggling at times right now, but they are also winning. Take the Tuesday game against Cleveland, for example. The Twins won 5-1 and all their runs basically came on walks, errors, and wild pitches. The offense on this team is far too good to struggle like this all year. If the Twins are winning when they aren't hitting well, just imagine what they can do when they are hitting well.

...Having said that, it does get frustrating when Twins continually load the bases and fail to come through. Of course, the Twins are also one of the best teams in baseball right now so...

...Mike Redmond? Still slow.

...Working sixish blocks away from Target Field may be the greatest thing ever. I ate lunch on Target Plaza everyday this week. I defy you to find a better place to take your lunch break. (Or a better place to have Bill Smith randomly walk by you.)

...I thoroughly enjoy the quirky right field fence at Target Field. I enjoy when the ball hits things. What can I say? Color me simple.

...Drew Butera is not the spawn of Satan. Just thought everyone should know that. (Unless, of course, Sal is Satan but I doubt that for some reason.)

...I wake up everyday at like 5 am. This wouldn't be a problem if my alarm wasn't set for 6 am. Of course, when I wake up at five I always think to myself "well now at least I get to lay here for an hour and I enjoy laying in bed in the morning." Except then I fall asleep and walk up again at like 5:40. At which point I think "well at least I get to lay here for half an hour and I enjoy laying in bed in the morning." Then my alarm goes off at 6:04 and I hit snooze because I set my snooze for the exact reason of giving myself nine minutes to lay in bed in the morning because, well, you know. Except then when my alarm goes off for the last time I think to myself, "well shit, now I actually have to get up." I'm not sure what my point is, and this obviously has nothing to do with baseball, it just kind of annoys me.

...If Franciscso Liriano can continue to pitch the way he does, the Twins are a legitimate World Series contender. Yeah the team has issues, but every team does, and few teams can throw out a Liriano. You know, assuming Liriano is Liriano and not Liriano. Think about that one.

...This was both shorter (and later) than I ever intended, but it was my Birthday on Sunday. So there.

...Oh, and J.J. hardy is still pretty.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week Two Random Thoughts...

This is my new Sunday feature. A roundup of random thoughts from the week that was in Twins baseball. And if you are thinking "wait, isn't this is just a cop out so you have one less day to worry about trying to come up with a blog post?" Well, to that, I have no comment.

...I must say the constant overreaction in the Twitterverse is getting kind of annoying. Can't I just enjoy some post game Tweets in peace? Look, I get annoyed when the Twins don't play well too, but one loss to the Royals isn't the end of the world. This isn't the NBA. The best team doesn't always win. If the 1927 Yankees played the 2010 Royals 100 times, the Royals would probably win 25 of those games. That's what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen. One loss doesn't mean the wheels are coming off, it just means the Twins lost.

...I always enjoy the fake DL stints. Much like Glen Perkins last year, Jose Mijares has been placed on the DL because, well, because he sucks. Although, personally I think if you're going to make up a fake injury for Mijares can't you say he pulled a muscle eating a sandwich or something? Or hell, just put him DL under "fat."

...J.J. Hardy? Still pretty.

...This pretty much goes without saying, but Target Field is amazing. Stunning. The only place I have been that even kind of compares is Petco Park. Although, I will say, the Twins need to do something about the scoreboard situation. I want to know what the hell is going on even when I am sitting under the scoreboard. There are screens in the right field wall for a reason. I guess I'm still just bitter that I missed kiss cam.

...My favorite part about Target Field? Other teams fans can no longer make fun of us for our team playing in a shit hole.

Quick story: When I went to Milwaukee with some friends (four? five?) years ago, I rolled down the window the first time we were pulling up to Miller Park and yelled at the Brewers fans, and I quote, "Your stadium is more worser than ours!" Why did I yell this? Beacuse I loathe Miller Park. And also because I am retarded apparently. I'm not even sure what I was actually trying to yell, but for whatever reason it came out as "more worser than." Yes, I was completely sober. I still can't explain it. Of course, this is the same trip where we passed a billboard for some amusement park called "A-Merick-A-Land" which I read phonetically instead of as "Americaland." I still get made fun of for this. Although, I stand by the fact that technically I read the sign correctly.

...Having everyone wear number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day is a cool, fun idea. Having the Royals wear number 42 the following day is not.

...After 13 games I think it is safe to say this Twins lineup could be one of the most exciting the Twins have ever had. They take walks, and rarely get themselves out. Yeah they have struggled with RISP at times, but for a lineup this good that is just an aberration.

...I like that the Twins and the city of Minneapolis are erecting (giggle) statues around the city, but that Joe Mauer statue is ridiculously ugly.

...I am still trying to come to grips with the fact that I am confident anyone in the lineup not named Punto can get a hit at any time. I mean as hard as it is to top Jose Morales at DH and all...

...I'm curious what the defensive metrics for J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson show so far this year. I know the preseason perception was that both guys were slipping, but both have been sure-handed and shown very good range so far this season.

...Okay, yes, Jesse Crain had an absolutely awful week, but I, for one, still believe he can have a decent season. I refuse to give up hope that it will become completely rational for me to arbitrarily yell, "THE CRAIN TRAIN IS BACK ON TRACK!"

...Can we all pause for a moment and revel in fact that the Twins have won every series they have played so far? And, aside from the Royals, they dispatched the four teams who many people would argue were the front runners in their division. This Twins team is good.

...Billy Butler has to be the slowest guy in baseball. And, yes, I am taking Mike Redmond into account.

...Target Field is playing big. There have been some balls that look like they have been crushed, that are caught fairly easily by the outfielders. It is still early, and balls tend to carry better mid-summer as the weather gets warmer, but so far Target Field seems like a pitcher park. (Well for everyone but Crain at least.)

...And with that, I will leave you with Francisco Liriano's first pitch at Target Field. Just cuz:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Juggling the Lineup

Remember playing organized baseball as a little kid? You know, the days when everyone had to play in a game out of "fairness." It was annoying enough to be pitching on a team as a 12-year-old and you lose a game because the little bastards behind you can't make an f-ing I digress.

My point is, sometimes it seems like Ron Gardenhire manages like he coaches a Little League team.

Yes, Major League players need to get playing time in order to get into a groove, but there is also such thing as "over-juggling." Not everybody gets a chance to play in every game. When there are 25 guys on the roster, some guys are going to play less. They just are.

It is hard to really complain when the Twins are 7-3, but the way Gardenhire has shuffled playing time between Delmon Young, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel has been unnecessary.

Instead of having a set lineup, everyone is left to wonder which of the three will be playing on a given day. And for a lineup this good, that is not a question mark they need. These guys should have defined roles.

Take for example yesterday. Thome was in the lineup in favor of Young. On Jackie Robinson Day. I mean, come on now, that's I should probably stop before I piss Orlando Hudson off.

In all seriousness though, the Twins need to find a set lineup. Especially when you consider the fact that Young has been one of the Twins hottest hitters to start the year, and he is still trying to prove that he can live up to his talent. Until he begins to stumble, he should be in the lineup every day.

Like Young, Kubel, the Twins third best hitter, should be in the lineup every day. Pitching matchups be damned, Jason Kubel should not sit.

So what does this mean for Thome?

I'm not saying that Thome should NEVER play. But playing Thome for the sake of playing Thome is not why Jim Thome is around. He is a bat off the bench, and that is how he should be used.

Need a pinch-hit-for-Punto? Call big Jim.

Someone need a day off? Call big Jim.

The fact is, Thome can get plenty of at-bats without being detrimental to Kubel, Young, or anyone else. Between guys needing days off and pinch-hitting, Thome will get his at-bats. You don't need to find Thome at-bats, the at-bats will find him.

Having Thome on the team is a good thing, assuming he is utilized correctly. The fact is, however, that when you start inserting Thome in the lineup because he "needs at-bats" you are doing so at the detriment of other players, and often the team.

Only nine games into the season, it is hard to say the Twins have found their lineup routine yet, but at the rate they are going the lack of continuity could get out of hand.

The Twins need to set a day-to-day lineup, and allow Thome to slide into his rightful role: a slugger of the bench.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stranger On A Bus

I was waiting for the bus yesterday and there was a man leaning against the wall of a building smoking a cigar. I inhaled several deep breaths of the obnoxiously crisp spring air, and noticed that this man's cigar smelled oddly like pot. I looked over again and, yes, he was in fact smoking a cigar (a nasty Swisher Sweets to be more specific). So why the hell did it smell so much like pot?

After several moments of probably-not-as-discreet-as-I'd-like people watching, I caught on to this guys gimmick: he had a very small blunt in one hand, and a cigar in the other. He was smoking pot and attempting to mask the scent with his cigar.

For someone who has never smoked, nor had any interest in smoking, pot this fascinated me to no end. I was awestruck. And I began to realize that my fascination had nothing to do with each hit he took, but rather that this man was the epitome of everything that enthralls me about riding public transportation.

Yes, the bus. The place where the greatest people watching of all takes place. A cornucopia of bobbing heads on a conveyor-belt of daily monotony.

There is nothing that puts people on an even playing field quite like public transportation. In one seat you have the young-"proffesional" making minimum wage as an intern, and the next you have the middle-aged man making minimum wage as a burger flipper.

In one seat you have the college sophomore who spends too much time worrying about inevitable trivialities, and in the next you have the 55-year-old woman who has gone back to school fully aware that trivialities aren't worth a second thought.

The bus is a social experiment -- like the Real World, just with slightly less booze and sex. Well, less sex at least.

When you look around at all these people on the bus, you realize each one has a story to tell. Each one started some place. Each one has a past, a present, and a future. In the most simplistic sense, everyone on the bus is exactly the same, but completely different.

Take the dual-wielding smoker, for example. Where did he come from?

I spent an inordinate amount of time studying this man, for the both the obviously fascinating is that man blatantly smoking pot in downtown Minneapolis? reason, and because he highlighted the unique characterization of a bus rider.

Here is a guy leaning against a wall, probably somewhere in his 30s, openly representing something most people would never want to be: a dual smoking bus rider. Not exactly the epitome of the American Dream.

As I sit thinking about this random man I will most likely will never see again (and wouldn't recognize if I did) I can't help but wonder about his life. I mean, he really can't be that much different than you or I. He has most likely spent his whole life doing many of the same things as everyone else:

Chasing a job. Chasing a girl. Chasing something that seems out of reach (likely a job or a girl).

Or maybe just chasing the bus.

Whatever the case may be, it is undeniable that this man, like all bus riders, has an interesting story to tell. And the most interesting thing may be that this bus riding pot smoker's story, is actually completely ordinary.

And that is exactly what the bus does. It brings together the most eclectic group of people possible and shows them how similar they really are.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Random Opening Week Thoughts...

...Jose Mijares is doneski. Look, I'm not one to advocate overreacting after one or two games, but we're talking about a guy who has done nothing but suck since about August of last year. I swear every time he pitches I just assume the chunker is going to give up a home run. Plus, I swear I saw him devouring a small child the other day. My predictions look pretty good right about now.

...J.J. Hardy is pretty. Just sayin.

...Scott Baker is a good pitcher, but not a great pitcher. This really has nothing to with his opening start, but rather his track record as a guy who throws a lot of pitches and struggles to pitch deep into games against quality lineups. Sure he'll pitch some excellent games, and overall he is a good pitcher. He just isn't great. And he will never appear on the ace list.

...I can't decide if I thoroughly enjoy the Twins road uniforms, or thoroughly hate them. I couldn't possibly be more torn.

...Brendan Harris may very well be the most worthless player on the Twins roster. The Twins don't need a slightly less bad hitter batting ninth with the lineup they have. Punto should play everyday because his glove certainly makes up for his nine-hole bat.

...Jon Rauch is an enjoyable closer because, you know, he has a neck tattoo, but I still think Jesse Crain could be solid in the role. Then again, maybe I just want to be able to indiscriminately yell, "THE CRAIN TRAIN IS BACK ON TRACK!" without sounding like a crazy person.

...Maybe letting Garrett Jones leave wasn't the best idea...

...It's going to be a long, frustrating season if Jason Kubel sits every time Jim Thome plays. I know Del-Money is svelte now, but come on Gardy.

...I defy you to name a team with a more adorabley bromantic group of hitters than the Twins and the J's: Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and J.J. Hardy. Oh, and I suppose you can throw Jason Kubel and his smirk in there. And Jim Thome. Basically any "J" other than Jose Mijares.

...I want to see a game in cold weather, because I get the feeling that Orlando Hudson would wear an inordinate amount of clothing.

...Speaking of O-Dawg, my friend informed me that there are shirzees (T-shirt jerseys) that say O-Dawg on the back instead of Hudson. If you buy one of these, kindly wander into oncoming traffic immediately.

...Color me spiteful, but I have tickets to the Thursday game at Target Field so I am kind of hoping the first two games get rained out turning that game into the Home Opener. Also, I think it would be funny to see all the people who paid $200 for tickets get screwed over. Really, I am just bitter that I'm ticketless.

...Lastly, and most importantly, baseball is back!