Monday, May 2, 2011

The End of Optimism... and also Ribs Are Amazing

It's difficult to find anything to praise in this team right now. I keep looking for the silver lining and they keep handing out plasticware. Looking up at not even just the rest of the division, but the rest of the entire collected teams of Major League Baseball is a tough pill to swallow -- especially for a team coming off a historic season like 2010. Right now the only consolation I can think of is that we're getting to see Rene Tosoni and Luke Hughes get a shot at sticking in the Majors -- two fun players who are probably a little over their heads playing so regularly but could be capable role-players on a team that was actually functioning.

You can only imagine how long the Alexi Casilla experiment is going to go on, two meaningless triples after countless bonehead plays doesn't buy that much. $7 million for JJ Hardy (despite the fact that he's injured) isn't so hard to justify for someone who can actually hold their own in the field and at the plate on a somewhat consistent basis. Not that JJ Hardy would have been the savior of this team, but in a broader sense, looking ahead to the future -- which is about all I can do at the moment -- we have no realistic options at short unless Trevor Plouffe suddenly puts it all together (and I know he's not doing half bad at AAA but I'd like to see it for a full season).

It was both oddly entertaining and also oddly terrifying seeing coolheaded Carl Pavano trashing the Kansas City visitor's dugout with a baseball bat. I kind of hope all of them are feeling that angst. At least Jason Kubel is increasing his mid-season trade stock for us to hopefully net a decent prospect or two for next year, even as Francisco Liriano continues to piss away every amount of confidence he gained by last year's performance.

The person I feel worst for right now is Jim Thome, the ultimate good guy looking to break 600 career homeruns on a championship caliber squad being relegated to burning up roster space on a team that will eventually be needing to start some youngsters for experience once they're knocked out of contention. As they say, you can't win your division in April but you can certainly lose it, and the Twins are doing everything in their power to lose it.

9-18. I have to resist the urge to vomit looking at those numbers. I have to imagine that they'll at least finish at or just above the .500 mark, and while that's still feasible of course, it's going to take a lot, A LOT of ifs to make that happen:
- if Francisco Liriano can start to step up and post numbers like last year...
- if Michael Cuddyer suddenly realizes how to hit again...
- if Joe Mauer returns and can actually do something other than ground into a double play -- while staying healthy...
- if someone in the bullpen other than Matt Capps can show signs of reliability...
- if someone in the combination of a healthy Nishioka, Puntoesque Tolbert, Cuddyeresque Hughes, boneheaded Casilla, and questionable Plouffe can form a keystone combo...
- if Morneau and Young can become the power threats they need to be in order to bulk up this lineup...

then maybe we can get back into contention. But if those things don't start to fall in place by the end of May I think they'll be way too far out of the running, despite the fact that the Central is still acting like they're stuck in hibernation and letting Cleveland and Kansas City get all their nervous energy out of the way now.

Despite the fact that I can hardly consider my outlook optimistic, I got to go to one of the best events I've ever been to this past Friday. The MLB Fan Cave is an awesome new media guerilla marketing technique by MLB to connect with the modern age -- taking two "Ultimate Fans" and making them live and breathe baseball for an entire season. They've taken the old Tower Record space in the Village on Broadway, and converted it into the ultimate baseball playhouse. On Friday night they invited people wearing Twins garb to show up and enjoy a night of baseball with the ultimate fans, and since I live two blocks away from the Fan Cave and pass by it almost every day on my way in to work, I thought I'd accept the offer the check it out myself.

When you walk in there's a huge catwalk above you where they walk up and "change the score" adding a game every time they watch one and taking down a number from the other side of the board in their countdown to the postseason. There is a HUGE wall of televisions, 15 to be exact, where they can have every single game on. Next to the televisions is an electronic map depicting aerial views of every MLB stadium in the country, which light up when a game is being played.
This is the front of the house/seating area
Behind the the bank of televisions is a playground for baseball addicts. A 3D tv station is set up for games broadcast in 3D (yes, those exist), as well as airhockey, shuffleboard and pool tables all decked out with the MLB logos, a beaded portrait of Jay-Z (over 10,000 beads), an electronic graffiti board, a giant statue of Willie Mays, a bank of Macbook pros where the MLB is building every single player's favorite playlists so you can check out your favorite player's musical predilections, and so much more I can't even name.

The electronic graffiti board, ready for the Twins party
They have a huge wall mural where people stop by and autograph and leave mementos when they come to visit -- one is a picture of Huston Street in a jersey that says "Huston Street" -- they apparently decked him out in that jersey and brought him two blocks away to New York's Houston Street (pronounced "House"-ton) and had him ask for directions there -- people kept telling him it's pronounced House-ton and not Huston until finally somebody stopped and said, "Wait a second, you ARE Huston Street!" There were tons of other stories like that, and the place just sounds like a blast.

That night, Lou Bavaro and his wife were serving us the infamous Michelbobs Ribs, and for those of you who aren't aware of the joy that is Michelbobs ... for shame!

Me, Lou, and his wife with Michelbobs ribs
LENIII always mentions it in his spring training guide and I've tried to hype it myself whenever I go down, but they have the most succulent barbeque you'll ever taste, with ribs that literally fall off the bone as you pick them up. They now serve them at Target Field and are also connecting to a bunch of grocers where you can buy them in the store, but for the real experience you need to go to Naples and check out the restaurant. I've had my share of Michelbobs over my life but it was a treat to have Lou and his wife making the ribs themselves, and especially to enjoy it in NYC watching the Twins with some other Twins fans. MLB tried to prepare a banquet to go along with it, and did a pretty good job of stuffing us with mac and cheese, hush puppies, okra, and Budweiser, but the star of the night were those ribs and I think I helped myself to a few plates to save up for next spring.

Probably my third helping, can't remember...

1 comment:

  1. Topper,

    Every single decision made by GM Bill Smith in the off-season was wrong. I thought trading Hardy for two minor league relievers was a good idea. Hardy is always hurt and has only played 6 games this season. However, if Hardy played 100 games at shortstop that would be 100 more than Alexi Casilla. Casilla is just a walking disaster out there in the field. I believe Nishioka will be even a bigger bust. I have said since last October we should have kept Orlando Hudson because he was so valuable in the #2 hole and provided good defense.

    Keeping Drew Butera and trading Jose Morales for LH reliever and (very sick) Paul Bargas was really dumb. I still stand behind the Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps trade. Where would the bullpen be without Capps this year. He is only 26 years old and maybe our future close if we sign him long-term.

    Here is the one silver lining and that is change is coming. I would love Gardy to get fired or even GM Bill Smith but we know neither one is going to happen. I would love to see Dusty Hughes released, Casilla benched, Tolbert and Blackburn sent to Rochester, and Nathan put on the 60-day DL. I have no trouble trading Cuddyer (who wants him), Young, and Liriano for good prospects. However, GM Smith has shown he does not know how to evaluate prospects. Hell his whole body of work as GM suggests it. Anyways the only thing I disagree with you about is Jason Kubel. We need to sign Jason Kubel to a long-term deal and let him play in right-field.