Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Lightning 10.10.2010

  • Carry on, carry-over:

There are situations in which the history between two teams must be taken into account when they're matched up in a playoff series. Such was the case between the Yankees and Athletics in the early part of this decade; the Angels and Red Sox of recent years; and of the Mets and Braves. Such is true in other sports as well. The Cleveland Browns of the 1980s could never get past the Denver Broncos; the Detroit Pistons couldn't beat the Boston Celtics; the New York Knicks couldn't beat the Chicago Bulls.

Occasionally teams----by one method or another----get over that hump.

Sometimes they don't.

Sometimes they think they've taken every possible precaution; prepared fully; accounted for every predictable obstacle----then they reach the crucible...and run into their nemesis and find themselves tumbling down the mountain again.

Such is the case with the 2010 Minnesota Twins as they've been bounced from the playoffs by the Yankees for the fourth time.

This year was supposed to be different for the Twins. Rather than scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs with a frenzied final month of play and one-game playoff, they coasted to the AL Central title; they'd spent money this past winter for veterans Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome; they traded for J.J. Hardy; and they made bold mid-season moves to strengthen their bullpen with Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes.

They were ready for the Yankees this time.

Or so I thought.

For five innings in game 1, it looked that way as they held a 3-0 lead...until the Yankees stormed back to score four runs in the top of the sixth inning. The Twins tied it in the bottom of the inning in what turned out to be their last stand; then the Yankees repeated their habit of firing a perfunctory backhand whenever the Twins have the sheer audacity to think they belong on the same field in the playoffs with the world champions.

Perception is fine; talk is great; but they're no replacements for action.

The Yankees acted. The Twins didn't.

Occasionally, past confrontations don't provide a proper portent for the future. I discounted the Yankees-Twins history as irrelevant due to the Yankees issues in starting pitching; that they played horribly over the past month of the season; and that the Twins were loaded up to win now. They were on a mission this time.

This time....

This time it'll be different.

This time they were ready for the Yankees.

That lasted for five innings.

If anything, the Twins were less competitive in this series than they've been in previous incarnations. With a sense of "there's nothing we can do to beat these guys" they looked whipped after Mark Teixeira's homer in the seventh inning of game 1. For all intents and purposes, the series was over there and then.

Things were supposed to be different this time. And they were. This time the Twins don't have Joe Nathan's frequent late-inning lapses to blame for their ouster. This time the umpiring isn't responsible for shortening the series as it supposedly was in 2009 (as if the Twins would've won anyway had the calls been judged correctly).

What's going to be the excuse this time? Do they have one?

You can quibble with strategies from Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire; wonder if there was something wrong with Joe Mauer; lament the concussion that rendered Justin Morneau unavailable; whine about payroll disparity (which, by now, is ridiculous)----but lest anyone believe that this series would've ended differently for any reason.

It's time to accept the truth----these Twins cannot beat the Yankees.

One question that has to be asked is whether this is going to have a carry-over effect into 2011.

When a team puts everything into beating that one Goliath standing in front of them; when every decision is based on exploiting the weaknesses of the bane of their existence and they don't simply lose, they get embarrassed, this absolutely can cause a fallback in subsequent years.

This was supposed to be the year of the Twins.

They lost again.

Can they continually count on the "Twins Way" leading them into contention despite losing important cogs in their machine? Making it into one-game playoff games in 2008-2009 requires a certain amount of luck to go from a win total in the low-80s to the high-80s; and this year, they were all-in with a payroll of around $100 million and they still got hammered by the Yankees.

What happens next year? Will there be the residue of another fruitless October despite all their hard work and determination? That small decline in self-belief----the "what's the point" syndrome----could cause the Twins to tumble down into mediocrity and miss the post-season entirely.

At least they'd spare themselves of this embarrassment and pain in being a punching bag for the Yankees. It may be easier that way than to deal with reality.

They can't beat the Yankees.


  • Defections from the Dodgers:

Dodgers president Jim Mannion has left the club; owner Frank McCourt will assume some of Mannion's responsibilities----ESPN Story.

This mess is going to get worse before it gets better.

With McCourt taking over and GM Ned Colletti reporting directly to the owner, one can only imagine what kind of disasters are going to take place. The high-profile and humiliating divorce proceedings between Frank and Jamie McCourt were bad enough; they'd hindered the team from making the necessary improvements last winter to compete in the tough NL West; again, this winter they're not going to be able to do much in terms of player procurement while they're in the divorce-induced limbo; assistant GM Logan White----an imperative part of acquiring the young players the Dodgers have developed----is said to be on the way out; and Joe Torre has retired. Colletti is probably desperately seeking an exit hatch himself or would love a buffer between himself and the stretched-thin Frank McCourt.

Not good.

I have no idea what's going to happen with the Dodgers under the McCourts from here on. If they own the team or not, one option remains to rebuild the decaying carcass of this once-proud franchise----Pat Gillick.

I'm not of the school that Gillick is an automatic genius as GM; people forget that the Phillies had gone essentially nowhere under Gillick until the Mets' collapse in 2007; that he made some horrific deals including trading Gavin Floyd for an injured Freddy Garcia; and signed Adam Eaton to a 3-year, $24 million contract. The foundation of the Phillies was built by Ed Wade as GM and with Mike Arbuckle as the draft guru. These are facts.

That said, Gillick is a respected future Hall of Fame executive and if the McCourts want to bring in someone above Colletti to oversee the operation and maximize what they can do----and serve as a divider between the chaotic ownership and baseball operations----Gillick is a very good choice.

Having not retired and openly stating that he's interested in working again, the Dodgers are an ideal spot for Gillick. He spoke to Jeff Wilpon earlier this week about the GM job of the Mets, but declined a full-blown interview ostensibly because he wants to stay on the West Coast. There are two options for him in this vein----the Mariners and the Dodgers. It appears as if Jack Zduriencik will survive in Seattle; that leaves the Dodgers.

Gillick is 74 and if he stays out for another full year, one would think he'd fully retire; but if McCourt gets desperate enough, don't be surprised to see Gillick with the Dodgers in some capacity. They can use him.

  • Two paths to travel:

Ernie Johnson's work on the TBS telecasts made me miss Michael Kay.

You read that right.

There's a difference between passion; a crafted persona; shtick; and professional competence.

Having taken broadcasting courses in college, I can almost hear Johnson doing the exercises of speaking in a deep broadcaster's voice; of using a cadence that allows one

Because of these canned techniques, it's not much of a leap to extend the phoniness to oft-repeated and robotic declarations about the storied....his....tory....of.....this.....beautiful.....ball....park.....YANKEE.....Stadium.....

Broadcasters have a choice to make.

They can follow all the rules they're given in broadcasting school, be something other than themselves and follow the template to being a broadcaster----as Johnson does----and be viewed as an annoying phony; or they can be themselves and let the chips fall where they may while garnering respect for individualism.

Joe Buck has made it in broadcasting because his name is Joe Buck and his dad was a legend in the industry. He's smarmy, obnoxious and reviled. Johnson is in the booth because he's adhered to the delineated "rules" to do the job----as if such things exists. He plays the game and is in the booth for the playoffs.

But that doesn't accumulate credibility. Nor does it make one a positively noticeable entity who, regardless of content, is respected because you know you're getting the "real" person and not some character he's crafted.

This isn't to say that a broadcaster has to make the choice between Buck and Johnson on the right and Rob Dibble on the left; but if the Dibble personality is who someone is, at the very least, he's being himself; if that means he says ridiculous things and make a jerk of himself, so what?

It's no secret that I loathe Michael Kay. I don't think he knows a whit about baseball; he's irritating, self-important and vindictive; but the one thing I'll say about him is that when he goes on and on about "Yankee Pride" and waxes poetically about the "storied history of the Yankees and Yankee Stadium", it's coming from the heart. He believes this stuff and it's admirable because it's real.

Like his voice, cadence and content, Johnson's ramblings about the Yankees is pretentious, false and without the innate enthusiasm that comes from an emotional connection.

Passion is either there or it isn't. You can't fake it. But that's what Johnson and others try to do. It's transparent and no amount of training, phrase turns or practice with a deep......broadcaster's.....voice.....can alter that reality.

If you have to transform yourself into something you're not to achieve your ends, why be anything at all?

Speaking of voices and being oneself, I was a guest with Sal at Sportsfan Buzz last Monday talking about the post-season; the firings; and Ichiro. You can hear my "sexy rasp" (not my words) and also listen to my horrific gack on the Twins-Yankees series.

Does it help that it looks like I've popped the other Division Series predictions right on the button? Maybe not, but at least you know what you're getting with me----like it or not.

Click to listen directly here. Or at Sal's site here and get it on I-Tunes.


Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Even if a court makes the McCourts sell the team, that is still a ways away. Don Mattingly will be the manager of an imploding infrastructure and look all the worse for it. Donnie Baseball is going to wind up as collateral damage out there and I wish he wouldn't take the manager's job because of it. He'll be a scapegoat for everything that WILL go wrong out there. Besides that, he's just not ready. Tim Wallach would have been a much better choice for L.A. They hired Tim as a coach for next year. One, Mattingly is already being shown he won't be bringing in his own staff. And two, this ensures Mattingly will officially have to look over his shoulder while trying to do his job. Donnie, please, ~ get out of there while you still have your reputation in tact, because the McCourts will ruin that too, as they've done everything else Dodger Blue; former power player of Baseball.

She-Fan said...

I think the Twins needed Morneau a lot. And Mauer wasn't Mauer. That said, what every successful team needs is an ace; preferably two or three. And the Twins are missing theirs.

Jeff said...

True story on Ernie Johnson. I've taken to listening to the ESPN Radio broadcasts... (Bobby Valentine is an awesome color analyst by the way)...

Now, if only I could get John Miller to stop writing his lines before the game starts.