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AL Central: Don't Forget the Twins
Who is Alexi Casilla?
It's an honest question. At 11-8, the Twins are tied for first in the AL Central, they've won their division four of the past five years and I still can't keep track of everybody.
Looking at Minnesota's 2004 roster –- the third of its four NL Central championships this decade –- feels like being in a time warp. Of the 10 players with the most at-bats that year, only Torii Hunter remains. So you can understand why, while watching Monday night's Twins-Indians tilt, I thought the announcers had made a mistake when they said that the Twins' speedy second baseman with the game-tying two-RBI double was Casilla. Seriously, they've had Luis Castillo two years and they can't get his name right?
Instead, the gaffe was mine. Casilla is simply next in the long line of Twins prospects. Minnesota track record of developing players is phenomenal, the unfortunate release of David Ortiz notwithstanding.
This is where playing in a small market is actually beneficial for the Twins -– they only need to worry about internal expectations. Unlike, say, the Yankees, who find themselves extraordinarily short-handed despite having baseball's biggest payroll. While Phil Hughes is rushed into the rotation Thursday night, Scott Proctor continues his pursuit of Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak (OK, slight exaggeration, but he did appear in 12 of New York's first 17 games), Andy Pettitte is applying for dual citizenship as a starter and reliever and the Jeff Karstens/Chase Wright era has produced a 10.22 ERA.
By contrast, The Twins lost ace-in-training Francisco Liriano for the season and still have the luxury of letting top prospect Matt Garza develop in Triple-A.
Clearly, Minnesota needs to put Sidney Ponson's pitching career to sleep. The man hasn't had a sub-5.00 ERA since 2003 and is off to a horrible start (1-2, 9.39 ERA, 2.28 WHIP). Do you think the pressure cooker of a New York or Boston could allow an every-fifth-day disaster like Ponson to remain in the rotation? No chance. Just last season he lasted a mere five appearances for the Yankees. Yet in Minneapolis, there was no outburst, just GM Terry Ryan telling reporters, "We're getting close to the point where we need to see more progress." Keep in mind that allowing only one earned run per inning would be progress at this point.
Of course, keeping the abundance of talent –- hope you like pinstripes, Johan Santana -– will be difficult, but flying under the radar seems to suit the Twins just fine. SI, for instance, picked them to finish fourth in their division. They've hit four fewer home runs than Alex Rodriguez, but they run well (perfect on their first 19 stolen base attempts), field cleanly (fourth in the majors in fielding percentage) and close games very well (arguably the best bullpen with Joe Nathan being set up by Pat Neshek and Juan Rincon).
As long as Carlos Silva doesn't try to sneak high fastballs by anyone -– Victor Martinez nearly poked a hole in the Metrodome roof last night with one such offering -– then the Twins ought to have as good a chance as anyone down the stretch, even in a division where two other teams have represented the AL in the last two World Series.
Labels: AL Central
posted by SI.com | View comments |
I would put a plug in for RBI Baseball. Let's get serious here--the greatest old school Nintendo baseball game of all time.
Bases Loaded II does have the incredible advantage of your players' mood being dependent on the time of month. If you're playing a couple games against your buddy, BL2 is close to perfection, as long as you like 2-1 games. Which if you're not an awful person, you do. If for some reason you're playing an entire season, however, Baseball Stars is the greatest sports game of all time (Tecmo Super Bowl is in its own category since it was created perfect by God).
I predict the twins will shock everybody and sign A-Rod if he opts out of his contract this year. Then theyll resign Johan. They will be UNSTOPPABLE next year.
You know, you only mentioned A-Rod briefly, but I'll still take it as an opportunity to put in my two cents...
I'm no Yankee fan, but I am flat-out giddy about A-Rod having a great start this year. The guy is one of the great players of this generation, but he seems to have had a tough time in New York's pressure-cooker environment. It's great to finally see him on a hot streak and getting some appreciation from the New York media and fans. If the Yanks can fix the pitching problems, this could turn out to be a very special season for both A-Rod individually and the Yanks as a team.
RBI Baseball. If your going old school.
Twins stink. Go Tribe!!!
Looking at Minnesota's 2004 roster –- the third of its four NL Central championships this decade –- feels like being in a time warp.
RBI Baseball, hands down. I'm a bit nuts, but I STILL like it better than any baseball game that's come out since. It'll be a sad day when Clemens/Franco finally retire and it's a completely historic game.
TR has a good system going. The ROrtiz and Ponson signings looked insane when considered alone. However, if you do it in volume and accept a Ponson implosion to find a surprising Ortiz...it works out well.
Keep in mind that the Twins only have to clear 8-10 mill to resign Santana as they are paying him 13m this year and 14 next. That's Ortiz/Silva money. He'll resign.
Baseball Stars RULED. First game that could you dive and jump. Man. Maybe a little too easy to pump up the players though, as a buddy of mine made the glaringly mediocre Alfredo Griffin so good that the SS stood for super star instead of shortstop.
GREAT game though.
Aarongleeman.com is a great twins blogsite. You may want to check it out for references.
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