Your place for Minnesota Twins and New Britain Rock Cats coverage, analysis and opinion.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Joe Mauer & the Beating he is Taking

A few quick items on Joe Mauer, his tough return to MLB, and the verbal assault he is taking in the press and on the blogs:

1) I'm glad he is working out at first base, but like others, I believe this is months, if not years, late. Though Joe says that he "signed to be the catcher for the Minnesota Twins," that's not how it really works. There is nothing in his contract, or in any other baseball contract probably, the specifies the role of the player. In truth, Joe signed to play for the Twins organization. His future is not at catcher, at least not after another year or so of him aging and the nagging injuries catching up with him.

2) The swing, though coming around (a nice double last night), is embarrassing. Mauer arrived unable to hit major league pitching, likely as a result of hitting pitches from 18 year old kids in Ft. Myers, 1 % of whom actually have what it takes to someday set foot on a major league field. And it's not like he exactly tore it up there!

3) Mauer was ill-prepared to play for the Twins because he did not travel to AAA Rochester as part of his rehab assignment. We will never know the precise details of what happened, but suffice it to say that, though Gardy thought Mauer could benefit from a stop in NY, Mauer thought he was ready to return. You don't go from hitting off of kids in Florida, to ready to face Tim Lincecum (thankfully Joe took that day off) without something in-between.

4) Jim Souhan at the Star Tribune really, really ripped into Mauer yesterday. It was an interesting piece, worth reading if you haven't already. I like about half of what Souhan writes. He always has an honest take, but it is sometimes too know-it-all-ish for me. This article was interesting, however, because it was the biggest beating I have seen Mauer take in the printed local press. Suffice it to say that Souhan probably won't be getting any more exclusives from Mauer for some time. The only part I really disagreed with was when Souhan attacked Mauer for not having taken grounders at first yet. In defense of Mauer and the Twins, he had been back only 1 week. Sure enough, he did indeed practice at first base yesterday prior to the Dodgers-Twins game. A result of the Souhan article? I'd like to think not.

5) Damage Control: What can the Twins and Mauer do to repair some of the perceived damage both parties have suffered?? First, Mauer can start to play well. Second, he can DH or play first base on some of the day games following a night game. We need him in the lineup 85% of the time if this team is going to even play .500 baseball (this is assuming he begins to produce). Third, enough with all the endorsements, Joe. Sure, do a few spots here and there in the offseason, but you will not be taking home any hardware this year, and you certainly don't need the extra income, so there's really no reason to over-promote your image. Finally, just be a normal Twins player in the offseason - - lead some charity events, rest up and prepare for 2012. We have learned that an image that took a decade to create can be partially, perhaps irreparably, wounded, in the span of only a few months.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Joe Mauer: Full-Time Catcher?

The good news is that Joe is back. The bad news is that he is clearly rusty and is not yet batting the way we know he can. I think we expected some degree of rust, especially considering Mauer never played in any AA or AAA games on the rehab assignment. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that he didn't come out of the gates with what appears to be any level of intensity. After the long absence, and the generally poor play of the team (last 3 weeks excluded), we need some intensity.

But what I want to briefly discuss is the amount of catching we can expect Mauer to do between now and the All-Star break. Joe and Gardy both made clear that Joe wasn't coming back until he was ready to be the full-time catcher for the Twins. True to his word, it sure took a long time for Mauer to return. Counting today's game against the Giants, there are 17 games left before the break. 6 of those 17 are day games (although 1 of the day games is followed by a day off). It has been a rule for Mauer, and is a general rule for many catchers, not to catch a day game after a night game. The reasons are manifold.

I'm not really one to rag on Mauer. It's great to have him back. Even 50 percent of Mauer is better than Drew Butera or Rene Rivera. It is a little disappointing, however, to think that, in this stretch of 17 games that very well may dictate whether the Twins are buyers or sellers, or whether they have a chance at the AL Central this year, Joe Mauer will only be catching in 11, or at most 12, of the games. Sure, I guess it's possible he can DH, but earlier this season Gardy declared that DHing Mauer is "not really a day off, because he gets more hits than most people and he runs around the bases. It's about his legs, and giving him a day off is to keep him off the field." I take that to mean that we shouldn't expect to see #7 DHing very often.

I certainly understand Gardy's point, and the predicament the Twins are in with respect to Joe's health and needing to give him rest. I also understand that the Twins have to play really, really well for the next few weeks in order to position themselves to make a run in the second half of 2011. But I also understand that Joe Mauer has, in the past, been a pretty integral piece on successful Twins teams. I hope Mauer shakes the rust off, plays well in those 11 or 12 games, and his healthy enough to surprise us by catching an additional game or DHing when possible. For once this year, I'd like Joe to pleasantly surprise us.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

.500 by the Break?

As a result of the way the Twins have been playing in June, and of the way the rest of the AL Central has been merely treading water, any talk about the Twins giving up on 2011 and being sellers at the trade deadline seems, at least now, quite premature. In June, the Twins are 15-3, which translates to an .833 winning percentage. Pretty impressive; also an impossible pace to keep. After last night's exciting win against the Giants, the Twins' record is 32-39. On the one hand, it's much better than it was a month ago; on the other hand, it's sad that it has taken a 15-3 June to get the Twins to within single digits of a .500 record.

I'm curious whether it's possible for the Twins to end up at .500 by the All-Star break. This would be great in the standings, especially as Cleveland and Chicago are scuffling. Mentally, a .500 record at the break would put a close to the first half of the season, much of which was awful and marred by a strange confluence of injuries to several players. .500 at the break means a fresh start, essentially. It would also give great momentum to the second half, which is loaded with divisional play.

Beginning tonight in San Francisco, the Twins have 18 games before the mid-summer classic in Arizona. Here's the schedule: 2 games @ San Francisco; 3 games @ Milwaukee; 3 games at home versus the Dodgers; 3 games at home versus Milwaukee; 3 games at home versus Tampa Bay; 4 games @ Chicago White Sox. This is not an easy schedule by any means. Additionally, there is only one day off: June 30. We know that the Giants are scuffling now, but they are not a bad team (just a shade out of first place), and the Twins have to face Tim Lincecum on Thursday. Milwaukee is very good baseball team, currently with a record of 41-34, and they play pretty well at home. The Dodgers are not having a great year, currently in 4th place in their division. As we all know, Tampa Bay is a very tough team, one the Twins do not historically play well against. Then, it ends at "The Cell" against the White Sox, in what hopefully will be 4 very important games against a team that the Twins have had great success over lately.

To finish at .500 (actually, if all scheduled games get played from now until the break, the Twins will have played 89 games, so an even record is impossible), the boys will have to go 13-5. That's a .722 winning percentage. This is down from their current .833 winning percentage in the month of June, but .833 is ridiculous and impossible to do for a long stretch, especially when you play good, healthy teams.

The way the Twins have been playing, and the fact that more players are expected to return to the club over the next several days, weigh in their favor. Moreover, the franchise historically has been successful at interleague play. The fact that the Twins have to play the Giants, the Brewers 6 times, and Tampa Bay, does not weigh in their favor. Those are all decent teams, and the Twins will lose some games there. It's necessary, then, to dominate the series against the Dodgers and the White Sox. Further, the Twins are going to have to sweep at least one series in order to win 13 of the 18 remaining games. Is it likely they they will go 13-5 in this stretch? Probably not. But am I going to count them out? Absolutely not. The way they have been playing has been beyond impressive, and I wouldn't put anything past them right now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome Back, Mauer, to the Tune of "Welcome Back, Kotter"

I never really got into the television show "Welcome Back, Kotter." It was a little before my time, and I frankly never found it remotely funny, probably because John Travolta was in it. But tonight in Minnesota, the Twins and their fans will "welcome back" Joe Mauer after a prolonged and perplexing two-month absence. Just as Mr. Kotter found his way back to fictional James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, so, too, has Joe Mauer found his way back to the generous confines of Target Field (I know I'm reaching here, but go with me. It will be worth your while. OK, I can't promise that, but you're already here, so just keep reading.)

Welcome Back, Joe Mauer. Sure, Joe, you have not returned to Cretin-Derham Hall High School to teach social studies to a group of disorderly, hairy teenagers, but I think there are some parallels between the lyrics to the "Welcome Back, Kotter" theme song, and your own journey back to Target Field. I have bracketed in a few slight changes to the Kotter theme song to underscore my point.

"Welcome back, your dreams [mysterious bilateral leg weakness and unnamed viral infection] were your ticket out.

"Welcome back to that same old place [actually, a new, luxurious baseball-only facility] that you laughed about [quietly demanded as a condition to stay a Minnesota Twin].

"Well the names have all changed since you hung around [because the Twins had to call up half of AAA Rochester],

"But those dreams have remained and they're turned around [well, they haven't quite turned around yet, because the Twins are still in last place in the awful AL Central - - we're still worse than the Royals].

"Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)

"Back here where we need ya (Back here where we need ya) [I, for one, completely thought that your dreams would lead "ya" right back here, where we need "ya," especially because we are paying "ya" $23 million].

"Yea we tease him [Joe] a lot cause we've got him on the spot [and also because he lacks a dynamic personality, his power numbers went down the tube last year, and he does commercials for dandruff shampoo],

"Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. [Welcome back, but only if you plan on catching at least 80 percent of the remaining games, batting .320, and making my wife be re-interested in baseball again with your sideburns and what not]."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Back on Track: Michael Cuddyer

In 2009, Michael Cuddyer was instrumental in the Twins' run down the stretch. Without his offensive contributions, and his ability to play a halfway-decent first base, the Twins would not have come close to forcing a game 163 against the Detroit Tigers. In 2010, after Justin Morneau went out with his concussion, and when Joe Mauer simply wasn't playing very well, Delmon Young carried the offense on his back for much of July and August. He racked up tons of RBIs, and it seemed like everything off his bat was hit very, very hard. Later in 2010, Mauer came alive, essentially carrying the team for several weeks. Time has shown that there are only a few players that can carry this team offensively.

Although I have ragged on Michael Cuddyer a little with respect to his current contract, the magic tricks, and his failure in the clutch the first two months of the season, it is only fair to give credit where credit is due. Here, credit is due to Michael Cuddyer. He (along with Alexi Casilla -- go figure -- Delmon Young, who is coming alive, and even Ben Revere, is carrying the team). Over the Twins' recent 12-2 stretch, I have Cuddyer batting .377 with 10 extra base hits and 14 RBIs. And, oh yea, he stole 3 bases last night in a very important game against the White Sox. A classic speedster.

Of course, Cuddyer won't continue at the .377 pace, and of course the Twins won't continue to win 85 percent of their games, but what Cuddyer has shown in this stretch is the definition of veteran leadership: playing well when times are tough, and when there is no one else to turn to. If Cuddyer continues to lead the team in this manner, even if the Twins are out of the AL Central race in July, the front office is going to have a tough time prying Cuddyer from Gardy's death grip.

I'm not sure how to quantify the dollar value of veteran leadership. Yes, I'm only talking about a few weeks of games here in which Cuddyer has thrived. But let's face it: if the Twins had lost even 2 or 3 more of these last 14 games, we'd still be looking at a double-digit deficit in the standings. At least now we have a fighting chance in a weak division. Cuddyer is performing when it counts. This season, unfortunately, the pressure is on in June. Two weeks ago, I thought there was a very good chance Cuddyer would be gone by the trade deadline; now, not so much. The Twins certainly won't be paying him $10 million next year, but if his leadership on the field continues, it's going to be tough to sever the relationship.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keep Ben Revere

Granted, it's a somewhat small sample size, but I want the Twins to keep Ben Revere with the big boys, on a permanent basis. What can't he do? Throw, apparently, is the answer. I'm more concerned with his attributes: great speed in the outfield; speed on the basepaths; the ability to hit for average; good bunting skills. That's actually a pretty good ballplayer.

The 2011 Twins have grappled with an array of injuries at all positions, pitchers, infielders and outfielders. At the very least, even if all of the "original" opening day starting 9 are healthy, I want Ben Revere as the reserve outfielder, the pinch runner, or that guy that needs to reach base in late innings. He has proven that he is major league ready. Will he make the 2012 MLB All-Star team? Probably not. Can he contribute in a variety of ways, immediately? Absolutely.

I have nothing against Jason Repko. He has been a great 4th or 5th outfielder, making several very good defensive plays in 2010 and 2011. The Twins have him at a pretty good price, too. But he lacks certain intangibles that Ben Revere has: great speed on the basepaths, bunting ability, and a Minnesota Twins future that should be developed . . . while playing for the Minnesota Twins. Simply stated, Repko is as good as he is going to be; Revere is already as good, and has room for improvement. I also believe, without resorting to a detailed statistical analysis, that Revere can make up any runs or bases he gives up as a result of a supbar arm, with runs he can score or bases he can advance as a direct result of his speed and baserunning ability.

If Delmon Young is hitting, if Denard Span is healthy, and if Michael Cuddyer/Jason Kubel are both hitting and healthy, Ben Revere could see limited play. I wait for that confluence of events to take place. Young may not be with the Twins in a month, and there have been reports that either Cuddyer, Kubel, or both, may be available. This all depends on whether the June Twins decide to win many games. Regardless, Revere is a cheaper, and at least equivalent alternative, to Repko. Although he lacks power, the Twins have plenty of guys (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, Cuddyer, Thome, Young, Valencia) that should be hitting 15 or more HR each. In the case of Revere, I am willing to exchange a lack of power and an outfield arm for youth, speed, and batting/bunting ability. Let's give the kid a chance.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday Twins-Rangers Game and 2011 Justin Morneau Casino Night

Last weekend marked my annual summer trip to Minnesota. This was an abbreviated trip, in part due to work stuff and in part due to other travels we recently have made. Not that I was regretting the idea of a game at Target Field, but three weeks ago I was less than enthused about the team, for obvious reasons. Then, things started changing. Pitchers began throwing deeper into games; Michael Cuddyer began hitting for average and power; and a duo of small, fast guys, Alexi Casilla and Ben Revere, have helped ignite the offense. Well, on Saturday that's exactly what we got.

Scott Baker was dealing. He was dominant, not allowing a hit until the 5th inning. He embarrassed Josh Hamilton three times, including coming back from a 3-0 count to strike him out, for the third time. His fastball simply looked great, and he kept it down. The play of the game, unquestionably, and arguably the play of the year for the 2011 Twins so far, was Ben Revere's full-out diving catch in left-center field. We had a great view of it, and it was the best defensive play I have seen in person. In short, the AAA Twins lineup ran, hit, and fielded their positions, power threats Cuddyer and Delmon young each hit doubles, and Scott Baker game us the opportunity to win a game. It was a wonderful afternoon of outdoor baseball at Target Field.

Sunday, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the 2011 Justin Morneau Casino Night, held at International Market Square. I had wanted to go last year, but the timing didn't work out. It was a blast. Admittedly, it was a little expensive, but, comparatively, I would give up attending 1 or 2 games during the year to go to something like this. Also, the purpose of the event was to raise money and awareness for juvenile arthritis. Now of course everyone knows what arthritis is, but few are aware that thousands of children suffer its debilitating effects. Just like any other disease or disorder, it is much more tragic when it afflicts children. We were more than happy to donate money to this worthy cause, which is close to the hearts of Justin and Krista Morneau.

Most of the "starting 9" were in attendance, including Cuddyer, Casilla, Young, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Danny Valencia, and of course Justin Morneau. I also suspect some of the recent Rochester call-ups were there, as well, but I have to admit I wouldn't recognize Brian Dinkelman without a uniform on. The players were fantastic, and allowed fans to take pictures with them. We had a short conversation with Ben Revere about his catch. "I closed my eyes, honestly. I closed them real hard," he said. He was extremely friendly. I don't think he was immediately recognized by many.

I also had a nice short conversation with Michael Cuddyer about his articles for, which I have found to be entertaining and informative, for the most part. Delmon Young was quiet but friendly, as was Jason Kubel. The highlight, though, was talking with Justin Morneau. Last season when the Twins played in Baltimore, we had high hopes of having him sign a banner from the Metrodome (in his likeness, of course) that I bought at the Twins Pro Shop. Unfortunately, he had suffered the concussion and didn't make the road trip. We met several of his Canadian friends from childhood, though, who were at Camden Yards for a bachelor party funded by -- you guessed it, Justin Morneau. We had a great conversation with these guys last year, and that provided a talking point when we ran into Justin waiting in line for a beer. He was extremely friendly and talkative, despite the fact that he had been approached probably 200 times that night. All in all, it was a great Twins-themed weekend. It was neat seeing the players off the field. They were all pretty good guys. It's easy to think and write negative things about them, especially when the team is horrible, but if you do that, it's only fair to write that most of the guys are fantastic when it comes to charity work. They certainly did not disappoint.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ron Gardenhire v. Danny Valencia

Shame on you, Gardy. Leave Danny alone.

Here's just a short list of what's gone wrong with the Twins this year:
1) Injuries to Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, and others, most recently Denard Span; 2) Justin Morneau not back to the player he once was; 3) the worst bullpen in baseball; 4) Delmon Young's serious offensive regression and awful play in the outfield after what we all hoped was a turning point in 2010; 5) Alexi Casilla straddling the Mendoza line until just 2 weeks ago. Any one or two of these items combined is certainly stress-inducing for any manager.

Notwithstanding all these problems, Gardy has chosen to focus his scorn recently on Danny Valencia. To be sure, Valencia is not having a good season, toting a .218/.281/.333 line with 5 home runs. Clearly, he has regressed from his 2010 breakout line of .311/.351/.448 in 85 games. It probably was unreasonable to expect him to maintain his 2010 line in 2011, given his somewhat pedestrian minor league numbers. Still, though, no one likely expected the significant drop we have seen so far. His defense has also suffered, having committed 5 errors in 58 games.

Given the numbers, it is easy to understand Gardy's frustration with Valencia: Valencia isn't playing well, and it might be too late in the season to call it a slump. Noting that Valencia had played in all the team's games thus far, Gardy gave him the night off Monday against Cleveland. But it wasn't just for a rest. Here is Gardy's quote from the Monday game: "He's been playing in every game and has not been swinging worth a flip. In Kansas City he was pulling off the ball. Just sit him out, give him a break and let him sit back and watch a ballgame. Probably get him right back tomorrow. Depends if he gets Wally Pipped by [Luke] Hughes."

Maybe that quote wasn't so bad. On one hand, Gardy acknowledged, in so many words, that Valencia is tired, wasn't batting well and needed a break. But then he had to throw in the little jab about getting "Wally Pipped," a reference of course to the Yankees player who was benched in favor of a young Lou Gehrig. We all know how that one turned out for old Wally.

Back to Valencia. He also sat Tuesday's game, with the exception of pinch hitting for Rene Rivera in the 8th inning. Regarding Valencia, Gardy stated: "It'll be good for him, because I know his head's going to be spinning now, and you know what, sometimes that's a good thing. Maybe get him a little fired up and stay focused." Regarding Gardy's role as the manager, he said: "I like it when you can irritate people as a manger. It's good. I get irritated all the time, so sometimes a manager gets a chance to irritate people a little bit and that kind of maybe will get a little extra oomph out of him. We'll see. [Valencia] hasn't come in here yet, so . . . I dare him. Just kidding."

That's seriously enough, Gardy. Stop it. I've given you a pass on this season. No manager, not even the manager of the year, is going to be able to field a winning team with starting lineups featuring 5 or 6 players each night from AAA. Sure, maybe there will be patches of good baseball, but over the course of a 162 game season, I don't think any team can compete with the caliber of players we have been forced to play. So, I understand your frustration, Ron. But don't take it out on Valencia to this degree. Sure, he's immature and annoying, and it's exacerbated when he's playing awful. But there are so many other problems in 2011 that, to waste your breath repeatedly dogging Valencia, is time and energy misspent.

In case you haven't noticed, we don't exactly have another stud third basemen waiting in the wings, and something tells me the front office doesn't have plans to go spend money on the market this summer for a veteran upgrade - - there are simply way too many other areas of weakness. I get that Valencia doesn't fit into the Twins' mold of quiet and humble guys, and I also understand how annoying it might be if he is cocky and arrogant, all while batting .218. But that's the way he is. In fact, one can make the argument that the Twins' mold of quiet, compassionate leaders hasn't resulted in postseason success.

I think the veteran players in the clubhouse will be more effective, over time, in molding Valencia, than will Gardy's jabs in the press. I expect Valencia to start the Wednesday matinee against the Indians. We'll see what, if anything, Gardy says, and perhaps how Valencia reacts, through his play.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Clubhouse Fights

Year in and year out, Twins players seem to get along pretty well together. They show up at each other's charity events, have lived together during early stages of careers as heterosexual life partners, and even have served as groomsmen for teammates. Generally, they really epitomize the fact that the players collectively are as much a family as they are co-workers. Maybe this year's Twins are a little too close, a little too friendly. After all, the team is simply awful. How thrilled can they be with each other now? I have to imagine tempers are flaring in the clubhouse, much more than has been reported. But Twins' fights--those that have been reported, anyway--have been few and far between (in full disclosure I'm not counting the "fights" that may have occurred in the 1990s when Twins trainers politely asked Kent Hrbek to lay off the 6th beer and 5th helping of food from the post-game clubhouse buffet).

I remember hearing about a classic "Dazzle" Dan Gladden fight with Steve Lombardozzi back in 1988. Gladden, and other Twins players, apparently didn't like the fact that Lombo went to the clubhouse during the game after Tom Kelly had pulled him for a pinch hitter. The matter was "settled" the next day on Gladden's front lawn. Great imagery there. Apparently Gladden even broke a finger, but wanted in the lineup so badly that he refused to tell TK about it until after the next game.

Then, of course, was the disappointing season of 2005, which culminated when Torii Hunter took a swing at Justin Morneau, presumably for Morneau wanting to sit when injured, but instead ended up slugging Nick Punto instead. That same season, Kyle Loshe took a bat to Gardy's clubhouse door.

Now, of course, 1988 and 2005 won't go down in the annals of Twins history as great seasons. But that's what happens when your team is bad: tempers flare. Things that you might have let go if your team was on pace to win 100 games suddenly start to really bother you, and all of the sudden Nick Punto's nose is bleeding, or Dan Gladden's child is asking why Steve Lombardozzi is curled up in the fetal position next to the garden hose.

I'm curious what--or who--will be the breaking point in 2011. My first guess is that Justin Morneau will be using his words to communicate. I don't think he's in any position to be hitting guys, given the fact that he is still coming back from the concussion and also has a pinched nerve. Still, though, he's a veteran and his words should carry a lot of meaning. Now, as far as guys who I think are likely to "get after it" with each other, I'd have to put Delmon Young at the top of that list. First, he's a big guy who is having an awful year, offensively and defensively. Between the odd circumstances surrounding his trip to the disabled list and his failures on the field, he has somehow managed to go from a player many thought should be offered a long-term deal, to a player that is probably talking his way out of Minnesota. I'm not even sure that he really likes playing for the Twins anyway. If his poor performance continues, I wouldn't be surprised to hear about a scuffle between him and one of the more senior members of the team, like Michael Cuddyer, who at least goes out there and tries to compete every game.

As far as pitchers, Kevin Slowey may also be on his way out, but he's too smart to get involved in any of that stuff. I mean, he has a list of recommended reading on his off-season blog. My bet would be Jose Mijares. I actually like the guy, but we all know that he and Delmon already clashed back in 2009 after Young was hit by a pitch in retaliation for Mijares throwing behind a Tiger batter. Importantly, when that incident happened, the Twins were in the midst of an incredibly hot streak of baseball that resulted in their winning the division. Now, they're already 19 games under .500 and it's only beginning of June. If Mijares and Young were capable of flaring tempers during such a hot streak, I can only imagine what could happen now.

I'm not advocating any violence here. Hopefully no Twin suffers a broken finger or nose. But when a team is this bad, and when individual players are already trying to talk their way off the team, things are eventually bound to boil over.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Week Away, Did I Miss Anything?

The wife and I took a vacation to Napa Valley and just got back to town yesterday. It was a needed vacation from all those things that get can you down: jobs, bills, housework, your local MLB team. Earlier in the season, I figured that I might bring my laptop with me so I could watch games using my account, and maybe even blog once or twice. My wife probably would not have appreciated that too much, so it was a card that I wasn't going to play unless necessary. The way that things have shaped up in 2011, though, I decided that this might be a good respite from the Twins.

I won't say that I went cold-turkey. I saw some highlights on SportsCenter relating to Swarczak's no-hit bid, and I read box scores in the local paper, but that was about it. No blog-checking, no Star Tribune coverage. And I have to say, it felt good. It would be one thing if the team was winning, but there's really no reason right now to hang on to every word from the Twins regarding injuries, or to opine who the Twins might deal as July nears. Not to say that those things don't interest me, only that there's not much more you can be down about on the Twins, and to take some time away felt nice.

But I'm back now. I'm kind of tired of writing wholly negative pieces on the likes of Delmon Young, Drew Butera, Michael Cuddyer and Bill Smith. Now don't get me wrong, these guys are still killing me one way or the other, but how much can you say on any given topic?I've said a lot, and many other bloggers and newspaper scribes have certainly said their pieces, as well. I'm excited by the possible returns of Nishioka and Joe Mauer, even if the season is already lost. I'm somewhat excited by the draft this year, perhaps because there's not much else to be excited about.

Also, I will be attending my only Target Field game of the year next weekend against the Rangers, and will be heading to Justin Morneau's Casino Night to benefit juvenile arthritis. Those are two pretty great things. I have been to Target Field only once, so it still retains that "new car" smell to me. I also think it will be cool to play blackjack at the same table as Jim Thome, provided that such activity does not further strain his left quadriceps muscle.