Life on the Roller Coaster

Seven helpful tips for the baseball obsessive

7) Don't sweat the small stuff. You don't need to mow the lawn more than once a month--you're not a damn gardener, you're a baseball fan. If your house needs painting, that's what football season's for. Anything else? Don't worry about it. In six months you'll be a free man--and an unhappy man--with all the time in the world.



THE BAD NEWS is that half the ballclub seems to be either on the disabled list or hobbled, the guys filling in for Luis Rivas at second base (Denny Hocking and Jay Canizaro) are killing the team at the bottom of the order, the Twins suddenly aren't hitting with runners in scoring position, Brad Radke and Eric Milton have been pretty awful, the bullpen's starting to get nicked, and the team went 1-9 over its last ten road games.

THE GOOD NEWS is that Cleveland has been scuffling as well. The Twins are 14-11 and in second place in the Central, and they come home to ten straight games against Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Kansas City.

DETROIT FINALLY FOUND a way to score a run off lefty J.C. Romero: With Minnesota leading 2-1, Ron Gardenhire brought in Romero to relieve Rick Reed. Robert Fick singled to center, and then Bobby Higginson and Randall Simon--batting third and cleanup in the Tigers order--both bunted for base hits to load the bases. When's the last time you saw a team's three and four hitters lay down bunts in successive at bats? The first run Romero gave up all year scored on a double-play ball off the bat of Shane Halter. Fick then homered off Bob Wells (who gave up 12 homers in 68 and two-thirds innings last year) to win the game in the tenth.

IT'S PRETTY CLEAR that Cristian Guzman--who went to the All Star game last year and really hasn't been the same since--is struggling at all facets of the game. Guzman set the tone for his breakout season last year with a hot April; for the month he hit .300 with six triples, three home runs, and an unreal .625 slugging percentage. This year he's batting just .211, with an (again) unreal slugging percentage of .232. He has only two extra-base hits, no triples or homers, and an unsightly .227 on-base percentage. Most alarmingly, he seems to be tentative both in the field and on the basepaths.

BRAD RADKE, ERIC Milton, and Joe Mays, who have all struggled in the early going (Mays is on the DL), also got off to hot Aprils last season. Last April Radke was 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA, Milton was 3-1, 2.80, and Mays was 3-1, 2.73. The alarming thing about Radke is that his strikeouts per nine innings have steadily declined at a point in his career when they should have been going up.

CONTRACTION WATCH: Since we last checked in, that little ashtray fire interim manager Jerry Royster had lit under the Brewers has been extinguished. The club didn't win a game all week, having been swept by the Expos and Mets, and is now 7-18, with a team batting average of .235, and an on-base percentage of .306. A total of 12,357 spectators turned out for the three-game series in Montreal.


Brad Zellar will go Yard every Monday afternoon--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.

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