Good Luck, Boys

The Twins stack up just fine against the A's--if you ignore a few nagging details.

After a season of futility against lefthanders, it's also not terribly encouraging to know that the Twins will have to find a way to beat Oakland's devastating tandem of southpaws, Zito and Mulder. Howe's decision to lead with the right-handed Hudson is curious, to say the least, although I suppose it's worth noting that he's 5-0 lifetime versus the Twins.

The other potentially discouraging curiosity in the numbers is the Twins' record in day games this year. They were 24-24 playing in the afternoon, and it looks like at least the first four games of the series with Oakland will have afternoon start times. Oakland can be a notoriously difficult place for opposing teams to play in the daylight. There's the matter of the sun and shadows, and the ball jumps out of the place in the day. The Twins will clearly have to steal at least one of the first two games in Oakland to have a chance, but if they can manage to bring the series back to the Dome tied at a game apiece, God help the Athletics. Gardenhire's reluctance to deviate from his formula for success, and the unshakable faith he has shown in his players, is admirable on a number of levels, but here's hoping he pulls out all the stops in this series.

NOTES:

THE LAST TWOgames against Chicago provided a perfect example of the splendid but schizoid season that Jacque Jones has had. Saturday, in his customary leadoff spot against White Sox leftie Mark Buehrle, Jones went 0-4 with three strikeouts to lower his batting average to .296. The next day, in the season finale, he went 3-3 against right-hander Jon Garland to finish the season at exactly .300. For the year he hit .333 with 24 homeruns and 68 RBIs against righties, and .213 with three homers and 17 RBIs against lefthanders.

THE TWINS FINISHED the regular season with a 9-1 record in extra-inning games at the Dome.

MINNESOTA'S CRACKERJACK MARKETINGhonchos might consider giving away a Rick Reed Swivelhead doll the next time Cleveland's Jim Thome comes to town. Thome hit seven home runs off Reed this season, and 11 versus the Twins. The Cleveland slugger is the most underrated player in baseball. The guy hit .304 this season, with 54 homeruns, 118 RBIs, 101 runs, and 122 walks. His OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.122 was the highest in the American League, and second only to Barry Bonds (1.381) overall. And Thome does it practically every year, having already scored and driven in100 runs six times. He's still only 32 years old, and works as hard as anyone in the game. During the last Twins home stand, with the Indians playing out the string on a miserable season, Thome was on the field alone before every game, hitting ball after ball off a tee. One of the few satisfactions of the unbalanced schedule is the numerous opportunities it allows Twins fans to watch Thome and his splendid counterpart at shortstop, Omar Vizquel.

FINALLY, HERE'S Awonderful quote I stumbled across in Francis Richter's 1914 History and Records of Base Ball (under the chapter heading, "Big Wars of Base Ball"): "It was not expected that the wonderful success achieved under the National Agreement could be maintained indefinitely without exciting undue ambition within the ranks, the envy of outsiders, and the rapacity of the players ­the latter always susceptible to temptation by appeal to their cupidity or to the egotism developed by excessive adulation of the press and public. Moreover, the history of the game demonstrates that every decade developed conditions that led to war either through foreign influence or internal causes."

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