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Random Digressions from the Road Trip


Here's something to think about: the Twins, as anyone who heard yesterday's radio broadcast knows, went 4-6 over their last two series, which gave them a 4-9 record over their romp through the heart of America, with stops in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and finally, "Fun Central", Arlington, Texas. (For whatever reason, I can't stop thinking about its proximity to Dallas, which recalls Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line... and that gives me a minor freak out. Especially when I add the memory of who used to own the Rangers.) Now, it was great to see the Twins take two of three from Milwaukee and the same from the woeful Rangers. And they looked pretty damned good in the process.

I've been pretty cynical as of late, and I'm not changing my outlook on the season as a whole, but what makes the sport of bat and ball so much fun in my mind is watching the progress of good ballplayers. Here in baseball-land, statistics are our friends. And they say:

Torii Hunter is figuratively on fire, hitting three home runs and ten RBI, with a 1.050 OPS over the last week, and making the great catches that make him so fun to watch. "There's your Gold Glover!" Danny Gladden shouted during Tuesday's game.

(Another tangent: Dan Gladden--please stop calling him Dazzle--is quickly becoming a great radio man. His insights are enlightening, he's stopped yakking endlessly about Harley Davidsons, he gets irritable, which I personally dig, and, even better, sounds professional and spontaneous. I grew up listening to the inimitable Ernie Harwell, who could make every game as crystal clear as if you were a 1940s Life photographer standing two feet from home plate. John Gordon, on the other hand, sounds prepackaged, trying too hard to sound as smooth as Harwell or the dear-departed Herb Carneal. Gordon's "Touch 'Em All" is probably trademarked, and if I never hear it again, it's too soon. But Gladden... the guy sounds genuinely amazed at certain plays, excitable, fun to listen to.)

So anyway, back to the numbers: Justin Morneau is climbing back into the fray, with his fourteen home runs, three of which were smacked this past week, and his overall OPS (that's on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, simply added) is .934, and he's acting like the reigning MVP.

Now, I could tuck in a graf about Johan Santana, but I won't. The reason why is because I'm guessing you've already read about how great he was the other day (Tuesday), and that everyone's in awe. Rightfully so. But ever since I was a kid, watching the hopeless Detroit Tigers, I've been one of these guys who likes the innings-eating, unheralded and often potbellied hurlers, like Mickey Lolich (who once patrolled the burning streets of Detroit as a Guardsman during the riots, having a hard time with his rifle because he was also hauling four bags of free hamburgers given to him by local eateries). Of course I'm leading to Boof Bonser, our own plump, future-journeyman, reliable second-third-fourth-or-fifth starter. Boof could stand to be a bit more of a cut-up in my mind (Lolich used to freak out the Tigers maintenance staff by unscrewing light bulbs in the centerfield scoreboards), but that's just me. Boof's won his last three starts, and didn't, according to rookie catcher Chris Heintz, even have his best stuff. A bit precocious Mr. Heintz? But he's right, and yet Boof's a fighter, a scrapper, and one of my faves. The kind of pitcher who'll get bombed on some days, struggle mightily with a good outing, and have a gem like his May 18, 11 K victory o'er the Brewers. For May, Boof is sitting on a 3-0 record, 2.70 ERA, and 32 K's. (Santana's May record: 2-2, 2.16 ERA, 56 K's.) Boof's career will consist of good days, hard days, great days--kind of like the rest of us.

One note of concern: Yes, the Twins pulled out a pair of series victories after dropping three in a row to Cleveland, and yet they gained precious little ground. On May 17, we were seven games back; today we sit at six and a half games back. In fact, the Kansas City Royals gained a half-game on us, being but three and a half away from taking our fourth place spot.

Now, I don't believe for a minute that the Royals are going to leapfrog into fourth, or third, or whatever. End of the season, the Royals will be where they are now, in last place. My point is simply that even with a good run, we are going to be spinning our wheels simply because every team, except perhaps the White Sox, improved considerably, and that includes the Royals. Every streak the Twins have will be matched, by either the Indians, Tigers, or White Sox, and the Royals might just have the cellar-dweller's joy of being a spoiler, all season and not just in September.

I don't have to tell you that the next twelve games are vitally important. The Twins play a pair of increasingly lousy teams in the guise of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Washington, District of Columbia Nationals. Good teams, teams that go on to win divisions, pennants, and eventually World Series, beat the lousy teams. In between, we're facing the White Sox and Angels. The Angels are hot, the White Sox struggling to find themselves, and we certainly don't need them to do that in our territory. Especially since every loss to the Chisox is doubly painful if we have any hopes of making it to the postseason (and you already know I'm nearly done hoping for that).

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