Friday, October 08, 2010

Same Old Story

The Twins' loss in Game 2 of the ALDS last night wasn't as painful as some of the team's past postseason heartbreakers, but perhaps that's only because we as fans have been conditioned to these failures.

Certainly, the game had all the requisite attributes of a typical Twins playoff loss to the Yankees: an early lead that disappeared, a blown call by an umpire that proved costly, and -- most importantly -- a complete lack of offensive output from the Twins.

We can savage Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano for failing to deliver quality starts, though there's nothing embarrassing about the results they got against the league's top-scoring offense. We can demonize home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for another in a long line of whiffed umpiring calls that threaten the integrity of this great game (while commissioner Bud Selig seems content to ignore the issue). We can continue heaping blame on Ron Gardenhire, because his teams have now dropped 11 straight postseason games and while I don't think that has much to do with his managing I'm not going to waste my breath defending him anymore.

Ultimately, the Twins' failure to come away with even a single win over the first two games of this series falls squarely on the offense, just like it has throughout this miserable postseason drought.

The Twins last night faced a pitcher who'd started four games since the All-Star break and who was knocked around for nine runs on 19 hits in his two final regular-season tune-up starts. In front of a packed home crowd, the Twins manage to push two runs across. You don't beat the Yankees scoring two runs.

The game marked the seventh time during Minnesota's current postseason losing streak that they've scored three or fewer runs. You don't win games like that very often in the regular season (the Twins went 13-46 when scoring three times or less this year) and you certainly don't win them in the playoffs against an offensive juggernaut like the Yanks.

In Games 1 and 2, the Twins went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in front of their home crowd. It's difficult to label that kind of effort anything but pathetic. In fact, over their past five home playoff games, they have gone 2-for-30 in scoring opportunities. The players change but the story stays the same: the Twins can't get big hits and because of it they've turned into a postseason joke that no one takes seriously come October.

It's a reputation they've earned.


Anonymous said...

Mirroring my disgust.......

ShrikeTheAvatar said...

I always hated the mental block argument. It seems easy enough to sit here and imagine these guys as professionals who shouldn't fall prey to crap like that, but how else can you explain it?

It honestly seems less likely that the Twins can manage this manage post-season losses in a row than it does that they would at least win ONE.

It feels like the Twins have no swagger, no confidence. Like you said, at home, they only manage to push across two runs. They always look lively early in these games, and then as soon as the Yankees score, it's like the life goes out of them, which is ridiculous. They're the Yankees - of course they're going to score. Just keep playing.

I'm sick of this. At this point, I just want them to win a game, because losing 12 post season games in a row is just embarrassing.

Ed Bast said...

I'm just so tired of this routine:

1. Capitalize on "little-engine-that-could" talk from Gardy and jump out to early lead.
2. Realize you're leading the almighty YANKEES, in the playoffs. Ho-lee crap. Shut down offensively.
3. Make poor pitches in key situations. Reliquish lead.
4* Tie game mid-innings.
5* The next half-inning, make more bad pitches and immediately relinquish lead. Take crowd out of game.
(Items with * are new to this year)
6. Be on either end of bad call/lucky break. Either fail to capitalize on break, or be demoralized by bad break and let Yankees capitalize.
7. Have several chances to get back in game. Fail in every single one of them.
8. Show no emotion; start to give up.
9. Give up insurance run(s).
10. Lose game with nary a whisper of a late inning comeback.

So far as I can tell, the only guy who has performed up to or exceeded his ability while showing a passion and desire to win is Jon Rauch. And when Jon Rauch is your best player in the playoffs, well, good luck.

George said...

I don't know about the Twins players, but I certainly have a mental block when it comes to the Twins playing the friggin' Yankees. I'm certain that the Yankees can start Sergio Mitre tomorrow and look like Cy Young against the Twins. When will this end? It's like the Yankees just KNOW that they will win against the Twins no matter what the situation is. They probably would feel confident about beating the Twins even if they're down 10 runs and down to the last strike in the game. Unbelievable!

BTW, I think Gardy should make a mental note to leave Jason Kubel off the playoff roster next year if we play the Yankees again. I think most pitchers make more contact than he has against the Yankees.

GBubbs said...

I so sick of this year after year. Why does the twins offense take it upon themselves in big games to make opposing pitchers look a lot better than they deserve on that night (except against the white sox)

I have absolutely no faith in Gardy's ability to get his team ready for the postseason mentally or physically. Where's the spark? He did not set up the pitching staff well for the postseason. Giving Pavano on 9 days rest even when he's unhappy about it? In this case I think there was such a thing as too much rest. Not to mention the rest of the team decided another AL central title was good enough.

Chad said...

Hey, Ed, O-Dog has been a stud, too. A home run in Game 2, heads up baserunning in Game 1 and solid defense.

Ben said...

The Twins need to start doing a little more of this:

Get in their FACE! It worked for the Red Sox. Gardy needs to sack up and get his players MAD at this team. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

What New Yorkers are saying:

"We love the beautiful, state of the art, brand-new downtown outdoor ballpark. Thank you so much for building it for us! We never did like our Dome, even if we did own it!"

Ed Bast said...

Chad, I'll give you O-Dog, forgot about him.

The three Twins to drive in a run so far: Mike Cuddyer, Danny Valencia, Orlando Hudson. That's beyond embarrasing.

Matt said...

On a night when CC did not have stuff close to his best, they only manage two runs off a hit; the others were a walk and a wild pitch.
Pettite gets out of a bases loaded one out with a sac fly to Valencia.
Kubel should be beyond embarrased for his play, facing lefties or not.
Mauer has done little to nothing, and really epitomizes (sp?) the whole club's effort. Flat, no emotion, looking intimidated.
I quit watching about half way through last night, and I don't think I can even watch Saturday, it's just too painful to see my favorite all time sports team look so damn flat and really, it looks like they mailed it in Wednesday on Tex's home run. That was pretty much the series, right there.
Let's pencil in pitchers and catchers and try to enjoy some teams in this post season who know they belong and play like they mean it.
The Royals, the damn Royals, have beaten the Yanks more times than the Twins have since Gardy came on board... Think about THAT one!

[email protected] said...

I really feel like we are missing justin morneau - even more than his production i think we are missing his presence, i think he brings the swagger to our team like you were talking about Shrike.

The thing that has disgusted me more than anything though is the amount of times i've seen one of our hitters go up to the plate and look at 1 or 2 good hitting pitches and then end up striking out on something out of the zone. What kind of approach is that? I feel like we're are just giving away strikes at the plate and getting into bad hitters counts; and it gets notably worse when we are losing. Pettite only pitched so well because we let him get into a grove by taking so many meatballs for strikes.

frank rizzo said...

Joe Mauer has been such a disapointment these 1st two games. Just not a gamer.

Anonymous said...

The Twins have sucked at home against the Yanks. But, they have won two games in new york one in 03 and 04. Both of those behind Johan Santana. I'm not giving up hope til they are eliminated. They seem to play better there than in the Twin Cities anyway.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Though I too believe Gardy is a good manager, I have to start blaming him for not keeping his team loose. There is a point in the game that as Twins fans we are just as afraid that we're going to lose game. I sit and think I can't afford to take a deep breath until its over. That's exactly how the Twins players feel/play. The manager has to step in and provide that intangible element that helps his team have swagger. Gardy doesn't have it. Evidence was the way he was resting his chin on the dugout fence early in the game. I've never seen him do that! He was trying to pretend he was laid back, but it proved to be just the opposite. He needs to be the one to fire up his team. He needs to be fired. Replacements???? I say Eric Wedge or give the unproven Paul Molitor a shot. Many lobbied for him when TK stepped down. Why not?

Anonymous said...

While the players have changed, one key thing hasn't, and that's Joe Vavra and, formerly, Scotty Ullger, who have failed to help the players master situational hitting with RISP. These two are not major league level hitting coaches. Not at all. We've got Paul Molitor and Rod Carew ready to step in, from what I understand. It's not that hard to figure out.

Midwest Dave the baseball guy said...

My random thoughts after arguably the Twins mos successful and frustrating decade in history.
1. This team needs a true ace. Go get Zach Greinke this off season.
2. Twins simply are not talented enough to get by the Yankees without Morneau.
3. This lineup is too lefty dominated. Jason Kubel is helpless against tough lefties. What's worse is that he knows it.
4. I'm not putting this on Gardy's shoulders, but if your strength is the depth of your BP, why leave Pavano out there in the 7th? He's just not that dominate.
5. Brian Duensing is going to get the win in game 3.

GBubbs said...

Example: Delmon at third two outs. Shift is on for thome. Pitch down and away thome tries to pull it for a home run instead of just shooting it to short where there is a huge gap. Thome hits a weak grounder to second for an easy end to the inning. I like thome but they gave him an oppertunity to drive in a run with a single. Instead Delmon's triple goes to waste. The twins need to wake up. Oh and why did Hudson go for a curtain call after he only tied the game? I admit that was huge, but come on the game was far from over and you acted like you just won the it. That to me is not showing a winning attitude.

Midwest Dave the baseball guy said...

Good point about Thome. In a short series you can't go 0-10 with RISP. Span has been very disapointing this season too. Maybe it's time to shake up the lineup. If there's a game 4, move Valencia up to leadoff against Sabathia. Gardy needs to make some moves.

Anonymous said...

It's all so frustrating.

For whatever reason, the strengths that allow them to have regular season success (patience at the plate, timely hitting, shut-down bullpen) become weaknesses. Relievers blow leads while one batter after another swings wildly at pitches nowhere near the zone.

I think the total ineptitiude at the plate is what really angers and confuses me. The biggest difference I seen between the Yankees and the Twins is that the Yankees consistently come up with quality at-bats. They lay off close pitches. They foul off tough pitches. You do that, and eventually you get something to hit, and the Yankees do that.

The Twins, on the other hand, swing at all kinds of junk, making life far too easy for opposing pitchers.

The Twins managed to make a subpar performance CC look workmanlike, and a solid but unremarkable performance by Petite look legendary.

O.H. LEE said...

It almost defies all logic and odds that the twins never have a hot bat in a playoff game let alone series. Other than A.J's bomb in oakland, Hunter's extra inning shot in the Bronx, or Blanco's bomb off Vasquez nobody has done ANYTHING in 9 years. What ever happened to the Gagne's and Gladdens hitting slams? Gaetti homering in his 1st two playoff ab's, Pag,'s extra inning bomb of of mike timlon, scotty leius' 8th inning jack. That's not even mentioning the contributions of hrbek, chili, or knoblauch. kirby puckett? Enough said. These current Twins seem to look at each other rather than themselves for somebody to lead them on the field. If not that what else is it? Gardy creating a culture where making it to the playoffs is enough? They sure did get carried away with their celebration when they had already won the division 5 times in 9 years. So much for acting like you've been there before. They play in an easy division. They beat the dog piss out of cleveland and k.c. 35X annually. They get smacked by the east division each year. I cant help but think that if they played in the east it would be a dog fight each year between they and toronto for 4th place. They're sort of like a mid major university who as soon as they play the GOPH.... I mean a team from the ACC, SEC, or Big 12 in either football or basketball are exposed. I think Gardy should be fired or they need to shake up the personal. Coaches and or players. I'm not saying rebuild but get rid of the common demoninators. Maybe install some players who have actually risen to the occasion in the playoffs before for other teams.

Ehren said...

I'm a Yankees fan, so take this with a grain of salt: what I've seen in the Twins is not a team that with some sort of mental block or a team incapable of winning in the play-offs. Rather, one that has had some terrible luck.

The Twins are VERY good and dangerous: good pitching, good defense, decent offense and a solid bullpen. They just don't match-up well with the Yankees, given the overwhelming difference in the quality of the line-ups. The Twins have the better starters--but the strength of the Yankees hitters have neutralized that advantage thus-far.

The teams that give New York fits are those that exploit New York's inability to throw-out baserunners and teams whose offense grinds out at-bats and expose the Yankee's sometimes shaky starting pitching. Petitte and Hughes are beatable--but you have to make them work and make them pay for mistakes.

It's the Twins bad luck to 1) draw the Yankees once again and 1) not hitting with RISP. But that last point is more a matter of sample-size.

I think the Twins match-up much better against Tampa and Texas. In fact, I would probably take them over the Rays and say they were a coin-flip against the Rangers.

I wouldn't let the small sample of the last two games, or even the last few post-seasons influence your opinion of the team too much. I understand that you're frustrated, but the Twins are very good, very dangerous and very capable of winning games in the post-season. Up to and including tonight.

Nick N. said...

Good comments, folks. Thanks Ehren, for the thoughtful analysis from the other side.

Anonymous said...

The one thing about a short series is that it can turn around real quick. I do think a Twins W tonight puts some heat on the Yankees. A game 4 loss would mean heading back to Target Field to face a Twins team with newly discovered confidence and momentun. (Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?)

Ben said...

This same old song and dance is becoming increasingly aggravating and causing me, among others, to lash out to the team that I've so diehardedly supported my whole life. The Twins have continued to embarrass themselves, Twins territory, and the fans with their pathetic displays in the post-season. I've defended Gardy relentlessly before, because I truly believe he is, or at least has the potential, to be a great manager, but I can't see myself doing that anymore, it's just becoming sickening and apparent that come playoff time, he's the A-rod of managers (then there's Jason Kubel, get to him in a minute)....Here's some questions/things that need to be addressed and figured out this offseason.

1. Ill just start with Gardy, his pitching staff management of the starters was embarrassing in the postseason. You have one of the best bullpens in the majors, you have 3 closers that can come in at any time, yet you insist on pushing your starters (Franky and Carl) that extra inning when everyone in the whole stadium can see that they've lost it. You allow the team to absolutely limp into the postseason, mess with the rosters in ways that make no sense (batting Kubel 4th?!?!?!? is your big change to jumpstart the offense? Are you f'ing kidding me?). There's so much more that can be said that I just feel there isn't time for.

2. Where is our leader of the team? Yes, Morneau was out, we all know that, but where is Mauer to pick up the team and take the leadership position? Mauer didn't show up this postseason, and more importantly, he apparently didn't show up in the clubhouse either. I heard stories that Joe made his voice heard, but I'm guessing that was just a whimper in the back of the clubhouse. He can pick up as many stats and accolades as humanly possible, but he'll always be second tier in Twins lore until he becomes the leader, both on and off the field, that the past greats became.

3. Can someone please teach Denard Span how to play the carom off the wall? Please? Not even just the carom's, he took the wrong route on a few as well in the playoffs alone, getting burned. All three postseason games, and many regular season games, he misplayed the carom thinking he still had a chance to catch the ball only to get burned. He's been in the league long enough now that he should know which ones he can and can't get to and adjust to that. It's incredibly frustrating to watch what should be a double, maybe even a single, turn into a triple because he can't take the right route/hold up and play the carom.

4. The Jason Kubel experiment needs to be over. His production this season was all down, and once the playoffs start he's a complete liability. You can find someone else to hit how he does in the regular season that will at least show up for even ONE POSTSEASON AT BAT. Time to move on.

5. Some goods things, resign Hudson and Thome, and I believe Hardy has one more season. Keep them, they all had good team chemistry this year and all put up good numbers. Another year with the similar cast around them could do great things, add in a season under Valencia's belt and a healthy (?) Morneau and that could bode well.

6. Free agency is big this year, the Twins have a few needs that have to be addressed. Frontline starter? Cliff Lee is out there, we don't need Blackburn, Slowey and Baker all on the same team. Go after Cliff, get rid of two of the other guys. Don't resign Punto either, give that money to Lee.

That's all I have time for. This season was a failure and I'm tired of being embarrassed in every way once the postseason starts. Getting there isn't good enough anymore, those days are past.