Vampires Eliminate Twins
It is 6-1 Yankees, one out in the top of the eighth, the bases are loaded and Kerry Wood has just left the mound to deafening silence.
The Twins are 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position to this point, and Delmon Young with the eighth most RBI in the game this year on deck.
Lefty specialist Boone Logan is in, and he’s tough, but then again he has yet to spend a full season in the major leagues.
And you are Jason Kubel.
What is the one thing you do not want to do in this last-chance situation for your Minnesota Twins? Swing on the first pitch.
Kubel popped up the only pitch Boone would need to throw all night. Young would follow him with just slightly more patience against David Robertson and pop up the third pitch and the Twins would be swept in a series in which, in seemingly just a blink of the eye ago, they were beating CC Sabathia in the opener.
There is nothing to suggest that more patience would have necessarily resulted in the five runs the Twins needed to tie, and Ron Gardenhire insisted afterward that both Kubel and Young got the pitches they wanted and just screwed them up. But that final gurgle of an eighth inning was emblematic of a team that just does not rise to the occasion and despite repeated exposure, does not understand the equation: the Yankees are the Vampires of baseball. If you have them down, and you do not succeed in putting the stake through their hearts, you will wind up with nothing left but a choice of your fave: Jacob or Edward.
In Game One in Minnesota on Wednesday, Ron Gardenhire managed as if it was Opening Day of the regular season. He is, incredibly, up 3-0 on Sabathia, but instead of managing as if he had Vampires to kill and pulling his starter Francisco Liriano at the moment he began to go south in the 6th, he waits and waits and waits. If he’d waited any longer to go get Liriano, an usher would have asked to see his ticket (inexplicably, before the game, ownership described a contract extension for the lovable Gardy “a no-brainer” – sometimes that means something different than the speaker thinks it does).
Note to Mr. Gardenhire, note to Mr. Washington or Mr. Maddon, note (perhaps) to National League managers (and note to morons like me who picked against them): The Yankees are not the most talented team in the American League, not even the most talented team in their own division. But they are the most Undead.
Sticking with your bleeding starters, and swinging at their first pitches, is not going to cut it against Vampires.
Now some snapshots of a less serious nature:
To the left, the Twins’ immortal and should-be-Hall of Famer Tony Oliva, in uniform before the game. It struck me that almost nobody on the field would have known that Oliva was one of the reasons for the institution of the DH in 1973. Apart from the guesses at how it would affect A.L. offense, the main argument was that it could extend the careers of stars who could no longer acquit themselves in the field; people like Oliva, Cepeda, Killebrew, Kaline. To the right, one of the game’s class acts and a survivor of Olbermann interviews since 1995 or so – and another should-be-Hall of Famer, the current Twins’ DH, the great Jim Thome.
Tonight’s seating line-up with me: my friends Ken Burns, whose work you know, and at the right, Jon Klein, formerly president of CNN and prior to that CBS News.
I tweeted this photo and was advised by a respondent that I was an elitist. Two points: the Yankees are 14-and-1 when I used the seats this year. More importantly: nearly all of the other 67 games so far, the tickets have gone to Make-A-Wish.
And to close, there are jokes to be made here but I’m not exactly sure what they are. But… cobwebs? Spiderwebs? In the screen behind the plate at Yankee Stadium? Should they save them until Halloween?
You nailed it. Gardenhire is not
necessarily a bad manager, but he isn’t the smartest. His major flaw is just
what you cited–he waits too long to pull a pitcher in trouble. He waits too
long. All. The. Time.
Something happened to the Twins besides losing Morneau and Nathan this year. They swept the White Sox in
September in Chicago, got a big lead in the division, and then all the gas leaked out of the
tank. The helium escaped the balloon, the freon left the building, the Murray left the Jim. And they ended up losing most of their remaining games and the fire that got
them to the post-season went out. Every player and the manager can take home a
part of that for the winter and gnaw on it. It’s not just the ‘easier’ central
division opponents, it’s the will to win and to truly
believe that when playing the Yankees, ‘Hey, these are just the guys we went to
high school with. We can take them.’
Maybe the off-season can bring in someone who can lead this team. Mauer isn’t doing it. There is no Oliva or Carew or Puckett who can bring out the best in the others and spark a few spontaneous fires, and if necessary, say, in the immortal words of Kirby, "Jump on my back tonight. I’m going to carry us."
BTW, Keith, any Thurber baseball stories you can read to
cheer up us Twins fans?
In the spirit of two great American Fall traditions, the spiders are either lucky baseball fans taking in the Playoffs from their choice ballpark “suites” or they are simply spiders, keeping their eyes on the vampires, as they wait for Halloween.
A couple of responses to Keith’s typically interesting and entertaining post.
First, I must ask whether Ken Burns interviewed any players or fans while he was there, or did he just keep asking Keith what his impression was of everything, and occasionally pan his face? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Burns’s “10th Inning” was interesting to me as a baseball fan and well done, but he still is stuck on talking heads when he doesn’t need them. He needed them for “The Civil War,” and talking heads are good for transitions, but not as the center of things.
Second, and more seriously about baseball, Gardenhire reminds me of a guy I watched mismanage strategy for many years and turn in the greatest post-season managing job I have ever seen: Tommy Lasorda. In preparing players to play and in keeping morale high, he was brilliant. Strategically, during the season, he couldn’t figure out where he was. But in 1988, he managed each game like the next out would mean his instant death. He did end up burning out Orel Hershiser too soon, but both Davey Johnson with the Mets in the LCS and Tony LaRussa with the A’s in the World Series managed as though it was still the regular season while Lasorda was making every move imaginable.
Now, you cannot ask players in the post-season to do too much beyond what they normally would do during the regular season–yes, you can have a starting pitcher relieve, but there are limits. At the same time, you cannot leave in a pitcher or hitter who is not doing the job on the theory that he will snap out of it tomorrow or the next day. You dance with the one that brung you only so long as the one that brung you can still dance.
Looks like you mansters had a frightfully good evening at the bat-game . . . . I mean, ball-game. Hope you had a bite to eat afterwards, and maybe a Bloody Mary or two. BWWWWAAAAAAHAHAHAHHA!
Keith, there isn’t a ghost of a chance that you’re a real vampire, for we mere mortals know that vampires don’t register on film.
In the spirit of Halloween and all that goes bump in the night, our 8-legged baseball fans should be left to add some timely atmosphere to the proceedings. Stare into my eyes and tell me what you think.
See you on the Web, Keith.
P.S. While you look spooktacular in red, you rock those purple/lavender ties enough to wake the dead! 🙂
I dunno. The Twins had enough injuries to kill most teams (they lost Justin Morneau–their best player–on July 7, for example) and still won the division going away. Maybe its a bad division. Detroit, my team, won 52 at home. Problem was, they lost 52 on the road. How is that even possible? Oh well, I saw the Lions score 44 pts today and win, so I guess anything is possible…
One thing I wondered during the Yankees final series with Boston was how much they cared if they won or lost. They were in the playoffs and going in they knew the Rays were playing KC – and KC really only had one chance to win (which they did on Friday night).
So, as Ghirardi, knowing that a sweep of Boston could mean the ‘opportunity’ to play Tejas in the Divisional – do you play Boston ‘hard’ to claim the division win – or do you softball it and end up with the match-up of the Twins that had spent the better part of the previous two weeks skidding into the post season?
As a Yankees fan, I never want to see the Yanks lose to Boston. That being said, I thought the Yankees would have a much better shot against Minnesota (as they did) than against Texas.
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