June 2007

Thoughts on Interleague Play

We’re finishing up this year’s inter-league schedule this week on the road.  While the Twins haven’t had the success this year that they enjoyed last year against the National League teams, it should give Twins fans a chance to reflect on the concept and ponder any modifications that can be made if it’s going to continue at all. First, it’ll be here for better or worse.  Baseball doesn’t adopt ideas into the system only to disown them later…witness the designated hitter, perhaps the subject of a future blog.

When baseball started interleague play, it was done so to spark fan interest and increase ticket sales and media ratings.  By and large, it’s done all that.  While the novelty of it has worn off, there still is heightened fan interest in a Cubs/White Sox series than a Royals/White Sox series.  But baseball made a big blunder in playing the games by the home team’s rules.  If you’re going to blur the distinction between the leagues by playing the games in the first place, why not give the fans a sample of how the games are played in the other league.  If the concept was designed for the fans in the first place, give them the novelty of watching their pitchers hit or their top pinch-hitter hit as the designated hitter.  It would be a simple fix and one that is long overdue.  People live in houses for ten years and then remodel.  Consider this a ten year tuneup or remodeling of an idea that could use a little shot in the arm.

The other modification would further complicate the scheduling.  Somehow, you have to maintain the integrity of a division race by having teams in the same division play the same inter-league schedule as much as possible.  The New York Mets have to play the Yankees in two series and the other three AL playoff teams from a year ago AND the Angels, the team with the second best record in the American League.  The Phillies have a much easier schedule playing only two teams with winning records.  As I blog, the Phillies are just two games behind the Mets in the NL East.  By season’s end, the division might be decided not by who had the better team but, rather, by the whimsy of the schedule makers.  While the Mets were facing the defending AL champion Tigers last week, the Phillies were playing the Royals.  Seem fair to you?  No one here can muster any sympathy for any large market team, but fairness shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to deciding a championship.  There are enough uneven playing fields in our game…this is one that should be eliminated.

On the whole, I like interleague play.  It gave Atlanta fans in the Upper Midwest a chance to see their team in person.  As we forge ahead, the concept is like any other.  It can be tinkered with and made even better.An interesting interleague note as we watch our Twins pitchers hit this week.  The Twins are one of five American League teams whose pitchers have not hit a homerun in interleague play.  The Yankees, Angels, A’s and Mariners haven’t had a pitcher hit one out either.  Who do YOU think will hit the first Twins pitcher homerun in interleague play?  My money’s on Johan.

**** Bremer
Twins TV play-by-play

Minor League Update…2 Months Into the Season

Hi Twins fans. We are about to finish up this West Coast trip, and hopefully the Twins will have a good series vs the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before they return home for a 9 game homestand.

Let’s get started with some Twins news.

I’LL BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS ABOUT LEW FORD…..Lew told me two stories that were news to me about the Twins outfielder. Once, while growing up in Texas and playing for his high school baseball team he once missed a game to participate in a scholastic playoff in math and science. "I just thought it was just as important to help out my academic teammates as my baseball teammates," explained Lew. I asked him how he did in the playoff and he said "not so hot," but we had fun. And Lew once played in a soccer tournament in London, England. "Our team got invited to play in this tournament and it was a blast," laughed Lew. Was Lew going to be a blossoming forward in soccer and not end up playing major league baseball?  "No way," stated Lew. "The soccer experience was fun, but I always wanted to play baseball, that was my favorite sport."

MINOR LEAGUE UPDATE:  Remember at the beginning of the season I listed two top ten lists? One was the top pitching prospects in the Twins organization, and the other was the top position player prospect list. Now that two months of the Twins minor league season is complete, let’s check and see how those top prospects are doing. 

In this blog we will review the pitchers.

1.  RHP Kyle Waldop….started the season at A-ball with the Fort Myers Miracle, and was just promoted to AA-ball New Britain.  He was 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA with the Miracle, and he’s struggling a bit with the RockCats. He has lost his first four decisions with NB and is 0-4.

2.  Anthony Swarzak….Started the season with New Britain and was 0-2 with an 11-ERA when he was suspended for 50 games when he tested positive using body enhancing substances. Hopefully Swarzak will return to the RockCats in late July.

3.  LHP Jay Swatski….Used out of the bullpen with the RockCats in Double-A, Swatski has appeared in 20 games and is 2-2.  He’s pitched 27-plus innings and has given up 30 hits.

4.  RHP Kevin Slowey….Recently promoted to the Twins and thrust into the Twins starting rotation. He put up fantastic numbers with AAA-Rochester and was 5-2 with a 1.54 ERA which led the Internation League.

5.  RHP Matt Garza….Doing just fine with the Red Wings. He’s 3-5 with a 3.19 ERA. The Twins seem to be pleased with his season thus far.

6.  LHP Glen Perkins….Started the season at Rochester and pitched (and started) in one game. Called up to the Twins to fill in in the bullpen. Currently on the disabled list with a strained left bicep. Should be back soon.

7.  RHP Tim Lahey….Was sharing closer time with Jose Mijares and now has taken over as the RockCats closer. He’s 5-0 out of the bullpen. In 31 innings pitched he has 28 strikeouts.

8.  LHP Erol Simonitsch…..Has yet to pitch and is in Fort Myers rehabbing with a left arm injury.  Missing out on a chance to climb up the ladder. Hopefully he will be back soon.

9. RHP Oswaldo Sosa…..In the Miracle starting rotation.  He is 2-3 with a
2.54 ERA.  Has made 11 starts and has pitched 56-plus innings. Doing OK.

10.  LHP Jose Mijares…..Recently promoted to AAA-Rochester.  Has pitched in 3 games in relief.  Started the year at AA-New Britain and in 15 games pitched, 21 innings with 22 strikeout.

Next blog I will update how the position players are progressing.

TWINS QUIZ….OK, Twins fans, put your Twins thinking cap on and see if you can answer this question.

For years, when Randy Bush was the co-holder (with Rich Reese) for most pinch-hits in a single season. Bush twice had 13 pinch hits in a single season and that was good enough to share the mark with Reese. But in 1993 this Twins player came along and was the Twins top pinch hitter for 4 straight years, and in 1996 he set a new mark for most pinch hits in a single season with 19.  Who is this former Twins player.  Hint:  He is presently a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I’ll have the answer for you in the next blog.

Now here?s the Answer to the Twins quiz from the last blog…

When Garrett Jones was called up last week and stepped to the plate for his first major league at-bat I pulled out my trusty little 3 X 5 card with the Twins players names that hit a home run in their first major league game.  All told their have been 8 that have accompolished that feat!  But just four that have hit a home in their first at-bat!  See if you can name the four.

Answer:
Rick Renick, Dave McKay, Gary Gaetti, and Andre David.

That’s all for this time Twins fans. Hope to see you at the Dome for the Twins upcoming homestand with Washington, Atlanta, and Milwaukee.

"Touch ’em All,"

JG