The Big Picture
The Jays currently find themselves in a familiar situation, enjoying a good season but struggling to gain traction in a treacherous division. Toronto's 38-36 record would have them a game back in the AL Central, but the team sits last in the East, trailing the red-hot Yankees by 6.5 games.
That's right, the Blue Jays – with a record two games over .500 – are only two game closer to first than the Twins, who hold the American League's worst record. Yep, life in
This week's series against the first-place White Sox will serve as a tough test for this Twins team. They've rebounded after a lousy start to go 13-10 over their last 23 games, remaining on the periphery of an AL Central race that no club seems poised to run away with. In three days, the Twins could conceivably be within 5.5 games of first place. They could also find themselves out of it by double digits.
Perhaps no one will be under a bigger microscope in
You'd figure a team that lost 99 games last year, and now finds itself on pace to lose 96 this year, would instill little confidence in its fan base. Yet, as we creep up on the season's halfway point, I find myself feeling rather optimistic about the Twins' future.
No, I don't believe the club is going to miraculously climb back into the AL Central race this year. But I do think that, given some of the positive signs we've seen, the path back to contention
It took almost six hours, but the Twins were able to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Brewers on Sunday. To do so, they needed to overcome another non-quality start from Nick Blackburn, who yielded four runs over six innings in what sadly qualifies as one of his best outings this season.
The right-hander's results weren't bad until Corey Hart took him deep for a three-run homer with two outs in the fifth, but he had been dancing on a tight rope all day.
On Thursday night, Scott Diamond allowed four runs over six innings against the Phillies. It qualified as arguably his worst start since being called up back in early May, but it was hardly a disaster and would have kept the Twins in the game had the offense mustered any kind of production against Joe Blanton.
Even after turning in just his second non-quality start in eight tries, Diamond remains the class of the Twins' rotation. His recipe for success up
It would be nice if the Twins kept up their recent winning pace through late July, climbing back into the AL Central picture after being left for dead in May. Unfortunately, their lack of starting pitching makes that difficult to realistically envision.
In the more likely event that the Twins are firmly out of contention when the trade deadline rolls around, they'll find themselves in an unfamiliar position. Only once in the past decade has the club behaved
The circumstances and details have differed, but so far the course of this Twins season has very closely mirrored the last one. In both instances, the club looked strong coming out of spring training before being derailed by injuries and poor performance over the first two months, digging a deep early hole.
When June came around last year, the Twins suddenly turned things around, taking advantage of weaker competition and rattling off victories (17 out of
On Thursday afternoon, R.A. Dickey tossed 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball for the Mets in a win over the first-place Nationals. The victory moved the knuckleballer's record to 9-1 on the year and lowered his ERA to 2.44. Holding opponents to a .225 average and sporting a dazzling 78-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 81 innings, Dickey has to be considered a Cy Young front-runner in the National League, and he might start the All-Star Game.
This is the best we've
Five-tool potential? Check.
Comparisons to all-time greats like Bo Jackson and Willie Mays? Check.
Classic baseball name? Check.
Yep, Byron Buxton seems to have everything you'd hope for in a top pick. Now he just needs to turn his elite tools into production on the professional stage – something the last high-profile prep outfielder drafted by the Twins has failed to do thus far.
The comparisons to Aaron Hicks were
The last time the Twins owned the No. 2 pick in the MLB draft, they selected a college pitcher named Adam Johnson out of Cal State Fullerton. As most fans will recall, he cruised through the minors and made his major-league debut at the age of 21, but hit a wall and quickly fizzled out.
That's a scary memory as the Twins eye a handful of collegiate hurlers with this year's second pick, but fortunately the history of the draft slot has been much brighter since the Johnson bust.
Prior to the start of the season, I called Jamey Carroll "the latest passenger on Minnesota's never-ending shortstop carousel," noting the position's instability over the past decade. As it would turn out, the veteran's ride didn't last long, as he ceased drawing regular starts at short by early May.
Granted, this had as much to do with external factors – most notably Danny Valencia's struggles at third – as Carroll's own play. But it quickly became apparent that the light-hitting 38-year-old
Early in the season, Justin Morneau looked a lot like he did last year at the plate. That is to say: he was tentative, consistently fooled by good breaking balls, and generally ineffective.
At the end of April, he informed the team that his wrist had been ailing him for the better part of two weeks. He sat out a few days, then ended up on the disabled list, returning on May 16th.
It would seem that the rest did him some good. Since coming back
The Minnesotan, Golden Gopher alum and baseball fan inside me all want to see Cole DeVries succeed in a Twins uniform. The analyst inside me knows that he probably won't.
DeVries is a great story. He was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent back in 2006 after a solid career at the University of Minnesota, and has gradually worked his way up the organizational ladder. On Tuesday, the 27-year-old was called up to the majors to fill Jason Marquis'
No surprise here, but the Twins have reportedly designated Jason Marquis for assignment after the veteran was tagged by the Brewers for eight runs while recording only five outs on Sunday.
Marquis has never been a particularly good pitcher and I certainly wasn't high on his signing at the time, but I wouldn't have guessed he'd be the worst starter in baseball. From the moment he showed up to spring training, Marquis had nothing; he struggled to get the ball