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Cliff Notes to the 2014 Twins: Ch. 3 June

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Even though it's summer, and I'm free from teaching for a few blissful weeks, I have to keep going...with that here's my Cliff Notes Guide to June, in case you're joining this Twins season already in progress.


Summary: Ch. 3 "June"
Entering the month of June the Twins were still lurking on the fringes of what could be defined as a "dangerous" team. One that didn't know it wasn't good enough to be playing like it was. One that could rely on youthful exuberance, energy and enthusiasm to see them through good days and bad, perhaps best symbolized by Oswaldo Arcia's triumphant return to the fan base's hearts and minds against Milwaukee.
Yet Arcia's twisted ankle in the next inning is an obvious harbinger of the difficulties to come. Because into this scene of insouciant optimism came the Houston Astros, the Twins' mirror image in both youth, recent history and foolish optimism. Faced with their mirror image, an given an opportunity to own their identity, the Twins instead reverted to a feeling of smug superiority and were critically exposed in a series loss to a "team" in name only.
Rather than grab hold of our inadequacy and owning it in a moment of self-realization, the Twins sought external intervention from Kendrys Morales. Morales' veteran acumen made him a likely mentor-figure, but his tragic flaw of both doughy physique and extended absence from the game made it challenging for him to halt our emerging malaise.
Sure enough, the longer we journeyed away from our safety net, our security blanket (if you will), the harder it became for us to survive as up-and-comers. Step by step the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels and Rangers battered our fledgling optimism until it an all other hopes for greatness were bundled away for the year, as the rose sheaves in Robert Browning's poem. Whether or not this recognition serves to benefit or bedraggle the Twins has yet to be seen...that's what the second half of the season is for...obviously.
Character Development
Kyle Gibson/Phil Hughes--The dueling courters for the fickle fan's hearts these two pitchers seem to alternate hot and cold by the month. Their mystique is engaging, yet aggravating, as fans continue to quest for their one true pitching love.

Brian Dozier--Dozier's progress continues in fits and spurts. Blooms of triumph are tempered with the storms of inaccuracy and self-imposed pressure. His emergence still makes him the closest thing to a protagonist this season has, but his fall may mirror the story's as well.

Joe Mauer--As with all things Mauer, his month featured both flickers of hope and shadows of despair. His hitting stroke returned, but the team faltered again. His command of the strike zone was more evident, but he was injured near the end of the month and seemed poised to vanish again into the backdrop of the story as swiftly as he emerged.

Glen Perkins--Joining Mauer in the ranks of under-developed static characters of the season is closer Glen Perkins. Rumors of his tremendous performance are everywhere. Like graffiti tags asking "who is John Gault?" or the infamous red "V" from Frank Miller's dystopian graphic novel: V for Vendetta. Yet, he appears so infrequently that there's little to appreciate and even less to dissect.
Kendrys Morales--The third chapter of our season introduces a new character, a rarity for the Twins' series of season-long books, but a welcome one. Morales' dualism--symbol of contender status/presence on a losing team; designated hitter/ineffective hitter--offers another confounding presence that is hotly debated in literary/baseball circles.

Key Quotes/Stats Explained
Pitcher WHIP with 3-5 Runs of Support--1.505. Unsurprisingly, the Twins perform poorly when they have 2 or fewer runs, and are great when they have more than 6. But most of the season they've been in the 3-5 runs of support range. Unfortunately, that's when the pitchers have had their worst Walks + Hits Per Inning Pitch (a measure of average base runners allowed per inning). To reach that average we likely have three base runners every two innings. That's not bad if you have one single in one inning, but it gets rougher if you have a walk followed by a double, you're playing with fire.
Team Road tOPS+--91--the tOPS measures how far above or below the total On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage is (100 = the same, 0-99 = Worse, 101+ = better). For all the talk about Target Field being a hitters park, the Twins as a team are significantly better at home than on the road, and that's most apparent in the driving forces for the team. Brian Dozier's tOPS+ is 69, and Kurt Suzuki's is 79. While each man is an increasingly beloved fixture for the team, their performance near loved ones is clearly different than their performance elsewhere.
Literary Term to Impress your Teacher/Attractive English Major Friend:
In time almost every baseball season shift their focus away from the starry-eyed romantic or idealistic perspective towards the genre of Naturalism. This stark, honest, appraisal of reality is clearly evidenced in the tonal shift of the Twins' June. Gone are the fanciful imaginings or idyllic appraisals of our present and future, instead we confront the world as it is with a fuller experience of both the trials of frequent defeats interspersed with notable joys (i.e. sweeping the White Sox). While this may seem disappointing, cynical or unpleasant in comparison with the happy fluffy early stage of the season, Naturalism is really a genre designed to rediscover the beautiful by stripping away the false claims and artificial window dressing that most artists rely on. If you have wanted the Twins to be focused on the future rather than the present, you really want them to be as Naturalistic as possible the rest of the season.
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