Camden Yards Recap: Twins Begin their Losing Ways, or an Aberration?
by, 04-09-2012 at 09:54 AM (1056 Views)
[Originally published with pictures at Twins Fan From Afar]
Well, the baseball side of things left a lot to be desired, but you're not much of a baseball fan if you can't have a great time at opening weekend at Camden Yards. Before Friday's game, I got to say hi to veteran blogger Topper Anton from Curve for a Strike. Great guy, and it was cool to meet another east coast transplant Twins blogger. There were also several Twins fans in attendance. We sat next to the coaching staff's wives one day, and also near Josh Willingham's family another day. I also ran into a guy I went to high school with. It was a good sized, and vocal, community of Twins fans sitting near their dugout. And, as usual, the players were pretty responsive to the fans. Denard Span, especially, spent a lot of time signing autographs before Sunday's game.
I'll start with the one positive from the Twins' side: Justin Morneau is, far and away, the best hitter on this team right now. A month ago, who would have thought that? I attended the Saturday and Sunday games. In those 2 games, Morneau hit 2 hard doubles (1 looked like a home run off the bat, but didn't have the height), one hard single that nearly took off the first baseman's foot, and had 2 long outs to the outfield, one of which missed being a home run by 5 feet or so. He also worked ahead in the count, and was selectively choosing which pitches to swing at. There was little of the flailing that we saw last season, and he didn't bail out on any pitches. Morneau is so locked in that, if he stays healthy, he should hit 20 home runs and at least 40 doubles.
Saturday, Francisco Liriano looked like he was going to be great after the first inning. He struck out the side convincingly, and Joe Mauer actually tossed me the game ball as he jogged back to the dugout. That first inning, unfortunately, was the highlight of the game for the Twins. Yes, Liriano was not good the rest of the game, but I'm pegging a lot of that on the defense -- Josh Willingham, and to a lesser extent, Danny Valencia. The defense was cringe-worthy, and that, along with Liriano becoming a head-case after giving up a relatively unimportant solo home run in the second inning, undid the Twins. Like everyone else, I was expecting a lot better from Liriano. If he can't get his head under control -- against the Orioles in April -- I don't know what to do with him. Hopefully, it was just a rocky start and he'll rebound later this week. He was probably angry with his performance, and angry with his teammates. Rightfully so on both counts.
I don't have very many other positive things to say. Anthony Swarzak was decent yesterday. He kept the Twins in the game, even as they were getting no-hit into the seventh inning. Jamey Carroll looked good at shortstop, but bad at the plate. He doesn't have a hit yet, but he does run hard down to first base, so there's that. Valencia is off. He grounded into 2 double plays Saturday and, though he wasn't charged with an error in that game, have a mental lapse on a play where he should have covered third base, but did not. During infield practice yesterday, the coaches were working with Valencia. Perhaps he is on a short leash again, because Sean Burroughs started at third on Sunday, while Valencia watched. Chris Parmelee looked like a rookie out there. His at-bats weren't very good on the whole, but there's room for optimism with him.
After the small sample size, I'm left thinking that this Twins team isn't nearly as bad as they played this past weekend, but also isn't very good, either. There are going to be defensive concerns all over the place. Left field and right field could be problem areas. Willingham didn't look very comfortable in the small left field of Camden Yards -- I wonder how he will fare at Target Field? And the offense was troubling, to say the least. Baltimore's pitchers were just adequate this weekend, and the Twins made them, for the most part, look like All-Stars. Not a good way to start out. I still think this could be a .500 team, but the offense has to start clicking.
On a side note, I love Target Field, but Camden Yards is still #1 for this fan. I will say, though, that Target Field definitely has Baltimore beat in terms of concessions. Sure, we don't have softshell crab sandwiches at our ballpark, but that's about the only unique food at Camden Yards. The rest seemed to be hot dogs, popcorn and burgers. Also, it is nice having the open concourse at Target Field. We missed over an inning of Saturday's game searching for food, and it would have been nice to have had that open view of the stadium. So, in its 20 years, Camden has aged a little bit. But without Camden Yards, there's no footprint for PNC in Pittsburgh, San Francisco's great stadium, and even Target Field. Happy anniversary to the "parent" stadium for this great new generation of classic American ballparks.