playoffs!

Okay, I’d be a terrible baseball blogger indeed if I failed to note that the Twins are in the playoffs. The first team in MLB history to go from a 100 loss season to the playoffs in one season. Quite an accomplishment. And perhaps this says something about the aberrant nature of last season’s death march.

But last season was last season, ancient history. This is the season that counts, and the Twins are in the playoffs. Wooo-hooo!

There’s even a little extra joy in getting to the playoffs in that the Front Office dumped all-star closer Brandon Kintzler at the trading deadline. (Not to mention Jaime Garcia who was both acquired and then de-acquired just before the deadline.) The Front Office was seeming to say that these guys are toast. Wait till next year. But these guys, it turns out, were not made of toast. No indeed.

I, personally, am glad that we play the Yankees. They’ve had our number for years now, and I’d like a little pay-back time.

Congratulations to them Twins. We knew you could do it. Let’s take all the marbles.

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maketh hay whilst the sun doth shineth

In other words, hey, those Twins have won six in a row.

Nice.

Just when you count them out, wait, don’t count them out yet. Hey, Falvey! Levine! Don’t count these guys out yet!

A few days back, the brain trust put their thinking caps on and thought, “hey, you know? Maybe we can win something here.” They bolstered their starting pitching with Jaime Garcia from the Braves, and then the Twins promptly lost about five in a row.

And the brain trust suddenly thought, “hey, you know? We’re not going to win anything here,” and, after making one start as a Twin, Garcia was dealt away “to a contender” (the Yankees.) And then closer Brandon Kintzler (2.78, 28 saves) was gone too, to the Nationals. Whereupon, soon after, the boys put together this here little win streak, which finds them within striking distance of winning something again.

Which makes me wonder if Garcia might be available again?

And which just shows that you never know in baseball.

After they traded Garcia away (for a couple of prospects, not so bad) I think it was Molitor who said, no worries, we got this far with what we got, we can go with the horses we have. I paraphrase. But, good point, Molly. We’re not so bad. Not so bad at all.

We just might win something here anyway.

Tonight, Twins 9, Tigers 4.

Obviously, a lot of nice hitting by the Twins. Kepler, Rosario, and Mauer each get three hits, Dozier gets a couple, one of them being a beautiful triple down the right field line. Rosario and Kepler homer. Mr. Kepler has a very nice swing.

Mr. Buxton made a very nice catch in center. And the Twins keep rolling.

Three and a half games out of first.

 

Still no word on which Chicago team Carl Sandburg rooted for.

Heroes of the Negro Leagues

It’s a pack of baseball art cards AND a book! And a DVD!

Well, okay, not quite a DVD.

But it’s a nice little book, based on the (out of print) Art Cards of the same title.

What you get here is 66 watercolor-painted images of the greats of the negro leagues (39 more than in the boxed set of cards!) and one-page write-ups telling a bit about the guys. The paintings, by “award-winning artist” Mark Chiarello, are quite nice. Here’s a poor reproduction of one of my favorites, Judy Johnson:

And the one page write-ups are well written snapshots, a bit of baseball doings, a bit of personal story. Leaves you wanting more, as they should. And there’s a nice introduction by Monte Irvin!

But!   That’s!    Not!    All!

Included in the book is the DVD, Only the Ball was White, which I haven’t seen yet, but will let you know how it is. Looks like a 30 minute documentary about the Negro Leagues. I don’t know if this comes with every book or only with the books that include the DVD. But it looks like it might be great.

How could it not be, really?

Especially if you’re a guy who likes reading about baseball history.

To sum up: an excellent little book, with wonderful illustrations and good stories. You’ll probably want to add this volume to your ever-expanding baseball library, if you’re any kind of baseball fan at all.

Update

Another nice win for the Twins yesterday. Here’s Dozier getting ‘er done:

Twins 3, Giants 2, Berrios gets his 5th win.

Local press seem to think that this can’t last. I disagree. (Yeah, I’m the guy that thought they’d be in the series last year. Maybe I was just a year off? An 0-9 start can throw you off for awhile.)

Probably too early still to be thinking about magic numbers.

Nice story on the Twins website about tomorrow’s starter for the Twins, Nik Turley. Nik’s spent 10 years in the minors, including a spell in an independent league, after being drafted in the 50th round by the Yankees in the 2008 draft. He was released in 2014 by the Yankees “after experiencing arm-tightness” (Those Yankees!) and spent most of 2016 with the independent Somerset Patriots. He did pretty well there, and the Twins picked him up. And now he’s done pretty well in the minors: 45 strikeouts in 24.3 innings at Chattanooga, with a 0.37 ERA. 39 strikeouts in 28.3 innings in Rochester, with a 3.49 ERA.

That’s not a lot of innings to go on. They may be rushing Nik a bit, but Santiago has gone on the DL and the Twins need a pitcher, so what the heck. Let’s go Nik!

Turley reminds me of Chris Colabello. He’s with Cleveland’s AAA club right now, Columbus, hitting .229 with five HR. I wonder what happened with him? In 2015 he hit .321 with Toronto, with 15 HR and 54 rbi. In 2016: .069 batting average, 2 hits in 29 at bats. And then he hit .180 in AAA at Buffalo. Very very odd.

Well a little research turns this up: PED, and an 80 game suspension. Damn.

Very very unfortunate.

Here’s a nice shot of Colabello I took a few years ago. One of my favorites:

Here’s hoping that Chris can get back on track.

 

 

Happy Birthday McKinley Wheat

Yup. Zach’s younger half-brother Mack was born on 9 June 1893. Mack was a catcher, played a bit with Zach on the Brooklyn Robins, and also played for the Phillies. He finished out his career in 1922 with LA in the Pacific Coast League, where it looks like he played in three games, going 0 for 2 at the plate. Still, he got a pretty nice baseball card out of the deal.

Mack was not quite as good a hitter as Zach, finishing up with a batting average of .204 in just over 600 plate appearances over 7 seasons in the majors. Still: seven years in the majors. Perhaps he was an excellent windpaddist.

Also of note in baseball history today, the Twins hit five home runs in the seventh inning against the Angels in 1966, the first time in the American League there was ever a five home run inning. Rollins, Versalles, Oliva, Mincher, and then, finishing up, the fat kid, Harmon Killebrew. True Twins fans know that the game was never in the bag, but the Twins did manage to hang on somehow to win it, 9-4.

And then, some years later, the great Zoilo Casanova Versalles passed away on 9 June, 1995. American League MVP in 1965, leading the Twins to the World Series. Good game, Zoilo.

Crazy ’08

It seems like I’ve been reading a lot of baseball books of late. It’s all relative, I suppose. After reading almost no baseball books in 2016, anything would seem like a big increase.

I’ve recently finished Crazy ’08, by Cait Murphy, a recap of the madcap 1908 baseball season, focusing primarily on the National League race between the New York Giants, the Chicago Cubs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, while not ignoring the American League contest between the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, and the Cleveland Naps.

This book caught my eye primarily because of my own efforts at covering the Minneapolis Miller’s 1904 season, and I wanted to see how Murphy approached this project. Murphy has the advantage of having an abundance of primary source material, as she is covering the major leagues in the big cities, where there were probably a few newspapers in each city covering the story. Murphy uses her sources well, (and footnotes exhaustively, for those who like that sort of detail,) and we get to enjoy a number of little background stories to the season which add depth and color to the story — such as how particular umpires are viewed in the different cities, and about the huge controversy and final resolution of the in-famous Merkle game of 23 September.

While you might quibble with Murphy’s hyperbole regarding 1908 (“The best season in baseball history is 1908.”) 1908 certainly deserves consideration. The season is full of historic characters and exciting baseball. Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Frank Chance, Cy Young, Nap LaJoie, Addie Joss, Ed Walsh, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, and even Bull Durham were all playing in ’08, and with both pennant races going down to the final days, the baseball was fierce and frequently unbelievable. For example, in the October 2nd game between Cleveland and the White Sox. Cleveland is 1/2 game behind the Tigers, and the White Sox are 1 1/2 back, and they’re both running out of time. Ed Walsh pitches for the White Sox and he is nearly flawless. He strikes out 15, gives up just four hits and a single un-earned run. (Curiously, Murphy says that Walsh strikes out 16 in that game. All the other sources I’ve looked at say 15. Odd that Murphy would make an error like that covering such a big game. Perhaps the pennant-race pressure got to her.) Anyway, Walsh strikes out 15, but he loses anyway. Cleveland wins 1-0, as Addie Joss throws a perfect game for the Naps. Chicago drops 2 1/2 games back with only four games left to play.

As the ol’ perfesser used to say, you could look it up. In the end, the Cubs beat the Tigers in the World Series, four games to one, with both clubs probably exhausted from the pennant race. I like that about old-time baseball. There’s the regular season, everyone going all out to end up on top. And then there’s the World Series. Not 5 rounds of playoffs. The two league champions meet for the ultimate test. I wonder if we would have seen the Tigers and the Cubs in the ’08 series if they had had playoffs? Probably not. How often do the two teams with the best regular season record show up in the World Series? I’d be surprised if that’s ever happened since wild card teams were introduced. Some say that it makes baseball more exciting, the fact that in the playoffs – “Anything can happen!”  I guess I don’t see it that way. I’d like the regular season, the long campaign, to have more importance than it does.

That being said, I really enjoyed this book quite a lot! Murphy made the season and the players and the pennant races come alive. It would be a perfect read in the dark days of December, when baseball is most distant and most needed. And it would be a perfect read tomorrow, too. Nicely done, Cait Murphy!