Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: The Minnesota Twins went 2-4 in their first home stand of the season, winning a series with the Los Angeles Angels 2-1 before being swept 3-0 by the Texas Rangers. The Twins were 2-7 when they limped into Yankee Stadium Monday night to start a four-game series. It was an eventful week for the Twins as they lost starting pitcher Scott Baker for the season, closer Glen Perkins, the guy pegged to lead the bullpen, was roughed up twice, and the team acquired handyman Clete Thomas from Detroit. What are your thoughts on the team’s first home stand?
-Dorr: I attended three of the games and saw some good things, namely the hitting of Josh Willingham and some of the pitching, especially by Liam Hendriks. But I’ve maintained for years, even in the good years, that the team doesn’t do well with runners in scoring position. And, in the first nine games, the team has been horrible in those situations, with a horrendous performance of leaving 15 runners on base in Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau haven’t done much, except for the game where they and Willingham all homered. Mauer has already hit into three double plays (the Twins have hit into the most in the majors, 13) and neither has been hitting line drives or even fly balls. And Perkins, who was roughed up a bit in August and September last year, followed three good performances this year with two terrible ones against Texas. Nine games isn’t a very big sample size for Mauer, Morneau or Perkins, or others on the team who are doing poorly. And Monday night the team played its best game of the season in a 7-3 win at Yankee Stadium. So maybe things will get better. It’s for sure they’re overdue in that park. And it was good to see Ben Revere sent to the minors. (By the way, Joe Nathan looked good against his old team and Michael Cuddyer is hitting .371 for Colorado.)
-Marxhausen: The series against the Angels was very impressive. I was one of the believers in the Pujols-effect, meaning that Pujols would impact wherever he was going to land this off-season. The Twins looked like a team which deserved to win because it didn’t give up. The series against the Rangers was tough to watch. I thought the Twins were going to squeak one by before Perkins was roughed up. The more you look at the Twins, the more you see that the team has changed since last season. The two wins against the Angels showed that the Twins are capable of winning games against good teams, but the Twins are going to have that inconsistent factor start working against them. If everybody could get on the same page, the wins would start falling into place. Josh Willingham and Denard Span have had good starts to the season, with Joe Mauer bringing his bat around too. A positive about the first home stand is that it is over with. The butterflies should all be almost gone at this point, so the Twins can concentrate on getting back to work.
-Larson: The Twins looked great in Monday night’s victory at Yankee Stadium. Carl Pavano rebounded after a shaky start. Alexi Casilla was brilliant at second base. It was just like old times for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. It was also a mirage, folks.
The first nine games painted a true picture of the 2012 Twins. This team has too many holes and weaknesses to avoid those four, five and six game losing streaks that keep a team marred deep in the standings. Or, prevent a team from putting together those four, five and six game winning streaks that keep it above .500. Picking up Clete Thomas was a good move. Do you think Ben Revere was sent down because it was felt he needed to play every day, or was it because the team decided Revere, tabbed as a future starter in the outfield last season, wasn’t going to be much help in 2012?
•Question: The Twins hosted the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, two teams experts feel are contenders to reach and possibly win the World Series. What did you think of those teams?
-Dorr: The Angels obviously struggled in Minnesota, especially in the bullpen. And Albert Pujols, perhaps the greatest hitter of this time and one of the best ever, was totally stymied by the questionable Minnesota pitching staff. But, when everything shakes out, the Angels should be one of the best teams in the American League, if not in all of baseball. They have too many good hitters and too many pitchers who have done well previously, although the bullpen may be a little suspect, something that continued in New York when they went 1-2 against that mighty Yankee lineup. The Rangers looked like a team that could be headed for a trip deep into the playoffs. When you have a guy like Mike Napoli (30 homers in only 113 games in 2011) batting eighth, you have quite a lineup. And their pitching is solid. I was at the game Sunday when the Twins shut the Rangers down for seven innings and then gave up three in the eighth and lost the game. Josh Hamilton, usually a slow starter, is off to a great start and showed his talents off in the Minnesota series. The Rangers are 8-2 and looking good. They’re headed to Boston, where the Red Sox just scored 31 runs in three games against the Rays, and that should be an interesting series.
-Marxhausen: I was one of those writers who gave the Angels instant attention due to the Pujols-effect. The Rangers were another automatic bid for me to make the playoffs, based on the past couple seasons and how hot their bats have been. The Rangers have so many big bats that hit home runs and pound in RBIs that pitching against them is always difficult. I think the Rangers are back on track after losing in the 2011 World Series. They are off to a great start this season and with Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton all healthy the will continue to roll. The Angels haven’t won a series yet, losing to Kansas City, Minnesota and New York. Once they get comfortable playing with each other, the wins will fall into place.
-Larson: After two weeks the Rangers look like the superior team. But, the Angels have too much talent to not get things straightened out. The two don’t face each other until May 11 when they begin a three-game series in Arlington. They meet six times near the end of September. It would be great fun if the teams are neck and neck in the West Division race heading into those September games.
•Question: The National Football League college draft is April 26-28. The first round April 26 and the second and third rounds April 27 will be nationally televised in prime time. Is the draft over-hyped and will you be one of those glued to their television sets?
-Dorr: I have never watched the draft, despite being a Viking season ticket holder for about 35 years, and don’t plan to start now. It’s interesting to see who is drafted, and sometimes to find out how trades were arrived at, but not interesting enough to make me sit in front of the television with an overwhelming need to know who the Vikings, or any other team, drafted.
-Marxhausen: The draft is extremely over-hyped. The problem is that a lot of people like professional football and college football. With the football season ending in February, this is the only outlet football fans have until play resumes in August. I am guilty of the fact that I will do research for the draft and analyze each pick by each team and try to predict outcomes for next season. But, I will absolutely not be watching it. The only thing that would intrigue me to watch is if I think the Vikings were going to screw up their pick again.
-Larson: If my schedule permits, I’ll likely watch parts of the first three rounds. The draft has become a huge NFL event, hence the prime time presentation. It is over-hyped and over-analyzed but there are millions of fans who eat it up. It certainly provides an opportunity for second-guessing down the road. And, we all love to do that.
Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to [email protected] or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.