Hey! My new website is Section 411. It's a lot like this site, except it's about 100% newer. Click here to check it out!

Baseball in the Twin Cities

A review of Target Field

Last weekend, I flew up to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet up with two college roommates and friends and take in some baseball. As it happened, the Indians were in town, so it turned into an opportunity for me to see them in person for the only time this year. As it further happened, when we planned the trip and bought the tickets in July, Jim Thome was playing for the Twins, but by the time we arrived in Minneapolis on September 16, he was a Cleveland Indian again. This was also the first time I’ve visited a stadium that wasn’t Progressive Field more than once, so I was able to get a great look at Target Field, the newest stadium in baseball until next April. My review of Target Field, after the break.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose

Jim Thome

Last night, Jim Thome clubbed his 600th career home run into the bullpen at Comerica Park. As he rounded first base, the man who has almost 100 more home runs with the Indians than any other Indian, the man who is tied for the all-time lead in walk off home runs, the owner of the 17th- and 34th-best career OPS and OBP, respectively, and the man with the eighth most home runs in baseball history, Jim Thome simply pumped his fist in the air and ran around the bases. As he got to home plate, it was tough to tell who was happier: his teammates or his family. Thome smiled too, but it was one of his trademark, humble smiles that really embodied his chase towards 600 home runs: just a great guy who happened to be a great hitter that stuck around for a while.

Sizing up an unforgettable 2010 season

Jim Thome was a big part of why the Twins repeated in the AL Central.

Jim Thome was a big part of why the Twins repeated in the AL Central.

The summers always seem to fly by faster now that I’m working through them rather than relaxing, and while it seems like just yesterday that the 2010 Major League Baseball season was getting underway, Sunday marked the last day of the regular season. Crazy. It must be the odd-numbered years: in 2007 and 2009, I picked the World Series champions before the season started; in 2006, 2008, and 2010, I picked teams that didn’t even make the playoffs, with my pick this year, the Cardinals, starting strong but unable to hang on down the stretch.

I shouldn’t really be surprised though: the 2010 season was unforgettable in many ways. 2010 saw an unprecedented 5 no-hitters in the same season, including 2 perfect games within the span of a month. The only reason there wasn’t 6 no-hitters and 3 perfect games was the famous botched 27th out call on June 2nd, where Jim Joyce called Indians shortstop Jason Donald safe on what would have been the 27th and final out of the perfect game, admitting later that he blew the call. 2010 saw the rise of Jose Bautista, the return of Jim Thome, and a legitimate Triple Crown race in the National League between Albert Pujols, Carlos Gonzalez, and Joey Votto.

2010 also saw a return to the postseason of two teams who have each had long droughts: the Texas Rangers, whose last appearance was in 1999, and the Cincinatti Reds, whose last appearance was in 1995. The Rays, Braves and the Giants also return to the playoffs after shorter droughts, while the Yankees, Twins, Phillies return. My review of the 2010 season, as well as my preview of October 2010, otherwise known as the Major League Baseball playoffs, after the jump.

Anyone can understand the way I feel

As I write this post from a beautiful 90 degree day in Columbia, it’s only been three years since this:

April 7, 2007: Blizzard, meet baseball. Baseball, meet blizzard. Everyone else, meet a bunch of guys with leaf blowers to try and clear the snow away.

April 7, 2007: Blizzard, meet baseball. Baseball, meet blizzard. Everyone else, meet a bunch of guys with leaf blowers to try and clear the snow away.

My, how times change.

In any case, I’m excited for Opening Day. Heck, who am I kidding? I was excited for Opening Day back in February, which explains why I wrote my 2010 season preview back on February 18. Much has happened in those six weeks since spring training has ramped up, progressed, and is now winding down to a close, so here are a few things I’m excited about as the season begins.

  • Baseball season means summer. Except in South Carolina, apparently, where summer went ahead and started without waiting for baseball season. This is heresy. I mean seriously, what’s opening day without snow, freezing rain, slushy streets and players who want to be there less than the fans?
  • The Indians won’t be that bad. (I hope.) Overall, I’m pretty encouraged by what I saw in spring training from the Indians. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner look good, and while I’m not convinced Jake Westbrook will look good against the other aces in the league, I think he’ll do okay in most of his starts. Fausto Carmona has looked solid too, and if he can keep up this form in the regular season the Indians will be in much better shape (and much better shape than I was hoping for).
  • Manny Acta wasn’t my first choice, but he’s growing on me. He’s already shown he’s not afraid to try some new things (batting Cabrera leadoff, starting Michael Brantley instead of a veteran left fielder) and he seems to relate to the players well (particularly the Hispanic players).
  • The season gets underway with a Sunday night game between the Red Sox and Yankees. Look, I bleed scarlet and grey, but the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is without question the best in sports. It’s great theater every time these two storied teams get together and this year, with the Yankees defending their 27th World Series title, it should be even better.
  • Jim Thome is no longer on the White Sox. Or the Dodgers. Or any other team that I hate. He’s on the Twins, who are my favorite team in the AL Central besides the Indians, and it’ll make it easier to root for one of the classiest guys in baseball this year. If it’s not the Indians this year, I hope the Twins win the World Series. (Unfortunately, since the Twins lost Joe Nathan for the season, this will probably be quite difficult.)
  • Ozzie Guillen has a Twitter account. I may not like the White Sox (I blame A.J. Pierzynski), but I do like Ozzie Guillen both for his management style and his Michael-Richards-but-with-less-racism “what will he say next” attitude. Joe Maddon (Rays manager) is also on Twitter, but his tweets are all about “preparation” and “getting in the right place mentally”. I have a feeling Ozzie’s will be less politically correct (and therefore more hilarious).
  • Bobby Cox is managing his last season. The all-time ejections leader is hanging it up after this season and I hope he goes out with a bang. He’s definitely a first ballot Hall of Famer and one of baseball’s best managers (even if his choice in teams is abysmal).
  • I will finally see PNC Park. PNC Park is the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and is widely regarded as one of the prettiest parks in baseball. I’m personally ashamed I haven’t been there yet, having lived a mere three hours from the city for most of my life. This year, on Memorial Day weekend, no less, that will be corrected.

And frankly, one of the things I love about Opening Day is that for one day, everyone’s equal. There is no head start, there is no entitlement, everyone starts at 0-0. Optimism springs eternal. So while the rest of the season I’m happy with around .500 for this team, on Opening Day, we’re allowed to dream.

Will the Indians win the World Series? Probably not. But maybe. Because on Opening Day, everyone starts fresh. So maybe.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

Like every winter, I’m anxious for this one to end. Not particularly because it’s been cold here in Columbia, SC, but because the end of winter means the beginning of baseball season. Pitchers and catchers for many teams reported to Spring Training today, and while the Indians aren’t required to report until next week, many of them are in Arizona already preparing for the upcoming season.

Which is why, when I read the title of this article, I smiled a bit and started to read.

Wake me up when September ends

Albert Pujols

Today is August 27th, which means football season is nearly upon us. More importantly, though, we’re just over a month away from the baseball postseason. It’s been a pretty odd season (actually, it’s been a pretty odd month of that season), so I figured I could look back at my predictions from before spring training and see how they’re stacking up. In fact, I’ll be classy about this and get started…wait for it…after the jump! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

The sun will rise like yesterday

Greetings from Overlook Road, at the beginning of a very cold morning in Cleveland, OH. Nothing in particular to blog about this morning, so I’ll do tidbits.

  • From the “holy crap that’s scary” department, North Korea is ready for launch sometime later this week. From earlier information, we know that the rocket is destined to fly over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, Japan has vowed to shoot it down should the missile take the predicted path, and North Korea would interpret such an action as an act of war.

    Because the warhead is expected to be non-nuclear, such a small country testing a ballistic missile at this point may seem insignificant. However, if Japan is worried enough (and they have good reason to be) to shoot down the missile as it heads over its territory, then North Korea may declare war on Japan and force the United States into the conflict (the US is already kind of in the conflict, with vessels in the Sea of Japan). This would draw China into the war, and would cause the relations between the US and China, which are already shaky, to deteriorate further. Since China is the country loaning us all this money for the bailouts, and many of our imported goods are made in China, a war with the country would have a horrific effect on our already troubled economy.

    If it were me (and it’s not, it’s this guy) I’d work on this situation from a “Fifth freedom” approach. It’s not done much anymore, but a human espionage operation might be the only thing that could diffuse this situation (or at least postpone it until the Six Party talks resume) without creating a war.

  • As I write this morning, we’re one week away from Opening Day, and I read in ESPN The Magazine (dated 6 April 2009) that Buster Olney has picked the Minnesota Twins to win the AL Central with the Tampa Bay Rays winning the East, and eventually World Series.

    It’s pretty tough for me to pick the Rays this year. While the team was great last year, and made a great story, I thought a lot of things went their way: no huge injuries, a lot of close games, and the Yankees sucked. This year, the Yankees (on paper) are far better, and the ball could certainly bounce the other way. I don’t see the Rays finishing dead last, but I don’t see them winning the East, either.

    As for the Twins prediction, I think it’s fair. After all, Buster Olney has picked the Indians to win the Series for three consecutive years with these finishes: sub-.500, lost ALCS, .500 exactly. While I think the Indians have problems, they’re more experienced and should be more consistent offensively this year, and have pitching depth to solve those problems. The Twins are a bit younger and face injury questions of their own with Mauer and Cuddyer (seriously, is that guy ever playing?), not to mention Liriano. In just a week, we’ll start to find out who’s right.

  • So I flew to Columbia on Friday and back on Saturday. I’m guessing that most people who read this blog aren’t entirely concerned with the software and hardware that runs the airports’ computer systems, but I am (or at least it interests me) and I noticed a few things.
    1. Why is every airline using its own, proprietary software? The software was designed in the 80s (or earlier) and has a ridiculous interface. Most of the terminals at the airports were running Windows XP, so why hasn’t Microsoft (or any other Windows developer) designed a fresh product that could work with every airline that could manage flights? It’d be a tough sell initially, but once the airlines bought it, they’d be hooked. The database could use a SQL Server backend to enable the creation custom software (such as software to outsource ticket booking).
    2. The flight status screens (42-inch flatscreens) at Washington-Dulles were run using Wyse terminals, which is pretty awesome because I developed a report for a client that runs off of a Wyse terminal too.
    3. Why do we still use boarding passes? When you check in, you’re given a boarding pass for each flight that is made of flimsy paper that you’re expected to carry through the airport to show to the attendants. Not only that, sometimes you print your boarding pass out online or receive them in some other fashion, meaning the boarding passes that are collected aren’t uniform. Instead of printing boarding passes, why not use a plastic card (like a subway pass) with a magnetic stripe that has all of your data? You only have one card for your entire flight path (even with connections), and the card can be disposed and reused at some point. There’s no a paper pileup, and it’s secure because all that needs to be stored is an ID: the scanner can look up the flight information using that ID and track progress that way.
  • March Madness, after next weekend, will finally be over. I didn’t even fill out a bracket this year, because I didn’t watch a single game during the regular season, but I had expected North Carolina to win it all and they seem to be the favorites now.
  • In other basketball news, the Cavs have won their sixtieth game and are well on their way to clinching the top overall seed for the playoffs. Part of me will be a little upset if the Cavs win it all (honestly, the Indians and Browns deserve it more) but it’d still be nice to see the city get to celebrate something.
  • Was Saturday the official first day of the disc golf season? Taylor, Sam and I all went to Sims Park in Euclid and we played through a party of about 10 and saw at least four other parties on the course. (For the record, I played a little better this time, but I’m nowhere close to midseason form.)

That’s all from a wet, snowy Cleveland morning. I have four weeks left as an undergraduate so it’ll be nose to the grindstone until April 28th. Have a happy Monday!

The swagger is back

There haven’t been many times this year where I’ve said, “this feels like the 2007 Indians.”

The 2007 Cleveland Indians were a team that never gave up. Especially near the end of the season, the game was never over until the last strike was recorded or the last out was made. I remember a couple games specifically where, with two outs in the ninth, Asdrubal Cabrera doubled (once off Joe Nathan, coincidentally, and once off of Joakim Soria) and the next batter, Travis Hafner, homered to tie the game and singled to tie the game, respectively.

And that was just scratching the surface. There was the legendary David Dellucci single up the middle off Todd Jones on June 1, 2007, giving the Indians a dramatic win against the Tigers. There was Jhonny Peralta, defiantly slamming a home run to right field off of the “toughest” reliever in the game, Joel Zumaya, in a crucial September game against the Tigers (actually, one year ago today: September 17, 2007). Who could forget Ben Francisco’s walk-off in his first major league start? What about Kelly Shoppach’s sprint-off? Or Casey Blake’s two walk-offs in the span of a week?

The 2007 Indians found a way to win. Games that looked over were always just one clutch hit away from being back in contention. This year, although the Indians won on Opening Day in similar fashion, the 2008 Indians seemed to find ways to lose.

Until July and August, this seemed to be the trend. In August, the Indians won ten in a row and built up some major confidence. And tonight, two of the Indians’ MVPs gave the Indians their swagger back:

I’d be lying if I said I was extremely confident about next season, but what’s happening now parallels what happened at the end of 2006: the Indians, rid of their aging veterans, made a late charge and posted a respectable second-half record.

And oh by the way, if the rest of the night wasn’t enough like 2007…

If that doesn’t start your Wednesday off with a smile, I’m not sure what will.