On to the Pale Hose
The Twins enter this week's road series a paltry three games back in the American League Wild Card race, a fact that is nothing short of miraculous considering they were nine games back at the All-Star break earlier this month. At that point, they needed to overcome three other teams to even consider a shot at the post-season. Eleven games (and nine wins) later, they arrive in Chicago with a shot at pulling into a tie for first with the slumping White Sox.
With the trade deadline looming, this is an especially interesting week in Twinsville, as everyone seems to be wondering whether the Twins will be buyers or sellers this season. I don't think they're going to be either, since they've got Hunter and Stewart coming back from injuries, and Jason Tyner, Nick Punto and Rondell White have stepped their games up considerably in the absence of the Twins' regular outfielders. (White's batting .448 with three homers since I complimented his smile last week. If he keeps it up, you can thank me in October.) They've also got very little to offer the contending teams in terms of valuable post-season players (and by "very little," I mean "Kyle Lohse"). But whether they're in the trade market or not, this week finds the Twins pitted against the two teams that lead them in the standings, which means that by the time the trade deadline rolls around on July 31, their post-season odds will be quite a bit clearer.
The bad news is that while the Twins may not be in the market for an expensive slugger to pound them into the post-season, the White Sox definitely are, and early reports are already coming in that GM Kenny Williams has sewn up a deal with the Nationals for Alfonso Soriano. Considering the fact that Soriano is an early favorite for National League MVP, this is terrible news indeed for the Twins. With 31 homers, a .288 batting average and 25 stolen bases in his first year with Washington, Soriano is the kind of player who could turn the White Sox's already-potent lineup into the league's most devastating. I would especially hate to see him in a Chicago uniform because he's possibly my favorite pro player. Unlike the rest of the sluggers on the homerun leader board, Soriano hits homers (and doubles, and triples) through a combo of quick hands, great bat speed and a beautiful swing. He's like Griffey Jr. in the mid-'90s: a pure finesse player battling the meathead mashers of the Mark McGwire-mold. Christ, I even liked Soriano when he was a Yankee, which is really saying something. So the thought of him hitting the field with Konerko and Thome (my least favorite meatheads) and further hurting the Twins' shot at October is distressing, to say the least.
On the other hand, it's possible that Soriano won't even leave Washington. He and his agent have both repeatedly said that he would love to stay with the Nationals, and the team's president has returned the compliment by saying they would love to keep him. Problem is, the Nationals aren't exactly in a position to sign the second baseman-turned-All Star outfielder, as they're building for the future (they asked the Williams for rookie pitcher Brandon McCarthy) while Soriano is due to become a very expensive free agent next year. What's more, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that the trade rumor might just be a ploy to get the Detroit Tigers out of the bidding war, with Williams saying, " I know what Detroit and Minnesota are trying to do. We will just have to work hard to make sure we have a chance to compete." I can't imagine Soriano would ever end up in Minnesota, although the thought does make one salivate.
Radke takes the mound at 7:05 CT.