The Franchise, cow pies, first prize, and Cabinet demise
When this season began, myriad Vegas sportsbooks put the Twins over/under win total at 73. Five months later, and more than 80 days since the club had last stood at the zenith of the Central Division, the boys are back in 1st place. Crazy. The White Sox' Sunday loss to K.C., combined with our win over visiting Cleveland, put the Twins a half game up over Chicago. Trips to Seattle and K.C (a combined 94-129) ensue for the Twins, while Chicago hosts Detroit and Boston (119-104).
Yet, of all the names and events that have encompassed this past week of magnified play, come Sunday, all eyes collectively focused on the left arm of one man.
To begin ...
Francisco Liriano, having won close to 97 AAA games in the last three-plus months, returned to his rightful uniform on Sunday. And he looked terrific. For what The Franchise may have lacked in control (getting behind batters) and a non-existent change-up, he readily made up for in mettle, grit and a solid slider. He battled his ass off, going six shutout innings, striking out 5 while walking three. He surrendered just 3 hits, throwing 96 pitches. I said at the onset of the season that Liriano would have to win 25 for the Twins to get to the postseason. Well, he got his first on Sunday. I may have been a long damn way off on that baby, but at least with Sin City standing beside me I don't feel the complete dumb-ass. Seeing Liriano finding success on the Big League hill created a buzz that matched the buzz-kill of the trading deadline. If was a fine showing on his part, and a just image to see him back where he belongs. To see the box, please click here.
To find a spot for The Franchise, the Twins cut Livan Hernandez. I'm curious what the Elias Sports Bureau may have to say about the last time a club within 2 games of a playoff slot, post All-Star break, cut ties with their leader in both wins and innings pitched. Furthermore, I'm wondering what side of his mouth agent Greg "Bob Sugar" Genske was speaking out of this past week. He represents both Liriano, and Livan.
In addition ...
While the wealth of AL contenders were busy bartering to improve themselves for the last 50-plus ballgames, Twins' GM Bill "my cell phone's broken" Smith was active deciding which of his hands to sit on. The Red Sox took opted for attitude over production, the Angels piled on another slugger, the Yanks acquired a small handful of pieces (Sexson, Nady, Marte) over time, and the White Sox, well, regular readers of this space know my views on their splash. While I had thought it acceptable to eat the $4 million Griffey's buyout calls for in '09, ChiSox GM Ken "I own 9 working phones" Williams was able to broker a trade that not only got Cincinnati to eat half of Griffey's approximated $4 million left on this year's contract, but on the buyout as well. So, Chicago is basically paying about $4 million for 50-plus games of Griffey. That, plus they gave up just a shitty relief pitcher with an ERA nearing 5 and an underachieving minor leaguer coming off a stress fractured rib, hitting .262 with 11 errors. That $4 mil? According to the Star Trib, the Twins may be on the hook for $4.3 million in the unused salaries of the respectively waived Juan Rincon, Livan, and Craig Monroe. Shit -- we're paying Mike Lamb $3.5 million this year alone to sit on his ass and grow a beard.
In lieu of acquiring a hired-gun to play 50 ballgames, the Twins instead are giving 30-year-old Randy Ruiz, a veteran of 10 minor league seasons, the chance to prove himself in the Show. While Ruiz has bombed nearly 170 homers in minor league ball, he has hit exactly as many as my pal Cruz Ruiz in the Bigs. For me, this move is less Gametime, and more Lifetime. Mario Lopez can play Randy in the made-for-TV, and Judith Light can portray the woman who'll plop from stomach cancer if Ruiz doesn't hit a dozen bombs. It's a good story, could be a great one if Ruiz produces, however I'd rather have see this yarn spin a proven vet bat into lineup than to see this storyline hearken shades of Bernardo Brito. The Twins need play good, not feel good.
With the departure of Secretary Livan Hernandez, and the injuries to both Secretary Alexi Casilla and Secretary Michael Cuddyer, the 2008 Twins Cabinet is in complete disarray. Over the weekend, an emergency executive meeting was called, with Cuddyer communicating via satellite en route to his rehab assignment in AAA Rochester and Livan texting from what was believed to be a private skewer room at Fogo de Chão- Scottsdale. The session basically involved Casilla and myself sitting over a few sweaty Heinekens and talking between uncomfortable pauses about the new Batman movie. He was kind enough to bring a pack of Black & Milds that he scooped up at an SA station en route. Ultimately, it was decided that despite the overt obstacles which the Cabinet has encountered, we will press onward, leaving Livan's chair reserved for the duration of the season, and leaving unencumbered the custom made head-rest designed to accommodate his neck rolls.