Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

September 14, 2006

Dissent

Some liberal terrorist-coddler is opposing President Bush's attempts to legalize torture and circumvent the Geneva Conventions. I am with him.



September 13, 2006

Liriano goes down

Sad day in Twinsville. After much anticipation of Francisco Liriano's return from his sore arm, he pitched two innings, retired all the batters he faced, and then grimaced in pain after a pitch to ex-Twin Bobby Kielty. His arm popped. He is done for the season, and until they figure out what is wrong, who knows when or if he'll be back.

Here is a guy so loaded with talent that he was touted as "better than Santana" by batters who faced him. That is to say he was better than the best pitcher in baseball. Oh, the potential. And then, the sore arm. One hopes he can come out of it. As for the Twins, they now know what they have to do to finish out this season. Dreams of waltzing through the playoffs on the backs of the two best starting pitchers in baseball have been shattered. Santana, Bonser, Silva, Garza and the bullpen are going to have to carry the load.

THE STERLING FALL weather continues. Beautiful. I like to just stand outside and look at the changing colors and listen to the leaves rustle. Tomorrow, I will cut firewood.

Today my history lecture ran out of steam about thirty-five minutes in. I didn't have enough material prepared. We were covering a topic which bores me, the British mercantilist system, so no wonder I had a little trouble stretching things to the end of the hour.

Two years ago, I would have flipped out and babbled incoherently for twenty minutes to fill the hour. Now, I just let the class go early. Fifty minutes of lecture is a bit much, anyway. I told them that if they felt ripped off or short-changed, they should go talk to the dean. Actually, I don't know if there is a dean to talk to, so that's a safe thing to say. Of course, there is no threat of anybody taking up that challenge!

Twins fans in the class felt we should hold class in the lounge to keep up with Liriano. I said that would absolutely guarantee that something would go wrong so we couldn't do that under any circumstance. In fact, by that time, things had already gone wrong.

Attendance in classes so far has been very good. That sometimes changes after the first test if they figure out that they can pass without attending. I try to write the test so that doesn't happen, but there are always some smart alecks who can beat the system.

Smart alecks like me. When I attended college, I never went to class unless I knew it was needed to get an A. If I could get an A without attending a single class, and about 1/2 the time that was possible, I didn't attend. In those cases, the tests were taken entirely from the text. The lectures contributed nothing new. So, what was the use?

Well, what a waste of money that was. I could have shown up and engaged the professor in discussion or something to take advantage of the fact that I was in college!

Education is wasted on the young...

So, I have become the type of teacher I would have hated as a student.


September 11, 2006

Twins 9 Oakland 4

Beating Detroit three out of four on the weekend was just fine, but the Twins can't afford to let down. Tonight, they looked great against the A's. Carlos Silva, statistically the worst starting pitcher in the American League this season, turned in his second consecutive excellent performance. Now the Twins trail the Tigers by only one-and-a-half games.

Baseball is so strange. Nowhere is the law of averages more dictatorial. For example, there is no way the Tigers could keep winning at a .676 clip. Sure enough, over the past month they have come to earth with a thud, now back below .600 for the year. No way Joe Mauer is going to hit .390. Sure enough, he slumps to .345 before rebounding to .350.

It goes the other way, too. There is no way a once excellent pitcher in his apparent prime like Silva is going to put up an ERA of over 7.00. Sure enough, he starts chiseling it down. No way Rondell White is going to hit below .200--he's just too good. Sure enough, he has been hitting well of late.

The story of the Twins this season has been that the second tier players have taken turns helping out in big ways. Right now, the starting pitching when you get past Santana, which is the team's alleged weakness since Liriano and Radke went down, has been picking up the slack. Bonser and Silva in particular have allowed the Twins to win their games.

But there are other pieces to the puzzle which fell together.

Michael Cuddyer is having his first big season. Finally. He had the talent, but whenever he was given a chance to play everyday in the past, he blew it. Now, he has turned into a good clean-up hitter and has unexpectedly become one of the finest right-fielders in the game. He has thrown out several runners, and the threat of his arm keeps other teams conservative on the bases, which is worth just as much.

Dennys Reyes provides good left-handed relief. The chubby-faced Mexican is having the best season of his career, and he attributes it to Ron Gardenhire's handling of the bullpen. That's something since Reyes wasn't too happy with Gardenhire in spring training when the Twins manager sent him to the minors to work on his pick-off move to first.

Pat Neshek is really been a gem. He recently had a rough loss, followed by two good outings in dramatic situations, and what does he write about on his weblog today? Check it out. He's thrilled with the new box of baseball cards he opened up and he wants to trade some of the extra cards with fans.

Jason Tyner has been solid in the field and is batting over .300. He's one of those players like Randy Bush that the Twins have had when they are successful who always play smart. If the Twins get into the playoffs, I look for Tyner to have one huge, savvy play to match Randy Bush's famous slide into home in the 1991 Series.

Jason Bartlett is playing a great shortstop and is solid at the plate. Big surprise. Gardenhire took a long time to accept Bartlett, sending him down to the minors several times to get more seasoning, despite his good hitting.

Probably the heart of the team is Nick Punto. Despite his idiotic slides into first base, which should get him benched sometime just to make the point that you just don't slide into first ever, Punto's spark has been crucial. A quick third baseman can make such huge difference in the game by stopping balls down the line which would otherwise go for extra bases. Punto has done that several times in the past few weeks. A converted second baseman, nobody upon nobody expected him to hit or field as well as he has for the past three months.

Morneau and Mauer have matured quickly. Morneau finally adjusted to major league curveballs, a transition not all hot-shot minor league sluggers make.

Mike Redmond is the best back-up catcher in baseball, a good hitter (which almost no back-up catchers are) and the chairman of team morale.

Oh, and Torii Hunter is hitting well. Have to give him credit, although tonight he cost the Twins a run by inexplicably refusing to slide into home and getting tagged out instead.

Bottom line: This is a fun team. And I didn't even mention the real superstars, Santana, Nathan and Liriano.


September 10, 2006

Santana does it again

Whoa, what a fun game today. Santana was on, as ever. He just doesn't lose. He was furious with the home plate umpire for his restricted strike zone and took it out on the batters. When he became obviously miffed, he suddenly struck out six consecutive batters.

Now, the Twins find themselves only two games out of first place, the closest they have been since mid-April. Liriano comes back next week. Mauer's bat is waking up. Bonser is coming around. Things are looking pretty good.

Of course, just when they have started to look good before, some disaster hit. Radke went down. Silva puked. Liriano's arm got sore. Stewart's ankle gave out.

Whatever happens, this big turnaround by the Twins has been so unexpected that it will have been fun even if they don't make the playoffs.

As far as I am concerned, Santana, despite pitching no more than once every five days, is the Most Valuable Player on the team and in the league. Without him, the Twins would be nowhere. He is the indespensible one.

Liriano, the other whiz, pitched well last night in Rochester in his rehab stint. All that matters is that he be ready for the playoffs. If he is, whatever teams the Twins face in those short series will be in trouble.