Frank: I would like to point out, first of all, that the Twins, though below .500 at 3-4, are infinitely far ahead of the Tigers in winning percentage. The Tigers have not won a game yet, a trend that might not continue. Our Minnesota Twins opened the season with a weeklong home stand that started out frustrating, then became uplifting. We come off a weekend series win against our division rivals, the Royals, which leaves the Twins teeming with optimism.
Solid starting pitching combined with terrific defensive plays and Joe Nathan continuing his spotless season all have Twins fans wanting more. But perhaps the biggest reason for excitement is that the biggest bat in the lineup, the one belonging to Justin Morneau, sprang to life over the weekend. After a dismal Spring Training carried over into a dismal opening series against the Angels, Morneau collected his first hit Friday night. He followed that up with his first home run of the year--a three run shot--and an RBI double Saturday afternoon; then he got two more hits, including another homer, yesterday. He went 5 for 12 over the weekend, five more hits than he had in the same number of at-bats as he had against the Angels. Of course, he was not the only Twin who struggled in that series:
The Twins had a lot of trouble scoring runs in the opening series with the Angels, scoring only eight times and hitting just one home run in the four game set. The offense was a major problem last year, so management went out and made several moves trying to strengthen the hitting. What should the hitters focus on, especially the new players?
Bert: The lack of runs that the Twins scored in the home opening series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 8 total runs scored in the 4-game series, can be attributed mainly to the good quality pitching by the Angels starting pitchers. Even with the Twins winning the home opener 3-2 behind Livan Hernandez, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan, the Angels starter, Jered Weaver, did a great job of keeping his team in the game until the end. The next three games were started by Jon Garland, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana (NOT JOHAN), and they allowed ONLY 3 total runs in their combined 22 innings pitched, to the Twins offense. It is still too early in the season, but I think you can already see that the Angels might be the team to beat in the American League Western Division. If their starters continue to pitch the way they did against the Twins, the Angels will be tough to catch.
Let's not read too much into the lack of runs scored in the series against the Angels. Give the offense time to HEAT up. . .
Frank: Well, I guess you were right, as the Twins broke out of their offensive doldrums this weekend against the Royals. Maybe the fact that you were right has something to do with those 22 seasons you spent in the major leagues.
Two years ago, the Twins fell behind Detroit and Chicago right out of the gate, and kept falling further back until the second half of May, when they started playing well and came all the way back to win the division on the last day of the season. Given that, and with this week's games against Chicago and Kansas City, how important do you think it really is to get off to a good start against division rivals?
Bert: No team wants to fall behind the other teams in their division in April. The Twins are in what might be the toughest division in baseball, and that is the American League Central Division. But, since the Twins play each team 18 times throughout the 162-game schedule, falling behind early isn't the end of the season for any team. The Detroit Tigers are supposed to be the team to beat in the division, but the Kansas City Royals swept them in the opening 3-game series in Detroit. Boy, did the Royals send an early message or what? The Twins will take one game at a time, and let's hope by the end of each month they can be leading the division or be within a stone's throw away from the division leader. Every game is important throughout the season, but the games played within your division are a little more important. Hope you understand?
Frank: Yes, I think I think I get it; only one team from each division is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, so we don’t want to fall too far behind the other teams in the Central, and I suppose the improbable story of the 2006 season was an exception to a lot of rules . . .
Now let me switch gears. With a rare day off Tuesday in the middle of the series in Chicago, what I really want to know is: Do you prefer Chicago or New York style pizza? If you're not a pizza guy, have you ever been to Ed Debevic's, the fun, 50's burger joint with the song and dance waiting staff? It's in downtown Chicago, and worth the drive from the ballpark area.
Bert: Sometimes for a player an off day on the road can be very boring but Tuesday's off day in Chicago, if they are able to get the home opener for the White Sox in on Monday, it will be welcomed by all the players and the coaching staff. As a former player, I'm sure the current Twins players will find themselves catching up on all the things they couldn't take care of because of spring training, the excitement of opening day and playing a game every day. But what they will try and do the most on the off day is to "SLEEP."
Chicago is a great place to have an off day because the Twins stay right downtown and there is plenty to do. Just walking around will be relaxing to the players knowing they don't have to be at the ballpark, for at least one day, at a certain time. It also gives the players a chance to have dinner together with their teammates. Gino's pizza is a favorite for many players and that includes myself. Chicago pizza has the tradition, so it just tastes better. I consider myself a room junkie, meaning I stay in my hotel room a lot, but when my wife Gayle is with me on the road I go out more. She, like almost all the wives, loves Chicago. Could it be the shopping or just spending quality time with their husbands? You're right, spending quality time with their husbands!
And to answer the question if I have ever been to Ed Debevic's? Yes I have and actually once my wife and I joined the staff in doing the traditional dance. Now try and picture that!
Frank: As we all try to picture you “circling” Gayle on the floor of the restaurant, I can’t help but wonder if you are serious about Chicago pizza tasting better than New York pizza. As a man who served up quite a few “meatballs” in his day, I am surprised that you don’t know more about Italian food: New York pizza is far better. I guess what I said earlier about you being right a lot applies only to baseball.
Be sure to check out the Twins on FSN this week:
Monday: Twins vs. Chicago White Sox starting at 2:30 PM
Thursday: Twins vs. Chicago White Sox starting at 6:30 PM
Friday: Twins vs. Kansas City starting at 6:30 PM
Saturday: Twins vs. Kansas City starting at 5:30 PM