Monday, July 28, 2008

The Twins are Kickin'

Frank: Well, the Minnesota Twins pulled off another amazing turnaround last week -- recovering from a three-game sweep at the ballpark of an AL East powerhouse by winning a series on the home turf of an American League Central Division rival -- for the second time this month. This leaves us in a really good position, two and a half games behind the division leading Chicago White Sox, who begin a huge four-game set tonight at the Metrodome. This weekend we remain in the Central with the second half of a home-and-home matchup with the Cleveland Indians, which started this past weekend. Since we play every day this week at home (Tonight through Saturday evening on FSN), I asked Bert about home field advantage:

Earlier this season, you mentioned that an old baseball saying was to try to play .500 baseball on the road, and about .700 at home, and you might be competitive in your division. While the Twins are pretty close to that mark in games at the Metrodome (34-19, .642), they have not been very good on the road (23-28, .451). Included in that performance away from the confined confines is a 2-7 mark playing at the home field of the division leading Chicago White Sox. But due to a scheduling quirk, the Twins were done for the year in Chicago and Detroit -- the home of the other American League Central Division team above .500, the Tigers -- by the All-Star break. So far this year, we are 2-0 at home against the White Sox and 5-1 against Detroit.

How much of an advantage will it be to play all the remaining games against these two rivals at home?

Bert: It has always been said that if you can play .500 on the road and win big at home, you have a good chance to get into the postseason. There are 30 Major League teams and there are ONLY five teams with winning road records. In the American League there are the Yankees and Angels and in the National league there are only the Phillies, Brewers, and Cardinals with winning road records.

Now there are ONLY six Major League teams that do not have winning records at home. In the American League there are the Royals and Mariners and in the National League are the Nationals, Astros, Giants, and Padres that have losing home records. All six of these teams are teams that will probably not make it to the postseason.

Over the final two months of the season there are 58 games left for the Twins, 31 road games and, by my California math, that leaves 27 home games. There are 25 games left to play in the division against the White Sox, Tigers, Royals, and Indians. Nineteen of the 25 will be played at home for the Twins. Hopefully the Twins can take advantage of our home field advantage.

Frank: This Thursday night is the non-waiver trading deadline, after which trades become much more difficult to make. Manager Ron Gardenhire has been quoted as saying that -- although his team doesn't need any new players -- if the people in the front office can make a deal that brings in either a powerful right-handed hitter or a quality setup reliever to pitch the eighth inning and get games to Joe Nathan for the ninth, he would appreciate it.

What do you think? What do the Twins need most?

Bert: O boy, tough question Frank. What do the Twins do about maybe adding some right-handed power and is the current bullpen setup to hand the ball over to Nathan for the ninth? These are questions that I'm sure the Twins front office along with manager Ron Gardenhire are asking themselves. What will the organization have to give up to get some added help? Do we go out and rent a player for the final two months who might help us get into the postseason? But what do we have to give up? Can the Twins win the division without any future deals? Can the offense continue to hit with runners in scoring position, as we have all season long? We have led the Major Leagues in this department for the whole year, while hitting the fewest home runs in the Majors. The Twins need more power in their lineup, but what would they have to give up for added power? We all know that the Twins worry about the future years as well as they do on where they are now in the standings. I really would be surprised if the Twins make a move. But in the event that we do, I think Bonser would be the likely pitcher to be involved in a trade.

Frank: Over the next two weeks, you will broadcast every game the Twins play, even an afternoon game in Seattle.

Does it drain you to work all the time? Or does it energize you to be able to watch the Twins every day?

This stretch begins with four huge games, starting tonight against the Chicago White Sox. We are hitting the dog days of August and September this week. Does that term apply to the announcers as well as the players?

Bert: I love broadcasting the game of baseball and I would love to do every game throughout the season. Announcing is fun because as a former pitcher I had the opportunity to pitch every fourth or fifth day. Announcing every game is like pitching everyday. Each game is different and each game I probably see something I haven't seen for a long time or see something that I have never seen before. The Twins have a young exciting club and it's fun and entertaining to watch this team go through their ups and downs throughout the season.
Usually the dog days of baseball are June and July. Once August comes around you hope you are in the race for the final two months. The Twins have put themselves in this positive position so the last two months should be exciting. As a player this is the time of the season to catch your second or third wind and start thinking about that finish line.
The long baseball season can be compared to running the 440 on a track team. April is the start and May is the first turn on the track. June-July is the straight away on the backstretch of the track. August is the final turn before you get back to the final straight away, which is September. After the final turn, August, you want to be running neck and neck with your opponents when you come off the curve. Hopefully the Twins can stay with these opponents until we hit that straight away for the final kick. It will be the team that has the strongest kick that wins the race. Let's hope that the Twins have enough left to kick it in at the end. I know I will be kicking up in the booth and hoping that the players on the field will be kicking just as hard.

Have a great day; be good to each other and Go Twins!

Check out the Twins on FSN North this week:

Monday, July 28: vs White Sox--6:30 PM
Tuesday, July 29: vs White Sox--6:30 PM
Wednesday, July 30: vs White Sox--6:30 PM
Thursday, July 31: vs White Sox--6:30PM

Friday, Aug 1: vs. Cleveland--6:00 PM
(special 1-hour pre game show, 1 year anniversary of 35W Bridge collapse)

Saturday, Aug 2: vs Cleveland--5:00 PM
(special 1-hour pre game show from Hugo, MN celebrating First Responders)

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