Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stand on the Seattle shoreline and you can watch the sun set on the 2005 Twins season after another loss to the Mariners last night. As much as I would like to believe the horses in our rotation are capable of running off a 35-15 streak to end the schedule, it just aint gonna happen. Seems like yesterday the Mariners helped to fuel our 3 year playoff run giving us David Ortiz and Joe Mays for not much more than a bag of baseballs. I remember Mays out of the blue going 17 - 13 and was immediately rewarded with a 20 million dollar contract. I recall David Ortiz rising to a leadership position in the locker room and spearheading our offense into the playoffs. Then like a bad dream the combination of the organization's desire to get Matthew Lecroy more at bats and the local media slapping the "injury prone" label on Ortiz made people barely notice when he was allowed to slip away from the artificial gloom of the Metrodome and sail off into the real world of sunshine where he found international fame and postseason immortality - not only did most fans fail to notice his departure the few that did scolded me with the same refrain "Ortiz sucked when he was with us" - .... really ? who hit cleanup for the Twins during their ALCS season of 2002 ? David Ortiz hit 20 HR's and drove in 75 runs in 2002 while appearing in only 125 games. Allow me to beat a dead horse, Joe Mays was given 20 million dollars but 1 year later the front office having discussed the matter with manager Gardenhire determined Ortiz wasn't worth the 2 million he was scheduled to make in arbitration. So now I am left to ponder when the Twins will get another shot at the playoffs, whether we didnt piss away the 3 year window of opportunity that we had (2002-2004 we only needed to play .500 ball to win the A.L. Central...those days are over), and what exactly has Seattle done for us lately? Ah Yes, Bret Boone. The Twins scooped him and his .200 average off the Safeco Field grass and deposited him into our plastic metrodome baggie. Always the master of putting together a lineup card, Ron Gardenhire saw to it that in Boone's 1st appearance as a Twin he batted 3rd in the order. But enough about Boone's memorable contribution to the 2005 season, I cant help but reminisce over the Seattle Mariners 2004 donation to our team... catcher/old man Pat Borders (claimed August 31st just in time for Gardenhire to put him on our playoff roster). For those of you who care to remember, catcher Joe Mauer wrecks his knee early in the season - yet another injury victim of Hubert H. Humphrey and his inflatable Humpty Dump/professional baseball stadium. Henry Blanco steps up and becomes our brick wall, arguably our best defensive player, and far more important to our success than Ron Gardenhire (ask any Twins pitcher if you dont believe me). Flashback to the 2004 playoff series against the Yankees ....NY is up 2 games to 1 but trailing by a run in game 4 when Henry Blanco hits a homerun to jump start a 3 run inning and the Twins take a 5-1 lead into the 8th inning. By this time Gardenhire was dipping into the bullpen for the 3rd time having first removed Santana due to pitch count concerns (yes Gardy was counting pitches in an elimination game) and the Yankees took advantage of our manager's incontinence tying the game at 5 in the top of the 8th and here comes the Twins to bat in the bottom of the inning. Guzman grounds out, Rivas pops up, and to the plate walks Blanco (2 for 3 with a HR). Two outs - no one on base - and the very real potential that this game could go countless extra innings. Did it occur to our manager that we might need to keep our only catcher in the game? Gardenhire, clearly confused, pinch hits for Blanco removing him from the lineup so that Pat Borders can take center stage in our last playoff game to date. Keep in mind Borders had been with the team long enough to amass 42 at bats. A passed ball by Borders in the top of the 9th moves runners to 2nd and 3rd but the Twins get out of the inning. 10 minutes later in the top of the 11th A-Rod hits a 1 out double. Do you think Joe Torre might want to get that potential winning run to 3rd base with only 1 out ? Henry Blanco had the respect of base stealers and opposing managers, but who respects 59 year old catcher Pat Borders ? In case you already blocked out the memory, A-Rod steals 3rd base against Gardenhire's hand selected extra inning battery of Kyle Lohse and Pat Borders. Then Borders proceeds to drop the soap on a slippery Lohse lowball and as the ball is rolling around behind home plate A-Rod trots home to score the series winning run. Ok, so it was ruled a wild pitch but those of us who were able to watch the end of that game can be our own official scorekeeper and we know it was another passed ball by Borders and yet another priceless post season memory courtesy of Ron Gardenhire.