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Baseball’s Best Team Doesn’t Play in New York or Tampa: They Play in Minnesota

For Ozzie Guillen, it’s deja vu all over again.

The White Sox skipper has had this nightmare before. He wakes up sweating, mumbling “Gardy, no,” over and over. He gets up, showers, starts to feel better about himself, then grabs the morning paper and realizes it was no dream. Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire has once again done it to him.

It’s almost become an annual event for the White Sox. Spend more money than the Twins in the offseason, get the experts to predict that you’ll win the division, then watch the Twins walk away with the prize.

After sweeping the White Sox in Chicago, the Twins now lead the South Siders by nine games in the AL Central, with their magic number dropping to only eight games. The Twins took the season series from Chicago 13-5.

The White Sox went into this mid-September series knowing they had to sweep Minnesota. Even one Twins victory would probably spell an end to the race. There was a sweep alright but not the way Ozzie was hoping for. The Twins won all three games, scoring 26 runs in the rout of Chicago.

The division title will be the Twins second in a row and sixth in their last nine years under baseball’s best manager. The manager, who by the way, has never won Manager of the Year despite all that winning and all those titles. I would think he’s got the award sewed up for 2010, but, then again, I’ve thought that before.

Guillen has seen this movie before. Many of those division titles for Gardenhire and the Twins have come at the expense of Ozzie and the White Sox. Two years ago the Twins came from nowhere and chased down the White Sox and caught them on the last day of the year, forcing a one-game playoff. 

Although the Twins had a better season record against Chicago, the White Sox won a coin toss and got to host the game in Chicago. The White Sox won it, one of the few times Ozzie has bested Gardy over the years.

Last year, the Twins did the same thing to Detroit, coming from way behind and chasing them down, catching them on the last day. The Twins this time got to host the game, and they won it to seal the division title.

This year, there will be no such drama. The Twins are rolling to this division title. They have done it with an amazing Major League best record of 42-16 in the second half. To put that in perspective, in the last 50 years of Major League Baseball, only two teams have had a better winning percentage in the second half of a season: the 2001 Oakland A’s and the 1970 Baltimore Orioles.

With the White Sox all but put away, the Twins now focus their concentration on getting the best record in the American League and home field advantage throughout the American League Playoffs.

Heading into the weekend, the Twins and Yankees are tied with identical records of 88-58, a half game back of Tampa Bay.

The Minnesota Twins are not only a half game out of the best record in the American League, but they are also a half game out from having the best record in all of baseball.

If, after the last nine years or so of Ron Gardenhire baseball this surprises anyone, they haven’t done their homework.

With a nine game lead, Gardy can now set his sights on finally achieving some postseason success. The Yankees, in particular, have had the Twins number in the playoffs.

But this Twins team might have two things Gardenhire division title teams from the past did not possess. One, the best record in the league and home field advantage. And two, a brand new stadium that knows nothing of postseason struggles.

Target Field’s story has yet to be written.

As for Ozzie Guillen? Well, let’s hope he sleeps a little better once the season ends.

Sweet dreams, Ozzie.


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Ken Griffey Junior Phoned-In Retirement to Mariners on Drive To Orlando

There are a lot of ways to retire. Ken Griffey Jr. seems to have found a new one. A mobile retirement.

According to Seattle Mariner President Chuck Armstrong, talking on Seattle sports radio station KJR, Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg, called Armstrong Wednesday afternoon with some news. Junior was retiring, effective immediately.

A few minutes later, according to Armstrong, Griffey himself called to confirm it.

You imagine it went something like this:

‘So would you like to do a press conference Junior?’

‘Well, I can’t, exactly.’

‘Why not?’

‘I’m driving to Orlando.’

This was about four hours before game time Wednesday night. The Mariners were home for game three of a four game set with Minnesota.

Griffey, apparently, told no one. Not a teammate. Not his manager Don Wakamatsu. Not even the sleep coordinator in the Mariner’s clubhouse.

Just got in his car and started to drive.

‘Man, I just don’t feel like going to work today. Think I’ll go for a little drive. De-stress in the car. Turn on some music. Relax. Where should I go?’

For Griffey, apparently the answer was Orlando.

At some point in the drive he realized he might be missed at work. So he gave his agent a call. Instead of calling in sick, Junior decided to call in sick of it all.

Of course, I’m picking on one of the classiest guys to ever don a baseball uniform, so for that I apologize. But the way this whole retirement went down was just a little un-Junior-like.

Of course, the last year-and-a-third of his career has been very un-Junior-like. His return to Seattle has been one filled with few home runs, a low batting average, and tons of runners left on base. He has, in all fairness, smiled through it all. But something has been missing.

The retirement came, in the end, about eight months late. He should have hung it up after the disappointing season of 2009.

An unnamed source quoted in the Seattle Times on Friday said Griffey had been upset recently with the lack of playing time that he had been getting lately. Manager Wakamatsu confirmed in the paper that he had had discussions recently with Junior about his decreased playing time.

On KJR Armstrong said that he and Griffey had had talks in the offseason about a reduced role this season, and Junior was OK with that. Armstong said Griffey would do whatever they needed him to, even if that was just pinch hit.

Somewhere along the line Griffey changed his tune and became unhappy with the reduced role. So much so apparently that he got into his car and never turned back.

The Mariners complained that the hasty retirement decision didn’t even allow them to call someone up from the minors in time for the game that night. Kind of reminds one of a few weeks back when someone was sleeping in the clubhouse and left the team hanging when they needed a pinch hitter.

Again, I don’t mean to come down too harshly on a baseball great and a legend, but, something about the way this was handled by Junior was somewhat classless and a little childish.

The Mariner fans wanted a press conference. No such luck. They wanted to say goodbye and thanks at the game that night. No such luck.

Will Griffey be back this year to Safeco Field for a proper sendoff? His longtime agent Brian Goldberg, in a separate interview on KJR on Friday, said he wasn’t certain Griffey would be back this year for a tribute, but he hoped so.

Part of me can see Griffey’s side to this too. Maybe he isn’t a big one for goodbyes. Maybe he didn’t know he was quitting until he got in the car that day. Maybe he would have been too broken up at a news conference.


Or, maybe he was just really enjoying the drive.

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Mascot Warning: Beware of the Mariner Moose

He seems cuddly enough. He seems, in fact, almost sweet. All that brown soft fur.

But looks can be deceiving. First impressions are not always right.

Take the tale of Mariner fan Victor Aguilar. The 32-year-old man from a Seattle suburb had gone to a recent Mariners game. As he was walking along with his cousin and uncle they saw the Mariner Moose coming toward them.

Aguilar was excited to see the Moose. He has, in fact, a strange admiration of the Moose, which we’ll delve into in a moment. But first, back to the encounter.

Aguilar explained his story to in Seattle.

“He was walking toward me, I was walking toward him,” he said. “I was going to go like this (showing an embracing arm) to take a picture with him when he pushed me out of the way, and hit my arm and neck, and hit my stomach.”

The Moose then walked off.

Attacked by the Mariner Moose. Everyone’s worst nightmare.

“I was like, what was going on,” Aguilar said. “There were more people there, and they were like, ‘What’s his deal? Why did he do that to you?'”

Apparently, as if the story wasn’t bad enough already, Aguilar had recently had disc replacement surgery and the discomfort he felt from the Moose’s attack caused him to seek medical assistance at Safeco Field.

Aguilar, as I mentioned, has had fond feelings toward the Moose for some time. In fact, on his refrigerator is a photo of his son and the Moose posing for a picture at a game earlier this season.

He said the Moose has helped him and his family make fond memories in the past.

The Mariners claim the Moose has no recollection of bumping into anyone at that game.

Rebecca Hale. spokesperson for the Mariners, told KOMO that because of the Moose’s large antlers he often bumps into things because his vision is limited.

Hale said the Mariners investigation is ongoing.

Aguilar says he is not looking for any money from the Mariners. He just wants his medical bill payed and the Mariners to discipline the Moose.

“Maybe he was drunk,” Aguilar said. “Or on drugs. Who knows the way he was acting.”

Just goes to show you, never trust a moose.

And I always thought that the Philly Phanatic was the mascot to be wary of…

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Seattle Mariners Entering Dangerous Waters by Not Talking to Newspaper

The Seattle Mariners have entered a world they may eventually wish they hadn’t. In the wake of the Ken Griffey Jr. “sleeping in the clubhouse during a game article,” the Mariner players have decided to boycott the newspaper in which the article appeared.

The Mariners are now refusing to talk to or grant any interviews to the Tacoma News Tribune.

Why, exactly? Because apparently, they feel the reporter who wrote the piece, veteran Mariners beat writer Larry LaRue, was irresponsible for publishing it.

Some have even gone as far as to call him a liar. LaRue went with “anonymous sources” for the piece, indicating they were two younger Mariner players who did not want to be identified.

According to LaRue, several players have approached him and tried to get him to tell them who the players were. He has refused. This refusal to give up his sources is what some Mariner players view as proof that he is lying.

Why would a veteran beat writer of 22 years would make this piece up? They don’t seem to have an answer.

After Tuesday’s game in Baltimore, Mariner pitcher Cliff Lee was in the process of addressing the media, but he abruptly stopped and said he could not continue until the reporter from the News Tribune left. 

ESPN has reported that other players have done the same thing while conducting interviews in front of their lockers.

This is a dangerous road to go down for the Mariners and their players. LaRue had every right to print the article, and he has every right to not give up his sources.

Was it the best idea to publish it? Perhaps not. What was there ultimately to gain?

However, that was LaRue’s decision. It seems unprofessional and even a little childish of the Mariners to react this way. And where do they draw the line? What if the Seattle Times comes out in support of LaRue? Do they then boycott the Times?

Can a team floundering like the Mariners have been this year afford to not be talking to the local media?

And speaking of childish, there is also the behavior of Seattle Mariners DH Mike Sweeney to consider.

Apparently the Mariners held a players only meeting Monday night in Baltimore, and, according to Fox Sports, Sweeney demanded that the players who made the Griffey sleeping comments to the reporter stand up so he could beat the crap out of them.

No one stood up.

This has led Sweeney to the logical conclusion that since no one stood up to get beat up, then there were no players who talked to LaRue and he made the whole story up.

Sweeney told Fox Sports, “Nothing is going to divide this clubhouse, especially a makeshift article made up of lies.”

The chance of it being a lie (the fact that two players told LaRue the story) is unlikely. But even if it were, even if for no reason LaRue decided to concoct the whole article and publish it, it doesn’t matter.

The Mariners are in no position to isolate certain aspects of the media. They need the media, and the media needs them. This is not a reason to stop the relationship, even if it is just one newspaper.

The Mariners are trying to sell a product to the people of Seattle that, let’s be honest, isn’t really all that good. This is no time to climb up on your high horse and start picking and choosing who can cover your clubhouse. You better be damn grateful anyone is covering you at all at this point.

Although Mike Sweeney is apparently ready to go to battle, maybe he isn’t the general you want to follow into the front lines. Might want to think about that first.

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