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When I checked in with blogger/writer, Twins fanatic and occasional Box contributor Aaron Gleeman during the sixth inning of the Jays' 10-3 win over the Minnesota Twins, the first words out of his mouth were "by the way, I hate you and your whole damn country," a statement he refused to back down from even when British Columbian Justin Morneau buried a long solo homer into the right field bleachers.

I'm used to slights on this great land of ours from my friends south of the border, but I felt the need to press him a little bit for a reason.

"You keep hitting home runs off Santana, you bastard! His ERA is shot now, it's near 4... 3.96! Yeah, it's early, but how is he supposed to beat Bob Gibson's 1.12 giving up seven runs to Toronto?"

Aaron always makes it easy to remember that his partisanship for Twins lefty Johan Santana exceeds his passion for anything else in the world of baseball. (I specify "baseball" so as not to enter into an impossible conundrum matching Santana against Hollywood's latest starlet.) Even my promise that I, personally, couldn't hit Santana with a tennis racket (and therefore calling me a bastard may have been an overreach) isn't enough to mollify him.

Aaron has already turned the game off - though he consents to turning it back on so we can talk about all matters Twins. He's excited about them this year (as am I, although the game isn't showing it as a Shea Hillenbrand single drives in the eighth Toronto run).

"They're the best Twins team since 1991, at least. It seems to me potentially a lot stronger offensively than past teams. Mauer and Morneau are better than any hitter they've had during this little run of above-.500 records." I agree with him on that score; but he goes on to point out the dark cloud around the silver lining. "I didn't think that third, short and second would be this bad," and he adds the DH spot to that concern, "and now Bartlett has lost his [shortstop] job to Castro, which won't help."

Indeed, Juan Castro is starting tonight and hitting in the #2 spot in the order, which I thought strange and which has already helped to snuff out one rally, as the offensively-challenged shortstop found himself (after a Shannon Stewart single) up with the bases loaded, one out, and Mauer (and Morneau) standing helplessly on deck. Castro hit a little flyball to right, not far enough to plate the run that would have narrowed the 5-2 Jays lead.

"Yeah, Gardenhire has been batting players in the lineup according to defensive position all year. I have been harping on this at my blog all year; whoever subs for someone takes their spot in the lineup. But Castro is one of the worst hitters in baseball, so batting him directly in front of Mauer and Morneau is damn near insane." The forsaken Bartlett, for his part, "wasn't doing anything very well, but I didn't think he was horrible or anything."

"They don't have any middle-of-the-order types," he continues, which goes back to the point that having any middle-of-the-order types at all, like Mauer and Morneau, is new for the Twins. "Having Hunter bat fifth is bad enough."

True to his miserable form, as the Jays further open up their lead in the ninth ("I've turned the game off," he says) the talk turns to Hunter, and his baserunning gaffe in the sixth. "Torii thinks he's Rickey Henderson now... down 7-3, almost get picked off first. Almost get picked off second. Get thrown out going to third on a groundball to short."

Clearly, this isn't going to be a very upbeat discussion, even without broaching the subject of Luis Rivas, who is back in the lineup tonight to Aaron's likely chagrin. When Rivas dropped a bad throw from Castro earlier trying to get a force at second base, I felt the need to defend him (Aaron had started with "oy!") by pointing out that stretching to grab a forceout in the dirt, having run over to the bag, is a tough play for a second baseman. "Still," he replies, "he should make the play." I don't deny it, but try to shift the conversation by asking about Castro's defense, the only obvious reason for starting such an awful hitter over the promising Bartlett.

Aaron disabuses me of the notion. "He has real good hands, but a s*** arm. And he makes weird plays - takes weird routes."

Of the Jays, who he has watched on a number of occasions so far this year, he's more complimentary. Rios "looks good" and he agrees with my assessment of Shea Hillenbrand as a line-drive machine this season. Our conversation drifts, we talk about magazine writing gigs, Hardball Times gossip, and the Twins' TV commentators ("Blyleven calls him Hucklebee. He's got 1-2 names on every team that he can't say.") Aaron also fills me in on the Twins' bizarre flycatching antics. When I mention that Castro looked like he was going to drop a foul fly when he flailed his arm out at the last second, he points out that "Jacque Jones looks like he has lost the ball in the roof 99% of the time. I think the Twins must teach that as a way to call the ball, the 'move your arms like you're telling everyone you have no clue where the ball is' part. You know how guys put their hands down at their sides, palms up when they cant see the ball? Jones does that on routine plays."

Eventually, though, as the game peters out, we return to his beloved Johan Santana, who ended up with the loss.

"Santana got knocked around against the Orioles in his previous start too, so I'm a bit worried. He seemed to have some trouble with his changeup, which gets him into trouble pretty easily."

I asked Aaron if perhaps Santana was pitching to a pattern that had been picked up.

"The danger with him is always that, when he's off, hitters can sit on a pitch and hit it very far. When he's on, throwing everything well, they can't sit on anything. Also, I have no actual evidence of this, but batters seem to be swinging earlier in the count against him of late, which he'll have to adjust to eventually."

When I pointed out that since Santana is always in and around the zone, so you may as well swing, Aaron agreed but pointed out that "they could very well have been hacking plenty before, but just not getting all these hits. He induces a lot of bloops and squibs, so there's a fine line between no-hit stuff and scattering 9 hits or whatever." Of course, Aaron did agree that many of the Jays' hits were pretty well-struck.

It's always a pleasure catching a game with Aaron. A better game by Minnesota would have put him in a more expansive mood - he really does think a lot of this year's team, as do I. They're going to be a handful to beat this season, at least when the Jays don't have Cy Towers on the mound.
Blue Jays 10, Twins 3 | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Craig B - Thursday, May 19 2005 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#117068) #
Okay, this one was *really* late. And no, I have no excuse. Sigh.
Magpie - Thursday, May 19 2005 @ 11:42 AM EDT (#117071) #
Still undefeated... we all think you were wandering around bellowing "I'm the King of the World."

Very tactful of you not to bring up the White Sox while talking to Gleeman. If he hates us...

Mike Green - Thursday, May 19 2005 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#117073) #
Hucklebee? Nice. Ken's fan-club, if such a thing existed, would have to be called the "I 'heart symbol' Huckabys".
King Ryan - Friday, May 20 2005 @ 04:01 AM EDT (#117172) #
"by the way, I hate you and your whole damn country," a statement he refused to back down from even when British Columbian Justin Morneau buried a long solo homer into the right field bleachers.

I'm hoping you brought up Elisha Cuthbert to him. :-)

Blue Jays 10, Twins 3 | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.