Column: It’s a beautiful summer to play a little baseball

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

It’s a beautiful day in Southeastern Minnesota. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and there is a slight breeze out of the North. What a nice day! The Minnesota Twins have won 14 of the last 16. I completed a big assignment at work, have the next five days off and am going up to the Cities with an old Dodger fan to see the Twins take on his ex-team. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I went surfing the Internet this morning and there was not the optimism about the Twins I expected. Mostly there were worries that the Twins were not gaining much ground in their division. That is, all the writers except columnist Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He was worried about Torii Hunter, The face of the Twins. Souhan was acting as Torii’s press agent voicing concerns over his next contract. Torii was worried that he wouldn’t get a multi-year deal and thus wouldn’t be able to play in the new stadium. Souhan put Hunter’s case in writing, by broadcasting his complaints about the Metrodome: That the turf was terribly hard on the body and the Dome was a very depressing place to play. Hunter is concerned that the Twins would toss him to the wolves and he wouldn’t get to play on grass.

I couldn’t come up with much sympathy for Torii. To me, it seems the Dome has been beneficial for Hunter. First, he became a regular, certainly not for hitting, but because he could go get the ball at the Dome. He became an All-Star, a multiple gold glove winner and is now making 10 million a year. Not too shabby, Torii. Also, did he hurt his ankle playing at the Dome? No, it was at Fenway Park. Did Hunter give Souhan some free autographed baseballs or what for his contract plea? If he is going to take up a cause, do it for Joe Mauer, one of the best in the majors, whose still making peanuts, at least compared to Hunter.

Souhan seemed to be the only writer worried about something other than the Twins still being as many games out as they were when they started this hot streak. Statistics were pro-rated and projected as to what the Twins needed to do if the Tiger and Sox continued at their present pace or even if they slowed down and played .500 baseball. I agree with their assessment that the team may have waited too long and have a daunting task ahead of them. It won’t get easier as we get closer and closer to the end of the season.

Our Twins are beating up National League teams. However, so are their rivals. The American League is dominating the National League. Not only currently, but also in recent World Series games. I’ve got a suggestion for George Steinbrenner of the Yankees. Move the Yankees with their 200 million payroll to the National League. They could be champs once again.

Now, it is true that the Twins have a long way to go, but here are some encouraging thoughts:

The Twins have 10 more games against the Sox and 12 more against the Tigers. The Tigers and the White Sox play each other 13 more times. It would help if either the Sox or Tigers dominated the other. That might give the Twins a chance to sneak into the wild card slot.

Also it was noted that if Santana and Liriano win 75 percent of their starts and the rest of the staff break even, they will have a 600 winning percentage. If the rest of staff with a renewed Radke and Silva and Boof Bonsor do better, who knows?

Enough analyses, I’m getting back to our beautiful day, thinking let’s watch the young kids try to catch the leaders during July and August. They probably won’t do it, but it will be fun watching.

(Jon Laging writes a regional sports column from his home in Preston.)