Are The Twins A Better Club Without Frankie Liriano? Will The Nhl Season Start On Time? What Color Was That Porsche 911, Johnny Gilbert?

Marc Elliott

WEST MEMPHIS…. In a move that’s been rumored and talked about for months now, the Minnesota Twins have traded Francisco Liriano to the Chicago White Sox for some prospects. Frankie goes to the pale hose for pitching prospect left-hander Pedro Hernandez and shortstop Eduardo Escobar. Both have been assigned to the club’s Rochester affiliate. This is the second trade of any magnitude in the past 12 months where a former Twins player has been traded to a division rival. Late in the trade season last year, the team dealt Delmon Young to the Detroit Tigers.

After some early success for the Kitties, Young has slowed down. If Liriano gets hot and finds his game, this is a deal that could come back and hurt the Twins. Liriano had a 2006 rookie season that struck fear into American League hitters. He was 12-3 before hitting the disabled list after he came up with a lame arm, ended up having Tommy John surgery. It has basically been a long road back. While he has slowly regained his “stuff,” he is definitely having problems finding some consistency and winning games by “pitching” as opposed to “throwing.”  In a recent start against the Oakland A’s, Frankie struck out 15 of 30 hitters, but with the boys up 1-0 he gave up a Grand Salami ball and suddenly it was 4-1 and the beginning of the end. In his next start after that, versus Baltimore, he fanned 10 of 25 hitters but gave up a two-run homer in the first that the Birds made stand up for a 2-1 victory.

Part of me thinks that it is time for new scenery for Frankie, that he will get some fresh air and thrive once again. He is only 29, but then part of me thinks that he won’t get the “pitching” part of the game down in time to do anything before his career is over. At the end of the day, I wish him well. He is a first-class young man who worked hard for the Twins. I wonder what he might have done if he hadn’t thrown his arm out. I also wonder how Frankie would do if Ozzie Guillen was still the skipper of the Sox. Just might have been interesting….

THE NHL LABOR NEGOTIATIONS are loping along, and I guess I can report that thus far it has all been very business-like and mannerly. I believe it is going to stay that way, too, until a new agreement is forged. I have to give some credit to commissioner Gary Bettman for that. When new NHLPA head Donald Fehr came into play, Bettman was cordial and welcoming to him. Bettman went out of his way to let Fehr know they would be ready to commence with bargaining for the new CBA when Fehr was settled into his new position and familiarized with the issues facing both sides.

When the PA and Fehr announced that they would not be willing to go along with the league’s newly proposed realignment format, Bettman said no big deal, we can take another look at it down the road, refusing to let the PA turn that matter into a bargaining chip this summer. No matter that team and divisional alignment has never been an article  that was part of the collective bargaining process. But here we are, and the process is slowly working itself toward the nitty gritty. Still, there is a distinct absence of contentious behavior. I know that could fold up like a cheap tent at any moment, but I don’t think Bettman would bite even if it did.

The thing with Fehr and MLB was that every time he bit, they bit back, and then it was on. You can’t deny, though, how much Fehr achieved for the MLBPA. Out of the four major sports players groups, they have probably done the best overall. And I can’t say that Bettman had a purposeful strategy to disarm Fehr with civility and kindness, but it is nice to see two groups of adults trying to intelligently work some things out… together. Here’s hoping that they will have success and that we will bear witness to another great season of the greatest sports league on the planet….

YOU KNOW I READ EVERY COLUMN in the Reader every week. So I haven’t seen John Gilbert or spoke to him for a few years now, but I have always enjoyed “Gilby’s” work. I read his NorthStars columns for years as a Twin Cities resident. He then phased into the U of M, and of course on to some automotive writing. I didn’t get to know him until we were both full time residents of the “Shore.” We do share some common loves, though. What’s better than Hockey, Baseball and Cars? (Well, that we can write about here?)

So, I’m having some coffee the other day and reading away, and lo and behold, Johnny writes that he is going to coach a youth league baseball game! Fantastic! He then writes that the game is down in the Metroplex, and he is test-cruising there in the new “over-engineered” (his opine, not mine) Porsche 911, which just happens to be my favorite sports car of all time. Now I’m drooling like a 95-year-old at the nursing home waiting for his oatmeal and some promised brown sugar to go with it. Yumpin’ Yiminee’ Yohnny!

That’s not to say that there aren’t some American sports cars that I truly like, but the 911 has always had a hold of me. Any car that you can take from the dealer to the racetrack is an amazing ride to me! Johnny, I’m jealous! Hope all is well with you and yours… PEACE

Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.