Ask the Sportswriters

Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times  editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.

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•Question:  The Minnesota Twins traded pitcher Francisco Liriano to Central Division rival Chicago Saturday. Liriano, 28,  had a 50-52  record and 4.33 earned-run-average over seven seasons with the Twins. He was sometimes brilliant and often erratic. The White Sox sent a pair of prospects with limited major league experience to Minnesota, infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitcher Pedro Hernandez. Both are 23 and it was reported that neither is ready to be a full-time major leaguer. What are your thoughts on the trade?

-Dorr: More than anything, it might be an indication of the worth of Liriano. All the media types in the Twin Cities who have repeatedly called for Liriano to be traded apparently didn’t take that into consideration. Who knows what the two players the team got from the White Sox can do? But it doesn’t look like much at this time. Trading within the division is no big deal because the Twins are out of the race. Maybe the Twins should throw Escobar in at shortstop the next two months and let Brian Dozier play at Rochester. I am sure manager Gardenhire is tired of Dozier bungling quite a number of routine plays, such as he did Monday night that cost Cole De Vries a win against the White Sox. The Twins could find out if Escobar can play, as well as perhaps getting Dozier to concentrate on making those routine plays. If Liriano does do well, it will be another case of a pitcher performing much better with another team than he did with the Twins. Is there a pattern there? Jason Marquis was 2-4 with the Twins this year and had an ERA of 8.47 in 34 innings. With a horrible San Diego team, since then, he is 4-5, with an ERA of 3.48 in 62 innings, and has won his last three starts. I’ll be there Tuesday night for Liriano’s start against the Twins and it should be an interesting night. One more thing: Star Tribune columnist Pat Reusse said on the radio Saturday that Alexi Casilla doesn’t belong in the Major Leagues. I disagree. He had a great series against Cleveland and should be in the lineup the rest of the season. If he fails, then let him go.

-Marxhausen: Liriano had something special about him that the Twins saw. He had potential to be one of the most dominating pitchers when he was on the top of his game. Before his Tommy John surgery in 2006, Liriano was considered one of the league’s top up and comers. Since 2006 he has only posted a sub-.500 record and yet he is able to throw a no-hitter like he did against the White Sox last season. The prospects the Twins received in return are not major-league ready. Hernandez looks promising, putting up an 8-2 record with a 2.94 ERA in AA and AAA ball, but gave up eight runs in four innings in his major league debut. Escobar has been just above the Mendoza-line, batting .207 in 36 games for the White Sox. The Twins were looking to trade Liriano for prospects and they received two young players who will have the rest of this year and the off-season to prove that they can help the Twins win.

-Larson:  The White Sox win this one. If Liriano fails, all it cost Chicago is two players whose names we likely won’t remember a year from now – like many other players the Twins have received in trades.  If Chicago is able to get Liriano on track and keep him there, at 28, he could be haunting the Twins for several years. It doesn’t look like the Twins were interested in re-signing Liriano, so he likely would’ve been gone at the end of the season. But, couldn’t the team get just a bit more for a capable starting pitcher? Liriano was making $5.5 million a year, the new boys are making a whole lot less, which should improve the team’s bottom line, always a priority.

Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, when asked about Liriano’s up-and-down career following Saturday’s trade, indicated that Liriano was the cause of some of Anderson’s gray hair. Well Rick, the pitching staff you’ve been in charge of has given Twins fans lots of gray hair over the past several seasons.

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•Question:  The London Summer Olympics are underway. Did anything grab your attention over the weekend?

-Dorr: Nothing special. I got to watch a few minutes on Saturday and a few minutes on Sunday. There has been a lot of coverage locally because of three Lynx players, including Lindsay Whalen, being on the women’s basketball team and Kevin Love being on the men’s basketball team. Both performed well in their first game, although I didn’t see either game. I’ll try to watch some basketball this week if it’s live and I’m at home. I’m still looking forward to the  track and field part of the Olympics. That’s about the only part of the Games that I will go out of my way to watch, along with some basketball and maybe volleyball as I did Monday when the U.S. women knocked off a very good Brazil team.

-Marxhausen: There seems to be a lot of references to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and how swimmers for the American side are coming up short. The men’s 400-freestyle was one of those references where in 2008 the heavily-favored French team was overcome by the American team. The French got their revenge when the Americans commanded a big lead only to lose it in the last 50 meters when American anchor Ryan Lochte was overcome. This race was Michael Phelps’ first medal of this Olympics. Phelps does not look to be in the same form as he did four years ago and won’t be as dominating as was predicted. On the brighter side, the four volleyball teams led by the unbelievable Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings made it into the next round. They are looking on form and Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser made up for the embarrassing exit in the 2008 Olympics against No. 23-seeded Latvia (out of 24). There are 302 Olympic events, with last weekend just the start. A lot of retribution for any past losses can be made up in other events.

-Larson:  I missed much of the opening ceremonies Friday night. I joined the British kids who were reading bedtime stories by the light of flashlights under their bed sheets. I crawled under my sheet with a lantern and tackled Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Not a good choice to drift off to slumber land. Not to worry – the never-ending parade of Olympic athletes zonked me out and I missed the finale, which I heard was quite spectacular.

The U.S gymnasts are off to a slow start, both genders. If that continues we might consider starting their training at 18-months of age instead of age three or four. Where the heck is Russia in the team standings? Remember when the Russian Commies were always at the top and the ones who didn’t do well defected? It looks like the Chinese Commies have taken their place. And, while on the subject of the Russians, it looks like our Timberwolves may have signed a pair of solid players in Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved. We can hope.

It looks like another busy week in London. I’m looking forward to horse riding, sword fighting and gun shooting.

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Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor.millelacscotimes@ecm-inc.com or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.

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