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You can call me a baseball traditionalist, I suppose. Most of the time, that particular broad-sweeping label is accurate.

I’m just not a big fan of interleague play. So I’m glad the Twins can return to facing American League opponents this week.

Fans across the country in many markets got excited about interleague play this past weekend. Many Twins fans were excited for the "Border Battle," as the Milwaukee Brewers visited Target Field.

But as exciting as it is to see players like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in person, I just don’t like interleague play.

And it seems peculiar to me that fans get so excited when the Twins play teams that they are not in direct competition with for anything. In reality, these are the most meaningless games of a 162-game schedule. The Brewers can’t beat out the Twins for a playoff spot. Neither can the Phillies or Rockies.

And for every Twins-Brewers and Yankees-Mets matchup that gets regional bases excited, there were couldn’t-be-less-interesting matchups like Blue Jays-Diamondbacks, Rockies-Royals and Marlins-White Sox. And this was on a weekend when many teams were playing their "interleague rival."

I was watching an MLB game last week of a team in the Midwest – I believe it was the St. Louis Cardinals – and one of the announcers said that in the history of interleague play, the New York Yankees had been to their ballpark just one time. The Boston Red Sox had been to their park just one time. So even though interleague play allows fans to see players they wouldn’t normally see, those fans still aren’t seeing them very often.

I also feel like interleague just helps the rich get richer. It provides intriguing cross-town matchups like Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs and Angels-Dodgers. But for a lot of the mid- or small-market teams, matchups like that don’t exist. Sure, the Royals have the Cards, the Twins have the Brewers, and the A’s have the Giants. But what about the Diamondbacks or Mariners or Padres or Blue Jays or Rockies or Tigers or Pirates.

I thought the fact that the AL and NL only played each other in the All-Star Game and the World Series added something to both events. Obviously, the World Series will always have meaning. But there was a uniqueness to it that has been lost. I’m sure interleague is here to stay, but I wish it weren’t.

JOSE LIMA LINK

I was hoping Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski would supply fans with a good blog post on the death of Jose Lima,and he came through.

Baseball loses a character in Lima

Jose Lima is remembered for winning 21 games for the Houston Astros in 1999, earning him All-Star honors while finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young voting.

Just as famously, he’s remembered for the following season, when he posted a 7-16 record with a 6.65 ERA.

But he’s probably best remembered for the phrase, "It’s Lima Time."

Lima passed away Sunday morning at the age of 37. His wife said the cause of death was a heart attack.

I always thought Lima seemed like one of the more entertaining characters in the game, someone who seemed a little out of place during the present era, when professional athletes utter cliches and anything else agents tell them.

And I think he really loved the game. Of course, the money was great. But here was a guy that just last season was pitching for Long Beach and Edmonton in the Golden Baseball League. You won’t find too many former 20-game winners willing to do that.

The funniest Lima story I came across was in a blog post from Sports Illustrated columnist and former Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski.

Posnanski covered Lima when he was with the Kansas City Royals in 2003. The Royals, if you remember, were leading the AL Central through the first half of the season. Lima posted an 8-3 record for the upstart Royals that year.

Here’s the excerpt:

And of course, being Jose Lima, he was awesome, he’s still one of my three favorite kooks in sports. The next year, one Royals employee went to the Dominican to scout some games or whatever. And in the middle of the day, he hears someone call his name. He turns around and it’s Jose Lima … WEARING A FULL ROYALS UNIFORM. Everything. Pants. Socks. The whole bit. During the offseason. In the middle of the day. In the Dominican Republic.

Hilarious stuff. Rest in peace, Jose Lima.

Plouffe’s debut coming tonight

For a good portion of his minor league career, it didn’t look like shortstop Trevor Plouffe would ever make the big leagues.

But the Minnesota Twins’ first-round pick in 2004 got called up to the big leagues after Thursday’s game and will start at shortstop tonight (Friday) against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Plouffe was hitting .303 with four homers and 38 RBIs at Triple-A Rochester prior to the call-up. And with J.J. Hardy still on the disabled list, Plouffe could see some regular action for the immediate future.

As recently as last season, Plouffe hit just .260 with a .313 on-base percentage. But at least for the start of this season, he appears to have turned a corner.

Relief pitcher Jeff Manship was sent down to make room for Plouffe.

Twins need an interleague bounce-back

Interleague play couldn’t come any sooner for the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins lost their third straight game on Thursday, falling 6-2 to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The Twins have been pretty much contained the last three days by Shawn Marcum, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. These guys are no slouches, but with the Milwaukee Brewers coming to town Friday, the Twins offense should be looking to turn things around.

And the Twins have had a lot of success in interleague play, posting the best interleague record since play between the leagues started nearly two decades ago.

The Brewers counter Minnesota’s 1-2 punch of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Braun, in particular, has been scorching the baseball this season, with a .333 average, seven homers and 30 RBIs.

The Twins will have to face Yovani Gallardo in the three-game series, but the rest of the Brewers rotation is nothing to write home about.

One other story line that will be interesting to watch is what role will Trevor Hoffman have. Baseball’s all-time saves leader was kept out of a two-game series against Pittsburgh that ended Thursday to allow him to work on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Peterson.

Hoffman blew another save in his last appearance Tuesday. It’s hard to imagine one of the best closers in baseball doing something other than closing, but speculation is that he won’t immediately be saving games for this team until he gets his feet under him. His ERA in 14 apperances is 13.15.

Carlos Villanueva pitched the ninth inning of Thursday’s win over the Pirates to collect his first save of the season. The right-hander has a 2.91 ERA in 20 appearances, holding opposing hitters to a .180 batting average.

And if you’re looking for a reunion of the Loose Cannons, you’re in luck. The Brewers are expected to activate Carlos Gomez – acquired from the Twins in an offseason trade – in time for Friday’s game. He was on the disabled list. Gomez and Alexi Casilla were once dubbed Loose Cannon 1 and Loose Cannon 2 by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

Decade passes since Sealy’s death

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since former Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Malik Sealy died.

Sealy passed away from injuries suffered in a late-night auto accident on his way home from teammate and friend Kevin Garnett’s birthday party.

Here’s a recent story on Sealy from ESPN:

 

And here’s highlights from Sealy’s most memorable game with the Wolves:

On the radio show today

Kerry Collins and I are back on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. on 970-AM WDAY radio today.

We’ll be discussing the Minnesota Timberwolves, which once again fell victim to luck at the NBA’s draft lottery. We’ll also talk some Minnesota Twins baseball and discuss the Hanley Ramirez saga in Miami with the Florida Marlins.

If you want to take part in the show, give us a call at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com

UPDATE 12:27 p.m.: The Wolves might be snakebit, but I lucked out when MinnPost’s Jay Weiner wrote this excellent analysis piece on the Vikings stadium issue.

I’ve been working for a couple weeks to get a guest on "Sports Talk" to discuss the issue, and he has agreed to provide a segment for the show. So tune in.

Ghost of Lottery Past visits Wolves again

The face of the Minnesota Timberwolves at the NBA draft lottery has changed at various times during franchise history. But the results remain the same.

This time, team president David Kahn had to watch as the Wolves – slotted 2nd entering Tuesday’s lottery – fell to fourth. It marks the seventh time in 13 tries that the Wolves have fallen below their slot. They have never improved their position.

I kept saying prior to the lottery that if the Wolves could simply hold their position, they would be OK. I mean, how could you go wrong with John Wall or Evan Turner? But the ping-pong balls didn’t bounce their way once again.

So now what? The Wolves still have three first-round picks, so they are in good shape to move up if they wanted. Or they can remain at fourth and draft DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky or Wesley Johnson from Syracuse.

Either way, a franchise that hasn’t done much to help themselves over the last decade didn’t get much help thrown their way again.

Twins needed a win, and needed Kubel to provide it

Considering the Minnesota Twins had lost 12 straight games to the New York Yankees, they would have taken a victory Sunday any way they could muster one.

But the fact that Jason Kubel was the one to provide the big hit, and it was off of Mariano Rivera? I don’t think manager Ron Gardenhire could have drawn it up any better.

The Twins snapped their lengthy – and reaching laughable – losing streak to the Bronx Bombers on Sunday afternoon, with Kubel hitting a go-ahead grand slam with two outs against the Yankees Hall of Fame-bound closer.

Kubel has struggled mightily this season (I ought to know. He’s the only Twins player on my fantasy team, firmly on my team’s bench for Sunday’s dramatics.) The grand slam was his first homer since April 12, which if you remember was the Target Field opener.

He’s now hitting just .225 with three homers and 15 RBIs entering Monday’s game against Toronto.

That’s quite a drop in production from last season, when Kubel hit .300 with 28 homers and a team-leading 103 RBIs.

And it’s worth repeating, Kubel was a top-five slugger in the big leagues last season against right-handed pitching.

The Twins need Kubel to start hitting. Maybe the impact of Sunday’s homer will stretch beyond a win against the Yankees.

Evil Empire strikes again

Move over, Bambino. Get lost, Billy Goat. Let’s call this one, "the Curse of L-Rod."

Former Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Rodriguez hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning of a game July 4, 2007, as the Twins won that day 6-2. That game was at Yankee Stadium.

It was a meaningless moon shot. Without it, the Twins still win by 2. But that homer stands out in two different ways: That was the last time the Twins won at Yankee Stadium, and that was the last time the Twins homered at Yankee Stadium – old or new – with men on base, including postseason games.

Forget about doing the little things. The Twins aren’t doing the big things in the Bronx, either.

Granted, the Twins don’t play at Yankee Stadium a whole lot. It’s just one or two series per season.

But there’s no doubt Minnesota isn’t getting the job done with runners on base, either this season or in recent history in the Bronx.

We saw it as early as the top of the second inning on Friday. Nick Punto broke the Twins’ hex with the bases loaded and nobody out, driving a run in with a walk. Minnesota, given an easy run by starter A.J. Burnett, then hit into a double play (home to first base, preventing a run from scoring) and struck out to end the threat.

On Saturday, the Twins just didn’t have many chances. Only three times did the leadoff hitter reach in an inning, and twice that leadoff hitter was forced out in a double play, as the Twins failed to collect even one extra-base hit in the game.

Days like Sunday are why the Twins need Jim Thome to end this incredible losing streak to the Yankees. They don’t need him to put the team on his back, though I’m sure their "allergic to the Big Apple" offense would appreciate it.

No, they simply need his veteran presence. They need someone who has been on the Big Stage before, having been a key cog in two World Series appearances by the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s. They need someone to remind them this is "just another regular-season game" and that "it’s a marathon, not a sprint."

What’s that? Thome is a career .219 hitter in the Bronx?

Maybe the Twins really are cursed there.

Radio show lineup today

I’m back on "Sports Talk" on 970-AM WDAY radio from 1-2 p.m. today with Forum reporter Kerry Collins.

Today, we’ll be talking about the "big" Twins-Yankees series. Do you think it’s a big series? We’ll try to break it down as best we can.

Also, we plan to discuss the future of LeBron James. Will he stay in Cleveland? 

We’re taking phone calls at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or you can e-mail us at talk@wday.com