Well, that was fun. Nothing like wasting an entire weekend screaming at the television as the champions of the baseball world make your team look like the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Intern Sam caught a bit of flak last weekend for sounding all negative (to which he can only respond that, having been raised a Phillies fan, he really doesn’t know how to sound any other way,) so rather than dwell on what’s past, let’s talk about other things for tonight, shall we? Very good, then.
- The PiPress’s Aron Kahn, who has consistently turned in top-quality stories on the business of sports in general and the Twins’ stadium battles in particular, has a good wrap-up of the very big week that was. House Speaker Steve Sviggum now says that he expects the ballpark measure to pass the full House by the middle of this week. The next big hurdle will be Sen. Larry Pogemiller’s Senate Tax Committee. (Pogemiller happens to be Intern Sam’s very own state senator, and having met the man in person several times, he can attest to the fact that Larry is a good and decent guy who is just never going to support any subsidy for pro sports. However, at this point, it doesn’t appear that Pogemiller will have the votes to derail the ballpark.)
- The cover of the Star Tribune sports section this Sunday was largely given over to a collection of articles asking whether Minnesota has become a bad sports town because all four of our major teams failed to make the playoffs in their most recent season. It was a bizarre question to ask for a number of reasons, but the award for most convoluted reasoning goes to Jim Souhan, who used his column to castigate Twin Cities fans for continuing to buy tickets to underachieving teams. Jim, where we grew up, supporting one’s teams only when they win was called bandwagon-jumping. But of course, you wouldn’t know anything about that particular phenomenon, wouldja? Besides, we seem to recall you saying not too terribly long ago that all this losing was your fault…
- One of the more underplayed baseball stories of the last ten years has been the steady decline in the number of African-Americans playing the game at all levels. This year, African-Americans make up only 8.5% of major league players, which is the lowest figure since MLB began keeping track in the 1980s. (If that number seems low, keep in mind that black players born in countries like Cuba and the Dominican are listed as Latin American.) One theory (espoused here by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen) says that young black athletes are going where the money is, and for a quick payday (read: no time spent languishing in the minor leagues) you can’t beat the NBA and the NFL. Sox GM Ken Williams (one of a tiny number of African-American executives in the majors) believes that college programs discriminate against black baseball players. And some inner-city coaches believe that MLB has abandoned homegrown black players in favor of seeking out Latin American talent, while others blame the hip-hop thug culture that permeates the NBA for making black athletes unattractive to the conservative executives of MLB. Whatever the reason for the decline, it seems very clear that it’s getting worse, not better.
- This has absolutely nothing to do with the Twins, or with baseball for that matter, but did anyone else see R.J. Umberger get absolutely destroyed during last night’s Flyers-Sabres playoff game? We haven’t seen a takeout shot like that since the Scott Stevens hit that more or less derailed Eric Lindros’s career. Or maybe since the Scott Stevens hit that more or less derailed Eric Lindros’s career that other time.
- Jacque Jones was a lot of things for the Minnesota Twins over the years, but reliable and consistent were not among them. After reading how personally Jones takes all the criticism sent his way in Sam Walker’s excellent Fantasyland, it’s a bit awkward to have to point out that the offseason change of scenery doesn’t appear to have altered Jacque’s approach at the plate, or the results.
- One of the strangest stories of the spring was Royals’ pitcher Zack Greinke’s vanishing act, and in a season which looks to be nothing but painful for Kansas City, the team’s kind treatment of its young star as he works to conquer his yet-unnamed demons has caught the attention of the baseball media. (Of course, that kind of loyalty is nothing new for Royals owner David Glass, who has allowed General Manager Allard Baird to remain on the job for nearly six full seasons as he works through his tragic inability to recognize good baseball players when he sees them.)