- Halfway through the season, and we’re already running out of ways to describe Joe Mauer’s prowess. But even as we become (unfairly?) accustomed to Mauer’s dominance, there’s still little question that we’re seeing a performance that ranks with the all-time great seasons by a catcher. At the halfway mark, Mauer is on pace for the best batting average by a catcher in major league history; is threatening the all-time on-base mark set by Mickey Cochrane in 1933; and is even on pace to shatter Mike Piazza’s record of 201 hits in a season. And even with all that, there still seem to be Twins fans who would like to see Mauer moved to another position on the flimsy notion that it would extend his career. What that idea misses, of course, is that Mauer is also one of the outstanding defensive catchers of his generation, and he handles his pitching staff as well as any catcher currently in the majors. Even if he never again approaches the offensive level he has achieved in the first half of 2006, his value behind the plate should continue to thrill Twins fans for years to come.
- Speaking of people named Mauer, those with a sentimental bent will doubtless enjoy this online package put together by the Strib…
- How good has Francisco Liriano been since joining the starting rotation? So good that people in New York have actually heard of him, and are writing articles about him without even once speculating as to whether he will wind up playing for the Yankees or the Red Sox three years down the line. Since there is considerable evidence to suggest that people in New York are actually unaware that the western border of the U.S. is not on the Pennsylvania-Ohio state line, this is a remarkable measure of Liriano’s accomplishments.
- One of the more under-covered aspects of the Twins’ new ballpark story has been the role of the “ballpark authority” which will oversee the planning and development of the park, and which will eventually be in charge of the venue. Late last week, Minnesota State Auditor Pat Awada made a surprising announcement that she would (unilaterally, as far as anyone can tell) assume an oversight role with the authority, acting as a “watchdog” for taxpayers.
Depending on whom you ask, Awada’s insertion of herself into the process was either a stunning overreach by an ambitious politician running for reelection, or a much needed reminder to the Twins that the state intends to insure that its investment is protected. Of course, there’s no state money in the project, so Awada would likely be treading on shaky legal ground if she attempted to intervene in any significant way.
The upshot of those legal questions is hard to assess: if the cynics are right, Awada has no real intention of making herself a part of the ballpark effort and is merely hoping to garner a few votes from the Taxpayers’ League crowd; but if she really does start making noise over specific aspects of the design and construction of the park, more than a few sparks could fly. Stay tuned...
- Over at the PiPress, Gordon Wittenmeyer (who, for Intern Sam’s money, has established himself as the best baseball writer in the Twin Cities,) is writing what looks like an excellent series examining the precipitous decline in the number of African-American baseball players. Among the highlights of Sunday’s opening salvo, which follows Torii Hunter’s efforts to spark an inner-city baseball revival, is the controversial assertion that Americans simply don’t have the interest in racial equality that we once did:
"Through the civil rights movement, I think a lot of critics of American race relations have seen the black experience in that same trajectory,'' [Douglas] Hartmann said. "You have this high point in the '50s and '60s where Americans as a nation realized the faults of slavery and Jim Crow and stood up against that and started creating policies to sort of reverse those trends. The effects are you start to see improvements in employment and income and education status.
"And starting sometime in the '80s, as people are willing to spend less money on those specific programs, you start to see gains African-Americans have made at least stagnate if not decline.''
What did Major League Baseball do at this time? Nothing, really. Which might be part of the issue.
- On a less serious note, LaVelle E. Neal III is getting a wee bit tired of the All-Star Game and all its attendant silliness.
- In minor league news, the whole bobblehead thing is officially out of control. Way, way, way out of control.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
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Posted by John at 9:39 PM