Monday, March 20, 2006

You're Gonna Like This

Got an invitation the other day that I thought I want to pass along. I think it's safe to say that you want to mark 7:00 on April 6th on your calendar.

Prepare for the opening of the baseball season with a look back at classic moments in Minnesota baseball history. Mill City Museum's monthly program series, "First Thursdays," continues with an illustrated presentation and book signing by Stew Thornley, author of the brand new book, Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History, from the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Visitors can also meet members of the St. Croix vintage baseball team in period clothing who will show off their equipment, explain how the vintage game differs from modern baseball, and highlight their upcoming season. Copies of the book Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History will be available for sale in the museum store.

Dates: April 6, 2006
Time: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Fee: $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and college students, $4 for children ages 6-17, free for children age 5 and under and MHS members.

This qualifies under the heading of "Books you're REALLY glad have been written", especially when it's written buy a guy who is as knowledgable as Thornley. This book doesn't just talk about the Twins, or the Minneapolis Millers. It covers the Virginia Orediggers from 1913, and that's 56 years after the first team it mentions. Am I mutant for liking to learn a little about the town teams that played as far back in 1857? Maybe, but Thornley makes it awfully easy to be a mutant. This isn't a text book.

Anyway, I'll likely be at the event, and I'll definitely be getting this book. You can find out more about the book
here, and more about the Mill City Museum (in downtown Minneapolis) here. See ya there.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


That second base hit [Jason Kubel] got with a man on third, I said right away, ‘This young man is going to really, really make it interesting as we go along in spring.’ He's swinging pretty good, and he's moving good in the outfield. And let me tell you, if he's the best player out there, that's who will be playing out there."

- Ron Gardenhire

It isn't that the words the come out of a baseball manager's mouth aren’t the truth; they're just a different language. Let's call it manager-speak. That's because it isn’t the job of a manager to tell the truth. His job is to get the most out of his employees, which sometimes means protecting them from the truth, and sometimes that means motivating them with a lie, or at least a liberal interpretation of reality. Thus, manager-speak.

In this case, the reality is that unless someone gets hurt, there just isn’t room for Jason Kubel on the Twins 25 man roster. If Kubel were to win the right field job, Michael Cuddyer would need to occupy one of the five bench spots, so one of these guys is going to have to be cut: Juan Castro, Nick Punto (backup middle infielders), Lew Ford (4th outfielder), Mike Redmond (backup catcher) or Ruben Sierra (left-handed pinch hitter). Neither Gardenhire nor the Twins are going to give up any of them, and they certainly aren’t going to just cut Cuddyer.

The only semi-realistic option is that the Twins somehow sour on Jason Bartlett. That would allow Castro or Punto to start the season at shortstop, and open up a bench spot for Cuddyer. There haven’t been any rumors that this is the case, though in Saturday’s game, the Twins trotted out their expected lineup in the first through eighth spot, and it was Punto who batted ninth. That may provide the real message behind this quote, but that’s little comfort to Twins fans, since playing Punto or Castro regularly would likely negate any offensive gains that Kubel might provide.

Things don’t necessarily get better for Kubel once the season starts, either. There aren’t a lot of injuries that could happen during the season that would provide Kubel with an opportunity. An injury to Torii Hunter or Shannon Stewart just gives more playing time to Lew Ford. Justin Morneau is the only infielder whose injury would provide him playing time. Which means that Kubel’s chances for an impact this year are limited an injury to Morneau, Cuddyer or designated hitter Rondell White.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Twins have gone out of their way to reduce their options by limiting Cuddyer from getting any work in the infield, where he could replace Tony Batista or Luis Castillo. They’ve claimed they’re trying to build up Cuddyer’s confidence at the plate, but all they’ve done is make it more likely that we see Kubel passed over for Luis Rodriguez or Terry Tiffee in a May call-up.

Getting some infield time for Cuddyer might allow a struggling offense to occasionally insert a 24-year-old who has hit .300 so far in his young career. It would also provide them a contingency plan for a second and third baseman who combined to play in 122 MLB games last year. But mostly it would provide some real evidence that Gardenhire is serious about keeping Kubel on the roster. Until that time, Gardy’s plain talk can be regarded as just so much more manager-speak.