Friday, April 14, 2006

Links of the Day for 4/14/06

by Intern Sharkey

With a couple of suspicious suspects in town for the weekend, I’ve got steroids on my mind. And I’m not the only one.

Baseball’s ambassador, the Honorable Mister Barry Bonds, is in a spot of trouble. The Feds are coming after him for perjury, based on his grand jury testimony that he never “knowingly” used steroids.

So what do we do with his 700 home runs (and his 73, and Sosa’s run of 60s, and Big Mac’s 70)? Blink and Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell has an answer: unleash the forensic economists. The reader comments are worth a read, as is Gladwell’s follow-up.

If that doesn’t suit your tastes, maybe a teaspoon of democracy mixed with a pinch of mob rule will suit your palate. The good people at Juiced? Or Not? are putting it to a vote. Making the not-so-surprising Top Ten (at numbers 3 and 10) are our pinstriped guests of dishonor.

Of course, getting the feds involved doesn’t mean things will automatically clean up; their own track record is far from sparkling. But there are other mixes of baseball and politics as well. This Washington Post column about the fall of Tom DeLay contains another:

“In the meantime, Buckham had become DeLay's chief of staff. He eventually hired me as Tom's communications director and Tony Rudy as press secretary. But he was brutal in firing some of DeLay's previous staffers. His win-at-all-costs attitude played out in strange ways around the office. He ran a fantasy baseball league that he always seemed to win, even if it meant browbeating young staffers into trading their best players to him. He was also forceful in promoting the evangelical beliefs he shared with DeLay. There were times when he would gather the staff for prayer. And I must admit, at times we needed those prayers just to get through the grueling pace of the Contract With America.”

I can see it now: “Sure boss! A Pujols-for-Batista deal sounds great!”

And it wouldn’t be a Yankee-themed Links without an A-Rod contract reference, so here it is. Mr. March is making about $26 million this year, which happens to be nearly double the Marlins’ entire payroll.

But, $200 million is no match for league-minimum Scott Baker. The President is on the hill next; enjoy the game.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On The Hill

The following is an excerpt from this weekend's Dugout Splinters in GameDay.

Friday: Mike Mussina (1-0 2.77 ERA)

  • 2005: 13-8, 180.2 IP, 142 K, 4.41 ERA

  • The 37-year-old battled elbow problems last year.

  • Has a career record against the Twins of 137-1 with a –3.43 ERA. Roughly.

  • His six year, $88.5 million dollar contract expires at the end of this year.

  • In his eight career at-bats against Mussina, Rondell White has a five hits, including a home run.

  • Heckling Tip - “Where’s the ring, Mike?” Came to New York to be the ace on a champion. After winning four in the five years before he arrived, the Yankees have won zero since.



Saturday: Jaret Wright (0-1, 4.50 ERA)

  • Fun with numbers. Check these ERA:
    2001: 6.52 ERA
    2002:15.71 ERA
    2003: 7.35 ERA
    2004: 3.28 ERA

  • Guess which year he worked with former Braves pitching coach/demigod Leo Mazzone?

  • After 2004, convinced that Wright is the ace they need in their rotation, the Yankees sign him for $21 million.

  • 2005: 6.08 ERA (giggle.)

  • This is his first start this year, after battling back spasms during spring training.

  • Heckling Tip - “You’re nothing without Leo!” Or worship him for turning one decent year into $21 million.



Sunday: Chien-Ming Wang (0-0, 5.91 ERA)

  • 2005: 8-5, 116.1 IP, 47 K, 4.02 ERA

  • Rookie who did a nice job stepping in for injuries last year.

  • Heckling Tip – Time to break out those Rodney Dangerfield impressions:
    “Hey, Wang! What's with the pictures? It’s a parking lot! Come on!” or
    “Ask Wang. He’ll tell you. We just bought property behind the Great Wall. On the good side!”

Daily Links for 4/14/06

by Intern PseudoFool

SBG looks at the Twins’ offense after 5% of the season—which is the margin for error on many surveys, but to SBG’s credit he’ll be doing this 20 times, so evidently it makes sense to do so right now.

After 5% of the season, are bloggers ready to eat some crow about Batista? Well for Aaron, not yet, evidently, and for Seth, maybe he didn’t dislike Batista so much after all. Speaking of Batista his, BB to HR ratio is 3 to 2.

When things aren’t going good, any single Twin is due for fury of ad hominem attacks; but for Ron Gardenhire, it becomes a matter of nomenclature: from cmathewson’s Gardenhoser to frightwig’s Gardenhoogle. And as long as we bash Garden(insert-easy-slap-to-end-name-here), let’s do so when his mistakes turn out to be beneficial as AdamOnFirst does over at Twinkie Town.

Non Sequitur Moments: Take a look at the Tagline for this movie, but don’t feel any encouragement. Elsewhere, Kyle Lohse was the first starter to earn a quality start through the first nine games. And Sean McAdam’s thinks the Twins are slowpokes.

Baseless Speculation for the Weekend: Twins take 2 of 3 from the Yankees (Mussina v. Baker, Friday; Wright v. Santana, Saturday; Radke v. Wang on Sunday); Rondell White gets his first multi-hit game; Batista hits one home run, takes one walk, but fails to get another hit; Castro goes 0-for-the series; one Twins’ starting pitcher makes into the 8th inning.

The Yankees are SO yesterday.

The following is an excerpt from this weekend's Dugout Splinters in GameDay.

In the late 1800’s, both Minneapolis and St. Paul had teams in the Western League, whose president was Ban Johnson. Johnson wanted to achieve major league status, so after the 1899 season, he changed his league’s name to the American League to give it a broader appeal. As part of that change, St. Paul moved to Chicago and became the Chicago White Sox.

In 1901, the American League declared itself a major league instead of a minor league, and several franchises in the Midwest moved to larger cities. You might be interested in where the Minneapolis team ended up. The following is from Stew Thornley’s latest book, Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History, published by the Minnnesota Historical Society Press:

“It is clear that the Kansas City team was transferred to Washington, a team that moved 60 years later to Minnesota, meaning that the Minnesota Twins actually have their roots in Kansas City. It is nebulous as to whether the Minneapolis team was moved or if it disbanded and a new team was formed from scratch. However, some sources indicate that the Minneapolis club moved to Baltimore for the 1901 season. Two years later this team move to New York and eventually became known as the Yankees. If the Minneapolis team was transferred rather than disbanded, it means the New York Yankees...had its roots in Minneapolis.”

So to summarize: “Yeah, we used to date. She was OK. Moved out east, I think. But now I’ve hooked up with some Twins.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Daily Links for 4/12/06

by Intern Snarky

It's hard to ignore all off the chatter on the net about the bill for the new Twins' ball park. Below are links to a few columnists' recent thoughts on the bill. To help, I've summarized their opinion in the fewest words possible.

Joe Soucheray in the Pioneer Press (Pro)
Rationale: New ballpark = good. Female impersonators = bad. Hennepin County officials = very bad.

Nick Coleman in the Strib (Ambivalent)
Rationale: New ballpark = good. Stadium = Bad. The Pohlad = very bad.

Senator Belanger on MPR (Anti)
Rationale: Even the stadium that most deserves to be built, doesn't deserve to be built. Also, that stadium is not the Twins' stadium.

Sid Hartman in the Strib (Pro and feisty)
Rationale: The Pohlad (who is good) is the only thing keeping the Twins in Minnesota without a stadium. Unfortunately, The Pohlad is not immortal . . . . .yet.

The Greet Machine (Pro)
Rationale: New ballpark = so good I almost crapped my pants.

Say it ain't so Torii
In an interview with Jason Williams, Hunter says

"I want to win, I'm addicted to it. I'm sure there are people in this organization who want to win, but we're restricted. I would love to stay in Minnesota. I get treated fine here. This is my home. I grew up here. But if they don't want to win — I'm not talking about the front office, I'm not talking about the players, you know who I'm talking about (ownership) — then it's time to move on."

Glad to see we've put all that infighting behind us (sarcasm).

Seriously Torii, we want to win, it's just that losing is so easy. Admit it, you kind of like losing too. Besides, they wouldn't respect you in a big market town like we do. We even let you spell you name wrong. We think the extra "i" is kinda cute.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dugout Splinter - Don't Know Much Philosophy

The following is an excerpt from the Dugout Splinters from GameDay for the Oakland Series.

Don’t Know Much Philosophy
by Twins Geek

Stop me if you’ve heard this someplace before.

A small market team, looking for a new stadium, has a multi-year run where they’re competing with the big guys. They make three straight playoff appearances, but fail to make much noise. More recently they’ve failed to make the playoffs, mostly because their division is so loaded.

The organization is poised to compete again this year, primarily because of a strong (and young) pitching staff with plenty of additional pitching in the minors. However, there are questions about their offense. Sure, they made some moves in the offseason, but they failed to acquire the big bat they really need, so they’re hoping they’ll see improvement across the board in their young hitters.

With similar payroll limitations and similar success stories, the Twins and Athletics have become icons for opposing philosophies about baseball. The Athletics have been hailed as the progressive thinking organization, embracing the sabermetric community and a trend towards brash young executive outsiders. The Twins have been portrayed as the antithesis of this philosophy, emphasizing traditional scouting and a stable organization of baseball lifers. The two organizations have been endlessly compared and contrasted, but mostly contrasted.

So why are the end results so much alike?

The Daily Links for 04/11/06

by Intern Jimmy

Fitting Tribute: As befitting the legacy he left, Kirby Puckett will be in the minds and hearts of players and fans the duration of this 2006 season. As a tribute to his everlasting impact on Minnesota baseball, the Twins have emblazoned # 34 on their sleeves to serve as a constant reminder of Puck. In addition, the Metrodome unveiled its center field homage to our hero who prowled its turf-green pastures for 12 seasons.

Torii Hunter likes the added company, "I'm pretty excited now to go out there with that number, knowing he's going to be in center field with me." As the northern stars align, there's no doubt Kirby's spirit will imbue this special season with a little "Jump on my back" flavor. Piggy back ride anyone?

Youth To Be Served? For all the veterans the Twins added in free agency this off-season- Rondell White (34 years old), Tony Batista (32) and Luis Castillo (30), you'd think they were serving apple sauce and pudding on the charter flights. Turns out the senior movement isn't exactly in full bloom as the average age of the Twins remains a mature, yet rambunctious 27.9 years of age, the 2nd youngest team in baseball behind the baby Marlins, a full two years younger than the Twins at 25.9 years of age.

In a paradoxical twist, the Twins co-elder statesmen, Mike Redmond and Rondell White, both 34 years of age, are the youngest oldest players on their team. I just confused myself typing that last sentence. Of course, if Ruben "Fountain of Youth" Sierra is called up, he supplants Redmond and White as old man on the totem pole, the lone over-the-hill member of the roster.

If you couldn\'t guess, the geriatrics of their respective leagues are the Yankees (32.2) and Giants (32.3), who trot brittle-boned Bingo league lineups out on a daily basis.

Catching Up With...Jacque Jones: Departed Twin fan favorite Jacque Jones experienced quite the roller coaster of emotions in his first homestand with his new outfit. Stumbling out of the gate with an 0-13 start to the season, Jones heard his first boos from the Wrigley faithless after striking out thrice Saturday. As per his frustrating Twins tenure, Jones silenced his detractors Sunday with a 3-run blast, his 1st hit of the year, sparking the team to a sweep of the rival Cardinals. Cubs fans should grow accustomed to his beguiling ways, teasing greatness with his penchant for clutch hits, while pulling a Houdini act other times.

Opponent's Corner - Inside the Moneyball Mind: Ever since Michael Lewis' acclaimed best-seller hit bookshelves, the Moneyball method of structuring a front office has turned the baseball world on its head. The architect, Billy Beane, has spawned a new legion of general managers assessing talent utilizing the myriad offensive and defensive statistical analyses popularized by Bill James. Beane's keen sense of talent has vaulted the A's into the upper stratum of competitive teams despite maintaining a relatively subdued payroll. The premier Oakland fan site was privvy to an exclusive interview with Beane this offseason. If you've got the time, this insightful three-part Q&A runs the gamut on issues, including the difficult decisions a small market GM faces. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Quick Correction

Yesterday, as I was scrambling to meet about three different deadlines for GameDay, I accidentally gave credit to the wrong web site for an excellent GameDay article about the historic year the Twins pitching staff had with their control. Andy Wink, the author, is the writer at Twins Killings. I really regret the brain cramp.
John

Monday, April 10, 2006

Trading Hunter

There I am, preparing for opening night of the baseball season. The last Grain Belt from the fridge is in one hand, the remote in the other, and I’m doing my pregame warm-up: watching Baseball Tonight as I take that first sip.

Followed by a pratfallish spit take. Harold Reynolds, you see, was doing a preview of players who may be moved at the trade deadline (because it’s never too early to talk trade deadline). The player he’s talking about is Torii.

I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t want to dwell on this either. It’s too early, and I think Reynolds is crazy if he thinks a Twins team that is even remotely in the race is going to trade Torii Hunter. But it’s worth noting that if the Twins are flailing as the deadline approaches, Terry Ryan is going to be asked about trading Hunter. A lot. And even if he isn’t, you can bet that other sportswriters in other cities are going to be talking about it a lot. So we might as well handle this thing head on.

There are reasons to trade Hunter. First, he is worth something in return, possibly something very good. Second, he’ll likely be leaving the Twins in the offseason regardless. Finally, moving him at the trade deadline would save the Twins approximately $5.5 million between his salary and the bonus they owe him at the end of the year. So this isn’t just crazy talk.

He’s also likely worth more to a large market team, because Hunter isn’t necessarily a free agent at the end of this season. Whichever team trades for him has a $12 million option on his contract in 2007, which isn’t so unreasonable considering Johnny Damon just received $13 million for four years from the Yankees. To a large market team who can afford that kind of contract, Hunter isn’t just a half-year rental player.

So which teams are most likely to be interested in Torii, and what would they need to offer the Twins? Let’s look at the top eleven (Why eleven? You’ll find out.) payrolls in the majors and see if we can find the best fit.

1. Yankees - They just signed Johnny Damon for four years and $52 million, though that doesn’t necessarily rule them out. Steinbrenner could switch gears if Damon were to suffer a career ending injury, or go 0 for 4 any given night. But it’s unlikely.

2. Boston - They’re a large market, with the second highest payroll in the major leagues. Unfortunately, they also just acquired Coco Crisp, who is much younger, much cheaper, and who put up Hunteresque offensive numbers last year, with fewer strikeouts. Unless he really struggles, they aren’t a great fit. And even if he is struggling a little, it’s unlikely they would be willing to give up a top prospect like Dustin Pedroia. A player like third baseman Kevin Youkilis might be had, but he’s 27, still isn’t showing any power, and will cease to be affordable fairly soon.

3. New York Mets – Carlos Beltran is under contract through 2011. Not even Omar Minaya would sign Hunter with Beltran on his roster, right?

4. Philadelphia – They also just acquired acquired a center fielder. You might have heard about a little trade that sent Jim Thome to the White Sox and nabbed Aaron Rowand. Rowand is under contract through 2007.

5. LA Angels - Hmmmm. Now this is intriguing. The Angels have the fifth largest payroll in the majors, traditionally emphasize defense, and are stuck with the offensive sieve that is Darin Erstad, whose contract expires this year. Plus, they have a second base and a shortstop who are among the top ten prospects in baseball. If they can stay close to the Athletics, you’re going to hear lots and lots of talk about a trade for Hunter from LA sportswriters.

There are six other teams to review, including one more that is every bit the match that the Angels are. The second half of this column is continued over at TwinkieTown.com, where I’m guest writing for Jesse while he’s out of town. If you miss any of the old bloggers from TwinsTerritory.com, you’ll find most of them over at TwinkieTown, so I hope you can stop by. (And I truly mean “can” instead of “will” since I am blocked from that site from work.) I’ll see you there.
The Daily Links
Home Opener Edition
by Intern Thomas

The Twins continue their brutal early schedule with the home opener against the A’s, a popular preseason pick to win it all (Take it from a fan of 2005’s trendy pick—be afraid Oakland fans, be afraid). Brad Radke opens up against Danny Haren, the key pickup for the Athletics’ in the Mark Mulder trade. So what does Haren think about the A’s this year (and how does he get his Lost fix on the road)? Well, the best place is probably Haren’s Heat written by the shaggy righthander himself.

Have you ever seen a catcher throw left handed? Think about it for a second. I’ll bet you haven’t. The reason--there hasn’t been a southpaw behind the plate since Benny Distefano put on the gear for three games in 1989 for the Pirates. John Walsh has an in depth look at why Distefano is the most experienced southpaw backstop since the early 1900s at the Hardball Times.

If you missed it on SportsCenter, it appears that Darren Daulton has decided to make a run at Tom Cruise for the title of “Craziest Guy in America”. I’ll let the article speak for itself, but it looks like Daulton is just the latest member of the 1993 Phillies to fall from grace, following in the footsteps of Lenny Dykstra (admitting to steroid use) and John Kruk (analyzing baseball).

The Twins’ Blogosphere has a distinct ‘Cisco flavor today: Francisco Liriano is the only thing keeping Brad Zeller off the ledge over at Warning Track Power, Frightwig has some photographic evidence that might get Zeller up on that ledge anyway and Andy Wink at Twins Killings reminds us that they should have a pretty good pitching staff (even though it might not look like it right now).

Finally, if the Twins continue to hit like, well, like a team that likes to start three sub .300 OBP players, and Radke is having his normal 1st inning troubles, take a deep breath, grab a Budweiser and then take a virtual tour of the new Busch Stadium. And, if you’re as impressed as I was, you can get your plane tickets here and your tickets to see the new park here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Links of the Day
for April 10, 2006
powered by Intern Sam

  • Last season's Twins collapse may not have hit any local blogger harder than Brad Zellar, who was sounding downright suicidal by late August. This year, The Rake's resident diamond mind is determined to stay positive, at least until the end of April, and is even offering "modest support for Tony Batista, who does not look nearly so fat as advertised." (Apparently, BZ's been reading Anne's exclusive interviews...) Of course, this entry was written before two of the three Cleveland games were played, so come Monday morning, Zellar may be singing a different tune.

  • The Strib's baseball writers think Ron Gardenhire needs to be more patient with his young players and stop sending them to Rochester or changing their position in the field every time they look a bit overmatched. By way of evidence, they point to Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost as a shining example of how to bring prospects along. That Gardenhire has frequently expected guys like Jason Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer to do too much too fast is a reasonable point, of course, but (as is grudgingly acknowledged in the article) the Milwaukee comparison is probably unfair, since Yost has been under absolutely no pressure to win for the last several seasons, while the Twins have been expected to contend even as they promote from within.

  • There may not have been many high points in the Twins' first week of '06, but hey, things could be worse. Just ask the Texas Rangers, who got swept by Detroit, watched their newly acquired ace get absolutely hammered twice in a row, scored exactly zero runs against a 23-year-old rookie, and demoted a starting pitcher (and his brand new knuckler that doesn't) to the minors after one appearance. The truly scary part of all this is just how much the Twins are starting to resemble the Rangers of two or three years ago - a contending team that just can't ever quite put it together, prompting endless futile attempts to patch gaping holes with mediocre pick-ups.

  • When Oakland comes to the Dome on Tuesday to open up the home season, you know they'll be loaded down with the kind of situational stats and advanced analysis that frequently allow Ken Macha to seem more than a step ahead of the "gut feeling" managers that populate most major league dugouts. But according to one Bay Area writer, the elephants have a whole new method for outfoxing the competition this year: just snap up the head cases other teams can't wait to get rid of for reasons that have little to do with on-field performance, and turn 'em loose.

  • In an interview with MLB.com last week, Marlins president David Samson all but made it official that Jeffrey Loria's team will be getting the hell out of South Florida the moment alternate accomodations become available. Over at the Hardball Times, John Brattain breaks down Samson's reasoning (which Twins fans will find awfully familiar,) and finds it, well, unreasonable.

  • Nearly lost amidst all the things the Twins did wrong this week was the impressive work turned in by ├╝ber-rookie Francisco Liriano and middle reliever Willie Eyre. It remains to be seen whether Eyre's cutter (which looked solid in his first two appearances) will continue to fool major league hitters, but for a guy who almost didn't make the club out of spring training, Willie had a good week.
Welcome to GameDay!

The goal has always been the same - to live in a baseball town. The kind of town where there's information about the Rule V draftee in the paper. Or where people talk about the New Britain speedster at the local bar. Or where people debate if Torii should be batting fifth within the first five minutes of meeting someone. That's the definition of a baseball town, and that's where I want to live.

Since the beginning of TwinsGeek, there's been another group in town that shared that passion, but worked through a different medium. Many of you have read my glowing words about GameDay, the independent program that is sold outside Twins games. About a month ago, they asked me to join them as editor, writer and internet guy, and I agreed.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about joining forces with the GameDay guys. Gameday sells 30,000 programs per year and reaches casual Twins fans that this site and other blogs don't. The monthy issues will be packed like a Christmas stocking. For instance, this month's issue includes:

  • 34 About 34, an article about Kirby by Will Young

  • Twins Pitchers Have It Under Control by the Twins Killings.

  • A review of the life and death of Lyman Bostock by Jim Thielman, author of Cool of the Evening

  • Trivia from Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History by Stew Thornley

  • The Stadium Game - a gameboard that illustrates the path the stadium bill must take - by Shane Nackerud

  • No. 1 in Your Program, an analysis of why Castillo should be batting leadoff by Kyle Eliason

  • A preview of the 2006 Draft by Roger Dehring (who posts at Seth Speaks and TwinkieTown).

  • A fantastic cover photo of Kirby from the the Baseball Hall of Fame collection.


There was enough great stuff that I couldn't find room for my own stories in the issue, so you'll have to settle for my work in the Dugout Splinters (which will change with every home series).

TwinsGeek.com also reaches people that GameDay can't, so there are all kinds of plans for the web site, including somehow allowing people who can't make it to Twins games to download GameDay issues. We want this site to provide the baseball fans of Minnesota a reason to continue to explore that passion and share it with others. You can now reach this site either as TwinsGeek.com or MNGameDay.com, and I hope to be sharing lots of new features with you in the upcoming months. (BTW, if there's any functionality you would like to see on the site, please let me know in the comments below).

I know we're licking our wounds a bit after a disappointing start of the season. But as I wrote in the editorial below (which will also be in April's issue), this really is a great time to be a baseball fan in Minnesota. I hope you'll join me both here and at the ballgames to celebrate an emerging baseball town.






Maybe it’s the intoxicating southerly breeze of spring talking, but it sure seems like this a great time to be a baseball fan in Minnesota. The local nine just completed their fourth straight winning season. A hometown boy leads them. The farm system keeps churning out talent. (And yes, I’m frantically knocking on wood right now.) When this decade began, would you have dreamed that the Twins would be having this kind of success?

The revelry isn’t contained to the hometown team. It’s never been easier to connect with baseball fans in this football-dominated town. The internet is ripe with daily entries from Twins web bloggers from the statistical to the fanciful. Members of the local chapter for the Society for American Baseball Research are unearthing all kinds of great stuff about the history of baseball in Minnesota. The new outdoor ballpark is under construc – uh, hold it. Strike that for now. I guess we still have something to look forward to.

Oh, let’s not forget this neat little independent program that has been your constant companion as you attend games in our Teflon paradise. The one that won’t give you glossy pages with glossier stories. The philosophy of GameDay is the same in its fifth season as it was in its first:

1. Baseball is a beautiful game.
2. The more you learn and share about it, the more beautiful it is.
3. Baseball writing should reflect that.

Our content will also be the same it’s always been – objective, insightful and fun. But in the interest of sharing more, we’re no longer content visiting with you when you can come to games, or limiting our reach to the 30,000 fans that bought programs last year.

That’s why you can also stop by www.MNGameDay.com for your daily fix of all things baseball. Tomorrow’s entry might contain a roadmap to the web’s best Twins entries, or a preview of a Daily Splinter, or just a smarty-pants analysis of the latest Twins transaction. Every day will be a surprise, kinda like Ron Gardenhire’s lineup cards last year.

It’s been a tough off-season, starting with failed expectations and ending with a senseless death. The latter reminded us how much joy can be felt in watching someone do something they love. Well, there are a lot of people who love writing about baseball, and it’s your turn to feel their joy. You can start here, today, in this issue. And you can continue your journey tomorrow, whether or not you can make it to the ballpark