Thursday, May 31, 2007


This blog, I freely admit, was fueled in large part on disgust for most of its first year. I was disgusted by the gloss that accompanied most local baseball coverage, the lack of analysis, the apathy towards detail. The coverage focused more on a story than the beauty of the details of the game. That drove me crazy. The beauty of the details of the game WERE the story. Details could be entertaining.

That is no longer an issue. First of all, the dailies coverage has improved about 400% over their coverage in 2002. But mostly, there is just a ton of independent coverage. Over at, you can find several dozen takes every day on almost any conceivable issue. It used to be that the Twins could sign a lower-tier free agent and there wouldn’t even be a not in the paper. Now, Seth will write 500 words on it, and he’ll only be the first of a half dozen to document and give me the history of this guy. And, as I wrote last Friday, there’s been a revolution around entertaining baseball writing too, especially with the Twins.

Instead, I now find myself being annoyed by the same people I originally felt were leading the baseball writing revolution. Too often, the sabremetric crowd seems to be forgetting the golden rule of true baseball research. It isn’t about "Bunting is stupid". It isn’t TINSTAAPP (“There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.”) It isn’t even “OBP is God”. It simply is: “There is ALWAYS something more we can learn about this beautiful game.” Which is a fine rule, until you examine it closely enough to come across its logical corrolary: "There is a hell of a lot we don't know, or are just plain wrong about."

That's an especially hard corollary for a group that finds itself evangelizing as the sabremetric crowd. For a while, that evangelizing was seen as nearly a moral imperative, but it turns out that evangelizing requires more than a great truth, it involves compelling rhetoric. It also means staying on message, even if the message becomes a two-dimensional version of a mutli-dimensional truth.

The latest example of all this that is driving me nuts is the coverage of the Twins starting rotation. The views aren't driven by analysis, they're driven by philosophy. And this is by someone who wrote back in February that signing all of Silva, Ponson and Ortiz was probably a mistake. But what we want to be true isn't necessarily be true, so let's analyze some of the statements:

Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza were all ready to fill three spots in the rotation.

Um, really? Which one of these guys, exactly has shown you that so far? Perkins has been mediocre as a bullpen guy. Baker version 3.0 is doing a pretty good impression of Baker 2.0. Garza continues to struggle with control of anything off-speed. And Slowey has less than a year of experience in AAA. Hell, just a couple of weeks ago (six weeks into the season, we were worried that even Boof Bonser might be a problem.

Listen, I'm as jazzed about the 2008 rotation as anyone, but can you blame the Twins for not trusting these guys for 2007 last December? And has anyone done anything to to change your mind about them?

The Twins could've spent the $8+ million the spent on Carley Portiz to improve their team in a better way.

Let's not forget that more than 1/2 of that money was spend on Carlos Silva, who has given up three runs or less in eight of his ten starts. It's also worth noting the order in which they signed these guys, because Ortiz was the first one they had to make a decision on. With three holes in the starting rotation and an unknown offseason looming, the Twins would've taken an enormous risk by not signing him.

But most of all, the key here isn't the $8 million - it's the fact that the Twins only needed to commit one year to these guys. Finding an impact player that will sign a one-year contract means one of two things - they're old or they're unhealthy. Don't believe me? Check out the top one year contracts from this offseason:

Pos Player              Signed By    Age Dollars
SP Andy Pettitte, SP NY Yankees 34 $16,000,000
LF Barry Bonds, LF San Francisco 42 $16,000,000
SP Tom Glavine, SP NY Mets 40 $10,500,000
SP Greg Maddux, SP San Diego 40 $10,000,000
DH Mike Piazza, DH Oakland 38 $8,500,000
RF Moises Alou, RF NY Mets 40 $8,500,000
SP Randy Wolf, SP LA Dodgers 30 $8,000,000
LF Luis Gonzalez, LF LA Dodgers 39 $7,350,000
1B Shea Hillenbrand, 1B LA Angels 31 $6,500,000
RP Eric Gagne, RP Texas 31 $6,000,000
CF Kenny Lofton, CF Texas 39 $6,000,000
RF Jose Guillen, RF Seattle 30 $5,500,000
3B Pedro Feliz, 3B San Francisco 31 $5,100,000
RP Octavio Dotel, RP Kansas City 33 $5,000,000
RP Keith Foulke, RP Cleveland 34 $5,000,000
RP Joe Borowski, RP Cleveland 35 $4,250,000
SP Joel Pineiro, SP Boston 28 $4,000,000
SP Kip Wells, SP St. Louis 29 $4,000,000
1B Sean Casey, 1B Detroit 32 $4,000,000
2B Jose Valentin, 2B NY Mets 37 $3,800,000
RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Colorado 34 $3,500,000
RP Rbrto Hernandez, RP Cleveland 42 $3,500,000
2B Marcus Giles, 2B San Diego 28 $3,200,000
LF Rondell White, LF Minnesota 34 $2,750,000

So which of the names above do you think would turn the Twins offense around?
- I suppose a case could be made for Piazza, though when a guy is out for two months because he dove back to first base, it isn't a great isng.
- Alou's nagging injuries mean he has about as many at-bats as Joe Mauer right now.
- It's doubtful, given the choice, that Gonzalez would leave the West Coast.
- Guillen is a head case, was terrible last year and started slow this year.
- Feliz's career on-base percentage is .289. Blink. Blink.

The Twins chose to make sure they had plenty of depth, and frankly, that looks like a pretty good idea right about now. It's allowed them to move underperforming starters to a depleted bullpen. It's given them a second lefty in the bullpen when their primary left-hander faltered. It's allowed them to give some of their better prospects some extra time in the minors to work on aspects they'll need to master to be successful at the major league level. And, cynically, it's saved them several million dollars in future salaries, by delaying arbitration and free agency.

There are all kinds of small moves that I second-guessed, and I've been right about as often as I was wrong. So, frankly, have the Twins. But both of us will evaluate them based on the results, not on the philosophy. It would be nice if others would join us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sorry about the Hiatus

Lots to talk about, but the June issue of GameDay needs to get out the door tomorrow. For now, I hope the editorial below will reward you somewhat for stopping by, and we'll get back to the Twins tomorrow.

Closing the Book

Sometime next month, the major league home run record will likely be broken. It will invite considerable media coverage, but not the kind that usually accompanies a historic milestone. This coverage will be fueled by controversy, and judging by the preliminary angles, mostly negative. And one word will be repeated over and over: cheater.

It will be applied to Barry Bonds, who has become Sarah Good in professional sports’ latest witch hunt. We know that Barry Bonds cheated. He’s admitted as much, though he says he did so unknowingly. But cheating, and lying about it, isn’t unusual in baseball’s history. Corked bats, spit balls, rain delay tactics and even Metrodome air-conditioning vents – all have been used with little more acknowledgement than a wink.

Using steroids is somehow different (though I would challenge this inconsistency as well). It has ignited the white-hot zealots’ flames and Major League Baseball has caved to every demand. That’s fine concerning the implementation of long overdue testing procedures or strict penalties. But the heat has kept MLB from taking any responsibility. For the record, MLB didn’t have a policy against steroids, didn’t have a test for them, and didn’t have any enforcement in place. Taking steroids was slightly more legal than a catcher blocking the plate, which at least is technically against the rules, even if it isn’t enforced.

Rather than admit this oversight and turn the page, MLB used the crisis to blame players, which had the pleasant side effect of vilifying the players’ union. Bonds is at the top of the wanted list, so instead of celebrating a milestone, we’re left to debate whether the commissioner of baseball should attend.

Damn right he should attend. It was on his watch that the problem flourished and it was on his watch that owners and players made millions of dollars while looking the other way. Bud Selig should hand the home run ball to Bonds, and use the post-game attention to say what we all know:

  • The fault lies with the owners and commissioner as much as it does with any player.
  • The records for this jaded era will stand, just like they did for other jaded eras, like when African-Americans weren’t allowed to compete.
  • MLB has implemented the most comprehensive and strict system in professional sports.
  • And most importantly, let’s all get on with our lives.