Friday, August 25, 2006

Links of the Day for 8/24/06

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This might be the last week you see me doing the links. I feel that I’m being under-compensated, and I’m tired of being the #3 intern. If the Geek doesn’t sweeten the deal here in a hurry, we could be looking at an extended holdout. At least, that’s what my buddy Ashley says I should do.

  • The day after rookie Matt Garza snared his first major league win (and first major league pie in the face), fellow rookie Boof “Bail” Bonsor pitched the Twins to a 2-1 series win in Baltimore. The Twins pounded out 17 hits, including three by Joe Mauer to get his average up over .360.

  • No one needs to be told how big this weekend’s series in Shee-cago is. Just 1/2 game behind the World Champs, the Twins will be throwing out Radke, Santana, and Silva.

  • And some good news for the Twins: there will be no Thome envy in The Cell this weekend. The White Sox masher strained his hamstring Wednesday night, and is out for the Twins series. Oh, darn. No one for Reyes to pitch to.

  • Man, look at that professional segue. That’s why I deserve the big bucks. The Twins inked their lone lefty to a fresh two-year extension worth two million clams. Jesse breaks it down here. Now, granted, he may not be in the best of shape. But he looks sculpted next to some of these “athletes”.

  • Now generally, I like to leave you with something pithy and amusing. But… it’s the White Sox this weekend. Enjoy it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thome Envy

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Ok, I’ll ask – what’s with Minnesota’s perennial Jim Thome envy?

When he was a free agent, signing him was the most talked about subject for the Twins early that offseason. That was following a year in which the Twins not only ran away with the AL Central, but also won the first round of the playoffs. It was the most talked about subject despite the fact that nobody in the organization even hinted that there was any interest. Not to mention that Thome’s guaranteed money was likely to be well over what the Twins spend for a year on their whole team. If Thome so much as said he wouldn’t mind playing for the Twins, it was news around here. It was baffling.

Two years later, as the season started slowly, the biggest criticism of Terry Ryan’s offseason wasn’t that he trusted rookie hitters too little; it was that he didn’t trade for Jim Thome. It might be the second most common complaint about Ryan, right behind the whole David Ortiz thing. And like the Ortiz thing, it’s little more than an unsubstantiated cheap shot. What isn’t fully understood is that the Phillies didn’t trade Thome to the White Sox; Thome traded Thome to the White Sox.

New Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick took over a team that had two sluggers for one position. Thome was a 35-year-old with 40 home run power who had been hurt most of the previous year and would make $43 million over the next three years. Ryan Howard was a 26-year-old with 40 home run power who would make approximately $400,000 this year. So it wasn’t a terribly tough decision, especially because it’s not like Gillick had signed Thome.

But there was a hitch; Thome had a no-trade clause. And so a dance began. The Philly press would ask Gillick what he was going to do about next year. And Gillick would say he would explore options. So the Philly press would ask Thome if would invoke his no-trade clause. And Thome would talk about getting healthy and getting a chance to play in Philly some more. Neither, wisely, worked the other into a box.

But apparently, Thome made it clear that the Phils could only trade him to a team close to his home in Peoria, Illinois, and the team had to be a contender. You don’t have to break out a map to see that leaves one team. Fortunately, that team also had a center fielder (Aaron Rowand) they could trade, and the Phillies had needed a center fielder since the days of Lenny Dykstra.

If there’s any doubt that Gillick’s hand was forced, just look at what else he traded to the White Sox: $22 million to help cover Thome’s salary. Which means that Thome is playing for the White Sox for just $7 million per year, or just a bit more than the Twins paid Shannon Stewart.

The Twins had zero chance of wooing Thome as a free agent. Their chances of acquiring him in a trade were less than that. The Ortiz and Thome myths are driven by the players’ successes, not by reality.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Links of the Day...

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  • After a good series against Chicago, Tuesday's loss was a bit of a buzz kill. Carlos Silva looked like the old-new Silva (as opposed to the new-old Silva), giving up five homers and not exaclty looking like a ground ball pitcher. Grumbling about Silva's performance is coming from all the Twins' blogosphere (1, 2, 3), but I think the photo posted in the Twins' write-up says it all.

  • The good news is that F-bomb or the Cisco Kid or whatever you call him (just not "the franchise") was able to throw 60ft. the other day without pain. Which is furhter than Radke can throw it without pain. Speaking of which, Stick and Ball Guy wrote an excellent article arguing that Radke is the best SP for the Twins ever. Although the some would disagree, because they just don't make 'em like they used to .

  • Brian Cashman reported today that the Yankee's are losing money this year. Normally, I would suspect this was just an arm twisting to loosen up public money for a ballpark, but the stadium is allready financed. Cashman blamed the loss on major league baseball's revenue sharing system. This thourughly confuses me, is there a way a team could make enough of a profit that it needs to be shared with other teams while losing moeny?

Where Art Thou, Joe?

A Twins Timeline
Powered byJudd Spicer

The following is the writer’s attempt to get in touch with Twins catcher Joe Mauer in hopes of scheduling a haircut for Mr. Mauer with the writer’s girlfriend. The writer hopes to thereby create a written portrait of Minnesota’s newest local sports celebrity, while also serving the appetites of Mr. Mauer’s vast female fan base- this writer’s gal included. In turn, the ensuing words also act as a documentation of Mr. Mauer’s pursuit of .400.

Sunday, June 26, 1977

Jersey Day at Metropolitan Stadium, and every Twins fan receives a complimentary #29, Rod Carew shirt. The celebrated batsman responds by going 4-for-5, raising his average to .403. Carew would finish the season batting an MLB-best .388, the highest average since the Red Sox’ Ted Williams matched the same mark in 1957, and the closest run at .400 since Williams accomplished the feat (.406) for Boston in 1941. Baseball-gonzo cartographers note that Carew strove for .400 approximately 3,890 miles away from his birthplace of Gatun, Panama, while Williams both neared - and successfully reached - said mark about 3,046 miles from his hometown of San Diego, CA.

Tuesday, April 19, 1983

Joe Mauer is born in St. Paul, MN.

Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The Minnesota Twins select Mauer #1 overall in the MLB Amateur Draft, choosing the Cretin Derham-Hall (St. Paul) catcher over grossly overpriced - albeit richly talented - USC hurler Mark Prior.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Twenty-nine years to the date after Carew Jersey Day, Mauer goes 4-for-5 in an 8-2 victory over the Dodgers at Metrodome, raising his average to an MLB-best .377. The following night, he goes 5-for-5. Mauer then caps off the series on the 28th of June with a 2-for-3 line as the Twins sweep their betters of 1965, winning their seventh contest in a row. His average ascends to .392. Baseball-gonzo cartographers - and any guy with MapQuest - note that Mauer grew up approximately nine miles away from Minneapolis.

Later that same day . . .

Nicotine gum-chewing writer Judd Spicer of St. Paul contacts editors of a popular local baseball publication with a story pitch, proposing a piece in which he (Spicer) will attempt to arrange a meeting with Mauer, employing solely personal contacts and avoiding MLB Red Tape. For the story, Spicer explains, he will strive to schedule a meeting with Mauer and Spicer’s girlfriend, whereupon the latter - a well-respected local stylist - will cut the former’s hair without altering Mr. Mauer’s well-publicized sideburns. Spicer’s aim, he concludes, is to both gauge how close-knit the Capitol City truly is while hounding what may be the first .400 hitter in nearly seventy years, while simultaneously appeasing his vast female readership with descriptive sentences like, “and my gal blushed Cincinnati red as Joe’s hair descended toward the checkered salon floor.”

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Spicer convinces his younger sibling to pass along an e-mail to members of said sibling’s Fantasy Football league, most of whom attended Cretin, many of whom played baseball at the professional level. The letter contains phrases such as, “To briefly introduce, or re-introduce myself “, “My story - for which I have a deadline in about five weeks” and “a place where a knucklehead like me can get in touch with an All-Star ballplayer.

A 1-for-3 performance at K.C. has Mauer batting .391.

Later that same day . . .

Spicer receives his first response, an e-mail from one of the aforementioned former pro ballers. Referring to Mauer as “The Man,” the message steers Spicer to Joe’s older brother Jake, a solid ex-Twin farmhand in his own right, and current coach for the club’s Gulf Coast League (Rookie) team. Included is Jake’s mobile number, and the signoff, “Good Luck.”

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Twins travel day between Kansas City and Texas. Spicer receives an early-morning electronic mail from another of his e-mail’s recipients. The correspondence begins “Wish I knew of a way to help,” continues with, “If I think of anything or run across anyone at Cretin who knows how to get in touch,” then politely concludes with, “Hope all is well.”

Friday, July 7, 2006

Spicer receives a third (and what proves to be final) response from the Fantasy Football/Cretin-contacts. The e-mail message explains that Spicer’s message has been passed along to Mauer electronically, then briefly and succinctly ends with a “See you at the Fantasy draft” wave to Spicer’s sibling.

Twenty-two minutes later, the same contact types Spicer an e-mail and explains that he did not end up forwarding Spicer’s initial message, and instead recommends that Spicer present Mauer with a more formal written request, which he will then pass along electronically. Spicer replies with both his appreciation for the help, and fondness of the idea.

That night, Mauer goes 1-for-4 against the Rangers, slightly lowering his average to .388.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Spicer completes his final draft of the formal letter and sends it along to the contact. The communication (509 words in length), begins with a “Dear Joe,” and then briefly describes Spicer’s writing experience. The letter then quickly reminds the recipient that Spicer and Mauer had met in 2003 at a signing at which Mauer - along with brothers Jake and Billy - appeared for a promising, albeit now-defunct publication entitled Baseball Minnesota. Spicer had written for the magazine. Mauer appeared on the cover. The body of the correspondence then details the ideas and hopes of the writer’s story, the location of the salon, and the deadline for submission. Lastly, the letter congratulates Mauer on his ensuing All-Star appearance in Pittsburgh, PA.

Earlier in the day, Mauer goes 0-for-4 for the second consecutive game. He’s hitting an MLB-leading .378.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The 77th MLB All-Star Game. Mauer breaks his Midsummer Classic maiden with an 0-for-2 line, his second at-bat finding him robbed of a solid hit by Trevor Hoffman’s aging backside. His catching of the AL’s dramatic comeback, however, is widely celebrated. Baseball-driven lip readers - and any guy with an AM radio dial - readily ruminate on Mauer’s “It was a pleasure” salutation to Mariano Rivera upon the game’s closure.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

During the social hour preceding a Minneapolis film screening, Spicer encounters a longtime acquaintance who happens to work in the Twins’ finance department. The acquaintance presents his card. Above the bar, overtones of an atypically poor Francisco Liriano start versus the Indians attempt to cloud Spicer’s judgment as to whether the writer should now perhaps seek alternate, Twins-based routes to contact Mauer.

Later that night . . .

Spicer returns home and places the card in a drawer full of cards. Mauer complies a 1-for-3 line in a 6-4 loss to the Tribe, his average now at .377. The film - of the horror genre - causes Spicer uneasy dreams.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Twins announce that Thursday, August 10, will be “Joe Mauer Sideburn Night” at the Dome, with the first 10,000 fans receiving a complimentary set of “synthetic-hair sideburns,” with “doubled-sided tape that will allow fans to share Mauer’s trademark look. . . .” Mauer goes 2-for-4 against Tampa Bay, raising his average to .376.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Twins are in Chicago for a much-anticipated showdown with the White Sox. No word from Mauer, with the writer’s deadline now filed in the cabinet marked “Looming.” Spicer opts to use the cell number for Joe’s elder brother Jake. Jake answers and proves most amicable, much as Spicer had remembered him from their meeting three years prior at the Baseball Minnesota signing, an encounter which Spicer quickly employs as a tool of anecdote. Jake remembers. Jake also knows Spicer’s baseball-connected younger brother, at least by name. The conversation proceeds swimmingly, and concludes approximately fifteen minutes later with Jake telling Spicer he’ll pass along the message. Spicer readily acknowledges Joe’s in-season schedule, thanks Jake for his time, and hangs up the phone with the notion that any more calls of this nature may push the piece beyond the balance of “good taste.”

Later that night . . .

Mauer records just a single hit against the Sox, although the knock comes in the mighty form of a three-run homer off Chicago lefty Neal Cotts. Mauer’s average is lowered a point to .380, yet the Twins conquer their division rivals with an impressive 7-4 showing.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Beside the leviathan heading “American Idol,” Mauer appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the monster sports publication reportedly read by over 23 million adults per week. That night, a single in four at-bats against Texas finds him batting .365, still tops in all of baseball.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Poetic justice as Spicer’s deadline and “Sideburn Night” collide. No word from Mauer who returns home from a weeklong road trip to K.C. and Detroit, his average an MLB-best .369, his hair well kept, trimmed by shears belonging to someone other than the writer’s girlfriend. He hasn’t hit below .352 since May 30th, and his club is readily in the mix for a Wild Card berth. The evening’s contest nears and Spicer turns on his set, considering for a moment the origins of “synthetic hair.” The game against Toronto begins, and the writer - along with the bulk of the Upper Midwest - eagerly awaits the execution of that sweet lefty swing. A close-up of the local hero is soon provided, his young face exhibiting none of the stress, the strain, or the gain, surely found in the pursuit of .400.

Ten days after the writer’s deadline - a small handful of games before this publication goes to print – and Joe Mauer has yet to contact Spicer. Although it went without mention in the body of this piece, the writer “considered” utilizing close personal contacts in the real estate or private investigation industries, respectively, as a means of finding Mauer. Spicer then opted to instead heed the more persuasive advice of close personal contacts in the legal industry who politely informed him that violation of a harassment restraining order offers 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine in our great state. So much for Minnesota Nice.

And perhaps, for our hometown hero, so much for .400. Going into the 20th of August, Mauer’s average dipped to .357, still tops in the majors, but his lowest batting number since June 4th. So it goes, sports fans: perhaps the hair, like the proverbial hare, wasn’t to be caught this time around. And maybe, at least in 2006, neither is the sacred number that is .400.

Judd Spicer is a freelance writer from St. Paul. His short story collection, Seven Days, was nominated for a 2003 Minnesota Book Award.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Links of the Day for 8/19/06

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With the Twins only half a game out of the Wild Card lead after another series victory over the White Sox, the Red Sox and their pitching collapsing and with the horrible Orioles ahead of them, everything seems to be going the Twins way. So what is there to be worried about? The Wild Card is the Twins for the taking, isn’t it?

I’d certainly like to think so, but there are still some things to be worried about, especially considering the three headed monster of Silva, Garza and Boof that makes up the back end of the rotation. While looking at the probable starters for this upcoming series against the O’s, I couldn’t help but notice that the Twins will be starting the games out with pitchers sporting ERAs of 6.30, 11.74 and 5.51. That being said, it’s not like the Orioles will be trotting out Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike CuĂ©llar, though they do have the only scheduled starter with a sub 5 ERA (Kris Benson-4.63). And yes, I’ll admit that I’m suffering from Liriano withdrawal, even after Santana’s gem on Sunday.

And now the Quick Links:

  • Torii needs just one hit to reach 1000 for his career. Hopefully, he won’t approach reaching the milestone the same way he would an at bat with the bases loaded (No, I’m not a Torii Hater—I just deal with frustration through sarcasm. I’ll be sporting my Hunter Jersey at Camden this Wednesday and Thursday)

  • Kelly Thesier has the official word on Torii, Rondell and Radke’s future, as well as what happened to the Real Deal.

  • Why boo A.J.? Mr. Baseball has the answer.

  • After watching some of the Little League World Series this weekend, I’m still having trouble believing shil drugs for sexual impotency. (Here’s the translation of the ad: "There are some at-bats where one can't afford to fail, the same is true during the intimate moments. Take Elevex. Take it from me, David Ortiz *wink* 'Big Papi.’)

  • Finally, while I may not be traveling Europe with an orchestra, that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to promote. If you’re looking for a place to discuss the Vikings now that the NFL has kicked off, check out “The Ragnarok”. It’s a support group for those of us who still have Purple Pride, despite what the Vikings have done on (and off) the field.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Links of the Day for 8/21/06

Powered by Intern Sam

People. Why are we booing A.J.? Honestly, it’s just childish, and it makes it seem like we’re one of those towns where the majority of the baseball fans have no earthly idea how the game works, and have merely wandered into the ballpark because they heard there was beer inside. (Helloooooo, Philadelphia!)

Intern Sam was all for booing Chuck Knoblauch, and we could even see giving it to Kyle Lohse a bit if and when he ever darkens the Dome’s revolving door again, but Pierzynski? Really? We loved this guy, you know we did, and when he was traded (that’s traded, as in “left the team due to circumstances completely out of his control,”) he was a class act, refusing to badmouth the club that had just sent him to an NL team with an average age of 74.

So what’s to dislike? The fact that he continues to play hard, even when the opposition is his former team? Just zip it, folks. (And while we’re on the subject, could we also stop booing every time the opposing pitcher throws over to first? They’re supposed to do that.)

  • Oh, and when Ozzie’s done running his mouth, the Thought Police would like a word with him…

  • As everyone knows, Dennys Reyes has been one of the great bullpen surprises of the ’06 season, going 6-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his role as the team’s designated LOOGY (that’s a Lefty One-Out GuY, for those readers not as dorky as Intern Sam.) Reyes is also a free agent at season’s end, and while the team has approached his agent about an extension, the PiPress says that negotiations have stalled. It’s not the most crucial personnel issue facing the Twins, of course, but given how dominant the bullpen has been, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

  • Joe Mauer’s run for the batting title has been a national story for months now. But Murray Chass points out that Mauer’s impressive year may be merely the most obvious sign of the rise of a new generation of catchers who can really hit. Will it last? No one knows. But for this year, the catcher is king.

  • It’s official: we’re all Yankee fans now. A few more days of this, and the AL Wild Card becomes a two-team race, and that oughta suit Twins fans just fine.

  • In blogger navel-gazing news, the newly slimmed-down Aaron Gleeman has apparently landed an awesome job. (Like, with actual paychecks and everything!) He just won’t tell us what it is yet. Congrats, Aaron!

  • According to LaVelle Neal, the Twins’ 2006 draft class is turning a lot of heads down in Fort Meyers and Elizabethton. These guys are all still years away from becoming true prospects, of course, but it’s never bad to hear that things are going well down on the farm.

  • As if this weekend hadn't gone well enough already, the Twins' team doctor has cleared Francisco Liriano to begin throwing a baseball again. Mid-September seems like a realistic timetable for his return to the rotation, assuming no further setbacks.

  • That’s it for today, y’all, and for Intern Sam, that’s it for the month. [Shameless self-promotion ahead. Proceed with caution…] Believe it or not, someone is actually paying your Monday morning GameDay regular to go tripping around Europe for the next two weeks. Not only that, thousands of people will (hopefully) be applauding him while he does it.

    And if your interest in supporting overachieving local teams extends beyond sports, you can even tune in to your local Minnesota Public Radio classical music station (KSJN 99.5fm in the Cities) this Thursday at 1:30pm to hear the results, live from London. Intern Sam promises to be more entertaining than the Jim Rome rant you were planning to listen to at that hour (not that this is setting the bar very high, of course.) Enjoy the baseball and the State Fair, kids, and keep the Monday seat warm for us…

  • Oh, one more thing: since we’re blowing town tonight, we won’t be around to defend ourselves when the Phillie fans (led by the TwinsGeek’s very own Voice of Reason) jump all over us in the comments for that crack in the first paragraph. So before the onslaught begins, let Intern Sam just remind everyone that he grew up in Pennsylvania, he’s a lifelong Phillies fan, he worships Harry Kalas and Darren Daulton as gods, and none of that changes the fact that Phillies fans generally suck. (All six of them.)

[editor's note - It's a good thing you're getting out of the country, Sam. TVOR will be waiting
when you get back. Don't forget what happened to poor Mitch Williams' dog....]

[editor's wife's note - Sam, you sounded like a rational person and were making valid points, (though points open to healthy, intelligent debate) until you said you worship Darren Daulton as a god. You are aware, of course, that Darren Daulton now thinks he is a god, so I suppose your worship is appropriate, at least to Dutch. 'Nuff said.]