Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Money, Denial and Facebook.

Terry Ryan assures us it's not about money. But, of course, nothing is, or so they say.

They are wrong. Money to us is like water to a fish. It so permeates everything that we don't realize it's there. I've seen gold star quality performers not get hired because they (justifiably) asked for $10000 too much per year. She was going to be responsible for a couple of multi-million dollar projects. The person she was replacing had overseen the budget swelling by half a million dollars. They hired someone that they knew would be worse.

And it swings the other way, too strangely enough. I once had a manager tell me about turning down an analyst who was overqualified. After a little probing, I realized she wasn't worried about his performance or his attitude. She just assumed that he would he would ask for more money than the job had slotted.

And it's certainly not limited to professional life. It's practically a cliche that money is the number one fight topic the first year of marriage. You simply don't understand the attitudes you carry until you share that checking account with another person.

So when Terry Ryan looks at the trade of Luis Castillo, the release of Jeff Cirillo, and the non-claim of Mike Piazza, and tells us it's not about money, I want to believe it. And I think he believes it. But I just don't believe it.

Maybe not claiming Piazza was because he knew Piazza would refuse to come here, and not because he cost $2.5 Million. Maybe losing Cirillo for nothing was because it was an easy roster move to make, and not because it saved $500,000. And maybe trading Castillo for a couple of semi-prospects was - well, I'll be honest, I don't have any idea here. Frustration with the state of the minor league hitters? Pressure to make a trade, any trade? A misguided sense of caretaking guilt? I have no idea. But maybe he had some reason other than the $2 million they would save.

But there are always other reasons, because nobody wants money to be the problem. The overpaid project manager is too cocky. The overqualified analyst will never stay. The wife is spoiled, or the husband doesn't care about the family's future. But if it wasn't for the perceived problem of money, none of those reasons would get in the way. To double-check yourself, you have to ask yourself, if it wasn't for the money, would I still do this?

And all three of Ryan's recent moves fail that test. There's no reason to not add Piazza to this lineup, or to put the team in a position where they have exclusive negotiating rights for him. There's no reason to send Cirillo to Arizona for nothing, which was made all the clearer when Brian Buscher was unexpectedly injured. And there is no reason to make this year's team worse by trading Castillo if it doesn't make next year's team better.

So don't tell me it's not about the money, Terry. Even if you believe it. Because it makes it look like you're losing it. Tell us that you couldn't justify paying $500K to watch Cirillo sit on the bench. Tell us that you wanted to save that Pizza waiver claim money for Jermaine Dye. And tell us that you were hoping moving Castillo would free up some money for another impact player that never became available.

Or hell, just tell us that after year's of scraping by, you just couldn't see the point in paying the high price of mediocrity.

And if none of these are the reasons, then find out what they were, and let us know, would you? Because we aren't going to be satisfied until we get a straight answer. And I suspect that you won't be really satisfied until you can give one.

Ok, so one of the GameDay writers me to join Facebook. I pointed out to him that I'm 40 years old, and I don't think I get this whole online social networking thing. But he talked me into it, mostly on the promise of getting the co-ed female groupies that I've been waiting half a dozen years for.

So I joined. If you've got any hints (other than "Run away. Run away NOW!") on what the point of this thing is, and what I'm supposed to be doing. I'd sure like to hear them in the comments.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Twirling, Loathing and My Digestive System

Twins Territory spent the weekend slowly talking themselves back onto the postseason bandwagon, and I joined them. And then I watched fruitless inning follow fuitless inning, growing gloomier and gloomier, and was suddenly attacked by a very strange thought:

I think I would like Paul Byrd.

Oh, not today obviously. Today I hate him with the frigid fury of a half-mile deep glacier. I might even go as far as to say I loathe him, and I say "loathe" in an especially loathful way - it practically slithers out of my mouth. That's the reaction Byrd earned with his performance in one of the top five most critical games of the year.

But, really, you can't help but admire the guy in an 'everyman' kinda way. Just look at his career, would you? He mostly worked out of the bullpen his first several years in the majors, but had had one great half-year in his first full year stint as a starter. That earned him his only trip to the All-Star game, though nobody trusted him enough to let him pitch. Then he regressed. But he rejuvenated himself as a 30-year-old, regressed again last year, and has twirled his way to a 4.33 ERA this year.

And judging by last night, I'm choosing that last verb carefully. He hasn't "thrown" or "hurled", and even "pitched" doesn't quite describe it. Byrd twirls - changing speeds, inside-out, high-low, and nibbling corners. Watching him against your team is maddening, and I imagine that batting against him must lead to thoughts of senseless violence.

So last night, I tried to watch him from a more objective, appreciative point of view, and a sort of Zen tranquility eventually enveloped me. Granted, it was a seething Zen tranquility, and if maintained for any extended period of time, would lead to ulcers. To be honest, it was a pretty bitter tranquility. But I still preferred it to the acid-refluxing rage a few Denys Reyes walks inspired.

But (and I'm sure you'll agree) enough about my digestive system.

Byrd pitches exactly like you would want him to, and probably how he and his 87 MPH fastball need to. For instance, batters want to "pull" balls on the inside of the plate, and they need to swing earlier to do that. So what does Byrd throw them? Fastballs, of course, so they need to swing especially early.

Those inside pitches are also what tend to end up in the bleachers, since pulling a ball means it can go a lot further. So versus those batters with power, like Mauer or Morneau, the fastball was usually a ball, just inside the edge of the plate. But for those without power, like Alexi Casilla or Brian Busher, the ball was over the plate, leading to a long fly ball.

And on the outside half of the plate? Where batters train themselves to wait a little longer with their inside-out swings? Plenty of off-speed pitches, making them wait an eternity. And almost always with some movement, bending back over the plate, darting off of it, or diving itself into a ground ball. It was more like watching a ping-pong player spin a return than a dominant pitcher lead his team to a division lead.

That's a simplified version of what happened, of course. None of that explains exactly why the Twins have been hopeless against Byrd, while most other teams in the American League have enjoyed at least moderate success. The Twins have failed against the "professional and patient" type of pitcher again and again, which is one of the reasons their bats have been so lifeless in the postseason.

And today, it's one of the reasons that Twins Territory is likely having second thoughts about that bandwagon.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Catching Up

I left for a baseball-themed vacation last Tuesday morning, which is why I've been away, and just arrived home about an hour ago. So, did I miss anything?