Saturday, February 27, 2010

Breaking Weekend News: KSTP 1500 Appearance

Hi gang,

I just found out that I'm going to be on KSTP 1500 tomorrow (Sunday) starting at 12:30 to talk about the Twins with Doogie Wolfson. I'm especially excited because Nick Nelson is also going to be there, and he's wrong about almost everything, so it should be entertaining to hear me straighten him out. (I keed, I keed.)

An hour of Twins talk on the last day of February? You betcha!

So what do you want us to talk about? Throw your questions or topics you want covered in the comments and we'll try to get to them. If you can't listen on the radio, you can still tune in. I hope you can.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Hormel Row of Fame Song EVER

It's 2005 and I'm attending an afternoon game with a bunch of friends from work. We've done this a few times, so by now I know the Hormel Row of Fame Song is going to illicit some boisterous karaoke. Sometime around the fourth inning, it starts.

When you are at the game
Are you in Hormel's Row of Fame?

Except that this time the track gets stuck.

If you are in the lucky seat
You'll win a Hor....skip
You'll win a Hor....skip
You'll win a Hor....skip

By this time, the work friends and I are exchanging uncomfortable smiles. The skipping audio seems to goes on forever, but it was probably only three more times before the booth quickly faded it out. At which point I hear the guy behind me remark:

"That WOULD be a lucky seat."


Yesterday's comment of the day was a late entry from blasphemer over at the new TwinsCentric blog:

Casilla's problem...

is Ron Gardenhire. He's in love with Punto. Casilla would be picked up by another team in an instant. If you want to take a chance on waiving someone do it with Punto. No one is going pick him and his salary up. Tolbert is a hustler, but he is a hack. Send HIM down.

I wanted to address this comment because it's a common complaint about Ron Gardenhire - he's in love with so-an-so or he doesn't play rookies enough. But here's the thing...

Q: Who played second base the most last year?
A: Alexi Casilla.

Q: What did he hit?
A: .202/.280/.259. In 228 at-bats.

Q: How was his defense?
A: His UZR at 2B was -9.6. His UZR/150 was -20.9.

No, Casilla wasn't given free rein. But he was given lots of opportunities, and he mostly sucked:
  • To start the season he played second base in 22 of the first 27 games (being replaced in five games by Harris, not Punto). On May 2, hitting .160, he was benched and Tolbert was given a shot.
  • Because Tolbert also struggled, Casilla was given another week or so at the end of May. He went 6-29.
  • He was handed the job again for the last two weeks before the trade deadline. He has 6 hits in 43 at-bats. (To his credit, he also had 10 walks. Which raised his OBP to .264.)
  • When the Twins acquired Orlando Cabrera, he and Punto split time. Over the next 13 games, he started seven of them. He went 6-22 and after a brief period...
  • Was handed the job again for eleven straight games at the end of August. He hit like crazy the first five of them and then got one hit over the last six games.
To get on Gardy for not giving Casilla enough leash is nuts. He gave him enough leash to hang himself, and almost enough leash to hang the rest of the team.

Just so it's clear: I like Casilla. I think he's a good player who just needs to turn a corner. But make no mistake: he has already received far more time than he's deserved. And the person who kept giving him that time was Gardy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TwinsCentric Post at

You know I love it when you stop by, but I've scribbled tonight's story, called "Options", over at the new TwinsCentric blog at I'd really appreciate it if you would click over and leave me lots and lots of comments.

And speaking of comments, I've noticed we're getting a lot of great ones, so I'm going to try and feature my favorite from the previous entry each day. Yesterday's comes from Shannon who mentioned:

On a side note my 5 year old daughter keeps asking me "When's it going to be Spring time?" With the increase of Twins coverage I am happy to say "Soon."

From your mouth to God's ears Shannon. It can't get here soon enough.

I'll be writing back here again tomorrow, sharing the greatest Hormel Row of Fame song ever played, which is now a permanent title given that Hormel will no longer be partnering with the Twins. I hope to have you return then, and again, please give me your thoughts on today's post over at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Twins Rivals

Historically, who are the Twins biggest rivals?

Nope, not the White Sox. They’ve the rivals now, but that’s a recent development. They just weren’t good enough before this last decade. Really, what drives that rivalry is the obnoxious fans. (Oh, and their loudmouth starting left-handed pitchers. I haven’t forgotten you Mark Buehrle.) There's nothing scarier than a couple of shirtless father-and-son White Sox fans.

The Indians are probably your next guess, because the Twins have a nasty beanball history with them. But for most of the Twins history the Indians weren’t in their division. And once they were, the Indians were dominant (the 90s), followed by the Twins being dominant. (the 00s) We haven’t seen much back-and-forth there.

The Tigers also joined the Twins division in the mid-90s. I suppose you could get fired up about the 1987 ALDS, but that was a sweep by the Twins. And since joining the AL Central, the Tigers were mostly pathetic up until a few years ago. It’s been fun to dance with them in 2006 and 2009, but that's because we won, and that’s as far back as the rivalry goes.

Instead, the team that seems to rise and fall with the Twins isn't in their division any more. It’s the Oakland A’s. At the end of the 1960s the Twins were battling them for the division, with the Twins winning it in 1969 and 1970 and the A’s then dominating the early 70s. And the rivalry became especially feisty back then because Billy Martin was involved.

While most people remember Martin as a manager of the Yankees or A's, he started his coaching career with the Twins. In 1969 as the Twins manager, he made sure he sent a message to the rival A's:

This is an excerpt from a new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers by Chris Jaffe. I've seen several excerpts, which have been fantastic. You can find the following in a longer excerpt here and you can order it here.

Minnesota hosted Oakland over Fourth of July weekend, with the A’s leading the Twins by a game heading into the three-game series. In the first contest, the Twins exploded with an 8-0 lead after four innings. Rather than relax, Martin rubbed it in so everyone would know who was the big dog in the division. Martin twice ordered Tovar to steal second base even though the lead was safely iced. After his last steal, Tovar took such a big lead at second that Oakland’s pitcher tried to pick him off. In frustration, he instead threw the ball into center. The rattled hurler immediately surrendered back-to-back doubles to the Twins, who romped to victory.

Seeking revenge, the A’s beaned Minnesota’s leadoff batter the next day, which played right into Martin’s hands. The beaning rallied Minnesota’s troops, who scored four runs before the first out was recorded in what proved to a 13-1 blowout. A come-from-behind victory the next day solidified their new division lead, which they never relinquished the rest of the season. Martin had not played to win; he came to castrate.

Martin’s unsporting conduct potentially could motivate the opposition to try harder. Martin never cared about the downside, though. He knew repeated humiliation would cause the opponent’s morale to collapse, while these tactics gave his team more confidence in their future fights. Prior to that series Minnesota had gone 5-4 against Oakland on the season. From that series onward, they won eight of nine games, outscoring the A’s 85-37 in the process. In those future showdowns, Martin asserted Minnesota’s supremacy by intentionally baiting Oakland. He once had a batter steal a base with the team leading 14-4 in the seventh inning. In their final showdown, Minnesota swiped a base when up by six runs. Animals who mark their territory by urination were subtler than Martin.

As the Twins rose again in the 80s, you’ll recall that the other superpower in the division was the A’s, fueled by the Bash Brothers. From 1987 through 1992 the only two teams to with the AL West were the Twins and the A’s.

That final year the race was especially close. With a 60-38 record, the Twins had a chance to deliver a knockout punch to the second place A’s, who were three games back when they visited the Metrodome in late July. Instead, the A’s swept the Twins, including a 5-4 loss in which Rick Aguilera gave up a 3-run home run in the ninth inning. The Twins were swept again in Oakland later that year, and finished the year in second place, six games back.

And in the last decade, even though they were in different divisions, the two team still butted heads. On the field they met in the playoffs twice, with each team knocking the other out in one ALDS series. And off the field, you had the two little engines that could, the low-revenue darlings of either the sabremetric or traditional crowd.

That's three generations of Twins teams that successfully made their way to the postseason, and in each case they needed to tangle with the A's. By most measurements, this should be what makes a rivalry.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Do You Know the Way to Bad Jose?

"When you get down to it and sit down one-on-one with Jose, I have a lot of fun with him," Gardenhire said. "He's a nice kid. I think we can keep him on the right path."

Giggle. Right. Here's a question: when you sit down one-on-one with someone, do you know who else seems like a good guy?

A: Bad guys.

Q: And when you sit down one-on-one with someone, do you know who seems like a bad guy?

A: Blatantly stupid bad guys.

So I think we can surmise that Jose Mijares isn't blatantly stupid, which is encouraging news given his actions since he joined the Twins:
  • He screwed up his visa for spring training last year, Twinsfest this year and now spring training this year
  • He showed up so obscenely overweight that he cost himself a spot on the 25-man roster for Opening Day
  • He walked out on his winter league team last year, and when he returned his manager left him off the playoff roster even though he was sporting a 1.40 ERA
  • And of course he incited his own teammate to charge him from the batters box during a critical pennant race game.
That is some solid work in just eighteen months. A very large bad guy - not as smart as, say, a Sydney Greenstreet villain. But apparently smarter than, for instance, Mongo from Blazing Saddles. With just a touch of crazy thrown it to boot....

Looks like the Twins have their Jabba the Hut. Or will, once he gets his visa.