Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unabashed Blind Optimism

I write this as the Olympics and February come to an end and as baseball activities in Spring Training begin in earnest. Not surprisingly, I'm feeling optimistic about 2010 and the Twins' upcoming season...very optimistic...overly optimistic. Probably delusionally optimistic.

But I don't care. I feel like this year is going to be awesome on so many levels and for so many reasons -- I can feel it in my gut. My gut is the only thing that tells me this, because, you know me, I don't "do" stats. But I do "do" instinct, and my instincts have nothing bad to say at all. Nope -- no negativity here; this post is nothing if not the kittens, bubbles, rainbows, and ice cream of Twins baseball.

Starting Pitching
  1. Scott Baker - Named the ace before spring training started, Scotty should enjoy the extra confidence given to him. He's got another year of experience under his belt, and he'll be a 20 game winner for sure.
  2. Nick Blackburn - There is no one I want on the mound in a big game more the Blackie. He's proven that he's got the stones to handle any pressure cooker, and that will carry over in spades this year. Plus, this year, he's going to work on consistency, and it'll come. He'll challenge Bake for that "ace" tag.
  3. Francisco Liriano - Yup, he's going to make the rotation. Not only that, he's going to return to his 2006 form and be a stud.
  4. Carl Pavano - He's going to continue his dominance over the Tigers and White Sox, and expand it with dominance over everyone. As a bonus, he'll stay healthy all year.
  5. Kevin Slowey - Even though he's coming off an injury, he's going to kick it up a notch this year. The time on the disabled list really bummed him out and lit a fire in his belly to have a monster year this season.
Relief Pitching
  1. Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch - They will all ably do everything we need them to do. There will be no need to roll our eyes at them the entire season.
  2. Brian Duensing or Glen Perkins - Only one will make it to the Twins (can you guess which one I'm rooting for?), but he will have a lot to prove and will be on fire -- Duensing that he's the real deal, or Perkins that he's not so evil.
  3. Jose Mijares - Amazingly, he's going to get his head screwed on straight and pitch out of his mind. He'll also drop like 20 pounds.
  4. Joe Nathan - He's going to return to form as the best closer in baseball. And that disappointing series in the ALDS will just make him better.
  5. Pat Neshek - See Kevin Slowey. Multiply that result by 10.
  1. Joe Mauer - Yup. His contract will be signed, sealed, and delivered in plenty of time before the season starts. And then he's going to back it up with another Batting Title, Gold Glove, MVP season.
  2. Justin Morneau - He's dialing back his spring training work outs from crazy-too-much to just right so that he'll have plenty in the tank in the second half of the season. And he'll enjoy the extra energy by having a 40+ HR season.
  3. Orlando Hudson - Reports are that he hasn't stopped smiling since he arrived to camp, and that outstanding attitude will infect the entire team and will continue throughout the season. And he'll reward Twins fans with outstanding play and fun times.
  4. JJ Hardy - Since none other than Joe Mauer is showing him the ropes, he'll acquire some of the MVP glimmer from his tour guide. And with that, he'll shake his 2009 gremlins and have a career year.
  5. Brendan Harris and/or Nick Punto - The fact that there are two men fighting for one position should be fun. They have to battle, and that will make them both better. 
  1. Michael Cuddyer - He's already awesome. He's gonna stay that way.
  2. Denard Span - This is the first year knowing that he's the man in center. This will fill his heart with confidence and his baseball skills will shine because of it.
  3. Delmon Young - He's got a new look, and a new attitude. And because of that, he's a brand new awesome brand new ballplayer.
  4. Jason Kubel - His passion for gummi bears will fuel him to a 40+ HR season.
  1. Jim Thome - He's got a big stick and he knows how to use it. 'Nuf said.
  2. Alexi Casilla / Matt Tolbert - Another year older, another year better.
  3. Jose Morales - He's going to miraculously heal from his wrist injury and everything about him, including his defense, will be better than ever.
  4. Jacque Jones - Yup, he's going to be our back-up centerfielder. And putting on a Twins uni again will bring youth into his legs.
And apparently MLB will allow the Twins to carry more than 25 guys on their roster, just because they're so darned attractive.

So, there you have it. If these aren't the best gut feelings ever, well I don't know what are.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Linkity Links

Here are some items from the last few days that made me smile, think, pout, or rant.

Twins and Hormel part ways on hotdog sales
Ok, I assumed that there would be no more Dome Dogs, because, well, that would be silly at Target Field. But I just figured they'd rename it. However, that's not to be. Not only will there be no more Dome Dogs, there will be no more Hormel Row of Fame. Now that's very sad news as being in the Hormel Row of Fame was a bucket-list item of mine. But, alas, I shall never be a wiener winner. ::sniff::

Goodbye old friend.

I sincerely hope they select a local company to be their new hot dog provider.

Mauer and Thome Stuck at Complex
Read this. Just do it. It's good stuff. Bryz, you're a genius.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Karleeee discusses which Olympic sports some Twins players should try. It's a fun idea.

The Show with Seth Stohs at
In addition to his weekly podcast (which I've talked about before), he now has a weekly web-radio program. It sounds very spiffy with background music and everything. More info is on his website.

One of my favorite bloggers, Sooze from Babes Love Baseball, has hooked on with the StarTribune blog community. I admire her work, and it'll be great to read a female's perspective.

Speaking of the StarTrib blog community, Parker Hageman (Over the Baggy), Seth Stohs (, Nick Nelson (Nick's Twins Blog), and John Bonnes (Twins Geek), who are collectively known as TwinsCentric, also hooked on. This is a return for John Bonnes, who back in 2004 was a fan-blogger for StarTrib. It was through him that I found out about blogs (I had to Google the word "blog" just to find out what he was doing) and became introduced to so many awesome blogs including the now-retired Bat-Girl. And the rest, they say, is history.

You Can Keep Your Stinkin' Filet-O-Fish
Ok, seriously, the person who came up with this horrible, horrible jingle needs to be stopped. I'm not a violent person in the least, but this makes me want to hunt him or her down and do some serious clawing. Too bad too; I don't mind McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. But I definitely need to find another establishment for my fast food fish needs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nickname Guide

Edited for 2010. Now that Spring Training has started and the team is pretty much set, it's time to update the Nickname guide. Some folks made some great suggestions in the comments section, so I'll bring those up to the body. If you have ones you like, let me know.

When we love certain people, we show our affection by giving them, or using other people's, nicknames. Here are the ones I like to use; the source is listed in parenthesis.

Ron Gardenhire - "Gardy" (everyone calls him Gardy)
Nick Punto - "Little Nicky Punto"/"LNP" (Bat-Girl)
Joe Nathan - "Nathanator" (I'm not completely sure, most likely Bat-Girl), "Twitch-n-Pitch" (have you watched him pitch?)
Joe Mauer - "Joey" (Twins Sisters), "The Contract" (No one can talk to or about Joe without mentioning the contract. He and it are working to become one.)
Michael Cuddyer - "Cuddy" (like Gardy, this one's obvious -- he's probably been called Cuddy his whole life)
Justin Morneau - "Mornie" (Gardy calls him that), "Tasty Canadian" (see comments below)
Matt Tolbert - "Tigger" (I came up with it when I shopped for toys for the boys)
Pat Neshek - "Pat-Pat" (I don't know -- could be me, could be one of Bat-Girl's commenters)
Francisco Liriano - "Franchise" (the Twins players call him that), "F-Bomb" (I think this has roots in Bat-Girl's blog)
Jesse Crain -"The Crainadian" (He's from Canada. I think this came from Lipgloss & Baseball)
Denard Span - "D-Span" (Get it? Like C-Span.), "Let's Get Denarded" (a take on the Black Eyed Peas song Let's Get it Started), "Span the Man" (S.Rail in comments below)
Delmon Young - "D.Y." (Initials -- not terribly creative)
Scott Baker - "Bake" (everyone), "Rocketbats" (Pulling a Blyleven - see the comments below), "Timmy" (Timothy Scott Baker is his given name -- he kind of looks like a "Timmy," doesn't he?)
Kevin Slowey - "K-Slo" (the first initial - first three letters of last name scheme, like A-Rod...or k-bro. S.Rail likes this one -- see the comments below)
Jose Mijares - "O Visa" (Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business or Athletics must apply for an O visa, which Mijares kind of messed up for both TwinsFest and Spring Training -- *sigh*)
Carl Pavano - "Hott Carl" (The folks over at Twinkie Town took a vote and came up with this. mmmkaaay.)
Orlando Hudson - "O-Dog" (He comes with the name. If you type O-Dog into Wikipedia, it says that you're probably referring Orlando Hudson. Who am I to argue with Wikipedia?)

Former Twins:Carlos Gomez - "Go-Go" (Gardy)
Mike Redmond - "Red-Dog"/"Red" (another obvious one)
Mike Lamb - "Lammers" (Gardy)
Adam Everett - Adam "Adam" Everett (Mike Lamb -- he was asked if Everett had a nickname while with the Astros, and he replied, "yeah, I think they called him 'Adam'.")
Dennys Reyes - "Marshmallow" (my kid), "The Big Sweat" (I guess he's had it for a long time, but learned about it from an MLB Video Game), "Dennys Sampler Platter" (Bat-Girl)

Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven - Because they talk so much during games, it's sometimes hard to remember which of them said what. So, together, they're the singular "Dick-n-Bert."
Dan Gladden - "Dazzle" (I think John Gordon gave it to him)
Jack Morris - "Blackjack" (John Gordon again)

The act of being swept by another team - "Dustbunny" (me)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Short Notes - Feb. 19

Nick Punto Day Recap
Wow! I can't believe it's already been a week since Nick Punto Day. It was a ton of fun to participate in, and it was a blast to read all the various opinions and takes on our own #8.

I'd like to give a shout out to everyone who linked to my entry, specifically Seth Stohs in his StarTribune Our Voices blog and Howard Sinker in his StarTribune A Fan's View blog.

How Can I Watch Winter Sports When Spring Training Is So Close?
It's hard, but I'm managing to keep two seemingly mutually exclusive notions in my head at once. So while I'm anxiously awaiting baseball, I'm quite entertained with snow and ice events. Besides, what else am I going to watch? I really enjoy the Winter Games; I always have.

A year ago, I wrote a poem-like piece about Pitchers and Catchers Reporting. I'm pretty proud of it, so it's hard to top. If you want to check it out, it's here

Hello Old Friend?
Last week, the Twins signed Jacque Jones to a minor league contract. Yes, the same Jacque Jones we all were in love with in 2002.

So we'll see if he makes the squad as a 4th outfielder. I'm rooting for him -- not necessarily because he's still good at baseball, but because he's still cute as a button. Now we just need Dougie, Corey, and Torii back, and it'll be a reunion party.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Comparing Nick Punto to a Good Ol' Pair of Shoes


Note: This post is part of the Twins Blogisphere Nick Punto day, started by Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target. Many blogs are participating; be sure to check out the blogs listed in the sidebar for more Puntoliciousness. Or click the links in the live Twitter feed on the right.

Good ol' Nick Punto. In many ways, he reminds me of my good ol' Reeboks -- for better and worse (but mostly better).
  • Shoes: I call these my "utility shoes." I can wear them most days I wear jeans. And in a pinch, I could even wear them with black chinos if I really need my feet to be comfortable.
  • Nicky: Well, he's the utility player. He can play most infield positions. And in a pinch, he could even go to the outfield if the Twins really need a substitute.
  • Shoes: They demonstrate that, because they fit perfectly, comfortable feet are at least as good as stylish feet.
  • Nicky: He demonstrates that, because he has awesome defensive skills, saving runs is at least as good as driving in runs.
  • Shoes: They're not the best shoes in my closet. However, they do a nice job as walking shoes, which is all I ever expect of them.
  • Nicky: He's not the best player on the team. However, he does a nice job hitting in the 9th spot, which is all the Twins ever expect of him.
  • Shoes: I have a lot of great memories with them both here and abroad. There's a story behind why I took them to Germany (apparently Europeans think it's odd that Americans wear white shoes).
  • Nicky: He's made a lot of great memories both on and off the field. There's a story behind why he makes slushies for Justin Morneau (apparently Canadians think it's necessary to drink slushies made by a player for Team Italy in order to play baseball better). 
  • Shoes: They can be maddening -- the laces come spontaneously untied. A lot.
  • Nicky: He can be maddening -- he dives spontaneously head-first into first base. A lot.
  • Shoes: For what I got, they were kind of expensive. There's nothing high-tech about them, but they cost more than comparable shoes.
  • Nicky: For what the Twins get, he's kind of expensive. There's nothing Type-A about him, but he costs more than comparable players.
  • Shoes: They're very hardworking and reliable.
  • Nicky: He works very hard and has a lot of hustle.
  • Shoes: They're wearing out. They don't have the cushion they used to. I wouldn't be surprised if they rip out very soon. This is probably their last season with me, so I'd better enjoy them while I can.
  • Nicky: He's wearing out. He doesn't have the defense he used to. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets seriously injured very soon. This is probably his last season with the Twins, so we'd better enjoy them while we can.
  • Shoes: You could try all day long to try to tell me why they're no good, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for them.
  • Nicky: Ditto.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Short Notes - Feb. 8

So, hey...there's something to actually talk about. Good stuff too.

The Missing Piece
For the entire off-season, everyone's been talking about how the Twins needed one last piece in order to make an awesome roster. Would it be a pitcher? Well, not really, since Francisco Liriano has been showing some real stuff in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Would it be a third-baseman? Well, since the Twins gave Brendan Harris a two-year deal, it's easy to guess that he's the answer to that. Would it be a second-baseman? Someone who can hit number two in the order between Span and Mauer? Yes! That's the missing piece.
But, lo and behold, the Twins went out and got that missing piece. And a good one too.
It looks like a nice fit, doesn't it?

Welcome to the Twins O-Dog. We're thrilled you're here.

Speaking of Orlandos
The guy who wound up being the missing piece for the end of the '09 season, Orlando Cabrera, signed with the Reds. I'm happy for him. Gardy mentioned that he wanted to bring Cabrera back as the second-baseman, but it just seemed like Cabrera wanted to remain a shortstop.

Good luck, O-Cab.

New Twins Commercial
It's become a tradition for the Twins to introduce their first new commercial of the year during the Super Bowl. This year's is clever, but not as funny as ones in the past. It did have the distinction of being one of the few that didn't offend me in one way or another (a note to future Super Bowl advertisers: women watch the game too, so you might want to dial back on complaining about or exploiting them -- but that's a conversation for another time, and probably another blog).

Look at it here: 

My Kids are Mad
As I sit here and write this, mini-bro just ran down the stairs to tell me that the White Sox acquired Omar Vizquel (I knew), and that they are un-retiring Luis Aparicio's number to give it to him. This news made my kids mad. "How can they un-retire a Hall of Famer's number to give it to a short-timer?" Good point, guys. And I can't disagree with the argument.

According to the story, Aparicio is cool with it, but he could just be acting classy.

I'm just proud that my boys know who Luis Aparicio is. And that they feel strongly about baseball traditions and stuff.

Seth Writes
I just pre-ordered my copy of Seth Stohs's Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. It sounds like it's going to be great; I'd like to learn more about the minor leaguers and prospects the Twins have in the organization. And I expect it'll help me with my annual "who is this guy?" moment I get whenever someone gets called up.

Go to Seth's site to order yours.

Nicky Punto Day - Save the Date
The Twins blogging community has chosen Feb 12th to be "Nick Punto Day," and many blogs are participating. We're going to write pieces about our own super-utility #8, whatever our opinions of him are. No other player on the team elicits such wild variations of opinions; it should be interesting to see all the points-of-view. 

Be sure to check back here on the 12th, and then be sure to check out the blogs listed on the sidebar. Many of those blogs are participating too. And then, to keep the fun going, be sure to check out the blogs on their sidebars. Oh, don't forget the comments sections on all those blogs -- I bet there'll be even more opinions there. It's a Puntolution.

This great event is the brainchild of Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target. What a great idea.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The One In Which k-bro Gives 'CCO the Stink-eye

So you might have heard by now that WCCO reported Monday that Joe Mauer and the Twins agreed to a 10-year contract. "Agreed." Well, that's what I saw yesterday at about 3:00 via Twitter.

You can imagine my glee. I immediately re-tweeted it and crossed my fingers in hopes that it was true. And then refreshed my BlackBerry about 80 bazillion times awaiting confirmation. I also fired up the web stream of XM Radio 175 Home Plate so I wouldn't miss the announcement when it finally came.

As expected, I was not the only one who was excited about this potential news. Home Plate had the tweet in their update within minutes. If they heard about it so quickly, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, FOX, StarTribune, Pioneer Press, and Gus's Bait Shop Newsletter heard about it too.

With that, I imagine that several phones started ringing off the hook -- Bill Smith's, Joe Mauer's, Ron Shapiro's, Dave St. Peter's, Twins staffers's, anyone's whose last name is Mauer, and probably anyone's whose last name is Smith. But after all those phone calls, the other sources did not do what fans were looking for and confirm the story. Nope. The information coming back kind of denied it. It was more like "things look good, but we're still talking and nothing's done yet." And the tweets of that nature rolled in like waves.

By the five o'clock newscast, Rosen had dialed back on the wording. He was then talking of a "basic framework" being in place and the negotiations were proceeding. I'm sorry? "Framework?" That's about 359 miles away from "agreed." To me, "agreed" means, well, agreed; the contract's all done but the signatures. On the other hand, "framework" is an outline, a plan, a beginning.

The tweet linked to this article, which also said "agreed," at least in the headline. For the record, the article has been changed since it first hit the web.

Tuesday, reports came out that Joe Mauer is surprised about the report and pretty much laughed off the whole thing.

Now, there's a very good chance that Rosen winds up being right, but we won't know for a while. He's very adamant that he trusts his source, and he is a respected journalist in the Twin Cities. Plus, this has happened to him before - he made a similar bold statement about Brett Favre coming out of retirement and joining the Vikings, and it turned out he was right. (I don't really remember how that shook out; I intentionally ignored all Brett Favre talk until I actually saw him in purple.)

All Twins fans hope something great happens. In fact, this whole kerfuffle kind of boosted optimism, because in all the phone calls they got, the Twins and Mauer did admit that talks continue and are going well.

Regardless of whether Joe does ink an extension soon, my beef is with 'CCO's wording and timing of that tweet and the article attached to it. I can't say if Rosen himself wrote any of it - probably not actually. But I really wish that whoever wrote it would have used that "framework" word from the start. And I wish they would have waited. They get the stink-eye from me for making me do all that fretting.

Be sure to read Nick Nelson's much more positive, and more interesting, blog post about the same topic.