Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Looking Forward

So, Spring Training is winding down and Opening Day is so close I can almost smell it. And just in time too. I'm growing weary of these mean-nothing games and am so ready for ones that count. I'm looking forward to hearing Dick-N-Bert, being involved in every game, pulling my hair when things get tense, and yelling at the TV. And with the recent warm weather, and the lure of the new ballpark, I can hardly contain my excitement. Eventually, I'll make it to the ballpark, and I'm looking forward to going. But mostly, I'm looking forward to a great season. Forgive me for being cliché, but I like our chances.

I feel confident about our starting rotation; they've all impressed me during Spring Training, with each of them having only one rocky outing. They're healthy and ready, and I'm looking forward to watching them. I'm glad that Liriano took that 5th spot in the rotation; he deserved it, and I honestly feel that he'll have better success than Perkins or Duensing -- at least for now.

The bullpen is a little more iffy, but it's no reason for concern. The Twins announced that they'll go with a "closer by committee" approach. That's fine, for a while. I think they'll take a month or so to figure it out and see who shines in the role. If no one does, then they can make a trade. The middle-inning relievers will be fine, but I would kindly request that Clay Condrey get better at pitching ASAP.

I expect the offense to be improved over last year. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Hardy, Hudson, and Thome can do. And I'm especially looking forward to watching the Hardy-to-Hudson-to-Morneau double-play combo.

The so-called experts are expecting the Twins to do well too, but it won't be easy as the Tigers and White Sox are expected to be competitive as well. It'll be a battle for another division title, but it'll be fun. Usually I worry when everyone expects a lot out of the Twins, they usually tend to do better when no one's looking, but I don't buy it this time. This is the year!

So, enough of this Spring Training stuff already. I'm really looking forward to Monday when it's for real.

Mark Your Calendars:
Speaking of looking forward, keep these in mind...
  • Friday, April 2 -- Predictions Day: Josh of Josh's Thoughts has called Friday "Predictions Day". He wants to see what our predictions for the upcoming season will be as far as Twins performance, standings, and success, as well as baseball-wide predictions. I hope to have a nice surprise for you on this -- the operative word being "hope." I'm not sure; no promises.
  • Friday, April 2 -- Free Pat Neshek Day: Thrylos98 of Tenth Inning Stretch has also called Friday "Free Pat Neshek Day". He wants to know our thoughts about giving Pat the closer job straight up rather than go through committee. I may have a few words on this topic; we'll see if that Predictions Day thing I had planned pans out.
  • Friday, April 2 and Saturday, April 3 -- Exhibition Games at Target Field: Ok, no, I do not have plans to attend these, as much as I wish I could. There are still tickets available, but they're the expensive ones, and now's not a good time financially (stuff all around my house is breaking down and needing replacing -- don't you hate that?). I fully expect great pictures and stories from all you who do go.
  • Saturday, April 10 -- TwinsCentric Viewing Party II: Another great viewing party is planned at Major's in Blaine starting at noon. I'm planning on being there. I really hope to see everyone there. It'll be fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Short Notes - Mar. 25

Target Field and the Curious Marketing Ploy
This past weekend, many folks got to tour Target Field. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them, but I really enjoyed looking at everyone's pictures on Facebook and other places on the web. Everyone is raving about it. One of my co-workers went, and she showed me some fantastic pictures too. And she brought me a copy of the Target Field Fan Guide (she's so thoughtful). The guide is very informative, and I'm grateful she gave it to me. When I turned it to the back side, I wasn't surprised to see an ad for Target. They want you to go to Target to pick up all the things you need for a trip to ballpark: sunblock, sunglasses, cap, sunflower seeds, mitt.... But, wait a sec...what is that?

Do NOT tell me they're advocating you bring a beach ball to the baseball game. I mean don't get me wrong, I love Target. I'd totally go there to pick up sunblock, a cap, or flip flops on my way to the game. But, I'm morally opposed to beach balls at baseball games. I hate, hate, hate beach balls at baseball games. In fact, I even started a Facebook group about it. But, the funny thing is, it's not just me who wants to ban beach balls from baseball games; Target Field itself wants to ban beach balls from baseball games. It says so right on page 10 of the very same Fan Guide.
A classic case of the Marketing Department refusing to communicate with other departments. Trust me, I know what that's all about.

Really, Glen Perkins?
So Glen Perkins will miss a few days because he hurt his back...by lifting weights. Seriously? That just sounds like an out-of-shape-fat-guy thing to do. What's next? Miss five games because he stubbed his toe? Does he even want to pitch?

Bubble Guy
Every spring, I like to select one guy who I hope makes the roster, but who probably won't, so I root for him along the way. Because he's on the bubble between the majors and AAA, I call him my bubble guy. And this year's bubble guy is ... pitcher Anthony Slama. He's pitched well, raising some eyebrows, making waves in the "who's the closer" conversation. But the selling point is ... check out this picture from the Knuckleballs blog (a blog that, if you haven't checked out yet, you should):
Look at that! Old-school stirrups! How sweet is that?
Now go visit that blog and check out the rest of the Spring Training pictures and other good stuff.

Speaking of Blogs You Should Read 
I've reorganized my blogroll on the sidebar again. I've added all 64 other Twins blogs that were included on the Newsbobber blog list. To keep it manageable, it only lists the 25 most-recently updated blogs. So check it out often.

Fantasy Baseball
This year, I joined a bunch of other Twins bloggers in a fantasy baseball league. I had the third overall pick, and selected Marlins' shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Then I picked CC Sabathia, Ichiro, and Johan Santana. Then I kind of started drafting poorly. I was distracted by making that ridiculous Joe's World photoshop and helping my kids with their homework during the draft (which kind of explains why that photoshop turned out so crappy, but let me tell you, it's not easy fitting Bill Smith's, um..., large-ish head onto Dana Carvey's slim face). In fact, I was darned lucky to even get a regular catcher, because I kind of forgot about filling that position until late. Luckily, Cardinals' Yadier Molina was still available. Coincidentally, my back up catcher is his brother, Giants' Bengie Molina. I've also got the all-important DL slot filled by drafting the Mets' outfielder Carlos Beltran -- everyone's hoping he'll be good to go by late April.

I don't really expect much. I'm not really a great fantasy baseball mind. My aversion to stats and research kind of handicaps me at such things. But, I'll do my best and have fun. Besides, it's no wonder I don't expect to do well; just look at these great baseball minds I'm playing against:

Andrew Kneeland: Twins Target
Brian Pietrzak: BP's Baseball Blog
Eric Johnson: Undomed
Eric Olson: Call to the 'Pen
Josh Johnson: Josh's Thoughts
Louie Schuth: Hitting the Eephus
Topper Anton: Curve for a Strike

Oh, the name of my team is the "Three Finger Mordecai Browns," named after Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, a Cubs pitcher from the early 1900s. He lost a significant portion of his index finger in a childhood accident, and many of his opponents claimed that his curveball was aided by that. To this day, the Cubs have not won a World Series in which he didn't appear.

More Recommended Reading

In addition to the Twins blogs, I've run across some gems:

An Indian's fan tells us how he really feels about the Joe Mauer signing. Actually, it's very nicely done -- so much so, that it almost makes me want to be an Indians fan. Ok, not really, but it's still good.

Some Yankee fans are worried about Joe Mauer's signing. Great satire.

Sarah explains how adorableness counts as a legit baseball stat. This is the same Sarah from Oh, It's THOSE Girls, and I swear, she knows exactly how I think and feel about baseball, but she's much more articulate and entertaining about it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ok, So Now What Am I Supposed To Do?

k-bro note: Ok, if I had known that talking about Joe Nathan's elbow was going to turn into a three-part series, I would've warned you ahead of time. But if you allow me this one last indulgence, I promise I won't need to go on any more. Call it working through my grief, if you will.

Ok. He knew it. The Twins knew it. You knew it. I knew it. Joe Nathan's going to have Tommy John surgery. I wish him all the best, and I sincerely hope that he can return next season and pitch for many years after that. In fact, I hope he realizes that he has super healing powers and comes back in time for September call-ups and pitches better than ever. Yes, I realize there's no sense in being delusional.

Joe will be impossible to replace on the mound. Surprisingly, I'm not terribly worried about what the Twins are going to do. For one thing, even an average pitcher can successfully convert about 80% of the save opportunities*. Plus, whoever the Twins initially choose will have a pretty short leash -- blow two saves or labor through three times, and ... next. Really, my gut tells me it'll be ok. And who knows, someone may surprise all of us and just shine in the role.

But, I really want to talk about the most important thing. What am I going to do? Ok, this may not be the most important thing, but it's well documented that I'm all in favor of anything that's all about me. You see, this whole ordeal has taken a toll on me -- more so that I thought it would. Turns out he might be my baseball boyfriend. Who knew?

It's not just that he's one of the best closers in the game, although that's a big part of it. But, I always had a good time watching him pitch. I love that he's twitchy. I love that he always made me nervous. And I really love his curveball -- no, I mean REALLY love it; oh my.

Actually I have this "thing" with him -- I have ever since his first pitch in a Twins uniform. I talk to him when he's on the mound, right through the TV or radio. I always say "Joe, no interesting." Always. And I get my kids involved -- I make them say it too. I know he hears me, and he usually responds well (for the record, for that blown save against the Yankees in the playoffs, I was at my kid's football game and unavailable to talk to him -- don't think that didn't kill me). Between his nervousness and my encouragement, it's a great relationship, and it works.

So, who am I going to have this relationship with now? Who am I going to talk to while he's on the mound? What am I going to say? You don't understand how extremely important this is to me (yes, yes, I know I don't really have this much power over the players, at least the core of my brain knows it -- there's no reasoning with the core of my gut).

Neshek? Possibly; he's got potential, and he's fun to watch. But his elbow is kind of iffy, and I'd stress out too much worrying about both the game and his arm.

Crain? Nah. He annoys me. I have an automatic dim view set on him, so regardless of how he performs, I'll think he sucks. Can we even take him seriously?

Guerrier? Maybe, but he's kind of boring -- he doesn't even twitch. But if he can get saves, I can overlook that.

Rauch? Nope. I refuse to talk to him. I mean, I want him to do well, for the good of the team and all. But I can't see myself having fun watching him pitch.

Mijares? Um, I don't think he'll even get a chance. Do you?

Somebody new? Wow. That'd be like a first date. I won't even know him, and it'll be all awkward.

So, what's a girl to do? I guess I'll figure it out along with everyone else. But, really, it'll be ok. Right?

*I think I read that somewhere, and I'm not sure where, so I can't verify this. But it sounds plausible. So, if I'm wrong, don't yell at me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Case For Letting Joe Nathan and His Arm Wait

Many of my friends and acquaintances are wondering why Joe Nathan and the Twins organization are waiting so long since they discovered his UCL injury to decide whether he should undergo Tommy John surgery. He's planning on testing his arm sometime soon to see if he can continue pitching through the pain or if there's no alternative but to have the procedure. Unfortunately, the collective gut feeling is that he won't be able avoid going under the knife. Many fans, myself included, believe that he should have it done so we still have a chance to see him in 2011.

It turns out the injury may not be as significant as originally reported; there's still a slim chance that he'll be able pitch in 2010. It's all about whether he can grit through the pain. If he goes that route, there's a risk that he just wont be very effective. Plus, he'll always be sore and may not be able to go on consecutive days. And then, there's an even bigger risk that he'll blow the ligament completely sometime down the road when it's too late to satisfactorily fill the void.

Now, there are plenty of fans who want to immediately ship him off and get him fixed. However, we need to stop thinking about him as merely an asset to the team -- nothing more than a machine -- and start thinking about him as a human. He's a guy with a sore arm who has a difficult decision to make, one that will affect every aspect of his life for the next year-plus. Damned if he does; damned if he doesn't. Either option is pretty crappy, and I'm sure he's pissed he even has to decide.

He's doing the Twins a favor by trying to get them an answer in a two-week time frame. I'm certain he would like several more weeks to allow it to heal more. And I don't blame him a bit for being hesitant to immediately decide. He's doing everything possible to avoid having this surgery. And he should. This is a procedure that not only takes away his livelihood for over a year, but also puts a serious dent in his quality of life for awhile.

Surgery is risky. Anytime someone goes under general anesthesia, there's a risk of dangerous and permanent complications. Reconstructive surgery includes the extra hazard of being difficult to recover from. And that's assuming all goes as planned. If he's a slow healer, if he doesn't respond well to pain medications, or if he contracts an infection, recovery will be even worse.

After surgery, the road from not even being able to make a sandwich to throwing a fastball again is long and difficult. In fact, the whole following year will be absolute hell. It will not only be physical hell, with awful pain and the inability to even use his arm, but it will also be emotional hell. He'll be mad and frustrated, angry that it happened, disappointed that it's taking so long, helpless, hopeless, lonely, and depressed, all while the team has moved on without him.There will be crushed optimism and setbacks -- more than once. And, every step of the way, he'll second guess himself. After all that, there's a very good chance he'll never be the pitcher he was. Just because others come back, it doesn't mean necessarily mean he will. Healing at 35 is much different than healing at 25. He'd get through it, but, trust me, he doesn't want to.

I expect he knows about the hell that is recovery. He's a smart guy; he's asked around and done his research. He wants to do everything he can to avoid this, so he's taking his time and figuring out what's best. Either way, it sucks, and the route that sucks less isn't readily apparent.

However, don't think for a second that the Twins are handcuffed by this delay. They certainly want what's best for him, and they can't rush him much, but they're also not sitting on their hands. They have roadmaps drawn for plans B, C, D, E and probably F and G.

So, give him time. He needs to figure this out. Two extra weeks in a 50 - 70 week recovery is nothing. And, regardless of which route he chooses, he'll need all the positive vibes from fans he can get.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baseball on TV, Baked Goods, the Infield Fly Rule, and Bullet Points

What's better than watching the first televised Twins game of 2010? Watching it at a viewing party.
What's better than watching the first televised Twins game of 2010 at a viewing party? Watching it at two viewing parties.

On Saturday, I had an awesome opportunity to visit two viewing parties and meet up with some great fellow bloggers and Twins fan.

First was the Baseball and Baked Goods event in Richfield. A fun group of Twins fangirls watched the game, ate some fries with seasoned sour cream, visited, and exchanged baked goods. I brought chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate mint brownies. It was a resounding success!

Then, I headed over to the TwinsCentric party in Apple Valley. The game was over by the time I got there, but a lot of fun people were still there hanging out. I had an extra pan of those chocolate mint brownies (I made two pans), so I brought those in.

I had such a fun time meeting and visiting with so many folks and talking baseball. Really, it was a blast. So much so that I can't really put my thoughts together cohesively. So you know what that means -- bullet points! So, in no particular order, my impressions of Saturday's festivities.
  • The Twins Spring Training hats are really dumb. There's this extra bit of piping that runs down the front of the bill on the side; it looks like they messed up the bill and had to add more.
  • Betsy says I'm supposed to drink a shot every time I use the word "awesome" because she hates it when people say it too much. Great, I'm already 4 behind.
  • I make pretty good chocolate mint brownies.
  • Ok, I think the brownies are pretty good. Apparently every one else thinks they're rapturous. Life-changing, even.
  • I knew Delmon Young had trimmed down, but ... damn!
  • Matt "Tigger" Tolbert does not like catching a pop-up in the sunshine. He does, however, really appreciate the infield fly rule.
  • I impress people with my ability to recite the infield fly rule. In fact, I'm thinking of having a shirt made up:
Infield fly rule: When there is a force at third base, and fewer than two outs, if a ball is popped up such that an infielder should reasonably be able to catch it, the umpire may, at his discretion, invoke the infield fly rule. The batter is automatically out; the runners may advance at their own risk.
  • Seth Stohs politely reminded me that I forgot the "in fair territory" part. So there goes that. Thanks for bursting my bubble, Seth.
  • The general consensus is that the Twins fans love Denard Span and are happy for him that he signed a 5 year deal, but that maybe as a business decision, it only makes sense if he turns out to be a super premiere centerfielder for the next 5 years.
  • Eric claims that he'll kick my ass in fantasy baseball. Yeah, he probably will. But he's not so special -- everybody will.
  • Apparently, because of those brownies, I've been nominated The Official Betty Freaking Crocker of Twins Territory.
  • I learned that four people with a few beers in them sitting in a bar can hammer out Joe Mauer's contract no problem.
  • We recommend that Joe Mauer, Ron Shapiro, Bill Smith, and Jim Pohland go to a bar, tip back a few brews, and GET. IT. DONE.
  • If I have to bring rapturous brownies to the bar where the above meeting is taking place to facilitate things, I'll do it. Whatever it takes; I don't mind.
  • Pat Neshek wants to be the closer, and he wants everyone to know it.
  • Joes Mijares, apparently, does not.
So...those brownies. You want the recipe? I could just tell you that it's an old family secret, or that I invented it myself, but that's not how I roll. I like to give credit where credit's due. I got the recipe emailed to me from Betty Crocker herself (the real one, not the freaking one): chocolate mint brownies. 

Here's the k-bro twist: since I had neither mint extract nor green food coloring for the filling, I simply streamed Creme De Menthe liqueur -- the good stuff -- into the mixer as I blended the sugar, butter, cream, and cream cheese. I didn't really measure how much; I just kept going until it looked right and tasted good.

Yup, like Jen, I get people liquored up with my baked goods. That's probably why people like them so much.

In summary, it was an awesome (take a shot) good time. I hope there will be more events like this. I really enjoyed visiting with everyone I met. I would like to name everyone I talked to, but really, there were so many, I'll forget someone. Thanks to Sarah for setting up the Baseball and Baked Goods party; and to John, Nick, Parker, and Seth for setting up the TwinsCentric one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Short Notes - Mar. 11

Catching up on some of the Twins news from the last week. I know some of this is kind of late, and I was going to write about this sooner, but then Joe Nathan ... well, you know. Moving on ....

Blackie Locked Up For 4 Years
This not only made me happy, but it also kind of amused me. The contract extension that he signed on Sunday covers his arbitration years with an option for his first year of potential free agency. I like this deal because it ensures that a decent pitcher will be around for awhile; he's better than league average in ERA, strikeouts, WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), and wins. And with the inordinately large number of other guys in their arbitration years, it's a bit comforting that the Twins have one less of those processes to worry about.

The amusing part (yeah, I might be the only who thinks this is funny ... well not funny per se, but kind of humorous, but I digress) was that some radio personality announced with certainty that one hometown boy who's a pretty good catcher would be signing his contract on Sunday. And since Blackie and Joey kind of look alike, the joke with all my Twitter friends was that someone confused the two. Ok ... I guess you had to be there. Or not.

I Have To Catch Up on My Reading
I'm now in the middle of two great books.

I picked up my copy of Maple Street Press's Twin Annual from Cub a while ago, and I love it. It has a bunch of interesting articles by some familiar names: John Bonnes (TwinsGeek), Seth Stohs (SethSpeaks.net), Nick Nelson (Nick's Twins Blog), Parker Hageman (Over the Baggy), Andrew Kneeland (Twins Target), Howard Sinker (Star Tribune's A Fan's View), and a whole bunch of other great writers. Oh, and I love the player pages that have the stats all graphed out, in color and everything -- those are easy to understand for a person like me who has an aversion to stats.

And I received my copy of Seth Stohs' 2010 Prospect Handbook. I've glanced through some of it, but I really find it handy when listening to these Spring Training games. Thanks to it, I know who Juan Portes is. And if you get one, you will too.

And As If I Don't Already Have Enough To Read
This list of 63 Twins bloggers was published a few days ago. Wow. I had no idea there was that many. Way to represent Twins bloggers!

You'll see I'm rated #17. I think that's pretty high. I looked at their ranking system, and it seems that it's based solely on the number of visits the blogs get. My visit count is probably artificially high due to Nick Punto day. Clearly, it's not based on quality -- there are plenty of blogs better than this drivel and further down on the list. But it's great to have a comprehensive list. Be sure to check them all out ... you know, when you get time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Well, Isn't THAT Just a Punch in the Gut

So, yeah, you've already heard by now that the most valuable right elbow in Twins Territory is damaged. And not just rub-some-dirt-on-it-and-walk-it-off sore, but torn-and-possibly-needing-surgery damaged. There's a "significant" tear to the ulnar collateral ligament, otherwise known as the ligament that gets replaced in Tommy John surgery. And that's just the route he might have to take. He'll decide in the next two weeks. I hate it that this thought entered my head: this may not only end his season, but he's 35, and chances are that it'll take two years to get back to awesome-closer form, this might end his ... nope, I don't want to think about it. Damn.

So now there is much hand-wringing throughout Twins fandom about who will fill those most excellent shoes. Who's going to notch 47 saves in 2010? I'm glad I'm not the one who has to decide.

Rauch? He's got major-league experience with closing, but his stuff's not terribly over-powering. And many fans don't seem to like him very much.

Neshek? Well, sure, if it was still 2007. But he hasn't thrown a pitch in a major league game for almost two years, I think he needs some time to ramp back up.

Liriano? Meh. He probably has the stuff, but I can't trust his head.

Guerrier? Well, he did close in the minors. I guess he'd be ok. But still ...

Trade for someone? Right...unless we could pry Joakim Soria from the Royals, which ain't gonna happen.


There are so many great points of view out there. Click on the various blogs; a lot of folks have some great input on the topic. I found this Twinkie Town interview with Will Carroll particularly informative.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


This is my annual tribute to my dad who passed away on this date in 1995.

Fifteen years ago today, the man who taught me to love baseball, my dad, died of colon cancer.

My dad was a great guy. He was brilliant - he knew something about absolutely everything. He had a wry sense of humor, and he told the best stories. He loved reading the funnies and completing the crossword puzzle every day, but he always read the box scores first.

He taught me many useful things like cooking and driving. But he firmly believed that every kid needed two skills: playing cribbage and scoring baseball games. And I do those things pretty well. He took me to a few games at the old Met Stadium. His favorite player was Roy Smalley, while I had a mad crush on Butch Wynegar. He also took me to an exhibition game when the Dome first opened and the roof leaked - the poor left fielder got wet.

My favorite memories are of summer evenings when we would go down to the Dairy Queen - the kind where you had to walk up to the window to order- and sit in his beat-up old maroon truck in the glow of the yellow lights that were supposed to keep the mosquitoes away but didn't, and listen the Herb Carneal call the Twins game on the radio. He'd almost always get a chocolate - NOT hot fudge - sundae with Spanish peanuts. I'd mix it up and get whatever struck my fancy, but my favorite was a dipped cone with sprinkles. We would do this about two or three times a week. The radio in his truck got better reception than the radio in the house, so I think we did it more for the baseball than for the ice cream.

Baseball games weren't on TV very often, but I distinctly remember that he made me watch Hank Aaron's 715th homerun. I'm glad he did.

I regret that I didn't spend the two Twins' World Series wins with him - I was in college in '87 and at a family reunion with my husband's side of the family in '91.

I think he'd like the current corps of Twins players. He was a "do it the right way on a budget" kind of guy.


I write this tribute because I want to do my part to reduce the occurrence of colon cancer so other folks don't have to write tributes for their loved ones. March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and is up to 90% survivable if treated in its earliest stages.

Please take care of your colons. Get screened regularly (it's not that bad -- really). And make sure your loved ones, especially those in high-risk groups, take care of theirs.

If you'd like to do more, consider participating in the "Get Your Rear in Gear" 5k run/walk. I plan to participate (walk) this year, and I'll also be working a booth for the Twin Cities race (my employer is a corporate sponsor). Visit the Colon Cancer Coalition for more information.