Monday, July 26, 2010

When Baseball and Bad Spelling Collide: Trade Edition

I've mentioned before that I love all things grammar, punctuation, and spelling almost as much as I love baseball. Thus, I have The Sentence Sleuth as part of my regular blog-reading regimen.

The proprietor of that wonderful blog, Bonnie Trenga, found this little gem:

Hee hee! I wonder if poor Dan is feeling a little blue. Like this:

Be sure you stop by Bonnie's blog and vote on the poll she posted. And if you like quick grammar tips as much as I do, be sure to visit her blog regulaly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Twins at Orioles: Love Letters

Thursday: Twins 5 - Orioles 0
Friday: Twins 2 - Orioles 3
Saturday: Twins 7 - Orioles 2
Sunday: Twins 10 - Orioles 4

Record: 53-46 1 game back

That was a nice series. Even the one loss didn't feel demoralizing -- it was more a matter of Jeremy Guthrie and Luke Scott having a good day than any of the Twins having a bad one.

Usually I don't like to pin my mood on the results of my team -- I do have a life after all -- but this series was so nice, it improved my already content state of mind. So nice, in fact, I'm compelled to to write a few short love letters.

Dear Carl Pavano: I love complete games. I love complete game shut-outs. You're pitching so excellently that you're beginning to remind me a little of my beloved, Brad Radke. Please keep up this level of excellence. 
Dear Ty Wigginton, Juan Samuel, Idiot Fan Running on the Field, and Orioles Security Staff: Thanks for the laughs. No, really. Your performances gave me a good chuckle.
Dear Brian Duensing: Nice work. Really. You did exactly what you were asked to do. You kept the team in the game, and you looked pretty smooth. Keep it up kid; you may have earned a permanent spot in the rotation.
Dear Joe Mauer: Hi. That homerun you hit was really pretty. You know it was. Do that again. A lot. Please.
Dear Anthony Slama: Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Tough break giving up that homer to Luke Scott. If it's any consolation, it's not really an awful thing to give up a dinger to him -- he's a good hitter. Just ask Scott Baker. Oh, and keep rocking those stirrups.
Dear O-Dog: Get well soon. Again. 
Dear Scott Baker: Hugs. That pitching performance was very solid. Way to go. You know how much I love good pitching. Keep it up; we're all rooting for you.
Dear Jason Kubel: Boom! Oh yeah! You loves you some grand slam action. Next time I see you, I'll buy the Gummi Bears.
Dear Kevin Slowey: There you go, pal. That's the kind of pitching we like to see. In fact, you were doing such a nice job, Bert accidentally called you Brad Radke. Keep it up, and I'll love you almost as much as I loved him.
And, most importantly --
Dear Delmon Young: I'm thunderstruck, and I like it. You are on one hell of a tear, and it's beautiful. I mean, look at you at the plate. Sure, you still swing at a lot of pitches, but you're not flailing. You're making contact, and hitting to all fields. And, that power...ooh la la. Also, when the cameras catch you on the bench, you seem all happy and fun and stuff. I like seeing that. Let's face it -- you're good. Please sustain this good mojo, because everyone is beginning to love you, including me.
Eternally yours,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Lot of Questions About HGH Testing

k-bro's note: Once again, I've climbed upon a soap box to bloviate about a subject of controversy. What can I say? I've got a thorn in my craw. I'll resume to my regular fun and whimsical, yet feckless, blog posts shortly.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that it will test minor league players who are not on an MLB 40-man roster for synthetic human growth hormone (HGH), effective immediately. I have some pretty strong opinions about this matter, which I won't directly go into here. More importantly, I have a lot of questions.

Before I get started, I want to make some things perfectly clear:
  • I am not a medical, legal, or contract expert. My statements come only from my head, with very little expertise to back them up.
  • I did not have time to thoroughly research this topic. I've heard things on talk radio and I've read a small sampling of blog posts and main-street-media articles (which all pretty much site the same sources). Additionally, I do not have access to experts who can answer these questions or back up these statement. If anything in here seem naive, it's because it is.
  • I completely understand that HGH is a banned substance. I feel that if anyone ever gets caught taking HGH, he should get in trouble.
  • I do not condone any player taking any banned substances for any reason without clearing it through the league first.
  • I'm not looking to debate the topic of steroid use in baseball. Nor am I looking to debate the topic of drug testing. I, however, feel that the players deserve to have some questions answered before this proceeds. 
  • Even though it may seem like it, I'm not trying to be sassy or sarcastic. These are real questions I have and would like real answers.

Testing for HGH is so controversial because it requires blood to be drawn. All other drug screening is done with urine testing. MLB is testing only minor leaguers because they're not members of the players' union and not covered by collective bargaining.

This is a very cutting edge move by MLB; it is the first professional sport organization in the US to implement it. However, before everyone salutes Bud Selig for this forward-looking approach, I think the players, and the public to some extent, deserve to fully understand the risks, rewards, consequences, and science behind this plan.

Here are my questions:
  1. Why now, in the middle of the season? Testing during Spring Training makes so much more sense. Do they think they're on to something? 
  2. Why isn't it allowed in the current collective bargaining agreement? Is it because it's invasive? Is it because they have no independent research to validate the procedures and outcomes? There must be some reason the players' union balked at it before. Are they likely to balk at it again?
  3. Does taking HGH really enhance performance? When Andy Pettitte admitted to using HGH, he claimed it was so that he could heal faster, not to improve his skills. In fact, everything I've heard about HGH said that it doesn't enhance performance at all. Are minor leaguers, who are generally young and heal well naturally, taking a lot of HGH?
  4. Is HGH use really a problem, especially in the minors? Will Carroll, who writes for Baseball Prospectus and tweets as @injuryexpert, wrote in his personal blog that he doubts many minor leaguers have the financial or logistic means to purchase, store, and take HGH. Will very many of these guys test positive? Will it be worth the effort?
  5. What is the detection period of HGH? I don't think anyone really knows. I've heard that the time takes the body to metabolize it is anywhere from a few hours to two weeks, although most of the stuff I've read claims it's closer to 36 to 48 hours. How fast after a guy takes HGH can a test be successful?
  6. Is the test reliable? I've read a few articles that said the HGH test isn't all that accurate; it's prone to false-positives. What happens in those cases? If someone tests positive, and the hormone really metabolizes in 36-48 hours, is there time to retest to rule out a false-positive?
  7. Will the players be protected from injury? I give blood from time to time, and I have blood work done every three months, so I know that drawing blood is pretty safe. However, there are some cases where veins "roll" and it's nearly impossible to draw blood without several pokings which get quite painful (this happens to my son, so I've seen it first-hand). And there's the occasional "poke-through" where the needle pierces completely through the vein and leaves a bruise -- it's minor, but it can hurt.
  8. Are there civil liberties implications? Urine can be considered waste, so there are no rights against testing it. However, players are still using their blood until it gets drawn. Can they really perform drug testing using an invasive procedure without probable cause? The minor-league contract may state that they can, so I don't know. But I'm willing to bet there are some savvy lawyers ready to start researching this.
  9. Why so secretive? A number of the articles I've read state that the overseers of the test, the World Anti-Doping Agency, has not revealed their data. Therefore, it can't be verified by independent research. Which could be a sticking point with the players' union if MLB wants to move forward with testing of major leaguers.
I don't mean to discredit the effort to keep cheating out of baseball. I appreciate that having a test will most likely be a deterrent, which is a good thing. But there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the whole HGH topic. Everyone needs to aim for a safe, effective, reliable, and understandable solution.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If Rick Anderson Starts Drinking More, We'll Know What Happened -- A Story

It's about 11 pm. Joe Vavra and Rick Anderson go to a bar after the game that the team they work for as the hitting coach and pitching coach, respectively, just played. They badly need a drink.

The establishment is a small place: a little too dark and a little too rank to be considered "nice." There are only a handful of people inside. The men take their seats toward the far end of the bar and wait for the bartender to finish her conversation with another patron.

"Summit, tall," Rick requests when she wanders down to greet them. "I'll have the same" Joe adds. The bartender is an average woman: a little too old and a little too heavy to be considered "pretty." It's clear she and the bar have been together a long time. She retreats to tap their beers.

"So, that was another clunker, huh?" Joe offers, trying to generate some small talk.

"Yeah," Rick replies, rubbing his brow. "But at least your guys have some fight in 'em. My guys...I don't know..." he continues with a sigh.

"Well, my guys aren't exactly perfect. They're hitting into way too many double-plays. And I still can't figure out how to get them to hit with more power at home.... But, I hear ya'. Yeah, I don't know what to tell you, Andy. They're capable of doing so much better." Joe replies helpfully as the bartender returns with their drinks. The men thank her. She lingers to see if they want anything else and to be friendly.

Rick continues, trying to include the bartender, because his frustration runs so deep, he's willing to vent to anyone who'll listen -- even strangers. "I don't know what their problem is. They're just not listening to me. They have great bullpens, but then they go out and stink up the joint. They're leaving pitches up....They're not trusting Mauer.... They're not making adjustments.

"They're so shitty lately, and I'm getting so sick of walking out to the mound every fifteen minutes to tell them to trust their stuff. I'm sick of all of it!" he yells, and then cuts himself off.

The bar becomes quiet as Joe, the bartender, and even the other patrons look at Rick with both concern and sympathy.

Suddenly, Rick slams his fist on the bar.

After a moment, the bartender looks at Rick and states, "hell, if they were my guys, I'd line them up just like kids picking teams, pick out the good ones and take them to Dairy Queen. The bad ones? I'd sell them for beer money."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

White Sox at Twins: Tracks and 'Staches

Thursday -- White Sox 8 - Twins 7
Friday -- White Sox 4 - Twins 7
Saturday -- White Sox 2 - Twins 3
Sunday -- White Sox 6 - Twins 7 (! after a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth)

Twins take series 3-1. Record: 49-43, 1.5 GB

What an encouraging series, huh? After gimping into the All-Star break, and then dropping the first one upon return, it was getting quite worrisome for Twins fans that we might be witnessing a derailment. I'm not quite sure it's safe to say they're back on the right track, but at least it seems as if they know where the right track is. It's a start.

But, just because this was an excellent series and the Twins gained some ground on the leaders, it doesn't mean there aren't concerns. It's going to be a bumpy roller-coaster ride if the Twins keep rolling with 2.5 good starting pitchers. Blackburn and Slowey have to, have to, pitch better than this. Blackie was a little better Sunday...well, until he wasn't. It's so frustrating, because we've seen them be very good not that long ago. They must be frustrated too, which probably isn't helping them pitch better. They're likely very aware they're on a runaway train...Phil Miller tweeted that Blackburn said that he doesn't know how long the team's going to put up with him making mistakes. The car is riding one rail...does it tip back on, or tip over?

Personally, I kind of think Blackie is more fixable than Slowey right now, but it's still a bummer because I really like both of them. I guess we fans just have to keep crossing our fingers and hoping for them to -- say it with me -- get back on track.


Remember how I said I wanted the Twins to develop a rallying cry? A motto, a scheme, a gimmick, anything to get fired up? Yeah, well I should have been more careful in what I wished for. It seems that Carl Pavano started something. And, his brainchild appears to be working -- for him anyway, but others have started trying it too. Unfortunately, it's so hideously ugly, it's almost disturbing.

Yep. He started the 'Staches for Success movement. At points during this past series, we saw Nick Punto, Drew Butera, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn sport some pretty awful growths on their upper lips.

I'm not afraid to admit that I enjoy my fair share of ballplayer eyecandy. However, facial hair stylings that went out with platform shoes, silk disco shirts, and plaid bell-bottoms can certainly make the most handsome face make me shudder with dread (I'm looking at you, Blackie). But, I also grasp that if they believe the mustaches help, they really do help. And I really really enjoy Twins wins.

So, I'm torn. But, I guess if the ugly lip fur helps with some kind of good luck, I'll go with it. I may have to close my eyes on closeup camera shots of our boys, but I'll go with it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jesse Crain Day!

Wow. I almost forgot that Andrew appointed today as Jesse Crain day.

Good thing I have this picture of him that my son drew:

I added the quote, because 1) that song was in my head, and 2) I thought it fit.

Isn't that a nicer image of him than what a lot of Twins fans have in their minds? Something like this:

"The Crainwreck"

(Oh, and by the way, when I was googling images if trainwrecks, I learned that there's a kind of pot called "trainwreck." Yeah, I probably shouldn't have clicked the link for it -- I'm at work. I expect a visit from the IT guy very shortly.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Aside from today's gem from Pavano (thanks Carl!), the last few weeks haven't been so much fun have they? Things have become a bit disorderly, and Twins fans have become quite antsy -- and rightly so.

Someone asked me the other day whether they're a good team that was playing up to their potential earlier and are now suffering some bad luck, or they're a bad team that was lucky earlier and now playing down to their potential. I honestly don't know -- a little of both, I suppose.

I can't figure out what's going on. Obviously, the starting pitching is a problem -- which is also hurting the relief pitching. But why? Is it because the offense is suddenly not scoring runs in the early innings and therefore the pitchers put too much pressure on themselves? Is it mechanics? Is it mental? Has the league figured them out? Are they failing to make adjustments? I suspect that smarter people than I don't really know either.

Coincidentally, the Twins were in about this spot a year ago. But this somehow feels different. Perhaps the expectations are higher this year. LaVelle E Neal tweeted that the front office and the coaching staff are on the hot seat to change things during the break. I guess we should expect a change in the rotation, or more. But, strangely, Blackburn has already heard that he'll start again after the break. However, I don't think Slowey is as safe. It's too bad...all the guys were pretty exciting to watch early in the season.

The All Star break comes at a good time. Fans and players alike can use a little time off. I suspect many casual fans have already started turning away -- and there's nothing wrong with that. Many of these games lately are painful to watch; summertime offers so many other great ways to spend time. It's a long season.

So, here we are, firmly in third place. And there's nothing we can do but accept it. Sure, fans can huff and puff and make demands, but it won't help and it doesn't matter. Look around. If you have friends who have lost their jobs or got in a car crash, baseball doesn't seem so important. And, to me, the Twins aren't even the most important baseball I watch. If you have kids who play, you know what I mean.

So, for now, everyone gets to take a break, take a breath, clear the mechanism, and hope for the best. Enjoy the All Star Game...or don't. And from here on out, take it one game at a time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Day in Twitter History

Here is my representation of what happened on baseball fans' Twitter feeds on Friday:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rallying Cry

Lately, our beloved Twins just look flat -- absolutely perfunctory. I'm not sure if they feel flat, but they sure don't look like they're having much fun. We haven't read any entertaining, silly personality stories coming out of the clubhouse since Mike Redmond left. For all we know, they're all pissed off and haven't spoken to each other for several days.

They need to start caring again. They need to start playing as a team. They need a rallying cry!

Remember "Smell 'Em"? Remember "Piranhas"? They need a slogan. They need something, anything, to motivate them

The trouble with a good rallying cry, though, is that it has to originate organically -- it can't be forced. It has to come from the purity of desire, from the depths of passion, from the guts of motivation. And it has to come from the trenches -- coming from superiors just takes away any credibility.

Obviously, Mike Redmond was the best at that. And I believe the team is worse-off with his absence. But there's nothing that can be done about that now (unless, as @calltothepen suggested, we trade to get him back). Someone just needs to show some leadership and inspire this bunch.

Certainly, it can't be the current back-up catcher, Butera, as he's busy practicing the "sit down, shut up, and don't cause trouble" method of newbie personality training. Same goes for Valencia and Repko. The pitchers can't do it; they've got their own problems (which is another blog post entirely - oy). Since charisma is required, Mauer and Morneau are excused. Kubel too. Cuddyer is too busy breaking in new gloves for all the different positions he has to play lately. JJ, Jim, and Orlando are probably too new to contribute something, although I'm willing to bet that if you let O-Dawg talk for an hour or so (don't think for a minute that he can't), something truly genius might slip out -- it's just that no one will be listening any more. Delmon is too distraught from Swisher winning the final ASG ballot (ick) to even think clearly.

That leaves Denard and Punto. And since Denard is a regular starter, Punto is the perfect candidate. After all, it takes a certain amount of cheerleading from the bench to pull this off well.

So, Twins, during the Detroit series, you'll have to fake it until you make it.

And Nick, you have homework over the All-Star break. Your job is to come up with a plan to actuate this team to being loose, having fun, playing well, and winning. Remember, you can't force it. You can do it, man. No pressure.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rays at Twins: Long Weekend; Loooooong Series

Thursday -- Rays 5 - Twins 4 (10)
Friday -- Rays 1 - Twins 2
Saturday -- Rays 8 - Twins 6
Sunday -- Rays 7 - Twins 4

Record: 44-38, 1/2 game behind Detriot

I hope everyone had a swell long holiday weekend. As a lake lover, I had a wonderful weekend. As a Twins lover, not so much.

I went to Thursday's game, and after demolishing my ankle before the game started (safety tip: if you're old and clumsy like me, don't attempt to climb down to the lower row by stepping on the seat below -- it's likely to fold up with your ankle still in it and entangle you like a bear trap, and then your son will refuse to help you but instead take a picture of you while you're hollering in agony), I had a blast! For 8 and 2/3 innings. Then when Rauch walked Crawford to get to Longoria, I literally felt something in my gut. I knew what was about to happen. And I didn't like it. Alas, my gut was right. And Longoria hit that double that blew the save.

Friday's game was a lot of fun. I always love a good pitchers' duel, and Price and Baker didn't disappoint. And the offense squeaked out just enough hits to win it. Which makes me seems like the Twins can always beat good aces -- Price, Santana, Halladay -- so why don't they just pretend all pitchers are aces and go ahead and beat everybody?

So this series was kind of a dud. I don't really like 4-game series to begin with. Add to it that it was on a holiday weekend when I was also doing a lot of other fun things, it really kind of made it hard to watch.

The offense was satisfactory -- any time your teams scores 4 or more runs, they should win the game. They always kept fighting, too; they consistently managed to get the tying run to the plate in the late innings. And, for the most part, the starters did their jobs (*ahem* Blackie, you can do better -- keep working on it, pal). So, it was the bullpen that had a hard time. They've been so good; I hope this is just a hiccup.

I have to say that I'm quite proud of Jim Thome for taking his spot at tenth on the home run list. I would've been happy for him regardless of what uniform he wore; it's extra fun that he had "Twins" across his chest. I admit that watching that Killebrew "atta boy" message did bring a tear to my eye.

I'm also proud of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau for their All Star Game selections. I think it's pretty cool that a non-coast team has two starters -- and deservedly so. I'm also proud of Delmon for his extra-ballot selection. Make sure you vote for him, because, admit it, you hate Youkilis and Swisher as much as I do.

From the Rays to the Blue Jays. I don't know if it means anything, but I've noticed a inordinate number of actual blue jays in my neighborhood lately. So, you know, Go Twins!