Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 19

They Say Goodbye...
We can officially say goodbye to a few former Twins this week. Matt Guerrier signed with the Dodgers, Jesse Crain signed with the White Sox, Orlando Hudson is going to the Padres, and Jose Morales was traded to the Rockies for prospects.

I was hoping the Twins would be able to keep one of Guerrier or Crain to keep the bullpen strong -- preferably Matty. When Guerrier's signing was announced, I still held a little hope that the Twins could still snag Crain. But, alas, it was not meant to be. Those two have been pillars in the Twins bullpen for a lot of years, and it's going to be weird to not have either one of them around. I may have been critical of both their up-and-down tendencies, but by and large, they've been very, very reliable. Unfortunately, many fans seem to remember only certain bad days, especially against the Yankees (why, yes, I do remember when Guerrier gave up that grand slam to A-Rod, thanks for asking), but if folks would consider their entire bodies of work, they'd realize they were both very solid pitchers. The Twins will miss having them around.

Orlando Hudson announced on an XM Radio interview his agreement with the Padres, thereby scooping everybody (well, everybody in my Twitter feed) on any rumors about it. He will join former-Twin Jason Bartlett to staff the Padres' middle-infield.

I was quite surprised when I saw that Jose Morales was traded. At first, I was kind of bummed: I like his smile I figured that he's too good for what the Twins got in return. But then I realized that I was kind of doing that remembering only a certain good day (his MLB debut) thing and not considering his entire player profile (shame on me), and I changed my mind. He was out of minor-league options (which meant that if the Twins wanted to send him down, he'd have to clear waivers first, which wouldn't be likely) and they needed the space on the 40-man roster, so it wasn't such a bad trade after all.

I wish all them the best of luck. Well, maybe slightly less luck to Jesse Crain because he's a White Sox now and he's fair game for my rival ire.


And We Say Hello...

The Twins officially signed and introduced Tsuyoshi Nishioka (he says we can call him "Nishi"). I didn't see any of the press conference, but from everything I read, he seems like a good guy. I'm getting more and more excited to see him play, even if I'm cautiously optimistic. He said all the right things, and he seems to have some personality. Here's he and Gardy modeling the Justin Morneau "sluggies"...if this ain't personality, I don't know what is.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Twins

Welcome, Nishi.


Here's hoping you have a fabulous Christmas. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 12, 2010

The Winter Meetings are over, and I have to say they were more eventful than I expected them to be. I was fully prepared to write something about how I predicted that the Twins never do anything during the Winter Meetings, even when they're trying to trade Johan Santana. Boy, do I wish I could've written that.

The Twins traded JJ Hardy, Brendan Harris, and cash to the Baltimore Orioles for ... wait ... who were those guys again. I don't know, a couple minor league pitchers. Hang on a sec.... Oh yeah, James Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Word has it that Hoey could break into the bullpen in 2011, but Jacobson is strictly a prospect at this point. Both are known for throwing heat but struggle with control.

The Twins must be confident they'll sign Japanese player Tsuyoshi Nishioka or else they would've held on to Hardy at least a little longer. The organization claims they made the trade because they wanted more speed in the lineup; not very many fans buy that. Many fans believe it was a salary-dump -- Hardy was arbitration-eligible and will make as much at $5 mil in 2011.

Let me just say that I hate this trade, salary-dump or not. I'm not a fan of the current middle-infield picture -- Casilla, Tolbert, Plouffe, Hughes make for slim pickings and probably a lot of fan eye-rolling. And adding Nishioka doesn't ease my mind much; being good in Japanese ball doesn't always translate into being good in the MLB.

I'm also mad that, if they did have to trade JJ, that's really all they could get for him? He's a damn fine shortstop, I think if the Twins had held on a bit, they could've gotten a better deal. Plus, he's just one of those players I like -- he might not be a superstar, but he did his job, made some nice plays, and seemed like a good guy. I'll miss him. I wish both JJ and Brendan the best with the Orioles -- good luck facing the Yankees and Red Sox 157 times a year. The cash will do well no matter who it faces.

With all that being said however, I don't think this trade is a huge blow to the team. If the Twins can use that saved money to sign a decent starting pitcher or some reliable bullpen help, everything will be ok.


The Rule 5 Draft took place on the final day of the Winter Meetings. This is where teams can window shop the other teams and select players not on a 40-man roster. The catch is that if a team selects a player, it must put him on the big league active roster the entire next season or he must be returned to his original team (or the two teams could work out a trade).

The Twins selected LHP Scott Diamond from the Braves organization. We'll likely see him in the bullpen.

I swear, if he chooses "Sweet Caroline", or any other Neil Diamond song for that matter, as his walk-out music, I'll puke.

The Twins didn't lose anyone in the Rule 5 Draft.


I know this is a baseball blog, but I can't let the popping of the Metrodome on Sunday go unmentioned. After all, it is the old neighborhood of the Twins.

I'm sure many of you saw what happened to the roof. It's very fortunate that no one was hurt; on Saturday there were workers on the roof shoveling it off, but they called it off due to dangerous wind and cold. It would've been tragic if those workers were still up there when the Teflon tore.

In case you didn't see it, or if you want to see it again, here:

I hope they can get it fixed soon. There's another Vikings game scheduled for a week from Monday; I'd hate to have them play in a neutral site two consecutive weeks.


I know you're dying to know how I've been spending my time now that there's no baseball. Crocheting. Lots and lots of crocheting. In addition to scarf-zilla, I've made another scarf (normal-sized), three hats, and 30 smallish things that I'll pair up and give as gifts. Thirty. I'd divulge more, but my mom reads this blog and she's going to get one of those gifts whether she wants one or not (hi mom!). So will just about everyone I've ever met.

I need baseball to come back soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is JJ Hardy "Injury Prone"? (With Paper Dolls!)

Editorial note: I had this post about 2/3 done when rumors of the Twins trading JJ to the Orioles started flying hot and heavy on Wednesday. But, since I've been cooking this in my head for about a week and a half, I figured I'd still go with it. So there's a very good chance that this article will be moot and worthless in 24 hours, but hey, any chance I get to break out my paper dolls, I'm going for it.

K-bro's 2010 JJ Hardy Injury Paper Doll
I find myself defending JJ Hardy a lot lately. Especially since there are rumors that he's possibly being shopped as a trade candidate. I want to keep him around. I think he's a great defensive shortstop and he's decent offensively. But several of my friends tell me that they wouldn't be sad to see him go because he "can't stay healthy" and he's "injury-prone."

Really? I knew he missed a lot of time due to that nagging wrist injury that was caused by a freak event, but I never really considered him "injury-prone." Let's examine.

First, I need to define "injury-prone." How the hell do I know? I've never spent more than 15 minutes willingly on an athletic field of play in my life. So, I did the most logical thing; I asked my Twitter friends.
The responses I got were quite varied: everything from "unlucky" to "Eric Bedard" to "unwilling to play hurt" to "managed by Dusty Baker" (that one made me laugh). But I'll go with Andrew's (@Bryz_OffTheMark): "I'd probably say one significant injury per year for 3+ years where 'significant' means spending more than 15 days on the DL." This definition is good because it excludes players who have a bad-luck injury that hurts them for only one season, such as Justin Morneau and his concussion (hopefully it's only the one year). It also excludes "achy" players who need an extra day or two here and there, but that sitting out time doesn't really hurt the team, such as Jim Thome. So under Andrew's definition, Joe Crede comes immediately to mind. Remember him?

K-bro's 2009 Joe Crede Paper Doll
JJ's 2010 injuries consisted of a migraine, sore or swollen knee, turf toe, and that poor wrist. Over the previous three years, he's reportedly missed games because of back spasms (4 in '09, 3 in '07), collarbone injury (1 in '09), a rotator cuff injury (5 in '08), a hip flexor injury (1 in '07), and a stomach virus (2 in '07) for a total of 16 games, which is not significant, and nothing DL-worthy. Additionally, the turf toe (which is a lot more painful that it's silly name implies -- it's pretty much a ligament strain under the big toe) was listed as an ongoing injury, "I played probably half my games last year with the same problem, so it's not a big deal," but he only missed one game because of it, so he is willing to play hurt.

So it's got to be that wrist, right? The wrist is what everyone is thinking of when they're complaining about JJ's heartiness (Hardy's heartiness?). But can he really be labeled "injury-prone" because of that? He jammed it by sliding innocently, feet-first, into third base after smacking a lovely triple. I'm no expert, because I've never slid into any base in any fashion ever, but looking at it didn't seem out of the ordinary -- guys put their hands down as they slide to keep the upper halves of their bodies from hitting the ground. He's probably slid like that thousands of times. It was just a freak occurrence that he wouldn't be able to do again if he tried. The unfortunate part was that it was especially stubborn to heal. A cortisone shot and a trip to the DL just didn't do it. Apparently either he or the team, or both, rushed him back too quickly, it flared up again, and he needed even more time on the DL for the second trip.
Does this one, obstinate injury make him injury-prone? I don't think so. If he still has problems with it next season, or if it happens again, maybe, but even then I'm not convinced. Yes, it was frustrating how much time he missed, but, if anything, I'd call him "slow to heal" (I totally get that -- I'm "slow to heal" too). However, after a restful off-season, there's no reason to believe it'll hold him back in 2011.

And, hey, isn't it great that I found some real clothes for the JJ paper doll rather than the body-paint uni I had for Joe's?


My tweet above inspired Nick Nelson of Nick's Twins Blog to explore the Myth of Injury Prone using JJ as an example. Be sure to check it out; it's a good read.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 5, 2010

On Tuesday, as expected, all three free-agent players that the Twins offered arbitration to; Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain, and Orlando Hudson; declined. So, if they all sign elsewhere, the Twins will receive four draft picks. I do expect them to try to re-sign Pavano and Crain. Unfortunately, there is a lot of interest from several other teams, so it's likely the Twins will be outbid. We'll see.


On Thursday, the Twins tendered contracts to all nine arbitration-eligible players. The odd thing was, apparently Clay Condrey was quietly released on November 5. It's odd because no one seemed to know, not even the beat writers. I guess the poor guy has been forgotten and left at the curb.

So now the Twins and the players have to get to work and accomplish the ever-important "avoid arbitration." Like I've mentioned before, no one actually wants arbitration. They've already taken care of Jason Repko and Pat Neshek and came to terms for next season.

There were a lot of rumors that the Twins weren't going to tender JJ Hardy a contract. Now that they have, there are a lot of rumors that a few teams are interested in trading for him. I hope not; I want him to be the Twins starting shortstop for awhile.


Our old friend Mike Redmond, who retired from the Cleveland Indians last mid-season, has been named the new manager of the Single-A Lansing Lugnuts (of the Toronto organization). Good for him. I read somewhere that he's always wanted to manage. In fact, he was quite close to starting a managing career years ago. When he was in AAA, his manager wanted to cut him, but he begged for two more weeks, and if it didn't work out he'd go manage somewhere. It did work out for him, and later that season, he made his major league debut.

I heard an interview with him a few days ago. He said that he knew it was time to retire when baseball became a "job." His body's been aching for a couple years, but because the Twins were winning, he was having fun and he felt better. The Indians weren't very good, and the losing wasn't fun at all. So, when they cut him, he knew it was time to call it a career.

He said the Blue Jays organization called him about managing about four hours after he announced his retirement (I couldn't really tell if he was exaggerating). He said that he was kind of hoping to take a year off to spend time with his family, but this was a great opportunity and he couldn't pass it up. He said his sons are looking forward to being bat boys.

The hosts went on to ask him about the Indians' young catcher Carlos Santana and pitcher Fausto Carmona. He already sounded like a manager as he was talking about their bright futures.

Good luck to him. Maybe in a few years, we'll see him back in the Twins organization.


Baseball's Winter Meetings start Monday in Orlando. This is when team GMs, agents, some players, media, and other baseball folks get together and talk 2011. There is a lot of hype around the event, and baseball fans seem to really look forward to it. GMs get together to talk about possible trades; agents meet with GMs to talk free agents; free agent players shmooze to try to increase their value; and all the while, media hounds are lurking around, peeking around corners, riding elevators up and down, and performing all manners of sneaking hoping to hear a bit of information. However, for all the excitement, it usually turns out to be more talk than action.

It totally reminds me of the tech writing conferences I go to. Except on the opposite end of the nerd-cool scale.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Most Important Baseball Position: Starting Pitcher

Editorial Note: One of my Twitter buddies, Andrew (@akneeland) of Twins Target and Twins MVB, sent out a call for assistance with an article he's writing: what's baseball's most important position? So after a few back-and-forth tweets with several Twins bloggers, a number of us decided to write our own articles. So here's mine. It's exciting to have something to write about -- a testament to how much we all need baseball back soon. Oh, and yeah, this is the same Andrew who conceived of Nick Punto Day. He's such a troublemaker.

As the home team takes the field to begin the game, they do so on the cue of the starting pitcher. As the umpire indicates "play ball," he does so at the readiness of the starting pitcher. The fans in attendance wanted to know who the starting pitcher was before they arrived at the gate. The starting pitcher is the captain of the game, the leader, the artist. As he goes, so goes the team. He sets the pace, steers the course, and navigates the game. He is king; there's a reason he stands atop a mound.

When the starting pitcher is on his game and gets outs efficiently, the players behind him are on their toes, are focused, and better able to make plays. This productivity translates to the players as they bat as well because they trust the pitcher to keep the game close with little need to create extra pressure on themselves while they're in the batter's box. When the pitcher is performing well, the pace is good, everyone on the team has fun, and that energy creates a winning atmosphere on both sides of the ball.

If the starting pitcher struggles and allows several baserunners, or worse, runs, the players behind him play flat-footed and become distracted and bored or frustrated. The players at the plate then put additional pressure on themselves to score to make up for the poor pitching. If the pitcher has a bad day, everyone on the team feels the negative mo-jo, which makes it harder to win the game.

Of course, any one starting pitcher is only responsible for one of five games. In fact, "the starting pitcher" isn't one guy, it's five. If MLB were to give me a brand new team to build, I'd start with the pitching rotation. Of course, in my dream team, money wouldn't be a problem.

Since most series are three games, I'd want to keep opponents guessing and have a variety of pitching styles in my rotation -- a couple strikeout artists, a sinkerballer, and the rest contact pitchers. To give opponents different looks during a series, it's also necessary to have at least one lefty -- I'd prefer to have two.

Good teams promote from their minors, which means there are a number of talented, yet fledgling, guys around. I'd like to have a solid veteran pitcher to impart his experience and make the youngsters even better. And since this is my dream team, I want my ace to be in consideration for the Cy Young. Aw, hell, what am I thinking? I want him to win it.

With my rotation set with quality pitchers, the rest of the team would be easy to figure out. A team with great, talented pitching is a great team. That's why the starting pitcher is the most important position.


The other  participants in the "Most Important Baseball Position Project":

Andrew: Twins Target
CapitalBabs: Knuckleballs
The Common Man and Bill: The Platoon Advantage
Jim Crikket: Knuckleballs
Jesse: TwinkieTown
Andrew: Off the Mark