Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Greetings

So 2011 was pretty crappy for Minnesota sports fans. The Twins narrowly missed losing 100 games, the Vikings could still be close the being the worst team in the NFL, the football Gophers...ugh, the Timberwolves are what they are -- it's all enough to make fans cry. The only real bright spot was the Minnesota Lynx, but unfortunately for me, I don't really like basketball so I didn't really enjoy the victory. The Wild are pretty interesting this season and it would be fun if they could be legitimate contenders. Issues with the Metrodome roof causing TwinsFest to be relocated and discord with the NFL and NBA and their players' unions were also among the frustrations.

But the sports story of year has to be the injuries...the debilitating injuries for all the teams.

I wish I could eliminate all the awful, ugly, unlucky 2011 gremlins.

So here's hoping that 2012 provides Minnesota fans with much more entertainment and Minnesota athletes with much more good health.

Also, I'd like to wish all my readers a great new year, in sports fandom and all other aspects of life. I truly appreciate all of you who stop by this silly little blog and would be thrilled if you keep coming back in 2012. Thanks for hanging with me.

May your best of 2011 be your worst of 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Quick Notes: Dec. 26

I hope everyone had a great holiday and you all were fantabulously spoiled. I was.

Goodbye Kuuuuuubes
Jason Kubel signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a strange signing for them because they already have a ton of outfielders and they don't need a DH. Perhaps they are hoping to trade one of the other ones or something.

I always admired and respected Kubes, and I appreciated his contributions, but I regret that I never really grew to love him like I did for some of the other Twins players. Maybe because he was so quiet and, well, bland. Maybe because he always looked like he was sneering. Who knows? And, no matter.

My favorite moment has to be his come-from-behind, go-ahead grand slam off Mariano Rivera to beat the Yankees.

The Twins will receive a sandwich round draft pick as compensation.

I sincerely wish him the best of luck in Arizona and I hope he wins over lots of great fans.

Marquis Signing
...but not so much of a "marquee" signing. (Bad pun. And not at all original. Sorry.)

The Twins have signed RHP Jason Marquis to a one-year deal. He's kind of an average pitcher who's spent his entire career in the National League (which generally features weaker hitting than the American League).

This is the actual conversation I had with my son:
Me: "The Twins have signed right-handed pitcher ..... (expecting him to guess someone)
mini-bro: "Oooh. Um. I don't know. Who?"
Me: "Jason Marquis"
mini-bro: "Why did you get my hopes up like that?"
Ok, he's probably not all that bad. His numbers and pitching style is much like Nick Blackburn's. Which will be just fine if both of them can put together more than 4 great starts in a row.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Notes: Dec 18

Welcome Josh!
In my angst about losing Michael Cuddyer, I forgot to properly welcome free agent OF Josh Willingham, formerly of the Oakland A's. His numbers are very similar the Cuddyer's, with maybe a smidge more power. And according to some of the California writers, he's a stand up guy.

Unless things change, Willingham is expected to play right field. He doesn't have much experience playing right. That may become a factor if baserunners entertain notions on taking an extra base, as his throwing arm isn't as strong as Cuddyer's.

And, now I'll make every effort to never compare Willingham to Cuddyer again. Cuddy has some very big shoes to fill, but Josh has his own shoes. I remember that Josh hit a monster home run in Target Field that went just to the right of the Budweiser Party Deck. I'm hoping for more of that.

More Minor League Signings
These with invitations to spring training.

The Twins have signed IF Sean Burroughs, RHP J.P. Walters, C J.R. Towles, 1B/3B Steve Pearce, LHP Aaron Thompson, and re-signed C Rene Rivera. 

That seems like a lot of catchers -- Mauer, Doumit, Butera, Towles, and Rivera. However, considering how weak the position was in 2011, there's no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Bill's Back
Former General Manager Bill Smith has accepted a position in the Twins organization as an assistant to the president and to the general manager. He'll oversee the relationship with the minor league affiliates, player development in Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and the renovations of the spring training facility in Fort Myers.

I'm happy to hear that he'll stay with the Twins. Even though he was probably a lousy general manager, he seemed like a pretty good guy. It would have been a bummer if he had no livelihood.

Remember That Catch?
You know the one...Ben Revere's catch? Well, apparently a lot of other baseball fans remember it too, because Ben Revere won a GIBBY (Greatness In BaseBall Yearly) award for Play Of The Year. The GIBBY awards are voted on by fans, media, MLB front office personnel, and MLB alumni.

Congrats, Ben!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Why I Should Be Bummed Out About This Whole Michael Cuddyer Thing

... or, Grief After Losing My Baseball Boyfriend

If you spend any time at all watching, listening to, reading about, writing about, or talking about baseball, it's because you love the game. Otherwise you wouldn't bother investing your time and efforts. And, if you love the game, there's something associated with it that on some unknown level makes you love it more each time you experience it.

Some fans enjoy looking up and figuring out stats and comparing players and situations and such. Some fans enjoy well-executed aspects of the play itself -- a nice curveball or slick double-play. Some fans love a winning team.

I love all those things too. However, as is true with many fans, my imagination has truly been captured by a few individual players -- most significantly by Michael Cuddyer.

I tend to really like most of the players on the Twins, but every once in a while a player is just a bit more likable than the rest. And I usually don't know exactly why that is.

I first noticed my fascination with Cuddy in 2002 when he was in that up and down between the majors and AAA stage. I could never explain it, but I always just rooted for him and I was always a sad when he got sent back down.

Of course, as the years went on, I liked him more and more. I grew to appreciate his poise, personality, and play -- especially that cannon of a right arm. Oh, and the dimples were pretty easy to like too. I always enjoyed reading stories about his magic tricks, how he volunteered his time and efforts to the community, and how during the last few spring trainings he bought the whole team t-shirts with inspirational sayings. His clubhouse leadership may not have helped the team in 2011, but at least he tried.

I especially loved how he treated fans at events such as Unplugged and TwinsFest. He was a prince to my mom and me for a photo opportunity.


In addition to being a good person, he is also a good baseball player and a fun one to watch. And the game could certainly use more players who share his team-first attitude and his willingness to play wherever needed.


These sorts of "intangibles" (as the media like to say) may or may not help a team win, but they do a lot toward enriching the fan experience. In fact, I'd argue that that kind of goodwill is a necessary component to retaining a fan base. People like to genuinely like the players they're rooting for, and they have every right to feel a bit punched in the gut when their favorite guys move on.

Logically, I understand that his leaving may be best for the Twins, considering the amount of money he's receiving from the Rockies and the draft picks the Twins will get in return. And I'm glad the Twins already procured his replacement in Josh Willingham, who, by all accounts, is Cuddyer's statistical equal (well, except for his arm). I will definitely give Willingham every chance to win me over, but he'll never be Michael Cuddyer.

None of this is to say that I'm angry that Cuddy left. I'm not. He's more than earned the right to make the decisions regarding his career. I truly wish him the best in Colorado, and I'll always root for him.

Being a fan of Michael Cuddyer made me love baseball more than I already would have, and I'm really going to miss that.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Notes: Dec. 11

Hi. It's been a while. Sorry.

The winter meetings are now over, and while some other teams made some big splashes, the Twins also made a couple quiet moves.

Twins Catch a Florimon
The Twins claimed shortstop Pedro Florimon Jr. from the Baltimore Orioles. He'll likely be assigned to Rochester, but he is on the 40-man roster. And, yes, his name totally makes me think of Pokemon.

Slow-ride Out of Town
The relationship between Kevin Slowey and the Twins was quite rocky in 2011, so the Twins ended it by trading him to the Rockies, initially for a player to be named later. Ultimately, the Twins received RHP Daniel Turpin.

It's hard to fully understand what caused the rift between Slowey and the organization. A few media members have expressed their disdain for Slowey, but I can't believe that it's 100% his fault. Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN has a well-written, balanced article that explains the decline on both sides.

Turpin has been assigned to Rochester.

Re-Capps'd
The Twins re-signed closer Matt Capps on a one-year deal with an option year. If Capps signed with another team, the Twins would have received a draft pick, but the Twins really wanted him, and they got him.

I wish I could have the guts to say that I'm unhappy about this. However, I believe that disliking players on my team is bad luck. And, since, as it usually is true with closers, as he goes so goes the team, so I'll just shut up about it and wish him all the best.

Now...to find a way to scrub the memory of all those blown saves in 2011...

Twins Select What's-his-name in the Rule 5 Draft
The Twins selected RHP Terry Doyle from the Chicago White Sox. Doyle's given first name is John, and that's the name the reporters first used on Twitter when the selection happened, so there was a bit of confusion of who the Twins actually got.

As with any Rule 5 draftee, he must make the 25-man roster for the entire season, or he must be returned to his original team or a trade must be made.

Hearty Congratulations Times Two!
Michael Cuddyer and his wife Claudia recently delivered twin girls. Here's the picture he posted on Twitter.

Joe Mauer is officially engaged to his girlfriend Maddie Bisanz.

Best wishes to all of them!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Terry Ryan Fan Forum Conference Call Recap

On Thursday evening, the Twins invited season ticket holders, group organizers, and on-deck circle members to listen in on a conference call with Terry Ryan. They did the same thing with Bill Smith and Dave St. Peter not too long ago, but it was great that we got to hear from the new (old) GM. There were more than 3000 fans listening in, and the vast majority of the callers who got through to ask a question told Mr. Ryan they were glad he was back.

This time I was prepared and took some notes; however, my note taking is pretty slow, so I paraphrased the whole thing. Also LaVelle Neil of the StarTribune has a nice recap.

Dick Bremer, who moderated the call, started off with the first question: what is the immediate priority?
Getting the players healthy is the first priority, talking to the departing free agents, preparing for the upcoming Winter Meetings in Dallas, and taking care of the minor league affiliates.

I'm not sure what "taking care of the minor league affiliates" means. Perhaps there are still some staffing decisions that need to be made. He probably meant that he has to fill out their rosters as well.

Cuddyer?
He couldn't talk specifics because that's against major league rules, but the Twins are in discussions with Cuddyer's agent.

Keep talking with Cuddy, Mr. Ryan. Keep talking until he comes back.

Cubs indicated that they might shop Matt Garza -- any interest?
He hears all the same rumors that fans do. However, Theo denied they're shopping Garza.

I that was his way of changing the subject. The Twins are clearly not interested.

What will be done about the training and medical staff?
He's had lengthy discussions with everyone on the training, conditioning, and medical staffs, and he said a lot of things can be easily corrected. More communication will help. The players need to do more. The training and medical staff can learn some new techniques. They need to get better at knowing when or if to do rehab. No one will lose their job.

He said the word "communication" a lot over the course of the call when talking about injuries and changes that need to be made. I have no idea what he means by that. In fact, it just leaves a lot a questions for me: are the players hiding their aches and pains too long until they become really hurt? Is the training staff not telling Gardy who's coming in for treatments? Is Gardy not asking the right questions? Why is there a breakdown? Who doesn't trust whom and why? I want to know!

Plans for starting pitching?
Pavano gave them the innings they needed, but the rest need to work on consistency. Also, he hopes to build the bullpen so that someone is needed for a spot start, they'll just use a reliever rather than taking a starter from Rochester.

Hope so. They also really need to find out why there were so many forearm strains in the staff.

What to do about Kevin Slowey?
He wants to completely wipe the slate clean with Kevin. Kevin had a bad year and they want to start over from scratch. As of right now, he's on the roster.

The way he emphasized "as of right now" did nothing to convince me that Kevin will be on the roster for very much longer.

What about middle infield?
They're moving Plouffe to left field. So they've got Nishioka, Carroll, Dozier (in the minors and who they really like), and Hughes. And when Casilla's on, he's really good. So they feel they have depth at the position. They're also wiping the slate clean with Nishioka and he has to learn that the game is different here in the US.

In fact, Brian Dozier's name came up a bunch of times, and Terry had nothing but praise for him. He just finished up in the Arizona Fall League, where he did very well. Clearly, Terry is looking forward to him making it in the bigs. Also, I don't think he's as sold on Nishioka as Bill Smith was.

Dick reminds us that TwinsFest is the last weekend in January at the Dome
Assuming the Dome is still inflated.

Not really sure why I wrote that down, but, hey, knowledge is power.

What about the catching position?
They fully expect Joe Mauer to catch about 120 games and he's the catcher when healthy. Doumit is there on days he needs a break.

He said that Mauer should catch about 120 games a number of times throughout the call. I think they believe he's fully healthy and will be playing a lot next season.

How's the starting outfield look?
It's a long way from being finished. There isn't much power out there. There is a lot of speed and athleticism. Span is the only veteran. It's certainly a work in progress.

I kind of get the feeling that he doesn't have a whole lot of love for Ben Revere. Or Trevor Plouffe for that matter. 

Can the Twins afford both Cuddyer and Kubel?
Well, that's up to them. The Twins would like to have both back, but it all depends on the contract they want and what they might be offered elsewhere. It's a puzzle. Plus they're still looking for a closer.

So, what about a closer?
He's looking outside the organization and wants to get a closer either via free agency or trade. There are plenty of closer free agents out there. He is hesitant to go internal for a closer.

He explains why he doesn't want Glen Perkins to close yet later.


Baseball tends to go in cycles of winning and losing. Can we keep this losing cycle a short one?
The Twins plan to keep that losing "cycle" to only one year. They're working hard to develop the minor league system for depth.

Why the lack of power pitchers and power bats?
Having a team of power pitchers and power batters is ideal. However, there aren't many of those guys, and they're expensive. So if you can't go out and get that kind of talent, you have to develop it. The Twins do have some power arms, but they just need to work on their command. A team likes to have power bats playing the corner positions, but too many of those guys were hurt. Same with the middle infield. So the organization needs to work on keeping everyone healthy so that they can develop the young players and funnel them up at the appropriate time. With the new CBA, drafting will be different regarding the caps on signing bonuses.

Who will bat lead off, Span or Revere?
Span. He's the veteran, and when healthy, he's a good ballplayer. He's a good lead off man. Revere is still learning the strike zone.

Again with the no love for Ben? Actually, I think Mr. Ryan just sees him as needing more time in the minors.
 

Why no real DH?
It's true that there is no established DH, and that may be a little by design. They want to keep their options open for moving guys around or into the DH position as needed. They won't fully know the health situations of all the players until spring training starts. And they want to get the outfield situation figured out. Doumit can DH a little.

Fans are worried about the long-term health of Justin Morneau. How's he doing and what happens if he's not better?
He shares the concern. Last they spoke, Justin was doing fine. They won't really know how he's doing until he plays some games. They want him healthy; he's a leader in the clubhouse. Chris Parmelee would be next in line, but he still needs more time in the minors.

There's a lot of talk about bringing back Cuddyer, but what about bringing back Kubel?
He's talking to both Cuddyer and Kubel.

This question was from Twins blogger and podcaster Fanatic Jack. It was kind of fun that he got through to ask a question. Ryan's response, however, kind of made me feel like Cuddyer is still the top dog.

Plans for the draft and draft picks? 
The Twins have the #2 pick next time. That's a very lofty position; the last time they drafted this high was when they picked Joe Mauer. So they want to get an elite, high-caliber player. His philosophy is to be more reluctant to trade away their draft picks than Bill Smith was. He really believes in keeping and developing talent.

What about improving the defense?
He agreed that they kind of did a lousy job of picking up the ball in 2011, which is hard on the pitchers and, well, everyone. Part of it was that it was a merry-go-round of players. Some of it has to do with positioning -- being in the right place to receive the ball and cut off throws. He doesn't think it'll be too hard to correct.

Why, oh why, are you thinking about bringing back Matt Capps?
He wondered when someone would ask about this. He acknowledged that Capps had a bad year in 2011, but he was very good in 2010. Many relievers go through cycles of one on year, then one off year, Guerrier and Crain used to do that, and Capps just had a bad year.

Ryan really did seem to sympathize with fans' frustrations with Capps. But, does he really believe the whole "reliever cycles" thing? If so, what happens in 2013?

Are the Twins grooming Jake Mauer or Tom Brunansky to take over for Gardy?
Jake Mauer is a great manager in the minors and they expect him to have a bright future. Tom Brunansky is also a great baseball man with a high ceiling. But Gardy is also a pretty good baseball man and a darned good manager. They're standing behind him.

You go, Terry! I have to admit that I kind of wonder where this guy was coming from when he asked this.

Which minor leaguers are likely to make the 25-man roster?
The guys we've already seen: Hendriks, Parmelee, Benson, etc. They'll all probably start in AAA, unless they force the Twins' hand. Ryan likes it when that happens.

To be fair, he did mention other names, but I couldn't keep up with the note taking.

Why would you sign Jamey Carroll at 38 years old and near the end of his career?
He may be 38, but the scouts would disagree that he's at the end of his career. He makes the team better and he stays healthy.

What's the future of the shortstop position? Will you continue with Nishioka? Or Levi Michael? Or outside?
They have a good group coming. Dozier, Santana, Grimes. They're also scouting Latin America. Dozier is very good. Miguel Sano has some power. Eddie Rosario will be moving from OF to 2B and he has power too. Everyone will move up as ready.

What's up with the salary? What's the best use of the money?
Starting pitching is the best use of money. There is no finite salary limit. The salary will be less than the Yankees and more than Tampa Bay. The actual amount is fluid. The Pohlads are open to work things out.

I kind of think that he's not really attached to the $100 million figure he threw out during his introduction press conference. He mentioned $118 million.

You saw something in Joe Nathan to make him closer right away, what don't you see with Glen Perkins?
Nathan three "plus" pitches -- curve, slider, and fastball. Perkins has only two with an average fastball. That's why they're looking outside the organization for an experienced closer.

I really wish he'd find another Joe Nathan closer-in-the-rough type guy that the Twins can convert to closer with the same results.

What keeps you motivated?
Winning. Seeing 40,000 people in the stands smiling. People proclaiming that they're proud Twins fans. Having other franchises say they want to be like the Twins.

What are your thoughts on Aaron Hicks?
He had a great fall, but he had an average summer. They'd rather see him have a great summer. He has a chance for AA. He's very athletic and profiles for centerfield.

Are Liriano's consistency struggles in his head?
That's probably an accurate assessment. He needs to work on his consistency. He should dominate. He needs to take control.

~~~

I thought it was a great conference call. I thought Mr. Ryan was very personable and interesting. Of course, he's quite good at not revealing more than he should, I did appreciate his candor. He told us what's good, but he also told us what's bad. And he disagreed with a couple of callers and said so.

I kept getting this "read between the lines" feeling that he wants the players to be more accountable, especially when he was talking about the injury problems. He didn't say anything specific, but the whole communication thing just has me thinking that. Which wouldn't be a bad thing.

I really enjoy that the Twins do these.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Notes: Nov. 27

Aside from the punch in the gut that was the Joe Nathan signing with the Rangers news, it was a pretty quiet week in the Twins front office. However, I still wanted to check in with this week's news.

Arbitration
As expected, the Twins offered arbitration to free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. If those players decline and sign with other teams, the Twins will receive some draft picks. The Twins did not offer Matt Capps arbitration, but under the new rules, they'll still receive a draft pick if he signs with another team.

Making It Official
The one-year deal with C Ryan Doumit is official, hereby removing the "pending a physical" phrase. He says he is excited to be in the American League. He also has gotten to know Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau some as he works out in the spring in Fort Myers, so he has some ties with the team. Welcome Ryan.

Rochester Manager
The Twins have named Gene Glynn as the new manager of the Rochester Red Wings. He spent the last five years as a scout for the Rays, but he has lots of previous managerial and coaching experience. When the news broke on Twitter, a lot of folks tweeted that they liked the signing and that he's a good baseball man. Best of luck to him and the Red Wings in 2012 and beyond.



... And that's about it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Thoughts on the New CBA

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This comes almost three weeks before the previous one expired.

I'm pleased that these negotiations didn't seem to get contentious or worrisome. I know that NFL and NBA have had, or are having, their labor struggles. But, let's be honest, MLB's history of work stoppages is pretty ugly. So the fact that both sides weren't really far ever apart on the issues is a relief.

Here's a summary of the CBA.

There are a few points I'm interested in talking about.

Free Agents and Draft Picks
Remember everything I said here about Type A and Type B free agents and the compensation the Twins might get if they offered those players arbitration and the players declined? Well, throw all that out in the snow. As Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune recaps, if the Twins offer Michael Cuddyer (a Type A) arbitration and he declines and signs elsewhere, the Twins will receive a draft pick right before the new team's pick plus a sandwich-round pick. Jason Kubel's (Type B) situation doesn't change -- the Twins would get a sandwich pick. However, if Matt Capps (formerly a Type A, now a modified Type B) signs with another team, the Twins automatically get a sandwich pick, but the Twins don't have to offer him arbitration (and risk him accepting it and getting more money than last year) to get it.

Unfortunately, this may make it easier for Cuddyer to leave the Twins. Teams who want to hang on to the draft pick will be lining up at his door. If the Twins are serious about retaining him, they'll have to open the purse.

Going forward, the Elias rankings will no longer play into teams receiving draft picks for departing free agents. The joke around Twitter was that once they saw that Matt Capps was a Type A, everyone knew the system was whacked. Starting next off-season, teams will have to offer a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries in order to get a draft pick. Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN explains that really well.

I think this will really help guys who are good players but not really elite. Teams won't be as likely to shy away from signing those guys because they won't cost a draft pick.

Chewing Tobacco
Players, managers, and coaches now will pretty much have to hide their chewing tobacco use from fans. They can't use it in interviews or when fans are present, and they may use it during games as long as no one can tell. So those uber-icky chaw wads might be gone, which will increase the attractiveness of baseball players who chew by 257% (getting them to give the stuff up completely will increase their attractiveness over 900%).

Better Batting Helmets
By 2013, all players will be required to wear a more protective batting helmets, and they won't be the bulky, crazy-ugly, Martian-looking helmets that they used to have for extra protection. This is good. I'm not sure if this helmet would've protected Justin Morneau or Denard Span when they smashed into other players, but it might help guys who get beaned in the head with a pitch.

All Star Game Appearances
Now players who are selected to go to the All Star Game now actually have to show up for the All Star Game unless they get a note from their doctor or from the Commissioner. I find this kind of amusing, but I'm not really sure why.

Expanded Drug Testing
They're going to start testing for hGH. The players will be tested during Spring Training, during the season if there is probable cause, and randomly during the off-season.

I've always had serious concerns about hGH testing, and there hasn't been anything to change my mind or convince me that it's a good idea since I first wrote about it. But, the players agreed, so I guess I can't whine about it too much.

Expanded Instant Replay
They're going to expand instant replay to include fair/foul balls and trapped catches. I opposed instant replay a few years ago, but I have softened my view of it since. I've done more reading and thinking about the topic. Turns out that umpires are actually in favor of expanding instant replay -- they truly want to get the calls right.

I tend to be a purist in my baseball fandom -- after all, it's had imperfect umpiring for over 100 years, so why change it now? But really, I guess I prefer correct calls more.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Now Who Am Going to Shout "No Interesting" To?

On Sunday I wished that my two baseball boyfriends wouldn't ruin my Thanksgiving morning by signing with other clubs on that day. So I guess it was polite of Joe Nathan to sign with the Texas Rangers on Monday.

But, I gotta admit that I still pretty bummed. Ok, really bummed. I know that I can say "no interesting" to whoever it is pitching in the ninth inning and driving me nuts, but it won't be the same. It'll never be the same.

His whole nervous pacing, huffing and puffing, and lip blowing routine is exactly why love watching him pitch. Plus, he always seemed like a great guy.

I know he wasn't his best after coming back from Tommy John surgery, but toward the end of the season, he was really improving. I'm fully convinced that his velocity and his slider will be back to 100% in 2012. So I was really hoping he'd sign with the Twins again.

I kind of knew when he took that dirt off the pitching mound after the final Twins game in 2011 that he didn't think he was coming back. Some of the beat reporters were kind of hinting that he was kind of hinting that he wanted to play for a winning team. I can't blame him for that. I wonder if the Minnesota's saves leader was really more disillusioned by the Twins than he was letting on. Of course, we'll never know; he's too classy to say.

I sincerely hope he has success in Texas. I'll never not like him, so I'm glad he made it easy on me and went to the team that captured my imagination the last two years.

Good luck, Joe. And remember ... no interesting; I'll be watching.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quick Notes: Nov. 20

The fact that the Twins are actually doing things worth talking about in November is quite uncharacteristic. Usually by the time the winter meetings start in December, fans are so hungry for news they're actually excited for those meetings to begin (and then the Twins don't usually do anything anyway, so it's it mostly wasted energy). I'm not sure if I should be excited or frightened about all this November activity. It's just so new to me...

On with the news and rumors of the week.

Another New Guy to Welcome Soon
The Twins have signed former Pirate backup catcher, outfielder, and first-baseman Ryan Doumit to a one-year deal, pending ... you guessed it ... a physical. This is a solid signing for the Twins. He can back up at a few positions or be a DH. He's a decent hitter with some occasional pop. Seems like he'll be a good bench guy.

Speaking of Pending Physicals...
The Twins finalized their deal with Jamey Carroll. So the clubhouse manager can go ahead and figure out which locker to give him.

More Minor League Moves
The Twins have added six more players to minor-league contracts: RHP Jason Bulger, OF Matt Carson, RHP Samuel Deduno,  RHP Luis Perdomo, OF Wilkin Ramirez, RHP Brendan Wise.

I don't know anything about any of these players, but I sincerely hope that all these players help improve the Twins minor league system.

The 40-man Shuffle
Friday was the deadline for teams to submit their reserve lists (40-man rosters for the bigs, 38-man rosters for AAA) for their Major and Minor League clubs in preparation for the Rule 5 draft in during the winter meetings. The Twins removed RHP David Bromberg and added OF Oswaldo Arcia, RHP Carlos Gutierrez, and LHP Tyler Robertson.

That puts the roster at 38 (including a saved seat spot for Doumit).

The Collective Bargaining Agreement in Agreement?
There are many rumors going around that Major League Baseball and the Players Association are close to a new collective bargaining agreement. I even read that they have a "handshake" agreement.

I don't know too much about it; it all still speculation. I'll read up on it when it becomes official, but early reports include some new Type A and Type B compensation rules (at least for relief pitchers) and the implementation of hGH screening.

The current agreement expires December 11.

Someone Bought the Astros and Wound Up Changing Everything For Everybody
The Houston Astros were for sale, and someone bought them. Ok, fine.

And for some reason, that made MLB want to move them from the NL to the AL. Seems fair enough -- there were 14 teams in the AL (with only 4 teams in the AL West) and 16 teams in the NL (with 6 teams in the NL central).

And for some reason, having an odd number of teams in both leagues means that they'll have to have more interleague games throughout the season. An interleague series will occur almost every week. Which would be fine if the leagues had the same rules, but the whole DH thing mucks that up, so...

And for some reason, having all this interleaguing and realigning means that the playoff format needs to change too. A second wild card team will be added in each league, and then they'll have a one-game play in game between the wild card teams in each league. This is supposedly to encourage teams to win their divisions outright, but, as if 162 games weren't enough, the poor wild card teams have to have it all come down to one stinking game. And what if there has to be a tie-breaking game just to get to the wild-card game? Oy...

The new playoff format is subject to the new CBA, but it sounds like both sides are on board. While the Astros move to the AL and the league realigning will probably happen in 2013, MLB wants to start the new playoff format as soon as this coming season.

~~~

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. In addition to all the usual, but sincere, wishes for health, happiness, and prosperity for all my wonderful readers, I also have one other hope ...

I hope I don't wake up on Thanksgiving morning hearing that Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan have signed with another team. I'll never forgive Torii Hunter for doing that to me on Thanksgiving 2007.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quick Notes: Nov. 13

A quick recap of the week's Twins news.

More Thoughts on Terry Ryan
A few days have passed since the big shakeup in the Twins front office, and the dust is beginning to settle. At first, I was pretty skeptical that bringing in a new guy who's really the old guy who was always kind of around would make much difference in running this team. After all, this is closer to musical chairs than it is to a new regime. But the more I think about it and the more I read about both Ryan and Bill Smith, I'm becoming more convinced that this is not only a good thing, but the right thing.

The Twins have a reputation around baseball that they do things "the right way," meaning that solid, fundamental baseball is a priority. That reputation was earned under Ryan, and was tarnished greatly under Smith. It may take a little while, but getting back to that sound approach is just what this team needs.

After I read Sunday's Star Tribune, I got the impression that Ryan is fed up with the culture surrounding injuries and recoveries under Smith's tenure. Which is great, because I could never shake the feeling that Smith was letting a lot of things slide, both in regard with the medical/training staff and with the players' efforts. A change in philosophy here is welcomed and necessary.

A New Guy?
The Twins appear to be close to signing former Dodger infielder Jamey Carroll to a two-year deal, pending a physical. If he does indeed join the Twins, this will probably be the most middle-of-the-road, meh-like signing ever. He's not really expensive, but he's not really young (38 before spring training starts). He's an average fielder. He's an average hitter. He seems to stay healthy, but he's never really been a starter. They could've done better; they could've done worse.

He'll likely be a shortstop and bat second. No matter how completely ordinary he may be, he's certainly an upgrade over what the Twins had there last season.

We should know for sure by Monday or Tuesday whether it's a done deal.

Speaking of Upgrading the Shortstop Position
The Twins aren't going to let Trevor Plouffe play there any more. Terry Ryan told ESPN 1500 radio this morning that Plouffe would be better suited in the outfield or as a DH.

More Signings
The Twins signed two guys to minor-league contracts. Brian Dinkelman, who became a minor-league free agent when the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster, and pitcher Jared Burton from the Reds.

It's a good idea to improve the Red Wings too. I hope these guys do.

Oh, and I Forgot to Mention Last Time
The Twins hired radio play-by-play announcer Cory Provus to replace the retired John Gordon. Provus  was previously with the Milwaukee Brewers announcing with Bob Uecker.

I've heard Provus. He's a solid choice; he calls a good game. I think Twins fans will like him.

Now, if he can only give Dan Gladden some personality...

A Serious Note
You've undoubtedly have heard about the kidnapping, and later safe rescue, of Washington Nationals, and former Twins prospect, catcher Wilson Ramos.

What a story. I couldn't stop thinking about him when I heard he'd been taken. I was very relieved when I heard it was over. This picture of Ramos hugging his mama is my favorite moment.

This must've been a terrifying ordeal. I'm so glad he's safe. I'm still praying that he doesn't suffer any lingering emotional or psychological demons because of this.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Buh Bye Bill

So, you've undoubtedly heard that the Twins fired General Manager Bill Smith on Monday and re-hired former General Manager Terry Ryan back to his old position.

Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.

I didn't see it either. I suspect that Bill Smith is pretty surprised too.

So to break down the stuff I've been reading:
  • Smith out
  • Ryan in
  • Ryan's not sure how long he's in -- if he likes it, he'll stay in longer
  • This all happened because of "philosophical differences"
  • No one's saying what the "philosophical differences" are
  • Gardy staying
  • Major League coaching staff staying unless Gardy wants someone out
  • Assistant GM Rob Antony staying
  • Paul Molitor still doing what he did 
  • What Paul Molitor has to do with any of this is unclear
  • The whole denying the Orioles permission to interview Mike Radcliff makes a little more sense
  • Wayne Krivsky indeed does join the Twins as a scout and special adviser to the GM
  • The training staff may or may not have the job security they thought they had a week ago
And the kicker...
  • They expect the payroll for 2012 will be about $15 million less than it was in 2011
*sigh*

That pretty much means that we can probably also say buh bye to Cuddy, Nathan, and Kubes.

This whole thing is odd, and not very Twins-like, to say the least. They're not ones to come out of nowhere with big news.

I'm not sure how I feel about it all. I wasn't ready to call for Smith's head like many fans, but my image of him was tarnishing pretty rapidly. But I'm not completely sold on Terry Ryan either. He did bring us Rondell White and Tony Bautista. And Bret Boone.

I'm not going to be too pessimistic about this move. It's clear that changes needed to be made, and whether Smith did something really horrible, or if he's merely a scapegoat, this shakeup sends a huge message to the entire organization that there are no free passes.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quick Notes: Nov. 6, 2011

Catching up with the week's events and news:

Welcome Gray and Maloney
The Twins did not take long at all to keep with their long-standing tradition and signed, not one but two, pitchers I've never heard of. RHP Jeff Gray from the Seattle Mariners and LHP Matt Maloney from the Cincinnati Reds join the Twins 40-man roster. I expect both these guys will have to compete in Spring Training for bull pen spots on the 25-man roster.

You're Staying Put, Mr. Radcliff
The Baltimore Orioles requested permission from the Twins to interview Vice President of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff for their open General Manager position. The Twins declined, which kind of goes against what they usually do. They don't typically deny permission for people to interview for promotions. I joked on Twitter that Radcliff didn't want to go to Balitmore and begged Dave St. Peter to get him out of it. I don't really believe that. I suspect the reality is that after a 99-loss season, the Twins can ill afford to lose key personnel when they have so much work to do. Bill Smith really needs to keep all the help he can.

Welcome Back, Krivsky?
Speaking of surrounding Bill Smith with help, the Twins are trying to bring back former assistant GM Wayne Krivsky. Krivsky was the GM for the Reds, and worked in the Orioles and Mets front offices.

Our Old Friend Jim
Former Twin Jim Thome signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. I'm happy for him that he was able to sign on with someone so quickly. I suspect that he'll be used mostly as a bench pinch-hitter (just like Matt Stairs -- able to randomly come off the bench and hit a go-ahead home run), but I did read somewhere that he's going to work on fielding first base this off-season so he can fill in from time to time.

So, hmm. Thome played for Cleveland  at the end of 2011, and will play for the Phillies in 2012. Those are the first two teams he played with. Do you think he's doing a reunion tour of his former teams? White Sox next, the Dodgers for like 15 minutes, then back to the Twins. I could live with that, but I think I'd prefer it if he just skipped the White Sox part.

And the Phillies May Not Be Done
The latest rumor is, now that the Phillies locked up Thome, they're going hot and heavy after Michael Cuddyer. I don't want that to happen. Nope, not at all. So I'm not going to stress about it too much until he actually signs his name on someone's dotted line (be forewarned: there will be a tirade in this space if he signs with anyone other than the Twins).

However, I can certainly understand the Phillies' interest in Cuddyer. Their first baseman, Ryan Howard, blew his Achilles tendon on the last plate appearance of the NLDS and will likely be out a huge portion of the 2012 season. So the Phillies need a right-handed bat who can play first base but isn't really exclusively a first baseman (so he can play somewhere else when Howard comes back). And the Phillies may make sense for Cuddyer too. For one, I expect Jim Thome to be somewhat relentless texting him begging him to come. And Cuddy is apt to sign any early offer as long as it's fair since he wants to have it all figured out before his wife delivers the twins they're expecting (due in December). Plus, he kind of hinted that he wants to play for a winner (and really, who doesn't?).

Quick Movie Review -- Moneyball
I finally got around to seeing Moneyball. I went in with pretty low expectations because many baseball writers kind of panned it. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I thought Brad Pitt was very good; I wasn't so impressed with Jonah Hill (he takes looking star-struck, nerdy, and nervous to new levels). It had good parts, but it also slow parts (gotta expect slow parts; it is a movie about baseball stats after all).

If you haven't seen it yet, don't pay full price, or, better yet, wait for the DVD (there's nothing really big-screen-worthy about it anyway).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Real Baseball to Hot Stove


So, as always, I mourn the passing of another season and wistfully long for the start of a new one. After all, as horrible as the 2011 Twins season was, it was still a pretty good impersonation of real baseball, and real baseball is better than any of the other hobbies I have (I can only crochet so many dishcloths, scarves, and baby blankets before I go nuts).

That's not to say that I don't like the stuff that happens in the off-season. I kind enjoy keeping up with all the rumors and dates that go with the hot stove. But the fact that these rumors and dates kind of happen in a spotty fashion kind of bums me out. This is how it usually shakes out:

  1. An important date nears.
  2. Fans and media speculate the snot out of a bunch of ideas about what's going to happen.
  3. The date comes.
  4. Whatever happens happens.
  5. Fans and media analyze the snot out of a bunch of ideas about what just happened.
  6. Everyone waits until the next thing is about to happen.

So while all this rumoring and speculating and analyzing is a lot of fun, I still prefer the consistency of being able to follow a ballgame.

However, hot stove is where we're at, so hot stove is what we're doing. Let's preview the 2011-2012 Twins Off-season. I kind of explained the same kind of stuff to the best of my ability last year. I did lay out some definitions in there, so check it out if you need further info. If you need any further info (or clearer info), check out the links I put at the bottom of this post.

By order of important date:

October 30. Two days after the World Series was the free agent filing date. Teams have an exclusive negotiating window until end of day Wednesday. If the teams and players don't agree to a new contract within that window, on November 3, the players become free agents and may begin signing with any team.

Also, teams had until Sunday to decide whether to exercise team options. The Twins' only potential team option was a $12.5M deal for Joe Nathan, and they already decided to pay the $2M to buy out the option. Popular opinion, including mine, is that the Twins made the right move with Nathan. As much as I love him and want him to be a Twin forever and ever, $12.5M is an awful lot of money for a closer -- it is, after all, only a role, not a position. There's every reason to believe that the Twins with try to sign Nathan for less money, and it might be possible that they can as the free agent list of closers is pretty significant.

November 14 - 22. Announcements of the post-season awards: NL and AL Rookie of the Year, AL Cy Young, NL and AL Manager of the Year, NL Cy Young, AL MVP, and NL MVP. I'm pretty sure there won't be any Twins gathering any hardware this year.

November 23. Deadline for teams to decide whether to offer the type A and type B free agents (as graded by Elias Sports Bureau) arbitration. The reason to offer these guys arbitration is so that the team receives draft pick(s) as compensation if they turn it down (type A's fetch a first- or second-round pick from the signing team plus a sandwich pick, and type B's fetch a sandwich pick for the original team). The risk, or reward if the player is all that and a bag of chips, is that the player will accept the arbitration offer and the team has to sign him for one year at fair market value. The free agent players have until December 7 to decide whether to accept the arbitration offer.
Free Agents:
Matt Capps (type A)
Michael Cuddyer (type A)
Jason Kubel (type B)
Joe Nathan
I assume that the Twins will offer arbitration to Cuddyer and Kubel, but not Capps.

December 5. The deadline for teams to outright players off the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft (I talk about that below).

December 5 - 8. MLB Winter Meetings of General Managers ending with the Rule 5 draft. A bunch of GMs and team executives wheeling and dealing and talking trades and other suchandso and even more media members hanging out in lobbies trying to get scoops on the trade and suchandso talking.

The Rule 5 draft occurs on the last day of the Winter Meetings. This is where teams may draft certain young players not on a team's 40-man roster. The only catch is that the drafting team must either put the player on the 25-man roster for the next season, or work out a trade with the original team in order to send him to the minors. For further explanation of "certain young players," I suggest you read Seth Stohs' article in the TwinCentric Minnesota Twins GM Handbook (linked below).
Pre-Arbitration Eligible Players on the 40-Man Roster (as of 10/30) (teams can not draft these guys with Rule 5 -- they may or may not even be eligible age-wise if they were to be taken off the roster; I didn't feel like figuring that part out)
Joe Benson
David Bromberg
Alex Burnett
Drew Butera
Scott Diamond
Brian Duensing
Deolis Guerra
Liam Hendriks
Jim Hoey
Luke Hughes
Jeff Manship
Lester Oliveros
Chris Parmelee
Trevor Plouffe
Ben Revere
Anthony Swarzak
Rene Tosoni
Danny Valencia
Esmerling Vasquez
Kyle Waldrop
December 11. The current collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association expires. I haven't done a lot of research on how close they are to a new agreement, but I'm encouraged by the lack of news and buzz about it. As far as I'm aware, the only major sticking point left to work out is slotting of June amateur draft picks (kind of a cap on the signing bonuses for draftees). My gut tells me they'll be fine and come to an agreement in plenty of time; in fact, I've seen a few articles on the web that state that they're close and could have a plan within a week (from now) or so. Which is good, because, while the NBA is currently struggling, and the NFL just recently struggled, baseball has a history of some nasty, monumental struggles.

December 12. Deadline for teams to either tender a contract or not to their arbitration-eligible players. These players are under team control, but are entitled to a salary increase. If the team decides to tender a contract, they have until their arbitration hearing date (around the end of January or the beginning of February) to come to terms with the player. If the team declines to offer a contract, the player becomes a free agent.
Arbitration Eligible Players:
Alexi Casilla
Francisco Liriano
Jose Mijares
Glen Perkins
Kevin Slowey
I speculate that the Twins will not tender Mijares and Slowey. Although they could and then try to trade them.

February. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (actual date not officially announced yet).

April 6. Opening Day at Balitmore

No Particular Date. Of course, at any time, the Twins may trade players under their control (yes, even Joe Mauer could be traded if he agrees to waive his no-trade clause and  a team is willing to take on his contract -- 'tain't likely, though), but for now, they don't have to worry.
Players Under Contract:
Scott Baker
Nick Blackburn
Joe Mauer
Justin Morneau
Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Carl Pavano
Denard Span

Helpful Resources: I got a lot of information from this article on MLBTradeRumors.com  and from this page on MLB.com.

I learned a lot of great stuff from the TwinsCentric Minnesota Twins GM Handbook. Not only does it go into details similar to what I have above, but it also grades players for 2011, reviews organizational depth charts, lists trade and free agent targets, and offer the authors' blueprints for 2012. Excellent stuff; I encourage you to buy one for yourself.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Now What...?


Baseball's World Series is like Christmas when you were a kid. There's all this build up for it and everyone talks about it and you're so excited for it to finallllllllly just get here already. And then when it gets here, you're so happy and you get all kinds of awesome presents, and you think that nothing could ever get better than this.  Ever. And sometimes you get a super nice gift, the one you always ask for but don't dare actually deep-down hope for because you usually don't ever get lucky enough to get everything you want. ... And then. ... And then you wake up the next day and you realize ... it's over. And you're bummed and you think "now what" and you're bummed but you don't think you can admit you're bummed because you just received all those awesome gifts and you don't want the grown ups to think you're ungrateful, and you're not ungrateful at all. ... Just bummed. And lonely. But the World Series is different because those gifts are only memories now and you don't really have a bunch of new toys to play with or clothes to wear. And you're really lonely and all you have is a countdown to when pitchers and catchers report.

Hearty congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals; and thank you and the Texas Rangers for an awesome post season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2012 Wish List Part VII: Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room

The Twins had a million problems in 2011, and the biggest one was the number of injuries. Their use of the Disable List was legendary -- and not the good kind of legends. What's baffling is that it doesn't seem as if Bill Smith is willing to admit that anything could have been done about it.

Obviously, I'm no expert. My experience with anything medical related is limited to: taping basketball players' ankles in high school, owning a couple of anatomy and medical terminology books, knowing how to use WebMD, and being a mom of student athletes. However, whenever Smith says that they only had one instance that wasn't what he's calling a "collision" injury (and he's said it repeatedly), I don't buy it. 

In fact, I think it's B.S. And I don't mean Bill Smith.

While it's true that several of the injuries were unavoidable mishaps -- Nishioka's broken leg, Delmon's broken foot, Denard's concussion, --  I feel like there were an awful lot of obliques, quads, forearms, and shoulders that are more "conditioning" injuries than "collision" injuries. Obviously, these things are typical baseball injuries, and no team is exempt from them. I'm just confused as to why Smith is reluctant to mention them. Did he forget about them? Is he lumping them in with the collision injures? Does he feel like they were unavoidable?

Also, I question the handling of the injuries once they occurred. It seemed like things that they claimed should be day-to-day wound up being DL stints, and the DL stints that they claimed would be around the 15-day minimum would be a lot longer. Days to weeks, weeks to months, and so on. Was the trouble with how they were estimating the returns, or with how well they treated the injuries?

It's hard to know who's at fault here. It would be easy to say that they should just let the entire medical training staff go -- the doctors, athletic trainers, conditioning coaches, therapists, scanner operators, guys who schlep the ice -- and start over. Well, that's not happening; Bill Smith said so on ESPN1500. And it probably shouldn't happen. Yes, the training staff may need to improve some processes and procedures. But the athletes need to be held accountable too. Joe Mauer admitted he came to spring training out of shape because of his knee surgery. I'm pretty sure that some of the other players could work on their preparedness.

I don't have any solutions for this mess. Do the players need to improve their off-season conditioning? Does the team need to teach the players better techniques for injury prevention? Does Gardy need to start kicking some butts? Do the athletic trainers need to be better educated in progressive therapy techniques? Do the players need to be held more accountable for their own health? Does everyone top to bottom need to have a better understanding of the difference between "hurting" and "injured"? Does the team need to invest in bubble-wrap uniforms?

I can't say. But I do wish that as a first step towards solutions, Bill Smith would properly admit to and identify the problems.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Game 1 Viewing Party Notes

On Wednesday, the Twins invited members of the On Deck Circle (season ticket waiting list) to come down to Target Field and watch Game 1 of the World Series in the Legends Club or the Metropolitan Club. Twins President Dave St. Peter was there to answer some fans' questions, and they had a nice buffet of ballpark food. They displayed the game on the Jumbotron as well as the approximately 140,561 televisions (give or take) they have all over the place. They raffled off some prizes and they offered mini-tours of Target Field. My friend and I had a very nice time.

Here's a quick recap of Mr. St. Peter's Q & A session:

  • My friend and I arrived in the middle of it, and frankly we were immediately more interested in getting ourselves some food before listening to him, but we did catch some stuff.
  • Regarding the batter's eye in centerfield: he acknowledges that that black screen is ugly, but the trees needed to be removed because at certain times of the day, the sun glares off them so that the ball comes out of some dappled shadowy whatever, and that not only were the batters complaining about it, but the umpires were too. He said that he's talking it over with the grounds crew and some other people to come up with some more attractive solutions, but he isn't willing to disclose anything about it yet.
  • Regarding Joe Mauer moving to first base: He had talked to Joe like four hours prior, and Joe says he wants to be the catcher. Joe is the catcher. Joe will be the catcher for a long time. Joe can play some at first base on an as-needed basis to give Joe or Justin a day off. But, for now, Joe is the catcher.
  • He sounded like he expressed some doubt over whether Justin Morneau will be able to come back at 100% and play first base. He said something about moving him to DH. I think this was within a conversation regarding re-signing Cuddyer and/or Kubel. I didn't really hear this part; this is the part where I was eating kettle chips.
  • Someone asked about Tsyoshi Nishioka and his role for 2012: St. Peter admitted that 2011 was a very bad year for Nishioka. However, a position is not guaranteed to him; he will have to earn a spot in spring training. St. Peter also hinted at finding a free-agent middle infielder.
  • Someone asked about the availability of wheelchair-accessible seating and how it's getting harder to get them because non-handicapped people are getting them (or something like that -- again, I didn't really hear the question; let's blame the kettle chips): St. Peter acknowledged something needs to be done to ensure that the folks who need the accessible seating get it. However, they are prohibited from asking people who request those seats why they need them. He said that they are working with the ADA to come up with a plan to better assure the accessible seating is available to fans who need it. (Allow me to interject with a personal rant as this topic hits home: I'm all in favor of making sure the fans who really need accessible seating get it, but people have to remember that just because a fan isn't using a wheelchair or cane that he or she doesn't need accessible seating. Some disabilities are not as obvious as others. All fans deserve to sit with the rest of their party, so it may be that one member of the group may require the seating, but they all get to be there. Also, fans who have wheelchair-access tickets have every right to sell them or give them away, so it could be that someone who doesn't really need the accessible seats gets them anyway. I just hope that the Twins organization keeps these factors in mind as they try to resolve the issue of availability of these seats. Thank you; now back to the regularly scheduled blog.)
Here's a quick recap of the mini-tour:

  • Our tour guide was kind of a Seinfeld-soup-nazi guy. He was pretty uptight about the number of people following him and he walked so fast we could hardly keep up, let alone take pictures. I took some, but they're quite lame so I won't even put them up. Honestly, they're not worth the effort.
  • We toured the Champions Club, and areas around the clubhouse, workout room, batting cages, and dugout (but not actually in any of those areas). I peeked in between the doors of the trainers' room -- it looked big. I was hoping to get in there and spray some Lysol around or something. I know that won't help with the number of oblique pulls and forearm strains, but it might help reduce the number of instances of "flu-like symptoms."
  • All the beer kegs are stored in the bowels of the building and there are miles of tubing that go from 14 chilled keg rooms to the taps all around the park.
  • We were allowed to see into the clubhouse without actually going into it (no pictures -- MLB rules!). It's big. The lockers are big. There are four double-wide lockers in the corners. They belong to the team leaders: Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, and Nathan. They get them supposedly because they get so much mail. (My guess is they get them because they have more reporters bugging them.)
  • The Champions Club looks like any other reception hall. You can rent it for your company party or family event. You can get married at home plate for like $3,000 or something. If you want your wedding video-streamed live on the Jumbotron, that'll cost you an extra $11,000.
  • The Champion Club seats are closer to the batter (at 45 feet) than the pitcher (at 60 feet 6 inches). The fans are closer to home plate in Target Field than at any other ballpark in the Majors.
  • We did not see the blue ox, but we did look for it.
  • Taking this little tour just made my friend and I want to pony up the $17 for the full, hour-and-a-half-long tour. Maybe that would go at a better pace for taking pictures. We'll have to plan on doing that.


Here's a quick recap of the rest of the evening:

  • No, we didn't win any prizes. We're pretty bummed about it too. We really wanted the game-used Michael Cuddyer bat.
  • The pretzels they served were amazing. They're very unlike the ones they sell at the concession stands. I want them to sell these instead. Soft and warm and just the right amount of salt and mmmmm. The sausages were pretty good too.
  • Part of the whole point of this event was to allow the potential season ticket buyers to speak with their representative. I could never find my representative. I even looked for him. Twice. I know he was there because he was introduced. But he was vapor when I tried to hunt him down. No biggie, though. I just wanted to know what he thought my chances were for getting the season tickets this year. I'll just wait it out and see.
  • My friend and I were amazed at how crystal clear watching TV on the Jumbotron was. Yeah, we've seen it a million times before, but this is probably the first time we've really watched it for an extended amount of time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Story of the Spreadsheet

Every off-season, I create a spreadsheet to keep track of the goings-on of the Twins roster. I started doing it just to keep track of who left and who was added, because by the the time the season started, I could never remember that stuff. As the years have gone by, I've added more info and kept it current throughout the season. This is kind of a huge deal for me; I'm afraid of spreadsheets.

This year, I added disabled list and call-up transactions to the mix. I'm glad I did; I learned a lot of interesting stuff. Of course, I picked an interesting season to start doing this.

Some stuff I figured out (not official and subject to my errors in tracking or calculation, which shouldn't surprise anybody):
  • The Twins used the DL 27 times
  • 16 different players landed on the DL
  • 11 players were on it twice
  • A total of 888 days were lost to guys on the DL
  • That's an average of 55.5 days per guy
  • Denard Span was on it for the most total days at 91
  • Joe Mauer's 1st time on it was the longest single stint at 65 days
  • Tsuyoshi Niskioka was the first one actually put on the DL on April 8, but on April 9, Kevin Slowey was put on it retroactive to April 5, so he's technically the first one
  • Jose Mijares was the only one on it for no more than 15 days
  • Of the 25 men who were on the Opening Day roster, four were sent down to the minors (non-rehab): Slowey, Matt Tolbert, Jeff Manship, and Dusty Hughes
  • There were 20 guys who started the season in the minors who were called up at some point during the season
  • Ten were called up more than once
  • Luke Hughes and Rene Tosoni were each called up four times
  • Three were strictly September call-ups: Joe Benson, Liam Hendricks, Chris Parmelee, and Kyle Waldrop
So, crunching these facts pretty much tells me that the Twins were injured too much and that put a lot of strain on the minor league teams. Shocker, huh? Oh, and Luke Hughes and Rene Tosoni should get some frequent flyer miles -- they probably won't, but they should.

Now I'm about to make a new spreadsheet for this off-season going through next season. I'll start with the published 40-man roster that's on the Twins website, and I'll go from there.

As of Friday, there are four guys who won't be added to my shiny new spreadsheet because they were designated for assignment: Matt Tolbert, Rene Rivera, Anthony Slama, and Jason Repko. I'm not sure if that means that any of them become minor league free agents or not. The whole minor league option thing still confuses me. I'm sure someone will explain it soon enough.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smith and St. Peter Fan Forum

On Tuesday night, the Minnesota Twins conducted a fan forum phone call for season ticket holders and on-deck circle members. The call was to give fans a chance to ask General Manager Bill Smith and team President Dave St. Peter questions. I initially figured that Smith and St. Peter would limit themselves to politely answering the questions with pat answers. I was pleasantly surprised. They didn't tip their hands too much (I wouldn't expect them to), but they were remarkably candid. They seemed to understand fans' frustrations, admitted to some mistakes, and agreed that some changes are necessary.

When I took the call, I hadn't planned to take any notes or keep track of what was said. Like I said, I kind of expected it to be dumb. But thinking about it now, I want to jot down some of the more interesting topics that I can remember and my reactions to them. I'm pretty sure I'm remembering these points correctly; I apologize if I'm not. Joe Christensen from the STrib has a nice recap over two posts.

Injuries and conditioning: Smith said that most of the injuries this season were "impact injuries" and that the only muscular injury was Alexi Casilla's hamstring. He also said that injuries like Nishioka's broken leg and Morneau's and Span's concussions were results of collisions, and they can't be anticipated and there's no conditioning that can prevent those.

I'm a tad confused about his answer here. If Casilla's hammy was the only muscle injury, why did Perkins, Thome, Young, and Nishioka go down with oblique strains and Repko and Thome go down with quad strains? I have no clue whether the nature of the oblique and quad strains could have been prevented or reduced by different or better conditioning. Maybe they couldn't have been, and that's what Smith meant. But I'm skeptical.

Nishioka: Smith said that this was a lost season for Nishi and that he needs a mulligan. He pointed out that Nishioka had a lot on his plate very early in the season with the culture shock and the broken leg, and that he's been given an offseason training program to exercise. However, Smith went on to say that he's not guaranteed to have a starting spot in 2012 and that he'll have to earn it out of spring training.

That's all I ask for -- don't assume anything. I still have some small sliver of faith in Nishioka -- his numbers in Japan don't lie, and the scouts obviously did not see this version of him. However, I appreciate that Smith is having second thoughts about it and he's willing to admit that Nishi isn't necessarily the answer. Later in the conversation, as he listed the highest priorities for the team, a good shortstop was on that list.

Bringing in the outfield fences: St. Peter did kind of give a hedging pat answer here, giving a lot of "we're talking about it" kinds of responses, but he basically said that despite what Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer may want, there are no plans to alter the outfield fences.

St. Peter also added (I can't remember if this was specifically in regard to this topic or another -- in fact, I can't really remember if it was St. Peter or Smith who said this; let's just go with it) that the current team with all the left-handed hitters, was built for the Metrodome, but now in Target Field, they have to build the team to be more of a doubles-and-speed-type team.

Ben Revere's arm: Smith said that Revere and the coaches are working very hard on improving his arm, doing things such as pitchers' long toss, but, ultimately, there's not much they can do. Smith thinks that Revere suffered some kind of shoulder injury in high school football. Smith went on to say that plenty of good baseball players, like Johnny Damon, have terrible arms.

It kind of struck me that Smith didn't go on more to talk about Revere's range and how it more than makes up for his arm. Frankly, I don't think Ben's weak arm is a super-huge deal. There are thing the Twins can do to mitigate the damage: put him in left, play the cut off men out more, keep working on taking proper routes, etc.

Cuddyer jersey: A fan asked Smith if it was safe to buy a Cuddyer jersey, and Smith replied that, no matter what team he winds up with, it's always safe to buy a Cuddyer jersey. Smith called Cuddy a great representative and in all his years in baseball, Cuddyer is his favorite player to be around. Cuddy has earned this opportunity for free agency, and Smith's hopeful he can sign him.

When I met Smith at the State Fair in 2010, he pretty much said the same thing, word for word (well, not the free agency part), to me (it was kind of unprovoked too, because I was talking about Jim Thome at the time), and I could tell he meant it. He actually kind of gushed. Which still makes me ask why he didn't take care of this last season? Who knows; maybe he tried and Cuddyer said not now.

Starting pitching: Smith admitted straight up that the Twins need to focus on acquiring starting pitching because they may want to move a starter or two to the bullpen.

I suspect the "starter or two" may include Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey, and/or Nick Blackburn.

Jim Thome: A fan asked whether the Twins will try to bring Jim Thome back. Smith said that the Twins loved having Thome around. If Jim wants to play, he'll definitely find a team, but the Twins have so many other priorities this offseason. Jim is either a designated hitter or a pinch hitter, and if he gets on base, he needs a pinch runner. With a bench of only three or four guys, Thome would be a luxury the Twins can't afford.

My head can't disagree. My heart weeps.

Who, of the guys who are gone, do you miss? Surprisingly, Smith answered this question without hesitation: JJ Hardy. He went on to say that Hardy had a great season with the Orioles, but much of his success can be attributed to the AL East parks, Camden, Fenway, the Trop, and Rogers Centre, that he plays in. Smith also mentioned that they miss Guerrier and Crain, but definitely they miss JJ.

Hmm. That's almost kind of on the brink of admitting that trading Hardy was a mistake. I'm not sure I buy the ball parks thing. Hardy may also be benefiting from a training staff that knows how to fix his wrist. A strong wrist equals a strong swing.

Fundamental errors: Smith admitted that the lower levels of the organization need to be less tolerant of mental and fundamental lapses. He suggested that guys should be taken out of a game or sit the next game if they do things such as miss the cut off man, make baserunning mistakes, etc. He said that all that is part of the learning process.

Yes! I firmly believe that the minor league players and coaches need to work harder on fundamentals and foster a culture of winning so that the guys are fully ready for the big leagues.

My biggest takeaways: The message I kept sensing was that the Twins' front office firmly believes that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will be back at 100% in 2012. Smith didn't seem like he wanted to address any other options regarding moving either of them to other positions.

Smith also admitted that a backup catcher with good offense is a priority. Good.

I noticed that he didn't talk about Kubel much at all, although no one asked.

I'm glad the Twins did this. Smith and St. Peter put themselves in the line of fire of some obviously frustrated fans, and they didn't back down or hedge much at all. They know fans are mad, and they have a ways to go to ease those wounds. Good for them for facing it head on.

Also, the fans who asked questions were great. Of course they were all screened before being let on the line, but all the callers asked smart questions without being disrespectful. They asked tough questions that generated good discussions.

There were more questions and answers than what I have here; I just hit the highlights. I enjoyed listening; it was well worth my time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Off-season Surgery Paper Doll Parade

In an effort to be ready for off-season conditioning, three Twins underwent surgery on Friday to address some lingering issues. Just because the season is over doesn't mean the paper doll production is.

Ben Revere had minor surgery on his left knee to remove some loose cartilage. I hope this isn't the same procedure that Joe Mauer had last off-season...or, if it is, I hope the outcome is better.

Ben gave his Twitter followers updates every step of the way. With a picture.

He also asked, numerous times, for someone to come take care of him. He didn't indicate where he was.

I would've offered, but that probably would've been creepy. I'm old enough to be his ... well, let's just say that I'm old enough that if he were ever to meet me in real life, he'd call me ma'am. Not the kind of care he's looking for, I'm sure.

~~~

When Justin Morneau got his knee and foot surgery a couple of weeks ago (after his neck surgery a couple months ago), he must've received a coupon for a free procedure on his next visit.

He had a small, benign cyst removed from his left knee and some cleanup on his right foot on September 19.

Now on Friday, he had a stabilization procedure on the wrist that's been bothering him most of the season. He's still experiencing numbness in his hand.

He's supposed to be in a cast for six weeks.

~~~


Nick Blackburn has been diagnosed with radial tunnel syndrome and had surgery Friday to treat it. I have a little experience with this one; I was diagnosed with the same condition three years ago (I never had surgery, but I still have some lingering effects -- it's a good thing I'm not a Major League pitcher).

Any kind of tunnel syndrome is a compression of nerves. We've all heard of carpal tunnel syndrome; this is similar, but it involves a different nerve. Instead of running along the carpus bones of the hand, the radial tunnel runs along the radius of the forearm.

Blackie's surgery was to decompress those nerves. I hope he's not still feeling it three years from now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Well, That's That

For a season that focused so much time on remembering the past, 2011 was certainly forgettable.

Fans had the chance to fondly look back on the great careers of Harmon Killebrew, Bert Blyleven, and John Gordon and to celebrate the 1991 World Series team.

We also got to celebrate some great personal achievements: Jim Thome's 600th home run, Francisco Liriano's no-hitter, Michael Cuddyer's All Star Game selection, Joe Nathan's 255th save for the Twins record, Ben Revere's 32nd stolen base for the Twins rookie record.

All these things were terrific, and I really enjoyed them. I'm just sad that there weren't many other chances to cheer.

I'm grateful I chose to go to Wednesday's game. I wanted to say goodbye to the season. I'm grateful that the Twins played well for me and avoided that 100 loss thing. Sure, 99 losses is still a hella lot of losses, but it ain't 100.

I love that the 2011 debut of the Pavanostache resulted in such a fine performance. I hope Carl finally realizes that the 'stache is magical and that he's a much better pitcher with it than without it; add "keep the 'stache, Carl" to my 2012 Wish List.

I'm also grateful that I got one last chance to say goodbye to my two baseball boyfriends: Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer. I gave Cuddy a standing ovation during his final plate appearance. I'm a bit bummed that I didn't have the same opportunity for Joe Nathan, but I totally understand -- the power of the 'Stache was too strong for that kind of sentimentality. However, when Joe grabbed some mound dirt after the game was over, I lost my composure...I was inconsolably sniffly. I guess he doesn't think he'll be back. Sad.

So, after the playoffs and World Series try to distract us for a little while, we're faced with one of the strangest off-seasons the Twins have had in a while. They simply have to fix this.

It's a fact that some of the guys I saw play on Wednesday will be wearing different uniforms in 2012 -- some back to the minors; some with other organizations. I sincerely wish them all the best.

For the guys who will be back, I sincerely wish them the best, too. They all need to be healthy and ready to go for Spring Training.

And I'm already looking forward to pitchers and catchers reporting!

~~~

I hope that the playoffs provide at least half the excitement that the two wild card races did. Wow, huh?

I don't like to make predictions for post-season play, but I do like to pick rooting interests. So here we go:

  • I like the Cardinals to beat the Phillies (I consider the Cards my NL team),
  • I like the Brewers to beat the Diamondbacks (I know more about the Brewers),
  • I like the Tigers to beat the Yankees (for obvious reasons), and
  • I'm torn between the Rangers and the Rays -- but the Rays have the slight edge (I like their story, and I love Joe Madden).

Have fun with the small portions of baseball left for the year. The off-season can be kind of fun, but it doesn't keep me warm at night like actual baseball games do.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2012 Wish List, Part VI: Take the Bullpen Seriously

Remember a year ago when one of the biggest gripes certain Twins fans could come up with was calling Jesse Crain "Crainwreck"? Remember a year ago when certain Twins fans were so fed up with Matt Guerrier they couldn't be bothered with pronouncing his name correctly?

Yeah...I wonder what those certain fans think about those guys now?

I miss them too.

I have to admit that the old cliche of you don't know what you've got until it's gone applies to me regarding the Twins bullpen of yesteryear. And as much I would love to have either one or both of those guys back, it's too late to rue the decisions of the past.

Too bad the present isn't much fun.

The current bullpen owns the worst cumulative ERA in all of baseball (4.53). The front office can't expect to win very many games when they can't trust the men at the back end of the game to preserve leads or, at the very least, keep the team close. Unfortunately, however, the front office has shown over the last few years that it doesn't worry too much about the state of the bullpen. Fans have been fed lines that everything will be ok with the guys we have for a while now.

We can't have Crain or Guerrier back (well, I suppose we could, but I doubt it). But that doesn't mean we have to be stuck with what we have.

Here's the plan I wish for:

Bring Nathan back. The Twins have a $12 million option to keep him one more year. That's pretty spendy; I don't see Bill Smith willing to pony up that kind of money. And frankly, that's too much for a relief pitcher. However, I would like the Twins to let him test the free agent market and then actively pursue him for less money. He turns 37 this off-season; his next multi-year contract will likely be his last. I can see him taking the security of more years and still make it affordable for the Twins.

Tender Glen Perkins another contract. I used to kind of hate him as a starter. I really like him as a set up man.

Find a new home for Kevin Slowey. His, um, philosophical differences with the team are simply too chaotic to overcome. He'll probably succeed elsewhere; he just doesn't fit with the Twins.

Put Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing back to the bullpen and keep them as middle-inning and long relievers.

Say good-bye to Phil Dumatrait, Jose Mijares, and Matt Capps. They simply don't pitch well enough and have proven that they can't be trusted. Maybe send Alex Burnett on his way as well.

Then, find good, reliable replacements. I like the promise that Lester Oliveros has shown, though I'm not sure he's really ready for the big leagues yet. He's only 23; let him earn a spot in spring training. Otherwise, make some trades and sign some new guys.

And maybe just make a quick phone call to Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier.

~~~

Since I mentioned Matt Capps, here's his paper doll:

If I remember correctly, he was unavailable for a few games mid-season because he had some forearm soreness. Or was it shoulder? Elbow? I guess I can't remember correctly.

Anyway, he's the last one of the guys who were on the Opening Day roster.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wish List, Part V: Admit That Good-enough Pitching Isn't Good Enough

Why did the San Francisco Giants win the World Series last year? Why are the Tampa Bay Rays making a run at the AL East Wild Card spot?

Pitching.

Good pitching.

And good pitching is something the Twins lack. To be honest, the Twins have been lacking good, reliable, consistent starting pitching since Johan Santana was traded.

Of course, there are Twins with potential to be aces, but for one reason or another, none of them have fulfilled their promise.

Scott Baker probably has the best chance of becoming an ace pitcher, but frankly, he's been on the verge of becoming an ace for six years now. Six...years. He has a hard time staying healthy, and when he is healthy, he has flashes of inconsistency.

Francisco Liriano has the stuff to be an ace, but he doesn't have the head for it. He lacks the confidence he used to have, and he doesn't always make smart pitching decisions. He also seems to have a hard time staying healthy.

Carl Pavano isn't really ace material. He's been a tad more consistent than the others, but he's not performing like he did at the end of 2009 and all of 2010. Or maybe he is, but the sub-par defense behind him is making it harder on him.

Brian Duensing is better suited for the bullpen. Kevin Slowey may be better suited for the bullpen as well, but he doesn't want to go there. Nick Blackburn is only good in May and Game 163.

And on it goes.

The Twins have been getting away with good-enough pitching for the last few years. Ever since the Johan trade, the start of every season has started with the media predicting second or third in the division because "they just don't have the pitching." But, with all those gloom-and-doom predictions, the Twins found ways to squeeze good seasons out of their rotation. Unfortunately, the karma of getting by with a crew of three-, four-, and five-starters has caught up with the them.

Solving the problem, of course, is going to be a lot more difficult than me sitting here wishing for a solution. There isn't exactly a pitcher Genie lamp that Bill Smith rub and out pops an ace. There are a few good free agent pitchers available, but of course the really good ones will be expensive.

I'm in no position to speculate on which free agent or trade candidate the Twins should target. I'm pretty certain that neither Mark Beurhle nor CC Sabathia (if he opts out of his contract) will be getting any calls from the 612 area code. However, Smith and company must -- must -- resist the urge to pull one off the scrap heap (just say no to Livan!).

But if there were a pitcher Genie lamp, I'd wish for C. J. Wilson.

~~~

Since I mentioned Carl Pavano, here's his paper doll:

I find it a curious coincidence that the man who has the most infamous history of being injury-prone (pre-Twins), is the only starting pitcher to not go down at all the in the most infamous year of injury and illness.

He hasn't missed a start, and as far as I recall, he hasn't come out of a game because he got hurt. Although, we all worried about him hurting himself during some of the dugout rages he engaged in this season.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

C'mon! Enough Already! (Injury and Illness Update)

Good grief! I don't know what the Twins did to piss off the injury and illness demons, but they had better figure it out and correct it really quickly before things get any more serious.

Let's take inventory, shall we:

We already know that Nick Blackburn's season is over.

Joe Mauer's season is over. He has been diagnosed with "mild" pneumonia, and he needs to rest for two weeks -- which will take up the rest of the season. Mild pneumonia, often called "walking" pneumonia, is the least serious of the pneumonia infections, and it usually doesn't require hospitalization. This is not to say that Joe's not miserable. Pneumonia of any strain is an infection of the lungs. He can probably walk around and do some light activity, but he's got a bad cough and probably has a hard time catching his breath when he runs.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka's season is over. He has a nagging oblique strain that just doesn't seem to be getting better, so the Twins shut him down. According to LaVelle E. Neal of the Star Tribune, the Twins have sent him on his way with instructions for an off-season workout program.

Justin Morneau's season is most likely over. He's still fighting concussion symptoms and now he's got the flu. The concussion symptoms are quite worrisome because they reappeared after he made a somewhat routine play attempt at first base. This article by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports explains just how scary and frustrating Justin's situation is.

Jason Kubel's season is most likely over. The foot injury he suffered earlier in the season has flared up again, and he's in quite a bit of pain. He'll have it looked at more during the off-season.

Denard Span's season might be over. He also can't shake off the concussion symptoms and migraines.

Scott Baker is still on the DL with a forearm strain. He hopes to be able to pitch out of the bullpen soon.

Alexi Casilla is still on the DL with a hamstring strain. He hope to be able to play before the end of the season.

Danny Valencia has the flu.

Ben Revere just got over having the flu.

Brian Duensing just got over having the flu.

Fransico Liriano pitched two innings out of the bullpen on Saturday. So that's good news.

~~~

Since we're talking about injuries and whatnot, here's Michael Cuddyer's paper doll:


Michael Cuddyer missed several games in August due to a sore neck. Then when he came back from that, he was promptly hit in the wrist by a pitch.

He played the day after he was hit by the pitch after verifying with medical staff that playing wouldn't damage it further and all he needed to do would be manage the pain.

This, of course, riled up columnist Jim Souhan, who praised Cuddyer's toughness (kind of omitting the fact that he missed time from the neck the week before) and used him as an example to prove that Joe Mauer is soft. Cuddyer, of course, wasn't able to play particularly well with the sore wrist.

Of course, all that put some bloggers and fans into a small snit (Souhan puts people into snits pretty regularly). A lot of folks (not wrongly so) kind of used him as an example that playing hurt is not necessarily a good option.

Once rosters expanded, Cuddyer missed some time to get the wrist feeling better.

I don't think it mattered too much either way whether he played hurt or not. He played when the team despirately needed warm bodies, and it wasn't like his poor play blocked anyone else from getting a chance. Then, when there were warm bodies, he sat. No problem.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

2012 Wish List, Part IV: Find Out If the Clone of Mike Redmond Is Available

It's pretty clear by now that Joe Mauer has, and may always have, durability issues. Granted, he may come back strong in 2012 and never get hurt again, but that's pretty unlikely. And even if it does turn out that way, he still can't catch every single day.

Clearly, a competent back-up catcher is a requirement on any good team. And, I'm sorry to say, Drew Butera isn't one.

I like Drew. He seems like a great guy, he's fun to follow on Twitter, and I'm sure he's good to his parents. But he shouldn't be considered a major league catcher. Not even a major league back-up catcher.

Now, I defended Drew in the past. Or rather, I defended Carl Pavano's apparent bromance with Drew. But that's when he was batting among eight professional hitters, so it wasn't as much of a problem then. Now, with effective batting such a scarcity, the Twins can ill-afford to tolerate an automatic out at any spot in the lineup.

It's true that Drew is a good defensive catcher. However, I think that aspect of the game is overrated. His ability to block pitches in the dirt and throw out baserunners simply can not overcome his offensive liability. If you think about it, any catcher's defensive game maybe saves a run a game. Maybe. But he comes to the plate three to four times a game.

His .140 batting average and .196 on-base percentage are unsatisfactory for a bench player; they're absolutely unacceptable for someone with 227 plate appearances (compared to Joe Mauer's 202 PAs when he catches). And, to be honest, as skilled as Drew is on the defensive side, I'm not completely sure that another catcher wouldn't be just as good. I'm also pretty sure that most any other catcher would be acceptable for Carl Pavano (and if he isn't, tell Pavano to suck it up, buttercup).

Rene Rivera isn't the answer, either (.152/.202).

So, the Twins can no longer assume that Joe Mauer will be healthy for an entire season, place a warm body in the back-up role, and hope for the best. I do believe that Joe will have a much better season in 2012, and I'm hopeful that his weak-legs days will be behind him for good, but the Twins need to fill the back-up catcher spot with a substantive player.

I'm not asking for a guy who's going to win the Silver Slugger. But I am asking for someone who will, at least, be within earshot of the Mendoza line.

And I'm not alone in this assessment. Twins Geek wrote this thought-provoking post about the subject and then discussed it with Aaron Gleeman on their podcast. (I encourage you to check out their podcast -- they also reviewed the movie "Moneyball." And since you're there, check out that sweet logo, created by your favorite k-bro.)

Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to say who the Twins should target via free agency or trade. But, I'm certain that Bill Smith can find out a lot easier than I can. He just has to do it and see it through.

~~~

Since we're on the subject of Drew Butera, here's his paper doll:

Drew does have the distinction of having the first paper doll to not have an arrow pointing to some kind of pain or another. Which isn't to say that he isn't suffering from pain or fatigue of some sort; he is a catcher after all. But as far as I'm aware, no specific soreness, tenderness, pull, tweak, strain, sprain, tear, fracture, or break has been reported.

I hope I didn't just jinx him by putting this here.

Also, his arms seem disproportionately large, don't they?