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.

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

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).