Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quick Notes: Jan. 30, 2011

If there was an award for the Most Boring Blog of the Week, I'd win this week. There isn't really a lot of news from Twins world. Add to that the fact that I wasn't able to make it to Twins Fest this weekend, there's not really a whole lot of stuff to talk about.

But, since you were kind enough to stop by, I'll come up with a couple of things.


News Item 1: Kevin Slowey and the Twins avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1-year, $2 something million contract.


News Item 2: The Twins picked up LHP Dusty Hughes off waivers from the Royals. In order to make room, they designated RHP Rob Delaney for assignment -- which means he had to pass through waivers in order to remain on the minor league roster -- who was promptly claimed by the Rays.

Ok. First of all, what is it with the Twins and guys named Hughes? Isn't he like the 17th one they've had in the last six years or so?

Secondly, I don't get this move at all. I can't figure out what the front office thinks their gaining by picking up a reject from the Royals. But, I don't really know much about this Hughes fellow, so I'll give him a chance. I just think it's dumb that they had to lose Delaney to get him.


News Item 3: Bert's number 28 will be retired by the Twins, now that Jesse Crain is gone and done using it. Huzzah!


News Item 4: The Twins are removing the pine trees that decorate the centerfield area of the stadium. Some of the batters were complaining that they couldn't see the ball due to the crazy shadows the trees cast during late afternoon and early evening games. Too bad; I thought the trees were pretty.

I hope they can transplant them to a suitable home, maybe around the plaza or someplace close by.


Ok, so Twins Fest. Due to other commitments -- well that, and the fact I failed to get some of those limited tickets in a timely manner, -- I was unable to attend. But I was absolutely captivated by following my Twitter feed. Many of my Twitter friends went and posted pictures. That was really fun; I'm glad they did. Several friends also posted pictures on Facebook; I loved them.

I also really appreciate how the Twins public relations folks really used Twitter to reach out to fans. It's so easy to conduct a quick interview with a player by recording it on an iPhone and then pop it on to Twitter. They did a number of those, and they were a ton of fun.

So between reading my friends tweets, seeing the Twitvids from the Twins, seeing a bunch of pictures on Facebook, and listening to the interviews on 1500ESPN on the radio, I didn't feel too sorry for myself for missing it.


Speaking of Twitter, it seems as if some of the players are embracing the social media craze and signing up. Denard (@thisisdspan) and Cuddy (@mcuddy5) have been on for a while, but recently have been reaching out more. Addtionally, Danny Valencia's (@dannyvalencia19) in -- probably the best thing to happen to Twitter, since, well, tweeting (don't believe me? just ask him). So if you're a Twitterer, be sure you're following these guys; it's a lot of fun.

If I had some words of advice for players on Twitter, they would be:
  • Keep it real. We follow you because we really want to get to know you a little better. Go ahead and talk about whatever's on your mind -- music, television, movies, food, and of course, baseball.
  • Keep it classy. Don't call out your teammates or coaches and don't disrespect your opponents. That kind of stuff might make for some entertaining Twitterbattles, it can also get blown out of proportion in a hurry. We'd hate for you to have to shut down because you pissed someone off. Best to take the approach of pretending that Gardy and your mom are looking over your shoulder with every tweet -- if you can't say it in front of them, don't say it at all. Keep things positive and fun, and you'll be all right.
  • Keep a thick skin. There will be some jerks who forget that you are a real human being and will take out their (usually hypersensitive) frustrations out on you because you're there and say some mean things. Don't ever ever ever take this crap personally. These people are morons; don't forget that. Just shrug off their BS. (Oh, and a note to the knuckleheads who do that -- knock it off! You're not that smart and no one likes you.) 

Now that Twins Fest is done, there's not much to do until Spring Training starts. I'll really surprised if the Twins' front office does anything between now and then, other than avoiding arbitration with Delmon and Francisco. I expect those to be one-year deals, but then they may work on contract extentions for both of them during Spring Training.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Notes: Jan. 23, 2011

Wow. A lot happened over the last week.

On Monday, Matt Capps and Glen Perkins avoided arbitration and signed one-year contracts. Perkins signed for $700,000. Fine. He's cheap. He's left-handed. He's breathing. The Twins seem to have a bit more faith in him than I do. Whatever.

Meanwhile, Capps is getting $7.15 million. Yikes. That's a lot of money for a set-up guy. I understand that the Twins wanted some insurance for Joe Nathan as he recovers from elbow surgery, but, wow. The Twins must've thought that Capps would get at least that much money in arbitration, or else they wouldn't have offered it to him. Personally, I kind of would've liked to see them forget about Capps and re-sign Brian Fuentes in that role. Capps does have the benefit of being young, so that's good. He must have some spark that Bill Smith sees that I don't yet. But, I'm sure he'll be all right.


Speaking of Brian Fuentes, he signed with the A's. Sounds like he'll be a set-up guy for Andrew Bailey. The A's are really putting together a nice bullpen, which includes a number of former Twins: Grant Balfour, Craig Breslow, and now Fuentes.


On Thursday, the Twins re-signed Carl Pavano. Finally. For several weeks, in fact seemingly every week since the Twins offered arbitration in early December, we heard that Pavano would decide "by the end of the week." But, it was worth the wait; he'll be a Twin for two more years.

This deal had "meant to be" written all over it. The money is fair ($8 million this year, and $8.5 million next with a chance for an extra $500,000 based on innings pitched), and Carl really wanted multiple years. Not only that, he keeps saying in interviews that Minnesota is where he wants to be and that the Twins have a great bunch of guys. Even Jim Thome made sure he knew he should come back. He wants to be here and he's wanted.

Surprisingly, as the deal was nearing completion, word came out that the Yankees had been interested in him and even offered big money for his services. Surprising because the last time the Yankees wanted him, it didn't work out so well -- four years, nine wins, and lots of money is not a formula for love in NY. The manager, teammates, and fans grew quite weary of his injuries and apparent inability to heal and they came to believe he was a lazy bum. The Yankees and their fans demand nothing less than excellence, and they didn't get it with Carl.

Apparently, however, Brian Cashman believed in him and maintained an amicable relationship over the years. The Yankees are desperate for a reliable starting pitcher, and any other guy with Carl's credentials would've been a shoe-in. However, the actual Carl would've needed barrels of excellence in order to earn trust and be accepted; it would've been quite unfriendly there. Even now, with Carl nestled safely in the bosom of friendly Twins Territory, Yankee fans are, shall we say, venting their frustrations all over Facebook and Twitter as only New Yorkers can.

And even more surprisingly, Carl was willing to give it a try in New York, perhaps to quiet some lingering regrets. That is, until the Twins threw in a second year to their offer. Then the pieces fell into place. He seems genuinely happy to be back. And the fans kind of dig him too.

Here are some interview videos from FSN.

Notice the 'stache is gone? He admitted in an interview that if it does make a comeback, it has to be a surprise. I have no doubt that, come mid-season, when the team needs a rallying cry, a gimmick, a talisman, a 'Staches for Success campaign, it'll come out of hiding.


On Friday, Nick Punto signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Too bad; I prefer him off the bench over Tolbert or Plouffe. Sure, there's no doubt our Little Nicky Punto divided Twins fans like no other player, but his defense was a lot of fun to watch. Sure, he didn't have the best batting average in the world, but his defense was a lot of fun to watch. Sure, he made some baserunning blunders, but his defense was a lot of fun to watch. Sure, he dove headfirst into first base, but...well, you get the point.

Good luck, Nicky. Oh and Cardinals fans, you'll appreciate his work ethic and hustle.


Off-season crocheting update:

Another scarf for the Scarves for Special Olympics Project.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quick Notes: Jan. 16, 2011

Jim Thome's coming back! Jim Thome's coming back! Jim Thome's coming back!

Did you hear? Jim Thome is coming back to the Twins. I take some credit for that. On Friday morning, I wanted an undershirt for my sweater (it's freaking freezing in my office -- layers are essential). So I pulled out my "Thome is My Homey" t-shirt, thought to myself "today is going to be special," put it on, and went happily to work (really).

During my mid-morning coffee break, I checked in on Twitter, and saw some some ridiculous rumor that the Twins were interested in Manny Ramirez and the fans reacting to that rumor. I was slightly amused, moderately repulsed, and not at all worried. I knew he wasn't a good fit for the Twins, even though a right-handed pinch hitter would be a bonus. I believed in the power of the TIMH shirt.

Sure enough, during the lunch hour, the news of Thome's signing hit the internet. And all was right with the world again. Word was that he turned down quite a bit of money from the Rangers in order to stay with the Twins. Minnesota is closer to his family in Chicago, and he really seems to like his teammates.

Even though the Twins line-up is heavily left-handed, I think signing Thome is much, much smarter than signing the right-handed Manny. Although Manny can be a very good hitter with lots of power, he does have a history of giving up when he doesn't feel like trying hard. I also think he's glory days are behind him; just look at his time with the White Sox -- he did n.o.t.h.i.n.g.

More importantly, however, most fans want to like the players on their favorite teams. Thome is clearly a fan favorite who is eager to play for his team and do whatever he can to win. Manny will have to overachieve in order to develop a big fan base, and he'll never sway some fans (like me) no matter how many homeruns he hits. Most fans will take slightly less performance for a truly likable guy. And I'm certain that Thome is still the better of the two performance-wise. Mark my words, Thome will help win a lot more games than Manny ever could.

So, yay! I think you should get your own "Thome Is My Homey" shirt. You'll never know what could happen when you wear it.


The Twins and Alexi Casilla avoided arbitration Sunday and agreed to an $865,000 contract. He's the third arbitration-eligible player to agree, along with Pat Neshek and Jason Repko. There are five left to complete: Glen Perkins, Matt Capps, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, and Delmon Young.


Off-season crocheting update: here is a scarf I made for the Scarves for Special Olympics project. The deadline to mail to Team Minnesota is in February; I hope to be able to make another one in time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: The Soul of Baseball

Joe Posnanski. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007, 282 pp., $13.95 (cover price). ISBN 978-0-06-085404-1

I have been smitten with Buck O'Neil for a long time. We've been treated to his twinkling eyes, bright smile, and smooth voice in just about every baseball documentary made. If they discussed the Negro Leagues, he was there, joyfully reliving great memories. He always told great stories. Every time I saw him, I'd imagine how delightful it would be to take him out for pie and coffee and talk baseball.

Sadly, Buck's gone now, but Joe Posnanski's Soul of Baseball is the next best thing. In fact, it's probably better. The book chronicles a year's worth of Buck's appearances, autograph signing sessions, and publicity trips. Buck was a great advocate of the Negro Leagues. While he didn't want folks to forget about the hard times and grotesque indignities the Negro Leagues players endured, he mostly wanted to emphasize what great players they were. Posnanski followed him as he spread that message.

But this book is more than just an agenda of public appearances. Posnanski illustrates how Buck captivated everyone he met and how his optimism and joy infected others. He also skillfully told great stories of Buck's, and his teammates', glory days.

This book is a good, comfortable read. Posnanski does a fabulous job of getting out the way of the stories and just letting them tell themselves -- he's always present, but Buck's clearly carrying the events. I was drawn in and could feel Buck's positive energy. I also enjoyed Posnanski's friendly writing style.

I can't recommend this book strongly enough. This is my new favorite. Grade A+.

I think it would be delightful to take Mr. Posnanski out for pie and coffee and talk baseball, and Buck.

Oh, and you should watch this for a smile (h/t @JoshsThoughts).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Letter to Bill Smith

Dear Billy,

Hi. Remember when I introduced myself to you at the State Fair and we chatted for several minutes? Yeah, that was a good time. Because of that, I think I feel comfortable considering myself your good friend, don't you think?

As your friend, I sincerely hope you and your family had a terrific holiday season. Also, as your friend, I imagine that you're probably on vacation right now...someplace warm I hope. I don't blame you; I'm certain that Baron von Kelvin developed the idea of Absolute Zero while spending time in Minnesota in January.

As your friend, I'm hoping you can do me a little favor. I'd really appreciate it that sometime between the Mai Tais and the zip-lining, you could maybe squeeze in a couple hours of work. I don't mean to imply that you don't deserve a vacation, you absolutely do, but I'm getting a little worried that you'll opt for a permanent vacation and never come back to work. Who hasn't dreamt of that?

As your friend, I just wanted to remind you that you've lost more players than you've added. Plus, you still have six players still awaiting avoiding arbitration. You don't want to go through arbitration with that many guys, do you? What a hassle. I worry about your stress level.

As your friend, I think I'm comfortable telling you that I don't believe in your starting rotation as it is right now. Although, I did appreciate the little stirring up of the rumor mill earlier this week by allowing "someone close to the negotiations" to leak that you were close to signing Pavano. Good move; it let me know that there were no incidents with that swimming with sharks attraction. But if you could just finish the move, that'd be great. I don't have a lot of confidence that Liriano and Baker can remain healthy, or that Slowey, Blackburn, or Duensing can remain consistent. Think about that; for an old pal?

So how about really signing Pavano soon? I know that Pavs kind of wore down a little with a sore neck and such, but I bet if you bought him one of those comfort curve memory foam pillows, plus hired him a massage therapist, that'd fix him right up. And a legit therapist, too...not one named Kandi or Britni. A good one with good hands. For a massage only. Jim Thome could benefit, too. Oh, and don't forget Thome. You yourself said you liked having him around. C'mon buddy...

As your friend, I most of all want you to do something...anything. I know you probably have a spa appointment, a couple of tee times, a fishing trip, and probably parasailing lessons scheduled for the next few days, but maybe you can just give me a sign that you still want to be friends. It's really for the good of the team.

BFAAF (Best Friends Always And Forever),

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Into the Hall of Fame Isn't Supposed to Be Easy

... but it didn't have to be that hard for a certain Dutchman.

Bert has been circled; Bert's in Bly-'11; Happy Bert-day; etc.

I took this photo at an autograph session at my local Menards. He was giving my son rabbit ears.

Along with Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven has been - finally - elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I'm very happy for him. I have to admit that, even though everyone expected this year to finally be the year, I was worried. I've seen a lot of writers strut all over the internet proudly proclaiming why they didn't vote for Bert. But he made it. It's a good thing I'm not a voter because I don't think I could look at his qualifications with an impartial eye. I wanted him in because I like him.

I still believe that the voting process is fundamentally flawed, but I'm less indignant about it now because my guy got in. I also believe that they still didn't get it completely right (*ahem* Barry Larkin); I'm not sure they ever will. Which, I guess, is the point -- it's supposed to be hard, very hard, to get into the Hall of Fame.

I noticed a couple of shifts in the voting process this year. First, the digital age is having an increasing impact. Many writers post articles on internet forums, inviting readers to comment. Never before have the average fans' voices been considered to this extent. All this conversation is a great, and increasingly necessary, component. Bert wouldn't have been voted in if it weren't for the groundswell of intelligent fans getting the writers' attention with appropriate stats. But with a growing and increasingly accessible platform, I fear the writers may develop into self-important clods (more so than they already are). The more internet feedback these writers get, the bigger their egos, and the more they are going to use their HOF vote as an opportunity for selfish bloviating. "Look at me: I'm so important/clever/awesome because I refuse to vote for a guy who deserves it, but I decided the attention is better." I hope the vast majority of writers continue to take their votes seriously.

More seriously, the shadow of the steroid era is continuing to loom, and it will for many years. It's not an easy thing to think about, and there are more hard questions than good answers. It's one thing for voters to leave Mark McGwire off their ballots; his stats before he purportedly took enhancements weren't all that great. But I read that several voters couldn't bring themselves to vote for Jeff Bagwell because they "just didn't know if he did or didn't." Well, that's hardly fair -- the only evidence against him is that he was good. And it's going to get harder. What to do about Barry Bonds? Or Roger Clemens? They were amazing players. But you can't ignore the alleged boost. There's no clear path for future voters.

But today is a happy day for Bert and Roberto. Two great players, indeed. Congratulations!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Quick Notes: Jan. 2, 2011

Happy New Year, everyone! I really enjoyed the last two weeks of the year. I was able to spend some time with family while keeping things low-key and setting some time aside to relax. I hope you were able to do the same thing.

I'm about 97.6% certain that Bill Smith was able to do the same thing as well, because nothing is happening with the Twins. Ok, I don't really know that; he could be going on 3 hours of sleep and staffing the phones right this minute trying to complete 14 separate deals. Do you doubt that? Yeah, I doubt that too.

I'm crabby because I just want something to talk about and it's really boring that there isn't. *sigh*


Remember all those years when the Twins organization was trying to get the Minnesota legislature to chip in for a new ballpark and they kept trying to prove their point by griping about how crappy the Metrodome was? Well, the old Humpty Dump found a way to not only stick it to the Vikings for all their complaining, but it also figured out how to give the Twins one final "up yours". The air-less balloon that used to be the roof won't be fixed for a few months, not nearly in time for Twins Fest, scheduled for the end of January. Way to go Dome, that'll show 'em.

Fortunately, the Twins were able to relocate to the National Sports Center in Blaine. That's a nice big facility, but I really don't know if Twins Fest will be as grand there as it usually is. I'm sure it'll be fine, and it's great there is a place to go on such short notice.

Twins Fest is Jan. 28 - 30.


On Thursday, Dec. 30, I was one of a cast of thousands starring on Seth Stohs' Weekly Minnesota Twins special 2-hour, year-end special podcast. Ok, there wasn't really a cast of thousands. It was more like a cast of 17. But, still, pretty impressive. We talked about our favorite memories of 2010, what we think of the off-season, and what we're looking forward to in 2011. It was a really fun show with a lot of great guests -- and me.

My favorite memory of 2010 was the Home Opener in Target Field. The park is one of the best in the majors, and I think it contributed to the success of the team in 2010. The crowd was full, and abuzz, nearly every game, and the players must've appreciated a nice field to play on and nice facilities to be in. I also like how they incorporated the great players and memories from the past throughout the park, from the photo murals all around in places like the Legends Club to the glass on the Metropolitan Club with a definite nod to old Met Stadium. I was glad to be there to help open it.

My thoughts around the off-season revolved largely around acquiring a veteran starting pitcher who can give us 200+ innings a season -- namely Pavano. I think that now that the bullpen features a lot of inexperience, an iron-man type starter who can go deep into games would be a valuable asset. I'd also like to see Jim Thome back in a Twins uniform because I like him and he makes me happy.

I'm looking forward to the return of Joe Nathan in 2011. I have a gut feeling that by June, our Joe will be the formidable Joe Nathan again. And I can't wait to see it happen.

So anyway, check out the podcast here. I come in at about the 34-minute mark, but I really encourage you to listen to the whole show; it was a lot of fun.

Also, listen and learn why my boss has put the kibosh on any designs I had on doing voice-over work.

Thanks, Seth, for inviting me to be on your show with all those other great guests and thanks for being a friend of this blog over the past year.


In the on-going, captivating saga of the crocheting I'm doing to spend the vast amount of time until baseball starts again, I present this cute little sock monkey I made.

Of course he's a Twins fan. We haven't decided on a name for him yet. Perhaps Hubert.


And finally, I'd like to express my prayers and good wishes for Harmon Killebrew. He announced earlier this week that he's battling esophageal cancer.

I don't remember too much about his playing days, but I always been aware of his presence with the team. Seems like he's always around during Spring Training, Twins Fest, and other events. He always seems so proud to be associated with the Twins, and Twins fans are grateful to have him around. My mom had the thrill of shaking his hand a few years ago at Twins Fest, and he was very gracious to her.

I hope Harmon, his family, and his doctors can find a way to get him through this battle and on to a full recovery.