Monday, December 17, 2012

Quick Notes - Dec. 17 and the WABAC Machine

It's been a while since I've updated, and addition to the Span and Revere trades that I did write about, there's been some activity I need to mention.

When I last did an update, it was right before the contract-tender deadline and the Winter Meetings. Let's go back in time three weeks to catch up.

Sherman, set the WABAC machine ...

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November 30, 2012
Contract-tender Day. This was the date when teams had to decide whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, ensuring that the players stay with the team and likely get a pay raise.

The Twins tendered contracts to Brain Duensing, Jared Burton, and, to my surprise, Drew Butera. However, they declined to offer a contract to Lester Oliveros, who then became a free agent. But then he turned around and re-signed a minor-league contract with the Twins, so it's all good.

And, yes, I didn't even know Lester Oliveros was arbitration-eligible. I had done a fair amount of research, but apparently not enough.


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December 3, 2012
Fifth anniversary of this very blog. 

I remember one of the first posts was something about stressing over Bill Smith's first Winter Meetings where I expected Johan Santana was going to be traded. 

I also remember a few days later the Tigers acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

These things I remember. Where my cheater glasses are...not so much.

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December 6, 2012
Rule 5 Draft Day. The Twins select RHP Ryan Pressly from the Boston Red Sox.

He's 23 and most likely going to be in the bullpen. It's hard to get excited about Rule 5 draftees; there's a reason they weren't placed on their original team's 40-man roster. But he's young and seems kind of promising.

At any rate, he'll have to be on the Twins' active roster for the entire 2013 season. If the Twins want to take him off the active roster, they'll have to offer him back to the Red Sox or work out a trade.

No one takes any players away from the Twins.


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December 7-11, 2012
Twins sign a whole bunch of players I've never heard of, and Clete Thomas, to minor-league contracts.

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December 13, 2012
Twins sign free agent RHP Kevin Correia.

When I first saw this news, I thought, well, this probably isn't another another Jason Marquis situation. Then I did some research...strictly National League pitcher, in his 30s, beefy ERA, doesn't strike anyone out.

Yeah, it's another Jason Marquis situation.

Crossing fingers that it'll all turn out ok.

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Today
The Twins reportedly are in agreement to sign free agent RHP Mike Pelfrey, pending a physical.

Ok, the Twins may fool me once with signing Jason Marquis redux, but they're not going to fool me twice. This time, research before opinion.

Hmm...strictly National League pitcher, 28, beefy ERA, doesn't strike anyone out. Oh, and he's coming off Tommy John surgery.

Sigh.

Crossing toes now too.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bye, Benny

In the span of one week, the Twins have traded two speedy centerfielders. And both times, I've had mixed feelings about the deals.

Just when Twins fans handed over the responsibilities of centerfielder, lead off hitter, and 'big brother' to the up-and-coming outfielders to Ben Revere, he was traded to the Phillies for two right-handed pitchers. And just when fans were getting past losing Denard Span, another fun-to-watch, popular player was torn away from us.

Once again, many fans are upset. But for the front office to take this shambles of a ball club somewhere close (or closer, at least) to contention is going to be risky, and messy, ... and painful. And necessary.

Sure, having popular players around puts a few butts in the seats. However, winning baseball games puts a lot more butts in the seats. And for the current state of the Twins, talented starting pitching is more useful to the organization than popularity.

I like the Revere trade more than the Span trade, merely because the Twins received more in return. The Twins received starting pitcher Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May.

Worley will be in the starting rotation right away. He recently had minor elbow clean-up surgery, but he claims he's already fully healed. He didn't have the greatest season in 2012, but he was actually outstanding in 2011. And his nickname is "Vanimal."

May is a highly-regarded prospect, although probably not quite as high as Alex Meyer, whom they got for Denard Span. He didn't have the best numbers in AA last season, so I can't really tell if he'll start 2013 in AAA or repeat AA for a bit.

It's still unclear who will be the centerfielder for the Twins now. The official corporate line is that Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson, and Aaron Hicks will have opportunities to earn the spot in Spring Training.

I wish Ben all the best in Philly. And, of course, I hope his new fans take good care of him.

I guess I'm not as worried as I was about Ben's ability to get on base.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Adieu Denard

You've most likely heard by now that the Twins have traded center-fielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for RHP prospect Alex Meyer today.

Being a fan of a sports team has its downfalls. I wouldn't have much fun being a fan if I didn't get a little emotionally attached to some of the guys. The risk of that, of course, is that it's a bummer when they go away. I will certainly miss Denard.

All the things I've seen on Twitter and websites today about Alex Meyer has been positive. He's a top prospect with the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation guy. That's great for the Twins of 2015. He'll likely start 2013 in AA, and it should be fun to follow his progress. Terry Ryan stated that he still hasn't decided if he'll give Meyer an invitation to Spring Training.

Unfortunately, for casual fans who don't really follow the minor-leaguers, and maybe some hard-core fans who do, this move is less than satisfying. A popular and classy player is gone, and, so far, there hasn't been any desperately-needed improvement to the team for next season. This move kind of hurts for the time being.

Nationals fans should be pretty excited about acquiring Denard. All the national reporters are saying that he is a perfect fit into their lineup. They needed a good lead-off hitter and centerfielder (Bryce Harper will be moving to LF).

Denard should be pretty excited, too. He's now on a team that is a legitimate contender. They're a likable team that should be a factor in the playoffs for a while. I wish him all the best. Nationals fans had better take good care of him.

This apparently means the centerfield and lead-off reins are handed to Ben Revere. That's fine, I can live with that. In fact, I think he's more suited for center than left or right. But I do have an off-season assignment for him: get better at getting on base.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quick Notes - Nov. 27

The Admitting of Errors and Omissions:
The Twins haven't really erred or omitted -- as far as I can tell -- but I have. Specifically, I've omitted (although there's a better than even chance that I've erred as well, but I'm not aware of what it is yet).

Last time, I totally forgot to mention that Alexi Casilla was claimed off waivers by the Orioles. I not only forgot this event happened, but I also forgot Alexi Casilla existed. Not to be mean or anything, but I've always had a hard time remembering that he's on the team. It's not that I don't recognize him when I see him, or know the name when I hear it. I do. But when I was challenged to name the roster, I was pretty likely to leave him off the list. And this is a guy who was with the team for six years.

This is sort of fitting, I suppose. He always would come oh-so-close to being a respectable big leaguer, but he never amounted to anything to get excited about. Sure, he'd show flashes of awesome defense, and the few hits he did get seemed to come at highly clutch times, but he didn't really impress me much.

Best of luck to him.

The Tendering of Contracts:
Teams have until 11 pm Central Time November 30 to decide if they'll offer their arbitration-eligible players contracts. The Twins players are:

  • Drew Butera
  • Brian Duensing
  • Jared Burton
I really can't envision keeping Drew Butera around with all the other catchers currently on the 40-man roster.  But it would be just like the Twins to keep him. I fully expect Burton and Duensing to be offered contracts. 

Anyone not tendered a contract will become a free agent.

The Meeting of General Managers in the Winter:
MLB's Winter Meetings will take place December 3-6 in Nashville. All the General Managers get together to talk shop, eat and drink, and maybe discuss trading players. And the media folk hang out in lobbies, hallways, elevators, and public restrooms to see if they can get a nugget of a hint of an inkling of a rumor.

In addition to the other shenanigans, the Rule 5 draft will take place on December 6. Any player who is not currently on a team's 40-man roster and who has been with his team for four or five years (depending on how old he was when he was drafted) is eligible to be drafted by other teams under Rule 5. And if a player is drafted under Rule 5, he must be on the new team's 25-man roster for the entire next season or be offered back to his original team -- or a trade could be worked out (that's what happened with Scott Diamond).

To prepare for the Rule 5 draft, the Twins added a bucket-load of players to the 40-man roster to protect them from being drafted:
  • RHP Kyle Gibson
  • RHP BJ Hermsen
  • OF Aaron Hicks
  • C Josmil Pinto
  • IF Daniel Santana
  • LHP Caleb Thielbar
  • LHP Michael Tonkin
  • RHP Tim Wood
That fills up the 40-man roster, so there's no room to add anyone should the Twins want to draft someone, unless, of course, one or more of the arbitration-eligible players above are non-tendered.

That's it for now. I think. Hmm...pretty sure I didn't forget anything. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quick Notes - Nov. 14

I've been out of blogging commission for a while; I've been laptopless (not to be confused with topless -- or lapless for that matter). That's been resolved, so here I am again. Not that there's much shocking news to write about, but here it is anyway.

New Guys
The Twins have added a few new players, but no one to get really excited about.

Infielder Tommy Field (yes, a fielder named Field) and right-handed pitcher Josh Roenicke were claimed off waivers. Relief pitcher Tim Wood and catcher Eric Fryer signed minor-league deals with invitations to Spring Training.

Field and Roenicke are currently on the 40-man roster, but they may be designated for assignment prior to the Rule 5 draft in December (they would have to go through waivers again in order to be assigned to AAA).

Current Guy
Samuel Deduno was outrighted to AAA. He was briefly a minor-league free agent, but he quickly re-signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Old Guys
Free agent pitcher Scott Baker signed a 1-year deal with the Cubs for $5.5 million with another $1.5 million in incentives. Baker and the Twins had been interested in a contract reunion, but they weren't close enough to get it done. Joe Christensen of the StarTribune reported that the Twins wanted an option for 2014, but Baker wanted to be a free agent again next off season. It's not often when you see the team wants more years than the player. I also think the Cubs paid more than what the Twins should have paid. Anyway, best of luck to Scott.

Former Twin and Angel Torii Hunter is back in the AL Central. He signed a nice, fat contract with the Detroit Tigers for 2 years, $26 million. Wow. I know he's a good player and all, but he's not a youngster any more. I'd wish him the best of luck, but I don't want a division rival to have any luck.

Former Twin and new Marlins manager Mike Redmond will have an interesting first season with the team. The Marlins sent away a number of their star players to the Blue Jays for cheaper players. It was a 11-player affair. I have to believe that a deal this complicated takes a long time, and it was in the works when he interviewed for the job. At least, for his sake, I hope so. Best of luck to him.

Hearty congratulations to former Twin and current Met RA Dickey for winning the NL Cy Young award. Now before Twins fans get all in a snit about how we no longer have a guy who's good enough to win the Cy Young, remember that his knuckleball was still very much a works-in-progress back in those days. In fact, when he signed with the Mets, it was a minor-league deal. At any rate, he had a great season; best of luck for next season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quick Notes -- Nov. 1

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was surprised that the Tigers weren't able to make a better series out it, especially after they mopped up the Yankees so handily. But it's just as well; the weather wouldn't have cooperated in Detroit for a game 5. Silly old Sandy.

~~~

Now that the World Series is over, players who qualify have become free agents. Friday at 11 pm Central time is the deadline for the former teams to have exclusive negotiating rights with free agents. After that time, the players may discuss contracts with any team.

Teams won't get an additional draft pick if their former players sign with other teams unless they offer a qualifying one-year deal first. The dollar amount for the qualifying deal is the average of the top 125 salaries in MLB. That wound up being higher than expected -- originally it was believed to be about $12.5 million; turns out it's something like $13 million. This qualifying offer thing doesn't affect the Twins at all.

The Twins free agents are Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, and Scott Baker.

Carl Pavano pitched in only 11 games in 2012 due to a bum shoulder. Too bad, too. Just when everyone started believing he could be durable (after two-plus solid years for the Twins), he's not any more. I haven't heard any indications that the Twins are interested in re-signing him. I did, however, see on some lame rumor site that "sports talkers in the Twin Cities have been speculating that Pavano is planning to hang up his glove this winter...." Ok, I had not heard that at all; I guess I don't listen to the right "sports talkers." While I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Pavano does retire, I'm not going to rely on some South Florida gossip monger to give me reliable baseball news. Here's the link to the site: http://gossipextra.com/2012/10/25/carl-pavano-florida-house-1952/

Matt Capps had a $6 million team option, but the Twins declined it and paid him a $250,000 buyout. Capps' 2 1/2 years in Minnesota didn't go as well as everyone had hoped due to injury and ineffectiveness. He's not a horrible pitcher, but he just isn't a good closer. He seemed like a really nice guy; I hope he hooks on with another team.

Scott Baker had a $9.25 million team option, but the Twins declined it. There was no buyout. However, the scuttlebutt around town is that both Baker and the Twins are interested in hashing out a deal that would be less money but a lot of incentives. Baker missed all of 2012 due to surprise Tommy John surgery (the surgery wasn't the surprise, the fact that it had to be ligament replacement was). I'd be cool with him coming back.

~~~

The Twins are preparing their 40-man roster for the off-season; a bunch of guys got outrighted right off of it. Matt Carson, Carlos Gutierrez,  Jeff Manship, Luis Perdomo, Esmerling Vasquez, Kyle Waldrop, and PJ Walters were designated for assignment to the minor leagues.

The players have to pass through waivers, and Gutierrez didn't clear; the Chicago Cubs claimed him. So he's gone.

Players with a certain amount of service time may decline the assignment, thereby becoming minor-league free agents. Walters did just that, but then he turned right around and re-signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. I don't really get why he declined a minor-league assignment just to re-sign a minor-league contract, but I guess the new deal is better somehow.

~~~

The Twins announced their 2012 Diamond Awards. Josh Willingham was named Twins MVP, Scott Diamond was named Pitcher of the Year and Outstanding Rookie, and Ben Revere was named Best Defensive Player and Most Improved. I figured that Joe Mauer was the more valuable player, but I don't have a problem with Willinghammer winning it. He had pretty good numbers, and I really like him. So, good for these guys for being the few bright spots in a dim season.

~~~

Hearty congratulations to our old friend Mike Redmond. He's just been hired as the manager of the Miami Marlins, replacing Ozzie Guillen. I'm so happy for Red-dog. I really miss his personality around the Twins team. I'm glad he can take his legendary "naked walkabout" to bigger and better clubhouses.

Way to go, Mike. Smell 'em.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicks Dig The Infield Fly Rule -- Somtimes

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare Infield Fly, if Fair.
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder, not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpires judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpires judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

----------------
I love the Infield Fly Rule. I love it because everyone knows about it, but no one really understands it. It's my go-to for smacking down knowledge on doofuses who don't believe that a chick can really understand baseball.

Whether you're a die-hard or casual fan, after Friday's Braves-Cardinals game, you've thought and heard more about the Infield Fly Rule than you ever expected. Probably more than you wanted.

Let's recap what happened: Braves had two runners on base with one out. The batter, Andrelton Simmons, lifted a pop up to short left field. Neither the Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma nor left fielder Matt Holliday caught the ball. Bases loaded with one out, right? Wrong! The Infield Fly Rule was called; batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Also, a fan riot ensues.

Infield Fly Rule?! In the outfield?! Really?!

Was it the right call? According to the rule, a ball "which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort" is called an Infield Fly. It specifically doesn't state where the ball should be caught, only that an infielder, or other player positioned in the infield, should be catching it -- as long as it's in fair territory. So, under the letter of the rule, it's not an incorrect call.

Did this call make a difference in the game? After I saw some replays, it looks to me like Kozma was camped under the ball, and when the umpire called the Infield Fly, Kozma believed Holliday was calling him off and he ducked away. If the umpire, Sam Holbrook, would have zipped his mouth, Kozma would have remained under the ball, and made the catch. Batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Just the same thing, without all the chaos afterward.

But (and it's a big but), with all that being said, I believe it was a bad ball. It wasn't necessary wrong, but it was poorly applied.

The spirit of the rule is to protect the base runners from the infielder intentionally dropping the ball and initiating a double play. That wasn't at all at risk of happening in Atlanta.

Also, what does "ordinary effort" really mean? Ordinary for whom? Even though the Kozma appeared to be camped under the ball at one point, I believe that it still took more than ordinary effort for him to get there. I'm not familiar with how he plays, but he seemed pretty speedy on that play.

Because this is an "umpire's discretion" call, no amount of appealing, or replaying, or robo-umpiring will change it. And it shouldn't. But the umpires need to make more sound decisions.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Boom Goes the Coaching Staff

The Twins front office and ownership really hate losing. And who doesn't. So they wasted no time setting into motion a bad day for a bunch of members of the Twins coaching staff (it couldn't have been a ton of fun for the Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter, and Jim Pohlad either). No one technically got fired; their contracts were not renewed.

Bullpen coach Rick Stelmazsek, third-base coach Steve Liddle, first base coach Jerry White, and head athletic trainer Rick McWane are newly unemployed. Hitting coach Joe Vavra has been re-assigned as an infield instructor, and bench coach Scott Ullger has been re-assigned as an outfield and baserunner instructor.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson's job is still safe -- for now. Either they understood that he didn't have great pitchers to work with the last two seasons, or Gardy told Ryan "if he goes, I go."

Ron Gardenhire still has one more year on his contract, but he will not get an extension yet. He'll have a lot to prove in 2013, and he knows it.

All this may have implications for the AAA team as well. Rochester manager Gene Glynn, pitching coach Bobby Cuellar, and hitting coach Tom Brunanski are rumored to be in the running for the open positions.

So as brutal as all this was -- only one field coach, Al Newman, had previously been fired during Gardy's tenure -- I'm not convinced it'll help much. I understand that the coaches are responsible for much more than what fans see on the field. And we can all agree that many of the players weren't properly prepared for game days. But these guys were there for the good times, too. They didn't suddenly forget how to do their jobs.

The problem was talent, or lack-thereof, not coaching. None of this will mean anything, or matter much, if that fact isn't addressed this off-season.

I sincerely hope that these guys find new gigs or enjoy satisfying retirements, whichever they prefer.

I also sincerely hope that whoever is brought in is wildly successful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The k-bro Twins Post-season Awards

As the Twins wrap up another disappointing season, it would be easy to just throw up my hands in a snit and curse them all. But Twins baseball is still better than no baseball. For all the complaining I've done about pitching and leaving men on base, I want to spend a blog post focusing on the good things these players did this season. So, for what it's worth, I'll present the k-bro baseball blog 2012 Twins Awards. Put on your fancy-dancy duds and let's have an awards show.

Twins Pitcher of the Year Award (if the League award is the "Cy Young Award", what is the Twins' version? The "Bert Blyleven Award"? The "Jim Kaat Award"? I vote for the "Brad Radke Award", but then, I would...)

This one should be pretty easy. It's pretty telling that every member of presumed starting rotation when Spring Training started -- Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis, and Francisco Liriano -- failed make it to September as a member of the Twins 40-man roster. So the Twins were forced to cobble together a rotation of not-ready-for-primetime players. Only one man showed anything resembling consistency and demonstrated that he can stay healthy. Congratulations to Scott Diamond.

Twins Rookie of the Year Award
Normally, I'm not a fan of giving one guy more than one award. I like to spread the love. Unless, of course, that one guy is really special. Not only did Scott Diamond provide stability in a sea of inexperienced pitching, he also gave fans some hope for the future. He didn't fade toward the end of the season which indicates to me that he'll only get better.

Twins Most Impressive Newbie
In his first off-season back in the GM chair, Terry Ryan made a number of impressive free-agent signings (well, except for that whole Jason Marquis thing). Jared Burton, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, and Josh Willingham have all exceeded my expectations for them when they signed. As upset as I was that the Twins did not re-sign Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer, this group helped me move on. But I'm especially having fun with having a legitimate right-handed home run threat. Congratulations to Josh Willingham...and his boom stick.

Twins Most Valuable Player
The definition of the term "valuable" has been hotly contested all over the papers, airwaves, and internet this season. Some regard hitting a lot of home runs and driving in a lot of runs as valuable. I tend to look at a player's all-around game. I believe defense and getting on base provide just as much value as the other things. Therefore, Joe Mauer is my enthusiastic choice. Denard Span did have a better WAR (wins above replacement) stat, but that's because he provided a lot of defensive value at center field with good, but not great, offensive value. However, I think Mauer's overall value was much better, and his offensive numbers were fantastic. Plus, he had to handle a struggling pitching staff. I never really understood the fans who booed him this season; what more do these people want?

~~~

Make Up Paper Doll
I have been remiss. The Twins made a DL move, and I didn't even notice. In my defense, I don't understand why they bothered to use the DL because they didn't call anyone up to fill the roster spot. But anyway...
On September 14, the Twins placed pitcher Cole De Vries on the disabled list, retroactive to September 9, with a cracked rib. A line drive off the bat of Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera got De Vries right in the gut. He stayed in the game, and pitched well, but admitted he was pretty sore. Initial x-rays were negative, but a subsequent MRI revealed the crack.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Season Ticket Holder Conference Call

On Thursday evening, Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan participated in a Fan Forum Conference Call with Season Ticket Holders. This is a nice little perk that allows fans to get a glimpse of the inside workings of the team. Nothing earth-shattering ever gets said, but it's always interesting. I hastily tried to take some notes as the call went along; here are my impressions. (Keep in mind that I'm not a good transcriber, so none of these are direct quotes.)

Much of the focus was placed on what needs to be done to start winning again. The first questioner didn't miss a beat -- he wanted to know about the starting pitching. Ryan agreed that starting pitching is a problem, but they will try whatever they can to improve. It won't be easy -- 28 or 29 other teams also need pitching -- but it is necessary.

Other than pitching, another big frustration is the failure to execute fundamentally-sound baseball -- bunting, hitting the cut-off man, relays, baserunning, etc. Also frustrating was the failure to put up crooked numbers when men are on base.

A caller asked Ryan what's different the second time being the GM and about the higher payroll with the new stadium. Ryan replied that while the new stadium helps entice folks to come out, and some things are going in the right direction, there is still work to do.

Someone asked if the Twins are willing to give up Willingham, maybe for starting pitching. Ryan said that there aren't too many untouchables on the team, but he really likes the numbers Willingham puts up from the right side of the plate.

What are the future plans for Ben Revere? He's an exciting and fun player, so they will do whatever they can to get him at-bats. He can fill any hole in the outfield, and everyone likes his smile. He's a very versatile player.

Why should crabby season ticket holders spend the money to renew and is the team going to spend more money? Spending money isn't the issue; the team spent a lot of money in 2011. They have to spend it smarter and get away from injuries. But there are great players to come out and see: Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, Perkins, Burton, etc. The team has work to do to get this straight, but if you love baseball, you should come out. Nothing is more frustrating for Ryan than watching fans leave after the 5th or 6th inning because they didn't get their money's worth.

A little 5 year-old boy wants to know what he can do to be a good baseball player when he gets bigger. Gardy told him that he should have fun and listen to his coaches. He needs to practice, practice, practice, and soon he'll start getting better. Go to school, listen to parents, and eat good food, too.

Other than starting pitching, what other pieces to the Twins need to fill to be competitive? Defense, especially in the infield. Jamey Carroll is a nice constant, but the rest is undetermined. The outfield is decent.

Someone wanted to know why the Twins decided to move their High-A team from Beloit to Cedar Rapids. The Twins really like the people and town of Beloit, however the difference between the facilities is night-and-day. Cedar Rapids features a nice clubhouse, a weightroom, and other important things.

What's the future for Chris Parmelee? He's got a good bat and he's developing well. His mindset is getting better. He fits at 1st, right field, and has played some at left field and DH. If he continues to hit well, they will figure out at-bats for him.

Has any more thought been given to moving Joe Mauer to 3rd base or having him hit 2nd in the lineup? Joe would be a perfect 2-hole hitter on a team that has more hitting depth, but on the Twins, he's perfect in the 3-hole because he's the best hitter -- a kind of old-school thought. As far as moving him to third base, they would need to talk it over a lot with Joe. He could do it because he's Joe Mauer, but it would take a lot of work because of the longer arm action. Joe loves catching, so it would take a lot of discussion.

Is Florimon the shortstop of the future? Who will play 2nd base? Florimon is great -- he moves nice, has great hands, strong arm action. He needs to work on not being so hard on himself and to finish his plays. They also need to work on the language barrier. As a batter, he's stronger as a righty than lefty and needs to work on getting into the strike zone. They'll give him every opportunity in Spring Training. Carroll, Dozier, and even Casilla will be given a chance in Spring Training to earn a spot at 2nd.

A caller wanted to know if the Twins are considering extending Justin Morneau, or will he be traded. He's coming off a tough year, but Ryan is very happy with the number of at-bats he's had this season. He's formidable in the middle of the lineup, and they'll address his contract as they go.

So let's talk about Terry Ryan himself...will he remove the "interim" tag from his General Manager title? Those decisions will come after the season is over and it will take care of itself. There are considerations for life and stuff, but he's been happy with the progress even though there's more to do. It'll work itself out.

How is Sam Deduno's eye? And what's his potential for the future? There is some inflammation in his eye and it doesn't seem to be serious. They'll know more in a day or two. If he keeps working on his mechanics and release point, he has great potential

Are you bummed that RA Dickey is no longer with the Twins? Everyone makes mistakes.

Is Jerry White's job safe? Gardy wishes we can see how hard all the coaches work to prepare the team. He wishes they all could stay together forever.

Are there any pitching prospects in the minors who can help soon? Yes, there are a number of prospects, but most are too low to help soon. B.J. Hermsen was just named the minor-league pitcher of the year. And they just drafted J.O. Barrios. They develop starting pitchers; they don't really develop relievers, because they're usually converted starters.

What's your favorite fun moment from this season? Ryan: trying to get a hold of Chris Herrmann at about 20 to 1 o'clock in the morning to tell him that he's getting called up to the majors. It took him a few times to answer the call. Gardy: His nickname for Jamey Carroll is "Rudy" because he's a big fan of Rudy Rudiger, the subject of the movie Rudy. When Mr. Rudiger was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Cleveland, Carroll sprinted out there to get a picture with him.

A caller wanted to know whether the Twins get inspiration from other organizations, such as the A's or Rays, because they have such good young starting pitching. Both these organizations are enjoying the benefits of good scouting, training, and a little luck. The Rays did have a number of seasons where they were able to draft high, and they drafted pitching. The A's always had good pitching. It all comes down to good scouting, drafting, developing. The Twins will continue to draft pitching.

How's Scott Baker doing? He's on track to be ready in Spring Training. He has a team option, and if they don't pick it up, he'll be a free agent.

Are the Twins going to hire a sports psychologist to get starting pitchers tough-minded enough to start the game and be ready for the first inning. Yes, the starters have given up a number of runs in the early innings. They keep preaching being ready for the first inning, getting the lead-off guy out, getting ahead in the count. It's the coaches' job to teach them that, and they keep talking about it. The pitchers have to execute.

One caller snuck in three questions: 1) Who has taken over the role of team leader? Mauer and Morneau are the leaders out on the field. The whole team is a fun group who really care about the game and each other. There's no bickering or bad feelings. They are really trying hard. 2) Are the Twins too patient with some of the guys waiting for them to perform? They're patient with the guys because they know their make up and potential. They were probably the most patient with Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins. They tried to be patient with Dozier, Parmelee, and Valencia, but they needed more work in the minors. 3) Are the Twins keeping Willingham? Again, they like the right-handed power numbers he puts up. He's ideal for the Twins.

What happened to the home-field advantage, is there a reason the Twins are not winning at home and is there a cure? It comes down to the players.

A caller wanted to know about Kyle Gibson's rehab from Tommy John surgery. He's on schedule, getting ready for the Arizona Fall Leagues. He's throwing hard and locating. He's getting closer to being ready for Spring Training.

Who will be the next surprise like Scott Diamond? Someone will step up and impress everyone like Diamond did.

When will this year's first-round draft pick Byron Buxton be ready for the big leagues? They hope he'll be ready in about 4 years. He came out of high-school, and he's only 19. His skills are a bit crude yet, but his makeup is solid and he "gets it." A lot of positive reports from Paul Molitor.

What happened to Brian Duensing? He was bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. He's great out of the pen, but he struggles in the rotation. He's getting better, and they're trying to figure it out. He's more comfortable pitching out of the stretch instead of the windup.

With Parmelee and Mauer getting playing time at 1st base, is Morneau the odd man out? He's in the plans. He's one of the best players and he's a leader.

Will the budget be expanded? There's not a firm number, but it's not about the number. Ryan said he has to make better decisions. A lot of money was tied up on the DL and in the minors. Ryan needs to spend more wisely.

And finally, a caller wonder if Gardy's nervousness translated to the other players -- Plouffe made a mistake once, and looked in the dugout at Gardy. Gardy was kind of surprised by this. He doesn't think he's terribly nervous, and the players try to have fun and stay positive. Gardy pats a lot of guys on the back. Usually they forget about bad plays because they're over. Plouffe probably needed to look in the dugout for the signs for the next batter. Gardy hopes Plouffe isn't nervous.

(P.S. Thanks and a shout out to my Twitterfriend @TCAnnelle for live-tweeting the call. I may have peeked at her tweets to fill in a hole or two in my notes.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Upcoming Important Dates

There are less than two weeks left in baseball's regular season, and with the Twins slogging through these last few games, there's nothing much for Twins fans to do but find other teams to root for and look forward to the off-season with hope of great improvement for 2013.

September 12, 2012 -- MLB 2013 Schedules Released (ok, this one isn't upcoming, but it's still important)
What it means: Next season, the Astros will be joining the American League, thereby giving each league 15 teams. This means that the inter-league games will be held throughout the season. It's not really a huge deal, but it might mean that a contending AL team may have to play a series without the benefit of a designated hitter in the final games of the season (I believe this will happen to the Tigers as they play the Marlins to finish the season).

Also, for teams that have the regularly-scheduled "rivalry series": Yankee/Mets, Dodgers/Angels, Giants/A's, Twins/Brewers, etc., those will be reduced to two 2-game series instead of two 3-game series.

What it means for the Twins: I haven't looked carefully at the Twins schedule yet, but I've read a few things about it. They'll be hosting the Tigers on MLB Opening Day, April 1. I think it's great to have the real Opening Day at home, but I will likely have to bring my Twins stocking cap. And Twins mittens. And Twins scarf. And probably my Twins blanket. Meanwhile, you probably shouldn't plan on going to Target Field much to occupy your July evenings -- there will be only nine home games. They will, however, be done with inter-league play by the end of June.

I think that MLB blew it by reducing the number of "rivalry series" game, at least for the Twins. I'm not a fan of the idea of these series, but from a business standpoint, they're pretty valuable. Fans from both sides travel to see their teams. And with the possibility of the Twins suffering more attendance woes in 2013, they should take advantage of every opportunity to put butts in the seats. Even drunken 'Sconnie butts.

Start planning your spring and summer here:  http://atmlb.com/NZHkOb

October 3, 2012 - End of the Regular Season; October 5, 2012 - Wild Card Playoff Games; October 6-7 - Start of the Division Series; October 13 -14, 2012 - Start of the League Championship Series; October 24, 2010 - Start of the World Series
What it means: This season, MLB added a second Wild Card team. Each division in both leagues will have its leader, then the two next best teams in each league will have to battle each other in a one-game play-in to the Divisional Series. The interesting part would be if any tie-breaker games are required for either a Division Championship or Wild Card berth. With the way some divisions are bunched up in the standings, this is a real possibility. Then, factor in that there may be some cross-country travel required, and this could be very messy. But in a fun way.

What it means for the Twins: Not a thing. After they finish their series in Toronto, they get to go home. Like, home home. On their couch. Like the rest of us.

Immediately after the World Series - Eligible Players Become Free Agents
What this means: Players used to have to file for free agency, but now it's automatically done. Teams have five days to negotiate exclusively with Major and Minor league free agents. Teams may offer a player (Major leaguer, at least) arbitration (basically a one-year contract), but will not receive compensatory draft picks if he signs elsewhere unless the the dollar amount is more than the average of the top 125 players. No one really knows yet what the exact qualifying amount will be, but it sounds like it'll be around $12.5 million. On the sixth day after the World Series is over, players may speak with other teams. Players have until the twelfth day to accept arbitration offers.
What this means for the Twins: Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, and Matt Capps are eligible for free agency. Ain't none of them worth $12.5 million, especially since they lost most or all of 2012 to injury, so there won't be any extra draft picks. Capps has a $6 million team option for 2013 with a $250 thousand buy out. Baker has a $9.25 million team option. It's doubtful that the Twins will pick up either of those. However, there's nothing stopping the Twins from signing any of them as free agents at a lower cost.
If you have big dreams that the Twins will super-duper free agent pitchers, you might want to temper them a bit. I read somewhere that a mediocre pitcher like Jeremy Guthrie might get as much as $10 million. And trading for stud pitching isn't terribly likely either; most teams hang on to good pitching.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roster Stuff: Injuries and September Call-ups

On August 30, the Twins placed Denard Span on the 15-day disabled list with a strain of his right sternoclavicular (SC) joint. At first look, that seems like an odd move, given that the Twins would increase their rosters on September 1. However, as ESPN1500's Phil Makey (@PMac21 on Twitter) explained it, they did it so they could call up Matt Carson to take his place. The rules state that when a player is optioned to the minor leagues, he must remain there for at least 10 days (or maybe it's 10 games) before being called up again, unless it's to replace someone going on the DL. Carson had been optioned on August 24th, so this was the only way to get him back right away.

The SC joint is the joint between the sternum (breast bone) and clavicle (collar bone). It supports the shoulder. He injured it a while ago while attempting a diving catch in the outfield. He rested it for seven or eight days and then played a couple of games, after which he either aggravated it or decided he just couldn't tolerate it. His diagnosis was further delayed by his claustrophobia making having MRIs difficult (I don't blame him a bit). It will take four to five weeks of rest to heal it fully, but both he and the Twins say he might get some playing time in late September.

~~~

September Call-ups
RHP Esmerling Vasquez was called up and started Sunday's game against the Royals. He was a bit shaky, but it was his first major league start (he does have several appearances in relief with Arizona). He's 28.

PJ Walters has been activated from the 60-day DL as a September call up. He was recovering from a strained shoulder. He made a few rehab starts in the minors and now will be part of a six-man rotation (Walters, Vasquez, Cole De Vries, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond, and Liam Hendriks -- Brian Duensing was sent back to the bullpen) to finish off the season. He's 27.

LHP Luis Perdomo and his beard will be given another look in the bullpen. He's also 28.

IF Eduardo Escobar, who was acquired in the Francisco Liriano trade, will be given a chance to impress his new team. It sounds like he's pretty versatile; he's listed as a 3B, SS, and 2B, and FSNorth mentioned he can also play outfield and back-up catcher. He's 23.

And it sounds like that'll be it for the call-ups, even though there's still plenty of roster room. It's probably hard to get guys enough playing time to really make an assessment.

Notably missing:

RHP Anthony Slama has had a terrific year at Rochester -- 35.2 innings pitched with 13 saves and a 1.26 era. He did miss a big chunk of the season with a broken leg. He's 28.

IF Brian Dozier was sent down in August with the hope that he could regroup and get back to being good at baseball, but he kind of didn't do much in Rochester. He's 25.

It's no surprise that RHP Nick Blackburn wasn't called up; he was recently removed from the 40-man roster and he didn't do much to make a case to change anyone's minds.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Short Bursts of Opinion, and a Belated Beer

I have some little opinions on some news items, so I thought I'd share some of them.

~~~

Scott Diamond received a 6-game suspension for throwing toward Josh Hamilton's head on Friday. He plans to appeal the suspension.

I'm glad he's appealing because I thought the whole situation was handled poorly. Roy Oswalt inexplicably beaned Joe Mauer in the back of the neck, I'm assuming because he was pissy that Pedro Florimon scored on a play that Oswalt should have fielded better.

At first, I was glad that the benches weren't warned immediately after Oswalt's stunt. Diamond's control hadn't been great, and I didn't want the inner half of the plate taken away from him. Then I developed a bad feeling when it became clear that Diamond was going to retaliate; because of that aforementioned shaky control, I didn't think he'd be able to pull it off.

Unfortunately he wasn't. He got tossed without warning, and then later he got a suspension and a fine. And the big baby who started the whole thing didn't get anything.

I don't think Diamond was truly trying to hit Hamilton in the head. He was probably trying to throw it in the same place Oswalt threw his, but since his control was, you got it, not great, and since Hamilton knew it was coming and ducked, it appeared worse than it was. It simply got away from him.

Even though it really amounts to one start, I still think a 6-game suspension is a little harsh.

~~~

Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon received 50-game suspensions for testing positive for banned substances.

I'm not clear on my own feeling regarding whether using "performance enhancing" drugs really helps enhance performance or whether using them really amounts to cheating. I'm also not clear on my own feelings regarding whether substance testing is conducted fairly and appropriately.

However, I do know that I'm a fan of following the rules. So, guys who break rules they agreed to when they signed their contracts, and who go to lengths to cover up their misdeeds, should be punished.

In light of these suspensions, there has been a lot of talk in the media whether the system is working and whether the punishment should be harsher.

It's impossible to say whether the system is working. Some guys are speculating that as many as half the players are using some sort of banned substance. If that's true, then only busting two guys kind of means that it isn't. But, I may be naive here, I seriously doubt it's that pervasive. The fact that anyone got caught at all says that the testing is working, at least a little.

Now, whether the punishments should be stricter, I don't think it would make any difference. There are always going to be some guys who are so arrogant to believe that they'll never get caught. To those guys, the length of the punishment is immaterial.

It bums me out whenever players get busted. I hope we see less and less of it.

However, I still can't watch an NFL game without wondering why baseball is the one with all the bad press regarding PEDs.

~~~

Way back on August 15, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners tossed a perfect game. It's about time I buy him is virtual beer for it.

I remember being impressed with him when the Twins played the Mariners back in 2006. I believe I even congratulated Seattle fans for having such an exciting pitcher to look forward to cheering for.

He hasn't disappointed. I believe he's one of the most dominate pitchers in the game, and I not-so-secretly wish he played for my team. And, at 26 years old, he's just now hitting his prime.

Although I worry about my team having to face him, I am kind of looking forward to seeing him pitch on Monday.


Monday, August 20, 2012

The Mid-month (or Thereabouts) Roster Catch Up Update

The last time I talked about the Twins roster changes, Danny Valencia had just been traded and Tsyoshi Nishioka had been called up to replace him. That was August 6th. The Twins have made a move or two since then. Let's review.

August 6: Nishioka was called up to replace Valencia on the roster. Since he makes $3 million a year, it was worth giving him another chance to see if he could hack it in the bigs. In fact, Gardy mentioned that he wanted to give him a nice long look -- saying something like it being more than a 3-day thing. The team wanted to give him full opportunity to make an impression.

August 13: Nishioka was optioned to AAA to make room for Trevor Plouffe to return from the DL. So, technically, he was with the Twins more than three days, but he really only played three games. He once again looked so lost and overmatched both in the field and at the plate, it was painful to watch him. He made an impression alright.

August 15: Brian Dozier was optioned to AAA. After making a good first impression at the beginning of the season (how many times did I write that I thought he wanted me to love him?), he struggled quite a bit. He jumped from AA last year to the bigs this year, so he probably just needs more development. Terry Ryan said something about slowing the game down for him to build his confidence. I'll bet he's back with the Twins for September call-ups. Pedro Florimon was called up to replace him.

August 16: The Twins optioned Luis Perdomo and Jeff Manship to AAA. It's funny, every time Perdomo came in to a game, I never remembered who he was; he was always "the guy with the beard." One of them was sent down to make room for Anthony Swarzak's return from the DL. The other one was sent down because the Twins were finally tired of a 13(!)-man pitching rotation.

August 17: The Twins purchased the contract of OF Matt Carson. They wanted another outfielder around because Denard Span and Ben Revere were banged up. Rene Tosoni, who is having kind of a crummy year in AA, was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Carson.

August 20: The Twins outrighted both Nick Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka to AAA, which means they removed them from the 40-man roster. It doesn't really mean much for Nishioka, but it does mean that the organization has pretty much given up on Blackburn. Removing them from the 40-man roster means that they won't come back for September call ups, so they'll just finish up their seasons in Rochester. Both of them have contracts that last through next season, so we might see them again in Spring Training. Who knows who will take these roster spots. They could add some guys that they want to see in September, or they could be getting ready for Carl Pavano or PJ Walters to return off the 60-day DL.

And, finally, the roster move that wasn't made: Denard Span sprained his shoulder/clavicle on August 12 and hasn't played since; however, the Twins haven't put him on the DL yet. And it doesn't seem like they have any intention of putting him on it any time soon. I guess they're comfortable with a thin bench.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The k-bro Deckstravaganza Report

A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Twins sent out a tweet inviting folks to apply to their social media event beneath the Budweiser Roof Deck that they call Deckstravaganza.This was the third time I had applied, and this time I got an invitation.

First of all, I'd like to thank the Twins for hosting such a terrific event. The staff did a great job making us feel welcome and well-taken-care-of. Aside from the score of the game itself, we couldn't have had more fun.

Some quick notes:

  • They had these amazing pretzels there -- darker brown, but yet softer than the standard pretzels. Totally yummy. I've had them before at other events at Target Field, but I have yet to find them in the regular concessions during games. Please, Twins, start selling the amazing pretzels to the masses.
  • Robby Incmikoski is really nice. He took a few minutes to go around and introduce himself and chat with everyone. It was also pretty interesting to watch how he does his job. He keeps a score card so he's up on the game, but he also has to keep track of everything FSN is doing. It seems like he has to be pretty good at memorizing things because, while he does use notes while he's speaking for a voice-over drop, he doesn't have a teleprompter when the camera is on him.
Robby hard at work

  • The folks there were great. It was fun to see some familiar faces: Betsy (@bitzybetsy), TCM (@commnman), Bill (@Bill_TPA), and Nick Nelson (@NNelson9).
  • It was also fun to meet some folks whom I only "knew" through Twitter: Clubhouse Gal (@clubhousegal) and Lindsay Guentzel (@LindsayGuentzel).
  • Bill is extra cool because he shared my undying love of the pretzels.
  • When Blackburn gave up the second home run in the first inning, the crowd booed so lustily that the vibrations from it shook the deck. Heartbreaking. 
  • Nick Nelson was caught by the TV camera with mustard on his face (and making a crazy expression). He is henceforth known as #mustardface.
  • We got to sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame with TC Bear during the seventh-inning stretch. And we were on the the Jumbotron. We rocked it.
  • TCM is extra cool because he not only knew that Take Me Out To The Ballgame has verses (we sing the chorus during the stretch), but he also sang the first verse with me.
  • I was by far the oldest one there. Not that I mind.
All in all, it was a great time talking Twins baseball with a bunch of smart, fun fans. And, yes, we all spent a lot of time tap-tap-tapping on our smartphones. But, that was the point, right?

Thanks, Twins, for hosting such a fine event.

If you're a social media nut, I highly recommend that you watch out for a tweet or Facebook status from the Twins announcing that they're having another event and then apply.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Collection of Thoughts

A bunch of random thoughts that individually aren't enough for a blog post, but collectively are, well, something. Or not.

Buh-bye Danny
In a sudden, but not necessarily surprising move, the Twins traded Danny Valencia to the Red Sox for rookie-ball outfielder Jeremias Pineda.

Danny seemed to be pretty popular with his teammates, but his relationship between with the organization was becoming strained. Obviously, we can't know for sure what really happened, but I'm guessing that Danny's reputation for allowing his ego to be in charge (I picture him like that Cars.com commercial where the shopper's confidence comes out of him, but instead of singing about a great value of a car, Danny's confidence just spits swagger) helped to make the decision. I'm also guessing that Gardy's tendency to get fed up with such things also contributed. It probably was one of those "it's not you, it's...wait, yeah, it's you" moments.

To illustrate how badly the Twins wanted to be rid of him, just take a look at the return on investment. Pineda is 21 years old and in only his second year of rookie ball, which makes him kind of old for the level. He is having a good year, so maybe he'll progress quickly, but I believe he'll be just an organizational guy.

Look Who's Coming -- Quickly
We're all very used to ooohing and aaahing over Ben Revere's defense and speed. With amazing catches and blazing baserunning, he's faster than a speeding baseball. But, have you noticed what he's been doing with his bat lately.

He's collected a nice little 20-game hitting streak. Additionally, he just needs a few more plate appearances to qualify to be in the batting race. Yeah, the batting race.

He's currently hitting .345; if he keeps it up, he'll surpass Joe Mauer as the team leader, and he'll be a very close second in the league behind Mike Trout of the Angels.

Go Benny. And, yes, I write this at the risk of totally jinxing him and ruining everyone's fun. So I'm crossing my fingers as I type. Or something.

A Second Chance at a First Impression
To replace Danny Valencia, the Twins recalled Tsuyoshi Nishioka. And on his first game back, he looked as if he had picked up right where he left off.

*Sigh*

Hopefully, he just had a case of the butterflies on Monday, and he'll straighten things out soon. Also, maybe I'll stop being delusional.

Deckstravaganza!
I've been invited to participate in the Twins Deckstravaganza social media event on Saturday. And, because it's a social media event, I'll probably be live-tweeting the game. Follow along at twitter.com/kbrobaseball.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: Dickey, Wherever I Wind Up

R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball. New York, NY: Blue Rider Press., 2012, ISBN 978-1-101-56114-0

As much as I love to read, I usually have a hard time getting through an entire book without feeling like it's turning into homework, but this one was an exception. I enjoyed it so much that I looked forward to opportunities to read it.

The book chronicles his life through a difficult childhood, sexual abuse, self-loathing, finding faith, and of course, the ups and downs of baseball.

His baseball journey is quite interesting. Right after he was drafted by the Rangers in the first round, he learned that he didn't have an ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm. This crushing discovery re-routed his baseball career to struggling through several years in the minor leagues while supporting a young family. Eventually, he needed to learn the knuckleball in order to continue -- like chess, it's easy to learn, but difficult to master

He also recounts his path to a life of Christianity. I tend to be more of a secular person, but, even though I thought his religious reflections to be a bit many in number, I didn't think they were overly preachy. This insight is important in order to understand his life.

I definitely recommend this book. Reading it has made me want to root for him more than I did. And, he has nice things to say about his time with the Twins.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Well, Saturday Night Was Eventful

I suppose you probably already know by now that the Twins traded Francisco Liriano, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.

As I was thinking about getting ready for bed on Saturday night (yeah, this was at about 10pm; I'm a fuddy-duddy), I went to check Twitter quick before plugging in my phone. And in the five minutes since I had previously checked Twitter, it had exploded with news that the Twins had traded Frankie to the White Sox.

Wait, what? No! Not the White Sox. Anyone but the White Sox.

Ok. So here's the scoop: The Twins traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for two prospects -- infielder Eduardo Escobar and lefty pitcher Pedro Hernandez.

All the buzz about these prospects wasn't terribly promising. But, overall, this isn't a horrible thing. I imagine that Terry Ryan didn't really want to trade to a division rival, but he probably felt this was the best deal he could get.

It sounded like neither the team nor Liriano's agent were interested in an extension. So to get two prospects in exchange for him isn't bad, rather than getting nothing for him if they had kept him just to see him walk away in the off-season. And because he's a pending free agent, the offers from other teams were probably not stellar. He's also still prone to inconsistency and other teams know that. It's not a great deal, but I don't think a great deal was ever going to be available.

PJ Walters was moved to the 60-day DL to make the second space on the 40-man roster. Jeff Manship was recalled to complete the 25-man roster.

Chicago's pitching coach, Don Cooper, has a great reputation. It'll be interesting to see how, or even whether, Frankie responds to him. I'm also curious to see how he and his new catcher A.J. Pierzynski work together; A.J.'s not known to be terribly patient with his pitchers.

Oh, and he gets his first start in a White Sox uniform on Tuesday against the Twins. 

~~~
I almost forgot; it's been so long since we've seen him --

On Friday, the Twins have placed Trevor Plouffe on the DL, retroactive to 7/21, with a bruised right thumb.

He jammed it while batting a over week ago. This is another example of an unnecessary delay in putting a player on the DL so that someone else can fill out the roster. But, this time, I think Plouffe is at least a little to blame. He tweeted right after it happened that he's had this before and it got better right away, so I imagine that he probably kept telling the coaches that he was getting better when he really wasn't. I understand that it's frustrating to be left out of the line up for such a seemingly minor thing, but if he can't even grip a bat, he's not much help.

Danny Valencia was recalled to take his place on the roster.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Injury Report: Swarzak

The Twins have placed RHP Anthony Swarzak on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 25th, with a rotator cuff strain. I was surprised by this, and after a quick Twitter inquiry, I learned that I wasn't the only one. It didn't seem like there were any tell-tale signs that he was hurting like there there were with Carl Pavano and Matt Capps, nor did it seem like there was a specific event that caused his injury. He last worked on Tuesday in Chicago, and he struggled (giving up a single and a home run in an inning of work). But then, all the relief pitchers struggled that day, so that doesn't really indicate anything.

So while we all were spending the last few days hungry for up-to-the-second word on Trevor Plouffe's jammed thumb, Swarzak suddenly developed a sore shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. The team is calling it a "mild strain," so it's probably a bit inflamed and sore. If there are no tears, rest and rehab should take care of it.

The Twins have purchased the contract of RHP Luis Perdomo to replace Swarzak. About five minutes of research on Perdomo reveals that he throws hard.

To make room for Perdomo on the 40-man roster, Carl Pavano was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. This move shouldn't push out Pavano's return; he's been on the DL so long that it'll be about 60 days before he's ready to return anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The k-bro KC Report

The family and I went on yet another baseball-themed long-weekend trip, this time to beautiful Kansas City. And like every family trip we've ever been on, the weather was really hot.

The Weather:
Yeah, it's summer, and I'm fully aware that Kansas City knows how to do hot, but man, that heat was something else. Additionally, the whole area is suffering a devastating drought. So even though the lack of humidity makes for a dry heat, it also allows for the temperatures to raise to record numbers. Whew.

The dry conditions are remarkable. The ditches along the roads have no grass or wildflowers, only short stubbles of kindling. It looks like an errantly-thrown lit cigarette would cause serious problems.

Oh, and the heat also caused some engine trouble both on the way there and on the way home. Nothing serious, just an inconvenience. But not really fun when we were excited to reach our destination.

The Barbecue:
On the recommendation of a tweet from the Star-Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III, we decided to give Oklahoma Joe's a try. We went to the "original" location, which is attached to a really tiny gas station that, for some reason, also had a huge selection of frolfing (frisbee-golfing) discs.

It was two o'clock in the afternoon, and we still had to stand in line about 45 minutes.

It. Was. Worth. It.

I ordered a "Z-man" sandwich: brisket, melted smoked provolone, a few huge onion rings, and sauce on a kaiser roll. Oh. Emm. Gee! It was the best sandwich I've ever eaten. My husband, who is pretty selective about barbecued ribs, just loved them. The fries were very good as well. The coleslaw is fair, but I'm pretty fussy about that. The dirty rice was meh (my husband makes it way better).

I've heard that the "burnt ends" of brisket are amazing, but, alas, they were out.

Add this place to your bucket list.

The Museum:
Speaking of bucket lists, visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum has been on mine for awhile. We've been to KC a number of times, and this time I demanded (well, ok, asked nicely) to allow time to visit.

It's a small-ish museum, but it's packed with lots of great stuff. And while the hardships that African-American players faced during segregation are discussed, the talent of these great players is the focus.

The best part was the "Field of Legends," bronze statues of the Negro Leagues superstars.

I enjoyed my experience there and I'm proud that I can cross this off my bucket list.

There is also a Jazz museum next door, but, regrettably, we didn't have time to visit.

The Bobblehead:
Speaking of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Saturday's Royals/Twins game was played in its honor. You may have seen the throwback uniforms the teams wore: the Royals in Kansas City Monarchs uniforms and the Twins in St. Paul Gophers (referred to in the museum as the "St. Paul Black Gophers") uniforms. The St. Paul Gophers weren't officially part of the Negro Leagues; the team dissolved before the league was formed. There were no official Negro League teams from Minnesota.

In addition, the stadium giveaway was an awesome bobblehead doll of Buck O'Neil. Buck was a former KC Monarchs player and manager, the first African-American MLB coach, a great ambassador for the Negro Leagues and all of baseball, and a great Royals fan.

Here he is:
Isn't he great?

The Game:
We only wanted to go to one game, so we chose Saturday's. We wanted to have an evening around the campfire on Friday, which, due to the drought, turned out to be an evening around the radio.

We tailgated a bit before the game, which was fun, even though it was pretty hot. We met some nice college-aged Royals fan guys. I've always liked Royals fans; they're quite friendly.

As far as the actual game: the Twins were terrible. The Royals were not.

Enough said.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Forecasting the Trade Deadline

We're fully aware, now that the All-Star break is over, that the non-waiver trade deadline is looming (I hate the "looming" cliche -- it makes me think of a big shadow of a ghost looming with the players rumored to be traded cowering against the wall a la Scooby Doo).

Last season, the Twins did very little at the trade deadline. This year should be different; the Twins will most likely move a guy or two before the end of the month. What's different about this year:
  • There's a new (old) boss in town. Terry Ryan isn't historically known for making a ton of moves mid-season, but it seems like he's way more likely to let some guys go for a profit than Bill Smith was. I always got the sense that Smith made decisions with his emotions rather than his logic.
  • There are new playoff rules. Now that there are two wild card teams in each league, there are more "on the bubble" teams vying for playoff spots. Many of those teams are just a good player or two away from making a nice September run. So there may be more interest than there was previously.
  • There are new free agency rules. With the new collective bargaining agreement, the only way teams can receive a draft pick for losing a player in free agency is to offer him a one-year contract worth at least the average of the top 125 salaries in the MLB (which figures to be about $12 million this year). So the Twins may be more willing to trade pending free agents so that they can get something out of letting him go.
  • 2011 happened. Last season at the end of July, the Twins were enjoying a nice little hot streak. Because they were only one year away from a playoff appearance, everyone was a little deluded into believing that they could turn things around. Well, we're all lucid now; we understand how bad things really are and that this team needs young help all up an down the organization. They can't afford to think about improving for 2012; they need to think about improving for 2013 and beyond.
So, yeah, it really looks like we'll say goodbye to some of our guys in the next few weeks. It could be anybody, too -- Joe Mauer, who has a no-trade clause, and Ryan Doumit, who just signed an extension, are probably the only exceptions. It's important to realize that trading away anybody isn't likely to render huge immediate improvements; this would be all for strengthening the organization for the future.

Let's hit a few of the top names:
  • Fransisco Liriano (pending free agent). It seems bizarre that a team that so desperately needs quality starting pitching is willing to part with a guy who looks like he's found his mojo, but trading him actually makes sense if the situation is right. Offering him a $12 million contract (that he would have to decline) just so the Twins can get a draft pick might be a bit steep for their budget (because he just might accept it), so he's likely a goner anyway. The Twins may be able to net a nice prospect or two for him. Of course, this risk is that once he's gone, he'll turn into Cy Young. 
  • Matt Capps (pending free agent). Capps has been better than his reputation with Twins fans would suggest. He's freshly back from a minor shoulder injury, so he has a couple of weeks to shake off the rust and impress some scouts. Actually, he's back on the DL with shoulder soreness, and he's not due get off the DL until after the deadline.
  • Carl Pavano (pending free agent). Yeah, his shoulder injury must be pretty bad because after six weeks on the DL he has yet to throw off a mound. It really doesn't seem like he'll be back with the team before the deadline (although he could still be traded after July 31, but he would have to pass through waivers first). Considering his age, his injury history, and the extent of this most recent injury, it's unlikely that there will be any team interested.
  • Denard Span (signed through 2014, team option in 2015) or Ben Revere (under team control through 2017). If there any teams out there looking for left-handed lead-off outfielders, the Twins have two. Span has the benefit of experience and has a little more power, and Revere has the benefit of youth and speed. Both also have the benefit of being contractually inexpensive, which would interest potential trade partners. However, the Twins have the upper hand in that there is no harm in keeping them the rest of the season to perhaps trade in the off-season, so they can ask for a lot in return. Of the two, it makes more sense to trade Span as he's 28 and has likely at or near his career peak; Revere is still valuable for the future.
  • Justin Morneau (signed through 2013). About two weeks ago, it didn't seem like Morneau was a trade target at all with his inability to hit left-handed pitching and everything, but he's recently turned things around and is looking good. Teams may shy away from him due to his injury history and high salary. Again, there's no particular hurry to trade him yet this season, so the Twins will likely keep him.
  • Josh Willingham (signed through 2014). Willingham has been one of the few bright spots in the Twins batting order this season, which would make him quite attractive to a number of teams. However, Terry Ryan has intimated in interviews that he's not particularly interested in trading Willingham. Of course, if someone calls and offers a huge haul of prospects for him, Ryan should listen. But it would have to be a haul to be worth it.
  • There could be others, too. 
All this should make an interesting trade deadline. I just hope it's not a terribly sad one.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Little Water Therapy

I was listening to the news Sunday night as I was getting ready for bed, and between brushing my teeth and putting moisturizer around my eyes, I heard the sports guy talking about how glum the Twins clubhouse is lately. He said something about the mood there being the worse its ever been and that everyone is just demoralized.

It's hard to blame them. All this losing is hard for me to take sitting here in my comfy living room; I can't imagine what it's like for the guys who actually want to take pride in their profession.

I imagine that they're all cranky and secretly trying to figure out ways to throw stuff at each other. The hitters are thinking mean thoughts about the pitchers, and the pitchers are thinking mean thoughts about the defenders. All these repressed feelings are likely to cause a lot of clinched jaws and stress headaches.

Also factor in this awful heat. These guys are wearing polyester clothes (with long pants, undershirts, and socks) and doing physical activity in air that feels like nacho cheese in a crock pot. Ick.

These guys need something to cheer them up right quick. The fans won't have any fun unless the players have some fun.

I propose that we line up all the guys out in the outfield, arm each one with a super-soaker squirt gun and a bucket of water balloons, and tell them to have at it. Francisco Liriano can nail Denard Span and Josh Willingham can shoot Brian Duensing to get things going, and there you have it. Aggressions will be released. Tempers, and bodies, will be cooled. Fun will be had. Outfield grass will be watered. Win win. They should sell tickets; I'd buy one.

Or...they could do what they did Monday night and score seven runs in the first inning of a game that counts. But, like, every day.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Moving Pitchers on the Titanic

We all know how crazy the Twins starting rotation has been this season. The club keeps moving guys around hoping to replace those who are hurt or ineffective. And it keeps happening because guys who are given a chance aren't always making the best of it. All these moves remind me of a metaphor that TwinsGeek John Bonnes likes to use: moving deck chairs on the Titanic.

It's an intriguing phrase that perfectly describes the frustrating situation.

I wondered what exactly that would look like. So here is my graphical schematic of the Twins moving deck chairs:


Look again at Cole De Vries. Poor guy -- started in AAA, called up 5/22, sent down 6/7, back up 6/30, back down 7/1, back up 7/3. I wonder if he even bothers to unpack his suitcase.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The k-bro Beloit Snappers Report

The family and I took a nice little vacation to Beloit, WI, to catch some minor-league ball and get a glimpse of some future Twins. We attended games on two steamy evenings, Friday and Saturday.

The Snappers, the Twins Class A affiliate, are a pretty typical minor-league team. There are several features of the experience that are common throughout the minor leagues, and these features are what makes the minor league experience great. There are always the couple of uber-fans who show up first to every game, know every thing about every player, and keep score of every play in their own scorebooks. There is also the guy who brings a trombone so he can play a tiny ovation for each player as he's announced. Every minor-league park also features an auto-glass message for every foul ball that leaves the park (the parks are small, so the risk of a foul ball actually breaking a car windshield is pretty significant). There are always between-inning sponsored games and hijinks where fans actually get to go on the field and compete for coupons or tickets to future games. Also, every employee you see holds four or five jobs (the roving announcer for the hijinks is also on the grounds crew). Oh, and don't forget the scouts -- the entire section behind home plate is filled with men, dressed in business casual attire, armed with notebooks, iPads, and radar guns. The atmosphere is cozy, fun, laid back, and a little goofy.

The best seats in the house are only $7.50 and beers are only $3.50
The Snappers hosted the Clinton Lumberkings, the Seattle Mariners single-A club.

Friday's lineup
On Friday, Steven Liddle (nephew of Twins 3rd-base coach) homered to start the scoring, but the Snappers fell 6-3 in the drizzly rain.

Saturday's game was a defensive umm... challenge... for the Snappers, and despite a rally in the ninth, they lost 10-5. But the fireworks afterwards were nicely done.

Of course, I was most interested in scouting the Twins top prospect, Miguel Sano. It's easy to tell that he's special. The ball just sounds different coming off his bat; when he gets a hold of one, he gets a hold of one. He homered on Saturday, and the ball cleared not only the fence, but also the scoreboard. Wow.

But, as good and special as he is, I can also see why the Twins haven't promoted him to Fort Myers yet. He simply isn't ready. He strikes out a lot, and his defense isn't there yet. They shouldn't promote him until he dominates this level, and he's not far, but not quite there.
Sano on deck
All in all, despite the losing, the Snappers gave us a great time, and we all felt it was worth the drive.

~~~
If you happen to travel to Beloit to catch the Snappers, I also recommend you visit Historic Auto Attractions museum in nearby Roscoe, IL. It's so much more than a car museum; it's more of a collection great historic artifacts. It includes a large presidential exhibit, with a special area for the Kennedys. There are also a bunch of cool cars.

It's in the middle of nowhere, but it really cool. http://historicautoattractions.com/

(Note: I mention this because I liked it; they didn't give me a discount or anything to blog about it.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Matt Capps Paper Doll, and Being Snippy About It

The Twins have placed RHP Matt Capps on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. He had a MRI on Monday, which indicated that there is no damage, just inflammation, and it sounds like he's going to have a cortisone shot this week.

Left-handed pitcher Tyler Robertson was recalled to take Capps' roster spot. Gardy said that he will use LHP Glen Perkins and RHP Jared Burton, as matchups dictate, as the closers. With lefty Brian Duensing now in the rotation, Robertson will be used as the LOOGY (lefty one out guy).

So, let's recap Capps' last week or so. He pitched on June 15th against the Brewers in a tie game and lost the game, though it was on an unearned run. The next day, he mentioned that his shoulder was sore, so the Twins shut him down for a week to let it heal. Then, about Friday or so, it sounded like he was getting kind of impatient with the resting thing. Actually, the way I read it, it seemed like he was getting kind of snippy. Then, he backed off and said he understood. Then, the Twins found a nice, low-pressure situation on Saturday. He looked horrible, but he said he was only rusty, and he was pretty encouraged with the outing. Then he woke up Sunday morning, and it hurt again. Finally, the Twins got serious and put him on the DL.

The whole idea of the DL -- its entire reason for existence -- is for the team to get a replacement man while the injured player heals. It's completely intended to protect the team so that all 25 men on the roster are truly available as needed. Sure, giving a banged up guy a day or two rest is pretty common, and totally expected. But if a team is committed to giving a guy a full week's rest, it may as well fill out the paperwork, make a phone call to the AAA club, and do it right. It takes pressure off the injured player to try to get out there before he's ready, and it takes pressure off his teammates who have to fill his void.

So, the Twins unwillingness to put Capps on the DL when he first experienced the inflammation is beyond me. And because they let him try to pitch on Saturday, the whole "retroactive to June 15th" thing is gone. So now the earliest he can come back is July 9.

What's going on here? Did Capps under-report the extent of his pain? Probably. Do the Twins over-value being gutty and playing through the pain? No doubt. Did the medical staff mess up? Well, ...

It's frustrating that not only are so many players getting hurt, but the Twins also don't seem to be able to handle the ones who do correctly.

Also, I really don't believe Gardy will stick with the "closer by committee" scheme for more than a game or two. He's too in love with the idea of having an assigned closer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Catching Up, Revere, Dozier, and Other Notes

Hi. It's been a while. Nothing like a busy-at-work-busy-at-home lifestyle to put a dent in one's blogging ambitions. But anyhoo...

I have a few thoughts.

My thoughts on Ben Revere
How much fun has Benny been to watch lately? The plays in the outfield, the improved hitting, the smiling, the adorableness, the little chicken wing thing he does in the batting box, the plays in the outfield ...

I was excited about him last year, but this year I'm even more so. This is his year, and he's blossomed into a full-fledged big leaguer. Sure, his throwing arm still isn't stellar, but his outstanding range pretty much makes that issue moot. Nobody's perfect.

The thing is, every time Benny shows off how capable he is at being big-league outfielder, the closer Twins fans are to trading Denard Span. Denard's value as centerfielder and lead-off man is at an all time high. And there are plenty of contending teams that could use his services to help them toward the playoffs.

This season is already lost for the Twins, and they have many needs to begin a rebuilding project. And as much as I would hate to see him go, Denard could fetch some much-needed pitching prospects. Benny gives the Twins the confidence to move forward with that plan.

My thoughts on Brian Dozier
After a nice hot spell, Brian has cooled off -- both offensively and defensively. Ok, he's a rookie, and other teams probably have started figuring him out. It happens.

The Twins seem content to just let him be and figure it out on his own. I'm ok with that.

But it does make me wonder: why am I ok with Dozier hanging around until he works out the kinks, but last year I had run out of patience with Nishioka quite quickly? I don't really have a good answer. Maybe it's because Dozier has been a little better (.247 ba/ .263 obp/ .340 slug) through 37 games than Nishi (.228/ .291/ .260), but he's not recovering from a devastating injury either. And Dozier's fielding percentage through 37 games (.956) is worse than Nishioka's for 66 games (.961) (I couldn't find defensive game splits, so I couldn't see how Nishi was doing at 37 games). So, really, Dozier isn't a super huge improvement.

But why was I so quick to ship out Nishioka, but I'm still rooting for Dozier? I guess perception is a lot of it -- Nishi just looked lost and confused but Dozier has continued to look confident even while struggling. Also, Dozier did show some flashes of brilliance while I don't really remember seeing that with Nishioka. It could be that my patience was worn so thin last year that my standards are lower this year.

I don't know. But I believe Dozier will work things out and get back to that awesome player I saw a few weeks ago. I hope it happens soon.

~~~
Injury and Transaction Updates
 
6/14 -- The Twins placed RHP JP Walters on the DL with shoulder inflammation. No further word on his recovery timetable.

Lester Oliveros was recalled to take Walters' roster spot.

6/16 -- Lester Oliveros was optioned to AAA Rochester and Liam Hendriks was recalled.

I hope Lester didn't pack a whole lot.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Beer Call

Another perfect game, another beer tab for me. I would like to buy a beer for Giants pitcher Matt Cain for his perfect game on Wednesday night.

Unfortunately for me, the whole thing happened after I went to bed, so I didn't even get to participate in all the Twitter buzz during the game. Blasted west coast games.

But anyway, from all that I read, Cain pitched well (14 strikeouts) and had some great defense behind him. A whole team effort.

It used to be that perfect games were quite rare and special. However, the fact that they're not so rare lately doesn't mean they're not still special. They're special because they're very difficult feats of excellence and luck, and the fact that we've happened to see a cluster of them in a short time doesn't change that. The clustering is merely coincidence.

So, here's to you, Matt Cain. Thanks for reminding baseball fans everywhere just how awesome this game is.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Carl Pavano Paper Doll, Baseball and Bad Spelling Collide, Series Recap, and Other Notes

So, I didn't really get a chance to pay much attention to this series. I was kind of busy with the "having a life" thing -- watching my kid play baseball, improving my golf game (this is a hilarious statement if you've ever seen me golf), etc. But I was able to check in from time to time, so I'm not completely lost

Some notes:
  • Seems to me that the best starting pitching performance of the series (Liriano's) was the one that resulted in a loss. But it was good to seen Frankie pitching better.
  • I think Jared Burton wants us to love him.
~~~
The Twins have placed RHP Carl Pavano on the 15-day DL retroactive to June 2 with what they're calling a right anterior capsular strain. Wow, that's a mouthful; let's break it down.

Right means, well...your other left? Anterior means front. The capsule is a static group of ligaments in the shoulder that stabilize the joint. I guess strain means that it hurts.

Pavano's been bothered by this most of the season, and the Twins have decided to shut him down for a little while to let it heal, and have him start a throwing program sometime in the future.

I've tried to do some reading on the injury, but I can't really get a sense of how long he'll be out.

Nick Blackburn was activated off the DL (quad strain) to take Pavano's roster spot.

~~~
When Baseball and Bad Spelling Collide
I haven't done this little segment in a long time. In fact, it's been so long that I kind of forgot I used to do it. Until I saw this from Wednesday's game:
Oh, poor Jeff Manship. It's not like it's a hard name like Mastroianni or even Parmelee.

And according to Rhett Bollinger from MLB.com:


and


It seems like Mr. Mansihp ... er, Manship, has some getting even to do.

~~~
On Thursday, the Twins optioned pitcher Cole De Vries to AAA Rochester and recalled first baseman Chris Parmelee. Due to a favorable line up of off-days, the Twins don't need a 5-man rotation for a while, so this gives De Vries a chance to hone his skills at a more appropriate level.

And Parmelee has been smacking the ball around in AAA, so it's time to give him another chance in the bigs.