RIP Sparky Anderson

Sparky Anderson passed away today at the age of 76.

While perhaps his closest connection to the Twins would be that his 1987 Tigers lost the ALCS to the Twins’ eventual World Series Championship team, I feel compelled to acknowledge the passing of a man who gave so much to the game of baseball and was so well respected by seemingly every player who ever played for one of his teams.

The crank that turned the Big Red Machine (AP Photo)

Anderson managed in Cincinnati and Detroit for a total of 26 years, won 2,194 games and three World Series titles (in 1975 and 1976 with his Big Red Machine teams, and 1984 with the Tigers). But numbers are not a meaningful measure of a man like Anderson and yet it would be presumptious of us to try to craft a post honoring him. So, instead, let’s share what those who knew him best over the years have to say.

Former player Jack Morris: “He was a good guy. Baseball will have very few people like Sparky. He was a unique individual. He was a character with a great passion and love for the game. He had a lot to do with molding me professionally and taught me a lot about perseverance.”

Former player Alan Trammell: “He was tough on us early on. Once you get older, like with your parents, you appreciate that but at the time, amongst ourselves, we were like, what’s going on? But he did it for a reason and we’re all appreciative. He did it the right way. There’s a right way and a wrong way. Not only in baseball, teaching us the game, he wanted us to know more about conducting ourselves on and off the field like a true professional.”

Former player Pete Rose: “Sparky was, by far, the best manager I ever played for. He understood people better than anyone I ever met. His players loved him, he loved his players, and he loved the game of baseball. There isn’t another person in baseball like Sparky Anderson. He gave his whole life to the game.”

Tiger Hall of Famer, Al Kaline: “Sparky was one of the greatest people I’ve met in baseball. He was a leader to his players both on and off the field. He was an incredible person and I cherish the time I was able to spend with him.”

ESPN Writer Tim Kurkjian: “No manager in baseball history was more true to his nickname than George ‘Sparky” Anderson. No manager ever loved the game more than Sparky. No manager did the job with the same relentless energy and enthusiasm as Sparky. No manager smiled as often as Sparky. No manager was more of a gentleman than Sparky. No manager was nicer than Sparky. Late in his career, Anderson asked the media to start calling him by his given name, George, saying no man in his 50s should be called Sparky. But, it never took. He was and always will be Sparky.” Click here to read Kurkjian’s full story.

Sparky Anderson, about himself, in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech: “I got good players, stayed out of their way, let them win a lot and then just hung around for 26 years.”

If you’d like to read more memories of Sparky Anderson, I highly recommend you check out this post by si.com’s Joe Posnanski,  who authored a book about Anderson’s Big Red Machine teams, as well as this column by fellow si.com writer Steve Rushin.

Finally, even long after the words of those who knew him and played for him have been lost or forgotten, future generations will read this… on his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame: “The crank that turned the Big Red Machine. Revered and treasured by his players for his humility, humanity, eternal optimism and knowledge of the game.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carol; his sons Lee and Albert; his daughter Shirley Englebrecht; and his nine grandchildren.

-JC

Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up

This is first and foremost a baseball blog… a Twins baseball blog… and I suppose one of the first rules of baseball blogging is that you should stick to baseball in your posts. By all means, you should avoid discussions regarding politics and religion.

But today being Election Day across the US, I’m going to violate that rule today with a brief political post.

Any reader who knows the people who created this blog very well also knows that we each have varying interests in politics, as well as baseball. But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a post where I try to tell you who you should vote for or which, if any, political party you should support. That’s your business.

What I am going to do is urge you to get your butt out the door and go vote.

I know there is a significant portion of the electorate that has given up on the political parties and on our elected officials. They distrust anyone who stands up and dares to run for public office. I can’t altogether fault people who have an instinctive distrust of all political candidates. I have to fight that reflex myself, at times.

But I believe strongly that it is wrong to allow that distrust to keep us away from the polls. Our form of government and those who run it are far from perfect. But so many Americans have worked and fought too hard… and paid too great a price… to preserve what we have, for us to give up on the process of making things better. That process, I believe, begins with casting a vote.

Are you concerned that the party in power has moved too far, too fast? Go vote for someone who will stem that tide.

Are you concerned that the party in power is not being given enough credit for the good it has done… or enough time to make things better? Go cast your vote to give that party’s candidates your support.

Don’t like either of the two major political parties? Find one of the newer parties and look to see if they have candidates running in your area or look for independent candidates to vote for… but go vote.

Do you wish all elected offices had term limits so politicians don’t become entrenched and unresponsive? We have term limits… they’re called elections. Go vote.

Still can’t convince yourself that anyone running for national or statewide office is worthy of your vote? Look for a neighbor who’s running for a local election or an issue/referendum on your ballot that you can show support for (or opposition to) by casting your vote. In fact, even if you DO support someone running for one of the “big offices”, go find a local candidate/issue to care about enough to vote for/against. Unless you’ve made the effort to work on a campaign yourself at some point, I really don’t think you can realize how hard those local candidates/organizers and their friends and their families really work. Most of them can’t afford the TV or radio ads, but their belief that their cause can make our lives better is often even more fervent than the people you do see on TV. Show them you care enough to vote.

Just like it’s going to be easy over the next few months to criticize the people who make decisions about who will and won’t be suiting up for the Twins next season, it’s even easier to sit back and criticize those who will be making many more important decisions… decisions about our economy, our jobs, our health care system, our roads, our environment, virtually every aspect of our lives and the lives of those who come after us.

We can (and will) continue to voice our opinions about who should and shouldn’t be members of the 2011 Minnesota Twins, but in the end we really have no say in the matter. We can spout off, but that’s all.

But in this country, we can (and will) be heard when it comes to determining the directions that our local, state and federal governments lead us… unless we decide we don’t care enough to be heard.

Decisions are made by those who show up.

Vote today!- JC

P.S. Still not convinced? OK, fine… you’re politically agnostic. But at least click here and cast your vote for Andrew Bryz-Gornia, fellow Twins blogger of “Off the Mark”, and help him win CollegeScholarship.org’s 2010 Blogging Scholarship! (Who would have imagined they give scholarships for this stuff?)

GameChat – WORLD SERIES GAME #5, Giants @ Rangers, 6:30 pm

There is a lot of discussion regarding the Lincecum/Lee rematch.  Considering this is a make or break game for the Rangers, I would love to see Lee come out on the winning side this time.  Of course, given the ratings of the last two games (bad broadcast times disregarded), I’m sure Fox would LOVE to have the series over but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to baseball for the year.

San Francisco @ Texas
Torres, RF   Andrus, SS
Sanchez, F, 2B   Young, M, 3B
Posey, B, C   Hamilton, CF
Ross, C, LF   Guerrero, DH
Uribe, 3B   Cruz, N, RF
Huff, A, 1B   Kinsler, 2B
Burrell, DH   Murphy, Dv, LF
Renteria, SS   Molina, B, C
Rowand, CF   Moreland, 1B
  Lincecum, P     Lee, Cl, P

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Francisco 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 3 7 0
Texas 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 1

 

THE GIANTS ARE THE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!

It was a very well pitched game on both sides and Lincecum just outdid himself and everyone else.  Congrats to San Francisco and all their fans besides.  It was a fun series!

About The Twins Outfield Situation

As we continue examining the options available to the Twins’ brass with regard to the formation of the 2011 roster, I think it’s worth taking a look at the outfield. I know that, on the surface, this appears to be one unit (perhaps the only one) where many people expect to see little or no change, other than seeing it revert to the unit as it was before Michael Cuddyer had to shift to first base to replace Justin Morneau.

Delmon Young

Going in to 2010, the Twins clearly decided they would be willing to sacrifice some OF defense in return for making sure they had the sticks necessary in the line up to score more runs. The hope was that Denard Span would have the range to cover not only centerfield, but left-center and right-center as well. We don’t need fancy advanced defensive metrics to know that Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are not exactly candidates for gold gloves in the outfield.

Delmon certainly held up his end of the bargain, having his most productive year as a Twin (and winning the Knuckleballs Boyfriend of the Year Award, in the process!). But outside of DY, the outfielders simply did not live up to their expectations.

To be fair, Jason Kubel wasn’t supposed to have to play rightfield every day. He was supposed to DH. Maybe he’d have had a better year with the bat if he had been able to simply play the role intended. Maybe. And Michael Cuddyer certainly wasn’t supposed to play 1B for half a season. Maybe if he had been able to just play his more familiar role in RF, he’d have hit better, too. Maybe.

Denard Span

But then there’s Denard Span. I like Denard. I like him a lot. I expected great things from him in 2010. Maybe too much. It’s not his fault, I suppose, if my expectations were elevated and, in the end, unmet. He just simply did not get on base as reliably as a lead off hitter for a contending team needs to. And I don’t even want to discuss how often he got picked off once he did get on base. In short, he needs to do better… much better. I also was disappointed with his defense. No it isn’t fair that he has to cover half the outfield instead of just a third of it, but life isn’t fair sometimes. I also was less than impressed with the way he covered his own third of the field. He seemed to get poor jumps and appeared timid any time he got within 10 feet of a fence. Maybe it was just a matter of getting comfortable with the new ballpark. Maybe.

That’s a lot of maybes, folks.

Jason Repko did a nice job as a late inning defensive replacement and he gave the Twins a CF option when Span needed a day off, but he’s really not a consideration as a starting outfielder on a regular basis. Still, the Twins will need him, or someone like him, on the roster in 2011. That means five roster spots taken up by outfielders.

Jason Kubel

Obviously, the outfield spots are also influenced by the decisions made with regard to the DH, since one could argue not only Kubel, but Young and even Cuddyer might be better DH options than outfielders. Given that, does it make sense to bring Jim Thome back, even if he’s again available at a discounted price? Yes… of course it does.

Come March, most people would probably bet that we’ll see all of these familiar faces in Twins uniforms, once again. We can hope that Kubel, Cuddyer and Span bounce back and have better years with the bat, that Delmon continues to build on this season’s success, and that we all get to witness Jim Thome belting career HR #600 in a Twins uniform in 2011.

Then again… if I were Bill Smith, I would be looking for a top of the rotation pitcher and if it takes one of these outfielders to get that need filled, I wouldn’t hesitate to make such a deal. That could result in “addition by subtraction” if it means Thome returns and gets more DH opportunities than he might otherwise and if an outfielder can be added to the line up that can both cover decent ground in a corner position and play CF on occasion.

Michael Cuddyer

It’s unlikely that the Twins would find a trade partner willing to take on Cuddyer’s contract or Span’s extension (which starts getting pricier in 2012), leaving Kubel (who’s reasonable $5.25 million option was picked up by the Twins last week) and Young (who is still locked in to arbitration) as the most likely trade chips.  I think both players have several very productive offensive years ahead of them in Major League Baseball and if those are in Twins uniforms, that’s fine. But the Twins arguably have a surplus of talent in the outfield and to shore up other needs, sometimes you have to give up good ballplayers and the Twins definitely have a couple of positions that need shoring up.

The Twins front office is not exactly known for making dramatic trades, but Bill Smith has proven he doesn’t just go in to hibernation in the off-season, either. I think this organization knows they need to improve their roster from the outside before Opening Day 2011 and I think that means Jason Kubel or Delmon Young will be wearing a different uniform in 2011.

Do you want or expect to see changes in the Twins OF next season or do you think they should keep this unit intact as is? Please use the comment section to let us know your thoughts! – JC