Seeing Nishioka in Action!

Obviously there is a LOT of attention being given to the Twins newest infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but Twins fans really don’t have much to SEE yet.  (If you are a Facebook user, I encourage you to go to his Fan Page). The Twins have even put out a little video heads up from the clubhouse but if you can’t wait for the televised spring training outings, here is some videos put together interviewing him on his home turf and even on the field.

Mike Pomeranz from Kare11 actually got to go to Japan to meet Nishioka and brought the video back to share with us in Minnesota. At least this should give all of us a better idea of what to expect when the boys hit Ft. Meyers!

Kare11 Interview, Part I:

Kare11 Interview, Part II:

And even a little extra attention on his new wife:

Obviously, this is just not quite the same as seeing him actually play with the rest of our team but let’s call it whetting the appetite!

When Japanese Forces Collide!

Face it, we all knew it was inevitable. The convergence of these two powerful forces means the result was simply unavoidable.

Of course, I’m referring to the arrival of Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka here in the land of Paul Bunyan, Bob Dylan, Prince, and Walter Mondale, and colliding head first with a Twins blogdom steep with a history of expression of our devotion to our team (and the very existence of the game of baseball) through another Japanese import… yes… Haiku!

(Caligraphy:Sook Humphries)

So as we begin this week, I figured we here at Knuckleballs should be among the first to celebrate the impending opening of Spring Training with a traditional Haiku welcome to Tsuyoshi. I’ve come up with a few to get everyone’s creative juices flowing, but I’m sure there are others out there who are much better at this kind of thing than I am.

Just as a reminder, Haiku poetry (or at least our Westernized version of it) follows a simple 5 syllable-7 syllable-5 syllable pattern… and if you can find a way to fit something about “seasons” or “nature” in to the poem, as well, you get extra credit for making an attempt at producing a more “authentic” Haiku.

Let’s see what we can come up with… leave your best (or even your not-so-best) efforts in the comments section. We may even add a few more to the post as time goes on.

- JC 

(Photo: MLB)

Spring Training in March.
Palm trees combine with baseball.
It won’t be long now.

Tsuyoshi’s a Twin.
Will Gardy learn Japanese…
Eat pregame sushi?

Blue skies and green grass.
Beer, dogs and brats were devoured.
Seems so long ago.

Where did he go to?
No Tiny Superhero!
Look South toward the Arch.

A tsunami here?
In Land of Lakes (not Oceans).
It’s Nishioka!

Gardy bilingual?
This should be interesting.
“How do you say ‘SH_T’!?”

Not many new names.
Will Nathan, Morneau be back?
Fan base is restless.

Touting Other Peoples’ Work

One of the great things about being a Twins blogger is that any time you just don’t feel motivated to write something new, you can take a day or two off and spend it just reading other Twins blogs. Can you imagine being, like, the ONLY Pirates blogger? Not only would you have to keep coming up with great stuff to write about your team, even after June 1 when they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but you’d have the added pressure of being the only place for your fellow beleaguered Pirate fans to turn to for pithy Pirate prose.

I’ve started about three different posts lately, but lost interest in the subjects before finishing them. Fortunately, a lot of other writers were feeling much more inspired than I was. So, today, you get a few tidbits from other writers and links to where you can read more from them. (Yes, I know that if you’ve gotten around to reading THIS blog, you’ve probably already visited most of these sites, but maybe we can come up with one or two you haven’t found yet.)

*****

Howard at A Fan’s View from Section 219 is nervous:

“It’s not a dark cloud of gloom and third-place doom, but the idea that he [Justin Morneau] was waiting until this month to get into the batting cage and Bill Smith talking about an April 1 target date has been a little disconcerting.”

JC's favorite Morneau pic (Photo: Craig Lassig/AP)

Personally, I’m trying to pretend Doc didn’t even get hurt last year and I’m just going to expect him to be in the lineup until I see that he isn’t. That‘s the sort of blind faith that things will work out well that has served me SO WELL in my life.

*****

Sooze, over at Babes Love Baseball, bids “Happy Trails” to former (thank God and let’s hope he STAYS “former”) Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte:

“…let’s be honest here. Pettitte’s early retirement isn’t going to be all fishing tackle and golf balls. He’s expected to be a witness this summer at the trial of former teammate and known cheaterface Roger Clemens, who has been indicted on charges he lied to a congressional committee, the last people on earth you should fib to…”

With all due respect to Sooze, I can actually think of a few others on earth that I’d say you should be less inclined to lie to than a bunch of Congressmen who got their jobs largely by lying, themselves… but come to think of it, Roger has probably pretty much lied to everyone, so I think he’s got all the bases covered.

*****

Sarah led off her first post at the brand spanking new Balk About It thusly:

“I arrived home yesterday, after a particularly spirit-crushing day, to find the latest copy of ESPN the Magazine in the mailbox. I was happily flipping through, and then BAM! I stopped mid-page-flip, and my blood ran cold.”

You’ll have to go over there to find out what caused her brain to explode… twice, but it did make me glad to know my own copy of the latest ESPN the Magazine remains untouched on the stack of other ESPN the Magazines that I’ve never opened (the subscription is free with “Insider” ESPN.com membership). It also made me a bit concerned for Sarah. If a little old magazine thing constitutes an “apocalypse” that makes her brain explode twice, I’m not sure how she’s going to survive the upcoming season of Twins baseball… but it should be interesting to follow along and find out.

NOTE: Balk About It, along with From the Third Base Line, are part of a new blogging network (G9 Sports) written just by women. We’ll probably get around to adding those and other blogs to our blogroll before long, but I just want to say that this “solely by women” thing is a bit disconcerting. It’s tough enough worrying about how long my employer is going to keep me around without adding to that a concern that CapitalBabs and KL will decide they want to join the “solely by women” crusade and kick my butt out of this blog, too.

*****

Seth Stohs wrote a series of posts this week at his SethSpeaks.net blog about his weekend at Twinsfest and that man really got around. But today, let’s talk about his excellent Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. As Seth writes:

“Minor league baseball players are doing all the same work that the big leaguers do. They are just doing it with far less fanfare, smaller per diems, less luxurious travel and hotel arrangements, and noticeably lighter wallets due to pay checks with far fewer zeroes. These players deserve to be recognized too!”

Nobody… absolutely nobody… covers the Twins prospects (and not-yet-prospects) like Seth does. I’ve bought his Prospect Handbook the past two years and I’m such a fan that I ordered some extras this year. You can read more about it here.

*****

This is about where I might usually throw in a Joe Posnanski link but just to prove I’m not totally predictable, I’m going another direction.

In his first post since leaving ESPN to join SB Nation, Rob Neyer started by recounting something that occurred between he and one of his ESPN colleagues. Rob posted a comment in response to something the fellow ESPN writer posted and subsequently heard that the author of the article wasn’t happy about it. Neyer apologized and, as he relates:

“His response: ‘Rob, no problem at all. I just thought the comments section was for them, not for us.’”

Neyer is now, more than ever, one of “us”. If you aren’t yet familiar with Neyer’s work, you might want to start with this article where he sorts through MLB’s Players of the Decade, position by position, starting with catcher. Twins fans won’t be disappointed with his choice.

*****

Finally, on Wednesday, Aaron Gleeman posted this piece in his HardballTalk space at NBCsports.com that includes quotes from former White Sox GM Roland Hemold recounting, among other things, his reaction after his first meeting with newly acquired minor league shortstop Ozzie Guillen:

“I’m scared. I think we just signed a jockey.”

That’s enough for now, I guess. I hope your weekend gets off to a great start!

- JC

Cuddy is our Buddy

I’m not really sure what to make of this, so I’m just going to lay the facts out there and let others draw conclusions… or not.

@mcuddy5 (Photo: JimCrikket, Knuckleballs)

If you follow Twins man-of-all-positions, Michael Cuddyer, on Twitter (@mcuddy5), you may have noticed a brief exchange last night between Michael and others about Mr. Incredible. I believe it started with a fan telling Cuddy that he looks like Mr. Incredible, to which Cuddyer responded that, no, that would be Jim Thome. That’s when things got interesting… at least from a Knuckleballs point of view.

Another tweeter forwarded Cuddyer a link to a web site that had an image of Mr. Incredible in a Thome Twins uniform. Since the link was condensed for use on Twitter, you had to link to it to find out where it linked to. I saw the re-tweet from @mcuddy5 and the comment that he thought the picture was great… and that’s about when my part of town lost electrical power. I spent the next hour and a half or so near my fireplace, reading by candlelight.

When the power came back on and I got around to firing the laptop back up, the first thing I did was check in here at Knuckleballs and glanced at the “Visitors” clicker. It didn’t look right. Doing a little digging just confused me more. Our counter widget showed we had had several hundred visitors in the past couple of hours.

Now… to a lot of our fellow Twins bloggers, that would probably be no big deal. But (and I know this may shock our loyal readers) there are weeks where we don’t get “several hundred visitors” to Knuckleballs, so this kind of activity was unusual, to say the least. Then I remembered the Cuddyer tweets.

Our Mr. Incredible, Jim Thome (Image: TD Davis)

A little investigating resulted in some good news and some bad news. The good news was that, yes, the condensed URL that a fan had sent to Michael and which he retweeted to his legions of followers was to one of CapitalBabs’ Knuckleballs posts. It included the image of Mr. Incredible as Jim Thome created by TD Davis (a friend of a friend of Babs’). The bad news is that the link was “bad” and for some reason wasn’t actually linking to the post. So the hundreds of new visitors were actually getting some kind of “page not available” message instead of seeing Mr. Davis’ terrific work of art… and our blog.

I sent @mcuddy5 a corrected link and I think others must have followed up with him as well… I admit I went to bed without spending much more time online… but this morning, it turns out we had over 900 visitors to our blog yesterday (and from the looks of things, most are now successfully reaching Babs’ Thome post) and a couple hundred of them took a peek at other pages as well as we ended up with something like 1,100 page views. By the time I got up this morning, thawed out, and looked in on the blog, we had another 150 or so visitors already this morning.

Seth Stohs wrote a piece this week for his SethSpeaks blog and the TwinsCentric blog on the Strib site about the way Twins fans, players and front office are interacting via Twitter. I have to admit that I’m very much a “minor league” Tweeter (@JimCrikket, if you must know), so maybe that’s why the effect of Cuddy’s retweet caught me so by surprise. Apparently this Twitter thing is popular.

As I stated at the outset, I’m not really sure what to make of this. I do think it’s great that Mr. Davis’ work got recognized and appreciated… I think it really is a cool image.

It doesn’t and won’t change what we do here, which is primarily just try to have fun and share our thoughts and opinions (for whatever they’re worth). But it was kind of fun seeing our numbers spike like that, even for just a day or two, and if a small number of those new visitors find their way back to us from time to time, that would be great, too.

- JC

The Great Tree Debate of 2011

This is what happens when your favorite team has an uneventful off-season and treats every bit of information about what’s really going on in the organization as if the fate of civilization rested upon that information not getting out . The fans are left with no alternative but to treat the drips and drabs of stuff that the team does release to the masses like it’s important.

That’s how we end up with Treegate.

The big news leading up to Twinsfest was, “Hey fans! Guess what! These two guys we didn’t think would be coming back this year are going to be back after all!” That apparently wasn’t enough to get the fanbase excited.

The Soon To Be Departed Trees (Photo: Baseball Prospectus)

So instead of real news, we got an announcement that the 14 spruce trees planted in front of the “batters eye” backdrop are going to be removed. As expected, the announcement was followed by dutiful reporting of such by every media outlet with a Twins beat reporter and just about every one of the 4,291 Twins blogs… including this one, finally. But if I’m going to write about some trees, I’m going to at least try to put this issue in to some perspective.

The trees were a nice little bow to the state’s natural resources when the plans for Target Field were developed. When the designers were asked to include something distinctly “Minnesotan” in the plans, I’m sure the first thought was to include a nice sized lake, fully stocked with muskie and trout and maybe some bullheads. Then when they were shown the size of the lot they had to work with, they decided there might be room for a few trees… maybe.

Seriously, though, I think everyone involved realized that there were bound to be some adjustments made to the ballpark after they spent their first year holding real live Major League baseball games there. It’s not until after a full season that you can analyze what didn’t work out as planned and come up with ways to improve as many things as possible.

Some Twins’ hitters publicly expressed disappointment that the organization’s postseason analysis didn’t result in a decision to bring the fences in a bit. I don’t recall the pitching staff expressing disappointment, however. Maybe I just missed it.

The Twins did listen to their hitters, however, on the subject of the “batters eye”. The problems hitters were having picking up the ball out of the pitcher’s hand arose almost immediately last season. The glare off the green back drop during afternoon games made it difficult to pick up the ball right away. The Twins tried repainting the panel in center field a darker green, but that didn’t help much. Apparently, the presence of the trees made a bad situation even worse. The trees not only captured and reflected more glare and shadows, but they also tended to sway in the breeze (as trees do at times).

The glare and shadows are bad but maybe they should have tried just removing that bear first? (Photo: HardballTalk)

So the trees are going away and some sort of honeycomb-textured covering is being added to the panel that hopefully will address the glare issue. The Twins sent a message to their hitters that, while they weren’t going to turn the ballpark in to a Little League field like the White Sox and Rangers have, they had listened to their concerns and were taking action that benefits both power hitters and not-so-power hitters, alike.

The thing that has really surprised me about all of this has been the number of people who have written comments akin to, “the trees are an important part of the experience of going to the game and these overpaid ballplayers should quit making excuses for not hitting the baseball.”

Look, I understand that the trees were nice to look at. I get that having that big old green square in dead center field is not the most aesthetically pleasing feature of Target Field. The trees dressed it up a bit. It would also look nicer if they brought in a famous Minnesota artist to paint a pretty picture on that green thing. But that’s not the point.

That green square is one of the few things in the ballpark that’s there for one reason and one reason only… to better assure the safety of the players on the field. To some fans, it may not seem like a big deal if it takes a couple hundredths of a second longer for a hitter to pick up the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, but when you only have a few hundredths of a second to decide whether, when and where to swing (and more importantly, how to avoid getting hit in the head), those are a couple of precious hundredths of a second.

Frankly, if our players weren’t such “nice guys”, I think people would have showed up for a game some time last year and found 14 trees laying on the ground in centerfield, victims of a midnight chainsaw party. Instead, it sounds like the trees will be “humanely” transplanted so they can live out their lives in less troublesome locations and we can anxiously await the next big “news” to come out of the Twins media office. Maybe they’re going to cut the grass differently this season. That would get us all fired up again!

- JC