We Oppose #SOPA

I’m not going to pretend to speak for anyone associated with Knuckleballs but myself, but I want to express publicly my opposition to SOPA and PIPA.

If you aren’t familiar with these pieces of proposed legislation, please do yourself a favor and look them up. In a nutshell, however, these laws are purported to protect movie studios and recording companies from piracy. That sounds like a good and noble cause, right? After all, we all believe intellectual property should be protected.

But I… and many others… believe this legislation goes way too far. It would not only require us here at Knuckleballs not to pirate material (as if I would know how to do that anyway, right?), but would require us to constantly monitor all sites to which we link to assure none of the people running those sites are smarter than I am at that kind of thing. If someone we link to ends up doing something wrong, it could force us offline.

No, that wouldn’t put us “out of business.” You may have noticed we don’t include advertising here so we don’t make any money from our blog at all (dang it).

But it could have that effect on any number of valuable internet sites.

A number of sites have “gone dark” today to demonstrate their opposition to SOPA (Wikipedia’s English version, for one).

Others have simply blacked out their logo.

I’m not even smart enough to know how to do that, but I do know how to simply delete our logo and that is why it is not visible in the banner the rest of the day.

If you’d like more information or to learn what you can do to oppose these laws, you might want to check out Google and Wikipedia.

I’m also not really interested in a debate on the topic here, so comments will be turned off for this post.

- Jim Crikket

[it's ok, he can speak for me as well.

I will go so far as to add that A) we do our utmost to credit the originators of ANY material we post to here - we believe in intellectual property and want to be sure that people get just dues for their own creativity but B) no way in blazes we have the ability to do what this legislation would require at face value and C) we have no idea how this very vague bit of legislation would actually be applied once attorneys and courts get hold of it..

Bad laws are just that - no matter how good the intentions. If it's not ready for primetime, don't pass it. It's easy math.

- CapitalBabs]

Wounded Tiger

So Detroit is going to spend $13 million this season for Victor Martinez NOT to play for them.

Welcome to our world, Tigers.

Victor Martinez (Photo: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE)

Martinez reportedly tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) doing a pretty routine side-to-side workout. It just goes to show how quickly and bizarrely those things can happen.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it. These guys just scaled up Mt. Kilimanjaro, presumably without incident, and Martinez blows out his knee exercising. (I suppose, to be safe, I should have waited until they successfully scaled down the mountain, but certainly if they got up, they certainly have a plan for getting down, right?)

The Tabbies won 95 games in 2011, claiming the AL Central Division by 15 games over the Indians (and 32 games over the Twins) and pretty much everyone who gets paid money to opine about such things has been willing to just hand Detroit a free ticket to the playoffs in 2012. It’s hard to blame them, I suppose, given that none of the Tigers’ division rivals appear intent on spending the money to challenge them for the division title. In fact, some potential challengers are even (ahem) slashing payroll.

While I’m not so crass as to celebrate Martinez’s injury, it’s pretty difficult as a Twins fan to muster up much sympathy for the Tigers organization. Our guys certainly racked up more than their fair share of Disabled List time in 2011, especially among the big contract guys.

But here’s the thing… doesn’t it seem like the Tigers have pretty much sat out this off-season? I know they won the AL Central going away, but if the Rangers came within one pitch of winning the World Series and still feel the need to improve their roster, wouldn’t you think Detroit might think adding more than Octavio Dotel might be necessary? Have they added more than that? (OK I looked it up… they also added Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago.)

The Tigers’ payroll in 2011 opened the season a little under $106 million and reports have it sitting at close to $109 million for 2012 after they came to terms with their arbitration-eligbile players. (That includes agreeing to pay Delmon Young $6.75 million, by the way. I have to admit I’m glad it’s not the Twins that are ponying up that kind of money for DY. As I Tweeted Tuesday night, I don’t know for sure that Ben Revere is going to be a better starting left fielder than Young, but I’m pretty sure the Twins are glad they have Revere rather than Young at this point.) In any event, you have to figure the Tigers aren’t looking to significantly jack up their payroll number at this point.

I know I’ve read that they were kicking the tires on Mark Buehrle before he signed in Miami and, more recently, may be talking with the Cubs about trading for Matt Garza. An upgrade would make sense because their rotation, after Justin Verlander, really is nothing to brag about (and seriously, how likely can it really be that Verlander would have another season like his 2011?). So it’s possible that they’ve been quietly sniffing around one of the remaining free agent starting pitchers.

But with Martinez likely out for the season, you have to imagine their attention might be shifted toward finding someone to take over Martinez’s DH responsibilities. There certainly is no shortage of DH options still on the market, so in the end, their offense may not the biggest victim of the injury. The biggest victim may be their starting pitching if they have to use remaining payroll budget for a bat instead of rotation help.

So speaking very selfishly, Martinez’s injury may help the Twins in three ways:

  1. Most obviously, he won’t be in Detroit’s line up.
  2. On the off chance the Tigers were in the market for the same starting pitcher(s) the Twins might be talking to, their need to replace Martinez may take them out of contention for pitching.
  3. Finally, that same shift in priorities likely may leave the Tigers’ rotation unfortified.

Most of all, it simply makes Detroit more beatable. And that’s never a bad thing.

And, yes, I really am this desperate for anything resembling good news for the Twins at this point.

- JC

Purely Fictitious Rumors

In case you hadn’t already figured it out, none of us here at Knuckleballs has any sources anywhere close to the Twins or MLB offices who ever feed us any news that we can be the first to break. We get no scoops on the traditional media. We aren’t the first bloggers to find out anything. Whatever we know, we read or hear somewhere else.

And I’m getting tired of it.

How cool would it have been if we at Knuckleballs could have broken the news first about Joel Zumaya signing with the Twins? Can you imagine? We’d be getting props from all the real reporters for breaking the news.

But that doesn’t happen. The real baseball sportswriters don’t even know who we are… and probably never will. Well, that’s not TOTALLY true, I did introduce myself to one of the Strib Twins beat writers once, so if he has a really good memory, maybe…

Alas, if we want to break news like the big boys and girls, there are really only three things I can do about it, though.

  • Option 1: I could, I suppose, quit my well-paying day job, giving up the career I’ve spent over three decades building, and start over by applying for some sort of entry level position in the sports department of a media company that reports on Major League baseball. Eventually, if I lived to be a healthy and productive 90-year-old, I might rise to the level where I would have access to people “inside” baseball.

None of that, of course, is going to happen.

But if I’m going to throw ethics out the window in favor of expediency, why bother even going to the effort of following a bunch of real reporters and plagiarizing their work? That leads to Option 3, just making stuff up.

  • Option 3: Yes… why not just make up stuff? After all, fabricating stories might be borderline unethical, too, but it’s kind of a “victimless” ethical lapse, isn’t it? Plagiarizing is far worse… you’d be taking someone else’s hard work and passing it off as your own. That’s just not right. It affects the value of the work product turned out by the original writer. But making stuff up doesn’t hurt anyone, really. And who knows, some of it might actually turn out to be right!

So with that prelude, here then are my first Purely Fictional Rumors:

At their meeting in Arizona, MLB owners voted to award the 2014 MLB All-Star Game to Target Field in Minneapolis.

There will be no official announcement for a while, however, and a source close to people who went to school with a guy who shared a cab with someone who used to get high with a former team executive who was familiar with the discussions tells me that there remains real doubt about whether the game will actually be played at Target Field. It seems the Twins were given “conditional” approval to host the game, but the conditions came from two different groups of owners.

One group, who thinks the Home Run Derby is the coolest thing about baseball, will only support the Twins’ bid if the fences at Target Field are shortened by 15 feet. While the Twins don’t necessarily like that idea because they don’t like paying the money it takes to attract and keep pitchers who are… well…  actually good at pitching, they were willing to go along with those demands.

However, another group of owners will only support the Twins’ bid to host the game if the fence distances are NOT shortened. It seems this group has been trying to get rid of the Home Run Derby for years and are convinced it won’t go away until MLB finally holds such an event where nobody hits any home runs. They feel Target Field may be their last best hope of such an event occurring.

In other words, Wrigley Field may yet get the 2014 All-Star Game to celebrate the 1,000th year of that dilapidated ballpark’s existence.

**********

Sources who went out on an all-night bender with the second-cousin by marriage of a girl who Joe Mauer once thought about asking to the prom but didn’t because a friend told him what kind of things went on after proms and he just wasn’t the kind of boy who did those things even if his date REALLY wanted to tell me that Mauer still isn’t 100% sure he’ll be healthy and ready to catch full time for the Twins on Opening Day. However, once again, Joe is reluctant to play rehab games in Rochester, preferring to stay at his home in Ft. Myers until he’s damn good and ready… er… until he feels 100% certain he can contribute to the Twins line up more than Drew Butera can.

The same source went on to say that Terry Ryan’s response to Mauer was something akin to, “STFU and play MF’ing baseball when and where we tell you to, you coddled SOB.” Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ryan reportedly received a strongly worded written rebuke from Mauer’s agent… or his mommy… the sources weren’t clear on which.

A totally different drunken fool of a source reports that one compromise under consideration would see the Twins play their April games at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers. The Twins front office has not denied any of these reports, but insists that the organization’s inquiry with Ft. Myers Little League, Inc., about the possible availability of their ballpark for Ft. Myers Miracle games in April, “has nothing to do with Joe.”

**********

That’s it for today. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be just a bit closer to the level of all the “real” baseball writers!

-  JC

I’ll Keep Howling at the Moon

I read something today in another Twins blog that made me more than a little disheartened. It wasn’t so much because I disagree with the writer (though I certainly do), but it bothers me that I sense a great number of good, intelligent fans do agree with him.

I’m talking about Nick Nelson’s “Thoughts on Payroll” post over at Nick’s Twins Blog. I don’t often put up a post here at Knuckleballs in response to another blogger’s post. Usually, I simply post a comment at his/her site and let it go at that.

But this time, while I did leave a brief comment, I didn’t feel I could fully express my concerns in the few words I try to limit such comments to. So here I am.

Let me say up front that I really respect Nick, even when I don’t agree with him on a topic. He and the other TwinsCentric writers do great work and all of their blogs are “must reads” for any Twins fan, in my opinion. When I notice Nick has posted something new, I check it out as soon as I have an opportunity. The respect I have for Nick, in this case, just adds to my discouragement. 

At the risk of overly simplifying the point of his piece, the takeaway I got from it was that we should all stop howling at the moon. There’s no point continuing to complain about the Twins slashing their payroll because there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how much we complain about it. We should just enjoy the baseball. But please don’t just take my word for it, you should read it for yourself and judge whether I’ve missed his point entirely.

But I would take strong exception to anyone who suggests we stop complaining about an issue, even if the cause is just, because we may be powerless to effect immediate change.

I believe it was Margaret Mead who said, “Never underestimate the power of a small dedicated group of people to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Perhaps it’s because the roots of my philosophical beliefs go back to the 60s and 70s, but I would contend that:

IF the system truly is unjust; AND

IF the efforts of those who speak out against the injustice of the system appear to be ineffective; THEN

THE SOLUTION is not to stop speaking out, but to speak out louder, so as to educate and, hopefully, inspire others to lend their voices to the cause.

If fans do as Nick suggests and stop complaining about owners who milk their communities and fan bases without consequence, what would prevent or even dissuade them from taking greed to an even greater level?

The Twins claim they budget just over 50% of revenues toward their Major League payroll, with the number a little higher some years and lower in others. But we have to trust them on that because they are neither required, nor inclined, to share with their fans what their revenues actually are.

I find that difficult to accept without voicing objection, regardless of the likelihood of my objections being met with anything but silence from the Twins. I’m sure we’re all quite accustomed to the Twins ignoring anything and everything we say to them that isn’t intended to congratulate them on what a good job they do.

Well guess what… 99 losses is not a good job, something that the front office readily admits and has declared their intent to remedy immediately. So I’m not inclined to congratulate any of them and it’s pretty difficult to understand how imposing a 10+% payroll reduction is consistent with their claim that they are committed to contending in 2012.

If they are just paying lip service to contending, but don’t really believe it’s going to happen, why shouldn’t we call them on it? Why should we simply nod dejectedly and agree that allocating enough payroll to actually contend isn’t doable… when they aren’t willing to provide even the flimsiest evidence that such is the case?

That’s not to say that we can’t or shouldn’t enjoy the baseball games themselves or support our players on the field. I believe that one can support their favorite team, while concurrently voicing differences with that team’s front office. 

I hope most of us who disagree with ownership’s decision to slash payroll are perfectly capable of not letting that disagreement prevent us from enjoying watching the Twins play baseball. Anyone who can’t do that certainly should find other forms of entertainment… and perhaps some professional mental health assistance… rather than relying on any professional sports team to fill their days and nights.

As for me, I’ll keep howling at the moon while I also continue appreciating the beauty of the game of baseball as played by men blessed with exceptional, if occasionally flawed, talent.

- JC

Making the Off-Season Suck Less

Probably one of the most famous baseball quotes ever is the Rogers Hornsby quote concerning the off-season: “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

I think we can all relate to that right now. Winter definitely arrived in Iowa this morning, but I’m not all that excited about staring at it out my window. On the other hand, there is very little going on with the Twins worth discussing. I mean… how many posts can a blogger possibly write on the subject of the Twins’ slashing their payroll? (I believe the count for my posts, personally, on that topic currently sits at 12… but that is unlikely to be the final number.)

All of this snow made me think back to how I managed to survive the off-seasons during the winters of my younger years. Of course, the most obvious answer to that question is that I played basketball… lots of basketball.

But even as a kid, I needed regular baseball fixes as the snow piled up outside my window. How did I survive? There were no blogs. There was no Twitter or Facebook. There was no internet. There were no cell phones. There was no “ESPN Classic” showing old MLB replays because there was no ESPN. There was no Fox Sports North (of course, for most of us in Iowa, there remains no FSN, but I’ll refrain from letting this post devolve in to another blackout rant). There were no DVDs or even VHS tapes of old World Series games… or any other games. There was no cable television.

So what did I do?

I played baseball games, of course. No, not really… but kinda. They were baseball BOARD games.

I had a friend with Cadaco-Ellis All-Star Baseball. The game involved cardboard discs for all of the top players of the day plus a number of “All Time Greats” that dictated the result of each at-bat. The discs slipped over a spinner and each disc had a sort of “pie chart” that was based on the player’s career statistics. I also had a friend with Strat-O-Matic Baseball, but I don’t recall playing that much more famous game a lot. All-Star Baseball allowed us to pit teams of “current” players like Killebrew, Mantle, and Mays against teams with Ruth, Cobb and Hornsby or even mix and match them so that Killer got to play alongside The Babe.

Those are great memories and they got me thinking about all of the other sorts of baseball games I enjoyed over the years. About at the same time we were playing All-Star Baseball, another friend showed me a dice baseball game that you could play by yourself real easily. It was a much simpler game and I don’t even recall that it had a name, though I’m sure it was pirated from some company’s commercial venture.

The next baseball board game I remember playing was Avalon Hill/Sports Illustrated’s Statis-Pro Major League Baseball. It was kind of like Strat-O-Matic on steroids. There really were almost no defensive settings, though, so it was a great game to play solo. This worked out well, since I believe I got this game shortly after moving from Albert Lea MN to Webster City IA. I didn’t really have a lot of friends and even fewer who were as much in to baseball as I was. As a result, I spent a lot of time over the winter in seclusion playing Statis-Pro.

Of course, a short time later, I grew in to the teenage years and became moderately more sociable. That didn’t mean I had to leave baseball behind during the winter, of course. There were always pinball games with a baseball theme and while it didn’t take long for my interests to move from pinball to foosball, I still kept an eye out for the baseball pinball games. In fact, even today, I’ve got a version of “Full Tilt Baseball” as an Android app on my cell phone.

And then it happened. Electronic games. Atari. Nintendo. It was amazing. We could play baseball by hooking game consoles up to our televisions and, eventually, even with handheld game devices.

But, trust me kids, these games bore no resemblance to what you’re accustomed to today.

The first baseball game I remember was little more than an advanced version of the original PONG. Before too long, however, we had Intellivision games that actually involved NINE players on defense! Wow. How much more realistic can you get?

 

Then there were games that involved the names of REAL Major League baseball players! Of course, that didn’t necessarily mean those players played for real MLB TEAMS. One of the first versions of these “real player” games was a Nintendo version that was actually licensed by the MLB Players Association, not MLB itself. So the players were associated with “Boston” and “New York”… not the Red Sox and Yankees. Yeah… the players didn’t exactly LOOK a lot like the real deals either, but we had come a long way from All-Star Baseball!

Of course, the handheld games weren’t that sophisticated. They primarily involved using a couple of buttons and direction keys to make little LED lights move around the basepaths. Realism be damned, those were addictive!

And then I had a son who found baseball video games to be fun, too. Which was great… until he got so good at them that he wiped me off the face of the earth every time we played. I think that he was about seven years old when we got to that point. It may have been sooner than that. I didn’t play a lot of video games after that. My son may tell you it had something to do with me being a bad loser and I realized it would be bad to have to explain why I was beating up a 7 year old. Don’t listen to him, though. He lies.

Today, of course, while we continue to whine about how there’s so little to hold our interest during the off-season, we really have it pretty good. I won’t even spend any time on the advances in video game technology over the past couple of decades, but will just hope that the phrase, “Well played, Mauer,” will soon once again become more than just a catch-phrase from a video game commercial.

Even those of us who no longer play either the board or electronic baseball games during the off-season don’t have to simply go in to hibernation. In addition to all of the real-time coverage by mainstream media, we have more bloggers than we can possibly count, all providing avenues for not only gathering baseball information but discussing and debating it. We have practically minute-by-minute coverage of MLB’s winter meetings. I watched Francisco Liriano pitch two innings in a Winter League game last week. How cool is that?

In two months, I’m hoping to be on my way to Ft. Myers for a week following the Twins and Orioles around the Florida Gulf Coast and I’m already plotting out potential itineraries. But in the mean time, we’ll continue to discuss what the Twins have done, should do, won’t do, and why.

It sure beats just staring out the window and waiting for spring. Rogers Hornsby would be very jealous.

- JC

Is Twins GM Terry Ryan Bluffing?

It was just one small line in a Pioneer Press article, but it caught my eye.

John Shipley’s article was primarily about Twins GM Terry Ryan going on record as stating his starting pitchers need to get away from the expectation that once they’ve completed six innings of work, they’ve done their jobs and can hit the shower. But there it was, in the next to last paragraph, a quote from Ryan to the effect that the Twins rotation was set unless someone, “fell in to our lap.”

Terry Ryan is a smart man… certainly smarter than I am. That certainty has had me wondering lately whether I’ve been wrong all along in my view that the Twins need more significant help in their rotation than what Jason Marquis, alone, is likely to provide. Pretty much since taking back the GM chair from Bill Smith, Ryan has insisted that the Twins just needed to get more healthy innings out of the starting pitchers they already have on staff, with perhaps the addition of another potential innings-eater at the back of the rotation (which turned out to be Marquis).

So the plan has apparently been to assume that Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn would all be much healthier and much better than last season AND that Carl Pavano would at least replicate his 2011 performance level.

Despite being fully aware of Ryan’s superior baseball knowledge, compared to my own, I’ve remained skeptical.

So I’m grasping on to that tiny quote as a glimmer of hope that maybe… just maybe… Ryan knows his team needs more significant help. Maybe, faced with a restrictive payroll limit, he just knew all along he’d need to wait until the starting pitching market matured to the point where bargains could be had. Maybe, as agents bloviated about how magnificent their pitching clients were, he just shrugged and told them that their clients were indeed such gems that there was no way he could afford the salaries they could get elsewhere… then handed out his business card, you know, “just in case.”

Rich Harden (Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Now, with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in five short weeks, there’s a pretty sizable number of remaining free agent pitchers on the market and a shrinking number of teams with rotation spots available. The Twins clearly will not be signing guys like Edwin Jackson or Hiroki Kuroda, but let’s take a look at some of the other names that still don’t know where they’ll be calling home this season (click names for Baseball-Reference.com pages):

Bartolo Colon

Jeff Francis

Jon Garland

Rich Harden

Kevin Millwood

Roy Oswalt

Brad Penny

Joel Pineiro

Joe Saunders

I’m sure there are some guys on that list that you or I might differ on regarding how much we’d like to see them join the Twins’ rotation, but the chances of one or more of these pitchers “falling in to the lap” of Terry Ryan isn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility, at this point.

Todd Coffey (Photo: Gene J Puskar/AP)

Of course, it’s still probably more likely that Ryan adds a bullpen arm than a starting pitcher. If Ryan is waiting for a reliever to fall in to his lap, as well, there are plenty of those still looking for work and they’re probably getting even more nervous.

Conventional wisdom is that the Twins would want to add a right-hander, so for our purposes, let’s just glance at the… um… “northpaws(?)” Ryan Madson is off the board, now that he’s signed with the Reds, but he wasn’t going to be an option for the Twins anyway. I think we can also assume the Twins won’t be the organization signing Kerry Wood, or even Francisco Cordero, but maybe there’s someone else useful on this list:

Luis Ayala (OK, just kidding… we’ve been there, done that)

Shawn Camp

Todd Coffey

Brad Lidge

Scott Linebrink

Chad Qualls

Dan Wheeler

Michael Wuertz

Joel Zumaya

I can’t help but notice that two guys who were on my “blueprint”, Rich Harden and Todd Coffey, are both still available. I wonder if, perhaps in another week or two as the anxiety levels of the players and their agents rise, Ryan’s budget… or his lap… might have room both.

- JC

Two More Years. Oh… Goody.

I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the man who put off dealing with PEDs until Congress forced him to and still can’t make a decision about whether baseball should or shouldn’t use a Designated Hitter, yet again has failed to make a decision in the best interests of baseball.

Bud Selig

Despite his previous vow to retire as Commissioner of Baseball at the end of his current contract, which expires after the upcoming season, Bud Selig has now apparently changed his mind and will have his contract extended an additional two years.

As this piece in the New York Daily News over the weekend pointed out, it’s hardly surprising that Selig would decide not to walk away from his $20 million a year gig (and some of you thought Joe Mauer wasn’t worth his contract!).

- JC

Fans vs. Media? It’s All in Fun, Folks!

It was following the playoff game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers that I decided something should be said about what sometimes appears to be a bit of a Social Media scuffle between members of mainstream media and the rest of us.

On that evening, this skirmish manifested itself on Twitter immediately after the Broncos beat the Steelers in overtime, on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but Tim Tebow is not altogether popular among most media-types. Many of them decided long ago that he was destined to be a failure as an NFL quarterback.

There are many reasons for this. The fact that he quarterbacked the Florida Gators would be enough for me to instantly dislike him, but I think it goes much deeper for the media “experts”.

He throws funny. He insists on not only running the football, but running a college-like option offense, which everyone knows NFL quarterbacks just aren’t supposed to do.

And he talks about his religion. A lot. Perhaps more than any sports figure I can recall since Muhammad Ali. And, of course, Ali had no problems with the media at all when he declared his chosen religious preference, right?

A lot of people have an issue with famous people overtly demonstrating, or even talking about, their personal religious beliefs. Interestingly, they don’t seem to have the same issue with those who openly demonstrate and proclaim their lack of religious beliefs (or even a moral compass, for that matter). Anyway, I really don’t have an issue either way, as long as the person doesn’t expect me to believe exactly as they do. Even if they DO expect that, I still don’t much care, as long as they don’t threaten to blow anyone up for not meeting those expectations. That’s where I draw the line.

But let’s assume for a moment that the motives of most media members in their criticisms of Tebow have nothing to do with his religion. Let’s assume it’s all about his mechanics. That doesn’t make them right. And that’s the problem, I believe.

These are men (and women… but largely men) who really, really… really… need to be right. And when any of us common folk suggest that perhaps they aren’t right about something, they can tend to lose their senses of humor and get more than a little defensive.

It’s not just about Tim Tebow, either. The Twins’ front office is getting a lot of support from mainstream media types lately concerning the Twins’ decision to slash payroll heading in to just the third season at their still-pretty-new publicly funded ballpark. Suffice to say, there are a few of us among the masses who aren’t 100% in agreement.

If it turns out that Tebow leads the Broncos to the Superbowl and goes on to a long, successful career as an NFL quarterback and/or that the Twins’ frugality proves unwise and sends the franchise in to another downward spiral, it will mean that a lot of people who are paid anywhere from good money to lots of money to provide expert sports analysis will have been wrong.

(Some of these media “experts” are, of course, more “media personalities” with no more of a sports IQ than a chimpanzee that’s been forced to watch ESPN for a month straight, than they are real media professionals, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.)

That kind of thing is hardly unprecedented, of course. It’s probably safe to say that sportswriters’ opinions have been proven wrong occasionally for as long as there have been sportswriters.

But writers and columnists in the “old days” could take a position concerning a particular team’s or athlete’s talents, or lack thereof, and if that opinion turned out to be wrong, they could simply and conveniently never again mention their original viewpoint. Sure, a couple of Letters to the Editor might call them on it, but other than the 12 people who read that letter (assuming it got published at all), they were largely not held accountable for their views.

Today, the poor scribes who earn their daily bread by covering sports for conventional media outlets are immediately and loudly called out on any opinion they may express via Twitter or other electronic communication.

It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for them. Almost.

I’m going to apologize at this point for what comes next. I’m going to speak in generalities and thereby probably paint all media types with the same broad brush. That’s unfair, I know. So let me start out by saying that I realize not every member of the conventional media falls in to the group that I take issue with. How’s that for a disclaimer?

One particular member of the media that I disagree with more often than not Tweeted something following the Broncos game to the effect that he’s amazed that people call him a “Tebow hater” just because he disagrees with their subjective opinions. I chuckled when I read that.

Have you noticed that, as fans, our opinions are “subjective”, while the opinions of the media in-crowd are “objective”? If a “professional” media member says that it makes sense for the Twins front office to slash payroll until their stars prove healthy this season, they are exercising professional objectivity (because we all know “real” sportswriters don’t root for or against any player or team, right?). But if you or I question that strategy and suggest that cutting payroll in just the third season of their new publicly funded ballpark, without providing any basis for projecting reduced revenues, is wrong-headed strategy at best, we’re often dismissed as being just fans with “subjective” opinions.

It’s simple arrogance, really. But I understand it.

I’m a bit of an expert in my chosen profession. I’d be willing to bet that I know a lot more about the industry in which I work and, in particular, the aspects of that industry that I’ve been dealing with for more than 30 years, than you do. If I suddenly found that part of my job included having to Tweet about issues I deal with on a daily basis and interact with a few thousand people who I don’t have any reason to believe know anything at all about my industry, I’d probably roll my eyes and become pretty arrogant, too. (Yes, I know, I’m already arrogant… so let’s say I’d become even MORE arrogant.)

Fortunately, I have no such job requirement.

Instead, I get to use Twitter and this blog to occasionally tweak not only the players and those who run the teams and leagues I follow, but also the men and women who cover sports for a living. Do I sometimes think they go a bit easy on the local players, coaches and administrators of the teams they cover? Yes. Do I think some of them behave as though the fan base, in general, and the blogging community, in particular, are idiots? Yes. Do I occasionally take too much pleasure in the tweaking I do? Absolutely. Guilty as charged.

I know I’m not perfect. I’m proven to be wrong a lot (and I really HOPE I’m wrong about the Twins’ future). I don’t like it when others point out when I’ve been wrong, but it happens often enough that I generally take it pretty well. Better than some others, who shall remain nameless, anyway. I try to remember that this is all in fun and to keep my sense of humor intact. I do realize that it may be easier to do that when I’m not trying to make a living off of my opinions about the Twins (or Tebow, for that matter).

One of the greatest things about all of the social media options we have these days is that we all can discuss and debate a nearly infinite number of issues almost in real time, not only with other sports fans, but directly with the hard working media members that have more direct access to the teams than the rest of us could ever get.

As a fan, I enjoy that very much. I think most, if not all, of the media members who work the Twins beat enjoy it, too. At least I hope they do.

- JC

JC’s Top 10 Twins Prospects List

Everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t Knuckleballs have our own Top 10 Twins Prospects list?

Well, the best reason NOT to do it would be that we don’t know nearly as much about the Twins minor leaguers as others who follow them almost religiously. But we’ve never let the fact that we’re not as smart as other people on a subject stop us from expressing our opinions, so why start now?

The first thing I note about this list (and just about every other list of top Twins prospects that I see elsewhere) is that there aren’t many players likely to be spending much time in a Minnesota Twins uniform in 2012. I actually hope that turns out to be the case, because it would mean the Twins stayed relatively healthy and maybe even in contention throughout the season.

In any event, here’s our Top 10 Twins Prospects as we head in to the 2012 season:

  1. Miguel Sano

    Miguel Sano – I suspect Sano will be the consensus top prospect. He was a boy in a man’s body the last couple of years in Spring Training and destroyed the pitchers he saw in the partial season minor leagues. This year, we’ll see how he fares in a full season of Class A ball, probably starting in Beloit. The Midwest League is infamous as a pitchers’ league, so if he gets anywhere within shouting distance of his Rookie League numbers, it will be impressive. Cross your fingers because Sano could be the only Twins prospect with legitimate superstar potential.

  2. Oswaldo Arcia – He’s a legitimate power hitting prospect who beat up on Low-A pitching, but didn’t have as much success after being promoted to High A Ft. Myers. Watch his walk rate. It dropped (along with pretty much every other offensive statistic) after the promotion and he’s going to need to regain it in order for his power to even matter as he rises up the ladder.
  3. Eddie Rosario – It’s going to be interesting to see if Rosario was able to develop any infield abilities at all during the fall instructional league where he got some time at 2B. He’s got enough offensive talent to be a regular contributor, but may not have enough to hold down a starting corner OF spot at the Major League level. But as a middle infielder? He could be very good.
  4. Aaron Hicks

    Aaron Hicks – It seems like Hicks has been a top-5 prospect for a decade. After seeing him a few times with Beloit a couple of years ago, I was less impressed with him than a lot of people. By last spring in Ft Myers, though, I thought he had matured in to his body well. This is a crucial year for Hicks.

  5. Joe Benson – He didn’t really impress in his cup of coffee with the Twins in 2011, but he didn’t look like he didn’t belong, either. This year we’ll see if he looks likely to be a long-term member of the organization.
  6. Levi Michael – The team’s first draft choice last year hasn’t yet “earned” this spot, but by virtue of his draft position, he probably gets a top 10 spot until he proves he’s NOT worthy of it. That may not be “right”, but it’s the way it is.
  7. Liam Hendriks

    Liam Hendriks – The Aussie shot up through the organization very quickly. Whether or not it was too quickly is something we’ll probably find out this season. If the Twins are going to get any rotation help from within their organization this season, there’s a good chance it would come from Hendriks.

  8. Kyle Gibson – It all comes down to how well he comes back from TJ surgery, but if he was worthy of being at the top of these lists in the past, he still belongs in the Top 10 until he demonstrates otherwise.
  9. Travis Harrison – I hesitate to put any guy on this list who hasn’t actually shown any more than Harrison has, but it’s pretty hard to ignore him completely. He’s got power, for sure, but reports are mixed a bit on whether he’ll be able to handle 3B or LF defensively.
  10. Chris Parmelee – He won’t be found on many other Top 10 lists, but there should be room on this list somewhere for a guy who has actually shown an indication that he is capable of hitting Major League pitching

If I was really ambitious, I’d have made this a “Top 25″ list, but that would reflect a degree of ambition (not to mention knowledge) that I simply do not have. One thing I can truthfully say, however, is that, with the exception of those players who will be attending their first Spring Training with the Twins organization, I’ve seen all of these players on the field with my own eyes during Spring Training and/or while suited up for the Beloit Snappers. I suspect that’s more than a lot of other “Top Prospects List” authors can say.

- JC