Sunday Comic Relief

Even I can’t pretend this is anywhere near morning – but honestly, I was up & out early this morning for an event with the MN Swarm team. Yes, I do have other sport loves in the off-season when there is no baseball. Professional LaCrosse just happens to be one of them. 

All that aside, I don’t know about you but it’s now Sunday afternoon and I could still use a little comic relief. This one struck me as awfully familiar to a few gamechats & twitter feeds we have during the baseball season – especially for us Twins fans.


Will Quantity Lead to Quality for Twins?

Those of us who are planning trips to Spring Training in a couple of months had better make our lodging reservations quickly because Ft. Myers is going to be a bit more crowded than usual. The Twins have invited 25 non-roster players to their Major League camp which, when added to the 39 players on their current roster, means 64 players will fill their clubhouse. You have to also figure that GM Terry Ryan will find a relief pitcher to fill that last 40th roster spot, making the final number 65 players.

Dress them in purple and it will look more like the Vikings training camp clubhouse than the Twins. Think of it this way… if all of the players invited to the Twins MAJOR LEAGUE camp are still with the organization in April (granted, that won’t happen), they would fill not only the Twins’ active roster… not only the Red Wings AAA active roster… but also nearly half of the Rock Cats AA active roster.

I’m not going to list all of the invitees here. The list is available elsewhere (click here for the post by the Star-Tribune’s Joe Christensen). I’d bet most of us have never heard of at least half of the non-roster invitees. (I’ll throw a few pictures up throughout this post… see how many you can name without running your mouse over the picture to see the filename.) That’s OK, though, because there are a few on the roster we don’t know very well at all, either.

Prevented by ownership from paying for quality additions to fill most of the Twins many holes in their line up, Ryan has apparently opted for quantity, hoping that there’s a couple of guys in the group that can provide at least replacement level production, if called upon to do so.

Maybe Ron Gardenhire and his coaches will find someone of value in that group, but you have to wonder just how much time they’ll have to seriously watch, much less work with, all of those players. Maybe that’s why the Twins are augmenting their Spring Training staff with an unusually large number of guest “instructors”. In addition to Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva and Paul Molitor, who have been Spring Training mainstays for some time, the Twins will have Jim Kaat, Rod Carew, Terry Steinbach and Eddie Guardado on staff in Ft. Myers.

Looking at the rest of the 2012 roster, Gardy might want to see if any of those guys would consider coming out of retirement.

I really want to feel more optimistic about the upcoming season, but it’s difficult when the most encouraging thought you can generate is that the rest of the AL Central Division looks almost as bad as the Twins. I’ve been starting to piece together a series of posts looking at each of the other division rivals and none of them are going to bring back images of the 1927 Yankees… or even the 2011 Yankees, for that matter.

Clearly, the Twins ownership is imposing on the front office a philosophy based on waiting to see whether their “stars” are healthy and productive enough to keep fans showing up at the ballpark. As I’ve written before, I still think that’s a risky business move but, as surpising as it may be, they didn’t ask for my opinion before charting this course.

I did find a couple of things interesting about the list of non-roster invitees.

First, it appears that the Twins will have a total of 32 pitchers in the Big League camp (33 if Ryan fills the last roster spot with a pitcher before pitchers & catchers report) and none of them are Anthony Slama. As Nick Nelson mentioned in his blog today, Slama pitched well at AAA before getting hurt last season and has also done so in Winter Ball (striking out more than a hitter per inning both in Rochester and in Mexico). Just seems odd that with the bullpen so void of talent, he may not even be going to get a look.

The second thing I noticed is that only three non-roster outfielders were invited to camp. I thought they might have wanted to get a peek at a couple of their talented younger outfielders, such as Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales. Oswaldo Arcia, another young OF, was added to the 40-man roster, so he’ll be in camp, and maybe the staff just figures that with so many other guys cluttering up the field, there just wasn’t going to be room for guys who are almost certainly at least another year from contributing.

In any event, seeing this list has pretty much cemented in my mind that I’ll be waiting until mid-March before heading to Ft. Myers. Once the minor league camp opens up, about 20 of these guys will probably be headed across the complex to one of the back diamonds.

Hopefully, out of all this “quantity”, the staff will be able to find a couple of guys with enough “quality” to make meaningful contributions this season. It just seems like an unnecessary exercise, for a team that’s no longer a “low revenue” organization, when so many reasonably priced free agents are still on the market.

– JC

UPDATE: I notice that the good folks over at Puckett’s Pond have started a series of posts with information on each of the 25 non-roster invitees. It’s an ambitious undertaking that Nate Glimore leads off with a look at 1B Aaron Bates. Keep on eye on the Pond (they’re included in our Blogroll at the right) for more.

A Little Bit About a Lotta Things

I took a bit of a break from most things related to baseball over the Holidays. As a result, I haven’t posted much lately. I’d feel more guilty about that if it weren’t for the fact that the Twins front office apparently also took the Holidays off and if they can take a few days off, why shouldn’t I?

It doesn’t mean I’ve hibernated, of course. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world, so I’ll spend a little time today touching on some of those things.

Anthony Slama

Let’s start off by congratulating Twins 3B Danny Valencia P Anthony Slama on getting engaged. At least that’s what we can deduce from the Tweet he posted Sunday, “On a flight home with my fiancé. It feels good to say both of those things!!” (See… this is what I get for trying to be the Knuckleballs’ social secretary. I only pay half attention to stuff and get it wrong. – JC)

In other news, Danny Valencia will be sporting a new number next season… he’s changing his uniform number to #22.

The White Sox apparently didn’t get the same memo that the Twins did about taking a couple of weeks off. Sox GM Kenny Williams dealt relief pitcher Jason Frasor to the Blue Jays and outfielder Carlos Quentin to the Padres over the past few days. I think they got a handful of minor leaguers in return. I’m not sure if Williams is rebuilding the Sox or just wants to have a better AAA team. Then again, I could say just about the same thing about Terry Ryan.

There’s still a fair amount of starting pitching on both the free agent and trade market. Names like Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kurda, Hisashi Iwakuma, Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders and Kevin Millwood are all still available (I think… unless there are deals I have missed somewhere). The interesting thing is that we seem to read more about which teams aren’t likely landing spots for many of these guys than we do those where they may end up. It seems that everyone is waiting for Jackson to sign and Garza to get dealt, to set the market for the rest of the signings and trades. But with the Red Sox and Yankees both apparently concerned about taking on salary obligations that would have luxury tax implications, the two teams with the deepest pockets may be out of the bidding. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these pitchers have to settle for less money and/or fewer guaranteed years than they and their agents expected. Of course, selfishly, I’m still hoping someone useful still falls in to the Twins’ lap before Spring Training gets in to gear.

The Vikings season is over. Thank God. I’m not sure there’s ever a good time to have a season as bad as the one they just wrapped up, but performing that bad at the same time you’re trying to get the locals to cough up a few hundred million dollars for a new stadium is pretty bad timing. Then again, they do get that nice high draft pick. I kind of feel the same way about their high draft pick as I do about the Twins’… that is, I’d be more enthusiastic if I was confident that either team’s front office had an intelligent plan.

The Hawkeyes‘ football season has also mercifully drawn to a close with their loss to the Sooners in the Bowl. Between their last game of the season and their bowl game, they lost their top two RBs and a defensive coach (to Nebraska). Norm Parker, their Defensive Coordinator is also retiring. Yes, there is definitely a sense of “rebuilding” going on around here, as well. The good news is that the men’s hoops program seems to be heading in the right direction. Winning on the road at Wisconsin was a big step.

There’s still a little time left to cast a vote in our Hall of Fame Poll, over in the right-hand column. As I right this, it looks as though Knuckleballs readers aren’t going to give anyone the 75% of the vote necessary to get in to the HoF. As I’ve written elsewhere, I’m really surprised that Jeff Bagwell doesn’t get more respect. Anyway, you’ve got another week or so before the BBWAA announces their choice(s). We’ll close the poll then.

Over at The Platoon Advantage, The Common Man put up a post explaining why he writes under a pseudonym. Maybe it just struck a chord with me because I have my own reasons for doing the same. Frankly, with employers and potential employers (not to mention government types) all using various ways to check up on our backgrounds, hobbies, friends, political views, relationships and other personal information online, using a pseudonym is just good sense. The only reason I can think of for NOT doing so would be if a blogger is hoping to get a paying gig in the mainstream media. I think that ship has sailed, in my case.

The Iowa Caucuses are Tuesday night. I’ve attended every such caucus, where the Republican Presidential nomination was being contested, since 1980. I’ll also be attending this year’s. Unlike in the past, however, I haven’t chosen a candidate to support long beforehand. I’m not going to get all political here, so suffice to say that if things go as they usually do, I will end up supporting someone who does NOT win the Iowa caucuses, but DOES eventually become the GOP Presidential candidate. 1980 was the last time I supported the winner of Iowa’s caucuses. However, 1980 and 2000 were the only contests where my preferred candidate did not eventually become the GOP candidate.

Since the future of my chosen political party and, perhaps the entire country, relies on me choosing wisely, I’m obviously feeling a lot of pressure. Ah well, I have another day to think about it. No worries… I’ve got it all under control.

I hope you all had a good Holiday. I know I did. As usual, my family went overboard on the Christmas presents. I received some clothes (all of which fit), a number of DVDs (none of which I already had), a custom made mug and calendar (both with various snapshots of my loving family) and a set of the Jacqueline Kennedy interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (great for a history buff like me). In addition, I also received a couple of Twins-related gifts. One was Doug Grow’s excellent book, “We’re Gonna Win Twins” (at least the first few chapters are excellent… still reading the rest) and a new Twins road jersey.

The jersey requires some explanation. I got it from my son and it clearly is intended to be payback for the grief I still give him about how every player whose jersey he buys goes in the tank or gets traded (or both) immediately thereafter. I find his Albert Belle Orioles jersey particularly amusing. Unfortunately, his magic touch seems to be contagious. My daughter-in-law’s favorite Twins player was… yes… Michael Cuddyer.

In any event, next time you’re at a Twins game and you see a middle aged man with a grey beard sporting a XXL sized Twins road jersey with “NISHIOKA” and the number 1 on the back, stop me and say “hi”.

– JC

New Year’s Sunday Morning Comic Relief

Happy New Year!

Bring on 2012!

So for all of us Twins Fans, 2011 was a year we’d rather forget (baseball speaking at least) so that leaves us looking forward to what 2012 can do to be different. Frankly, it would be so difficult to be worse that I’m optimistic just on principle! But from all of us here at Knuckleballs, we also wish you a wonderful 2012 in your personal lives as well. For me, 2011 was so momentous that it will be difficult to top so if my favorite baseball team can improve on their performance and I get to see a bit more baseball than I could squeeze in to everything I had going last year than I will count that as a big step up!

But since New Year’s Day is smack in the dead middle of the off-season, here’s a bit of a fun reminder of baseball season for us fans!