Episode 66: The Hall of Fame and Other Nonsense

Episode 66 is out for your listening enjoyment. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

Tom Glavin is nonplussed receiving his Hall of Fame phone call.

We snuck in some hall of fame talk towards the end of the podcast, but for the most part we stayed away from the hall (Just like Jack Morris – ZING!). This week we feature Stuart Turner, the Twins 2013 3rd round draft pick, we talk about what Eddie Rosario‘s 50 game suspension and Miguel Sano‘s possible Tommy John surgery could mean for their development and Twins debuts and argue over whether the Twins should sign a couple of the free agents who are still out on the market, most notably Johan Santana and Stephen Drew.

We are also joined this week by special guest Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present (@grahamdude) to talk about the 50 best players not in the HOF.

Enjoy the podcast.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, probably.

The Hall of Fame Ballot Gets Crowded

It’s time. There are only a couple days left before Hall of Fame ballots are due in. Yes, those holy guardians of all that is right and just in baseball (voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) must soon stop writing about how hard it is to perform their duties as HoF voters and just vote, already.

As I’ve written several times, I don’t believe the writers have any business sitting in judgment of anyone else’s morality. If they would just vote based on players’ achievements, fine. But as arbiters of others’ morality, they have no business being judges and jury.

I’ve also been clear that my own criteria for voting would go beyond just statistical evaluation (though obviously, stats are a big part of the equation). As I’ve written before, it’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameWith no player garnering the necessary 75% support a year ago and a sizable number of excellent players being added to the ballot for the first time this year, a number of writers with voting privileges have continued to complain about being limited to only listing 10 players on their ballots. To which I say, “Shut up. If you and your fellow writer friends would quit being so damn holier-than-thou, or if MLB would show some balls and act as the morality police for the game instead of expecting writers, of all people, to do so, you wouldn’t be having this problem. On top of that, you get all sanctimonious over who should even be allowed to get in to your little writers association club and then you whine about how hard it is to do the one mildly important thing that membership entitles you to do.”

I feel better getting that off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong. I love baseball writers. OK, not really love, but I like them a lot. Enough that I pretend to be one sometimes.

I think, by and large, baseball writers do a great job in every respect during the year EXCEPT when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. In this one area, the hand-wringing, judgmental crap that many (not all) writers shove down our throats just drives me nuts to read.

So, yes, it’s a tough job to come up with just 10 players to vote for this year, but the BBWAA has done it to themselves.

With that, here’s what my ballot would look like if I were doing the voting.

A year ago, I said there were five players that should either be in the Hall or you shouldn’t have a Hall. Now that list is at six. In addition to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, I would add first-timer Greg Maddux.

Yes, that list includes five PED users. When we are told that their sins, like those of Pete Rose’s, make them ineligible for enshrinement, I’ll stop including them on my ballot. But if they are on the ballot, they get my vote. I’m the last person you want to have casting judgment over someone else’s morality. Unlike most of the real voters, at least I’m willing to admit it.

Andrew Walter, over at his Twins Fan From Afar blog wondered whether he would have taken PEDs if it would have made it possible for him to succeed as a professional baseball player. I think that’s something most BBWAA voters should ponder honestly, if that’s possible. I have no problem answering that question. I absolutely would have if I knew I could afford it, that it wouldn’t kill me immediately to do so, and if I’d have been relatively certain I could do it without penalty.

I know I would have, because I did, to a degree.

In Iowa, the high school baseball season is a summer season, which means most of the season takes place after school is out. For a senior, that means after you’ve already graduated. The summer after my senior year of high school, I worked construction 10 hours a day, five days a week, to make money for college. I took off work early on game days, but I certainly wasn’t well-rested for games. I took speed to get through those games. I know most BBWAA voters don’t count amphetamines as PEDs (or most of the 1960s and 1970s stars enshrined wouldn’t be there), but trust me, I was taking those pills to enhance my performance.

I couldn’t afford the kind of PEDs Bonds and others took and wouldn’t have known what they were in 1974. But I took what I could afford, in amounts I felt were safe and knowing there was almost no chance of being caught. In other words, I did exactly what the 1990s-era juicers did.

Anyway, those guys are on my list and will stay there until they aren’t eligible any more or until players I deem better at playing baseball push them off. That leaves just four spots on my ballot to fill.

The next tier for me a year ago was Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza. I still think they are a cut above guys like Craig Biggio, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell. I think Frank Thomas joins them on their level, however. So the next three names on my ballot are Bagwell, Piazza and Thomas.

That leaves one spot left and I’m going to skip over several guys that I admittedly feel are more worthy for enshrinement and write Jack Morris’ name down.

I understand if you disagree. If your criteria is all about numbers, Morris’ career arguably doesn’t measure up to Biggio, Raines, Trammell, Glavine, and maybe even Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez. I’m sure a few other guys could make a better case statistically than Morris, too.

In most years, I would probably pick one of those guys over Morris, too; but not this year.

This is Morris’ final year on the ballot and given the criteria for consideration that I have shared in the third paragraph of this article, I would vote for Morris with an absolutely clear conscience. He wasn’t the best pitcher in baseball over any period, long or short. But on a few very big stages, he was magnificent. He gave baseball fans moments that will live for as long as anyone who witnessed them remains alive. There should be a place for a pitcher like that in the Hall of Fame and there would be a place for him on my ballot in this, his final (and likely unsuccessful) year of eligibility.

When all of the ballots are finally counted, I think two first-timers, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas, will be elected.

Maddux is a shoe-in. He’s one of those guys who should be unanimous, but won’t be because some voting members of the BBWAA actually died a few years ago and nobody noticed or they just really suck at this HoF voting thing.

Thomas will be a closer call because there will be more voters who won’t list him on their ballots either because they don’t feel his career warrants a “first ballot” HoF election or because they discount him due to primarily being a designated hitter and, for whatever reason, some writers seem to think that means he wasn’t a “real ballplayer.” But I think enough writers will feel awkward enough about not voting for half a dozen of the best players ever due to their PED ties that they’ll be unable to resist voting for perhaps the best supposedly clean slugger on the ballot.

It’s a huge ballot this year, filled with a lot of very good ballplayers. If you’ve got a favorite or two that you want to speak up for, feel free to make a case in the comment section.

– JC

P.S Something like 5-10 minutes after I posted this article, the writer I probably have the most respect for in the entire business, Joe Posnanski, Tweeted a link to his post entitled “Time For a Hall of Fame Stand,” where he suggests that the HoF itself should take a firm stand on the PED issue. Click here and go read it.

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 30

Episode 30 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

JOEMAUER

 

This week on Talk to Contact Paul and Eric (And Cody Christie) talk about the future of Joe Mauer, and the 25-Man roster on Opening Day.  They then bring in Cody Christie to talk about prospect Rory Rhodes, Eddie Guardado, and the rest to the stories around Major League Baseball.  Join us for two hours of fun!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help Samuel Deduno limit his walks).

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 21

Episode 21 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

The OTHER (cooler?) Greg Gagne

Once again the Pleiss brothers get together to talk Twins baseball. Continuing their look around the AL Central division they are joined by Lewie Pollis (@LewsOnFirst) from Wahoos On First and Beyond The Box Score to talk about what’s been happening with the Cleveland Indians since the end of their season and what we can expect from the Tribe in 2013. Later in the podcast Seth Stohs (@SethTweets) joins the podcast to talk about the recent release of his Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2013. By the end of the podcast you will have learned something about the Heart of Darkness, Greg Gagne, Josmil Pinto and a whole slough of other Twins news and notes.

 

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like the Red Power Ranger.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Hall of Fame Flap Brewing?

Almost two weeks ago, I posted my take on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I listed the 10 players I would have voted for and then I predicted that none of the players on this year’s ballot would garner the necessary 75% support to be elected to the Hall by the actual voting members of the BBWAA this year.

Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm CT, we will find out if I was right. (UPDATE: Indeed, no players were elected by the BBWAA.)

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameI thought, at the time I wrote my piece, that my prediction that nobody would be elected this year would be a “fringe” prediction. I’d seen some people predict Biggio would be a first ballot HOFer and others thought Piazza might have a shot or that Morris might finally get elected.

But since I posted my opinion, I’ve noticed that a lot of people… including a significant number of voting members of the BBWAA… are likewise predicting that nobody will be elected. What’s getting a lot of attention, in light of those predictions, is the anticipated public reaction, should the BBWAA voters indeed throw a shutout.

I guess that hasn’t happened in something like 15 years or more, so I suppose it is a bigger deal than I thought it would be. But really, I can’t believe people should be all that surprised, considering the combination of:

  • An unusually large ballot.
  • A significant number of big name players eligible for the first time, almost all of which carry the yoke of suspected or confirmed PED usage.
  • Few carry-over players from last year that have slam-dunk HOF credentials, even absent PED suspicions.

The bottom line is that if you want to try to make a case for NOT voting for them, you could do so for every player on the ballot, without even having to resort to the silly, “I won’t vote for anyone his first year of eligbility,” thing. That being the case, why should anyone be surprised if more than 25% of the voters do, in fact, choose to make a case for not voting for each player?

Some people, though, think the result would be a travesty. Other than the Hall, itself, which could see attendance at the annual induction ceremony dwindle to an all-time low, since none of the inductees by the Veterans Committee are even still alive (should be a short ceremony, eh?), I’m not sure why anyone should really mind.

I’ve read articles making the case that a shutout would indicate the process is broken… that the voters must be allowed to vote for more than 10 players. I disagree. If anything, I think it indicates that the process is working the way the Hall has always seemed to want it to work. They’ve liked that it’s a tough admission ticket in to that club.

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t like the idea that many voting members of the BBWAA have chosen to designate themselves as the morality policy for potential HOF ballplayers. I just don’t think that they, as a group, are in any way morally superior to the players they’re sitting in judgment of.

But, unless the rules change would be to clarify to voters that they must not hold suspected PED use against a player and instead must vote purely on his talent between the lines, changing the rules won’t stop voters from exercising their right to stick it to Barry Bonds.

No, letting the voters vote for more players will just make it easier for the borderline players to get elected. It would also make it much easier to get the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot for another year. Over time, I think we’d see ballots with 50-60 names on it. Is that really what they want? I hope not.

Look, I believe Jack Morris is worthy. I believe Tim Raines is, too. I also am aware that with the high quality players scheduled to be added to the ballot in the next couple of years, it could very well mean those and other players I think are worthy will not ultimately be elected. That’s unfortunate.

It’s also the way it’s supposed to work.

The nervous nellies who would have us believe that we’ll have more years, in the future, where nobody is elected than we have when the writers do elect someone are just plain over-reacting. I know… sports writers over-reacting… hard to believe, isn’t it? But the rules changes being advocated would, I believe, be an over-reaction that would make the decision to give the league that wins the All-Star Game the home field advantage in the World Series seem thoughtfully well-measured, by comparison.

Next year, we’ll see Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine added to the ballot. If we go through the process with those guys eligible, not to mention holdovers like Morris, Raines, Biggio and Piazza, and we still don’t see anyone elected, I’ll be shocked. Not gonna happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three players elected in next year’s class.

If the Hall did change the rules to allow voters to vote for, say, 15 players, you might see twice that many elected… maybe more. I’m a “big Hall” guy, but even I have limits and I don’t want to see Baseball’s HOF start to look like the NFL’s, where half a dozen or more players get elected every year.

But that’s exactly what is likely to happen if you let voters check 15 boxes. How many writers would NOT consider Maddux, Thomas and Glavine among the 15 most worthy players? How many would take advantage of the relaxed standard to vote for Morris, Raines, McGriff, Martinez, or any of the other borderline players?

Relaxing the voting rules to allow voters to put a check mark beside more than 10 players would be a stupid thing to do and I’m pretty confident the decision makers at the Hall of Fame will refrain from doing that.

We should thank them for their restraint… and thank God that Bud Selig isn’t in charge of making the rules for the HOF.

– JC

Who (If Anyone) Is Cooperstown Bound in 2013?

It took me longer than usual to really study the BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. I don’t know why. However, there remains a pretty interesting storyline this year with so many of the most high-profile steroid era superstars in their first year on the ballot.

It’s not like we’ve had no discussion of the HoF at all though, as the Pleiss boys covered the topic in one of their “Talk to Contact” podcasts earlier this month.

Last year, I put up a poll here at Knuckleballs and allowed our readers to cast votes. I’m not going to do that this year, but I will give you the benefit of my wisdom concerning who I would cast my vote for if the BBWAA had gone out of their frigging minds and sent me a ballot.

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameFirst of all, there are going to be some players I voted for last year that I won’t be voting for this year, simply because so many of the first-timers are clearly deserving. That makes things tough for me because I do believe that the players I voted for last year are still worthy.

Two years ago, I shared my thoughts about the BBWAA having the honor of determining who “gets in,” and in particular about those who refuse to vote for PED users based on some sort of “morality” judgment. Here’s one paragraph from that post that summarizes my views:

I’m sure that if you and I sat down and tried to come up with a group of people worthy of casting judgments about others’ “morals”, we could come up with an idea or two. But I’m also pretty sure “sports writers” wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Not that sports writers are, inherently, less moral than any of the rest of us, as a group. But I’ve known enough of them over the years to be damn sure they aren’t morally superior to most other groups, either… and that includes ballplayers. So, if BBWAA members were willing to just vote based on players’ performances, I would reluctantly agree to let them keep their position as HoF gatekeepers. But if they think it’s their responsibility to protect the HoF’s integrity, please… spare me. The percentage of BBWAA members who would have willingly “juiced” in order to be able to play Major League Baseball in the 1990s instead of writing about it would be roughly 100%. I detest the hypocrisy of some of these writers.

Last year, my post was geared more toward what my own approach would be if I were among those honored with a ballot. Again, a snippet to give you a sense of what my approach would be:

My criteria for judging whether a player should be in the HoF is as much art as science. It’s not just an “eyeball test”. It’s more of a memory test. Certainly, statistical excellence over a period of a player’s career should be a consideration, but not the sole consideration.

It’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Why shouldn’t players that found something in themselves that allowed them to rise above their otherwise good-but-not-excellent career performance levels to give the baseball world something remarkable to remember for a lifetime be recognized for their contributions to baseball’s fame?

This year, the ballot seems longer than usual. I don’t know if it really is. There are 13 players that carried over from last year and 24 first-timers, for a total of 37 players on the ballot. Click here for the full list, complete with career stats from baseball-reference.com.

Voting BBWAA members can vote for up to 10 players, so I’ll do that as well. Here are the 10 players I would cast my vote for this year:

First, five players who deserve to be in anyone’s Baseball HoF or you really shouldn’t bother having one… I don’t care what you think of them personally (which is probably pretty close to what I think of them personally):

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mark McGwire

Add to those a name that, I believe, has been wrongfully kept out of the HoF simply due to “guilt by association and rumor” and another name that could be treated much the same way for the same reasons if the BBWAA voters were going to be consistent (which is certainly not a given):

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Mike Piazza

That leaves room for just three more players on my ballot. It’s tough, but here are my choices and all three are carry-overs from my ballot last year:

  • Jack Morris
  • Tim Raines
  • Alan Trammell

That means a couple of guys I voted for a year ago are not on my ballot this year. I do believe Edgar Martinez is HoF worthy (if you don’t think a DH is worthy of the HoF, then get rid of the DH) and hopefully he will get in eventually. I also believe Dale Murphy is overlooked and, unfortunately, this is his 15th and final year on the ballot, so I won’t be able to add him back to my ballot in the future.

It also means there’s at least one first-timer that I believe is certainly worthy of HoF status who is not on my ballot in his first year of eligibility and that’s Craig Biggio. Curt Schilling is another that I certainly could see myself voting for eventually. I’m sure both Biggio and Schilling will get the requiste 5% that will keep them on the ballot next year, so I don’t feel too bad about leaving them off this year.

I’m also open to reconsidering such players as Fred McGriff and Larry Walker down the road. I suppose Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams should fall in to that category, too, but as career Yankees, they have a steeper hill to climb to get my vote (I never claimed to be an unbiased voter!).

Last year, I correctly predicted that Barry Larkin would be the only player to get the 75% of votes necessary to be enshrined (granted, it wasn’t a tough prediction to make). I’m not sure it’s quite so easy this year. In fact, I think the only thing harder than predicting who will get elected might be actually getting elected. I don’t think anyone will get the necessary votes.

Jack Morris will come very close, but the deep field will keep him from making the progress he would otherwise make. I hope I’m wrong about Morris… it would be nice for Twins fans to have something to smile about for a few days, anyway.

Mike Piazza is really the only other name I think could possibly approach the 75% bar, but I just don’t think he’ll get there either. I’ll be very interested to see how his vote total compares to Bagwell’s though.

Feel free to share who you would vote for and your predictions for who actually will be elected in the comments section.

– JC

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 15

Episode 15 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

This week Paul and I are joined by Twins prospect guru, Seth Stohs, of TwinsDaily.com to discuss the Twins trade with the Nationals, his blogging career and Travis Harrison. After Seth departs we take a quick look at the Rule 5 draft, Twins HOFer Brad Radke and a lengthy discussion on the 2013 BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, specifically Barry Bonds and the steroids era. We also talk about beer, of which it becomes evident that I had several, along with a few other Twins news items and notes.


If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 13

Episode 13 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Paul and I take a look at Twins prospect (?) Daniel Ortiz and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. We again field a bunch of questions from the interwebs. Among the topics discussed form the mail bag: Joe Benson and his mullet, the Miami/Toronto trade, and regular season wins versus playoff success. We also have an update on the email from Larien who wanted to have a relationship and a business proposal. Tune in for Minnesota Twins banter and a whole lot more.

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at the  Puckett’s Pond.

Oh, and I am also a guest on today’s episode of the Phil Naessens Show
I talked a little bit about more about the Marlins/Blue Jays trade, and assess the current state of the Twins offseason.

– ERolfPleiss

________________
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes  (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks)

Everyone Needs a Break

Considering the lack of any games of real importance going on in Major League Baseball at the moment, there sure seems to be a lot of “stuff” flying around the perimeter of the game, agitating the media which, in turn, agitates the masses (or is it the other way around? I’m honestly not sure).

I’ve tried to get fired up about some of it or at least interested enough to give a damn about any of it, but it’s just not happening. But I’ve been embarrassingly absent as a contributing member of this group of bloggers lately, so I’m determined to say SOMETHING about at least a few of the items that have passed for “news” in and around the Twins and the rest of MLB the past few days.

R.A. Dickey’s snub

Dickey deserved to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game. He knows it. So does Tony LaRussa. So does Buster Posey, the catcher that the voters erroneously voted to start behind the plate for the NL.  He deserves to start more than Matt Cain does. Even Matt Cain knows it and apparently said so out loud. In fact Dickey deserves to start more than Posey does, but that’s immaterial, I guess.

He’s not starting for one reason and one reason only. He throws an 80 mph knuckleball. Posey has seen it as a hitter, I would imagine, and since he’s apparently never caught even a 60 mph amateur version of a knuckleball, he’s none too anxious to learn how to catch Dickey’s for the first time in front of 40,000 fans and at least a handful of people who tune in to watch the ASG on TV.

As a former knuckleballer myself (though I doubt mine ever even reached the 60 mph level), I should be outraged at the injustice of this discrimination against Dickey. But I’m just not. Hopefully, he got to spend some time yesterday working in the bullpen with one of the NL’s catchers so neither party gets embarrassed out there when Dickey inevitably enters the game.

I’m really happy for the guy because he’s a great story, but I just can’t get worked up about the fact that he’s not starting the game.

Reggie’s dis of Bert, Puck and other Hall Members

I really stopped caring what Reggie Jackson said about anything the day he became a Yankee, but if there was one of these items that did get under my skin a bit, it was Jackson spouting off about how certain recent Hall of Famers didn’t deserve the honor of being enshrined in Cooperstown. The first Tweets I saw indicated he specifically referred to Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett. The next Tweet I saw pointed out that Reggie’s results when facing Bert in their careers were… well let’s just say that Reggie didn’t get to Cooperstown based on how he hit against Blyleven.

Bert Blyleven

Eventually I saw that Bert himself Tweeted that Jackson had called to apologize, relying on the old, “my comments were taken out of context,” line of BS. But whatever, at least the guy apologized. He apparently did likewise to others that he lumped in to the “unworthy” category. Again, however, I just couldn’t get too worked up over this. After all, as much as I loved both Puckett and Blyleven as players, I have to admit that their on-field HOF credentials were both marginal, so while Jackson should probably keep that kind of opinion to himself, he’s entitled to it and it’s not an altogether unreasonable opinion. I don’t think the BBWAA gets it right all the time, either, and I’m actually a “big Hall” guy.

I did care enough, however, to seek out the actual SI article that the quotes came from. I came away thinking that it’s really too bad he said the stuff he said about the HOF, because the rest of the article is very good. Ironically, the underlying theme of the article is how Reggie has changed and no longer prone to making outlandish comments and feeding an oversized ego.  Then he has to go and say that he’s going to get up in front of the HOF dinner next year and tell the other members that they all need to do something about keeping guys like Puckett, Blyleven, and others, out of their club in the future. It’s a shame.

Now we read that he’s been invited to stay away from Yankee Stadium for daring to say that A-Rod’s accomplishments are tainted because he admitted to using PEDs. Again, should he have given that quote, considering he’s still collecting a “special assistant” check from the Yankees? No. But he’s not exactly alone on an island with that opinion.

Anyway, it all just seems like more drama than it really should be.

Royals fans dis Cano

Speaking of things that are made bigger than they should be, apparently thin skinned Yankee fans took a major exception to the way the Kansas City crowd treated Robinson Cano during the Home Run Derby Monday night. Fans booed Cano loudly when he was introduced, mostly because after originally publicly stating that putting Royal Billy Butler on the Derby team would be the right thing to do, he changed his mind and didn’t select him after all. Of course, I think just the fact that he’s a Yankee makes him worthy of a pretty loud boo, but maybe Kansas Citians need more than that.

Anyway, not only did they boo him beforehand, but lustily cheered every “out” Cano made when the defending Derby champ came to the plate for his cuts in the first round. They got lots of opportunities to cheer, too, because Cano got completely shut out. No home runs in 10 cuts. With his dad pitching to him.

Anyway, Yankee fans apparently lit up Twitter with comments bashing KC fans’ treatment of Cano. I guess it’s easy to see why they’d be upset, though. After all Yankee fans are generally so well known for how politely they treat players of other teams, right? I guess the rest of us are all just supposed to acknowledge that anyone associated with the F’ing Yankees is entitled to be shown due respect.

Yeah, this is another not-so-big deal to me. Get over it and move on.

Prince Fielder wins the HR Derby

Yeah, I enjoyed watching the Derby. Prince Fielder can hit a baseball a LONG way. I also love the remodel job done on the stadium in Kansas City and it remains very high up on my list of favorite ballparks, so I enjoyed seeing it host the event. But neither the Derby nor the winner matter to me at all.

Mauer the lone Twins representative at the ASG

I’ve covered this before. Mauer deserves to be at the ASG, in fact the voters screwed up voting Ranger Mike Napoli as the starting catcher. I’d have liked to see Josh Willingham go, but there are just a lot of All Star worthy outfielders and very few catchers. And when you’re on a team that appears headed to its second consecutive 90+ loss season, you probably will just get one representative. Joe was the correct choice and anyone who doesn’t think so, while entitled to their opinion, is simply wrong.

By the way, Napoli is one of THREE former Cedar Rapids Kernels on the AL All Star Game roster. Napoli joins two other former Kernels (both now with the parent Angels) Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Trumbo represented well in the Derby Monday night and Trout is… well… if you don’t know who Mike Trout is, then you clearly care less about Major League Baseball than I care about the Home Run Derby.

Home Field Advantage

It’s been a decade now since the infamous tie game that led Bud Selig to decide that the ASG should matter more and declared that the winning league’s representative in the World Series would have home field advantage.

Bud Selig

I swear I have heard this thing bashed on every sports talk show for a week. I feel like I should care, but I don’t. It’s not a perfect solution to the trend of these games becoming poorly played and poorly managed exhibitions, but after the sham of a Pro-Bowl the NFL put on a few months ago, MLB needs to make sure the game counts for something if they want players to give any kind of effort whatsoever… or even bother to show up.

And at least it gives me another excuse to post my favorite Bud Selig picture of all time.

That’s it… enjoy the All Star Game if you care to watch it. If not, hold on tight and we’ll begin the second “half” of this exciting Minnesota Twins season in a few days!

–          JC

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 Insight.com 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