Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 36

Episode 36 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Cody Christie (2nd from left) enjoys a recent tour of the Talk to Contact office space with a few of his close, personal friends.

Cody Christie (2nd from left) enjoys a recent tour of the Talk to Contact office space with a few of his close, personal friends.

Talk to Contact is proud to bring you another episode packed full of Twins talk.  This week Cody and Eric discuss the magic of Kevin Correia, Ron Gardenhire‘s mismanagement of the pitching staff, Gardy’s tenure with the Twins, when and why it might be time to cut ties with Mike Pelfrey, and generally blather on about all things Minnesota.

We’re joined this week by the Rochester Red Wings play-by-play man, Josh Whetzel, whose broadcasts are streamed online at Sports 1280 WHTK, www.whtk.com.  He gives us a quick run down of who’s hot and who’s not in Triple-A, and identifies some names to watch for in the not-to-distant future.

More or less shennegians this week when we go Down on the Pond, take some questions from the internet, and name Brad Swanson (@bridman77) the Listener of the Week.

Tune in for almost 100 minutes of Twins radio gold.

 

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing here at Knuckleballs!

- ERolfPleiss

Winter Meetings Day Two: Twins Face Stiff Competition for Starting Pitchers

It is a tough time to be looking for starting pitchers.  According to Jon Heyman, at least 15 teams are actively seeking starting pitching:

The reality is that the other 15 teams are not going to pass up an opportunity to sign starting pitching either, as evidenced by the Nationals’ Day 2 signing of Dan Haren on a one-year $13 million dollar deal.

Unless the Twins are willing to spend dollars and years (a notion promoted by our own Jim Crikket), they’re going to have trouble finding free agents that want to sign with a ball club that doesn’t have an immediate opportunity to contend for a postseason birth.  The Twins likely have an edge on some low-end free agent pitchers looking to rebuild their value on a one year deal, as the Twins play in a pitcher friendly park and generally face lesser offensive opponents (playing each AL Central opponent 18 times) than many of the other teams mentioned in Heyman’s tweet.  But low-end free agent pitchers are easily had (Carl Pavano, John Lannan, etc.). With each passing hour it becomes less and less likely that the Twins make a move before the end of the Winter Meetings, but after talking with just about every free agent pitcher with a pulse, they should have at least laid the groundwork for a signing or two later this winter.

After a day of rumors and meetings, this is what Terry Ryan had to say at his end of day presser regarding making a move at the Winter Meetings, “That’s always a tough question. You never know. We could. We may not.”   Don’t hold your breath, Twins fans.

PhotoCredit: NBC Sports, Hardball Talk

Other Notable Rumors/Deals/Signings from Day Two:

And of course, these, any many other, Winter Meetings happenings are all nicely chronicled over at MLB Trade Rumors, should you desire to fully immerse yourself in Winter Meetings maddness.

-ERolfPleis

OVERNIGHT UPDATE: Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted overnight that Ben Revere’s name is coming up as a possible trade target. He also speculates that, because they traded Denard Span, the Twins may need a CF in return.

First, if indeed CFs are in high demand right now, the Twins have to be willing to listen when teams call. It wouldn’t be ideal for someone like Aaron Hicks to have to skip AAA and be baptized under fire at the Big League level, but if he can’t hack it Darin Mastroianni could probably fill in at CF until Hicks or someone else steps up.

I’ve always figured Revere was probably a short term bridge in CF to get to Hicks or one of the other stud OFs coming up through the organization. If the Twins think the same thing, then you trade Revere whenever you feel his value is at its highest, even if that is one week after you’ve traded Span.

I think the idea of the Twins needing a CF in return is pure speculation on Morosi’s part. That makes no sense at all. You get the best starting pitcher you can and you don’t take a lesser pitcher in order to get a stopgap CF, as well.

In other Twins news, LaVelle E. Neal III of the StarTribune tells us that the team doesn’t see Ian Stewart as a fit to provide the competition at 3B for Trevor Plouffe. I find that odd. To me, that’s exactly the kind of player that would fit that role. Maybe they just want to push Plouffe, not really threaten him.

Stay tuned… maybe Day 3 will be more exciting than the first two days. Then again, because Zack Greinke’s indecision is keeping the rest of the free agent pitching dominoes from falling, I’m not counting on much for excitement today.

- JC

Blogging vs. Reporting: A Case Study

For several months, I’ve worked on and off on drafting articles examining the complicated relationship between blogging and reporting. Following the reactions I’ve received from last night’s post concerning the Twins and Cedar Rapids Kernels, I thought this morning might be a good time to get that ball rolling.

I’ve been accused, if indirectly, of making stuff up to get more traffic here at the blog. I really have no motive to do that. Anyone who’s been here will notice immediately that we don’t incorporate advertising at Knuckleballs. Maybe that will change some day, but frankly I just don’t consider it worth the hassle. In any event, the revenue we generate from 200 reads per day and 2,000 reads per day is exactly the same. Zero dollars. We cover the expenses involved in maintaining this site out of our own pockets. Of course, it’s nice to have people read your stuff and I happen to think I’m a decent writer, for a fan.

(Image: dailyblogtips.com)

But that’s the thing… I’m a fan, not a reporter and I have no grand dreams of getting paid big bucks to do this stuff.

While the trend toward reporters all having blogs and some fan-bloggers getting space in traditional media outlets is making that line more and more grey, the line is still important. At least it is to me.

If I were a reporter, I should have needed two sources to go on the record before posting last night. As a fan with a blog, yet a blogger with some sense of journalistic ethics, I need at least one source that I have a high degree of confidence in who is willing to tell me it’s OK to publish what I know.

Since I’ve been doing this a while, I have a pretty nice number of sources (at least for a blogger, I would imagine), both in Minnesota and Iowa. One of them confirmed that the information in my lead paragraph was accurate and after some discussion (in which I asked if I should hold off posting for at least a day), I was given the OK to post on this blog Monday night. I did so.

I understand that I may have made life challenging for some people that I highly respect in one or both organizations, the Twins and Kernels, as a result of my posting the information and I do regret that. I also feel bad that perhaps a few people along the Avenue of the Saints who are known to “know me,” will be looked upon suspiciously as being my source. I’ve certainly had more than one person tell me they wish I had held off. It was not my intention to cause problems for anyone and I do apologize to anyone I inconvenienced in any way. I was a fan with some damn exciting news to share and a vehicle at my disposal for doing so. Period.

But I stand by what I wrote. I did not say a PDC had been entered in to. I said the Kernels had agreed to a proposal to enter a PDC. I believe that information was and is accurate. I guess it won’t take long to find out if that’s true.

There’s another group that I struggle a bit with the question of whether I should apologize to them. That would be members of the “working media” who may have been irked at me for intruding on their turf and publishing before they could do so, either because they didn’t have sources willing to go on the record or because they chose to honor a request to hold back reporting the story a while longer.

It suppose it can be maddening to honor a request not to publish information only to see another writer, whether traditional or non-traditional, put the story out there. I saw that happen, in fact, this past weekend with the information that the Twins representatives would be in Cedar Rapids Monday. Some of us may have had that information as confidential, but apparently others had the OK to publish Sunday. It happens.

So I can understand their frustration. Reporters have a tighter set of rules to live by than I do, as I pointed out before. In today’s confusing media world, that has to be really difficult to work through at times.

But if a reporter also has a blog, is s/he bound by the same standards for what they print in that blog as they are when they write a news story? What about sports columnists? Where are the lines?

Similarly, what about a fan-blogger who either occasionally or regularly gets an offer to have his work posted on a traditional media site? Should s/he do so if s/he knows s/he wouldn’t have published the blog post in the first place had it been written FOR that media outlet?

What’s most important, perhaps, is that the readers understand that there IS a difference between the information they see in a blog (including this one) and the information they get from, for example, the online version of their local newspaper. The “real” newspeople are professionals and you should nearly always consider their information to be far more credible than anything you read in a blog. They may not always be able to get the information out there first, but when they write something, you can generally trust it. That certainly can not and should not be said about all bloggers.

The best I can do is tell you this: When you see something I’ve written here or on any other site, you can believe I follow certain ethical guidelines that I impose upon myself. I don’t make stuff up (or on the rare occasion that I do, you should be able to recognize it immediately as satire), I don’t claim others’ work as my own. I don’t burn sources. I don’t even discuss them. I know the difference between on the record and off… and I make sure my sources understand the difference, too. I do not post anything that I am asked to keep confidential.

As consumers of online information, we all have to determine for ourselves if the stuff we read out there should be treated as credible information or just stuff put out there for entertainment purposes (or even just to cause trouble). I hope you find my writing to be credible and I certainly hope you don’t think I’m out here just to cause trouble for anyone. On the other hand, if you choose to believe my writing falls in to the “just entertainment” category, I can live with that. In fact, most of the time, we do try to be at least a little bit entertaining here.

- JC

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

If This Is Journalism, I’d Rather Be a Blogger

I’ve decided that, from now on, every time a “professional journalist” gets all high and mighty about how we’re “just bloggers,” we need to send them this clip.

Stop and think about it… Major League Baseball teams don’t want to acknowledge the blogging community includes “real” journalists so you won’t find them making their ballplayers available for interviews with us low-lifes.

But the St. Louis Cardinals apparently have no problem making their talent endure something like this from one of the local “professional journalists.”

***********

OK, I couldn’t figure out how to keep the damn video clip from starting over every time I refreshed the page and I couldn’t bear to keep listening to that woman… so if you want to try to watch the video, you’ll just have to click HERE to see it.

The Braun Legacy (in theatres soon)

I realize I’m several days late to the party in terms of discussing the arbitrator’s ruling in favor of Brewers’ star Ryan Braun, but it took me a while to come to grips with exactly how I feel about it. I’ve now done that and I’ve concluded one thing for certain…

I want the movie rights.

Before you scoff, remember that Hollywood made a successful movie last year about Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Sure, it helped that Brad Pitt starred in the movie, but if Aaron Sorkin can put a winning script together centered on the value of on-base percentage, imagine what he could do with the mystery surrounding Braun’s urine sample!

Most accounts of the Braun issue begin with that sample he provided last fall. But to set the stage, we need to go back much further. Let’s run the opening credits for our film over scenes of Congressional Hearing Chambers and various players, MLB executives and Players Union representatives being challenged by our duly elected representatives, intent on ridding baseball of performance enhancing drugs. Then we’ll kick off the first scene of our movie in a conference room where MLB’s Commissioner and The Executive Director of the Players Union ponder what can be done to get Congress off their collective backs.

The Commissioner is desperate to impose a drug enforcement program with teeth, but the Union insists that any program must include pesky safeguards to assure any tests performed are accurate and that players are afforded due process. There’s particular sensitivity to confidentiality issues, in light of the fact that the last time the Players Union agreed to “confidential” testing by baseball, MLB’s mishandling of the testing data resulted in test results being widely publicized.

In the end, the two sides come to an agreement. The testing program includes protocols assuring that samples will be secured from the time they’re given by the athlete up through and including the time tests are performed in the lab. Players will have the right to have an arbitration panel (consisting of one MLB representative, one Union representative and one “independent” arbitrator) hear appeals, and all of this will be confidential until the process is completed and any penalties enforced. The scene ends with everyone slapping one another on the back and telling one another how smart they all are.

Now, we fast forward a couple of years and introduce our Midwestern hero… a talented ballplayer with a sterling reputation who has just helped his team (and coincidentally, the very same team that the MLB Commissioner used to own) to a playoff run and has been voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player in the process. There’s only one problem… it seems Mr. Clean was so stupid that he had no idea he might be tested for PEDs during the playoffs and filled himself with so much juice that he tested positive for unprecedented testosterone levels right in the middle of that playoff run.

How do fans find out about this? Is it announced by MLB, along with the requisite 50-game suspension, once the appeal process had been completed? No… America finds out from a National Sports Network (we’ll use a “fictionalized” name to protect ourselves from being sued by the real network, but everyone will know exactly who we’re talking about), thanks to an anonymous source who leaks news of the positive test before the star player can have any appeal heard. Ah… intrigue!

Our hero subsequently (and loudly) proclaims his innocence. But then, don’t they all? The repercussions are swift and loud, especially from those appearing on the aforementioned National Sports Network that broke the story. How can we take back his MVP award? We can’t? Why not? Heisman Trophy winners have had their awards repossessed and the NFL has had a re-vote when a “cheater” won a similar postseason award. The good of the game requires correction of this travesty!

Though the appeal process moves forward, the assumption is that this is just a formality. After all, no player’s appeal has ever been successful… has it? Well, not that anyone knows of. But then again, if the confidentiality of the process is maintained, how would anyone know if prior appeals were successful? The player certainly won’t say anything and undermine his own reputation and MLB would have no interest in admitting a failure of the testing program they tout as being the best in professional sports. But those are just dry details, so we’ll leave them out… after all, the National Sports Network says no appeal has ever been successful, so it must be so!

Taking dramatic license, our appeal hearing takes place in a hall much like what we’d expect to see at the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than some bland conference room. In a scene reminiscent of something from “My Cousin Vinny,” the player’s counsel gets the part-timer that MLB entrusted to promptly FedEx the urine sample to the lab to admit that, instead, he took the sample home with him because FedEx isn’t open on Saturday. But did he not store the sample in a secure, cool place, as called for by the league’s protocol? Well, not exactly. He left it on his desk in a Tupperware container for the weekend. The camera focuses on the Commissioner, sitting at the table with the league’s lawyer, as he nods and whispers, “That seems reasonable to me.”

Of course, the predictable plot twist unfolds as our hero is acquitted… I mean he wins his appeal… and the half of the courtroom donning Brewers jerseys stands and cheers, while the suits on the other half loudly voice their displeasure using multi-syllabic words nobody understands.

Now, the hero stands at the courthouse steps, smiling to the cameras as he reminds everyone, “I told you I was innocent!” His supporters, across the country, rejoice and call for apologies to be made (mostly via Twitter).

The Commissioner, however, rails at the injustice. He blames the “independent” arbitrator (apparently not having expected him to behave as though he actually were independent) and loudly declares that the evil ballplayer escaped justice on a technicality.

Of course, the media falls in line behind the revered Commissioner and echoes the “escaped on a technicality” refrain. This is especially true of virtually every celebrity talking head employed by the National Sports Network.

A significant number of ballplayers rise up in vocal support of the hero (again, mostly via Twitter), but they are roundly criticized by the media for daring to support a cheater who’s “beaten the system.” Soon, even a number of players are voicing their displeasure at the “verdict.”

Maybe I’ll make viewers leave the theatre without being told the end of the story, leaving them with as many questions as answers. None of those questions will be bigger than, “what happened to that sample?”

Or maybe I’ll take the “Oceans 11” approach and run quickly through a montage showing how the guy who collected the urine was actually a Cubs fan and how he and a steroid gulping bodybuilder friend of his substituted a testosterone-juiced sample for the player’s in the hope of seeing the rival star suspended.

Better yet, do you remember “Clue”? Maybe I could create an alternate montage that some movie-goers would see… where the hero turns out to be dirty as hell and promised the urine collector 100 grand if he found a way to make the sample unreliable.

The options are endless. I can make up any story line I want because nobody knows what really happened. Face it, this kind of thing is an Oliver Stone wet dream. I’ll make millions!

But seriously, folks…

Whatever happened, aren’t those strict protocols in place for a reason? And isn’t that reason to assure that tampering cannot happen? Given the stigma that goes with even being suspected of using PEDs, don’t we want to be absolutely positive no tampering took place before we brand any player a cheater? Isn’t that also why they’re supposed to protect the confidentiality of the player until the process is complete?

This case never should have come to public light, but once the circumstances did come out, Bud Selig should have stood up and said, “We established protocols for drug testing that are intended to assure that tests are accurate and that samples are secure from possible tampering. In this case, Ryan Braun’s urine sample was not secured appropriately and thus may or may not have been tampered with. In such a circumstance, we must assume he is not guilty of using PEDs.” If Selig felt compelled to rant, he could rant about whoever leaked the results to the media.

That would have been the right thing to do. But, of course, he didn’t do that.

Our film project may leave the audience wondering what happened, but unfortunately, I think most of us know what the future holds for Ryan Braun’s reputation.

Bud Selig didn’t do the right thing in this situation, but he isn’t the real villain. That dishonor goes to whoever leaked the test results and to those in the media who innitially ran the story on the basis of that anonymous source.

Think about that the next time you read someone from the “real” media pontificating about the lack of journalistic ethics and integrity of bloggers. I know I will… and, for me, that will be the Braun Legacy.

- JC