Butterflies With Hiccups

“Like butterflies with hiccups” is our tagline at Knuckleballs and today it’s a pretty appropriate heading for the following post.

I seem to find myself in a “very little to say about several unrelated things” situation a lot lately. Maybe I’ll make this a quasi-regular thing here. Or maybe this will be a one-time thing. Anyway, there are a few things I’ve read here and there that I feel inclined to comment about. Most are baseball related, but not all.

The Twins

Will Nick Blackburn be at Twins Spring Training in 2013?

On Monday, the Twins outrighted both Nick Blackburn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, meaning they both cleared waivers and were removed from the Twins’ 40-man roster. Arguably, they were among the last remaining “scholarship” players on the Twins roster and clearly Terry Ryan finally had seen enough of both of them. I certainly won’t be surprised to see both players invited to Spring Training next year and given opportunities to regain spots with the Twins. Then again, I won’t be surprised NOT to see them in Ft. Myers, either.

With 42 games remaining on their schedule, through Monday night, the Twins are 51-70. That means, in order to improve on their 99-loss record of a year ago, they need to go 13-28 from here on out. A bit more than half of their remaining games are against teams that currently still have some playoff hopes, so winning 1/3 of their remaining games may not be as easy at you’d think it should be. Factor in that the final month’s games will pretty much all include line ups with at least one “September call-up” and the task of avoiding 100 losses gets’ trickier yet.

Still, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Rochester and New Britain players show us what they can do in a Twins uniform. It will at least give me some reason to pay attention to the games, which I admittedly have struggled to muster much interest in doing lately.

The Playoffs

Way before MLB announced its new playoff structure, with 2 wild cards playing a single “play in” game in each league, I was on record here of liking that format. I’ve certainly seen nothing so far this year to change my opinion. I understand that some people (in particular, managers and players) aren’t as enthusiastic about it as I am. But even in expressing their dislike for it, they actually make the exact case FOR the new format. In one of Jayson Stark’s recent pieces over at ESPN.com, he related the following quotes from the Braves’ Chipper Jones:

“I’m not a big advocate of playing 162 games for a one-game playoff,” Jones told Rumblings. “You could easily see two teams in the same division have the two best records in the league, and one of them has the luxury of waiting a couple of days to play a best-three-out-of-five [series], while the other one has that one-game playoff. And I don’t see that as fair.

“It’s basically a Game 7, right off the gut,” Jones went on. “It’s win or go home — and three other teams [in that league] get to sit back and watch it. So that’s why, at least for the guys in this clubhouse, we’re putting the utmost emphasis on every game from here on out. For us, these are must-win games the rest of the way, because we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, for that one game.”

Exactly, Chipper!

Winning your division SHOULD mean something. It should give you an advantage over a team that just happens to make the playoffs as a wild card for no other reason than that there happens to be an odd number of divisions in each league.

We’re already seeing writers speculate “what if” scenarios where managers may have to decide whether to use a Justin Verlander or Jared Weaver in the wild card game. Unlike many recent years, we won’t be seeing every playoff manager spend the final two weeks more concerned about setting his rotation than winning baseball games.

I have read that the new format meant there weren’t enough “sellers” at the non-waiver trade deadline for all of the potential playoff teams to pick from to help fortify their rosters. Gosh, I guess more teams will just have to try to win primarily with the players that they had on their rosters during the first four months of the season. Such a shame. #sarcasm

Keith Law on Miguel Sano

ESPN’s Keith Law got the attention of many of us who pay close attention to the Twins’ farm system last week when he Tweeted that he would be in Beloit over the weekend to watch the Twins’ prospects there. We were all anxious to find out what he had to say about Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, et al.

Law’s Monday post requires ESPN Insider membership to read, so we certainly will respect ESPN’s copyright to the material and not paste all of what he had to say here. In a nutshell, however, Law was impressed with Sano’s offensive talent and potential, but called Sano out for what he termed his “obvious disdain” for playing defense. He went on to compare Sano’s enthusiasm for defense to that of his own daughter’s enthusiasm for cleaning her room. Ouch.

Miguel Sano

Then again, Law admittedly only watched one game on the Friday night of that weekend.

I have nothing against Keith Law and he may be a pretty good judge of baseball talent. That said, I believe if you’re going to call in to question a young player’s work ethic (which he certainly did in this case), you should provide a little more information concerning the basis for doing so. Was it body language? Did he lollygag around the infield? Did Law speak to coaches, team mates, scouts or front office types?

I’ve seen Sano play 6-7 times this year and will see him some more this weekend. His defensive skills are not good at 3B. This is not news. But if there’s cause to question his work ethic and his interest in improving those skills, that IS news… and I’d be interested in knowing the basis for that conclusion (giving Law benefit of the doubt enough to assume it’s not based on seeing Sano play one game).

Joe Poz on JoePa

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big Joe Posnanski fan. I may have also mentioned at some point that I’ve never been a huge Joe Paterno fan (even before the Sandusky s**t hit the fan).

If you also happen to follow Poz, you are probably aware that at the time of Paterno’s abrupt dismissal as Penn State’s football coach last November, Posnanski had pretty much moved his family to Happy Valley and was spending the better part of a year shadowing Paterno, his family and the Penn State football program as he researched an authorized biography he was writing on JoePa. Talk about finding yourself in the eye of a hurricane!

In the days and weeks that followed Paterno’s dismissal and, ultimately, his death, Posnanski kept almost completely mum on the subject of the coach. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure if the plans for the book were even going forward. However, now we know.

The book, cleverly entitled Paterno, hits bookstores today (August 21) and excerpts have been in GQ (and on GQ.com) in the days ahead of the book’s release.

I can’t help but feel Posnanski’s in a no-win situation in terms of the public’s response. Based on the excerpts I read, I’m pretty sure that Paterno’s family and defenders will object to much of what’s written and will probably feel betrayed for having allowed Posnanski inside their “circle.” I’m even more convinced that the anti-Paterno crowd will accuse Posnanski of going too soft on Paterno.

That’s enough for today. Maybe I’ll post some sort of “review” after I’ve read Paterno. Almost certainly, I’ll be posting something (a bunch of pictures, if nothing else) during or after the Snappers four-game series with my home town Cedar Rapids Kernels this weekend (the series runs Saturday through Tuesday). Until then, someone let me know if the Twins do anything noteworthy, ok?

– JC

Last Man Standing… and Other Peoples’ Words

Just under a year ago in my post-mortem of the Twins’ 2010 season, I reviewed the list of players that we were likely going to be saying good-bye to over the offseason and offered my own humble predictions concerning which would be returning and which would not. I wasn’t far off, either. Then again, how tough was it to predict that Randy Flores wouldn’t be coming back to Minnesota?

As things turned out, by my count, the Twins parted ways with 11 Major League players between the time they were so rudely dispatched by the Yankees in the ALDS and Opening Day 2011. Most of those players managed to find some form of gainful employment with other teams. In addition to the aforementioned Flores, here’s a list of others that Twins fans bid farewell to last offseason:

Ron Mahay, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Orlando Hudson, Brendan Harris, and JJ Hardy.

Do you see the common thread running between all of these players?

Yes… they are all going to have the same view of the MLB post-season that their former Twins team mates are going to have… from the outside looking in. They may not have all ended up playing for last-place teams as bad as the one they left behind in Minnesota, but none of them hitched their wagon to a playoff team.

Nick Punto

But there is one name I left off that list. Yes, one player that the Twins could find no use for will be playing extra baseball this season.

Nick Punto is going to the playoffs.

Punto had a pretty typical Puntoesque season for the St. Louis Cardinals. By that, I mean he spent a  fair amount of time not playing baseball, appearing in only 63 games. But when he played, his numbers were more in line with the 2008 version we saw in Minnesota than what we had seen in his last two seasons. He hit .278, got on base at a .388 clip and had a respectable .421 slugging percentage. That’s good for an .809 OPS.

That’s nothing to scoff at, especially when you put it up next to many of the members of the chorus line of mediocrity that populated the Twins infield this season.

Anyway… like it or not, if you’re a Twins fan that likes to root in the playoffs for teams with guys you’ve come to know because of their recent service with the home town team, Nick Punto is carrying that banner.

Delmon Young

Of course, Nick isn’t entirely alone. The Twins did, after all, make a couple of in-season deals that sent players to contenders. Things didn’t work out the way we hoped they might for Jim Thome in Cleveland, but Delmon Young and his Tigers will be in New York on Friday night to do battle with the Evil Empire. I’m hoping he and his new team have better luck in that crusade than he did with the Twins a year ago.

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Finally, it feels like I’m not doing my job as a blogger if I don’t mention something about Wednesday night’s baseball games on the final night of the regular season. In fact, I really wanted to write something about how I sat watching four games on my laptop and a fifth on the television all evening long… how I cheered for my adopted Orioles and for the Rays (someone has to, because nobody seems to do that, even in the Tampa Bay area, right?). It was an amazing night of baseball, but words escaped me on Thursday.

It’s just as well, because as is almost always the case, the people who get paid to do this kind of thing captured everything much better than I could have anyway. So I’m going to just drop a couple of quotes on you from Joe Posnanski and Jim Mandelaro and urge you to go read their stuff.

Mandelaro is the Rochester beat writer for the Red Wings and an unabashed Red Sox fan. As you read his “Heartbroken” post, I’m sure the frustration will sound familiar. He’s hurt, he’s angry, he kicks ass and names names. It’s not all that different than the feelings so many of us expressed about the Twins for the past several months. He finished with these sentiments, with which I believe most Twins fans can relate:

My Red Sox heart is broken. I’m not embarrassed to be a Sox fan, but I am embarrased for this edition of the Sox. I hope they are, too. It will be a long winter. In the meantime, I will now pull for my second favorite team in baseball: The APYs. Never heard of them? Stands for Anyone Playing the Yankees.

When you’re finished with Mandelaro’s post, go check out Joe Posnanski’s. He pretty much always captures these events perfectly and this time is no exception. The entire “Baseball Night in America” post is worth reading, but since Joe’s posts are even longer than mine, I’ll just give you a little taste here:

Funny, if I was trying to explain baseball to someone who had never heard of it, I wouldn’t tell them about Wednesday night. No, it seems to me that it isn’t Wednesday night that makes baseball great. It’s all the years you spend waiting for Wednesday night that makes baseball great.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

So I won’t even try.

– JC

Middle Age and Insomnia Induced Ramblings

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the Twins, so if the only reason you visit us is to read (and/or mock) our regular postings related to our views about the Twins, you have my permission to just hit the back-arrow and keep surfing. Frankly, I just don’t have much to write about the Twins right now that we (and probably 100 others) haven’t already written. Maybe Babs or KL will have something soon and we can get our Twins fix.

I read one of Joe Posnanski’s “curiously long posts” late last night and it really struck a chord with me… so much so that I didn’t sleep much at all (which shall be my built in excuse if this post becomes something I’ll be embarrassed about having written later).

The title of the post is “The Promise”… which is also the title of a Bruce Springsteen song that Posnanski weaves through the story he’s telling. I’ve never been a huge Springsteen fan (Bob Dylan was more to my tastes). I like some of his stuff ok. I have a ‘greatest hits’ CD of some sort laying around and a few songs on my IPod… somewhere. I think. I haven’t actually listened to my IPod in quite some time. It’s one of the original models and I guess I got tired of all the smirks from people with the newer models. Not tired enough of them to actually buy a new model, but tired enough that I quit carrying mine on trips. But I digress.

I almost just skipped past reading this Posnanski post because, frankly, I just couldn’t imagine why I’d be interested in reading a column about Springsteen written by a sports writer/blogger… even my favorite sports writer/blogger. And it was late. And I was tired. But then, it was Posnanski, so I read the column.

As always, I was glad I did (though perhaps I would have preferred reading it earlier so I didn’t lie awake thinking most of the night).

Posnanski’s “The Promise” post has nothing to do with sports, only a bit to do with Springsteen, a lot to do with life, and is exactly the sort of writing that has made him my favorite writer/blogger. The column is about a summer during his early college years when he was working in a yarn factory with his father, to make enough money to buy the old Pontiac that he and his dad drove to the factory every morning. I know that premise, by itself, is a bit yawn inducing. But like good writers do, he hooked me within the first two paragraphs.

I remember the first time I heard The Promise. It was about a decade ago. The song had been around for a long time before I first heard it — Bruce Springsteen would say it was the first song he wrote after Born To Run made him a rock and roll star in 1975. It figures that this was the first song. Born to Run, the whole album, was about longing, open highway, the amusement park rising bold and stark, the poets who write nothing at all, the ghosts in the eyes of all the boys Mary sent away. Born to Run is about that brilliant age when you know dreams don’t come true, but you still believe they might come true FOR YOU.

And The Promise is about the every day numbing of those dreams.

I admit that timing, as is often the case, may be playing a big part in why this particular column hit me so hard. I’ve been feeling my age lately… even older than usual. Even older than I really am. Maybe it’s been brought on by the funeral I attended for an elderly aunt last week. Maybe it was spending Saturday with my mother on her 83rd birthday. Maybe it’s the benefit “chili supper” I’m supposed to go to this week to help pay medical bills for a man I barely remember working with back in my burger-joint-managing, college drop-out era. Maybe it’s the nagging “WTF am I going to do if my company decides, after 33 years, they don’t need me any more?” question I’ve been wrestling with. Maybe it’s all of the above… or none of them.

I didn’t work in a factory at the age of 18. I worked construction. Ten hours a day, five days a week, and it ruined my baseball career. Well, that and the fact that I couldn’t run, hit or throw all that well to begin with, I suppose. But it wore me out to the point that, even with a bit of help from modern chemistry (if you know what I mean), I was bone tired before the first pitch of every game I played my senior season. I worked with men who did that work their whole adult lives, to make sure their families were provided for… not just to make money for a couple of months before heading off to college. I did the job just long enough to learn, as if I didn’t already know, that I didn’t want to do that kind of work for the rest of my life.

I honestly don’t remember what my dreams were back then. Those were the days of Watergate and Woodward & Bernstein. I had edited my HS newspaper and had been working part-time as a sportswriter and photographer for the local daily newspaper during my senior year of HS. I was going to be a journalism major at the University of Arkansas. So maybe my dream was to be the next great investigative reporter or sports writer. If so, obviously those dreams have been numbed away long ago.

Then again, perhaps contributing to this blog has allowed me to realize, in a small way, those dreams. In any event, I’ve enjoyed this opportunity during the past season and I want to thank CapitalBabs and KL for allowing me to share this outlet for whatever odd thoughts or opinions might cross my mind from time to time… as well as thank those who have stopped by to read those ramblings.

With that, I now return you to your regularly scheduled Twins chatter. So… What do you think Dan Uggla would look like in a Twins uniform and what could/should the Twins offer for the Marlins’ second baseman? [EDIT – Well thanks to the Braves, that has to be the quickest any question I’ve ever posed has become irrelevent!]

– JC

Things That Make Me Go “Hmmm”

George Carlin

I was a big fan of the late George Carlin back in the days of my misspent youth. I mean, I liked Bill Cosby and Gallagher, too… but Carlin always made me laugh. My favorite part of his stand-up routine was when he’d come up with the “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”. You know what I mean… like “Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?”

Well, since Bud Selig and the other geniuses at MLB decided we should all take what seems like a month off between the end of the LCS and the World Series, I thought this would be a good time to share some of what I’ve read lately that made me go “hmmm.” So that’s what I’m going to do. Below are a few things I found interesting and links to where you might read more.

I’ve been a big fan of Zack Greinke and have been up front for some time about wishing there was a way to get him in to a Twins uniform. So this tidbit from Seth Stohs’ post on Sunday caught my attention:

Speaking of the offseason, the Zack Greinke rumors are already in full gear. Apparently the Twins are among the teams that Greinke would accept a trade to. There is talk that due to his social anxiety disorder, he would prefer to stay in a small market. Travis Aune (of) TravisTwinsTalk.blogspot.com tells me that he has heard rumors of a potential deal involving Greinke and David DeJesus coming to the Twins in exchange for Kevin Slowey, Delmon Young and Aaron Hicks.

Zack Greinke

Greinke is due $13.5 million for both 2011 and 2012. DeJesus gets $6 million for 2011. Together, that’s about $12 million more than the Twins would be paying Slowey and Young next season (Hicks would remain a minor leaguer for at least another year with the Twins). I’m not sure the Twins have room for that kind of payroll bump, but it’s an interesting thought.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are chomping at the bit to get moving on making sure they don’t fail to reach the World Series two years in a row. Frustrated, I’m sure, by not being able to throw gazillions of dollars at Cliff Lee while Lee is still pitching for his current team, the Rangers, in the World Series, the Yankees decided to do something immediately to begin the process of fixing their team… they fired their pitching coach, Dave Eiland. Right, guys, it wasn’t your overpaid, underperforming, arms that cost you the World Series berth you feel entitled to, it was your pitching coach.

Coincidentally, while the media seems to have determined it’s a foregone conclusion that Lee will be a Yankee in 2011, those classy Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium may have screwed up GM Brian Cashman’s plans. According to USA Today, it seems Cliff’s wife Kristen was none too impressed with how she was treated at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS.

Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

Wouldn’t it be a gas if the typical Yankee fan behavior turned out to be a critical factor in Cliff Lee telling the Yankees  to “shove it” and staying with the Rangers?

While on the subject of the Yankees, I’ve read the following “rumors” about Cashman’s offseason plans (beyond the obvious intent to throw money at Cliff Lee):

  • While Derek Jeter’s value on the open market to teams other than the Yankees would be about $7 million on a one-year deal, the Yankees are likely to sign him to a 3-year contract for about $45 million. HOWEVER… as part of that deal, they should let him know that he should no longer expect to always hit in the top two spots in the order and he should be made aware that he’ll not be playing shortstop every day. He may transition to other positions, including possibly DHing. (Where do I sign up for a gig that gets me paid, by my current employer, twice what I’m worth to anyone else, on the condition that I accept the fact that I won’t be working as much?)
  • One writer speculated that Jeter would begin transitioning to 3B, with Alex Rodriguez beginning to DH.
  • Jorge Posada will not be catching as much next year but would be used as the primary DH. In fact, the Yankees may carry three catchers including current part-time catcher Francisco Cervelli and uber-prospect Jesus Montero, with the plan being to gradually get Montero MLB catching experience and using both Montero and Posada as DHs.
  • In an effort to figure out how to justify spending even more Steinbrenner money to bring in Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth for 2011, there’s speculation that the Yankees might trade current RF Nick Swisher or… if the Yankees find no takers for Swisher and his $9 million contract… move Swisher to DH.

All of which has me wondering just how soon Bud Selig will be proposing a new rule allowing the Yankees to use five DHs in their line up.

Mike Sweeney

Finally, I’ve gone several weeks now without linking to a Joe Posnanski “Curiously Long Post” so I’m going to link/recommend two of them that should be considered “must reads”. One is about Mike Sweeney (caution… if you’re anything like me, reading this may make you feel inclined to wish the Twins would offer Sweeney a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, just to see if they could wring a little more magic out of him as a right handed DH/PH) and the other is actually a re-post of an article he wrote about accompanying Tony Pena on a trip to his native Dominican Republic several years ago when Pena was the Royals’ manager. I have to admit, I loved the way Pena ran a team from the catcher position and wish there was a bit of Pena’s fire in Mr. Mauer.

That’s all for now! – JC

Off Day Reading and Writing

I know the players need a day off now and then (like the rest of us), but I get bored on off days.

So tonight you get a “JC is bored” post.

I’d like to be able to add something insightful to CapitalBabs’ post along the literary lines… maybe tell you all about the great books I’ve read lately. Or better yet, actually go somewhere and find The 10 Commandments of Baseball and read it for myself. But that would require effort.

However, I’ve honestly written more words for this blog than I’ve read in books over the past month or more. That’s probably not good. If it’s true that you learn more by listening than speaking (and I believe it certainly is), then you almost certainly also learn more by reading than writing. I would like to think people who read what I write either learn something or are at least somewhat entertained, but I can’t really even be sure of that.

I do read other blogs though. I particularly read those that are included in our blogrolls off to the right. Not many days go by that I don’t pretty much click down our entire list of Twins blogs to see what others are writing about. I also read the Jim Mandelaro and Joe Posnanski blogs pretty religiously. Their links, along with MLB Trade Rumors (which is mandatory reading at this time of the season, of course) are located in our “Other Sports Blogs” section over on the right.

Mandelaro recently had some interesting comments about the Twins, as a parent organization for the Red Wings. The Wings have had a very disappointing year, to say the least. Those of you who have never lived in a community where the local Minor League team is an important part of the area’s summer entertainment may not understand what the big deal is. After all, the primary purpose of an organization’s farm system is to prepare players for the Big Leagues and winning isn’t really a big deal. But trust me, it’s a very big deal to the community and to the people who rely on gate receipts and concessions at the local ballpark for a living. The Red Wings signed a two year extension with the Twins recently. That’s pretty much the shortest extension that local clubs sign with Major League teams. To me, it signals that Rochester is willing to give the Twins a pass on this year, but if they don’t do something about fielding a competitive team in Rochester next season, the Twins will be looking for a new AAA home in two years.

Posnanski has had a lot of interesting posts lately, but one of them in particular sort of caught my eye a few days ago. He brought the “I Write Like” site to his readers’ attention. The premise of the site is that you can paste a sample of your writing (or someone else’s for that matter) and they perform an analysis of the sample. Then they tell you which famous writer/author’s style the sample matches up with. Posnanski had some fun with it by plugging in a bunch of famous quotations, etc.

Naturally, I had to try it out.

Cory Doctorow

OK I need to be honest. I didn’t submit my own stuff first. I plugged in a post of Babs’ to see if she got someone cool. The result: Cory Doctorow. Again, being honest, I had no idea who that was but I looked it up. Cory’s Canadian (that’s cool… as Twins fans, we kinda dig Canadians). He’s also a blogger, journalist and science fiction writer… and a big proponent of liberalizing copyright laws. Now that’s very cool. Immediately, I wished I had submitted my own sample first so I might have turned out to be compared to a cool Canadian blogger/sci-fi writer.

But instead of submitting my own sample next, I decided I wanted another test. So I submitted one of KL’s posts. They matched her up with David Foster Wallace, another writer I had no knowledge of whatsoever. (I wasn’t learning

David Foster Wallace

much, but I was getting the idea that I need to read more!) Wallace, it turns out, wrote Infinite Jest in 1996, which ended up on TIME magazine’s “All Time 100 Greatest Novels” list (for the period 1923-3006) and the LA Times called him called him one of the most influential and innovative writers of the past 20 years. Very cool, right? His bio says he was a rare combination of sporting and academic prowess but was shy and uncomfortable around strangers. Wait a minute…. “was”? Uh oh. Yeah… seems he suffered from depression for 20 years and committed suicide about two years ago.

Despite Mr. Wallace’s unfortunate lost battle with his inner demons, both of their writing styles matched up with some pretty impressive writers. So, I decided it was safe for me to plug in one of my posts and find out which award winning writer (who I’d likely never heard of) my style compares favorably with.

Apparently, the longer the sample, the more accurate the analysis. As I’ve been the first to admit, I tend to write long posts sometimes (ok, most of the time), so I figured I should get a REALLY accurate analysis from submitting one of my Knuckleballs posts for analysis.

Guess what… I write like a GIRL!!!

BG's close personal friend

And it wasn’t even a cool girl author that I was familiar with… like that Anne Ursu chick. I could live with that! (Yes, Batgirl’s “Close Personal Friend” has a Wikipedia page… how cool is that? I want one!)

No… it’s a girl who writes Vampire-Romance books! Yes, my “comparable” author is Stephenie Meyer, of Twilight fame.

Stephenie Meyer

Then, of course, I realized that I could do a lot worse than sharing a writing style with a woman… especially a woman who’s sold a bajillion books around the world and made a gazillion dollars doing it. She’s on pretty much every “most influential” sort of list you can find that includes authors and is only 36 years old.

So, in retrospect, I think I got the coolest “I Write Like” match of the Knuckleballs group. In fact, since my writing is obviously so darn good, it really only leaves me with one question.

What the heck am I doing writing for FREE for you people? Where’s my assistant? Get my agent on the phone! – JC

WWBD – What Will Bud Do?

UPDATE: Color me amazed! This afternoon, Commissioner Selig issued a written statement indicating the ruling would NOT be reversed AND indicating he would, “look at the game’s umpiring system and the expanded use of instant replay.”  It’s extremely difficult for me to congratulate Selig on a decision, but I do congratulate him (or whichever advisor told him, “Are you kidding, you CAN’T reverse that call!”) on this decision. Now, let’s see some follow-up that will give the umpires the help they deserve to make sure as many “blown calls” as possible can be avoided. -JC

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It’s been all over the internet today, from blogs to social network sights. An umpire missed a call.

OMG… really? That happens?

While I feel awful for Armando Gallaraga for losing his shot at a perfect game on a blown safe/out call at 1B, and just as awful for umpire Jim Joyce for having made an honest mistake, what I simply do not understand is why THAT call… which did not affect the outcome of a game… is so much more important than the equally atrocious blown call that prematurely ended the Twins/Mariners game later in the evening.

During our GameChat last night, we were discussing the Gallaraga/Joyce call and the question arose concerning whether MLB might step in and reverse the call. I responded with something to the effect of, “They can’t and they shouldn’t, but since it’s the wrong thing to do, that’s probably exactly what Bud Selig will do.” I stand by that sentiment this morning.

Today, I read that the MLB office has not yet decided whether to change the call. Seriously?

Ah… but yes, it all makes sense now. The cry has never been louder for expanded use of  instant replay and we all know how Bud feels about that issue. Reversing the call would allow the Budster to accomplish several things. First, it would “get the call right,” and awards Gallaraga the perfecto that he deserves. Second, it gets the heat off of Jim Joyce so he doesn’t have to go through the rest of his life haunted by the blown call. Finally, it mutes the voices screaming for more instant replay.

Look, I’m all for finding a way to give Gallaraga his justice (he handled the situation with remarkable class and maturity, by the way… and you should read Joe Posnanski’s cnnsi column on that subject, if you haven’t already). I also have no wish to see Joyce suffer the same fate Don Denkinger did for the rest of his career after his blown World Series call in 1985 (don’t ask me how I’d feel if it had been one of the total yahoos in the umpiring business, like Joe West, had blown the call).

But as difficult as it might be to figure out how to do, baseball NEEDS expanded instant replay and if Selig reverses this particular call, while ignoring blown calls like the one that ended the Twins game, not to mention the blown calls in last year’s post season… you know, calls that actually had effects on who wins games… then the owners should immediately relieve him of his Commissioner duties. Well, I think they should do that anyway… but this would be the latest crime against baseball that would warrant his dismissal.

Stepping in and effectively saying, “a blown call that costs a player a record is more worthy of reversal and thus more important than a blown call that affects the outcome of a game,” is exactly the wrong thing to do. Which means that I fully expect Bud Selig to do exactly that.

The RIGHT thing to do would be to say, “It’s a shame that this happened just as it’s a shame we have calls that affect the outcome of games and we’re going to do something about it by expanding instant replay… but we can not go back and change anything that has already happened.” Of course, that’s the one thing Bud WON’T do.

But what say you? We haven’t put up a poll in a while. Am I wrong here?

By all means, feel free to expand on your feelings in the comment section. – JC

Friday Hot Dish: Morneau, Captain Morgan… and “heroes”.

I’m never very ambitious or thoughtful on Friday, so it’s a good day to steal other bloggers’ stuff, right? (As has been the case in the past, as I come across additional links worth passing along, I’ll add them to this post.)

Doc, the Captain and the Morganettes.

For example, my morning stop at Twinsgeek’s blog found this picture that, given the discussion among the folks in the GameChat Thursday night, I felt would be of some significant interest around here. It’s very, very good to be Justin Morneau right now (at least until Mrs Doc sees the pic). I’d credit the photographer if I had any idea who it was.

Sarah, over at “Oh, it’s THOSE Girls” has figured out the secret to getting past the Yankees in the playoffs, when that opportunitiy inevitably arises in October. Seems like a pretty simple plan. Let’s hope Gardy is a reader.

There’s been a whole lot of speculation about whether the Twins would consider adding Roy Oswalt (who has asked Houston to be traded) or Cliff Lee (who may be on the block if the M’s continue to suck), but honestly until we get closer to the end of June, I don’t think it’s even worth spending much time thinking about (especially when the Twins’ starting pitching is kind of on a roll at the moment). 

One thing that is very much worth spending time thinking about, as we enter Memorial Weekend is the subject of “heroes”. I had been trying to formulate some thoughts on the subject, but today I found someone so much better at it than I am. Not surprisingly, it was Joe Posnanski. His post on “Heroes” struck a real chord with me so I strongly suggest you give it a read.

Finally, to any and all who are serving the country in the Armed Forces, and to those of you with family and other loved ones in the Service… THANK YOU.

Friday Hot Dish

Way down south, where I’m living (in Iowa), it’s called a casserole. But as I recall from my younger years in Minnesota, up there it’s a hot dish. Either way, to me it’s still a bunch of stuff thrown together, cooked, and if you’re really good at it (or really lucky), it turns out tasty, satisfying and filling. So that’s the purpose of this post… throw a few things together and, since I’m not likely to be really good, I’ll hope to be lucky.

It didn’t take long for the Twins to completely disregard my suggested roster moves. In fact, not only did they NOT make the moves I recommended, even the one move that I said “we all know WILL happen this weekend” isn’t going to happen this weekend. JJ Hardy won’t be rejoining the Twins for their series against JJ’s former team, the Brewers, this weekend. I’m getting a bit more concerned about this slow-healing wrist. A couple of our readers added comments taking issue with my suggestion that it might be time for Brian Duensing to slide in to Kevin Slowey’s spot in the rotation. Whether my suggestions turn out to be as far off base as they’re already starting to look, only time will tell. Let’s see where things stand in 2-3 weeks.

By the way, given that Hardy isn’t ready yet, it makes perfect sense to have Trevor Plouffe join the team this weekend. Luke Hughes is on the DL and Matt Tolbert can’t return to the Bigs until 10 days after he was sent down, so Plouffe makes sense. Let’s just hope Gardy isn’t tempted to use him as a late-game defensive replacement in a close game. Trevor has eight errors already this year.

Joe Mauer... moving up TSN's "Best Player in Baseball" list.

The Sporting News polled 125 baseball “experts” (apparently my ballot was lost in the mail) to find out who they thought the best 50 players in baseball are. Guess what!? Joe Mauer isn’t #1! Yeah, that Pujols guy over in the National League (or as I call it, Class AAAA) got the nod for the second year in a row. But Joe’s on Albert’s heels at #2 after moving up 37 spots from last year’s poll. Seriously… these experts thought Joe was the 39th best player a year ago? I mean… I know he missed April with back issues so maybe the votes last year were influenced by what was then Mauer’s “current performance”, but 39th?

Doc not impressing the TSN 'experts'?

The Twins’ other representative in the top 50 is another head-scratcher. Justin Morneau is ranked 23rd by these experts. If current performance is important, how is Doc’s 2010 not being recognized? He’s off to arguably the best start of his career. And he’s DROPPED 9 spots from last year?

The panel, as described by TSN, “included 18 Hall of Famers, 12 Cy Young award winners, 8 MVPs, 15 rookies of the year, 3 batting champions, 3 home run champions, 9 Silver Slugger award winners, 18 Gold Glove winners, 6 ERA champions, 4 World Series MVPs, 2 relievers of the year, 7 managers of the year, 5 former executives, 6 media members and 9 team broadcasters.” Sounds like a bunch of old men, to me.

Apparently senility has set in among some of those old “experts”.

It wouldn’t be a JimCrikket link fest without something from Joe Posnanski, of course… so I’m going to link to two of Joe’s recent efforts. Don’t worry, they’re both short.

First, Poz (I don’t know if that’s really a nickname he uses, but if it isn’t it should be) looked at the Hanley Ramirez fiasco and posed the question “What if it had been Jeter?”  He’s also given us a peek inside the Sports Illustrated tent and, as someone who’s giving some thought to buying an iPad in the near future, I found his “Sports Illustrated for iPad” posting of some interest.

You may have noticed how I’ve avoided any mention of last night’s loss to the East Coast Bitch Sox in Boston. It was aggravating on so many levels, but I think the thing that stood out the most, right from the start of the game, was the absolute joke that particular umpiring crew has become. Since the Twins have a “history” with some of those guys (remember Brendan Harris not being allowed a time out and having a pitch zip by him while not even looking?), it was probably predictable. But rather than me ranting today, I’ll just send you over to k-bro’s place to see her scientific (I’m sure) diagram of the strike zone last night.

I guess I need to get a little real work done this morning, so that’s enough for now. Check back later… if I come across any other interesting ingredients for today’s hot dish, I’ll add them as the day rolls on. – JC

UPDATE 1: I did mean to include this post from Jim Manelaro concerning the Stephen Strasburg “event” in Rochester. Strasburg, the uber-phenom of the Washington Nationals who is being kept busy mowing down minor leaguers until the Nats can be sure he won’t qualify for “super 2″ arbitration status in a couple of years, pitched against the Red Wings Wednesday night.

He pitched well (although newly promoted Twin Trevor Plouffe did get one hit off him). As you’d expect, the Rochester stadium was overflowing (with a significant number of fans wearing Strasburg T-shirts sold at the stadium by the Red Wings!) and when Strasburg was finally relieved of duty, he was given a huge ovation as he left the field. However, he apparently did not acknowledge the ovation with the traditional “cap tip”, causing much of the ovation to turn to boos. This has apparently become a bit of a “thing” now. So my questions, working backwards a bit, are:

1- Why is it a big deal that Strasburg didn’t tip his cap to the opposing crowd?

2- Why would an opposing crowd be THAT enthusiastic in the first place toward an opposing pitcher?

3- What the heck were the Red Wings thinking when they printed up T-shirts and turned their entire crowd in to an 8,000-strong Syracuse/Strasburg love fest? (Yes, I know, money.)

4- I want to know what the Red Wing players… and for that matter the Twins organization… thinks of Rochester’s bizarre promotion of an opponent? (If I were a Red Wing player, I’d have been pissed!)

UPDATE 2: This one made me laugh and almost cheer a bit, as well. Seems the people who run the city of Los Angeles decided they should boycott the state of Arizona over the issue of their controversial immigration law. Now, this blog is not the place for me to express my feelings regarding the law itself, but I REALLY don’t like it when the people on either coast (who think they know everything and that the rest of us should do things the way the folks on the coasts tell us to) start throwing their weight around.

So THAT’S why I found this response from an Arizona Corporation Commission (an oddly named agency that oversees electrical power plants in Arizona) member to the Mayor of Los Angeles hilarious:

“If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives power from Arizona-based generation.”

Seems Los Angeles gets about 25% of their electricity from power plants in Arizona. Oops.

Yeah, I know it’s unlikely they could actually withhold electricity from LA, but any time someone is willing to stand up and say “stick it, jerk!” to bullies, I love it. I also know this article has almost nothing to do with baseball… except let me say that if Bud Selig actually does change his mind (what mind?) and pull the 2011 AllStar game from Arizona over this issue, the good people of Arizona should tell Bud to “stick it”, too. Immigration is a serious issue and should be dealt with by serious people… and that leaves out Bud Selig (and the LA City Council, too).

Off-day History Lesson: April 26-May 2

I’m a bit of a history buff. I love reading about history. I love watching movies with at least a basis in history. So leading up to this baseball season, it should come as no surprise that any time I’ve ventured in to a bookstore, I’ve walked out with at least one book about baseball’s history.

That’s not to say I always read those books… at least not right away. In fact, I admit I bought two copies of Fay Vincent’s, “We Would Have Played For Nothing.” Obviously, I thought it would be a good book during a visit to a book store… twice.

Bob Showers’, “The Twins at the Met” is a terrific “coffee table” book for old timers like me who have so many great Metropolitan Stadium memories. Reading through it is like reliving every summer of my youth and my teen age years.

A year or two ago, I read “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Minnesota Twins”, by Steve Aschburner and found myself literally laughing out loud in public more than once and Jim Thielman’s “Cool of the Evening: the 1965 Minnesota Twins” is must reading for every Twins fan who remembers the 1965 Championship season.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I really enjoyed Joe Posnanski’s, “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”. In fact, I’d put that at the very top of my favorite “baseball books” list.

All of this is just leading me to today’s off-day rambling (hey, at least I’m not ranting about Bud Selig again!). I bought “162-0: The Greatest Wins in Twins History”, by Dave Wright, over the weekend. Mr. Wright’s premise is to go in to detail about the best (in his view) Twins victory that took place on most every date during a baseball season, from Ron Gardenhire’s first victory as the Twins’ manager on April 1, 2002 to Jack Morris’ 1-0 gem in game 7 of the 1991 World Series on October 27 of that year.

I’ve read enough to catch myself up to date in the season, but I’m trying not to read ahead too far. I’m enjoying reading a few days, corresponding with where we’re at in this season. Sometimes the game chosen by Wright to represent a particular date is unique because of something special one of the players did or because of something peculiar that happened during the game, but they all have one thing in common… a Twins victory. You have to love a book with 162 stories, all with happy endings! (Actually, it’s 167 stories, since Wright had to include last season’s game 163 plus four World Series victories!)

A Monday “off day” seems like a good day to provide a glimpse of the week ahead, April 26-May2… throughout Twins history. As you might imagine, not all of the interesting games the Twins played on a given date in history were captured in Wright’s “162-0″, so I’ve done a bit of web-searching to supplement the information in his book.

April 26 has been pretty uneventful, it turns out (unless you count April 26, 1986 when a game against the Angels was delayed when winds ripped a hole in the Metrodome roof.

Maybe April 27 is a better day to start with. We may find more eventful dates as we go forward with this (assuming I feel inspired to do this again some time), but until we do, April 27 presents a very interesting group of games.

Here’s what happened on April 27 in the year…

1961: 74 year old Ty Cobb threw out the first pitch before the first home game of the new LA Angels as they hosted the Twins. It was Cobb’s last visit to a ballpark prior to his death.

1969: Camillo Pascual hit a grand slam home run in the Twins’ 11-1 win over the Indians. What’s the big deal about that? Pascual was a pitcher for the Twins and this was the only grand slam home run ever hit by a Twins pitcher.

1969: Harmon Killebrew hit his 400th career home run over the BitchSox (yes, even in 1969, I’m sure the southsiders were bitches.)

1980: The Twins hand pitcher Geoff Zahn a 10-0 lead over the A’s in the first inning, but he doesn’t record a win. Zahn was removed after giving up 8 runs in less than five innings. Doug Corbett gets the win as the Twins outscore the A’s 20-11.

1994: Scott Erickson, after losing three straight games and seeing his ERA rise to 7.48, throws the third no-hitter (and the first in 27 years) for the Twins as they blank Milwaukee 6-0.

By comparison, April 28 has been relatively uneventful. In fact, the most eventful game on that date in Twins history was met with a collective sigh as they managed to beat the Orioles 4-2 in 1988… as the Orioles set a new AL record for consecutive losses at 21 games.

April 29 has seen a couple of interesting games.

1962: The Twins swept a doubleheader from Cleveland and, in the second game, they tied a MLB record by hitting six solo home runs… two by Johnny Goryl and one each by Bill Tuttle, Zoilo Versalles, Lenny Green and Don Mincher.

1970: Relief pitcher Stan Williams saved a 1-0 win over the Tribe for the Twins and Jim Kaat… without any Indian completing a plate appearance. With Tony Horton on 2B, Vada Pinson fouled off Williams’ first pitch. Before the next pitch, Williams (who had pitched the prior four seasons for Cleveland) picked Horton off 2B to end the game. Horton was not the first runner Williams had ever picked off. In fact, he had picked off Roberto Clemente once and Stan Musial twice in his career.

It may not seem like much, but given the problems the current Twins have had with the Yankees, Brad Radke’s 2-1 win over the Evil Empire on April 30, 2001 is something to celebrate, even now. Radke gave up only 6 hits, with the sole run being a Tino Martinez HR. Doug Mientkiewicz drove in both Twins’ runs, one with a solo HR.

May 1 has seen a couple of notable pitching performances from members of the organization’s Hall of Fame (and one memorable hitting performance by a future member of that HoF).

1988: Frank Viola shut out the RedSox 2-0 at Fenway Park. It was the first complete game thrown by a lefty against the RedSox in Fenway in over four years.

2005: The Angels beat the Twins 2-1 at the Dome, marking the first loss by Johan Santana in 20 starts, going back to the prior year. Santana had gone 17-0 during that span.

2009: After missing all of Spring Training and the month of April with a bad back, Twins catcher Joe Mauer makes a triumphant return when he drives a Sidney Ponson fastball over the left field wall for a home run in his first plate appearance of the season. The Twins beat the Royals 7-5.

The Twins have been busy boys on May 2 throughout their history as well.

1963: The Twins picked up Jim Perry from the Indians. Perry would win the Cy Young award in 1970.

1964: The Twins enter the top of the 11th inning in their game vs. Kansas City tied 3-3. Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew rip four consecutive home runs and the Twins win 7-3. Only two teams, prior to Minnesota, had gone back to back to back to back.

1967: It was 32 degrees at game time, the coldest start of any game played at Metropolitan Stadium, before the Twins beat the Yankees 13-4 in a game that lasts less than two and a half hours.

1992: They weren’t consecutive this time, but once again the Twins hit four home runs in one inning as Shane Mack, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Randy Bush ‘go yard’ in the 5th inning vs. the Evil Empire. The Twins win 7-6.

2001: Over 40 fans are ejected from the Dome after umpires pull the Yankees off the field during the Twins’ eventual 4-2 win. The fans had been throwing objects at former Twin Chuck Knoblauch.

Kind of a lot of excitement for this year’s group of Twins to live up to this week, isn’t it?

-JC

Blogs you may not have read (and why you should)

I have no rant today. My Bud Selig rant yesterday apparently drained me of most of my rantishness.

Friday seems to be a day that many bloggers use to post links to other blogs they’ve found something worth reading on. I wonder if that’s because, collectively, our brains tend to shut down on Fridays and we just don’t want to do any more thinking than we’ve already done for the week. Regardless, I don’t feel much like thinking (or even ranting) today either.

It would be easy to link to some really good stuff that’s been written by the better known (and deservedly widely read) bloggers, but you should all be reading most of them without any urging from me. So I’m going to mention a couple of blogs that some of you may not be following as closely (or maybe never have checked out).

I’m working today (seriously… I am!) so I’ve only checked out a few of the “out of the mainstream” blogs, but here are three you should definitely look in to.

First, if you dont read Joe Posnankski’s blog, you really should. Set aside your biases against all things related to divisional rivals and read this KC (and SI.com) writer occasionally. This recent post combines a discussion of home run trots with a call for the return of bullpen cars. If that’s not worthy of a “Knuckleballs” endoresment, what is? (As an aside, if you’ve never read Joe’s “Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America”, I can’t urge you to do so strongly enough.)

Today, we added Brendan Harris’ new blog to our list of Additional Twins Blogs. There are probably over 100 of us blogging about the Twins now. A few people with the access that comes with having press credentials  are among those bloggers. But when actual players join the Twins blogosphere, it’s worth keeping an eye on!

Finally, I also find it worthwhile to check in with Jim Mandelaro in Rochester from time to time. This recent posting included a couple of bits of information I found interesting. First, guess who the Rochester Red Wings centerfielder is. If you guessed Dustin Martin, Ben Revere (or any of the other high draft choice CFs the Twins have signed in recent years) or even Jacque Jones, you’d be wrong. Matt Tolbert is playing CF for the Red Wings. Hmmmmmmmmm… interesting. Oh, and he also mentions that former Twin Boof Bonser’s ERA is 17.05 after two rehab starts for the Red Sox’ AAA club in Pawtucket. Ouch!

Looking forward to tonight’s first night game at Target Field! I’m not sure if I’ll be watching at home (and joining our LiveChat here at Knuckleballs) or watching it at a sports bar, but in either case, I’d much rather be there in person!  – JC