Looking For Distractions

I’m in the middle of a three-week period where I’m traveling to different parts of the country every week for work, so it’s not that I have nothing going on to occupy my mind, but since March I’ve focused much of my “spare time” on what’s going on with the Twins. I’ve blogged about the Twins. I went to Spring Training to hang out for a week watching the Twins. I’ve ranted about the blackout rules that keep me from being able to watch Twins games.

I’ve watched as one Twins player after another has fallen to injury, illness, or both. I’m not sure which team has been hurt more by injury/illness… the Twins or my Fantasy teams. But as Strib  beat reporter LaVelle E. Neal III pointed out in a recent post, the problem isn’t JUST the guys who aren’t available to play… most of the guys who ARE playing are simply not playing well. And there’s really no excuse for that.

I’m not jumping on the “fire, trade and release everyone” bandwagon that Seth Stohs did a great job of debunking in his recent post over at SethSpeaks.net. As miserable as the month of April has been for the Twins, it is after all just one of six months that make up the MLB regular season. Some of these guys are going to get it figured out and start being much more productive. Some may not. And it’s not like there’s much of anyone hitting down on the farm at Rochester, anyway (with Trevor Plouffe being one possible exception… at least until he, too, began a recent slump at the plate).

But I’m really not sure how much more of this ineptitude I can keep watching, right now. That Royals game Friday night was just downright painful to see unfold. So, I’m looking for other things to focus some attention on. Here are just a couple of things that I’ve found.

Ozzie and the White Sox: This group sucks just as much as the Twins lately (if not more). All things considered, I would much rather watch good baseball than bad baseball. The two Orioles/Red Sox games I attended this week in Baltimore were fun to watch because I saw good pitching, timely hitting, and some good defensive plays. That’s what I LIKE to see when I watch professional ballplayers. But if I have to watch bad baseball, I get a lot more enjoyment out of watching bad baseball being played by players wearing White Sox uniforms than Twins uniforms and fortunately, the current group of BitchSox are accommodating me.

Maybe Ozzie could give Gardy Tweeting lessons

And did you see that Ozzie immediately went to tweeting about an umpire that had just ejected him from a game this week? Now THAT’S the kind of “firing it through the internet” you won’t see Gardy doing! Of course, I would probably enjoy the Sox struggles even more if I didn’t have Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn on one of my already-doomed Fantasy teams.

The NFL Draft: I haven’t watched a lot of the NFL draft this week, but I hoped following it a bit would be a nice distraction from what’s happening with the Twins. Sounded good, in theory. Then the Vikings used the 12th pick of the draft to pick up a QB that I really don’t see as being any better than many of the QBs still on the board going in to Saturday’s fourth round… and a tight end in the second round… seriously? The Vikings have enormous needs on both the offensive and defensive lines, not to mention the defensive secondary. And there were some terrific options available at those positions when their turn came in the first round, but they decided to pick a QB that either won’t play this season or will get killed if he does play, because they have nobody who can protect him.

Twins fans… those of you who like to call for the firing of everyone who is responsible for filling out the Twins’ roster, let this serve as a warning… having different decision makers is not the same as having good decision makers. You could end up with a front office like the Vikings have and the Twins could very quickly become the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On the other hand, Hawkeye defensive end Adrian Clayborn was selected by Tampa Bay in the first round of the draft, so that was nice to see. There are probably 7-8 other former Hawkeyes that have some chance of getting drafted in the later rounds this weekend, so I’ll keep an eye on that.

UPDATE: The Vikings picked Hawkeye DT Christian Ballard in the 4th round… so I’m a bit excited about that. It will be great to have another Hawkeye joining LB Chad Greenway on the Vikings’ defense for me to cheer for!

Minor League Baseball: I really wish the Cedar Rapids Kernels were in town this weekend. I wanted badly to just go spend my Friday night and Saturday at the ballpark watching them play. Alas, they were on the road. But in checking their schedule, I was reminded that a week from today, the Kernels will be hosting the first game of a three-game series with the Twins’ Midwest League affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. That’s at least something to look forward to next weekend!

The Snappers visit the Kernels next weekend

Both the Snappers and Kernels are off to pretty good starts, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the kids I watched on the minor league spring training complex in Ft. Myers take on the local club. They play a night game Saturday, a 2:00 game Sunday afternoon and a noon game on getaway day, Monday. I’m thinking that may be a good day to take a vacation day before I have to get on a plane for Florida the next day. It will also give me an opportunity to get the camera out and provide material for at least a couple of posts here at Knuckleballs.

What about you? Are you finding something to focus your free time on to take your mind off the Twins’ struggles? Let us know if you’ve got any great ideas to share!

- JC

 

Touting Other Peoples’ Work

One of the great things about being a Twins blogger is that any time you just don’t feel motivated to write something new, you can take a day or two off and spend it just reading other Twins blogs. Can you imagine being, like, the ONLY Pirates blogger? Not only would you have to keep coming up with great stuff to write about your team, even after June 1 when they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but you’d have the added pressure of being the only place for your fellow beleaguered Pirate fans to turn to for pithy Pirate prose.

I’ve started about three different posts lately, but lost interest in the subjects before finishing them. Fortunately, a lot of other writers were feeling much more inspired than I was. So, today, you get a few tidbits from other writers and links to where you can read more from them. (Yes, I know that if you’ve gotten around to reading THIS blog, you’ve probably already visited most of these sites, but maybe we can come up with one or two you haven’t found yet.)

*****

Howard at A Fan’s View from Section 219 is nervous:

“It’s not a dark cloud of gloom and third-place doom, but the idea that he [Justin Morneau] was waiting until this month to get into the batting cage and Bill Smith talking about an April 1 target date has been a little disconcerting.”

JC's favorite Morneau pic (Photo: Craig Lassig/AP)

Personally, I’m trying to pretend Doc didn’t even get hurt last year and I’m just going to expect him to be in the lineup until I see that he isn’t. That‘s the sort of blind faith that things will work out well that has served me SO WELL in my life.

*****

Sooze, over at Babes Love Baseball, bids “Happy Trails” to former (thank God and let’s hope he STAYS “former”) Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte:

“…let’s be honest here. Pettitte’s early retirement isn’t going to be all fishing tackle and golf balls. He’s expected to be a witness this summer at the trial of former teammate and known cheaterface Roger Clemens, who has been indicted on charges he lied to a congressional committee, the last people on earth you should fib to…”

With all due respect to Sooze, I can actually think of a few others on earth that I’d say you should be less inclined to lie to than a bunch of Congressmen who got their jobs largely by lying, themselves… but come to think of it, Roger has probably pretty much lied to everyone, so I think he’s got all the bases covered.

*****

Sarah led off her first post at the brand spanking new Balk About It thusly:

“I arrived home yesterday, after a particularly spirit-crushing day, to find the latest copy of ESPN the Magazine in the mailbox. I was happily flipping through, and then BAM! I stopped mid-page-flip, and my blood ran cold.”

You’ll have to go over there to find out what caused her brain to explode… twice, but it did make me glad to know my own copy of the latest ESPN the Magazine remains untouched on the stack of other ESPN the Magazines that I’ve never opened (the subscription is free with “Insider” ESPN.com membership). It also made me a bit concerned for Sarah. If a little old magazine thing constitutes an “apocalypse” that makes her brain explode twice, I’m not sure how she’s going to survive the upcoming season of Twins baseball… but it should be interesting to follow along and find out.

NOTE: Balk About It, along with From the Third Base Line, are part of a new blogging network (G9 Sports) written just by women. We’ll probably get around to adding those and other blogs to our blogroll before long, but I just want to say that this “solely by women” thing is a bit disconcerting. It’s tough enough worrying about how long my employer is going to keep me around without adding to that a concern that CapitalBabs and KL will decide they want to join the “solely by women” crusade and kick my butt out of this blog, too.

*****

Seth Stohs wrote a series of posts this week at his SethSpeaks.net blog about his weekend at Twinsfest and that man really got around. But today, let’s talk about his excellent Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. As Seth writes:

“Minor league baseball players are doing all the same work that the big leaguers do. They are just doing it with far less fanfare, smaller per diems, less luxurious travel and hotel arrangements, and noticeably lighter wallets due to pay checks with far fewer zeroes. These players deserve to be recognized too!”

Nobody… absolutely nobody… covers the Twins prospects (and not-yet-prospects) like Seth does. I’ve bought his Prospect Handbook the past two years and I’m such a fan that I ordered some extras this year. You can read more about it here.

*****

This is about where I might usually throw in a Joe Posnanski link but just to prove I’m not totally predictable, I’m going another direction.

In his first post since leaving ESPN to join SB Nation, Rob Neyer started by recounting something that occurred between he and one of his ESPN colleagues. Rob posted a comment in response to something the fellow ESPN writer posted and subsequently heard that the author of the article wasn’t happy about it. Neyer apologized and, as he relates:

“His response: ‘Rob, no problem at all. I just thought the comments section was for them, not for us.’”

Neyer is now, more than ever, one of “us”. If you aren’t yet familiar with Neyer’s work, you might want to start with this article where he sorts through MLB’s Players of the Decade, position by position, starting with catcher. Twins fans won’t be disappointed with his choice.

*****

Finally, on Wednesday, Aaron Gleeman posted this piece in his HardballTalk space at NBCsports.com that includes quotes from former White Sox GM Roland Hemold recounting, among other things, his reaction after his first meeting with newly acquired minor league shortstop Ozzie Guillen:

“I’m scared. I think we just signed a jockey.”

That’s enough for now, I guess. I hope your weekend gets off to a great start!

- JC

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enema?

NOTE: Yes, this is another long JimCrikket rant but if you’ve been coming here halfway regularly this season, you should be used to it by now and I’m tired of apologizing for being long winded. – JC

Enema… that’s the plural form of the word “enemy”, right? (I may be off on the appropriate word, but I just don’t feel like looking it up and it still seems to fit since this post is about the Bitch Sox and Yankees.)

Almost nothing riles up the folks who populate Bitch Sox message boards and blogs quite like when Ozzie Guillen says something complimentary about the Twins to the media. (Yes, I peruse their sites occasionally. I suppose you could say that makes me a “troll”, but I never post any comments to stir up the locals, so I don’t really think of it as trolling. It’s more like feeding some sort of harmless, but deep-seated, voyeuristic fetish that conventional society may consider borderline perverted… and who among us doesn’t have one or two of those?)

To put it in terms Twins fans may be able to relate to, Bitch Sox fan responses to Ozzie’s man-love for Gardy and the Twins is comparable to comments you see on Twins boards and blogs when Gardy becomes effusive about how Nick Punto “gets after it”. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with expressing respect for how an opponent (or a player with limited natural ability) works hard to play the game “the right way”, it’s just that hearing it over and over and over (and over) again starts to wear on you, I guess. I’m sure this is especially true of  Bitch Sox fans who have had to endure watching their team lose something like 741 out of the last 742 games to the Twins (again, I could be off a bit on the number, I just don’t feel like looking that up either).

Has Ozzie overdone his man-love for the Twins a bit? Yeah, probably. It appears as though he was so impressed by the “piranyas” the Twins fielded a few years back that he convinced his GM, Kenny Williams, to clone that team and put them in Sox uniforms in 2010. Can’t you just imagine the conversation those two had in the offseason?

Williams: “Hey Ozzie, what do you think about bringing Jim Thome back as our DH?”

Ozzie: “No, no, no… he’ll never stay healthy and he can’t play defense. We need flexibility. Give me Mark Kotsay, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Mark Teahan and I’ll have plenty of DH options.”

What’s the matter, Ozzie, weren’t Jason Tyner, Lew Ford, Rondell White or Jeff Cirillo available?

Anyway, as I was trolling… er… reading through the Bitch Sox fans’ post game comments Tuesday and Wednesday, it struck me just how similar they were to what I’ve read about Twins fans’ feelings toward the Yankees (or as I prefer to refer to them, the F’ing Yankees). The frustration level is off the charts in both cases.

But being a Bitch Sox fan having to endure this kind of one-sided relationship has to be even worse. Can you imagine how it would feel if the Twins not only were consistently getting slapped around by the Yankees, but were having it happen 18 times a season AND were having to spend October playing golf instead of playoff baseball because the Yankees consistently were winning the Division? You might as well be a Blue Jays fan.

There are signs lately, however, that perhaps the Ozzie/Twins love-fest may be wearing a bit thin, even with the Bitch Sox and their manager themselves. Ozzie’s been quoted as saying he, “hates the Twins”. He certainly was not appreciative of Carlos Quentin, being hit by a couple of pitches in a game with the Twins at The Cell (is that an appropriate nickname for that prison of a ballpark in Chicago, or what?) a couple weeks ago after Quentin hit a home run in the game. He was convinced that at least the last HBP by Glen Perkins was intentional. Frankly, I’m convinced of it, too. But how can you complain when you pretty much stand on top of the plate the way Quentin does?

Then there was the comment Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves made prior to this series. (Who the heck interviews a bullpen coach, anyway? What’s next, interviewing the batboy? From what I can tell, the bullpen coach’s primary, perhaps only, responsibility is to answer the phone when the call comes in from the dugout to get a relief pitcher warmed up. And this guy is talking trash?). If you listen to it, (starts about at the 27 minute mark) it’s pretty clear that (a) he’s not a Twins fan, and (b) he wasn’t kidding about wanting one of his pitchers to intentionally drill Joe Mauer for the purpose of starting a fight. So when one of  Nieves’ relief pitchers zipped a heater past the bill of JJ Hardy’s helmet Tuesday, I think it’s safe to assume the Twins dugout took notice.

The next inning, when Delmon Young broke for home from 3B on a ground ball to second, I believe he had two things in mind: 1-score the run and 2-if I can knock AJ Pierzynski in to the next galaxy in the process, that’s cool, too. When it became clear the throw was going to get to AJ well before DY could get to the plate, it’s quite possible the two priorities swapped places in Young’s mind.

Bitch Sox fans were enraged. In fact, perhaps their biggest fan (or at least the loudest), “Hawk” Harrelson proclaimed from the broadcast booth that Young should find out what it feels like to have a Rawlings “in his earhole”. (That Hawk… classy as ever, isn’t he?)

Not that Bert Blyleven (or I, for that matter) would say anything too different if a Yankee like Mark Teixeira took similar aim at Joe Mauer, of course. That’s the nature of a bitter rivalry. The team (and its fans) that feels like it’s getting bullied and beaten around by another team becomes blind to anything but exacting revenge. It can cause a team and its fans to lose focus on what’s important… winning the game and competing for a championship.

I know that keeping things in perspective is easier said than done. I know that because when I consider what I think the Twins should do about this escalating level of tension between the teams, I’m torn myself. My head says, “Don’t be stupid, win the games and don’t risk losing anyone important to injury or suspension and, along with him, your grip on the Division.” But my instincts say, “Get the first two outs of the game and then drill Alex Rios in the ass! Get the first punch in, take the resulting inevitable umpire warning to both benches, and prevent the  Bitch Sox from being able to retaliate with impunity.” It’s a tough call.

Here’s another thing that I find very interesting: The near-universal and absolute hatred among Bitch Sox fans for all things and people Twins-related. I could not believe the number of “F*** Jim Thome” comments I read on their boards. Virtually to a person, they feel that the Twins have been, are, and always shall be, dirty players and cheap-shot artists. Reading their comments, you would think they’re talking about a team full of Ty Cobbs over here. I mean… seriously? This obviously runs 180 degrees counter to the widely held (though arguably inaccurate) perception among Twins fans that this roster is too soft… that there’s nobody with any sort of competitive edge… too “Minnesota nice”.

But here’s the thing… my sense is that most of us have always considered the  Bitch Sox to be a rival, certainly, but more of an annoyance than anything else. They had a nice season in 2005 and Thome beat us in game 163 a couple of years ago. But I’ve just never considered them a serious threat to the Twins continued success. The Indians (during eras when they ride their rollercoaster to the top) and the Tigers (more consistently a thorn in the Twins side) tend to concern me more than the Bitch Sox do. The A’s, Angels and F’ing Yankees? Absolutely, as they’ve presented the hurdles the Twins have been unable to clear in recent efforts to get to the World Series. But the Bitch Sox? Eh, not so much.

I realize that those of us who are former Batlings were pretty much obligated to join Batgirl in her hatred of the Bitch Sox “with a white hot fire.” But I always felt that the “hatred” was like something you felt toward an annoying little brother that you know you can just slap out of the way when you get bored with him.

But when I read garbage like what’s spewed in this lovely thread entitled “Drill Baby Drill” from one of the Bitch Sox message boards, I realize that Batgirl may have had it right. Throughout the thread, Bitch Sox fans not only whine about how badly abused their poor players have been by the Twins, but advocate that season and career ending injuries be inflicted upon Delmon Young and Joe Mauer.

So let me conclude with a couple of appropriate, and apparently timeless, Batgirl quotes from 2004:

“…you could fire every player on the Bitch Sox, plus their coaching staff and management and still have a character problem.”

“Put your playing where your bitching is, boys.”

I wish I had Batgirl’s way with words. – JC