Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents: Eric Johnson

I'm writing this on location from the frozen tundra of our homeland! It's great to be in Minnesota, I already feel the Mauerness settling upon me (and the maybe-next-year Viking mentality...). I figure that this week being another holiday week means my weekly offseason series should appear on a Wednesday again, since nobody will be reading much of anything online the next couple days as their New Years hangovers take hold.

Thanks for stopping by for another edition of "Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em"! This series has been quite a blessing to me -- not only do I get to be in contact with the vast array of people who make up Twins Territory online, but I also have a post written for me by another blogger that I can put up every week without thinking about too much! This is great!

My scribe for this week is relatively new on the scene of Twins blogs, but already he's becoming a must-read. And really, he's got arguably the best blog name ever: Undomed. Let's let Eric tell us a little about himself:

NAME: Eric Johnson
BIRTHDAY: April 25, 1987 (Seeing as how I am 22, I like to think I'm a ways away from caring if people know my age. Maybe I'll care more once I get past the stage where I am surprised/excited when I don't get carded at a bar or liquor store.)
HOMETOWN: St. Cloud, MN. Center of Minnesota, center of the Universe. Just kidding, St. Cloud kind of blows.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I am currently "playing the field," if you will. Anyone looking to hire a recent college grad with a degree in English? I can spark note the crap out of classic literature and write a ten page paper for you.
FAVORITE FOOD: A big old slab of BBQ ribs. I could literally drink BBQ sauce.
FAVORITE BOOK: Catcher in the Rye
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: I dabble in a lot things. I'm not really hardcore about any certain band or type of music.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Baseball and golf.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I am a Vikings fan, and I couldn't care less about the Timberwolves or Wild. I dabble in Gophers basketball, though.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: I don't think I can properly answer that in a number of words reasonable for this questionnaire. I love everything about baseball. The fact that the game is so simple, yet so complex. The game within the game. The little things. The intricacies. I dunno, you've got me flustered. Baseball is the greatest thing in the world.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Do I look like a whore to you?
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: I went on a road trip to Kansas City with four of my friends for a Twins vs. Royals series a few summers ago. During the second game, amidst a four game sweep, the Twins took the lead in the top of the 9th on back-t0-back home runs from Joe "MVP" Mauer and Michael Cuddyer. We also happened to be sitting in a section full of Twins fans chanting and cheering the entire game (the five of us were also shirtless with M-A-U-E-R written across our chests). After the game when Matt Guerrier was walking to clubhouse from the bullpen, he pointed to the five of us in the stands and gave us the tip the glass to the lips sign with his hands, showing props for our drunken shenanigans during the game. (Note: We were completely sober. Although, had you seen us, guessing we were drunk would have seemed like the safer bet. If I had a dollar for every time people around us had a phone conversation with their friends about "the crazy guys in front of us" every time out section was shown on TV, I would have like $3. Good times.) Seriously, though, everything about that game, and entire series for that matter, was a perfect storm of outdoor baseball, a Twins sweep, being 19 and on a road trip, and all the random Twins fans we met during the weekend.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I have mixed feelings. I enjoy shaking things up and seeing National League teams, but I also think Interleague Play makes the All Star Game and World Series a little less special.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: Again, I have mixed feelings. It is nice that teams have to go through their divisional opponents to make the playoffs, but it would also be nice to see non division opponents more often.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Since Barry Bonds is too easy, I'm going with Nick Swisher. I LOATHE Nick Swisher.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played baseball through high school. I pitched when I was younger, and played mostly outfield in high school.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: Have been my whole life for obvious, home town team related reasons.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: I have been in the odd position of being a Twins fan at arguably the best time in franchise history, but at the worst time in my life. For example, I missed the last game of 2006 because I was in Duluth for college. Ditto for the White Sox series in 2008. Last year, I went to games 161 and 162, but stupidly didn't buy tickets to game 163. I was going to buy a ticket online to game 163 and go by myself, but decided against it at the last second, which frustrates me so much that I still can't properly appreciate how amazing that game was. But to actually answer your question, I would go with game 161 last year when the Twins beat Greinke and Delmon Young of all people clutched up. The dome was bumpin that day. (That is the last time I will ever use the phrase something was "bumpin" by the way. I promise.)
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: When I was younger. It is what it is. Back when I collected baseball cards it was a lot of fun, but I've never cared about autographs, and it is basically just a big card/autograph show.
EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: I don't think so. My friends and I were on TV several times in Kansas City because we were the random shirtless guys with players names written across our chests, but I don't think Bert circled us. I'm not much of a sign maker.
EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OF HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: No. I came close last year, but wussed out at the last second because I only had one free hand and catching it with one of my dainty, girlish hands seemed like it would be painful. The ball landed in the seat in front of me and some kid ended up with it, so I think it worked out better for everyone that way. I also almost got killed by a Carl Everett line drive home run during batting practice once, so I've got that going for me.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Is there an answer other than Kirby Puckett to this question?
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: I can only choose one? I grew up during the mid-to-late nineties when all I had to root for was Paul Molitor, Brad Radke, and a bunch of obscure guys. I actually find obscure players more fascinating than the stars. So, with all due respect to J.T. Bruett, Terry Jorgenson, Alex Cole, Jerald Clark, Orlando Merced, Darrin Jackson, Greg Colbrunn, Greg Swindell, Gregg Olson, Scott Klingenbeck, Otis Nixon, Bob Tewksburg, Dave Hollins, Roberto Kelly, Jose Parra, Midre Cummings, Jose Offerman, and everyone else I am forgetting, I have to go with Bernardo Brito. Or Rusty Kuntz. (By the way, I'm a little disappointed that Erin from Plunking Gomez beat me to the Brito reference on this question a few weeks ago, but touche Ms. Gomez Plunker. Touche.) Editors Note: Erin at Plunking Gomez, is now Erin from Picked Off at First.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: I suppose. Chuck Knoblauch, for example, seems like a douche. Anyone else notice during the final ceremony for the Metrodome, the crowd didn't know how to react when Knoblauch was announced for the All Metrodome Team? The whole do-we-cheer-the-guy-for-what-he-did-on-the-field-even-though-he-just-choked-his-wife thing was kind of awkward. Speaking of which, how do people cheer him in the wife choking situation and throw hot dogs at him because he demanded a trade out of a terrible situation? Which, by the way, resulted in the Twins getting two key pieces (Milton and Guzman) in returning the Twins to the playoffs in 2002. Sometimes I don't understand people.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: Define meet. I got Kirby Puckett's autograph at spring training when I was in third grade, and after I got pushed out of the crowd of people he asked me if I wanted my pen back. That was pretty bitchin.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: I have had a special place in my heart for Matt Guerrier ever since he accused me of being drunk in Kansas City, so I'll go with him. Plus, I met the birth mother of his adoptive daughter once. Small world eh?
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: J.J. Hardy seems like he would be a good wingman for some reason. However, I am going to cheat here and go with former player/current broadcaster Ron "Coom Dawg" Coomer. One of my goals in life is to go to a bar with Coomer and have him turn to me and say, and I quote, "This round's on Coom." I am 100% serious about this. It is one of my lifelong goals. If anyone can help me make this happen, I would be forever in your debt.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: I would say this depends wholly on the circumstances. How long am I on the island? What kind of island is it? Where is the island located? Will I be forced to resort to cannibalism? There are just far too many factors to accurately answer this question.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: I'm curious to know if Jon Rauch is really as dense as his constant blank stare suggests. However, if the is that dense, dinner with him would be insanely boring so I'll go with Kevin Slowey. Slowey seems entertaining.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Screw that, if I'm starting a band I'm going to be the front man.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: You know what is sad? I spent like twenty minutes going through the Twins entire roster debating who would make a good movie star and still couldn't come up with anyone. Maybe Denard Span?
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Michael Cuddyer. Magic is a science right?

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I find it hard to believe it won't be amazing. I've been to around 25ish professional games outside (including Spring Training) and there is just nothing that can compare to a baseball game outside. It's hard to explain, but watching a game in the Metrodome always seemed different, like it was baseball, but not really. You all know what I'm talking about.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: I fully expect the 2010 season, as a whole, to be much more enjoyable than 2009.

A huge thanks to Eric of Undomed for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Help support his blog and bump up that readership -- he's a great addition to our blogosphere and a pleasure to read! Make sure to come by next week (we'll be returning to Fridays...) when Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target takes the hotseat!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents: Nick Nelson

Merry Christmas to everyone out in Twins Territory! I'm hopping a plane from Yankee Land out to Twins Territory tonight so that I can celebrate the holidays back with all my people ... does anyone have any good Monday Night Football plans I can latch onto because my normal Vikings plans are still New York-based. Let me know ... I'm open to watching anywhere!

(I'll be on a plane tonight, but make sure to check out Jack Steal's weekly Twins Talk podcast tonight at 9PM CST, 10PM EST. I'll be joining him again to co-host next Wednesday night, but listen in for me while I'm on the plane!)

On to normal business:

As a special Christmas treat (and partially because I was inexcusably lazy last week), I'm bringing you two Get To Know 'Em segments this week! Today, I'm bringing you the second installment, and another member of the fabulous Twins Centric group, one of the more landmark bloggers in Twins Territory that I'm sure you already know: Nick Nelson. I started reading his blog back when he was still blogging cohorts with Nick Mosvick, and since then Mr. Nelson has taken the blog to new heights. Not only is he now connected to ESPN and Rotoworld, but his is one of the most consistently updated and informative blogs, even in the doldrums of the offseason when the Twins stink of inactivity. Without further ado:

NAME: Nick Nelson
WEBSITE: Nick's Twins Blog (
BIRTHDAY: October 29
HOMETOWN: Born in Stillwater, MN. Currently residing in St. Louis Park, MN.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I work part-time at a hospital and part-time at a marketing firm. I also work for Rotoworld during the baseball season.
FAVORITE FOOD: Buffalo chicken sandwich
FAVORITE MOVIE: Shawshank Redemption
FAVORITE BOOK: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I'm a fan of all three. Definitely follow the Vikings most closely of the three.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: I love the pacing of the game, the strategy, the vast array of statistical measurements, the amazing breadth of coverage via blogs and newspapers, the feeling of watching a game unfold under the sun. It's just a great story.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Probably the Mariners. I love the way they're being run under their new front office, and USS Mariner is one of my favorite baseball blogs.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: I've been to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City a few times and I've loved it every time. Definitely the best stadium I've visited thus far.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I'd like to see the AL West and AL East teams a few more times per season, but it's tough to deny the logic behind the unbalanced schedule.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played ball from tee-ball through high school. Generally was an infielder: second, third and short. I play softball now and usually play left field.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: Tough to pinpoint a particular time. As a kid I would frequently attend games at the Dome and my love for the team sort of sprouted naturally. It doesn't hurt that the team has consistently been pretty good as I've come into adulthood.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Game No. 163 this year, without a doubt. Fitting that it was also my final baseball experience at the Dome.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: I went a couple times. It was OK; not necessarily my cup of tea.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I've been to spring training twice and had an absolute blast. Would love to go again next year.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: One time when I was a kid I tracked down a foul ball that fell into an empty section (one of many -- it was the '90s), but I gave it to my friend because we were there for his birthday party.

Twins Player Specific-
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Not really. Not a big fan of Delmon.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: I've never really met and talked with a player.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Cuddyer, I suppose? He seems pretty good-natured and could keep me entertained with magic tricks between innings.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Mauer. I'd love to see that guy with a few drinks in him.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Crede. He'd be perfect for "Mr. Glass" if they choose to re-make the movie Unbreakable.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Slowey. Dude is smart.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Mauer -- something tells me that pretty soon he's going to have some pretty decent coin to invest.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: Should be a beautiful ballpark. Can't wait.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: That depends on what happens over the next few months; there's a whole lot of offseason remaining. Given the direction that the Tigers and White Sox seem to be headed in, though (shedding payroll), I'd say the Twins figure to have a pretty good shot at repeating as division champs.

Much thanks to Nick for taking the time to help out with this offseason series! If you haven't checked out his blog yet (and why the heck haven't you!!!!), do so from now on. He's one of my first inspirations to start so you wouldn't be reading this if it weren't for him!

The holiday season is iffy for people going into work -- and since I imagine next weekend will be pretty sparse of people sitting around looking for something to read during the workday, I'm going to do another Wednesday Get to Know 'Em post instead of on Friday. Make sure to stop by next week when we profile one of the more recent additions to the Twins blogosphere, Eric from Undomed (oh what a joy it will be to find ourselves undomed and under the sun next year! Great title of a blog!).

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents: Parker Hageman

Ok, ok, enough excuses, I missed a week! To be fair, my office Christmas party was last Thursday night -- and I was in no condition Thursday night or even Friday to attempt a post -- even if it's already been written for me by the amazing Parker Hageman. But the good news is that you get not only one but two Get to Know 'Ems this week!

Parker Hageman needs absolutely no introduction. As a member of the amazing Twins Centric group with John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, and Nick Nelson, Parker is one of the best bloggers I've ever had a chance to read. At Over the Baggy, he provides some of the best analysis I've ever seen, and has a fundamental understanding of pitching that few can provide. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that he was the first person to realize what an asset Carl Pavano would be last season when we picked him up from Cleveland. If you want to dissect the underpinnings of the Twins -- Parker is the person to talk to.

NAME: Parker Hageman
BIRTHDAY: January 19th
HOMETOWN: Minneapolis, MN
FAVORITE FOOD: Giants Sunflower Seeds. (Pay me my money Giants).
FAVORITE MOVIE/BOOK/TYPE OF MUSIC: My tastes fluctuate so often that you probably would not get the same answer out of me twice on my favorite movies, books or type of music. For the time being, I'll go with St. Elmo's Fire, Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and anything not speed metal or clog-dancing.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: Baseball is like a Monet painting. Casual fans and observers will look at it as a whole and recognize the beauty, but those of us that like to study and analyze see that when you take the opportunity to examine the game up close, you find so much more about it to appreciate.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: It's a hard question to answer since I have become so indoctrinated to following the Twins. There just isn't anyway that I could embrace another organization the way I do with the Twins. I used to get in lengthy discussions in college with friends from Iowa or South Dakota that rooted for the Yankees or Dodgers. This seemed incomprehensible to me. Obviously there were teams that broadcasted in to the areas that they grew up that were closer (Iowa had the Cubs, Cardinals and a little Twins influence while South Dakota had the Twins and later, the Rockies) yet they choose to follow a team 3,000 miles away. If for some reason the Twins were contracted I'd probably wind up following the Brewers out of proximity.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Any of the 10 I have visited have been great experiences for different reasons. I've had a weird affinity towards Miller Park in Milwaukee, but more so for the social functions outside the stadium than inside. The Strib ran my story in 2008 about the first trip to Miller Park in 2001 which was an unbelievable coming out party for the Twins and their fans who had been dormant since 1991. Wrigley and Kauffman are beautiful and old Yankee Stadium, less so, but historic nonetheless.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: For it. I love the National League-style of play. There is so much more strategy involved in personnel handling and other subtle nuances that make it fun to watch. For those Twins fans that did not grow up in an era that did not have a DH in the AL, read Three Nights in August. Wonderful primer.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: Undecided. On one hand, it probably gives teams like the Twins the ability to beat up on the cushier division opponents and thereby obtain a post-season berth. On the other, I'd rather just have the year's two best teams ascend to the World Series and face each other after 162-game schedule. Then again, home field advantage does reward the best records...see? I can't even come to a consensus now.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: This is probably dating everyone except for John Bonnes but I'd say Rube Waddell. Not only was he a great pitcher at the turn of the century when professional baseball was first taking root in America, but he was an outlandish character both on and off the field. Because of his child-like behavior, opposing managers would try to distract him with toys while he was playing. He was a drunk (both on and off the field) who caroused around with all types of women, was married three times (and divorced three times which drew national attention at the time), loved chasing fire engines, acted in plays in the offseason and wrestled alligators. Plus, he had a hell of an arm, striking out 349 in 1904 well above the runner-up, Jack Chesbro who K'ed 239 that year. As his career teetered out, Waddell made two stops through Minnesota at the end of his career: first with the Minneapolis Millers and then in Virginia, MN so maybe we can call him "one of us".
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: First base. Starting in high school I was moved from short to first and I tried to emulate my play after Doug Mientkiewicz since I was undersized for the position. I spent hours after practice having teammates rifle balls all over the dirt in front of me from just a few feet away to hone my scoop-skills. You couldn't throw anything past me.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: Why do you become a Catholic, Hindu or Muslim? You are pretty much born into it; I don't think there was ever any choice. That, and you are a product of your environment. Some of my earliest memories were of watching Twins games with my old man who indoctrinated me at a young age. On top of that, then something like a World Series championship happens at the impressionable age of 7 and that does it: You are hooked for life. I'm sure my fellow generation of Twins fans will cite the same.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Game 163 this past year was probably one of the greatest games I witnessed first-hand but one of my favorite non-Twins memories was being an extra in the movie Little Big Leagues. To this day, I swear you can see me walking up an aisle. I'm actually afraid to watch it in high-def only to be proved wrong.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: TwinsFest is good. It is definitely geared for fanatics, kids and collectors but when you are in a serious need of a mid-winter fix for a Dome Dog, it is downright Xanadu.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I just went to my first this past year. I cannot stress enough how great that experience is -- all Twins fans should visit Hammond Stadium and the complex at least once in their lives.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Not to my knowledge but then again, I'm not a sign guy.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: No. I'm not really a ballhawk either. That Zack Hemple kid makes me sick. One game I went to when I was 11 or 12, I was sitting up the first base line and a guy two rows in front of me caught two foul balls. Seemed un-American to me. That's about as close as I got.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Terry Felton. He's probably not obscure since his 0-16 career record is often cited as the pantheon of futility so I enjoy the tragic nature about him. A close second is Karl Best who pitched 11 games for the Twins in 1988. Even at the young age I recall my Dad referring to him as Karl Worst (you can see where I get my clever genes) which was fitting when you consider he allowed 9 runs in 12 innings before being traded for Alan Cockrell (WHO?) in August.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: That Tommy Herr always pissed me off. First, I hated him because he was on the Cardinals in '87. Then the Twins traded one of my personal favorites, Tom Brunanasky, for him. Once with the Twins he hit like Nick Punto (.263/.349/.326 in 345 PA) and bitched constantly. Finally the Twins traded him to the Phillies for Shane Rawley who came in and sucked some more. Herr was like herpes, just a continuous problem that no one wanted around.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: I've met a few in my day (some at moments that I wish I had the balls to photograph and send into Deadspin but those are other stories) but Tony Oliva was just the best kind of person. He was attending my company's charity function and most people had purchased new balls or cards for the legendary Twin to sign. All I had was a ratty ball lifted from my town team's batting practice bin. Tony saw my ball and went into some childhood memories of playing with patchwork balls. Just the best kind of person.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Mike Redmond seems like the kind of guy you are going to learn something from while watching it.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Ron Coomer. He commentates. Does that count?
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH: Brendan Harris. He doesn't seem to talk much and if I am stranded on an island, you can bet I'm pissed off and not wanting to talk about it.
YOU'D WANT TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Jose Mijares. You know that guy knows where good food is.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Matt Guerrier. Think it is the goat.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Kevin Slowey seems like the brainiest player on the team.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Michael Cuddyer. He seems like a guy that can ooze charisma everywhere.


A huge thanks to Parker of Over the Baggy. I'm sure you already read his blog, but if for some reason you haven't, do yourself a favor and check it out before you read anything else! You get a special treat by having another Get to Know 'Em this week! Since it's a holiday week and most people will be out of work on Thursday and Friday, check back here on Wednesday, Dec. 23rd when Nick Nelson -- another member of Twins Centric, takes the hotseat!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Live Podcast!

Hi everyone! Take a break from your Christmas shopping and swing by Jack Steal's weekly Twins Talk podcast, where I'll be joining him to co-host again this week (9 PMCST, 10PM EST).

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em!" presents Shawn Berg

FYI, the holidays are an awesome time for speculation and also for expounding on fascinating trades like Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. But they're not an awesome time for my social life or for my blogging. I've been at work until midnight and 2:30AM consecutively, and I'm at work late Thursday night as I type this ... anyone who listened in to Jack Steal's podcast last night also must know that I had to ditch out to keep working in the middle of that. So I apologize wholeheartedly for not being around more, and hopefully soon I'll have more posts. But, always bringing me back every Friday, is my weekly offseason series...

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em!" presents Shawn Berg of On the Road with Shawn! Shawn's got a great perspective on the minor league system of the Twins, having had the advantage of living in Binghamton (which is a stone's throw away from both the AA and AAA teams for the Twins). Unfortunately he's leaving that area and will inevitably become an Astros fan for reasons he can expound on, but he will still assuredly be a great Twins blogger and one of my favorite finds in our online community. Make sure to check out his current Top Prospects posts as well, those are always a fun thing in the offseason and Shawn takes the time to provide his perspective. So, without further ado:

NAME: Shawn Berg
BIRTHDAY: June 10, 1973
HOMETOWN: Fosston, MN. Moving from Binghamton, NY area to central Texas.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I am about to become a Business Analyst
FAVORITE FOOD: Portugese food, Newark, NJ style
FAVORITE MOVIE: Field of Dreams
FAVORITE BOOK: Sirans of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Rock N Roll or Alternative ... Sevendust, Queens of the Stone Age, Dropkick Murphy's, Rolling Stones...
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I have always loved the Vikings, used to be my favorite sports team but kind of went back towards the Twins post 2002. I follow the Wolves and have great memories of 2004. I will be more interested when they become better of course. I follow the Wild somewhat.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: Being at the park, watching any level. I love watching minor leagues and even little league games. The strategy, the pace, the building of an organization, I love it all.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: I will start following the Houston Astros on the side. I will be working for one of their owner's companies and also living in Texas. It is a National league team so it doesn't conflict with the Twins.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: I went to 2 Twins games at Wrigley Field this summer. The second we sat in the bleachers. We had many beers with a couple different bachelor parties, plus my own. The stadium was 50-50 Twins/Cubs fans. Swarzak pitched the game of his life. Twins win 2-0.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I love it!!!!! I love the chance to go to different stadiums and see the Twins play.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I am fine with it. A team should have to beat its division in order to win the division. It works best for rivalries. Only drawback for me is less Twins games near where I live (since I have not lived near the central division).
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Dale Murphy! I watched a lot of Braves games as a kid, due to superstation influence and Murphy was just starting to get good. He was just such a nice guy and had good values. He was a really good power hitter as well.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Alex Rodriguez. With the large contracts, the cavalier attitude about steroid use, the purple lipstick, 2004/09 ALDS, the walk-off HR that I was in attendance for this May .... I just despise him.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played all 3 OF positions and 3B/1B at various times as a child. Wasn't as serious about organized ball as I wish I would have been.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I became a fan during the pennant run in 1984. Cubs and Braves games dominated cable where I lived and this was the first year I remember the Twins. I also went to my first Twins game that season.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Celebration the day after the Twins won the 1991 World Series. I skipped my classes to go.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: I have not been, would like to go.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Nah, I don't mind the antic but it really isn't for me.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME: I jammed my finger and dropped a Chuck Knoblauch HR around 1994. Never came close again.

Player Specific-
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Carlos Gomez (this was answered pre-trade...)
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: I really didn't like Carlos Silva.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: I met some of the AA guys this past summer: Loek Van Mil, Alex Burnett, Steve Singleton, Jeff Christy, Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Waldrop & Frank Mata, they all signed my stepson's ball out by the visitor's bullpen. Loek was a very nice guy and very humble. The rest of the guys were picking on him.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Greg Maddux (almost current), I'd like to see what he sees.
MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH: Carlos Gomez would probably keep me entertained, I guess.
MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: C.C. Sabathia, I'd love to see how much he'd eat

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I'm excited. I've seen video and pictures and have done a drive by, it looks great. I can't wait to go in May.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: If the team can solve most of its infield and decide on 3 OFs, I see them as a favorite to win the division again.


Big thanks to Shawn of On the Road With Shawn! If you haven't yet checked out his site, make sure to do so! And be sure to stop by next Friday for the next installation, where I'll profile Parker Hageman of Over the Baggy! Have a great week!

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents: Andrew Bryz-Gornia

Welcome back to my latest post in Curve For A Strike's offseason series "Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em", where I profile a different member of our amazingly talented Twins blogosphere and find out a little bit more about their fanhood. If you haven't had a chance to keep up every week, I'd highly encourage you to go back and check out some of my weekly guests, as I've been honored by all the people helping out every week -- and all the people yet to come.

Today's post features Andrew Bryz-Gornia of Off the Mark, a relatively recent blog that I discovered and immediately fell in love with. Don't let him fool you with some of his tongue-in-cheek posts that would give you a heart attack if not for their disclaimer at the top, he's one of the most level-headed, eloquent bloggers that I've had the pleasure of reading, and his site is usually ripe with fresh posts to keep you satisfied throughout the week. He's also one of the bigger supporters of my blog out there, so I owe him many hat-tips and probably many beers some day for that as well. Without further ado....

NAME: Andrew Bryz-Gornia, but call me Bryz (rhymes with "is").
WEBSITE: Off The Mark
BIRTHDAY: April 6th (Bert Blyleven's birthday!)
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: Student at Gustavus Adolphus College (mathematics and secondary education). I have a job as an assignment grader for a low level math class at GAC. In the summer, I hope to be an usher at Target Field.
FAVORITE COLOR: I rotate between red, blue, and orange.
FAVORITE FOOD: Gustavus cafeteria gyros. They have a spicy feta spread that is amazing.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
FAVORITE BOOK: I don't really do much recreational book reading anymore (my computer fulfills all my reading needs) unless it deals with baseball. I highly recommend either "Baseball Between the Numbers" or the "Baseball Field Guide," which is essentially the entire MLB rulebook in an easier to read fashion (and colored diagrams!). Maybe if I go back to my elementary school days, it was probably "Frindle."
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Rock, although quite a few of my favorite bands are a pseudo-alternative rock. I'm not exactly sure how to categorize them, they almost make their own genre.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Baseball/softball but I'm not picky.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I'm an extreme homer. I never found the appeal of cheering on an out of state team since I wouldn't usually be able to watch their games live or on TV, though these 3 teams and the Twins will always have a special exemption. I am not a bandwagon fan, although it has been a little hard for me to watch the Wolves and Wild this year. I was raised to love the Vikings (my mom still says the Vikings would be better if Cris Carter still played).

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: There's so many variances in the game. I have always been interested in the different types of pitches, the different pitching windups and batting stances, the fact that you cannot rely on your star player to carry the team every single game because he only bats 3-5 times per game or pitch every 5 days. No two stadiums are alike, you have the Green Monster, Tal's Hill, the triangle in Landshark Stadium, the Western Metal Supply Co. building...
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: I've always had a thing for the Houston Astros. I loved seeing Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel together in the back of their bullpen earlier this decade. Lately they haven't been a great team, but I think Minute Maid Park's train, a 440 foot center field fence, and Tal's Hill (along with the in-play flagpole) always kept me interested.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Watching Kerry Wood become the fastest pitcher to 1000 strikeouts in a career at Wrigley Field in 2003.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: There's not enough of it. Every other sport allows a significant portion of the schedule to be against non-conference teams despite having fewer games. Plus, this natural rival thing is a bit ridiculous. In '09 the Twins played every NL Central team except the Cincinatti Reds ... and that's even with having Milwaukee (an NL Central team) as the natural rival, thus being a required opponent on the schedule!
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: My solution to adding more interleague games would be taking away some games from the unbalanced schedule. 18 games is too much, so I think it should be shortened to 15 games or so. Actually, I'd just be in favor of having more games against the AL East and West teams (well, maybe not against the Yankees, I suppose).
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I hate to pick a popular answer, but I'd probably go with Jackie Robinson. It's not just the fact that he was a pioneer, but also that he faced so much hatred and opposition and he took it in stride.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I've discovered I have a major beef with Mark Teixeira ever since he admitted that his wife helped him pick the Yankees last offseason. Otherwise, there's not really anyone I hate.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played all over the field. I started out as an outfielder, then added the infield and pitcher, then catcher and outfield in high school. Now for softball, I play everything but 2nd base and catcher.

I apologize, but I have a funny anecdote to share as well. My senior year of high school (and only year on the varsity team) we had a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic named Martin. He had never played baseball before and was a bit heavyset, but he made the team because the head coach had an extreme loyalty towards seniors. Due to our playing abilities, neither of us played very much baseball that season. As a result, I have the shame of knowing that our foreign exchange student that had never played baseball in his life had a better batting average than I (who had been playing since T-ball) did in our single varsity season. We both had a single plate appearance. Martin had a line drive single to center. I walked.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I don't know exactly when I became a Twins fan, but it definitely was during my childhood. My parents (as all good Minnesotan parents should) brought me to a few Twins games as a child and I loved the atmosphere at the games, especially the cheers after hearing "KIIIIIIRBEEEEE PUCKETT!".
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Game 163 against Detroit. So loud that you couldn't hear the Star Wars music after Cabrera's home run, there was tension in every single at-bat. I had a massive headache from the 5th inning to the end, I felt physically and mentally drained in the 7th but still found the energy to jump up and down like a little school girl after Casilla's game winning hit ... definitely the best game I've ever attended. Watching the team spill out of the dugout right after Gomez rounded 3rd was one of the coolest things I've ever seen, especially since I had a bird's eye view in the upper deck of center field. The celebration after the game was fun also.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: Nope, but I will make it someday. Does the Winter Caravan earn me partial credit?
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I've gone several times, thankfully because of my parents and the fact that we like Florida. I've only been to Fort Myers once though, and finding the Twins complex wasn't very enjoyable, if I remember correctly (I blame my parents though). Overall, the atmosphere is so relaxed and carefree. Very easy to get autographs. Off the top of my head, I've gotten baseballs signed by Ron Gardenhire, Brian Buscher, R.A. Dickey, Joe Mauer (twice!), Lew Ford, Cristian Guzman (my dad almost hit him in the head with the baseball tossing it over the fence at the same time another fan tossed his), Jason Pridie? (if it was him, it was the ST when he was a Rule 5 pick) and two minor leaguers that I'm in the process of re-identifying.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Not that I know of, but I have tried twice. First time was with a near 4 ft. tall poster that was way too much of a hassle to unroll during each break on Opening Day/the birthday Bert and I share (the "her" on the poster refers to my girlfriend's birthday on April 4th and was holding the poster with me ... also I suppose I didn't explicitly ask to be circled), and the second time was before the summer ended by use of the back of a business card. My friend and his family each held their own card, hoping that it was gimmicky enough to work.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME: Almost. When I was about 14, we were sitting right above where the Dodge pickup truck changes bases mid-game. I almost got a ball that was shanked by a Devil Rays coach while he was hitting flies to the outfielders, but my 10 year old sister got between the ball's landing spot and where I was standing. She tried to catch it and avoid it at the same time, and the ball hit about 2 seats away and bounced back onto the field. At least the D-Rays bullpen pitchers gave us some bubble gum before the game started, that made me feel better.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Kirby Puckett, without a doubt.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Pat Neshek. You have to love his North Side Funk.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Tony Fiore, for throwing a palmball (before I knew Eddie Guardado threw one as well) and he won 10 games in relief for the Twins in a single season. Too bad I don't remember a single game he pitched (this was before I had cable at home). Honorable mention goes to my sister's (same one from the shanked ball incident) irrational love of backup catcher Tom Prince.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Delmon Young, he seems like a jerk, doesn't listen to the Twins coaching staff, and yet they seem to refuse to give up on him.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER: Unfortunately I haven't had a conversation with a player that was more than small talk, so I think I have to default to Brian Buscher. As he signed my baseball and held his bag of fast food between his teeth, here was our conversation:
Me: "Hey, great game!"
Buscher (slightly muffled): *signs ball* *pauses* "Thanks."
Me: "I'm a little disappointed they signed Crede, I was really hoping to see you play 3rd this season."
Buscher (still slightly muffled): *pause* "Same here."
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Denard Span, he seems to be a calm, friendly guy that wouldn't complain incessantly after ever negative event in the game and you could have an intelligent baseball conversation with.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Jason Kubel. He looks like he's chugged a beer or two before.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH: I guess I'd pick Joe Mauer ... his high IQ would help us get off the island. Wait ... oh, I didn't realize you meant he has a high baseball IQ.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: With Jon Rauch as lead singer, nobody would mess with my band.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Joe Nathan. He's got some acting ability as he shows here and here.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Where's Craig Breslow when you need him? How about Kevin Slowey? Good control = fewer messes and restraint against starting fires.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Pat Neshek. We'd run a trading card shop.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I'm a bit worried about the inevitable rain out or four so I will miss the Metrodome in that respect, but I know I'm going to love the place. The outside looks amazing and I can't wait for my first Twins game.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: I see them finishing anywhere between first and third in the AL Central. If they make the playoffs, it'll be another 1st round exit, however.


Huge thanks to Andrew at Off the Mark! If you haven't checked out his site before, do so! In fact, check it out daily, I do, and I can't remember what my daily blog reading was like before it existed. Be sure to check back next Friday when I profile Shawn Berg of On the Road With... as he takes the hot seat!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our New Gaping Hole

This offseason has started off better than expected. The very first week of November, all across the internet, bloggers everywhere could be heard shouting "Hallelujah!" as our hopes and prayers were answered with the swift and beautiful acquisition of JJ Hardy to fill a position that's been a gaping hole in the Twins infield since Cristian Guzman left us.

Don't feel pressure or anything...

After the bitter taste of champagne wore off, many of us noted that our outfield defense looked slightly shaky heading into 2010. Denard Span, as amazing and fantastic as he is, is not an A+ centerfielder. He's an amazing leadoff hitter, but his glove and range are more adequately suited to left field.

For some reason, no one seems to be focusing anymore on the fact that we have no true centerfield solution on our team. The Twins have in effect exchanged one gaping hole for a new one.

No, not that gaping hole!

To be fair, we can consider our outfield (and, in particular, centerfield, to be a position of strength in our system: Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Joe Benson, perhaps even Rene Tosoni though I don't know enough about his range, he has played center). Unfortunately, the highest of those prospects just completed his first year of AA, and while he had a solid season, he isn't screaming to be ready for the majors this next season. So while it's definitely a position of strength that we dealt from -- that strength is still a ways off from developing.

Our best case scenario right now is that Denard Span plays adequately enough in center that we don't cringe every time a ball soars into the outfield, and that next year either Tosoni or perhaps Revere makes a smooth transition into the majors out of Spring Training to allow Span to shift to a better corner outfield position. This is highly wishful thinking.

1) We are assuming Denard Span stays healthy all year.

That's a relatively big assumption.

God forbid Michael Cuddyer or Delmon Young is tabbed to play center if Span gets injured, and that Kubel slides into a corner outfield spot. Talk about cringing at our outfield defense! The only other option here is that either Jason Pridie (who very well could be released), or Dustin Martin (not quite the best center fielder, even in AAA), steps into a starter role if Span gets injured.

There is just no ready and available talent behind Span to be a regular in our lineup and on the field. This concerns me greatly.

2) Tosoni and Revere will probably not be ready in only one year.

Tosoni seems to be moving along nicely through the minors, but he's had one full season at AA, and to assume that he'll be ready to be handed a starting role in 2011 is still a big assumption. The Twins clearly think highly of him, but his .271/.360/.454 batting slash is sure to take a hit if not in AAA then certainly upon arrival in the majors. He'll more than likely be a useful major league player, probably in the corner outfield, by 2012 or so. But to assume he's the impending answer is a leap of faith.

Josh, sorry for pirating your photo...

Ben Revere is an amazing prospect. He might not have the arm of a center fielder right now, and his power certainly hasn't shown itself, but he's been tabbed as the Twins Minor League Player of the Year for the past 2 years and his numbers show you why. His .311/.372/.369 is a low for his (limited) career, and it was still enough to garner him the Minor League Player of the Year award. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to look at him as our center-fielder of the future -- the only question is: How far away is that "future"?

Torii Hunter had 6 years in the minors under his belt before tasting the big leagues, spending a year there, and being sent down for another partial year. Denard Span, our most recent incumbent, spent 5 full years in the minors, and then another partial year before earning his spot. Revere has only spent 3 years in the minors. Assuming he's not rushed along -- and we know the Twins aren't one to rush players along, especially because they coddled Revere out of the gate in instructional league -- our earliest bet to seem him at Target Field would probably be in 2012 or perhaps partway into 2013.


OK, let me be direct: the Twins need a stop-gap true centerfield option to tide them over until Ben Revere or perhaps Joe Benson, etc. is ready take over when they are adequately ready. That means a two-year deal for one of the free agents out there, or looking around on the trade market for a rangy outfielder to help out our dilemma.

Maybe the fact that everyone seems much more concerned about second and third base than centerfield means I'm worrying too much -- but I think it would serve this team well to address what could very well be a more pressing issue than letting Punto and Harris round out our infield.

Perhaps I'm being swayed by living in New York, but there's a face out there on the trade market that could more than adequately handle center field for us and perhaps even the second spot in the order:

Angel Pagan: .306/.350/.487, 27.9 Runs Above Replacement, and 2.8 Wins Above Replacement.

...and he appears in sweet photos like this and has a fun name Bert Blyleven would love to pronounce.

OK, that's enough for one post. Check out the podcast from last night, Jack Steal hosted, I co-hosted, and John Bonnes was our suprise guest star! And be sure to check back here Friday morning for the next entry in my Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em offseason series when I profile Andrew Bryz-Gornia of We Are Off the Mark. In the meantime, share your thoughts with me, am I crazy for wanting a center fielder?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Check out our Podcast tonight!

Hey everyone! I'm joining Jack Steal on his podcast tonight (9PMCST, 10PMEST). Check the link here. Definitely listen in and call in with any questions or insights!