Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I just got back from the only dry county that I've ever been to -- and that I'll ever go to -- and when I arrived home I found a nice stack of mail waiting for me. After culling through the usual bills, store coupons, and letters from secret admirers, I found an interesting piece of correspondence that I think was somehow delivered to the incorrect address... I feel kind of wrong about sharing this with everyone, I know opening someone else's mail is a federal offense, but as Twins fans it's kind of hard not acknowledge this:
550 3rd Ave North
Minneapolis, MN 55403
14100 6 Mile Cypress Parkway
Fort Myers, FL 33912
I'm writing to you today in part out of consternation over the lack of a closer and in part out of justification in my choice of Alexi Casilla for our final bench spot.
I know the decision with Alexi was as tough on you as it was on me. Jacque is quite beloved in our clubhouse, and in my heart, and I'm sure it would have added to the joy of Target Field to come north with us. But really, we have no room on our roster for a slick-fielding outfielder and I think we all know the hopes we have for Delmon. It pains me to say, but perhaps Jacque just wasn't the right fit for us at the moment.
Alexi and I have had our differences in the past, and I'm sure we will in the future, any meaningful relationship always does. But I don't want to let you down in this regard. I know we've parted ways with some great infield prospects over time,
and we don't want to make the same mistake again. I've already learned from my connections around the league that the Kansas City Royals didn't think that they had enough light-hitting middle infielders, and there were rumors that the Yankees themselves were waiting to shove off that under-performer Derek Jeter so that they could try to steal Alexi off of waivers. In truth, 29 clubs around the MLB would be clamoring for his services if he hit the waiver wire. I know, I know, he's never lived up to expectations and this spring is representative of his entire career, but they all keep mentioning that fabulous 2008 year and I don't think we can make them believe it was simply an aberration.
If we lost Alexi on waivers, it would really come back to haunt us. Name one person from our minors who could come up and hit .240 off the bench while providing shaky defense and maybe I'll reconsider my position.
Besides, my faith in Alexi will either be proven right and we'll look like geniuses, or else he will fall on his face again and your hand will be forced to rely on Tolbert or someone else
to fill his place on our bench. I think we are in agreement on this issue, so I'll spare my words and move on.
This is the hardest thing for me to write, and it really pains me to say, but I'd like you to sell our farm for a closer. I know, I know, there's no sense in being rash, but I've thought about this for the good two weeks that it's really been an issue, and I just have no faith in our bullpen or the depth in our system to fill the void at the back end of our bullpen. Perhaps I betrayed my position too quickly in saying "closer by committee". I know those are words you probably didn't want to hear from my voice and it pains me for you to see it from the Star Tribune first.
I can understand that these "prospects" have "potential". Ben Revere is fast and scrappy and plays great defense. Wilson Ramos has been popular for quite some time. But please, try to look at it from my perspective: they'll never see time on my team as long as I have established players ahead of them, so why not give them away in desperation for someone who might or might not be able to help us out in the short term?
Of course my preferences would be for Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner so that I wouldn't be the only person in the clubhouse chatting about grandchildren and hemorrhoids, but even one of those younger guys like a Heath Bell or anyone from Toronto would satisfy my need for even more activity this offseason.
I know what you'll say, of course, that Matt Guerrier deserves a chance or that Jon Rauch has experience or that Jesse Crain and Pat Neshek were supposed to be closers of the future, but let's face it, those are just words. Perhaps, instead of Jacque, we could bring back the familiar faces of Fast Eddie or The Hawk to be a closer and fulfill your desire for a little bit of nostalgia this year? I hear Jeff Reardon is even planning a comeback.
In short, there's no sense looking forward when we can always look back.
I hope you understand my position on this matter. I'd hate to resort to using Francisco as a closer just to prove my point.
Yours in All Sincerity,
Ronald Clyde Gardenhire
Friday, March 26, 2010
I'm off to Arkansas on an EARLY EARLY flight, so instead of my long-winded ramblings I'm going to leave you with a special treat: another special Get to Know 'Em from another member of our blogosphere!
The Bat Shatters is a blog I just recently discovered, and I'm glad I did. The blog (by several contributors) describes itself as two Twins fans and a Yankees fan -- and I was impressed right away that they can even get along! Besides well-thought out posts on our hometown team, they do one of the best jobs I've seen of any Twins blog in keeping up with all the other clubs around baseball -- not just Twins and Yankees fans, but well-rounded fans in general. So it's my pleasure to introduce Adam, 1/3 of one of the best Twins blogs out there:
NAME: Adam (AK47)
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn Park, MN
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I'm a recruiter working in the engineering industry
FAVORITE COLOR: Blue
FAVORITE FOOD: A steak or anything Italian
FAVORITE MOVIE: Crash
FAVORITE BOOK: The Lone Survivor - Marcus Luttrell
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Metal, Rock, Classic Rock
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Football
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Racquetball
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I am a diehard Vikings fan, I was crushed when they lost to the Saints and I hate to say it, but I'm hopeful that Favre comes back for one more year, I think they can do it. As far as the Timberwolves go, they lost my interest when they traded KG. I know they had to do it, but he was the team. They have been so terrible since then, I haven't missed following them, nor am I much of a basketball fan in general. The Wild? I like them, I liked Lemaire, I liked Gaborik, but they just didn't seem to be able to put it together completely, now I feel they're doomed to a few years of no identity. I'm not a huge hockey fan either.
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: To me, baseball is different than the other major sports in that it is endlessly interesting from a statistical perspective. When I watch football, I love the action, I love the big plays, I love the big hits, but that's pretty much it, the entertainment ends when the game does. With baseball, there are a million stats (almost literally) to play around with, and there is also a very deep history to look back on. Another reason I like baseball, and this may sound odd, is because it's one of the few sports in which you get a good look at the player's faces, mid-game. In football, the players wear helmets, in hockey the same, you can see the faces in basketball, but the players themselves are moving around alot. In baseball, especially if you go to the game, you can sit there with a pair of binoculars and watch the players faces and body language. I mean who doesn't remember the look on Puckett's face as he rounded the bases in Game 6 of the '91 series? It's something that makes baseball unique to me.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Wow. That's a tough one. I would say the Cubs, just because I live here in Chicago now.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: I've been to Wrigley several times, it truly is a great ballpark. For me, I sit there and think about all the great players who have played on that exact field. If you go I recommend sitting in the bleachers in the outfield, it's a good time for sure.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I like it, especially since the Twins dominate.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I guess I don't care one way or another, I think lots of division games adds intrigue, as evidenced by the last two AL Central races coming down to an extra game.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I think Ken Griffey Jr. is my favorite non-Twins player. I saw him hit a HR at the Dome once as a kid when he was still with the Mariners (the first time). The swing is beautiful and really, if it's true he didn't take steroids, he's one of the greats of all-time.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I hate A.J. Pierzynski, I know he used to be a Twin, but I've hated him ever since. I also strongly dislike Nick Swisher.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played when I was a kid, Center Field and 3rd base. Hit one HR in my career, a grand-slam, other than that, I don't think I was very good.
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: We're actually gonna be doing a couple of pieces on this in the near future on our blog. To answer simply, I was 11 years old when I started listening to/watching every game.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: It was a number of years ago now, but I saw Johan Santana pitch against the Rangers, strike out 11 and the Twins won 14-6. We were sitting in that section down the 3rd base line out in right field that actually points in the right direction...
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: Never been, would love to go.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: Again, I'd love to go, but never been.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: No.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BULL AT THE DOME: I wish, but no.
Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: It will always be Kirby Puckett.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Joe Mauer
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: I throw my vote in for Chip Hale, pinch-hitter extrordinaire.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: I dislike that Gardy continues to throw Punto in there, but as far as personalities go, no.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: Pat Neshek went to my high-school, and a few months ago he did an e-interview for us which was pretty sweet, I don't think I've ever met any Twins players in person though.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Everyone probably says this but, Joe Mauer. I'd love to know what pitches he would call, what he sees from a batter's perspective and just learn some of the nuances of the game that I never would have thought of.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Thome, he used to go to the same gym as my boss, according to my boss he's a super nice guy in person (which you'd expect), just seems like he'd be a cool guy to hang out with.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Pat Neshek, we'd have a lot to talk about, and he likes baseball cards too.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: I wish Gomez was still a Twin because I'd use him for his energy, but in lieu of him I'll say Joe Mauer because he can sing and I cannot.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Hardy's definitely got the looks...
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Don't all the pitchers, save for Liriano, in the rotation seem nerdy? I think I'd choose any of them.
EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I've actually seen Target Field and let me say, it's beautiful. My expectations are high, I'm a little bummed that Hormel decided to back out, meaning there will be no more Dome Dogs, but the food lineup looks great, outdoor baseball is as good as it gets and I'm excited to see what kinds of traditions develop over the first few seasons. I really can't get over how beautiful the stadium is and I absolutely can't wait to see a game there. I will say however, why didn't they put a retractable roof on it??
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR:
1.) At the very least, I expect the Twins to compete for the division title.
2.) I expect there will be a certain adjustment period to the new stadium for some of the players who have been with the club for the last few years getting used to the lighting, etc which is likely to reduce "home-field advantage" for the first few months
3.) One thing I have perhaps foolishly come to expect is that Liriano is going to look a little more like the Liriano of 2006. I'm not going all the way and saying we have the next Johan on our hands, but I at least expect that every 5 days he puts forth a solid effort.
4.) I expect that the Twins will struggle with the closer spot unless the go out and make a move to bring someone in, none of the three in-house options are very good (Rauch, Mijares, Guerrier) and a committee situation would be a bad choice.
5.) The last thing I expect is that the Twins start building towards a real chance to contend for a World Series title. Of course I'd be more than happy if they did it this year, but I'm saying at least winning a playoff series, etc. They are really moving into a unique period this year and next where a bunch of their players, particularly the pitchers, are moving into their prime (Baker, Blackburn, Liriano) and this, I feel, is the reopening of the window where they have a legit shot to win it all.
A huge thanks to Adam over at The Bat Shatters for taking the time to fill this out! Be sure to head over to his site and check it out, it's certainly worth bookmarking!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
First off, be sure to check out Jack Steal's and my podcast from last night, we were joined by none other than Seth Stohs and John Bonnes and had a great discussion!
Now, I'm going to follow suit from a couple of the other members in our Twins Blogger Fantasy Baseball League or "Twoggers" League (thanks for the nice nickname Eric), and post my thoughts from during our draft this past weekend:
Round 1, Pick 6: Chase Utley, 2B PHI -- I'm shocked Utley fell to me, but I was hoping I could grab a premium position player deserving of a first round pick. After watching Joe Mauer go 1st overall (duh) ---
Round 2, Pick 19: Mark Texeira, 1B NYY -- Again, very happy. But I think pitching is going to be at a premium here and I've got two strong bats with my first two picks. Thrylos grabbed SLOWEY 7th overall and just followed it up with Liriano. I sense a trend there. Halladay and Lincecum are also gone but I wasn't ready to take Felix Hernandez yet... I might kick myself for that later...
Round 3, Pick 30: Kevin Youkilis, 3B BOS -- I had Youk (and Tex) last year and they were great for me. But I feel a little weird cornering the market on first basemen right now. At least Youk has the position flexibility to play 3rd which I intend to utilize. But now I've seen Greinke and CC and Felix Hernandez go, ugh.
Round 4, Pick 43: Victor Martinez, C BOS -- I admit, I wasn't thinking that I already had a Boston player. I could've taken Santana here and gone pitching, but Emily Jipp just screwed me by taking Brian McCann who I really wanted and I think I caved and grabbed a catcher. He can also double as 1B. That's three 1B...
Round 5, Pick 54: Adam Lind, LF TOR -- I love Adam Lind so this was too hardto pass up. And Josh Johnson and Louie each just took the two pitchers I was looking at (Johnson and Gallardo). If I wait, a decent pitcher will fall to me at the right time.
Round 6, Pick 67: Mariano Rivera, RP NYY -- Emily saved me by taking Zobrist before I could. It forced me to grab pitching and I'm the first to take a closer. A rock of a closer. This is a good step.
Round 7, Pick 78: Ricky Nolasco, SP FLA -- Another pitcher, and one with lots of upside. We're doing a keeper league so I think that's a huge plus if he has a great year. Cole Hamels is still far enough down on the list and I've got my eye on him for my next grab.
Round 8, Pick 91: Wandy Rodriguez, SP HOU -- So Hamels is gone, thanks Emily. Eric grabs Kershaw and Eric Olson grabs Baker. I'm worried Emily is going to grab Wandy before I can but she takes Ubaldo Jimenez and I manage to steal Wandy and I'm happy as a clam. I also find out after this pick that this is not a keeper league.
Round 9, Pick 102: Hunter Pence, RF HOU -- I love Hunter Pence, don't care if it's not a keeper league. I'm also pretty thin on the outfield right now but my infield is almost built. I want to be well-rounded and Pence is the best available in my mind. Best available will be my motto from here on out, no worries about position I've got a solid core.
Round 10, Pick 115: Francisco Cordero, RP CIN -- I now have two dominant closers and I think I'll lead the Saves category pretty nicely. Wondering how I'm going to fill out my SS conundrum...
Round 11, Pick 126: Matt Garza, SP TB -- I had Garza last year and he was solid. I figure he can only get better, I'm surprised he's still around this far down.
Round 12, Pick 139: Julio Borbon, LF TEX -- Eric Johnson just grabbed Manny Ramirez and then Rich Harden, two pretty good picks this far along in the draft, great value. I love Borbon's speed and I think the Rangers will be great this year and he'll got on base plenty. Rolling the dice a little.
Round 13, Pick 150: Jered Weaver, SP LAA -- Another holdover from last year. This draft is surprisingly deep in upside pitching. I don't mind so much that I waited so long to grab pitchers.
Round 14, Pick 163: J.A. Happ, SP PHI -- I'm looking for Jason Heyward and realize Josh Johnson already stole him. Dang. I still manage to steal Happ who I love. All my pitchers are young (except Rivera) but that's fine by me!
Round 15, Pick 174: James Loney, 1B LAD -- Haha, I have so many people who can play 1B. But at least I have something to deal from if I ever need.
Round 16, Pick 187: Maicer Izturis, 2B/SS LAA -- I really needed to do something about SS dilemma, and Izturis isn't bad at this point. I might have waited too long but I wouldn't have sacrificed any of my other picks. I was hoping for JJ Hardy so I could have a Twin but Eric Olson just took him. Argh.
Round 17, Pick 198: Ryan Ludwick, RF STL -- Wow, my outfield's a little thin so I had to take an OF. Ludwick is pretty good for a 4th OF and he's on a great team so that's a plus. Of course Louie just took Martin Prado right before me and that's who I really wanted. Ugh.
Round 18: Pick 211: Mike Napoli, C LAA -- I need a backup catcher and Napoli isn't bad for that role. Hopefully he doesn't have to see much playing time on my roster. Andrew Kneeland took Frank Francisco before I could get to him because what I really wanted was another reliever. I'll fight another day though...
Round 19: Pick 222: Scott Feldman, SP TEX -- Feldman looked great last year and at this point I'm just hoping to catch some lightning in a bottle in the low rounds. If nothing else I think he can be league average and he's got a very solid team around him. Everyone's darlings seem to be Seattle but I think Texas has the make-up to take the West finally. I kind of had my eye on Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon but they were both just taken off the board consecutively by K-Bro and Brian Pietrzak.
Round 20: Pick 235: Colby Rasmus, CF STL -- Man, I just took another St. Louis outfielder without thinking. I might need to rethink that pick. I was a little shaken when Emily AGAIN my pick (Corey Hart), and then Thrylos followed that up right away by taking my backup (Joba Chamberlain). Really I was just grasping at straws here.
Round 21: Pick 246: Scott Downs, RP TOR -- So I really want another reliever and Toronto's guys always seem solid. Not much else in my mind on this pick.
Round 22: Pick 259: Marlon Byrd, CF CHI -- This is mainly about rectifying my Rasmus pick. Byrd isn't bad. There really weren't many pitching options out there -- Shawn Berg just took Brad Lidge and Erik Bedard and Eric Olson followed that up right away with Carlos Zambrano, so I'm looking away from pitching at the moment.
Round 23: Pick 270: Jhonny Peralta, SS CLE -- I feel kind of dirty taking him but there really aren't many good backup infielders left out there and K-Bro took Brett Gardner who I was kind of hoping would last until this pick.
Round 24: Pick 283: Alberto Callaspo, 2B KC -- Not on a great team and they have a glut at middle infield right now but I picked him up last year when Aviles went down for me and I didn't regret it one bit.
Round 25: Pick 294: Pat Neshek, RP MIN -- I kept getting all my favorite Twins players stolen from me and I NEEDED someone from my favorite team on my roster. So, it ended up being Pat! I'm hoping he grabs the closer role at some point and I have a steal. It was either Neshek or Slama with this pick and I just think Neshek had a better chance at making the team and getting an opportunity as closer more quickly. Hoping his arm holds up!
Be sure to check out the blogs from the people in my league, great reads and they're going to be sure to provide stiff competition as they've all got some nicely built rosters!
Andrew Kneeland: Twins Target
Brian Pietrzak: BP's Baseball Blog
Emily Jipp: Chatter From the Cheap Seats
Eric Johnson: Undomed
Eric Olson: Call to the 'Pen
Erin M: Picked Off At First
Josh Johnson: Josh's Thoughts
Kirsten Brown: K-Bro's Baseball Blog
Louie Schuth: Hitting the Eephus
Shawn Berg: On the Road With...
Thrylos98: The Tenth Inning Stretch
Monday, March 22, 2010
In all this hoopla about locking up Joe Mauer (and believe me, it's deserved and I'm involved), I can only help but stop and wonder what Wilson Ramos's reaction to this is. He knew this was coming, he had to -- but if one of our top overall prospects is a catcher on the cusp of being ready for the majors, where does that leave us now?
Ok, that's a real picture of him.
Regardless of what we end up doing with him, Ramos has proven that he's for real and that he deserves to play and not just be buried on a depth chart. He could likely be a starting catcher on almost any other major league team; the talent is just that thin out there (I just did a fantasy baseball draft, and believe me, the pickings are slim), and from all we've seen in his minor league numbers, the Winter League, and this spring, he's ready for a real challenge -- he doesn't need seasoning at AAA, maybe it would be useful but it's more about keeping his service clock from starting.
I've been advocating for him to be the backup to Joe, and while Seth Stohs obviously disagrees with me -- and we've discussed this once or twice on podcasts and disagreed as well -- we can't just shove him under a rug in AAA forever. You can already tell everyone else is asking this question because Joel Sherman of the New York Post is already sniffing it out. Ramos is going to be in the majors one way or another and the real question is if it's with us.
RAMOS AS TRADE BAIT
This is the first idea that naturally comes to mind. A top prospect at a premium position essentially ready for the majors, good with the bat and the glove. We could obviously get a closer for him to address our hole there, but that would probably be shortsighted -- why not reach higher? If he's dangled on a string just think of the suitors that come calling: Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, Rays, Astros, A's, Mariners, I could keep going. Think about culling through their rosters or prospects and picking a pupu platter you like most.
I know what I'm getting for lunch.
But unless the incredible happens and the market for stud catchers suddenly dries up (not going to happen), these people will still be lining up at our door during the season and next offseason, so there's really no rush to be foolish and trade him away.
What if Mauer goes down with a serious injury and we're forced to rely on a platoon of Morales/Butera for the forseeable future? Or, what if instead of a serious injury Mauer just keeps getting hampered by small injuries that indicate he really needs to move out from the behind the plate soon? Having Ramos in your back pocket is essential. And if none of this happens and the right offer/need comes along, you can deal.
RAMOS STAYS A TWIN
But how? There's really only three ways that would work:
1. Ramos learns a new position. That's the obvious first alternative. You want a bat like his in the lineup every day so no way is he just a bench player. But where does he go? Corner outfield is a lot of ground for a catcher to cover and we've got plenty of outfield prospects that will bring up this conundrum once again in the next couple years. 3B? You need to be a cat over there and while he might have some quick reflexes from behind the plate, he probably doesn't have the side-to-side movement necessary for the position. Most people who have decent scooping abilities but aren't that agile would find themselves at 1B (see Sweeney, Mike; Giambi, Jason; and Thome, Jim for instance). But if there's a second position on this roster we've got someone fixed at it's 1B. This only presents itself as an option if Morneau gets traded or we don't re-up with him several years down the line. DH is the only alternative, but then you waste a great glove by not letting him see the field.
Look at those mad fielding skills!
2. Ramos is a bench bat. What a waste. Talent like this needs to play everyday. True he's there as a threat late in the game and when he spells Mauer our offense will still be quite potent, but enslaving him as a backup catcher is a complete last resort. He'd be more valuable being traded and bringing us useful everyday pieces that contribute in 162 games rather than 50.
3. Ramos and Mauer are both the everyday catcher. When your two best players are catchers, why not let them both catch "everyday". Especially when your concern over handing out a huge 8 year contract to Mauer is primarily hinged on the fact that he might get injured from the wear-and-tear from catching every day. Instead of having a back-up catcher, you can have two starting catchers and rotate them out frequently enough that they each catch only around 80 games a year, and whoever doesn't catch can DH. This is my pet option. It utilizes the fact that both of them have plus gloves, plus arms, and plus bats and also increases the longevity of both of their careers without necessarily limiting plate appearances. Just because this isn't a traditional roster recipe doesn't mean it won't work. Kubel will quickly become too expensive for us, and having two everyday fielders rotate the DH spot while the other plays behind the plate solves the DH hole (it's what the Angels tried to do with Hunter, Matthews Jr., Guerrero, and Rivera).
Your thoughts? (Or are you still just thinking about Joe?)
Friday, March 19, 2010
As promised, occasionally I'll post more Get to Know 'Ems throughout the year to highlight some of the many great blogs out there that I didn't profile this offseason. Today is the first such installment!
I actually discovered Jeremiah's blog, Cheap Seat Chronicles, in the Milwaukee airport when I was playing around with my new blackberry and as soon as I arrived at my destination I plugged in my laptop and bookmarked it. Not only is he a fellow Midwestern expat stuck out on the eastern seaboard in one of the two most annoying MLB markets to live in, but he still finds a way to write one of the best Twins blogs I've ever read despite being 2000 miles away from the team he discusses. That's ingenuity:
NAME: Jeremiah Graves
BIRTHDAY: December 5, 1983
HOMETOWN: Hartley, Iowa. Currently living in Boston, MA.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I work in the Science and Engineering Libraries at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology
FAVORITE COLOR: Red
FAVORITE FOOD: Bacon Cheeseburgers
FAVORITE MOVIE: tie between "Field of Dreams" and "Bull Durham"
FAVORITE BOOK: Animal Farm by George Orwell
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Country
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Professional Football
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Baseball, although I will settle for slow-pitch softball. At this point, my knees and back actually prefer it...
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: I love Brett Favre -- always have, always will -- so I guess I was a Vikings fan by default last season. If he comes back next year, count me in for another go'round. As far as the T'Wolves and Wild, I couldn't care less if I tried.
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: The history and nostalgia of it all. The cold, tingly feeling you get on Opening Day. Ken Burns' "Baseball" series. Joe Mauer. Dome Dogs. Afternoons in the sunshine. Pennant races. $10 bleacher seats. $8 beers. The pop of a good fastball in the mitt. The suicide squeeze. Chase Utley. Headfirst slides. Vin Scully's voice. The memories. The bar talk. The debates. The stats. Cooperstown, New York.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: I suppose it'd be pretty easy to transition into life as a Red Sox fan now that I live in Boston. The problem is that Red Sox fans, like most east coast fans I've met are just too damn stuck up and un-educated about the game beyond the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. If the Twins were to disappear and I had to wake up tomorrow and pick a new team, I'd go with either the Washington Nationals -- because I think they're going to get real good in a few years and it'd be fun to be on board for all of that, plus they have a gorgeous new stadium -- or a different Midwestern team to represent. I dig the Brewers and the Royals still have the most beautiful stadium I've ever seen, so either of those two could win my love. The White Sox and Cubs, however, still stand no chance.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: I'd say I've got two, both at Fenway. The first was in September of 2007 when my dad -- the reason I'm the huge baseball fan I am -- came to visit and I got to take him to a Yankees/Red Sox game that was Clemens vs Schilling. It was an amazing game and I'll never forget it.
The other would be Jon Lester's no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals in May of 2008. That was simply awesome. Making it even more special is that I will forever be on the highlight tapes of that game as I was sitting in the centerfield bleachers when Jacoby Ellsbury made the game's biggest play. I'm the pleasant looking gentleman in a Twins cap, in case you were wondering.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I was completely against it initially, but at this point I've come to accept it and deal with it. Plus it gives fans a chance to see teams they normally wouldn't be exposed to, so that's pretty cool. Additionally, the Twins tend to roll-over the NL, so that's a plus.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: Again, I've more or less come to deal with it. Living in Boston it annoys me that the Twins only come out this way once a year. I think in the end it's a better way to determine the division winners, so I'm cool with it.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Willie Mays
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Jose Canseco in a landslide.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I played baseball up into college and was primarily an outfielder. I play slow-pitch softball nowadays and I pretty much play all over the diamond. I prefer outfield, because I love the feeling of tracking down a flyball and there is nothing I love more than nailing a runner at one of the bases with a rocket from deep center field.
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: I grew up -- brace yourselves -- as a Yankees fan. My dad, who was born and raised in northwest Iowa, is obsessed with New York sports, so growing up I was too. When I got to high school and college I started to grow fond of the Twins and by the time I hit my sophomore year of college I was a complete convert and I've since become the biggest Twins fan that I know.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: I'd say my best experience at the Dome was a walk-off win over the Yankees back in the spring of 2006. The Yankees appeared to have the game won, but the Twinkies battled back and eventually used a broken bat single off of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. Awesome stuff.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: I haven't, which is unfortunate, I couldn't ever get anyone to go with me when I was going to Minnesota State and now that I live in Boston, I can't afford to fly back for it.
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I haven't but it is definitely one of my goals. I'd love to try and head down there for a week or so next year, but money is always a little tight, hopefully I can swing it next year.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Maybe. My first game at Fenway was a Twins/Red Sox game and I brought the sign and someone from back home said they saw me, but couldn't remember if I was circled or not and no one I know taped the game. As such, it remains a mystery.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN BALL AT THE DOME: I've had pretty solid luck with this. I've gotten a foul ball and I've had balls tossed to me a few times as well from guys in the bullpen.
Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: I loved the way Torii Hunter played the outfield and I thought he was always a consummate professional, so he gets the nod, barely beating out Johan Santana.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: I'd have to say either Mauer or Morneau. I like what JJ Hardy brings to the table and I've got no doubt I'll be worshipping at his altar by season's end. I'm also still really high on Delmon Young, I might be the only one left on his bandwagon, but I'll keep chuggin' along.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Lew Ford, no doubt about it...
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: I don't like Brendan Harris. Nothing personal, I just don't think he's any good. He's got no range. He can't hit for power or average. Yet somehow he just landed a two-year deal?! I don't get it. Couldn't we have released him and signed Felipe Lopez for that money?!
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: Back when Matt LeCroy was with the team he and I chit-chatted about places to eat in Mankato, Minnesota. I found out he was a huge fan of Perkins. It was a lot of fun talking with him.
Michael Cuddyer lied to me that same year and told me to pick him up in fantasy baseball because he was going to have a big year and steal some bags. That was 2005. I think we all know how that turned out.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Joe Mauer, it'd be intriguing to see how he approaches the game from a fan's point of view.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: JJ Hardy, that dude would bring in all the chicks. Plus he looks like a fun guy to chill with...
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Hmmmm...I guess Jim Thome, that dude is country strong and could probably kill us plenty of wild animals for survival.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Orlando Hudson, that dude loves soul food and I think he'd know some kickin' places to get our grub-on.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: I've heard that Mauer sings, so he'd be the obvious choice, but I'm going to go with Jon Rauch, because it'd give my band instant credibility.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: Denard Span. That dude is walking charisma.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: Joe Nathan, the dude is cool under pressure and if there's any place I want a dude to be really chill, it's in a freakin' science lab.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Justin Morneau, he's Canadian and we could setup the company across the border so that we wouldn't have to play for healthcare for our employees. It's just good planning!
EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I think it's going to be gorgeous, but I think the Twins are going to find they miss the home field advantage (and consistent temperatures) of the Metrodome. Losing the 10th man atmosphere and the baggy and the dome and all that will definitely take away from the home field advantage that has been so big for the Twins for so many years, but I think the positives of opening a gorgeous new facility clearly out-weigh any nominal advantages.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM NEXT YEAR: The team is built for a playoff run and if the pitching can live up to expectations, a deep playoff run. The AL Central isn't as open and shut as everyone wants us to believe. The Tigers and White Sox are still solid teams and could give us a run for the pennant. In the end, I see the Twins taking the AL Central and possibly making a legit World Series run. Lots of things need to go right before October for that to happen, so I guess we'll see in about eight months.
A huge thanks to Jeremiah over at the Cheap Seat Chronicles! Be sure to check out my fellow expat and add him to your daily reads, it's well worth it!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Dear Joe Mauer,
I hate you. Really. This is taking way too long. I bet Mr. Smith and Mr. Pohlad agree with me (Mr. Shapiro doesn't want to comment).
I wanted to think that you loved us too, that we'd start negotiations and show you how much we loved you by bringing in all your friends to help you get that World Series trophy and then waving a bunch of cash in front of your face the likes of which could feed and house all the unemployed and homeless in Minnesota for years and years.
But that wasn't good enough for you. You continue to flirt with us and tease us but never let us take you out to dinner.
Was it Nick Punto Day? Did our focus on him upset you? Because really, he means nothing to us, it was just one day. One day. And we spend 364 other days of the year focusing on you. Most people would be happy with that. Or maybe, maybe we focus too much on you. Is that it? Are we too needy, too clingy, too co-dependent on each other? Because we'll be better, really! We'll let you eat your lunch and go to your favorite barber shop in peace (and maybe just ask for one autograph instead of a bunch of them).
But we can still photostalk you right?
Seriously though, the longer this takes the more it hurts me. I'd just like to know if you feel the same or not. I'm not used to losing sleep over men, it's just not in my chemistry. This has to stop.
And while we're at it, why do you have to go promoting MLB '10 the Show. When I see you on the cover and when I see you in those commercials, I want to buy it. But I don't have a PS3, I only have access to my roommate's silly XBox 360. And all they have is MLB2K10 with Evan Longoria on the front, and who wants that? What, you couldn't be on both covers? Or you just want to punish me for not having a PS3. All I can think about is those lucky people with Sony boxes who get to spend more time with you than I do.
You even care more about the Wii than my Xbox! Agh!
Ok, I know you don't care. And my writing this letter probably only makes things worse. So let's just pretend we never had this talk, I just needed to vent to you and didn't have a diary because I'm not a 10-year-old girl (despite what this letter might lead you to believe). It just is reassuring knowing you heard me and that maybe, maybe, you might care enough to listen and just SIGN THE DAMN CONTRACT ALREADY! What's the frickin' hold-up, you want hot and cold milk taps in the clubhouse like you've got in your frickin' cabin you've never invited me to?!?!
Alright, enough. I'm not really angry. Just anxious.
P.S. And I met this awesome guy named Wilson and he speaks Spanish and he doesn't make me feel bad about myself! So I'm sooooo over you.
Friday, March 12, 2010
It's taken me awhile to get everything together since coming back to New York and catching up on all the work that didn't go away while I was gone (sadly ... it never does). Unfortunately while I was too busy getting my life straightened away to focus on blogging, some very meaty topics have arisen:
1. Joe Mauer apparently turned down an initial offer from the Twins and the two sides are still far apart. I don't want to speculate on this too much, there's always a lot of back-and-forth in contracts and we'll see what happens, I don't think Smith and Pohlad are going to just throw in the towel and trade him away in exasperation. A deal will happen, I have to believe that.
2. Nick Blackburn just got guaranteed about $14 million dollars over 4 years. Good for him. Not necessarily the smartest move by the team, IMHO but I don't think it's awful. Just doesn't make a whole lot of business sense. I don't think that through arbitration he would make more than that, so we're basically just guaranteeing his price for the next four years (even if an injury were to occur). Still $14 million for four years of a reliable everyday type of pitcher is nothing to groan about.
3. And this is the real meat of the post: Joe Nathan's "significant" UCL tear. I knew in my gut that something bad happened when I was at City of Palms watching him pitch, he couldn't get the ball over the plate and eventually was pulled. I still kept hoping for the best, but alas, barring a miracle he will be out for this year and more than likely next year as well.
Besides losing our best reliever (and, arguably the best reliever in the American League), this has to be a horrible personal loss to Nathan himself and to the franchise for what this year would have meant for him. Nathan's career saves as a Twin stands at 246 -- a meager 8 saves shy of the team record set by Rick Aguilera. Which means if this hadn't happened, we probably would have been crowning a new Twins record holder by the end of April or beginning of May.
I'll make no secret that Aguilera is hands down my favorite baseball player ever, I grew up as a pitcher, fancied myself a closer, and so Aguilera was my hero. More than anything I want him to be enshrined forever in the Twins record books, but by this point I had come to terms with the fact that Nathan was going to be the face of Twins closers from here on out. It was inconceivable that he wouldn't be. Now, in my mind Aguilera's record will still stand for many more years.
I just don't see Nathan coming back from this if he has Tommy John surgery. Nathan is 35 years old and has already more than likely been on the decline of his career (though that decline would have been slow and steady and likely taken him through the end of his 4 year deal). We will be eating salary for 2010 and more than likely 2011 as well, and there's no telling what he'll be like pitching in 2012 when he starts the season at 37 years old coming off two years away from the game recovering from an arm injury.
The Twins will need to find an answer for the closer's role if they hope to compete, and these next three years would have been spent looking for Nathan's successor even if he hadn't had this injury; it's only speeding up the process for the team. When Nathan gets back in 2012 most likely, chances are we will have a new established closer and he will at best be a set-up man if he's still on the team and can pitch to some form resembling his old self.
Barring some team nostalgia to let him close out just enough 3-run lead games to get him in the Twins record books, I don't see how he's going to make up those 9 saves in a Twins uniform that he'd need in order to supplant Aguilera.
I don't mean to be all doom and gloom. And I'm horribly sad both for Nathan and for the dilemma the team finds itself in. Nathan is a great teammate and is an amazing closer so I would have been perfectly fine with him being the Twins' all time saves leader, but I'm skeptical it's going to ever happen. We'll find a good young player in their prime in these next two years who will lock down the closer's role ... and I don't want to imagine what will happen in these next two years if we don't.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
SATURDAY, MARCH 6th
We had the memorial service on Friday (thus my lack of posting), and I'm flying out Sunday, but Saturday was my last visit to Spring Training.
Again, the Twins were at City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers, and while the Red Sox had a split squad with half their team on the road, the Twins brought many of their A-game players along, which I was happy to see.
We were much closer to the field this time... forget about standing room, I could almost touch the players!
I went with my Mom so we could have some bonding time away from the family (I don't get to see her much now that I live in New York). Even though we were in the first row though, she had a little bit of a hard time seeing the mound and the plate because the 1st base ump and the 1st base coach were kind of in the way, but it was still a great view!
Also that guy kept leaning forward all the way and obstructing our view. Grr.
It was fun experiencing both a night game and a day game while I was here. The sun was definitely beating down on us and we weren't shaded at all. The cold beer was much more effective today than in the chilly evening game.
My initial reactions beyond the box score:
1. Orlando Hudson. It was great to be able to see him play in a game for the first time. He didn't do much offensively that I saw (I'm used to that out of second base, but I think that will change with him down the line...), but he made an amazing pickup on a short-hop line drive that had the whole stadium "oooh" in amazement.
2. Jacque Jones is the smiliest man alive. They let him DH today, I wish I could have seen him in the field. His bat wasn't much to speak of although he did hit a nice line drive late in the game. He and Kubel took a lot of time during the game to sign for kids over on the lawn along the sideline, and if I hadn't been boxed in to my seats I would have tried to go over there and meet him (he was always one of my favorites, and my Mom loved his bat flip after the homeruns, she kept hoping he'd hit one today so she could see it live).
3. Liriano looked great. He appeared a little rusty for awhile, falling behind some hitters and beaning one. He also looked a little uncomfortable on the mound at first, pacing around, banging his cleats against the rubber either because he couldn't get good purchase or the clay was caking in his spikes. But he settled in and his slider was on point, and had everyone swinging at the dirt and coming up empty. He got a lot of chases on the pitch and made people look silly. I think once he shakes off a little more rust that he'll get his confidence back up and be ace-like.
4. Brendan Harris played with some more confidence today, he had a solid single on a sharply hit ball and he looked a lot more comfortable in the field. I think it's great he's had two of the starts so far -- not quite sure, maybe it's Punto's wrist problems that have been holding him out, but hopefully Harris takes advantage of these opportunities he's getting.
5. Delmon hit some deep drives that looked nice until they died at the warning track. In fact that was kind of a recurrent theme between he and Morneau and Kubel (and later Parmelee and Singleton joined in the fun). It kind of shows me that concern about how we don't want to live and die by the long ball necessarily. If our guys are only swinging for the fences that won't work, we need a balanced attack. But he sure looks thin!
6. Nathan, oh poor Nathan. He kind of fell apart and had to struggle his way through even Mike Cameron. I hope it's nothing to speak of, he didn't look particularly off, he just didn't look comfortable and kept missing the strike zone. He was followed by Perkins who didn't really do anything to either solidify his trade value or a place on the roster. He just looked completely overmatched out there. Manship also got knocked around a little. His first inning was solid but then he wiggled into a jam he brought upon himself and couldn't fight his way out before surrendering a bomb to Tug Hulett (of all people).
7. Wilson Ramos had a beautiful RBI double that of course showed up in the recaps I'm sure, but the at-bat before when he struck out he still managed to work the count and battle pretty well, fouling off some good pitches. He definitely looks like he can handle major league hitting, and he was fine behind the plate too although I wish I'd have been able to see his arm throwing out a runner.
8. Ben Revere is a stud. Despite not doing anything with the bat today he still showed off his glove in center. And I know I said I agreed with all the reports on his weak arm based on what I saw Thursday, but today he made a nice throw on a rope to home plate that was very close to gunning down a runner tagging up. I can't wait to see him get some more seasoning, he's special.
Revere is on the left, Jair Fernandez the catcher is on the right.
Just an FYI for people visiting City of Palms Park or spring training in general. You'll notice the players get pulled from the game early and then maybe do some sprints along the warning track during the game to wind down (or on the back fields at Hammond if I recall correctly from last year). If you're trying to get their autograph, leave the game and go wait for them there because most people don't, that's the best time to catch them! I remember last year being the only person watching Liriano doing some running exercises after pitching at Hammond and after he was done he came over and he signed a ball and took a picture with me with no one else around.
At City of Palms Park, the players leave the clubhouse by exiting a door in the concourse under the stands on the visitor side and walking along the concourse about 30 feet to a gate leading out to their parking area. They stop and sign autographs in that 30 foot jaunt for anyone aware enough that they're there! So if you're at City of Palms, look for the starters down in that area of the concourse right after they get taken out because they don't hang around until the end of the game, they'll just go hope in their care.
This is Toby Gardenhire peeking out that door in the concourse...
At Hammond the best place is along that little waist-high gate near the indoor batting cages because when they're done with the game they go walk past the hometeam bullpen over to the first practice field and tend to jog along there. Then they'll walk along that little waist-high black fence to get back to the clubhouse and shower off. They'll stop for you along there though before they go into the clubhouse.
That's about it, I'm back off to New York and I already miss it down here! Agggh, baseball! Here's a few more random pictures though that I couldn't work in today:
Kubel jogging out towards the warning track to do some running.
Mijares walking by during pre-game warmups.
Danny Valencia being awesome (and aiding and abetting me in a fun surprise for a friend...)
Thursday, March 4, 2010
THURSDAY, MARCH 4th
This morning was the visitation for my grandfather before the funeral tomorrow, so it wasn't really a baseball day -- even if I had time to make it up to Ft. Myers afterwards I don't think it was in me to make the trip.
Thankfully it was a night game to kick off the season for the Twins so I was able to relax most of the afternoon before we made the trip up Tamiami Trail to City of Palms Park. I felt this kind of nervous giddiness the whole way -- this wasn't just a baseball game, this was the first game of the season. True it was about as meaningless as you could imagine (unless you really really want the Mayor's Cup), but there's just something exciting about baseball season starting, and the fact that it was outdoor night baseball is just magical.
But it makes my pictures blurry.... I need a new camera
We had four standing room only tickets, and so I drove up with my brother and two of my cousins to stand around in the cold and watch baseball. Thankfully, I remembered to bring a jacket. Unfortunately this time I wore shorts and sandals. One of these days I'll put all the puzzle pieces together on the same day.
By now you all know that the Red Sox won 2-1. This obviously means absolutely nothing. Half our starting lineup didn't touch the field, and we held the lead when we subbed in all our AAA players while the Red Sox kept most of their starters on the field until they took the lead.
Jacoby Ellsbury got way too much applause. So did Pedroia.
I really don't have much animosity towards Red Sox fans. For the most part they're all pretty nice and they're too obsessed with hating the Yankees to really have any vitriole towards my team so they're OK.
So, if you want to know play-by-play I'm sure you'll check out the boxscore, and my pictures aren't going to much of anything because I've just got a silly little camera, so I'll just give you my impressions from what I saw:
1. Our first five innings were dominant. The pitchers who pitched our first five innings were Blackburn, Slowey, and Neshek. When things went downhill was the 6th inning when Mike Maroth entered. So the important thing to me here is that our pitchers vying for an actual spot on the roster all were in top form tonight.
2. Blackburn was solid. There's not much to speak about there, he went about his pitches effectively and efficiently. Slowey seemed to take his time a little bit. He let the hitter get ahead of him a few more times than I would have liked but this can easily be attributed to plain rust. He was fooling hitters and working the strike zone which was what I wanted to see.
3. Neshek was quick and effective. It was great seeing that funky delivery out on the mound again. He had good velocity and good movement on his pitches and he was able to keep the hitters off balance. While they did connect their hits were primarily weak pop-ups.
4. Brendan Harris was manning the hot corner to start off the game. Unfortunately the first ball that came his way made its way through his glove. Sure he had to do a diving slide for it but he could have come up with that ball. It was the first inning of the first game so I'll cut him some slack, but it looked a little slow and lazy. We got out of the inning so it didn't matter in the longrun, but for someone battling for that 3rd base job it was a knock.
That's Harris. My zoom sucks.
5. Casilla and Tolbert were both up the middle, and neither are guaranteed a spot on the roster. They both were fine in the field so I can't really speak much to my impressions of them. They had a pretty light day the few innings that they were in. The guy who made a couple nice plays was Jacque Jones. He really showed some wheels out in left and took great routes (something I haven't seen in left for a couple years...). I really like the guy and I'd love for him to make the roster, but hopefully at least he sticks around in Rochester and can be a September call-up for us or something.
6. Ben Revere is a stud. A pure stud. When he trotted out onto the field I was so excited to see him play. I was telling my cousins all about him and how much potential Revere has. Then the announcer said that "Zack Davis" was entering the game for the Twins and I stopped and for the life of me I felt like such a fool that here I was talking about Ben Revere and it was this guy named Zack Davis who I had never heard of! Two batters later the announcer corrected himself and I was justified. Revere can cover some ground. I can see what the worry is about his arm. The ball doesn't really zip from his hand the way it does from Cuddyer or Young, it seems to float a little bit longer. Not really going to speculate how that happens, maybe his wrist is a little loose when he throws? I know he's not a power hitter either, but he sure drove the ball to the warning track in what looked like a sure home run until he was robbed at the track.
Those are the main things that stick out to me from the game.
Oh and cotton candy.
One thing that really sticks out is how many people leave the game after the 5th or so when all the starters get pulled.
It's a veritable exodus.
The stadium was so packed there was no room to stand along the wall for our standing room only tickets, but by the 5th there were seats and tons of spots along the wall opened because everyone had streamed out. We were able to stand right behind home plate!
But we were still standing. And it was still cold.
Here's a couple other random pictures that I took which I couldn't work into this entry but also kind of came out non-blurry:
I'll hopefully have some better shots during Saturday's game. I'm going to be sitting in the first row along the Twins' side of the field so check back for that post. Friday is the funeral and reception and a family dinner at the Naples Yacht Club so it will be baseball-less. But stop by later to find out about Saturday's game (I believe Liriano is starting?!?!?!).
Random shot of me in my lucky Aguilera jersey, my new Facebook profile picture to get me through Spring:
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3rd
My brother tagged along with me today, and although he spent the majority of the time texting back and forth with his girlfriend (he's in high school), I think he had a blast. He'd been down to Spring Training several years ago with my Dad and Step-mom but he's gotten more into baseball and probably appreciated it a little more this time. That and the autographs from Baker, Kubel, Duensing, and Span that he now sports.
He also did the sensible thing and wore a jacket. I figured because it wasn't raining that I was set, but the breeze sure got chilly, especially because we spent the whole time outside wandering around. (Yes I realize I'm talking about chilly breeze in Florida and you are probably reading this in the utter cold of Minnesota, but still, I expect warmth down here.)
There was some more pitcher's fielding practice going on when we arrived. It's kind of interesting to watch for awhile but it can get old if that's all you see everyday. I like watching some of the other drills that they do like the relays and the baserunning, and I love watching pitcher warmups on the side-fields which I saw plenty of today.
Obligatory shot of Manship, Blackburn, and Delaney watching fielding practice. Notice they all are wearing jackets. I am not. Notice also the grey sky.
From there I wandered over to the back fields where I could get up close to the gate without many other people around me. People tend to congregate in two areas at Spring Training:
1. Close to Hammond Stadium and the first field over there
2. Wherever Joe Mauer is
Thus I was one of the few people down at these back fields today, even though Rod Carew was down there all day working with Nick Punto and Ben Revere.
Anyway, I got to spend a lot of time watching Alex Burnett warm up tossing to Danny Rams.
Burnett has some nasty. He's gonna be good.
There was a lady near me who kept asking who the catcher was, she had never heard of Danny Rams. I hope Seth is proud of me because thanks to his prospect info inundation I was able to tell her that he's a power-hitting prospect, needs to work on hitting for average and a better control of the strike zone and he played most of the year in A-ball at Beloit.
I don't think she understood half of what I said though.
Speaking of talking about prospects with people, I wandered over for awhile to the low-level prospect field and saw Max Kepler warming up again. He was swinging the bat around and doing some jogging but I didn't see him take any batting practice today. Neither did I see Sano hit unfortunately. My brother was particularly impressed with the fact that they're his age and are playing pro-ball.
Max Kepler-Roczyskiaihaoansi (or something)
I went back to the main field in time to see Delmon young taking some BP. It was hard to get a good photo through the grated fence and then the BP cage, but you can kind of see his stance here. I think that was the important thing. He seemed to be carrying his stance from the end of last year into his at-bats in spring training which I think is a good sign. His leg kick wasn't high either it was just a short step before he would connect with the ball. And those reports about his weight loss are dead-on. He really does look different.
He's so skinny it was hard to get a picture of him.
He was taking batting practice with Punto and it was kind of a stark difference.
Punto laments that Young can hit further...
Speaking of someone who can hit the ball far, Chris Parmelee took some swings in the cage and when he connects he can launch the ball.
It will be interesting to see him progress because if he can hit for average he will be a great addition to the club someday.
By this time Burnett had moved on and Slama was warming up in the bullpen with Stu Cliburn giving him some advice on gripping the ball a different way. I didn't hear what it was exactly but it sounded like they were both happy with the results and Danny Lehmann kept giving positive feedback to Slama too.
When he throws he is lanky. It's like watching a bunch of limbs unfurl and come hurtling at you. I watched him pitch in Rochester and he was getting knocked around a bit but I think he'll be able to start dominating at AAA this year like he has every step along the way, and I can't wait to see him in the bigs soon.
We worked our way back to the fields right next to Hammond Stadium and I caught my first glimpse of Jacque Jones. He was taking some BP off Anthony Swarzak and then he went around behind the cage and started chatting with Gardy, Bobby Cuellar, Joe Christensen and a few coaches and he had them all in stitches and wore that trademark grin on his face. It was great seeing him back on the team.
This is me doing beat-writer stalking... I freaked La Velle out too when I approached him later
We then began walking into the stadium but saw that Scott Baker and Brian Duensing were signing autographs to we went over so he could get his ball autographed.
Baker signing after throwing some BP.
Duensing signed right after Baker did.
I wandered over to the batting cages after that and saw a few people taking turns there. Most notably was Orlando Hudson who I'd been looking for all day. Unfortunately again, through all the mesh it's hard to get a good shot...
...but here's my best effort! It's fun to see him in a Twins uniform!
I then wandered back to the back fields again where it wasn't quite as crowded and I got there just in time to see Ben Revere step into the batting cage. True he doesn't put on a display like Delmon Young or Chris Parmelee driving the ball, but he is all smiles when he's out there and certainly still makes solid contact. It's just fun to watch such a good prospect who has such an amazing attitude.
Look at that sassy walk! I love it!
He was definitely the classiest, nicest guy I met last year when I was down here and he's probably my favorite guy to see again.
He even jumped in for a picture with me for our blog today! What's not to love?!
Anyway, after Revere was done people began to wrap up. We wandered back to the stadium and caught Kubel and Span making their way into the clubhouse. I also had a Wayne "Big Fella" Hattaway sighting.
That about did it for us. It was too cold to hang around much longer and wait for the players to leave the clubhouse -- and most of them like to sneak out casually anyway. So we drove back to Naples and I had an amazing caeser salad with seared yellowfin tuna and enough rum runners, electric lemonade, and pina coladas to keep me satisfied the rest of the day.
I'm not sure if I'll catch practices tomorrow morning as that's when the visitation is scheduled for and it might be a little much to go up to Ft. Myers afterwards, but I will definitely be attending the Red Sox/Twins clash that evening over at the Red Sox stadium, so expect a late post on my thoughts from the first game of the season!