Friday, April 30, 2010

Bases Loaded and Nobody Home

My work as a producer requires me to work with numbers to some extent, but by no means would I consider myself a mathematician or a statistician, so forgive my post, please. But I think the principle I'm harping on is relatively understandable even by those, like myself, who find their head spinning around numbers for the most part...

I really like to think that I don't knee-jerk in my reactions to a few bad outings or for underperforming. But, truth be told, this lack of hitting with RISP and bases loaded is actually starting to gnaw on me. I'm not sure I've been any less excited to see bases loaded than I am currently when watching a Twins game.

To be fair, I really don't think this can or will continue forever. But the one thing I'm going to draw the line at is that I don't believe this will necessarily course-correct or even equal out over the season. Currently the Twins are hitting a measly .143 with bases loaded. The 2009 MLB average was .279 with bases loaded.

Assuming the league average is a good bar to judge by, this ultimately means that the average team should have a 279/1000 chance of getting a hit every time a player steps up to bat. What it doesn't mean is if your team is currently hitting .143 that you will undoubtedly catch a string of good luck and by the end of the season will be hitting .279. If the Twins have gotten themselves off to a horrible start, those numbers will remain, and the next time someone steps up with bases loaded their chances aren't weighted, they should still have about a 279/1000 chance.

Say you roll a die and it lands on a 3. If you roll it again, you have just as much chance of it landing on a 3 this time as a 1, 2, 4, 5 or 6. The fact that you rolled a 3 previously does not change your chance every time you release.

While batting averages are useful in guesstimating future performance, it doesn't necessarily fluctuate your chance of getting a hit. Continuing to come up without runs in bases loaded situations is not a guarantee that we will get a floodgate of them coming soon. To expect that is unrealistic.

This isn't all doom and gloom though. If the Twins can get the monkey off their back and start hitting as calmly and patiently as they do for the majority of the game, they will undoubtedly see their average rise. I don't think it will necessarily rise to league average if it doesn't happen soon, we likely will end up below the median at the end of the year, but they just might catch a hot streak and things could even out -- it's just not a given.

The other good thing is the most obvious: The Twins still have been winning. Despite looking absolutely clueless with the bases loaded, they still pile on the runs and tally up the wins (Wednesday and Thursday regardless...). All teams have at least one weakness, but the good teams make up for their weaknesses and still find a way to win. I think that would classify us as a good team...

Quick plug, if you haven't been to a Twins Centric viewing party yet, mark your calendar for the Saturday, May 15th showdown against the Yankees. It is being held at the Major's in Bloomington -- which happens to be almost right down the street from my childhood home!

You can use the opportunity to meet up with other Twins bloggers and fans and a fun game to play could be perusing the stands and trying to be the first person to spot the three Twins fans being assaulted in the middle level behind home plate... I will wear my bright blue Twins T-shirt and red Twins cap to try to make myself easier to spot against a sea of navy. My work was kind enough to again give me the company tickets to see our boys from the awesome seats that they have -- and hopefully this time we might actually come away with a win! So while I won't be there with everyone at the viewing party this month, I'll join them in spirit!

Monday, April 26, 2010

E:60 Mauer Special Tonight

I pick on ESPN a little bit sometimes, perhaps unfairly, perhaps fairly.

Yes, Jon Miller, I'm looking at you.

But it's all in fun. Because any sports network is going to have their faults (especially the YES network), but the key thing is that ESPN happens to have many pluses that some of us cynics tend to take for granted. Example?

E:60 is one of the best regular sporting news featurette shows that I've ever seen. Combing the world of sports for interesting, inspiring, or scandalous stories they make an excellent weekly hour-long program -- and this week is certainly no exception.

Seeing as I'm now some sort of pre-eminent blogger (I'll excuse you while you laugh too), I've been fortunate enough to receive some sort of press release from said ESPN which I'd like to pass on to all of you...

...wait for it

E:60 has a special Joe Freakin' Mauer!!!!!! segment airing tonight at 7PM EST/6PM CST! And we all know how much we love Joe Mauer. How much we just want to bask in his presence. Every girl wants to date him and every guy wants to be his best friend and the rest of us really could care less which we get to do as long as it involves spending time with him.

Anyway, a press release wouldn't really be a press release without some sort of teaser. You can watch a video clip of the show here (click on the middle video with the picture of Joe's mom on the front). My favorite part is when Jake Mauer Sr. talks about walking into a Target with him and everyone trying to rip Joe's clothes off. Yeah, Joe, now you can finally empathize with what it's like for me to walk down Broadway at 1AM.

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents Eric of Call to the 'Pen!

I can't believe it's taken me this long to have Eric do a Get to Know 'Em blogger profile! Call to the Pen wasn't one of the first blogs I discovered, but it's certainly one of the best. Eric's able to walk that nice line between satire and analysis that I've been getting tripped up on since my blog's inception. Not only does his humor strike a chord with me, but his being a fellow Midwestern ex-pat living out East enforces that sense of kinship.

I've quickly found that he's a great guy to read and also a great guy to get to know, so that being said I'll let you all have a chance to get to know him too:

NAME: Eric Donald Olson. I haven't decided on my "law" name yet. Maybe I'll be E. Donald Olson. Or E.D. Olson. Or maybe I'll be Eric. Who knows.
WEBSITE: Call to the 'Pen (
BIRTHDAY: June 25th
HOMETOWN: I was born in Iowa City, consider Bismarck, ND to be my hometown, and live in Alexandria, VA.
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: Right now, nothing. I'm writing about five papers at once so I actually graduate from law school, studying for the Virginia bar exam, and hoping that the legal market in the Washington, DC area recovers in the next, oh, day or so.
FAVORITE COLOR: I can't say I've ever had a real favorite color. When I was a kid, I was always afraid the other crayons would feel bad if I didn't pick them, and by the time I outgrew that (about age 8), I had figured out it didn't matter. If I had to pick, though, I'd probably choose some kind of forest green.
FAVORITE FOOD: Really anything that has pasta, sausage, and/or bacon as a main ingredient. My current favorite recipe is for a three-cheese homemade macaroni and cheese (romano, sharp cheddar, and gruyere), which I like to serve with grilled kielbasa and vegetables.
FAVORITE MOVIE: I can't really say I have a favorite movie. As of right now, the Tom Hanks classic Philadelphia holds my interest pretty well, but I have really fallen in love recently with the beauty and depth of story present in the Hayao Miyazaki animated films, particularly Princess Mononoke.
FAVORITE BOOK: The Oresteia, by Aeschylus. I would probably rate Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground and Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Arms are probably the runners up. Oddly, I have several thousand books, but own a copy of neither.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: 90s rock, Grunge, Piano Rock, etc. I'm definitely a child of the 90's, music-wise.
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: College Football. I'll watch the NFL if there's nothing else going on, but I get so much more out of watching the non-professionals go at it.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: Baseball/softball (corner outfield and catcher) and Soccer.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: Big fan of the pre-Favre variety/Couldn't Care Less about the NBA in general/Mildly Disinterested - Washington Caps fan. The Caps are the one team I've adopted since I moved out here.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU?: SHS: Strategy, History, and Statistics. To me, those are the three things that separate baseball from the other major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, etc.). Baseball has the longest and greatest history of any one of them (and it's not close), and today's game is still effectively the same as it was back in the humble beginnings. We still talk about the greatness of Babe Ruth and his records still mean something. In football, the rules have changed so drastically so many times that records mean nothing from era to era. Finally, the statistical background in baseball is absolutely phenomenal - you can watch the game, and then spend hours reading about why what happened, er, happened.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: Man, that's tough. As someone that has really tried hard to adopt the Nats, I can tell you that it really isn't easy (though that might be because the team is just. so. bad.) But if I had to follow another team, it would certainly be the Nats. I feel like they have drafted really well for the last couple years (at least, the draftees that signed were good), and they have a bright future, so long as they don't have another Bowden situation. I would say the Orioles, for all the same reasons (if they get rid of Trembley, that is), but I can't pick another AL team. After following the Twins for so long, following another AL team would feel too much (bizarrely, to be sure) like I was leaving my wife for her sister (I think I'm safe to say that, since she doesn't have a sister ;-) ).
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME/TARGET FIELD: Man, I love Camden Yards. The new Nats Park is nice, but it really doesn't compare to Camden. My best non-Dome experience would have to have been in the summer of 2008. It was a Fri-Sun series with the Twins and the O's, but the Friday night game was rained out, so on Saturday I took in a day-night doubleheader - and it was amazing. Not really my favorite kind of games, they both were both high-scoring affairs (Perkins got his ass handed to him by the ORIOLES, of all teams), but the Twins pulled off a victory in both! A full day of baseball in that stadium, with two Twins win, when they were in a playoff race? Just can't be beat, except maybe by Target Field!
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY?: Man, I don't like it. I have tried to, but I just can't get into it. Basically, the simple fact that 18 games in the season have really no relevance to a given team's excellence relevant to the rest of the league, which is the team's competition for the post-season. Say we have the Twins and the Tigers competing to the end of the season, like last year. The Twins went 12-6 against the Brewers in 6 games, at the Cubs and Cards for 3 each, and at home against the Pirates and Astros. The Tigers had all the same teams, except for 3 against the Rockies instead of 3 of the Brewers games, but went 10-6. The Rockies were a much better team than the Brewers last season. Did that throw the division to the Twins? Unlikely, but it's possible. I'd be in favor of it if everyone played everyone, but there's no time for that, and I'd get tired of seeing pitchers flailing at the ball after a few weeks.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE?: I don't love it, but it makes a lot sense, since teams are first and foremost playing the other teams in their division in order to make the postseason. A full round-robin schedule with semi-even distribution made sense before realignment, but not now. The argument has been made that teams should play outside the division more because of the wild card, but if you're playing for the wild card, it means you've already lost.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS: I like that MLB is FINALLY moving in the direction of adopting instant replay, and even though it isn't there, I'm happy it's moving that direction.
THING YOU DISLIKE MOST ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS: Two things, actually: First, the speed of the games. I know this is a fairly hot topic and a rather obvious choice, but it's just ridiculous. Yeah, there are too many manager mound visits and pitching changes, but those pitching changes are much longer than they need to be thanks to commercials. Also, today I watched Ryan Madsen (of the Phillies) pull the old "fake to third fake to first" move FOUR TIMES in three pitches. Each time, it stopped the game for a full minute or longer. I hate it that it seems like every third game takes 3 1/2 hours, whether extra innings or not. Second, I hate the seventh inning stretch. God Bless America is a horrible song, and I don't want it sung in place of Take Me out to the Ballgame. Call me unpatriotic, but it's a baseball game, not a political exercise. That and the actual music itself is bad.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I'd have to say that my favorite player is Mike Sweeney in non-Twins baseball, mostly because I have a long history with him. I lived for several years in Eugene, Oregon, and there is a Low-A short-season farm team there named the Eugene Emeralds, which are now a member of the Padres system, but at that point was affiliated with the Royals, and I remember that Mike Sweeney was just about the nicest guy ever. He was there for two years in 1992 and 1993, and he's the only player I remember from those seasons (and easily the best player on the Ems those years). Eventually, he left the Ems and I caught up with him when he joined the Royals. He's always killed the Twins, so we've occasionally been love-hate, but he was always a great guy.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I don't really get into all the AJ hate, but I've always really hated Frank Thomas. No real reason, I suppose, other than that he's always been good and I've never liked the teams he's played on, so I've always had ample reason to hate him.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I used to play, and I want to get back into it after I graduate law school. Corner outfield and catcher.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: My whole family is from the Midwest, so the Twins are definitely the family team. However, it took me a long time to get there, since I first was a Mariners fan (when we were in Oregon), and then a Braves fan, then the strike happened, I was a Braves fan for a while, and then I moved back to the midwest and rejoined Twins Territory. I didn't become what some might call a superfan until the magical 2006 season, which was when I started watching every game. I started the blog in 2008, during that fun season.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Seeing Cal Ripken Jr. a couple years after he broke the record. That's a legend that I know I'll never see again in my lifetime.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT/PLANS TO GO TO TARGET FIELD: I wish I had plans to go to Target Field, but between the lack of a job and the distance to the Cities, I don't have any plans right now. Hopefully I'll be able to get there sometime this season!
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT?: I don't know if it was me personally, but I went to a game at the Dome with about 200 other graduating Gustavus Adolphus seniors in 2007, and I know at least some of us were circled. He probably circled the ones that were utterly wasted, as it seemed about 180 of us were. Considering the Twins lost to the Blue Jays, they were probably having more fun anyway.
HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN AT THE DOME/TF?: No, but, funny story, when I was at a Eugene Emeralds game back in '94, I managed to almost die from a bat that was thrown into the stands by a player for the Southern Oregon Athletics. I didn't even get to keep the bat, because it was a minor league game and bats are expensive and players still had to pay for their own back then, though I did get a cracked bat from the same player after the game.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Hands down, Kirby Puckett. I don't think there needs to be any discussion about that. And I'm judging just his playing career, not the stuff that happened after, which is sad and tragic and in some ways horrible (like the domestic abuse stuff), but I think I can separate the Twins player, and the person he became after he left the game.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Sideshow Pat! I really love Pat Neshek, and I don't know that anyone has rooted as hard for his successful return than I have (though that's sort of a big assumption). I think at one ill-advised moment, I suggested that he be anointed closer straight out of ST. Well, bad idea, but I'm still sort of attached to it! For me, it's about more that the way he plays the game, which is strange and interesting and really good. It's also about the way he interacts with all of us on his blog and Twitter, and the interesting choices he's made. How many vegan players are there in the MLB? I'm guessing one. And I hate that he got so much crap from all of us about it after the fact. I guess I'm on the hippie pinko liberal soap box here, but I guess I have a lot of stored-up irritation at everyone who was beating him up in 2008 when he was slightly less inhuman than he had been in 2006-7, then blamed his vegan diet for his injury, then blamed him/the Twins for the futher damage later in the season that actually led to the surgery, then became huge fans once again when it became clear he'd be back for this season. Bandwagon fans are not limited to the StarTribune website, it sometimes appears. Well, that's much more than the question asked. However, I don't care, because it seems I can't do anything in under 3,000 words or so, and this is now at 2,700.
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: I've always had a real soft spot for Rondell White, even if he did spend all of 2007 on the DL, and earn the respelling of his name, RonDL, every time an opposing player breathed on him the wrong way. Sort of the feeling of, "I really want you to succeed, but to succeed you have to play, and when you play, you suck, so I guess I really don't want you to succeed, but I'm sure you're a nice person!"
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Torii Hunter. I know a lot of people that have a lot of good feelings built up for him, but I've always gotten the feeling that he was a real dick unless he was the center of attention, and I really haven't seen anything to change my mind in the last 3-4 years (or heard anything from the years before I started paying real attention). Yeah, he does a lot of great charity work. But so do the heads of the big banks that just about destroyed the economy in 2007-08. Charity work and giving money don't make you a good person; they just mean that you have the money/time to be able to help others.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO WATCH A GAME WITH: Jim Thome. Not only is he about the nicest guy you could hope to meet (despite my frequent insistence on my blog that he's actually evil), but he's been around long enough that I feel like he'd have more stories about and knowledge of the game than anyone else on the team.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: I'm afraid that if I don't invite the Orlando Hudson (who I call "the" Orlando Hudson because I refuse to call him "the O-Dog" or any of its variations, but I'll grant him the "the" at the beginning of his name), because if I don't I'm afraid he'll imply that I'm racist to the national sports press. However, if I didn't have to choose the Orlando Hudson, I'd choose Michael Cuddyer. He just seems like a fun guy to hang out with, while most of the rest of the crew seems too stoic for me to want to go drinking with.
CURRENT PLAYER YOU'D MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: Joe Mauer, because with his new fortune we could build a raft of dollar bills and sail back to civilization.
YOU'D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: I'm going to have to say Brendan Harris, because I think we'd have a good discussion of baseball and politics. And when I say "good discussion of ... politics," I mean we shout at each other for a while.
YOU'D WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: Jon Rauch. You really couldn't ask for much more than a giant with a neck tattoo who enters to hard rock music.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: JJ Hardy. He certainly has the looks for it. Also, he's not as overexposed as Joe Mauer - really famous people going from other jobs to acting tend to suck badly at acting. Case in point - the worst actors in Little Big League were the superstars - Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey, Jr. The random minor-leaguers that played the baseball players were great.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: I'm going to go with Craig Breslow, because I continue to delude myself into thinking the Twins didn't let him go for nothing, and that he's really sitting comfortably in AAA, waiting for Mijares to screw up enough to get him back to the majors.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: I feel like Jose Mijares knows how to make some really tasty and delicious food, so I'd open a restaurant with him. It's just a hunch, but I think it's borne out.

THOUGHTS ON WHAT YOU'VE SEEN OF TARGET FIELD: It looks beautiful and like a great place to watch a game. I suppose my main critiques are these: 1. Obstructed views. I mean, the designers had to have known that people in the right field bleacher seats might want to see center or right field. That seems like really poor planning. 2. I don't like how far up the first tier of outfield seats are in centerfield. I don't want something like Fenway, but the way it is reminds me of Progressive Field - the mistake by the lake. I know it's probably because they had to deal with the Interstate and the trains underneath, but I'm still going to complain, because it's what I do. Overall, though, it looks like it plays great; the way it's set up won't have the sun in the batter's eyes for early evening games; all the reports I have heard have it sounding amazing. I can't wait to go.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM THIS YEAR: 1st in the Central, 94 wins.

A huge thanks to Eric! He's a great guy to chat baseball with and runs one of the best blogs I've had the pleasure of reading! So make sure to check out Call to the 'Pen!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Podcast tonight!

Tune in tonight to listen to the Twins Talk podcast as I join Fanatic Jack and our special guest, Andrew Bryz-Gornia of Off the Mark! 10PMEST/11PMCST after the Twins game!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Now THIS is a Good Team

Quick side note: I passed my 100th post the other week and I passed my 10,000th visitor even further back and completely forgot to recognize it... Those were personal milestones I didn't really consider when I started this, and along with being linked to on the Star Tribune once or twice, making the featured article of the MN Gameday website a few times, and appearing on Seth's podcast -- along with meeting several amazing Twins bloggers that I've admired for the past couple years that I've been a reader instead of a blogger -- have made these past 6 months of blogging worth it! For what I still consider to be quite a fledgling blog, your support has made me VERY happy, so thanks to everyone who stops by here even on an intermittent basis!

I have a friend -- a Tiger's friend (shudder, don't ask) -- who doesn't even glance at the standings until we're at least 20 games into the season. He considers the first 3 weeks to be extended spring training, and perhaps he's right. Remember when the 2003 Royals team started off the season winning their first 9 games and 16 out of their first 20 before ultimately cooling off and settling into the middle of the pack where they placed 3rd, ultimately just above .500?

Hot-streaks happen in baseball, and so do cold-streaks. It happens to every team, regardless of if you're the Yankees or the Nationals (well, maybe not the Nationals quite as often). It happens to every player as well, regardless of if you're Joe Mauer or Nick Punto.

The start to this season has been excellent. The Twins are considered one of the top teams in baseball and riding high in the wake of opening their new stadium. Their offense is clicking, their defense is looking sharp, their starting rotation has kept them in games and their bullpen has been better than we could have expected.

It was easy to for the other teams to dismiss our hammering of the Angels on the road. They lost Chone Figgins, Vlad Guerrero and John Lackey and -- despite always being a solid team -- are not the same Angels that won 90+ last year.

It was even easier to ignore our dismantling of the White Sox. Sure, they were preseason darlings for being an AL Central contender, but they are just as likely to be bottom-dwellers if Ozzie Guillen's little washed-up-veteran-rehash-slap-and-run experiment can't take off (as has been the case so far...).

But you cannot so easily glance over our shellacking of the Red Sox. Despite not usually stacking up against them (or winning) in the past, we've consistently played fairly even games against them -- at least more so than against the Yankees. Yet these are the Big Boys of the East. One of the nation's favorite teams to either love or hate. 2nd highest payroll in baseball. A rotation with 3 starters who would be the ace of almost any other team.

If we go by the 20-game benchmark, we are halfway there and 7-3 after facing easily the toughest part of our schedule until our New York-Toronto-Boston road trip in the middle of May. With our upcoming series consisting of a home-and-away against Kansas City, a homestand against Cleveland and a visit to Detroit, we could very conceivably be 17-3 (yes I know, I'm optimistic, but come on -- it's Kansas City and Cleveland...).

You can discount early season games as much as you want, but it certainly behooves any team to get off to a good start. The Twins have done that in resounding fashion, and they've given us no reason to believe that won't continue.

On another note, if you're looking for a fun, informative, interesting read, check this out. An account of the origin of every MLB team's name. Makes for some interesting bar trivia talk...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bukowski on Baseball

Not actually Bukowski. Just a butchering style.

Losses hurt the soul

I don't think I have a soul, but baseball tells me otherwise
it's kind of like how Chinese food reminds me of that ulcer.

You make a lot of effort to watch these games
nine innings is a lot of time
to sit in front of a stupid box and yell, especially when there's other shit to do.
Like work.

Leaving guys on base should be a sin. Not venial sin. A mortal one.

Canadians who can't hit the Japanese is like the story of my life
and Okajima reminds me of that island in the Pacific, can't remember why
but I know it's not good. And Canadians had no part in it.

I had a woman once, she was good, but she didn't like baseball.
That wasn't good.
Couldn't understand why I got so upset when we lost.

"Hank, you're in first place," she'd say. "Cheer the hell up and let's get some food."

Not my girl anymore. I think she doesn't like drunks who can't take perspective.
It's ok, I don't like women who don't understand.

You get over this but it takes time. Gotta blow some steam as they say.
I blow my steam at a bar. Bottle of beer. Shot of Jamison.
This bartender from Philadelphia who listens to my whining.
This guy from Boston I know is gonna bust my chops.
This Bronx jerk who doesn't know Minnesota is a state. Or has a team.
Probably some barfly from Kansas City doesn't give a crap about anything these days.

I'll take 'em all. Part of the routine. You grin, you joke, you talk about your loss,
but you don't talk about that soul hurt.
The soul you don't have.
Or so you think.
Then the next morning you shake off that whisky-beer cloud,
stand under some water
hit the street,
light a cigarette,
and crawl into a tunnel full of people
that smell like
sweat and
hope and
some faint odor of damp shampoo.

Don't forget your taxes.

And you wonder if you lose again today and start it all over.

We'll win.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Be sure to check out the Twins Talk podcast tonight as I join Fanatic Jack again at 9PM CST/10PM EST along with special guest Nick Nelson!

Yankees Fans Have Hearts

I'm a little overly harsh on Yankees fans -- probably because I live around so many of them and probably because they usually have it so good. But let's face it, some of them can make it really easy to dislike the rest...

In the absence of Twins baseball today, I instead caught glimpses of the Yankees home opener against the Angels while at work. Of course, we all know who's now on the Angels:

I thought it would be really interesting to see how they responded to seeing Hideki Matsui again (really, click that link, it's worth it, if you don't already know this you'll never look at him the same), this time as an enemy of the pinstripes. And you know what? They gave him a standing ovation. Who would've thought?

Perhaps I'm biased because of how they react to other players who return to face them after so many years, but then again Matsui earned MVP of the World Series while playing for them while Pavano earned the snazzy nickname "American Idle" for not doing anything at all -- although if the Yankees want to throw money around like that it's going to bite them in the ass once in a while, so stop the whining.

Anyway, suffice to say that it was fun watching Matsui get some swings against his former team and I'm glad that the fans up in the Bronx treated him well after all he did for them. Now, tomorrow we'll actually get to watch some exciting baseball that I actually care about...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thanks for the Day Games (and making fun of Waldman/Sterling)

I hope all my friends had fun at Target Field! I made a point to step out of meetings and hang up on phone calls and everything I could to watch that game on ESPN in the living room at work. I caught the first inning, some great catches by Span, 2 Mauer doubles, and a Kubel homerun crushed into the right field porch, as well as the 5th Rauch save (and first at Target Field).

I'm sure the day games are beautiful, and I can't wait to go to my first one -- but I love how baseball makes you rethink your priorities. "Hmm, work vs. Twins home opener..." It's an easy choice for me and apparently the 40,000 people who packed Target Field today to see the first regular season game at their new stadium.

One thing: I was stuck watching this on ESPN. I really hate watching my home team on the Eastern Sports Package Network (warning, not what ESPN really stands for). Despite the fact that the announcers weren't quite as awful as they could be for a Twins game, I just wish I could've seen the festivities and blind homerism of Dick & Bert that FSN North probably offered to everyone today.

It's really easy to make fun of the Minnesota Twins play-calling duo, but you really don't know the half of what it's like to live with awful commentators.

Suzyn Waldman ladies and gentlemen...

Even John Gordon is better than what you get out here.

This is the cleanest rip of John Sterling I can find ... if you don't mind extreme foul language, you can hear more dissection of his call by clicking here...

So please, understand that while you might like to mute your TV and turn down your radio, I want to stick forks in my ears. Yeah, even the most loyal Yankees fans hate these announcers with a passion. If you couldn't get enough Suzy Waldman above:

Note: also a knock against Nick Swisher

This is all for tonight. I hope this helps you appreciate Dick, Bert, Joe Morgan, Jon Miller and every other guy you hear calling a game...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Minnesota: Hello/Goodbye

Thursday night I decided I didn't want to be left out of the fun of the Twins Centric viewing party, especially because I knew I was going to miss opening day at Target Field. So, despite a couple people essentially getting me to spill the beans to them early, I was able to surprise a few folks with a cameo up in Blaine this weekend.

There is something awesome about watching baseball at a bar among a throng of Twins fans that I think I'm deprived of out in New York. I average seeing somebody in this city wearing a Twins cap perhaps 3 or 4 times a week and I feel an immediate bond with them -- so everybody at the Twins Centric party felt like long lost family to me.

Jack, Seth, John, Emily, Andrew, Kirsten, Betsy, Nick, Parker and even all the other people I didn't get to talk to definitely made that spontaneous trip worthwhile! (And Kirsten's brownies, which I had heard talked up SO MUCH, went above and beyond what I was expecting! That was worth it right there!)

The theme of the day for me was trying to recreate the famous "Seth eating nachos on national TV shot":

Me and Andrew doing our best...

Emily's attempt...

The Master reenacts...

And now for a few notes:

-- I'm tied for 1st place with Thrylos 98 in our Twoggers Fantasy League. Whoever wants to just concede to me now can do so anytime... (trash talk needs to pick up in our league...)

-- I decided to splurge and get a luxury SUV while I was in Minnesota for the day. Those things are like driving a tank. Trying to parallel park with it in Uptown took all of my New York driving mentality ... I think I'm sticking to sedans.

-- 5-2 would be a really awesome way to walk into Target Field except I think my taste has been a little soured by the way we ended that final game in Chicago. Or should I say the way Ullger ended that final game. I just can't believe he had the mental break that allowed such an unbelievable misstep. I can just imagine Gardy sitting in the dugout watching helplessly as Scotty Ullger completely abandons reason...
This video doesn't exactly relate but it's hilarious and will get that bad taste out of your mouth... thanks Alan.

-- I got to listen to the beginning of Sunday's game on the radio -- man do I miss John Gordon's calming voice, he's like my 3rd Grandpa. The rest of the game was watched at the French Meadow airport bar. In some ways I'm glad the game didn't go any longer because I kept glancing at my watch in the 9th and listening to the boarding calls. The game ended at the perfect time, just with the wrong result! The flight home was a little interesting... I had a connection in Philly and was forced into a little 10 row puddle jumper Dash 8-100 that looked like it should have been decommissioned about 20 years ago. If I hadn't eaten that Philly Cheesesteak in the airport before getting on the plane maybe it wouldn't have felt as uncomfortable, but that was probably the least favorite flight in memory.

-- I have way too much Twins apparel. And I made the ultimate impulse buy and picked up a Denard Span off-white retro Twins jersey in the MSP airport. I think I have an addiction to Twins clothing, people have started saying things too...

That's about it! Try to forget about Chicago, we're sitting pretty after that tough road trip. Time to kick off Target Field in style!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em" presents Dan from Twins Jabber

Ok, first off, I'm a little upset that my MLB Extra Innings package didn't show the Thursday night Twins/Angels matchup. That sucks. I wanted to watch Slowey.

Second, if you're lucky enough to live in Minnesota and are looking for some fun Twins activity this weekend, you need to get yourself over to the Twins Centric Viewing Party on this Saturday the 10th. It's a great opportunity to watch the game with like-minded Twins fanatics and also a way to meet and get to know some of the great bloggers along my sidebar that you are hopefully all reading! It starts at noon at Major's Sports Cafe in Blaine (10950 Club West Parkway). There's great food and drink deals if you go out wearing Twins gear and there's also plenty of giveaways. So get out there!

Now, speaking of meeting Twins bloggers, let's introduce ourselves to one of the great new Twins blogs that I've discovered...

This is a special in-season presentation of my Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em series. Today I'm proud to feature Dan DiVincenzo of Twins Jabber, a great blog that I stumbled across awhile ago and have been following ever since I first set eyes on it. Like me, Dan's stuck out in the Empire State cheering for his team from the heart of Yankee Land. His proximity to the Rochester Red Wings lets him get a nice Twins AAA fix and also supplies him with an edge on everyone else as to what's going on with our affiliate out there. His blog is amazing, and has been running for awhile now so if you haven't already added it to your daily fix I highly recommend you do from here on out! Without further ado:

NAME: Dan DiVincenzo
BIRTHDAY: February 20th
WHAT KEEPS YOU EMPLOYED OTHER THAN BLOGGING: I sit in a cube all day and develop software. I also do some freelance website programming on the side.
FAVORITE FOOD: A Lo mein-like dish my grandmother makes. She's from Okinawa and it's delicious.
FAVORITE BOOK: I can't really pick one, but I'm a fan of Robin Cook's stuff.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC: Thanks to my fiancée, I'm now a big Country fan.
FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH OTHER THAN BASEBALL: Wait, there are other sports besides baseball? Kidding - I watch a little bit of football during the winter months.
FAVORITE SPORT TO PLAY: I'd have to save baseball/softball. I used to play baseball in high school, but I've been playing softball recently.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE VIKINGS/TIMBERWOLVES/WILD: Indifferent, I guess. I'm not from Minnesota, so I'm more apt to root for the Sabres and the Bills. Not that I have any malevolent feelings towards the Vikings or anything - I save those for New England and Miami.

General Baseball-
WHAT MAKES BASEBALL SO GREAT TO YOU: The strategy and the statistics. I love that we have a history of the game based primarily on numbers and I find it great that there are so many different ways to win. I'm digging what Seattle's doing this season and I'm very interested to see how their run prevention plan works out.
IF YOU HAD TO FOLLOW ANOTHER TEAM, WHICH AND WHY: I know I'm going to take some flak for saying so, but I'd have to say the Yankees. My fiancée and her family are huge Yankees fans. They're also the 'local' MLB team, so I'm able to watch all their games on television.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT A BALLPARK OTHER THAN THE DOME: Last summer, I took a trip to NYC with my fiancée and some friends to watch the Yankees play the Twins. Of course, that was the 'walk-off weekend' so the outcome wasn't a great experience. However, I did get to see Mauer crush a ball into Monument Park, and Morneau launch one over the right field wall.
OPINION ON INTERLEAGUE PLAY: I like it, but I think everyone should get to play each other. I'm not sure how the scheduling works, but it doesn't seem fair that one AL team could draw the Cardinals and Phillies one weekend, while another team gets to play the Nats and the Pirates. Maybe they try to break that up some how, but it's hard to predict with 100% accuracy before hand which teams will be strong or weak.
OPINION ON THE UNBALANCED SCHEDULE: I don't like it. Actually, I think it helps the Twins out but I don't think it's fair in regards to the Wild Card race. I think teams like Tampa Bay and Florida would have better records if they didn't have to face the huge market teams in their divisions 18 times a year. While the Twins get to face the Royals and Indians 18 times.
FAVORITE NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: Cal Ripken Jr. I used to be an Orioles fan back in the day.
MOST HATED NON-TWINS PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY: I don't like Cliff Lee at all. It probably started when he went after Go-go for trying to bunt on him. Unsportsmanlike and too whiny for my taste. Just seems like a jerk in general.
DID YOU EVER PLAY BASEBALL/SOFTBALL, WHAT POSITION: I was a catcher in High School, but I play third or short for my softball teams.

Twins Generic-
WHEN DID YOU BECOME A TWINS FAN AND WHY: It was around the time of the 2002 playoffs. Cal Ripken Jr. had retired and he was pretty much the only reason I was still following the Orioles. I hated how that team was run, and it seemed like the Twins had it figured out. The Twins also became the parent team to the Rochester Red Wings in 2003, so it was fun to see guys like Cuddyer, Morneau, Kubel, Baker, Garza, Slowey, Boof and others playing in AAA before they became regulars for the Twins.
BEST EXPERIENCE AT THE DOME: Sadly, I was never able to make the trip out.
EVER BEEN TO TWINS FEST, HOW WAS IT: I've also never been to Twins Fest. Hopefully that will change soon!
EVER BEEN TO SPRING TRAINING, HOW WAS IT: I'd also like to take a little vacation down to Florida for Spring Training in the near future.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIRCLED BY BERT: Not to my knowledge. I was in the nose-bleed section at Yankee Stadium 2.5 so I doubt I saw much camera time.

Twins Player Specific-
FAVORITE TWINS PLAYER IN HISTORY: Since my personal Twins history is pretty short, I'd have to say Brad Radke. That guy was nails.
FAVORITE CURRENT TWINS PLAYER: Jason Kubel is the man. He was an absolute monster for Rochester in 2004, before he blew out his knees. (I don't think he'll be stealing 16 bases again anytime soon)
FAVORITE OBSCURE TWINS PLAYER: Jason Tyner. Okay, maybe not terribly obscure, but I liked the fact that he has eight major league seasons under his belt, despite only one career home run. Runner up was Garrett Jones, but he's not really obscure anymore.
ARE THERE (WERE THERE) ANY TWINS PLAYERS YOU DISLIKE: Torii Hunter always rubbed me the wrong way, throwing teammates under the bus and all. He also took a swing at Morneau and punched Nick Punto instead. Two strikes in the matter of a few seconds right there. I've also lost some respect for Johan ever since he demanded a trade out of Minnesota. But hey, maybe he did the Twins a favor.
FAVORITE EXPERIENCE MEETING A PLAYER, PLEASE DESCRIBE: Not a Twins player, but the player that made the biggest impact on me was infielder P.J. Forbes. The Red Wings used to run clinics (maybe they still do) for Little League kids and Forbes always volunteered. He was a nice guy and good with the kids. Cal Ripken Jr. was also very tall and my favorite player at the time, so that was cool. My father actually has more interesting stories than I do: He once had a one-on-one conversation with Jason Kubel about the opposing starting pitcher. He also had an inning long conversation with Kevin Slowey's father, who had come to see Slowey's first AAA start.
MOST LIKE TO GO TO A BAR WITH: Carl Pavano? Despite what Yankee fans say, he seems like a nice enough guy. Plus I'd like to hear some stories about what really went down in New York.
MOST LIKE TO BE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND WITH: I'm going to go with Glen Perkins. He sounds like he has a good sense of humor and seems like a redneck to boot. I don't think we'd have any trouble getting food.
MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Toss up between Nick Blackburn and Jim Thome.
WANT TO BE THE FRONT MAN OF YOUR NEW BAND: It would be a country band and we'd have Jim Thome in a cowboy hat.
YOU THINK SHOULD BE A MOVIE STAR: J.J. Hardy has a great movie star name.
YOU'D ASK FOR HELP ON A SCIENCE LAB: With Craig Breslow gone, I'd probably go to Kevin Slowey. He seems like a smart guy. Or maybe Joe Mauer - he's good at EVERYTHING he does, so he must be a natural at Science too.
YOU'D LIKE TO START A BUSINESS WITH: Nick Punto. He'd work hard and never give up. I'd also like to imagine he'd slide headfirst down the conference room table to start off every meeting.

EXPECTATIONS OF TARGET FIELD: I think it's going to be beautiful, and I think it's going to be cold.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE TEAM THIS YEAR: The top of the order will score a ton of runs, but I'm a little worried about the pitching. We saw last season how a couple of injuries could throw the staff our of whack, and they didn't really do much to address that. I wonder if losing Joe Nathan will make some of the younger starters less confident out there. Overall though, they should be at or near the top of the AL Central all season long.

A huge thanks to Dan! If you haven't checked out Twins Jabber yet, do so from now on, it's a great site and Dan has excellent posts. Go Twins!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I Learned After 1 Game

I try not to make it a habit to judge a team after 1 game. I also try not to make it a habit of judging a team too harshly the first 2-3 weeks of a season. But let's face it, we saw what we needed to see and the Twins are going to have an awful season:

1) Baker is a bum. Can't pitch his way out of a paper bag. Opening Day starter? Let's send him back to AAA to get some work in and call up Perkins.

2) Lookin' like we're gonna regret that Joe Mauer contract. Guy can't get a hit to save his life. He's currently batting .000, so I think you can let go of the hopes he'll hit .400, much less anything above the Mendoza line.

3) Delmon Young IS THE REAL DEAL. Talk about the only source of offense on our team. I can't believe why everyone's been bashing him! If you guys look back on the last 9 innings he's played, I think that's a pretty strong case...

4) Gardy has a man-crush on Harris. He won't even let this Punto guy finish out a game at 3rd.

5) The Angels are going to win the World Series. They're just too good. We shouldn't even trot out a team tonight, might as well save our energy and our efforts for the White Sox.

6) Let's trade Mijares.


OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit. But I'll admit, Baker did kind of ruin my plans of going 162-0 so I was a little peeved about that. I'll get over it, but that wasn't the best outing.

How about Jesse Crain? He held down the fort for a little bit. He didn't look nervous or overmatched or out of his element on the mound. I'd like to see some more performances like that!

I think the one thing I really learned is that the Mauer contract situation definitely isn't over yet. We'll be hearing about it every time the Twins play a game on ESPN, and I'll be hearing it every time I watch a game because I'm usually stuck with the out of market stuff on the MLB Extra Innings package. It gets kind of annoying listening to all the other announcers say the same things about your team over and over again like it's new material.

Anyway, now on to the quest of 161-1!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have this annoying habit of singing Christmas tunes to myself even in the middle of July.

That's not me, but I feel just as crazy.
People at my office are subjected to it more than most, and I sincerely apologize if it's annoying to think of snow in the dead of summer. I also now must apologize for subjecting you, dear readers, to their same fate.

But it's undeniable: this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is lovely, but nothing beats Opening Day. Fans around the country can sit down and know that regardless of how awful their team is, they will at the very least get 162 opportunities to watch them in action. And even fans of the Royals and the Nationals can look at that clean slate and dream of 162-0 (emphasis on the dream).

Do you remember opening day last year? I'm not sure what it was like in Minnesota, I just remember it out here in New York. It was pretty rainy. Rainy and grey and there was a little chill in the air that forced me to wear a light jacket and keep my head down on my way to work from the subway. It was the kind of day where I get in, shake off a slight layer of dampness like I'm just another wet dog, and then hang my coat on the rack by the elevator to dry off.

But despite the grey, despite the rain, despite the chill, it was easily the best day of the year. It's tough to focus on bleak circumstances (not to mention work) when something that you wait for all year finally arrives. I've grown a little old for that childhood excitement I found in Christmas -- the kind that kept me cataloging a list of gifts I was going to ask for and then waiting up all night the eve before because I just couldn't get to sleep.

That doesn't really hit me anymore, I don't sit around all year and wait for Christmas because of all the fun presents and festivities.

No -- I sit around all year and wait for baseball. Opening Day is adult Christmas, the closest thing you can come to replicating that feeling of giddiness and irrepressible excitement from your childhood.

And just like you knew your parents didn't understand your thrill about that day, we look around at all the people out there who don't follow baseball and see them roll their eyes or exchange knowing smiles when they see us with our hats and jerseys and broad stupid grins on our face even despite the sometimes dreary weather we get on this day.

For us, birds are singing, bitter New Yorkers on a gloomy commute are just more people to smile at and spread the joy to, and beyond all that, more than anything, we can dream of a summer of possibilities on the horizon. 6 more months of that Christmas feeling. Of waking up in the morning and knowing that regardless of how the rest of your day is going, you get to watch baseball.

It's the best feeling in the world.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.


Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Predictions

Upon the encouragement of the wise Josh Johnson, I've decided to partake in the Twins Blogosphere's 2010 Predictions. If you should (wisely) read on, I hope to do my best not spoil the 2010 season by letting you know everything that's going to happen -- but at the same time I hope to hold my esteem as being an amazing baseball mind that can predict such things as an entire season... in short, what follows is complete and utter (educated) guess-work:

Twins-Specific Predictions:

TWINS MVP: Well -- how could anyone say a name other than Joe Mauer? It's kind of hard to be a team MVP when someone else overshadows everyone else in baseball the way your catcher does. Look for this guy to have an off year and hit around .330/.400/.525 while single-handedly renewing the integrity of baseball.

TWINS TOP PITCHER: Joe Nathan. Oh wait, too soon. I'm going to say Kevin Slowey. I've had my eye on the guy for a long time, and not just because Thrylos98 is enamored. His pinpoint control and ability to miss bats even without overpowering stuff is incredible. And the poise he displays on the mound is something only grizzled veterans tend to display. Years of brilliance about to display themselves in 2010.

TWINS BEST ROOKIE: Anthony Slama. Really, the only other real rookie I see coming up and getting playing time this year is Danny Valencia, and in general I think it takes longer for hitters to settle in to the majors as opposed to pitchers. Even though Valencia has more long-term upside in my mind, I think Slama makes the biggest impact on this team in 2010.

TWINS MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Francisco Liriano. Without a doubt. If that slider and even a hint of his poise is back, he'll be a formidable pitcher.

BOLD PREDICTIONS: Delmon Young doesn't make it to midseason before Jason Kubel and Jim Thome claim all his playing time. Danny Valencia takes over 3rd base after the All-Star break and runs with it. Everyone in Twins Territory is calling for the amazing rookie, Anthony Slama, to close out ball-games by the time he's entrenched as the 8th inning guy in August.

1. Twins
2. White Sox
3. Tigers
4. Royals
5. Indians

1. Lack of significant regression. Mauer, Span, Kubel, Cuddyer, and several others had amazing years last year. The Twins are banking on the fact that they can at least show a reasonably similar performance this year. If that isn't the case, the cogs won't fit.
2. Orlando Hudson. OK, we all clamored for him. Defense and offense at one of our traditionally weak positions. If he can stay healthy and get on base at a decent clip, our lineup will be one of the most dangerous in baseball and our infield defense will be iron-clad.
3. Rotation. Those 5 guys are holding a lot on their shoulders. Considering that our back-up options are all kids without significant major league experience and don't seem to be banging on the door at the moment, they had better hold up their own and live up to and beyond expectations.

Rest of the League Predictions:

AL MVP: I'm likely just clouded in my judgement, but it's really hard for me to see anyone other than Mauer winning this. I'm trying to think of teams that will be in contention and there just aren't any clear standouts on them. Who knows if Jeter will have a similar year to last, but anyone 1-9 on that team will be mentioned in the MVP debate whether they deserve it or not. Boston has a few options but nobody really stands out heads above the rest, and I just can't think of anyone on the Angels, Mariners, or even Rangers that is just screaming MVP. Mauer it is.

NL MVP: Chase Utley. Maybe it's just because he was my first overall fantasy pick, but he's ridiculously good and his team will be vying for the World Series again in all likelihood. Hard to pass up such a solid player.

AL CY YOUNG: Justin Verlander. Yuck, I know, ugh. But he's just soooo good and deserves to win it soon. I love Greinke but two years in a row is a difficult accomplishment, no one who pitches in Yankee Stadium half the time will post stellar numbers, and Peavy isn't all he's cracked up to be. Plan B is Felix Hernandez, but I think Verlander wins by a margin.

NL CY YOUNG: Roy Halladay. I really want to say someone fun like Tommy Hanson, but I think Halladay just has the clout and can really dominate in the NL as well. Big assumption is that he stays healthy, but if he does he'll mow through the NL East.

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Brian Matusz. One of the most promising pitchers I've seen and perhaps the only really bright spot this year for his organization.

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jason Heyward. Please, somebody throw out another name. It's impossible. The talent brimming in this guy is undeniable and I think anyone would sell half their team to get their hands on him. Pujols Jr.

AL BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Is this a real award? Ummm, I'm going to say Kevin Slowey. I think he's been good consistently but this is his year to finally shine. In 2011, no way does he slip below the 5th round of the draft, even if Thrylos98 isn't participating.

NL BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Pedro Sandoval. Maybe he doesn't qualify, because he wasn't bad last year, but I think after 2010 he becomes a household name.

AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Francisco Liriano. After the first month he starts turning heads and doesn't look back. He won't be his old, old self, but he'll leave a wake of baffled hitters as he plows through the season.

NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jose Reyes. He'll come back part-way into the season and start hitting with a vengeance, electrifying an otherwise lifeless and depressing Mets lineup with his OBP and speed.

AL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS: Twins over Red Sox 3-1. Yankees over Rangers 3-2. Twins over Yankees 4-2.

NL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS: Cardinals over Braves 3-2. Phillies over Giants 3-0. Cardinals over Phillies 4-3.

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: Twins over Cardinals 4-1.