October 24, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Last year I went to Legend's to have drinks and watch the Vikings vs. Giants on Monday Night Football with some friends, in part because it was Josh Freeman's debut. That game proved to be one of the worst I've ever seen, Freeman never started again for the Vikings, and the whole experience was really weird. So luckily Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune decided to reunite the group on the one-year anniversary for an oral history of the evening. Seriously.

• I was on the fence about going to the Wolves home opener next week, but booking Vanilla Ice as the halftime show convinced me to go.

• Sure, this story about online dating is funny and sad, but more importantly who is actually "the most-published person on the planet"?

• On a related note, Santa Claus really misrepresents the ease with which chimneys serve as entrances to homes. Or seventh dates.

• The world is truly an amazing place sometimes, especially when it comes to bathroom habits.

• Speaking of which, I may never stop shaking my head about this revelation.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about the Twins' lack of spending and analyzed a lengthy Terry Ryan interview, which got me pretty frustrated. And then in the interest of fairness, we spliced in the actual Ryan audio so listeners can judge for themselves.

• You need to watch this video of Tubby Smith riding a motorcycle into "Midnight Madness" at Texas Tech while the theme from "Shaft" plays. Trust me:

Side note: Smith is 63 years old.

Fair enough, but they're also cute and often owned by pretty women.

Kevin Love wants to play on a good team. For nearly his entire time in Minnesota the Wolves were a) not good and b) poorly run. Seems simple enough.

Charlie Warzel tracked down the person allegedly responsible for celebrities' personal photos being stolen and released publicly, and the resulting article was fascinating, weird, and sad.

Julian Casablancas just learned a very important lesson: Don't mess with brunchers.

• I'm sure this will go over as poorly as people in Minnesota who dare talk about Kirby Puckett's off-field allegations, but good on Hannibal Buress for speaking up about Bill Cosby.

• As a Gchat power user I encourage everyone to use it all the time, especially at work.

• I know several of these women, somehow.

• Will declining Jared Burton's option be the first step in the Twins overhauling their bullpen?

• "Top Chef" is back, which means Keith Law's great "Top Chef" episode recaps are back.

• Congrats to Aaron Rupar for his new gig with FOX-9. He leaves behind some very big shoes to fill at City Pages, where his blog was a Link-O-Rama staple thanks to the combination of reporting and silliness.

• I highly recommend checking out the brand new LynLake Brewery, which has a spacious main level with a huge projection television and also a nice rooftop patio. We interviewed the manager and owner while recording this week's podcast episode there and I took some pictures.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "What is Ron Gardenhire going to do next?"
- "Nice write-up on a high school pitcher"
- "Patrick Reusse marriage"
- "Kirby Puckett on-deck circle pictures"
- "Joe Mauer trade candidates"
- "Who is Jewish and who isn't"

• Finally, in honor of the Freeman anniversary this week's AG.com-approved music video is "I'm Not The Only One" by Sam Smith:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

October 22, 2014

Twins decline $3.6 million option on Jared Burton; bullpen overhaul next?

jared burton twins

Rather than keep right-hander Jared Burton around for next season at a cost of $3.6 million the Twins declined his 2015 option and paid him a $200,000 buyout, making the 33-year-old reliever a free agent. Burton was a great scrap-heap pickup for the Twins after his career was derailed by injuries with the Reds and not so long ago his 2015 option looked like it might be a bargain, but his performance and raw stuff both slipped this season.

Burton debuted for the Reds in 2007 as a 26-year-old and posted a 3.47 ERA in 161 innings from 2007-2009, but then arm problems caused him to miss most of 2010 and 2011. Cut loose by the Reds in November of 2011, he signed a minor-league contract with the Twins two weeks later and made the Opening Day roster out of spring training. He was an elite setup man in 2012 and much of 2013 before fading down the stretch, and those struggles continued this season.

If the Twins felt Burton was a decent bet to bounce back next season $3.6 million certainly isn't a crazy price tag for a late-inning reliever, but he has a 5.12 ERA and 50/28 K/BB ratio in 72 innings since August of 2013 and averaged just 91 miles per hour on his fastball while being overtaken as Glen Perkins' primary setup man by Casey Fien. Plus, if the Twins are planning to have a payroll below $90 million again there's hardly any room under their self-imposed spending limit.

Six relievers appeared in 30 or more games for the Twins this season and their bullpen could look much different in 2015. Perkins is signed through at least 2017 and Fien is a lock to be retained via arbitration, but rising salaries and underwhelming performances make the arbitration-eligible duo of Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak non-tender candidates. That would leave Perkins, Fien, and low-leverage lefty Caleb Thielbar as the bullpen holdovers.

It would also clear the path for less experienced relievers like Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly, and Lester Oliveros to take bigger roles and the Twins still have Mike Pelfrey and his one-pitch repertoire under contract for $5.5 million. Factor in starter prospects who could benefit from being worked into the mix as relievers, plus various intriguing bullpen arms in the minors, and the Twins may be able to get both cheaper and better by overhauling the bullpen around Perkins and Fien.


For a lot more about the Twins' payroll plans and Terry Ryan's comments about the team's lack of spending, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

October 20, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #167: Payroll and Terry Ryan Quotes

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded at the brand new LynLake Brewery and topics included the Twins' lack of spending, Parker Hageman's lengthy interview with Terry Ryan, how Ron Gardenhire's exit probably happened, the value of outfield defense, fans going from frustrated to angry, playoff payrolls, imagining the Twins as the Vikings, and mailbag questions from listeners.

UPDATE: We spliced in the actual Ryan audio in the interest of fairness, so that everyone can judge for themselves.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 167

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Here are a few shots of the rooftop patio and the main room of LynLake Brewery:

LynLake Brewery


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

October 17, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Approximately one million people sent me the New York Times' "brunch is for jerks" article, but here's the thing: Combining breakfast food and booze is undeniably great. End of story.

• UFC announcer Mike Goldberg did play-by-play for the Vikings-Lions game and it was a mess, with botched names and confused calls throughout. Afterward he cursed out people on Twitter who were criticizing his performance, at which point FOX removed him from their NFL schedule.

• If this is true about Kate Mara ... well, then I quit.

• How much payroll space do the Twins have and, more importantly, will they actually spend it?

Martha Stewart vs. Gwyneth Paltrow is this generation's Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Dana Wessel for winning "Mrs. Arkansas International, 2014."

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we drank beer at 612 Brew and revisited our preseason predictions to see just how terrible they were.

• We also had Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press as our guest on "Gleeman and The Geek" two episodes ago and lots of listeners enjoyed it more than usual.

• Imagine if someone from England looked just like Aaron Rodgers and hung around Green Bay:

Tom Wrigglesworth is a quality name, too.

• I "took issue" with something a local newspaper columnist wrote about Joe Mauer and brain injuries, leading to City Pages' amusing recap and this brilliant "Douse Mauer in Gasoline and Chase Him with Matches" parody by Steve "Randball's Stu" Neuman.

• Speaking of which, one year ago Neuman wrote my favorite parody ever, including this opening line: "As night-life emissaries go, one could do better than Aaron Gleeman."

Maggie "Boss Lady Yung Mags" LaMaack is one of the most underrated writers in Minnesota, this time on the subject of using Tinder to date.

• The local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America gave Ron Gardenhire their "media good guy" award on his way out.

Andrew Friedman left the $50 million payrolls in Tampa Bay for the $250 million payrolls in Los Angeles and sent a goodbye letter to a Rays blog.

• I went to a high school journalism conference when the Final Four was here in 2001 and Bob Ryan's storytelling mesmerized me, so I enjoyed Grantland's profile of the Boston sportswriter.

• Believe it or not the Twins had many valuable players this season and I ranked them on my hypothetical team MVP ballot.

• Two all-time greats, Bill Murray and Howard Stern, had a nice long chat and it was very fun.

• You may not think so, but you'll definitely want to watch a little kid recreate Patrick Swayze's dance moves from the final scene of "Dirty Dancing":

I can do the same thing, except with Elaine Benes' dance moves in "Seinfeld."

Dax Shepard is one of the most underrated actors/funny people around and he was predictably funny/charming chatting with Marc Maron.

• I spent a week reading "Gone Girl" and wherever I put it down--on the bed, on the floor, on random places around the house--she immediately slept on it.

• On a related note, my power rankings of David Fincher movies:

1. "Seven"
2. "Fight Club"
3. "The Social Network"
4. "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"
5. "The Game"
6. "Gone Girl"
7. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
8. "Panic Room"
9. "Zodiac"
10. "Alien 3"

I apologize in advance for not liking "Zodiac" more. I realize that will bother many people.

J.J. Hardy, whom the Twins basically gave away to the Orioles in 2011, signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension to remain in Baltimore.

• Thrilled that Tom Scharpling is bringing back "The Best Show" after reconsidering retirement.

• I agree with Rick Nelson's review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: Libertine has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants for dinner and brunch.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Man who couldn't stop laughing at his own twin"
- "Sweet Martha's Cookies revenue"
- "Sylvester Stallone young beard"
- "What will happen to Rick Anderson?"
- "Jerome Felton's girlfriend"
- "What was Aaron Burr's sidekick's name?"
- "Jon Taffer pumpkin carving stencil"
- "Naked twins"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Take Me To Church" by Hozier:

October 15, 2014

How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they actually spend it?

pohlad ryan st.peter

In the Twins' second season at Target Field their payroll rose to a franchise-record $113 million, but that dropped to $100 million the next year and then dipped below $90 million in each of the past two seasons as general manager Terry Ryan declined to spend a significant portion of the ownership-approved budget. Here's what Ryan said recently when asked about the team's lack of spending and self-imposed payroll decline:

Payroll will not be an issue. Our payroll is sufficient to [field] a winning team. There are playoff teams with lower payrolls than ours. We can't use that as an excuse. ... I spent plenty. Our payroll was pretty stiff, very respectable.

The payroll Ryan calls "pretty stiff" ranked 24th among 30 teams and, based on comments from Ryan and Twins president Dave St. Peter, will almost surely rank even lower in 2015. He's right that the Twins' payroll was enough to field a winning team, but suggesting their payroll should be low because "there are playoff teams with lower payrolls than ours" is like suggesting they should hit fewer home runs because "there are playoff teams with fewer home runs than us."

This season MLB teams that spent more than $100 million made the playoffs 47 percent of the time, while teams that spent less than $100 million made the playoffs 20 percent of the time. All six division-winning teams spent at least $105 million and the average payroll of the six division winners was $147 million. When asked about next year's payroll, St. Peter told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

We haven't finalized a 2015 budget, [but] I can assure you, we don't see it going down significantly.

So this is where the Twins are at heading into the sixth season of a publicly funded ballpark that was supposed to boost their spending relative to the other 29 teams: "Assuring" their fans who're frustrated and disillusioned following a fourth consecutive 90-loss season that the team's already below-average payroll won't be "going down significantly" at a time when television and internet revenue is skyrocketing across baseball.

More than half of MLB teams exceeded $100 million in payroll this year, including 10 teams above $125 million and two teams above $200 million. After dumping various high-salaried veterans in trades, the Twins ended up spending around $86 million on payroll. St. Peter's comments certainly make it seem likely that their 2015 payroll will once again be below $90 million, which won't leave much room for offseason spending thanks to the following players being under contract:

Joe Mauer          $23.0 million
Ricky Nolasco      $12.0 million
Phil Hughes         $8.0 million
Kurt Suzuki         $6.0 million
Mike Pelfrey        $5.5 million
Glen Perkins        $4.7 million

TOTAL              $59.2 million

Beyond those guaranteed salaries, the Twins also have these players eligible for arbitration:

Trevor Plouffe      $4.3 million
Tommy Milone        $2.8 million
Brian Duensing      $2.5 million
Jordan Schafer      $1.5 million
Anthony Swarzak     $1.4 million
Eduardo Nunez       $1.2 million
Casey Fien          $1.1 million

TOTAL              $14.8 million

Those salaries listed above are MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration projections. At least a few of those arbitration-eligible players should be non-tender candidates, so the Twins could cut them loose at no cost. But if they were to retain all seven arbitration-eligible players their payroll commitments would approach $74 million. Toss in the $7 million or so required to fill out the rest of the roster with minimum-salaried players and the Twins would already be over $80 million.

Front office mistakes led to losing teams, which led to attendance declining, which led to revenue decreasing, which led to payroll dropping. In their final season at the Metrodome they spent $65 million. Six years and one new ballpark later their payroll has settled around $85 million. Whether or not you think spending drives winning, unspent money isn't set aside for future payroll and it's hard to see how that money simply staying with the Twins' owners benefits the team or its fans.


For a lengthy discussion of how preseason expectations translated to regular season success this year, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

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