October 28, 2004

Damaged Goods

I tried to put off writing about Jason Kubel's knee injury for a while, perhaps subconsciously hoping it would go away like a bad dream. Sadly, it didn't, so I might as well admit it exists and talk about it. Basically, injuries suck, and every fan of every team could explain in their own unique way why that is true. In my case, and in the Twins' case, Joe Mauer's rookie season was limited to just 35 games and his long-term ability to remain at catcher is in serious question, all because of a knee injury he suffered in the second game of his career. It's very possible that a Hall of Fame catching career will be over before it ever really got started.

Now, just weeks after the Twins' season came to an end, Kubel suffered the same fate, wrecking his knee in a collision during an Arizona Fall League game. In fact, all indications are that Kubel's knee is in far worse shape than Mauer's ever was, as he not only tore his ACL, but also damaged his meniscus. I honestly have no idea what that means exactly, but I know enough to realize it's not good. Kubel is now on a very long road to recovery, one that may not even lead him back to being the player he was before the injury. And that, way more than what it means to the Twins next year, is the sad part. Because just like with Mauer, an injury may keep us from ever seeing what Kubel was fully capable of.

While Kubel recovers, the Twins have some interesting decisions on their hands. Before the injury, it was widely assumed that Kubel would take over right-field duties from Jacque Jones next year, allowing the Twins to cut Jones and his sizeable contract loose and replace them with Kubel and his minimum salary. That's no longer an option, but I don't think this will lead to Jones returning in 2005. Quite simply, the Twins just don't have the payroll room to make that work. Terry Ryan has said that the 2005 payroll will be about the same as as this year's, which means he has roughly $55 million to work with. There's just no way the Twins can fit Jones into those plans without making some major changes somewhere else.

If Kubel is out and Jones is gone, who plays right field? The easy answer is Lew Ford, who was the Twins' best position player this year. Once Shannon Stewart returned to the lineup, Ford was often relegated to DH'ing, but he's quite capable of playing right field on an everyday basis. What putting Ford in right field would do is fill the void left by Kubel and Jones while simultaneously opening up the DH spot, and it's here that the Twins' surplus of capable bats comes into play.

Matthew LeCroy could once again begin the year as the starting DH. Michael Restovich could finally get his shot after a couple dozen years at Triple-A. They could decide to play Michael Cuddyer there, rather than make me happy by putting him at second base. There are other options too. They could bring back Jose Offerman or someone similar. They could use this opportunity to give Mauer occasional breaks from the rigors of catching. They could give Terry Tiffee a shot and see if his minor-league numbers from this year are for real.

And I'm sure there are plenty of other scenarios that would work too, and all of them far better than bringing Jones and his .315 on-base percentage back to pay him 10% of the team's total payroll. The fact is that the Twins' seemingly neverending depth at 1B/DH/LF/RF has once again come into play, leaving them with a very fillable hole at DH, rather than a more difficult hole in right field. When you slide a player the caliber of Ford into a spot in the lineup because of an injury, you know you've got some serious organizational depth.

Even if Kubel is out for the entire 2005 season -- which, from what I've heard, is likely -- having to play LeCroy or Restovich or someone similar in his place is not the end of the world. What's more concerning is Kubel's long-term health and the impact this injury may have on his development as a player. Not only might he be forced to miss an entire year of development at the age of 23, he's missing out on his chance to claim an everyday job in the major leagues, he may be slower, weaker and less agile when does return, and he's now got that cloud of injury hanging over him for the rest of his career.

In Justin Morneau, Mauer and Kubel, the Twins had an extraordinarily promising and talented trio of hitters capable of anchoring the next era of the franchise. They all had excellent minor-league careers, made it to the majors at very young ages, and experienced success this season. At 23, Morneau hit .271/.340/.536 in 74 games. At 21, Mauer hit .308/.369/.570 in 35 games. At 22, Kubel hit .300/.358/.433 in 23 games.

Except now Mauer is a catcher with a bum wheel and no matter how many specialists he sees, second-opinions he gets, and times we read that he's on the comeback trail, the fact is that he's damaged goods at 21. He might still hit, but two of his biggest assets -- his ability to hit well while playing catcher and his ability to play catcher very well -- could potentially be all but gone.

And Kubel's in the same boat. While his defensive position doesn't require as much of him and his surgecically-repaired knee as Mauer's, if he misses the 2005 season and comes back as a shell of himself in 2006, he'll have wasted two years in his early 20s and lost that new-prospect shine. Only Morneau remains untouched by injury, and if I were the Twins, I'd think about locking him away in a hermetically-sealed room somewhere until March, and perhaps even between games.

Today at The Hardball Times:

- The Curse of Big Papi (by Aaron Gleeman)


October 27, 2004

The Champions of 2004

NOTE: There are still some spots available in the "11 Guys Kicking Gleeman's Ass" fantasy basketball league. So if you're interested in playing, please send me an e-mail today and I'll give you the password and the details to join the league.

Today at The Hardball Times:

- 1918 No More (by Aaron Gleeman)


October 26, 2004

Fantasy Hoops (Part Two)

Okay, so it turns out there are a ton of you who would not only be interested in playing fantasy basketball this year, but would be willing to pay the $30 to play on ESPN. Quite a change from last season, when we had to work to fill the league leading up to the draft (I guess that SI mention was good for something!).

Anyway, I've created the "11 Guys Kicking Gleeman's Ass" league on ESPN. It's a 12-team league using roto scoring and we have a live, online draft at 2 p.m. Central time this Saturday (I figured that's not too early and not too late). I'd expect the spots to fill up fast judging from the response I got yesterday, so if you're interested in joining, drop me an e-mail and I'll send you the password and all the details.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pretend that I was paying attention to the NBA during the offseason and put together my rankings for the draft. Shaq is still on the Lakers, right?

Today at The Hardball Times:

- Bedraggled (by Brian Gunn)

- A Fond Farewell? (by Ben Jacobs)


*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

Fantasy Hoops

Some of you may remember that I created a fantasy basketball league for readers of this blog last year and called it "11 Guys Kicking Gleeman's Ass." It was a really fun, competitive league with good owners, and I'd like to do it again this season.

Despite not getting Kevin Garnett for the ninth year in a row, I amazingly managed to avoid getting my ass kicked, winning the league in a tight race that lasted into the final week of the season. We played on ESPN.com, which I think does an excellent job with fantasy stuff. The only problems were that it cost $30 for a team and I've yet to receive my prize for winning, which I'm pretty sure was supposed to be some crappy t-shirt.

For this year, I'm thinking about moving the league from ESPN to Yahoo!, which is free. However, I'm still debating the move because of how much I liked playing on ESPN. So, what I need from anyone interested in playing in the league is for you to drop me an e-mail that tells me a) whether you'd prefer using ESPN or Yahoo!, and b) if you'd be willing to pay the $30 for ESPN.

I enjoyed the league last year so much that I'd have no problem paying $30 to play this year, and the added bonus of having to pay to play is that people tend to stick with their teams through the whole season, even if they're struggling. However, I'm worried that there won't be enough people out there who feel the same way, especially since we're cutting it pretty close with the season starting next week and a lot of you have probably already purchased your teams.

It'll be a 12-team league with rotisserie scoring, and there will be a live, online draft either this Saturday or Sunday afternoon. If you're interested, please let me know.

One other note ...

I talked last week about wanting to look into revenue-generating opportunities for this blog, and I'd like to thank everyone who e-mailed me their comments and suggestions. For now, I've decided to give Blog Ads, a company that acts as the middle man between advertisers and websites, a try.

As you can see to the left, there is now a place for potential advertisers to click if you'd like to learn about placing an ad on Aaron's Baseball Blog. I looked around at some similar sites that use Blog Ads and I think I've priced my ad space very reasonably, and they are available for one-week, two-week and one-month periods.

Hopefully some of you with products to offer and/or websites to promote will consider putting an ad on this blog, where you'll reach 2,500-3,000 sports fans every day. If you have questions about any of this or you'd just like to yell at me for selling out, feel free to contact me, as always.

Today at The Hardball Times:

- News, Notes and Quotes (October 26, 2004) (by Aaron Gleeman)

- Return From Exile (by Ben Jacobs)


*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

October 24, 2004

Scrubs

Late last night, I was trying to decide what to write about for today's blog entry. The obvious topic is the World Series, but we've got that covered over at The Hardball Times, as usual. The other obvious topic is Jason Kubel's devastating knee injury, suffered last week in the Arizona Fall League, but while I'm sure I'll write plenty about that at some point soon, it is far too depressing a subject to cover today, when the news is still fresh.

So instead, I'd to go completely away from the world of baseball and talk a little bit about one of my favorite TV shows, NBC's Scrubs. Scrubs is a great show, but the problem is that it is one of those shows where I'm never quite sure when it's on. I'm pretty certain it has a permanent time slot at this point, but NBC moved it around so much during the first couple seasons that my brain has given up trying to keep track.

Because of that, I've basically been reduced to watching the show when I accidentally stumble across it. In an effort to get caught up, I downloaded a couple dozen episodes and watched them over the weekend, in between playing poker, watching the World Series, and crying over Kubel's injury. While watching my personal Scrubs marathon, I learned several very important things:

  • There's something very strange about watching a whole bunch weekly, half-hour sitcom episodes in a row. They're not meant to be seen like that, one right after another, and you start to notice very similar dialogue being repeated and even jokes being used again, verbatim.

    I suppose it's a bit like going to see a standup comedian, loving them, and then going to see them again a year later. A lot of the material will be different, but it's still the same delivery and, odds are, he hasn't completely changed his act. I'm sure there's an interesting thesis paper to be found somewhere in all of this, for all you college students who actually like doing work.

  • John C. McGinley is one of my favorite actors and his "Perry Cox" character on Scrubs is by far one of the most likeable bad guys in TV history.
  • I know a lot of people hate cameos on sitcoms, because they usually have nothing to do with the ongoing plot of the show and are major distractions, but Scrubs does an excellent job with them. Tara Reid was very good basically playing herself (drinking, chain-smoking, making out with random guys) in a string of episodes, Heather Graham was surprisingly believable as a smart person, Tom Cavanaugh from Ed made a perfect brother for Zach Braff's character, and Michael J. Fox was outstanding as an obsessive-compulsive doctor.

    Plus, although it's more than a cameo role, the wildly underrated and incredibly cute Christa Miller from The Drew Carey Show plays McGinley's ex-wife/sparring partner. And in the episodes I watched this weekend, I saw Federico from Six Feet Under playing a guy who secrectly could speak English.

  • On a related note, NBC currently has my three favorite "cute" actresses, with Miller on Scrubs and Maura Tierney and Linda Cardellini on ER.

    I don't really have anything brilliant to add to this comment, but I needed to get that off my chest. Maura is so cute (when she's not making that tough-guy doctor face in the picture above) that I almost saw Welcome to Mooseport. Almost.

    Incidentally, I just learned that Miller is married to the creator/writer of Scrubs, Bill Lawrence, which makes him not only brilliant at what he does, but a very lucky guy (assuming she's just acting on the show).

  • Sarah Chalke is so much better as "Elliot" on Scrubs than she was as the replacement "Becky Conner" on Roseanne that she has single-handedly restored my faith in the ability to improve with age and experience. If she can become a legitimately good, funny, attractive actress, perhaps even Luis Rivas can turn himself into a useful baseball player someday (though hopefully not with the Twins, because I don't think I can wait that long).
  • Sitcoms -- and television in general, I suppose -- are about a thousand times better without commercials. It's such a big difference, in fact, that sitting through a dozen consecutive episodes of Scrubs on a Saturday afternoon flies by like it was just one long show when commercials aren't involved. This is reason #1,584,046 why HBO beats the snot out of network TV.

Today at The Hardball Times:

- Bloody Sunday (by Brian Gunn)

- There's Always Next Year: The Coming Yankee Meltdown (by Stephen Silver)


*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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