November 22, 2005

Lowell and Blalock

The Red Sox and Marlins have reportedly agreed to a deal that will send Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston for prospects, including Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Lowell and so the deal would seem to end the chances of him coming to Minnesota. However, I'm not so sure.

The Red Sox already have Kevin Youkilis ready to take over at third base, which is why they are expected to let Bill Mueller (who the Twins are also reportedly interested in) leave via free agency. Their acquiring Lowell is likely more about getting their hands on Beckett than it is actually wanting Lowell, which means they are probably willing to turn flip him to another team.

Had the Twins tried to get Lowell directly from the Marlins, they likely would have had to give up a prospect or two, which is far from ideal. Now that he's about to be property of the Red Sox, perhaps the Twins can get him for something a little more palatable. After all, the Red Sox and Twins were reportedly in some fairly significant trade discussions during the season.

Back then Boston was said to be interested in J.C. Romero and Kyle Lohse, who are the sort of somewhat costly, marginally important players I could see the Twins parting with in a deal for Lowell. Assuming, of course either, the Red Sox or Marlins are picking up most of his remaining contract. On the other hand, it's certainly possible that the Red Sox actually want Lowell and plan to play either him or Youkilis at first base. We'll soon find out, I guess.

Prior to dealing with the Red Sox, the Marlins were said to be on the verge of sending Beckett to Texas for a package centering around Hank Blalock. Now that Blalock is staying in Texas for the time being, his name has been added to the long list of hitters the Twins are rumored to be after. Here's a note from ESPN.com's story on the Beckett-to-Boston deal, which was written by Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark:

Teams known to be interested in Blalock include the Twins, Phillies and Devil Rays.

On the surface, the idea of the Twins going after Blalock is an encouraging one. After all, he's a 25-year-old third baseman who has averaged 29 homers and 97 RBIs over his three full big-league seasons, making him exactly what the Twins need. However, once you look past his raw numbers, I think it looks like a mistake.

Blalock has had the good fortune of playing half of his major-league games in one of baseball's best ballparks for offense, and his home/road splits are about as lopsided as you'll ever see. This season, for instance, Blalock hit an impressive .297/.361/.534 at home, with 20 homers and 63 RBIs. Those are monster numbers, but he batted just .231/.276/.335 with five homers and 29 RBIs on the road.

While The Ballpark in Arlington (or whatever they're calling it these days) isn't quite on the same offense-boosting level as Coors Field, it is definitely something to consider when evaluating Texas hitters. It's no coincidence that the Rangers have been known for their offense over the last decade or so, and Blalock has taken advantage of his home ballpark more than anyone:

                    AT HOME                          ON ROAD
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS AVG OBP SLG OPS
2003 .342 .399 .615 1.014 .260 .301 .435 .736
2004 .311 .386 .540 .926 .239 .323 .460 .783
2005 .297 .361 .534 .895 .231 .276 .335 .611

CAREER .310 .379 .548 .927 .238 .296 .396 .692

I'm not suggesting that Blalock will be a .238 hitter if the Rangers trade him, but his sub par numbers on the road are clearly significant. The fact is that he has hit like Juan Castro away from Texas, which should make the Twins (or any other team) more than a little leery when it comes to potentially dealing for him.

Let's say the Twins deal Scott Baker and/or Francisco Liriano for Blalock, thinking they are getting the 25-year-old third baseman who is a career .274/.338/.471 hitter. What happens if Blalock gets to Minnesota, finds that the Metrodome isn't quite so nice to hit in, and bats .238/.296/.396 like he has on the road over his career? Or even, say, .260/.320/.430, which would be a major improvement on his non-Texas numbers?

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Coming to America: Kenji Jojima (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Third Base: The Crossroads, Part Three (by Steve Treder)

Pick of the Day (140-121, +$1,875):
Utah +10 (-110) over Seattle


November 21, 2005

Twinkie Town

John "Twins Geek" Bonnes launched Twins Territory a while back, and it quickly became a thriving community for Twins fans to hang out and read each others' thoughts on the team. Sadly, after years of blogging, first on his own at Twins Geek and then as part of the Twins Territory community, John got burnt out. He shut down Twins Territory about six weeks ago.

I've tried to make AG.com more community based, adding a comments section to each entry that often gets 40 or 50 responses on a given day. While I enjoy that aspect of this site, this blog will always be more of a monologue than a dialogue. Because of that I am happy to report that several of the main contributors behind Twins Territory have gotten together to start up a new Twins blogging community.

Twinkie Town is officially part of the Sports Blogs family that includes great sites like Athletics Nation, Beyond the Boxscore, and Minor League Ball, although it looks like it'll be more of a group effort than those other sites. It just launched last week so the content is a little light (I can tell because people have yet to begin bashing me regularly), but things should really get rolling over the next couple weeks.

Part of the beauty of blogging about the Minnesota Twins is the incredible number of fans who are both passionate about the team and passionate about sharing their thoughts with other people. Between the two major newspapers, Mark Sheldon's work at MLB.com, the DTFC Twins Forum, and the dozen or so blogs devoted to the team, the Twins are covered as well as any team in baseball.

I'm not sure why that's the case, but I'm glad it is. I'm also glad to add Twinkie Town to the always expanding list of quality Twins sites. Go check it out.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- It's The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006! (by Dave Studeman)

Pick of the Day (140-120, +$1,985):
Green Bay -5.5 (-110) over Minnesota


November 18, 2005

Link-O-Rama

  • I was checking out Amazon.com yesterday when I noticed that The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 was ranked #17 among best-selling baseball books, sandwiched in between Jim Bouton's Ball Four and Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer. Pretty cool. Oh, and it begins shipping next week, so please order your copy today if you haven't already.
  • I think Jeff Shelman does a really nice job covering college basketball for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but this comment on Gophers forward Dan Coleman in his "Meet the Gophers" piece Wednesday was one of the most ridiculous things I've read all week:
    With his combination of length and ballhandling, Coleman might be the best long-term NBA prospect on this team. However, he tends to vanish at times on the floor. Needs to be more aggressive.

    Perhaps that says more about the rest of the Gophers than it does about Coleman, but it's still like saying, "Someone who buys a lottery ticket might have a better chance at winning the lottery than the people who don't buy a ticket." Normally I'd add something pithy here, like "if Dan Coleman ever plays in the NBA I'll eat my Gophers hat." However, since Kevin Burleson is actually on an NBA roster right now, I think I'll just shut up.

    Also, I don't think much of Vincent Grier's NBA potential (which my uncle and I discussed at some length while watching the Gophers narrowly beat UMD last week), but there's no way Coleman is more of a "long-term NBA prospect." He plays with zero intensity and has no discernible skills that are above-average. The NBA GM who drafts him should be fired on the spot.

  • There is some debate about which cast member of The Goonies is doing the best 20 years after the movie was released. I say it's no contest, because Josh Brolin gets to wake up next to Diane Lane every morning. Seriously, does anyone actually think being in The Lord of the Rings is better than that?
  • Is there anything funnier than people being upset about how they were portrayed in an interview with a fake news show? If The Daily Show asks to interview you about something you consider to be a serious, important subject, don't you think actually watching the show once or twice before agreeing is a good idea?
  • The Week in Waffle Crappers:

    * Does anyone else find it amusing that GQ's "Woman of the Year" is semi-topless on the magazine's cover? When's the last time a "Man of the Year" posed for a cover with like one testicle showing?

    * The former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com, Jessica Alba, had a busy week. First she said she is tired of being typecast as "a sexy girl" and wants more serious roles like the ones Natalie Portman gets. Then she played the part of "a sexy girl" to perfection while posing for pictures with Rosario Dawson. And then she smuggled some raisins.

    * Here's a fun game: Who is fatter at this point, Janet Jackson or Jennifer Garner?

    * Speaking of previously elite Waffle Crappers, Cindy Crawford isn't looking her best these days either.

  • Remind me never to move to Kansas.
  • The Baltimore Sun has a lengthy, interesting profile of my favorite writer, Bill Simmons.
  • My FoxSports.com colleague, Charley Rosen, has an interesting write-up of last night's Timberwolves-Wizards game, with a whole lot of praise for Kevin Garnett.
  • I've really been enjoying Paul Shirley's ESPN.com columns, and I thought he made a very interesting point earlier this week about the careers of his fellow NBA journeymen like Mark Pope:
    But, let us not forget that, regardless of his exact standing within his peer group, it could easily be said that Pope is among the best 1,000 basketball players in the world.

    The math is not difficult. There are approximately 450 players in the NBA per year. Pope has proven that he is certainly a qualified NBA player. Even if we allow that there are somehow another 500 players in the world as good, scattered as they might be in remote outposts of European basketball or Tibetan mountainsides, we would still be safe in our conclusion.

    Think about that for a second. There are, give or take, six billion humans on the Earth. How many people will ever exist among the top .0000167 percent of the world's population ... at anything? In fact, it is a sobering thought.

    All of which makes the whole Kevin Burleson thing even more confusing.

  • I often find myself jealous of other bloggers because I wish I could write like them, have their audience, or just share their outlook on life. Sometimes it's Tony Pierce or Jeff Jarvis, other times it's Jon Weisman or Ryan Perry. This week I found myself jealous of Pauly McGuire over at the Tao of Poker, because covering poker tournaments (and everything that goes on surrounding them) sounds like a hell of a time.
  • ESPN.com's Page 2 is running an all-time tournament for college basketball, matching up the best players from each school's history. The Gophers are ranked 26th and play seventh-ranked Maryland in the first round. The whole tournament is fun to look at and includes a bunch of comments from friend of AG.com Eric Neel. However, I have to wonder about an all-time Gophers team that includes Dave Winfield, but not Bobby Jackson, Voshon Lenard or Hosea Crittenden.
  • In addition to being one of this blog's best and most prolific commenters, Paul Koopman also makes really good music. Seriously, go listen to some of his stuff, it's solid.
  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Breaking Down the New Joint Drug Agreement (by Maury Brown)
    - Like Son Like Father? (by John Brattain)

    Pick of the Day (138-119, +$1,895):
    Seattle -2 (-110) over Chicago

    Saturday's Pick:
    Oklahoma +8 (-110) over Texas Tech

    Sunday's Pick:
    Buffalo +11 (-110) over San Diego


    November 17, 2005

    Dreaming

    I took a little nap last night (in fact, I am typing this about five minutes after getting up) and had one of those crazy dreams that ties together a bunch of random stuff you had been thinking about before falling asleep.

    In this particular dream I was at some sort of a convention (I had just read the SABR newsletter about the 2006 convention in Seattle), hanging out with Adam Carolla and Fred Taylor (I had just listened to an old episode of Loveline and written something for Rotoworld about Taylor's ankle injury), and we ran into Elisha Cuthbert and a group of her friends (no explanation needed).


    Drinks and conversation ensued, during which I was extraordinarily charming (that's how I knew it was a dream) and had the room cracking up over jokes about Taylor's injury history. You know, because Canadian actresses love fantasy football humor. Sadly, I woke up before knowing whether or not having Carolla and Taylor as my wingmen was successful.

    Instead, I got up groggy, read some e-mails about one of my Diamond-Mind keeper leagues, turned on the Travel Channel to watch a World Poker Tour repeat episode that I've seen no fewer than three times already, and began typing this blog entry. So, basically the same sort of exciting stuff I was dreaming about.

    * * * * *

    I stumbled across a few interesting Twins rumors last night. First, here's one from the from the Kansas City Star:
    The Cardinals have indicated they hope to retain Sanders, while the Twins, Marlins and Mariners are also known to have expressed interest. He is expected to command a multiyear deal in excess of the $4 million that he made in 2005.

    If you remember back to the middle of last month, I suggested Reggie Sanders as a free agent the Twins should be going after. As always, it's great to see Terry Ryan following my advice.

    Next, here's another rumor from the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

    The Marlins left the general managers' meetings confident they can jettison third baseman Mike Lowell. What they probably can't do is altogether eliminate him from the books.

    Owed $9 million each of the next two seasons, Lowell is tradable if the Marlins are willing to absorb some of the remaining dollars. According to a front office official who has spoken with the Marlins, they had "a few hits" on Lowell this past week.

    [...]

    One club that could take him at a discount is the Minnesota Twins. Former Marlin and Lowell friend Mike Redmond last season got in the front office's ear about acquiring the Gold Glove winner.

    If the Marlins are willing to pay a huge chunk of Mike Lowell's salary and they are willing to deal him without getting a whole lot of value back, this is a move I like quite a bit. After five very good and remarkably consistent seasons, Lowell was horrendous this year:

    YEAR      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    2000 .270 .344 .474 .818
    2001 .283 .340 .448 .788
    2002 .276 .346 .471 .817
    2003 .276 .350 .530 .880
    2004 .293 .365 .505 .870

    2005 .236 .298 .360 .658

    I have no idea why Lowell struggled so badly in 2005, but I am hesitant to write someone off because of one bad season in six. Plus, he's only 31 years old, stayed healthy enough to play 150 games, and looked good enough defensively at third base to win a Gold Glove (for what little that's worth these days).

    The 2000-2004 version of Lowell would be a perfect fit for the Twins, sliding into the middle of the lineup as a right-handed bat between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and taking over at third base. Whether or not that version still exists is a big concern, obviously, but if the Marlins pay half his salary it's probably worth finding out.

    And last but not least in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a whole slew of rumors from the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal:

    Among the hitters they have contacted is former All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, who is willing to move to the American League and split time between being a catcher and a designated hitter.

    [...]

    "Minnesota called me and to me there is interest in Mike," said Dan Lozano, Piazza's agent. "Minnesota definitely is a team Mike is willing to listen to. At this point, it's a little bit premature to determine what's going to happen and where Mike's going to end up."

    Lozano also confirmed that the Twins have expressed interest in infielder Tony Graffanino. Graffanino, 33, batted .309 with seven homers and 38 RBI last season in stints with Kansas City and Boston. He played in a career-high 110 games last season, and the Twins reportedly are willing to give him the chance to be the everyday second baseman.

    According to people with the team, the Twins are interested in more than a dozen free agents. Their options include third baseman Bill Mueller, whom the Twins tried to acquire from Boston before the July 31 trading deadline, infielder Nomar Garciaparra, who was limited to 62 games with the Cubs because of a torn groin muscle, and Rondell White, who batted .313 in 97 games with Detroit. Garciaparra could be asked to play third base, and White would be the full-time DH.

    We'll soon see how things actually play out, but I like the guys the Twins are rumored to be going after.

    Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Batted Ball Leaderboards (by Dave Studeman)
    - Quantifying Catcher Defense, and Other Stuff Like That (by David Gassko)

    Pick of the Day (138-118, +$2,005):
    Washington +4 (-110) over Minnesota


    November 15, 2005

    Open Chat: Snow

    I opened up my front door last night and this is what I saw:


    Yep, snow. Here is some additional visual proof, by way of some horrendous photography:


    Discuss. Or not, whatever ... I'm sure you guys have something you want to talk about.

    UPDATE: If you're not in the chatting mood, check out my Football Daily Dose articles for this week:

    - Tuesday: Comeback in Philly
    - Wednesday: The QB Shuffle

    Today at The Hardball Times:
    - A Blatant Plug: The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 (by Dan Fox)
    - Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

    Pick of the Day (137-118, +$1,905):
    Philadelphia -4 (-110) over Toronto


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