February 17, 2006

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Boys

I remember a time not so long ago when my dream was to become a national sports columnist. The respect, the audience, the opportunities, the money -- it has always seemed to me like the perfect job for someone who loves sports and writing. Actually, it still does. On the way there -- in August of 2002, to be exact -- I became a blogger.

I suppose they're technically the same thing -- writing about sports for audience, sharing your opinions and analysis rather than reporting -- but that's sort of like saying Jessica Alba and Janet Reno are technically both women. It's true and they each have their strong suits, but in reality they're far enough apart that they don't even seem to be in the same species. Well, no longer. We've officially entered into some kind of a bizarro world, where suddenly Alba actually wants to be Reno.

As of yesterday, ESPN.com now hosts blogs written by Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark, in addition to Buster Olney. It used to be that people within the mainstream media would focus on the negative aspects of blogging, like not having an editor and not having a code of standards in place. These days the focus of those same people seems to have shifted to the positive aspects of blogging, like being able to speak to an audience in a much more informal manner and being able to publish immediately.

I used to become annoyed reading Olney's columns, in part because I felt his analysis was often lacking. However, since he began blogging last season I see him in a somewhat different light, as his personality is able to come across more and his strengths as a writer are more apparent. Blogging allows him to show a side to his audience that being an old-school columnist kept hidden away. (Olney told a story on his blog about Deion Sanders earlier this week that's a perfect example of this.)

The main reason I enjoy reading blogs is not just that the writing is good, it's that the writing is good and it comes along with a personal touch. I quickly grow tired of cookie-cutter articles that you can get in the average newspaper, and my favorite bloggers are the ones who are able to go well beyond that. They are able to speak to their audience like human beings, rather than like writers or columnists or reporters or whatever label you want to slap on them.

I'm glad ESPN.com sees the value in that as well, and I'm glad they're willing to take what is a pretty large leap for a major media outlet. Of course, I do have a major criticism, which is that as far as I can tell none of the dozen or so blogs ESPN.com hosts actually link to other blogs. For instance, Olney's blog is made up primarily of links to outside stories and his brief comments on them, but in nearly a year I can't remember a single link that wasn't to a mainstream newspaper.

I know from personal experience that ESPN.com has always had a somewhat stringent policy against linking to outside sites, but embracing the blogosphere is an essential step if they're going to call what Gammons, Stark, and Olney are doing "blogs." The value of blogs is in not always having to be like everything else, and while ESPN.com is going along with some of that concept they are still holding back on a crucial element.

Right now ESPN.com is like a high-school jock who has the guts to join the drama club because he truly loves acting, but still makes jokes about the "losers" in the club to his buddies on the football team. You're either in or you're out, and if you're in then you can't be too good for the club when it suits your needs. I'm proud of ESPN.com, but it'll be even better when they really make the jump.

Gammons' "reading" page includes a link to The Hardball Times (which was quite a thrill for me), but what I'm talking about is linking to a good Dodger Thoughts entry when Jon Weisman has something interesting to say about Ned Colletti or turning readers on to USS Mariner when David Cameron breaks down the greatness of Felix Hernandez after King Felix puts together a string of brilliant starts.

The line between old-school and new-school is blurring all the time and I commend ESPN.com for accepting a relatively new medium when many of their fellow mainstream outlets have been amazingly resistant to do so. We're not quite "there" yet, but for now being able to call myself a "blogger" and have Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark be included in that same club is pretty cool. Even if they probably still call us losers behind our backs.

February 16, 2006

Open Chat: Lohse Wins!

For the second straight year Kyle Lohse beat the Twins in salary arbitration, this time securing a $3.95 million salary for 2006. The entire arbitration process is fairly confusing to me, so I don't have a whole lot to say about this other than that there doesn't seem to be any sort of rhyme or reason to who wins and who loses.

Lohse winning his case doesn't impact much aside from possibly making him slightly less appealing to another team as a midseason acquisition. It also means that the Twins have about $500,000 less to spend on a potential midseason trade of their own, but considering the money they've invested in Nick Punto ($690,000) and Juan Castro ($1 million) to corner the market on banjo-hitting utility infielders I doubt they're all that concerned about a half-million bucks.

And yes, this means that over the past two years Lohse is 2-0 in arbitration and 18-26 on the mound.

February 15, 2006

Krivsky's First Moves

It's wonderful to know that we can be sure about Wayne Krivsky, and not Terry Ryan, being behind those nasty Timo Perez-to-the-Twins rumors that popped up last month. Krivsky's first real move as general manager of the Reds was to sign Perez to a minor-league deal. It's not quite showing up to a new job drunk on the first day, but considering Perez hit .235/.272/.322 over the past two years and Krivsky is being paid to put together a baseball team, it's reasonably close.

I read an interview Krivsky did with his new hometown newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and came away from it impressed. He showed a sense of humor, said some very intelligent things about such topics as sabermetrics and organizational philosophy, and generally just came across very well. I was starting to get nervous that Krivsky was more important to the Twins' recent success than most people (myself included) know.

Then I saw the Perez signing, followed by the Scott Hatteberg signing, and began to wonder. Perez and Hatteberg are low-impact signings, but it's not encouraging that a GM felt the need to ink them within his first 72 hours on the job, as if he couldn't hold back the urge for crappy veterans any longer. Imagine your new boss ordering everyone in the office to wear sombreros and bowties every Friday. It's not really all that important in the grand scheme of things, but it's not a great sign for things to come.

Of course, Krivsky's next move was signing Adam Dunn to a three-year contract that buys out his first season of free agency, which likely would have been the first thing I'd have done in Krivsky's shoes. It not only locks up the best player on the team for the foreseeable future, it should put an end to any Dunn trade rumors and also shows that Krivsky isn't afraid of a slugger who strikes out a ton.

Krivsky also showed some creativity by signing Tuffy Rhodes to a minor-league contract yesterday. Rhodes hit just .224/.310/.349 in six big-league seasons, but then became a star in Japan. He's 37 years old and didn't have a very good year in 2005, but I'd take a flier on him long before I wasted time on someone like Perez (or Quinton McCracken, who also got a minor-league deal from Krivsky and the Reds yesterday).

Basically I'm just as in the dark about Krivsky's real value to the Twins as I was last week, although I suspect he'll make a significant trade that we can properly judge sometime between now and Opening Day. After all, someone so intent on bringing in Perez, Hatteberg, and McCracken (which sounds like a really crappy law firm) right away must have a few players on the inherited roster who he desperately wants to get rid of. The first major mark in Krivsky's favor is that Dunn isn't one of them.

* * * * * * * * * *

I haven't given an update on my weight loss in a while, so bear with me while I do that today. I've now had an elliptical machine and been on a diet for 35 days, and as of last night I've dropped a total of 26 pounds. The first 10-15 pounds basically melted off immediately and it's been a much more gradual loss since then, but I'll be happy as long as the number keeps going down every few days.

I notice myself eating slightly more and working out slightly less than I did during the first couple weeks, so I've got to be careful about that. The good news is that my cravings for "bad" food have decreased significantly. I haven't really been craving chips or donuts or cookies too much, although I still occasionally miss simply pigging out on McDonald's or getting really full on a pizza.

Anyway, for the one percent of you who are interested, that's how the weight-loss effort is going. I'm down 26 pounds in 35 days, the cravings aren't bad, I often miss the actual sensation of eating a lot, I've yet to slip up once with bad food, and my stamina on the elliptical machine is about a thousand times better than it was a month ago. All in all things are going very well, but the second 25 pounds are the key.

February 10, 2006


Before I get to this week's link dump, I have some writing-related news to share.

First, in addition to being syndicated over at FoxSports.com, my Rotoworld.com columns will now also appear at USAToday.com. For instance, my "Channel Surfing" column from last Friday is available at Rotoworld.com, FoxSports.com, and USAToday.com. The beauty of it is that if you click on those links, you can see that each version looks completely different and has gone through vastly different editing.

It's an odd feeling to see the same piece appear at three different places, but how many people can say they write for Fox Sports and USA Today simultaneously? It looks good on a resume, that's for sure.

In addition to that, I wrote a fairly lengthy article for an interesting magazine that is coming out next month. It's called the Maple Street Press 2006 Red Sox Annual, and along with my article there are also pieces from Paths to Glory co-author Mark Armour, Boston Sports Media Watch publisher Bruce Allen, and The Hidden Game of Baseball co-author Pete Palmer.

I'm most excited about seeing my name alongside Palmer's because he's sort of a sabermetric legend, but the entire lineup of contributors is extremely impressive. The magazine obviously appeals most to Red Sox fans, but there is enough quality analysis included about baseball in general to make it a good read for just about everyone. If you're interested in ordering a copy, click here.

With that little bit of self-promotion out of the way, here are some links ...

  • I did an interview recently where I was asked whether writing on blogs is more "cynical and negative" than writing in mainstream outlets. My answer was a fairly complicated one, but I probably could have made a long story short by simply linking to this complete hatchet-job Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti did on Frank Thomas last month.
  • I'm not sure if I was more surprised to learn that the actor who plays George O'Malley on Grey's Anatomy is from Minnesota or that he's 32 years old. What I won't be surprised about is the amount of crap I will now take for liking Grey's Anatomy. In fact, it is the only current, non-reality show I watch on a regular basis.
  • Now that I'm out of school, I was amused to read last week that "binge drinking" at the University of Minnesota is up. A survey showed that "more than 45 percent of students ages 18 to 24 ... had five or more drinks in a row within the past two weeks." My favorite part of the Minneapolis Star Tribune article on the survey is this quote from Boynton Health Service director Dr. Ed Ehlinger:
    When you're looking at 45 percent of students binge drinking on a campus of 50,000 people, that's a lot of people drinking.

    The very first party I ever attended as University of Minnesota student was billed as a "dry party." That supposedly meant there was no alcohol involved, which is why they were allowed to openly invite freshmen like me just a few days after we moved in. Well, I got there, eventually made my way downstairs, and was met with perhaps the largest supply of booze I have ever seen in one place before or since. And no, I don't really have a point.

  • Speaking of drinking, a bunch of high school students from Michigan found out the hard way that you have to be careful about what you write on a blog. As I've learned over the years, you can never be sure what may be read by people who actually know you and how they'll react to it. For instance, it's easy for me to write that my mom screws up macaroni and cheese every time she tries to make it. It's not quite so easy when she comes home and asks me why I had to tell everyone that. Hi mom!
  • I'm not sure why, but I got a kick out of actually seeing the impact I had on Twins Junkie's visitor totals by simply making a goofy mention of his site yesterday. And again today, I guess.
  • Here's a very succinct explanation of why, despite turning 23 years old last month, I am far from considering myself an adult: Mohr-Cox made laugh for at least five straight seconds.
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel wrote a column about Super Bowl-related anecdotes that included this amusing one about current ESPN loudmouth and former Denver Post columnist Woody Paige:
    Several years ago, he was sitting at a hotel bar when a scantily dressed woman sidled up to him and said, "Hey, honey, I'll do anything you want for $100." Replied Woody: "Sounds good. I'm in Room 123. Go up and write a column and a sidebar."

    Nothing beats corny sportswriting humor.

  • You'll never guess who won "2005 Sportswriter of the Year." Seriously, if you'd have asked me to name 25 likely candidates I'm pretty sure the actual winner's name wouldn't have even crossed my mind. It's not that he isn't good, just that he isn't exactly who I think of when someone says "great sportswriter."
  • Speaking of sportswriters, I'm as big a Tony Kornheiser fan as you'll ever meet, but even I think he's going to be a Dennis Miller-style disaster on Monday Night Football.
  • I've long suspected that actor Paul Walker and I were on the same page regarding life's most important issues, and that feeling was confirmed this week.
  • Upon reading this ridiculousness, I immediately began to imagine Bill Simmons taking on NBA coach after NBA coach like Louis Gossett Jr. in Diggstown. I've put far too much thought into this issue, and have come to the conclusion that Simmons would go 4-26, with wins over Lawrence Frank, Larry Brown, Mike Fratello, and Jeff Van Gundy.

  • February 8, 2006

    Krivsky to Cincinnati

    I came to an odd realization yesterday after hearing the news that Twins assistant general manager Wayne Krivsky left the team to take the general manager job with the Reds. Basically, I don't know much of anything about Krivsky. Sure, I know that he's been in charge of negotiating contracts and I know that he was Terry Ryan's right-hand man, but beyond that it's pretty much a blank slate. In fact, I'm not sure I'd even recognize Krivsky if I ran into him on the street.

    Do we know which big moves Krivsky has specifically been instrumental in over the years? Do we know what his strengths are in the big picture? Do we know what portion of the Twins' short-term and long-term planning can be traced back to him directly? Other than vague mentions of Krivsky's place within the organization here or there, I'm not sure we can really answer any of those questions with much confidence.

    In fact, solely from an outsider's perspective it has always seemed as though both Jim Rantz and Mike Radcliff have had higher-profile roles with the Twins. That's not to say Krivsky won't be missed a ton or that the Reds made a poor hire. Quite the opposite actually, because if you go strictly by Krivsky's apparent reputation within baseball and Ryan's effusive praise of him, he seems to be an excellent fit for the job of rebuilding a mid-market team.

    This situation is an example of how little we know about the men running teams as opposed to the men playing on teams, which is probably the opposite of how it should be when you really think about it. Is one player -- even someone as good as Johan Santana or Joe Mauer -- any more important to the Twins than Ryan over the long haul? I doubt it. I'd say something similar about Krivsky, but to be honest I have no clue if it's true because he's had such little media attention paid to his job.

    Shocking as it may sound, the most I've ever read about Krivsky's actual role may have come from one solitary paragraph written by the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal, in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune:

    Krivsky negotiated many multiyear contracts, including ones for Torii Hunter, Brad Radke and Johan Santana. He helped prepare cases for arbitration and was well-versed on the rules concerning waivers, rosters and the basic agreement. Krivsky also scouted the National League and the Twins' minor league affiliates. Krivsky was the most prominent of Twins officials who believed Joe Nathan could become a closer, leading to the trade for Nathan in 2004.

    If there's any good news that comes along with Krivsky's departure it's that the Twins have likely just picked up a pretty willing trade partner in the other league. What makes that especially nice is that the Reds are fairly loaded with hitters throughout their organization, yet are completely lacking in quality pitching. That could add up to a great fit should Ryan and Krivsky decide to make one of those "both teams win" deals in the near future.

    My dream scenario would involve Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns or Edwin Encarnacion, or maybe even Felipe Lopez or Wily Mo Pena. A slightly more realistic scenario is that Krivsky was the person in the Twins' front office most in favor of keeping Kyle Lohse around for another year and might be willing to swap a lesser hitter like Ryan Freel for him once Ryan is confident in Francisco Liriano being ready for the starting rotation.

    Come midseason, when Tony Batista has proven himself incompetent as an everyday player, the Twins could make room for Liriano every fifth day while also grabbing Freel to replace Batista at third base. Hey, a boy can dream, right? Actually, I suppose my real dream scenario would involve Ryan deciding that he should replace Krivsky with some kid who blogs about the Twins from his bedroom. You know, because I think it's time that Twins Junkie got his shot.

    * * * * * * * * * *
    Other Twins notes ...

  • Mauer has decided not to play in next month's World Baseball Classic, which is probably a good thing. As Ryan said, "He wants to make sure that he's strong for the entire 162 games."
  • Over at his blog, Twins fan and prospect guru John Sickels posted his top 20 Twins prospects for 2006. I'm planning my own prospect rankings in a couple weeks, but I'll say right now that you won't find any disagreement with the top spot.
  • ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick picked the Twins as his surprise team in the American League. Crasnick's article includes this amusing quote from Ryan regarding the Batista signing:
    Statistically, the people in "Moneyball" books and Sabermetricians won't like what they see. But if you put him in the 7-8 hole and he gives you 20-plus homers and 80-plus RBI, I think that would probably be OK.

    First of all, it's interesting to note that Ryan has been quoted as saying essentially that same thing in about a dozen different places over the past couple weeks. Second, who exactly are these "people in 'Moneyball' books?" That's an odd thing to say unless you haven't actually read the book -- and despite what Ryan may think, there is only one book with that title -- although I suppose it's encouraging to know that he's at least aware of the existence of sabermetrics.

  • One of my all-time favorite Twins, Matthew LeCroy, signed a one-year deal with the Nationals yesterday. LeCroy seems like an awful fit in Washington, both because there is no designated hitter in the National League and because the Nationals don't really need a platoon partner for Nick Johnson at first base. Unless they plan on using him behind the plate quite a bit, I don't see LeCroy getting much playing time. And yes, considering he went to Washington for just $850,000 I still think the Twins should have found a way to keep LeCroy around.

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