December 21, 2006

Link-O-Rama

AG.com was a little light on content this week, with just two entries prior to this one, but I'm hopeful that you'll excuse my lack of daily content for two reasons. First, several of my favorite bloggers have already taken off for the rest of the year due to the ongoing and upcoming holidays, which hopefully makes my taking Tuesday and Thursday off slightly more forgivable. Beyond that, this week has simply been a weird one for me.

The week started with my being mentioned and quoted (sort of) in a Bill Simmons column over at ESPN.com, under what can best be described as odd circumstances. Then, as if that hadn't already made my month, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer stopped by the house Monday afternoon to interview me for several hours. Seriously. A couple days later the pitcher whom I've watched start more games than any other retired after a dozen seasons in Minnesota. All of that, and it's not even Christmas yet.

This probably isn't the last AG.com blog entry of 2006, since I'm sure I'll be back blogging at some point next week, but at the very least these links will have to hold you over until Tuesday ...

  • I received a ton of amusing e-mails from people regarding my Art Shell rant that got me mentioned in Simmons' column last week, but none of them can compete with the following photo-shop job that was sent to me from David Bester of WideRight.com:

    I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Al Gore had in mind when he invented the internet.

  • Elisha Cuthbert took over for Jessica Alba as the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com and held the title for over a year, but I ended her reign last month despite the lack of a clear replacement. Many called it a mistake on my part, saying that the OFGoAG.com throne should never be left vacant, but it looks like I made the correct decision after all. Apparently Cuthbert, who has been showing major signs of decline for a while, is now friends with none other than Paris Hilton.

    Now, the good news is that hanging out with Hilton typically leads to being pictured drunk and without various articles of clothing (see: Spears, Britney). On the other hand, the bad news is that hanging out with Hilton almost can't help but lead to fewer and fewer people actually wanting to see you pictured drunk and without various articles of clothing (see: Spears, Britney). I think Cuthbert is at the start of a Dale Murphy-like decline and things could get ugly for her in 2007. It was fun while it lasted, though.

  • Over at his ESPN.com blog, Buster Olney had an interesting stat showing the percentage of 1-2-3 innings from closers in 2006:
    LEADERS               PCT          TRAILERS              PCT
    Joe Nathan 47.0 Ryan Dempster 28.0
    Jonathan Papelbon 45.5 Francisco Cordero 29.3
    Huston Street 41.3 Francisco Rodriguez 30.1
    J.J. Putz 41.0 Chad Cordero 32.8
    Takashi Saito 41.0 B.J. Ryan 33.3

    Joe Nathan leading all closers with 47 percent of his innings ending 1-2-3 probably doesn't surprise anyone who watched him flawlessly slam the door on late leads so many times last season, but it's always interesting to see something you've observed laid out in actual numbers. I'd love to see what Eddie Guardado's 1-2-3 percentage was from his days as Twins closer, because the perception was that he often had to wriggle out of jams to get his saves.

  • The form for the comments section here allows you potentially fill in as many as three boxes with information, asking for your name, e-mail address, and a website address. Many of you take advantage of this by linking to your blog, which has led to me discovering several good sites that I otherwise might have missed. The other day, in the comments for my Brad Radke tribute, someone named "Shelley" left a note praising Radke and linked to a blog.

    I clicked the link, as I usually do when I see a new commenter, and discovered the blog of someone who appears to be my soulmate. OK, that's a massive overstatement and I don't mean to sound so stalkerish, so instead I'll just say that the blog is written by an attractive-looking college-aged girl who apparently reads (and comments on) this blog, describes herself as an "avid fan of Minnesota Twins baseball," and appears from her writing to have a good sense of humor and a similar taste in music.

    I bring this up not because I'm trolling for dates in the comments section of my own blog--although I'm not completely opposed to that, in theory--but because it never ceases to amaze me the wide array of people who read this site. I've met many of you and the majority look like older/younger/fatter/skinnier versions of me. You know, guys. Yet for every thousand of us, there are apparently a few Shelleys too. I knew being brave enough to admit to being a big John Mayer fan would pay dividends at some point.

  • As Ron Gardenhire hinted they would when I interviewed him at the Winter Meetings, the Twins re-signed Rondell White to a one-year contract Thursday. White will make a base salary of $2.75 million in 2007 and can make up to $750,000 in additional bonuses based on plate appearances. If he tops 525 plate appearances in 2007 an option for 2008 vests at $3.75 million, although that total could also rise based on how often he plays. If he doesn't bat 525 times, the Twins owe White a $250,000 buyout.

    Much like the contract that originally brought White to Minnesota last offseason, it's a complicated, incentive-laden deal that limits the Twins' risk and potentially gives them a solid hitter at a bargain price. I liked bringing White in last winter and, even after a disappointing season, I approve of the decision to bring him back. That's not something I expected to be saying in July or even September, but given the current market and the way he played down the stretch it seems like a relative no-brainer.

    The Twins have essentially committed to paying White $3 million in 2007, which isn't the type of money that buys much in terms of viable corner-outfield bats. Guys like David Dellucci, Jay Payton, and Frank Catalanotto all received multi-year deals and most one-year signees got significantly more than White. Of course, some would question whether White himself is a viable corner-outfield bat after hitting a measly .246/.276/.365 last season, but a look at his overall totals doesn't tell the whole story.

    Whether because of shoulder problems or something else, White was a complete mess in the first half. However, he came back from a two-week demotion to Triple-A hitting like the Twins expected him to from the start, batting .321/.354/.538 in 45 second-half games. White hit a combined .289/.341/.476 in the previous three years coming into 2006, so I'm inclined to believe the guy we saw in the second half is closer to what the Twins will get in 2007 than the guy who hit a homerless .182 in the first half.

    White prefers to play left field rather than designated hitter, which shouldn't be a problem given Jason Kubel's knee issues. He has one of the few throwing arms that could give Shannon Stewart a run for the "worst in baseball" title, but White has more than enough range for the position and likely grades out as above average overall. Given Kubel's health situation and the Twins' lack of power and outfield depth--Jason Tyner and Lew Ford are the current backups--it's a move that was begging to be made.

  • Saturday Night Live produced its annual funny bit last weekend, with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg coming up with a perfect parody of mid-1990s boy bands with the sure-to-be-overplayed "Dick in a Box" Christmas love song. The whole thing (shown below) is pretty brilliant and the chorus is the punchline, obviously, but my favorite part was the singing-from-atop-the-hoop shots that brought back all kinds of Boyz II Men and Color Me Badd memories I had been suppressing.


    One, cut a hole in a box. Two, put your junk in that box. Three, make her open the box.
  • If reading my tribute to Radke in this space following his retirement earlier this week wasn't enough for you--or if you'd simply like to read it again in a different format for some odd reason--you can also read essentially the identical piece on NBCSports.com (sans a few hand-picked pictures and blog-related references, and plus a cliched Minnesota-centric headline).

    Before someone inevitably accuses me of giving my blog audience less than a full effort, I want to make it clear that I wrote the Radke piece solely for this site and only agreed to have it run on NBCSports.com when my editor read it here, liked it, and asked if he could use it as well. I'm not one to turn down a byline and Radke deserves the added attention, so I agreed.

  • Mainstream writers starting blogs hosted on newspaper websites are hit-or-miss propositions, but so far at least Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is showing himself to be a fine blogger. Rand's month-old blog has already worked its way into my daily routine thanks to a quick-hitting style and pithy attitude, and he's taken the one sure-fire path to gaining my acceptance. That's right, he mentioned me, saying my "writing work perhaps appears in more places than the law allows."
  • I'll have to ask Rand if this gets me safely below the legal limit for writing gigs or not, but my departure from The Hardball Times is now public knowledge. Those of you who've read this blog regularly have known that for a while now, as I've been hinting at it for months, but Dave Studeman made things official in his year-end "State of The Hardball Times" address this week:
    The biggest change of the year, however, is that our co-founder and spiritual leader, Aaron Gleeman, is no longer involved with the site. Aaron has parlayed his baseball-writing-from-bed habit into a full-time gig at NBCSports.com, covering football, baseball and who knows, maybe curling too. Aaron had the vision and set the tone for THT early on, and although he didn't contribute many articles the past year he was still editing the site. Alas, Aaron will have to give up any involvement with THT at all, due to the demands on his time from people who actually pay him.

    We would wish Aaron luck in his new endeavors, but we know that would be redundant to how he's actually going to do. The key thing for you to know is that THT will not only continue without Aaron, we will continue to grow.

    Way back in 2003, Matthew Namee (who was then Bill James' assistant) and I were chatting one day when we decided it'd be a good idea to create a website featuring baseball analysis from a lineup of columnists that included the two of us and some of our favorite online writers. Namee eventually left the site, at which point Studeman stepped in as my co-owner, and in the years since I'm proud to say that THT has thrived while developing into far more than I ever could have imagined.

    I'm sad to leave the site at a time when it's flourishing--THT's third book was released earlier this month and readership continues to rise--but I'm confident that the leadership that remains in place will keep it headed in the right direction. In a perfect world I'd still be writing for and leading THT, because it was incredibly rewarding and a lot of fun, but the opportunities presented to me at both RotoWorld.com and NBCSports.com were too good for me to pass up at this stage in my life.

    I'll continue to support THT in any way that I can and I'll continue to make it my first stop each morning in my never-ending search for good online baseball writing. It's a tremendous site featuring the work of talented writers who're also baseball nuts and great guys, and co-creating it years ago is one of the my biggest accomplishments. My hope is that one day someone will look at the success THT is having and compare my exit to Shelley Long leaving Cheers or David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue.


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