January 5, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • Over at ESPN.com, Buster Olney had an interesting article about Justin Morneau, including some details about what exactly Ron Gardenhire said to him in their now-famous closed-door meeting:
    There was no yelling, no anger. Gardenhire had just one question for the slumping first baseman: "How good do you want to be?"

    Morneau has always been a hard worker, Gardenhire says; that wasn't a problem. The issue was whether Morneau would change his off-field habits to give himself the best possible chance to be successful every day. "You could do a lot of things other players can't," Gardenhire told him. "Once you realize that, you'll do amazing things."

    [...]

    Morneau decided there would be no more late nights, no more partying into the early morning. "I had let myself be distracted," he says, "instead of concentrating on what I needed to do."

    He'd taken a room in Mauer's house in St. Paul at the outset of the season, and during the next homestand, the two of them drove there after games, flopped into the comfy chairs in Mauer's home theater and flipped between the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel. "I really never left the house after that," Morneau says.

    Perhaps I missed the details somewhere, but that's the first I've heard about the focus of Gardenhire's talk being Morneau's off-field habits and I find it interesting that it took a non-Minnesota reporter to reveal that. Olney also reveals that Morneau has been living with "a Minnesota girl" named Krista Martin during the offseason, which is intriguing if only because it contradicts the stuff about living with Joe Mauer supposedly helping Morneau realize his potential.

  • I initially thought that all of my success in 2006 was due to some combination luck, hard work, and talent, but it turns out it might just be because I'm from Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a recent study shows that Minnesota ranks third in the country at "giving its children the best chance for success as educated, wage-earning adults." Of course, now that I think about it, a college drop-out probably doesn't qualify as "educated." On the other hand, the same article contains this tidbit:
    Forty-four percent of Minnesota adults have a two-year or four-year degree; the national average is 37 percent.

    Being in the majority is always good, right?

  • After reading this report from the New York Daily News, I suspect Continuum being named one of my top-five albums of the year probably wasn't John Mayer's finest moment from 2006. Incidentally, if I'm ever caught "full-on making out" with Jessica Simpson on New Year's Eve, you can be sure I'll actually mention it on my blog. After all, my loyal readers shouldn't be forced to hear about it first in the newspaper.
  • I've had plenty of "misunderstandings" in my life, but very few of them have involved someone using a Taser on me. Chalk another one up for Brad Childress' mighty "culture of accountability," although at least Travis Taylor was on dry land.
  • It saddens me that I didn't realize Dan Barreiro had his own blog until this week, because apparently he's been blogging since last April. I grew up reading Barreiro's column in the Star Tribune, but never really thought of him as a must-read writer, instead preferring his radio work on KFAN. Not only does he have fantastic musical taste, Barreiro has the kind of cynical, sarcastic outlook on most things that I tend to have.

    One of the best decisions KFAN ever made (besides giving friend of AG.com Doogie Wolfson more airtime) was breaking up the Chad Hartman-Barreiro duo and giving Barreiro his own show. Of course, I say that as someone who probably listened to KFAN for a total of 30 minutes in 2006, although that has more to do with the presence of Sirius satellite radio and my not having to actually drive to work. All of which is why I'm happy to have finally discovered Barreiro's blog.

  • Speaking of Doogie, did anyone else catch him filling in as the late-night sports anchor on FOX's local news last month? I wasn't sure what to expect, having never seen him do anything on television before, but Doogie was actually very good. Back before the guys at KFAN slapped the "Doogie" nickname on him, Darren and I used to hang out quite a bit in the mean streets of St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.

    My group of sports-obsessed friends spent much of our time playing driveway basketball or preparing for fantasy drafts, but Darren was always a little more obsessed than most (which is probably what they'd say about me too). When my mom was yelling at him for eating too much of our food, it never occurred to me that he'd be on TV some day, reading NBA scores off a teleprompter while wearing a suit, but it doesn't surprise me one bit that he's found a way to turn his passion for sports into a career.

  • Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in!
  • The Star Tribune runs a regular feature called "How I Got That Job," in which a local person, usually someone young, is profiled. I haven't picked up a print copy of the newspaper in a long time and rarely read something outside of the sports section even online, but I know all about "How I Got That Job" because my mom makes sure to show me the article each week. I'm pretty sure she does it because she likes comparing how I'm doing with how they're doing.

    Sometimes she'll show me the article and excitedly say, "This guy is working at a newspaper and only makes $24,000 a year!" Other times she'll show me the article and sadly offer up, "This girl is only two years out of college and she's already a manager at a big company." If you've ever wondered about why I am the way I am ... well, there's a little glimpse into one of the reasons. Anyway, I bring this up today because my mom showed me the latest "How I Got That Job" and I actually recognized the person.

    The newspaper often profiles people who are recent college graduates, so it wouldn't be particularly noteworthy if I recognized someone from my days back at the University of Minnesota, but I actually recognized Ross Pfund from the comments section of this blog. Well, that's not quite true. I recognize him because he introduced himself to me at a Batgirl-sponsored get-together last season, but that introduction came because he's a frequent reader and commenter here.

    Say what you will about the level of discourse that goes on in the comments section here, but at least I know that one of you has a good job.

  • Speaking of Batgirl, I'd like to offer a hearty congratulations on the birth of her now week-old son, Dashiell. After hearing several months ago that Batgirl was expecting, I had hoped for a name like Boof or at least Johan, but Dashiell is certainly right up there with those and "Dash Ursu" is, all things considered, a pretty sweet name. Next up on the Twins bloggers' baby-making list is, I believe, Stick and Ball Guy and his bride, Lucy, who will surely name their kid something equally as cool-sounding.

    Actually, even something seemingly innocuous like "Michael Andballguy" would be pretty good, which is what happens when you have such an unusual last name. If asked--and they'll surely be seeking my opinion on the matter--I would vote for "Andy Andballguy" or "Guy Andballguy," if only because "Boof Andballguy" sounds sort of dirty.

  • Believe it or not, Luis Rivas might finally be in position to help the Twins. Rivas' travels since leaving Minnesota show how stubborn and misguided the Twins were with him, although long-time readers of this blog certainly didn't need any further evidence to prove that theory. Handed a starting job for five straight seasons with the Twins, Rivas was mercifully let go following the 2005 season and managed only a minor-league deal with the Devil Rays. He spent all of last year at Triple-A, where he batted .218.

    Cut loose by Tampa Bay, Rivas has had to settle for another minor-league deal this offseason, this time with a team that has no real need for a second baseman (and definitely has no need for a bad second baseman). In other words, it's possible he could go from being a five-year starter with a winning team to not playing in the majors ever again. The open market really is a beautiful thing. If you're wondering, Rivas got 2,056 plate appearances and about $4 million from the Twins.

  • He hasn't played particularly well, but Doug Mientkiewicz's post-Twins career has still been slightly more successful than Rivas', with a World Series ring in 2004 and a chance to be the No. 9 hitter in baseball's best lineup in 2006.
  • Much like Dan Monson's firing last month, I feel only marginally interested, but relatively obligated to at least discuss the University of Minnesota's decision to fire Glen Mason last week. While I think firing Monson was long overdue and completely justified, I feel somewhat conflicted about Mason's exit. There's no doubt that Mason was far from a great football coach and the team's string of mediocre seasons and blown leads in crucial games are certainly evidence in favor of letting him go.

    On the other hand, I think not nearly enough people remember how horrible the Gophers' football program was before Mason arrived. Prior to Mason, the last time the Gophers won as many as seven games in a season was way back in 1977, when they went 7-5 and lost to Maryland in a mid-December bowl game. From 1978 to 1996, the Gophers finished .500-or-better exactly six times, and they were 16-39 in the five seasons directly before Mason was hired.

    The Gophers went 64-46 in a decade under Mason, won seven-plus games in half of his 10 seasons, and finished .500-or-better in six of them. Many of those wins came courtesy of Mason's ridiculously easy non-conference scheduling and the Gophers went just 32-48 in the Big Ten, so the turnaround isn't nearly as impressive as it appears. Still, Mason took a horrendous program that had experienced decades of losing and at least made it respectable.

    Finishing 7-5 or 6-7 and losing unimportant bowl games may seem really bad to fans now, but those same people would have been thrilled with that result under Jim Wacker, John Gutekunst or Joe Salem. It's certainly debatable whether that's worth keeping Mason around for in the face of some ugly losses and little progress, but I suspect it's going to be a lot more difficult to sustain his modest success than most fans seem to think.

    The Gophers won 38 games in Mason's final five seasons, including three bowl games, and went 18-22 in the Big Ten. Even before knowing who they end up replacing him with--it's not a pretty list of candidates, so far--I'd probably bet against the team topping those totals over the next five years. The grass is always greener, but the lawn was a complete mess before Mason showed up.


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