April 30, 2007

Month In Review: April

In what is probably just an odd scheduling quirk, the Twins finished April with a trip to Detroit both this season and last season. On last year's trip, the Tigers outscored them 33-1 in an embarrassing three-game sweep that dropped the Twins to fourth place and put them eight games behind the division-leading White Sox at 9-15. With 9-0, 18-1, and 6-0 losses, it was a horrible way to end a tough month. In reviewing it on May 1, 2006, here's what I wrote:

The offense was predictably ineffective and the pitching was shockingly horrible, and the team often looked both overmatched and disinterested. The defense was sloppy, the starting pitchers put the team in an early hole nearly every time out, and the manager continued his annual tradition of giving at-bats to the wrong guys.

[...]

The offense has produced 22 percent fewer runs than the AL average, while the pitching has given up 23 percent more runs than the rest of the league. That the pitching staff has received so much more of the blame is due entirely to expectations, because while the pitchers have been more disappointing they haven't been any worse.

Now it's May 1, 2007 and things sure have changed in a year, and not just because a rash of injuries has made it tough to complain about Ron Gardenhire "giving at-bats to the wrong guys." Rather than getting swept by the Tigers, the Twins nearly pulled off a sweep of their own heading into May, losing Sunday's game when Brandon Inge hit a walk-off homer off Jesse Crain. Even with the month-ending loss, they finished April in second place at 14-11.

The offense that "produced 22 percent fewer runs than the AL average" last April was just two percent below average this April. The pitching staff that gave up "23 percent more runs than the rest of the league" last April was 11 percent better than average this year. Between a ton of injuries, several winnable games that slipped away, some sloppy defense, and even sloppier baserunning it certainly wasn't a pretty first month despite a very easy schedule, but it sure beats last season's version.

The team as a whole hit .271/.330/.401 in April, which in typical Twins fashion ranked third in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage, and ninth in slugging percentage. Last year's team ended the season ranked first, fifth, and eighth in those same categories. Offense is down about six percent across the league this year, which is why similar rankings produce less impressive raw numbers, but in general the Twins are hitting much like they did last season (and far better than they did last April).

Joe Mauer hit .369/.465/.512 with 12 RBIs and 18 runs in 103 plate appearances while picking up right where he left off last season by leading the league in batting average. Torii Hunter hit .326/.352/.651 with 18 RBIs and 16 runs in 91 plate appearances while leading the league in doubles with 13. Mauer and Hunter were the team's clear offensive leaders in April and were each among the most valuable handful of players in the league during the first month.

Justin Morneau hit .271/.358/.521 with 15 RBIs and 17 runs in 109 plate appearances, which is nearly identical production to what he did on the way to winning last season's AL MVP once you account for the league-wide drop in offense. Similarly, Michael Cuddyer hit .290/.333/.450 with 17 RBIs and 17 runs in 108 plate appearances to nearly duplicate his performance from last season's breakout campaign. Unfortunately, after Mauer, Hunter, Morneau, and Cuddyer the offense wasn't pretty.

The lineup's 3-6 hitters combined to hit .311/.373/.531 in April, but if you remove them from the equation the rest of the hitters combined to bat .241/.292/.306. No other hitter slugged above .400 and only Jason Tyner produced an above-average on-base percentage. Perhaps the most amazing stat is that in 494 at-bats spread between 11 hitters, a grand total of one homer was hit by someone other than The Big Four. That's right, one homer all month (and Luis Rodriguez hit it).

Part of that comes from injuries forcing Rodriguez, Josh Rabe, and Alexi Casilla into the lineup and keeping Rondell White and Jeff Cirillo out of the lineup, but Luis Castillo, Nick Punto, Jason Kubel, and Jason Bartlett were all awful at the plate as well. On the other hand, the Twins hit .290/.366/.422 against right-handed pitching, compared to just .248/.285/.377 against left-handed pitching, which is an area having White and Cirillo healthy would have helped.

The pitching staff allowed 4.1 runs per nine innings this April, compared to 4.2 runs per nine innings overall last season. At first glance that would indicate that the Twins' pitching has been almost exactly as effective as it was last season, but because of the aforementioned drop in league-wide offense the staff has actually been slightly worse. Interestingly, the ERA gap between the rotation and bullpen has tightened this year, which is the opposite of what I would have guessed coming out of spring training.

Johan Santana went just 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA, but that actually qualifies as the second-best April of his career. He combined with Carlos Silva and Ramon Ortiz to go 8-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 16 starts, while Boof Bonser and Sidney Ponson combined to go 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA in nine starts. The rotation as a whole turned in 12 Quality Starts in 25 games, with Ortiz shockingly going 5-for-5 and Ponson not so shockingly going 0-for-4.

The bullpen was similarly divided into great performances and poor performances. Joe Nathan got off to a slow start, but finished the month with a 2.19 ERA and 12-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12.1 innings while converting all seven of his save chances. Setup duo Juan Rincon and Pat Neshek combined to go 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 24-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21.2 innings, while middle man Matt Guerrier posted a 2.40 ERA in 15 frames.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dennys Reyes gave up more earned runs (6) in 7.2 April innings than he did all of last season (5). He combined with Crain to post a 6.62 ERA and 12-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17.2 innings, with Crain losing two games when Gardenhire refused to bring in Nathan instead. The bullpen combined to allow seven homers in 75 innings (one per 10.7 innings), while the rotation served up 24 homers in 151 innings (one per 6.2 innings).

After converting 68.4, 70.2, and 68.5 percent of balls in play into outs over the previous three seasons, the Twins turned 69.7 percent of balls in play into outs this April to rank seventh in the league. They committed the fewest errors in the AL with just 11, which is amazing given that Bartlett had five of his own within the first two weeks. After ranking fourth in the league by throwing out 36 percent of would-be basestealers in 2006, Mauer and Redmond gunned down a league-best 59 percent in April.

The Twins finished April 23-for-26 (88.5 percent) stealing bases, with Casilla (4-for-4) and Hunter (4-for-5) leading the way. Mauer (3-for-3), Bartlett (3-for-3), Tyner (3-for-4), Castillo (2-for-2), Punto (2-for-3), Cuddyer (1-for-1), and Kubel (1-for-1) each stole at least one base and no one was thrown out more than once. On the other hand--and while I don't have any specific stats to quote--the Twins made a disturbing number of baserunning mistakes, running their way out of several innings.

Finally, here's how the Twins' record this April compares to past seasons:

YEAR      W      L     WIN%
1965 8 3 .727
1969 13 7 .650
1970 12 6 .667
1987 12 9 .571
1991 9 11 .450
2001 18 6 .750
2002 16 11 .593
2003 12 14 .462
2004 15 7 .682
2005 15 8 .652
2006 9 15 .375
2007 14 11 .560

For whatever it's worth, the Twins missed the playoffs the year they posted their best April winning percentage among those dozen seasons (.750 in 2001) and made the playoffs the year they posted their worst April winning percentage among those dozen seasons (.375 in 2006).


Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

April 26, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • Not only did Torii Hunter miraculously escape yesterday afternoon's potentially serious beaning with little more than a busted lip, he returned from a trip to the hospital to provide some amusing quotes afterward:
    It was so much pain, I thought all my teeth were out. I thought my jaw was broken, I thought my nose was bleeding, I thought everything. I'm thinking about all this while I'm on the ground. Now, he just messed up my pretty face, you know what I'm saying? I look good today, and now I can't go anywhere. I can't go eat.

    One of my teeth is a little loose. I think it's a little sensitive. I think it's going to be fine. They just stitched me up, they gave me three or four stitches. It hurts. The novocaine shot, that was pretty good actually.

    A few innings after Zack Greinke's pitch hit Hunter, radio announcers Dan Gladden and Jack Morris had a discussion about how it'd be a shame if any of Hunter's teeth were knocked out. The reason? Because, as Gladden explained, he went through the trouble of wearing braces as an adult.

  • Hunter's rough day in pictures (click here for a bigger version):

    (From left to right: Charging the mound, down on the ground, elephant man.)
  • Ron Gardenhire's recent interview with the Kane County Chronicle focused mostly on bowling, milk, and Jesse Ventura, with few serious moments to be found, but it did contain a couple interesting exchanges. Asked "which ballplayer of today reminds you of yourself as a major leaguer," Gardenhire responded with a familiar name:
    A futility infielder? Right now, it's my son. He swings at sliders in the dirt just like I did. Toby Gardenhire, he's 24 playing in A-ball for the Twins.

    If you're curious, Toby Gardenhire played at the University of Illinois, was taken by the Twins in the 41st round of the 2005 draft, and hit .198 at Single-A Beloit last season. Asked whether or not he did any partying with Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden when they were all teammates on the 1985 Mets, Gardenhire said:

    None, whatsoever. But they were two very, very quality young men when I was there. They were rookies coming into the league, and I honestly thought the world of them. I thought they were super guys--and I know they went through some stuff. But I had a chance to be with them early and they were pretty special people. They still are. They've struggled and went through a lot of stuff in their lives, but they're good people.

    [...]

    Honestly I think they are something we should all learn from. No matter how big you become, reality is going to set in someday and you have to watch yourself and take care of yourself. I think they're good stories because they're on the path to healing and getting better. I think it's a good story for everyone to learn from.

    The '85 Mets won 98 games, led by a 20-year-old Gooden going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA while winning the Cy Young Award with one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time and a 23-year-old Strawberry hitting .277/.389/.557 to rank seventh among NL hitters in OPS. Playing in what would be his final big-league season, a 27-year-old Gardenhire hit .179 in 39 at-bats.

  • Remember how longtime Timberwolves beat writer Steve Ashburner accepted a buyout from the Minneapolis Star Tribune? Well, it looks like Ashburner wants his job back.
  • Pat Neshek's interview with ESPN.com earlier this week is a fantastic read and contains interesting stuff about blogging, collecting autographs, throwing sidearm, and using stats to become a better pitcher. If he isn't already, the interview should help Neshek become one of your favorite players.
  • As you might expect, Johan Santana has one of the "most unhittable pitches in baseball."
  • Congratulations to Stick and Ball Guy and his lovely wife, who welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world this week and simultaneously discovered a fantastic billboard for SBG's blog.
  • As usual, my weekly call-in segments on NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show are available for viewing. On Monday's show I called in to discuss my favorite waiver-wire pickups and Thursday's show is worth watching just to hear co-host Tiffany Simons work the phrase "1970s porn star" into a fantasy baseball discussion. In addition to the two call-ins, I also taped my weekly "Gleeman Report" from NBCSports.com's Minnesota studio (read: in front of my Ikea bookcase).

    With regular "Fantasy Fix" co-host Gregg Rosenthal getting married next week, it sounds like I'll be stepping in to co-host the shows with Tiffany. I don't exactly have visions of being Lou Gehrig to Gregg's Wally Pipp, but it should be interesting.

  • AG.com's No. 5 Twins prospect, Anthony Swarzak, has been suspended 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy. Friend of AG.com Tim Kolehmainen, who cover's Swarzak's Double-A New Britain team for the Meriden Record-Journal, has all the details on his blog.
  • Jake Rossen writes for Sherdog.com, which is a must-read mixed martial arts site, so he's clearly biased on the subject. With that said, his piece on how boxing is gradually moving into MMA's shadow is an outstanding, thought-provoking read.
  • Apparently being from the same country as a mass murderer is enough to get you booed at Triple-A.
  • When he played left field for the Twins, I once described Shannon Stewart's fly-ball tracking as "Mr. Magoo-like," so I was shocked to see what position he played during the final inning of Wednesday's A's-Mariners game. On the other hand, I'm far from shocked to learn that his bat remains as punchless as it was during his final two seasons in Minnesota, with Stewart sporting a .239/.287/.352 hitting line through 21 games. Apparently all those spring-training puff pieces were just a tad premature.
  • Fortune magazine recently named "blogger" as one of "50 bulls**t jobs." The write-up is a little harsh and I'd argue that any blogger doing enough blogging to turn it into an actual job is working pretty damn hard. With that said, including it on the list makes a whole lot more sense than People magazine handing Drew Barrymore the No. 1 spot on their annual "100 Most Beautiful People" list.
  • As editor of LAist, friend of AG.com Tony Pierce has beefed up the site's Dodgers-related coverage.
  • Random music recommendation from a guy who admits publicly to liking John Mayer: Paolo Nutini
  • Gardenhire has spent years seemingly living in constant fear of what would happen if an injury struck while both Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond were in the lineup together. Meanwhile, the A's are so comfortable with the same scenario that has Gardenhire frightened that they've demoted backup catcher Adam Melhuse to Triple-A, leaving everyday DH Mike Piazza as the team's second backstop. In other words, the A's plan to "risk" Gardenhire's nightmare scenario during every game.
  • I'm working on a whole bunch of stuff for the upcoming Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide, which means much of my weekend will be spent watching the NFL draft (the informative NFL Network version, not the annoying ESPN version). With the Vikings picking seventh overall, here's my ranking of who I'd like to see them end up with in the first round:

    1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
    2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
    3. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Louisiana State
    4. Joe Thomas, LT, Wisconsin
    5. LaRon Landry, SS, Louisiana State
    6. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
    7. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson

    No. 7 is way too early to take him, but I'd love to see the Vikings end up with USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett in the second round.


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 24, 2007

    Ponson's Last Start?


    Woke up cold one Tuesday
    I'm looking tired and feeling quite sick
    I felt like there was something missing in my day-to-day life
    So I quickly opened the wardrobe
    Pulled out some jeans and a t-shirt that seemed clean
    Topped it off with a pair of old shoes that were ripped around the seams

    And I thought these shoes just don't suit me
    Hey, I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything's right
    I said hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody's smiling


    - Paolo Nutini, New Shoes

    I'm still too short on time to write a whole lot today and I'm now too frustrated with the Twins' losing streak (along with Johan Santana's back-to-back losses at the Metrodome) to do a typical, notes-style game recap, so let's try something a little different in the form of reader participation. Sidney Ponson will make his fourth start of the season tonight against the Royals after going 1-2 with a 9.39 ERA in his first three starts.

    I've used this space to argue that Ponson hasn't pitched as poorly as his hideous ERA suggests, but at the end of the day he's allowed 16 runs in 15.1 innings and opponents have hit .389/.450/.667 in 80 plate appearances. Asked earlier this week about Ponson, Terry Ryan said, "We're getting close to the point where we need to see more progress." When combined with Ponson's horrible numbers, that statement makes me think that a poor fourth outing could signal the end of his time in the rotation.

    Obviously, the first question is "should Ponson be yanked from the rotation if he fails to turn in a solid start against the Royals tonight?" If you answered "no" to that, then the next question is "exactly how long of a leash should he get?" If you instead answered "yes" to that, then the next question is "who should replace him?" Assuming that moving Matt Guerrier out the bullpen is off limits, there are seemingly four possible answers. Here's what they've each done thus far at Triple-A:

                        W     L      ERA        IP     SO      BB     OAVG
    Kevin Slowey 3 0 0.96 18.2 20 1 .134
    Glen Perkins 0 0 1.50 6.0 2 1 .105
    Scott Baker 1 0 1.69 16.0 16 3 .196
    Matt Garza 0 1 2.77 13.0 12 9 .278

    I've been very wrong about Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva thus far, but Rochester's rotation has been every bit as great as I expected it to be. Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Scott Baker have combined to go 4-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 50-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53.2 innings (Perkins has just one start because he was called up to pitch out of the Twins' bullpen). For those of you who think that Ponson should be leaving the rotation, who should replace him?

    A few weeks ago I would have said Garza without thinking twice, but given his troubling neck problems and less-than-dominant numbers at Triple-A that's no longer such a no-brainer. Perkins is already in Minnesota, but hasn't pitched particularly well as a reliever. Slowey has been the most impressive of the bunch at Rochester, but he's the only member of the foursome without any big-league experience. Baker has the most major-league experience and has been nearly as impressive as Slowey.

    I'd lean toward yanking Ponson from the rotation if he struggles against the Royals tonight and I'd go with Baker as his immediate replacement, but I'm sure there are arguments to be made for just about every possible scenario. What say you?


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 23, 2007

    Indians 7, Twins 3

    Note: I'm still recovering from a busy weekend that included riding in a 15-person stretch limousine and eating a $125 "silver butter knife steak" at Murray's in downtown Minneapolis--trust me, the whole thing sounds more intriguing if I leave out some details--and last night's game was particularly tough to watch. All of which is why yesterday's entry was non-existent, while today's entry is short on words and long on frustration. Sorry.

    Joe Nathan has been arguably the single best reliever in all of baseball since coming to Minnesota in 2004, going 16-7 with a 2.01 ERA, 129 saves, a 285-to-63 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .180 opponent's batting average in 219 innings. Coming into last night's game, he had thrown a grand total of 16 pitches over the previous 90 hours, with all of them coming Saturday when he struck out the side against the Royals.

    Last night's game against the Indians took place at the Metrodome and went 12 innings, with no save chance to be had at any point after the eighth inning. Given all of that information--a well rested, elite reliever with no save opportunity to be held back for in a home game--when would you expect Nathan to have entered? I'm not sure how you answered that question, but Ron Gardenhire's answer was to keep Nathan in the bullpen until the Twins were trailing by multiple runs in the 12th inning.

    Five relievers took the mound before the team's closer, with Nathan finally coming in only after the Twins' chances of winning were at the lowest point of the game. Call me crazy, but that seems like the exact opposite of how a closer should be used. Now, that's not necessarily why the Twins lost, because prior to Jesse Crain the bullpen pitched very well while Nathan looked on and the offense certainly blew plenty of chances to end things with one measly run.

    With that said, it's moves like Nathan's usage last night--involving making decisions based on meaningless labels and misguided stubbornness rather than intelligent strategy and smart tactics--that gnaw at me when the Twins lose winnable games. Win or lose, to play a 12-inning game at home without using your fully rested closer in a high-leverage situation is simply bad managing. Nathan should have been given a chance to win or lose the game before Crain lost it. That's his job.


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    April 19, 2007

    Link-O-Rama

  • It took five years, but I'm no longer the world's best-looking baseball blogger.
  • Video of the Week: The Fenway Park Pizza Party.


    My favorite part is the seriousness with which television color commentator Jerry Remy breaks down the incident via slow-motion replay, all while play-by-play man Don Orsillo struggles to contain his giggling.
  • Landlords like this one are the reason why I bought a house, but apparently I'm the only one.
  • During his ESPN.com chat earlier this week, Paul Shirley called Kobe Bryant "the biggest douche I've ever met," only to see the ESPN censors quickly erase it from the record. I've been known to use the phrase "douche bag" to describe people occasionally, so I approve, but that wasn't even my favorite part of the chat. No, I liked this question and answer, which led off the multi-hour festivities:
    Anthony (Chicago, Illinois): Are there any advantages to playing over in Europe as opposed to the NBA?

    Paul Shirley: 1. Good wine is cheaper here. 2. I actually get to play. 3. I constantly get to see uncircumcised dudes in the shower.

    I'd almost be willing to forgive Kevin McHale's many sins as general manager of the Timberwolves if only he'd at least sign Shirley to the same type of long-term deal that he's handed out to guys like Troy Hudson and Mark Madsen.

  • Former Twins blogger Ryan Maus (the guy on the far left in this picture that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune a few years ago) is now writing for the St. Olaf College student newspaper and recently penned an excellent article analyzing new trends in sports media.
  • Lucky dog.
  • The Chicago Sports Review recently published an interesting interview with one my all-time favorite writers, Rob Neyer, who discussed topics like blogging, life at ESPN, print versus online, and why the Baseball Writers Association of America is misguided.
  • At a press conference promoting his upcoming boxing match against Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather responded to a question about how boxers compare to mixed martial artists:
    UFC's champions can't handle boxing. That's why they are in UFC. Put one of our guys in UFC and he'd be the champion. Any good fighter, he'd straight knock them out.

    I'm not surprised that a world-class boxer would think that, but I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that he's very wrong. Because they're both combat sports, it's natural to compare boxing and MMA fighting. However, the reality is that they're very different. Mayweather no doubt feels like he has to stick up for his sport, but there's no more reason for him to do that than for Johan Santana to say that any great pitcher could be the best quarterback in the NFL.

    Both sports involve throwing a ball and require many of the same skills, but greatness in one is not dependent upon greatness in the other. The same applies to boxing and MMA fighting. Just as Santana would likely be a terrible NFL quarterback and Peyton Manning would likely be a terrible MLB pitcher, Fedor Emelianko and Chuck Liddell likely aren't capable of being great boxers. On the other hand, world-class boxers like Mayweather would likely get demolished in top-level MMA competition.

    All of which isn't to say that I'd pass up the chance to see someone like Mayweather put his money where his mouth is against a world-class MMA fighter, because I'd gladly shell out $50 to see that on pay-per-view. I doubt something like that will happen any time soon, but with MMA fighting's popularity rapidly growing at the expense of boxing, I wouldn't be surprised to see a showdown of the two sports at some point.

    If that ever happens and the fight takes place under MMA rules, it might be the tipping point for MMA fighting as a mainstream sport and the final nail in boxing's coffin. Whether or not it's a fair comparison, seeing an elite boxer get taken down and submitted would be an eye-opener for hardcore boxing fans who aren't yet familiar with MMA fighting or don't consider it as legitimate a sport. Assuming it's a matchup between an elite boxer and an elite MMA fighter, I'll take the guy who "can't handle boxing."

  • A new take on one of the greatest fight scenes in movie history.
  • Now that I'm officially moved into my new house and somewhat unpacked, I've resumed shooting a weekly video report for NBCSports.com in addition to my twice-weekly call-in segments on the "Fantasy Fix" show. This week's "Gleeman Report" is about the MLB-wide lack of scoring so far this season, but if that topic doesn't interest you it's also worth watching to see my new Ikea bookcase in action or guess the identify of the bobbleheads displayed behind me.

    UPDATE: One of my bosses sent along this still picture from the video to entice you to watch it:

    I fear there may be some confusion about the meaning of "entice."

  • Before I could even congratulate poker blogger and friend of AG.com Pauly McGuire on landing a new gig at ESPN.com, the relationship apparently went south over creative differences. In other words, it sounds like ESPN.com wanted him to stop writing all the stuff that made him such a great blogger to begin with.
  • It took four tries by four different major-league teams within less than one month, but the Phillies finally managed to successfully pass former Twins prospect J.D. Durbin through waivers and assign him to Triple-A.
  • Aside from the fact that no movie that prominently features Jessica Biel in a bikini (and in a pool, but without a bikini) can truly be considered "awful" in my eyes, I mostly agreed with this ranking of "Awful Sports Movies" written by longtime AG.com reader Richard Matthes.
  • It sounds like Torii Hunter might be a little lighter in the wallet after traveling to Kansas City this weekend:
    When the Royals closed last season by sweeping the Tigers in Detroit, it enabled Minnesota to win the American League Central Division. That prompted a promise from Twins outfielder Torii Hunter to send each of the Royals a bottle of Dom Perignon. The Royals are still waiting.

    "Nothing yet," Mike Sweeney said. "We're still waiting for Torii to come through. And Torii is making good money, so he can afford it."

    Hunter makes approximately $75,000 per game and some quick-and-dirty work on Google suggests that 25 bottles of Dom Perignon would cost him something in the ballpark of $5,000, depending on the year. So yeah, Mike Sweeney probably has a point, although the idea surely sounded a lot more worthwhile to Hunter before the Twins were swept out of the playoffs.

  • My 25th birthday is in January and this is the party I want.
  • You can take the girl out of Boston, but you can't take the Boston out of the girl. New St. Paul Pioneer Press Twins beat writer Kelsie Smith, who previously covered the Red Sox for the Boston Globe, described seeing the ball through the Safeco Field shadows yesterday as "wicked tough." No word yet on whether she's been involved in any pizza-throwing incidents during her first month on the job.
  • The Star Tribune ran an interesting article earlier this week about the lack of success "abstinence programs" have had, with various people debating exactly what a recent study on the topic shows. The piece is filled with argument-inducing stuff, but the thing that really floored me was this: "The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education." Whether or not the programs "work," that strikes me as about $176 million too much.
  • I don't think the actual execution was all that great within the article, but this was a tremendous idea.
  • Back in October, I created a WhatIfSports.com "Hardball Dynasty" league for readers of this blog to join me in. I was overwhelmed by the response, as about 200 of you expressed interest in grabbing a franchise, but unfortunately there were only 31 other spots available. We recently completed Season 2 of "Gleeman World"--my Minnesota Fatboys followed up a 91-win Season 1 with 95 wins--and it looks like there will be a handful of open franchises this offseason.

    The league is filled with a bunch of friendly AG.com readers who fill the message board with daily chatter, but it's also extremely competitive. Because of that, any new owners would have to convince me that they're capable of devoting a decent chunk of time to maintaining their team on a near-daily basis. If you're interested in claiming a spot and aren't worried about real-life responsibilities getting in the way of managing a fake baseball team, drop me an e-mail.


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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