April 5, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • Howard Sinker of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has set up a blog-sponsored get-together for Twins fans tomorrow. I'll be there, as will Sinker, John Bonnes, Will Young, Stick and Ball Guy, Trevor Born, Nick Nelson, and Nick Mosvick. It should be a fun time, whether you're interested in meeting some of us bloggers or simply want to watch the Twins play the White Sox with a bunch of other Twins fans (don't let the fact that Sidney Ponson is pitching dissuade you from attending). Here are the details:

    Who: Sinker, Gleeman, Bonnes, Young, SBG, Born, Nelson, Mosvick, and various other Twins fans and blog readers.

    What: Eat, drink, be merry, watch Twins beat White Sox (that last part sounded a lot more convincing when Johan Santana was scheduled to start).

    Where: Buffalo Wild Wings at 5590 West Broadway in Crystal (here's a map).

    When: Saturday, April 7, at 2:30 p.m.

  • Ozzie Guillen has a new plan of attack for when the White Sox face Santana Sunday, saying that he'll likely avoid the typical strategy of stacking the lineup with right-handed hitters:
    The last couple of years we tried an all right-handed lineup against Santana and it didn't work. This year I'll try something different. I might put a couple of lefties in the middle against him to make him not as comfortable. I have to pick my spots.

    It sounds counter-intuitive to put left-handed hitters into the lineup against the game's best left-handed pitcher, but Guillen is definitely on to something. As I've discussed here in the past, Santana's career splits are not what you'd expect:

               AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    vs RH .218 .277 .355 .632
    vs LH .230 .286 .374 .660

    The above numbers are a little misleading, because Santana tends to face only top-notch left-handed hitters, but it's clear that his changeup allows him to have a unique advantage over right-handers. The gap is even wider over the past three seasons:

               AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    vs RH .199 .246 .327 .573
    vs LH .233 .273 .393 .666

    Santana dominates everyone, but teams that have some good left-handed bats likely want them in the lineup against him. Baltimore tried that on Opening Day and the Orioles' five lefties combined to go 4-for-12 with four doubles and two walks against Santana.

  • It's early yet, but it sure looks like Elisha Cuthbert is making a strong run at Comeback Fantasy Girl of the Year.
  • If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory make an absolute fool of himself while throwing out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day:


    As I said on NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show, my favorite part of the clip is the look of absolute disgust on Eric Davis' face. It's a moment that Mallory will never live down, but to the mayor's credit he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to explain himself.
  • When I saw the intriguing headline "Silva and Santana are much more than teammates," I expected something a lot different than an article about bike riding.
  • After previously saying that he might walk away from the job once his current contract expired this year, Bill Simmons decided this week to re-sign with ESPN.com for another four years. I had visions of Simmons joining me at NBCSports.com, but as long as he's writing somewhere for the foreseeable future I'm happy. Here's an interesting note about the deal from Sports Business Journal:
    Simmons said he never seriously entertained leaving. "I didn't want to leave," he said. "I didn't shop myself around."

    There were some rumors that SI.com would make a run at Simmons, but Simmons said he would never consider working for that site following the publication of a March 2006 Sports Illustrated article that Simmons felt treated him unfairly.

    "I would never work for them," Simmons said.

    I find that fascinating, because the Sports Illustrated article referred to there is the same one I was featured in. In fact, the section on me was a sidebar to a much larger article that focused on Simmons. While I was proudly showing the article to everyone I knew--largely because it was so great to be featured alongside Simmons, who's one of my favorite writers--Simmons was getting so upset over it that he ruled out ever working for SI.

  • After all the planning, Joe Nathan still showed up for the end of a blowout win anyway. Oh, and Nathan should be on the lookout, because Baby Dash is a fast mover.
  • Joe Christensen had an interesting article in the Star Tribune about Joe Mauer's unexpected growth spurt:
    The Twins catcher, who was 6-4 last season, has pushed past 6-5 and is approaching 6-6. The team lists him at 6-5 in the media guide, but Mauer acknowledged that he is actually 6-6 "wearing shoes."

    "I've been growing ever since last year," he said Wednesday. "I don't want to get too big, or I might have to move [positions]." Mauer, who turns 24 on April 19, wishes this unexpected spurt would stop. "Hopefully I'll grow the other way," he said. "I'd like to get a little stronger, but I don't know about taller."

    There's a relatively large segment of people who're itching to bring up a position change with Mauer and take everything involving him that's not 100 percent positive as an opportunity to do so. If his batting average dips or he needs a day off like all catchers do, some people start talking about a move to third base. If his legs are sore or he grows a couple inches, some people start talking about a move even further down the defensive spectrum.

    The whole thing is frustrating, because I see a guy who's clearly one of the best all-around players in baseball, in large part because of the important defensive position he's able to thrive at. Unless you think moving out from behind the plate is going to significantly improve Mauer's hitting--which seems pretty unlikely given the numbers he's put up over the past year-plus--catcher is where he's most valuable. The long-term impact is a different story, but I don't think you can cross that bridge yet.

    Will Mauer still be catching as a 30-year-old in 2012? Perhaps not, but plenty of players at premium defensive positions are forced to move down the defensive spectrum as they age. As of right now he's been healthy while playing at an extremely high level both offensively and defensively for going on three straight seasons. The growth spurt is interesting, but let's not pretend that it signals some sort of guaranteed disaster down the line should Mauer remain behind the plate.

    With talk about the absence of 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 catchers, what's ignored is the similar lack of 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 hitters, period. Among the 370 hitters with at least 1,000 Runs Created, just seven of them--Frank Thomas, Dave Winfield, Mark McGwire, John Olerud, Dave Parker, Frank Howard, and Darryl Strawberry--have stood at least 6-foot-5. So if you're going strictly by height-related precedents, the odds are not only against Mauer remaining at catcher, they're against him being a great hitter.

    I've already seen more than enough to convince me that he's a great hitter, so I'm willing to believe he can buck the catching odds too.

  • When Ron Gardenhire tells someone in the local media that a 33-year-old with over 3,500 at-bats and a career hitting line of .285/.334/.398 in the minor leagues has "got a good swing," do you think he's kidding around or just talking about golf?
  • ESPN.com's Marc Stein sat down for an interview with Kevin Garnett this week, with Garnett being relatively open and honest about what remains a horrible situation with the Timberwolves. Garnett continues to be one of my all-time favorite, most-likable athletes and I continue to think that he gets an incredibly raw deal on just about every level. I admire his ability to speak candidly while remaining restrained and level-headed, but at some point his frustration is going to overwhelm him.
  • If the Twins want J.D. Durbin back now, they can probably have him. Durbin was placed on waivers at the end of spring training because he was out of minor-league options and the Twins didn't want to carry him on the Opening Day roster. The Diamondbacks claimed him and gave him a spot on the 25-man roster, with the self-proclaimed "Real Deal" posting the following pitching line in his debut Wednesday against the Rockies:
     IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT
    0.2 7 7 7 1 1 0 39

    That works out to a ghastly 94.50 ERA, which is pretty amazing considering he didn't serve up a homer. Durbin entered the game in the seventh inning, with the Diamondbacks down 4-2. He got leadoff man Steve Finley to ground out, but the Rockies then went single, walk, double, single, double, strikeout, single, double, single to knock him out of the game with one out still left to get in the inning and the score 11-2.

    Arizona designated Durbin for assignment immediately after the game, no doubt banking on the fact that no other team would possibly claim him on waivers following such a disastrous outing. It'll never happen, but the Twins could claim Durbin while briefly dropping Chris Heintz from the roster, and then attempt to pass him through waivers again. That may sound crazy, but whichever team can ultimately get Durbin cleared through waivers while he's their property will then be able to send him to Triple-A.

  • In writing up an otherwise positive review of James Morrison's concert at the 400 Bar last week, I offered the following criticism:
    He needs some work on between-song banter ... because between mumbling into the mic and a heavy Warwickshire accent he sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher.

    Star Tribune music critic Jon Bream--who was literally standing right behind me for about half the show--was slightly less impressed with Morrison, but agreed on the banter issues:

    Morrison's patter was either mindless or indecipherable because of his accent.

    I'm not sure why exactly, but I found that amusing. Also of note is that Joss Stone was apparently in attendance, although I was too busy drinking vodka and spotting newspaper writers to notice her.

  • Justin Morneau has been criticized quite a bit for trying to run Paul Bako over during a play at the plate on Opening Day, but it's worth noting that Bako himself didn't even have a problem with it:
    He plays hard. I have no reason to question his integrity or anything like that. He tried to jar the ball loose, which I probably would have tried to do in the same situation. The only bad part was that he winded up hitting my chin. I wouldn't say it was dirty. It was a good, strong, tough baseball play.

    Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun also reported that "several Orioles ... did not feel like it was a dirty play," yet my e-mailbox and comments section is filled with people who think differently. I tend to think baseball allowing runners to crash into the catcher is somewhat ridiculous, but as long as it's allowed Morneau did nothing wrong and nothing many other players wouldn't have done in the same situation.

  • I was sort of glad to see this mentioned in the Star Tribune, if only because it means I wasn't just imagining things:
    DirecTV subscribers were unable to see the first two innings of Wednesday's game on FSN North. A note saying the game was not available in this area appeared on the screen, but there shouldn't have been a blackout. The accidental blackout was lifted in the third inning.

    The good news is that the incident led to my first ever tantrum in my new house, because it's always good to get that first one out of the way early.

  • I'm always sad to see a fellow blogger go down, but at least reading Gilbert Arenas' entries on his season-ending knee injury is interesting. I still think my entries about ear surgery were better, though.
  • I wasted a half-hour yesterday on these "movie moments" and you should too
  • Despite going 0-for-9 in his brief stint with the Tigers last season, St. Paul native Jack Hannahan picked up an American League championship ring earlier this week. It doesn't compare to the time I watched him score a whole bunch of points in a junior-high league basketball game, but not many things can.
  • Minnesota's Sports Guys is a new site to check out, with separate pages devoted to Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild, and Gophers coverage.

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

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