May 31, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • I'm thoroughly convinced that no one has ever looked this fetching while throwing out the trash with zebra slippers on their feet and a towel wrapped around their head. And for some reason I suddenly have the urge to recycle.
  • After reading this great story about Caron Butler attending the birthday party of a fan, I'll settle for nothing less than Johan Santana showing up at my house wearing a party hat on January 3.
  • Longtime AG.com reader Thayer Rasmussen has made it to the final 10 players at the World Poker Tour's Mandalay Bay Poker Championship. We chatted over instant messenger late Wednesday night, with Thayer telling me that he knocked Patrik Antonius and reigning World Series of Poker Main Event winner Jamie Gold out of the tournament.
  • His run of sending big names home continued yesterday, as Thayer knocked three-time WSOP bracelet winner John Juanda out in 12th place.

    (Proof that reading this blog makes you a good poker player.)

    Thayer began yesterday in the middle of the field, but went on a huge run late last night, knocking players out in 16th, 15th, 14th, and 12th place before the tournament ended for the day with 10 players remaining. He currently sits second in chips with 685,000, which is just 13,000 off the chip leader. Two big names are left in Barry Greenstein (375,000) and Chau Giang (318,000), but Thayer is in great position to make a name for himself in the poker world. The winner receives $768,775.
  • The Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, shows how he earned that status with an excellent article on the pitcher who makes his big-league debut tonight, Kevin Slowey. LEN3 also has an interesting theory about Batgirl's recent "retirement."
  • When he's not producing the videos at NBCSports.com, Matt Casey also provides some of the links you see here each week. For instance, yesterday he gleefully passed along this amazing video showing the "Running of the Urinals":


    In addition to having the unenviable task of making me look and sound presentable on video, Matt also runs his own blog and recently wrote his first column for NBCSports.com, in which he breaks down where each team stands through one-third of the season.
  • According to her husband, Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Jenna Fischer is "doing okay" after fracturing her back a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, former OFGoAG.com Elisha Cuthbert is apparently set to join Fischer in the married ranks.
  • If the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com had a "45-and-over" division, the titleholder would look like this.
  • Following in the footsteps of Pat Neshek, Gilbert Arenas, Curt Schilling, and Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis is now blogging. Oh, and amazingly so is Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, who Tony Kornheiser dubbed the "quintessential American sportswriter." Somewhere in Outoftouchville, Patrick Reusse is freaking out.
  • Add "growing a beard" to the incredibly long list of things that Joe Mauer does much better than me.
  • I wore my "More Cowbell" t-shirt in last week's "Gleeman Report" for NBCSports.com and no one scolded me, but for some reason I chickened out when it came to sporting my "Pedro Lacks Political Experience" t-shirt in this week's video. Instead, I put on a button-down thing with a collar on it and talked about pitching prospects, including Matt Garza.
  • Reason No. 1,853,089 why cultural differences and speaking through a translator are amusing: Daisuke Matsuzaka blamed some of his recent struggles on poor sleeping conditions on the road, but declined to discuss what changes he plans to make with his routine. According to the Boston Herald:
    Matsuzaka told reporters he may have come up with a solution for the next road trip. He did not wish to share it, Japanese reporters said, because he preferred not to have people wondering or imagining how he looked while he slept.

    How very thoughtful (or incredibly weird) of him.

  • I attended a little league game last night that was played by 11- and 12-year-olds, and included the losing team holding a lengthy "player's only meeting" in the dugout after getting blown out. Seriously, they kicked the manager out and the no-door session lasted over five minutes. I don't really have a point, but I felt the need to share that. I'm amazed that no one tested positive for performance enhancing drugs or fired their agent before the game.
  • If ever you've wanted to see my mom prominently featured in a show about fantasy baseball, check out NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" from Thursday. When I wasn't talking to co-hosts Gregg Rosenthal and Tiffany Simons about my mom, we had David Pinto of Baseball Musings as a guest on Tuesday's show and Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue as a guest on Thursday's show.
  • Sadly, we can't all produce well-written, informative, interesting, topical blog entries like this one.
  • Free Tom the Treeman!
  • Two new blogs that are worth checking out: The Game of Baseball and Minnesota Sports Track.
  • If you've ever wanted to ask me a question and have it answered here, check out yesterday's entry. There were nearly 100 questions left in the comments section yesterday and I received another three dozen or so via e-mail, so I'll leave the floor open through the weekend.
  • This isn't actually a link and it's probably of little interest to anyone except me, but I'll bore you with it anyway: AG.com's May readership was up 19.6 percent compared to last May. On a related note, this blog should surpass three million total visitors at some point next week. The entry you're reading right now is No. 1,231 in the nearly five-year history of this site, which means the average entry has been read by a little over 2,400 people.

    That may not seem like much, but the average daily readership during the first six months of this blog's existence was 90, 107, 135, 147, 213, and 252. AG.com averaged just 390 readers per day for the first year and didn't surpass a 1,000-visitor daily average until the second year. After starting this site way back in August of 2002, it took 30 months to reach one million visitors. From there, it took another 17 months to amass the second million.

    The two-million mark was cracked last June, which means it will have taken almost exactly 12 months to rack up the third million. Whether or not those readership numbers are impressive depends almost entirely upon what you're comparing them to, but I've long since passed the point of being amazed. Of course, I never imagined that I'd be approaching my five-year blogging anniversary either. As always, thanks for reading.


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

    May 30, 2007

    Any Questions?

    This worked pretty well when we tried it the first time back in January, so let's try it again. With the Twins off today and the weekend coming up, I'd like to once again open the floor up for questions. If you have something to ask me on any (somewhat reasonable) topic, please post it in the comments section or e-mail it to me. I'll go through the questions and then answer them here at some point next week. I'm certainly open to answering Twins-related questions, but don't feel that you're limited to that subject.

    In fact, the first time we tried this there were more than enough questions to split my responses into two entries, with one devoted to "baseball questions" and one devoted to "random questions." In other words, not everything has to be about Johan Santana and Nick Punto. If there's some pressing issue that you want my opinion on or some random thing that you've been wondering about me or this blog, fire away. Think of it as a low-tech version of ESPN.com's chat sessions.

    And ... go!


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

    May 29, 2007

    Game #51: Twins 9, White Sox 2

  • In a game full of good moments from the Twins, perhaps the most encouraging was Jason Kubel smacking his second homer and later narrowly missing his third homer when Rob Mackowiak made a catch up against the wall in left field. Mackowiak's grab continues a season full of hard-hit balls off Kubel's bat finding gloves, but he's still slowly starting to build up his numbers. Since snapping a 0-for-12 streak on May 10, Kubel has hit two homers and seven doubles in 55 at-bats.

  • After failing to record a victory in his first seven starts, Boof Bonser picked up his fourth straight win last night. Bonser's control has been surprisingly shaky at times, but for the most part he's been a solid No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana. Bonser has a 3.61 ERA and 68-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62.1 innings, making him 11-7 with a 3.98 ERA and 150-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 162.2 innings spread over 29 career starts.
  • After Bonser used 102 pitches to record the first 20 outs, Pat Neshek, Carmen Cali, and Ramon Ortiz combined to get the final seven outs on a total of 16 pitches as the White Sox hacked their way off the field. The game wasn't really in doubt with the score 9-2 in the seventh inning, but Neshek came in for Bonser anyway with Paul Konerko at the plate and the bases loaded, retiring him on one pitch to end the threat.

    When Neshek enters a game, the first batter he faces has gone 1-for-19 (.053) with nine strikeouts. Opponents have hit 4-for-40 (.100) against him with runners on base, including 2-for-21 (.095) with runners in scoring position. After Konerko's ground out last night, Neshek has set down all four batters he's faced with the bases loaded. Of course, I could also simply point out that batters are hitting .145 against Neshek overall and leave it at that.

  • Like Kubel, Justin Morneau came close to hitting a pair of homers, settling instead for a two-run shot and a double off the very top of the baggie in right field. He later added a two-run double down the right-field line, giving him a four-RBI night. Both the homer and near-homer came off left-hander John Danks, which is noteworthy given that Morneau came into the game batting just .212/.278/.424 against lefties. The reigning MVP is now on a 50-homer, 135-RBI pace.

  • While Morneau piles up huge numbers, Michael Cuddyer deserves a ton of credit for the job he's done getting on base in front of him with Joe Mauer sidelined. He drew just six walks in 133 trips to the plate as the cleanup hitter, but has walked 14 times in 69 plate appearances since replacing Mauer in the No. 3 spot. After going 3-for-4 with a walk last night, Cuddyer has a Mauer-like .486 on-base percentage hitting third, along with a .357 batting average and .661 slugging percentage.

    It'll never happen, but I'd love to see Ron Gardenhire leave Cuddyer in the third spot even after Mauer returns, with Mauer hitting second and Morneau cleaning up. That arrangement would get the team's three premiere hitters additional plate appearances while removing Nick Punto's inept bat from a table-setting position. Incidentally, while the rest of the lineup went 15-for-32 (.469) with six extra-base hits and seven walks last night, Punto went 1-for-6 while leaving seven runners on base.

  • Ozzie Guillen chose to intentionally walk Torii Hunter following both of Morneau's doubles, including once with the Twins up 9-1. That gives Hunter a total of four intentional walks, which is twice as many as he had all of last season and just three short of his career-high. Meanwhile, he's drawn just six non-intentional walks in 201 plate appearances, which would be by far the worst walk rate of his entire career. Of course, he's also hitting .314 with a .574 slugging percentage and does things like this.
  • In an amusing bit of synergy, as Ortiz pitched the final inning with a seven-run lead in his new mop-up role, LaVelle E. Neal III confirmed that Kevin Slowey will be called up from Triple-A to replace him in the rotation. Slowey will debut Friday against Oakland, which is an interesting first matchup for him because the always patient A's rank second among AL teams in both walks and pitches seen per plate appearance.

    That's normally a bad scenario for a young pitcher, but Slowey is a strike-throwing machine and with a grand total of just 35 walks in 285 career innings few prospects in baseball history have shown better control while coming up through the minors. Assuming Slowey and his excellent control don't fall victim to first-start nerves, the A's patient approach plays right into his hands and it's a very favorable debut matchup for the 23-year-old right-hander.

  • Jason Bartlett's throws to first base have been erratic and his hands have been anything but sure, but his range up the middle continues to impress. Whether he's knocking choppers down to keep them in the infield or actually making plays like he did on A.J. Pierzynski's grounder up the gut last night, Bartlett gets to balls behind second base (and into shallow center field) that Cristian Guzman and Juan Castro wouldn't have even come close to.

    To be more specific about the balls up the middle that Bartlett gets to on a regular basis, Castro would stare at them from five feet away and Guzman would wave his glove at them as they bounced past. Bartlett has made some ugly errors, including botching a would-be double play in the seventh inning last night, but I'll gladly take a somewhat error-prone shortstop with good range like Bartlett over a supposedly sure-handed statue like Castro any day.

    Unless the defender in question commits an obscene number of errors, shortstop is largely about simply getting to as many balls as possible. Bartlett does that extremely well, particularly going up the middle, and nine errors in 375 innings is certainly not disastrous. If he can eventually learn to cut down on his mistakes once he gets his hands on balls, he has a chance to be an outstanding shortstop. He's also hitting .280 with a .370 on-base percentage since beginning the season 1-for-20.

  • Luis Castillo was hitting .273/.322/.309 when he headed to the disabled list in mid-April, but after going 3-for-5 with a walk he's batting .368/.412/.396 with 24 runs in 25 games since returning. Castillo is up to .335/.386/.366 overall, which is a sizable improvement over last season's .296/.358/.370 once the league-wide drop in offense is taken into account. Oh, and in case you didn't buy into my anti-error speech regarding Bartlett, last night marked the one-year anniversary of Castillo's last error.
  • Do you think Pierzynski realizes that the Twins pulling off a double steal two games in a row while being up five runs both times was almost surely done entirely for his benefit?

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

    May 28, 2007

    .500

    The Twins haven't learned from their mistakes enough to actually stop making the same mistakes, but they've at least learned to get them over with more quickly. After waiting until mid-June to get rid of Tony Batista and Juan Castro last season, the Twins cut bait on Sidney Ponson in mid-May and demoted Ramon Ortiz to the bullpen yesterday. Not giving a pair of washed-up veterans $4.1 million and 17 starts to post a predictable 6.22 ERA would have been better, but at least it's "only" the end of May.

    Thanks in large part to the horrible all-around play of Batista and Castro, it took the Twins until the 68th game of last season to even their record at .500 following a poor start. This time around Ponson and Ortiz helped put the Twins in another early hole, but they've managed to climb out enough to stand at .500 after 50 games. Again, not making poor decisions that give the rest of the division a head start would be much preferred, but at least there are four months left with which to make up ground.

    How much did giving 17 starts to Ponson and Ortiz hurt the team? It's tough to say for certain, but a rough estimate is possible. On the most basic level, the Twins went 6-11 in their starts. If you assume that they would have managed a .500 record if those same starts had been made by Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Matt Garza, then going with Ponson and Ortiz cost 2-3 wins. If you assume that Baker, Slowey, and Garza would have won more than half the time, then 4-5 games were lost.

    Beyond that, by paying them $4.1 million the Twins devoted about six percent of their payroll to Ponson and Ortiz. It's difficult to say how much of an impact spending $4 million to improve the team elsewhere would have had, but certainly having another capable bat in the lineup at third base or designated hitter would have been helpful. Twins third basemen have combined for the third-worst production in the league at .226/.308/.328, while the DHs have been fourth-worst at .256/.342/.384.

    While it's impossible to pin down specific numbers or players at this point, it's clear that spending $4 million to sign or trade for even a run-of-the-mill bat at those spots could have easily led to a multi-game improvement over the course of an entire year. Add it all up and the decision to go with Ponson and Ortiz will likely end up costing the Twins at least 3-5 games and perhaps as many as 6-8 wins by season's end.

    There's an argument to be made that keeping Baker, Slowey, and Garza at Triple-A while Ponson and Ortiz lost games will end up helping the team in the long term because of service-time issues. However, there's little argument to be made for it being a positive right now and that was clear from the beginning. As I wrote back in February when it first became clear that Ponson and Ortiz would be filling two-fifths of the rotation, for once I'd like to see the Twins simply put the best team on the field:

    Trust the talent you have regardless of when it was born, spend what little money you have available to fill legitimate holes on the roster instead of buying expensive, mediocre insurance for spots you don't need it at, and go to war with the best possible group in place. If the AL Central is as tough as I expect it to be this year--with perhaps four of the 10 best teams in baseball--the Twins will need every win they can get from Opening Day to Game 162 in order to make it back to the playoffs.

    Opening the season with Silva, Ortiz, and Ponson in Minnesota and Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey in Rochester might be a lot of things--and might not prove to be a season-killing mistake--but putting the best team on the field isn't one of them.

    Getting rid of Ponson and demoting Ortiz in favor of Slowey or Garza while the team evens its record at .500 represents something of a clean slate, but the Twins are still looking up at three teams in the division and will have to make up at least five games to grab a playoff spot. It's nice that the mistakes have been realized and dealt with more quickly, but perhaps next time the Twins can try things without making the mistakes, period. As for this time, let's hope Baker, Slowey, and Garza can dig fast.


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

    May 24, 2007

    Link-O-Rama

  • In April of 2004, I stumbled upon a new blog called "Batgirl" and had the following first impression:
    I came across this website last week. It's sort of hard to describe exactly what type of stuff you can find on the site--although the "less stats, more sass" tagline is very accurate--but I will say that the author is a female and she's a Twins fan, which is a pretty great combination for a blogger, in my opinion. Plus, she's a very witty, entertaining writer. It has quickly become one of my daily stops.

    In the three years since then I've seen literally thousands of baseball blogs come and go, but Batgirl remains "one of my daily stops" and everything I wrote then still applies. Or at least it did, because Batgirl is no more after Anne Ursu decided to hang up her keyboard this week. Along with posting one final installment of her famous Lego reenactments and sharing a picture of her new baby boy in the arms of his mom, Ursu addressed her audience as "my darlings" and bid farewell:

    The time has come to end this wonderful adventure. I had hoped to be able to keep it up with Dash, but I simply do not have time to do this blog well, and there is no point in doing it any other way.

    In the three years since Goober said, "Hey, why don't you start a Twins blog?" I've had so much fun with this, even during the time of greatest suck. It's been wonderful playing with all of you. I will miss this, very much.

    I've been blogging for nearly five years and during that time I can count on two hands the number of blogs that have consistently been well written, interesting, and unique while producing regular content over an extended period of time. Perhaps more than any other blog, Batgirl nailed all five of those qualities. In an ever-growing blogosphere that features an amazing number of quality blogs devoted to the Twins, Batgirl stood out as something that was better and different than just about everything else.


    After reading Ursu's entries, I often found myself saying, "Wow, I wish I could write something like that." There are many bloggers who would be missed if they decided to stop blogging, but few would leave as big a void in retirement as Ursu will. On a selfish level I'm incredibly sad to see her go, but with a wonderful family and successful career as a novelist to focus on, I certainly understand. Her shoes are impossible to fill, but I'm thankful that she wore them for as long as she did.

  • Count Nick Punto among the many Batgirl fans.
  • In last Friday's Link-O-Rama, I noted Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan living up to his "Shecky" nickname by beginning a column with a reference to "cell phones the size of Cornish hens." Amazingly, one of Souhan's columns this week included a reference to Geoff Jenkins having "holes in his swing the size of butterball turkeys." Cornish hens, butterball turkeys ... at the request of a long-time AG.com reader, Souhan shall now be referred to as "local poultry fetishist Shecky Souhan."
  • Bill Simmons of ESPN.com had a good take on whether or not the Timberwolves "deserved" to get lucky in this week's draft lottery:
    Nobody deserves a stroke of lottery fortune less than Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale, the NBA's version of Bush/Rumsfield for 8-10 years. Of course, nobody deserves a stroke of lottery fortune more than KG, one of the few superstars with too much pride to ever bail on a sinking ship. ... But wouldn't it be nice to see KG play the David Robinson to Oden's Tim Duncan for the next 5-6 years?

    As usual, the Timberwolves failed to move up in the lottery and will pick seventh overall, with both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant set to join teams in their division.

  • Vote or die!
  • Along with my call-in segments, NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show has recently started featuring interviews with well-known bloggers. Monday's show featured Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog talking about Oliver Perez, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, and Endy Chavez. Cerrone wrote on his blog afterward that "the best part ... was getting to speak with Aaron Gleeman," but the people in the comments section of his blog seem to think that sitting next to co-host Tiffany Simons was just slightly better.

    On Thursday's show, we talked Brewers with Jeff Sackmann of The Hardball Times and Brew Crew Ball, with questions about J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder, Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Yovani Gallardo, and Ryan Braun (who was called up from Triple-A hours after we finished taping). Shockingly, after Sackmann posted a note on his blog about appearing on the show, the comments section there was also filled with Tiffany-related talk.

    Both Cerrone and Sackmann did excellent jobs and I'm looking forward to having more bloggers on the show in the future. As usual, I also taped a solo "Gleeman Report" video for NBCSports.com this week. The latest edition focuses on the impact interleague play has in fantasy leagues, with some interesting stuff about the difference in strength between the AL and NL. Plus, if you've ever wanted to watch me on video wearing a "More Cowbell" t-shirt, this is your big chance.

  • As fate would have it, moments after reading this story I saw these photos. Unfortunately, similar situations played out much differently, no doubt because Jessica Alba is a marginally better actress than Barbie Cummings (so I've heard).
  • Speaking of Alba, Derek Jacques offers an intriguing analogy linking her to Jason Giambi.
  • It took four months, but I can now proudly say that I have over 100 pretend friends.
  • With my Rotoworld colleague Nate Stephens on vacation this week after getting married, I stepped in for him and wrote the weekly "Prospect Report." I managed to include write-ups on a handful of prospects, but mostly took the opportunity to discuss the heated battle for No. 1 bachelor status at Rotoworld, with some talk of the wild world of fantasy groupies and doing laundry thrown in.
  • Not only did mixed martial arts make the cover of Sports Illustrated, L. Jon Wertheim's entire well-written article is available online.
  • My theory on this situation? He dumped her, but then saw her wearing this outfit and immediately reconsidered.
  • While reading this story, I couldn't help but think that I'd happily let someone break my wrist for a whole lot less than $450,000. Seriously, who's with me?
  • My new neighborhood is nice and quiet, but it has a serious lack of prostitution.
  • It will never make up for losing The Sopranos, but HBO's new show, Flight of the Conchords, looks relatively promising.
  • This is not to be confused with Stick and Ball Guy's far superior "Music Clip of the Day," but this week's AG.com approved music video is Susan Tedeschi doing a live cover version of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery":


    I've become a huge fan of Tedeschi (which I've mentioned here a few times) after initially being turned on to her work by none other than Peter Gammons. And on that note, have a good holiday weekend.

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

    Older Posts »