June 28, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • Before I get to this week's linkfest, here's one last reminder about a little blog event. The boys from Nick & Nick's Twins Blog have planned a "get-together" to watch tomorrow afternoon's game against the Tigers. I'll be there, along with Howard Sinker, Nick Nelson, Nick Mosvick, Trevor Born, and what is likely to be several other Twins bloggers. The first blogger-sponsored get-together of the season was a lot of fun, so if you're interested in attending No. 2, here are the details:

    Who: Gleeman, Sinker, Nelson, Mosvick, Born, and other bloggers, blog readers, and Twins fans.

    What: Eat, drink, be merry, watch baseball.

    Where: Park Tavern in St. Louis Park (3401 Louisiana Avenue South, to be exact).

    When: Saturday, June 30, at 2:30 p.m.

    It's not quite tonight's Johan Santana-Justin Verlander matchup, but watching rookies Kevin Slowey and Andrew Miller square off tomorrow should hold our attention.

  • When I led off an entry with the song's lyrics last week, I didn't realize there was going to be a run on "Hey There Delilah" parodies. This one is perhaps more clever, but this one features an absolute tour de force performance by a once-in-a-generation superstar named Josh Romea:


    Seriously, just click play.
  • On the self-awareness scale, Troy Hudson ranks somewhere between Britney Spears and a rock:
    Bill Neff, the agent for Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson, has asked owner Glen Taylor to trade his client. ... Neff said Friday he has informed Taylor that Hudson would welcome any change of scenery and would like to be traded.

    Hudson asking for a trade is akin to someone giving me permission to date Elisha Cuthbert. In both cases, the correct response is: "If I have the ability to do that, don't you think I would have done it a long time ago?" Of course, Hudson can't be blamed too much for not realizing his lack of value. After all, he's just a few years removed from convincing a team to hand him $37 million. Unfortunately for Hudson, there's only one Kevin McHale and he's not finished running the Wolves into the ground yet.

  • Speaking of the former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com, Cuthbert continues to make me think twice about booting her from the throne by putting together an impressive streak of looking really good.

    Also not bad to look at? Jessica Biel's recent spread in GQ.

  • It doesn't get much better than the quintessential American sportswriter using his blog to pay tribute to my all-time favorite baseball announcer. Much like Bob Ryan, I tune into Dodgers games for the sole purpose of listening to Vin Scully. As Ron Gardenhire would say, "Nice blog."
  • Back when I was at the University of Minnesota, I once had an incredibly brief "conversation" with Laurence Maroney while in the hallway of a friend's dorm around midnight. I'm sad to note that not only wasn't Maroney wearing this bad-ass Kool-Aid chain, he didn't even bother to lick my neck.
  • Strings have never been less valuable.
  • Believe it or not, there's a downside to losing 400 pounds.
  • As someone who's obsessed with poker and loves good radio, I highly recommend Poker Wire Radio with Joe Sebok, Gavin Smith, and Joe Stapleton. Sebok, Smith, and Scott Huff used to host "The Circuit" on Card Player's site, but the show has moved to Poker Wire, with Stapleton stepping in for Huff, and it's better than ever. The trio of hosts are funny and interesting, and the show provides an intriguing behind-the-scenes glimpse into the poker world for those of us who wish we could be in it.
  • If that's not enough poker media for you, Card Player TV also has a bunch of worthwhile video content, with "The Scoop" hosted by Adam Schoenfeld and Diego Cordovez being my favorite show.
  • Not only did friend of AG.com Pauly McGuire continue his annual tradition of making me incredibly jealous by getting paid to cover the month-long World Series of Poker from Las Vegas, he played in one of the events earlier this week and actually cashed for $4,740, finishing one spot behind Chris Ferguson in 119th place. Dr. Pauly was knocked out of the $1,500 no-limit hold 'em event by Erica Schoenberg, who made good use of his chips by finishing third in the 2,778-person field for $261,646.

    Schoenberg might get my vote for world's prettiest professional poker player, with some of the more compelling evidence qualifying as "not safe for work." There's a lesson to be learned from seeing her naked, which is that you probably shouldn't appear in a strip-poker DVD hosted by Carmen Electra if you plan on actually becoming a professional poker player some day. If I'm ever rich and famous, I can only hope that no one discovers that photo shoot I did for Playgirl back when I was young and naive.

  • Continuing a pattern that isn't going to slow down any time soon, another sportswriting heavyweight has left the print world for a new online gig. In addition to hiring columnist J.A. Adande after he left the Los Angeles Times, ESPN.com also added to their stable of professional bloggers by luring Mike Sando away from the Tacoma News Tribune, where he did an outstanding job covering the Seahawks.
  • Doug Grow once spoke to one of my journalism-school classes and was surprisingly critical of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but he handled his exit from the newspaper with remarkable grace after two decades as a columnist.
  • On a related note, Rick Edmonds of respected journalism site Poynter Online offers a "not so good" review of the newspaper industry:
    A candid report on the financial state of newspapers halfway through 2007 might go like this: "Business has been terrible for a year now, it's bad today and it will stay bad for quite a bit longer." ... [P]rint revenue losses, particularly in classifieds, just keep getting worse. For several years, the contributions from online at least kept overall revenue level or slightly positive. No more. If this is the path to a better future, it is a bumpy one.

    It's often assumed that newspapers will be able to offset their declining print revenue and readership by simply transitioning their focus to online content, but there's a problem with that assumption. Once newspapers lose some of their print-generated luster and cease being viewed as something special that gets delivered to doorsteps each morning, they'll just be one of many online outlets competing for readership in a wide open playing field. The days of taking an audience for granted are nearing an end.

  • Bill Reiter of the Kansas City Star recently penned an interesting, extremely lengthy article asking "Just how far will bloggers' roles evolve?"
  • It adds absolutely nothing to the amusing MMA-versus-boxing debates, but street fighter and internet cult figure Kimbo Slice had little trouble defeating former heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Ray Mercer in his first MMA-style bout. Of course, Mercer is 46 years old and appeared to be completely unfamiliar with the concept of mixed martial arts while Slice was choking him out:


    Meanwhile, one of the fights on UFC's The Ultimate Fighter 5 finale Saturday night featured an ending straight out of a bad movie:


    Let's see Floyd Mayweather do that.
  • Will Leitch's recent interview with Harold Reynolds was interesting, but I'm far more fascinating by their matching outfits.

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

    June 27, 2007

    NBA Draft Wish List

    I haven't written a whole lot about basketball here lately, in large part because the Wolves frustrate me so much, but the NBA draft has always interested me a great deal and the various Kevin Garnett trade rumors currently swirling around make tonight's proceedings even more intriguing than usual. When it comes to ways he's ruined the team, Kevin McHale's draft record takes a clear backseat to overpaying mediocre players and coughing up draft picks in trades that weren't favorable to begin with.

    With that said, after strongly disagreeing with McHale's first-round picks in the past two drafts, I have very little confidence in his ability to make the "correct" decisions tonight. In 2005, when the Wolves used the 14th overall pick on Rashad McCants, I wanted them to draft Danny Granger instead. Last year, when they picked sixth and ended up with Randy Foye, I felt that Brandon Roy was a significantly better option.

    The jury is still very much out on all four of those players, but there's little doubt (in my mind, at least) that the team's long-term outlook would be much brighter with Roy and Granger right now. My point here isn't to brag, because preferring Roy and Granger didn't take a genius, but rather to suggest that whether it's signing players to long-term contracts, pulling off trades, or using draft picks, McHale's decisions often look iffy right away and get worse as time goes on.

    Given that the Wolves own the No. 7 pick and are rumored to potentially be acquiring several more first rounders if Garnett is traded, the prospect of McHale gutting the team and attempting to rebuild things almost entirely through his drafting ability is extremely scary. Despite that, I'm going to post my annual wish list for the draft in the hopes that McHale will grab the guy I want for once (or at least avoid the guys I don't want). If I were running the Wolves, here's what the top of my draft board would look like:

    1. Greg Oden, Ohio State
    2. Kevin Durant, Texas
    3. Mike Conley, Ohio State
    4. Al Horford, Florida
    5. Brandon Wright, North Carolina
    6. Corey Brewer, Florida
    7. Yi Jianlian, China
    8. Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech
    9. Jeff Green, Georgetown
    10. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech
    11. Julian Wright, Kansas
    12. Al Thornton, Florida State

    Horford is seemingly the consensus No. 3 guy, but I'm a big believer in the importance of point guards and Conley looks like a potential stud. A Conley-Foye backcourt would be significantly undersized, but I have questions about Foye's ability to play point guard and he's not good enough to justify bypassing the best available player simply because he plays the same position. Wright has seen his stock dip recently, but he represents the most upside once you get past Oden, Durant, Conley, and Horford.

    I'm skeptical about Brewer's offensive potential, but he figures to be an asset defensively from Day 1. Jianlian is the ultimate boom-or-bust flier pick and there's something to be said for going that route with a team that needs a miracle, but it's likely a non-issue given that he hasn't named the Wolves as a team he'd like to play for. I'm higher than most on the Georgia Tech duo of Young and Crittenton, and perhaps a bit lower than most on Green.

    Among ESPN.com's top dozen draft prospects, the two I'd like to see the Wolves avoid are Joakim Noah and Spencer Hawes. I don't think Noah has enough offensive skills to be a star and the Wolves shouldn't be targeting a high-energy role player with a top-10 pick. Hawes' lack of rebounding ability is a major red flag for a seven-footer and he strikes me as someone who isn't particularly well-suited for a league that's quickly moving away from unathletic big men.

    Between a possible Garnett trade with a so-so return and McHale's questionable drafting I'm guessing that things won't go the way I'd like them to for the Wolves over the next 24 hours, but whatever does happen tonight should be very interesting.


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

    June 26, 2007

    Twins Notes: Revere, Garza, and Walk-Off Ass

  • After last night's game-winning blooper in the 12th inning, how many more walk-off hits do you think Jeff Cirillo would need to reconsider his apparent retirement plans?
  • In a three-part series breaking down this year's first-round picks over at The Hardball Times, Carlos Gomez writes the following about Twins first rounder Ben Revere:
    With that swing, I'll set the over/under on his professional home runs at three, and I'll take the under. I'm sure that Revere has enough ability to make changes to his swing in order to produce power. Unfortunately, my guess is that he was taught to "throw the hands at the ball" and put the ball on the ground in order to take advantage of his speed, which is his one plus plus tool.

    I get it. He wasn't drafted to hit bombs, at least I hope not. He'll put the bat on the ball, hit some fungoes and hope to outrun them. ... Don't they already have Jason Tyner and his career .043 isolated slugging? Hard to argue against Twins' drafts, but this pick is a huge reach.

    I know next-to-nothing about Revere, but the pick strikes me as a mistake based solely on what type of player various scouting reports describe him as. The Twins' minor-league cupboard is nearly bare when it comes to potential impact bats, but they have plenty of slap-hitting speedsters, including 2002 first-round pick Denard Span. As you might expect from the man responsible for drafting Revere, scouting director Mike Radcliff sees things quite differently:

    We'll see, I guess. One thing I can say is this wasn't a financial decision. We had no limit placed on us in advance. We just really like this guy as a player. We think he can hit.

    Revere signed immediately for $800,000 and reported to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he's 5-for-15 with two extra-base hits and two steals in four games.

  • Much like me, Will Young had questions about Revere's power potential. Unlike me, he went directly to the source and used the power of the internet to get in touch with Revere. The result is an interesting interview that includes Revere discussing his impressive athletic background, thoughts on the draft process, and home-run power.
  • Matt Garza has struggled with consistency at Triple-A and made headlines last month by criticizing the team's handling of him, but minor-league director Jim Rantz recently provided an encouraging update:
    I think that's behind him. Now he's using all four of his pitches, including his changeup. He's going to be back, it's just a matter of when. Hopefully the next time he goes back, he's there to stay.

    Garza tossed seven shutout innings Thursday, but coughed up 10 hits last night, allowing four runs in five innings against the Devil Rays' Triple-A affiliate. Even with the rough outing, Garza has a 3.62 ERA, 95-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .260 opponent's batting average in 92 innings at Rochester.

  • After losing Levale Speigner to the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft, the Twins watched the 26-year-old right-hander beat Johan Santana at the Metrodome earlier this month. However, aside from tossing six innings of one-run ball against the team that drafted him in 2003, Speigner posted a hideous 10.06 ERA in 34 innings against non-Twins opponents. Not wanting to keep him in the majors for the entire season, the Nationals worked out a trade with the Twins rather than offer them Speigner back.

    In exchange for a guy who never looked like more than a potential long reliever at any point during his minor-league career, the Twins received 28-year-old outfielder Darnell McDonald. The deal is simply a swap of Triple-A roster filler, but the Twins have more use for filler in the form of a position player. A former first-round pick who had a 17-game stint in the majors with the Orioles back in 2004, McDonald is currently in his sixth straight season at Triple-A.

    His career numbers are sub par, but McDonald has done reasonably well of late. He hit .288/.347/.443 in 235 games between 2005 and 2006, and was hitting .315/.382/.431 in 73 games before the trade. Most teams have multiple minor-league veterans like McDonald to provide organizational depth, but the Twins are so devoid of hitting prospects that he immediately becomes one of their better options for a second-half call-up. Unless you've been clamoring for a poor man's Lew Ford, don't get your hopes up.

  • While in town to play the Mets last week, the New York media predictably asked pending free agent Torii Hunter about potentially playing for the Yankees. Just as predictably, Hunter had plenty to say on the subject, including an odd remark about the difference between New York fans and Minnesota fans:
    I love Yankee Stadium. The atmosphere and energy there is great. And the fans know the game. When they get on you it can be pretty personal, but it's always about your baseball game. When someone screams, "You just can't hit that slider," that's someone who knows what they're talking about. You don't hear that kind of informed [chatter] in Minnesota.

    Hunter can do or say no wrong in the eyes of many Twins fans, but between that comment and publicly questioning Joe Mauer's toughness earlier this month, I'm growing a little tired of his walk-year media briefings.

  • They're only doing their jobs, of course, but it's amazing how many words LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen have devoted to Rondell White's injury status. He has nine at-bats and will need a minor miracle to reach triple digits, yet the Minneapolis Star Tribune has at least one update per week on White's recovery. After writing earlier this week that "it would be a stretch to expect White back before the All-Star break," LEN3 now reports that White is set to begin a minor-league rehab assignment.
  • Braves manager Bobby Cox will soon hold the all-time record for ejections, but my guess is that he probably can't compete with Ron Gardenhire when it comes to being kicked out of games for arguing calls that an umpire made correctly. There aren't many others job where someone in charge of leading 25 people can regularly make a fool of himself by acting like a child in front of a huge audience and be no worse off while actually receiving praise for doing so in some quarters.
  • Waived by the Twins this spring because he lacked minor-league options, J.D. Durbin went through four organizations in a month and got rocked for seven runs in two-thirds of an inning. Now property of the Phillies, Durbin has a 4.55 ERA, 44-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .288 opponent's batting average in 59.1 innings at Triple-A. Despite the mediocre performance, he's scheduled to start the first game of a doubleheader Friday against the Mets. It won't take much to lower his 14.63 career ERA.
  • Last and least, while Marney Gellner interviewed Juan Rincon in the locker room last night during FSN's post-game show, it looks like someone's ass made an appearance. The video is sort of blurry, but it certainly looks like walk-off ass to me. It's times like this when I wish Batgirl hadn't retired.

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

    June 25, 2007

    No Air, No Blog (Plus Another Get-Together)

    My air-conditioning suddenly stopped working yesterday afternoon--the unit still appears to be running, but no air is coming through any vents--so I've spent the past 12 hours or so sitting in an 80-degree house. Between that and the Twins' ugly loss to the Blue Jays, I'm far too sweaty and annoyed to blog, although I was tempted to shoot some video of what the scene at my new house looks like right now. It's really quite pathetic, but probably best left to the imagination (plus, I had to conserve my energy).

    In addition to me sweating like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News while sitting on (and sticking to) new leather furniture, there are a dozen half-empty bottles of water strewn every few feet and the constant hum of a cheap oscillating fan provides just enough breeze to remind me how miserable I am every four seconds. Oh, and I busted out in 53rd place in a 1,000-person poker tournament when ace-king didn't improve against a pair of 10s, so I narrowly missed making several thousand dollars too.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go sweat myself to sleep (or death, either works at this point).

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The boys from Nick & Nick's Twins Blog have planned a "get-together" to watch Saturday afternoon's game against the Tigers. I'll be there, along with Nick Nelson, Nick Mosvick, and what is likely to be several other Twins bloggers (if you fit that description and plan to come, let me know and I'll add your name to the list). The first blogger-sponsored get-together of the season was a lot of fun, so if you're interested in attending No. 2--I'm told there will be air-conditioning!--here are the details:

    Who: Gleeman, Nelson, Mosvick, and various other bloggers, blog readers, and Twins fans.

    What: Eat, drink, be merry, watch baseball.

    Where: Park Tavern in St. Louis Park (3401 Louisiana Avenue South, to be exact).

    When: Saturday, June 30, at 2:30 p.m.


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

    One-Man Gang: The Sequel


    It's real tough, because you have to do everything out there.


    - Johan Santana, June 24, 2007

    Johan Santana was a one-man gang last week against the Mets, tossing a complete-game shutout while drawing a walk and smacking a stand-up double off Jorge Sosa. He continued the Babe Ruth impression yesterday afternoon, holding the Marlins to one earned run over six innings while launching an RBI triple off Byung-Hyun Kim. With Nick Punto on first base in the second inning, Santana squared around to bunt before pulling the bat back and yanking a ball into right-center field.

    According to Ron Gardenhire:

    I told him before he went to plate, "We're going to bunt." But I said, "If he runs, then you're going to swing." I meant, "When we steal second, you're going to swing." But he saw it as, "OK, if he runs, I'm swinging." He saw him running and he whacked.

    Punto scored easily to put the Twins up 2-1 as the ball flew over right fielder Jeremy Hermida's head and Santana cruised into third base with a stand-up triple before coming around on Jason Bartlett's sacrifice fly to make it a 3-1 game. Santana officially went 0-for-2 in his final two trips to the plate, but his fourth-inning ground ball actually led to runs when Aaron Boone hit Punto with the throw on a would-be force out at second base and the ball skipped into left field.

    Santana reached third base again, but strayed too far on a Jeff Cirillo ground ball and was tagged out after a brief, manic rundown that eschewed the base path. While perhaps not the world's greatest baserunner--although he made pretty good time around the bases and didn't pass out following the triple--Santana pushed his career hitting line to .258/.281/.322 in 32 plate appearances. To put that in some context, here's how Santana's career numbers compare to some of his teammates:

                         AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     IsoP     IsoD
    Nick Punto .253 .322 .333 .655 .080 .069
    Luis Rodriguez .241 .316 .337 .653 .096 .075
    Jason Tyner .272 .310 .315 .625 .043 .043
    Johan Santana .258 .281 .322 .603 .064 .023

    Not only has Santana shown 50 percent more power than Jason Tyner during their respective careers, he's sporting a higher batting average than Punto and Luis Rodriguez, who were half of yesterday's infield and combined on a play that turned a would-be double play into an unearned run. Among pitchers with at least 30 plate appearances, Santana's .603 OPS ranks second in Twins history behind only Luis Tiant, who amazingly batted .406 during his lone season in Minnesota:

                         OPS
    Luis Tiant .955
    Johan Santana .603
    Camilo Pascual .546
    Jim Kaat .514
    Dave Boswell .504

    Santana joins Dave Boswell, Jim Kaat, Mudcat Grant, Jim Perry, Jack Kralick, Camilo Pascual, and Mike Fornieles as the only pitchers in Twins history to hit a triple, becoming the first member of the pitching staff to hit a three-bagger since the designated hitter came into play in 1973. Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada is the all-time leader in plate appearances without a triple, batting 1,970 times without once doing what Santana did yesterday. Funny game, that baseball.

    Some other notes from the weekend ...

  • Jason Kubel went 5-for-8 with two doubles and two walks during the three-game series, giving him a .265/.324/.480 hitting line with five homers and eight doubles over the past 30 games. Kubel has quietly been one of the team's best hitters since early May, yet Gardenhire continues to bench him regularly in favor of both Tyner (.271/.320/.322) and Lew Ford (.247/.304/.342). And why? Because as Gardenhire said Friday, "Lew and Tyner are both playing well."

    Kubel began Friday's game on the bench so that Ford and his .728 career OPS against left-handers could start against Scott Olsen. With the Twins down 4-2 in the eighth inning, Kubel came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit double down the left-field line off Armando Benitez. Kubel came around to score the game-tying run on the play when the Marlins' defense essentially played the double into a homer, but only after Justin Morneau bruised his right lung on a nasty collision at the plate:


    Morneau won the battle by scoring, but lost the war by coughing up blood afterward. He remains in a Florida hospital while the rest of the team flew back to Minnesota and there's no timetable for his return. I'm not thrilled with third-base coach Scott Ullger's decision to wave Morneau home on the play, but Ullger putting runners in bad spots is certainly nothing new. After being an awful hitting coach for nearly a decade, Ullger lost that job and is in his second season as an awful third-base coach.
  • To make matters worse, Morneau's injury was wasted when Juan Rincon served up what turned out to be a game-winner homer to Hanley Ramirez moments later. Rincon had bucked his recent trend of horrible pitching by tossing a 1-2-3 seventh inning and got two outs when Gardenhire decided to leave him in for the eighth inning, but allowed a homer in his third straight appearance and tied a career-high with five long balls in just 25.2 innings this season.
  • With Morneau stuck in the hospital, Joe Mauer launched two homers yesterday after coming into the game with one long ball in 183 plate appearances. After batting .347/.429/.507 last season, Mauer is now up to .319/.409/.488 this year despite a 4-for-26 (.154) slump upon returning from the disabled list earlier this month. While not on pace to defend his batting title, given the decrease in league-wide offense Mauer has essentially been exactly as effective as he was in 2006.
  • Santana uncharacteristically struck out just one batter in his shutout win over the Mets, but followed that up yesterday with his usual eight strikeouts in six innings. For all the misguided talk of Santana not being on top of his game, he ranks fifth among AL pitchers with a 2.83 ERA and has held opponents to a .218 batting average with a 114-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108 innings. Through 16 starts in his previous three seasons as a full-time starter, Santana had ERAs of 2.75, 3.78, and 4.38.
  • With Luis Castillo getting yesterday off to rest his sore legs, Rodriguez got the start and went 0-for-3 while making the aforementioned throwing error at third base. He once looked like a decent utility player, but Rodriguez is now incapable of playing shortstop, doesn't look especially solid at second base or third base, and is hitting .179/.273/.244 after batting .235/.315/.322 last season. With Punto recently demoted to his rightful place as a utility man, what purpose does Rodriguez serve, exactly?
  • Torii Hunter lined a single into center field leading off the second inning Saturday, at which point Alfredo Amezaga overaggressively played it into a "triple" as the ball skipped past him and to the wall. The play brought back memories of Hunter misplaying a similar Mark Kotsay hit into an inside-the-park homer during last year's ALDS. Hunter went 6-for-14 during the series to raise his batting average back up to .306 after a one-day stop at .299.
  • By winning back-to-back road series against the Mets and Marlins, the Twins improved to 38-35, which is the same record they held through 73 games last season. The big difference is that 38-35 put them 11 games behind the Tigers last year, while this time around it "only" sets them 6.5 games back of Detroit.

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

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