May 15, 2008

Link-O-Rama

  • See if you can guess which ex-Twins player recently had this to say about his time in Minnesota:
    I thought I had earned my stripes there. I had a tough role. You'd go a week without playing, but I thought I did my job. I guess they didn't think about that when they made the decision. I'd like to get a shot at them. I know that.

    If you guessed David Ortiz, then you're only off by 100 pounds and 230 points of slugging percentage.

  • Shockingly, Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Keeley Hazell also looks pretty decent with her clothes on.
  • After nearly 30 years at the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Tony Kornheiser took a buyout from the newspaper this week and announced that he'll likely retire at the end of the month. Kornheiser appeared on longtime Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard's radio show to discuss the news and LeBatard, who recently took a self-imposed leave of absence from his own column, opined that the newspaper business "is dying." Kornheiser interrupted, saying:
    Not dying, dead. They're dead. It's the same feeling that the buggy whip manufacturers must have had when the first car left the assembly line.

    A couple days before chatting with Kornheiser on the radio, LeBatard wrote an excellent guest column over at The Big Lead in which he discussed the changing sports media landscape. LeBatard has long been one of my favorite mainstream media personalities and provides a unique perspective because he's a veteran newspaper columnist despite being in his 30s. LeBatard's whole piece is a must-read, but here's an excerpt that seems particularly relevant to this blog:

    For all the access we have, Old Media sometimes doesn't do as much with it as we could. Baseball, as one example, seems to be covered better and more accurately underground, in the mathematical community, than it is anywhere in American newspapers. It is staggering how much more people without access sometimes can know than people with access. So sometimes the guy on his couch is smarter than the guy in the press box, and the fan should have both options and be discerning.

    Minnesotans know as well as anyone that there's no shortage of dead weight in the sports sections of newspapers, but it's a shame that good, smart writers like Kornheiser and LeBatard are often the ones stepping away for other opportunities while much of the dreck remains. It's like taking the most popular meal off a menu because the entire restaurant is losing money, although in Kornheiser's case his column writing had been minimal lately and in LeBatard's case the newspaper didn't have any choice.

  • On a related note, my MinnPost colleague David Brauer reports that Vikings beat writer Kevin Seifert will soon be leaving the Minneapolis Star Tribune for ESPN.com. Losing Seifert is a big blow to the Star Tribune, because in addition to doing a fine job as a reporter he also blogged and shot videos for the newspaper's website. Patrick Reusse may not like it, but that made Seifert a hugely valuable asset for a newspaper that's shifting more and more of its focus online in the face of declining print circulation.
  • Brauer also reports that the Star Tribune will cut its newsroom budget 10 percent by June 1, which represents a $2.5 million reduction. He speculates that "layoffs are an obvious option" and expects "newest hires to lose their positions first," but also notes that "last year the paper offered buyouts so more experienced, higher-paid newsroom staff would quit." That led to a couple dozen staffers leaving the newspaper in March of 2007, including longtime Timberwolves beat writer Steve Aschburner.

    Aschburner and several other prominent ex-Star Tribune employees landed at upstart non-profit site MinnPost, which recently celebrated its sixth-month anniversary by announcing some fairly promising readership and revenue numbers. I'm plenty biased, of course, because along with employing Brauer, Aschburner, and a whole lineup full of veteran journalists who exited the newspaper world MinnPost also runs a weekly column from me.

  • Of course, not everything runs smoothly in the online sports world either, as the web's most popular sports columnist, Bill Simmons, recently revealed to Deadspin why his byline has been appearing less often on ESPN.com lately:
    Yes, I still work for ESPN. No, I'm not writing for ESPN.com as much--my choice, not theirs. That's just the way it will be from now on, unfortunately. I'd have more to say, but I'd end up being profane and I don't want to offend Buzz Bissinger.

    I still love writing my column and only re-signed last year because I really did believe that we had hashed out all the behind the scenes bullshit and come to some sort of agreement on creative lines, media criticism rules, the promotion of the column and everything else on ESPN.com. Within a few months, all of those things changed and certain promises were not kept. It's as simple as that.

    A compelling argument can be made for Simmons being the single most influential sports writer of my lifetime, because he's played a huge role in the ongoing shift from print to online all while becoming immensely popular, with a devoted readership that dwarfs the combined efforts of most newspapers. He's reportedly under contract through 2010, but within days of expressing his displeasure with ESPN, Simmons started up a personal blog and posted a 15,000-word story that he wrote a decade ago.

  • Like Simmons, former Dodgers general manager and current Padres baseball operations special assistant Paul DePodesta also started up a blog this week "to engage in a direct dialogue with our fans." We can expect something similar from a Twins front-office staffer in May of 2058. Or maybe June.
  • Rather than my usual call-in chat with Tiffany Simons, for this week's NBCSports.com "Fantasy Fix" show the producers decided to put me on camera chatting about this year's rookie class while sitting in front of a bookcase in my living room. It's worth watching, if only to count my chins and try to figure out the identity of the bobble-head dolls perched behind me:


    You'll also notice that my shirt comes straight from "The Tony Soprano Collection For Fat Guys".
  • "Jennifer Aniston's butt" has always held a prominent place in this blog's history, but never before from this angle.
  • Too many Twins fans fail to grasp how much of Joe Mauer's value comes from catching, but at least George Bush understands the concept of up-the-middle defenders and replacement level. Sort of.
  • Sadly, it sounds like one of my favorite television shows is in danger of being no more.
  • While chatting with someone Wednesday night she told me that she owed a very annoying person money for something that she didn't really feel like paying for. My response was that she should pay the debt in pennies, because I'm a Seinfeld fan and that worked so well in "The Calzone." Anyway, I bring that up because approximately 10 hours later I read this story in the Cincinnati Enquirer:
    When pitcher Josh Fogg approached his locker Wednesday afternoon, he found it nearly walled off with blocks of pennies. To be exact: 60 boxes of pennies in $25 increments. Griffey was the culprit. Fogg said the "reason is probably not to be discussed in the media," but the scuttlebutt was that it was from a bet. "I didn't think he could do it," Fogg said. "I told him he couldn't get it done."

    Griffey was tickled to see Fogg's reaction to the gag. He said each box weighed 16 pounds. "Basically he has 60 bowling balls in his locker," Griffey said. Griffey wanted the pennies to arrive in money bags but said he felt bad someone at a bank would have to count the bags upon their return. Fogg has in his possession 150,000 pennies, or $1,500.

    Prior to this week I can't recall ever advising someone to pay a debt in pennies or reading an article about a future Hall of Famer paying a debt in pennies, so the fact that both things happened within a 10-hour span has thoroughly shaken my belief system.

    UPDATE: Now with visual evidence.

  • If me discussing my fake baseball team at great length sounds like something you'd be interested in, check out my interview over at WhatIfSports. And then seek some professional help.
  • I'm probably one of the last people on earth to see No Country for Old Men, but liked it so much after finally watching it last weekend that I had to almost immediately watch it again and am now planning to read Cormac McCarthy's novel. Awesome in nearly every possible way and one of my all-time favorite movies. Grade: A-plus.
  • Last month this space contained the following note about me wasting a ton of money on rice:
    For years now my favorite meal in the world has been "hunan chicken with carrots, baby corn, and extra rice" from Yangtze in St. Louis Park. I can say without even an ounce of hyperbole that I've ordered it 500 times. The other day they raised the price a couple dollars, informing me that the cost of rice had risen too high for them to stick with the old amount. That didn't bother me at all, especially after seeing a "Skyrocketing rice prices has Sam's Club limiting sales" headline on CNN.com.

    However, the good people at Yangtze then informed me that even before the price increase the cost of each order had already included $5 to account for the seemingly minor "extra rice" part. So now, after ordering the exact same thing from the exact same restaurant multiple times per week for the past 7-8 years, I've come to the startling, highly disturbing realization that I've likely spent somewhere around $2,500 on white rice. If only Guinness had a category for carbohydrate-based stupidity.

    Needless to say that the blogging world has spent the past month on pins and needles regarding my rice-buying experience, so I'll be kind enough to provide an update. As much fun as it was spending $2,500 on rice, I've put an end to that about $2,400 too late by purchasing a Panasonic rice cooker and 25-pound bag of rice for a total of about $75. The first batch came out beautifully, but as they say in the news business, stay tuned because this story is developing.

  • A pair of blogs to check out: The Fantasy Baseball Generals and A Flaming Wheel of Sliced Bread.
  • For those of you who watched my appearance on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show last month, I'll be on the show again Monday afternoon. As always, you can watch it live on the station's website.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Flight of the Conchords doing a live version of "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" on Late Show with David Letterman:


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

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