August 29, 2008

Link-O-Rama

  • According to the Washington Post, each week fewer people listen to Nationals games on radio than read this blog. Seriously.
  • My only regret about not going to the state fair this year is missing out on the ridiculously tasty Sweet Martha's cookies, but until this week it never dawned on me that there's actually a sweet Martha.
  • Given how she's looked in a swimsuit lately, Tara Reid designing beachwear seems just marginally less absurd than, say, Matthew LeCroy launching a line of running shoes.
  • Along with being the Official Olympian of AG.com, Wired magazine reports that Usain Bolt is so fast "he broke the mathematical model that had fit 100-meter record data for almost a century" and "could reset how fast researchers believe humans ultimately can run."
  • My Keeley Hazell scouts finally passed along some good links this week, although as usual with the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com none of them are even close to safe for work. My advice? Quit your job.
  • Michael Moen sent in this amusing "progress report" for Bill Smith's first year as general manager:

    Craig Monroe should be included rather than Brian Bass, but you get the idea.

  • If not for the whole living-in-Minnesota thing, this may have been my life for the past few weeks.
  • If there are any members of the Poker Players Alliance or high-ranking republican politicians reading this right now, I'd appreciate an invite:
    The poker alliance will hold another tournament next week at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota. The individual buy-in will be raised to $1,000. But members of Congress and their staff can still play for free.

    Sure, some actor named Ben Affleck won the tournament at the Democratic National Convention, but imagine the buzz it'll generate for the organization when some unknown blogger wins the Republican National Convention version. Or something.

  • Between the poker players, gambling, and fantasy football, my dream is to be a part of this league.
  • My MinnPost colleague David Brauer reports that the Minneapolis Star Tribune has put the wheels in motion to cancel their relationship with the Associated Press in 2010. Brauer raises some interesting questions about what the decision means for the newspaper's content, but my feeling is that the Star Tribune is making a smart, albeit risky move. AP content accounts for a large chunk of the newspaper, but at this point there's little value in running syndicated material that can easily be found elsewhere.

    With newspaper readership declining rapidly and more people than ever getting their news online, the Star Tribune's focus should be on providing unique content that can't be found at any number of other places. Sure, the dwindling number of people who rely upon the newspaper for all their news will miss the AP stories, but that's not the demographic the Star Tribune should be focusing on anyway. Over the long haul, relying less on content that can be found elsewhere will be key to bringing in new readers.

  • Speaking of newspapers, Jay Mariotti resigned from the Chicago Sun Times earlier this week after 17 years as columnist. Mariotti is an example of nearly everything wrong with mainstream sportswriting and while he may never realize that most people have been laughing at him rather than with him, he does seem to have a pretty good grasp of what's happening to the newspaper industry:
    I feel like I'm working for the Titanic. The print product is dead. It all has to be fed into the internet product now. The internet is going to save the written word. We're not positioned for anything. These aren't sour grapes, these are the facts. Yahoo! got something like 30 million hits during the Olympics. These places are for real. They're legit. It's just something we're all going to have to come to grips with. Our fathers may read a newspaper over coffee, but I don't know anyone under 40 who is picking up a newspaper and reading it. I think newspapers that aren't competing on the internet are dead in the water.

    It pains me to agree with Mariotti on anything, but the archives here are filled with similar sentiments. Of course, as Deadspin notes it's possible that Mariotti simply threw a hissy fit and then thought up that stuff after the Sun Times shocked him by actually accepting his resignation. Amusingly, the Sun Times press release announcing the big news included this zinger: "We wish Jay well and will miss him--not personally, of course--but in the sense of noticing he is no longer here, at least for a few days."

  • Roger Ebert had already been at the Sun Times for a couple decades when Mariotti showed up and suffice it to say that he's not sad to see him leave.
  • As a huge fan of Richard Matheson's brilliant novel, the movie version of I Am Legend disappointed me quite a bit. However, the remake looks pretty amazing:


    Who knew that Kevin McAllister and Robert Neville were so similar?
  • After scanning this list I'm proud to have gone 1-for-9, but it's possible that owning a pair of "boots" rather than "shoes" may actually leave me 0-for-9.
  • A recent Time magazine interview with pornstar Ron Jeremy led off with the obvious question: "How did you get your start in the porn industry?" Much to my amusement, the first four words of his response were: "Like many Jewish boys." My mom has a photo of her with Jeremy and normally I'd post it here, but that fact probably seems a lot more interesting without seeing the actual picture in question.
  • If only kicking judges in the face was the actual event, Angel Valodia Matos would be unbeatable.
  • In order to further pad Kimbo Slice's record against a recognizable, washed-up opponent, EliteXC has dusted off former UFC champion Ken Shamrock, who's 44 years old, hasn't beaten anyone since 2004 while losing five straight fights by first-round knockout, and may have some trouble with medical clearance. Despite all of that, if Shamrock is indeed a 5-to-1 underdog against someone who's yet to beat anyone of any significance, that's probably where my (purely hypothetical) money will be going.
  • Not to be a massive jerk or anything, but this news seems somewhat ironic.
  • Stephon Marbury recently spent $45 million on a private jet. Further comment likely isn't necessary.
  • If people get tired of me writing about baseball and football, my Daily Dose column at Rotoworld can always make this switch. Incidentally, today's column is my final Daily Dose of the baseball season.
  • Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger penned a lengthy preview of the fall television schedule, examining the various new shows, but sadly very little even piqued my interest beyond maybe Sons of Anarchy on FX and True Blood on HBO. My TiVo is thinking about getting a second job.
  • Here's a new blog to check out: Jorge Says No!.
  • Friend of AG.com Tom Tango launched his annual "scouting report by the fans for the fans." If you've ever dreamed of being a scout, this is your chance. After going to Tango's database, enter in personal observations about the players you watch on a regular basis to become part of a huge collection of scouting reports compiled entirely by fans. Take a look at the instructions and details, and then head to the Twins page to mark down what you think of, say, Delmon Young's "instincts" in the outfield.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Spoon performing a horn-filled version of "The Underdog" on Late Show With David Letterman:


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

    August 27, 2008

    Lamb Chopped

    Lost in Eddie Guardado's return to Minnesota is that the Twins cut Mike Lamb loose to make room for him on the roster. Signed to a two-year, $6.6 million contract this winter, Lamb is still due around $3.5 million for the remainder of this season and all of next year. Between the $3.5 million still owed Lamb and the money due to both Craig Monroe and Juan Rincon after they were released, the Twins have eaten approximately $6.5 million in dead money.

    That total doesn't include another $6.5 million paid to those three players while they were actually on the team or $7.5 million spent on fellow free-agent busts Livan Hernandez and Adam Everett, whose contracts weren't eaten. Add it all up and the Twins committed $21 million to the veteran fivesome of Hernandez, Lamb, Rincon, Everett, and Monroe, each of whom were released (Monroe, Rincon, Lamb), dumped on another team (Hernandez), or benched after nearly being cut loose (Everett).

    An inexplicable rebate on Hernandez courtesy of the Rockies drops that total to around $20 million, but the point remains. Not all five of those signings were likely to be disasters, although certainly anyone who read this blog during the offseason saw plenty of objections to the $11 million in contracts handed to Hernandez, Rincon, and Monroe. On the other hand, the $9 million spent on Lamb and Everett struck me as reasonable and those two signings turned out just as badly as the other three.

    Everett's value has always been completely dependent on his being an elite defensive shortstop, so season-long shoulder problems leaving him with a noodle arm go a long way toward explaining why he's been a bust. Lamb is the opposite in that his value has always come almost strictly from his bat, but unlike with Everett there's no simple explanation for why he suddenly ceased hitting. Prior to joining the Twins, Lamb spent four seasons with the Astros, hitting .281/.342/.464 in 1,435 plate appearances.

    That strong four-year run with Houston included Lamb hitting .289/.366/.453 in 353 plate appearances last season as a 31-year-old, yet he never showed anything resembling that sort of bat with the Twins. He started regularly at third base through mid-June, but lost the job to Brian Buscher after hitting just .226/.265/.305 in 211 trips to the plate. Lamb then spent the next two months as a little-used reserve, batting a total of 49 times in 10 weeks while hitting .267/.327/.400 (and growing a spectacular beard).

    Signing Hernandez, Monroe, and Rincon all struck me as mistakes immediately, but bringing in Lamb and Everett seemed like reasonable decisions. Unfortunately, Hernandez, Monroe, and Rincon were as bad as expected, while Lamb stopped hitting and Everett stopped fielding to see their value vanish by both failing on the one side of the ball that they previously thrived. Lamb is far from the first mediocre veteran to prove worthless after joining the Twins of late, but he's a rare multi-year mistake.

    Lamb is highly unlikely to be handed another starting job, but should find a bench spot somewhere. Hitting .233/.276/.322 in 261 plate appearances as a 32-year-old is ugly, but he'd be a decent reserve for a team that doesn't have left-handed hitters like Buscher and Justin Morneau starting at the infield corners. For the Twins, there's zero need for a left-handed hitter backing up Morneau and Buscher is essentially a younger, cheaper version of the player they thought they were getting in Lamb.

    Lamb has hit .277/.334/.418 in 2,937 career plate appearances and has poor range with a decent arm at third base. Buscher has hit .288/.332/.392 in the majors and .280/.349/.404 in the minors, and has decent range with a poor arm at third base. Going with a 27-year-old version instead of a 32-year-old version makes lots of sense, but sadly it cost the Twins $6.6 million and 261 plate appearances in the process. After cutting Lamb, Ron Gardenhire pulled no punches assessing his time with the Twins:

    His energy level wasn't what we expected. He's more of a veteran, laid-back guy, and we play at a different level. We like to run. We like to do all kinds of things. He's a veteran off-the-bench type of guy; that's what he looks like to me, and we were looking for something a little different. That's probably why it didn't work out.

    Gardenhire usually takes that stance regarding young players rather than a veteran, but his suggesting that someone's personality is to blame for their struggles comes as no surprise. In reality, Lamb not hitting is "probably why it didn't work out." If he'd hit .289/.366/.453 like he did with the Astros last year, being a "laid-back guy" who doesn't "like to run" likely wouldn't have been an issue. To Lamb's credit, he handled the news and Gardenhire's subsequent comments pretty well:

    I'm embarrassed for having gotten fired. I wish it had turned out better. Bill [Smith] and Rob [Antony] stuck their necks out for me. I hope it's not held against them. If [his laid-back attitude] was a problem, I wish someone would have told me. I would have thrown stuff if I needed to.

    As a player who doesn't "battle his tail off" Lamb simply needed to hit, and he didn't.


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

    August 26, 2008

    Everyday Eddie: The Return


    The original fire is died and gone, but the riot inside moves on.


    - Audioslave, "Original Fire"

    After missing out on LaTroy Hawkins last month the Twins decided to bring back another key member of the 2003 bullpen yesterday afternoon, acquiring Eddie Guardado from the Rangers for 21-year-old pitching prospect Mark Hamburger. Like Hawkins, Guardado left the Twins as a free agent following the 2003 season, signing a three-year, $13 million contract with the Mariners while the Twins selected Glen Perkins with one of the draft picks they received as compensation for letting him walk.

    While Joe Nathan thrived as his replacement with the Twins, Guardado spent two seasons closing for a last-place team in Seattle before being stripped of ninth-inning duties midway through his third year. He converted 8-of-9 saves for the Reds after being traded that July, but was sidelined by an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. After sitting out a year to recover from surgery he came back in August of last season and struggled, posting a 7.24 ERA in 15 outings with the Reds.

    Cut loose after the season, Guardado signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Rangers and resurrected his career at the age of 37. Shoulder soreness knocked him out for most of April, but once healthy he emerged as the Rangers' primary setup man and recently took over closer duties from C.J. Wilson. Despite calling one of the majors' most hitter-friendly ballparks home, Guardado posted a 3.65 ERA and 28-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 49.1 innings with the Rangers.

    For the past couple months this space has been filled with pleas for the Twins to add another capable arm to the struggling bullpen, but the team didn't pull off a trade for Hawkins, misguidedly chose not to claim Chad Bradford off waivers, failed to sign Al Reyes, and inexplicably refuses to bring up Bobby Korecky from Triple-A. Age and injuries mean that Guardado is no longer the same "Everyday Eddie" who Twins fans remember, but he still has enough left in the tank to at least fit the "capable arm" bill.

    How much of an upgrade he represents for the Twins' bullpen depends on how you examine his time with the Rangers. A 3.65 ERA in Texas is very solid and his .220/.286/.358 opponent's batting line is great. Beyond that, at 3.77 his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ranks 30th in the AL among relievers with at least 40 innings (slightly below Jesse Crain at 3.71 and Bradford at 3.73). In other words, FIP suggests that he's pitched well enough to be the second or third option in most bullpens.

    However, FIP's souped-up brother Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) tells a different story. Guardado has a 5.25 xFIP, which is well below par for a reliever and would rank as the second-worst mark for anyone who's pitched for the Twins this season behind only Juan Rincon at 5.56. How can two seemingly similar stats differ so much in their evaluation of Guardado's performance? It's mostly due to FIP quantifying what has happened and xFIP predicting what will happen.

    Much of the disagreement between the two metrics comes from Guardado's home-run rate. FIP sees that he's allowed just three homers in 49.1 innings and credits him for keeping the ball in the ballpark the same way that it credits him for recording 28 strikeouts or handing out 17 walks. On the other hand, xFIP sees that he's an extreme fly-ball pitcher and just 3.7 percent of his fly balls have gone over the fence, and predicts that rate will rise toward Guardado's career norms and the MLB average over time.

    GUARDADO HR RATE

    YEAR HR/FB
    2002 10.0%
    2003 7.5%
    2004 12.9%
    2005 9.0%
    2006 16.9%
    2007 8.7%
    2008 3.7%

    Just 3.7 percent of his fly balls going for homers sticks out from the rest of his career like a sore thumb, which is why xFIP has the edge over FIP in terms of predictive value. Allowing 3.7 homers per 100 fly balls simply isn't likely to be sustainable over the long haul, although as the Twins' lineup has shown by continuing to thrive with runners in scoring position that doesn't mean it can't be sustained for quite a while. However, the smart money would be on Guardado serving up more homers going forward.

    From 2002-2007 he allowed a homer on 10.6 percent of his fly balls (MLB average is 11 percent) while never posting a homer rate below 7.5 percent, so his current rate of 3.7 percent is pretty clearly a fluke. Despite that FIP sees Guardado's three homers allowed and asks no more questions, crediting him with keeping the ball in the ballpark. Meanwhile, xFIP looks at his extreme fly-ball rate and suggests that he's been very fortunate to give up just three homers, predicting a lot more long balls in his future.

    Guardado also got excellent defensive support from the Rangers, who turned 76 percent of his balls in play into outs. Like his home-run rate, allowing a .240 average on balls in play is far better than his career norm (.288) and the MLB average (.305). Compared to his 2001-2003 peak, he's striking out 41 percent fewer batters, which makes sense given that his average fastball is now clocked at 85.9 miles per hour, down 1-2 mph from his time with the Mariners and 3-4 mph from his time with the Twins.

    GUARDADO        PA      SO%     BB%      GB%
    2001-2003 800 24.6 5.9 31.0
    2008 194 14.4 7.7 26.0

    All of which is why Guardado likely doesn't represent as much of an upgrade as his ERA suggests. Of course, even if xFIP is right and Guardado is truly closer to a 5.00 ERA pitcher than a 3.65 ERA pitcher at this point, that doesn't mean his luck will necessarily even out over the next six weeks. My preference would have been to claim Bradford off waivers or call up Korecky from Triple-A, but for whatever reason the Twins opted against those choices.

    However, if the only options at this late date in the year were sticking with the current group of relievers or dealing for a familiar veteran with a somewhat lucky 3.65 ERA, then bringing back Guardado makes plenty of sense. He's not likely to have as much success as he did with the Rangers, but Guardado out-running regression to the mean for another 10-15 innings certainly wouldn't surprise me. He's a "capable arm" with tons of late-inning experience and the Twins trust him. Plus, the price was right.

    Previous reports suggested that the Rangers were asking for one of the Twins' top pitching prospects in exchange for Guardado, but in the end they accepted a rookie-ball reliever who was signed after an open tryout at the Metrodome last year. Hamburger throws in the mid-90s and has been impressive at Elizabethton, posting a 40-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36.2 innings, but the odds are heavily against the Twins being haunted by the decision to deal an undrafted rookie-ball reliever.

    Beyond that, even if Guardado stays healthy and effective while making enough appearances to reach the various performance bonuses in his contract, he'll cost less than the Twins pocketed by dumping Livan Hernandez on the Rockies. As we saw last night Guardado isn't going to "fix" the bullpen all by himself and calling up Korecky from Triple-A for further help still makes all kinds of sense, but general manager Bill Smith has at least given Ron Gardenhire another decent late-inning option. Finally.

    Welcome back, Eddie.


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

    August 24, 2008

    Twins Notes: Sub-1.00 ERAs, 100 RBIs, and Two Strikes

  • After watching yesterday afternoon as the Twins' bullpen coughed up another late-inning lead while the stud closer with a 0.98 ERA went unused because it wasn't a "save" situation, my curiosity about Joe Nathan's amazing run prevention led me to the indispensable Baseball-Reference.com for a little digging. So far this season Nathan has thrown 55 innings with a 0.98 ERA. Here's the complete list of pitchers since 1920 who've logged at least 55 innings with an ERA below 1.00:
                        YEAR       IP      ERA
    Dennis Eckersley 1990 73.1 0.61
    Jonathan Papelbon 2007 68.1 0.92
    Chris Hammond 2002 76.0 0.95
    Joe Nathan 2008 55.0 0.98

    That's the whole list. Four pitchers in 90 years and all of them in the past two decades. Like Nathan, Dennis Eckersley and Jonathan Papelbon both had their sub-1.00 ERA seasons as closers. Chris Hammond had zero saves in 2002, as his 0.95 ERA came as John Smoltz's setup man after sitting out three straight years with injuries. Interestingly, if the innings cutoff moves from 55 to 50, Dennys Reyes and his 0.89 ERA in 2006 crack the list (along with Bill Henry in 1964 and Rob Murphy in 1986).

    Comparing a great year from Nathan to Eckersley's ridiculous 1990 season struck me as familiar and sure enough a look through the archives shows that the topic was covered in this space way back on August 5, 2004. That was Nathan's first season with the Twins and his ERA was under 1.00 as late as August 18, when he had a 0.82 ERA (and 34 saves) in 54.2 innings. Here's a look at how Nathan's current numbers compare to where he stood on August 18, 2004:

    YEAR      G     SV       IP     ER      ERA     SO     BB     HR     OAVG
    2004 53 34 54.2 5 0.82 66 18 2 .174
    2008 55 35 55.0 6 0.98 61 13 4 .185

    After allowing just five earned runs and blowing just one save through 54.2 innings in 2004, Nathan proceeded to cough up seven runs and blow two saves in his next three appearances. His ERA more than doubled to 1.74 before ending up at 1.62. Even if Nathan can avoid that same fate this season, he may have some company in the 55-inning, sub-1.00 ERA club. Side-arming A's rookie Brad Ziegler has a 0.41 ERA in 44 frames after his career-opening 39-inning scoreless streak ended last week.

  • By going 3-for-4 with a homer, a double, and three RBIs yesterday afternoon, Justin Morneau joined Harmon Killebrew as the only hitters in Twins history to crack 100 RBIs in three straight seasons. After driving in 130 and 111 runs during the previous two years, Morneau has knocked in 102 runs through 130 games this season, putting him on a 127-RBI pace. Here's how Morneau's current three-season run compares to what Killebrew did from 1969-1971:
                   G       PA      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      HR     RBI
    Killebrew 466 1998 .267 .409 .534 .943 118 372
    Morneau 443 1895 .299 .368 .520 .888 85 343

    Morneau is great, but Killebrew was a monster. In fact, the 55-point gap in OPS is actually wider than it looks because Killebrew posted those numbers in an environment that was much less conducive to big offense. From 1969-1971, the AL as a whole hit just .248 with a .319 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage, as the average team scored 4.04 runs per game. From 2006-2008, the AL as a whole has hit .272 with a .338 OBP and .427 SLG, as the average team scores 4.88 runs per game.

    In other words, compared to Killebrew, Morneau is playing in an environment that boosts slugging by 15 percent and ups overall scoring by 21 percent. If you take Killebrew's production from 1969-1971 and adjust it to the offensive levels that Morneau has experienced from 2006-2008, his line jumps to .295/.435/.615 with an average of 150 RBIs per year, giving him a 160-point edge in OPS. And those weren't even the three best years of Killebrew's career. Not even close. Here's Morneau on Killebrew:

    He's a Hall of Famer, 573 homers. He's the guy who's got all the power records in our organization. To have my name next to him is pretty nice, but I've still got a long way to go to come close to what he did.

    Baseball-Reference.com has a stat called OPS+ that takes a hitter's production and compares it to the offensive environment that he played in. A 100 OPS+ is exactly average, Babe Ruth holds the all-time career record at 207, and Barry Bonds set the single-season record at 268 in 2002. Morneau's career OPS+ is 121 and he had a personal-best 140 OPS+ in his MVP-winning 2006 season. Killebrew has a 143 OPS+ for his 22-year career and topped a 140 OPS+ nine times. Killer could hit just a little bit.

  • Watching Carlos Gomez end two innings by striking out on down-and-away sliders yesterday made me wonder whether he's more helpless than most hitters once the count has two strikes. Gomez has had two strikes in 239 of his 503 plate appearances, and he's hit .143 while striking out 49.4 percent of the time. To put that in some context, consider that the AL as a whole is hitting .195 while striking out 35.4 percent of the time with two strikes.

    In other words, everyone is awful once they have two strikes, but Gomez is really awful. He's 27 percent worse than the league average while striking out 40 percent more often. Actually, not everyone is awful once they have two strikes. Joe Mauer is hitting .272 while striking out in just 18.6 percent of his 210 plate appearances with two strikes and if you remove Gomez's awful two-strike work from the mix the rest of the Twins are hitting .218 on two-strike counts.

  • After keeping Brian Bass on the roster all season because he was out of minor-league options and they were irrationally afraid of losing him on waivers, the Twins finally removed him from the 40-man roster over the weekend. In what likely surprised no one except the Twins, the 26-year-old rookie with a 4.87 ERA in the majors after posting a 5.10 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A went unclaimed and reluctantly accepted a demotion back to Rochester.
  • Less than a week after Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a lengthy, well-done article about Casey Daigle's career and marriage to Jennie Finch, the Twins released him to make room on the Triple-A roster for Bass. Jensen ended the piece with this Finch quote: "He's young still and I think he has a long career ahead of him, but if it doesn't work it doesn't work, and we'll be there for him." She also had a tough week, as the dominant U.S. women's softball team lost the gold medal to Japan.
  • After yet another ugly start Friday, Livan Hernandez has a 15.32 ERA in three outings with Colorado. Better yet, after inexplicably relieving the Twins of his remaining contract for this year the Denver Post amusingly reports that the Rockies want to "take a long look at Hernandez to see if he might fit into the club's future plans." Seriously. Deemed worthy of paying $5 million by the Twins this winter, Hernandez has a 6.28 ERA in 26 starts while allowing opponents to bat .347 for 224 hits allowed in 154 innings.
  • If reading today's entry hasn't made you completely sick of me, check out my appearance on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show with Jim Rich and Seth Kaplan today at 3:00 p.m. via the station's website.

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

    August 21, 2008

    Link-O-Rama

  • First Batgirl, then Will Young, and now Ubelmann. Sadly, real-life responsibilities have robbed the Twins blogosphere of another great writer. Luckily, I'm in no danger of getting a life.
  • Slamming someone in the face with a shaving cream pie is not all fun and games.
  • Now a mother, former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Jessica Alba is making the most improbable, dramatic comeback since Josh Hamilton. Expect her to be traded for Edinson Volquez shortly.
  • Of course, being a mom didn't stop Kate Beckinsale from finishing third in the recent OFGoAG.com voting and it doesn't stop her from looking like this in a bikini.
  • In order to protect the identity of the person involved let's just say that the managing editor of a very popular sports website recently pointed me to Chickipedia and said: "You're the first person I thought of." It's nice to be the baseball blogosphere's foremost pervert.
  • New Deadspin staffer Clay Travis is willing to go to great lengths for an exclusive.
  • Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star has long been my favorite newspaper columnist, but after launching a personal website last year he became my favorite newspaper columnist-turned-blogger. Now he's been hired by Sports Illustrated, which while excellent news probably makes any potential "favorite" titles way too long. He's just really, really good.
  • A friendly warning to all the celebrities out there: Blogging is harder than it looks. Especially if you're from Chicago and can't correctly spell "Michael Jordan."
  • Also harder than it looks? Actually eating the Michael Phelps diet that was linked to in this space last week. Meanwhile, the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, has the same diet as the average 12-year-old.
  • Phelps has obviously become the star of this year's Olympics, but Bolt's performance strikes me as more impressive, or at least more relevant to the overall world of athletics. There's zero question that Phelps dominated his sport on a historic level, but "swimming" is a lot more specialized and niche-like than "running." Being unbeatable in the pool doesn't translate to much else without water involved, but running ridiculously fast translates on at least some level to nearly every major sport.

    If given the choice between being the world's greatest swimmer and the world's fastest man, my guess is that most people would pick the latter without giving it a second thought. Seriously, imagine being so fast that you can coast to the finish line while showboating and still blow out a collection of the world's greatest runners ... in a race that essentially lasts 10 seconds. Suffice it to say that you won't see many articles wondering if Phelps could possibly have a future in the NFL.

  • On the other hand, you will see at least one article pondering whether or not Phelps is "a douche." Also in Bolt's favor is that he doesn't have to worry about suddenly being at very high risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Yet another situation where running would come in more handy than swimming.
  • Regardless of where you stand on the "Phelps or Bolt?" issue, one thing is clear: My employers are doing pretty well this month.
  • It comes about five years too late, but Jennifer Love Hewitt finally agrees with the advice that losers like me have been giving her for a decade:
    I wish I had been nude from the time I was 12 until I was 28. I looked great! I want to tell all young girls to walk around in bikinis all summer and enjoy it. I want to tell them to never, ever feel bad about anything, because there will be that one day in your 20s when you'll eat a hamburger and actually see the hamburger on the side of your leg. Initially it's shocking, and you think, Whoa, I have to actually think about what I eat and work out double the amount I did before.

    In terms of timing, her revelation is a bit like someone on their death bed noting that not smoking three packs of cigarettes every day for 50 years would have been a smart move. Hopefully this is sufficient motivation for the world's scientists to get working on a time machine.

  • Remember the good old days when magazines used to actually employ fact-checkers? Someone at Orlando Magazine needs to be shown Baseball-Reference.com. Or, you know, Google.
  • Here's Sarah Silverman, unknowingly (it seems) providing a definition of irony:


    Oh, and the above video also provides a decent definition of "not safe for work," so be warned.
  • Last week the Twins made a trade with the A's for Gary Gaetti's son, Joe Gaetti, who'd been let go by two teams despite hitting .284/.366/.511 in six minor-league seasons, including .284/.360/.543 in 80 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Gaetti debuted at New Britain over the weekend and homered in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, it was also his last at-bat, because Gaetti tore his Achilles' tendon while rounding the bases and will miss the remainder of the season.
  • My keeper-league fantasy football draft has been unfolding via e-mail all week. My team didn't start out very pretty, because last season's keepers like Ronnie Brown, Laurence Maroney, Travis Henry, Vince Young, and Marc Bulger have since seen their value dip so much that they weren't even worth retaining under the protection rules. Regardless of sport or league I'm not really used to doing a whole lot of rebuilding, but the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide got me through it.

    From the constantly updated player profiles and detailed projections to the in-depth sleeper picks and customizable cheat sheets, trusting the Draft Guide gave me a ton of confidence despite spending the past six months focused almost entirely on baseball. This is half-plug and half-testimonial, but either way if you're going to be drafting between now and Week 1 you should definitely have the Draft Guide by your side. My fellow keeper leaguers especially will benefit from the keeper-specific analysis.

    QB: Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub
    RB: Jonathan Stewart, LenDale White, Selvin Young, Chris Johnson
    WR: Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, Donald Driver, Ronald Curry
    TE: Kellen Winslow

    That's what my team looks like with five rounds to go, and considering how things looked before the draft putting together that group in a 12-team league is a minor miracle. Gregg Rosenthal convinced me to buy into his Cutler hype, so if lives up to his billing as "the next great quarterback" Rosenthal will be my hero. For the most part this space rarely contains gratuitous plugs for Rotoworld stuff, so trust me on this one. Get the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide.

  • Finally, some practical advice that can be applied to important, real-life situations that people find themselves in every day.
  • Whenever the subject of the newspaper industry's rapidly declining print circulation comes up in this space, several commenters inevitably mention the growing number of people who read newspapers primarily online. That always struck me as a very fair point and a very important distinction to make, but apparently that's not necessarily the case.
  • When a longtime AG.com reader gets a job covering the Twins for MLB.com, metrics like "Defensive Efficiency" start popping up in articles.
  • For too long my non-online reading was pretty much limited to the baseball books that publishers sent me because of this blog and my association with The Hardball Times, but for some reason lately I've gotten back to reading tons of non-sports books. I'm planning to put together an all-in-one review for later this month, but in the meantime here's an amusing excerpt from Nick Hornby's brilliant debut novel High Fidelity:
    These people look as though they wouldn't have had the time to listen to the first side of Al Green's Greatest Hits, let alone all his other stuff (ten albums on the Hi label alone, although only nine of them were produced by Willie Mitchell); they're too busy fixing base rates and trying to bring peace to what was formerly Yugoslavia to listen to "Sha La La (Make Me Happy)."

    So they might have the jump on me when it comes to accepted notions of seriousness (although as everyone knows, Al Green Explores Your Mind is as serious as life gets), but I ought to have the edge on them when it comes to matters of the heart. ... Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship. Maybe Al Green is directly responsible for more than I ever realized.

    That passage doesn't even begin to do justice to what is an excellent, hilarious book, but as a huge Al Green fan it made me smile. All of which is why this week's AG.com-approved music video is Reverend Al performing "Sha La La (Make Me Happy)" on Soul Train:


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

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