October 31, 2008

Link-O-Rama

  • Aside from napping and eating my greatest skill in life is the ability to rapidly grow bad facial hair, so it comes as no surprise that at least a half-dozen "looks" from this very handy chart seem familiar. For instance, right now I'm sporting the lovely "ducktail" look, which is basically a cross between "reformed serial killer" and "homeless person who lost his razor." This is what happens when you work from bed.
  • In an effort to become the only site more obsessed with Keeley Hazell than this one, FHM.com has created "a digital shrine" to the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com. The "Keeley Collection" is very much not safe for work, but also very much worth quitting your job over.
  • Remember the extraordinary "it's just like a mini-mall" rap from last week's Link-O-Rama? Silly me, how could you forget. Anyway, his name is Sammy Stephens and ... well, his legend is growing.
  • Six words: Ricky Gervais. Thandie Newton. Porno reenactment.


    "She's got a much bigger part than me, I'm not doing this."
  • Earlier this week, after quoting a Baseball America article about Twins draftee Michael Tonkin being Jason Kubel's brother-in-law, my brilliant take was that "for some reason the notion of Kubel having a sister amuses me." Since then I've learned that Tonkin isn't married to Kubel's sister, but is actually the brother of Kubel's wife. More importantly, that information came via one of Kubel's two sisters, who was kind enough to e-mail me after reading about how her mere existence "amuses" me.

    Luckily she's apparently a longtime AG.com reader who's enjoyed my ongoing support of her brother, so my existence amuses her too. Phew. Also, just by e-mailing me once Kubel's sister now joins Pat Neshek's wife as my two top "inside" Twins sources. If, say, Boof Bonser's cousin or maybe the mom of Alexi Casilla's best friend ever drops me a line we can really start to get some juicy rumors going here. And people say bloggers don't cultivate sources and do original reporting!

  • For the past six weeks I've hosted a lengthy live-chat session here each Wednesday afternoon and there are always at least a handful of questions submitted about my television-watching preferences, so for anyone curious here's what the hierarchy of my DVR "prioritizer" looks like at this exact moment (the rankings change on a daily basis):

    1. The Office
    2. 30 Rock
    3. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    4. Curb Your Enthusiasm
    5. Flight of the Conchords
    6. Poker After Dark
    7. High Stakes Poker
    8. World Poker Tour
    9. World Series of Poker
    10. Family Guy
    11. Homicide: Life on the Street
    12. Seinfeld
    13. The Daily Show
    14. In Treatment
    15. Big Love
    16. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
    17. Hell's Kitchen
    18. Gordon Ramsay's F Word
    19. The Ultimate Fighter
    20. PRIDE Fighting Championships
    21. Rescue Me
    22. Jimmy Kimmel Live
    23. The Life and Times of Tim

    Recently dumped from the "scheduler" were Entourage, True Blood, and Sons of Anarchy, the latter two of which sadly didn't hold my interest for more than a few episodes. In fact, The Life and Times of Tim is the only show that I'm still watching from this season's pathetic crop of debuts, which means even more Seinfeld re-runs than usual for me. If there are other shows that would fit well in the above list, feel free to make a suggestion in the comments section.

  • Remember the Marisa Miller-Ryan Braun commercial shoot that was linked to and pictured in this space a few months back? Well, here's the finished product:


    If three minutes of horrible acting, sexual innuendo, testicle-related humor, and the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com runner-up playing softball in short shorts is your thing, then it's the perfect commercial.
  • Rotoworld gets millions of visitors per week and I've been blogging here for over six years, but locally at least many people who meet me seem most interested in my affiliation with MinnPost. When former Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher Joel Kramer approached me a while back about the new project he was starting up it immediately struck me as an extremely worthwhile venture and now that MinnPost is celebrating its first birthday I'm very proud to have contributed a few dozen articles to a great site.
  • Like a boss announcing that the entire office is free to take Friday off before casually mentioning that everyone is expected to come into work on Saturday and Sunday, ESPN is rumored to be dumping Joe Morgan from their Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts ... and replacing him with Rick Sutcliffe.
  • I've always found it difficult to predict which articles will generate a big reader response, because it's rarely the ones you'd guess. For example, earlier this week over at Rotoworld my Daily Dose column that used Rams rookie Donnie Avery as an excuse to amuse myself with a bunch of The Big Lebowski references generated more e-mails than the combined total of my previous dozen columns. Seriously. The lesson? As The Dude put it, "That rug really tied the room together." Or something:


    Seriously though, he really was throwing rocks that night.
  • I've ceased giving regular updates on the newspaper world's plight because in a very short time it's gone from a relatively controversial stance to accepted reality, but Editor and Publisher reports that the industry hasn't ceased struggling. For the six-month period ending this September, print circulation fell 4.6 percent on weekdays and 4.8 percent on Sunday. As my MinnPost colleague David Brauer reports, that includes the Star Tribune falling 4.2 percent of weekdays and 8.6 percent on Sunday.

    Over the past two years the Star Tribune has lost 10.2 percent of its weekday print readership, which equals nearly 40,000 copies each day. Sunday's edition is down just under 50,000 copies during that same span. Meanwhile, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has actually seen its print readership rise over the past year, however slightly, which shocks me given the newspaper's overall lack of readability beyond Phil Miller's excellent work covering the Twins.

    Of course, while print circulation steadily declines and the industry as we've grown to know it gradually morphs into something completely different, the Star Tribune is among many prominent newspapers with a rapidly growing online audience. The days of ink-stained pages landing on everyone's doorstep each morning are vanishing, but it'll be interesting to see what happens when "newspapers" join the ever-growing world of "online content" and have to compete for readership based solely on merit.

  • Disgruntled fans and crotchety old sportswriters love to rant about how easy today's athletes have it between the great jobs, huge salaries, and fame. However, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently provided a revealing glimpse into the dark side of playing football for a living, explaining that he doesn't like going to Washington because the Redskins' cheerleaders distract him. Here's his take on the nightmarish situation:
    They try to make their cheerleaders stretch in our tunnel before we come out of the locker room. The couple preseason games I've played down there, we've seen it. That's just not good. It can be [distracting], let's be truthful. I've heard a rumor that they're not allowed to do it anymore.

    Believe it or not he's actually right. Because of those aforementioned atrocities in Washington, last year commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo to all teams banning the practice that has since been dubbed the "Redskins Rule." Seriously. So next time someone suggests that the life of a professional athlete is easy, think of all the poor NFL players in that tunnel in Washington. Godspeed, men.

  • Finally, in honor of tonight being Halloween and all this week's AG.com-approved music video is Michael Jackson and the slightly condensed version of "Thriller":


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

    October 29, 2008

    Closing Out 2008

    Sadly (for everyone but Phillies fans), another baseball season came to an end last night.


    Like me, Brad Lidge is obviously excited that pitchers and catchers report in about 100 days.


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

    October 28, 2008

    AG.com Live Chat Today at Noon

    As is the case every Wednesday today's chat will begin at noon and go until the questions stop rolling in, but first a reminder: For anyone who missed my appearance on Seth Stohs' podcast last night, you can listen to the show now by clicking here. Prior to chatting with me for around 45 minutes, Seth had Rochester radio announcer Josh Whetzel on to chat about various Triple-A prospects. In other words, even if you're sick of me it's worth listening to the show just for all the good minor-league talk.

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

    Me on Seth Stohs' Podcast Tonight

    I'm scheduled to be a guest on Seth Stohs' weekly podcast tonight at around 8:30 central time and you can listen live by clicking here.

    Also, a reminder that the weekly AG.com live chat will be tomorrow at noon. I'm not yet technologically advanced enough to do the podcast thing, so that will have to do for now.

    October 26, 2008

    Twins Notes: Outrights and Throwing Strikes

  • Bill Smith and company cleared some space on the 40-man roster over the weekend, sending Julio DePaula, Oswaldo Sosa, Sergio Santos, and Ryan Jorgensen outright to Triple-A. That means all four players passed through waivers unclaimed, allowing the Twins to retain them in the organization while removing them from the 40-man roster. Sosa is the most surprising name on the list, because not so long ago he was considered one of the Twins' better pitching prospects.

    Sosa placed No. 9 in my ranking of the Twins' top prospects in 2007 and was No. 12 heading into this season, but had a tremendously disappointing season between high Single-A and Double-A, posting a 5.66 ERA and 80-to-75 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 105 innings. He's still just 23 years old and one bad season doesn't completely wipe away his potential, but Sosa's stock has dropped significantly and any possible MLB future may now be in the bullpen after he was initially viewed as a long-term starter.

    As a ground-ball machine with strong minor-league numbers DePaula once looked like an intriguing reliever prospect, but he was awful during a 20-inning stint with the Twins in 2007 and then fell apart at Triple-A this year, posting a 5.70 ERA and 65-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77.1 innings after thriving at Rochester the previous season. DePaula may still turn things around enough to be a viable middle reliever in the majors, but at 26 years old he's running out of time.

    Santos is a former first-round pick who the Twins claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in mid-May, but he hit an execrable .228/.266/.341 in 112 games at Triple-A and now sports a .248/.304/.393 hitting line in seven minor-league seasons. Jorgensen is standard Triple-A filler who got a September call-up to act as the Twins' third catcher due to Jose Morales' injury. Like Chris Heintz and Corky Miller before him Jorgensen can be easily replaced and had no real business on a 40-man roster to begin with.

  • When longtime minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp left the Twins last week to become the Tigers' pitching coach my take was that "it's tough to say how much of a loss Knapp represents considering how little media coverage is given to the non-MLB members of the organization." John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press recently asked Matt Garza to shed some light on Knapp's contributions to the Twins:
    I'm excited for Rick, he deserves the job with the Tigers. He's been the Twins' pitching coordinator for the last 11-12 years, and all he did was run pitchers through there and get them on a good plan. That's why the Twins are where they are right now. They wouldn't be there without him running that minor league pitching staff.

    His big thing is throwing strikes. He wants you to be able to throw any pitch in any count for a strike. That's his philosophy. Rick sticks to the process. He's going to do a very good job with the Tigers. He's a good dude.

    Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson rightfully gets a ton of credit for the pitching staff annually ranking among the MLB leaders in fewest walks, but rarely does a young pitcher arrive in Minnesota with sub par control. Much of that is due to the Twins drafting pitchers who display good control in high school or college, but clearly the minor-league system and development philosophy play huge parts. Fort Myers pitching coach Eric Rasmussen has been named as Knapp's replacement.

  • On related note, Kevin Slowey issued fewer walks per nine innings than any pitcher in baseball this year, but delving a little deeper into his stats shows especially ridiculous control versus right-handed hitters. He faced 344 right-handed batters and handed out a grand total of three walks while striking out 57 and allowing a .246/.254/.383 line. Not only did his ratio of 19 strikeouts per walk versus righties lead baseball, the next-best mark was Mike Mussina at 8.3-to-1 and no other starter was above 7-to-1.

    Of course, the flip side is that Slowey's strikeout-to-walk ratio in 309 plate appearances versus lefties was "only" 66-to-21 and they hit .277/.330/.502 off him. Slowey's approach works extremely well against righties, but it'll be interesting to see if he starts using his changeup more often in an effort to neutralize lefties. He threw a changeup 7.8 percent of the time this year, which ranked 52nd among 89 pitchers who logged at least 160 innings (sandwiched between Matt Garza at 7.9 and Scott Baker at 7.3).

    Cincinnati right-hander Edinson Volquez led baseball by throwing a changeup 31.9 percent of the time, and interestingly was nearly as effective against lefties (.249/.342/.358) as righties (.214/.316/.344). If you're curious, Johan Santana ranked third with 28.7 percent changeups and Brad Radke tossed 17.4 percent changeups during his final two years (detailed pitch data isn't available before that). As a team, the Twins threw the seventh-fewest changeups in MLB, so a big increase for Slowey might be unlikely.

  • In recapping June's draft, Baseball America named Michael Tonkin the Twins' "best late-round pick" and offered this interesting report on the 30th-round selection:
    Tonkin, whom the Twins signed away from Southern California for $230,000, is the brother-in-law of Twins OF/DH Jason Kubel. Tonkin is projectable at 6-foot-6 and has shown velocity, reaching 94 mph, and usable secondary stuff, including a changeup with armside run and sink. He needs strength and consistency.

    It doesn't make any sense, but for some reason the notion of Jason Kubel having a sister amuses me.


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

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