December 31, 2008

2008 2009

I've been a bad blogger lately because the Twins' offseason hasn't exactly been action-packed thus far and the annual Rotoworld baseball magazine is due at Beckett on January 6. I'm the magazine's editor and also write a big chunk of the content, so hopefully you'll forgive me for the lack of new entries here. I've got some interesting things planned for AG.com once the magazine stops dominating my life and goes to the printer on January 9, including the annual Top 40 Twins Prospects series.

In the meantime, thank you for not complaining too much about the lack of content here and thank you for supporting me in 2008, whether by reading AG.com, checking out my non-blog writing at Rotoworld, watching my videos at NBCSports.com, or listening to my appearances on KFAN. AG.com has totaled slightly more than 1.25 million visitors this year, participation in the semi-weekly live chat sessions has greatly surpassed my expectations, and Rotoworld has posted record-setting traffic.

All of which makes me very appreciative of my audience and excited for what 2009 will bring. Seriously, thank you. I'll be back Friday with a Link-O-Rama and semi-daily blogging will resume soon. And in an effort to more properly express my feelings about the loyal AG.com audience in a completely ridiculous way, here's a fitting song from my all-time favorite, Al Green:


December 29, 2008

Twins Notes: Dickey Redux and Other Minor Moves

  • Last offseason the Twins signed R.A. Dickey to a minor-league contract only to have him snatched up by the Mariners in the Rule 5 draft a week later, so this time around they waited until after the Rule 5 draft to ink Dickey to a minor-league deal. Dickey decided to become a free agent after being outrighted off Seattle's 40-man roster a few weeks ago and the 34-year-old knuckleballer chose to join the Twins rather than re-sign with the Mariners:
    They seemed to be the team that had the most interest in me. Not only that, they also seemed to have a real plan for how they want to use me. More than the other teams. I liked the things they were saying to me. In the end, the Twins seemed more interested. They were saying things about the quality of player they look for and how they like to have character guys on their team. It was nice to hear that they thought of me that way.

    Dickey explained that the Twins "haven't promised anything" regarding an Opening Day roster spot and realistically he's a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but he was apparently swayed by a phone call from assistant general manager Rob Antony that came just hours after he hit free agency. According to Dickey, the "plan" for him would involve bullpen work and the occasional spot start, which he prefers to simply competing for a rotation spot after having some success as a reliever this season.

    Dickey is an intriguing player and everyone loves a knuckleballer, but he had a 5.21 ERA and 58-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112.1 innings with the Mariners this year and the Twins already have a pair of out-of-options long-relief candidates in Boof Bonser and Philip Humber. Barring a trade, the Twins will probably end up sending Dickey to Triple-A near the end of spring training while telling him that he'll be the first pitcher called up for in-season reinforcements.

  • Along with Dickey, the Twins have also signed Luis Matos, Joe Gaetti, Sean Henn, and Bob Keppel to minor-league deals. All four are likely headed to Triple-A, but only Keppel is totally without potential. Matos is a solid defensive center fielder and has spent parts of seven seasons in the majors, batting .255/.312/.375 in 1,773 plate appearances. For comparison, Carlos Gomez hit .258/.290/.360 this year. Matos is 29 years old and played 2008 in Mexico, but still looks like a capable backup outfielder.

    Henn was once considered a solid starter prospect while coming up through the Yankees' system, but flopped during a few brief stints in New York and recently moved to the bullpen full time following arm problems. Henn has an ugly 7.56 ERA in 66.2 innings in the majors, but as a left-hander with a 3.74 ERA and 137-to-67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 175.2 innings at Triple-A he could be a decent southpaw specialist out of the bullpen.

    Gaetti actually finished this year with the Twins after they acquired him from the A's in mid-August and homered in his first plate appearance at Double-A, but ruptured his Achilles' tendon while rounding the bases and missed the remainder of the season. Gaetti is 27 years old and has yet to get a shot in the majors, but he's hit .284/.366/.511 during six seasons in the minors and could be a decent platoon bat against left-handed pitching. Oh, and he's also Gary Gaetti's son and does a nifty impression of dad.

  • After four seasons at Rochester and only 84 plate appearances in the majors to show for it, Garrett Jones has left the organization to sign a minor-league contract with the Pirates. Ron Gardenhire was oddly complimentary to Jones when the Twins called him up in 2007 and some local media members misguidedly talked him up as some sort of legitimate power hitter based on his 20-homer seasons in the minors, but with a .259/.317/.457 line at Triple-A my take has always been that he's a non-prospect.
  • At 31 years old Randy Ruiz is also a non-prospect, but unlike Jones he would have at least been a decent fit on the Twins' roster as a right-handed platoon partner for Jason Kubel. Ruiz was initially kept on the 40-man roster to begin the offseason, but the Twins decided to release him last week and the Blue Jays quickly signed him to a minor-league deal. Ruiz has batted .302/.369/.524 in a decade in the minors and went 17-for-62 (.274) with the Twins this year, but he's certainly a marginal major leaguer.

  • December 22, 2008

    Happy Festivus


    In honor of Festivus (and some writing projects with looming deadlines) my blogging may be light for a little while unless the Twins make a significant move.

    December 18, 2008

    Link-O-Rama

  • Seth Stohs' self-published Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook is now shipping. No one is more devoted to covering the Twins' minor-league system than Seth and there's zero doubt in my mind that anyone who enjoys this blog will enjoy his book, which includes a foreword by Pat Neshek and nearly 200 profiles featuring every significant Twins prospect. Not only is buying the book a great way to learn about Twins prospects, doing so supports the work of someone who's blogged for free since 2003.

    Seriously, for just $12.95 you can get a great book and support a great cause, so please go buy it.

  • If you're ever wondered what Cash Warren sees when he comes home following a long, hard day of doing whatever it is he does, here's your chance. Bastard.
  • Kevin McHale has finally figured out who's responsible for the Timberwolves' awfulness: Bloggers.
  • If you're curious what the oft-mentioned "media room" at the winter meetings looks like, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times snapped the following picture that shows me hard at work (or something):

    You can click on the photo to see a full-sized version and then actually zoom in even further from there, at point you should be able to easily identify me and spot a mid-conversation Peter Gammons chatting away on the opposite side of the room. Baker must have taken that photo early in the morning or late at night, because there were usually at least five times that many reporters in the room filling literally every other chair.

  • Joe Posnanski has fallen even deeper in love with Ron Gardenhire after sitting next to him at lunch.
  • Emily Blunt appears to be a perfectly lovely woman, but it must be rough for John Krasinski to break character after a long day of being paid to flirt with the world's cutest receptionist.
  • In what is sure to be a trend-setting move within the struggling newspaper industry, both the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press announced this week that they will shift resources to the "digital delivery of news" while delivering physical, ink-on-a-page newspapers on just Thursday, Friday, and Sunday:
    [Detroit Media Partnership CEO Dave] Hunke said the moves would allow both papers to maintain their news-gathering forces, shift resources to their Web sites, develop new ways to deliver information digitally, enhance multimedia offerings--and, for the foreseeable future, keep Detroit one of the nation’s few remaining two-newspaper towns.

    The strategy contrasts with significant across-the-board cuts, including sharp newsroom reductions and outsourcing of jobs, at many newspapers struggling to maintain traditional delivery. "There is a day of reckoning coming for newspapers, which in my mind don't change and change rapidly," Hunke said. "That is a way of life that is going to disappear [for some newspapers] as early as this coming year."

    It remains to be seen whether the newspapers in Detroit will be successful with their changes, but they deserve credit for at least attempting to keep up with the rapidly shifting media landscape rather than following in the footsteps of most newspapers by simply clinging to the old way of doing things until it dies completely. Fewer and fewer people are interested in having the previous day's news printed on paper alongside tons of advertisements and dropped on their doorstep, and that trend isn't changing.

  • Charles Barkley is now officially prepared for his upcoming political career:


    And those aren't your average-sized shoes, either.
  • Apparently referring to a former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com as "sloppy seconds" will cause you to be blackballed from your chosen field of employment, which is an important lesson for everyone.
  • If you've ever wondered what it would look like if four reporters from the Chicago Sun Times dressed up as old-time gangsters for no apparent reason, it's your lucky day. I'd gladly pledge five bucks toward funding a similarly ridiculous photo shoot featuring the Minneapolis Star Tribune sports department, so perhaps newspapers have stumbled upon a much-needed new source of revenue.
  • Some all-time greats like Barry Sanders, Sandy Koufax, and Jim Brown walk away too soon, while others unfortunately stick around well past their prime.
  • Last week the Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran a fairly lengthy article about Baseball Prospectus naming the Pirates medical staff the best in baseball for 2008. The article carried a "Magazine names Pirates medical staff best in MLB" headline and referred to Baseball Prospectus as "the magazine" four times in a dozen paragraphs, which is odd given that Baseball Prospectus is a hugely popular website that publishes several books each year and is also not a magazine. Is having editors really all that helpful?
  • Friend of AG.com Joe Mulder has started up a new site that's ... well, let's just say devoted to articles that can be read while sitting on the toilet. Fear not, however, because the site's motto is: "Don't worry, it's classy." Not only is Mulder a big Twins fan, he unnecessarily tried to coax me into plugging his new site by sending along this photo:

    Adam Carolla on the left and Bill Simmons on the right, with a guy in a Twins jersey in the middle. You could find a picture of some guy eating Chinese food and watching baseball on television while in bed next to Keeley Hazell, Marisa Miller, Elisha Cuthbert, Jenna Fischer, Kate Beckinsale, and Mila Kunis, and I'd be marginally less jealous (depending on how good the Chinese food looked).

  • Right back at you, Marisa. Oh, and there are a ton more where that came from.
  • I'd never seen a single episode of How I Met Your Mother before stumbling across the show Monday night, which wouldn't be noteworthy except for the fact that the title of the episode was "Little Minnesota" and the scene stumbled across revolved around people in New York hanging out at a Vikings bar. CBS will be sad to know that even tailoring programming specifically to me couldn't stop a channel change.
  • Friend of AG.com Steve Treder recently penned a good article over at The Hardball Times about the most interesting Rule 5 picks of the past three decades and a familiar name sits atop the list.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is T.I. performing "Whatever You Like" on Jimmy Kimmel Live:


  • December 17, 2008

    My Week In Las Vegas: Poker At The Bellagio

    I'd never played no-limit hold 'em live before and the $2-$5 game at the Bellagio is a pretty intimidating place to start, but with the winter meetings essentially ending Thursday afternoon and my flight home departing at 1:00 a.m. it seemed like the correct way to spend my final night in Las Vegas. I'm thankful that my nerves didn't keep me from taking the plunge, because the game was incredibly juicy and the night was extremely fun.

    As a poker nut perhaps the best part of my $2-$5 no-limit table was the location right next to Bobby's Room, which allowed me to watch the most famous high-stakes game in the world and rub elbows with big-name pros like Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harman (and her husband Marco Traniello), John Hennigan, David Oppenheim, Eli Elezra, Abe Mosseri, David Levi, Minh Ly, and even Men "The Master" Nguyen, who came about as close to anteing up in Bobby's Room as me.

    That probably doesn't sound all that exciting to most people, but the odds are that anyone with enough of a poker obsession to immediately recognize cash-game players like Mosseri and Oppenheim who haven't made a ton of televised tournament appearances will get a pretty huge thrill from the Bobby's Room experience. Brunson hobbling past to get to his table and Harman having a lengthy conversation while standing about two feet away definitely makes a $2-$5 no-limit game seem a lot more exciting.

    As for the actual $2-$5 no-limit game, it was very beatable. My table was almost as loose as they were talkative and several players seemed capable of basically giving away money after the flop, which had me convinced that the proper plan was to avoid big pre-flop coin flips and force them to make as many decisions as possible on every street. Of course, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy and all my small-ball tactics couldn't keep me from being forced into a big pre-flop pot almost immediately.

    After a couple of people limped into the pot from early position a very loose, aggressive player with tons of money in front of him raised to $30 from middle position. Dealt ace-king suited one off the button my first thought was to bump it to $100 or so, but rather than risk playing a huge pot before the flop I simply called in position. Unfortunately, the button and small blind also called right behind me, at which point the big blind thought for a few moments before shoving all-in for $225.

    For whatever reason it seemed obvious to me that the all-in didn't come from a monster hand and was simply a "squeeze play" attempting to pick up all the money already in the pot. It also seemed unlikely that the button or small blind would have called behind me if they had monster hands, so when the original raiser folded my decision basically became a math problem. There was $355 in the pot and it was $195 more for me to call.

    As long as the all-in raiser didn't have aces or kings I was facing a coin flip at worst and I'd be a pretty solid favorite in the fairly likely event that he had anything with an ace. Committing $225 before the flop with ace-king was the exact opposite of my plan, but giving up 1.8-to-1 odds in that spot seemed like it would have been a horrible decision. I called and thankfully my reads were correct, because both the button and small blind quickly folded and the all-in guy turned over queen-ten off-suit for a pure bluff.

    Being laid 1.8-to-1 odds on the call when ace-king suited actually has a 67-percent chance of beating queen-ten off-suit made me feel good about how things played out ... until the door card was a queen and he added a ten on the river for two-pair. Despite losing a $550 pot when I was a 2-to-1 favorite an hour into the session I still managed to leave with double my buy-in and did so without playing another big pot, which no doubt would have made Daniel Negreanu proud.

    Interestingly, my ace-king losing to queen-ten wasn't even close to the worst beat that ace-king took at the table. A couple hours after the aforementioned $550 pot, a guy in his late 20s wearing a hoodie sat down directly to my right with a ton of money and immediately began picking on the other players while seemingly trying to convince everyone that he was a pro. He quickly got into a huge pot with the nattily dressed middle-aged businessman sitting directly to my left, at which point the fun began.

    I'm not certain what they had because neither player ended up showing their hand, but it seemed to me that the wannabe pro flopped a set and the middle-aged guy rivered a straight on a paint-filled, four-line board. As he made the laydown against a big raise, the wannabe pro began berating the middle-aged guy, telling him "you were so behind that you didn't even know it" while calling him names like "a stupid tourist fish stick."

    That went on for several minutes and was definitely out of line, but the table remained silent and to his credit the middle-aged guy took it in stride (while raking in the big pot). Clearly upset and still mumbling insults under his breath, the wannabe pro took three hundred-dollar bills out of his backpack to reload. No more than five minutes later, with a few early position limpers in the pot, the wannabe pro put in an oversized raise to around $50 or so.

    At that point a quiet, seemingly tight player in his mid-20s re-raised all-in for about $250. The wannabe pro called immediately and slammed ace-king down on the table, angrily asking, "You got that beat?!" The other guy sheepishly turned over four-five off-suit for a ridiculous bluff and said, "Not yet, but you're gonna be really upset when this hand beats you." Because the poker gods have a sense of humor, the flop's door card was an ace ... followed by a deuce and a three to turn four-five into a flopped straight.

    As the guy with four-five raked the pot worth over $500, the wannabe pro remained surprisingly calm, grabbed a pack of cigarettes from his bag, and excused himself. As soon as he was out of sight the entire table broke out laughing in unison and the "stupid tourist fish stick" who hadn't uttered a single word since being berated during the previous big hand, said: "Is that what they call karma?" For some reason his ace-king losing was a lot more amusing than my ace-king losing, karma or not.


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