December 22, 2009

Happy Festivus

In honor of Festivus (and the rapidly approaching deadline for Rotoworld's annual baseball magazine) my blogging will be lighter than usual for a little while unless the Twins make a significant move. In the meantime, please take a moment to learn more about my favorite holiday ...


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December 20, 2009

Twins Notes: Atkins, Feliz, Humber, Blyleven, and Game 163

Not much going on worth writing about in Twins land right now, but here are a few tidbits ...

  • When it comes to free agents sometimes being a Twins fan means rooting for other teams to save them from themselves, which is why Garrett Atkins and Pedro Feliz signing last week qualifies as very good news. Atkins and Feliz have been linked to the Twins at various points this offseason, but neither would've been a particularly positive addition or a sound investment. Atkins has a horrible glove with an overrated bat and Feliz has a good glove with a horrible bat, yet they'll each make $5 million in 2010.
  • Maybe the Rockies will save the Twins from themselves with Robb Quinlan.
  • Philip Humber twice cleared waivers after the Twins dropped him from the 40-man roster during the season and now he's left the organization, inking a minor-league contract with the Royals. He was the third overall pick in the 2004 draft and came to the Twins in the four-player package for Johan Santana, but hasn't been the same since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2005 and showed nothing since the trade to suggest that he can be a useful major leaguer.

    Humber coughed up 14 runs in 21 innings for the Twins, allowing opponents to bat .329/.430/.518, and posted a 4.96 ERA in 254 innings at Rochester. It wouldn't be surprising to see Humber pitch in the big leagues again and maybe he can even find a niche as a long reliever, but as a 27-year-old who cleared waivers twice in the past six months and could manage only a minor-league deal from one of MLB's worst teams as a free agent it's safe to say that any pretense of upside has vanished. Oh well.

  • Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts has put together his annual plea to Hall of Fame voters regarding Bert Blyleven deserving induction. I'm in total agreement with Lederer and have written similar pleas in the past, but eventually stopped doing so because a) the Hall of Fame and other honors chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America ceased meaning much to me, and b) Blyleven doesn't actually buy into the rationale for his enshrinement, constantly relying on wins to evaluate every pitcher but him.
  • I'll marry and dump Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Keeley Hazell before the Twins out-bid 29 teams for a 21-year-old Cuban defector who throws in the mid-90s, but at least it gives Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune something to write about.
  • Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated selected the one-game playoff between the Twins and Tigers as the best regular-season game of the decade:
    The beautiful thing about baseball is a great game doesn't necessarily have to be a well-played game. The Twins-Tigers tiebreaker to decide the AL Central had blunders, errors, pickoffs and all sorts of confusion. But it was loaded with drama. The Tigers had a lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning. The Twins tied it up and had a chance to win, but Alexi Casilla was thrown out at the plate by Ryan Raburn. The Tigers had the bases loaded in the 12th but could not score. The Twins scored in the bottom of the 12th to win 6-5. Sometimes sloppy, sometimes brilliant, always exciting--that's baseball at its best.

    Naturally it's hard for me to disagree, although if you don't mind overlooking who actually won the game the previous year's tiebreaker between the Twins and White Sox wasn't too shabby either.



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    December 17, 2009

    Link-O-Rama

  • Tony Oliva never played in the Metrodome, but still managed to provide the last Twins memory there.
  • Last week the Washington Post ran the greatest newspaper correction of all time.
  • For the past couple weeks Poker After Dark has featured a high-stakes, six-handed cash game with Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Patrick Antonius, and Gus Hansen. Naturally the action and banter have been highly entertaining, but my favorite part is that every few rounds four or five of them agree to put $100,000 in blind and run the hand as basically a multi-way coin flip for half a million dollars. All of which produced this amazing quote from Ivey after he lost several in a row:
    I like it when I lose so much money I can barely breathe. That's the feeling I go for. I'm addicted to that feeling.

    They ought to frame that quote and hang it outside the main of entrance every casino in Las Vegas.

  • And speaking of poker, gambling legend Billy Baxter shared a ton of great stories while appearing on "The Scoop" with Diego Cordovez and Adam Schoenfeld. During the multi-part interview they noted that Baxter was profiled by Sports Illustrated back in 1984 and thanks to the power of the interwebs you can read the lengthy and well-done piece by writer John Underwood. Tigers star and should-be Hall of Fame shortstop Alan Trammell was on the cover.
  • Unlike these poor guys, I'd have a far better shot of being fired for not playing fantasy football.
  • David Letterman uses Twitter for the first (and perhaps last) time:


    My initial reaction to Twitter wasn't all that different, but after coming late to the party I'm now obsessed.
  • If any AG.com readers are looking for gift ideas, I'd like these for Hanukkah.
  • Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson apparently isn't a huge fan of Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder.
  • For whatever reason recently I've used Mila Kunis when needing to reference an attractive woman in various articles, so this reminder of Marisa Miller's utility in such situations is very useful.
  • My viewership of Everybody Loves Raymond was sporadic at best, but Ray Romano's new show on TNT has definitely held my interest through two episodes and Men of a Certain Age is totally different than the long-running sitcom. Plus, any show with Andre Braugher is worth checking out.
  • Sadly, after two seasons on HBO and 22 glorious episodes Flight of the Conchords is no more.
  • After attending his first winter meetings my Circling the Bases blogmate Craig Calcaterra described the scene as "Amalie Benjamin and a thousand dudes." What he didn't say is how sexy those dudes were. Not pictured, of course, is my fatass, which is why I'm in any sort of position to do the goofing.
  • Dan LeBatard was a tremendous guest on Bill Simmons' podcast and they touched on tons of good topics under the pretense of discussing ESPN's latest documentary about University of Miami football.
  • After watching Michael K. Williams do mostly nothing in Gone Baby Gone, this video of 100 quotes from The Wire restored my faith in humanity:


    Not only does the video include my favorite quote ("money ain't got no owners, only spenders"), there's a beautiful little Clay Davis run near the end.
  • The man behind the world's best baseball website is now a member of the BBWAA.
  • Peter Gammons' touching farewell column after 20 years at ESPN was a reminder of why he's such an amazing figure in baseball history, but I'll forever be most grateful to him for turning me on to Susan Tedeschi. Earlier this year Gammons e-mailed me out of the blue to say that he enjoyed my Rotoworld columns, and the list of writers to whom he's reached out like that seems never-ending. Hall of Fame baseball writer and maybe an even better person.
  • Speaking of farewells Matt Thomas is leaving KSTP radio for a similar job in his native Houston. Not only was Thomas good on the air leading up to nightly Twins games, he was nice enough to look past my constant bashing of radio-mates Jim Souhan and Patrick Reusse to invite me to his poker game.
  • There are a lot to choose from, but this is one of my favorite end-of-the-decade lists: "40 Things That Were Popular at the Beginning of the 2000s." We've come a long way from boybands and trucker hats.
  • Some of the highlights from my NBCSports.com blogging this week:

    - Who's better: Halladay or Lee?
    - White Sox look just about set after Pierre trade
    - Hawkins schmoozes his way to $7.5 million
    - McCann is the last "Baby Brave" standing
    - Are the Red Sox gearing up for Gonzalez?
    - Forget the veterans: Pittsburgh should hand first base to Clement
    - Tigers may give Coke chance to join rotation
    - Do Yankees really think Miranda can be the DH?
    - Arizona looking for closer, but reunion with Valverde too costly
    - Mets close to signing Japanese reliever Igarashi

  • Finally, because YouTube unfortunately doesn't have much in actual Van Morrison stuff this week's AG.com-approved music video is a cappella group Clef Hangers doing a live version of "Crazy Love":



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    December 16, 2009

    New System For Comments

    I've used "Haloscan" to host the comments section here for years, but this week I got an e-mail saying that they were shutting the service down at the end of the month. They offered to transfer my account to another service called "Echo," so I'm giving that a try. I realize this is incredibly boring and you'd much rather read something about the Twins, but I'd appreciate the help from anyone willing to check out the new comments setup and give me their thoughts on how it looks, performs, and works. Thanks.

    Oh, and I'll be back tomorrow with a nice, long Link-O-Rama.

    UPDATE: Early reviews are mostly favorable, but it looks like newer comments are appearing and then disappearing at random. Suffice it to say that's a problem, so please keep testing it out and giving me feedback, good or bad.



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    Now That BBWAA is Enlightened, Can We Get a Redo On 2005?

    Since a large portion of the Baseball Writers Association of America seems to be beyond their previous over-reliance on win-loss records to evaluate the performances of starting pitchers, can we get a good old-fashioned mulligan on the American League Cy Young vote from 2005?

    Bartolo Colon, who won the award that season, had a 3.48 ERA, 157-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .244 opponents' batting average in 223 innings.

    Johan Santana, who did not win the award that season, had a 2.87 ERA, 238-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .210 opponents' batting average in 232 innings.

    Santana was clearly superior in just about every possible way, throwing more innings than Colon with an ERA that was 20 percent lower, racking up 50 percent more strikeouts with the same number of walks, and being 15 percent harder to hit. And if you want to delve into some deeper stats, Santana had a 2.80 FIP compared to Colon at 3.75. So how did Colon not only win the award, but win the award with 15 more first-place votes than Santana in a pool of 28 voters?

    Colon was 21-8.
    Santana was 16-7.

    They may not care so much about that now, but the BBWAA were sure obsessed with win-loss records four years ago. The voters saw those 21 wins and ignored everything else, including the fact that Colon pitched for a 95-win team that provided him with 5.6 runs of support per nine innings. Santana pitched for an 83-win team that gave him 4.4 runs of support per nine innings. Colon received 30 percent more run support than Santana overall, including an amazing 10 or more runs eight times in 33 starts.

    So yes, the BBWAA deserves credit for recently changing their stance and correctly rewarding the best pitcher in each league with the award that's supposed to go to the best pitcher in each league even if they didn't have the best win-loss record. With that said, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum are lucky that they weren't trying to win the award in 2005 and it remains to be seen if the voters would have been willing to look beyond an otherwise inferior 20-game winner like Colon had there been one this year.

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

    We just completed the third season of Gleeman World 2 in WhatIfSports.com's great Hardball Dynasty game and there's one franchise opening. Hardball Dynasty is not a fantasy baseball game, but rather a simulation of running a fictional MLB organization from rookie-ball to the majors. It's incredibly detailed and time-consuming with a steep learning curve, so first and foremost we're looking for an owner who has played Hardball Dynasty in the past, although anyone is free to express interest in the open spot.


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