Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included braving the blizzard in the name of podcasting, Anthony Swarzak's horseplay, Scott Diamond's setback, the Twins' pitching curse, Joe Saunders choosing "dollars and years" somewhere else, where the Twins' farm system ranks, reaching 500,000 downloads, bad mug shots, The Voice of Reason's evil twin, Lifetime Hockey's annual camp, natural stank, and drinking vodka like water.
• ZiPS projections for the Twins are now available and in addition to being really ugly they have a bad personality too.
• Zach Lowe, formerly of SI.com and now of Grantland, is my favorite NBA writer, and he chatted withWill Leitch about nontraditional paths to sportswriting and blending statistical analysis with old-school reporting. Just really good stuff from two really good writers.
• Todd Helton, who's earned more than $150 million playing baseball, got a DUI while going to buy lottery tickets at a gas station in the middle of the night. Helluva mug shot, too.
• Netflix released the first season of "House of Cards" and it took me just 48 hours to watch all 13 episodes. And that was me actually trying to pace myself. Kevin Spacey is incredible in the lead role, everything about the show is HBO-caliber from the characters and storylines to the acting and look, and I'm completely smitten withKate Mara. I've already pitched hiring Zoe Barnes for HardballTalk to my bosses at NBC. If nothing else she's familiar with social media.
• Mara has single-handedly put Mila Kunis' status as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com in jeopardy after nearly three years with the title. When told, this was her reaction. Or maybe this.
• According to Variety, approximately 25 percent of Netflix users who watched the first episode of "House of Cards" finished all 13 episodes within five days. My people!
• Netflix announced that the first episode of "House of Cards" is available to everyone through the end of February, even if they don't subscribe, so I highly recommend checking it out.
• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episodeJohn Bonnes tried his best to stop me from talking about "House of Cards" for 90 consecutive minutes and we also took a team-by-team look at the AL Central and discussed Dave St. Peter's dimples.
• This week's "The Ultimate Fighter" episode had an incredible knockout and the quick reversal in everyone's reaction made for compelling drama too:
Nothing mixes humanity and fighting like a heartfelt "I'm sorry" to an unconscious person.
• Jonathan Rauch of The Atlantic wrote an interesting article titled "Caring For Your Introvert" and the opening paragraph might as well have been written specifically about me:
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?
He goes on to talk about how introverts are often perceived incorrectly as arrogant or aloof, which is something that's definitely been an issue for me. Good article and hits close to home.
• Jack Morris, who previously did some part-time radio work for the Twins, was hired by the Blue Jays as their new radio analyst.
• NFL.com has great audio of both teams during the final minutes of the Super Bowl, including Joe Flacco suggesting Ravens on the sideline should run onto the field to stop 49ers kick returner Ted Ginn if he looked headed for a touchdown. My favorite part? Matt Birk hearing that and reacting like you would when a drunk buddy wants to do something crazy: "Why can't you?"
• On a related note, this is a great story about a Ravens player who didn't get much attention for saying something good and a sportswriter who thanked him for it.
For now, Mozeliak's desk offers a clue to one way the Cardinals have maintained a competitive edge since he became general manager in October 2007. There are a few black binders scattered about on his desk. There is also a copy of "The Hardball Times 2013 Annual" on top of a pile of papers. When I ask if it is all right if I mention that he reads these sabermetric books, Mozeliak smiles and with the tone of confidence only a GM with one World Series championship under his belt (and plans for more rings in the future) can have, says, "Sure."
Makes for an "interesting" comparison to the Twins, huh?
• FX's website has the first three episodes of Jim Jefferies' new show "Legit" available for free. It's not as good as Jefferies' stand-up comedy (yet), but it's also not bad.
• Scott Aukerman hosting Gillian Jacobs and "Garry Marshall" is a prime example of why "Comedy Bang Bang" is such a great podcast.
• The greatest website of all time, Baseball-Reference.com, turned 13 years old this week. I want to live in a world where creator Sean Formanis more famous than Kim Kardashian. But also a world where Kardashian runs a baseball stats website.
• Tom Scharpling and Jesse Thorn joining Julie Klausnerfor her 100th episode of "How Was Your Week?" is like when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade in Miami.
Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included Super Bowl festivities, breaking down the other four teams in the AL Central, last week's star-studded Twins Fest get-together, Matt Capps staying in the division, my chances with Kate Mara, feeling sorry for Carl Pavano, Dave St. Peter's dimples, the latest on Joe Saunders, meeting people from Twitter, "IAMACEO" by Starflyer 59, and the beauty of Andrew Dice Clay.
Twins president Dave St. Peterwas recently our guest on "Gleeman and The Geek" for a lengthy, unedited interview about a wide variety of on- and off-field topics. We talked to St. Peter for more than 35 minutes, so I'd encourage everyone to listen to the entire episode for the full context of our questions and his responses, but here's a transcript with a sampling of his direct quotes on various subjects.
On the Twins decreasing their payroll significantly for the second straight season:
There's a lot of focus on payroll. I tend to focus more on where we end up, versus where we start. ... I can assure you that Terry Ryan has all sorts of flexibility relative to where our payroll number is. But we also understand that I don't know if he views it coming into this offseason that we were, say, one or maybe even two players away. We're trying to do this right, we're trying to do this the only way we know how to do it, which is build this thing through our farm system over the long term. ... We don't focus a lot on payroll. That's something you guys in the media and all the fans focus on. We try to focus on what gives us the best chance to win.
On why the Twins don't use the payroll space to sign players to one-year deals:
I can just tell you that there's plenty of payroll flexibility. We don't view payroll as the problem. It takes two. It's easy to say "spend $15 million on guys on one-year deals." When you're sitting in that GM chair it's a little different in terms of getting that agent to agree to that one-year deal. ... Particular from a free agent who's going to assess how close we are to really winning. You might identify a player who's a high-profile guy, but you've got to understand he also has to want to come play in Minnesota, play at Target Field. ... I can tell you Terry Ryan has had a lot of discussions with a lot of free agents, a lot of guys you have championed that we sign. Don't think that we don't necessarily agree with you, but it takes two to get those deals done.
On whether it's been hard to get free agents to come to Minnesota for non-monetary reasons:
No. It's dollars and years. It's dollars and years. And at the end of the day, a player might have Option A and Option B, depending where they're from. He may be able to take less in Option A, but at the end of the day it's ultimately going to come down to dollars and years.
On the many free agent starters who signed one-year deals with other teams:
We've had a rich history here, certainly during Terry's tenure, of trying to make good baseball decisions. And we certainly have a belief in what a guy's worth. I have to trust, with all due respect, I have to trust our evaluators. I think they've done a great job. We're trying to get better. And ultimately your assessment of a player, there might be a reason why a guy got a one-year deal versus a multi-year deal that perhaps we're more privy to than maybe the public is. Whether it's health, whether it's makeup, whether a player specifically wanted to play in a certain market or a certain ballpark or with a certain manager or a certain teammate.
On the rapidly growing gap in local television revenue:
I think TV revenue has always played somewhat of a role, certainly since the explosion of cable and satellite television back in the early 80s. We all know about the disparities in payroll that we've dealt with in our game and that's largely been driven by baseball's economic model, which certainly is much more based on local television and cable dollars being the driving force versus the national. I think on some level Minnesota is going to be Minnesota. There's going to be some limitations on what we can reasonably expect out of our local partnership with a FOX Sports North relative to what the Los Angeles Dodgers can expect. ... I think right now we have a market deal. Will that be the case five years from now or 10 years from now? I don't know.
On the impact of revenue sharing within the new collective bargaining agreement:
The good news from a baseball perspective is now today we have a pretty robust revenue-sharing plan, so now the Dodgers, if you read, they're going to go out and sign a record-breaking deal. They're going to give up a certain percentage of that into the revenue-sharing pool, which in essence benefits every team in the game, not just the Dodgers. ... That's played a huge role in having much more competitive balance in the game. Could there be more revenue sharing? Yeah, I'd love to see it, but it's interesting in the National Football League, where it's all about national television revenue, you have many owners fighting for less revenue sharing.
On the Twins' unsuccessful attempt to launch their own channel, Victory Sports, in 2004:
I think it was the right idea, it was probably the wrong time. But at the same time I would tell you that without that launch, or failed launch, of Victory I don't know that we would be where we are today relative to the television revenue that we're garnering from our partnership with FOX. I don't look back on that with a lot of regrets, but it certainly was a concept that was pretty controversial in the market at the time. I think what we were trying to do was control our own destiny, so to speak, in terms of television.
On the Twins switching radio stations from 1500-ESPN to the Pohlad-owned KTWIN-96.3:
I think radio tends to be a little more pure in the sense that, yeah there's a revenue component to it, but it's never going to be the single biggest driver in terms of a team's broadcast revenues. For us it was more of an opportunity that we have a sister company that's a radio station, an FM radio station, and we felt as though we could do a better job of servicing fans in the Twin Cities metropolitan area with not only the game sounding better, but hopefully covering more area, penetrating more buildings.
On the 81 percent renewal rate for season tickets:
I'd say your average renewal rate is probably 75-80 percent. I can tell you it's extremely good for a team coming off of two consecutive 90-plus loss seasons. It continues to confirm that this is frankly a dynamite baseball market and one that certainly has great passion.
On the future of Twins Fest once the Metrodome is no longer an option:
I'm hopeful that perhaps the new football stadium, which will be able to be configured for baseball, perhaps could be the long-term home for Twins Fest despite the fact that we don't have any history there. I think it'll lend itself well to the event. But short term, as we move from the Metrodome, we'll probably have to change the event pretty dramatically for a couple years. ... It probably becomes a little bit smaller, it probably becomes a little bit different in terms of the way we price tickets. And I'm not really thrilled about that, but I just think that's going to be the reality of it.
On his expectations for the team in 2013:
I think we expect to get better. Everybody talks about how we look on paper versus everybody else and I can tell you from my experience in this game is that's a very dangerous assessment. ... At the end of the day I'd like to think that you're going to see a baseball team that's very competitive, we hope to obviously be in a position where we can contend, but first things first I think we've got to restore some of the fundamentals and we've got to get off to a better start. I think that's been a significant issue for us, particularly last year, the year before. We've got to play better early and we understand that. Our everyday nine lineup, we frankly think is good enough. We think we'll score enough runs. We think our bullpen will be fine. But ultimately it's going to come down to who's on that mound in terms of the starters and there's going to be a lot of focus on that in spring training.
There's a whole lot more where that came from--the above quotes represent maybe one-third of the total interview--so check out the full episode.
• "Clubhouse Confidential" on MLB Network is a really good, sabermetrically inclined show hosted by Brian Kenny and Friday's episode focused on the Twins. They had me on as a guest and then immediately after my segment they interviewed Terry Ryan. You don't see a whole lot of shows that feature a blogger and a general manager, which is why "Clubhouse Confidential" and Kenny are so fun to watch. Here's the opening segment, which includes my appearance:
• Two years ago the Twins paid $7.15 million to avoid arbitration with Matt Capps and last year they paid $4.5 million to re-sign him while also forfeiting a draft pick, but after a season in which he was limited to 29 innings by arm problems Capps could manage only a minor-league deal with the Indians. Capps was overpaid and overrated by the Twins at every turn for three years, but as a low-cost middle relief candidate he's a very solid pickup for the Indians.
• Fun facts: Capps has the 10th-most saves in Twins history despite converting just 79 percent of his save chances. Among the 31 pitchers with at least 40 saves from 2010-2012 he was second-to-last in strikeout rate, home run rate, and opponents' batting average. In two-and-a-half years with the Twins he threw 122 total innings, for which they gave up $13 million, Wilson Ramos, and a first-round draft pick. It was a bad trade then and they kept making it even worse.
• Kevin Correia has spent his entire career in the National League, posting a 4.54 ERA in 1,066 innings through age 31, which is among the many reasons why it was a bad idea for the Twins to give him a two-year, $10 million contract. Tyler Mason of FOXSportsNorth.com asked Correia about the league switch--which has long been considered unfavorable for pitchers--and got an interesting response:
I think in the National League your innings get cut short because you get pinch-hit for in certain situations. So I'm looking forward to seeing how many innings I can put up in the American League for the first time in my career.
Which sounds good until you think about it. There have no doubt been times when Correia was pulled from a game because his spot in the lineup was due up, but that's hardly an every-start occurrence and is more than balanced out by getting to face the opposing pitcher multiple times per game. Last season NL and AL pitchers averaged an identical 5.9 innings per start. For his career Correia has allowed a .400 OPS to opposing pitchers and a .790 OPS to everyone else.
• It sure sounds like the Twins have a one-year offer on the table to free agent left-hander Joe Saunders, but he'd rather return to the Orioles if he can't get a multi-year deal. On last week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode Twins president Dave St. Peter made it pretty clear that they still have plenty of payroll space for 2013 but don't want to commit any additional money for 2014 or 2015, so while I'm hardly a Saunders fan overpaying him for one season would make sense.
• Kyle Waldrop signed a minor-league deal with the Pirates after the Twins dropped him from the 40-man roster in October. He's been in the organization since 2004, when the Twins drafted him 25th overall with the compensatory pick for losing LaTroy Hawkins as a free agent, but injuries forced Waldrop to switch to the bullpen and at age 27 his upside is limited. Waldrop induces tons of ground balls, but managed just 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A.
• Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs wrote an interesting article about Ryan Doumit and the impact of catcher defense on perceived value.
• I usually post the new "Gleeman and The Geek" episode here on Mondays, but we're recording later than usual this week because John Bonnes goes out of town for Super Bowl weekend every year and I didn't want to subject the world to another "Gleeman Without The Geek" episode like last time. When we do record this week's episode I'd like to include a mailbag segment, so if you have any questions post them in the comments section or send them to me via Twitter.
Get the 22nd edition of the New York Times bestselling Baseball Prospectus Annual. Edited by Aaron Gleeman, it features a foreword from Twins pitcher Glen Perkins, a Twins team chapter written by Gleeman and Parker Hageman, and 600 pages of analysis, projections, essays, rankings, and in-depth coverage of all 30 teams.