March 29, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Sad news about Johan Santana, who's probably my favorite Twin of all time and was such a huge part of this blog, beginning with the "Free Johan!" days and extending to his time as the best pitcher in baseball. AG.com began in 2002, from 2002-2010 a total of 121 pitchers started at least 125 games, and Santana was the only one with an ERA below 3.00. And I'll never stop being upset that he was robbed of three straight Cy Young awards by win-obsessed voters.

• Congrats to everyone involved for what is probably the best moment in journalism history. And the follow-up might be even better if you pay close attention to the photo credit.

• Crazy, sad story about catfishing, blackmail, suicide, and a Minnesota native.

• Turning an old ballpark into an apartment complex is absolutely brilliant. I want to live there.

Headline of the week/weak: "Police called over man singing 'Free Falling.'"

• If you were house-sitting a mansion and found $100,000 worth of 100-year-old whiskey, what else could you possibly do?

• As a big "Parenthood" fan I already liked Dax Shepard, but his excellent, emotional story about saying goodbye to his father makes me a fan for life.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked Aaron Hicks and Drew Butera, recapped Saturday's big Twins Daily meet-up, and discussed why getting to second base without passing out can be difficult.

Alison Agosti is one of my favorite Twitter follows and podcast guests, and this video of her, Kyle Kinane, and Nick Rutherford telling jokes to avoid drinking "toilet wine" is funny:

After watching that I'm more convinced than ever that we need to do a "drinking game" episode of "Gleeman and The Geek." You know, as opposed to the usual "just drinking" episodes.

• Baltimore reassigned 36-year-old Lew Ford to the minors, where he could be Triple-A teammates with Danny Valencia.

• First-year manager Mike Redmond picked Kevin Slowey for a spot in the Marlins' starting rotation. Redmond caught Slowey for 11 games as Twins teammates.

• What does the Twins' season-opening roster look like? I'm glad you asked.

• I made my triumphant return to Paul Allen's show on KFAN and after 20 minutes of Twins talk he called me out for not following him on Twitter as I warned: "I don't like where this is going."

Rob Dibble was fired as a high school baseball coach after 10 games.

• Addiction-wise I'm exactly like Buzz Bissinger, except for eating Chinese food and queuing movies I'll never watch on Netflix.

• Shouldn't the goal be to spend as little time as possible in public bathrooms?

• As someone who writes about baseball for a living I'm not qualified for much else, but "full-time barbeque editor" seems like a job I could thrive at.

• If what Tilda Swinton did qualifies as performance art then I'm ... actually, I don't know of any famous performance artists.

• Important question from my childhood: Why did Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky never hook up?

• RIP Gus Triandos, who was a very good catcher and a very memorable part of "The Wire":

Most underrated part of that whole thing? Officer Dozerman is a stat-head.

Norm MacDonald launched a new video podcast and his first guest was Bob Einstein, who you may also know as Super Dave Osborne and/or Marty Funkhouser. It was great.

• "Aaron Gleeman loves him more than Mila Kunis and Julie Klausner combined" is big talk.

Close enough, I guess.

• My super-cheery Twins season preview on NBCSports.com.

• I defy you to find a better picture of DMX.

George Clooney, late bloomer.

• As someone who legitimately likes Pizza Hut's chicken wings I don't have much room to talk, but Mike Trout has terrible taste in chicken wings.

• If you love listening to Al Green's music as much as I do you'll also enjoy listening to Oliver Wang talk about his music and the greatness of "I'm Still In Love With You."

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Ray Henson for winning a World Series of Poker circuit event.

Ron Swanson fans should listen to this, if only to hear how great/goofy Nick Offerman's real-life laugh is.

• Netflix instant recommendation: "Bachelorette" is pretty mediocre overall, but there was plenty of fuel for my longtime Lizzy Caplan crush.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Aaron Hicks girlfriend"
- "My nose cartilage grow is it normal?"
- "Delmon crab stick"
- "How much does Boof Bonser make?"
- "Pronounce Trevor Plouffe"
- "Nick Blackburn awful"
- "Does Kate Mara wear braces?"
- "Is Darren Wolfson married?"
- "Wild boar watching"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the aforementioned "I'm Still In Love With You" by Al Green:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Territory Train, which takes the heavy lifting out of planning and executing Twins road trips. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 28, 2013

Twins Notes: Setting the Opening Day roster

ron gardenhire spring training

• Barring any changes between now and Monday here's what the Twins' roster looks like:

   LINEUP:                    ROTATION:
C  Joe Mauer               RH Vance Worley
1B Justin Morneau          RH Kevin Correia
2B Brian Dozier            RH Mike Pelfrey
SS Pedro Florimon          RH Liam Hendriks
3B Trevor Plouffe          RH Cole De Vries
LF Josh Willingham
CF Aaron Hicks                BULLPEN:
RF Chris Parmelee          LH Glen Perkins
DH Ryan Doumit             RH Jared Burton
                           LH Brian Duensing
   BENCH:                  RH Casey Fien
IF Jamey Carroll           RH Josh Roenicke
IF Eduardo Escobar         RH Ryan Pressly
OF Darin Mastroianni       LH Tyler Robertson
OF Wilkin Ramirez

If the above 25-man roster sticks there will be a total of 11 holdovers from last season's Opening Day roster: Joe Mauer, Justin MorneauJosh WillinghamRyan Doumit, Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe, and Jamey Carroll among position players and Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, and Liam Hendriks among pitchers.

Scott Diamond's elbow problems opened the door for Samuel Deduno to get back into the rotation, but a groin injury suffered during the World Baseball Classic shut that door. Deduno, who was dropped from the 40-man roster and passed through waivers unclaimed four months ago, will head to Triple-A. Cole De Vries, who unlike Deduno is on the 40-man roster, is set to join Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Hendriks in the season-opening rotation.

De Vries held his own in 14 starts as a 27-year-old rookie last season, but he was an emergency call-up when the rotation was wrecked by injuries and has a 4.39 ERA with just 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 156 innings at Triple-A. De Vries throws strikes and as an Eden Prairie native who went undrafted out of the University of Minnesota he's a good story, but he's likely to serve up a ton of homers and turning to him already is a bad sign.

Alex Burnett stuck around in the majors far longer than his performance warranted, spending nearly three full seasons in the Twins' bullpen despite a 4.61 ERA, sub par control, and just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings. On the surface his 3.52 ERA last season may have looked like a big step forward, but it came with a horrible 36-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 72 innings and the Twins smartly didn't let his experience keep them from sending Burnett to Triple-A.

Barring late additions Burnett's demotion to Rochester means that the four bullpen spots after Perkins as closer and Burton and Duensing as his primary setup men will go to Casey Fien, Josh Roenicke, Ryan Pressly, and Tyler Robertson. Pressly is the biggest surprise after the Twins opted not to keep Rule 5 picks in the majors in both 2011 and 2012, but he throws hard and they clearly like how he's looked since shifting from starter to reliever late last season.

I'm glad Fien is getting another shot after looking good in 35 innings last season. He has a solid enough track record in the minors to think he can be a useful middle man. Roenicke was claimed off waivers from the Rockies in November and has shown the durability to soak up innings, but poor control and sub par strikeout rates aren't an encouraging combo. Rafael Perez not being ready yet following shoulder surgery made it pretty easy for Robertson to be the third left-hander.

Perkins and Burton put the Twins in good shape for the eighth and ninth innings, but beyond that duo Fien, Roenicke, and Pressly from the right side and Duensing and Robertson from the left side isn't particularly promising. Anthony Swarzak, who likely would have made the team as a long reliever, and Tim Wood, who was in the mix for one of the final bullpen spots, will both begin the season on the disabled list.

• Last offseason the Twins signed outfielder Wilkin Ramirez to a minor-league deal and sent him to the minors without any fanfare after he hit .214 in 10 spring training games. He played most of the season at Triple-A and did little to distinguish himself, hitting .276/.316/.451 with 15 homers and an ugly 97-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 98 games. He became a free agent and re-signed with the Twins on another minor-league deal. And now Ramirez is on the Opening Day roster.

What changed between then and now to make a 27-year-old journeyman with an underwhelming decade-long track record and awful plate discipline worth a roster spot in the majors? Ramirez has had a good spring, hitting .444 with nine doubles in 16 games. And that's basically it. Last year at this time no one gave him much thought and his play in Rochester didn't warrant a call-up, but 45 good at-bats convinced the Twins he's the man for the job.

It doesn't matter much, because backups on last-place teams aren't exactly of vital importance and the Twins failed to bring in many superior options, but trusting 50 plate appearances in spring training over 4,000 plate appearances in the minors generally isn't a sound approach to decision-making and Ramirez is an odd pick to replace Drew Butera following Ron Gardenhire's call to "beef up" the bench. He's a career .255/.310/.430 hitter at Triple-A.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press crunched the numbers and calculates the Twins' payroll at $81 million, which is the lowest since it was $65 million during the final season at the Metrodome in 2009. In their first season at Target Field the Twins spent $98 million and in Year 2 that rose to $113 million, but the payroll dropped to $94 million in Year 3 and now it's well below MLB average. Not quite the pattern fans were hoping for throughout the new ballpark push.

• Friend of AG.com Dan Szymborski predicted the American League standings for ESPN.com based on his excellent ZiPS projection system and not surprisingly the Twins are bringing up the rear in the AL Central at 66-96. Only the Astros have a worse projected record in the AL.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode featured a whole bunch of Aaron Hicks talk.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Territory Train, which takes the heavy lifting out of planning and executing Twins road trips. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 26, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #86: Hello Hicks, Demoted Drew, and Schmoozing

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included the Twins naming Aaron Hicks their starting center fielder, Drew Butera's demotion to Triple-A, the Twins Daily get-together at 612 Brew, the rotation minus Scott Diamond, meeting podcast listeners and smart fans, realistic expectations for all prospects, trying to get to second base without passing out, Joe Benson's future, feeling old because of Tupac, trying not to hate Duke, and Las Vegas vs. Mystic Lake.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 86

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Territory Train, which takes the heavy lifting out of planning and executing Twins road trips. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 25, 2013

Twins Notes: Hicks, Butera, Gibson, Diamond, Benson, and 612 Brew

aaron hicks three homers

• Making official what was pretty clearly the plan as soon as they followed up the Denard Span trade by also trading Ben Revere, the Twins named Aaron Hicks the Opening Day center fielder. Perhaps if Hicks had a terrible spring training Darin Mastroianni could have worked his way into the gig as a place-holder, but Hicks made that a moot point by hitting .350/.397/.650 with three steals in 18 games, including a headline-making three-homer game.

Hicks is a very good prospect with an all-around skill set that could make him a long-term building block, so I'm extremely excited to see him play. However, by jumping him from Double-A to the big leagues at age 23 the Twins may be rushing his development a bit and are definitely sacrificing their ability to delay his eventual free agency for the maximum amount of time. If he never goes back to the minors Hicks will be a free agent following the 2018 season, at age 29.

Based on service time rules they could've pushed back his free agency by an entire year, gaining an extra season and 162 games of team control, by sending Hicks to Triple-A for as little as four weeks. In that scenario if the Twins called him up in late April or early May and Hicks never went back to the minors he'd be a free agent following 2019, at age 30. Short-term gratification is hard to ignore, but stretching a prospect's pre-free agency years is done regularly by many teams.

Instead of having Hicks for 135 games this year and 162 games in 2019 they'll have him for 162 games this year and zero games in 2019. That math seems straightforward enough, especially considering Hicks is likely to be better as a 29-year-old veteran than as a 23-year-old rookie and the Twins might actually be contending in 2019. It's not about being cheap, it's about maximizing a player's value before he can leave. But it apparently never factored into the Twins' decision.

• One thing that has always made Hicks an intriguing prospect is excellent plate discipline, which he displayed immediately as an 18-year-old at rookie-ball in 2008 and has maintained ever since. He's averaged 98 walks per 150 games as a pro, including 79 walks in 129 games at Double-A last season, which is not a skill set you typically find in speedy, athletic, up-the-middle defenders. Joe Mauer, who knows a little something about plate discipline, took notice of Hicks' approach:

I've been real impressed by him. For a young guy to take pitches and work at-bats is pretty impressive. Even today, I talked to him and told him taking pitches is going to help the guys behind him. He has a pretty good grasp on how to approach an at-bat.

Ron Gardenhire tends to use speedy center fielders and middle infielders atop the lineup even if they lack strong on-base skills, so it's nice that Hicks is actually a patient hitter. By comparison, Revere drew a grand total of 57 walks in 254 games for the Twins. Hicks' high walk rate has also come with lots of strikeouts and mediocre batting averages, so it'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to facing pitchers with better control and no fear of throwing him strikes.

• Back in December the Twins tendered Drew Butera a contract for 2013 and then in January the two sides avoided arbitration with a one-year, $700,000 deal, but he'll be making that money in Rochester after being optioned to the minors. On one hand it's encouraging that the Twins finally realized a career .183/.232/.265 hitter probably shouldn't be in the majors. On the other hand it would have been nice to come to that conclusion before signing him to a $700,000 contract.

One-year deals to avoid arbitration aren't fully guaranteed until certain dates this month, so even after signing Butera they could've saved five-sixths or three-fourths of the money by releasing him. Detroit recently did that with Brennan Boesch, saving $1.9 million of a $2.3 million deal, but those deadlines have passed. Gardenhire talked of wanting a stronger bench and removing Butera fits that, but he also talked of wanting Jim Thome and that apparently isn't happening.

Kyle Gibson won't be joining Hicks on the Opening Day roster, as initial reports of him looking great coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery gave way to struggles in actual games and the Twins sent him to Triple-A. He'll be limited to 130 innings this season, so there's an argument for not wasting them at Triple-A, but the problem with that line of thinking is assuming Gibson is ready to succeed against big-league hitters when he hadn't even done that yet before surgery.

• What was supposed to be minor surgery to remove a bone chip from Scott Diamond's elbow in December has become a season-opening stint on the disabled list for the would-be Opening Day starter. For now the plan is for Diamond to make his season debut in mid-April, missing the Game 1 matchup versus Justin Verlander and a couple more starts, but the Twins' injury timetables haven't been worth a whole lot in recent years and worrying about elbow issues tends to loom.

• Diamond on the DL and Gibson at Triple-A means Samuel Deduno or Cole DeVries is likely to be in the Opening Day rotation and both of them could get a spot if the Twins decide to send Liam Hendriks back to Triple-A. At the beginning of the offseason Terry Ryan spoke of big plans for fixing the awful rotation, yet the Twins are already turning to the same career minor leaguers who were thrown against the wall to see if they stuck last season as emergency options.

Joe Benson was sent to Triple-A after a lackluster spring training, but even if he'd played well there wasn't much room for him on a roster with Hicks and Mastroianni. Benson is coming off a terrible, injury wrecked season, so he needs to get back on track or risk falling off the prospect radar, but he'd seemingly be the obvious call-up if Hicks struggles or if any of Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee, or Ryan Doumit gets injured.

Danny Rams and Cole Nelson were among a handful of minor leaguers released by the Twins. Rams was a 2007 second-round pick with lots of power, but couldn't turn himself into a quality defensive catcher and hit .241 with 543 strikeouts in 406 games while failing to get past Single-A. Nelson and Lester Oliveros were acquired from the Tigers for Delmon Young in 2011--the same day "Gleeman and The Geek" debuted--but the big left-hander from Edina stalled at Single-A.

Anthony Swarzak will join Diamond in beginning the season on the disabled list as he recovers from the fractured ribs suffered in the "horseplay" incident during Twins Fest.

Tim Wood, who was a candidate for the Twins' bullpen and out of minor-league options, has been shut down with a strained rotator cuff.

Matt Capps failed to make the Indians on a minor-league deal and may accept an assignment to Triple-A one year after beginning the season as the Twins' closer.

Scott Baker's comeback from Tommy John surgery has been derailed by a strained elbow and he'll be shut down for at least a month.

• Thanks to everyone who came to the Twins Daily meet-up Saturday at 612 Brew. It was a great turnout and we're definitely planning to host semi-regular events throughout the season. Between the beer and laid-back space 612 Brew is an ideal venue, with the added bonus that the owners are Twins fans and the head brewer is a "Gleeman and The Geek" listener. I'm sure we'll be back there at some point, but in the meantime I highly recommended checking out 612 Brew.

• I didn't think to take any pictures until after the crowd had already thinned out a bit, but ...

twins daily 612 meetup2

twins daily 612 meetup1

twins daily 612 meetup4

twins daily 612 meetup3


This week's blog content is sponsored by Territory Train, which takes the heavy lifting out of planning and executing Twins road trips. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 22, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Reminder: Twins Daily is having a get-together Saturday afternoon to watch the Twins-Rays spring training game on television. I'll be there and you should too. Details here.

• They did pretty well casting the show, but seeing the other names on the original call sheet for "The Office" is very interesting. Adam Scott and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Jim and Pam would have been fun.

Zach Lowe's article on Grantland about the next big thing in basketball analysis is fascinating.

• My pick for the best team in the American League probably won't surprise anyone.

• I saw John Mulaney at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown last weekend and he was incredible. An hour of non-stop laughs, mostly from stories rather than one-liners, and the 500-person crowd couldn't possibly have been more charmed by him. He seamlessly mixed in some funny stuff about Minnesota, coaxed a ton of laughs out of talking to a random audience member halfway through the set, and was basically just perfect. And his opener, Carmen Lynch, was really good too.

• Lynch is coming to Acme Comedy Company this summer to headline her own show, where she'll do closer to an hour instead of the 15 minutes she did Saturday. I'm already looking forward to it. Oh, and here's a picture she took of the audience from backstage (I'm the good-looking one).

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about Kyle Gibson's assignment to Triple-A and whether our bar-buying idea might be helped by Kickstarter.

• Speaking of using Kickstarter to fund a new bar opening, apparently it's already worked locally.

• Life is tough for Jon Hamm. Poor guy must be so whatever the opposite of embarrassed is.

• On a related note (sort of), "March Mad Men" is just a good use of the internet:

Every time I watch a video like that I can't stop thinking about how long it took someone to make.

• Old friend Pat Neshek talked about what life is like six months after losing his newborn son.

Cory Cove, who goes mostly by "Sludge" on KFAN, won a poker tournament worth $50,000.

• Thanks to everyone who submitted mailbag questions via Twitter. Here are all the answers.

• Speaking of comedy shows I'm looking forward to attending, Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are coming to Minnesota to do a live "Throwing Shade" podcast at Lee's Liquor Lounge on June 27. I wrote about "Throwing Shade" as part of my guide to podcasts last year. It's great, they're great, and I'll bet the live show here will be great.

• Hey guys, did you know "bloggers are where it's at"?

Nick Offerman brought out the big guns to promote his new movie.

• Time-lapse NBA boxscores are pretty damn cool.

• What happens when a Diamondbacks minor leaguer interacts with comedian Rob Delaney on Twitter? Outing yourself as anti-gay marriage and the type of person who has to tell someone that you're unfollowing them on Twitter is quite a combo.

• I hope his one-scene cameo on "Girls" reminds everyone how great Colin Quinn is. I'd love to see a "Girls" spinoff starring Quinn and Alex Karpovsky. And maybe Amy Schumer too.

• I wrote a Royals season preview on HardballTalk and then got wonderful replies on Twitter.

• Oh man, the 80s were crazy.

• Thunderous dunks and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are two of my favorite things, so I loved this:

Jason Terry misses his uncle Charles, basically.

Miguel Sano was in the Twins' lineup against the Yankees last night and had two hits.

• I haven't listened yet, but I'm really hoping this new Beyonce song "Bow Down" is a Westside Connection cover.

Alex Speier of WEEI.com wrote an interesting article about how Alex Meyer almost ended up with the Red Sox. Instead he's the Twins fifth-best prospect.

• Another look at catcher defense that doesn't show Ryan Doumit in a very good light.

• I really enjoyed Jeff Garlin's chat with Will Ferrell (and the Zach Galifianakis cameo).

Lachlan Patterson was a great guest on this week's "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka, which has emerged as my favorite podcast.

• I finally saw "Zero Dark Thirty" and thought the first two hours were mostly mediocre and the last 30 minutes were excellent. My favorite part of the whole movie was Andy Dwyer playing horseshoes and my second favorite part was this face. Also, props to the casting director for going with Dwyer, Coach Taylor, Michael Dawson, Pete Eckhart, and Tony Soprano. That's some good taste in television if nothing else.

• Netflix recommendation: "The Trip" starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Craig Calcaterra Minnesota"
- "Elliptical workouts for beer drinkers"
- "Jared Burton girlfriend"
- "J.J. Hardy dyes his hair"
- "Guys wearing black socks"
- "Emmy Rossum Mets game"
- "Coach Taylor got fat in Fargo"
- "Had sex with Jack White"
- "John Bonus"
- "How much does Louis C.K. weigh?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Pistol" by Dustin Kensrue:

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