October 18, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Check out the name of the law office in Thursday night's "Parks and Recreation" episode. And of course the show was created by former baseball blogger Ken Tremendous/Michael Schur.

Anthony Hopkins binge-watched "Breaking Bad" by finishing the entire series in two weeks and then sent a great midnight e-mail to Bryan Cranston praising his performance.

Ridiculous Indie Rock Band Photos is just a fantastic use of the internet.

• "Twin Cities ladies you've probably dated" is pretty clever and the nice thing is that a potential "Twin Cities guys you've probably dated" follow-up article can't include "Blogger" because none of us have ever had a date.

Randball's Stu's follow-up to last week's bloggers dating parody is also a strong one: "Terry Ryan complains to Rainbow Foods cashier again."

• I've watched every episode of "Bar Rescue" because the show is such a compelling train wreck, but it doesn't surprise me one bit that Jon Taffer's help doesn't always help.

• Two weeks ago our Francisco Liriano playoff game viewing party was initially going to be held at Mortimer's before switching to The Bulldog, which may have saved a few bloggers' lives.

• It's a fortunate break for me, but I'll never get over how amazing it is that half of the population is attracted to something that looks like this.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode might have been our quietest and most low-key yet, which was a nice change of pace from our usual shouting at each other in a loud bar.

• We're recording the next "Gleeman and The Geek" episode Saturday afternoon at the Nordeast Big River Brew Fest. Details here.

• I realize the internet is a big place and things can get lost in the cracks, but how does this only have 2,050 views?

Easier to believe: This video, shot one year ago yesterday, only has 1,400 views.

Rob Neyer is even better than me at my own tweets.

• I've never really wanted to be a musician until now, because Chinese food deserves better.

• Congratulations to Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders for losing a whole bunch of weight and writing about it. And unlike me, he had the nerve to do a shirtless before and after.

• On a related note, former Vikings center Matt Birk lost tons of weight and now he's modeling.

• Twitter settings now allow you to accept direct messages from anyone rather than only people you also follow. I've been giving it a try for most of this week as sort of an "I dunno, why not?" experiment and ... it hasn't been so bad. Might try it again sometime soon.

• Remember the time David Ortiz hit a home run with a broken wrist? Tom Kelly does.

• I've linked to Canadian comedian Christina Walkinshaw's entertaining Tinder date recaps here before, but now I'm regretting not thinking of making this offer first.

• It took getting pulled over a block after leaving my driveway at 8:15 a.m. and paying $105 for a supposed $25 ticket, but I've begrudgingly joined the other 94.8 percent of Minnesota.

• Remember last week when I fell in love with a singer from New Zealand who covered Whitney Houston? Well, she just put out another video covering Kermit The Frog.

• As a longtime lover of beer and a recent lover of Korean food, I fully support this project.

• Pretty sure I'm too old to know what trap music is, but I nostalgically liked this.

• To steal a line from my blog-mate Craig Calcaterra: Dalai Lama, big hitter.

• This was actually my original idea for a podcast, but in retrospect it's better for Doug Benson:

I suppose my actual podcast is sort of like the beer-drinking version of that anyway.

• One of my favorite comedians, Tom Segura, is taping his new television special in Minnesota next month and tickets are free. We should all sign up and go.

• I saw Gilbert Gottfried at New Hope Cinema Grill last Friday night. He was very funny/weird, and while a little unusual for a stand-up comedy venue New Hope Cinema Grill was actually pretty nice. Oh, and they serve 612 Brew too. I'll definitely be back.

• On a related note, I'm seriously thinking about starting a book club-type group, but for comedy shows. It's my favorite thing and Minnesota has enough good venues (Acme Comedy Company, New Hope Cinema Grill, Mall of America House of Comedy, Varsity Theater) that top-notch comics come here on a monthly basis. I'm not sure how exactly it would work, but if anyone has any good ideas or any venue owners want to get involved let me know.

• My little-known co-worker Joe Posnanski wrote about Carlos Beltran and Paul Newman.

Kenley Jansen was a catcher in the minors and hit .229/.310/.337, so it's not too late to get that girl from high school to go out with you.

• Also on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode David Brauer of MinnPost joined the very exclusive club of people who've appeared on the podcast more than once. Determining an actual "guest" can be tricky, but here's a possibly incomplete list of people who've spoken on microphone during more than one show:

- Parker Hageman
- Nick Nelson
- Seth Stohs
- David Brauer
- Jack Moore
- Ryan Donaldson
- Lindsay Guentzel
- Kate Butler
- Joe Nelson
- Kate Agnew
- Joe Busch

Anyone else I'm overlooking (besides Random Drunk Woman's numerous appearances)?

• Catching up on some iTunes podcast reviews.

• If you're interested in drugs, Judaism, and two funny, smart people talking about serious stuff definitely check out Marc Maron's chat with Natasha Lyonne. She'd want you to.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

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

- "Patrick Reusse born"
- "Big Papi in Minnesota"
- "Nick Punto mistake"
- "Is Justin Verlander Jewish?"
- "Ron Gardenhire cute pics"
- "Vodka drinks"
- "Who is Meatsauce on KFAN?"
- "Too fat to fly?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Mary Jane" by Rick James:


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October 16, 2013

Twins Notes: Roster cuts, post-trade Morneau, attendance, and Big Papi

josh roenicke twins

• Three weeks ago I listed 16 players in danger of being removed from the 40-man roster and so far the Twins have dropped five of them: Josh Roenicke, Clete Thomas, Doug Bernier, Cole De Vries, Shairon Martis. I'd expect at least another 3-4 cuts by the end of the World Series, but in the meantime the Twins already re-signed Bernier to a minor-league contract that keeps the 33-year-old journeyman in the organization without a 40-man roster spot.

Roenicke being cut might have surprised some people simply because he spent the entire season in the Twins' bullpen and logged the same number of innings as Glen Perkins, but he posted a 4.35 ERA compared to the league average of 3.69 for relievers and his secondary numbers were actually even worse with a 45-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His stats for the Rockies last season were similarly underwhelming and at age 31 he was due for a raise via arbitration.

Thomas started 79 games for the Twins, including 48 in center field, but hit .214/.290/.307 with 92 strikeouts in 322 plate appearances to finish with the same exact .597 OPS as Aaron Hicks. He was a bit better defensively than I expected, but Thomas is hardly a great center fielder and doesn't hit enough to be more than a backup. That player type is always available on waivers or minor-league deals, and Alex Presley's arrival made Thomas especially superfluous.

Bernier, De Vries, and Martis are exactly who baseball analysts are talking about when they refer to "replacement-level players" being readily available. It's important to have them stockpiled at Triple-A heading into every season, but it's also important to bring in a fresh batch every winter without clogging up the 40-man roster and as the Twins have shown recently things get ugly in a hurry when more than a few of them are pressed into extended action.

• Making official what was reported at the time of the trade, the Twins acquired Duke Welker from the Pirates as the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau deal. I wrote quite a bit about Welker as part of my overall analysis of the trade on August 31, but the quick version is that he's a big right-handed reliever with a mid-90s fastball, good strikeout totals, and terrible control. Not a bad flier to get along with Presley, but Welker is already 27 years old.

Including the postseason Morneau ended up hitting .267 with zero homers and a .317 slugging percentage in 31 games for the Pirates. Overall this season between Minnesota and Pittsburgh he hit .260/.325/.413 in 158 games and combined for the past three seasons he hit .256/.329/.406 in 361 games. There are still local media members stumping for Morneau's return to the Twins as a 33-year-old free agent, but it's awfully hard to understand why.

David Ortiz's dramatic grand slam for the Red Sox led to all the usual grousing about why the Twins let him go back in 2003 and it's important to note that it wasn't for a lack of hitting. Ortiz has the fifth-highest OPS in Twins history among all hitters with at least 1,500 plate appearances through age 26, which is when he left. The only Twins with a higher OPS through 26?  Joe Mauer, Kent Hrbek, Morneau, and Lyman Bostock. Ortiz could always hit. And look at that punim.

Speaking of Ortiz's time in Minnesota, here's an interesting Associated Press story from 2001:

Minnesota Twins designated hitter David Ortiz was placed on the disabled list Saturday, a day after breaking his right wrist diving into home plate.

Ortiz was injured Friday night in the fourth inning of Minnesota's 6-2 victory over Kansas City. One inning later, he homered into the right-field bullpen, but rounding the bases he knew the pain was more than discomfort. He then went to a hospital for X-rays. Ortiz is expected to miss six to eight weeks. ...

Twins' trainers at first thought Ortiz hurt a thumb. "We asked David maybe 90 times or 100, I'm not sure, I lost track: Are you all right?" manager Tom Kelly said. "He said he was, so we let him hit. After he hit, the trainers said his wrist was starting to swell, so we got him out of there."

Kelly seemed to take the injury in stride. "We don't cry about injuries," he said. "We never have and we're not going to start now. I had a man go blind one day, a Hall of Fame player. We just move along. Injuries are part of the game."

Ortiz might be out of place in the Twins' lineup these days, but the injury stuff sounds familiar.

• Twins attendance fell by 3,688 fans per game this season, which was the fifth-largest drop in baseball. In their first two seasons at Target Field the Twins averaged 39,000 fans per game, but that dropped to 34,000 last year and 31,000 this year. And those are tickets sold figures rather than actual fans in the seats. In their final season at the Metrodome the Twins averaged 29,446 fans per game, which seems fairly likely to top next year's totals at Target Field.

• Over the years I've criticized Ron Gardenhire and the Twins for their unwillingness to platoon hitters, which is something Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan talked openly about last month in a series of somewhat maddening quotes. Jack Moore of Sports On Earth wrote a very interesting article about how the A's among the teams to take the opposite approach to platooning with lots of success.

• In addition to Bernier the Twins also re-signed Triple-A players James Beresford, Jermaine Mitchell, Lester Oliveros, and Virgil Vasquez to minor-league contracts. Beresford could get a look as a potential utility infielder next season and Oliveros was in the majors before missing this season following Tommy John elbow surgery.

Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors took a lengthy look at some of the key roster issues facing the Twins heading into the offseason.

• MLB Productions released some old video this week that involved a bit of Twins history.

• For more on Morneau's post-trade performance, plus Twins payroll projections and reviewing over/under picks, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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October 14, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #115: Blogger Conference and Over/Under Review

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded at the Minnesota Blogger Conference and topics included reviewing our preseason over/under picks, Twins payroll projections, Justin Morneau limping to the finish line, missing those old Twins playoff arguments, Uptown dating in the New York Times, NHL first impressions, seeing Gilbert Gottfried in person, and special guest David Brauer on the future of blogging.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 115

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

Here's my view of the quietest surroundings in podcast history:

podcast conference

Here's one of the conference's panel discussions, featuring John Bonnes and his purple shirt:

bonnes conference

Here's a similarly purple-shirted Brauer speaking on a panel before slumming it with us:

brauer conference

And here's my view from the aforementioned Wild game:

first nhl game


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October 11, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• This week the New York Times' "fashion and style" section featured an article by Matt Haber about Minnesotans trying to date in Uptown. It was met mostly with derision, as locals felt it was cheesy and cliche-filled. And it definitely was, as the intro makes very clear:

As night-life emissaries go, one could do worse than Robert John Wayne, a 31-year-old artist here who happily told a recent visitor about everything from an indigenous delicacy called the Juicy Lucy (a burger with cheese baked into the patty) to what women want, something Mr. Wayne should know, seeing as how he's dating four of them.

"Nobody's exclusive," he said "That's what dating is." Mr. Wayne, who described his work as "graffiti realism," was at Mortimer's, a wood-paneled bar on Lyndale Avenue in the swath of Minneapolis known as Uptown.

However, as someone who started hanging out in Uptown recently I mostly found it amusing and made a joke about what a quote of mine would've looked like in the article. And then a few days later friend of AG.com Randball's Stu wrote a brilliant parody of the Times article starring local sports bloggers for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's site. I'd suggest reading the Times version first and then reading Stu's version, because it's a masterful spoof, but here's how it begins:

As night-life emissaries go, one could do better than Aaron Gleeman, a 30-year-old Minnetonka sports blogger who wearily told a recent visitor about everything from a baseball statistic called FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) to what women want, something Mr. Gleeman shouldn't know, seeing as how he recently asked one if he could live-tweet their date.

"It's an endless series of half-starts and missed opportunities," he said. "That's what dating is." Mr. Gleeman, who described his work as "sitting at my computer and writing about baseball as I wait for death's sweet embrace," was at Stella's, a multi-level bar in the swath of Minneapolis known as Uptown.

And then it just keeps building from there. As one of the main characters I'm biased, but it's one of the funniest things I've ever read and so perfectly matches the tone and structure of the New York Times version. My sincere hope is that for the rest of my life whenever anyone Googles me that article is the first result they see. Also, you should follow Stu on Twitter for more genius.

• Here's a non-parody response to the New York Times dating-in-Minnesota article that's also interesting. I'm definitely very guilty of No. 2 on her list and thought for a second she might be talking about me with the quote: "We had a really awesome date and then he bailed on the second date citing 'baseball' as the reason."

• So the Twins are hiring a "full-time data engineer" and OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE COMMENTS.

• Going back to read the stuff about Christian Ponder from right after the Vikings drafted him is quite an experience.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked a ton about Ron Gardenhire, sung the praises of 612 Brew, and unknowingly had our picture taken from across the bar.

• I'm probably Hawk Harrelson's biggest/only fan in Minnesota, but Awful Announcing's lengthy compilation of the season's best "Sad Hawk" moments is undeniably magical:

Harrelson is the Vin Scully of freaking out on the air when things go against the White Sox.

• Speaking of which, Scully will record your outgoing voicemail message for $299 and the money goes to Autism charity. "Hello, this is Vin Scully. You’ve reached Aaron, but there’s zero chance he wants to talk to you, or anyone, on the phone. Seriously, just text him. But leave a message if you want to, I guess."

• Scully's radio call of Juan Uribe's series-winning homer was predictably lovable.

• No one ever listens to me about John Mayer, but maybe you'll listen to Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch.

• Seriously, are any of you even real?

• Twins Daily's annual "Offseason Handbook" is available for presale, so order now and you can get tons of great content featuring analysis of free agent and trade targets, payroll breakdowns, and organizational depth charts for just $4.95. Not only is it a worthwhile product for a very fair price, buying the "Offseason Handbook" also supports all the free content John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs churn out at Twins Daily all season.

• Hageman's year-end collection of Twins numbers has lots of interesting tidbits.

• I'm not on Tinder, in part because I have a Blackberry and in part because it sounds awful, but if I were on it I'd follow this guy's lead and exclusively talk to women in rap lyrics.

David Ortiz celebrating with Koji Uehara is not safe for work.

• America's highest-paid sportswriter.

• It might be time to re-think America's drug laws now that they're hurting our chubby comedians.

Aubrey Plaza behaved around Chris Bosh the same way I'd behave around Aubrey Plaza.

• In addition to being one half of my favorite podcast, Dave Shumka also writes funny stuff for CBC Music, like how WebMD would diagnose Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus based on their lyrics.

• Take two minutes and see why Jen Kirkman is great:

Related: My mom really liked that video.

Michael Rand is now shooting daily videos for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website and his latest captures the pure, unadulterated Dana Wessel Experience.

Gabe Vodicka of Flagpole wrote a really good article about Jason Isbell's success as a solo artist, struggles with substance abuse, and songwriting prowess. I'm going to see Isbell at the Varsity Theater in a couple weeks and couldn't be more excited about it.

• How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they actually spend it?

This exchange made me chuckle. Funny how fast it goes from strong opinion nationally to being nice locally.

• Also: Presented without comment, other than to say those all occurred within 24 hours.

Amy Poehler wrote about working at an ice cream parlor for The New Yorker.

Marc Maron's new stand-up comedy special "Thinky Pain" is now available on Netflix and I love that the first person you see and hear is Tom Scharpling giving a pep talk.

• I enjoyed Todd Barry's chat with Natasha Leggero.

• Does anyone in or around Green Bay have any leads on lodging for Packers-Vikings weekend next month? I'm thinking about driving there with a bunch of doofuses, but hotels are all booked up and we'd rather not make a trek from somewhere like Appleton. We're willing to get creative.

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

- "Professional baseball duos"
- "Aaron Gleeman hot wife"
- "What if I eat Green Giant steamers every night?"
- "Nick Punto head-first slide"
- "Influential conservative podcasts"
- "Aaron gettin fat"
- "0.25 pounds in one day is how many pounds in one year?"
- "Lori Loughlin socks"

• Finally, because I stumbled across this video and immediately fell in love with both the singer and her acoustic rendition of the Whitney Houston song this week's AG.com-approved music video is Possum Plow's cover of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody":


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October 9, 2013

How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they spend it?

ron gardenhire and terry ryan

During their final season at the Metrodome in 2009 the Twins had a payroll of $65 million. Their spending rose to $98 million in 2010 as they moved into Target Field and then increased again to a franchise-record $113 million in 2011, but the payroll declined to $100 million in 2012 and fell even further to $82 million this year. And now, unless the Twins do some unexpected free agent shopping this winter, their 2014 payroll could resemble those final Metrodome days.

Heading into the offseason the Twins have just six players with locked-in contracts for 2014:

Joe Mauer          $23.0 million
Josh Willingham     $7.0 million
Kevin Correia       $5.5 million
Glen Perkins        $4.0 million
Ryan Doumit         $3.5 million
Jared Burton        $3.3 million

TOTAL              $46.3 million

In addition to six players with locked-in salaries totaling $46.3 million there are also three players eligible for more than the minimum salary via arbitration, with the following rough estimates:

Brian Duensing      $2.0 million
Trevor Plouffe      $1.5 million
Anthony Swarzak     $1.2 million

TOTAL               $4.7 million

None of the three arbitration-eligible players are in any danger of costing big money for 2014, but the Twins could non-tender them to avoid handing out modest raises (which they already did with Josh Roenicke). If all three are tendered 2014 contracts the Twins' total payroll commitment would be around $51 million. Toss in the required $500,000 minimum salary for the remaining spots and the baseline for a 25-man roster would be approximately $59 million.

Since spending $113 million in 2011 the Twins sliced $13 million off their payroll for 2012 and another $18 million off their payroll for 2013. And this offseason they'll need to add at least $23 million in new contracts just to avoid lowering the payroll again. To get back to their 2011 payroll they'd have to add $54 million this winter, which ... well, sadly that notion actually seems sort of absurd at this point. (Also absurd: Grousing about Joe Mauer's salary limiting them.)

Revenue is skyrocketing across MLB, with huge lump sums going to every team before a game is played thanks to national television and internet contracts, and the Twins enter the offseason with plenty of money to spend and plenty of roster flexibility. And coming off three consecutive 95-loss seasons there's no shortage of obvious weaknesses to address. Will they actually spend significant money? Early indications from Terry Ryan suggest they won't, which isn't surprising.

Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal is the largest free agent contract in Twins history. To put that in some context, last offseason alone 17 free agents signed deals for more than $21 million. There's no doubt that Ryan would prefer improving via trades rather than free agency and perhaps he has plans to add salary that way, but in the meantime the Twins have gradually gone back to Metrodome-style spending while the rest of baseball goes the opposite way.


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