January 4, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Here's the job posting for the St. Paul Pioneer Press' new Twins beat reporter. Apply today!

• In their most controversial decision since naming Nick Blackburn the Twins' top prospect, Baseball America named me one of the "top 50 baseball-related Twitter accounts."

• I'm not much of a soccer fan, but Mark Willis' soccer-style MLB jersey designs are fantastic.

Jeff Piascik of College Baseball Daily wrote a nice article about Twins coach Joe Vavra's son, Tanner Vavra, who plays Division I baseball at Valparaiso University despite being blind in his right eye. Remarkable story. He hit .332 with a .425 on-base percentage as a junior.

• Minnesota is close enough to Iowa that she probably should have stopped by to say hello.

• I wrote about turning 30 years old, being a weirdo, doing something for a really long time, and pondering life changes.

• I'm kind of sad that no one got me Anthony Mason for my birthday this year.

• Presumably to celebrate my birthday Netflix instant has added two of my favorite dozen or so movies in "Blue Valentine" and "Blue Chips." I own "Blue Chips" on VHS and have seen it at least 20 times, and I watched "Blue Valentine" four times in one weekend a while ago. I recommend viewing them back-to-back and then having a good cry. The order isn't important.

• Easily the sexiest dress I've ever seen.

Nick Nelson subbed for a vacationing John Bonnes on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode and we discussed our decreasing expectations for the Twins in 2013 and which pitchers they should have signed as free agents.

• Vita.mn named "Gleeman and The Geek" one of the best podcasts of 2012.

• I saw "Django Unchained," which is nowhere close to Quentin Tarantino's best movies but right up there with his most enjoyable movies. If that makes any sense. In terms of overall quality, I'd rank them: "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs," "Jackie Brown," "Inglourious Basterds," "Django Unchained," "Kill Bill," "Grindhouse."

• Speaking of Tarantino, this video of every pop culture reference in his movies is pretty great:

"That is Marilyn Monroe. That is Mamie Van Doren. And I don't see Jayne Mansfield, so she must have the night off or something."

Bobby Womack, whose song "Across 110th Street" is one of my all-time favorites, may be suffering from Alzheimer's at age 68.

Ryan Freel's family is donating his brain to science to find out if the former major leaguer's numerous concussions led to his suicide at age 36.

• One of my favorite podcasters/people, Julie Klausner, was profiled in the New York Times.

• Rotoworld surpassed one billion (yes, billion) page views in 2012, which makes a man feel extra good about dropping out of college for a full-time job there in 2005.

• I've soured on Adam Carolla over the years, but my fellow old school "Loveline" fans should definitely check out his new weekly podcast with Dr. Drew Pinsky.

• Former big leaguer Fernando Tatis replied to a random tweet of mine from two years ago.

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus wrote a great article about those absurd "scouting reports" television broadcasts show for starting pitchers.

Torii Hunter used religion as an excuse for intolerance and then showed off his backpedaling skills, which we've seen before.

• My attempt to put Joe Mauer's season in context, which is something few people in Minnesota seem interested in doing.

Chipper Jones is keeping himself busy in retirement.

Andruw Jones was arrested on Christmas for allegedly abusing his wife after she "asked him to help her assemble a computer table." And then she filed for divorce.

• A few people wondered if this was me, as if I'd ever leave the house to go to St. Cloud.

• I really liked "Gosford Park" on Netflix instant, so I also watched another Robert Altman movie, "The Long Goodbye," and was amused to see former major leaguer and "Ball Four" author Jim Bouton in a sizable supporting role. Toss in Elliott Gould and his chest hair in the leading role and the whole thing really made me wish I lived in the 1970s.

• "Stop Podcasting Yourself" is my favorite podcast and Alicia Tobin is my favorite guest, so this made me happy.

Jessica St. Clair's appearance on "Who Charted?" with Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack was very funny.

• This e-mail from Pandora sums me up well.

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

- "Marney Gellner hot"
- "Lori Loughlin twins"
- "Dave Attell twins"
- "Julie Klausner nude"
- "Mitchell Kowitz arrested"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "16-year-olds on Chopped"
- "Lindsay Guentzel model"
- "Clarence Clemons and Robin Quivers"
- "Phil Ivey girlfriend"
- "Linda Cardellini martial arts"

• Finally, in honor of hearing this song for the first time in "Blue Chips" as an 11-year-old and immediately becoming hooked on Van Morrison this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Baby Please Don't Go":

This week's blog content is sponsored by Paul "Fantasy Camper" Bennett, who'll be blogging and tweeting about his annual experience at Twins fantasy camp in Fort Myers the week of January 6. Please support him for supporting AG.com.

October 17, 2012

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,600 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@mdidrikson: What is the best baseball book you've read?

Without question "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. I've read it at least five times and it never ceases being amazing. For him to write something that great in 1970 is crazy. Meeting him at the SABR convention in Seattle a few years ago was a big thrill.

@caniwarrior: How did Rick Anderson survive the coaching purge?

Rick Anderson became pitching coach when Ron Gardenhire replaced Tom Kelly as manager in 2002, so the combination of a decade on the job and Gardenhire's support is a pretty strong one. My assumption is that Gardenhire fought to keep Anderson around, perhaps at the expense of multiple other coaches, but that's just speculation. Obviously the Twins' pitching has been in decline for a while now and Anderson is presumably on the hottest of hot seats.

@ZBurmeister: What are your favorite podcasts I probably haven't heard of?

I work from home and listen to podcasts constantly all day while I write for NBCSports.com, so at this point I subscribe to more than 40 of them. There's a complete list on the right-hand sidebar of this page, but in terms of podcasts you may not be familiar with my favorites right now are:

- "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka
- "The Best Show On WFMU" with Tom Scharpling
- "Fan Graphs Audio" with Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry
- "The Long Shot" with Sean Conroy, Eddie Pepitone, Jamie Flam, and Amber Kenny
- "Throwing Shade" with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi

And of course "Gleeman and The Geek." Once the playoffs are over and my work schedule settles down a bit I think I'll write up a guide to all the podcasts I like, because it's something people ask about a lot and as someone who loves the medium spreading the word would be nice.

@jacoblaxen: What is Terry Ryan's first move this offseason?

It's always hard to predict the timing of moves, but based on Terry Ryan's repeated comments about upgrading the rotation and not liking the free agent market my guess would be some sort of trade for a starting pitcher. Reading between the lines, it sure seems like he has a trade or two on the table that he feels reasonably comfortable with.

@skrypzUSN: Who would you rather see traded for starting pitching, Denard Span or Ben Revere?

It all depends on what type of returns they would fetch. Denard Span is a better player than Ben Revere right now and generally seems underrated by Twins fans, but he's also older, much more expensive, and much closer to free agency. If they both had identical trade value I'd probably lean toward trading Revere and sticking with Span, but they don't. Span should be able to command a lot more in return.

@commnman: Are there any bargain free agent starting pitchers you'd be comfortable with the Twins targeting this offseason?

Quite a few, actually. This is a pretty deep crop of free agent starters, at least relative to other offseasons. There aren't many elite, top-of-the-rotation options, but the Twins wouldn't be in the mix for them anyway and there are plenty of mid-rotation types available. As soon as the playoffs end I'll have an article breaking down all the options, but for now some names to ponder: Joe Blanton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd, Brandon McCarthy.

@dbrugg999: Twins talk is about how they need starting pitching, but what other position is crucial that they upgrade?

Middle infield, but that's been true for essentially the past decade. Right now Pedro Florimon is probably the favorite to start at shortstop in 2013, which says a lot about a lot.

@jackthumser: How closely do you follow other sports?

Pretty closely. I've always been a big basketball and football fan, and for several years I wrote about the NFL for Rotoworld. I know absolutely nothing about hockey and don't have a ton of interest in other sports except for mixed martial arts and, if you consider it a sport, poker.

@mattusaurus: Who has the best pitch in baseball?

Mariano Rivera's cutter was the correct answer to this question for 15 years, but since he missed the entire season I suppose we need a new one. Fan Graphs assigns run values to pitches and based largely off those my picks would be Craig Kimbrel's fastball, Fernando Rodney's changeup, Clayton Kershaw's curveball, Yu Darvish's slider, and R.A. Dickey's knuckleball. And along the same lines as Rivera's cutter, I guess Dickey's knuckler is the best.

@salmensays: Do right-handed hitters or left-handed hitters get more infield hits?

I'm guessing most people would assume left-handed hitters get more infield hits, by virtue of being a couple steps closer to first base. However, studies have shown that right-handed hitters actually get more infield hits because they hit more ground balls to third base and shortstop, which require longer throws than ground balls hit to second base and first base.

@ZnelND: Who's the best Twins prospect no one has heard of?

I'd say probably Jorge Polanco. He was overshadowed by Miguel Sano and Max Kepler when he signed for $750,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and then got off to a slow start as a professional, but Polanco had a great half-season at rookie-ball. He's years from potentially entering the Twins' plans, but as a shortstop with a good bat Polanco is one of their highest-upside prospects.

@jimcamery: Do prominent ex-players make better coaches than scrubs? Is there any real data?

That question was about Paul Molitor being turned down for a job on the Twins' revamped staff. Many fans assume that great players like Molitor would make great coaches, but there isn't much evidence to support that. Very few Hall of Fame-level players go on to become great coaches or managers and many of the best coaches and managers were marginal players. Molitor, for instance, was fired by the Mariners after one season as hitting coach in 2004.

@MeatSauce1: Bring Alex Rodriguez to the Twins?

That question comes from the world renowned Meat Sauce of KFAN fame, so of course I have to answer it. There's zero chance of the Twins trading for Alex Rodriguez, but it'll be interesting to see if the Yankees try to trade him, period. He's owed $114 million for the next five seasons and I'm guessing they'd have to eat at least $75 million to unload him. Also worth noting: Rodriguez hit .272/.353/.430 this season. Justin Morneau hit .267/.333/.440.

@mdidrikson: What's the best team in the past 25 years to not win the World Series?

There are a lot of them, because the nature of baseball means being the best team during a 162-game season and winning the World Series are often very different things. I'd probably go with the 2001 Mariners, who set the modern record with 116 wins and lost in the ALCS. Any good baseball team can beat any other good baseball team three times in five games or four times in seven games, which simultaneously makes the playoffs great and maddening.

@ScandiAngel: What's a reasonable expectation for Kyle Gibson in 2013? Will the Twins treat him like Stephen Strasburg?

I'm sure Kyle Gibson will be on a workload limit in 2013. In terms of what to expect, he's off to an impressive start in the Arizona Fall League and reportedly throwing harder now than he did before Tommy John surgery. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training before most likely heading to Triple-A. Expectations should be held in check because Gibson wasn't an elite prospect before the injury, but if things go well he could join the Twins' rotation midseason.

@jimcamery: Was Prince Fielder worth the money?

Prince Fielder hit .313/.412/.528 with 30 homers in 162 games, so he certainly earned his $23 million salary this season. That was always pretty likely, though, because he's 28 years old with a great track record. He's still owed another $191 million for the next eight seasons and the odds of the second half of that deal looking good for the Tigers seems iffy at best. Then again, I'm more or less against handing out massive long-term contracts to any player.

@SpitThatHotFire: Where do you see Josh Hamilton ending up next year?

Josh Hamilton is one of the most interesting free agents ever. Based solely on his track record at age 31 he'd be in line for well over $100 million, but because of his off-field (and on-field) issues it wouldn't surprise me if he signed for less than $100 million. As for where ... I have no idea. It sure seems like the Rangers don't want him back unless it's cheap and most of the usual free-spenders seem unlikely to go nuts for him. "Not the Twins" is the best I can do.

@wombat_socho: Is there any cure for Ron Gardenhire's addiction to scrappy/useless infielders?

Well, the most obvious cure is for the front office to stop providing him with such players, but then that brings up the question of who has the addiction in the first place.

@commnman: How are Twins fans supposed to decide between rooting for Delmon Young and rooting for the Yankees?

We actually discussed this at some length on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode and ultimately concluded that rooting for the Tigers made sense under these circumstances.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Audible, which is offering a free audiobook download for AG.com readers and "Gleeman and The Geek" listeners at AudiblePodcast.com/Gleeman.