July 6, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• I was on KFAN today with Paul Allen and Paul Charchian, and it was probably the most fun I've ever had on the radio. We talked Twins and shower sex, obviously. Download it here.

Kevin Costner's little daughter in Field of Dreams played Louis C.K.'s girlfriend in the season premiere of Louie, blowing my mind in the process.

• Speaking of which, C.K.'s lengthy, unedited chat with Bill Simmons made a great podcast.

• I'm pretty sure this article is saying that picking Mila Kunis as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com makes me a great person women should be lining up to date.

Kris Humphries probably thought he'd never be on TMZ again once Kim Kardashian dumped him, but he was wrong. Congrats?

• No word yet on whether smoking this stuff will make you want to eat tasteless donuts.

• News that Brandon Roy is coming out of retirement to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Timberwolves makes this excellent eulogy of his career worth reading again.

• I've always felt guilty about having to step away from The Hardball Times after co-creating the site back in 2004, but this news makes me feel better about the future of THT.

• Vikings fans wondering how much to regret missing out on drafting Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III should read Evan Silva's detailed breakdown of Christian Ponder.

• If you haven't already, check out my star-studded, picture-filled, booze-drenched recap of the SABR convention in downtown Minneapolis.

• And here's a tidbit for anyone who already read the recap: Pizza Luce's general manager got in touch with me and he's a longtime AG.com reader. As always, the internet is amazing.

• I've enjoyed basically everything Aaron Sorkin has ever done, including HBO's new good but flawed show The Newsroom, but seeing his recycled dialogue all in one place is pretty jarring:

Of course, his recycled dialogue is livelier than most new dialogue, so I'll take it.

• People: Still the worst.

Mark Appel likely lost out on at least $2 million by the Astros and Twins passing on him in favor of Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, and there isn't much Scott Boras can do about it.

• I know absolutely nothing about hockey, but Ben Goessling's detailed timeline of how the Wild snagged Zach Parise and Ryan Suter was still a very interesting read.

• I subscribe to 50 podcasts at this point, but two that have recently moved to the front of the line are Stop Podcasting Yourself with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka and Throwing Shade with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi. I listen to both immediately when they come out each week.

• This might be the closest I'll ever come to having something I wrote in an actual newspaper, so my mom was pretty excited.

• Speaking of my mom being excited, she's now incredibly jealous of Jared Burton.

• It may not matter because the Twins stink, but everyone was right about Detroit's defense.

Jim Thome is back in the AL with the Orioles, who come to Target Field on July 16.

Jon Heyman, who regularly blocks critics and other writers on Twitter, didn't credit Buster Olney for breaking a story before him because Olney blocked him on Twitter.

• Two odd stories involving MLB play-by-play announcers, as Dave Barnett took an indefinite health leave from the Rangers and the Diamondbacks basically told Daron Sutton to go away.

• I'm obviously biased, but based on what NBC has done since taking over the Sunday Night Football franchise from ESPN it would be nice to see what they could do with MLB games again.

Cameron Maybin doesn't hit many homers, but he sure makes them count when he does.

• Finally, in honor of Roy and his bum knees giving it another go this week's AG.com-approved music video is "The Weary Kind" by Ryan Bingham:

June 21, 2012

Twins Notes: Liriano, Benson, Rosario, Slama, Bard, Doyle, and Marquis

Francisco Liriano had a 9.45 ERA, .346 opponents' average, and 21-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings over six starts when the Twins demoted him to the bullpen in May. Since rejoining the rotation he has a 2.67 ERA, .155 opponents' average, and 35-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 innings over five starts. It's hard to imagine the Twins re-signing the impending free agent, in which case he has another half-dozen starts to build trade value.

• As if the Twins' farm system wasn't weak enough already now four of their top 10 prospects in my preseason rankings are on the minor-league disabled list. No. 7 prospect Kyle Gibson is still making his way back from last year's Tommy John surgery, No. 9 prospect Alex Wimmers is trying to rehab an elbow injury of his own to avoid the same fate, and now No. 2 prospect Joe Benson and No. 4 prospect Eddie Rosario are both sidelined for extended periods.

Benson fractured his left wrist and surgery will keep him out until mid-July. Rosario was struck in the face by a teammate's line drive and is expected to miss six weeks after surgery to insert a metal plate above his lip. Benson had already been demoted from Triple-A to Double-A and wrist problems often linger, so his injury is the bigger long-term concern. Rosario's injury is also a shame, because it sounds gruesome and he was hitting .293/.363/.473 at low Single-A.

• Sadly the "Free Anthony Slama" movement has been put on ice, and not because the Twins finally called him up after years of dominating in the minors. Slama is slated to miss six weeks after a line drive broke his leg, potentially ending his season with a 0.40 ERA, .175 opponents' average, and 37-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 innings at Triple-A. He'll be 29 years old before next season and has a 2.24 ERA with 172 strikeouts in 141 career Triple-A innings.

• No. 42 pick Luke Bard was the last remaining holdout among the Twins' top 11 draft picks and the Georgia Tech right-hander agreed to a deal yesterday, meaning just two weeks after the draft they've signed every player selected within the first 250 overall picks. No. 2 pick Byron Buxton is expected to make his rookie-ball debut within a week, so the earlier signing deadline as part of the new collective bargaining agreement has worked well for the Twins.

Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that in preparing scenarios for the No. 2 pick the Twins narrowed their list to Buxton, Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, and Kyle Zimmer. Most pre-draft speculation had them choosing whichever one of Buxton or Appel didn't go No. 1, but in reading between the lines it seems like they were set to take Correa if the Astros had taken Buxton. And there was lots of organizational disagreement about the best player.

• In examining the Twins' draft it was obvious that they went out of their way to get power arms, even if they came in the less-than-ideal form of college relievers. Sure enough vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff admitted that was the plan going in, saying: "Pitchability and playability, maybe we overemphasized that. Maybe we emphasized that for too long. It added up. This year, we went for the more presentable qualities."

• Going into the draft Mitch Brown seemed destined for the Twins, as they had six picks in the top 100 and the local right-hander from Rochester Century high school was regarded as a consensus top-100 player. General manager Terry Ryan even scouted him in person multiple times, but then the Twins passed on him at 32, 42, 63, and 72. Brown wound up with the Indians at 79 and signed for an above-slot bonus of $800,000.

• They also repeatedly passed on Gophers right-hander T.J. Oakes, who was selected by the Rockies in the 11th round and signed for $100,000. Oakes is considered a marginal prospect, placing 292nd in Baseball America's pre-draft rankings, but the Twins liked the 6-foot-5 starter enough to draft him in the 41st round last year as a sophomore and have a history of picking Gophers. Oakes had a 2.31 ERA and 78-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 97 innings as a junior.

Released by the Twins with an 8.47 ERA and more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) in seven starts, Jason Marquis signed a minor-league deal with the Padres and made one Double-A start before returning to the majors. Marquis and his agent were smart to choose an NL team with MLB's most-pitcher friendly park, but this is crazy: Through three starts he has a 1.86 ERA and 20/8 K/BB ratio in 19 innings, including his first double-digit strikeout game since 2001.

• Waiver claim Erik Komatsu became expendable once the Twins decided to recall Ben Revere from Triple-A a month ago, so the Rule 5 pick was designated for assignment and predictably the Nationals accepted his return. Komatsu had more upside than the guy he replaced as fourth outfielder, Clete Thomas, but there wasn't much fit for him on a roster that includes both Revere and Denard Span. He's back at Triple-A for the Nationals.

• Speaking of the Rule 5 draft, Terry Doyle is headed to Japan after the Twins selected him with the No. 2 pick only to send him back to the White Sox in spring training. Doyle rejoined the White Sox at Triple-A with a 2.83 ERA and 71-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76 innings, including a near no-hitter against Rochester, but they agreed to release the 26-year-old right-hander so he could sign with a Japanese team. A fitting end to an all-around weird story.

Phil Dumatrait, who was pitching in Rochester's bullpen after spending much of last season with the Twins, announced his retirement at age 30. He spent parts of 10 years in the minors and finishes with a 6.20 ERA in 151 career innings as a big leaguer, but the 2000 first-round pick had enough smoke and mirrors to post a 3.92 ERA in 45 appearances for the Twins last season despite an ugly 29-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings.

Kevin Mulvey also called it quits, becoming the first player from the Johan Santana trade to retire. At the time of the Santana deal Mulvey was 23 years old and the former second-round pick looked like a potential mid-rotation starter who was billed as close to MLB-ready, but he posted a 7.90 ERA in 27 innings as a big leaguer. He was a bust, but the Twins managed to get some value out of Mulvey by trading him to the Diamondbacks for Jon Rauch in mid-2009.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors crunched the numbers on every team's payroll commitments for next season and the Twins have the 13th-most money already spent at $65 million. This year's payroll is around $94 million, which represents a 17 percent drop from last year's $113 million.

Trevor Plouffe isn't the only Twins hitter putting up big numbers since May 15. Through that date the Twins' lineup scored an average of just 3.3 runs in 36 games, but in 31 games since then they've averaged 5.2 runs.

Alex Burnett has a great-looking 2.16 ERA, but he's gotten it done with a ton of smoke and mirrors while posting a horrid 13-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings. Burnett's strikeouts per nine innings have plummeted from 7.0 in 2010 to 5.9 in 2011 to 3.5 this season, which is the lowest mark by any reliever in baseball.

Jim Thome has hit .315 with 61 homers and a .640 slugging percentage in 194 career games against the Twins. He hit .266 with 37 homers and a .562 slugging percentage in 179 games for the Twins, producing the highest Isolated Power in team history.

Paul Konerko (.431) and Joe Mauer (.415) are the only hitters in the American League with an on-base percentage above .400.

Justin Morneau is hitting .310 with a .595 slugging percentage against right-handers and .091 with a .197 slugging percentage against left-handers.

Lew Ford, who last played in the majors for the Twins in 2007 and is now 35 years old, has hit .383/.450/.626 with five homers and four steals in 28 games at Triple-A for the Orioles.

John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com took a trip to Beloit to see the Twins' low Single-A team and had some interesting thoughts on a variety of prospects, including a pre-injury Rosario.

• ESPN.com ranked the 25 best single-game performances in postseason history and two of the top three spots belong to Twins.

• I was a guest on the Bucs Dugout podcast, talking about the Twins and my decade blogging about them with host Charlie Wilmoth.

• And if you haven't listened to this week's Gleeman and The Geek episode yet, the show was a good one as my guest co-hosts Parker Hageman and Joe Nelson subbed for Wally Pipp.

This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric and their new "Plouffe There It Is!" shirt, which is available in men's and women's sizes. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

May 25, 2012

Link-O-Rama

Dmitri Young sold his baseball card collection for $2.5 million. And here's my favorite part of the story: "Only seven cards in the entire collection received no bids and all were rookie cards of his brother, current Tigers outfielder Delmon Young."

• Anyone know if this team needs a blogger?

• Oddly both brilliant and creepy: The evolution of a family, one picture per year.

Joe Mauer and Snoop Dogg, together again at Thursday night's White Sox-Twins game.

• Financing the remake of a Pauly Shore movie is a sure sign that you have too much money.

• Thing that made me feel elderly: This week is the 20th anniversary of The Real World on MTV.

• Friend of AG.com and former Gleeman and The Geek guest Lindsay Guentzel beat out 22,000 applicants for a spot in the MLB Fan Cave, but now they're voting out residents, Survivor-style, and she needs your help to stick around and keep living in New York all season. Go vote.

LeBron James reads The Hunger Games in the locker room, obviously.

Michael Cuddyer is in a new league and on a new bad team, but the newspaper articles about him and "clubhouse chemistry" predictably live on.

Curt Schilling: Great pitcher, not-so-great businessman.

• Saying this will inevitably lead to ridicule, but whatever: John Mayer's new album is really good and also quite a bit different than most of his previous stuff.

• If you're interested in becoming an AG.com "sponsor of the week" click here for details.

• Fat-O-Meter update: I wrote on March 7 about losing 153 pounds in one year. Since then I've dropped another 23 pounds and now weigh 179 pounds, compared to 176 pounds lost.

• My weekly appearance on KFAN with Paul Allen was fun and you can listen to us talk about the Twins and the MLB draft and my life as a robot by clicking here.

• On a related note, I showed up at the radio station immediately after this took place:

 Not so long ago I'd have been excited about the fact that there were still donuts around.

• I'd like this cake for my next birthday, please. But definitely not the blond version.

Aroldis Chapman was arrested for driving significantly slower than he throws.

Jim Thome is single-handedly trying to prop up the housing market by selling his old place for $3.8 million and buying a new place for $4.6 million.

• Someone bought Babe Ruth's old jersey for $4.4 million.

Torii Hunter has yet to rejoin the Angels two weeks after his 17-year-old son's arrest on sexual assault charges.

• My former Sunday school classmate Leora Itman writes about how my old temple in St. Paul has a new, supposedly "cool" rabbi. And he has a sports blog called The Great Rabbino.

Chris Brown and his fans truly deserve each other.

Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated wrote a lengthy profile of Georgia high school center fielder Byron Buxton, who might end up being the Twins' choice with the No. 2 pick next month.

• I've never tuned in specifically to watch this show, yet cancellation is probably the only way to stop me from watching five episodes in a row every time I stumble across a marathon.

• NBC renewed Community for another season, but creator and show-runner Dan Harmon got fired and it's tough imagine the quality and creativity not suffering without him.

• Who is Cole De Vries and what is he doing in the Twins' rotation? I'm glad you asked.

• In similar news, I'm taking myself out of consideration for People's sexiest man of the year.

Jesse Thorn's long-form interview show Bullseye is always a must-listen, but that's especially true this week with Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey as his guest.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the studio version of the title track from Mayer's new album, "Born and Raised":

This week's blog content is sponsored by Curt's Salsa, a locally owned salsa company that believes in fresh ingredients and rooting for the little guy. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

November 14, 2011

Twins Notes: Plouffe, Iwakuma, Wada, Thome, Krivsky, Toby, and Kiss

Terry Ryan revealed during a 1500-ESPN interview yesterday that Trevor Plouffe will be an outfielder going forward, which isn't shocking considering how awful he looked as an infielder despite playing 680 games at shortstop in the minors. He has the tools to be a strong corner outfielder defensively and with Jamey Carroll signed that may be the clearest path to at-bats, but before the middle of this year Plouffe had never played the outfield in seven pro seasons.

Moving to the outfield full time also means Plouffe's bat will be held to a much higher standard and aside from a 50-game stretch at Triple-A this year he's never really produced like a corner outfielder offensively. He's batted .262/.316/.451 in 337 games at Triple-A and .226/.286/.382 in 103 games in the majors, so unless his two-month breakout in Rochester at age 25 is a sign of things to come Plouffe will have trouble hitting enough to be more than a platoon player.

According to Nippon Sports the Twins are interested in Japanese pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada, both of whom are outright free agents and can be signed without going through the posting process. Last winter the Twins reportedly finished runner-up for Iwakuma, who failed to sign after the A's bid (and were refunded) $19.1 million for his negotiating rights. He remained in Japan and had a 2.42 ERA in 119 innings, but missed time with a back injury.

Wada was even better, throwing 185 innings with a 1.51 ERA, but the 30-year-old left-hander may not have the raw stuff to thrive in the majors. I've seen Wada compared to Bruce Chen and Jamie Moyer as a strike-throwing southpaw with mid-80s fastball velocity and in talking to people who've seen him pitch in Japan the consensus seems to be that he's no more than a possible fifth starter.

As teams were bidding on Iwakuma last year there were some reports of him potentially being a No. 2 starter in the majors, but apparently those back problems sapped his already modest velocity this season. Iwakuma has more upside than Wada, but the 30-year-old right-hander likely projects as a mid-rotation starter even if his fastball returns to the low-90s. Intriguing, but unless the price tags are modest I'd be surprised to see either pitcher land with the Twins.

Jim Thome signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Phillies, which is a price the Twins should have been willing to match. However, prior to being fired Bill Smith ruled out bringing back Thome because of how his inability to play defense limits the roster and it may have been a moot point anyway, as the future Hall of Famer loves Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and reportedly had been hoping to be traded to Philadelphia rather than Cleveland in August.

Thome will have a very limited role with the Phillies, who view him as only an emergency option at first base even with Ryan Howard potentially out for the entire first half. That means pinch-hitting and serving as a designated hitter during interleague games, which probably won't add up to more than 150 plate appearances. His attempts to recruit Michael Cuddyer to join him in Philadelphia might have a bigger impact than Thome's on-field performance.

Wayne Krivsky was Ryan's right-hand man prior to leaving the Twins to become the Reds' general manager in 2006, but returns now as "professional scout and special assistant to the GM." Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune looked into his role and says "Krivsky will scout 15 major league teams, with scout Kenny Compton handling the other 15." And he'll be stationed out of Kentucky, so Rob Antony remains the No. 2 guy in the front office.

Days before firing Smith the Twins denied the Orioles permission to interview vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff for their GM opening, but several sources have suggested that was more about Radcliff's lack of interest in the job than anything else. Radcliff was the Twins' longtime scouting director prior to switching roles when Smith replaced Ryan in 2007 and is a big part of the organization, although Ryan admitted Radcliff was "spread too thin" recently.

• To put into context how odd the Twins' timing was in firing Smith: Eno Sarris of Fan Graphs reports that Smith was the first MLB general manager to be fired in November since 1950.

• Last month the Twins dropped Brian Dinkelman from the 40-man roster, making him a free agent, but the 28-year-old second baseman/corner outfielder has re-signed on a minor-league contract. Dinkelman's performance didn't warrant being called up to the majors twice this year, but he certainly took advantage of what may prove to be his lone opportunity by notching 22 hits in 23 games and the organizational solider will provide some veteran depth at Rochester.

• Rochester will also likely have right-hander Jared Burton in the bullpen after the Twins inked the former Reds reliever to a minor-league deal. Burton had a 3.47 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 161 innings from 2007-2009, but missed most of the past two years with shoulder problems that required surgery. He's exactly the sort of cheap, readily available player who makes giving 40-man roster spots to Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray so confusing.

LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Ron Gardenhire's son, Toby Gardenhire, will not be offered a contract after becoming a minor-league free agent. Nepotism got Gardenhire to Triple-A despite being a former 41st-round pick with a .232/.292/.274 career line, but his defensive versatility served a purpose for Rochester and ultimately at least they cut him loose based on merit.

• Other minor leaguers to leave the organization as free agents include Andy Baldwin, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Jake Stevens, Allan de San Miguel, Jair Hernandez, Chase Lambin, Paul Kelly, Yangervis Solarte, Jeff Bailey, and Brandon Roberts. Hughes and James pitched for the Twins this year, Kelly is a former second-round pick, Baldwin is a friend of AG.com, and Lambin was the subject of a Grantland article, but only Solarte resembles any kind of prospect.

• Getting a veteran middle infielder with very strong on-base skills was obviously nice, but I've stumbled across the primary reason the Twins signed Carroll:

Presumably "shorter than Gene Simmons' daughter and Shannon Tweed" wasn't prominently featured on the scouting report.

November 11, 2011

Link-O-Rama

Wilson Ramos, the Twins prospect traded to the Nationals for Matt Capps in mid-2010, was kidnapped from his home in Venezuela and remains missing.

Jim Thome is recruiting Michael Cuddyer to join him on the Phillies.

• Hopefully this book can be found in the fiction section.

• Rockies reporter and columnist Jim Armstrong was dismissed from the Denver Post following 27 years at the newspaper after being named in a sports betting indictment. It's a complicated issue, but considering how many sportswriters bet on sports, openly talk of betting on sports, and even write about betting on sports ... well, it just seems like Armstrong got a raw deal.

• I've long been fascinated and frustrated by Eddie Murphy's career and Bill Simmons' movie-by-movie and quote-by-quote recap is a great read.

• Who knew the pizza industry employed so many artists?

• This is why I work from bed, not from the couch.

• Next year's Society for American Baseball Research convention will be in Minnesota from June 27 through July 2 and SABR announced that the event will be held in downtown Minneapolis at the Marriott City Center, which is walking distance from Target Field. I haven't missed a SABR convention since attending my first one in Cincinnati as a 21-year-old in 2004, so I'm hoping to see tons of Twins bloggers and AG.com readers there.

• As part of the interview process Theo Epstein made the Cubs' candidates manage simulated games, which is what happens when the people who grew up reading Bill James and playing Strat-O-Matic start running MLB teams.

• In fairness, this is probably how my colleagues would describe me too.

• I watched a few minutes of an MTV show called "I Used To Be Fat" and it reminded me of this Mitch Hedberg joke: "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too."

Community creator Dan Harmon was already a genius, but this proves it. Also, thanks.

• High school football announcers are the best:

"Py-ro-technics!"

• One of my articles was selected for the fourth annual "Best of MinnPost" collection.

• Never forget: Minnesotans elected this guy governor.

Dave Attell talking with Joe Rogan for two hours about random stuff was pretty great.

• This is what they mean by a match made in heaven, except the exact opposite.

• My favorite Joe Frazier memory is him singing "When Somebody Loves You Back" by Teddy Pendergrass to woo Robin Quivers. One of his few losses, although it was a split decision.

• One of my childhood favorites, Heavy D, passed away at age 44. Eerily, his final Twitter post was mourning Frazier's death.

Louis CK is taking his next stand-up special straight to the internet.

• Stand-up comedian, Parks and Recreation writer, and Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Chelsea Peretti was a great guest on Pete Holmes' new podcast. Follow her on Twitter, too.

• I'm not necessarily proud of this, but I watched an arm wrestling documentary on Netflix and it was really good despite some cheesy attempts to ramp up the drama.

• If you're not sure what to think of the Penn State situation, please read this and also this.

• My aunt's new book got a great review.

Joe Christensen wants the Twins to finally induct Camilo Pascual into their Hall of Fame.

• As a Howard Stern fan this saddens me, but as an NBC employee it wouldn't be so bad.

• If they need a designated hitter who can't hit, count me in too.

Ben Revere is, as always, adorable.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" was an emergency episode recorded immediately after the announcement that Terry Ryan was replacing Bill Smith, so John Bonnes and I spent 105 minutes discussing what the general manager move means for the Twins' present and future.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Heavy D and The Boyz with a live version of "Now That We Found Love":

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