September 23, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• Nunchucks would probably be pretty close to the top of my list of things not to give inmates.

• Life lesson: If you work on the new Charlie's Angels remake and "slap Minka Kelly across the rear end while holding a $100 bill" the producers will fire you. Presumably he reacted like this.

Glen Rice is pretty smooth: "It was all done in a respectful way, nothing hurried."

Rob Ryan and I apparently have similar taste, as the Cowboys defensive coordinator had a photo of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Diora Baird on his play chart last week.

• Thanks to Judd Zulgad and Joe Anderson for having me on their new 1500-ESPN radio show to talk baseball yesterday. You can listen to my half-hour appearance by clicking here.

Ozzie Guillen on marriage: "What attracted me to my wife is she's hot. She's also nice, she's a great mom, but that comes after she's hot."

Adele hopefully at least has some recording time set aside for when they break up again.

• Reminder: TwinsCentric is hosting a get-together tomorrow afternoon for the Twins-Indians game. I'll be there, along with John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, and Parker Hageman, and we'll be recording an episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" too. For details, click here.

• As a huge fan of The Wire it pains me to see Bodie Broadus doing lame commercials:

In fairness to Fedex, he was always pretty good at delivering packages.

• Not only is former Gophers wide receiver Eric Decker starting to put up some good numbers for the Broncos, he's apparently dating country music singer Jessie James.

• It turns out if you request a new meme people on the internet will actually make one for you.

• Between being played by Brad Pitt and getting kissed too many times by Angelina Jolie this Moneyball movie has really been rough on Billy Beane.

Moneyball, Pitt, and the equation for FIP are on the cover of Sports Illustrated. xFIP is jealous.

Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a lengthy "where are they now?" feature about Chuck Knoblauch and his reclusive retirement.

• According to Esquire magazine 90 percent of great-looking women cook without pants on.

• My nomination for worst person ever goes to whomever stole the glasses off Ernie Harwell.

• This might be the lamest arrest in NBA history.

• I'm a sucker for outtakes, especially from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

Charlie Day's genius has never been more apparent.

Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson reportedly earned $72 million from their involvement with Full Tilt Poker, which is now accused of being "a global Ponzi scheme."

• Rookie hazing now extends to the bullpen bathroom.

• Based on this Portland Oregonian column David Kahn penned in 1989 about the Trailblazers' "poor, deluded men" I wonder what he'd write about the Timberwolves' current situation.

• It sounds like Patrick Reusse's son is a stat-head, which amuses me. Good column, too.

• Netflix streaming recommendation: Conan O'Brien is significantly funnier and more likeable in "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" than he's ever been on his talk show.

• Reading the glowing reviews of "Drive" makes me think I'm insane. I disliked it despite being a Ryan Gosling fan and the audience I saw it with laughed at most of the dramatic moments.

Christina Hendricks had a minor role in "Drive," but she was much better in this.

Eric Freeman of The A.V. Club wrote a guide to choosing the right entrance song for closers.

Gregg Rosenthal's kid is only one day old and already has her own post on ProFootballTalk.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Samson" by Regina Spektor:

September 22, 2011

Twins Notes: Sisyphus, meetups, cash considerations, regrets, and returns

• I'll be on 1500-ESPN radio today from 10 a.m. until whenever Judd Zulgad and Joe Anderson kick me off the "Judd and Phunn" show. You can listen online here.

John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, and Parker Hageman (also known as TwinsCentric) are hosting a get-together Saturday at noon for Game 1 of the Twins-Indians doubleheader. I'll be there as well and we'll be recording an episode of the "Gleeman and The Geek" podcast, so if you're interested in watching the game(s), drinking some beer, and talking Twins please come hang out.

The only catch is that we'll be at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake, which is a lengthy trek for most people and along with the Twins' dismal season has me worried that the crowd may be a little more sparse than a typical TwinsCentric gathering. But we're all making the drive and you should too. And as an added incentive I'm pledging to buy any AG.com readers who show up their first beer. Just show up, say hello, order a beer, and it's on me. Here are the details:

Who: Bonnes, Stohs, Nelson, Hageman, Gleeman, and hopefully more

What: TwinsCentric get-together during the Twins-Indians game

Where: Manitou Station in White Bear Lake (click here for map/directions)

When: Saturday from noon until whenever we go home

Why: Because the Twins are less depressing if you're watching with a group and/or drinking

• When the Twins traded Jim Thome to the Indians on August 25 they received a player to be named later or cash in return and they've somewhat surprisingly opted for the money, getting $20,000 to complete the deal. Obviously for a team with a $115 million payroll $20,000 means nothing and for the Twins to choose that instead of even a low-level prospect is frustrating at the end of a miserable year. In announcing the deal general manager Bill Smith explained:

We exchanged some names both ways and in the end we both felt this was the proper way to go. This was certainly the right thing to do for Jim Thome and the right thing to do for the Twins.

It's tough to imagine why they wouldn't pick some Single-A live arm and if any of those players ever finds out that they were passed over for $20,000 they'll probably retire on the spot, but ultimately it doesn't matter. Thome was dealt to save money and to give him a shot at playing meaningful games in September. Cleveland almost immediately fell out of contention following the move, but between his salary and the $20,000 throw-in the Twins saved about $650,000.

• As if the Twins' collapse isn't depressing enough, Wilson Ramos has hit .267/.331/.443 with 14 homers in 109 games for the Nationals. Those certainly aren't jaw-dropping raw numbers, but Ramos' production adds up to an adjusted OPS+ of 112 and that's damn impressive for a 23-year-old rookie catcher. In fact, during the past 25 years here's the complete list of every 23-year-old catcher to post an OPS+ above 100 in 400 or more plate appearances:

                  YEAR      PA     OPS+
Joe Mauer         2006     608     144
Buster Posey      2010     443     129
Jason Kendall     1997     572     114
Craig Biggio      1989     509     114
WILSON RAMOS      2011     420     112
Russell Martin    2006     468     101

That's it. That's the whole list. Oh, and he's also thrown out 34 percent of steal attempts. Sigh.

Denard Span returning to the lineup for a handful of meaningless September games seems like an iffy decision considering how poorly things went last month when he came back despite still having concussion symptoms. Toss in Justin Morneau's recent setback 15 months after his concussion and leaving Span on the sidelines sure seemed like the sensible plan, but at least he felt good after playing five innings. He also said: "I'm praying I wake up feeling good."

Jason Repko was hit in the helmet Sunday and has unfortunately joined Span and Morneau in suffering a concussion, with Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reporting that he's "been bothered by headaches and nausea." According to trainer Rick McWane "he had a CT scan and an MRI exam on his head and they both came back normal" and Repko hasn't officially been ruled out for the season yet, but he won't play again in 2011. What a shame.

• As the Twins zero in on the No. 2 overall pick next year Baseball America released their initial ranking of the top 50 prospects available in the 2012 draft. Generally speaking the draft class is considered underwhelming, particularly in terms of elite talent, but while that's bad luck for the Twins a lot can change before June. For now the main names to track are Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, and Florida catcher Mike Zunino.

• Speaking of Baseball America, they named Miguel Sano the No. 1 prospect in the rookie-level Appalachian League this season after the 18-year-old third baseman batted .292/.352/.637 with 20 homers and 45 total extra-base hits in 66 games. Elizabethton's other record-setting slugger, 19-year-old center fielder Eddie Rosario, ranked No. 5 on the same list and this year's second-round pick, right-hander Madison Boer, ranked No. 17.

Mike Fast of Baseball Prospectus did an extensive study on the often overlooked impact MLB catchers have framing pitches. His research and results are way too interesting and in-depth for me to recap here, so I'll just note that Joe Mauer's pitch framing has been two runs above average per 120 games, while Drew Butera's pitch framing has been nine runs below average per 120 games. Check out the whole study for some very intriguing, unique stuff.

Michael Cuddyer and Danny Valencia are the only two players on the Twins' injury wrecked roster who'll log enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but believe it or not that isn't particularly rare. Ten teams in baseball history have had just one hitter qualify for the batting title, two of which are the Astros and Giants this season, and the Twins are the 70th team to have two or fewer qualifiers in a season.

Brian Dinkelman is 20-for-53 (.377) and all 20 of his hits have been singles. Jim Perry is the only other player in Twins history to record at least 15 hits in a season without an extra-base hit. Perry, a starting pitcher who won the Cy Young award in 1970, went 17-for-92 (.185) with all singles in 1971.

Tom Tango launched his annual "scouting report by the fans for the fans," which is your shot to play a scout by entering in personal observations about the players you watch on a regular basis to become part of the huge collection of scouting reports compiled entirely by fans. Take a look at the instructions and details, and then go to the Twins page to mark down what you think of, say, Trevor Plouffe's throwing accuracy or Ben Revere's arm strength.

Kevin Slowey, after taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning last night only to fall apart for his seventh straight loss:

It's like we’re watching the fate of Sisyphus himself. We get to the top of that hill and just can't seem to figure it out.

Actually, there was probably no need to identify which player said that.

• On a related note, this would have been an interesting conversation to overhear:

Something tells me neither of them mentioned any Greek mythology.

Michael Kruse from Grantland wrote a lengthy article about 32-year-old career minor leaguer Chase Lambin, who spent this season playing at Triple-A for the Twins.

• Dating back to last season the Twins are 61-106 in their last 167 games, including 9-39 since late July. To avoid the second 100-loss season in team history they'd have to finish 4-4.

• If you haven't yet, please check out this week's episode of "Gleeman and The Geek."

This week's content is sponsored by Jane Gallop's new book, "The Deaths of the Author: Reading and Writing In Time."

September 2, 2011

Link-O-Rama

This week's Link-O-Rama is sponsored by ... no one. Please help support AG.com's free content and advertise your product, service, local business, or website by becoming a "Sponsor of the Week."

Free Toby!

• I'm fortunate in that no one really liked me much as a fat guy, but Jonah Hill isn't so lucky.

Halle Berry celebrated her 45th birthday by making it very difficult to believe she celebrated her 45th birthday.

Ryan Braun had his sights on an inside-the-park homer, but instead he wiped out. And then his teammates recreated the crime scene.

• I can't wait to hang out with Sarah Silverman at the NBC company Christmas party.

• Texting with Shaquille O'Neal seems like fun.

• TMZ reports that Lenny Dykstra "pulled a bait and switch" with his penis "at least six times."

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a great story about fellow St. Paul native (and JCC basketball league alum) Jack Hannahan and the generosity of his Indians teammates.

• This chart showing the evolution of every NBA team's logo is oddly fascinating.

• I respect Minka Kelly for not calling me immediately. She obviously doesn't want to come off as desperate.

• It turns out no one really wants to watch Conan O'Brien on TBS either.

• Two great tastes that taste great together: Judd Zulgad and Joe Anderson are teaming up for 1500-ESPN's new show.

• My favorite part of Twitter this week was Gilbert Arenas feuding with comedian Joe Mande.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Aubrey Plaza was fantastic on Late Show With David Letterman, progressing from nervous to charming to funny to serious in a 10-minute interview:

And there's even a Minnesota reference thrown in.

Kelly Brook on a bicycle. That's all.

• As a veteran of many conference calls and planning sessions, I can relate.

• One of my favorite baseball reporters, Marc Carig of the Newark Star Ledger, gave a lengthy, interesting interview about the beat writing world.

• Based on these photos Sammy Sosa seems really bothered by the constant steroid talk.

• If she's in, then I'm out.

• As someone who co-created a similarly ambitious independent sportswriting site I'm rooting extremely hard for Tom Scharpling, Bethlehem Shoals, Eric Freeman, and The Classical.

• My favorite review of "Gleeman and The Geek" was posted after the podcast's first episode:

This is a good medium for Gleeman. He writes like an arrogant spiteful jerk, but he seems like a good guy talking to you.

Aw, shucks.

• My second favorite review of the podcast was sent to the show's Twitter account:

Listening to "Gleeman and The Geek" it hit me: If you close your eyes, Aaron Gleeman sounds like Christopher Walken.

I'd never really heard myself talk for an extended period of time before, but I now realize how ridiculous and inexplicable my accent is for someone who's lived in Minnesota for his entire life. Based on the early feedback I sound like a mix of Christopher Walken, Michael Rapaport, and the "Da Bears" guys from Saturday Night Live. You can, of course, judge for yourself.

Harris Wittels, Chelsea Peretti, and Adam Scott on "Comedy Bang Bang" might have been the hardest I've ever laughed at a podcast.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Diora Baird was a recent guest on Riki Lindhome's new "Making It" podcast.

Alex Rodriguez cares more about gambling than what MLB thinks about his gambling and as a fellow degenerate I approve.

• Mixed martial arts was already rapidly ascending into the mainstream, but the UFC signing a long-term deal with FOX and FX should move things along even more quickly. And they're not messing around with the first event.

Bruce Feldman leaving ESPN for CBS is a very interesting story.

• Renowned never-nude enthusiast and 47-year-old comedian/actor David Cross got engaged to 28-year-old actress Amber Tamblyn.

Bill Simmons and my dad hang out in the same places, apparently.

• Last week was my five-year anniversary at NBC, so if you haven't already maybe think about checking out HardballTalk.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is James Taylor and Joe Walsh teaming up for a live cover of "Goodnight Irene" on Howard Stern's show:

August 12, 2011

Link-O-Rama

This week's Link-O-Rama is sponsored by Wholesale Gold and Diamond Distributors in Minneapolis, so please help support AG.com by considering them for your jewelry needs ...

• I have so many questions about this photo that I don't even know where to start.

• You had me at "McNulty."

• Good news for people who like funny things on the television: FX renewed "Louie" for a third season and picked up "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia" for two more seasons.

• And if you haven't seen it the "Louie" scene between Louis C.K. and Dane Cook is amazing.

Brett Favre thinks Fedor Emelianenko is sticking around too long.

• On a related note, UFC president Dana White revealed that Emelianenko once turned down a huge multi-fight offer to join the UFC and debut against Brock Lesnar.

Dirty pictures of Bar Refaeli. Literally.

• Not only did 1500-ESPN dump Colin Cowherd, his replacement is Judd Zulgad, who's leaving the Minneapolis Star Tribune to host his own show and be a columnist for the station's website. Congratulations to one of the nicest, best, and hardest-working media members in Minnesota.

• Oh, and if you want his old gig the Star Tribune has a "help wanted" listing.

Bryce Harper freaked out on an umpire after being ejected from a Double-A game.

• I'm guessing this is the best anyone has ever looked going through airport security.

• It must have been her "nice smile and personality" that snagged Derek Jeter.

• Best use of Win Probability Added ever? David Cameron versus leukemia.

Sentence of the week: "His marketing agent said Dennis Rodman is spending $60,000 to fly in Penny Marshall, Howard Stern, and other friends."

• A video tribute to one of the most essentially non-essential characters in television history:

It's still not too late for Bob Sacamano spin-off show.

Sarah Silverman to Deadspin: "Eat a dick."

• Some pretty compelling evidence that George Clooney is a genius.

• Being a baseball reporter is apparently more dangerous than it sounds, which is why it's far safer to stay in your parents' basement.

• SoccerTalk, anyone?

• They should be solid lead-ins for my cooking show.

LaVelle E. Neal III and Al Newman were finally spotted in the same place at the same time.

• Confession: I'm a 28-year-old man and one night this week I watched "WWE: Greatest Cage Matches Of All Time" on Netflix instant.

Lenny Dykstra looks good in orange.

• Just a couple 51-year-old former big leaguers brawling in a game managed by Jose Canseco.

• What were the biggest tactical mistakes that Stringer Bell made? I'm glad you asked.

• Podcast recommendation: Erin Gibson is hilarious on Twitter, so it's no surprise that she was an excellent guest on "Totally Laime" with Elizabeth Laime.

• I haven't posted a Fat-O-Meter update in quite a while and am feeling pretty good about my progress, so: I'm down 90 pounds since March 1. No real secrets, other than being very fat to begin with helps a lot. My initial goal was to have lost more pounds than Twins victories by the end of the season, but even if they finish the year on a 45-0 run I'm pretty safe.

• Speaking of which, Mila Kunis should write a dieting book. I'd buy it just for the pictures.

• If you like fiction and baseball, check out friend of AG.com Axel Kohagen's online novel.

• Reminder: If you're interested in advertising your product, service, local business, or website please consider helping to support AG.com by becoming a sponsor of the week.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Delta Spirit singing a live version of "Devil Knows You're Dead":

February 4, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• If you don't think this will soon be hanging on my wall, you clearly don't know me very well.

• NHL goalie fights are pretty funny to begin with, but NHL goalie fights ending after one punch are hilarious.

Henry Abbott of ESPN.com took a very interesting look at the difference between perception and reality when it comes to Kobe Bryant and "clutch."

• An army of Christina Hendricks look-a-likes sounds fine to me.

Rob Neyer is for me what Bill James was for many baseball fans in the 1980s, shaping the way I watch and write about the sport to the point that I've basically been attempting to do a semi-passable Rob Neyer impression for the past decade. He's the first online writer I read on a regular basis and I remain a huge fan, so much so that I've never really gotten over being starstruck when I see him each year at the Society for American Baseball Research convention.

When it comes to bringing sabermetrics to a mainstream audience Neyer has been the single most effective baseball writer of all time, and that includes James. This week, after 15 years of great work at ESPN.com, he decided to make a change and is now the national baseball editor at SB Nation. And not only didn't he take even one day off between jobs, Neyer is churning out more content than ever at his new home. Congratulations and good luck to one of my heroes.

Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference.com wrote a guest column for the New York Times on Kevin Love's unique brand of greatness this season. And somehow he's not an All-Star (yet).

• I'm willing to help Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Jenna Fischer reach her goal.

• An unlikely radio partnership between friend of AG.com Phil Mackey and longtime Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse has been so successful that 1500-ESPN has decided to expand their show by another hour each afternoon. In addition to more Mackey they smartly also lured Judd Zulgad away from KFAN, where the fantastic Star Tribune reporter had been an exclusive Vikings analyst. It almost makes up for the times they mistakenly put me on the air.

Least surprising news of the week: A.J. Pierzynski is friends with the guys from Creed.

• As a lifelong Minnesota it takes a lot to impress me regarding winter driving, but this did it:

If you look carefully, I think the other car has a "Geek Squad" logo on the door.

Eric Stonestreet is outstanding on Modern Family, but his greatest contribution to society will always be snapping a picture of Minka Kelly and Sofia Vergara posing together at the Golden Globes and posting it on Twitter.

• Twins president Dave St. Peter is now on Twitter, so you should probably follow him.

• Based on this lengthy article in New York magazine I clearly picked the wrong type of website to start nine years ago.

• I finally saw "The Social Network" this week. I liked it a lot, and the script and acting were so good that I would've happily watched it go on for another five hours, but for whatever reason it struck me as just short of being great. My primary takeaways from the film: 1) Rooney Mara is responsible for everything, ever. 2) Guys named Zuckerman should never interact with Aryan twins. 3) Don't throw beer. Grade: A-minus.

Apparently the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com liked "The Social Network" too.

• Now that he's dropped the price, I think we should pool our money together and buy Shawn Green's house.

Seth Stohs' annual "Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook" is now available for purchase and you should buy it. Seriously. I can't stress this enough: You should buy it. Not only is it a great read and an amazing value at $14.95 for 170 pages, Seth has spent thousands of hours and most of the past decade churning out good baseball writing that can be enjoyed for absolutely free. Paying him 15 bucks for a good product seems like an easy way to show support. Do it.

• My latest podcasting discovery is "Pop My Culture" with Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland, which is basically hour-long, mostly silly conversations with various comedians and actors. For instance, here's one with longtime Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Linda Cardellini.

• If you have Netflix streaming and are as into offbeat documentaries as me, check out "I Like Killing Flies" and "I Think We're Alone Now." Both are equal parts engrossing and weird.

• Last weekend I had dinner at Mix Fusion Bistro in Eden Prairie and the food was every bit as good as when I reviewed the restaurant after it opened in July, with an added bonus that lots of people were there this time. Chalk one up for customers eventually finding a good product.

• I've done a 180-degree turn on the Super Bowl, going from initially believing in the Steelers as small underdogs to now thinking the Packers will win and cover the 2.5-point spread. For a slightly more comprehensive analysis of Sunday's matchup, read this.

• Here are some highlights from my NBCSports.com blogging this week:

- Red Sox want David Ortiz to continue facing lefties even if he can't hit them
- White Sox GM after making 1984 trade for Ozzie Guillen: "I think we just signed a jockey"
- Andy Pettitte's retirement (and Jamie Moyer's injury) means no active pitcher has 200 wins
- Chris Carter is going to be disappointed when the A's send him to Triple-A
- Lance Berkman criticizes the Rangers in explaining why he chose St. Louis over Texas
- Royals' projected 2011 payroll is $33 million (or $2 million more than Alex Rodriguez's salary)
- If healthy, Jesus Flores could be trade bait for the Nationals
- LaTroy Hawkins expects to be ready for Opening Day after shoulder surgery

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Little Richard singing "Long Tall Sally":