November 4, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• It turns out "replacement level" means something totally different in the non-baseball world.

• I'm not much for petitions, but this is certainly a worthwhile cause. They've suffered enough.

• An important reminder from my mom's favorite player: Being fat isn't the same as being jolly.

Kris Humphries stayed with the Gophers longer than this.

Scarlett Johansson quote of the week: "There's nothing wrong with that. It's not like I was shooting a porno. Although there's nothing wrong with that either. I know my best angles."

Cory Provus will replace John Gordon as the Twins' radio play-by-play announcer. Provus previously worked with Bob Uecker in Milwaukee and Brewers fans on Twitter gave him lots of very positive reviews yesterday.

This news is responsible for more nerd fantasies than all six Star Wars movies combined.

• Of course, it's not all good news on the fantasy girl marketplace.

• As promised, I now have both of these in my closet.

Nick Diaz shouting "train by day, Joe Rogan podcast all night" after defeating B.J. Penn was my favorite post-fight moment in UFC history.

Except for the whole training part, I'm the same way.

Mark Brunell has earned $50 million during an 18-season NFL career that's still going at age 41, but once he retires he'll be working as a medical sales representative to make ends meet.

• Remember how Michael Beasley's publicist annoyingly sent me 20 e-mails in the span of two days last week? Despite being perfect for each other they've parted ways already.

• My favorite journalism school teacher, Paul McEnroe, wrote a really interesting article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

• More than three million people still pay to subscribe to AOL's dial-up service. Seriously.

• My musical taste is often mocked, and rightfully so most of the time, but two of my favorites are struggling with eerily similar throat problems that seemingly could threaten their careers.

• Once upon a time, before he managed 5,000 games and wore jeans on late-night television talk shows, Tony La Russa was just a Triple-A infielder with a weak bat and strong sideburns.

John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, and Parker Hageman apparently did a group photo shoot for their TwinsCentric blog on the Star Tribune's website and it reminded me of this:

"Straight Outta Warroad."

• Speaking of the Star Tribune's website, they moved to a metered paywall for content, which is a bold move to say the least. StarTribune.com sports coordinator and Twins blogger Howard Sinker is scheduled to be our guest on next week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode, so we'll definitely get into the newspaper talk along with the usual baseball stuff.

• And if you haven't checked out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" show yet, it's probably worth listening to just to hear us compare Aaron Hicks to a bad Adrian Brody movie.

• SB Nation hired one of my favorite baseball writers, Amy K. Nelson, away from ESPN.

• My latest podcast discovery: "The Champs" with Moshe Kasher and Neal Brennan, which is the perfect mix of funny, serious, interesting, and silly. Listening to their two-part episode with Blake Griffin immediately made him my favorite NBA player.

• Kasher and Brennan also recommended watching Eddie Murphy's first guest appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which mostly made me sad that he's spent the past 15 years making kids movies.

• Listening to Sarah Silverman chat with Julie Klausner was a highlight of this Hebrew school expellee's week.

Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat are among 10 candidates on the special "golden era" Hall of Fame ballot. To me they both narrowly miss the cut, but I'm sure many Twins fans feel differently.

This guy is the Twins' new Triple-A hitting coach.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "How You Like Me Now?" by The Heavy:

July 4, 2011

Twins Notes: Musical closers, All-Star wars, and main attractions

Ron Gardenhire stuck with Matt Capps as the closer following Saturday's implosion, but then pulled him with two runners on base and one out yesterday rather than let the right-hander blow back-to-back saves. Glen Perkins wriggled out of Capps' mess for his first career save, leading to postgame speculation that there could be a permanent change in the ninth inning, but Gardenhire downplayed that talk by saying Capps "is still our closer."

With a 4.63 ERA and league-leading six blown saves in 19 chances Capps has certainly pitched poorly enough to warrant a demotion and Perkins has been the Twins' best reliever all year, so giving him an opportunity in the bullpen's top role makes sense. However, removing Capps from the ninth inning would likely just mean giving him chances to blow leads in earlier innings and installing Perkins as closer would put him in a far more rigid, potentially less impactful role.

Perkins has been so valuable in large part because Gardenhire has been willing to use him in basically any situation. He's worked every inning from the fifth to the tenth, seeing significant action in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He's come into games to protect small leads, but also to keep things close with small deficits or keep things tied with the score knotted. And he's been used a ton, appearing in 31 of 59 games while on the active roster.

As a closer that would all change because Perkins would mostly be limited to pitching the ninth inning with a lead of 1-3 runs. No more putting out fires in the seventh frame, no more pitching the eighth inning down a run, and no more working every other day. Decreasing his workload some may not be a bad thing, but moving Perkins into a role with far more rigid usage won't help matters much overall and would likely just mean Capps sliding into a prominent setup gig.

• In terms of Capps-related mistakes trading Wilson Ramos to get him last season and paying $7.15 million to keep him this season were both worse than sticking with him as closer, where he's perfectly capable of converting saves 80 percent of the time just like every other halfway decent reliever. Perhaps demoting Capps would improve things in the ninth inning, but in order to do that the Twins would have to weaken things in the seventh and eighth innings.

And beyond the immediate on-field domino effect, putting Perkins in a role where he can rack up saves will make him significantly more expensive in future seasons even if his actual value stays the same or even decreases. No one has been harder on Capps and the Twins' decision to acquire Capps than me, but any change that simply involves him in a different high-leverage inning isn't as big as the misguided focus on the save statistic would have you believe.

If the Twins feel they have to remove Capps from the ninth inning it makes more sense to give Joe Nathan another crack at closing and see if his impressive outings since returning from the disabled list are a genuine sign of his old stuff gradually coming back. Nathan's future price tag isn't a factor, his current role doesn't involve a heavy workload anyway, and stringing together some solid outings over the next few weeks might resuscitate his trade value.

Capps isn't as terrible as the six blown saves would suggest, but he's also not a good closer. Never has been, never will be. He's basically Jon Rauch, minus eight inches and a bunch of ink, and plus a beer belly. I've hammered that point home before, so I won't get back into it, but I will say that only two active pitchers with 100 saves have fewer than 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings. One is Danys Baez, who has a 5.03 ERA since 41 saves in 2005. The other is Capps.

Michael Cuddyer was chosen for the All-Star team yesterday, following in the grand tradition of previous Twins representatives like Ron Coomer, Tim Laudner, Dave Engle, Leo Cardenas, Gary Ward, Joe Mays, Doug Corbett, and Cristian Guzman. Assuming that Scott Baker isn't a last-minute pitching replacement this will be the Twins' first year with just one All-Star since 2004. In the six seasons since then the Twins averaged 2.67 representatives per year.

• Incidentally, through exactly half of the season here are the Twins' leaders and trailers in the Baseball-Reference.com-calculated Wins Above Replacement (WAR):

LEADERS              WAR          TRAILERS             WAR
Denard Span          3.5          Tsuyoshi Nishioka   -1.5
Scott Baker          2.8          Justin Morneau      -1.0
Michael Cuddyer      1.5          Jim Hoey            -0.8
Glen Perkins         1.1          Matt Tolbert        -0.7
Jason Kubel          0.9          Joe Nathan          -0.7

I have no problem with Cuddyer getting the nod. He's not a great player and isn't even having a great season--ranking 23rd in OPS and 47th in WAR among AL hitters--but the one-player-per-team rule forces the Twins to send someone and Denard Span is hurt, plus the pitching staff is tougher to crack than the bench. Mostly, though, I couldn't care less about the All-Star game and always have a hard time getting worked up about the picks one way or another.

• Like every other Twins injury this year Jason Kubel's sprained left foot has kept him out for significantly longer than the team's initial return timetable. First he hoped to miss just a couple days, then he aimed to avoid the disabled list, then he was optimistic about returning after the minimum 15 days on the shelf, and now he's already missed 35 days and counting following a setback while rehabbing in Fort Myers. "Day-to-day" equals "one month" in Twins speak.

Rick Knapp, who was the Twins' minor-league pitching coordinator for a dozen years before leaving the organization in 2008 to become the Tigers' major-league pitching coach, was fired yesterday after 2.5 seasons on the job. Knapp was often credited with being a key part of the Twins' organization-wide focus on throwing strikes, but under his watch Detroit ranked 12th, 7th, and 12th in walks and 5th, 11th, and 12th in ERA among AL teams.

David Dorsey of the Fort Myers News Press did a feature on Aaron Hicks, who turned things around following a slow start and is now batting .280/.392/.424 with 26 extra-base hits, 46 walks, and 11 steals in 66 games at high Single-A. His power has been slow to develop, but Hicks' plate disciplines continues to stand out for a 21-year-old, his switch-hitting has become more balanced, and his defense in center field consistently draws positive reviews.

• Saturday marked the start of the international signing period and the Twins' highest-profile pickup is Miguel Gonzalez, a 16-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic who signed for $650,000. Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Gonzalez "draws attention for his ability to pound the strike zone with a fastball that reaches the low 90s" and "has feel for pitching beyond his years." He even predicted the Twins would sign him.

• For all his ups and downs this year Alexi Casilla is hitting .244/.312/.346 through 74 games. His combined line during the previous three seasons: .256/.316/.344. Same old, same old.

Kris Humphries sat through a two-hour rain delay before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Friday, was mostly booed by the Target Field crowd, fired low to Rene Rivera, and then went back into a suite to sit with fiancee Kim Kardashian, who was the much bigger attraction among Twins players and media members:

On a related note, when things go wrong at least Capps isn't as scary as the guy he replaced:

And that angle doesn't even display the neck tattoos.

This week's content is sponsored by the Minnesota law firm Snyder Gislason Frasier LLC, so please help support AG.com by considering them for your legal needs.

May 27, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• In a tale as old as time, dating Kim Kardashian got Kris Humphries his own photo spread in GQ magazine, so he gave her a $2 million ring and they're getting married. (He's now No. 2 on the married-to-a-Kardashian sister depth chart at power forward.)

Oscar De La Hoya can apparently confirm what Rick James always said.

David Cone, stat-head.

Tom Brady appears to be enjoying the NFL lockout. Maybe a little too much, even.

• As someone who grabbed chocolate milk in the cafeteria every day from kindergarten to high school this news gives me mixed feelings. On a related note, I've been fat since junior high.

Estella Warren sounds like a fun hang.

• Before he spent $200 million to be the new Mets minority owner David Einhorn finished 18th in the World Series of Poker main event and donated the entire $660,000 prize to charity.

• As a big Bill Withers fan who wishes he'd have kept churning out albums, his interview with The Onion is fascinating.

• After weighing the joy of motherhood versus her Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title chances, longtime candidate Jenna Fischer made what can only be described as a questionable call.

• Prior to adopting the "Macho Man" persona and becoming one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time, Randy Savage was Randy Poffo and he played minor-league baseball.

• My first thought after reading this story? "Hey, that happened right next to the Taco Bell and White Castle that I go to." Luckily danger only makes fast food taste even better.

• I've seen enough people mocking "jorts" to know that jean shorts are a no-no and lately I've seen similar goofing on cargo shorts, which has me wondering exactly what type of shorts are acceptable for, say, a 28-year-old man to wear in the summer? I don't buy into the "no shorts are acceptable on men" theory, because I'm not prepared to sweat to death any time the sun comes out. Some of us require ventilation to survive in the outdoors.

Zach Galifianakis' recent appearance on Conan was predictably odd and amusing:

Speaking of Conan O'Brien, the comedian warming up the audience for his show is also one of the original podcasters and the Los Angeles Times ran a nice feature on Jimmy Pardo.

• Four words: The Cosby Sweater Project.

• My boss resigning was a pretty big story. I heard about it in the New York Times.

• ESPN and FOX teamed up to keep NBC away from college football.

• Call me crazy, but it sure seems like Maria Menounos might work out.

• Two of my favorite podcasters, Jesse Thorn and Marc Maron, have teamed up to bring "WTF with Marc Maron" to public radio in a trend we'll likely see more of as the medium evolves.

• My latest podcast discovery: "How Was Your Week" with Julie Klausner, which can probably best be described as delightful even though a scan of the archives shows that I've used that word just twice in 10 years of blogging. For starters, listen to the episode with Jen Kirkman.

David Kahn is as good at telling jokes as he is at general managing.

• Baseball writers might be going a little overboard quoting anonymous scouts.

• I should have spent more time learning about IPO and less time learning about OPS as a kid.

• Speaking of which, I'm now on LinkedIn even if I'm not sure why exactly.

Christina Hendricks, if you read this (she often skips non-Twins entries): I'm not deterred.

• The fatal flaw with this study? What about the men who're moody because they can't attract any women? Not me, of course. I'm asking for a friend.

Worst couple ever?

• One of my favorite writers, Michael David Smith, recently added editor at SB Nation Chicago to his list of gigs along with ProFootballTalk and MMAFighting.com.

• Speaking of Chicago, the "Bear Jew" is a factual nickname for Gabe Carimi.

• On a related note, a couple months ago I mentioned a documentary about Jews in baseball that was playing at a local film festival and now the movie is available on Netflix streaming.

• New blog to check out: Twins Fan From Afar.

• As you may have noticed on the sidebar the "AG.com Sponsor of the Week" program is set to begin next week. I'm happy to report that the response has been positive and early spots are filling up fast, so if you're interested in promoting a product, service, website, or local business while also supporting all the free content on this blog please check it out.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the aforementioned Bill Withers singing a live version of "Use Me":

May 6, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Mila Kunis has a fool-proof plan to meet Barack Obama that should delight the president's body man, former Duke basketball player Reggie Love.

• He'll obviously land on his feet and maybe even get a more prominent overall gig elsewhere, but CBS letting Gus Johnson go after 16 years because of a monetary disagreement is terrible news for everyone who loved him calling NCAA tournament games. There's never been a more perfect match between announcer and event, so hopefully both sides reconsider.

Randy Moss' daughter, Sydney Moss, is a 5-foot-11 high school basketball star in Kentucky and recently committed to the University of Florida after averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior.

• Lindsay Lohan's version of community service seems fun.

Dick Kaegel of MLB.com describes how the Royals have all but ditched in-person "advanced scouting" in favor of video analysis. As manager Ned Yost put it: "You don't need an advance scout anymore. You've got everything at your fingertips. Everything I need or we need to see is on the video."

Kris Humphries has his hands full with Kim Kardashian, literally and figuratively.

Trey Kirby interviewing Amar'e Stoudemire's personal stylist is spectacular enough, but the photo of Stoudemire sitting next to Anna Wintour really takes things to the next level.

Ozzie Guillen was suspended two games for tweeting, which merely adds to his legend.

• At around 2:00 am Wednesday night the few hundred fans left at Fenway Park for the Red Sox's marathon game with the Angels serenaded Kevin Youkilis with a personalized version of "Just A Friend" by Biz Markie:

My childhood smiled.

• Judging by his scores John Smoltz is closer to coming out of retirement to pitch again than he is to making the PGA tour.

• My favorite part about 26-year-old Scarlett Johansson continuing to date 50-year-old Sean Penn is this report that "she's at his house most nights and has been accepted by his teenage sons." Not mentioned is their confusion about winning the lottery without buying a ticket.

• Journalism tops The Daily Beast's list of the "most useless degrees." Even more useless than a journalism degree? Spending four years in college without getting a journalism degree.

• According to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report the Minneapolis Star Tribune owns the 17th-largest daily newspaper circulation in the country at 296,605.

• I watched every episode of America's Next Great Restaurant on NBC, but a combination of diet and laziness precludes me from going to the Mall of America to give Soul Daddy a try. I'm fairly certain most people don't want their soul food healthy, so what are the odds it'll still be open by the time my diet inevitably fails?

• Sad story, but this never would have happened if she was actually 50 feet tall.

• My old cantor got arrested for a DWI going to my old high school when his wife "called police to report that he'd be showing up at the school and that he was driving under the influence" at 5:45 pm. I could write another 500 sentences about that one sentence, but I won't.

• On a related note, Derek Lowe's life is like The Fast And The Furious films, except sweatier, drunker, and with a higher ground-ball percentage.

• If you enjoyed 500 Days of Summer and watch Community you'll love 500 Days of Britta:

I'm definitely in favor of Zooey Deschanel and Gillian Jacobs teaming up for the sequel.

• One of the best side effects of NBC Universal combining with Comcast is the Versus channel's website and excellent MMA writer Ariel Helwani folding into NBCSports.com.

• From the shoplifting arrest and plea agreement to his side of the story, nothing about Mike Leake's situation makes sense to me.

• I'm not really sure what took me so long aside from being the world's oldest 28-year-old, but I finally tried Skype this week and was basically amazed by the entire thing. I lost my Skype virginity taping an episode of HBT Daily with Craig Calcaterra in which we discussed Francisco Liriano's no-hitter. He was gentle and wearing the headset made me feel sexy.

• My second Skype experience was even better, as I recorded a late-night podcast with Marc Normandin and Matt Kory from Red Sox Beacon in which we talked about the Twins-Red Sox series and re-wrote the script to the upcoming Moneyball movie. As someone who listens to no fewer than 25 podcasts per week it was a lot of fun to appear on a podcast that can actually be found on iTunes and we chatted for about 45 minutes, so please give it a listen.

• If you're more into radio than podcasts, you can listen to my appearance on Minnesota Public Radio talking Twins with Cathy Wurzer.

• Marrying a former Miss Michigan isn't as great as it sounds, as Charlie Bell has learned.

Sammy Sosa likes to laugh at NBA playoff games.

• Congratulations to friend of AG.com Chris Jaffe, who won the Sporting News-SABR Baseball Research Award for his incredibly detailed book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers, from which the Tom Kelly section was excerpted here last year.

• Due to the strong response to my note about wanting to partner with AG.com readers who have interesting and worthwhile stuff to advertise I'm going to start a "Sponsor of the Week" program soon that will keep the site's overall advertising to a minimum while highlighting one advertiser per week for supporting the blog. I've begun reserving weeks, so to promote your thing to the thousands of people who visit this space every day drop me an e-mail for details.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the original version of "Just A Friend":

April 8, 2011

Link-O-Rama

I'm bummed out about Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but the links must go on ...

• I've been trying to make the switch from sportswriter to pimp for years.

Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian are still going strong and the former Gopher obviously has "The Kardashian Effect" to thank for becoming one of the NBA's most improved players.

Vin Scully is a big fan of the Honky Tonk Man. Greatness appreciates greatness, obviously.

Charlie Sheen's live show went about as well as should have been expected.

• Speaking of Sheen: Take a number, pal.

• Do all these people moving back into their parents' basements realize they're now obligated to become bloggers? Oddly, my mom threatens to move into my basement on a weekly basis.

• Whenever the level of discourse in the comments section gets me down I remind myself that about one percent of AG.com readers comment regularly. Apparently that's true for most blogs.

Mark Cuban was hanging out in the Hardball Talk comments section, which moves him ahead of Colby Rasmus' dad and Curt Flood's son as our most famous commenter.

• Today's technology would have ruined a bunch of Seinfeld episodes.

Wearing swimsuits remains her specialty, but Brooklyn Decker looks decent in clothes too.

Karl Pilkington is ratings gold.

• I wrote a lot of sentences this week, but this one was definitely my favorite: "Admittedly you can't invite Minka Kelly over to hang out in an earplug." Controversial, but true!

• I haven't danced since leaving the bar mitzvah circuit in 1996 and things have changed quite a bit since then based on Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton's impromptu "Dougie" lesson at a basketball game:

My specialty back in the mid-90s was awkward slow dances set to Boyz II Men songs.

• I'm dumbfounded how baseball "analysis" this mind-bogglingly bad gets into any mainstream publication, let alone the New York Times. It would have been a better fit on April 1.

• How long did the New York Times have an Elizabeth Taylor obituary ready to go before she actually died last month? Well, at the bottom of the piece was this footnote: "Mel Gussow, the principal writer of this article, died in 2005."

• Red Sox sideline reporter Heidi Watney narrowly avoided death by chicken and waffles.

• Here's a handy recap of my Twitter exchange with Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, who called me out (sort of) after hearing me talk Twins with Cathy Wurzer on Minnesota Public Radio.

• As my NBCSports.com colleague Craig Calcaterra notes, the Indians treat their bloggers far better than, say, the Twins.

• Friend of AG.com and local Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski is standing his ground in the face of a ridiculous lawsuit by NBA referee Bill Spooner.

• A former NBA referee tried to beat up Dominique Wilkins at a Hawks game in Atlanta. Based on the mugshot, he failed.

Gus Hansen might be even better at dating than he is at poker.

• My initial reaction after reading this sad story? Even that guy had a girlfriend.

Ken Rosenthal is the Brother Mouzone of baseball reporters.

• In addition to being the youngest champion in UFC history Jon Jones excels at apprehending thieves on the way to pre-fight waterfalls.

• I've never seen Brock Lesnar be more likable or interesting than in this interview with Ariel Helwani, who also switched gears for a hilarious MMA-driven chat with comedians Jim Norton and Robert Kelly.

Jose Canseco's twin brother Ozzie Canseco tried to impersonate him in a "celebrity boxing" match worth $10,000, but the tattoos gave him away.

• Not surprisingly, the best comedy on television has a great blooper reel:

In related news, my crush on Aubrey Plaza has grown even stronger.

• I can't blame HBO for canceling In Treatment given the lowly viewership numbers, but as one of the few people to see every episode from all three seasons of the Gabriel Byrne-led drama I'll definitely miss what was a truly unique, marvelously acted show.

• In much better television news AMC and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner have worked out a deal to ensure the show will run at least two and possibly three more seasons, although the bad news is that new episodes won't begin again until 2012.

• One positive is that should give Jon Hamm plenty of time to shave, put on some socks, find a nice suit, and ditch the Cardinals hat for a little pomade.

• This could revolutionize television and movies or it could be nothing, but Netflix is getting into the content-creation business and their first partnership is with David Fincher.

Zach Galifianakis is creating a show starring one of the few comedians weirder than him.

• Not that this should surprise anyone who's seen her in Boardwalk Empire on HBO, but Paz de la Huerta seems like fun.

• Here's the fatal flaw of these never-ending Domino's commercials: Their new chicken is awful. I'm a fatso who ate chicken wings from Pizza Hut multiple times per week for months, yet even I'll never get it again. Also, what good is having a "rate our chicken" survey on the actual box? Are people supposed to fill it out and bring it back to the restaurant?

• I'm going to be honest about something embarrassing: As a kid I used to like the baked ziti.

• Friend of AG.com and Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Phil Miller got an "honorable mention" for best "game story" of 2010 from the Associated Press Sports Editors.

• Google discovery during the NCAA tournament: Marv Albert's real name is Marvin Aufrichtig and he'll be 70 years old in June.

• If the Timberwolves finally win the draft lottery, here's the guy they'll almost certainly pick.

• If you're into the NBA and interesting artwork, check out this site.

• Along with hosting my latest podcast obsession,Tom Scharpling had an interesting history as a basketball writer.

• My favorite podcast this week was Conan O'Brien's appearance on "WTF" with Marc Maron.

• Where do you stand on The Great Ketchup Debate of 2011?

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Steve Earle singing "I Feel Alright" live:

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