July 1, 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 ...

• Baseball is nice and all, but I think I've finally found my sport.

• I wish Otis Redding would come out with as much post-death material at Tupac.

• Thankfully they didn't print any of my personal information. How embarrassing.

• Just by walking down the street Chrissy Teigen shows why supermodels are supermodels.

• As you might expect, Bruce Springsteen's eulogy for Clarence Clemons was pretty amazing.

• If forced to guess which female cast member on The Office was formerly an NFL cheerleader every single person would be wrong.

Dave Chappelle took all the time he used to spend being funny and used it to work out.

Jim Riggleman sure knows how to celebrate being fired. And now he's my colleague. Sort of.

• Don't let the Sports Illustrated poll fool you: LeBron James stinks at baseball.

• Being traded to Cleveland probably isn't much fun post-James, but it's tough to feel too sorry for Omri Casspi these days.

• Weird question (that reveals too much about me) of the week: Do you ever lie while getting a haircut?

• I recently finished re-watching all five seasons of The Wire and even the second time around it was so amazing that I started to get angry with just a handful of episodes remaining. I also came to the realization that my fashion sense is the exact same as Dukie's. I'm not sure what the best way is to convince anyone who hasn't yet watched The Wire to take the plunge, but here's a video of every epigraph from my favorite television drama of all time:

As the great Lester Freamon put it: "All the pieces matter." What a f***ing show.

• In the latest installment of "other media members reacting to  Sid Hartman doing things" an amused Dana Wessel is joined by a delighted Phil Mackey.

• For several reasons Tanguay Ngombo will go down as the most David Kahn draft pick in the history of David Kahn draft picks.

• I e-mailed this link to my mom, who remains the world's biggest Kevin Garnett fan, and she replied: "She might just be a friend and he just forgot his ring on his nightstand."

• Much like the person in this story, whenever a nude, redheaded actress drunkenly knocks on my hotel room door in the wee hours of the morning my immediate reaction is to call security.

Lindsay Lohan is doing great, as usual.

David Eckstein isn't even playing, yet he still leads the league in "grit and desire."

• As a big Party Down fan, my hopes are officially up.

• OK, now this whole government shutdown thing is getting serious.

• After watching his various appearance this week I'm in favor of making Louis CK all-time talk show guest, like all-time quarterback. Here's part one of his Jimmy Kimmel Live interview:

His segment on The Daily Show was hilarious too and if you don't laugh at those two videos we probably can't be friends. Also, watch his show on FX.

• This week's reminder that I went to journalism school.

Cheick Kongo's crazy knockout of Pat Barry at last weekend's UFC event is the equivalent of a baseball team scoring 10 runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 10-9.

• Locally trained MMA fighter Brett Rogers couldn't beat Josh Barnett at the Strikeforce event two weekends ago, so instead he beat up his wife.

• On his podcast Joe Rogan repeatedly warned that he likely couldn't pass up the ridiculous money they were offering, so he's back as the host of Fear Factor.

• Before last week my only experience with Brazilian food was gorging myself at a steakhouse, but I'm officially a fan of the cuisine after eating at Samba in Hopkins.

• Recommended podcast of the week: Rob Delaney (the stand-up comic, not the former Twins pitching prospect) was a great guest on "Jordan, Jesse, Go!"

• Last weekend I was at a local baseball tournament where they raffled off a game-used Luis Rivas bat, which longtime AG.com readers will hopefully find as funny as I did. At one point the announcer told the crowd: "There haven't been many sold, so pretty good chance you'd win."

• Another old friend, J.C. Romero, has found a new home with the Nationals ... at Triple-A.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Tom Waits growling his original The Wire theme, "Way Down In The Hole":

June 9, 2011

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 2,000 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@mabreen: Can the Twins trust Bill Smith to get quality returns at the deadline?

That's definitely a big worry and probably an overlooked aspect of the looming sell-off. Can the general manager and front office whose poor trades have contributed to the team's decline be counted on to capably rebuild through trades? They've never been in clear-cut "seller" mode before, so it's tough to know until it happens, but the thought of the Twins making several big trades definitely makes me very nervous.

@natesleeter: What's the best trade Bill Smith has made?

In-season trades to get Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes for mid-level prospects were good moves and dealing Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy was a strong offseason move. It certainly hasn't been pretty overall, though.

@brandonwarne52: Bigger mistake, dealing J.J. Hardy for pennies or forgoing the Type A compensation for Carl Pavano?

In retrospect trading Hardy and re-signing Pavano for two years both look like mistakes, but at the time I hated the decision to get rid of Hardy and had no problem with the Pavano deal.

@every108minutes: What's the easiest way to explain WAR to my wife?

The simplest explanation is that it measures how many wins a player is worth compared to the caliber of players teams can easily acquire on waivers or as minor-league free agents. And if your wife's eyes don't gloss over as you say that her Wins Above Replacement Wife (WARF) is obviously off the charts.

@kinsky21: Kevin Slowey is almost certainly a goner, but who do you think is the second most likely player to be moved?

Delmon Young seems like the obvious answer, but that assumes he has some semblance of trade value remaining and I'm not so sure that's the case at this point.

@commnman: Time to just cut bait on Delmon Young?

I've never been a Young fan and tried to emphasize how overrated his performance was last season, but at this point between the lack of production offensively, embarrassing effort, and a projected 2012 salary of at least $6 million his value is marginal at best. Unfortunately the other 29 teams have likely figured that out too.

@auzzie_02: What moves would you make at the trade deadline?

I'd look to trade Young, plus Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Kevin SloweyMatt Capps, Joe Nathan, and Pavano.

@djjlav: How's the diet coming along?

So far so good. I'm down about 70 pounds since March 7, although I was thrown for a loop the other day when I moved the scale a few inches and my weight went up nearly 10 pounds. So now I'm not sure what to believe and it's probably not a great long-term sign that my reaction to the scale issue was to immediately think, "Screw it, I should order pizza and chicken wings."

@bertrecords: Are the Twins' medical reports credible?

At this point I assume a player will need 2-3 weeks on the disabled list any time the Twins say someone is "day-to-day" with an injury and most longer timetables can safely be doubled. For example, Tsuyoshi Nishioka was initially given a 4-6 week timetable and the Twins noted that he was "ahead of schedule" a few weeks in ... and he's already been out for nine weeks. And obviously the entire Joe Mauer situation has been a mess.

@SkiUMahGopher: What's going to happen with the 40-man roster when Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka come off the 60-day disabled list?

In the past--and even early on this year--the Twins have made decisions based on the 40-man roster management, but now they have plenty of dead weight that could either be passed through waivers unclaimed or wouldn't hurt to lose anyway.

@kinsky21: Assuming Joe Mauer doesn't attend the game, who's the Twins' representative for the All-Star game?

Ron Coomer? I have enough issues with the way All-Stars are selected that I won't attempt to predict who'll actually get the nod, but through around one-third of the schedule Denard Span has clearly been the Twins' most valuable player and Kubel is really the only other guy playing at anything close to an All-Star level. And of course now Kubel is on the disabled list and Span is out of the lineup with a potentially serious issue.

@Capt_Yossarian: What's the best show on television right now?

Right now my DVR is set to record more than 30 shows, so it wouldn't seem right to name just one. For comedy I like Parks and Recreation, Community, Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Modern Family, The Office, and Childrens Hospital. For drama I like Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and Men of a Certain Age. And for non-fiction I like Chopped, Poker After Dark, and Top Chef. Watch all of those or just buy a DVR of The Wire.

@jgbaskin: Defense has been bad. Is it an aberration or are most Twins playing to their historical Ultimate Zone Ratings?

Defensive numbers through one-third of a season are barely worth looking at, but Span and Young have rated surprisingly well. However, the Twins have clearly gotten away from their focus on defense. Young, Kubel, and Cuddyer are a horrendous defensive trio in the outfield corners, the middle infield has been a mess no matter the combination, and Danny Valencia seems slightly off compared to last year. It's just not a good defensive team.

@RyanHyde10: Who are potential 2012 top prospects to watch for who the Twins would consider drafting?

It looks like there's no clear-cut Bryce Harper- or Stephen Strasburg-type No. 1 pick for 2012, although I'm assuming the Twins will turn things around enough to avoid finishing with MLB's worst record anyway. In terms of (very early) favorites, I asked ESPN draft expert Keith Law about that last month and he pointed to Stanford shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, and high school pitcher/outfielder Lance McCullers Jr.

@commnman: What does the 2012 outfield look like and is Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Joe Mauer out of the question?

There's no indication that the Twins or Mauer are ready for him to switch positions, but if that changes an outfield with Span flanked by Mauer and Ben Revere would be a very interesting possibility. Unlikely though, at least in 2012. I'm not entirely sold yet on Revere's bat because his offensive upside is so limited, but I'm hoping the Twins make him the primary left fielder in 2012. At worst pairing him with Span would dramatically improve the outfield defense.

@jessejames3ball: Can Ricky Rubio play catcher?

Let's see if he can play point guard first.

@kinsky21: Ben Revere made it to the majors in 2010. Will Aaron Hicks, drafted a year later, see the majors in 2011?

Revere made it to the majors last season, but not until mid-September and only because Ron Gardenhire requested speed off the bench. Getting his first extended taste of the majors this year is more likely what the Twins had in mind for Revere's timetable and following those footsteps would have Aaron Hicks debuting in 2012, which is possible. I'd be shocked to see him this season. Hicks has more tools to develop than Revere and is on a slower path.

@dan_rausch: With no good internal options, who should the Twins target for shortstop in 2012? A young plus defender for Matt Capps?

Hardy? Jason Bartlett? On a less snarky point, it's difficult to say without knowing who might be available for trade this winter, but as has been the case for most of the past decade the Twins would be well served to look outside the organization for a shortstop. Jed Lowrie of the Red Sox might make sense for both teams, but suffice it to say I don't think they could get him or any other "young plus defender" for Capps, or at least not one with much offensive upside.

@zzhang33: Is Philip Humber for real?

Depends on your definition of "for real." He certainly looks much better now than he ever did in the majors or minors for the Twins, but he's also been extremely fortunate with a .223 batting average on balls in play. He hasn't been nearly as good as the 2.87 ERA suggests, but even a 4.03 xFIP is a pretty amazing accomplishment for White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. Just remember, Garrett Jones looked good for a while after rightfully being dumped by the Twins.

@jessejames3ball: Is Phil Mackey really wearing pants?

I saw Patrick Reusse's co-host Friday night and (surprisingly? luckily? unfortunately?) he was wearing pants. No white belt though, which was the real shocker. On a related note, thanks to Lindsay Guentzel and the TwinsCentric guys for organizing the get-together downtown. We watched a Twins game and then I drank too much while more attractive people danced, lost a staring contest, wore nametags, and had to be driven home by Seth Stohs. Good times.

@bhenehan: Might be early for this, but is it the worst season-to-season collapse in Twins history?

Without question. In fact, it's one of the worst season-to-season collapses in baseball history, as the Twins are on pace to go from division winners at 94-68 last year to MLB's worst record at 61-101 this year. Tough to decline by a whole lot more than 33 games.

@PLUnderwood: At what point is Ron Gardenhire's job on the line?

I've been plenty critical of Ron Gardenhire over the years and didn't think he deserved the Manager of the Year award last year, but he didn't turn into a terrible manager overnight and you'd have to go pretty far down on the list of this season's problems before getting to his name. Ultimately it's tough to win with a roster full of Triple-A players.

@KirkMcKinley: Who would you place most of the blame on with the Twins?

First and foremost, with the incredible number of injuries there's a pretty strong chance they wouldn't have been able to contend regardless of their decision-making. With that said, you can point to the front office along with any of the top handful of highest-paid players. Plenty of blame to go around with offseason moves, roster construction, and player performance. As the late, great Mitch Hedberg would say, this mess has been all-encompassing.

@TwinkieTown: What kind of a timeline would you work on for the Twins' sell-off?

I'm sure they're still holding out some hope for a turnaround after winning six of the last seven games, but realistically they should be willing to make trades immediately if teams are showing strong interest. In some cases the trade deadline could provide leverage, but the flip side to that is also possible and impending free agents should have more value with 100 games left on their contracts than they will with 60 games to go.

@kwdrake: Who's the most depressing (not necessarily worst) Twin of all time?

In the decade-long history of AG.com no player has annoyed and frustrated me more than Luis Rivas, although that had as much to do with the widely held but misguided perception that he was a promising young player as it did his actual performance.

@jgleeman: Is Ben Revere related to Paul Revere?

First of all, that question comes from my cousin. Second, the two being related seems unlikely. And third, has anyone thought to ask Sarah Palin what she thinks about Ben Revere?

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.

September 8, 2010

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,200 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@JosephKrueger: Of all the Twins' prospects, who are you most excited to see in the big leagues one day?

It seems like this question boils down to upside, so I'll pick Miguel Sano. He's been crushing the ball in the low minors at age 17 and is definitely much different than the usual hitters the Twins go after. Could be a bust, could be Miguel Cabrera, and we probably won't know either way for about five years.

@bertrecords: Should the Twins re-sign J.J. Hardy for 2011?

Technically they don't have to re-sign him because J.J. Hardy is under team control for 2011 as an arbitration eligible player, but whether or not to non-tender him is essentially the same question. Hardy's offense has been disappointing, he's struggled to stay healthy, and recently he's made some poor throws, but for the most part his defense has been outstanding and his .696 OPS is actually right around the position's MLB average of .699. I'd like to see him back.

@T_Charbonneau: What's a good place to check for Type A and Type B free agents as they stand right now?

MLB doesn't officially make that information public, but MLB Trade Rumors reverse-engineered the rating system and provides regular updates on everyone's status.

@hinkstar: Is Danny Valencia eligible for Rookie of the Year?

Yes. He'd never played in the majors before June.

@jwursu: I know minor-league success is the best predictor of long-term success, but are there exceptions who don't come back to earth?

There are absolutely exceptions, although for the most part track records prevail over the long haul, good and bad. Denard Span is an example of someone who drastically out-performed his minor-league track record in 2008 and 2009--leading to all sorts of speculation about why he was faring so much better--but unfortunately this season he's hit just like he did in the minors. There are plenty of exceptions, but you won't come out ahead betting on them.

@hubakin: If and when Justin Morneau returns, who do you see losing playing time?

It would make the most sense to sit Michael Cuddyer against right-handers and either Jason Kubel or Jim Thome against left-handers.

@ScottStenzel1: What do you think the Twins' contingency plan would be if Morneau still isn't ready to go next year?

When a player has a broken leg or a torn elbow ligament it's easy for a team to plan for their absence and find a replacement, but the incredibly unpredictable nature of concussions makes that pretty tough. Cuddyer, Kubel, and Delmon Young are all under contract for next season, so the Twins could potentially just try to re-sign Thome and trot out the same group they have been since Morneau went down. There are no real impact bats in the upper minors.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite current Twins player?

Probably either Joe Mauer or Thome.

@jstorlien: If Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama join the bullpen next year, which current relievers are most likely to be traded?

Overhauling the bullpen for next season wouldn't require any trades, because Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes are all impending free agents.

@BobStutelberg: How did the White Sox let the Twins get Brian Fuentes?

Couple reasons. First and foremost, they spent $4 million claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers, so also claiming Fuentes and the $1.9 million left on his contract may not have been an option. Beyond that, Chicago's best reliever this season has been left-hander Matt Thornton and they added a second potentially dominant lefty by calling up this year's first-round pick, Chris Sale, who's been almost unhittable so far.

@Leb13: What happened with your weight loss?

Same thing that always happens. I drop a bunch of weight, stop eating right for a couple days thinking it'll be no big deal, and a month later I'm back to the old fatso routine. Pathetic, really.

@SixHoleMN: At what point is Brian Duensing's performance thus far likely indicative of future success?

This depends largely on how you view that "performance." Brian Duensing has posted a 2.80 ERA in 183 career innings, which is a huge change from his mediocre track record in the minors, but his xFIP is a far less spectacular 4.43. I continue to think he'll be a solid mid-rotation guy.

@brandonwarne52: Is Cuddyer overrated?

Definitely. Cuddyer makes $10 million per season and some people act as if he's in the running for team MVP, yet he's hitting .275/.340/.424 this year and has a career line of .270/.343/.452. His defense is overrated when people focus on his good arm instead of his poor range and his offense is overrated when people focus on his nice-looking RBI totals rather than his mediocre overall production. Cuddyer is a perfectly solid player who's paid like and treated as a star.

@jbohrerUW: Do the Twins have any flame-throwing prospects we can expect soon?

Not really. Starters like Kyle Gibson, David Bromberg, and Alex Wimmers are promising and close to the majors, but definitely not flame-throwers. In general the Twins just don't go after high-velocity guys much, although 2009 second-round pick Billy Bullock throws very hard and had 105 strikeouts in 74 innings as a reliever between high Single-A and Double-A this year.

@JosephKrueger: Is it worrisome that the Twins' minor-league teams have struggled for the most part this year?

A little bit, in the sense that their Double-A and Triple-A teams struggling speaks to the lack of MLB-ready impact prospects, but typically win-loss records in the minors don't accurately show the strength of a system's prospects.

@cttacheny: What's one stat announcers could refer to that would help end the obsession with batting average?

OPS would certainly be the easiest and most accessible, but I'm not sure why it would have to be just one stat. I'd be happy if announcers talked more about walks and extra-base hits and on-base percentages rather than just saying stuff like, "Smith is hitting .284 this season."

@JMSemiz: Mary Kate or Ashley?

I was always more of a Lori Loughlin guy, then and now.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite all-time Twins player?

Johan Santana or Matthew LeCroy.

@JosephKrueger: Who is your least favorite Twins player of all time?

Purely in terms of my emotional reaction to someone, I'd say Luis Rivas. He infuriated me not only because he was a terrible player, but because the Twins and many fans assumed he had significant potential simply due to being young. He hit .262/.307/.383 and played bad defense, yet was the Twins' starting second baseman for five seasons. They finally let him go in 2005 and despite being only 25 years old Rivas played a grand total of just 83 more MLB games.

@jwursu: Harmon Killebrew eulogized Kirby Pucket by calling him the greatest Twin ever, but is he?

By beginning a Top 40 Minnesota Twins series back in 2006 my intention was to have provided the answer (or at least my answer) to that question by now, but I got sidetracked a few times along the way and unfortunately the whole project stalled at No. 15. I'm definitely planning to re-start the series this winter, so I'm hesitant to do a short answer because it's a complicated, interesting question and I hope to write a ton about it soon. So, for now ... "maybe."

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