September 20, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Nick Punto had his most Nick Punto moment ever, sliding head-first into first base on a single to the outfield. Randball's Stu may have to update his oral history of Punto's head-first slides.

Baseball America's article naming Byron Buxton as their minor league player of the year is essentially porn for Twins fans.

• "Breaking Bad" fans will enjoy this Yelp page.

• As an embarrassed, longtime BlackBerry user I can safely say most of these reasons are bullshit.

• My blog-mate Craig Calcaterra showed why I almost never call into radio shows when invited.

• There's a ton of dead weight on the Twins' roster, so who will they get rid of this offseason?

• Thanks to everyone who attended the "Grand Drunk Railroad" event Saturday. It was a major success, as more than 100 people joined the light rail pub crawl in the afternoon and the group continued to have fun at night despite the Twins-Rays game being delayed by rain, thanks in no small part to Glen Perkins buying us a round of beers from the bullpen. It went so well that we'll definitely do something similar again and we're already brainstorming other get-together ideas.

• We recorded this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode at various stops along the pub crawl, so it features multiple special guests and everyone getting progressively drunker/weirder as the show goes on. I already posted a bunch of videos and photos from the event on the episode page, but here are a couple more pictures of the podcasting in progress:

pub crawl podcast

We're recording a new "Gleeman and The Geek" show this weekend at New Bohemia's inaugural beer fest, where a taster pass gets all-you-can-drink beer from 10 different breweries.

• More people will probably click on this link than watched the Astros on CSN Houston.

Chiara Atik of How About We explains why I'll never stop tweeting at Jon Taffer.

• One of my rules is that whenever Lizzy Caplan appears on a talk show I'll link to it.

• During my weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen he grilled me about a first date, I complained about getting a ticket driving to the studio, and we brainstormed questions for Terry Ryan.

Todd Helton is one of the most productive home hitters in baseball history, but Coors Field is all over the list.

• After six years as Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes left for the Houston Chronicle.

Conan O'Brien playing "Grand Theft Auto" made me also want to play the game without a clue.

• I have no idea how to handle this emotionally.

• One second on the internet is plenty of time for anything.

• In real life Jonathan Banks is very different than the Mike Ehrmantraut character he played on "Breaking Bad." But he's no less fun to watch.

• After watching last week's "Breaking Bad" episode I wondered on Twitter what happens if no one ever tells Huell he can leave that room now and it turns out someone did the research:

I watched that for ... well, longer than I'm comfortable admitting.

• This conversation started at 1:30 a.m.

• Uh oh. It turns out NBC has had a hidden camera in my office this entire time.

• One of my favorite stand-up comedians, Gary Gulman, is performing all this weekend at the comedy club in the Mall of America.

• Netflix recommendation: "Starlet" is a well-done, small-scale story that avoids the usual movie cliches and features two really strong lead performances by unknown actresses.

Alison Agosti is always one of my favorite podcast guests and she was great on "Hey, Teens!" with Eric Gosselin and Jon Wiener.

• "Parks and Recreation" writer (and former AG.com commenter) Harris Wittels had a funny, interesting chat with Marc Maron.

• Two of my favorite podcasts joined forces when Graham Clark from "Stop Podcasting Yourself" was on a live show with Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris from "Jordan, Jesse, Go!"

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

- "Byron Buxton's mom"
- "Grand Drunk Railroad"
- "How did Meatsauce from KFAN lose weight?"
- "Nick Punto head-first slide"
- "Ben Grieve net worth"
- "Jim Souhan is the worst"
- "Gillian Jacobs introvert"
- "Connie and Aaron play me"
- "Tevin Campbell radio interviews in 1999"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground:


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August 16, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Wanna see Jared Burton punch Brian Duensing?

LaTroy Hawkins, who's getting another chance to close again at age 40, got hit in the bollocks. And yet he still won't wear a cup.

• "Doctor offers free plastic surgery in exchange for dream dates" is a story that has me curious about the blogger equivalent.

• And speaking of the blogger equivalent, "burglar left bruised and bleeding by retired 72-year-old boxer" is a pretty great headline.

• How good has Oswaldo Arcia been as a rookie and how good can he become long term?

• While searching for a photo to use for that Arcia post I stumbled across this beauty featuring Arcia, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and FSN sideline reporter Jamie Hersch.

Francisco Liriano is so busy throwing complete games for the Pirates that he has neither the time nor the energy to bother with hitting.

• And because he can't be any worse than Liriano in that last video, Parker Hageman of Twins Daily might take an at-bat against Glen Perkins. I want to be there to podcast the magic.

• Happy birthday to Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Mila Kunis, who turned 30 years old. It's all downhill from here, trust me.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we again learn that John Bonnes isn't needed.

• Oh nothing, just Nick Punto hitting a homer and then doing a postgame interview with a Punto jersey-wearing Danny DeVito on the field at Dodger Stadium:

Punto does kind of have a Charlie Day vibe.

• It turns out not all Bar Mitzvah parties are created equal. Way back in 1996 my party featured basketball and swimming rather than a full-scale burlesque show. We did have pizza, though.

• I'm thinking of applying to the Twins' "social media suite" for the free food. And also because the application asks for a count of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and ... LinkedIn connections.

• During my weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen he welcomed Cory Cove into the KFAN studio to tag-team mock me for winning a bunch of money playing poker at Canterbury Park. And then I threw Nick Nelson under the bus to save myself.

Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs wrote a very good article about the Twins pitching staff's historic inability to generate strikeouts.

Carson Cistulli of Fan Graphs chatted with one of my favorite baseball beat reporters, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

• And speaking of MLB beat reporters, Deadspin's efforts to identify the best and worst covering each team was kind of disappointing in that they left the worst spots blank a lot.

• Congrats to former "Gleeman and The Geek" guest Ben Goessling, who left the St. Paul Pioneer Press to become ESPN's new Vikings beat reporter. Newspapers continue to hemorrhage talent.

• Wanna be the Minneapolis Star Tribune's new Vikings beat reporter?

• According to a University of Georgia study 28 percent of journalism school graduates wish they'd chosen a different field, which actually doesn't sound all that high to this non-graduate.

Jonathan Abrams' article about Jonny Flynn for Grantland is a must-read for Timberwolves fans, David Kahn haters, and people who simply enjoy shaking their head in disbelief.

• St. Paul Central graduate, Ricky Rubio fan club president, stand-up comedian, and "Parks and Recreation" writer Joe Mande is finally doing something with his life.

• I'm almost finished re-watching "The Sopranos" and by far my favorite part has been getting to re-hear Paulie Walnuts pronounce "Baja Fresh" again:

I laughed as hard at that two days ago as I did 10 years ago and can't explain why in either case.

Rickey Henderson's high school yearbook picture from 1976 is spectacular.

• For my fellow insomniacs, Allie Shah wrote about the struggle to sleep for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including how "young people, in particular, might be setting themselves up for future problems because of their round-the-clock devotion to mobile devices and social media."

• I really hope everyone listened to me and signed up for the light rail pub crawl/Twins game on September 14, because just look at this shirt.

• Mazel tov to the Phillies for releasing Delmon Young, who refused an assignment to Triple-A.

Manny Ramirez is probably done after being released from Triple-A by the Rangers, but don't forget what a monster he was for 15 years.

"Blue Valentine" is one of my 10 favorite movies, so I was incredibly excited for Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance's second collaboration, but "The Place Beyond The Pines" was underwhelming. Not bad, certainly, but also nothing special overall. Another fairly new release that I rented this week, "Mud" starring Matthew McConaughey, was much better.

• As someone who obsessively watches "Chopped" on Food Network and obsessively listens to podcasts, chef Alex Guarnaschelli's interview with Marc Maron was amazing. She quoted "Bull Durham" and talked about listening to Notorious B.I.G. and is basically a perfect human.

• "Doodie Calls" with Doug Mand and Jack Dolgen is always funny/weird, but Annie Lederman was a particularly great guest.

Alex Rodriguez, as explained by detective Frank Pembleton.

• If you're into supporting worthwhile projects via Kickstarter check out Hunter Weeks' "feature-length film about the oldest people in the world and their lessons for living life right."

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

- "Jim Thome naked"
- "Jim Thome shirtless"
- "Lean Cuisine chicken enchilada suiza makes me sweat"
- "Brendan Harris attitude"
- "Otis Redding baseball cards"
- "Tevin Campbell radio interview"
- "Mae Whitman pornstar lookalike"
- "Who is Dana Wessel?"
- "Bar graph showing pork chops and mutton chops"

• Finally, because I've listened to it about 100 times in two weeks despite not being sure if I love it or hate it this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Reckoning Song" by Asaf Avidan:


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March 15, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Nick Punto took a 3-2 pitch during the ninth inning of Italy's final World Baseball Classic game. He thought it was ball four. The umpire called it strike three. GIF magic ensued.

• "The Professor, the Bikini Model, and the Suitcase Full of Trouble" is a pretty great article title, but it doesn't even begin to convey how insane and fascinating this story is.

• It turns out not even hate groups can hate Jennifer Lawrence.

• I feel sorry for Mariners fans because Jeff Sullivan is one of the best, most original bloggers around, but a lot of what he wrote hit home with me and echoes my thoughts about turning 30.

• I'll bet even the Jerky Boys would be proud of this one.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we spent a whole bunch of time talking about Aaron Hicks and also tried to figure exactly how stupid it would be to buy a bar together.

• Speaking of which, my grandpa owned a bar in Duluth for a long time before I was born and I stumbled across this Duluth News Tribune article about him from 1972.

• If nothing else, Glen Perkins committed to drinking at my bar if we call it "Mom's Basement."

• Perkins and Joe Mauer look more or less the same a dozen years later.

• What happens when a boxer tries to confront his Twitter troll? About what you'd expect.

• I haven't done a mailbag in months, so I'm fielding questions on Twitter to answer next week.

• In case anyone forgot for a second who's the best, Louis C.K. provides a nice reminder.

This wasn't bad either.

• My annual series ranking the Twins' top prospects concluded this week with an overview of the farm system as a whole.

Vin Scully has a story he hadn't told in 50 years that's better than most people's best story.

• "Duck Dynasty" had 8.2 million viewers last week. To put that in context, consider that no "Mad Men" episode has ever topped 3.5 million and "Parks and Recreation" averages 3.1 million.

• I'm not sure if this makes me feel better or worse about getting old, but I'm the same age as, among other things, McNuggets, the moonwalk, the Disney Channel, and Microsoft Word.

• I know almost nothing else about him, but based on this Cory Booker is my favorite politician.

• Twins Daily is hosting a get-together to watch the Twins-Rays spring training game on Saturday afternoon, March 23. I'll be there, drinking and watching and whatevering. Details here.

• Sometimes you can't help but ask yourself "how did I get so damn lucky?"

• As a Gilbert Gottfried fan I'm a little bummed out to learn that he's, like, a real person.

• Old friend Carlos Gomez got a $24 million contract extension from the Brewers and based on the reaction I saw on Twitter many Twins fans refuse to believe he's not terrible.

• With the new Pope and all, I wonder if this is still true or not.

• As someone whose job requires him to keep constant tabs on hundreds of sites at once, Google Reader shutting down makes me incredibly sad. There are some alternatives, though.

Pete Rose and his fiancee are the worst actors ever:

It almost seems like a "Tim and Eric" sketch.

• My blog-mate Craig Calcaterra got himself on MLB Network during the World Baseball Classic and really did everyone at HardballTalk proud.

Julie Klausner, whose "How Was Your Week" podcast and overall crush-worthiness I've touted in the past, is coming here in August to host a "cat video festival" at the State Fair. Which means my new goal for 2013 is to appear together on one of KFAN's live-from-the-fair shows.

• I watched a great French movie this week called "Amelie" and you can get an English-subtitled version on Amazon for just 99 cents. Highly recommended.

• My nomination for the saddest GIF on the internet.

• I miss the old days when a chubby guy with glasses could be in a boy band and not necessarily even be the ugly one.

• My analysis of the Vikings trading Percy Harvin.

• Baseball-Reference.com has made its "Play Index" free through April 15, if you've ever wanted to try the world's most indispensable tool for baseball research.

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

- "Max Kepler fantasy"
- "Dick Bremer final season"
- "Aaron Gleeman chicken rice recipe"
- "Will Joel Zumaya play baseball again?"
- "Why did Chelsea Peretti quit drinking and pot?"
- "Indian women bathroom SABR"
- "Is Joe Mauer a switch-hitter?"
- "First time Anna Kendrick had sex"
- "Jimmer has weird jaws"
- "SABR analytics child"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is John Newman and Rudimental doing a live version of "Feel The Love":


This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric's newest shirt honoring the "Legends" of Minnesota baseball. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 26, 2012

Twins Notes: Outfield realignments, Rule 5 returns, and drugs of abuse

• In signing Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract in mid-December the Twins indicated that he'd be their everyday right fielder despite playing just 264 career innings there compared to 5,524 innings in left field. Getting a first-hand look at Willingham and the various other outfield options in camp apparently changed those plans, as Ron Gardenhire announced yesterday that Willingham will be the starting left fielder.

Gardenhire also made official what was expected by naming Denard Span the starting center fielder, which leaves right field for ... well, everyone. Depending on how often and at which positions Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are in the lineup right field could potentially be manned by Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, or Ryan Doumit, none of whom have ever played the position on more than a semi-regular basis in the majors or minors.

For years the Twins stressed how valuable Michael Cuddyer's arm was in right field, so their willingness to use Revere there when he might have the majors' worst arm and his range is of better use in the more spacious left field is surprising to say the least. If nothing else it signals that Revere is headed for a part-time role, which along with Gardenhire's stubbornness could lead to his biggest strength being diminished and his biggest weakness being magnified.

If the manager were more willing to make daily shifts he could platoon Revere and Plouffe by using Revere in left field with Willingham in right field against right-handed pitching and Plouffe in right field with Willingham in left field against left-handed pitching. That's something plenty of managers do regularly, but it's something Gardenhire has always avoided with occasionally laughable results. Runners going first-to-third at will with Revere in right field would fit that bill.

Whatever the case, based on Terry Ryan's offseason comments and Gardenhire's outfield announcement yesterday it seems clear that the Twins are less sold on Revere than commonly believed. They're certainly right to be skeptical, as I've been making that case since Revere was in the low minors, but the less he plays the less chance their defense has of being above average and I'm similarly skeptical about Parmelee being ready to thrive offensively.

Terry Doyle seemed like an odd choice for the Twins with the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft. Despite being 26 years old he had just 15 starts above Single-A, including zero at Triple-A, and nothing about his raw stuff or track record suggested more than back-of-the-rotation starter potential. At no point has the Rule 5 draft been a sure-fire way to add useful big leaguers, but when picking so high it seemingly made sense to at least target someone with more upside.

In explaining their reasoning for the pick the Twins talked about how impressed they were by Doyle's performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 1.98 ERA. However, that consisted of just eight starts and was fueled by an incredibly low batting average on balls in play that screamed fluke. My assumption was that they wouldn't have chosen Doyle if they weren't at least convinced he could stick in the majors as a mop-up man, but apparently not.

Doyle coughed up 10 runs in 5.1 innings this spring and the Twins didn't even keep him around until the end of camp, sending him back to the White Sox. Ultimately it's not a huge deal, as they're out $25,000 and the opportunity to add a higher-upside arm, but it's discouraging for a supposedly scouting-heavy team to take someone atop the Rule 5 draft while citing his fluky, small sample size performance in the AFL as a big factor and then cut him five innings later.

Aaron Thompson, a 25-year-old left-hander the Twins signed to a minor-league contract in December, has been suspended 50 games after violating MLB's drug policy for a "drug of abuse." His track record in the minors is mediocre at best, but Thompson is a former first-round pick and apparently the Twins will keep him in the organization despite the suspension. Once activated he'll likely be a fifth starter or long reliever at Triple-A.

• I'll have a lot more on this subject once my annual series ranking the Twins' top 40 prospects concludes later this week, but Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus recently released their annual organizational talent rankings and the Twins placed 20th and 22nd.

• On a related note, Baseball America crunched the numbers to find that the Twins ranked 15th in international spending last season after ranking 12th in 2010. Miguel Sano alone got a record $3.15 million signing bonus from the Twins in 2009, but in the two years since then they've spent a total of $4.85 million internationally.

• This offseason the Twins sliced $15 million from their payroll, but according to Forbes magazine in 2011 they had baseball's 13th-highest revenue at $213 million and an operating income of $16.6 million, causing the franchise's value to rise four percent to $510 million.

Nick Punto is getting the same treatment from the media in Boston that he got from the media in Minnesota. For instance:

In a game where talent can be measured by precise statistical metrics, Punto is a player whose value is harder to calculate but can’t be denied.

Punto played for $750,000 last year and will make $1.5 million both this season and next season, so teams seem to be in agreement that his value is fairly limited. Then again, I've not experienced his charm in person.

Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reports that the Twins released six minor leaguers: Michael Tarsi, Dan Osterbrock, Kane Holbrooks, Blayne Weller, Matt Schuld, and Derek Christensen. Osterbrock, Tarsi, and Holbrooks each cracked my annual top-40 prospects list at one point, but none were ever considered more than marginal prospects. Christensen was a 2010 draft pick and dominated the low minors, so cutting the 22-year-old right-hander loose seems odd.

• In late 2010 the Twins acquired reliever Brian Fuentes from the Angels for Loek Van Mil, a marginal pitching prospect whose claim to fame was being baseball's tallest player at 7-foot-1. He spent last year at Double-A, throwing 66 innings with a 2.04 ERA and 46-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the righty from the Netherlands failed to make the Angels this spring and manager Mike Scioscia explained that "he's certainly searching for an out pitch" at age 27.

• Last season the local mainstream media often mocked Kevin Slowey for his intelligence, using it as a way to portray him in a negative light, but a fresh start in Cleveland means the narrative has changed. Jordan Bastian, who covers the Indians for MLB.com, wrote last week:

Always nice as a writer when you find ballplayers who are avid readers on the side ... two in Cleveland's clubhouse include Lonnie Chisenhall and Kevin Slowey.

Funny how that works.

• Last and least, with Opening Day right around the corner I'm restarting the AG.com "sponsor of the week" program. For details about advertising and to reserve your week, click here.

December 15, 2011

Twins Notes: Comings, goings, returns, and engagements

• Arbitration-eligible players Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, and Alexi Casilla were tendered contracts, but the Twins non-tendered Jose Mijares and made him a free agent. Terry Ryan's explanation for the move was odd, as he said the decision "gets up to how much he's going to make" and "we decided we didn't want to go there." Ryan also indicated that the Twins tried to work out a pre-deadline contract with Mijares to avoid non-tendering him, but he declined.

Non-tendering players rather than paying them undeserved arbitration raises is common, but that doesn't really apply in Mijares' case. He was paid $445,000 in 2011 and would've been in line for a raise to at most $750,000, which is only $270,000 more than the new MLB minimum salary and represents 0.75 percent of the payroll. If the Twins thought he was worth keeping around cutting Mijares loose over money when "money" is only $270,000 makes little sense.

Clearly they lost all faith in Mijares as his velocity dipped and he totaled as many walks (30) as strikeouts (30) in 49 innings, but he's still just 27 years old and prior to falling apart in 2011 he had a 2.49 ERA in 105 career innings. His secondary numbers have never been as good as his ERA, but given that the Twins aren't exactly overflowing with quality relievers and the cost to keep the hefty lefty around was little more than the minimum salary the move surprised me.

• Along with non-tendering Mijares the Twins also sliced Jim Hoey and Pedro Florimon from the 40-man roster. Hoey was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, leaving only marginal relief prospect Brett Jacobson to show for last winter's misguided J.J. Hardy trade with the Orioles. Florimon, whom the Twins claimed off waivers from the Orioles last week, cleared waivers this time around and was assigned to Triple-A.

Claiming and waiving a player within the span of a week might seem silly, but Florimon has the potential to be a decent utility infielder and now the Twins can stash him in the minors without using up a 40-man roster spot. I've long felt the Twins should be more willing to shuffle guys through the fringes of the 40-man roster, so while Florimon is hardly a high-upside player the maneuvering surrounding him was nice to see.

Hoey perhaps deserved a longer opportunity based on his minor-league numbers and mid-90s fastball, but his complete lack of control and quality off-speed pitches weren't encouraging and at 29 years old he's far from a prospect. Hoey wasn't totally without potential when the Twins acquired him and he's exactly the type of reliever teams should take fliers on in minor trades, but the problem is that trading Hardy was anything but a minor mistake, then and now.

• Signing veteran minor leaguers to help Rochester be competitive after back-to-back 90-loss seasons is clearly a priority for the Twins and the latest batch is Rene Rivera, P.J. Walters, and Sean Burroughs. Rivera split this year between Rochester and Minnesota, helping to fill in for Joe Mauer behind the plate, but was trimmed from the 40-man roster in October. He's the epitome of a replacement-level catcher and handy enough to have around at Triple-A.

Walters was traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays in the seven-player swap headlined by Colby Rasmus and Edwin Jackson on July 27, but Toronto let him become a free agent three months later and his track record is pretty underwhelming. Walters briefly looked like a decent prospect back in 2007 and his strikeout rates are solid, but the 26-year-old right-hander has a high-80s fastball, mediocre control, and a 4.63 ERA in 484 innings at Triple-A.

Burroughs was the ninth overall pick in the 1998 draft and Baseball America ranked him as one of the game's top 10 prospects in 2000, 2001, and 2002. His big-league career started off well enough, as Burroughs debuted for the Padres as a 21-year-old and hit .289/.345/364 through his first 339 games, but he never developed any power, regressed in other areas, struggled with substance abuse, and was finished at age 25. Or so it seemed.

After three seasons out of baseball Burroughs signed a minor-league deal with Arizona, whose general manager Kevin Towers was the GM in San Diego who drafted him. He worked his way back to the majors by hitting .412 in 34 games at Triple-A and then struggled in 78 games as a bench bat, hitting .273/.289/.336 with an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio. Burroughs is one of the biggest prospect busts of the 2000s, but at age 30 still qualifies as intriguing Triple-A depth.

• Just five weeks after Bill Smith was fired as general manager Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com reports that he's close to returning to the organization in a "special assistant" role that would involve running the Twins' efforts in Latin America and their spring training complex in Florida. Smith was overmatched and then some as a GM, but handled the firing amazingly well publicly and has been with the Twins since the mid-1980s, so their showing him loyalty isn't surprising.

Nick Punto signed a two-year, $3 million deal with the Red Sox to replace Jed Lowrie, who was traded to the Astros for Mark Melancon. As always, in a bench role with a modest salary Punto is an excellent fit on just about any team. Unfortunately the Twins played him too much and paid him $4 million in both 2009 and 2010 (plus a $500,000 buyout to avoid paying him $5 million in 2011). He'll now be paid a total of $4 million for his first three post-Twins seasons.

Kevin Slowey avoided arbitration with the Rockies, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7 million deal.

Jacque Jones, whom I rated as the 30th-best player in Twins history, has been hired by his hometown Padres as a Single-A hitting coach. He last played at Triple-A for the Twins in 2010.

• Mauer got engaged to fellow Cretin-Derham Hall graduate Maddie Bisanz.

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