April 11, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Delmon Young hitting a 50-hop ground ball past a diving Derek Jeter is what the 2014 baseball season is all about

Bartolo Colon jiggling his gut is my spirit animal.

• If you've ever wanted a customized nickname from Ron Gardenhire, this is your lucky day.

• Someone please hire Randball's Stu to write for a living. He suddenly needs a job and is Minnesota's funniest writer.

• The lesson here is to not trust anyone who doesn't like Kendrick Lamar.

• My analysis of the Twins trading for Eduardo Nunez was mostly underwhelming.

• I love how seriously Jay Boller took his analysis of the Twins' walk-up songs.

• Dang. The Ultimate Warrior died.

• I've been using Uber a lot lately and it's amazingly easy/pleasant compared to cabs. If you use this promo code you get $20 off a ride and I get $20 too, which allows me to drink Jack Daniels all across this great state of ours. Give it a shot. Why not?

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode kicked off our third season on KFAN, with a new producer and the usual live radio show plus podcast portion.

• I've been getting really into "Workaholics" lately and Waymond is my favorite character:

Great acting is all about subtle nuance.

• I'm planning to make this an ongoing project with expanded reviews, pictures, and lots of other stuff, so for now this is just a very preliminary version of my Uptown Bar Power Rankings.

• Speaking of which, I'm very sad to see Rye Deli suddenly close up shop. It was home to many of my mediocre first dates and even hosted "Gleeman and The Geek" on multiple occasions. RIP.

• We've talked about it so much that Parker Hageman of Twins Daily is now trying to convince me to buy this bar.

• On a related note, Hageman wrote an interesting article about Chris Colabello that's definitely worth checking out.

• Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is absolutely ridiculous.

• As a Jack Daniels devotee I enjoyed Kara Nesvig's tribute to whiskey-based romancing.

• This week I went to the Kmart on Lake Street for the first time and it was one of the saddest experiences of my entire life, so I'm not sure how I feel about this development.

Paul Goldschmidt owns Tim Lincecum.

• America's best, most important television couple.

• I'm pretty sick of Maggie LaMaack at this point, but she interviewed yet another tweeter I very much enjoy following in Talia Wischmann.

• Royals rookie Yordano Ventura threw a 103-mph pitch.

• If you're wondering whether Hank Aaron is the "True Home Run King" read this.

• Based on Molly Fitzpatrick's article about dating labels, I'd like to someday be known by: 1) "My plus-one." 2) "My arm candy." 3) "The Bae."

Taco Cat delivery service is the type of thing that makes me proud to have moved to Uptown.

• Friend of AG.com and former "Gleeman and The Geek" guest Jack Moore has a Kickstarter-driven project at the Beacon Reader, which is the type of thing baseball fans should support.

Jason Isbell chatting with Marc Maron was basically my idea of podcasting perfection. And they even recorded the episode in Minnesota.

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

- "Hairy twins"
- "Ricky Rubio tattoo"
- "Can I eat baked chicken wings after late-night workout?"
- "Did Brock Lesnar play for the Minnesota Twins?"
- "Greg Gagne net worth"
- "Minnesota Twins players with beards"
- "Can you break your ear cartilage?"
- "Kevin Slowey shirtless"
- "I'm a teen and I want to work at Pizza Hut"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "So Special" by Lil Wayne and John Legend:


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February 28, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Johan Santana's comeback from multiple shoulder surgeries at age 35 isn't going so well.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com is no longer really a thing, so longtime title-holder Mila Kunis gave up and decided to just marry some loser.

• Those of us who're naturally blessed resent the fact that people can now fake having our gift.

• I did something very similar for about 10 years, except with Chinese food.

• As a college dropout I'm thankful that this is an increasingly prevalent thing, if only so someone can support me in my old age.

• I wrote a White Sox season preview for HardballTalk and for the second straight season they might be even worse than the Twins.

Lydia Loveless put out a new album last week and I've already listened to it several dozen times. Good music with emotional lyrics, an interesting perspective, and a pretty solid Lucinda Williams vibe. She's coming to Minnesota in April to play First Avenue and I'll be there.

• Really good long read: Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine on prison gang culture and the craziness of a large-scale hunger strike in solitary confinement.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I gave John Bonnes a tour of my new place in Uptown and told a lengthy pooping-related story.

• On a related note, the podcast is making tremendous strides in the female listener demographic.

• I stupidly didn't go see Hannibal Buress at Varsity Theater after loving him at Acme Comedy Company last year, but at least his five-minute set on "The Tonight Show" was really good:

Here's hoping that Jimmy Fallon keeps giving good, young stand-up comedians a big stage.

• Big news in the fast food world, as Taco Bell is set to launch a breakfast menu and McDonald's is thinking about serving breakfast all day.

• It never stops: "If you don't know what type of phone this guy has (if it's a BlackBerry, dump him) you should prepare to bring a charger."

• Having just realized that Uber is available on BlackBerry, this Mickey Rapkin article for GQ about a week-in-the-life of an Uber driver was really eye-opening to me.

Mike Minor and his urethra had a rough offseason.

Jason Schwartz of Grantland wrote a really interesting article about the Houston Rockets using their Developmental League team to essentially experiment with extreme strategies ... and win.

"Humanitarians of Tinder" is just perfection.

• It turns out that I could never play for the Vikings.

• Yet another writer/analyst left Baseball Prospectus for a job with an MLB team.

Sarah Silverman and Michael Sheen are a couple now, which seems both random and fun.

Ron Gardenhire looks fit, well-rested, and ready for the challenge of leading the Twins back into contention!

• Old friend Carl Pavano is retiring after 14 seasons, the last three-and-a-half with the Twins.

Marc Maron's chat with Tom Arnold was manic and weird and fascinating.

• You should go vote for Meredith Westin as the Twin Cities' best music photographer.

• "Bad Self Portraits" by Lake Street Dive was the AG.com-approved music video in Link-O-Rama a few weeks ago and now it's the free song of the week on iTunes.

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

- "How much is a Ron Coomer signed baseball worth?"
- "Brian Duensing trade contract"
- "David Ortiz dating"
- "Robin Thicke socks"
- "Is LaVelle Neal married?"
- "When is Aaron Gleeman's wedding?"
- "Aaron Gleeman top tweeters"
- "Paul Lambert on KFAN"
- "Ryan Doumit home run"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Loveless singing "Back On The Bottle":

December 13, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• I'm co-hosting an event during TwinsFest next month with John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Seth Stohs, and the whole Twins Daily crew. Saturday night, January 25, we'll be getting together for beer and baseball at Mason's Restaurant downtown, which is one block from Target Field where TwinsFest is taking place this year for the first time. We're calling it "Winter Meltdown" and we'll be joined by special guests, including Twins president Dave St. Peter.

winter meltdown logo

Space is limited and we expect the event to sell out, so reserve your spot as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Wow. We sold out all 125 tickets to the event in three hours this morning.

Jason Kubel is coming back to the Twins.

• We live in a world where the best-looking baseball manager is a Jew who went to Dartmouth.

• On a related note, Ron Gardenhire took the news of his 28th-place handsomeness finish well.

• Being chosen for the Best of Minneapolis Beards is arguably the greatest honor of my life, even if I had to guilt world-renowned beard curator Megan Weisenberger into including me.

• On a related note, Robinson Cano broke up with the Yankees and the very first thing he did was grow a beard.

Scott Boras threw some shade at Jay Z and even dragged Rihanna into it.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times wrote an absolutely fascinating investigative piece shining a light on the Mariners' dysfunctional front office, with tons of damning quotes.

• I've never been prouder of something in my entire life. Journalism school was worth the money.

Ben Revere was the cutest kid of all time.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode our waitress says she loves me and I waste no time reciprocating, showing once and for all that I have zero commitment issues. We also talked about lots of baseball stuff, if you're into that for some weird reason.

• "Gleeman and The Geek" is available on Stitcher now, giving you another way to consume us.

Amy Poehler is the best, so I really liked Alex Scordelis' feature (and accompanying photo shoot) on her in Paper magazine. My favorite part:

Poehler laughs loudly at the thought of her tipsy Bostonian parents celebrating a Red Sox win. I ask if she thinks she's a generous laugher. "I don't break in scenes, but I do laugh too much," she says. "I was just directing Broad City, and the sound guy asked me, 'Can you laugh less during the takes?' And I was like, 'I can't promise you anything.' I like to laugh a lot. I have a crazy maniacal laugh that I try to maintain through diet and exercise."

And thankfully, the internet being the internet, there's a video compilation of Poehler's laugh:

For me, that's second only to the sound of rain falling in terms of soothing noises.

• NL MVP Andrew McCutchen proposed to his girlfriend on "Ellen."

• Sad news about snuggle-for-pay not making it in Wisconsin, because I was looking into buying a franchise in Minnesota. And it seems like my favorite baseball player of all time would have been interested in opening a Chicago-area franchise.

• OK, who wants to get me this for Christmas?

Ann Friedman of Esquire wrote an interesting article about how men and women view dating someone taller or shorter than them and why everyone should be more open-minded.

• There was a discussion on Twitter about the blogs people had as teenagers and eventually quit, which I didn't realize was an option. It got me digging through my archives and I stumbled across this post from March of 2003--when I was a 20-year-old college student--and it's amazing how little has changed since then.

"Why I'll Never Ask A Guy Out" by Malina Bickford made me sad, because think of how many potential love connections never happen due to men being clueless. We need help sometimes.

• 18.6 million people watched "The Sound Of Music Live" on NBC, including one man with Pizza Luce and a crappy attitude.

• One of the original baseball bloggers, Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts, has a new job working for the Dodgers.

The latest from my future wife.

Ron Coomer is leaving FOX Sports North and K-TWIN to be the Cubs' new radio analyst.

• You know you've established a reputation when six different people send the same link.

• I enjoyed Chelsea Fagan's list of "24 rules for being a gentleman in 2014" even though No. 2 basically ruled me out and I failed about 10 of them.

• My crush on Lizzy Caplan knows no bounds:

She's such a f-ing delight.

• We're recording a new "Gleeman and The Geek" episode Saturday afternoon at HammerHeart Brewing Company in Lino Lakes. We'll get started around 2:00 p.m. and much more importantly we'll be done podcasting and ready to have some beers around 3:30 p.m. Come hang out.

• I've never been to see "Wits" at the Fitzgerald Theater before, but their Valentine's Day show guests are basically hand-picked for me: Marc Maron, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires.

• Speaking of which: Step 1 to becoming a guest?

• I'm using this as my excuse for everything now.

• In preparation for this week's chosen song, here's a complete list of things Tom Waits misses about the woman in "Hold On":

- Charcoal eyes
- Monroe hips
- Hair like wind
- Crooked little heart
- Broken-China voice

I've been on a real Waits kick lately, which believe it or not means I've been in a good mood.

• AG.com favorite and Twitter must-follow Alison Agosti has a new gig writing for "Late Night With Seth Meyers."

• I really enjoyed "Drinking Buddies" starring Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston. B-plus movie with A-plus work from Wilde in the role of Holly Manthei.

• Nothing to do with anything, but I randomly think of this scene every few months.

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

- "Jon Taffer hair transplant"
- "Twins baseball rumors"
- "Husband got fat and lazy drinking beer"
- "Did Meatsauce Paul Lambert go to college?"
- "Marney Gellner favorite country songs"
- "Ron Coomer net worth"
- "Tevin Campbell big boner"
- "Tom Colicchio wearing glasses"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the aforementioned "Hold On" by Waits:


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October 1, 2013

Ron Gardenhire signs two-year contract extension with Twins

ron gardenhire extension

With his contract set to expire Ron Gardenhire made it clear during the season's final weekend that he wanted to remain with the Twins and they wasted little time making that happen, signing the manager to a two-year extension that also includes his entire coaching staff returning intact. Gardenhire joins his Twins predecessor Tom Kelly as one of just five managers of non-expansion teams since 1945 to remain on the job following three consecutive 90-loss seasons.

For all the advancements made in evaluating just about every possible aspect of baseball during the past decade managers remain largely a guessing game. Stuff like bullpen management, lineup construction, and small-ball tactics are among the key elements of a manager's job that are ripe for meaningful analysis, but there are so many parts of the job that go totally unseen by outsiders and are difficult to quantify by insiders that any overall evaluation is incomplete at best.

Because of that the writer-voted Manager of the Year award often goes to managers of surprising teams that out-perform preseason expectations and within a few years those same award-winning managers are regularly fired when the magic wears off. And even when a consistently successful, longtime manager wins Manager of the Year the follow-up season tends to show that regression to the mean is a whole lot stronger than our ability to judge managers.

Gardenhire is a perfect example of the fickle nature of evaluating managers. For the better part of a decade he was viewed by baseball's collective media as a top manager, finishing second or third in the Manager of the Year voting in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2009. Finally in 2010 he was named Manager of the Year. The next season the Twins went 63-99, followed by 66-96 and 66-96. Did he forget how to manage between 2010 and 2011? Was he never that good?

I honestly think no one really knows, about Gardenhire or most other managers. So much of the job is about things few people can possibly evaluate and so much of the praise or criticism aimed at managers simply revolves around a team's record that the entire process is impossibly murky. I've never viewed Gardenhire as a particularly strong manager based on what I can analyze, but it's entirely possible that those things are overshadowed by what can't easily be analyzed.

I started this blog on August 1, 2002, exactly two-thirds of the way through Gardenhire's rookie season as manager. In the 11-plus seasons and 1,837 games since then I've criticized him plenty, believing there are choices he consistently makes regarding relatively fundamental strategy like platooning and batting orders and reliever usage that cost the Twins runs and games. There have also been players whose specific treatment from Gardenhire rubbed me the wrong way.

And yet his overall record is above .500 even after three consecutive terrible seasons, as recently as 2010 he was annually voted one of the elite managers in the league, and for the most part his players seem to like playing for him. All of which is why, despite frequent criticisms of Gardenhire and a general belief that he's mediocre overall I've never called for him to be fired and news that he'll be back for two more seasons doesn't generate a strong feeling either way.

I've always been much more interested in and concerned with the general manager and the front office than the manager and the coaching staff, and ultimately the Twins' fortunes in the short and long term hinge far more on Terry Ryan's performance than Gardenhire's performance. With that said, it's odd to see so many people who heaped praise on Gardenhire for winning when the front office provided good teams now quick to absolve him of all blame for losing with bad teams.

It's become popular to say that no manager could have kept the Twins from being a disaster for the past three seasons and that's certainly very possible, but that doesn't preclude Gardenhire from also having done a poor job. Nor does it mean he's the right choice to continue managing a team that figures to struggle again in 2014 and is counting on a foundation of young players to climb back to respectability. I'd love to offer a definitive opinion either way, but who knows?

I likely wouldn't have brought Gardenhire back, not because I think he suddenly lost whatever managing ability he had while winning six division titles but because 12 seasons in one place is an eternity in manager years and sometimes a new voice (or voices, to include pitching coach Rick Anderson) is needed. Gardenhire took the job as an enthusiastic, inexperienced 44-year-old and he keeps the job as a grizzled 55-year-old with the second-longest tenure of any manager.

My hope is that Ryan and the front office made the decision to re-sign Gardenhire based on his recent performance and the current clubhouse environment rather than out of loyalty or fear of change. This might be the only organization to even consider keeping a manager after 291 losses in three seasons and it's hard not to see in Gardenhire a man beaten down by all the losing, but as a team rebuilding around young talent the Twins need that 44-year-old version back.

For a lengthy discussion about the decision to bring back Gardenhire and whether Ryan will spend any money this offseason, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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September 25, 2013

Twins Notes: Mauer shut down, rotation spending, and no platooning

joe mauer catching mask

Joe Mauer continues to have post-concussion symptoms more than a month after suffering a brain injury, so Monday the Twins shut him down for the final week of the season. Mauer hasn't played since taking a foul ball off the mask on August 19 and experienced setbacks when he tried to ramp up workouts during the past few weeks, with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writing that he "still feels sensitivity to light and noises, and has trouble outside confined spaces."

Shutting him down is absolutely the correct decision and by the time spring training rolls around Mauer will be six months removed from the concussion, but sadly as the Twins and so many other teams have learned in recent years there are no guarantees with brain injuries. And now, much like with Justin Morneau and Denard Span, the only thing the Twins can really do is wait and hold their breath hoping that time and rest do the trick.

In making Monday's announcement both Mauer and general manager Terry Ryan stressed that they expect him to remain at catcher next season, but whereas that seemed like a questionable stance at the time of the concussion last month it now seems borderline crazy to me. I've spent a decade writing about how much of Mauer's value comes from catching and have always argued against a position switch, but the question has changed and the old answers cease to apply.

There's no way to stop a catcher from taking foul balls off the mask on a regular basis, along with all the other physical dangers that come with the position, and if he were to suffer another brain injury it might be too late to avoid major long-term consequences on and off the field. As a first baseman Mauer's odds of remaining an elite player into his mid-30s are much lower, but he'd still provide plenty of value there and Josmil Pinto is a potential replacement with upside.

(Note: I went into a lot more depth analyzing the Mauer position switch decision last month.)

• There seems to be considerable disagreement within the organization about how much focus to put on acquiring pitching via free agency. Nick Nelson of Twins Daily wrote a breakdown of the situation, with the short version being that Ron Gardenhire is basically begging for rotation help and owner Jim Pohlad says he's willing to spend big for reinforcements, all while Ryan downplays free agency much like he did last winter before settling for Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.

Every team would love to build a rotation full of young, cheap pitchers and for many years the Twins did that well enough to avoid having to swim into the deep end of the free agency pool. And generally speaking free agent pitching is typically overpriced and requires making risky long-term commitments to players on the wrong side of 30. However, their current lack of MLB-ready arms with more than back-of-the-rotation upside makes Ryan's usual approach a tough one to pull off.

Despite his rookie struggles Kyle Gibson still has a chance to develop into more than a fourth or fifth starter and Alex Meyer remains a potential top-of-the-rotation starter if he can stay healthy, but neither can be counted on to make a huge 2014 impact and even if they do surrounding them with the likes of Correia, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, and Samuel Deduno is going to leave the rotation well short of decent.

Last season Twins starters had the second-worst ERA in baseball at 5.40 and this season Twins starters have the worst ERA in baseball at 5.26. Based on those numbers and the in-house options who can realistically be rotation members in 2014 there's little chance of building even an average rotation without bringing in outside help. Ryan would surely prefer trades to free agency, but my fear is that his real plan involves a third straight season with a terrible rotation on the cheap.

• One of my frequent complaints about Gardenhire is his unwillingness to platoon hitters, which he's basically never done. Most prominently Jacque Jones and Jason Kubel played no matter the pitcher, but versus lefties Jones hit .231/.286/.355 and Kubel hit .239/.313/.365. For a more recent example on the other side of the plate, Trevor Plouffe plays no matter the pitcher despite hitting .223/.280/.381 off righties. And there are no shortage of maddening day-to-day examples.

Many of the best managers in baseball history regularly employed platoons and current examples in Gardenhire's own league include former Manager of the Year winners Joe Maddon of the Rays, Bob Melvin of the A's, and Buck Showalter of the Orioles. It's hardly a new-school approach and it's hardly a complicated thing to make sense of, yet Gardenhire has never budged and said the following when asked about it by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

I don't recall ever having a platoon. I'm not against it. I'll tell you that. I wouldn't have a problem having a platoon if it fits. If it makes sense numbers-wise and it works, then you go with it.

"I don't recall ever having a platoon" and "I'm not against it" are statements that don't fit together coming from a manager in his 12th season on the job. Gardenhire may not be against it in theory, but his actions over nearly 2,000 games have certainly shown that he's very much against it in practice despite having plenty of opportunities to improve the lineup via platooning. And for his part, Ryan told Berardino that he's fine with the manager's lack of platooning:

I don't think he likes to platoon players at all. I don't either. Put guys out there that are everyday players, then you don't have to platoon. You're always looking for players that can play 162 games, right? That's what I'm looking for. I don't go out looking for platoon players.

Obviously every team would love to find nine everyday players and trot them out there 162 times, but that's an impossible goal and instead leads to so-called "everyday players" like Jones, Kubel, and Plouffe flailing away against same-sided pitchers they have no business facing. Over the past three seasons the Twins have scored the fewest runs in the league, making "I don't go out looking for platoon players" sound awfully tone deaf coming from the GM. It's nothing new, though.

• Mauer hasn't played since August 19, but according to Win Above Replacement and Fan Graphs' valuation system he's still been worth more than his salary this season.

• This year the Twins have been out-scored by 158 runs, which is the second-worst run differential in baseball. The worst run differential in Twins history belongs to the 1995 team at -186.

• Since taking over for Matt Capps as Twins closer Glen Perkins has converted 90 percent of his save chances (52-for-58) with a 2.31 ERA.

LaTroy Hawkins left the Twins for a two-year, $8 million deal with the Cubs as a 31-year-old free agent and a decade later he's still rolling along.

Francisco Liriano is lined up to start the Wild Card playoff game for the Pirates.

• For a lot more about Mauer's future and the Twins' roster options for next season check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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