September 19, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Delmon Young is on a playoff team for the sixth straight season and he has a postseason motto: "Keep your booty loose."

• Stoned Oven Gourmet Pizzas is a solid enough name, but given the product being offered I'd have probably gone with something simple like The Pizza Joint.

• If you only read one article this week about having sex in prison, make it this one.

• Only twice in the history of baseball has a manager not lost his job following four consecutive 90-loss seasons, so why should Ron Gardenhire be the third to keep his job?

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we shared a few beers with our guest, Twins beat reporter Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who had a lot of interesting stuff to say about covering the team and interacting with Gardenhire on a daily basis.

• Two weeks ago on "Gleeman and The Geek" we used the phrase "naughty postman" and John Bonnes jokingly encouraged listeners to send in photo-shopped pictures of me. Several of them actually did it, including me as Cliff Clavin and me as an adult movie star and also these two.

Charles Barkley's ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field went poorly:

And yet, still better than his golf swing.

• Wanna go golfing, support a good cause, and possibly win Vikings-Packers tickets? Check out the Todd R.W. Andrews Memorial Golf Tournament on September 27. There's a best-ball scramble tournament followed by dinner and a raffle where "all golfers will be entered for a chance to win tickets to the Vikings vs. Packers game on November 23." Proceeds go to cancer research.

Barry Bonds is already making excellent use of Twitter after joining last week.

• I'm burnt out on the Derek Jeter tributes at this point, but Bryan Hoch of MLB.com wrote about his coffee-drinking routine and it was a surprisingly fun read.

• After 20 years together the Twins have ditched the New Britain Rock Cats for the Chattanooga Lookouts, moving their Double-A affiliate from the Eastern League to the Southern League.

Rihanna is too good for the NFL anyway.

• NFL admits that brain trauma will affect one in three players and at "notably younger ages" than the general population.

• In addition to plenty of other sad quotes, Adrian Peterson's mother says "when you whip those you love it's not about abuse, but love."

• For some reason I'm entranced by videos like this one, showing all of Jose Altuve's hits this season in four minutes:

Altuve is on pace for the most hits in a season by someone other than Ichiro Suzuki since Darin Erstad in 2000.

Ben Revere has two home runs this season, which is two more home runs than I thought he'd ever hit, but it's still funny to read about the Phillies wanting him to hit for more power.

• As a "Top Chef" fanatic I'll definitely be watching Tom Colicchio's new show on Bravo, which will hopefully include some Gail Simmons cameo appearances.

• I'm less enthused about Richard Blais' new show on Food Network, but I'll give it a try because Blais is great and also I watch almost anything on Food Network not involving Guy Fieri.

• Friend of AG.com Mandy Lee is doing food stuff and interviews for City Pages. Perfect fit.

• New brunch spot recommendation: Libertine, which even offers Glam Doll donuts.

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

- "Why doesn't Glen Perkins shave?"
- "How did David Caruso lose 305 pounds?"
- "Get ride of Joe Nathan"
- "Brian Harper's brother"
- "Hugely fat guy on a plane"
- "Why would you eat brown rice?"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "Chopped strategy"
- "Pedro Florimon can't hit"

• Finally, in honor of the debates about Gardenhire's job status this week's AG.com-approved music video is Irreplaceable" by Beyonce:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 17, 2014

Should the Twins fire Ron Gardenhire?

Ron Gardenhire Twins

I started writing about the Twins during Ron Gardenhire's rookie season as manager, 2002, and for that entire time some fans have called for him to be fired. Such is life as an MLB manager, but now that winning division titles on a regular basis has given way to losing 95 games per season on a regular basis the fringe of Twins fandom has become the people thinking Gardenhire should be allowed to stick around rather than the people calling for Gardenhire to be fired.

I've never called for Gardenhire to be fired and I probably never will. That's just not my style and it has nothing to do with Gardenhire. However, anyone who's read this blog for any length of time surely knows that I'm not a Gardenhire fan and even during the Twins' run of success his batting orders, lack of platooning, small-ball tactics, public call-outs of young players, and various other traits never fit my personal managing ideal.

Once upon a time my criticisms of Gardenhire were met with people taking me to task for having the gall to question the manager of a consistent winning team, but now those same criticisms of Gardenhire--and surprisingly little has changed in terms of what irks me about him--are met with people taking me to task for not being harsh enough toward the manager of a consistent losing team. Such is life as a baseball blogger, I suppose.

Here's the thing, though: Gardenhire has managed the Twins to four straight 90-loss seasons and possibly four straight 95-loss seasons. Only two managers in baseball history have kept their jobs after four straight 90-loss seasons. One was Connie Mack, who did so with the Philadelphia A's from 1940-1943 and also happened to own the team. The other was Tom Kelly, who did so with the Minnesota Twins from 1997-2000 and also happened to be the manager Gardenhire replaced.

In addition to owning the team that continued to employee him as manager Mack was, at the time of his four straight 90-loss seasons, an 80-year-old five-time World Series winner and nine-time pennant winner with more than 3,000 career victories. Kelly didn't have quite that same level of job security, but it was pretty close and for fairly good reason: He managed the Twins to a pair of World Series titles before all the sustained losing started.

Gardenhire is not the owner of the team, nor does he have multiple World Series titles. In fact, during his 13 seasons as manager the Twins have never gotten to the World Series and have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once, in his first season on the job. His career record is barely above .500 in the regular season and 6-21 in the postseason. He's managed the Twins to 90 or more wins just once since 2007.

Even his 2002-2010 run of six division titles in nine seasons came at a time when the American League Central was extremely weak and often there for the taking with only 87-92 wins despite the unbalanced schedule keeping the more powerful divisions away. You can only play the teams on your schedule and certainly the Twins took advantage of their good fortunate, but "six division titles in nine seasons" was, at the very least, propped up by mediocre competition.

In the entire history of baseball there are a grand total of two instances of a manager keeping his job after four consecutive 90-loss seasons and both cases included circumstances which clearly do not apply to Gardenhire. He doesn't own the team, he doesn't have a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, and his pre-losing run of success is not World Series titles but rather division titles against weak competition followed by historic ineptitude in the postseason. Why should he be the third?

Forget for a moment how much responsibility for four consecutive 90-loss seasons should fall on Gardenhire's shoulders versus the front office. Forget for a moment whether you think a different manager could have coaxed these awful teams to slightly less awful records. Here is the far more important question: If and when the Twins re-emerge as contenders is Gardenhire the manager you want at the helm to get the most out of that new core of young talent?


For a lengthy Gardenhire discussion featuring a reporter who's covered him for years, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

August 22, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Ron Gardenhire admitted to knowing of Fan Graphs and, despite this being 2014 and his being a highly paid baseball manager, everyone was rightfully shocked. Which is funny, but also not.

• I mean, did someone really "fake their own death" if one phone call to their parents immediately blows up the entire scheme?

• The American Reader examined how "bae" became a thing people say.

Phil Hughes, Ace. (Seriously.)

• One of my favorite writers, Gaby Dunn, put together an amusing Jezebel post about "ghosting" people via text, which I've regretfully done twice and constantly feel guilty about.

Pat Neshek gave up his number so John Lackey could keep wearing No. 41 after being traded from the Red Sox to the Cardinals and in return he received a ball autographed by Babe Ruth.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I finally got rid of John Bonnes.

• Comedy Central just made the entire first season of "Broad City" available online and I liked it so much I'm re-watching the whole thing. Here's a scene featuring Hannibal Buress:

Ilana and Lincoln might be the best couple on television.

• You'd think people mistakenly getting into random cars believing they'd paid the driver to pick them up would be crazy, but as someone who now uses Uber and Lyft regularly it makes sense.

Chipper Jones randomly bumped into Manny Ramirez at the Des Moines airport.

• Indians righty Corey Kluber came out of nowhere to become one of baseball's best pitchers and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com deftly mixed reporting and analysis to see how that happened.

• Good job, y'all. Negative feedback made Blue Plate Restaurants get rid of the "minimum wage" fee and increase their servers' base pay.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" guest co-host, Parker Hageman, has his own podcast called "The No Juice Podcast" and I generally find it very amusing.

• Another catcher whose career may be in jeopardy due to concussions from foul tips.

• Thought Catalog occasionally has some interesting stuff and has given quite a few good writers their first sizable audience, but things have gotten pretty disgusting there lately.

• Sadly, it didn't work.

• Friend of AG.com Dana Wessel is back writing his weekly Premier League column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website.

• New Bohemia in Northeast has been a big supporter of "Gleeman and The Geek" and now the beer-and-sausage house is opening a second location in Golden Valley.

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

- "Roy Smalley, baseball player"
- "Your favorite Coen brothers movies"
- "What is Scott Ullger good at?"
- "Sad guy sitting alone in restaurant"
- "How much does Joe Nathan make per inning?"
- "Where did Nick Blackburn go?"
- "Are the suites at Target Field air-conditioned?"
- "Weight loss Zubaz"

• Finally, in honor of the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl Saturday this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Fast Train" by Solomon Burke:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

August 6, 2014

Oswaldo Arcia, lefties on lefties, and swinging “too hard”

oswaldo arcia twins

After a promising rookie campaign last year Oswaldo Arcia has been a mess for most of this season, hitting .199 with 56 strikeouts in 44 games since homering in back-to-back games in early June. He's been particularly helpless versus left-handed pitching, hitting .180 with 24 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances for the season, and Ron Gardenhire recently got Arcia's struggles against southpaws some media coverage by discussing them with reporters:

Not good. Hasn't been good. He missed some fastballs [Friday] night. He had two to hit. He's just got to put the barrel on them. He's got to hit them. The first one was right there, and he just fouled it off. He's just trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles right now. Every swing he takes, he swings so frickin' hard that I don't know any way possible that your head can be on the ball. ... He's got to get away from that. He's not going to hit at this level if he continues to swing as hard as he possibly can, trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles.

I'm certainly in no position to say whether those criticisms are legitimate and/or helpful, but I will note that the Twins had similar and similarly public "swings too hard" criticisms of Carlos Gomez and, before him, David Ortiz. I'll also note that Arcia is hardly the first young left-handed hitter to flail away against left-handed pitching. Through age 23 he's hit .229 with a .625 OPS versus lefties. Here's how that compares to some other left-handed Twins hitters at the same age:

vs. LHP                PA      AVG      OPS
OSWALDO ARCIA         185     .229     .625
Justin Morneau        110     .218     .630
Joe Mauer             398     .275     .671
Rod Carew             178     .286     .704
David Ortiz            78     .234     .734

Arcia is a rarity in Twins history simply by being in the majors and accumulating regular playing time versus left-handed pitching at age 23. In fact, only 11 left-handed hitters in franchise history have at least 50 plate appearances versus lefties through age 23. I've included four of the most prominent names on that list in the above comparison with Arcia. He has the worst production of the bunch, but Justin Morneau was almost exactly as unproductive and no one was very good.

Joe Mauer and Rod Carew hit for solid batting averages off lefties, because that's just what they were born to do, but they both had modest overall production and extreme platoon splits. And that's simply how it goes with left-handed hitters. Most of them struggle against lefties initially and many of them never really learn to hold their own against them. For instance, Jacque Jones hit .227 with a .616 OPS off lefties for his entire Twins career, totaling 848 plate appearances.

In other words, for his seven Twins seasons Jones was as terrible against lefties as Arcia has been through age 23. Gardenhire used Jones as an everyday player nearly that entire time, refusing to platoon him and often starting him in the leadoff spot versus lefties. Perhaps he didn't "swing too hard," but Jones was helpless versus lefties too and Gardenhire stubbornly never let that change his strategy and the Twins' coaching staff never helped him get any better.

Want more examples? No left-handed hitter in the history of the Twins with more than 200 plate appearances against left-handed pitching has ever topped an .800 OPS off them. And among that group only Carew, Ortiz, Doug Mientkiewicz, Denard Span, Kent Hrbek, and Matt Lawton topped .750. Here are some of the bigger names who struggled against left-handed pitching while in a Twins uniform:

vs. LHP              OPS
Jimmie Hall         .564
Jacque Jones        .616
A.J. Pierzynski     .647
Jason Kubel         .673
Tony Oliva          .690
Justin Morneau      .711
Corey Koskie        .725

Morneau won an MVP award and is one of the best half-dozen hitters in Twins history, but he hit just .251 with a .298 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage off lefties. Tony Oliva is a borderline Hall of Famer, but he had a lower OPS against lefties than thoroughly mediocre right-handed hitters like Brendan Harris, Steve Lombardozzi, and Dustan Mohr. Going beyond the Twins, across all of MLB this season lefty hitters have a .649 OPS off lefty pitchers.

My point isn't that Arcia ought to stick with his approach versus lefties. It also didn't work in the minors, where he hit .265 off lefties compared to .330 off righties. He absolutely needs to improve against them in order to fulfill his potential and hopefully Twins coaches can help him. However, the fact that he's struggling with lefties so far isn't necessarily some sort of character flaw and it may not mean anything at all other than he happens to be a left-handed hitter.


For a lot more about Arcia's struggles, plus a review of the Twins' trade deadline moves and non-moves, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

July 9, 2014

Twins Notes: Nolasco, Buxton, Sano, Gordon, Parmelee, and Dozier

ricky nolasco and ron gardenhire

• In signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract the Twins touted his durability as a major selling point, as the 31-year-old right-hander had started at least 30 games and logged at least 185 innings in five of the previous six seasons. Now, just four months into his Twins career and with an ugly 5.90 ERA in 18 starts, Nolasco has been shut down with elbow soreness that he's apparently been pitching through since spring training.

If everyone involved is to be believed that news came as a surprise to the Twins, which means either Nolasco went out of his way to hide the injury from trainers and coaches or those same trainers and coaches went out of their way not to investigate his season-long struggles. Or maybe a mixture of both. Certainly if he was hiding the elbow injury that has to be very frustrating for the Twins and Nolasco is absolutely at fault.

However, it's also worth noting that the Twins--from the front office to manager Ron Gardenhire and his coaching staff--have created and repeatedly fed into a culture in which acting like a tough guy and playing through pain is considered noble rather than stupid or irresponsible. Even in discussing how Nolasco hid the injury from the team Gardenhire almost couldn't help acting as if there was something positive about the so-called "old school" approach taken by the pitcher.

Meanwhile, seemingly every season one or two key players try to tough their way through injuries with disastrous results and no one ever seems to learn a lesson from it. Who knows whether that played a role in Nolasco pitching through pain, but it certainly didn't play a role in convincing him to do otherwise. When can we end this outdated, shortsighted approach of letting hugely valuable athletes risk their short- and long-term health and productivity in the name of being tough guys?

If you're a player and you're hurt, tell someone in charge. And if you're someone in charge and a player tells you he's hurt, don't let him continue playing. As simple as those two directives sound, they've been sadly lacking for the Twins in recent years. This time around it led to their trotting out an injured pitcher for 18 horrible starts and putting at risk a $48 million investment. If that's "old school" then everyone flunked out.

• Worst single-season adjusted ERA+ in Twins history among pitchers with 100 or more innings:

68 - Jim Deshaies, 1994
66 - Ricky Nolasco, 2014
71 - Boof Bonser, 2008
72 - Ray Corbin, 1974
72 - Joe Mays, 2003
72 - Jim Hughes, 1976

Helluva list.

• MLB starting pitchers have a combined 3.90 ERA. Twins starters have the following ERAs:

3.70 - Phil Hughes
4.17 - Kyle Gibson
4.79 - Kevin Correia
4.98 - Yohan Pino
5.90 - Ricky Nolasco
6.52 - Sam Deduno
7.99 - Mike Pelfrey

As a group Twins starting pitchers rank 29th among MLB teams in ERA, ahead of only the Coors Field-inflated Rockies. Last season they ranked 30th in ERA and in 2012 they ranked 29th in ERA, also ahead of only Colorado.

Byron Buxton finally returned from a wrist injury after sitting out the first three-plus months of the season and despite all the missed time Baseball America's midseason update still ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Miguel Sano also ranked No. 9 even though the Twins just announced that he'll miss the entire season following elbow surgery and pitchers Jose Berrios, Kohl Stewart, and Alex Meyer also cracked Baseball America's updated top 40.

• Meyer looks to be back on track at Triple-A after some struggles last month. He struck out 10 last night and has a 2.00 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings over his last three starts.

• No. 5 overall draft pick Nick Gordon has hit .359/.408/.500 with five extra-base hits and four stolen bases through his first 15 pro games for rookie-level Elizabethon.

Chris Parmelee is 26 years old and has batted .235 with a .299 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage in 677 plate appearances since his big September debut, so it's probably time to stop getting excited whenever he has a decent week.

• His batting average isn't pretty, but Brian Dozier's current 112 adjusted OPS+ is the best by a Twins middle infielder since Todd Walker in 1998 and Chuck Knoblauch in 1994-1996.

• He's a deserving All-Star, but it's odd to hear Kurt Suzuki endlessly praised for "handling" a pitching staff that ranks 28th in ERA, especially when pitch-framing stats show him as poor.

• This offseason the Twins were believed to be deciding between Suzuki and John Buck as their veteran catcher addition. Buck hit .226/.293/.286 for the Mariners and just got released.

• I looked this up after watching him leg out a single Monday evening: Kendrys Morales has 48 career infield hits, including at least 10 in three different years. Imagine that.

Eduardo Escobar was hitting .314/.357/.473 on June 15. Since then he's 9-for-66 (.136) with 17 strikeouts and 2 walks. Track records: Trust 'em.

Hisashi Iwakuma owns the Twins, with a 5-0 record and 0.00 ERA in five starts against them.

Vance Worley has a 2.28 ERA and 18/5 K/BB ratio in four starts for the Pirates, who think they've fixed whatever ailed him with the Twins last season.

Pat Neshek, who has a 2.39 ERA since being waived by the Twins in 2011, made his first All-Star team at age 33.

Lew Ford, now 37 years old, is hitting .372 with a .445 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage in the independent Atlantic League. And he's the team's hitting coach too.

• One-time Twins minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte turned back into a pumpkin after a big April and May for the Yankees.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

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