October 8, 2010

ALDS Game 2: Yankees 5, Twins 2

At this point writing about postseason losses to the Yankees has me feeling like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, except there's no Andie MacDowell to hit on while going through the same frustrating story over and over again. I'm not sure what's left to say, really, but here are some notes from Game 2 of the ALDS ...

• For all the media-fueled talk of Francisco Liriano being untrustworthy in big games and Carl Pavano being less likely to implode they basically turned in identical performances versus New York. Liriano struck out seven and allowed four runs on nine baserunners in 5.2 innings, while Pavano struck out three and allowed four runs on 11 baserunners in six innings. Unfortunately neither performance was particularly good.

• Of course, Pavano's line (and the game in general) would've looked much different had home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called what appeared to be a pretty obvious strike three on Lance Berkman in the seventh inning. Instead he called it a ball and Berkman connected on a go-ahead (and ultimately game-winning) double on the next pitch. Berkman later came around to score, putting the Yankees up 4-2.

Via replays and various pitch location charts the call was perhaps somewhat less obvious than it initially appeared, but Pavano's pitch was pretty clearly a strike and even more clearly was a pitch that's almost always called a strike. However, it was also far from the only questionable ball/strike call Wendelstedt made all night and in fact his strike zone was wildly inconsistent for both sides and ... well, let's say "unique." Plus, in Game 1 a bad call went the Twins' way.

• From the moment Ron Gardenhire left the dugout there was absolutely zero that doubt he'd end up getting tossed from the game. Typically pitching coach Rick Anderson makes all trips to the mound that don't involve a pitching change and Gardenhire has a long history of incidents with Wendelstedt, so clearly he headed out there with the intention of venting his frustration with the umpire and perhaps even with the goal of getting tossed.

Jon Rauch deserves some praise for wriggling out of the bases-loaded, one-out jam against Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in the seventh inning, just as he probably deserved more praise than he received during the regular season for converting 21-of-25 save opportunities before the closer role was yanked away and for his 3.12 ERA and 41-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.2 innings overall.

• Lost in the talk of pitching matchups and rotation orders is that the Twins' lineup has been inept during the 2-11 playoff stretch against New York, scoring 3, 1, 1, 1, 2, 6, 4, 5, 2, 3, 1, 4, and 2 runs. That works out to 2.8 runs per game, which won't equal many wins regardless of the pitching. To put that in some context, the average AL team scored 4.5 runs per game this year. Against the Yankees the Twins have more than four runs twice in 13 playoff games.

• Coming into the series I felt that two factors being somewhat overlooked were the strength of the Yankees' bullpen even beyond Mariano Rivera and how facing four left-handed starters in five games put the Twins at a big disadvantage because they relied so much on left-handed bats Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel. Both factors have sadly played out pretty much as expected in the first two games. They face a right-handed starter Saturday in Phil Hughes.

• I'll be co-hosting "Twins Wrap" on 1500-ESPN following (hopefully) both games in New York, talking with Darren Wolfson and taking phone calls starting about an hour after the final out. Win or lose the shows will likely last for at least an hour and maybe two hours, so I'd definitely love to hear from some AG.com readers, if only for the sake of my sanity.

June 4, 2010

Link-O-Rama

• In my mind, he immediately gave Kelly Kapowski a call.

• I make this same threat whenever NBC or Rotoworld wants me to work on a weekend.

• After threatening to get a Playstation 3 for a long time I finally took the plunge last weekend, although it was much tougher than I expected to actually find a store that had one in stock. I bought UFC Undisputed 2010 and MLB 10: The Show. A terrible system for submissions keeps the UFC game from being significantly better, but I'm semi-addicted and have already played it enough to create a light heavyweight named Karl Pilkington and complete his 56-fight career.

• I've finally discovered the explanation for why the Minnesota Daily would never hire me.

• As if last week's rumors of Perez Hilton being offered $20 million for his blog didn't depress me enough, this week The Big Lead sold for over $1 million. Based on the traffic numbers TBL boss Jason McIntyre told the New York Times, this blog should be worth around $150,000. I'll wait patiently for my check. (Jealously is an ugly thing, huh?)

• Speaking of website traffic, I want to thank everyone who helped to increase Hardball Talk's readership by about 300 percent in one year.

• Clearly being reunited with Shannon had a huge impact on Sayid.

• I've written before that In Treatment on HBO is my pick for the most underrated (and sadly unseen) show on television and now they're adding one of my favorite actresses to the rebuilt cast that already included Sayid's aforementioned ex.

• I'm not sure whether to be flattered or insulted, but this is the most ridiculous thing ever:

I'll admit WWAGD has a certain ring to it, but my frames are much smaller and my face is much fatter than the random clip-art guy with the unfortunate luck of looking not totally unlike me.

Jim Joyce speaking to reporters shortly after blowing the call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game is some of the most compelling raw audio you'll ever hear. I'm particularly fond of the phrase "I kicked the shit out of it" and plan to use it to describe my own screw-ups. For example, I had a chance to be more patient when evaluating Denard Span's prospect status a few years ago and I kicked the shit out of it.

• Joyce handled himself about as well as possible given the terrible situation he created, but even more than that I'm impressed by what a tremendous person Galarraga appears to be. Of course, that could change if he reads about how Joyce's call probably cost him $200,000.

• In addition to robbing Galarraga of a perfect game another unfortunate effect of Joyce's bad call is that it took attention away from one of the six greatest center fielders of all time retiring.

• She's already been naked too much to cross a name off my nudity wish list (which doesn't actually exist, as far as you know), but longtime Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Kelly Brook signing a deal to pose for Playboy still seems like a fantastic use of $500,000.

• Kind of amazing after watching the Twins struggle so mightily in those situations all season: Alex Rodriguez has hit .350 with a .710 slugging percentage in 243 plate appearances with the bases loaded for his career.

• In what I'm calling "the Phil Mackey effect" no matter what other logic David Brauer tries to present, KSTP becoming 1500 ESPN has coincided with a big ratings jump. They definitely have the 60-year-old Jewish broad demographic locked up.

• Not surprisingly, it turns out Rangers starter Derek Holland was pitching hurt Sunday night while throwing in the mid-80s against the Twins.

• I thought about buying some of Darin Erstad's old stuff, but then I saw the prices.

• Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

• My apologies for not posting the Twitter mailbag answers this week like I promised. I opted for the interview with John Manuel and a quick entry about Danny Valencia's call-up instead, but I'll definitely follow through on the mailbag responses early next week. Feel free to keep submitting questions over the weekend, because I can always use more good ones.

• Some of the highlights from my NBCSports.com blogging this week:

- Who needs the minors? Mike Leake thriving in Cincinnati
- Mike Stanton on the verge of call-up to Marlins
- Ejected and suspended, Bryce Harper's college career is over
- Ubaldo Jimenez beats struggling Tim Lincecum
- Pirates bench Akinori Iwamura, move ex-catcher Neil Walker to second base
- Carlos Beltran is finally making some progress
- Stephen Strasburg throws five shutout innings in final Triple-A start

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Amy Winehouse doing an acoustic cover version of "Valerie" by The Zutons:

May 28, 2010

Link-O-Rama

Zach Randolph makes just $17 million a year playing basketball, so naturally he supplements his income with a second job as a "a major marijuana supplier in Indianapolis."

• My take on Roy Oswalt is that he'd probably be too costly for the Twins. Steve Phillips' take on Oswalt is that the Nationals should trade Stephen Strasburg for him. Seriously.

• After reading this story, I'd advise Joe Mauer to avoid any suspicious-looking twins.

Daunte Culpepper will be reunited with Denny Green in something called the United Football League. Sounds about right.

50 Cent looks scary after going from 214 pounds to 160 pounds for a movie role, but I'm still jealous. And it annoys me when someone who's in fantastic shape to begin with can so easily shed weight.

Bob Davidson furthered his reputation as one of baseball's worst, most combative umpires this week. And yes, I know he's from Minnesota. He's still a terrible umpire.

• Speaking of umpires going out of their way to find confrontation, Joe West was on a mission to mess with the White Sox on Wednesday. Mission accomplished, I guess. Ozzie Guillen then earned himself a big fine by speaking the truth afterward. Obviously no one likes it when umps blow calls, but for whatever reason that doesn't bother me nearly as much as when they seek out confrontation (although usually that's in conjunction with a blown call).

As you might expect, Hawk Harrelson's reaction on WGN was priceless:

It sounds like West will be disciplined by MLB, at least.

• An interesting contrast of managerial personalities was Guillen calling West "a f-ing a-hole" while Brewers skipper Ken Macha complained about "negativism" and "poppycock."

• This picture says a thousand words and all of them are "Ron Swanson is awesome."

• On a related note, this news is the opposite of awesome.

• I've linked to him before, but Joe Posnanski's brother Tony Posnanski has lost 221 pounds. If you're like me and are always looking for weight-loss motivation, check out his blog for the amazing progress in picture form. As for me, I'm holding steady at around 70 pounds lost due to a few dieting slip-ups this month. For me the two biggest struggles are avoiding boredom while exercising and avoiding the seemingly random urge to eat a whole bunch of bad stuff.

• In related news, Pizza Hut's honey BBQ "bone-out wings" are really good even if they aren't really "wings."

Drew Magary also has some helpful (and very funny) dieting tips.

• I'm probably just bitter because I've been doing this for eight years and have made almost enough to buy a Luis Rivas rookie card, but the notion that someone might pay $20 million for Perez Hilton's blog makes me want to shut down the internet. Or maybe start blogging about Lindsay Lohan rather than Delmon Young.

• Do you think Amar'e Stoudemire ever confuses Robin Lopez for his mother?

David Brown of Yahoo! Sports was in town this week and wrote an amusing review of his first trip to Target Field.

• I'm looking forward to the inevitable moment when the Target Field hawk attacks the Target Field squirrel, if only for Brendan Harris' reaction.

• Not surprisingly, 89-year-old Mickey Rooney seems to have a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of Twitter:

"Do you find this fun and interesting?"

• Maybe the Twins could do something like this, but with Anthony LaPanta instead of Elvis?

• I'm a huge Lost fan, but because I didn't start watching the show until last year and blitzed through the old episodes in the span of about a month my time devoted to the series is lower than most. With that said, I thought the finale was good without being satisfying, although in fairness people seem to overestimate the number of truly excellent series finales in television history. I'll definitely remember the characters and acting more than the mythology.

Actually, the thing I'll probably remember most about Lost is the pilot episode that ranks as my all-time favorite (and not just because of the "Kate bathing in the ocean" scene). No show has ever hooked me so thoroughly with a single episode, although re-watching the pilot on ABC the day before the finale was a totally different experience and it actually struck me as sort of quaint. My favorite quote from the finale: "It's a helluva long con, Doc."

• Oh, and as an MMA fan I also enjoyed Jack's odd attempt at a "Superman punch."

• At this point I'll be shocked if the Moneyball film is even decent, with Jonah Hill playing Paul DePodesta, Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Art Howe, and Robin Wright playing someone who didn't actually exist in the book.

Gus Johnson taking over as the voice of the Madden video game franchise may convince me to finally buy a Playstation 3 after years of letting my Playstation 2 simply collect dust.

R.A. Dickey wasn't much good for the Twins last season, but the 35-year-old knuckleballer tossed six shutout innings for the Mets this week after being hit on the elbow by a line drive.

• Some of the highlights from my NBCSports.com blogging this week:

- Are the Phillies overworking Roy Halladay?
- Angels may be giving up on Brandon Wood
- Rockies bringing Chris Iannetta back to majors
- Kyle Lohse needs forearm surgery or a move to the bullpen
- Carlos Zambrano rejoining rotation next week
- Tim Lincecum's rare struggles bring up questions about cracked nails
- Jake Peavy has a 6.05 ERA and a "tired arm"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Ray Charles performing a live version of "What'd I Say" from 1963: