January 21, 2003

So, how was your first day of school?

Not bad, thanks for asking.

As you may or may not already be aware of, yesterday was my first day of classes for second semester.

My first class of the day was a foreign language.

It is "intermediate" level, as I took "beginning" last semester.

Much to the chagrin of the students in the class, semester 2 is being taught by a new teacher.

We really liked the old one, she did a great job and the class was lots of fun.

The new teacher? I am not sure what to make of her yet.

She came into the class, said hello and then proceeded to have a monologue similar to Charlie Brown's teacher in all of the "Peanuts" cartoons.

Something along the lines of "Wa...wawawa...wawawawa...wawa...wa...wa...wawawaw...wa...wawa...wawawawawawawawa...wa."

Apparently she took our looks of confusion to mean we were simply contemplating what she had said, so she stepped it up a notch and continued, "!@#$%^&**&^%$@#$%^&*&^$@$%&."

At the end, she asked, "Any questions?"

I hadn't understood more than about 3 things she said the entire time, so I had obviously couldn't even figure out what the general subject she was discussing was, let alone ask a question about it. And, looking around, I was not alone.

Later in the class, we were asked to get into groups of two and complete a little exercise.

We were given a list of 15 occupations (doctor, teacher, musician, actor, etc) and told that the situation was a "Norah's Ark" type of thing, where the world was sort of coming to an end and we'd have to get on a boat, etc.

Anyway, the point of the exercise was (I think) to choose the 3 people that could help us the most in a situation like that and then describe (in this foreign language) why we think these people we picked would be the most helpful.

So, I get myself a partner and we start working on this thing.

We chose a doctor, a carpenter (to build the "ark") and a grocer (because apparently in this fictionally place, we decided that he will be able to bring the food from his grocery store on the ark, or something like that).

We start writing down the reasons why we chose those 3 people, when my partner stops for a moment, looks at me and intiates the following exchange:

HIM: Maybe we should have chosen the beauty contestant.

ME: Why?

HIM: So we could [have sexual intercourse with] her.

ME: Oh. Um...I think the doctor is probably a better choice.

HIM: Yeah, you're probably right, cause we might get sick or something.

Just so you are clear about this, that conversation took place between 2 students at an insitution of higher learning.


After my first class, I had to walk about 50 miles to my next class.

Luckily I have about 40 minutes in between the two classes.

Unluckily, I live in Minnesota and it was like 5 degrees today and somewhat windy.

Sometimes I feel like I am a perfectly sane person and then I remember that I live in Minnesota and am doing so of my own free will and I remember how crazy I must be.

My second class went without major incident, although I did do one interesting thing.

The class is "Mass Media Ethics" and the professor asked us to name one specific ethical situation that we were interested in learning more about.

I replied that I was interested in learning about how to deal with sources that insist on being "anonymous" and what the details on dealing with that were.

He asked me why I was interested in that and I said, "Well, I read a lot of baseball writing and there is a guy on ESPN.com named Peter Gammons that constantly has trade rumors that come from un-named sources..."

How baseball obsessed am I?!

After that, I traveled to my 3rd and final class of the day.

And this is where it really got interesting.

The name of the class is "Intermediate Literary Non-Fiction," which tends to bring out a "unique" assortment of people.

This class was a motley crew if I ever saw one, and I am including myself in that statement.

A few of the highlights...

The teacher is a woman that appears to be in her late 50s, but it very likely about 38 years old.

She just has that "weathered" look, with the stringy, shiny grey hair and no evidence of makeup in the last 20 years.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with her look, if she likes it, then good for her.

It's just interesting.

I had a photography teacher in highschool that had the exact same look, right down to the hair and the painter's pants.

I would call it the "semi-crazy and cooky old hippy chick" look, but I could probably be convinced to change it to something more catchy.

Anyway, in her introduction to the class she mentions that "she is interested in bringing all different types of religions into the class discussion," at which point I re-check my schedule to make sure that I am in the correct room for a NON-FICTION WRITING CLASS!

Moments later she explains that she is "a sucker for anything spiritual"and that will also play a large part in the class.

I again re-check my schedule.

After assuring myself that I was in the correct room, I took my usual glance around the room.

This is always a fun experience, particularly in a small class like this (about 20 people).

We were all seated in a big circle of chairs, so it made my inspection very easy.

Across from me sat a young man with blonde hair, wearing blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt. He looked like a perfectly normal, bland human being, much like myself, until I noticed that he was wearing red nail polish on all 10 of his finger nails.

I continued my glance, but was quickly interrupted when an older man, probably around 50, stood up and hurriedly told the teacher that he needed to go to the bathroom.

As he was leaving the room, I noticed a rather large spot of moisture on the crotch of his grey sweatpants.

I just assumed that a grown man of 50 (or so) wouldn't pee on himself and then ask to use the restroom while in a non-fiction writing class, so I waited for him to return to the room, hoping for some sort of clues or an explanation.

He returned, with the large, damp spot still intact and later told everyone that he was taking some medication that was a diuretic.

I immediately felt bad for the man, because he had in fact peed his pants in the middle of a college class.

However, I obviously didn't feel that bad for him, seeing as though I have now reported it to my entire, massive audience.

Meanwhile, back in baseball world, there were some interesting transactions (although no reports of anyone peeing on themselves)...

The Twins and Doug Mientkiewicz agreed to a 1 year deal worth $1.75 million dollars, thus avoiding arbitration.

I've never been Mientkiewicz's biggest fan and I think the Twins will be making a big mistake if he is still their first baseman in a few years. That said, for right now, Mientkiewicz is a perfectly good first baseman for a team like the Twins.

Here are his numbers for the past 2 years:

Year       G      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B     BB      EqA     WARP

2001 151 .306 .387 .464 15 39 67 .295 7.7
2002 143 .261 .365 .392 10 29 74 .274 4.6

(WARP stands for "Wins Above Replacement Position")

If Mientkiewicz could hit like he did in 2001 every year, I would love to have him as my first baseman.

Unfortunately, his batting average dropped 45 points last season and, because he doesn't hit for much power, a lot of his offensive value went with it.

He did partially off-set the dropoff in batting average by walking quite a bit more.

Mientkiewicz had a good walk rate in 2001, walking 1 time for every 8.1 at bats.

In 2002, he upped that quite a bit, walking 1 time for every 6.3 at bats.

I absolutely love Mientkiewicz's defense. I think he is the best first baseman I have ever seen.

And, in the back of my mind I guess I am holding out hope that he can become a John Olerud-type of player, although realistically, that isn't likely to happen.

To do so, he would have to walk 100 times a year, add 10 homers to what he is already doing and keep his average around .290.

Quite simply, that aint gonna happen.

But, for 2003 and possibly 2004, Mientkiewicz is the best option the Twins have and I definitely think he can be a league average 1B for the next couple seasons.

In fact, I think Mientkiewicz is going to have a very good 2003.

Keep in mind, that prediction is not based on even one shred of statistical evidence or anything other than a gut feeling.

I think his average will be closer to .300 than .260, I think he'll hit 15+ homers and walk 80+ times.

Along with his awesome D, that would make him a very nice player for the Twins.

The Rockies signed Jose Hernandez to a 1 year deal for $800,000 dollars.

Jose Hernandez will make $800,000 dollars in 2003 and the only reason that figure won't have another 0 tacked onto it (making it $8,000,000 for those of us that aren't real good with numbers and stuff) is the fact that Hernandez strikes out an incredibly large percentage of the time.

Hernandez was the best shortstop in the National League last season, but for some reason the fact that he makes most of his outs by way of strike out, instead of a groundout or a pop up, has kept teams from being interested in him.

This is a great signing for the Rockies, but it looks at though they might screw it up by playing Hernandez at third base.

Hernandez is an above-average defensive shortstop and his offense at that position is extremely valuable.

Shift him to third base and he'll probably still be a good defender, but his offense will be a whole lot less special compared to the other third basemen in the NL.

I understand the Rockies have Juan Uribe and they want him to be their future at shortstop, but you've got to have serious doubts about a guy that hits .240/.286/.341 while playing in Coors Field.

Uribe was the worst offensive shortstop in baseball last season.

At the beginning of the free agent period I wrote about Jose Hernandez and the lack of offers he was likely to get.

But even then I never suspected he'd have to settle for a 1 year deal worth under a million bucks.

Here is a snippet of what I said back on December 8th:

It is actually amazing to me the lack of attention Hernandez is getting on the free agent market.

The guy had an awesome season.

Don't believe me?

Check out these numbers for 2 Major League shortstops in 2002:

Player        AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B

Player A .308 .354 .508 34 30
Player Z .288 .356 .478 24 24

Player A was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League and Player Z just got released by the Brewers.

Baseball is a funny game sometimes.

See ya tomorrow and please, if you are ever in a class with me, don't do anything even remotely embarrassing or strange, because I will be forced to report everything to my readers.

Thank you.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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