January 18, 2004

Notes from the weekend

I know Bill Simmons. You're no Bill Simmons.

I go to ESPN.com multiple times per day, to say the least. One of the first things I do there is check "Page 2" to see if Bill Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy," has a new column up. Simmons is, without a doubt, my favorite sports writer in the world. The level of admiration I have for his writing cannot be overstated and the pleasure reading his column every week gives me cannot be explained sufficiently.

To quote the legendary Kenny Banya: "He's the best Jerry. The best!"

In fact, if I could write like anyone who writes about sports, I would write like him. He is incredibly funny and I have never read a column of his and not been entertained, which is pretty amazing.

Anyway, I thought his column from over the weekend was particularly good. Simmons was in Las Vegas last Friday, the same day I left Vegas. He was there to tape a piece at the "Adult Entertainment Expo" for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which he writes for.

First of all, yes, I did know there was a porno convention in Las Vegas while I was there. Second of all, no, I did not get a chance to attend. I would have. I mean, I'm not against such things. I just didn't. Luckily though, Bill Simmons did:

I met Playboy star Devinn Lane, who helped with our piece. What do you say to a porn star? Well, here's what you say: "It's nice to meet you -- I enjoy your work." And then they give you a knowing smile, and you feel really awkward and uncomfortable, and you want to say, "No, no, I don't mean it THAT way," but you don't want to hurt their feelings, either. So you nod like an idiot, then wait for them to look away so you can stare at their chest. And even if they catch you ... I mean, what can they say? They're a porn star.

Here's the sad thing about me: I would liked to have gone to the convention...so I could have met Bill Simmons.

Oh, Judge, I don't keep score.

Then how do you measure yourself with other golfers?

By height.

--- Caddyshack

Speaking of ESPN.com, here's the leader in the clubhouse for my favorite ESPN.com front page headline of the year:

Wie Nearly Makes Cut

The headline refers to Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old female golfer who played in the Sony Open on Thursday and Friday of last week. First of all, any 14-year-old nearly making the cut at a PGA Tour event is incredibly impressive. I don't want to take anything away from Wie, who appears to be have future superstar written all over her.

I just thought the media coverage I saw of her (mostly on ESPN and ESPN.com) was funny. Every time I saw the coverage on SportsCenter it would always come with commentary about how impressive she was, how she held her own, how she finished ahead of X number of male pros, and all that other stuff. And then they'd go to the next story or some NBA highlights or something, and you wouldn't even know that she actually finished tied for 80th and missed the cut. That's not to say a 14-year-old girl tying for 80th in a PGA Tour event isn't amazing, just that it should be part of the actual story at some point.

And then you have the ESPN.com headline above, which is similar to seeing:

Detroit Tigers Nearly Finish Fourth

As you probably know, I try not to get too political on this blog, but I'm going to branch out once and hope I don't offend anyone. The one question I have in regard to Wie playing on the PGA Tour and Annika Sorenstam doing so before her, is whether or not men should be allowed to play on the LPGA Tour? If women can play with the men, why can't men play with the women? I'm not the world's biggest golf fan, so I really couldn't care either way, but it does seem strange to me.

This isn't a case where there's not a women's league or team as an option. I can understand a high school girl who wants to golf on the team but doesn't have a girl's team to join, so she joins the guys. But there is a women's golf tour.

Either way, I hope Michelle Wie becomes the female Tiger Woods, because having more interesting and spectacular athletes is never a bad thing.

A brilliant idea

As long as I am showing my male chauvinist side, let me share with you a story...

I was waiting for one of my classes to start one day, having a conversation about the Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team with a male classmate. We were talking about how poor we thought they would be this season and how disappointing they have been over the last several years.

The Gophers' coach, Dan Monson, had come from Gonzaga, where his teams were built around tremendous guard play. I was lamenting the fact that, during his time with the Gophers, his teams have always had poor guard play, sometimes to the point that they had the worst point guard in the Big Ten playing 35 minutes a night.

A girl in class overheard us and decided to chime in with her thoughts. Let me preface what she said by assuring you that she is very intelligent, easily among the smartest people in what was a very good class. She said, and I quote:

"Why don't the guys see if Lindsey Whalen can play for them? I don't know what the rules are, but she could probably play for both teams, or at least play all home games."

Now, let me point out that "Lindsey Whalen" is a guard on the Gopher women's basketball team. When you're sitting in a class and someone you respect, someone whose academic abilities are evident throughout everything they said and did previously, says something like that, what is the correct response?

If it is "stare blankly at said person until class starts," then I did perfectly.

Trimming the fat

Here's a little glimpse into the inner-workings of Aaron's Baseball Blog. At some point during the second-half of each month, I go through every single link that I have listed on the left-hand side of this page. I did January's "link check" this past Saturday morning, because for some unknown reason I was up at 8:00 am.

Anyway, what I do is click on each and every link to check when each website was last updated. Believe it or not, the links I have on this page are actually links to places I think most of my readers would enjoy going to. Because of that, I have to monitor them, not for content usually, but for update frequency. There is nothing worse than clicking on a link to a website and then seeing that the site hasn't been updated since the Brewers were good.

You would be amazed at the number of links I delete from this website each month, for no other reason than they simply are out of date. And then, just like clockwork, I get emails from people saying "Hey, how come you deleted the link to my site?!"

I'll tell you why. I go through all the links during the second-half of each month and if the site being linked hasn't been updated at all during the current month, I delete it. For this time around, that meant that if a site hadn't been updated during 2004, it got the boot. That seems fair enough, right?

Like I said, there is nothing worse than clicking on a link only to find that the last entry was from November 14th or something. Plus, I literally get a request to add a link to a new website every day and I usually add them eventually. At some point though, if you're adding links three and four times per week and you don't want the blog to just become one big list of links, you have to trim some fat every month.

And there is plenty of fat to be trimmed every single month. The amount of blogs that die off every 30 days or so is amazing to me. This time around I got rid of about two dozen links and that is not an uncommon amount.

The truth is that the amount of sports blogs popping up these days are incredible, and growing. When I started this particular sports blog in August of 2002, I don't think there were more than 10-15 blogs that I knew about. Now, I have over 125 links to sports blogs on this site alone.

I would say that there are too many sports blogs out there, but as the writer of one myself, who the hell am I to say such a thing? Instead, I'll say this: one of my favorite things is getting an email from someone who says something like "Hi Aaron, I've recently started a blog of my own. Do you think you could add a link to it? Here's the address..."

I'd say in those instances, there is a 50/50 shot that by the time I get around to actually adding the new site to my links, it is already obsolete. Although I suppose that's as much an indictment of how slow I am to add links as it is the rapidly disappearing and infrequently updated blogs.

In football, a bad drive for an offense is a "three and out," consisting of three plays and a punt. In blogging, a lot of blogs don't even make it to three entries before they go "out."

The Big Screen

My favorite non-sports blogger, Stephen Silver (who will always have a link on this site, even if he goes AWOL for a month), has an entry from Sunday about the Internet Movie Database's Top 100 Movies of all-time. Stephen says that he's seen 72 of the 100, and 19 of the top 20. For no other reason than I like lists like this and I like movies even more, let me say that I have seen just 39 of the top 100 movies.

Here's my personal top 10, using only the movies from the IMDB Top 100:

1) The Godfather

2) The Godfather: Part II

3) The Shawshank Redemption

4) Seven

5) Pulp Fiction

6) Memento

7) American Beauty

8) Fight Club

9) Goodfellas

10) Resevoir Dogs

I judge all movies by the "it's 1:08 am and I stumbled across it on HBO84 while flipping channels" test. That is, if I come across a movie I have seen numerous times, how likely am I to sit through the entire thing again. By my rough estimation, I have seen Pulp Fiction 1,746 times.

Just missing the cut from my top 10 (from the IMDB Top 100): Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Usual Suspects, Silence of the Lambs, American History X, The Professional, Bravehart and Requiem for a Dream.

Of course, I'm not sure why anyone should trust my opinions on movies. One of my all-time favorites (although not one of IMDB's Top 100) and one that I not only will watch anytime it is on, but that I also own: Blue Chips. Yes, I'm serious.

Your wish = my command

Here's an email I got last week:

Hi Aaron,

I was wondering if you could do me a favor and WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT THE TWINS!



To which I responded:

Hey Rob -

I'll write about the Twins as soon as they actually do something.

Thanks for reading,


Well, they still haven't done anything, but let's see if we can't put together a few hundred words for Rob anyway...

It has not been the best off-season to be a Twins fan. They lost their two best relief pitchers and traded away their starting catcher. They re-signed a 30-year-old left fielder and have been unable to cash in their former left fielder in a trade that they liked. Now they are back where they almost always are, with too many outfielders and not enough infielders, except now they've added "not enough pitching" to the equation.

Luckily, they are still in the worst division in baseball. The Twins are going to need to have some things go right this year for them to win. First and foremost, Joe Mauer is going to have to avoid being completely overmatched at the plate. I happen to think he'll do just fine, but you never know with a 21-year-old making the jump from Double-A.

In addition to that, they're going to need Grant Balfour to perform very well, hopefully in the rotation but perhaps as a reliever. They are also going to need a healthy season from Joe Nathan. And either Rivas or Guzman actually hitting a little wouldn't hurt either.

This team is not as good as last season's team, but neither are the White Sox. The Royals, on the other hand, are better.

While I'm on the subject of the Twins, let me deal with a topic that I have seen and heard many Twins fans worrying tremendously about this off-season: the starting rotation.

From among last year's starters, the Twins lost Kenny Rogers, Rick Reed, Joe Mays and Eric Milton. That sounds like disaster has struck the franchise, until you realize that Reed and Mays both stunk and that Milton only threw 17 innings all year.

I've heard very intelligent Twins fans talking about how the team won't be able to replace all those innings they lost and how you can't lose that many starters and expect to compete, and all sorts of stuff like that. Here's the thing though, the Twins starting pitchers simply weren't all that great last year.

Starter           GS        IP      ERA

Brad Radke 33 212.1 4.49
Kyle Lohse 33 201.0 4.61
Kenny Rogers 31 193.1 4.56
Rick Reed 21 124.2 5.13
Joe Mays 21 110.1 6.77
Johan Santana 18 110.1 2.85
Eric Milton 3 17.0 2.65
Carlos Pulido 1 3.0 9.00
Grant Balfour 1 2.2 13.50

As you can see, replacing Milton's production can be done without any problem. Replacing Mays' 6.77 ERA in 110 innings could likely be done by choosing a Triple-A pitcher at random and having him make 20 starts, and Reed's 5.13 ERA in 124.2 innings should be fairly easy to duplicate as well. Rogers' 193 innings with a 4.56 ERA are going to be tougher to fill, but it's not like he was a Cy Young candidate last season.

The three guys the Twins kept - Radke, Lohse, Santana - were their three best starters from last season.

Here's what the Twins' rotation did last season, overall:

 GS        IP      ERA

162 974.2 4.69

Among the 14 American League teams, they ranked 6th in innings pitched and 8th in ERA.

Let's see what they would have to do to match last season's production...

First, let's look at the three holdovers from last year, Radke, Lohse and Santana. Let's simply project Radke and Lohse to perform exactly as they did last season. With Santana, it is a little tougher, as he didn't join the rotation until around mid-season. He made 18 starts last year and 13 starts in 2002, which equals 31 over the last two years. Assuming he's healthy, that is just about how many starts he would make as a full-time member of the rotation in 2004. So, let's just add up his numbers as a starter over the past two years and make that his 2004 projection.

Here's what we get:

Starter           GS        IP      ERA

Brad Radke 33 212.1 4.49
Kyle Lohse 33 201.0 4.61
Johan Santana 31 185.0 2.97
TOTAL 97 598.1 4.06

And here's what that leaves, in order to duplicate the entire rotation's 2003 production:

GS        IP      ERA

65 376.1 5.69

If you give Radke and Lohse credit for exactly what they did last season and give Santana credit for what he's done over his last 31 starts, that leaves the Twins needing to fill 376.1 innings worth of 5.69 ERA pitching in 2004. Not exactly the same "sky is falling" outlook I've been hearing from many Twins fans.

The Twins recently signed long-time MLB starter Rick Helling, which suggests one plan is to let Helling eat up about half of those 65 starts and 376.1 innings. Helling threw 155 innings with a 5.17 ERA last season, which is not good. However, if he does exactly that well in exactly that many innings for the Twins in 2004, he would leave just 221.1 innings of 6.06 ERA pitching left to be filled.

I personally think Grant Balfour has a very good chance of becoming an excellent starting pitcher, but even if he doesn't, they should have absolutely no problem finding guys to eat up 221 innings with a 6.06 ERA in 2004.

No, if the Twins are going to have big problems with their pitching-staff in 2004, it's not going to be because they lost guys from the starting rotation. The bullpen on the other hand...

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

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