September 27, 2004

Death, Paint, and the Twins

Death at Riverbend

I went home for the weekend for some family-related stuff (more on that in a moment) and returned to campus early Sunday evening. As I was being dropped off, I saw police cars and TV news trucks all over the front of my building. While I made my way into the building, I ran into a press conference that was being held near the front entrance, with a police official answering questions from all sorts of local media.

It was pretty weird, so I asked the first person I saw, a guy picking up and paying for the pizza delivery he had ordered to the dorm, what exactly was going on. "Some chick died," he said. Turns out, he wasn't quite the accurate source of information you might expect from a young man who ordered three Papa John's pizzas on a Sunday evening.

Here's as much of the story as I could find before going to bed Sunday night, courtesy of the Associated Press:

MINNEAPOLIS - A 19-year-old man was found dead Sunday in a University of Minnesota residence hall, police and university officials said.

Police were sent to Riverbend Commons dormitory on the East Bank of the Minneapolis campus around 11:30 a.m. after a resident discovered her guest was unresponsive and called 911, said Greg Hestness, the university's police chief.

Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, said Hestness, who is also the university's assistant vice president for public safety.

The cause of death wasn't immediately determined and autopsy results were pending. Investigators were constructing a timeline of events, including when the man arrived at the dormitory, and obtained a warrant to search the room, Hestness said.

"There were no obvious signs of foul play, however an unexpected death of a young person is going to be treated as a suspicious death," Hestness said.

I imagine a lot more information will come out about this story in the next couple days, but for now the fact is simply that some guy died here yesterday. Keep in mind that I know nothing about any of this and didn't even show up here until about six hours after the body was found, but I'd be shocked if there isn't something sigificant that caused a 19-year-old guy to die unexpectedly. As they say, "developing" ...

My Alibi

You know those people who are so totally obsessed with their pets that their whole life revolves around them? I am apparently one of those people, which is why I was away from the dorm this weekend. My dog, who I've talked about and pictured here many times, is completely insane. She's incredibly cute and very nice 99% of the time, but also totally crazy, particularly when she's around anyone other than myself or my mom.

Last week, my mom hired some painters to redo the inside of our house, and because she (or we) didn't want to make the dog stay in a kennel at the vet all week (there was no way she'd behave with two painters and a bunch of paint in the house), we decided that I'd come home midweek, so I could babysit the dog while the painting was going on (they started on Monday, so she had already been kenneled for a couple days).

So I got home on Wednesday, walked in the door, and saw that the entire house was different. Some walls were Carolina baby blue, some walls were dark red, some walls were beige, some walls were green. Tipsy from the colors, I made my way up to my room, a very small, very boring area of the house that previously had white walls and just two things hanging from them -- a Boston Terrier calendar and a picture of my cousin and I.

I opened the door and was hit with dark blue, the new color of my room. Now, keep in mind that I knew the house was being painted and I actually had a conversation with my mom about what color I wanted my room to be. It went something like this:

MOM: What color should I have them paint your room?

AARON: What's wrong with the color it is already?

MOM: White?!

AARON: I like a room with white walls and I don't really care about the color of a room.

MOM: I'm not leaving it white.

AARON: Well then what did you ask me my opinion for?

MOM: Because I thought you'd tell me a color you wanted.

AARON: I did ... white. It's my room, isn't it?

At that point, my mom muttered something under her breath and walked away. And then I didn't hear anything on the subject for a few weeks, before coming home to find my room was a sea of navy blue. My mom, always incredibly observant, apparently noticed me violently shaking my head and biting a hole through my lower lip, so she asked, "You don't like it, do you?"

"What happened to white?" I asked

"I told you I wasn't going to paint it white," she responded.

As my head continued to shake, I said, "So you decided since it wasn't going to be white, you'd skip about 50 colors and go directly to the darkest blue?"

"I thought it was the Twins' colors," she sheepishly offered.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, the color of my room makes little difference to me. I'm only there for about three months a year, plus the odd weekends when I come home to give far too much attention to my dog. And at some point in the relatively near future, I hope to move out completely. With that said, there's something about the whole process that rubbed me the wrong way.

My mom asking for my opinion on the color of my room was like when NFL teams have to interview minority coaching candidates. She had no intention of listening to me and getting the room painted a color I liked, she just wanted to avoid the $200,000 fine from Paul Tagliabue.

More than anything, what upsets me about the room is the fact that my mom and I are so completely different when it comes to stuff like this. If I had a kid and he had his own tiny room in the middle of a relatively large home, I'd ask him what color he wanted it, and if he said "white," I'd paint the damn room white. It's not as if I asked for it to be painted in human blood or something, I just like white walls.

Beyond that, the entire paint job is something I would never do. We've been in this house for only 3-4 years, and when we bought it I don't remember anyone saying, "Wow, these walls are going to need painting in a few years." In other words, the paint that came with the house when we bought it was just fine. I'm not saying the painters did a bad job, because I think the actual paint looks just fine, but the house of a single mom and her college-aged son in Minnesota just doesn't need to look like a crayon box exploded.

We're boring Minnesotans who are in no danger of being featured in Good Housekeeping. The white walls were just lovely. Oh, and I didn't even mention the fact that my mom also had the kitchen floor completely re-done too. I suppose I may just be too frugal to understand any of this, so the idea of someone spending what is almost certainly a ton of money (I didn't ask for specifics, because I figured I might pass out) on the painting and re-flooring of a perfectly fine house is not even something I would ever think of doing.

Of course, maybe I'm just a little worried, because my current plan is to stay in college for as long as humanly possible, and it appears as though my mom has just blown a year or so of tuition to make my room a color I hate.

Shortstop Options

The Indians did a very nice thing yesterday afternoon, sending Omar Vizquel out to begin the top of the ninth inning and then replacing him at shortstop with Jhonny Peralta before a pitch had been thrown. Vizquel, who may have been playing his final home game with the Indians, got a standing ovation as he left the field and then, after he got into the dugout, was called back out for a curtain call.

As Vizquel was tipping his cap to the crowd in Cleveland, I began to wonder whether or not he would be someone the Twins would go after this offseason. The Twins have a $5-million option on Cristian Guzman for next year and I see no real defensible way to pay him that much, particularly on a team where that would consume nearly 10% of the entire payroll.

Which is why Vizquel is intriguing. If the Twins could sign him to a one-year deal worth around a million bucks, they could let Guzman go and save a ton of money. Plus, it would allow them to take their sweet time with Jason Bartlett, perhaps even giving him another season at Triple-A to refine his skills.

I happen to think that Vizquel is one of the most overrated players in recent memory, but he's still a solid everyday shortstop, even at 37 years old. Take a look at how his numbers compare to Guzman's this season:

              G      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA     VORP

Vizquel 145 .291 .353 .390 .743 .256 34.5
Guzman 140 .278 .312 .390 .702 .238 15.7

Vizquel has been a significantly better offensive player than Guzman this year, almost solely because he is able to get on base and avoid outs about 13% more often, which is huge when talking about guys who aren't providing any power. Defensive stats are very iffy, particularly when dealing with the "regular" numbers that are readily available, but Vizquel also leads Guzman in Zone Rating (my regular defensive stat of choice), .844 to .821.

If Vizquel can stay healthy in 2005 (which is far from a given, obviously) and provide even 80% of the production he has given the Indians this season, he'd be almost exactly as good as Guzman, and for about 20% of the cost.

The Third Starter

It was great to see Carlos Silva turn in yet another solid second-half start yesterday, holding the Indians to one run in seven innings of work, on the way to his 14th victory of the season. Silva is almost assuredly the Twins' #3 starter for the postseason, which means he'll make one start in the opening round, against either New York or Boston. I still wouldn't bet on the Twins with Silva on the mound, but he's certainly done his part to earn a postseason start.

Check out the second-half numbers of the Twins' top three starters:

                    GS       IP      ERA      W     L

Johan Santana 14 99.1 1.18 13 0
Brad Radke 14 90.1 3.49 6 3
Carlos Silva 14 85.1 3.69 6 1
TOTAL 42 275.0 2.72 25 4

We all know how unbelievable Johan Santana has been since the All-Star break, going 13-0 with a 1.18 ERA in 14 starts, including 5-0 with a 0.26 ERA (yes, 0.26) in September. Along with that, Brad Radke and Silva have both pitched extremely well, combining to go 12-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 175.2 innings. Together, Minnesota's three starters for the first round of the postseason have gone 25-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 42 second-half starts. If that doesn't give you confidence heading into October, I'm not sure what will.

By the way, remember that Eric Milton-for-Silva (and Nick Punto) trade that I kept saying was a great one for the Twins? Well, Silva has thrown 197 innings with a 4.16 ERA and Milton has thrown 188 innings with a 4.69 ERA. Oh, and Silva has cost the Twins about $9 million less, and unlike Milton, he's not a free agent this offseason.

Cy Young Progress

Curt Schilling picked up his 21st win of the season yesterday, as the Red Sox knocked the Yankees around. However, with Santana picking up his 20th win of the season over the weekend, I'm a little less worried about Schilling stealing Santana's Cy Young award than I was this time last week.

If Schilling picks up his 22nd win of the season in his final start and Santana gets a no-decision or a loss (yes, a loss is possible) in his final start, would Schilling's 22-to-20 edge in wins be enough to sway misguided voters? Who knows, but I certainly think Santana's chances of winning got a huge boost once he got that magical 20th win.

Now, about that AL MVP ...

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

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