January 10, 2007

Fire Away: The Answers (Part 1: Random Questions)

Monday's request for questions garnered the response I expected, which is to say I got a whole bunch of them (about 50 in the comments section and another three dozen or so via e-mail). Rather than pick out a handful to answer in Gleeman-length detail, I figured the better plan was to respond to as many of them as possible by being relatively brief (for me, anyway) and breaking the answers down into two separate entries. In other words, I'll answer half of them today and half of them tomorrow.

Today's half of the responses include what I'd classify as "random questions," which basically means stuff about this blog, my personal life, and my opinions on non-baseball topics. Tomorrow's half of the responses will deal strictly with baseball-related questions, most of them focusing on the Twins. It seemed natural to break it down that way, so that those of you who are bored by one or the other can plan your reading accordingly. Now then, my responses to the random questions you guys sent in ...

(Questions are bold and underlined, while my responses are ... well, you can figure it out from there.)

When at the Winter Meetings, did you talk to Jason Williams and find out what he does?

I talked to a lot of people at the Winter Meetings, including Twins beat writers LaVelle E. Neal III and Kelly Thesier, who were both very friendly to me. I did not, however, speak to Jason Williams. He was there and I was there, and at times we were sitting at the same table, interviewing the same person, but our paths didn't really cross. It's possible that he didn't know who I was, but it's probably more likely that he thinks of me in much the same way I think of him and didn't feel like chatting.

What is your exercise routine on your elliptical machine? Do you listen to music or catch up on TV, or both? How often do you exercise?

At my peak, I was doing about an hour on the elliptical machine at a time, 5-6 days per week. That pace has unfortunately slowed because I've been especially busy with some work-related stuff of late. I'm past the point of having any problems physically staying on the machine for long stretches--at first, there's no way I could have done an hour every day--but I get incredibly bored after just a few minutes. I always watch television and occasionally watch TV while also listening to music or Howard Stern.

I recently got a wireless internet hookup, so now I'm to the point of watching TV while listening to something and propping my laptop up on the machine console so I can instant message and read e-mails. Even with all that, the boredom often forces me off before I otherwise would have quit, which makes me think technology and staring at a computer screen all day has left me with the attention span of a gnat. The only good news is that I'm a gnat who weighs 95 pounds less than he used to.

In your opinion, who was the boss? Tony or Angela?

I think recent evidence has clearly demonstrated that Samantha was actually the boss.

Has the greatest Twins of all-time list officially died, now that it isn't on the link sidebar anymore?

Definitely not. I'm very far behind where I wanted to be with the Top 40 Minnesota Twins series, since I initially expected to be done with the whole thing by Opening Day. Instead, I've been stuck "working" on No. 22 for the past two months and there's no end in sight. I removed the links from the sidebar because a) I'm always trying to make the sidebar less cluttered, and b) I felt guilty staring at "#23 Cesar Tovar" every day, knowing that I've been derelict in my duties.

You can still find links to the Top 40 Minnesota Twins profiles in my entry introducing the series, which also contains some details about how exactly I came up with the rankings. My guess is that a significant percentage of this blog's current audience wasn't even around when I started the series, so checking out that introductory entry and reading through some of the profiles I've already completed can prepare you to join the angry mob upset at me for the considerable delays.

My goal now is to resume the series this month and have it finished before any current players get enough playing time to significantly alter their standing. Many of you have expressed concern over that happening, but the closer to No. 1 the countdown gets, the less impact a half-season has on someone's ranking. Even if I fail miserably in getting the series rolling again, the only danger is that a couple current Twins will sneak onto the list and poor Randy Bush will have his spot repossessed.

Are you thinking about getting a new dog? I mean you're in bed all day anyways, right? That's meant to imply it would be easier for you, as opposed to someone with a traditional job, to take care of/hang out with a dog, rather than imply anything unsavory.

Under most circumstances, I would have gotten a new dog back in May, when my 6-year-old Boston Terrier, Samantha, died from a brain tumor. What has kept me from doing so is that I'm uncertain about where I'm going to end up living. I started shopping for a place of my own in Minnesota with the help of a realtor several months ago, but had to put that on hold when the possibility of moving to the East Coast for work came up.

I'm reluctant to get a new dog before I get that all settled, because moving to New York would be difficult enough without having to find a place that allows pets. Plus, the last thing I'd want to do is get a new dog and then have to leave it here in Minnesota while I'm a thousand miles away. On the other hand, dog-sitting my uncle's Boston Terrier for a week last month reminded me how much I like having a dog around, so it's only a matter of time.

Does dropping "I was on air for NBC" help with the ladies?

Not at all. Near as I can tell, it actually hurts.

Other then yours, do you have a favorite Twins-related blog? If so, which one?

This is difficult to answer in the offseason, because many Twins blogs have been dormant for several months. However, assuming everyone gets back to their regular posting schedule once Opening Day nears, the Twins bloggers I typically read each day are Stick and Ball Guy, Will Young, Batgirl, Seth Stohs, John Bonnes, Trevor Born, the Nick Nelson-Nick Mosvick combo, and the assortment of Jesse Lund-led bloggers over at Twinkie Town.

I'm continually amazed by the number of Twins blogs in existence. This site was once one of maybe three Twins blogs, but there were closer to three dozen regularly updated during last season. One of the best things about being a Twins fan is that we have an unusually strong group of bloggers writing about the team from unusually diverse angles. That makes it tough for the never-ending stream of new Twins bloggers to gain a foothold in the marketplace, so to speak, but it also makes for great reading.

Now that you're an accredited journalist for a so-called legitimate news organization (no offense to RotoWorld or your blog) will you be in the clubhouse this season and facing the players you so often criticize? Based on your posts I had the impression that although you took Gardy to task at the Winter Meetings he may have just dismissed you as a "nobody" (again, no offense) who showed up for a one-time appearance?

First of all, I disagree strongly with the notion that I "took Ron Gardenhire to task." I asked him a bunch of questions and tried to follow up on a few things rather than let him off the hook with a non-answer, but I wasn't overly critical or combative. Having watched nearly every big-league manager in action with the media at the Winter Meetings, I can safely say that Gardenhire treated me exactly the same as each manager did when someone they've never seen before started asking them questions.

From Day 1 of this blog, telling someone that I write about the Twins has inevitably led to them asking, "Have you tried to get a press pass?" It's amazing how consistent people are with that response. I've never tried to get a press pass and have long maintained that a press pass would add little to what I do here on a regular basis. With that said, NBCSports.com got me a press pass for the Winter Meetings and would certainly be able to get me a seat next to Sid Hartman in the Metrodome media room.

As for whether or not I'll take advantage of that, I remain undecided. My guess is that I probably will at some point, if only to write about the actual experience, but seeing the players in person doesn't do much for me and I have no real interest in joining the horde of reporters coaxing quotes out of half-dressed men each night. Plus, NBCSports.com doesn't pay me to write about the Twins, so daily access to their clubhouse is only worth so much. We'll see.

I'm finishing Dan Harrington's Volume 2 on Hold em. Have you read many poker books, and if so which ones do you recommend?

Strange as it may sound, I probably read more poker books than baseball books in 2006. I enjoyed Harrington on Hold 'Em Volume 1 and Harrington on Hold 'Em Volume 2, in large part because Dan Harrington devoted many pages to discussing what his thought process was while playing specific hands. I'm far from a great poker player, but I've found that most poker books are written in such a way that it's hard to extract useful strategy and insight from what is typically a lot of generic information.

Generic rules about playing poker can only take you so far. Once you get a relatively firm grasp on the many basic strategies involved in poker, I think it helps far more to discuss specific situations and ways to play specific hands. That's not something that's easily captured in book form, although I'm stubborn enough (and obsessed enough with poker) that I continue to search in vain for a book that proves me wrong.

Incidentally, I've been thinking of a way to organize an "AG.com Poker Night" of some kind, but the logistics of it seem sort of daunting. It's not something I'd really want to have at my house and I don't think the Canterbury Park Card Club hosts private games. If anyone out there has an idea, I'd love to hear it. I had the urge to play some live poker the other day, but decided against it when I realized Canterbury only offers limit games and I only like no-limit. Maybe I should move to Las Vegas.

Alba, Biel or the Italian chick from The Office? She's purty.

First, all of the above. Second, The Office has but one contender for Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com status and her name is Jenna Fischer.

I'm curious about your opinions regarding the state and future of the journalism industry. More specifically, potential for employment in said industry. You seemed to take the road less traveled by not completing your degree and then dutifully starting out at the bottom of the "hack" ladder. Your ability is obvious, so it's clear your decision was warranted, but (from what you know) what are the odds of success for the rest of the herd?

This blog has played a huge role in any success I've had becoming a professional writer, but one thing I've always said is that I don't think I could have taken the same path if I'd started blogging in, say, 2005. Back when I started this thing in 2002, blogs were relatively new and you could count the number of widely read baseball blogs on one hand. While it wasn't easy for me to gain a large audience in that environment, it was significantly easier to do so than it would have been a few years later.

My commitment to pumping out a huge amount of content on a daily basis certainly played a major role in the early audience growth, and I'd like to think my writing ability also helped some, but the timing of the whole thing was also perfect. If I attempted to duplicate my success beginning today, it would be nearly impossible because the very first step--simply getting a strong base of readers for this blog--would be far more difficult.

Nearly every opportunity I've gotten in the writing world has ultimately stemmed from this blog, so in that sense my entire career was made possible by timing and luck as much as hard work or skill. I realize that's an awfully depressing answer to a question about other young writers trying to find similar success. However, while I don't think taking the exact same path I did will necessarily work these days, I do think all kinds of other paths have been opened up since then.

The beauty of where journalism and the writing world is right now is that you no longer have to forge your own path in order to get non-traditional results. The non-traditional results are slowly but surely being found at the end of newly formed paths that come from the explosion of online media. I started this blog because I was turned down by the Minnesota Daily and needed some kind of outlet for my writing, but if that happened today I'd have all kinds of other options.

Do you do your blog writing the night before? I enjoy the fact that it's always posted by the time I get to work.

I often write blog entries at night, but not always. Except on rare occasions, I post a new entry each day at around midnight, which is why this site has always been more of a daily column than a true blog, since most "blogs" feature multiple entries throughout the day. I'm too verbose for that, preferring instead to dump whatever I have to say onto the site at one time and then come back again the next day.

How do you think Kevin Garnett and Kirby Puckett compare in the minds and hearts of Minnesotans? Across the nation? It seems people in Minnesota will always hold Kirby on high, but isn't KG just as, if not more, deserving?

I think Kevin Garnett is the greatest player in the history of Minnesota sports. I also think he gets a bum rap because for the most part the team has failed to surround him with a championship-caliber supporting cast. Many fans see the Timberwolves' lack of postseason success and assume it must be Garnett's fault, but he's never been the problem. He's been given a championship-caliber supporting cast exactly once and responded by taking the team to within one game of the NBA Finals.

Garnett's not a perfect player, and specifically could be far more assertive offensively, but it's no coincidence that the amount of criticism thrown at him rose dramatically once he was surrounded by Marko Jaric and Ricky Davis rather than Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. Give Garnett a strong group of teammates and the Wolves are title contenders. Give Garnett a weak group of teammates, as Kevin McHale and company have done throughout his career, and the Wolves are a 45-win team.

Similarly, the Twins' postseason success in 1987 and 1991, along with Kirby Puckett's memorable moments from those World Series runs, plays a huge part in how he's viewed relative to Garnett. Puckett was a great player who played on some very good teams and, to his credit, came up big in some of the most important spots in team history. Garnett is an even greater player who has primarily played on mediocre teams, for which Stephon Marbury and McHale can be thanked.

It's been a while since you ranted about Kevin McHale and the Timberwolves. Is that because you think they're better, or have you just stopped caring? They are undefeated in 2007, you know. Specifically, what do you think of Randy Foye at this point? And is Mark Blount the best center they've ever had?

Save for the previous three paragraphs, I stopped ranting about McHale and the Wolves because I've made my opinion of the team and its management clear here over the years and nothing has happened recently to change my view. Randy Foye is going to be a very good player and he's already playing much better than I expected him to as a rookie, and Mark Blount has been good enough offensively that his defensive and rebounding deficiencies can be somewhat overlooked.

However, the Wolves are still nowhere close to being a legitimate contender. As they've been throughout most of the past decade, they're a low-level playoff team with little room for significant improvement. Drafting Foye was a great addition, but trading away two first-round picks in terribly lopsided deals will keep the team from adding more Foye-like pieces to the puzzle. Garnett's free agency is rapidly approaching, yet I fail to see how they can take the next step anytime soon.

Have you ever listened to Bruce Springsteen's music? If yes, how did you like it?

I think this one wins the award for Most Random Question. I've tried very hard to get into Bruce Springsteen on several occasions, but for whatever reason he's never really done it for me. Of course, I've admitted to apparently being one of the world's only male (or at least straight male) John Mayer fans, so take that for whatever it's worth.

How in the world do you still have an @aol.com email address? Does that service still function?

It still functions, although not especially well. I've been debating switching over to Gmail for several months now, but for whatever reason I'm a little gun shy. I'm either very loyal or just incredibly scared of change. Incidentally, you'd be shocked by the number of otherwise intelligent people who, like me, continue to use America Online for absolutely no real reason. I'm not sure how to explain it, really.

How do you feel about opening the doors for us to fire away, now that the questions are piling up? How many questions were you anticipating and how long did it take to answer these questions?

I was both expecting and hoping to get a large number of questions, because it would have been really depressing to ask for them and then only receive a few. Actually, that's why I've been reluctant to organize any AG.com-sponsored reader get-togethers. I'm sure they'd be well-attended, but the outside chance of me showing up to a crowd of three guys scares me off. It may not seem like an especially time-consuming task, but responding to all of the questions ended up taking me several hours.

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