February 20, 2007

Twins Notes

It was a long, mostly boring offseason for the Twins and their information-starved fans, but now that pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, the mainstream media's coverage of the team will thankfully begin to rise dramatically leading up to Opening Day. For instance, not only are LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune down in Fort Myers, writing articles for the newspaper, they've hopped onto the blogging bandwagon as well.

I already talked about this development a bit Friday--back when it was my own little quasi-scoop for a few hours--but both LEN3 and Christensen have hit the ground running since then, pumping out multiple entries already. Beyond that, the Star Tribune also has Howard Sinker of Minnesota Public Radio blogging what they call "an expert fan's perspective," smartly providing three new reasons for people to check out the newspaper's website on a regular basis.

As I've suggested here many times in the past, newspapers shifting more and more of their content and resources online is a good long-term move and, in this specific case, good news for Twins fans. It gives LEN3 and Christensen a chance to share information that they likely would have kept hidden away in their notebooks last season because of space constraints, and it also gives them both an opportunity to show a lot more of their personality to readers.

Anyone who's read this site for a while knows all too well that I have all kinds of strong feelings about blogs and newspapers, not to mention blogs run by newspapers. However, more than any of that, this simply means there will be more Twins-related content for fans to devour, which is always a positive thing. Plus, LEN3, Christensen, and Sinker all got on my good side right off the bat by linking to AG.com under their respective "blogrolls" (although, truth be told, they were each on my good side already).

Sinker even went so far as to devote an entire entry to my Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007 series, saying all kinds of nice things about the series and this site (albeit while also calling me "sometimes grumpy"). Playing up to my ego has always been a sure-fire way to get on my non-grumpy side, but more importantly all three of the Star Tribune's new bloggers appear willing to be very generous with their links to non-mainstream sites.

Not that they asked, but my three main pieces of advice for the Star Tribune's threesome is to let your personality show as much as possible, make sure to pump out content on a daily basis, and don't be afraid to keep tossing around the links liberally. Too many mainstream-housed bloggers don't fully integrate themselves into the blogging community, linking only to fellow mainstream writers or not linking at all.

There are plenty of reasons for that, one of which is that a lot of mainstream writers aren't exactly thrilled with the idea of becoming bloggers (particularly after many of them trashed bloggers in the past). I'm hopeful that LEN3 and Christensen will realize that becoming a legitimate part of the Twins blogosphere is actually a good thing, even for a print journalist. Some day, they might even blog about something other than Sidney Ponson's weight.

While I try to cope with the fact that three guys who started blogging last week already have more of an audience than I've built blogging nearly every day since 2002, here are some other Twins notes ...

  • LEN3 penned an excellent article about pitching coach Rick Anderson, who's perhaps the most overlooked part of the Twins' success this decade. While I'm wildly opposed to the Twins' decision to bring in Ramon Ortiz for $3.1 million, Anderson's track record at least makes it somewhat comforting that he's optimistic about turning Ortiz into a non-horrendous pitcher. Anderson suggests that perhaps Ortiz needs to "slow it down a bit and work the changeup in to keep the hitters off a little more."

    I'm beyond skeptical that Anderson has enough tricks in his bag to override the fact that Ortiz has simply been a horrible pitcher for quite a while, but the good news is that he does have a long and varied history of past success stories. One of the pitchers who's thrived under Anderson's tutelage is Juan Rincon, a good-but-not-great minor-league starter who's turned into a dominant setup man. Here's what Rincon had to say about working with Anderson:

    When I had some issues with my mechanics, the other guy [former pitching coach Dick Such] wasn't able to tell me anything. Andy picked it up right there. He's very good. And I can tell how he's helped the other guys. The younger guys especially. If I'm tipping [my pitches] or jumping out [on my delivery], he's able to tell me right away.

    Of course, if Anderson is indeed so good with young pitchers, the Twins should have been willing to let him work his magic on Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey instead of Ortiz and Ponson. The article ends with Anderson saying: "If Ponson and Ortiz come in and do a good job, that means we're having a good year." If Anderson can get either of those guys to spend all season in the rotation while posting an ERA under 4.50, the Twins should double his salary.

  • Christensen checks in with a rehabbing, post-surgery Francisco Liriano, who says: "They told me this morning that I'm not going to try to pitch this year. I'm going to take it easy, make sure everything's fine and come back in 2008."
  • In the wake of Joe Mauer's four-year contract extension, there's been a lot of speculation about whether or not the Twins will be able to lock Justin Morneau up to a similar deal before Opening Day. As recently as last week there were reports that Morneau wasn't particularly interested in working something out long term at this point, but apparently that may have changed once Mauer signed his deal. Here's what LEN3 reported Sunday:

    The Twins and reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau will resume talks on a multiyear contract during spring training. Mark Pieper, Morneau's agent, spoke with the Twins over the weekend, and the Twins confirmed their interest in trying to get a deal done after offseason talks broke down.

    Instead of signing a long-term deal then, the Twins and Morneau agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to avoid arbitration. The Twins are in better shape to reopen talks now that they have reached deals with all of their arbitration-eligible players, including catcher Joe Mauer, who agreed to a four-year, $33 million deal that could be within range of what it would take to sign Morneau.

    It's likely that Morneau's stock will never be any higher than it is a few months after winning the AL MVP and the Twins have him under their control for several more seasons, so there's no big rush to work something out immediately. With that said, agreeing to something similar to Mauer's deal would be a good move for both sides. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the Twins are strongly pursuing long-term deals with Joe Nathan or Michael Cuddyer, who seem like the natural odd men out.

  • Remember last month, when I took a business trip to Dallas? Well, here's the main reason why:

    In addition to picking up the Rotoworld 2007 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide at local bookstores or directly through Beckett via subscription, there's also an enhanced online version available through Rotoworld.com. I'd recommend buying the print version that's published by Beckett simply because the physical magazine looks great and a lot of work went into putting it all together. Plus, I'm proud of the fact that I talked everyone into putting Johan Santana on the cover.

    However, the online draft guide is probably the better overall value, assuming you don't mind not being able to carry it around with you. It's sort of a souped-up version that offers all the same stuff from the magazine (sans the Santana cover), plus a bunch of additional content. Perhaps most importantly, the online version gets updated constantly, whereas the print version went to press while I was in Dallas. In other words, you should buy both, if only because I wrote about 50,000 words for the project.

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