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.

  • February 19, 2007

    Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007: The List

    I posted the final installment of my eight-part "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series here two weeks ago, but I figured it'd also be good to have another entry where the entire list could be found, if only for future reference. So, below you'll find the complete rankings, links to all 40 player profile write-ups, and some commentary on the overall state of the Twins' minor-league system, as I see it, heading into the 2007 season:

     1. Matt Garza, SP [Profile]              21. Jay Rainville, SP [Profile]
    2. Chris Parmelee, RF [Profile] 22. Tyler Robertson, SP [Profile]
    3. Glen Perkins, SP [Profile] 23. Trent Oeltjen, CF [Profile]
    4. Kevin Slowey, SP [Profile] 24. Yohan Pino, RP [Profile]
    5. Anthony Swarzak, SP [Profile] 25. Kyle Waldrop, SP [Profile]
    6. Alexi Casilla, SS [Profile] 26. Garrett Olson, 3B [Profile]
    7. Pat Neshek, RP [Profile] 27. Jay Sawatski, RP [Profile]
    8. Eduardo Morlan, SP [Profile] 28. Jose Mijares, RP [Profile]
    9. Oswaldo Sosa, SP [Profile] 29. Denard Span, CF [Profile]
    10. Alexander Smit, SP [Profile] 30. Alex Burnett, SP [Profile]
    11. Joe Benson, CF [Profile] 31. Trevor Plouffe, SS [Profile]
    12. Jeff Manship, SP [Profile] 32. Brian Duensing, SP [Profile]
    13. David Winfree, 3B [Profile] 33. Danny Valencia, 3B [Profile]
    14. Paul Kelly, SS [Profile] 34. Brandon Roberts, CF [Profile]
    15. Erik Lis, 1B [Profile] 35. Doug Deeds, LF [Profile]
    16. Whit Robbins, 3B [Profile] 36. Garrett Guzman, LF [Profile]
    17. Zach Ward, SP [Profile] 37. J.D. Durbin, SP [Profile]
    18. Alex Romero, LF [Profile] 38. Steven Tolleson, 2B [Profile]
    19. Matt Moses, 3B [Profile] 39. Loek Van Mil, SP [Profile]
    20. Ryan Mullins, SP [Profile] 40. Matt Fox, SP [Profile]

    The strength of the Twins' minor-league system has long been pitching, but their current crop of young arms is among the best in all of baseball. As the simple math involved would tell you, most teams would love to have one of baseball's top 25 pitching prospects, but the Twins boast at least three of them in Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey, and might have a fourth top-25 guy in Anthony Swarzak.

    Philip Hughes of the Yankees and Homer Bailey of the Reds clearly stand out as baseball's truly elite pitching prospects, but once you get past those two Garza has an argument for claiming the No. 3 spot. At the very least, I think he definitely slots in the top half-dozen. Perkins and Slowey aren't quite in that class of pitching prospect, but can each safely be placed in the 15-25 range. Swarzak is more likely in the 25-40 range, which is damn good for the team's fourth-best young arm.

    However, as impressive as those first four guys are, what makes the Twins' collection of pitching prospects so amazing is that they also have a ridiculous amount of depth throughout the organization. Guys like Eduardo Morlan, Oswaldo Sosa, Alexander Smit, and Jeff Manship would be one of the top 2-3 pitching prospects in most organizations, but with the Twins they almost get lost in the shuffle. Beyond that, the Twins have all kinds of what I'd call "C-level" starter prospects.

    That group includes Zach Ward, Ryan Mullins, Jay Rainville, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing, and J.D. Durbin, which is pretty impressive. For a lot of teams those guys would be considered top-notch arms, but for the Twins they're just one of the masses. Add it all up and the Twins have no fewer than 15 prospects who have a legitimate chance to be big-league starters, including several major league-ready guys.

    Only Garza is a good bet to become an ace-caliber starter, but there are all kinds of No. 2 and No. 3 starter candidates in the mix, and the Twins already have a pair of aces in Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. In fact, at just 23 years old Liriano can certainly be included in the young pitching discussion, although his MLB experience means he's no longer a "prospect" for ranking purposes. Along those same lines, Boof Bonser (25) and Scott Baker (25) could also be thrown into the mix.

    In other words, while the Twins sign mediocre veterans like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson to avoid trusting their young pitching and fans start worrying about losing Santana to free agency in two years, the organization will be absolutely stacked with potential starters for the foreseeable future. Actually, the Twins are so loaded with starter prospects that unloading a few of them in trades seems almost inevitable.

    Even assuming Carlos Silva is let go after the season and no further veterans are signed, it's going to be difficult to fit Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey into five rotation slots this time next year. Plus, even if the Twins find a way to make that work--and/or deal someone like Baker, who they appear to have soured on--where does the next wave of Manship, Sosa, and Swarzak fit into the picture?

    Some of the starter prospects mentioned above with surely end up as relievers, but the Twins have plenty of intriguing bullpen arms already. Pat Neshek is technically still a prospect, but he'll resume duties as one of Joe Nathan's setup men this season. Yohan Pino, Jay Sawatski, and Jose Mijares will also be knocking on the door for a bullpen spot relatively soon, and Durbin might have to stick as a reliever coming out of spring training if the Twins want to avoid losing him on waivers.

    Through shrewd drafting, trades, and development, the Twins have assembled an embarrassment of young pitching riches. Pitching prospects tend to weed themselves out with injuries and stagnation, which means you can never have too much young pitching, but the Twins appear capable of putting that theory to the test over the next few years. It'll be vital for Terry Ryan and company to determine which ones are truly keepers and then deal the other guys for some value before they die on the vine.

    Of course, the flip side to having an insane amount of quality young pitching is that the Twins are lacking in top-notch position-player prospects. At this point Chris Parmelee is system's best bet for a middle-of-the-order offensive force, and he's a year out of high school and has barely stepped past rookie-ball. The Twins have zero of baseball's top-25 hitting prospects, and only Parmelee and Alexi Casilla have a good argument for being included in the top 50.

    With that said, the Twins' lack of top-notch hitting prospects is somewhat misleading, because they've graduated elite prospects Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel to the majors during the past three years. Much like with Liriano, Bonser, and Baker on the pitching side, Mauer (24), Morneau (26), Kubel (25), and Jason Bartlett (27) are young and/or inexperienced enough be included in the young hitting picture.

    On the other hand, even including Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Bartlett along with the prospects leaves the Twins with big holes on the long-term depth chart. There's no clear replacement for Torii Hunter in center field, where none of Denard Span, Trent Oeltjen, and Brandon Roberts currently look capable of stepping in for the pending free agent. At this point it looks like Hunter's replacement will have to come from outside the organization, which is where trading some of that pitching could come into play.

    There's a similar lack of quality options in the outfield corners and at designated hitter, because the Twins simply don't have any impact bats close to the majors. The hope is obviously that Kubel and Michael Cuddyer will take care of two-thirds of those spots for the rest of the decade, but the third place for a big bat remains wide open. Even in terms of long-term bench depth behind Kubel and Cuddyer, losing Alex Romero on waivers earlier this offseason leaves the cupboard bare.

    Bartlett is finally entrenched at shortstop and Casilla should be more or less ready to replace Luis Castillo at second base in 2008, but beyond those two the organization's long-standing lack of middle-infield depth remains. Even more extreme is the complete absence of quality catching prospects throughout the system, although that won't be an issue until at least 2011 and hopefully will throw further water on the misguided notion of Mauer moving out from behind the plate.

    The Twins have a solid collection of intriguing prospects at third base, but with no clear long-term solution stepping forward they'll try to hold down the fort with Nick Punto and Jeff Cirillo until someone emerges from the group of David Winfree, Whit Robbins, Matt Moses, Garrett Olson, and Danny Valencia. There's plenty of talent there, but several of the guys still have a long way to travel up the organization ladder and questions about defense apply to all but Olson.

    Taken as a whole the Twins' farm system is among baseball's best, which is impressive given the number of impact players they've graduated to the majors recently. However, what they really have is one of the 2-3 best collections of young arms, several of which are MLB-ready, and a sub par group of young bats, almost none of which are MLB-ready. That's not such a concern with Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, and Bartlett around, but it may be necessary for them to balance the scales a bit.

    February 16, 2007


  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune named a new editor this week, promoting deputy managing editor Nancy Barnes to the position after former editor Anders Gyllenhaal left for the Miami Herald. It remains to be seen how much influence Barnes will have on the newspaper's content, but so far at least she's on the right track, with one of her first stated goals being to "develop new ways to reach readers through the Star Tribune's website."

    Along those lines, someone at the Star Tribune tipped me off to the fact that the newspaper will soon have both of its baseball reporters blogging. The Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, has a blog called "Twins Insider" that appears to still be in the developmental stages, while Joe Christensen's "Around the Majors" blog looks to be up and running (or at least walking briskly). Even knowing LEN3 just a little bit, I'm confident that his blog will be a must-read if he lets loose at all.

    The Star Tribune is the only newspaper I read on a daily basis and I've developed relationships with a number of its employees over the past few years, so I'd like to see it do well. I'm hopeful that Barnes agrees with me that newspapers will be better off long term the less they continue to rely on the actual paper version of their product and the more they begin to think of themselves as one of many websites competing for an online audience that doesn't need their content delivered to them.

    I often go months without reading the physical version of a newspaper, but include several newspaper websites in my weekly reading rotation, alongside dozens of sites without print versions. There are still tons of people who read what gets delivered to their doorstep each morning, but there's little doubt that the numbers are skewing more toward my usage patterns with each passing day. A large portion of the newspaper industry has taken to fighting that change, whereas the smart move is to adapt with it.

  • Meanwhile in the significantly less popular newspaper on the other side of town, columnist Charley Walters is attempting to pass off stuff like this as secret-worthy information:

    Because of shrewd investing, Twins catcher Joe Mauer, 23, was financially set for life even before signing a four-year, $33 million contract this week.

    Like much of Walters' columns, that sounds noteworthy until you think about it. Between a $5.15 million bonus in 2001, over $1 million in big-league salaries, and various endorsement deals, it's likely that Mauer earned in excess of $7 million "even before signing a four-year, $33 million contract." Walters may actually think that being "financially set for life" with $7 million before the age of 24 takes "shrewd investing," but I'd suggest that it'd only be noteworthy if Mauer was unable to do that.

  • On a semi-related note, Star Tribune blogger Michael Rand--yes, another one--pointed out how much more interesting things would have been if Mauer had dated 2006 Miss USA Tara Conner, rather than 2005 Miss USA Chelsea Cooley. There's still time, of course. He is, after all, very shrewd.
  • Controversial as it may be, I've decided to keep the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title vacant until someone special emerges from the rest of the pack as the clear choice, even if it means another three months with the throne empty. Keeley Hazell and Jenna Fischer remain the leading candidates, although a viable third-party choice has emerged in the (ridiculously nice) form of Marisa Miller. Rumor has it that she's a really big Rolling Stones fan and loves listening to her iPod.

    Despite that, her overall taste in music seems somewhat flawed. For one thing, she replied "I don't know a lot about him" when asked about Gnarls Barkley. "Him" is actually two guys who essentially look like complete opposites, which is a fact that Miller would know if she wasn't busy posing instead with the human hat-rack known as Kenny Chesney. Of course, needless to say I'm willing to overlook all of that, or at least look at these 47 pictures of Miller in Sports Illustrated instead.

    As a wise man once said: "Suddenly, a new contender has emerged."

  • In addition to the aforementioned tremendous photo galleries from their annual swimsuit issue, SI.com also posted an excellent interview with Baseball-Reference.com creator Sean Forman. I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Forman on several occasions--even going out for sushi with his family in Seattle last year--so I can safely say that he's an even better person than he is a website designer, which is really saying something.

    Baseball-Reference.com is without question the most essential baseball site in existence and I use it constantly. Not only can you find almost any piece of information within seconds because of how well Forman presents the immense content, it's incredibly easy to get lost for hours in the never-ending pages of interesting "stuff." If I was somehow stuck on a desert island with access to just one website, B-R.com might be my pick (assuming MapQuest wasn't going to get the job done, obviously).

  • In most weeks either of these videos would run away with Video of the Week honors, but they'll have to settle for a first-place tie this time: The Berenguer Boogie and Joe Rogan vs. Carlos Mencia. Actually, the truth is that as good as the Rogan-Mencia video is, it can't possibly compete with The Berenguer Boogie when it comes to inexplicable ridiculousness. What kind of life am I leading where something like that gets made in the 1980s and doesn't flash in front of my eyes until 2007?
  • I know absolutely nothing about playing guitar, but as a big fan of both John Mayer and Derek Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi, I enjoyed reading Rolling Stone's article on "The New Guitar Gods." The accompanying video is worth watching too. Of course, none of it will keep a certain segment of the population from writing Mayer off as nothing more than the "Your Body is a Wonderland" guy, although he apparently put the song's theme to good use while in Minnesota this week.
  • Nationals bloggers, I know all too well how you feel. My only advice is that if you close your eyes and pray--which, incidentally, is how Tony Batista approaches at-bats--it'll all be over soon enough. My favorite part of the whole thing--aside from Batista simply being some other team's problem this year--is MLB.com's Bill Ladson reporting that "Batista can also play shortstop and second base" in addition to third base. That's actually selling Batista short, because technically he could pitch too.
  • Most fantasy baseball sites seem to be overwhelmingly populated by twenty-something "experts" like Yours Truly, but long-time fantasy veteran Lenny Melnick also has a blog and accompanying podcast that's worth checking out.
  • One nice side effect of my ongoing Top 40 Minnesota Twins series is that after I profile someone from the 1960s or 1970s--for instance, Zoilo Versalles or Camilo Pascual--my baseball-loving uncle calls me to excitedly discuss the player in question. The discussions often veer off into random parts of Twins history, with my uncle providing the memories and me providing the facts and stats. Last week, our talk someone got into Walt Bond's one season in Minnesota.

    After discussing the tragic end to Bond's career and life--the basic story of which I wasn't aware--my uncle said, "You really should do some research on Bond and write it up on your blog." I put it on my ever-expanding to-do list, with a target date right around the time the Twins' new ballpark figures to open. Thankfully--and in what is an incredibly odd coincidence--Steve Treder of The Hardball Times wrote an excellent piece on Bond this week that's many times better than I ever could have done.

  • Sure, the Star Tribune has joined the mainstream-going-blogging frenzy, but the ongoing bloggers-going-mainstream movement also claimed another victim in True Hoop's Henry Abbott. Welcome to the club, Henry.

  • February 12, 2007

    Mauer Through 2010

    We're sadly still destined for two straight years of hearing and reading about how Johan Santana may leave Minnesota at some point, but for a while at least we've been spared from similarly premature talk about Joe Mauer's possible departure. Mauer and the Twins have agreed to a four-year contract that will keep him in Minnesota through 2010. The deal, which covers his three arbitration-eligible seasons and buys out his first year of free agency, is worth $33 million.

    Mauer's deal isn't technically a four-year extension, because it only buys out one season that the Twins didn't already control. However, delaying Mauer's free agency for even one year is obviously very important and the contract provides the Twins with cost certainty should the market continue to rise like it did this winter. Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, told reporters Sunday that "there's not a player who belongs with the Twins more than Joe Mauer," while Terry Ryan gave the team's point of view:

    We are pleased to have an agreement with one of Minnesota's brightest young stars. Joe has become one of the game's great young players on and off the field. He has a bright future with this organization and means a great deal to the people of Minnesota.

    This is a good day for this organization, and I feel like it's one of those deals which is going to work for both sides. You have to be comfortable with how a player's going to respond to security. I don't think there's any question how Joe's going to respond to that. That's one of the good things about this situation. He is in awful good shape and showed it last year.

    Under the terms of the deal, Mauer will receive $3.75 million in 2007, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009, and $12.5 million in 2010. He had asked for (and probably would have received) $4.5 million in arbitration for 2007, and that total would likely have climbed to about $7 million in 2008 and around $10 million in 2009. That adds up to a total of $22 million, which means the Twins essentially bought his first year of free agency for something like $11 million.

    There's little doubt that a healthy Mauer would go for a lot more than that on the open market in 2010, which makes it an excellent deal for the Twins. On the other hand, given his past knee problems and the physical demands of catching, there's some doubt that a healthy Mauer would have hit the open market in 2010, which is why taking $33 million in guaranteed money is always a smart move for a 24-year-old who enjoys playing for his current team.

    As Ryan said, it's a deal that should work well for both sides, with the added bonus that breathless speculation about Mauer leaving as a free agent won't start up until at least mid-2009. Plus, locking Mauer up through 2010 is important, if only symbolically, because at some point you've got to think people will stop messing up the plan to have a new ballpark in place by then. If that ever happens and construction actually begins, Mauer will be the first player officially under contract for the new ballpark.

    Joe Mauer | Catcher | DOB: 4/83 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2001-1

    2001 18 RK 110 .400 .492 .491 0 8 19 10
    2002 19 A- 411 .302 .393 .392 4 28 61 42
    2003 20 A+ 233 .335 .395 .412 1 15 24 24
    AA 276 .341 .400 .453 4 22 25 25
    2004 21 MLB 107 .308 .369 .570 6 15 11 14
    2005 22 MLB 489 .294 .372 .411 9 37 61 64
    2006 23 MLB 521 .347 .429 .507 13 53 79 54

    MINOR LEAGUE TOTAL 1055 .332 .407 .426 9 76 132 107
    MAJOR LEAGUE TOTAL 1117 .321 .399 .471 28 105 151 132

    February 9, 2007


  • For those of you wondering what Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have been up to this winter, the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, had an update in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

    Morneau and Mauer attended the Justin Timberlake concert at Xcel Energy Center. Mauer, impressed that Timberlake plays multiple instruments, gave the performance a thumbs up.

    Normally I'd say something pithy here, but as one of the world's only admitted (straight) male John Mayer fans, I probably don't have much room to comment. (Unfortunately I'm too much of a loser to attend his concert in St. Paul next week.) Meanwhile, Jason "NO IDEA" Williams of the St. Paul Pioneer Press--who's not to be confused in any way with the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com--got Mauer to reveal a few more details about his offseason, including the fact that he's no longer "dating Miss USA."

    Mauer then sent shockwaves through the local dating scene when he explained his current status by saying simply: "I'm single. I'm young." Roughly translated, I believe that means something like: "Ladies, please take a number and I'll get to you as soon as possible." Since he's a Justin Timberlake fan, any woman who catches Mauer's eye before Valentine's Day next week can be pretty sure of what she's getting for a present.

    UPDATE: Speaking of Williams, here's an interesting (and completely unsubstantiated) note from an anonymous commenter on the state of the Pioneer Press' Twins coverage:

    You might not have Jason Williams to kick around much longer. Rumor has it that Gordon Wittenmyer is going to Chicago to cover the Cubs and that Williams might be getting a new job too. St. Paul is already advertising for one of the jobs.

    For all you journalism school graduates out there, start polishing up those resumes!

  • There are all kinds of intriguing plot lines in the story of Harold Reynolds' departure from ESPN last year, but here's the one I find most shocking: "Reynolds was expected to make $4.875 million over a six-year deal." I may print that sentence out and laminate it, so I can look at it every time I question why exactly I'm going on camera for NBCSports.com. Interestingly, it looks like Reynolds made about $8 million in a dozen seasons as a player.
  • Of course, on-camera appearances or not, I still have a face for blogging--or, if you prefer, for being the 21st-best Twins player of all time--which is why only one cast member from NBC's "Fantasy Fix" show has an entire page devoted to them on NBCSports.com. Plus, she also has better novelty t-shirts than me.
  • Speaking of having a face for blogging ... yeesh!
  • Shannon Stewart signed an incentive-laden one-year deal with Oakland earlier this week, so I decided to check out Athletics Nation to see what A's fans were saying about the move. It seems to be getting thumbs up from almost everyone over there, which is how it should be given how little the A's are risking to bring him in. With that said, I had to laugh when I saw Tyler Bleszinski write that Stewart "is very good defensively when he's healthy."

    Bleszinski also wrote that Stewart "can be a really great leadoff hitter," but that's merely highly questionable at this point, while the premise that he still has the ability to be an asset on defense is downright absurd. Here's the scouting report I gave on Stewart's defense back in May:

    Anything hit in the air to left field is an adventure, as Shannon Stewart tracks the ball like he's on skates with his eyes closed. And whether by ground or by air, once Stewart picks a hit up off the grass his rainbow throws to the cutoff man allow runners to consistently take extra bases.

    And that was written before a foot injury sidelined Stewart for all but nine of the Twins' final 120 games.

  • I barely leave the house under normal circumstances, let alone in below-zero weather, but I drove about an hour round-trip through the snow and cold Tuesday to attend a photoshoot. It's nothing close to being pictured alongside Bill Simmons and Will Leitch in Sports Illustrated, but the opportunity was interesting enough that a media whore like myself couldn't possibly turn it down. The experience made me think back to what I'm pretty sure was the first photoshoot I ever took part in.

    Way back in 2004--which might as well have been a different century in blog years--the Star Tribune ran a story on Twins bloggers that included a picture of John Bonnes, Ryan Maus, John Betzler, and Yours Truly. Interestingly, three-fourths of the people in the picture have given up regularly blogging. You'd think that some of the novelty involved in profiling bloggers would have worn off now that newspapers themselves almost all have bloggers, but I doubt it has.

    I still expect the local media to do something about bloggers next month, just because that's what happens when spring training rolls around. The Washington Post got an early jump on the competition this week with a nice article on Nationals bloggers, including friend of AG.com Chris Needham. It stands out from cookie-cutter "meet the bloggers" pieces by focusing on how a diverse group of people are brought together through their intense passion for baseball (and writing).

    Perhaps I've just been asked about writing from bed too many times, but I'm sick of the "look at the wacky bloggers" angle that's almost always played up in such articles. Instead, I think the interesting angles are the people behind the blogs, the people reading the blogs, and what about the current state of sports fandom makes blogs such a popular medium. There's a fascinating article to be written on the subject, but SI failed miserably and newspapers don't seem interested in anything beyond fluff.

  • Barring someone from the outside writing that fascinating article, we'll have to stick with bloggers writing about themselves, which is what Evan Brunell did recently for a journalism class.
  • Back before he left the Star Tribune, I was never a big fan of Dan Barreiro's columns. However, I've always been a fan of his radio show, because he's able to be cynical and biting there in a way that he seemingly couldn't be in print. Or at least that's what I thought. It turns out, the blog version of Barreiro is a lot more like the radio version of Barreiro than the newspaper version of Barreiro, which is why I've been checking out his blog on a daily basis lately. Blogging definitely agrees with him.
  • Meanwhile, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best blog ever written by an All-Star starter.
  • U.S.S. Mariner is one of the few non-Twins team blogs that I make sure to read every day, but this brilliant entry from Derek Zumsteg goes above and beyond even their lofty standards.
  • Is this what a desperate act from a dying industry looks like or is it merely a misguided waste of money? "Newspapers start $75 million campaign to fight image of decline."
  • Here's a promising new blog about Minnesota sports. Like 99 percent of all blogs, old or new, it's far more visually appealing than this one. Sorry.
  • AG.com was a little light on content this week--although I did reveal my top five Twins prospects and marvel at the power of Gary Gaetti's mustache--but I've been busy writing elsewhere. I penned team previews for the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks over at NBCSports.com, and also wrote an article on draft strategy for Rotoworld (with Johan Santana mentioned prominently).

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