May 29, 2008


  • You can tune into KFAN radio at around eight o'clock this morning to hear me talk Twins and other baseball stuff on "The Power Trip Morning Show" with Mike Morris. Or you can listen online. Also, if you missed it yesterday, my quarterly call for reader-submitted questions is still open.
  • Congrats to friend of and all-around good guy Seth Stohs on five years of blogging.
  • As the saying goes, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and Elisha Cuthbert photos.
  • Remember last month, when Official Fantasy Girl of candidate Marisa Miller threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field, firing a strike from the pitcher's mound while looking spectacular in a Cubs jersey? Mariah Carey, not so much:

    Amazingly, Carey's predictably forgettable performance still made her look like Joe Nathan compared to Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory's historic effort at a Reds game last season:

    Eric Davis' reaction to Mallory's "pitch" is one of my favorite things in the history of the world.
  • Without Larry David involved, real life imitating a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode isn't quite as funny.
  • Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine is a self-described "professional man of leisure," which has always been my goal, if only for the business card possibilities.
  • Sure, Carlos Guillen will make $10 million this year and gets to play baseball for a living, but he also has a job that encourages his boss to literally alert the media when "he's got hemorrhoids so bad." That was my favorite part of manager Jim Leyland's quote Tuesday when explaining why Guillen was limited to designated hitter duties, and he added that the Tigers' third baseman "has been playing with hemorrhoids that probably need to be lanced" and "can hardly move."

    Wait, it gets better. Explaining why Guillen was benched altogether Wednesday, Leyland noted that he planned to "stand him for two days," because of course sitting him wouldn't be very helpful. Aside from professional athlete, is there another job where having medical problems like hemorrhoids (Guillen) or anal fissures (Kaz Matsui) more or less requires a person's employer to give daily status updates to reporters? If so, hopefully that gig pays $10 million too.

  • In the best argument yet for bloggers benefiting from access, Michael David Smith of AOL Fanhouse conducted a video interview about mixed martial arts with Jenna Jameson. Seriously.
  • On a related note, I've never tried this particular style of combat before, but it sounds pretty effective.
  • I'm such a huge Joe Posnanski fan that I'm willing to forgive his suggestion that Ron Gardenhire "is the best manager in baseball." (Although not before chiming in with some thoughts about his sanity.)
  • Speaking of Posnanski, he recently chatted about being a blogger after years as a columnist, loving Duane Kuiper, keeping dirt off the grave of newspapers, making sense of Joe Morgan, his aversion to doing television and radio, and a bunch of other interesting topics during a highly enjoyable interview at The Big Lead. As if talking with Posnanski wasn't more than enough for one week, The Big Lead also interviewed another of my all-time favorite writers, Tony Kornheiser.
  • Next time someone tries to convince you that "chemistry" is the driving force behind a successful baseball team, point them to this.
  • An in-depth, thorough examination of a long-time source of traffic for this blog.
  • Continuing to make his new blog a must-read, Padres front-office staffer Paul DePodesta recently broke down his team's trade for Cha-Seung Baek by quoting Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and linking to my co-creation, The Hardball Times.
  • Having spent a huge amount of time and energy managing a pair of Diamond-Mind keeper-league teams for the past five years, this news makes me very sad.
  • If this actually happens, then I'm officially done being emotionally invested in the Timberwolves until a general manager with some semblance of a clue regarding the draft begins running the team. There are three players in the draft pool this year who most people seem to agree possess star potential in the NBA and the Timberwolves pick third, but you can be fairly certain that the Kevin McHale math won't be quite so simple. Prove me wrong, Ostrich!
  • This tidbit about the national spelling bee would probably be a lot more amusing if the exact same joke couldn't be made about the Twins.
  • Mpls. St.Paul Magazine senior editor Adam Platt has a scary thought: "We need more Gleemans."
  • According to dnScoop, is worth $249,018. Any takers?
  • Finally, in honor of Morris' nickname and what will hopefully be a fun in-studio appearance on his show, this week's music video (sort of) is Lauryn Hill singing "Superstar":

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    May 28, 2008

    Quarterly Questions: Fire Away

    In the past I've tried to open the floor up for reader-submitted questions every three months or so, but while watching the Twins' dramatic comeback last night it occurred to me that the last Q&A session here took place way back in mid-January. Not only was that pre-spring training and two months prior to Opening Day, it was a week before the Johan Santana trade, so we're obviously beyond overdue and should have plenty of new ground to cover.

    If you're unfamiliar with how this works, it's basically a poor man's version of an online chat session. You ask questions, either via the comments section or e-mail, and then I answer them in this space at some point in the near future. Typically there are well over a hundred submissions, with enough topic variety to devote separate entries to answering "baseball questions" and "random questions," which means that you're free to ask things that have nothing to do with the Twins. In fact, it's encouraged.

    Twins-related questions are certainly also encouraged, but if there's some pressing issue that you've wanted my opinion on or some random thing that you've been wondering about me or this blog, here's your chance. As always, please make sure to double-check spelling and grammar while trying to keep the questions as concise and readable as possible, because what you type may appear soon on other people's computer screens.

    Before stepping aside for the questions, one quick programming note: I'll be appearing on KFAN radio at around 8:00 a.m. tomorrow to talk Twins and other baseball stuff on "The Power Trip Morning Show" with Mike Morris. I'm fairly certain that we'll be taking a bunch of calls from the audience, so feel free to pick up the phone and chime in. Or just listen online. With that bit of self-promotion out of the way, the floor is now open for questions. Fire away!

    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    May 27, 2008

    Twins Notes: Boof, Bert, More Nathan, and Oh-For-Thrivas

  • Barring a setback with his groin injury, it sounds like Scott Baker will return from the disabled list next week, with Boof Bonser receiving a demotion to the bullpen in favor of keeping Glen Perkins in the rotation. Last week on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show we discussed what the Twins should do with Bonser and my suggestion was a move to the bullpen, so it'll be interesting to see whether he can turn things around as a reliever if facing the Yankees this weekend is his final start for a while.

    Bonser's peripheral numbers suggest that he's pitched quite a bit better than his ERA, but at some point it becomes tough to trot him out there with other capable rotation options available. Dating back to last year, Bonser is 6-17 with a 6.02 ERA over his last 30 starts. Bad run support is partly responsible for that win-loss record, but he has a 6.02 ERA with a mediocre 108-to-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .293 opponent's batting average in 172 innings spread over basically one full season's worth of starts.

  • The following picture of Bert Blyleven made the rounds a couple months ago:

    In a recent interview with David Brown over at Big League Stew, Blyleven discussed the photo:

    Blyleven: I LOVE to fart.

    Brown: What's wrong with you?

    Blyleven: I'm honest. Have you ever farted?

    Brown: One or two times.

    Blyleven: And did it feel good?

    Brown: Always.

    Blyleven: Probably so. That's why I wore it. I love to fart. I do. When the time is right, I do it. I'm not going to hide it.

    Brown: You're so blunt about your love for flatulence.

    Blyleven: Yeah. Well, someone gave me the shirt because of my history of farting, so I wear it. I LOVE to fart. I think I still have it.

    Brown: What gets you really gassy?

    Blyleven: Anything. The air we're breathing right now.

    Brown: Should I be ready for something?

    Blyleven: I have no trouble. It's not one thing that I eat, it's just passed down from my father. My father was a very good farter. I have a sister who's very good at it, too. Probably better than I am.

    Brown: Women aren't "supposed" to do that.

    Blyleven: Oh, I think times have changed--at least in the Blyleven family.

    Over the years Blyleven's announcing has increasingly annoyed me and my FSN watching often occurs with the television on mute because it's painful to hear his same tired routine every night, but despite that it's nearly impossible not to like him personally. I've long supported his Hall of Fame candidacy and Blyleven seems like a great guy, so it'd be nice if his announcing had more humor and meaningful analysis rather than being dominated by repetitive cliches, odd grammatical ticks, and fan circling.

  • Francisco Liriano served up a grand slam to Brad Eldred while allowing six runs in his latest start at Triple-A, giving him a 4.38 ERA and 23-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts since being sent back to Rochester. The good news is that Liriano has improved his control recently, walking a total of just five batters over his last four outings. The bad news is that he's still throwing 88-91 miles per hour, has yet to strike out more than five batters in any start, and isn't inducing a high percentage of ground balls.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an article earlier this week about the Twins' lack of power, including the following about Joe Mauer:

    Quibbling about Mauer's home run total is like quibbling about a top point guard's lack of dunking skills. Chris Paul, for example. Mauer is good at everything else. He is superb defensively at catcher, the most demanding position on the field. Entering Monday, he led the American League in batting at .338 and was third in on-base percentage at .416.

    If that sounds familiar, it's probably because you read the following in this space last week:

    After collecting multiple hits in each of the past three games, Joe Mauer now leads the AL with a .336 batting average. He also ranks fourth in the league with a .406 on-base percentage and only Kurt Suzuki has logged more innings behind the plate. For all the silly, Dan Barreiro-style talk about Mauer not coming through in the clutch or not making a huge impact because of a lack of power, Mauer ranks third among AL hitters in Win Probability Added, trailing only Manny Ramirez and Josh Hamilton.

    Once you adjust for catcher being the worst-hitting position in baseball and throw in his considerable defensive value, a WPA-based analysis likely shows Mauer as the league's most valuable position player thus far. Some homers would certainly be nice, but anyone complaining about a player hitting .330 and getting on base at a .400 clip while playing the most physically demanding, least-offensive position is merely doing a fine job showing how little they really know about baseball.

    As always, it's nice to see the local mainstream media picking up on some of the things that I've been harping on here--no, that's not a plagiarism accusation--and it's nice to see Christensen stretching his writing legs a bit with some analysis and opinion. Some readers have questioned why Mauer gets a free pass here for his lack of power while Delmon Young draws plenty of criticism for the same thing, but the difference between them is huge and goes well beyond their nonexistent homer totals.

    Mauer has tremendous defensive value and stands out from the rest of the pack offensively at catcher, hitting .329 with a .414 on-base percentage and .816 OPS that ranks second in the AL among players at his position. Young has marginal defensive value and lags behind the rest of the pack offensively in left field, hitting just .262 with a .318 on-base percentage and .651 OPS that ranks dead last in the AL among players at his position. Both players have yet to homer, but that's where the comparison ends.

  • Last night's game against the Royals provided another example of my point from earlier this week regarding Ron Gardenhire's unwillingness to use Joe Nathan in a less rigid role. Nick Blackburn put two runners on base with one out in the ninth inning after cruising through eight scoreless frames, so rather than let him try to complete the game with a three-run lead Gardenhire brought in Nathan for the save. Certainly a debatable move, but there's nothing wrong with it in my mind.

    Nathan then proceeded to induce a looping fly ball down the left-field line that narrowly fell fair. It would have been a run-scoring double, except Young attempted a sliding catch that came up short and took his sweet time jogging after the ball once it bounced past him, leading to a game-tying inside-the-park homer that saddled Nathan with his first blown save of the season and left Blackburn with a tough-luck no-decision. (Blyleven laughably commented: "There's not much Young could do there.")

    Nathan quickly retired the next two hitters and finished the inning having thrown just 10 pitches while facing only three batters. When the Twins failed to score in the top of the 10th inning it seemed like a no-brainer that Nathan would be allowed to come back out for another frame, but instead the team's best, highest-paid pitcher called it a night after recording two outs and making all of 10 throws. Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain then each worked an inning while throwing more pitches than Nathan.

    Asking lesser relievers to pitch in crucial, game-deciding spots while barely using Nathan is exactly the sort of backwards workload distribution that has cost the Twins plenty of times in the past. It didn't hurt them last night, as Reyes and Crain both managed scoreless innings before the lineup broke through in the top of the 12th, but that doesn't make the decision any better. Oh, and after Gardenhire yanked Nathan following 10 pitches, Royals closer Joakim Soria threw 31 pitches in two scoreless innings.

  • Taken by the Twins in the 26th round of the 1999 draft, Terry Tiffee spent parts of three seasons at Triple-A Rochester and dashed the hopes of optimistic, track record-ignoring fans once he got to the majors. Tiffee played primarily third base in the minors and was briefly given a chance to replace Tony Batista at the hot corner in mid-2006, but showed a glove that was better suited for first base and a bat that was better suited for shortstop.

    Tiffee hit just .226/.273/.351 in 256 plate appearances spread over 91 games with the Twins and was removed from the 40-man roster following the 2006 season. He signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles, hit a measly .272/.307/.394 in 124 games at Triple-A last season, and then latched on with the Dodgers via another minor-league deal this year. As a 29-year-old with little defensive value and an OPS below .750 in eight minor-league seasons Tiffee seemed unlikely to ever reach the majors again.

    Instead, he began this season by hitting .422 in 46 games at Triple-A Las Vegas and was called up to Los Angeles over the weekend to replace Andruw Jones on the roster. Tiffee provides a good example of two key things. One is that perseverance is a fantastic trait to have and can occasionally even trump talent. The other is that when it comes to baseball players just about anything can happen over the course of a hundred-something at-bats. Denard Span should probably take note of both lessons.

  • Speaking of former Twins infielders, Luis Rivas has been playing regularly for the Pirates this month thanks to starting shortstop Jack Wilson's calf injury and homered twice Sunday. Rivas was the Twins' starting second baseman from 2001-2005 and served as the Official Whipping Boy of during this blog's first few years of existence. He was mercifully let go by the Twins after hitting .262/.307/.383 in 2,056 plate appearances spread over parts of six seasons in Minnesota.

    Rivas debuted shortly after his 21st birthday and was a full-time starter in the majors the next season, so Twins management, media members, and plenty of fans always pointed to his youth as evidence of long-term potential despite the fact that he never actually performed well in the minors or majors. After 2,000 replacement-level trips to the plate and 4,000 innings of sub par defense the Twins finally gave up on Rivas and he spent the next two seasons playing at Triple-A for the Rays and Indians.

    He was no better in the minors, hitting just .218/.252/.288 in 2006 and .263/.341/.400 in 2007, yet the Pirates gave Rivas an Opening Day roster spot. Even after Sunday's two-homer game Rivas is hitting just .221/.247/.325 in 82 plate appearances, with the only real difference in his performance being that the Pirates have allowed him to play bad defense at shortstop in addition to second base. Hopefully Young can avoid the Rivas career path by adding some "performance" to his "youth" soon.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    May 26, 2008

    Joe Nathan and the Modern Closer

    Once upon a time teams would utilize the bullpen's best pitcher most often, calling on their top reliever whenever crucial, game-changing situations arose and frequently leaving them in for multiple innings. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and even into the 1980s elite relievers like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Hoyt Wilhelm, Kent Tekulve, Sparky Lyle, Mike Marshall, Gene Garber, Tug McGraw, and Dan Quisenberry regularly threw more than 100 innings per season.

    That group of 10 relievers combined to throw 100-plus innings out of the bullpen 63 times, with each of them doing so in at least four seasons. Fingers averaged 110 innings per season over a dozen-year span. Quisenberry topped 120 innings in five of his first six seasons as a closer. Gossage topped 130 innings in each of his first three seasons as a closer. Tekulve had 100-inning seasons in his 20s, 30s, and 40s. Marshall amazingly threw 179 and 203 innings out of the bullpen in back-to-back seasons.

    There are plenty of other examples beyond those 10 pitchers, but the point is that great relievers used to frequently work multiple innings per appearance and top 100 innings per season. That all began to change in the 1980s thanks in large part to Dennis Eckersley's success as a one-inning closer and the shift was essentially complete by early 1990s. These days nearly all closers are held back strictly for "save" situations and asked to work just one inning in the vast majority of their appearances.

    Whereas for many years the best relievers threw the most innings, the current standard for bullpen management often calls for many of the best relievers to throw the fewest innings because of strict usage patterns that revolve around a statistic. Baseball's all-time leader in saves, Trevor Hoffman, has never thrown 100 innings in a season and hasn't topped 80 innings since 1997. It's no coincidence that his career high of 90 innings, set in 1993, came in the only season that he wasn't a closer.

    Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Troy Percival, Roberto Hernandez, Jose Mesa, Todd Jones, Jason Isringhausen, Armando Benitez, and Bob Wickman are the "active" relievers with at least 250 career saves. Those 10 relievers have combined for a grand total of one 100-inning season, and that came from Rivera when he was a setup man for closer John Wetteland (64 innings) in 1996. Not only don't current closers throw 100 innings, they rarely even get to 80.

    Joe Nathan has been as good as any reliever in baseball since joining the Twins in 2004, but threw just 72, 70, 68, and 72 innings during his first four years as closer and is on pace to log a career-low 65 innings this season. His usage is almost entirely dependent on how many times the Twins lead by one, two, or three runs in the ninth inning, because Ron Gardenhire holds him back for one-inning save situations except for the rarest of circumstances.

    In years past the strength and depth of the Twins' bullpen made Nathan's strict usage more annoyance than hindrance, because there were typically several quality setup men to put out fires in non-save situations. However, with the relief corps now struggling following Pat Neshek's season-ending injury Gardenhire's refusal to use his best reliever in crucial non-save situations has already hurt the team and will continue to do so.

    We've seen Nathan left unused in the bullpen in tie games while lesser relievers take losses, because Gardenhire was holding him back for a "save situation" that never arrived. We've seen Nathan used for just a dozen or so pitches before several lesser relievers were called upon to throw multiple innings, eventually coughing up runs. And we've seen Nathan used in mop-up situations because he "needed work" after not being used in crucial, non-save spots during the previous few games.

    Not only have Matt Guerrier and Brian Bass each thrown 50 percent more innings than Nathan, Juan Rincon has gotten about 10 percent more work. Even Jesse Crain has essentially gotten the same workload as Nathan despite coming back from significant shoulder surgery and not being effective since 2006. Beyond the seemingly counter-intuitive innings distribution, Nathan has also been allowed to throw just 16 pitches per appearance:

    Brian Bass 34
    Matt Guerrier 22
    Bobby Korecky 20
    Juan Rincon 19
    Jesse Crain 17
    Joe Nathan 16
    Dennys Reyes 8

    Except for situational left-hander Dennys Reyes, every reliever on the team has been allowed to throw more pitches per appearance than Nathan. Meanwhile, he's by far the best reliever on the team and makes more money than the rest of the bullpen combined. So why is the team's best, highest-paid reliever used the least? Because while Gardenhire likely would take pride in replying "no" if asked whether he manages by numbers and stats, in reality he does just that.

    There's no indication that Nathan is incapable of throwing more than 70 innings per year or 16 pitches per appearance, but because his role revolves around the "save" Gardenhire refuses to use him in non-save situations. Not only is that letting stats impact the way you manage, it's letting the wrong stats impact the way you manage. If not for the fact that one counts as a "save" and the other doesn't, would a three-run lead in the ninth inning be seen as more important than a tie game in the eighth inning?

    For better or worse limiting closers to 60-70 innings has become the standard throughout baseball, so Gardenhire certainly shouldn't be expected to completely buck that trend by having Nathan throw 100 or 120 innings. However, there's no reason why Nathan should be lifted after five pitches when the game is still in doubt (as was the case last week versus the Rangers) or go unused altogether while Crain, Guerrier, Rincon, Korecky, and Bass work multiple innings when one run can lose the game.

    Nathan has converted 13-of-13 save chances this season, but has pitched in just seven of Twins' other 37 games. Beyond that, he's thrown more than 20 pitches in just four of the team's 50 games overall. Pushed into more prominent roles following Neshek's injury, the non-Nathan relievers have combined for a 5.40 ERA and 29-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 48 innings without Neshek around to put out non-save fires. All of which was my fear when analyzing the impact of Neshek's injury three weeks ago:

    Neshek was clearly second only to Nathan in terms of importance to the bullpen and was probably a lot closer to Nathan than most people think. His injury pushes Guerrier, Rincon, Crain, and Reyes into expanded roles and the danger is that it may expose several of them by taking them out of comfort zones and stretching their ability.

    Guerrier can do the job in the eighth inning if asked, but won't be as good as Neshek and moving him into the top setup job creates a hole in the sixth and seventh innings. Rincon, Crain, and Reyes can take on more responsibility and capably fill in those gaps, but they won't be as effective as Guerrier and putting more on their respective plates takes away some of the workload-related luxuries that fantastic depth previously provided.

    Non-Nathan relievers won't continue to post a 5.40 ERA all year, but Rincon has gotten progressively worse each season since 2004, Crain is struggling following shoulder surgery, Reyes has fallen apart when asked to face more right-handed batters, and Korecky and Bass are marginal major leaguers. In other words, without Neshek around the Twins' bullpen is far from a strength except for the fact that they still have one of the best relievers in all of baseball. It'd be nice if they used him.

    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    May 22, 2008


  • My MinnPost colleague Pat Borzi wrote an interesting article this week examining the potential food options for the Twins' new ballpark and made this brilliant suggestion for a signature item:

    Sweet Martha's cookies. This is such an automatic it's not even funny. What's better than the smell of freshly baked cookies? Sell 'em in a Twins bucket, and let people bring the bucket back for discount refills. If they sell nothing else in the ballpark, they've got to sell these, provided Martha's owner/namesake Martha Rossini Olson can swing it. Olson did not respond to a phone message, but a Martha's rep told MinnPost in an email, "The Twins have been in contact with Sweet Martha's and it is up in the air whether or not they will be included in the new ballpark."

    As someone who once went to the Taste of Minnesota with an empty backpack, filled it with buckets of Sweet Martha's cookies, and then immediately drove home, this really needs to happen. I'm perfectly willing to be morbidly obese for the remainder of my unhealthy, fat-shortened life if it means being able to eat those cookies while watching the Twins play outdoors.

  • Speaking of people gorging themselves on food at the ballpark, it sounds like Monday night's new all-you-can-eat promotion at the Metrodome had a few issues.
  • Last week's Link-O-Rama included a note about Padres front-office member Paul DePodesta's new blog and this week he posted an amusing anecdote about scouting high schoolers:

    Sometimes the gamesmanship goes a little too far. A few weeks ago I was leaving a high school game and on my way to another one. I was expecting to be in the car for at least an hour, so I planned to stop at the bathroom before leaving. With no indoor bathroom in sight, the port-o-potty on the way to the parking lot was the only option.

    As I approached, I thought I heard a voice. It was only when I reached out my hand to grab the door handle that I heard the voice loud and clear. It was a scout, inside the port-o-potty, on his cell phone reporting what other teams were in attendance at the game. Out of respect for his effort (and sacrifice), I kept walking.

    In talking about DePodesta's blog last week my guess was that "we can expect something similar from a Twins front-office staffer in May of 2058," but now we can probably change that to 2075 or so.

  • Official Fantasy Girl of candidate Keeley Hazell's sudden and increasing tendency to wear clothes would be far more upsetting if she didn't look so good in them. Meanwhile, fellow candidate Marisa Miller has looked better.
  • On a related note, by scrolling down the newly updated right-hand sidebar you'll see that there's now an Official Fantasy Girl of timeline and list of current candidates. The throne has been empty for over a year and my mind is finally almost made up on the next title-holder, but much like the new logo the actual decision may come down to a reader vote. Stay tuned.
  • Incidentally, if you have any thoughts on the site's new look or any ideas for additional things that should be added to the sidebar, feel free to let me know.
  • My friend and Rotoworld colleague Matthew Pouliot was recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal. Pouliot is the biggest content source and one of the primary driving forces behind the world's largest fantasy sports website, so it's great to see him getting some much-deserved props. When he takes a rare vacation and I'm asked to help fill in, it immediately becomes clear how ridiculously hard he works. The lengthy article is well worth reading, but you can also watch a video version of the profile:

    My favorite part is the discussion of his personal life and video game-playing habits.
  • Speaking of Rotoworld, managing editor Gregg Rosenthal stumbled across a now-hilarious version of the site from way back in 1999 and found the "writers wanted" note from 2003 that led to his hiring. Rosenthal is responsible for me joining Rotoworld a couple years later, so needless to say that the old stuff is fascinating to me.
  • Last week Bill Simmons complained publicly about his strained relationship with ESPN and started a personal blog where he posted an old 15,000-word article. This week he posted more old articles on the blog, accused editors of censoring his jokes, and invoked the character Mitch McDeere from The Firm. It must be incredibly liberating to have "f*** you money."
  • On the other hand, unhappy or not this week Simmons also penned a new column for in which he addresses favorite John Mayer's "big year" and recorded a new podcast featuring another favorite, Chuck Klosterman. Simmons and Klosterman are two of my absolute favorite writers, so hearing them chat for an hour was great, especially once the conversation inevitably turned to writing.

    Not only did Klosterman literally make me laugh out loud with a line about wanting to be elderly and eat soft food at a nursing home, he smoothly reversed the interview by questioning Simmons about how his life and writing have changed as a result of ESPN fame. Simmons squirmed plenty, but eventually revealed some interesting details. Also of note is that he either declined to address his apparent feud with ESPN or whatever discussion he had on the subject was completely edited out. Give it a listen.

  • Adam Everett was placed back on the disabled list yesterday, hours after being described in this space as "clearly having problems making even routine throws with his still-balky shoulder." With Alexi Casilla and Howie Clark already up from Rochester to replace Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert, the Twins turned to the final potential middle infielder on the 40-man roster, promoting Matt Macri from Triple-A. Macri ranked No. 37 on my annual list of the Twins' top 40 prospects and got this write-up:

    Originally taken out of an Iowa high school by the Twins in the 17th round of the 2001 draft, Matt Macri opted for college instead of signing and played three seasons at Notre Dame, batting .367/.465/.667 in his final year. Selected by the Rockies in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, Macri hit well between two levels of Single-A to begin his minor-league career before batting just .232/.293/.370 with a 66-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 84 games at Double-A in 2006.

    Asked to repeat Double-A last season, Macri bounced back by hitting .298/.349/.502 with 11 homers, 34 total extra-base hits, and a 58-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 79 games. Traded to the Twins in August for Ramon Ortiz, Macri moved up to Triple-A and finished the season by hitting .286/.322/.554 with four homers in 17 games. Macri now carries a .282/.350/.467 hitting line in 296 career games, with solid numbers everywhere except for the season at Double-A in 2006.

    He's played all over the infield defensively and is considered a solid glove at third base, so it's easy to see Macri emerging with a major-league job at some point. On the other hand, he turns 26 years old in May, doesn't have much plate discipline, and has struck out in 21 percent of his career trips to the plate. He might be stretched as an everyday player, but being productive platooning against left-handed pitching is doable and the Twins' system lacks good bats, let alone infielders with power.

    Brian Buscher is batting .312/.392/.504 in 35 games at Triple-A so far this season, while Macri hit just .263/.324/.434 in 29 games prior to the call-up, but defensive versatility is obviously the Twins' primary concern at the moment. With Punto due back from the DL as soon as next week Macri's first stay in the majors figures to be a short one, although if the Twins are convinced that he can passably handle shortstop and second base he should strike them as a superior option to Clark.

  • Double knockouts are always amusing:

    Not quite Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed, but it'll work.
  • I've been catching up on Alan Sepinwall's outstanding television writing since stumbling across his blog and Newark Star-Ledger column a few months ago, so it was great to discover that he went back and reviewed every episode of one of my all-time favorite shows, Freaks and Geeks, years after it was unfortunately canceled about 10 seasons too soon. Reading through Sepinwall's entertaining recaps made me sad all over again.
  • For years now Howard Stern has suggested--usually in regard to Billy Joel divorcing supermodel Christie Brinkley--that for even the most beautiful women in the world there's always one man sick of being with her. That always seemed absurd to me, but perhaps there's some truth to it after all.
  • It's about time that the always amazing comments section at the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website gets some national attention.

    UPDATE: This one is pretty good too.

  • Friend of Chris Jaffe wrote a great column this week at The Hardball Times looking at the many amazing facts from the sadly now-completed Julio Franco era.
  • My on-camera career somehow continues to roll on against all odds and multiple chins. This time I'll be appearing on FOX's "Sports Primetime" show Sunday night with Doogie Wolfson. We're scheduled to be the second half of the 10 o'clock news, but FOX airing a NASCAR race may push things back to 10:45 or so. I'm giving serious thought to breaking out a sport coat for the occasion, so you'll definitely want to tune in.
  • Finally, someone e-mailed me a few days ago complaining that the weekly music video is never a country song. There's good reason for that, although the one recent country song that struck me as semi-listenable is Keith Urban doing "You'll Think of Me":

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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