February 18, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things Blogs

I've been blogging about the Twins (and other things) since August 1, 2002, which is the equivalent of a few centuries in blogger years (they're like dog years, but with fewer flea shots and more typing). In fact, this blog is so old that when it launched Ron Gardenhire was a rookie manager, his team was trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1991, and there was exactly one Twins blog even on my radar. Oh, and I was home for the summer following my freshman year of college.

In the half-dozen years since then Gardenhire has won 557 games, his team has gone to the playoffs four times, this blog has had 4.9 million visitors, and the "Twins blogosphere" has expanded to include literally dozens of sites. Several of the best, longest-running Twins bloggers have sadly hung up their keyboards over the years, but a new Twins blog starts up seemingly every week and never before has there been this much Twins coverage available to fans.

At some point during the past six-plus years I've linked to just about every Twins blog, but the medium has expanded so much so quickly that it's impossible to keep up with everything and everyone. My daily reading routine typically includes around a dozen Twins blogs, and with spring training starting up and another season thankfully around the corner it seems like a good time to give them some attention that goes beyond the sidebar links. So, in no particular order here are my favorite current Twins blogs ...

  • Twins Geek - The only person who's been blogging about the Twins longer than me, John Bonnes was around before me and is still going strong. He's one of the nicest people you could ever meet, has penned some really touching entries over the years in addition to lots of good analysis, and also runs GameDay, the independent Twins program that you see being sold around the Metrodome on ... well, game days. Great guy, great blogger, and an inspiration to many Twins fans.
  • Twins Insider - Two springs ago the Minneapolis Star Tribune decided to jump into the blogosphere with a trio of journalist-run blogs, including this one from LaVelle E. Neal III. Known in this space as the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com or LEN3, he's been covering the Twins for the Star Tribune since 1998 and is among the most respected reporters in the business. During the season his blog is the first place to find breaking news and pregame lineups, and he'll often share behind-the-scenes stuff.

    Plus, he was friendly to me long before someone in his position had any reason to be. After introducing myself to him at the winter meetings three Decembers ago Neal invited me to tag along as he did the whole reporter thing, which was quite an eye-opener. Since then he's plied me with free drinks at his favorite hangout, keeping a stranglehold on the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com title despite loving soccer, being a Bears fan, and refusing to cast MVP votes for pitchers.

  • Seth Speaks - Seth Stohs is a perfect example of what makes blogging such a great medium. He's a passionate Twins fan with a day job who simply loves talking about baseball, but in another decade he likely wouldn't have found a voice. Thanks to blogging he's gone from an enthusiastic, exclamation point-using fan who created Seth Speaks as a hobby in mid-2003 to an absolute must-read source of Twins analysis, minor-league coverage, and player interviews. Oh, and you should buy his book too.
  • Around the Majors - Star Tribune national baseball reporter Joe Christensen's blog, which features more long-form entries and analysis than LEN3's spot. Christensen is a Faribault native and University of Minnesota alum who joined the Star Tribune in 2006 after covering the Orioles for the Baltimore Sun. He's occasionally too willing to put on rose-colored glasses for a feel-good story about Tony Batista or Sidney Ponson, but Christensen is also far more open to newfangled stats than most reporters.

    He earns points for often gathering statistical evidence on a subject before forming an opinion, as well as regularly highlighting the work of other Twins bloggers and responding exceptionally well to public criticism from jerks like me. Christensen also deserves some credit for simply replacing Jim Souhan on the Twins beat, although the switch freeing up Shecky to become a columnist and all-around media star sort of cancels out the upgrade. No newspaper has a better one-two combo than LEN3 and Joe C.

  • Stick and Ball Guy - With tons of content written by multiple authors and a robust comments section the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Online Magazine is part blog and part message board. Stick and Ball Guy runs the show and Ubelmann contributes some of the best baseball analysis around, Twins or otherwise. Plus, a tight-knit group of regulars make the comments section a far more enjoyable read than most, which often makes me jealous. I'm proud to be a citizen of SBG nation.
  • A Fan's View From Section 220 - At first glance the Star Tribune's third Twins blog comes from just another fan of the team, but Howard Sinker is a longtime journalist who formerly covered the Twins as a reporter and is now the newspaper's online sports coordinator. On the blog Sinker definitely comes across as more fan than journalist, offering humor and trivia rather than news and spurring discussion by asking questions rather than providing analysis.

    My first interaction with Sinker came at a Batgirl-sponsored get-together in 2006. As we watched Johan Santana lose to Roy Halladay on Opening Day, he argued about how misguided people like me were for criticizing the Batista signing. Despite that inauspicious introduction I've come to really enjoy Sinker as both a person and a blogger, although he does choose to write some variation of "why is everyone else being so negative?" a little too often for my taste (and he'd probably say the opposite about me).

  • Nick and Nick's Twins Blog - A tag-team effort from Nick Nelson and Nick Mosvick when it debuted in 2005 has become a one-man show by Nelson, a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota's journalism school. Nelson impressed me so much with his blogging while in college that he's now a part-time Rotoworld staffer who contributes to MLB and NFL coverage. His blog is similar to AG.com in that it focuses on analysis rather than news, but without as much hardcore stats or Marisa Miller.
  • Twins Now - Whereas the Star Tribune has a three-headed blogging monster, the St. Paul Pioneer Press offers one blog shared by beat writers Phil Miller and Kelsie Smith. Despite the two-author setup Miller does most of the writing and while the updates can be sporadic the blog is a must-read because he's the most underrated sportswriter in the Twin Cities. Miller replacing Jason Williams on the Twins beat in 2007 was like calling up Jason Bartlett to replace Juan Castro at shortstop the previous year.

    As a former basketball reporter Miller brought fresh eyes and an open mind to covering the Twins, and he's produced consistently strong content for a newspaper that's otherwise pretty tough to get excited about. In fact, the Pioneer Press' unwillingness to join this century by creating a decent website has kept far too many Twins fans from seeing Miller's good work. Plus, he was exceptionally nice when we met a few months ago at the winter meetings and went out of his way to get me access to Bill Smith.

  • Over the Baggy - Parker Hageman's blog launched in 2006 but really didn't get rolling until last year, quickly becoming one of my favorites. His blogging is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Batgirl's "less stats, more sass" motto, focusing on statistical analysis and hardcore numbers crunching while delving into some very interesting topics. Hageman also does regular updates on the other AL Central teams, so you can keep tabs on the Twins' competition.
  • Extra Bases - Another beat writer blog, although this one is much different because Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle focuses on the Rochester Red Wings rather than the Twins. Lots of good prospect-related content about the Triple-A team and Mandelaro is outspoken about pretty much everything, so it makes for interesting reading during the season. Plus, he may be the only writer to ever cover the Twins without writing whatever Torii Hunter wanted him to write.
  • Twinkie Town - Run by Jesse Lund as part of the SportsBlogs Nation network, Twinkie Town has a handful of regular authors while also allowing anyone in the audience to post articles of their own. That means sifting through quite a bit of marginal content and the usual message board behavior to get to the good stuff, but between Lund and some of the other regulars there's plenty of worthwhile material. Plus, if you like random shots at me sprinkled into your Twins blogging this is the place to go.
  • Josh's Thoughts - The latest addition to my blogroll and a site that reminds me of Seth Speaks from the name of the blog to the way Josh Johnson enthusiastically produces a ton of content. Head there now and you'll see the finishing touches of Johnson's one-per-day countdown of his top 50 prospects, and during the season he has near-daily entries focusing on day-to-day notes, player interviews, trade scenarios, and game recaps that include handing out a "game ball."
  • On the Road With Pat Neshek - Lots of athletes have started blogging recently, but Pat Neshek was among the first to jump on the bandwagon, chronicling his rise through the minors on his personal site and continuing to pump out great content after he arrived in Minnesota. From collecting baseball cards and autographs to interacting with fans whenever possible it's tough not to like Neshek the person as much as Neshek the relief pitcher, which is why his elbow injury is doubly sad. But he's still blogging.

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