December 31, 2014

Power Rankings: Top 30 Twin Cities Tweeters Of 2014

twitter follow me

I guess this is an annual thing now. Last year, in response to Maggie LaMaack ranking the "Top 20 Twin Cities Twitterers" for a City Pages article, I did my own ranking. Sure, it was controversial and ruined many friendships, but it also got people to step up their Twitter game. And that's all we should care about in this world, really. Anyway, below you'll find my updated rankings for 2014 in which I continue to say "Tweeters" instead of "Twitterers" and have expanded the list to 30.

(Note: @BJFait has been ruled ineligible for this list because her cat lives with me, but she is very funny on Twitter and also has very pretty eyes in real life. Everyone should follow her.)

Floyd Twitter1. @floyding (Zach Floyd)

Most underrated tweeter in Minnesota. Husband, father, friend of Ted Nugent. Lots of Louis C.K.-style parenting observations, but with visuals of the monsters.

Nora Purmort Twitter2. @noraborealis (Nora Purmort)

Wrote bravely, beautifully, and humorously about husband Aaron Purmort's battle with cancer and death. Mother of the world's cutest Instagram star, Ralphie.

Wessel Twitter3. @DanaWessel (Dana Wessel)

KTWIN-96.3 producer. Soccer weirdo. Bruce Springsteen aficionado. Runner of bits into the ground. No one looks better in a bandana.

Hageman Twitter4. @ParkerHageman (Parker Hageman)

Twins Daily blogger. Co-host of No Juice podcast. Go-to for scouting- and GIF-based Twins analysis. Live-tweeter of wife's driving. In possession of my elliptical machine.

Neuman Twitter5. @RandBallsStu (Steve Neuman)

Twitter-shaking switch from pseudonym to real name didn't cost any comedy. Runner of the Infinite Guest podcast network. Twinkie Town blogger. Packers fan troller.

Cameron Twitter6. @iamaromancer (Maria Cameron)

Deserves a much bigger Twitter following. Extremely funny, but also regularly writes poignant longer-form stuff. Questionable taste in boyfriends.

Swamptown Twitter7. @CSwamptown (Clarence Swamptown)

Co-host of The Sportive podcast. Rarely comes out of hiding, never reveals his real identity. Hater of tacos. Lover of firing everyone. Payroll whiner.

Rand Twitter8. @RandBall (Michael Rand)

The sun around which Minnesota's weird sports Twitter world revolves. Star Tribune digital sports editor and blogger. Elite baby/dog combo. Never played the game.

Zanatta Twitter9. @Mike_Zanatta (Mike Zanatta)

Best hair in the business. Big fan of the Timberwolves and doing pull-ups in front of windows. Pound for pound the Twin Cities' funniest sports tweeter.

LaMaack Twitter10. @MaggieLaMaack (Maggie LaMaack)

Publicist, writer, LOLOMG blog editor. Having more fun than her face suggests. Tinder savant. Upper Midwest mini corn dog-eating champion. Taylor Swift of Uptown.

Perkins Twitter11. @glenperkins (Glen Perkins)

Twins closer. Saved the All-Star game for the AL. Loves to interact with fans and fanboy bloggers. Very handsome, according to what my girlfriend says constantly.

Berry Twitter12. @_omgigi_ (Gigi Berry)

Minnesota's answer to Beyoncé, but with less Jay Z and more pizza. Always looking for bearded baes, never follicle flops. Elite emoji-ing.

Krawczynski Twitter13. @APkrawczynski (Jon Krawczynski)

Associated Press basketball, baseball, and football reporter. Not the guy from "The Office." Deserves less criticism than anyone, takes criticism better than everyone.

Ampersandria Twitter14. @ampersandria (Ampersandria Ya Dummy)

Transported here from a bygone era by the comedy gods. When not in the sky, can be found at a thrift store with wings on her eyes and hot Cheetos in her mouth.

Rupar Twitter15. @atrupar (Aaron Rupar)

FOX-9 reporter, ex-City Pages blogger. Liquor Lyle's regular. Timberwolves fan. Scarf-wearer. Repressed beardo. Our best mix of actual journalism and online silliness.

Welle Twitter16. @LizWelle (Liz Welle)

Burrito lover. Puts her hair up to prepare for eating chicken wings. Legend's legend.

Lambert Twitter17. @MeatSauce1 (Paul Lambert)

KFAN-100.3 morning show co-host, nicest person in radio. Anti-trolling troll. He wails.

Heidi Twitter18. @heidi_ugh (Heidi Ugh)

Comedy skills matched only by family's Coors Light-drinking skills. Nice to old people.

Brauer Twitter19. @dbrauer (David Brauer)

Veteran guru of local media landscape. Deservedly skeptical Twins season ticket holder.

Weisenberger Twitter20. @foyobli (Megan Weisenberger)

High school volleyball superstar. Lives life one brand at a time. Tweeter of good links.

Wolfson Twitter21. @DarrenWolfson (Darren Wolfson)

KSTP-5 and 1500-ESPN regular. Frequent scoop-getter. My mom's favorite on this list.

Rayno Twitter22. @AmeliaRayno (Amelia Rayno)

Star Tribune college basketball reporter. Bourbon drinker. Non-stop Bigfoot hunter.

Guentzel Twitter23. @LindsayGuentzel (Lindsay Guentzel)

Radio and TV host. Stella's regular. Cat/wine lady. Turns old furniture into antiques.

MFloyd Twitter24. @mfloyd21 (Melissa Floyd)

World's nicest mean person. Great taste in husbands. Biff Tannen to my Marty McFly.

Nelson Twitter25. @nnelson9 (Nick Nelson)

Twins Daily blogger. White rapper. Bad at Snapchat. Bullies people enjoying cat photos.

Marthaler Twitter26. @jmarthaler (Jon Marthaler)

The Sportive podcast ringleader. Star Tribune soccer blogger. Local sports masochist.

Jones Twitter27. @bianca101 (Bianca Jones)

World's smallest person with biggest-sounding name. WWE weirdo. Drinker of bad beer.

Berardino Twitter28. @MikeBerardino (Mike Berardino)

Pioneer Press reporter. Called "a prick" by Torii Hunter. Produces most Twins content.

29. @bbroxey (Brandon Broxey)Broxey Twitter

Moved from Texas just for this list. The Sportive podcast co-host. Tight pants wearer.

Bonnes Twitter30. @TwinsGeek (John Bonnes)

Took me out for milkshakes when I was 19 years old and now won't leave me alone.

If you read this whole thing and still won't follow @AaronGleeman on Twitter you're a monster.

December 29, 2014

Twins sign Tim Stauffer to one-year, $2.2 million contract

Tim Stauffer Padres

When the Twins declined their $3.6 million option on Jared Burton for 2015 it seemed like the first step toward a possible bullpen overhaul designed to usher in some younger, harder-throwing arms to surround closer Glen Perkins. Instead they tendered arbitration eligible Brian Duensing a contract for a projected $2.5 million, keeping the low-upside lefty around for another year, and now they've signed 33-year-old right-hander Tim Stauffer to a one-year, $2.2 million contract.

Stauffer was the fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft that saw the Rays select Delmon Young in the top spot and was viewed as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter coming out of college. He moved quickly through the Padres' farm system, debuting in 2004 at high Single-A before moving up to Double-A after just six starts and then spending the second half at Triple-A as a 22-year-old. Overall he posted a 2.89 ERA in 28 starts, but it came with just 113 strikeouts in 168 innings.

Stauffer stayed at Triple-A to begin the 2005 season and was called up to San Diego for his MLB debut on May 11, tossing six innings of two-run ball to beat the Reds three weeks before his 23rd birthday. He stayed in the Padres' rotation until a pair of poor starts in late July led to a demotion back to Triple-A. Stauffer finished the season with a 5.33 ERA in 81 innings for the Padres and a 5.14 ERA in 75 innings at Triple-A.

He spent most of the next two seasons at Triple-A, making just three total appearances for the Padres, and then missed all of 2008 and part of 2009 following shoulder surgery. He worked his way back to the big leagues and pitched well for the next three seasons, establishing himself as a full-time member of the Padres' rotation ... and then he missed nearly all of 2012 following elbow surgery. This time when Stauffer returned from injury it was as a reliever.

Serving a low-leverage, multi-inning bullpen role similar to the one Anthony Swarzak filled for the Twins before being non-tendered this month, Stauffer made three mostly poor starts and 84 mostly good relief appearances for the Padres between 2013 and 2014. As a reliever during that two-season span Stauffer threw 126 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 121/39 K/BB ratio, holding opponents to a .242 batting average and 10 homers.

Nice-looking numbers, but less impressive when placed within the context of where he pitched. And that's really the story of Stauffer's whole career as a major leaguer. He's called MLB's most pitcher-friendly locale, Petco Park, home for his entire seven-season career and not surprisingly Stauffer has a lifetime 3.07 ERA at home compared to a 4.64 ERA on the road. His road ERA was 4.28 in 2013-2014, during which time the average NL reliever posted a 3.51 ERA.

If you look only at Stauffer's raw totals you may see a logical replacement for Burton as Perkins' primary setup man, but adjusting for context shows him as more of a mediocre middle reliever. Which is fine, of course. Signing a mediocre veteran middle reliever for $2.2 million is reasonable, but the Twins have plenty of young arms to potentially fill that role for a fraction of the cost and with much more upside than a 33-year-old with a lengthy injury history and a 91-mph fastball.

Stauffer joins Perkins, Duensing, and Casey Fien as locked into the bullpen, with Caleb Thielbar likely to have a spot as well. That leaves two spots up for grabs, one of which may go to the loser of the Tommy Milone vs. Mike Pelfrey fifth-starter battle. Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham has to stay in the majors all year or be offered back, Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly, and Lester Oliveros deserve chances, and Alex Meyer and Trevor May may need somewhere to get their feet wet.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

December 24, 2014

Twins sign Phil Hughes to three-year, $42 million contract extension

Phil Hughes Twins

Last offseason the Twins signed free agent Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contract in the hopes that a change of scenery would help get his career back on track after an inconsistent, disappointing, and ultimately sub par seven-season run with the Yankees. They got that and so much more in the first season of the deal, as Hughes made 32 starts, threw 209.2 innings, and struck out 186 while walking 16 for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the history of baseball.

It was the best performance by a Twins starter other than Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano during the Ron Gardenhire era of 2002-2014, and Hughes ranked as one of the 10 best starters in the league and was my choice for team MVP. He was great and better yet he was great in such a way that suggested Hughes had not simply lucked into a fluke season and had instead genuinely changed his approach to better fit his skill set after years of unfulfilled potential in New York.

Clearly the Twins agreed, because Monday they signed Hughes to a three-year contract extension worth $42 million. As part of the extension his salaries for 2015 and 2016 will rise from $8 million to $9.2 million and then Hughes will get $13.2 million per year from 2017-2019. He's under team control through age 33 and Hughes, not Joe Mauer, is now the Twins player signed farthest into the future.

By having a breakout, potentially career-altering season in the first year of a three-year contract Hughes put the Twins in position to make a tough decision. If they left his contract alone and he had a similarly fantastic 2015 season the price tag for an extension would have risen dramatically and at that point it's possible Hughes and his agent would have balked at any extension talks with the ability to test the open market as a free agent just one year away.

Trading him was another option, but the time to trade veterans coming off career-years was 2-3 seasons ago and the Twins ignored that route. Given the current readiness or near-readiness of many top prospects and the investments in Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana the Twins seem to think they're close to turning things around after four straight 90-loss seasons and in that case Hughes is the type of player they should be looking to acquire not looking to trade away.

Ultimately it comes down to whether you believe Hughes' improvement is sustainable, or at least mostly sustainable. Odds are he's going to regress after posting the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of all time, because that's just how things tend to work, but if Hughes continues to pound the strike zone after years of mediocre control and continues to rely on his newfound cut-fastball after years of leaning heavily on a mediocre slider the improved results should be permanent.

And here's the thing: Even if Hughes regresses a lot and even if many of the strides he made in 2014 prove temporary the Twins have committed to paying him Santana/Ricky Nolasco money for an extra three years. He doesn't have to be the 2014 version of Hughes to make that a decent investment because that's more or less the going rate for veteran mid-rotation starters. He could be the 2010 version or the 2012 version and they'd still be getting reasonable value.

Extending a player one year into a three-year contract and one season removed from his value being at an all-time low due to poor performance is definitely a risk, but in this case it's a risk that won't break the bank if it goes poorly. Obviously the Twins are betting on Hughes, but they're also betting on the rapidly increasing revenues across MLB making it so that $14 million per season for a starting pitcher in 2017, 2018, and 2019 will be a relative drop in the payroll bucket.

And the upside to that same gamble is massive. Hughes' breakout season was worth around $30 million and the investment needed to acquire a different under-30 pitcher capable of that type of performance starts at about $150 million via free agency or multiple top prospects and a large salary via trade. This extension is a bet on Hughes not being who he used to be and $14 million not being what it used to be, and in both cases the Twins have a chance to be right in a big way.

For lengthy discussion about where the Hughes-led Twins rotation stands for 2015 compared to the rest of the AL Central teams check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

December 22, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #175: Ranking Rotations and Buying Bars

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included how the Twins' rotation compares to the rest of the AL Central, a promotion for Doug Mientkiewicz, buying and running a bar with special guest Michael Curry of Mac's Industrial, Alex Meyer's potential as a reliever, whether or not the Twins will make any other offseason moves, bad decisions on Christmas night, and how not to be a foodie.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 175

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

December 19, 2014

Restaurant Review: Spoon and Stable

I'm not and will never be a "foodie," but I like to eat (a little too much of late, unfortunately) and since moving to Minneapolis last winter I've gone to a lot of restaurants for the first time, so when one stands out as an especially good dining experience I thought it would be worthwhile to write a review. This might become a regular feature and it might be my last review ever, so apologies in advance to anyone not interested.


Gavin Kaysen grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota and went on to travel the globe becoming a Michelin starred, James Beard Award-winning chef, making a substantial name for himself in New York working under world renowned chef Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud. So when news broke in June that Kaysen was moving back to Minnesota and opening his own restaurant in Minneapolis there was a ton of excitement in the "people who like to eat cool food" community.

Spoon and Stable was booked up so fast that my December 16 reservation was made a month in advance and required taking the not-so-coveted 5:00 p.m. slot. Yet at 4:50 p.m. there were early birds waiting outside with their noses pressed against the window watching as the bartenders and servers finished their last-minute prep. They kept the doors locked until five o'clock on the dot, but a hostess did come outside and offer a free shot of hot chocolate to combat the cold.

Once inside we walked past a nice bar area to the main dining room, where we were seated at a cozy two-person table next to the clear-windowed wine room and just a few yards from the open kitchen where Kaysen was running things all night. It was fun to watch him manage the chaos, tasting various spoonfuls and expediting dishes at the pass. There was no Gordon Ramsey-style screaming and he projected a sense of calm, frequently re-arranging his station to keep it tidy.

Spoon and Stable2

Oh, and the food was amazing.

Spoon and Stable has a small menu consisting of six sections with three dishes apiece: Garden, Chilled, Pasta, Sea, Land, and Sides. There's also an extensive wine list, a good selection of beer including local "Gleeman and The Geek" friends Summit and Sociable Cider Werks, and custom cocktails priced at $13. I ordered my usual Jack and Coke, but switched to Buffalo Trace when the server realized they don't have Jack Daniels. That's basically the only strike against the place.

I chose Cider Glazed Chicken ($25), my girlfriend chose Slow Cooked Atlantic Cod ($25), and we split a small Pappardelle ($12) and Crispy Potatoes ($8). I wasn't sure what to expect for portion sizes given the relatively high prices and Kaysen's sterling rep, but each dish had plenty of food and was presented beautifully. In retrospect we probably didn't need to eat the complimentary bread and butter served on slabs of unused marble from the construction, but we did.

The crispy potatoes were like souped-up potato wedges with a great, subtle garlic seasoning and perfectly crisp skin. For only $8 it was an outstanding side-turned-appetizer and something I could definitely see myself ordering from the bar menu another night. The pasta was handmade and rustic, with big pappardelle noodles covered in a not-too-rich goat ragu. Even a half-order split two ways was lots of food.

My dish was the juiciest, most tender chicken I've ever eaten. I made that proclamation after one bite, forced my girlfriend to try it herself to see if I was lying, and got a "wow" response. And then later she snagged another bite because the chicken (and the thyme jus) was so damn good. The fennel sausage and roasted carrots were also very tasty and in perhaps the highest compliment I can give a chef even the brussels sprout were good.

She also said it was "the best couscous I've ever had" and on top was perfectly cooked cod, with Mediterranean spices that meshed extremely well together. A tight presentation hid what was a very solid amount of food. For dessert we split a Chocolate Chiboust ($10) that brought together ice cream, sliced bananas, a mousse-like rich chocolate, and a hazelnut praline sprinkled on top. I'm not usually much of a dessert eater, but it was a nice final note to the meal.

Spoon and Stable3

Our server, Marcus, was fantastic. He was chatty without being annoying, knew a month-old menu like the back of his hand, actually gave some helpful tips on what to order, and even established a few running jokes with us. He got plenty of help from other servers and every person we came in contact with was extraordinarily friendly while giving off a vibe that they were happy to be there and confident you were happy to be there too.

After waiting a month to get a table and hearing other positive reviews from people who got in there before me it's possible I was so hyped up to eat at Spoon and Stable that any sort of decent experience would thrill me, but I genuinely had an amazing meal and it's right up there with any first-time dining experience I've ever had. The food was high level without being pretentious, the service was flawless, and the atmosphere was sleek, intimate, and welcoming.

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