Friday, August 28, 2009

Target Field Notes

Crews are finishing up grass installation at Target Field field today, completing one of many milestones for the Twins new home. I guess it's exciting because it reaffirms what we've been told for a couple years: the Twins will play outdoors next year. Thus, we will take this opportunity to recognize this moment.

Of course, no milestone would be complete without some overblown controversy. It seems the grass was grown on a sod farm located south of Denver, then trucked here in refrigerated trucks. Colorado? Outrageous! Why wasn't it just grown in Minnesota? It's a question that's been raised by a number of Minnesota horticulturalists, sod farmers and people who like to complain.

The Twins spout a lot of bullshit about "similar climate"' and "soil-type" and "THC content," but they chose a Colorado farm because it was MLB-approved. That MLB approval probably required a big fat fee, in addition to under the table agreements with the farm, (probably quid-pro-quo, I'll trim yours if you trim mine.)

Apparently the thought of Twins players playing on foreign grass is simply too much for some to imagine. I present an interesting fact for them: Kentucky Blue Grass isn't a native species to Colorado. It's not even native to Kentucky. And it sure as hell isn't native to Minnesota. It's European! The national past-time being played on an immigrant. Minnesota sod farmers are all livid, "goddamn immigrant sod TOOK OUR JOBS!"

Next time you hear Gardnehire on the radio disparaging invasive species, tell him to look under his feet.

Debunking the Target Field as Urban Ballpark Myth

On the list of Target Field attributes, the fact that it's an "Urban Ballpark" is usually toward the top. It's mentioned right away in a Twins press release in the About Target Field section.

Target Field, one of America's most urban ballparks, will be located in the historic Warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis.
I think the word urban, to them, means that the ballpark is surrounded by city streets rather than parking lots. It seeks to compliment the neighborhood, not dominate it. It doesn't try to change things, it's simply another piece of the community. Unlike parking lot palaces like Anaheim Stadium or Miller Park, an urban ballpark mingles with everyday people, not just baseball fans.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Except that Target Field's location could hardly be described as a neighborhood. It's like a tiny peninsula that will shoot from the butt of Target Field. With Wrigley, there is a genuine neighborhood all around. People live, work and drink there. Many people walk by Wrigley on their way to school or work.

There are three tiers of ballpark locations: one is the suburban parking lot palace, like Citi Field, Dodger Stadium, Miller Park, Kaufmann, etc.

Next is the, "this ballpark will really spur development" location. The Metrodome is an example of this. The Star Tribune pushed hard for the dome and the location because their property values would skyrocket. People envisioned brand new stores, bars and condominiums. This type of ballpark wishes to become urban, but only on their own terms. Other examples: PETCO, Jacobs Field, Nationals Ballpark, etc.

And of course, the true urban ballpark. Wrigley Field, Ebbets Field, Fenway Park?

Target Field seems more in line with the, "this ballpark will really spur development" style location. They're hoping to build mixed use commercial and residential high rises over the parking lots to the north and south. On one side, there's a basketball arena and the other is a garbage burner and industrial wasteland. It's not much of a neighborhood.

To top things off, the Twins want to change the name of one of the streets which runs outside Target Field. So much for plopping a stadium into a neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Faces of the Metrodome: Scorecard Guy

"Scorecards! Programs! Twins-colored-baseball-themed-mardi-gras-style beaded necklace things!"

Those are words he lip-syncs while toting his wares up and down the aisles of the Metrdome. He's a professional, so he let's the products speak for themselves. He's selling baseball intelligence at three bucks a pop. And mardi gras beads.

He's a salesman, sure. But he's also a fan. He knows the best way to be a fan is to convert others to his ways, by spreading The Word. And mardi gras beads. He must spread the knowledge of the game, the faces and numbers of the players and the ads of the sponsors to all those beer soaked heathens. And mardi gras beads for the ladies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gabino adds awesomeness to already awesome rotation

Armando Leisdeker Gabino will make his major league debut when he starts against the Orioles on Tuesday. It's been a meteoric rise for the 25 year old Dominican Republican prospect. He was discovered by famed scout 'Lucky' Leon Simon at the age of sixteen. Lucky Leon is one of just two scouts who are legally blind, and must evaluate players using the other four senses. (A's general manager Billy Beane loves this guy - he believes tasting is one the most objective ways to grade a ballplayer.) As the story goes, Lucky Leon was wandering through a Dominican ghetto and literally ran into Armando Gabino. He apologized to the teenager and kept walking, but he had noticed something. Gabino smelled like a ballplayer...a pitcher....a control artist. As the old blind scout walked away, the teenage pitcher did what any nasty teenager in the ghetto would. He picked up a frog and threw it at the blind man. Luckily it missed and hit a brick apartment building. Gabino was signed to a contract ten minutes later. Lucky Leon had heard the frog buzz through the air and the splat against the brick. Only he thought the frog was a baseball, and Gabino could throw so hard that the baseball would splat. Of course, Lucky Leon believed he had signed the greatest pitcher ever.

The rest of the rotation

Scott Baker is probably the best pitcher in the rotation right now. This guy is so boring.

Nick Blackburn hasn't won a game in about a month and a half.

Carl Pavano has had two good performances and two bad performances since joining the Twins. His ERA stands at 5.32

Brian Duensing has made two starts this season, and picked up his first win on Saturday. Could he be that ace for the playoff run?

In the heat of a pennant race, a team needs a lot of pitching. The Twins are awfully lucky that their rotation features consistency and awesomeness. Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson must be very pleased with how this storybook season is shaping up: trading for a legendary pitcher at past the deadline and getting a potential phenom from the minors in August.

Oh, and what's this? Boof Bonser is progressing quickly, and could come off the disabled list in September?!?!?!

Look out, Detroit!

Friday, August 21, 2009


First overall pick in the 2009 mlb draft, Stephen Strasburg, signed a $15 million contract. And, of course, people are pissed. Scott Boras is greedy. Baseball sold out. Lost it's innocence. All that shit.

Look, idiots. How much baseball players make doesn't affect you. You don't own a professional baseball team nor do you play baseball for one. If Strasburg signed a $150 million contract your life wouldn't be any different.

And Strasburg's contract is not going to ruin baseball. The salaries these young men are making are the price of their labor, and prices are communicators. They communicate value. Value is determined by millions and billions of economic decisions. So when someone says that a draftee who has never played a major league game doesn't deserve X amount of dollars, that person is inadvertently claiming to have knowledge of the millions of decisions that communicate the value of the draftee's labor. Which is ridiculous.

I know it seems like MLB operates in a vacuum outside of the price system. MLB essentially has a monopsony on baseball players wishing to sell their services at a high professional level. However, there are market forces involved. It may seem like Boras and the Nationals brass just sat down and invented a price to their liking, but baseball salaries - just like all other prices - are subjected to the laws of supply and demand.

So, let's say that Strasburg's contract jacks up the price for future draft picks. Furthermore, let's say that many of these draft picks bust. As a result clubs will conclude that paying a bunch of money for unproven draft picks is not a worthy investment and thus, the demand for draft picks will go down. So will the price. The bubble will pop. People that don't like high baseball salaries can go back to being grouchy about something else.

It is more likely, however, that clubs will realize that investing in draft picks is a good idea and the salaries of these picks will grow.

And for those that are worried that MLB contracts are out of control, let's look at how much the MLB average salary has increased in recent years.

For comparison, the average accountant's salary increased about seven percent last year. Now lets look at a much darker time, a much greedier time in baseball history. A time when children were forced to play with rodent carcases in alleys blackened by the soot and ash from the bonfires of money baseball agents used to light their cigars.

Somehow Scott Boras polluted baseball with greed before he was even a sports agent. Damn that guy's good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Faces of the Metrodome: Most Valuable Usher

She is a controversial figure. For some, she represents the fist of the man. For others, she represents truth, honesty and protection. To Twins fans, she is known as the Seat Nazi. Most ushers at the Metrodome are assigned a different for each game. But she has kept the same post for what seems like a millenia.

The left-field corner, sections 136 through 139, is particularly attractive to fans seated in the upper deck. It's a dark blue oasis promising great baseball viewing. And even though Delmon Young could never track a fly ball into the corner, he's still within shouting distance. No one is sitting down there.

That's when she strikes, snarling, "can I see your ticket please?" You didn't lose your ticket. Your buddy doesn't have them. You're not going to sweet talk her. You're fucked. It's back to upper general for you.

The amount of money this one red-clad usher-warrior has saved is practically incalculable. Without her, fans would regularly buy $7 tickets, and simply move into the $31 seats in the corner. She's keeping it fair for those who actually spent the $31 bucks while providing financial flexibility to the Twins front office. Bravo!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Picking ourselves up (by putting others down)

Even though we won last night, some us are a little down on the Twins right now. What we need is a pick-me-up. The best way I know of to do that is to put others down.

Your best player, Grady Sizemore, is batting .238. Sabathia trade headliner, Matt LaPorta, has a .286 slugging percentage in the Majors. Put your night vision goggles on Cleveland because the future is dark.

And Cleveland doesn't rock. Here's a list of famous Northeast Ohio musicians. Yes, Frankie Yankovic made the list. A civil rights museum in Anchorage would be no more out of place than a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Oh, and your economy sucks too.
Kansas City
Hey Royals, the Dead Ball Era called. They want their offense back! (insult comedy 101, people.) But in all seriousness, your team sucks. You have sucked for most of the last quarter century. The good news: at least you're used to your team being terrible.

After some careful analysis, I think I have figured out why you have been so atrocious. I'm calling it the Have Terrible Players Theory. This theory states that your team will be terrible if you always have terrible players. Right now you have two good players on your roster. One is a closer and pitches 65 innings a year. The other is sad often. The other 23 players on your roster are below average or some degree of terrible. It's entirely possible not one of your players will hit twenty home runs this year.

This 2009 Royals team fits nicely into the franchise's rich history of never having any good players on any of its teams ever. Here is a list of your All Stars from the last twenty years:
89: Mark Gubicza
90: Brett Saberhagen
91: Danny Tartabull
92: Jeff Montgomery
93: Jeff Montgomery
94: David Cone
95: Kevin Appier
96: Jeff Montgomery
97: Jose Rosado
98: Dean Palmer
99: Jose Rosado
00: Jermaine Dye
01: Mike Sweeney
02: Mike Sweeney
03: Mike Sweeney, Mike MacDougal
04: Ken Harvey
05: Mike Sweeney
06: Mark Redman
07: Gil Meche
08: Jokim Soria
09: Zach Greinke

Next year, and every year after that, you should line your players up and have George Brett slap each one in the face.

And you do NOT have "world famous barbecue." The only time I ever hear about Kansas City's world famous barbecue is when people from Kansas City tell me about their world famous barbecue. Similarly, roadside attractions are world famous because they have a billboard that says their attraction is world famous. (Note: all negative Wall Drug comments will be deleted.)
Yeah, Nationals, I know you're not in our division or even our league, but nothing makes one feel better about the state of his or her favorite franchise than the Washington Nationals. Why the hell would you sign Adam Dunn for two years $20 million? He makes you marginally less terrible and $20 million poorer. I'm sure you had nothing better to do with that money. Like, I don't know, sign Stephen Strasburg.

On the bright side you have a new stadium with a gorgeous view of the US Capital. Wait, parking ramp.

Well, I don't know about you guys, but I feel better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dear Minnesota Twins: You're Bad

I felt the need to write you because it seems like some members of the team still think you're a decent ball club. I didn't know who else would break the news. It's a difficult thing to put into words, but here it goes:

you're bad.

This type of bad is hard to explain. It's certainly not a good bad, like Michael Jackson. It's a bad bad, like Michael Jackson's prescription drugs - you're killing me. One week ago, I actually had a desire to sit in the Metrodome and watch you guys play baseball. Yesterday, a friend asked me if I wasn't busy, if I'd come over and help him sort socks. And I agreed.

Do you guys really think you're still good? You say you're battling your tail off, but it doesn't seem that way. And even if greenies were still legal and you gave a 100% percent effort every game, you still wouldn't be good. Some are more bad than others, but believe me, your team is bad.

Even if the suits upstairs would have grabbed Roy Halladay and Freddy Sanchez, you'd still be bad.

You'd like to say that Detroit and Chicago have great teams.
They don't.

You'd like to say you're banged up.
You're not.

You'd like to say you're out there battling.
You're not.

You'd like to think you're a better team than this.
You're not.

Do you even know how many teams there are in Major League Baseball? There are like, 30, and there are only a few teams that are worse than you. You probably couldn't play for most of the other 29 teams in the league, because you're bad. If your team switched to triple-A ball, you'd only be a little less bad. You've actually lost more games than you've won. You're badness is making Billy Smith look even badder and it's making Joe Mauer want to leave.

I only tell you this because I imagine you butting your jersey, thinking to yourself, "hey, we've got a real chance to win!" That attitude falls upon the restless hoardes of Twins fans - "hey, we've got a real chance to win!" Just stop it. Save us the heartache. Don't button your jersey like that anymore. Let's see a frown.

So for my mental health, and your own, I'll say it again:

You're bad.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Teams with better records than the Twins

NY Yankees 69 - 43 .616
LA Dodgers 67 - 45 .598
LA Angels 65 - 44 .596
Boston 63 - 48 .568
Texas 62 - 48 .564
Philadelphia 61 - 48 .560
Colorado 62 - 50 .554
St. Louis 63 - 51 .553
Tampa Bay 61 - 50 .550
San Francisco 61 - 50 .550
Detroit 59 - 52 .532
Chicago Cubs 58 - 52 .527
Florida 59 - 53 .527
Seattle 58 - 53 .523
Atlanta 58 - 54 .518
Chicago Sox 57 - 55 .509
Milwaukee 55 - 56 .495
Houston 55 - 57 .491
Minnesota 54 - 57 .486

How's that for depressing? Atlanta, Houston, Florida, Seattle, San Fransisco are better than the Twins.

Luckily, the Royals are in town, followed by Cleveland. The schedule gives them a chance to move from 19th place in the majors to maybe 17th.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nathan & Morneau's reaction to Twins dealings

"Seems like they were working hard upstairs," said closer Joe Nathan, one of the three All-Stars who recently pined for action from the front office. "We'll see in October if it works out for us. If we don't win the World Series, it'll be their fault."

"Yeah, I mean, it's tough. Losing (Kevin) Slowey for the year, it kind of added another hole," Morneau said when asked if the Cabrera deal satisfied his desires. "In the end, it usually comes down to pitching and defense. So, in the end, this deal doesn't mean shit."

"If we don't get a good player, Joe is going to leave, and then I'm going to leave too! WAAAAH WAHHH"

"The other teams got good players and we got bad ones. I'm going HOME!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday Student Night - Staying Classy

Every professional sports venue in America has had seen it's share of depraved spectator behavior. Besides Vikings games, the Metrodome has designed one night, and one seating area, for the worst of the worst stadium etiquette.

The dome is pretty drab and plastic; devoid of much character. The crowd is generally a docile, Minnesota-nice bunch. Except on Wednesday nights in the cheap seats. The promotion was originally aimed at getting parents to bring kids to games, offering a half-off student discount. But in the past five years, it has devolved into a Community College-sponsored douchefest. All you need is a student I.D. to get a four dollar upper deck general admission ticket. I've used my extremely expired I.D. to get cheap tickets a couple of times this year, but I'm pretty sure I've outgrown it. Something about the ridiculousness of watching an old guy get his ass kicked for popping a beach ball probably had something to do with it.

The Metrodome is a stones throw from the U of M and their 60,000 students, so the Twins usually sell all 15,000 of their worst tickets. It's hard to find a seat, and kids end up sitting above the rafters. Luckily, the drunks start to leave when the dollar dogs are gone, the high schoolers on hard drugs are gone by the 7th, and it's half empty by the 8th.

I can't imagine why anyone would pay to drink where the beers cost like $6.5o, considering many of them aren't there for the baseball. It must be a social thing: to see and be seen. So, for one night a week, the dome has Wrigley beat in one category.

Though I'll keep this in perspective. Next year, I promise I'll be waxing nostalgic about the absurdly cheap prices and great atmosphere of the dome, as I'm spending billions of dollars for tickets at Target Field.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The View From the Organist Box

Sue Nelson is one of my favorite musicians of all time. Not unlike The Hold Steady, her music actually helps the Twins win ballgames! Sue plays the organ at the Metrodome, and she loves her job --for good reason, too. Getting paid to do something she loves while watching baseball. Her sweet music helps soothe the restless baseball fans in times of defeat. And from the tips of her fingers, she rallies them together when their team needs them.

I got to chatting with Sue during Friday's game. Here are a few things I learned:

- She loves kids, and often makes school visits to tell the children about her glamorous job in the music business.

- They're taking the same organ to Target Field next year, so it'll probably be a lot of the same sound and the same classic music.

- Apparently Target Field won't have a football press box, so she and the organ will be moving into nicer digs, much closer to the action.

- We both found it funny that many fans, and even some staff, don't know there's a live organ at the Metrdome.

- She loves visitors! She's a wonderful lady, so next time you're at the dome, feel free to run up and say, 'thanks!'