Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Committee, Jennifer Grey, Sue Nelson, and other notes

- Rather than just assign one person to replace Joe Nathan as closer, the Twins got creative and formed a committee. Most people seem to agree that this approach can't last long; they'll either promote one of the current guys to closer or trade for one. Until then, we 'll have to come up with a collective name for Neshek, Guerrier, Crain and Rauch. Gardy's Party? The Committee?

- How do you pronounce Guerrier? I've always said Gerr-AIR. But people on the radio seem to say, Gerr-EAR. The latter sounds stupid, but not as stupid as when people pronounce the X in Teixeira.

- There are a couple aspects of Twins baseball that would drive the SABRmetricians nuts right now. First, the unquantifiable reasons for the impending and unavoidable demise of Gardy's Party. Bill James advocated Grady Little's decision to go with the closer by committee on the Red Sox in '03, but it failed spectacularly. Those relievers are just more effective when they know their specific role. Secondly, there's the nagging question: why do teams regularly win more at home? Deadspin's Will Leitch wrote a nice piece about the Twins move to Target Field:

But the one place in baseball that was an actual home-field advantage was the old, outdated, ugly Metrodome. It was the place where visiting outfielders couldn't see fly balls, where there were hefty bags, where fans could create a cacophony that echoed and rattled in upon itself.... The Metrodome was terrifying and stupid and outdated and totally wrong for baseball, but it's difficult to deny it wasn't a considerable advantage for the Twins...
It's not like the Twins will be absolutely horrible this year just because they play in an unfamiliar environment (as much as an outdoor baseball stadium can be unfamiliar to baseball players.) But it'll probably cost them a few wins; maybe more or less, depending on how the field plays.

- You know who plays Target Field nicely? Sue Nelson. The Twins organist was settling in to her new perch at the Gophers game last Saturday while plunking out such hits as, BUM-bum-bum-buum...BUM-bum-bum BA-BA-BA BUM-bum and some other things you'd recognize easily. They brought her old organ (eww) from the Metrodome and threw it up in the Twins Pub, which is crazy to me. The Twins Pub is a sparse and dark space on the upper deck concourse. As the name suggests, they sell beer while offering protection from the elements. Sue likes visitors, but this is a bit much. It's only a matter of time until someone spills their beer all over her fancy musical instrument. Between all the jack-offs like me talking to her, and the fact that she couldn't see the field at all, she seemed pretty frazzled. Twins: fix this.

Also making the move from the dome to TF is the wonderful scoreboard messages known as Twins-O-Grams. Remember Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller's Day Off? She must have felt pretty lucky to be one of the first people ever honored with a Twins-O-Gram:

Congratulations! You should have never got that nose job.

- Over the past few days, Gardy and the rest of the Twins brass have been busy finalizing their roster. One of the last undecided roster spots was the backup catcher. Gardenhire wanted Wilson Ramos, who is totally awesome. But Bill Smith doesn't want to Start The Clock, so he installed Drew "invisible bat" Butera as the official Joe Mauer back-up. This post at Call the the 'Pen captured my sentiments exactly.


Twins vs. Cardinals. The Great Pujols and his band of St. Louis baseball players visit Target Field for an exhibition on Friday and Saturday. The game starts at 5pm on Friday, but come down early for the revealing of some Twins statues on the plaza. Also, it's going to be nuts downtown.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where for art thou Brendan Harris?

As spring training winds down a few questions out of the Twins camp are being answered. Francisco Liriano seems to have locked up the fifth starters spot, Jacque Jones will not be allowed to relive the glory days of 2002, and it will be closer-by-committee to start the season.

Closer mess aside, there is one very troubling development playing out with Opening Day only a week away: Nick Punto looks to be the Twins starting third baseman, leaving Brendan Harris on the bench as a utility option. There was an article yesterday in the Star Tribune about the strong possibility that this will be the case, but I am surprised that more isn’t being said about this issue.

I know there have been jokes abound about Gardenhire’s ridiculous man-crush on Punto, but all kidding aside, this has gone far enough. I can no longer bite my tongue. We’ve all heard the argument, “Punto is a defensive god. The plays he makes on defense compensate for his shortcomings at the plate.” Bullshit.

If we didn’t have another option at the position, then maybe this would be a legitimate statement. If Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert were the Twins’ only other two choices at third, then maybe I could get behind that mindset for yet another season. But that’s not the case. Brendan Harris provides a more than solid defensive option at third, and is a good argument to be a starter over Punto even before you mention offense. In nine seasons Punto’s fielding percentage is .978. Harris inexcusably lags behind at .971. With such a glaring gap between the two I can see why Punto is the obvious choice on defense.

Offensively, you would be hard-pressed to find a reason why Punto is a better fit than Harris. I know the preseason means absolutely nothing, and I understand that, but just for arguments sake, Harris is hitting .351 while Punto checks in at a predictable .200 mark. The career batting average of each (.267 for Harris, .248 for Punto) is not why this argument is one sided.

In a season where the Twins powers-that-be seem to be going for more than the usual division title, they owe it to themselves to put the best lineup out there. Thanks in part to a strong top of the order, the 6-7-8 spots in the lineup are stronger then they have been in recent memory, with more pop and possibility then the team has had there in a long time. So wouldn’t it make sense to put the best possible bat, and run producing option, behind the back end of the order?

Harris not only brings in a better average, but he could also produce a 9-hitter who pitchers would not be able to point to in the order and say, “Let’s focus on this weak spot and keep them from turning over the order.” With Denard Span at the leadoff spot it would be nice to provide him with a little protection in the order, as Orlando Hudson in the two spot is not a big power-threat either. It doesn’t make sense to put three softer hitting, contact-focused hitters in a row when the rest of the order seems to be focused on doing more than just putting the ball in play and running like hell. With Harris in the 9-spot, the threat of a gap-type hitter opens the field up and could produce more runs scored from the bottom half of the order.

Harris is no different than any other hitter on the face of the planet, he needs regular at bats to find his rhythm and reach his full potential. He has yet to get that chance with the Twins. I guess I can spout ill-fated arguments for Harris over Punto all day long, but they will be just that, ill-fated. I don’t know if Harris did something to piss Gardenhire off or what, but the time for playing sentimental favorites is over, unless the manager and front office are going to be content with another one-and-done in the postseason.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Details of Mauer's Contract

Monday's Press Conference brought a lot of joy to every Minnesota Twins fan. Almost no one we have talked to here at AH! have been upset with the Mauer signing. He is the most popular current Minnesota Twin and with Target Field opening in few weeks, a spring training without a contract would have put a dark cloud over the new ballpark.

We know that the All-star catcher's contract features a 8 year, 184 million extension that makes him easily the highest paid catcher in baseball history. But that can't be all right? But what else was in that two page contract. The investigative reporters here at Alright Hamilton! got to the bottom of the biggest contract of the year.

If we enhance the above image we can get a little big of information on what exactly are the conditions of that record-breaking contract.

By using some intense photographic technology we can enhance the picture to see some details of the contract.

1. Sideburn clause: The hair connecting the hair on his head to where the hair for a beard would be (hereafter called 'sideburns') must be kept at approximately the same length as the bottom of the ear lobe. Mr. Mauer may not grow any other facial hair that could distract the viewer from his trademark sideburns nor may he grow out his hair to cover up the sideburns.

2. Quarterback clause: In the event that Brett Favre does not play for the Minnesota Vikings through the year 2018. Mr. Mauer will play quarterback for the Vikings and lead them to a Super Bowl championship.

3. Interesting clause: Mr. Mauer must continue to make an effort to become a better interviewee and actor for commercials by taking classes at local community theaters during the off season.

4. Over-interesting clause: Mr. Mauer must not become TOO interesting that he loses that home-grown-Minnesota charm that makes him the perfect poster boy for the Twins franchise.

5. Love clause: Mr. Mauer may find love if he wishes, but he must keep this love a secret. The Minnesota Twins rely on one of the largest female fan bases in all of baseball. If these women found out that Mr. Mauer was off the market, it could prove devastating for ticket and jersey sales.

6. Rap career clause: Former Minnesota Timberwolve Troy Hudson has volunteered his services to get Mr. Mauer's rap career off the ground.

7. Injury clause: Mr. Mauer may not get injured at anytime in the next nine years. However, if Mauer waves his no trade clause and gets traded, me must get injured within that first year with his new ball club.

There you have it. Some of the details to one of the most important events in Minnesota sports history. It's a little more specific than I was expecting but then again when has the AH! investigative team ever been wrong?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Joe Mauer Is the New Denny Hocking

By TwinsWin83

So I don’t know if you’ve heard or not but Joe Mauer signed some kind of blow your mind, wet your pants, pinch yourself to check reality-type deal with the Twins a few days ago. According to most sources, this is the greatest thing to happen to Twins fans, the state of Minnesota, and the majority of people living within the Western Hemisphere since the theatrical release of Little Big League.

Listen, I dig that the Twins signed the player who is the face of the franchise and accounts for a ridiculous amount of their fan-related revenue, but c'mon, who thinks he’s going to catch for the next nine years and be able to continue his current stats throughout that duration? No way. According to recent studies, catching makes you age at the same rate as a golden retriever. It can also lead to acid reflux, lazy eye and type II diabetes. The last thing Twins fans want is a catcher who is 186 in dog years, pops Prilosec like they’re Starburst jellybeans, and can look at both the first baseman and the blonde sitting down the third base line at the same time, all while draining $23 million from the team’s coffer each season.

Joe Mauer is every Minnesotans little 8 pound 6 ounce, newborn, infant baby Jesus. If something were to happen to him, everything we were told would take place on Y2K will happen for real in the Twin Cities. We’re talking about planes falling out of the sky, blackouts, riots, a Timberwolves win, looting, cannibalism and worst of all, Joe Mauer out of the lineup for an extended period of time.

Well I won’t stand for that. I won’t let the Twins brass be responsible for the end of human life in the Upper Midwest. So that means we need to come up with a list of possible spots for Mauer to play instead of catching, which is apparently as hazardous as Ice Truck driving.

1st Base- You might think this is a good spot for a former catcher in transition, but wait. We have another MVP playing there in Justin Morneau. And he’s awesome. Just ask a Canadian. No wait, don’t ask a Canadian. Even general contact with one and you could become sickly; addicted to Molson, hockey and talking shit about America.

Anyways, you can’t push Morneau out of his position. If we lose him who is going to carry the team down the stretch in Septe…….. Who is going to be the outspoken, confident clubhouse lead…… Who is not going to blame the Home Run Derby for his troubles at the pla……. Who is going to give Mauer crap about making a ton of money and try to mooch a supper off him? That’s right, only Morneau can shoulder that burden.
Middle Infield- No way. Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert and Brendan Harris can all play those positions. If they can’t get the job done then no one can.

3rd Base- Now this might be a spot for Mauer. We all know about the drama the Twins have had at 3rd since Corey Koskie left the team and returned home to Canada to raise sheep. One of the big qualms about taking Mauer out from behind the plate is that he handles the pitchers so well. Well, there is a simple solution to that problem; Mauer can call the games from his new position at 3rd. With simple hand gestures, audible coughs and sneezes, and the occasional nut-cup check, everyone else in the infield will know exactly what to do. The new catcher will never even have to put down a finger. And this way Mauer can sit back and literally watch his knees heal after years of catching. Who knows, he might steal 60 bases without having to deal with the strain of squatting behind the plate like a dairy farmer at the rear end of a cow.

Outfield- Um, absolutely. Anywhere you put Mauer in the outfield he is going to be awesome. I mean think about how the guy guns down stealing runners at second and third. Just imagine how much harder and straighter his throws will be from the outfield when he can get a running crow-hop. Wow. I mean who is going to tag from second to third when Mauer catches a ball in shallow left? No one, that’s who. And this way the Twins can move Delmon Young back to his natural position, bullpen catcher.

DH- Nope. You can’t make a legitimate case for putting his Golden Ticket Winning Wonka Bar-like talent on the bench except for his plate appearances. Can’t do it, so don’t try. And, call me crazy, but I think Jim Thome's best days are yet to come.

Pitcher- Maybe, if the Twins were a National League team. But the last time I checked they were not.

So there you have it. Your viable options are 3rd base and the outfield. What do you mean already knew that? Well then, I am sorry I just wasted your valuable time. I will get back to my Twilight book and you can head back to doing whatever it is that you do. If you’re really bored you can check out the new Twins commercial.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Finest Anti-Twins Column You'll Read Today

This blog generally takes a rather pessimistic view of the Twins. After Alexi Casilla ripped a single off Fernando Rodney in game 163, most of us knew they'd get swept by the Yankees. We like to rip on Nick Punto, chide Delmon Young and question Pat Neshek's diet. Very negative indeed. Heck, I even managed to spend half an article complaining about trivial things in an article about the lovely Target Field.

But most Twins fans and the guys here at Alright Hamilton aren't as bad as the local media. Specifically Dan Barriero. He loves to rip the Twins for not spending money and not "going for it" when they have a chance at a title. Which is fine, I guess. At least he provides something different than all the Star Tribune's homers.

Barriero is maddeningly cynical, but last spring I was ready to join him. Let me paint a picture of how I felt: The Twins hadn't won a division title since 2006. The 2007 squad severely underperformed, finishing with their first losing season since 2000. That set the stage for Torii Hunter to bolt for Anaheim and a Johan Santana trade. Losing two players of that magnitude because we didn't have the cash to pay them sure made that classic Minnesota inferiority complex flare up. Payroll was way down; from about $71 million in 2007 and leveling off at about $65 million in 2008 and 2009.

It seemed like a racket. The Twins were moving into a new taxpayer funded ballpark, screaming towards large wads of cash, and they were slashing payroll while shedding all-stars. It definitely seemed like a racket.

Needless to say, it didn't turn out badly. The payroll is nearly $100 million dollars even without the mega Mauer contract on the books. Ownership is clearly committed to winning instead of lining their pockets with fat stacks of Target Field provided cash. Best of all - the Twins can actually afford to keep their good players.

The point is this: We are very, very lucky to be Twins fans.

Want proof?

Read this brilliantly written and hilarious piece of writing from an Indians fan. He hates the Twins. It's not immature or mean, it speaks more of an exhausted hatred of loathing and jealousy.
(hat tip to No Smoking In the Metrodome)

The whole thing is great, but this is the most relevant line for our discussion:

Everything good always happens to the Twins! That's why I hate them!

Doesn't that brighten your day?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Twins Teddy Bear Tours Target Field

The Twins held their first large scale showing of Target Field this weekend, and despite cold temperatures, hundreds of fans came to check it all out. And it did not disappoint. It was a great experience to finally walk the concourses and sit in the seats at the brand new ballpark after closely following its construction over the past two and a half years. It's certainly a top-five MLB stadium.

Unfortunately, the only view of green grass was in the left field corner. The rest was covered with some sort of tarp, presumably to keep in the heat (heated coils run beneath the field) and keep off the frost or whatever. It made it hard to imagine a baseball game actually being played in the building. But that will come soon.

The day was all about exploring the many amenities of Target Field. At the Metrodome, there were just two bland 360 degree concourses that led to equally spaced gates and two separate decks: upper and lower. The new place is a goddamn baseball corn maze compared to that dump.

Here's Teddy drinking a cold beer on the lower concourse just behind home plate. The highest seven rows (or so) are are covered by the cantilevered Legends Club seats. No blue sky or sunshine for these folks. There isn't even a view of the scoreboard. But they have their own flat screen televisions and they will always stay warm.

And directly behind those seats is an entrance to Hrbek's. It's a small bar without views to the playing field, but there are plenty of pictures of the former Twins first baseman. Unlike Hrbek, the place feels a little small and dark. But at least any ticket holder is allowed inside, unlike..

The Metropolitan Club. It's a tribute to old Metropolitan Stadium, which is where the Twins played for a few years while the Metrodome was constructed. It feels like a cafeteria for old people who like to feel rich and exclusive. I felt under-dressed, as did the Bear, who wasn't wearing pants. It's a neat space, featuring three walls of glass, but I'll never hang out there since it costs a bunch of money and it doesn't offer views of the field.

can you spot the Target symbol?

Well, it looks like Teddy found the exterior deck of the Metropolitan Club, where the field is clearly visible. Looks like a fun place to watch the game. Unfortunately, it will cost money to sit there, even though you already have a regular seat in the stadium and you are spending money on their food. And you have to be a season ticket holder to enter.

Next we visit the Legends Club. If you haven't noticed by now, there are a lot of clubs at Target Field. Oh, it's just terribly exclusive. There's the Metropolitan Club, the Champions Club, the Legends Club, Hrbek's Pub Club, Club sandwiches, the 573 Club, the Townball Tavern Club, the Twins Pub Club, the Budweiser Deck Club and the Twins Majestic Pro Shop Club. Here's a breakdown of where you can and can't go:

Open: Hrbek's Club, Twins Pub Club, Town Ball Tavern Club, Club sandwich.
Make more money: Champions Club, 573 Club, Legends Club, Metropolitan Club.

See that section of wood-backed seats in the above picture? The Legends Club is essentially an enclosed, very fancy concourse that leads to those seats. It's also the home of the Puckett and Carew atriums. And Harmon Killebrew's 573 club. But you can't go to any of those places. It's too bad. Those Legends Club seats are definitely the best in the house, both physically and view-wise.

The Carew Atrium features fantastic views of the Hennepin County Garbage Incinerator.

The Champions Club is totally off limits. To get there, you must have seats right behind the plate. It has a special, super-secret passage that allows rich people to move from their seats directly to the club, without having to bump against any commoners. It's done with a carefully designed moat.

The worst part? They took the two World Series trophies and put them behind glass, beyond the moat. Two beloved Twins teams won those trophies, making all of Minnesota champions. We are no longer champions. The people in the seats behind the plate are champions. And they have the trophies to prove it.

And what do my Teddy Bear and I get?

A new hot dog! After much worry, the Twins replaced Hormel with Schweigert. Delicious, right? Not so much. It tasted like a regular hot dog. Disappointing.

All new sports venues feature la-ti-da exclusive areas designed to squeeze out corporate dollars. Some places focus so much on that kind of thing, that they forget about the game. Luckily, the Twins didn't forget about baseball. I think for pure baseball viewing, Target Field will not disappoint anyone. For instance, the entire upper deck is cheap, and it just happens to feature fantastic views.

So bring your bear to a ballgame this season. They'll never suspect a Teddy Bear would try to steal those trophies back.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mauer Contract Brings Balance to the Universe

Two Alright Hamilton contributors share their reflective and emotional thoughts on Joe Mauer's new contract.

Soup: I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, "Home is where the heart is." Well, Joe Mauer's heart is in Minnesota, and so is his employer for the next eight years. Our state can now collectively exhale.

Haas: It is indeed a huge relief. But was there really ever a doubt that this would happen? I mean, it was meant to be. It was written in the stars. He's our Baby Jesus, and the Twin Cities is Bethlehem. Jesus never left Bethlehem, so it's fate that Joe stays here.

Soup: Yes, and just like when Jesus signed his contract, Joe's new deal provides hope for those little boys and girls that are looking to be inspired. Joe Mauer and this contract are that inspiration. This contract sends a message that you can be a successful superstar and still remember where you came from and how you were raised.

Haas: It's true. He's probably the first superstar to ever remember where he came from. All the others forget and then sign with the Yankees. Hmmm.. Do you think he could have signed a larger contract in New York? Because I haven't heard that anywhere.

Soup: I'm glad you asked. The answer is YES! Mauer could have signed a bigger contract with some big market team, but he didn't. He chose to stay around. Being around the people he loves is more important than the bright lights and fame. This loyalty is refreshing for an athletic superstar to display in the wake of the Tiger Woods saga.

Haas: Yeah, he took a deep discount to stay with the Twins, settling for just $184 million bucks over eight years. That's loyalty.

But I have no doubt that loyalty wasn't the only force behind Mauer's decision to stay in Minnesota. He was acutely aware that the world would collapse if he didn't re-sign. Twins fans would blow up Target Field and Major League Baseball would spiral downward into anarchy. And society wouldn't be far behind. Joe Mauer knew what he had to do: save the world.

Soup: Since September 11, 2001 Minnesota has been looking for a hero. We have been looking for a leader. Maybe that person is Joe Mauer. Maybe not. What we do know, however, is that you can crash planes into our towers and we'll still be here. And for at least eight more years, so will Joe Mauer.

Haas: huh?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Delmon Young Concentrating on Sexy

It was encouraging to hear that Delmon Young arrived at camp looking as fit as ever. I guess he dropped 20 pounds, or something. I don't know if anyone necessarily questioned his work ethic, (personally I'd always thought his running style was designed by Delmon to make his team mates laugh) but there had been rumors that he didn't listen to coaches. So maybe this weight loss business meant he was re-committing himself to the sport and to the team.

Not so fast.

In this spring training interview with FSN, Delmon explains his reason for losing the weight. The video is subtitled, "Delmon Young [talks] about how he revamped his body in the offseason and comparisons between the Twins and the Rays, the team that traded him to Minnesota."

I'll save you the trouble of actually watching the video. Delmon answers both questions awkwardly while breaking the fourth wall numerous times. First, he states that there is no difference between the Tampa Bay Rays organization and the Twins. Delmon needs to brush up on a very important rule of being a Minnesota Twin: always tell people this is a unique, special and amazing organization. Talk about the great clubhouse atmosphere and how we like to "do the little things right".

He then explains why he lost weight, "I just hope to look good in uniform."

At first I thought he was joking around; perhaps one of the greatest deadpans in Twins interview history. But Delmon continues, "I may run a little faster, play better defense, but it definitely doesn't help your hitting."

Now just imagine how silly this is. Here's a former number one overall pick who has under-performed for most of his career. He starts eating healthier and working out heavily over the offseason. But while he's drinking his slimfast and pumping iron, he's not thinking about how he's going to prove himself on the field. He's not dreaming of home runs or spectacular catches. He's thinking about how good he's going to look when he puts on that uniform. After losing a bunch of weight while fighting the flu, he looked at himself in the mirror and thought, "this won't help my hitting at all, but just look at how great I look!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seriously: "Accolades not important to Cuddyer"

Articles like this are what make me kind of dislike Michael Cuddyer.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Michael Cuddyer led the Twins last year in home runs, while finishing second on the team in doubles, third in hits and fourth in RBIs. But that, of course, wasn't the most impressive aspect of his breakout season. That part came in less than a month, when a mid-September back injury put slugger Justin Morneau on the shelf for the rest of the season.

More impressive than leading the Twins “Last year in home runs, while finishing second on the team in doubles, third in hits and fourth in RBIs?!?!” Do tell.

At that point, heading into Sept. 13, the Twins found themselves two games below .500 and 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers with 20 games -- eventually 21, actually -- left to play.

On the 14th day of September, God created Cuddyer.

You know the story thereafter: Cuddyer filled in for Morneau at first base -- a position at which he had only played 46 career games prior -- and batted .325 with eight homers in his last 21 contests to lead the Twins to a postseason berth nobody thought they had any business capturing.

Um, yeah. A very nice job moving to the easiest defensive position in baseball for 21 games, Michael.

But then came the results of the voting for the American League Most Valuable Player, an award superstar catcher Joe Mauer was a lock to win. Cuddyer -- he of a .276 batting average, 32 home runs, 94 RBIs and a heroic September -- ended up with just one eighth-place vote and one 10th-place vote.

The “heroic September” button on my calculator doesn’t work, so I’m not sure how to quantify that statistic. The other three statistics (there are only three) appear slightly above average for a corner outfielder/first-baseman. Then, of course, factor in the -16.9 UZR and you have a very average player.

Two votes -- that's it?

Ah, that’s about right, actually.

That's how it is for Cuddyer, the longest-tenured member of the Twins and one who's constantly overshadowed by the presence of Morneau and Mauer in the lineup.

That’s just not right. Michael Cuddyer has been friendly, preformed magic tricks, and even undertook the grueling defensive task of first-base for a month last year. And just because Morneau and Mauer have won MVP Awards, Cuddyer gets overshadowed. Newsflash: Mauer and Morneau don’t even know magic tricks.

But he's just fine with it.

God Bless him.

"I'm not a guy who seeks individual accolades or individual notoriety or any of that stuff," said Cuddyer, who will be in the starting lineup when his club gets started with Grapefruit League games on Thursday, facing the nearby Red Sox at their place beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET. "What drives me is winning. As long as my teammates respect me and my coaches respect me, I'm happy with that."

That’s right. Cuddyer is not one of those seekers of “accolades or individual notoriety.” This is something Mauer and Morneau will never know…because they have both accolades and individual notoriety. If only they would be solely driven by winning, like Cuddyer.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire certainly does.
Minnesota's skipper spoke after Wednesday's workouts at Lee County Sports Complex about how he has no qualms putting Cuddyer in center field in the case of a short-term injury to Denard Span, and Gardenhire reiterated the obvious when he said, "We would've definitely not won our division if it hadn't been for Michael Cuddyer."

Wait. Gardenhire said, “We would’ve definitely not won our division if it hadn’t been for Michael Cuddyer.” And that quote is evidence that Gardenhire has “no qualms putting cuddyer in center field in the case of a short-term injury to Denard Span”? I’m sure there are some qualms.

"He's pretty much top of the line here," Gardenhire added. "[He] doesn't get enough credit for that because he gets outshined by a few people, but not in a lot of people's books. He's right there at the top."

It must be hard managing the 1927 Yankees. With all the outshining players, and what not.

The man Cuddyer ended up being at the end of the 2009 season was the man he was projected to be all along.

The 30-year-old righty-hitting right fielder was the Twins' No. 9 overall Draft pick in 1997. But with the exception of a solid year in '06, he initially didn't live up to the billing, and he hit rock bottom in '08 -- batting just .249 with three measly homers while being limited to 71 games.
That year, Cuddyer dealt with a series of hand injuries, which, as he said, "It's like telling a surgeon to go in there and have open-heart surgery without his eyes. You can't do it."

I hate to say, “He told you so.” But you should have given Hal Rocklage a call.

So, last year, it was all about being healthy -- and, perhaps, selfless.
"Last year, I was able to be healthy pretty much the whole year," he said. "And I think the main thing about having success individually is not worrying about your individual success. You're just strictly worrying about the team, and that's all I really worry about. If we win, I'm happy."

Well, you couldn’t have been that gloomy in 2008. You won 88 games! That’s one more than you did in 2009!

Cuddyer may never point to himself, and there may not be many outside the Twins' clubhouse here at Hammond Stadium that give him much credit. But his teammates sure notice what he brought.

Yeah, poor Cuddyer. Nobody outside of the Twins’ clubhouse likes him. Fans hate his guts.

Especially the one he filled in for so admirably.
"The things he does for this baseball team are amazing," Morneau said. "He's our best baserunner, he comes to play every day, he's definitely one of the main leaders in this clubhouse, he'll play anywhere you ask him to, he'll do anything you ask him to and he loves the game.
"He typifies what it means to be a Minnesota Twin."

Morneau just described every utility infielder to every play in the Majors. When you talk about great baseball players, I doubt “He’s our best baserunner” is how you would start the sentence to list his accomplishments.

And that isn't a half-bad thing to be these days. Not when you consider the reigning American League Central champions currently have a healthy Morneau and Kevin Slowey, plus a new All-Star second baseman (Orlando Hudson) and shortstop (J.J. Hardy) and a potential Hall of Famer on their bench (Jim Thome).

There is nothing to mock in this paragraph. We are going to be awesome.

Cuddyer -- greatly influenced by the likes of Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz when he came up to the big leagues -- said it's the best team he's been on since he started with the big league club in 2001.

Gosh, I loved those guys.

On paper, at least.
"On paper it looks good," Cuddyer said. "But I'm not one who really gets caught up on paper, because there's been years where we come in and, on paper, it doesn't even look like we're going to finish in the division in the top three, and we go out and win the division."

Truth. I’m finding myself less-and-less cynical as this article gets me more-and-more jacked about the upcoming season.

After a season in which he racked up a career-high in homers, hit for the cycle, blasted two home runs in the same inning, posted a phenomenal September and finished up with a .429 batting average (6-for-14) in three postseason games -- all losses to the Yankees -- in November, the Twins picked up Cuddyer's $10.5 million option for the 2011 season.
The move signified how much the Twins value Cuddyer -- regardless of how MVP voters may feel.

Good for the Twins. Sometimes they give contracts to players that don’t even receive ANY MVP votes! Can you imagine?!?!

"I was hoping to see him get a few more votes [for AL MVP], get the appreciation that he deserves, but, hey, being the guy that he is, he'll tell you he's happy that he just got one vote," Morneau said. "That's not what he plays for."

You know what Cuddyer plays for? Orphans. Cuddyer donates 100 kitten-giggles per win for every orphan in Minnesota.

Nope. What he plays for is this: "When this game is all set and done, as long as my teammates remember that I was a good teammate and somebody they enjoyed playing with, that's what motivates me," Cuddyer said. "That's what I really care about."

So you keep your awards, and money, and fame. Cuddyer will put his pants on one leg at a time and cherish the respect he has earned and the wins he as been apart of…and nurturing unicorns back to health with effort-accumulated rainbow-dew-drops.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baseball's Winning Formula

They've done it. With help from all their degrees on their walls and their instruments and equations, the scientists have figured out how to win baseball.

In an article published last week entitled, "Scientist Says He Figured Out Baseball's Winning Formula," this writer guy attempts to explain scientist guy's tweak on a Bill James theory. I don't think writer guy fully understands it, but he attempts to summarize it with this:

...teams with good hitters who can get on base and get extra base hits will win more than a team without. Also, good pitching and defense with a good offense leads to even more wins.
Groundbreaking. Astounding. Revolutionary.

Anyway, it got us thinking. Can we further generalize winning attributes? Could we whittle it down to just ONE thing that consistently wins baseball games?

The worksheet: (click for full size)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A few things

It's been a while. Let's catch up.

- The 2010 Winter Olympics has taught us a lot about ourselves. Through the games, together we have experienced loss, success, and most importantly, hope.

But if we take one lesson away from this 2010 Winter Games, it should be this: Yu Na Kim ain't nothin to F**k with. If it's hard for you baseball fans to understand her dominance, think of it this way: Joe Mauer is the Yu Na Kim of baseball.

I have recently lived in the Korea. So I have first hand knowledge of how big of a deal Yu Na Kim is. She sings and stuff too. Last year she made $6 million. That is a lot of stinking money for a Korean entertainer. It's like a zillion Won. Not that I'm obsessed, but I guess she has a twitter account.

Quick tutorial on reading Korean txt and twitter (because I think it's kind of funny): For "lol" Koreans use "kkk," which is funny in an ironic way because there isn't much funny about the Ku Klux Klan. But if you sound out three "K's" it sounds like you're chuckling. Think of that dog on Duck Hunt. Also, instead of a " : ) " emoticon, they use two "^" to represent how Korean eyes look when they are smiling. So it would be something like: ^o^ or ^_^.

Wow. aren't you impressed at how cultured the blog is?

- Don't worry, Jim Leyland. Good news! Cigarette Juice.
- I vaguely remember Glenn Perkins' issue with the front office. Something about him not liking how they treated his injury. Honestly, I didn't pay that much attention to it because I thought it wasn't an issue. THEN, this off-season, I hear all this talk about "How are we going to get rid of Glenn Perkins?" Boy, that escalated fast. Am I missing something? Perkins (an employee) expressed a problem with his employer. The audacity. Glenn, I don't care if you mutilate cats in your free time. Just be good at baseball.

- Oh, I went inside Target Field a couple of weekends ago. That's right, bitches. In-mother f**king -side. It was no authorized tour. No job orientation. Just a little old-fashioned resourcefulness you can only learn on the mean streets of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

We were checking out the plaza, and there was some other dude with a box just leaning against the limestone. After a while, a security guard came over and asked the man, "You from Quest?" Then the gate opened. We saw our opportunity. Without hesitation, Child Prodigy spoke up. To this day, it is not known what was said to that security guard, but Child Prodigy's charm paid off. We were allowed temporary entrance.

So then we ran in like mindless idiots and I took three crappy pictures.

- Pat Neshek is the new Joe Nathan. Pass it on.

- To keep me accountable, I'm going to preview some stuff I have been meaning to write, but haven't written. So now if I take another couple weeks off, you'll know that it's not because I have writers' block. It's because I'm lazy.

-Alright Hamilton! top prospects.
-The consequences if Joe Mauer doesn't sign with the Twins (which I told Haas I would write a week ago. whoops)
-Well, somebody has to respond to an article entitled "Accolades not important to Cuddyer."
-Kinda Obscure Jim Henson movies
-BronxBoi's thoughts on Mauer's contract, and maybe a couple of other things

Have a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Short Joe Nathan Poem

There's something quite ominous
about his season ending threat
he's the one who ends games
but there hasn't been one yet

it was suggested that they trade him
after he pitched so poorly last fall
But those strib commenters look so smart now
they should be writing poems about baseball

The offseason was productive
they picked up Hudson and JJ
and with the new target field buzz
the stage is sure set for dismay

Monday, March 8, 2010

Alanis Themed Twins Notes

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I feel bad for Joe Nathan. He was put on a plane from sunny Florida to sloppy Minnesota to get an MRI on his bum elbow. He felt some discomfort after throwing just one pitch. However, it's likely that the pain was just some scar tissue breaking up. We'll see. I only have one thing to say about Joe Nathan: he's old. He's just quite old. Baseball players usually peak at about 28 years of age. Joe Nathan has been around long enough to see the earth circle (elipse?) the sun thirty-five times. Just imagine that. Around and around he goes. He has no concept of time other than it is flying. Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you.

Dome Dog Success

I meant "hot dog success." I'm just accustomed to referring to hot dogs at Twins games as dome dogs. This switch to Target Field is sure tricky. But no one said it was going to be easy. Things change. People change. Baseball venues change.

It's times like these when I look to one person for advice: Alanis Morissette.

I picked up Jagged Little Pill when it first came out. It was probably 6th grade. I must have been a good little ConsumerSheep; I had to have bought it strictly because society told me to do so. Now here's the question: was society right? And further: should I have bought the album? Was it worth it? How do you define worth? How do you define good?

It's a complex question. And the answer changes. I've found that we don't see albums as they are. We see them as we are. This week, I must be awesome. Because that's how I see JLP. In these crazy days, I've found the shrieking Canadian songstress more relevant than ever. She sings of anger, love, frustration, religion, and ultimately, acceptance. The conflicts, the craziness and the sound of pretenses falling down. And it's done in a genuine, even humorous way.

Oh Right, The Hot Dogs

Alanis once wrote, "You wait and see when the smoke clears. You live, you learn." I should have listened to her before I wrote my silly obituary/rant for the dollar dog last week. I was reacting to all the anonymous internet rage that flowed after the Dome Dog death was announced. My logic was sound: it'll be hard to make a tasty dollar dog. However, my tone was pessimistic. I should have waited until the smoke cleared.

The Twins and Schweigert announced their partnership today, which will put four different kinds of hot dogs into Target Field concession stands. It's fantastic. Schweigert is a hometown company who happens to make a great hot dog.

I was excited to see that dollar dog night will still exist. However, they've changed it from Wednesday to Monday. And how many Monday games do the Twins play at Tarfield?

May 3rd
June 28th
July 19th
September 6th
September 20th


Injustice! Injustice! Stupid greedy Twins! I'm here to remind you of the mess you made of dollar dog day. It's not fair to deny me, of the dollar dogs that you gave to me. You oughtta know.

Target Field Excitement

OTM has a pretty fun write-up of his Target Field usher orientation. He says that, "no matter how high you set your expectations, TF will exceed them."

Tickets are going to be hard to come by though. The damn thing holds less than 40,000 people, and the Twins are close to selling 22,000 Full Season tickets. There's a realistic chance that every single game will be sold out before the season starts. For the past eight years or so, I've been attending 20-25 games per year. Now we have this beautiful outdoor stadium and I won't see more than ten games this season.

Isn't it ironic?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Garrison Keillor: Three New Twins Join Club in Spring

Editors Note: This is a hilarious fictional story penned during spring training in 1988, less than five months after the Twins won their first World Series. It was actually, really written by Garrison Keillor and originally appeared in the New Yorker.

My team won the World Series. You thought we couldn't but we knew we would and we did, and what did your team do? Not much. Now we're heading down to spring training looking even better than before, and your team that look pitiful then looks even less hot now. Your hometown paper doesn't say so, but your leadoff guy had a bad ear infection in January and now gets dizzy at the first sign of stress and falls down in a heap. Your cleanup guy spent the winter cleaning his plate. He had to buy new clothes in a size they don't sell at regular stores. Your great relief guy, his life has been changed by the Rama Lama Ding Dong, and is now serenely throwing the ball from a place deep within himself, near his gallbladder. What a shame. Your rookie outfielder set a world record for throwing a frozen chicken, at a promotional appearance for Grandma Fanny's Farm Foods. Something snapped in his armpit and now he can't even throw a pair of dice. Tough beans. Your big left-hander tried hypnosis to stop smoking and while in a trancelike state discovered he hated his mother for tying his tiny right hand behind his back and making him eat and draw and tinkle with his left. So he;s righthanded now, a little awkward but gradually learning to point with it and wave goodbye. That's what your whole team will be doing by early May.

Meanwhile, my team, the world-champion Minnesota Twins, are top dogs who look like a lead-pipe cinch to take all the marbles in a slow walk. My guys had a good winter doing youth work. Last October they pooled their series pay to purchase a farm, Twin Acres, north of Willmar, where they could stay in shape doing chores in the off-season, and they loved it so much they stayed through Thanksgiving and Christmas (celebrating them the good old-fashioned Midwestern way), and raised a new barn, bought a powerful new seed drill to plant winter wheat with, built up the flock of purebred Leghorns, chopped wood, carried water, etc., along with their guests - delinquent boys and girls from St. Louis and Detroit who needed to get out of those sick and destructive environments and learn personal values such as hard work and personal cleanliness. Meanwhile, back in Minneapolis, the Twins front office wasn't asleep on its laurels but through shrewd deals made mostly before 8:15 A.M. added to what they had while giving up nothing in return. It seems unfair.

Other Teams Gnash Teeth or Sulk

It's considered impossible to obtain three top premium players without paying a red cent, but the Twins:

Traded away some useless air rights for Chuck Johnson (23, 187 lbs., 6'1'', bats left, throws left), a native of Little Falls, Minnesota. Maybe that's why the scouts who work the Finger Lakes League ignored his phenomenal season with the Seneca Falls Susans. They figured, "Minnesota? Forget it!" But how can you forget thirty-eight doubles, twenty-two triples, and twenty-nine round-trippers - and in spacious Elizabeth Cady Stanton Stadium! That's a lot of power for a lifelong liberal like Chuck. And what's more, he never struck out. Not once. Plays all positions cheerfully.

Sent a couple in their mid-forties to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Duane (Madman) Mueller (29, 280 lbs., 6'2'', right/right, a.k.a. Mule, Hired Hand, The Barber). Duane is a big secret because after he was suspended by the Texas League for throwing too hard he played Nicaraguan winter ball for three years and then spent two more doing humanitarian stuff, so scouts forgot how, back when he was with the Amarillo Compadres, nobody wanted to be behind the plate, Duane threw so hard. His own team kept yelling, "Not so hard, Man!" If that sounded dumb, then you never saw him throw: he threw hard. A devoted Lutheran, he never ever hit a batter, but in one game a pitch of his nicked the bill of a batting helmet and spun it so hard it burned off the man's eyebrows. No serious injury, but big Duane took himself out of organized ball until he could learn an offspeed pitch. He's from Brainerd, Minnesota, where he lives across the street from his folks. His mom played kittenball in the fifties and had a good arm but not like her son's. She thinks he got it from delivering papers and whipping cake mix. "I'd sure hate to have to bat against him," she says.

Gave up a dingy two-bedroom house in St. Paul (it needs more than just a paint job and a new roof, and it's near a rendering plant) to acquire and activate Bob Berg (24, 112 lbs., 5'3'', right/left), the fastest man on the base paths today (we think), but he sat out last year and the year before last and the year before that because he didn't have shoes. Reason: he's so fast he runs the shoes right off his own feet. Now athletic foot specialist have studied his film clips (sad to see: three lightning strides, a look of dismay on Bob's face, and down he goes with his loose laces like a lasso around his ankles) and come up with a new pair of pigskin shoes with barbed cleats that stick in the turf and slow him down. Born and raised in Eveleth, Minnesota, he is probably the nicest fast man in baseball. Nicknamed, The Hulk ("berg" means "mountain" in Norwegian). He used those three years on the bench to earn a B.A. in history, by the way.

That's Not All

Joining the team later will be Wally Gunderson (17, 191lbs., 6'4'', left/right), who dons a Twins uniform June 8th, the day after he graduates from West High in Minneapolis. The Twins have saved him a number, 18, and assigned him a locker and payed him a bonus, twelve hundred dollars, which was all he would accept. He's thrilled just to be on the team. A big lanky loose-jointed kid with wavy blond hair and a goofy grin, he throws a screwball that comes in and up, a slider that suddenly jumps, a curve that drops off the table, and a stinkball that hangs in the air so long some batters swing twice. You don't expect so much junk from an Eagle Scout, but Wally's got one more: a fastball that decelerates rapidly halfway to the plate - a breaking pitch. Some he learned from his dad and the rest he invented for a Science Fair project. "Pitching is physics, that's all," he says, looking down at his size-13 shoes, uneasy at all the acclaim.

Detroit and St. Louis offered the lad millions in cash, land, jewelry, servants, tax abatements, but he wasn't listening. "I want to play ball where my roots are," he says quietly.

Twinsville wasn't one bit surprised. Personal character and loyalty and dedication are what got us where we are right now, and that's on top. We're No. 1. We knew it first and now you know it, too. You thought we were quiet and modest in the Midwest but that's because your dumb, as dumb as a stump, dumber than dirt.

You're so dumb you don't even know that we're on top and you're below. Our team wins and your team loses; we need your team to amuse us. Minnesota soybeans, corn, and barley; we're the best, so beat it, Charley, or we'll shell ya like a pea pod, dunk ya like a doughnut - sure be nice when the game's over, won't it - take ya to the cleaners to a brand-new hairdo. We can beat ya anytime we want to. Shave and a haircut, two bits.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On Mauer: When do we panic?

It's fun to be negative. And for a sports fan, it's a great defense mechanism. After all, the pessimist is never disappointed. Yet, even as the Twins stare down the barrel of a gun, it seems most fans are acting remarkably optimistic. Heck, I think a lot of people even forgot about the fact that MAUER IS STILL UNSIGNED.

It's fair to say that everyone believed the free agent-to-be would have signed a lengthy extension by now. I'm wondering why I'm not freaking out. Maybe it's because - a) The Twins had a pretty great offseason and spring training is finally here. b) there are Target Field tickets, games and tours to think about c) No one else is freaking out. The media isn't even reporting or speculating on the negotiations anymore. It's bizarre. and d) It's too terrible to think about him leaving.

Of course, it's just plain hard to be negative in the spring. Still, I can't help but look back at last months Mark Rosen report and think of this:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I Like Him. He's Kinda Like..... (notes on baseball players)

Jose Mijares

I like him. He's kinda like the cookie monster. He's always going around saying, "cookie cookie cookie!" I swear to god "cookie" was the only English word he knew for his first six months in country. He's also a good guy to have on the team.... because he's great at being the butt of jokes. Oh, he's just so not skinny and so not punctual. But he'll probably do alright this year.

Pat Neshek

I like him. He's kinda like a character from a Matt Christopher book. "The pitcher with the death metal arm." He's coming back from Tommy John surgery, so he's not even a lock to make the club. But in the spirit of spring training, everyone seems to agree that he's going to kick ass. Also, he likes death metal and throws sidearm. He'll probably do alright this year.

Francisco Liriano

I like him. He's kinda like the puppy who lost his way. He was the happiest pitcher in 2006 (in fact his nickname was 'happy'), but his killer slider ended up killing his elbow. Since coming back from Tommy John surgery he's had to learn how to actually pitch. He completely loses his composure with guys on base because he can't bomb his slider in and get the strikeout. This year he may have his confidence back though. Cuz he pitched great in the Dominican winter league. (coincidentally, I expect Alexi Casilla to hit about .350 because that's what he hit in the Dominican winter league.) So, you see, the Francisco was like the puppy. In that, they were both lost in the woods. And nobody, especially Rick Anderson - "society" - knew where to find 'em. Except that the puppy was a dog. But the pitcher, my friends, that was a revolution. He'll probably do alright this year.

Joe Nathan

I like him. He's kinda like your old '86 Pontiac Fiero. He still looks good, but I don't know how much he's got left. Experts still like him, despite his high-profile implosion in Yankee Stadium last October. And of course everyone looks great during Spring Training; Michael Cuddyer said he was filthy. That's a very positive term for a pitcher, and yet it doesn't boost my confidence in Nathan. To me, it means he's throwing a lot of junk with movement and trickeration. I'd rather hear the Twins closer described as over-powering or really really really fast or tourettesy. But whatever, he'll probably do alright this year.