Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bon Voyage, Resto

The Strib reports that Michael Restovich has been claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay.

I wish this were an April Fool's joke.

Michael Restovich had been rated amongst the Top 40 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America even as late as Spring 2003, and when called up to Minnesota that season I saw a young player, 24 years old, with a big frame and a good eye at the plate, willing to wait for pitches he could hit and use the opposite field as he learned his craft at the major league level. He looked coachable. He looked like a kid trying to break into the league the right way. Studied, patient, taking the game as it comes in graduated steps. He was the model of TK's kind of rookie, and he was even a local boy. After a month, he was hitting .310/.442/.476. Now dig that. Isn't that about the ideal of what a club hopes to see when calling up a prospect in midsummer?

Gardy couldn't get his gaze past those broad shoulders, and perhaps with visions of Tom Brunansky dancing in his head, he complained that his prospect wasn't bashing any balls over the baggy. The kid was too passive. He needed to be hacking. He was going to be sent back to AAA to think about things, and the next time the boss saw the kid he wanted to see him "lettin' it fly." So Resto went back to the minors, predictably screwed himself into the ground, and he's been buried in the organization ever since.

It's not a proud episode in recent Twins history, and the way club management handled Michael Restovich up to today is nothing but an object lesson in a waste of good resources, proof that even a good management staff can go wrong. Whether or not he goes on to put up big numbers for the Rays or some other team, the Twins blew what they had here. How a club can have a blue chip prospect with his makeup, who hits at every level and performs respectably well in his introductions to the big leagues, and yet let him walk away for nothing today after he's never even been given a real chance to win a job is simply incredible. How they let him walk while the club gives preference to Luis Rivas, Nick Punto, Juan Castro, or even Corky Miller... jesufu---ARE YOU FRICKING KIDDING ME?!???




Yesterday, while speculating which other clubs might have an opening for Resto, I wrote this about the Devil Rays:

Tampa Bay - The Rays signed Alex Sanchez to play CF while Rocco Baldelli is out recovering from knee surgery, which moves Carl Crawford back to LF with Aubrey Huff set in RF. Meanwhile, Danny Bautista's sudden retirement has left the club without any solid options coming off the bench to fill the corners, and manager Lou Piniella has been complaining about a lack of power on his team. Journeyman Chris Singleton is unlikely to satisfy that need. Maybe Restovich's potential will appeal to Sweet Lou.

The Rays literally had no outfield reserves on the active roster last night, and non-roster invitee Chris Singleton is really just another rangey/weak-bat CF like Alex Sanchez. Non-roster candidate and Royals castoff Dee Brown also has been trying out for the club but hit just .250 with a .408 slg in 18 games this month. Not really the bat off the bench to satisfy Lou, either. The only other alternatives were minor league prospects Jonny Gomes, Joey Gathright, and Delmon Young; all had been optioned to the minors on March 18. Former Twin Buck Buchanasanadanna had also been in Rays camp, briefly; he was assigned to the minors on March 9.

So Restovich really has no competition for a bench role with the Rays this season. He could spell either Carl Crawford or Aubrey Huff, both lefty bats, at the OF corners and be the primary righty pinch-hitter on the team. At some point he might even become the preferred DH ahead of Josh Phelps. If Huff is traded after the season to escape his $7.5m salary in 2006, Resto could be in position to compete for the regular RF job with Young (now in AA) and Gomes (in AAA) next spring, as well. It looks like a good opportunity for him to show what he can do, and I wish him the best. Frankly, I hope he makes the Twins deeply regret this move.

Bon voyage, big guy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Garcia Returned to Twins

From the Devil Rays' official site:

Garcia back to Twins: Rule 5 pitcher Angel Garcia cleared waivers Wednesday and was offered back to his original club, the Minnesota Twins, who took him back for the designated price of $25,000.

The Devil Rays saw enough promise in the 6-foot-7 right-hander to make a cash deal for him after the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him with their first pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 13.

Rule 5 selections are players not protected on the 40-man roster, meaning that for one reason or another, their original organization is prepared to lose them. A player taken in the Major League phase of the draft costs $50,000 and has to remain on the selecting team's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the original team for $25,000. Had the Devil Rays wanted to keep Garcia, the team would have needed to keep him on the 25-man roster all season.

Garcia was 2-1 with a 10.13 ERA in 10 spring appearances.

Bags Are Packed, Ready to Go...

Michael Restovich was 2-for-4 at the plate in today's game against the Pirates, which ended ina 5-5 tie. Dating back to Monday of last week, Restovich has 7 hits in 20 at-bats, including a double and a home run, giving him a .350 avg with a .550 slg in that span. Beware of small samples, it's only spring training, and all that... but it's nice to see him coming to the park ready to showcase his abilities as spring training draws towards final cuts. That could effectively come tomorrow, according to Gardy, since the baggage trucks heading for Minnesota will load Thursday and as the man says, "You can't send people's luggage on a truck if they're not going to Minnesota."

If Resto's bags aren't on that truck, where else might he get an opportunity to play?

Kansas City - Terrence Long is in LF, Abraham Nunez or Matt Stairs in RF, Eli Marrero is the righty OF off the bench... I feel like weeping, and the Royals aren't even my team.

Colorado - The LF is Matt Holliday, who hit .290/.349/.488 as a rookie in 2004, but in Denver that translates to just a 98 OPS+ (100 being the adjusted league average), and on the road he hit a miserable .240/.287/.367. In RF, they're giving a shot to Dustan Mohr. (Or, "Mohr's the Pity" as Capt. Bess calls him.) Need I say mohr? Brad Hawpe and Cory Sullivan wouldn't seem to block out Restovich, either. Hawpe is a lefty bat who mashed AAA pitching last year but struggled in his callup to Denver and needs to show that he can hit lefty pitching. Sullivan is another lefty bat who missed all of 2004 recovering from elbow replacement surgery(!), last playing at AA in 2003, and should be in AAA this season even if he is swatting balls all around the yard in spring training.

Tampa Bay - The Rays signed Alex Sanchez to play CF while Rocco Baldelli is out recovering from knee surgery, which moves Carl Crawford back to LF with Aubrey Huff set in RF. Meanwhile, Danny Bautista's sudden retirement has left the club without any solid options coming off the bench to fill the corners, and manager Lou Piniella has been complaining about a lack of power on his team. Journeyman Chris Singleton is unlikely to satisfy that need. Maybe Restovich's potential will appeal to Sweet Lou.

Atlanta - The Braves have Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi at the OF corners, with Ryan Langerhans in reserve. Langerhans is 25, bats lefty, and has put up numbers in AAA the past two years. I suppose he will make the team, although he has hit only a buck fifty-nine in spring training. Their other reserve options in camp look weak, including former Twins farmhand John Barnes, now 28, who has always hit in AAA but still has not made it back to the majors since leaving the Twins organization.

Texas - The Rangers have five outfielders set on the roster, but they are still looking for a RHB to DH or pinch-hit, and so far Greg Colbrunn and Mark DeRosa have failed to secure the job in camp. GM John Hart is in a dealing mood this week, as well. Could be worth a phone call.

Milwaukee - Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee are set at the corners, and manager Ned Yost says he wants to carry only one OF reserve. Right now his decision is down to Dave Krynzel, 2000 1st round pick and speedy lefty bat who probably should get more seasoning in AAA, or the 28 year-old journeyman Dave Magruder whose .405 avg in camp belies his marginal track record. Maybe Brewers management feels OK with those options. On the other hand, Restovich's upside is superior to Magruder's, and it sure seems like he'd look good hitting in Miller Park.

Cincinnati - The pieces may not quite matchup, but right now the Reds' 5th OF is Ryan Freel, a 29 year-old utilityman who hit .277/.375/.368 last season, and the club is looking at non-roster players Jacob Cruz and Luis Lopez to fill the last spot on the bench. Being that Ken Griffey, Jr.'s health is about as secure as a trailer home on a flood plain, the club might like another OF who can hit, and Restovich would seem like a nice fit in their ballpark.

Florida - Miguel Cabrera should be a fixture in LF, but in RF Juan Encarnacion will be playing out the final year of his $4.5m contract, backed up by IF/OF and World Series good luck charm Jeff Conine. The only other OF on the 40-man roster is 26 year-old Chris Aguila, who may make the team because he can play CF. Then again, Encarnacion has experience in CF, too. Aguila played well at AAA last year, but struggled in a couple stints with the Marlins during the season. He might be bumped if management were presented with an alternative who might step into the lineup once they're rid of Encarnacion in 2006.

San Francisco - With Barry Bonds an uncertainty going into the season, Moises Alou could be spending a lot of time in LF, opening up RF to the likes of Michael Tucker, Pedro Feliz, and Tony Torcato. Tucker probably will have a full career in the NL because he's fast and gets on base at a decent rate; I imagine he and his $1.75m contract are set with the Giants for the year. However, Torcato once was a top prospect whose power evaporated after he rose above Class A ball. Feliz is an IF/OF hacker who is always dangled as trade bait by Giants fans dropping by your favorite message board, and has put up Tony Batista-like numbers the past couple years. GM Brian Sabean may prefer to give his own Feliz and Torcato a chance, but neither one has done anything to cement his place on a big league roster.

Arizona - Shawn Green is listed as the starting RF with Jose Cruz as his backup, leaving Chad Tracy (.285/.343/.407 as a rookie in 2004) as the regular 1B. Could Green spend some time at 1B? Are the D-Backs happy with 5th OF options like Luis Terrero and Robby Hammock? Quinton McCracken was invited to camp but has hit .256 with a .279 slg pct. this spring. There could be room for a player like Resto on this team.

Oakland - The A's would like to see Nick Swisher take over RF, but he has hit just .246 this spring and may need more AAA seasoning. Possibly because of Swisher's performance in camp, talk of trading Eric Byrnes has apparently cooled--for now. The A's also have Charles Thomas, a lefty bat acquired from Atlanta in the Tim Hudson deal, and the switch-hitting Bobby Kielty available to play the OF corners. The NRI's in camp are Jermaine Clark and Hiram Bocachica, both 4-A journeymen. If Billy Beane decides to send Swisher to Sacramento or trade Byrnes, there might be room for Restovich on the Oakland roster to platoon with Thomas and compete with Kielty for spare playing time.

Toronto - The Jays have Frank Catalanotto and Reed Johnson written into the lineup at the corners, and rookie LHB Gabe Gross looks to be playing his way onto the team with a monster March. The 5th OF spot would be taken by Alex Rios, a 24 year-old RHB who hit .286/.338/.383 in 111 games as a rookie last year (.259/.292/.373 in 46 games at AAA). In camp, Rios has hit .267 with a .417 slg. He mashed the ball at AA in 2003, but probably could use more seasoning in AAA if the Jays had an alternative like Restovich to move ahead of him.

Cleveland - Probably a longshot. But since Jody Gerut is recovering from a torn ACL, the Tribe have Casey Blake written in as the regular LF and the marginal Ryan Ludwick as the first OF reserve. Also consider that the oft-injured Juan Gonzalez is in RF, and Grady Sizemore is still trying to prove himself in AAA Buffalo, and maybe this club could use a guy like Restovich after all.

New York Yankees - It would seem unlike Team Steinbrenner to go after another club's relatively unproven castoff to fill out the Yankees bench, but look at their OF reserves: Ruben Sierra and Bubba Crosby. Sierra is better suited to DH'ing even as his bat is also slowing down, and Crosby's only value is that he can play CF without embarrassing himself--but the same can be said of Hideki Matsui, if you needed him to move over in a pinch. There aren't any significantly pedigreed non-roster players in the running for a reserve OF job, so who knows--maybe there isn't room for Michael Restovich on the Twins roster, but there could be a role for him in the Bronx.

Take care, Resto, wherever the moving trucks may be taking you this week....

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Quick Flashes from My Crystal Ball

Over at Stick and Ball Guy today, SBG has compiled preseason forecasts by most of the Twins bloggers. Batgirl thinks she's being cute by picking the Twins to win every division and both wild card slots, but everyone knows the Twins have no chance in the AL East. The Twins are Mighty, but not wholly Omnipotent. The Force is strong with the minions of the Dark Side (of the Moon and New York City) too, and due respect should be paid. Even as I loathe them damned Yankees.

However, all us Twins bloggers are in agreement that the Twin Cities should expect to enjoy another AL Central title. Surrrrprise! Surrrrprise! I'm picking a repeat of the 2004 AL playoff teams straight across the board. In the NL, I'm taking the Cards, Dodgers, and Phillies, with the Braves in the wild card slot this year.

I expect the Angels to win the AL West again, fairly comfortably. Oakland should have a contending team, despite losing Hudson and Mulder. It looks like Beane acquired some true blue chip talent in both deals, and I suspect that he got rid of Mulder at just the right time, as he's been nagged by back problems for at least the past few years and that tailspin of his after the break last season would have worried me if I were a GM. I also applaud the move to bring in Jason Kendall, one of the great, underrated moves of the offseason. But I don't think the A's have the offense to keep pace with the Halos. Texas, as usual, still lacks pitching. Seattle made some splashy moves to upgrade the offense, but their pitching this spring is riddled with questions that need answering. I see the M's as being another year away from making a run at the top again.

In the Central, I see the Twins faltering only if the team is beset by a plague of locusts, frogs, a One Hundred Year Flood that submerges the Twin Cities, and serious injuries to Santana, Mauer, Morneau, and Radke. I don't think that Kevin Millwood is enough for the Indians to make the leap to 90+ wins. The Tigers offense should be solid, and that bullpen could be intimidating with Percival as its anchor, but their pitching rotation is young and mediocre. The White Sox, thankfully, had an awful offseason orchestrated by the man who could be the worst GM in baseball, trading his best hitter last season for junk parts even as he's throwing $22m at Jose Contreras, Carl Everett, Jermaine Dye, Dustin Hermanson, and a broken-down Orlando Hernandez. The Royals will only be a contender for the title of worst team in the league.

In the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox will be great. Ho-hum. The Jays and Orioles will fight for 3rd place. The Devil Rays will be developing a young nucleus in an empty dome, for what could be a good Tampa Bay team in 2008 or else the next wave of stars in New York, Boston, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and St. Louis. Cheers!

I could see the Padres winning the NL West, but I'll pick the Dodgers to repeat in a close race. LA has a deep, experienced pitching staff; I think Derek Lowe will thrive in the NL and Dodger Stadium; and the offense should be fine with J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent in the middle, even if it will be tough to replace what Adrian Beltre did for the lineup last year. But I'll give my respect to the San Diego team, a nice blend of youth and good veterans, which features my pick for the NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy. I expect the Giants to have a hard time without Barry Bonds, or even with him and all the attendant distractions when he is playing this year. Arizona threw bags of money at Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz this winter, and also hired and fired a manager before he ever had charge of a game, which about sums up the direction of that club. The Rockies still don't really know the formula for winning outside, as well as in, Coors Field. Not that I know, either. I'm just sayin'.

I'm not sure that the Cards pitching can repeat its performance of last year: I suspect that the staff put on a show with smoke and mirrors, and I'm not that confident in Mark Mulder to replace Woody Williams going into this season. Still, what an offense, eh? It could be a(nother) tough year for the Cubs if Wood and Prior can't get healthy. The Astros last year scuffled until after picking up Carlos Beltran, and he isn't back this spring. I'm also going to predict that this is the year something really loony happens with Clemens, even loonier than throwing a bat at Piazza, something that effectively ends his career on a sour note and permanently tarnishes his legacy. I'm not saying he'll be caught with HGH in his chewing tobacky... but get ready. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking. As for the Pirates, Brewers, and Reds, they have some individual players of interest--like I'd just love to see Oliver Perez in the same rotation as Johan Santana--but we all know the teams won't be serious contenders in the division this year.

I'm picking the Phillies in the East because I've done it the last two years, and one of these times I hope to be right. The Braves probably will figure out a way to win it again, though. The Marlins signed Carlos Delgado and brought in Al Leiter to replace Carl Pavano. I wouldn't complain about having Josh Beckettt, Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Lowell, either. Keep an eye on them. Even though I love Pedro and Dougie M., and the Mets did land the big free agent this winter in Carlos Beltran, they're still the Mets--and they're still rebuilding a team that won just 71 games last year. As for the Nats, we're looking at a last place team whose new GM this winter threw most of his improvement funds at Cristian Guzman, Vinny Castilla, and Esteban Loaiza. Exxxcellent, Mr. Bowden! Mwuhahahahahahahaha! Who says you need some kind of special expertise or experience to be a MLB GM? I could run the Nats into the ground just as well as their guy can do it, and for a fraction of the cost! Bud Selig, give me a call, will you?

The Continuing Saga of Resto; or, One Manager's Fixation with Excessive Spare Parts

Gardy is serious about this 'carrying four catchers' idea. He's even told Michael Restovich to be prepared for a trade, according to Le Strib, presumably because Corky Miller could make him the odd man out.

Not only is it silly that the club may not figure out a way to find a spot for Restovich on this team, but I think the manager is lying to him if he says that it's Corky Miller and Joe Mauer's knee that is forcing the issue.

First of all, it would be absurd to give up on all the investment put into Restovich's development, and the potential value he still offers, just to hang onto a fourth catcher who at age 29 has played a grand total of 622 innings behind the plate in the majors and has hit .203/.301/.332 in 273 plate appearances. Last year Miller played in 13 games for the Reds and hit .026/.204/.026. That's one hit (a single!) in 39 at-bats, folks. Corky Miller is a 4-A Catcher. The club can afford to let him go. If at some point during the season it's apparent that Mauer's knee cannot handle regular duty behind the plate, and Matthew LeCroy is not a satisfactory backup to Mike Redmond, then make a minor deal to acquire another 4-A Catcher when that issue must be addressed.

Secondly, we already know that Restovich is being forced out because Gardy insists on an overstock of futility infielders. Trade Rivas. Trade Castro. Trade Punto, or send him to AAA if possible. There's your spot for Michael Restovich, a nice righty bat off the bench and platoon option to pair with Jones in RF. It's some kind of bizarro world in which a club might cut ties with Resto even while it prepares to give Luis Rivas a fifth season and $1.6 million to show off his inadequacies as a regular 2nd baseman; but if that is the case, at least be honest about it. And could some media person with access to Gardy or Terry Ryan ask one of them to explain exactly why they need such an overstock of infielders or catchers who can't hit? I'd really like to see them grilled on game scenarios, too, and have them explain just how often they imagine the spare parts will come in handy, and why that is more valuable than Michael Restovich.

Please, La Velle E. Neal... Gordon Wittenmyer... Clay Matvick... make a young boy's wish come true!

Monday, March 28, 2005

How Many Catchers Does This Team Need?

The Twins cut four lefthanded hitters on Sunday--Eric Munson, Armando Rios, Andy Fox, and Michael Ryan--which has the beat writers penciling in Terry Tiffee as the likely bet to fill the last opening on the bench. Never one to suffer a dull moment, however, Gardenhire is spinning tales to Joe Christensen at the Strib about how he might like to keep Corky Miller as a fourth Catcher on the roster, out of concern for Joe Mauer's knee. Now, I ask, is this something to be taken seriously, or is it just Gardy's idea of a joke?

Who can tell with that guy? If he kept Miller on the team to start the season, presumably he would have a bench of Mike Redmond, Matt LeCroy, Corky Miller, Nick Punto, and Juan Castro. Tiffee would go to AAA, Michael Restovich would be cut or traded, and the manager would be left with just one decent bat and no true outfielders amongst his reserves. It seems outrageously ridiculous, and yet I could imagine Gardy doing it anyway out of fear of what might happen if Mauer's knee were sore and Redmond got hurt... and what if LeCroy were the DH or already had pinch-hit that day? (Gasp!) He might have to use pinch-hitters to bat for his pitchers once or twice in the game! That sort of nightmare keeps him up nights. He's admitted it before. It's silly, but I suppose all sorts of fantastic scenarios might trouble a man when it's his neck on the line and things may start to go wrong. We all might be chewing on Tums while flipping between infomercials, Daria reruns, and Cheap Seats at 3 am, wondering if Johan could bat and play RF in a pinch, if we were in his shoes.

But here's the thing, Gardy. You can't float ideas like that to the press but also get huffy when people continue to speculate on when Joe Mauer will have to move to 3rd base. On the one hand, you say he's just fine and there is no contingency plan to move him. On the other, you're talking about carrying a fourth string catcher because you're still so concerned about Mauer's knee, nearly a year after he first injured it. Which story do you want people to believe?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Kitten





Saturday, March 26, 2005

Minnesota Backwater

"Minnesota Backwater"
watercolor by Gail Johnson
Singing Colors Studio

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Cats




Pearl, O'Malley, Ornette

I'll have to take more kitten photos to post later this weekend....

Laffee Tiffee

I guess word must have filtered down to Fort Myers that Stick & Ball Guy is bored with the spring training bit. So just to add a little more spicy drama to the final two weeks of exhibition baseball, Gardy now tells Mark Sheldon at that Terry Tiffee is mos def a primary contender to play 3rd base or make the club as the lefty bat off the bench.

"I'm not stuck on sending him to Triple-A if he's not one of my starters," Gardenhire said. "If he looks like he's going to be one of the better players down here and I can use him off the bench, I would do that with Terry Tiffee. It's not set that he has to go to Triple-A to play every day."

Tiffee may have felt his nerves yesterday as he muffed a couple choppers at the hot corner in the 3rd inning, but he compensated by going 3-for-3 at the plate, including a double, and scoring two runs. It's really the potential usefulness of that bat coming off the bench that Gardy is evaluating anyway, right?

In that regard, Tiffee has little competition stacked against him so far. The man who was brought in possibly to fill that role of backup corner infielder and lefty pinch-hitter, Eric Munson, has yet to make an impression in camp, and Michael Ryan is scuffling, while Tiffee is hitting .308 and offers the appealing versatility of being a switch-hitter. Of course if he could win the fulltime job at 3rd base and move Cuddyer to 2nd, he'd deserve my deepest thanks for finally bumping Tattoo Louiee to the bench... but I know I'm getting ahead of myself.

The bad news is that if both Jason Bartlett and Tiffee make the Opening Day roster, it's almost certainly the end of the line for Michael Restovich in a Twins uniform. Juan Castro has to be a roster lock because of his two-year contract, and if Gardy is thinking that Nick Punto is in the mix to start at 2nd base then he must have decided that he wants him at least as a utilityman. Factor in Matt LeCroy and Mike Redmond, and if Bartlett is the regular SS, there can only be room for one more player on the bench. If it is Tiffee, or it has to be a lefty bat, then Resto has to go.

It's sad that Restovich, formerly a blue-chip prospect and yet blocked on the organizational ladder even by the likes of Dustan Mohr, would finally have to get the boot because Gardy has a fetish for stockpiling futility infielders. I don't care that Resto did have a poor season in AAA last year. The upside to keeping a solid righthanded bat who can play OF is still greater than the benefits of keeping Nick Punto (or Juan Castro, or Luis Rivas) hanging around. But there it is. Throughout the season, every time you see Jacque Jones flailing at a lefty slider in the dirt, and the only late-inning substition option may be to bat LeCroy for him once then play the rest of the game with Punto in his spot, bow your head and think about the decision they're about to make here.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Just Give Me Some Truth

It looks like the club is setting the stage to announce Jason Bartlett as the Opening Day Shortstop, provided he doesn't cave under the pressure and blow his chance in the next couple weeks. That's probably the idea, too. See what he does with a little weight of expectations on his shoulders. Gardy told the Strib:

"You guys have seen the kid get hits, do everything he has been asked. He has not played himself out of a position on this team. He has done everything we have asked him. We have another 10 days to go or whatever it might be, and if he continues to handle himself very well, then we have to make a big decision. It's not even going to be a big decision if he continues to play well."

It's his job to lose now. Meanwhile, the sly manager also let slip that he's told Nick Punto to consider himself in the running for the 2nd base job. Step up, Rivas, or your days in the regular lineup are numbered. And this time they mean it. Really. See how the local sportswriters have openly taken to writing about you, Luis, as a disappointing underachiever rather than praising your glovework, your quick pivot on the double play, your speed, and your worlds of potential like they used to do? As long as the Twins organization was committed to you, the local scribes would never dare knock you so hard. But somebody has given them the nod now. The word from the inside is getting around.

I also notice that Al Newman and the local writers have started to openly admit that Bartlett has better range than Guzman at SS, recently even noting when Bartlett took away a hit from behind 2nd base that they hardly ever saw Guzman make that play--with a hint of a ho-ho-ho like it's been the joke of the press box for the last five years. So why did they never talk about that while he was in a Twins uniform? Why do we get the frank assessment only after he's gone? Why does it take over 4 years for the local media to tell the truth about Rivas?

Instead, since 2001 we've been served a steady diet of puff pieces about the League of Nations infield with the Future Gold Glove at Shortstop and The Next Robbie Alomar at 2nd base. Late last season the Strib even ran a story on what a good value Guzman was, in performance for the dollar, compared to Derek Jeter. Oh, once in awhile the writers could get in their digs about Guzman or Rivas being "lazy"--which can be media code for Latino players who don't seem to live up to their potential--but that's a poor substitute for an open examination of the strengths and weaknesses in a ballplayer's game.

I believe this sort of thing is at the root of why people don't trust the established media so much anymore. It's not just a problem in sportswriting, but in news coverage generally. I think the local writers knew that Guzy was a mediocre Shortstop, and it couldn't have just occurred to them lately that Rivas is a liability to the lineup. I think they know when the politicians are lying and playing games to divert attention from what's really going on, even as they file their superficial reports of what some official said at a press conference or what another name did at a photo op. But why rock the boat?

Digging for truth and telling it like it is just creates more work and hassle for the journalist, and it might piss off the powerbrokers who control their almighty Access to Important Officials. It's just so much easier to report what the officials tell them. That way the officials who control Access are happy, the corporate advertisers are happy, and those who like reading about political horseraces and tug o' wars are happy. Those who wanted assurance that the Twins had a couple budding stars in the middle infield, I suppose they were happy with the reporting on Guzy & Rivas the last few years. Package those Official Statements with some celebrity scandals on the front page, and everybody's happy, right?

Are we? The blogospheres and bulletin board communities that have been sprouting over the last few years look like evidence to the contrary to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Arr! Know Ye Pirate Name!

I put this up mainly for the enjoyment of the Bloodwake Pirate who authors the excellent Third Base Line blog, but ye all may learn a little about yourselves by taking this quiz.

I am:

Mad Tom Rackham

"Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!"

Safe at Home

So I woke up late Tuesday afternoon, face-down in frosting and not quite sure of where I was, the room beginning to spin when I couldn't even find a Twins game on the radio. All I remember of Monday is walking into a theatre out in Oakdale... Sideways... that rings a bell... and now I have chocolate all over my shirt. Wine tasting? Did I go wine-tasting? Or was that just something I saw in the theatre? Wow, it's all a fog. I don't think I made it to Tijuana, but I guess I must've had a good time. And now I am safe at home, I still have all ten fingers, nine toes, and there's half a cake in the fridge. Solid.

I had a blazing rant ready about the Restovich situation as chronicled in the Strib this weekend, but while I was menacing the East suburbs it looks like Aaron took care of it pretty well. So I'll hold my fire until I see Resto actually get traded or put on waivers.

I'd like to believe that not even Gardy would throw away Michael Restovich just so he could carry a second backup futility infielder as well as Eric Munson or Michael Ryan. I'd like to believe that Gardy can figure out a use for a former 2nd round pick who has hit at every level of pro ball, a local boy who has even hit a respectable .274/.364/.442 in his first 129 PA's in a Twins uniform, a burly young OF who has hit .340/.380/.532 vs. lefty pitching in the majors so far and could be an ideal platoon compliment to a certain RF who struggles to hit lefty pitching. I'd like to believe that Gardy can see the plus side to having another righty bat who might pinch-hit for the young lefty-bat regulars the club has at 1st base or Catcher, when a tough lefty is on the mound, or else could hit for certain good-glove/no-stick middle infielders in the late innings.

He wouldn't just throw away those possibilities and all the years the club has put into Resto's development, so he could keep Juan Castro AND Nick Punto (or, Dear Lord, those two AND Augie Ojeda) or take a flyer on Eric Munson, would he?

I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, Gardy. I'm keeping my powder dry here. Don't blow this call, and everything will be cool. Come on over to La Casa if you need a sounding board from the outside. I'll even save you some cake. Double Chocolate.

Til then....

Monday, March 21, 2005

You say it's your birthday....

It's my birthday, too!

So I don't know if I'll have a new post today. Who knows, I may be in a Tijuana jail before dawn. Or I may just go to the movies and eat birthday cake until 24 is over and I'm too tired to type. Either way, big day ahead, eh?

Have a good one.

Today is my birthday

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Below we have a couple more pictures of the new kitten. The name Amber didn't really stick. Maybe because we didn't like thinking of missing children or cheerleaders every time we referred to our little kitty. It was a problem for me, anyway. So we've taken to calling her Isabella, or Izzy Pop! It seems to suit her.

Here we see her at Play... and at Rest.

Izzy and her "teething ring"

Let Sleeping Kittens Lie...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Meet the B-Team

The Twins lost 4-1 to the Reds this afternoon, the only Minnesota run coming from a Terry Tiffee solo shot jerked to LF off Reds' Non-Roster Invitee Jeriome Robertson, but concern ye not. The Twins really had a B-lineup out there: nobody in the starting lineup is likely to be an A-string regular, except for Lew Ford who was playing out of place in CF instead of Torii Hunter. Really nice of you to think of your TV audience, Gardy. I realize that some of the guys played a night game yesterday, this was a morning road trip to Sarasota, and there are certain things the coaches want to address besides showing off for the home folks. On the other hand, you have five chances in the preseason to promote the team back home by showing fans what they can look forward to seeing this year. Five chances to let people warm up to the team. Five chances to create a little more buzz going into the season. Five chances to sell some more tickets. When people tune in and see this lineup:

Punto, SS
Ryan, LF
Ford, CF
LeCroy, C
Munson, 1B
Tiffee, 3B
Restovich, RF
Ojeda, 2B
Mays, P

...could you blame them if some wondered whether we might see Ron Coomer today? It's a lineup that might cause flashbacks to the late '90s rather than inspire anyone to dream of how far Mauer & Morneau might lead the defending division champs this year. Five times before the real season begins, the fans tune in hoping for just a little taste of what's to come. Not necessarily a full 9 innings by the regulars. Half the game by most of the starters would have been fine today. Just a little something to get the juices flowing. Work with us, Gardy. Five times. Is it too much to ask?

For those who did tune in, and stuck around even after the B-lineup was announced, it should have been encouraging to see the way Joe Mays performed this afternoon. Recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, after missing all of last year, I was hopeful but skeptical about what he might do in his first season back. It seems that most pitchers returning from TJ surgery need a season to work back into shape. I'd feel satisfied if Mays were to be just a decent #5 pitcher this season--a .500 record, a 4.90 ERA. We'll see. At this point, though, he is looking like the Joe Mays we knew in 2001 before he hurt his arm. He's mixing in all his pitches, working in and away; nobody really hit the ball hard off him, that I can recall. He even had a few strikeouts in his 5 shutout innings, while allowing 4 hits and a walk (to the Reds pitcher! tsk, tsk). If he carries this over into the season, he could be a huge addition to the rotation coming on after Santana and Radke.

In relief, Gardy let the Rule 5 kid, Ryan Rowland-Smith, pitch the 6th and 7th innings. He looked sharp in the 6th, shattering a bat handle to get the first out then striking out two more with off-speed pitches. His adrenaline pumped the fastball up to 91-92 a couple-few times, but mainly his heat came at 88-90 that inning. "We have a saying: anybody can pitch one inning," Terry Ryan told Dick & Bert, and so Gardy did bring him back for another inning to test what he might do with a 2-inning middle relief assignment. Well, he left up an inside pitch for Joe Randa to yank over the LF wall; but he did recover nicely to get through the inning without allowing any more hits, although his velocity slipped a bit in that second frame. I still believe that he probably isn't ready to stick with the Twins for the season; but based on the limited looks I've had this spring, I think he has the tools and makeup to be a good pitcher in the majors within a few years, with a few quality pitches in his arsenal. I'll hate to see the Twins lose him. Ah, who knows, maybe it won't have to happen.

Longshot candidate to make the roster, Matt Guerrier, did himself no favors in the 8th inning by coughing up 3 runs--one unearned when sub LF Scott Whitrock (from Quad Cities last year) aired out a homeward throw all the way into the Reds dugout, after another run had already scored on Edwin Encarnacion's hit. Guerrier gave up 3 hits and a walk, striking out one. Grant Balfour is set to begin the season on the DL, and right now Terry Mulholland is nursing an elbow that needed a cortisone shot last week. Maybe there will be an opening for the Rule 5 kid to travel north with the club, after all.

Morning Chihuly

Some Chihuly glass to brighten the morning. I took this photo outside the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wah. More glasswork and possibly some Twins talk later in the day....

Chihuly Apples

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bush Followed Everywhere
By Line Of Baby Ducks

The Onion

Washington Cats

Today's edition of catblogging features denizens of my parents' house, past and present.

This is Brandy, my childhood cat. You can see had a regal air about him. This is the last photo I took of him. I happened to be in the yard with a camera, and he came out and stopped to look at the sunset.

Suzy Q, my grandmother's cat. A little, talkative thing. Here she's about 18 years old; she lived to be 20. Looks good for an old lady, doesn't she?

Lucy, my sister picked her out of a litter circa 1986-87. In my mind, she was named after "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"; my sister may have another idea. One funny thing about Lucy is that she can't resist whistling. Even if she's trying to hide, if she hears you whistle she's compelled to come to you.

Sally. Mama cat. Our only cat who had kittens, fathered by the neighbor's cat named Tom. She was pretty independent, except once in awhile when she wanted petting she would go after your hand relentlessly until she was ready for a nap. We gave away three of her kittens, and kept two....

Bertie, my favorite. Named Bertha because she was the biggest in the litter. She had the softest fur, like a bunny. Although she also developed an unfortunate habit of drooling when being petted, it was hard to resist because her fur was so soft. That's the balancing of nature, I guess.

Ella, the recluse. She likes to spend most of her day in one quiet spot in the house, and if you seek her out to pet her or disturb her peace in any way she'll probably find a new spot the next day. My father says, however, that she will let him pet her and even likes it. So maybe there's just something wrong with the rest of us.

Sophie. She lived in my sister's apartment until her landlord finally discovered the illegal alien and laid down the law. So now she lives with our parents. Can you tell my sister likes torties?

Ravel in the snow. He was named Ravel because of the way he'd slink around in a way reminiscent of "Bolero." I adopted Ravel in my college town, but he couldn't make the move with me because he can't handle being indoors all the time. He can be a sweetie, but he can also be malicious and destructive when he's upset--say, when he can't go outside. Sorry, Mom. Maybe I can take him back when I move again and get a big yard. Meanwhile, at least he and Dad are good friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2005



Found Thursday wandering near Knology Park in Dunedin
Desperate to Sniff Out New Home
Playful Mutt, but Erratic and Not Fully House-Trained
He Would Like a Quiet Home, Free of Stress
Neutered, Up to Date on Shots
Could Use a Grooming & Bath
Needs Love & Comfort from a Patient, Understanding Owner


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Twins 5, Jays 0; Pitchers on the bubble

Today Johan Santana again pitched like he's ready for the season to start next Monday, shutting out the Blue Jays for 4 innings while allowing 2 hits and 1 walk, with 2 strikeouts. C.J. Nitkowski and Scott Baker each followed with 2 scoreless innings apiece, and Willie Eyre closed up with a 1-2-3 final inning.

The club announced that Grant Balfour's forearm is still bothering him, so he'll begin the season on the Disabled List, which of course has us faithful fans buzzing about who could take his spot at the end of camp. Baker or Durbin? The Rule 5 kid? Will Gassner get a break?

Scott Baker is a top prospect who has pitched well this month--today he struck out 3 while walking none and giving up only one hit--but I think we can bank on him going to Rochester until the club decides he's ready to come up for good. It seems unlike Terry Ryan to bring up a green starting pitching prospect to begin the season on a two-week trial out of the Twins bullpen, just to see what he could do in 6-8 innings. It's hard to say whether he's ready for promotion at this point, and there isn't much to learn from observing him in such a limited sample anyway, even if he does well in the assignment. J.D. Durbin, the self-proclaimed "Real Deal," seems more of the type and temperament to fill Balfour's role, but he hasn't made a good impression in camp so far. It's looking like more polishing in AAA would be best for him, as well.

It seems like a fortuitous opportunity to hang onto the Rule 5 kid for at least a couple weeks into the season, but to this point Rowland-Smith has been pitching at the end of games when the big league starters usually have been pulled from the lineup. It doesn't look like Gardenhire has any plans to keep the young Aussie on the roster. More likely, I'm guessing TR will try to swing a deal with Seattle to keep the kid at New Britain if he and his staff like what they see. His performance last season shows that he has real talent (3.79 ERA, 10.75 K/9, 3.97 K/BB rate), but he was just in High Class A. It's not a practical idea for a contending team to carry him on the roster all season.

So that about leaves the marginal filler guys--the 4-A pitchers, the NRI veterans trying to hang on. Twins fans, I give you... Matt Guerrier, Dave Gassner, and C.J. Nitkowski.

We saw some of Guerrier with the club last season. He's kind of like Scott Baker with a few miles per hour off the fastball. Such is one primary difference between a sterling prospect and a 4-A journeyman, I suppose. He has an effective slow curveball, but his fastball hits 88-89 at best, and he really needs to be hitting his targets precisely to get batters out. When he left pitches up last season, major league hitters gobbled up the offerings like Kobayashi at Coney Island. (Opponents hit .293/.354/.533 off him.) He did well in Rochester, so I'm glad the club rewarded him with the chance to pitch for the Twins, but I doubt he impressed Gardenhire enough to think of him as a reliable fallback option.

Gassner is another soft-tosser who has pitched well in the minors since joining the organization as part of the Kielty-Stewart trade. In game action last weekend, the FSN had him topping out at just 84-85 mph. I've heard reports that he's capable of breaking 90 with his fastball, but I don't know. As a minor leaguer who needs to rely on deception and control to fool batters, that would explain the club's decision not to bring him up after rosters expanded last September. Young pitchers who throw a mid-80s fastball tend to be taken as seriously as running backs who run a 4.9 40 at the NFL combine, 5'10" guards with a nice set shot, or Ashlee Simpson holding a live mic. I hope to see Gassner find his niche with the Twins at some point. I think a guy like him makes a Terry Mulholland expendable, and if Old Terence has to hang 'em up before the end of the season that could be Gassner's chance. But I'm guessing he won't be first in line to fill a temporary hole left by Balfour's injury.

Based on the club's past decisions, I'd bet on Nitkowski to plug the spot. He's a veteran, which means Gardenhire will feel like he can be trusted, or at least he doesn't have to worry about babying him. He can be used as a longman, to spot start, or as a secondary alternative to match up against lefties. If he works out for awhile, great. Balfour can take his time getting well. If he bombs, OK, just release him and try somebody else. Thanks, buddy. Hope you had a good time riding with us. The club has no longterm investment in him, anyway.

So keep an eye on Nitkowski the rest of camp. Get to know 'em. Unless he tanks over the next few weeks, I expect him to be one of the boys when the team comes home to Twins Territory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Twins Ads

Silly me, I didn't realize the Twins ads are available online, until just now when I thought--aha!--maybe I should go look under the official site's Fan Forum page rather than just Video.

They've produced just two TV ads so far. The spot featuring Al Newman is lame; after seeing it once, I've seen it enough to last me the season. The other one featuring the mantel full of Twins bobbleheads ("Sorry, Uncle Phil. But you were a Yankee fan anyway.") is better. After seeing it a few times, it still makes me smile. But I hope there's more to come. No TV spots featuring the reigning Cy Young? Nothing starring Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau? You can't find an excuse to put Michael Cuddyer's dimpled smile on TV for 30 seconds? Nothing about Radke or Joe Nathan? Nike can use Torii Hunter to promote its products, but the Twins are trying to sell tickets with a dopey spot featuring... Al Newman? Please, tell me you're just getting warmed up, folks.

There are a lot of radio ads available, usually a strong suit for the Twins marketing department. I thought they'd brought in a new advertising company, but these spots sound like they're done by the same creative minds that produced the "Get to Know 'Em" series and other ads in the last few years. The theme this year is essentially 'support your local team.' Some of them also push special ticket packages, and that's all well and good as a general sales pitch. The scripts are as witty and amusing as usual, even if there isn't a classic like the Mientkiewicz song in this batch, and at least a few of them promote some select team stars by name. I like the Poets, Johan, and Mauer ads.

But I could do without the ad that tells me, "You must ask not what the Twins can do for you, but what are you gonna do for your Twins?" Sorry, fellas. That's not really how the customer-business relationship works. If you want to get me down to the ballpark spending money, you bet you better tell me what the Twins can do for me. Don't tell me that I owe it to you. Convince me that it's in my own interest to come to the games, because a Twins game is more entertaining, more fun, than anything else I might think of doing this summer. If you want to pull the fencesitters onto the bandwagon, that's how it's done.

Fun with advertising

Ah, well. A longer entry will have to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Mariners have their new batch of TV commercials available for our viewing pleasure online. This year they're using a Home Shopping Network/Infomercial theme. I particularly like The Tag and Ichiro's sly, Cleo-worthy performance in The Batter's Box. Even if you're strictly a Twins fan, you may get a kick out of them.


Notice that they also have commercials from the past two years available in the links in the lefthand margin, as well as Edgar's Greatest Hits. And if you haven't seen Aki Needs a Theme Song from last year's batch of Padres ads, you owe it to yourself to go check it out now.

Big Day for Bartlett; 2-2 tie, 11 innings

Another good day for our boy Jason Bartlett: 3-for-3 and he stole 2 bases, one setting up a run when LeCroy drove him home from 2nd base in the 1st inning. No errors to hold against him, either. It's all about you, kid. Soon you'll be needing a snazzy nickname. Any ideas out there?

The Annointed Ace for Life scattered 6 hits in his 4 innings to start the game, striking out 3 and walking none, and allowing 1 run. Lew Ford also saved a run by throwing out a runner at home in the 4th inning, preserving a 2-1 lead for Rad. JC Romero pitched erratically again, however, giving up a couple hits and walking one while striking out two batters in the 5th. Mike Lowell hit a double off Romero to tie the game, and that's how it ended after 11 innings.

I should have another posting up later this evening, depending on how some research pans out. Right now I'm trying to find some financial data on the Twins' local media contracts. If anyone has information on the value of the FSN and WCCO deals, please let me know in the comments thread. Thanks.

Monday, March 14, 2005

First Cuts

From the AP game notes today:

Minnesota made its first round of cuts before the game, optioning or reassigning nine players to the minors. RHP Travis Bowyer, 1B Garrett Jones, C Rob Bowen, and INF Luis Rodriguez were optioned to Triple-A Rochester. LHP Francisco Liriano was optioned to Double-A New Britain and RHP Scott Tyler was optioned to Class-A Fort Myers. 2B Luis Maza, INF Glenn Williams and OF Josh Rabe were reassigned to minor league camp.

No shocking surprises, but I don't expect Liriano to be at AA for long.

Sunday recap; Twins 4, Red Sox 2

As I listen to Gordo & Dazzle announce the Twins/Marlins game this afternoon, I have to ask: is there any excuse for a professional announcer in major league baseball, at this point in history, NOT knowing proper Spanish pronunciation of names? If you can't pronounce "Guillermo," should you really be in the booth? C'mon, boys. We're just talking about basic professional standards, the broadcasting equivalent of tucking in your shirt, running out groundballs, and "playing the game the right way." There are 9th graders all over Minnesota who can pronounce that name correctly. Why can't you, Gordo?

Anyway, it was great to see the Twins on TV again this weekend. Dick & Bert were in fine form, and we were even treated to an interview with Johan Santana on his birthday. Happy Birthday, Johan! Joe Mauer got behind the plate again for 4 innings on Sunday, and apparently The Knee felt fine. He even ran out an infield single hit to the deep right of the 2nd baseman, betraying no signs of a limp or pain, and also blocking several Kyle Lohse pitches in the dirt. Lohse frequently had trouble hitting his targets yesterday, and he ended up with 66 pitches in his 3 innings of work, but the Red Sox bats didn't punish him for it much. He looked like someone headed for trouble by the 5th inning, had he stayed in the game, though. JC Romero was all over the place again, too. Tell me why the club signed this guy to a two-year deal this winter? But it was good to see the Real Deal come in to pitch a scoreless 5th inning, even if he had to walk a guy. Progress, Dealer! Slowly but surely....

I'm also pleased by what I saw of Jason Bartlett again. In the 2nd inning, he took Matt Clement out of the yard to straight CF, just under the scoreboard. Then playing the field in the top of the 3rd, he ranged deep into the hole to his right and launched a rocket to throw out the speedy Edgar Renteria at 1st base with steps to spare. Wow. Guzman never showed an arm like that. Guzy probably could have reached the ball, but he never would have thrown out Renteria from the hole. Sure, Bartlett also had a throwing error while trying to turn the pivot on a double play; but as Gardy explained afterwards, it happened because the kid was trying to throw around the oncoming runner instead of going through him. He told "He got a little confused when the guy didn't slide out there. He just tried to throw it around him rather than throw it right through his lips. If he throws it right at his lips, I guarantee he would get the heck out of the way." Ah, rookie mistake. Some growing pains are to be expected, but give me a kid with his range, that kind of arm, and a bat that can take Matt Clement out over the fence in straight CF, and I'll put up with rookie mistakes. Rumble, young man, rumble.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Welcome, Amber Eyes

In a bonus edition of catblogging, here are some pictures taken this evening of our newest resident at Casa de frightwig. She came to us with the name Amber. Look closely at her eyes, and you can see why.

Introducing... Miss Firecracker!

I left word that I was NOT to be disturbed!

Come a little bit closer...


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Good Show: Twins 4, Jays 1

Twins fans had our first chance of the spring to see the team in action Saturday afternoon, and although Joe Mauer did not make the trip to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays, for the most part it was a good show. Carlos Silva was on his game, throwing sinkers and cutters to effectively coerce the batters into shanking balls right to his fielders. The afternoon passed so easily for him, he even stayed out on the mound for a 4th inning of play. He gave up just 1 run, when Gregg Zaun doubled in the 3rd inning and later scored on an infield single chopped over the mound. In his 4 innings, he allowed 4 hits with no walks, and 1 strikeout.

Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon followed with an inning of scoreless relief by each, then came the pitching prospects to finish up. Scott Baker worked around 2 hits to complete a scoreless 7th inning, throwing fastballs in the 88-91 range and mixing in a slow curve that struck out a couple batters. Dave Gassner in the 8th worked with slow and slower stuff: the FSN gun had him topping at 84-85 mph, which I guess answers the question of why he got the short shrift from the powers that be last September. He looked like a lefthander of the Jamie Moyer type. Whether he's as smart or can locate pitches as well as Moyer, we'll see. Today he posted a neat 1-2-3 frame. In the 9th, out came the heat. Francisco Liriano, lefty pitcher brought over in the A.J. Pierzynski trade with the Giants, brought 96-97 mph fastballs to the dish and worked around a walk to wrap up another scoreless inning for the bullpen. He looked a little rough around the edges, but his stuff is for real, bearing down on the strike zone from a high, wickedly sharp angle. He pitches like somebody much taller than his 6'2" listed height. No doubt he will start the season in Rochester, but I can picture him easing into the Twins bullpen very nicely for the stretch drive. Who knows whether he'll develop the secondary pitches to make it as a starter someday; but as a reliever, that fastball is just about ready for prime time.

I also felt very impressed by what I saw of Jason Bartlett today. He showed range up the middle, an ability to handle a difficult hop, and a strong arm. Mark Sheldon at picks on him for one high throw which Justin Morneau had to jump up to grab, as well as a high chopper deflected off Silva's glove which Bartlett couldn't pick up, and apparently "in the fourth inning, he held on to the ball for an extra couple of steps after fielding Greg Myers' grounder." Yeah, whatever. Sounds like Gardy fed him a few talking points. He did rush one high throw to 1st base, but not so high that Morneau couldn't get it for the out. And now we're busting on shortstops if they can't reach back to grab deflections off the pitcher's glove, behind the mound? Tough crowd. Of course the bit about holding onto the ball for an extra couple steps is just a variation of Gardy's "glove-patting" gripe. OK, the manager wants to push the kid hard and break him of any bad habits while he's still young. That's fine. But if defense was supposed to be the one thing keeping Bartlett from taking the SS job in Minnesota this spring, I'm no longer concerned about him. Today he looked about ready to me.

I'd also like to give a cheer to Michael Cuddyer for that sweet, compact home run swing that took Pete Walker out of the yard in the 2nd inning. However, Rod Carew's extra hitting instruction to Luis Rivas doesn't appear to be paying off so far. Rivas looked completely lost while striking out twice on pitches down in the dirt. Even Gardy commented on it after the game, indicating to Sheldon that he hopes to see Rivas click with getting more game action after the first round of cuts on Monday. "He needs to get a lot of at-bats. I have decided that." Yeah, well. I think I've seen enough over the past four years, already. I have decided that. Thanks.

Friday, March 11, 2005

St. Pete & Repeat

The Twins took the bus up to St. Petersburg this afternoon, 220 miles round-trip, to scrimmage the Devil Rays. A day after officially signing his new contract, Johan Santana again just barely broke a sweat in pitching 3 scoreless innings to start, allowing just 1 hit, a double to Aubrey Huff, and no walks, with 2 strikeouts. Joe Mauer had two hits and scored a run in the 1st inning when Matt LeCroy drove in him and Torii Hunter with a single off Rays starter Dewon Brazelton.

Matty even started the game at Catcher while Mauer was at DH, and although the box score notes an error and passed ball charged to him (same play, or two different miscues?) no Devil Rays runners challenged his arm. Maybe Gardy can carry this experiment into the season. If LeCroy is catching Santana or Radke, presumably the two starters who should allow the fewest baserunners, I don't think his weak arm is much of a factor. That's at least a couple times a week when the manager could give Mauer's knee a rest without pulling his bat from the lineup, or downgrading from LeCroy's bat to the weaker hitter in Mike Redmond. Maybe you wouldn't do it every week, but it could be worth doing at least a few times a month.

Tomorrow was to be the day when Mauer would get behind the plate again, but late yesterday evening the online papers reported that the plan has been pushed back a day. Significant? No? Well, I'm sure all of us dedicated Twins fans will be tuning in tomorrow anyway, if only to check out the new prospects and see Koskie in his Jays threads, but this just makes the Sunday Twins/Red Sox tilt on FSN the Absolute Must-See Game of the Week. Although I'm really looking forward to watching Arsenal/Bolton, Blackburn/Leicester City, and Newcastle/Spurs in FA Cup Quarterfinals action, as well.

As they say over in Highbury: Up the Arse!

Friday afternoon catblogging

Little kitten Amber is feeling a bit under the weather today and asked not to be disturbed. Especially by paparazzi. So in lieu of her public debut, I hope you will enjoy this series featuring Ornette, O'Malley, and Gusto. Perhaps the kitten will grace us with an appearance later today or tomorrow. Cross your fingers, and check back with us!

Whadd'ya want?

Ornette Yawns, Gusto Watching

O'Malley Preening

I Think You've Taken Enough Photos Now


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Teamwork Requires Conformity

I found this in a series of satirical posters at, based on new motivational posters produced by Marvel Comics. I'm posting it just because it makes me laugh....

I think TK might have liked to put this up in his office.

From Bad Day Studio

Not So Rad

Faithful Twins fans know that while Brad Radke is capable of pitching like an ace on a given day, he's also the master of the Pretty Good Game, Except for One or Two Mistakes. Sometimes he digs himself an early hole, or hits a rough patch in the 4th or 5th inning after the hitters have seen him once or twice, that mars an otherwise good outing. Looks like today was one of those days when the hitters had him timed out of the gate. Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins smacked a 3-run homer off Radke, capping a 4-run 1st inning, but then Radke settled down to pitch a scoreless 2nd and 3rd frame. Yep, that's our man.

Joe Mays also had a rougher time in his 3 innings of work today than he had in his spring debut, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits, including a home run by 2B Chase Utley. Helpful tip to Twins pitchers: middle infielders on other teams sometimes actually can hit the ball, and for power, too. Watch out for that once the real season starts.

Our boy Jason Bartlett got another start at SS for the Twins, and was 1-for-3 with a double and scored a run. No errors, either. Keep it up, kid.

Justin Morneau rose from his sick bed to hit an RBI double off Jon Lieber in the 3rd inning, which no doubt would have landed in the seats if he wasn't weak from his late, sudden onset of the rickets. Be sure to take plenty of Vitamin D and get some sunlight, Justin. The team is depending on you to break a few windows and floodlights this year.

Joe Mauer took a couple at-bats as the DH today. No hits, but more importantly no reports of crippling pain in his knee. Word is that he could be back behind the plate for Saturday's televised game against the Blue Jays, on FSN. If you're a Minnesota reader who won't be watching that game, I'd like to hear your excuse. Our panel of judges will accept, "I can't afford cable." Also sudden emergencies, sure. I'm not sure that there is any other valid excuse to hold off banishment from Twins Territory. Just be there, or have your bags packed Sunday morning. Chairman's orders.

Oh, so that's the problem....

From La Velle's notes in the Strib:

Hitting coach Scott Ullger and front office executive Rod Carew have remarked that Luis Rivas needs to grip the bat differently.

Hey, Louiee. Try gripping the skinny end.

Any other bright ideas?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Gardy weighs in

So the news today on Mauer's knee is: Hey, don't freak out, y'all. It feels better this morning.

The Chairman claims the swelling is down today, and he's not feeling so sore anymore. He's taking anti-inflammatory medication, icing the joint, and doing light workouts. Doctors have told him the swelling and soreness was expected, but he should be fine. We'll see. I mean, it's not like they weren't saying the same things last May, when they first thought he should be good to go.

Gardy still insists that a position change is out of the question. He told Mark Sheldon at "He has a chance to be an All-Star catcher and help our ballclub behind the plate. Just ask them if they want to see pinball. We try to catch the ball here. We're doing OK. If Mauer is behind the plate, we're going to be OK. If it ends up the other way, we could end up with pinball. That's my belief."

Can I say Uff da here? Occasionally my sweetheart questions my Norwegian credentials for using uff da at allegedly inappropriate times. So how about I say, as they do in Oklahoma: Bollocks!

This is a manager who plays a 2nd baseman with no range up the middle, who is moving Cuddyer back to a position where he has a career Fielding Pct. of .939 and posted a .923 FP last year, whose Rightfielder never hits his cutoff man and tends either to get the ball to the infield on five hops or airmail his throws to the backstop, and who will play Shannon Stewart in Leftfield while he stashes a superior fielder in Lew Ford at DH. This manager would have us believe that all bedlam would break out on the field if he moved Joe Mauer to 3rd base, or that the Twins are somehow above playing around with such experiments when it comes to their defense.

Hey, we all know that Joe Mauer has a chance to be an All-Star Catcher. We know the team is going to be OK, even better than OK, if he is behind the plate. So far, however, this lingering knee problem has kept him out from behind the plate, and out of the lineup entirely, more often than not. At what point, Gardy, do you have to take a hard look at the reality of the situation--and that is, that 11 months after the injury, he's still missing games because the knee hurts and is swelling--and do what is necessary to keep him feeling well enough to stay in the lineup? What is the top priority: preserving the hope that Joe Mauer might be an All-Star Catcher someday, or finding the best way just to help him be a productive, active member of the team?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

My two cents on Joe Mauer's knee

My apologies to anyone who dropped by earlier today only to find yesterday's news. I've been busy this evening adopting a new kitty, buying supplies, and playing with the cute little monster. If our other cats had veto power, she'd be returned first thing in the morning, but the people here think she's smart and a lot of fun. Her name is Amber, because her eyes are a deep amber color. Anybody know if that's typical of a particular breed? I've never seen anything like it. You'll see this weekend. Something to look forward to in our next edition of catblogging.

Well, everyone is atwitter about Joe Mauer's latest knee problem. I'm as sick about it as anyone, but I can't say it's taking me by surprise. Put me in the group of those who expect him to move to 3rd base; it's just a question of when. Not that I claim any medical expertise or anything. It's just a gut feeling. If you've had significant amounts of cartilage removed from your knee, would it seem like a good idea to go back to a position that requires getting in and out of a deep crouch for most of the afternoon or evening in about 120 games--not counting spring training and postseason? If he doesn't take to sitting down on one leg, Tony Pena-style, maybe it would be for the best to start training him to play 3rd base or an outfield position, sooner rather than later. I know he's a special all-around package as a Catcher, so I can't blame the Twins for hoping he can stay there, but having him at 3rd base wouldn't be such a terrible alternative. He has a strong arm, quick reflexes, good footwork, and a sharp mind; he should be able to handle learning a new position on the job. It would keep his bat in the lineup, and bump Rivas out when Cuddyer moves to 2nd base. Mike Redmond is a veteran Catcher who typically posts an on-base pct. as good or better than we've come to expect out of Rivas. The lineup might lose a little pop at the bottom of the order then, but the trade-off of keeping a more sprightly Joe Mauer in the lineup for 140+ games seems worthwhile to me.

By all means, let's see how he feels by the end of spring training, or in May and June. But there should be a point where enough is enough, and it's no longer worth it to put him back at a position that only puts too much stress on his knee and leads to these periodic setbacks. If he's still having these bouts of soreness and inflammation come summertime, make a change.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Bartlett en fuego; Much Love for Cuddy Bear

Playing the Devil Rays in Fort Myers today, Gardy gave prospect Jason Bartlett another start at SS, and he came through with 2 hits, including a double, in 3 at-bats and scored a run. Meanwhile, Juan Castro was a late sub for Rivas at 2nd base; he had a hit in his only at-bat, but both he and Rivas also made an error. I know it's just the first week of spring training, but if Bartlett keeps going like this, he might force an awkward decision at the end of camp. One may wonder whether the club management wishes it had just trusted the kid to take over Guzy's spot in the first place, instead of tying up money in extra scrub parts to add "depth" to the middle infield. I don't know about you, but I am rooting for Bartlett and Terry Tiffee (who had a pinch-hit single today) to have a huge month and at least make Gardy and TR squirm as they tapdance around the question of why they're going back to Rochester to start the season.

On a related note, this weekend La Velle E. Neal III wrote a feature in the Strib about Michael Cuddyer and Eric Munson, "Who Wants Third?" in which he suggested that the two are similar types on the bubble of a big league career. The comparison is a tortured stretch in numerous ways, but this one line jumped out and bit me: "Both are former first-round picks who have blown chances to play every day in the majors." Now, I don't know a lot about Munson's history with the Tigers organization, but it looks like the club gave him a fair opportunity to play the last couple years. In 2003-4, he played 185 games at 3rd base, making 175 starts at the position for Detroit. He also played 9 games as a DH. So he wasn't getting moved all around the field or trying to break in as a bench player. He had some significant chances to be a starting 3rd baseman through age 26, until the Tigers decided he wasn't up to the job and let him go. I'd like to know, when has Cuddyer ever been given that kind of opportunity by the Twins to this point?

In 2002, at age 23, he was brought up and played in 41 games: making 25 appearances in RF, 16 at 3B/1B, and 3 at DH. He made 29 starts between RF and the corner infield spots. He played well enough in September (batting .321/.367/.519) to get penciled in as the primary RF to open the next season. However, he got off to a cold start in April 2003, lost his job to the Kielty/Mohr platoon, and was the odd man out when someone had to be demoted to AAA after the first week of May. As Neal notes in his story, hamstring problems kept Cuddyer from returning to the big club before September--and even then he hardly played again until the last week of the season, after the team had clinched the division, although he did hit .276/.344/.517 when he did play that month. So how much of an opportunity did Cuddyer really get that year? About three weeks. He was the regular RF through April 21, and started at the position again just a couple more times before getting bumped from the roster.

Then last year, he came into the season as the "Super Utility Guy." He never had a real position, except to fill in at 3B or 2B as needed. He struggled early with that role, but came on strong to hit .287/.378/.487 after the break and played a pretty good 2nd base for someone who was learning on the job, and I thought he was getting better by the day. He did so well that he got some regular action at 2B in the postseason, and the GM and manager publicly suggested that he could be the starting 2B in 2005. That is, until they changed their minds again. Now the Strib is printing spring features on him suggesting that he's another guy on the bubble, approaching his last chance at a real major league career.

What is up with that? Why does Cuddyer stand out for many people as a nearly failed prospect, while other guys in the organization have done less with much, much more opportunity? I realize that it seems like Cuddyer has been around forever, but he has fewer plate appearances in his whole major league career than Eric Munson or Luis Rivas have had in the last two seasons. The last two years, he's had 111 starts in the field at 5 different positions. Now he's supposedly working his last chance in 2005, because he had three poor weeks to start the 2003 season. Is this a way to treat a top prospect?

I believe in Michael Cuddyer. He's an athletic young player who has done whatever the club has asked, without publicly complaining, and he has done well at times when given some leeway to settle into a groove. He's still only turning 26 late this month. Let's hope that his manager finally commits to writing his name into the lineup everyday and leaving him to show what he can do. I think #5 is going to have a big year. It's on, Cuddy Bear. Hit 'em up.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Santana Sunday

"Johan was good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He threw the ball well. The ball was jumping all over the place."

"My first outing since October -- I think it was pretty good," said Santana, who threw 26 pitches, including 10 in a 1-2-3 second inning. "The most important thing is my arm is fine and my legs are good. Health-wise, I'm fine. Last year at this point, I was below [normal]. It's not even close to what it was last year."

There's the best news I've seen today. First outing on the spring schedule, and Cy breezes through and doesn't even feel a kink. He also told reporters he'd worked on all his pitches, and even struck out a man on a 3-2 changeup. Is it just a coincidence that temps pushed 60 in the Twin Cities today, or was that God smiling about His favorite creation? Well, I'm no theologian. I couldn't even get past the riddle of how many angels can stand on the head of a pin, or why they'd bother with the exercise in the first place. I jes liksa me baseball, super happy fun. I'll leave the hard questions to the more learned among you. Feel free to discuss.

It was another big day for the Tyner and Dunwoody College Expo: I-Am-Dunwoody even took Roy Halladay deep. ROCHESTER, NEW YORK! Are you ready for this?!?? JC Romero pitched two scoreless frames in the 5th and 6th. Unfortunately, JD Durbin got rocked for 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in the 3rd and 4th, allowing a home run to Gabe Gross and even throwing a couple wild pitches. Worse, he didn't cover home plate on the second wild pitch--which stirred the wrath of Gardy. And about the last thing The Real Deal needs on a day like that is to ride the 130 miles back from Dunedin with the manager stewing over that kind of incident. Keep ya head up, Dealer. Stay in the game. The "little things" are a Big Deal to these people. You stay home with the family instead of going to a ballgame on Mother's Day or Easter, you keep the hot dish separate from the Jell-O, you never pay full price for anything, and you always remember to cover your bases and back up the throw. Do these things, and you'll get along fine in the Norseland. Someday.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Twins Split Squad Saturday

Split squad today. Some rookies and those who drew the short straws took the bus up to play the Pirates in Bradenton, a three-hour round trip. Might not be so bad if LeCroy is in back, because at least you know there'll be plenty of laughs and enough Hostess treats for everybody, but Matty got to stay home this time. Bummer, kids. Well, maybe Lew Ford brought his spare GameBoy or didn't mind sharing his i-Pod on the way up. Plus Boof Bonser was on board, and if you can't fill three hours tormenting some prospect who calls himself "Boof," well, you just have no business being in the big leagues.

In the game, Scott Baker apparently got his first start of the spring (if you believe the box score), or else it was Scott Tyler (if you believe the recap). I'll trust the box and report that Baker threw 2 perfect innings against the Pirates starters, and Boof and Dave "No Respect, I Tell Ya" Gassner followed up with 2 scoreless innings of their own. Jason Bartlett, our heir apparent at shortstop, hit a single, a double, and got hit by a pitch. Jacque Jones and backup Catcher Gabby Torres added two hits. Michael Cuddyer gets special mention in the recap for robbing the Bucs of a couple hits down 3rd base way. Oh, the final was a 6-2 Twins win. I almost forgot to mention it.

The kids who got to stay in Fort Myers took on their neighbors, the Red Sox, and ran them off the field like they weren't nothin' but so many Kansas City Royals. 12-7. What, you got somethin' to say, Papi? Papi. Sheee-it. What was wrong with calling you "The Big O," anyway? No, Koskie isn't here to buddy up to you anymore. There's nobody preaching about the virtues of mercy and the blessed meek. The gloves are off, big boy. The Twins will be bringin' it this year. Go tell your friends. Oh, and Dougie gave us the real World Series ball for safekeeping until the heat blows over. So we have that going for us, too.

Where was I? Oh... yeah, I meant to tune in to listen to this game, but only turned it on just in time to hear the Dazzle Man say something about Juan Castro making a dazzling play to rob someone of a hit up the middle--news which cheered me because Guzy pretty much NEVER did that--but then apparently he also botched some routine play. Meh. Looks like Brad Radke had a pretty good start. Francisco Liriano gave up 4 runs in the 5th inning, but got credit for the Win. The Rule 5 kid pitched the final two innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and no walks, 2 strikeouts. LeCroy and Jason Tyner hit home runs, while Michael Restovich, Terry Tiffee, Todd "I Am" Dunwoody, and Tyner all got into a multi-hit groove. ESPN has an amusing photo of Rivas fishing around for a loose groundball. Maybe I'll paste that in here later, or not. It's a Saturday in early March. One hopes that it's not the last time the Twins score a dozen runs or we can giggle at Tattoo Louiee's expense, right?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Nathan and Rincon signed to extensions

The AP reports that Joe Nathan has signed a two-year contract extension through 2007, with an option for 2008. No word on whether the Count plans to keep his Congressional seat representing the 2nd District in Indiana. (Did you know that Indiana has a Rep. Chocola in Congress? It's true.) Meanwhile, Juan Rincon, per Terry Ryan's new policy of passing out two-year contracts to anyone who thoughtfully remembers to ask how the wife is doing, also signed a two-year deal. No terms disclosed, yet.

I missed the game today, but apparently Joe Mays was pretty sharp in his spring debut. Two scoreless innings to start the game, 1 hit and 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. The game recap says he threw all his pitches but the slider. Very encouraging. It's easy to forget that Joe Mays was one of the top starters in the AL way back in 2001. (And, yes, I had to look that up just now to make sure I had the year right.) I think Win Shares even rates him as the top AL pitcher that year, and his adjusted ERA (142 ERA+) actually did lead the league. He probably was a bit lucky, I know, but he did have fine control and an apparent knack for throwing off the batters' timing just enough to induce a weak grounder or pop-up. Kinda like Carlos Silva, but much better.

Of course it would be a huge plus to have Mays back in pre-injury form, but even if he's just league-average in his first year back from surgery, I'll be pleased to have that in the #5 slot. If he does as well as Jon Lieber did in returning from surgery last year (14-8, 4.33 ERA, 176.2 IP), who couldn't smile to see that?

I also notice that JC Romero is already in late-season form, but since it's March 4, I won't comment any further. Keep an eye on that Rowland-Smith fella, JC. You wouldn't want to be outpitched by the Rule 5 kid, would you? I bet he'd be happy to wear the Barbie backpack, too. I'm just sayin'.

The frightwig party platform: Twins

To help ease into the pool, here's a shorthand summary of the frightwig view on the State of the Twins:

  • Hail Johan Santana! Glad to see the Twins secure him for the next four years with a deal that is fair to both the player and club. Roy Halladay in a similar situation got $42m over 4 years from the Blue Jays after he won the Cy Young in 2003, so to sign Johan for $40/4 in this winter's crazy spending market is worth a big gold star. I'll live with the injury risk that the club takes on. I could have understood if TR had decided to wait and see what happened this year before locking in to a multi-year deal next winter; but the closer Johan got to free agency, I think the chances of the Twins keeping him past 2006 would have dimmed. Plus you'd have the gossip and speculation swirling around the clubhouse about whether the Twins should trade Johan, and blahblahblah. It's just good to have it all settled. Kudos to Terry Ryan's staff and to Johan for coming together to work this out.

  • Nice deal on Radke, too. I tend to give The Annointed Ace for Life a hard time. The Bad/Rad schizo stuff gets to me. I think his pitch patterns sometimes can be too predictable. (Like, if you don't know what Radke is going to throw to a lefty with 2 strikes, you need to pay closer attention.) It bothers me that he can intimidate Gardy into leaving him in a game longer than he should, just because everyone wants Brad to get that 'W.' I think all the "ace" talk is bandied around rather loosely for someone who has a 4.23 career ERA. But, he is a solid #2 pitcher to pair with Johan, and guys with lesser track records than Radke were scoring some crazy longterm deals on the free agent market this year. For keeping Radke secured to a tidy 2-year deal for $18m, both the Twins front office and Radke deserve my applause.

  • I hope to see Jason Bartlett become the regular SS, ASAP. But as long as Gardy doesn't act like he's married to Castro or Punto at the position, I won't mind if one of those two is given the interim position to start the season.

  • Cuddyer should be the 2nd baseman. I could live with the risks involved with entrusting Tiffee and Munson to play 3B. It's been said many times that Rivas will get "every opportunity" to prove he can be a major league regular, but I'd say he ate up his fair share of opportunities at least two years ago. He never did much in the minors, he's never distinguished himself or progressed in 4+ years as a regular in the majors. His bosses have taken to openly questioning his work habits, his concentration level, and his feel for his position at 2B. The club has other options worth trying. Why is Rivas back for a 5th season, penciled into the starting lineup of a team that hopes to contend for the pennant?

  • Terry Ryan, you're a good man. You run a fine organization. It's been a pleasure, except for the annual month of sucking in the summertime, to watch this team of mostly homegrown talent grow together as a division champion and one of the better clubs in the league. The awards you and your staff get, you deserve them. But I hoped that the primary goal of this offseason would have been to address team weaknesses, crafting a plan to make the team stronger so that next Fall we might beat the Yankees and go on to greater glory. Instead, it looks like the primary goal was to control roster attrition. You did the right thing to let Guzy go: he was a weakness in the lineup, making too much money. The other two weak points were Rivas and Jones--and you could have saved $6.7m by letting them go, too. Why were you lowballing Koskie, one of your most productive players, offering him insulting paycuts while you had no trouble finding $5m for an ordinary RF who can't hit lefties, plays a position of organizational surplus, and just had a poor year? There are a few other nickel & dime expenditures that add up to significant waste, too. Even if you were worried about Koskie's health over the next couple years, you couldn't have used $8-10 million of freed payroll to upgrade the rotation or something? It just seems that we're setting our stake on the M&M boys, and the team will go as far as those two might carry it this year. I'm looking forward to seeing those two play the full season, as much as anyone, but I think the supporting cast could've--and should've--been even better. That's on you, sir.

  • I do expect that the Twins should win the Central again, fairly easily, unless disaster strikes and about four key players are lost for most of the season. Santana and Radke could regress, but they should be a solid #1-2. I'm looking for Silva to post a higher ERA, but Lohse to bounce back with a better year. The bullpen looks incredibly deep with talent. I think Cuddyer will have a solid year. The outfield is deep with options. Like everybody, I'm psyched to see Mauer and Morneau in the heart of the lineup all season. I expect Cleveland to be pretty good, and I believe Detroit will surprise people; but even so, I don't see them improving enough to win 90+ games and outrace a Twins team that doesn't trip up itself. Chicago? Worst offseason for any hopeful contender in the majors. Kenny Williams tried to copy the Twins' style without any understanding of the substance. Enjoy the slide down to 4th place, bitches.