Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wrapping up the medallion issue....

The Star Tribune never did reply to my e-mail, but to their credit they did produce a plan to deal with the shortage of medallions which had seemed to grow worse in the last couple days of the promotion. As I said last week, I found that the Morneau medallions had generally sold out by the afternoon of its release day. Later, I heard reports of the Torii Hunter medallion selling out in the morning as some people couldn't get one even on the way to work.

So the Strib on Thursday printed a bonus coupon which may be mailed in to redeem any one of the last four medallions in the series--Stewart, Morneau, Hunter, and a Central Champions commemorative coin--for the regular retail price of $3.18 (tax included). Any unused, original coupons for those last four medallions may also be mailed in. The postmark deadline is June 6.

Immediately, this plan knocked the stuffing out of the inflated market that had exploded for some of these coins on e-bay. Justin Morneau medallions which had selling from $21 up to $75 last Wednesday evening, now may be had for less than $6 on e-bay. Greedy sellers who set opening bids at $19.99 have been stuck paying fees on auctions that are drawing no bids. So it's gratifying to see the secondary market ruined for the profiteers, even if only temporarily, while the plan takes care of the honest collector who had been shut out in the last days of the promotion.

I wish the offer would cover any of the medallions in the series, since I know from firsthand experience that the Joe Mauer medallion was about as tough to track down as any of the last four. I've heard that Johan Santana and some of the other coins could be hard to find, especially in outstate areas, too. But kudos to the Star Tribune for finally recognizing how bad the situation had become by the final week of the promotion and making some reasonable effort to rectify the problem for their customers. I'll still have to buy a Mauer medallion on e-bay to complete my set, but at least it's just one coin I'm missing, rather than three that would be prohibitively expensive to track down. I can settle for that.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

Today while firing up the BBQ and perhaps remembering our veterans who served in past wars, as well as all loved ones who have gone on to a better world, please keep in mind those 1,657 US soldiers who have died and 12,348 US soldiers wounded in this present war in Iraq, as well as the 184 US soldiers who have died serving our nation in Afghanistan. Additionally, the Iraqi war has claimed the lives of 181 of our coalition allies, 2,139 Iraqi military and police, and, through May 15, an estimate of 21,834 to 24,776 reported civilian deaths.

Just this month, there have been roughly 700 people killed in attacks by Iraqi rebels, including 70 US soldiers dead and 95 wounded. The US casualty count in April was 52 deaths, 590 wounded. This weekend, as the Iraqi government began a new coordinated plan to crack down on insurgents, and naturally has met coordinated resistance, there were 34 people killed yesterday, 30 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Army is facing a critical shortage of new recruits, described by Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle as, "the toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer Army." Even as the military has offered shorter active-duty enlistments, raised the maximum age restrictions, lowered aptitude standards, and kept recruiters on 80-hour workweeks to meet quotas, the Army expects to have only half the number of recruits ready to serve in 2006 than it will have even this year. Towards its recruitment goal for the year, the Army usually aims to have 25% signed up in advance; this year began with 18% of the 80,000 goal signed up, or 14,400 recruits. Leaders expect that to drop at the start of next year to about 8,000 recruits, or roughly 10% of the ultimate goal.

Sixty-two million people voted to re-elect President Bush in the last election, which the President publicly claimed as his "accountability moment"--a validation of all his policies, appointments, and this war in Iraq. Yet it is clear that only a shrinking minority of those voters are willing to affirm their convictions by signing up for military service in this time of need, or by urging friends and family to do so. The pleasure of our President is served overseas by a relative few patriots who have shouldered a disproportionate burden of risk and sacrifice, whose commitment to our national defense and foreign policy is something more substantial than just a yellow bumpersticker, who have set their private lives aside and put themselves in harm's way in a far-off foreign land.

Under the command of President Bush, in service to our country, 14,189 US soldiers have died or been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan .
Today, let's take special care to remember them and give thanks for assuming a duty, whether they personally agree with the President's policies or not, which few of us would be willing to take on ourselves. Bless them all. May we be worthy of their service.

Ramadi - U.S. Marines pay their respects at a memorial service for 1st Marine Division Combat Photographer Cpl. William Salazar, 26, at Camp Blue Diamond. Salazar, of Las Vegas, Nev., was killed in action in Anbar Province. (Photo by Jim MacMillan, October 18, 2004.)

Friday, May 27, 2005

In Memory of Abigail

This is my cat Abigail, a k a Rickey, Gabby, Gaberdini, Sausage, and Biggie Paws, as well as variations on those known aliases. She was about 12 years old and had been with us for the last few years. She also had the feline leukemia virus, and today I'm sad to say she finally succumbed to her illness. In memorial tribute, I'd like to share some photos and tell you a little about her.

In her youth, she was a farm cat called Rickey, who lived with at least one brother and sister and an elderly couple who took care of them. She came to us a few years ago after one of her owners passed away, and the widow wasn't able to take her cats to her retirement home.

We found her with her siblings at a pet adoption day at PetsMart in Maplewood. Jenn had been petting a kitten on the top level of cages, who was cute but bit and clawed her hand. Meanwhile, in the next cage there was an older, large calico watching and rubbing her head against the door of the cage, carrying on as if to say, "Why would you bother with that little thing, when you should be over here petting ME!" When we opened her door, she immediately invited our hands to pet her--four hands at a time would be fine, as long as there were only two of us there and that's the best we could do. No sense in encouraging any idleness. She purred and talked and rubbed against us and carried on like she had known us for years. Jenn was charmed, and I have a special fondness for calico cats anyway, so we had to take her home.

We found that she wasn't putting on any special show that first day; it was no con just to get her sprung. Although she always was skittish when we were walking around--like our other calico, Pearl, she preferred her people to be seated or lying down--she really loved to sit on a person's lap or chest and be petted. Loved it, and she was never shy to let you know how much she enjoyed it. I usually felt particularly happy to be petting her and scratching the back of her neck. It was especially satisfying and comforting, because she so obviously appreciated it. Her feedback was a wonderful thing. She always was a demonstrative, gregarious kitty who could gab, gab, gab, gab, gab when she had something on her mind.

Most of the time, like many an older cat, she liked her quiet solitude, upstairs or on the porch if it was warm. She spent most of her time with Pearl, one of the more timid creatures on this earth, who had once lived in an abusive home and still tends to get bullied by the other cats in our house. I mean, it took a few years of living with us before Pearl would even come out of hiding in the daytime. Whenever another cat runs at Pearl, she turns and flees for hiding every time. Living with Gabby has been good for Pearl, though. She's becoming more assertive and vocal about communicating what she wants, and last week when the kitten pounced on her, I heard a little skirmish and looked up just in time to see Isabella running away with Pearl chasing from behind. That has never happened in the 6 years we've had Pearl, and that was all Abigail's influence.

We've known that Abigail had the feline leukemia virus since the first month she came to stay with us. We're still not sure if she or Gusto had been the original carrier; some mistake was made with one of them... but I guess it doesn't matter now. Anyway, we had known nearly all along that she had a terminal disease, and this day would come. She had been showing symptoms of feeling seriously ill the last couple weeks, so we had prepared as best we could. We're glad to say that for nearly all the rest of her time with us, she lived a happy and comfortable life, and it was a pleasure for us to have her, too. Wherever she's gone now, we hope she has a farm and familiar faces waiting to welcome her back again.

Farewell, Gaberdiniolini. We'll keep you in our hearts.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Discretionary Spending

Over at the SBG site today, the man refreshed from honeymooning in Hawaii has some provocative thoughts on how a collector's spending to acquire the Twins medallion series may put into relative perspective the expected cost to each individual consumer in Hennepin County to fund the Twins ballpark plan. According to the ballpark plan in the legislature, I would have to spend $54,000 in Hennepin County before my contribution to the project funding would match the $81 I was willing to drop in 25 days to collect a complete set of Twins medallions. SBG acknowledges the difference between a tax and discretionary spending, but still--how long would it take you to spend $54,000 in Hennepin County, excluding housing, groceries, and clothing?

Just to be clear: I personally don't have a problem with paying contributions towards getting a ballpark built. I just oppose the deal on the table because I think the public deserves a fair cut of the revenue streams in return for funding 75% of the project. When the general public is asked for $353 million to fund an enterprise that is expected to generate large profits, it's only right that we should get cut in for our fair share of the returns. In lieu of that kind of deal, most of the public have not been persuaded by the arguments put forth by ballpark supporters.

However, SBG mentioning the difference between taxes and discretionary spending got me thinking that ballpark proponents might tip the scales in their favor if the project plan called for public funding to come from fees attached to Twins tickets and items bought inside the new ballpark. In effect, the funding then would be paid at the discretion of fans who choose to come to Twins games.

The state could also create a specially themed scratch-lottery game and offer special Twins/ballpark license plates, as they did in Washington state and other places. Why not sell series of collectibles, like medallions or bobbleheads, to raise money for the project, too? These are all more forms of discretionary spending that would allow ballpark proponents to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak.

It's clear that the general public is not being won over by the "quality of life" arguments that compare a stadium giveaway to public parks and the Guthrie. They're not convinced that the promised economic boon in the Warehouse District is worth the $353 million public investment. The idea of limiting the public contribution to a sales tax in Hennepin County has given some state politicians comfort, but it hasn't swung the polls in favor of the project. To this point, the Twins have not indicated a willingness to share the new revenue streams created by the ballpark; it's clear they expect to keep it all. So if the current proposal in the legislature fails because a referendum gets attached, what else can ballpark proponents do to break the impasse?

I've seen a number of Twins fans say they don't care who profits off this deal, and they may not even care much about the project location, who pays for it, or any other details in the fine print. They just want a new ballpark. So, if the current plan dies, let Twins fans tell the state:

We're ready to pay for this project ourselves. If it lines the pockets of Carl Pohlad and some restaurant and bar owners downtown, bless their hearts. We don't care. We'll gladly pay fees added to our tickets and concessions. We'll buy lottery tickets and license plates. We'll buy more bobbleheads and medallions. Whatever. We just want our new ballpark. Since we're paying, this is all we ask: put a retractable roof on it, please. And make it better than Milwaukee's.

Who's up for that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

NO-mor MOR-no

Tuesday, the Justin Morneau medallion coupons came out in the Star Tribune. Usually I've done fine by redeeming the coupon the day after it appears in the paper; but yesterday evening, to be safe, I thought I'd get my Morneau coin before the stores closed for the day. Maybe the first or second stop would be sold out, but I expected to be rewarded by the third or fourth. Wrong. Once again, like I did in my search for the Mauer medallion, I drove around for two hours only to be shut out. All the stores had been long sold out, the clerks didn't even have to check. The girl at the Har-Mar Cub in Roseville said they sold out at 3 o'clock.

The Dramatic Re-enactment

Me: Do you have any of the Morneau medallions?

20 Year-Old Cub Service Counter Queen:
(smiling) No, sorry. We sold out at 3 this afternoon!

(slumps, rolls eyes, mutters) They really needed to make more of those things.

(purses lips, uncomfortable silence)


Exit, stage right.

Now imagine the scene replaying over a dozen times through the course of a couple hours, with intermissions for driving from setting to setting, until the protagonist loses his mind. It's a comedy, you see. An absurd, dada comedy. Or maybe something existential, like Beckett. With some of the clerks, I think we could have even acted out the whole scene in mime. I could've played it like Buster Keaton, or Mummenschanz.

On my word of honor: Three O'Clock! Think about that. If you were a typical working person picking up the morning paper on the way to your day job, and you didn't make a point of going out to get the Justin Morneau medallion on your lunch break Tuesday afternoon, you're out of luck. You probably couldn't even get one on your way home from work. Sorry, suckers. See you at e-bay! Of course, the prescient sellers on e-bay tried to tell me on Sunday: "Sold Out in Hours!" I guess they were in a position to know, working on the inside.

Over on e-bay at this minute, the Morneau medallion is already selling for upwards of $15.50. This is less than 24 hours after the coupon hit the street!

My dear Star Tribune and Twins marketing folk, is this really what you had in mind?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Disapparition of frightwig

My blog got bumped offline for most of the evening, lost like a sock disappeared in the dryer, but now it seems to be back.... Huh.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Mad About Medallions

At the start of the month, the Twins and the Star Tribune began a promotional series of collectible medallions, each featuring the picture of an individual player, and one Ron Gardenhire. One new coin to be released each day, Sunday through Friday, until the series of 21 is completed this Wednesday. A special coupon in the Star Tribune paper each day entitles the bearer to buy a particular medallion for $2.99 at Cub, Holiday, and Super America. I've been avidly collecting the medallions since they released the first in the series, featuring Johan Santana. They're nice items. The coins have the appearance of silver and white gold, with a color photo head shot on the "heads" side, and the Twins logo is engraved on the "tails" side.

Here's a photo of the Torii Hunter medallion:

Dick Bremer a few weeks ago predicted that the medallions would be like 'the next bobbleheads craze.' Indeed, they've proven to be very popular. Sometimes I've had to visit two or three outlets to get a coin the day after its coupon appeared in the paper. Once I got the last Luis Rivas at a Super America on the same day it had been released, and I just nicked it ahead of an annoyed man at the other window who asked for it only 15 seconds after I did.

The Joe Mauers are something else, though. I drove around to at least a dozen outlets on a Tuesday evening, after the Mauer coupon had been in the Sunday paper, and nobody had it. After driving around another hour on Wednesday, I struck out. Everybody said it had been gone by late Monday or Tuesday afternoon. Some said it was sold out on Sunday. When I asked how many medallions the stores had been sent, I heard they got 60 at Cub, and 25 at the Holiday and Super America. There are no plans to distribute or produce more.

Clearly, the Twins and the Strib badly underestimated the demand. Star Tribune spokesman
Ben Taylor said in a story printed by his paper, "Part of what makes it enticing is that it is a limited edition. There was never an expectation that everyone who wanted one would get one." Well, Mr. Taylor, "limited edition" is one thing. Running out within a couple days, or on the very day the item is released, is just ridiculous.

It's created quite a secondary market on e-bay, however; which brings me back to that picture of the Torii Hunter medallion. Avid collectors of the series like myself may have already noticed what's wrong with the picture--namely, you may wonder how I got a picture of a coin that won't be released until Wednesday. Actually, I haven't seen the coin, and won't get my hands on it until Wednesday just like the rest of the chumps amongst the public.

But several sellers on e-bay already had it listed for sale this past weekend, along with today's "Central Champions" coin and the Justin Morneau coin that will be out on Tuesday. Many of the sellers claim to have at least 10 of each medallion available for bid. "These coins sold out in a matter of a few hours!" the soothsaying sellers proclaim. Well, with so many being pilfered before the public gets an honest chance to snap them up, I guess it's no wonder, eh?

Here's a sampling of some e-bay sellers who already had Morneau and Hunter medallions listed last night:


I encourage you to contact e-bay to report these individuals for selling stolen property; even if some of them paid for the items, they've acquired them dishonestly, before the coins were released and without the redeeming coupons normally required to make the sale. They're essentially running a scalping operation from whatever job they hold which allows them access to the medallions before they go on sale. I'll be writing to e-bay and also to the Star Tribune.

I don't know if the Strib will come up with a satisfactory response to the pilfering, or the fact that they severely underestimated the market for the medallions. I hope they will recognize that while they boosted their circulation for the month, they also left a lot of people feeling frustrated--and created a rich secondary market for exploitive profiteers on the internet to boot. I started collecting the series, gladly willing to pay $62.79 plus tax for all the coins as well as $14.25 for newspapers. That's about $81 total. Should the Strib representatives just shrug because their poor planning might cause people like me to pay over 6 times the retail price to get that one damn Mauer coin to complete the collection?

Maybe that's just capitalism, baby. Sometimes the customer gets stuck holding a bill of goods, eh? But I say the Strib--or the Twins promotional department--could generate a lot of goodwill amongst the fans, while sticking it to the profiteers, by releasing a second run of at least the Joe Mauer medallions sometime this season. Why not? Otherwise I may become just another profiteer on e-bay, selling off the pieces of my incomplete collection--and I tell you true, Star Tribune marketing execs, that $14.25 will be the last I ever spend to pick up one of your papers. In that case, you might consider having it framed, quarter by quarter. Fifty-seven quarters would complete your collection. I hope you cherish it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Izzy Feeling Sanguine

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I heard on the radio this afternoon that Jason Bartlett has been sent to AAA, and infielder Luis Rodriguez has been brought up to take his place. Gardy claims the goal is to help straighten out Bartlett's swing. Hmm.

Well, in 74 plate appearances in April, Bartlett hit .246/.297/.377. This month, in 26 PA's, he has hit .227/.346/.364.

Here's his batting log this month:

May 3, 0-3
May 5, 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
May 6, 0-2, 2 BB, 1 R, SB
May 7, 2-3, 1 BB, 2 R, 1 RBI
May 9, 0-3
May 10, 0-3
May 13, 1-3, 1 RBI

Somewhere in there, he was hit by a pitch, too.

It looks to me like he was doing OK until he had a couple hitless games in Baltimore against Daniel Cabrera and Eric Bedard. His last 6 starts of April, he was 7-for-27 with 2 walks, 2 doubles, a triple, and 4 RBI; so in 10 starts from 4/21 through 5/7, he had 11 hits in 40 at-bats and a .275/.362/.450 line. And in his one chance to redeem himself at the plate since Balmer, he was 1-for-3 with an RBI. All told, in his last 13 starts he was batting .245/.328/.388 (see how much a 1-for-9 set can skew the numbers of such a small sample?).

There may be some tweaking he could do to really get into a groove, but wasn't that to be expected? What do they pay Scott Ullger to do? And if his bat is really the problem, does Gardy really think that Juan Castro is a better option?

How do you decide to yank the kid based on that kind of sample, anyway? It's 26 plate appearances this month, 100 on the season. When the club came north, did management really think, "We'll give him a shot, but if he's not playing like an All-Star within his first 100 plate appearances, we're going back to Castro"?

Yesterday Joe Christensen in the Strib wrote a story, apparently encouraged by Twins management, indicating that the club can't afford to be as patient watching the development of Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer as they could be with Guzman and Corey Koskie in 1999, when the team had no expectations of winning. But comparing Bartlett to Guzman in '99 misses the pertinent issue, which is how Bartlett compares to Guzman's performance of the past few years while the Twins were winning division titles.

As I pointed out on Monday, Bartlett's plate production is roughly the same as what the club got out of Cristian Guzman the past 3 years; and I think Bartlett has better range than Guzman did in the field. So what's the problem? If they could win with Guzy, how is Bartlett unacceptable?

At least Michael Cuddyer apparently has managed to find his groove before Gardy's patience for him ran out, too. In May he's hitting .373/.407/.529, and today he hit a big double with the bases loaded after fouling off 9 pitches. He's also been showing off some soft hands at 3rd base and his throws are looking more accurate lately. Perhaps he just had to work through the jitters of taking over for Corey Koskie at 3B, after he had been training to play 2B last season; or maybe he's a habitual slow starter. This is the 3rd straight season he's had a poor April, and he hit .196 in his first 56 at-bats when the club called him up in the summer of 2002, too.

Anyway, I said during spring training that I believed in Michael Cuddyer. I expect this to be just the beginning of more big things from Cuddy Bear. Let's hope the Rochester coaches help Bartlett accomplish whatever Gardy wants to see him doing there, so that before we know it he's given another chance to make good on expectations, as well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I understand that the issue of GameDay featuring an article about Twins bloggers is on sale outside the Metrodome during this homestand, and it's my honor to be included amongst the survey with this highlight:

Sundappled Wood, perhaps the most interestingly named Twins blog, has its own unique charm. Its author, a fellow that goes by Frightwig, throws out an interesting blend of game commentary, stats analysis, humor, and a formidable vocabulary. The blog has only been around since March of this year, but is quickly becoming required reading. And not the kind of required reading you have to do for English 309: Rhetoric of Rural America, which meets at eight in the morning all semester, but something you can actually derive enjoyment from.

I feel you should know that I'm guilty of feeding them the line about my "formidable vocabulary," but it was intended as the setup of a joke--the punchline being something like, 'I'm proud to read and write at an 11th grade level--and if that's not enough, I have pictures of my cats on the weekends.' Ha! So, just in case any GameDay readers are dropping in and wondering if they will be quizzed on the meaning of words like "verisimilitude" or "abecedarian," the answer is No. That was last week's quiz. I'll have a new list of words for you on Friday, so be sure to come back for that to get a head start on your homework for the weekend.

On the plus side, I would never require you to meet me at eight in the morning--to talk about the Rhetoric of Rural America, or for any other reason. I'm hard, but I'm not cruel.

Meanwhile, thank you to the GameDay writer Kyle Eliason for including me in the story, and for his kind comments about my blog. If you're going to the games this week, pick up a GameDay program before heading inside. It's a cool thing to have independent coverage of the Twins included with scorecards for sale outside the stadium, and certainly deserving of our support.

Hang on, I'll Get Around to the Game in a Minute....

There's an item on the wire this morning headlined, "More stressed-out Australian pets being put on anti-depressant drugs." An estimated three to six percent of cats and dogs in Australia are being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The telltale signs: "tail-biting, circling, pacing, shadow-chasing and excessive grooming," according to the Daily Telegraph.

The AFP news service supplies this photo, presumably of one such stressed-out kitty, although I must say I've seen worse-looking cases.

(AFP/File Photo)

What is causing this crisis of pet psychosis Down Under? Vet Robert Stabler, who will deliver an address on the issue at a conference of the Australian Veterinary Association this week, says the problem may be caused partly by homes being located too close to shops and schools. It sounds to me like a certain doctor is trying to pull a keynote address out of his ass just days before heading out on a junket to Sydney--am I right, Bob? Getting much sun, doc? How's the UV light been this year? Because I'm concerned about whether this crazy pet behavior may be at all related to the ozone hole; or, more pertinently, whether there's something in the atmosphere that's also affecting Johan Santana.

Yes, if you want to make a name for yourself outside Australia, Dr. Robert, you have to tackle the big issues.

Well, what is there to say about Johan last night, anyway? He started the game in classic Radke fashion, grooving a ball down the middle to Vernon Wells that put the team in a 3-0 hole in the first. Then he cruised along to the 5th, when I felt he got unlucky. With 2 outs and Ken Huckaby on 1st, Reed Johnson hit a looping fly up the LF line which is often a catchable ball, but Shannon Stewart either got a late break or was shading towards the gap and couldn't get under it. Meanwhile, Huckaby (a Catcher, generally a class not known for swiftness on the bases) cruised into 3rd and Johnson waltzed into 2nd with nary a fear of Stewart's weak arm. Maybe Stewart should have caught the ball, maybe not, but allowing both runners to take two bases on the hit is just weak defense. And it hurt: Shea Hillenbrand then stepped up and sent a soft liner just over Luis Rivas' glove, scoring both runners.

In the 6th, Frank Menechino led off with a flyball that again is often an out, even routine in this case. I don't think it was even within 10 feet of the warning track, and yet it got over Torii Hunter's head. After Johan struck out Koskie, Orlando Hudson then stepped up and crushed a pitch into the so-called Home Run Porch, which I may take to calling the SCHRP later this summer--so only you faithful readers, the hip crowd who knew me when I was just playing the clubs, will know what I'm talking about. Perhaps I can do a whole column in acronym shorthand at some point. Well, those of you in the armed services and the text-messaging addicts might dig it, anyway.... Now where was I?

Oh, yeah. Hudson crushed a pitch out over the plate, and that was it for Johan. A depressing line for him; but with the help of some better outfield defense, it could've been one of those "pretty good except for a couple mistakes" kind of outings that are Radke's bread and butter. Alas. I guess even the thought of Johan settling for "pretty good except..." is depressing. So let's look at the three bright moments in the game....

1) Justin Morneau shook off any lingering grogginess he may have felt after his birthday party at the Hotel Joe to absolutely crush the first pitch he saw from reliever Vinnie Chulk in the 6th, high into the seats above the baggie--and, by the way, if there is going to be a "Home Run Porch" in the Metrodome, those seats should be it. Really, when a club is gifted with two young lefthanded hitters like Morneau and Mauer, what kind of marketing genius decides this year to put the "Home Run Porch" moniker on the seats to their opposite field? The RF seats are not only to the lefties' power field, but the baggy is the shorter distance from home plate and fans in those seats are high above the field as if looking down from a porch. Don't they think about this stuff?

Anyway, Torii Hunter also smoked a line shot into the SCHRP in the 4th, and it was cool, but Morneau's blast was just awesome to behold.

2) In the 8th, Jacque Jones made an excellent run-and-leap grab over the wall in foul ground that put his two counterparts in the outfield to shame for the evening. Even down 8-3 at that point of the game, Jacque was hustling to turn a long strike into the 2nd out. Kudos.

3) The warm ovation for Corey Koskie when he was introduced for his first at-bat. Given the Metrodome crowd's weird proclivity for booing even once-popular former Twins like Matt Lawton and A.J. Pierzynski who did nothing but play well for the Twins until Terry Ryan traded them, I wasn't sure what to expect for Koskie's reception, but it's nice to know that at least we all can agree that Koskie's a swell guy who deserved a warm greeting from his old fans. Welcome home, you hockey puck. It's good to see you.

Oh, and this doesn't qualify as a bright moment, but I'll close by noting that Juan Castro last night was 0-for-5 and made a low throw on one play at 2nd base which inexplicably was not scored an error. In a world where the manager may fill out the lineup card based on whatever action he's most recently seen, we'll see if this means Jason Bartlett will be playing again tomorrow. Come to think of it, has anyone noticed Gardy excessively pacing in circles, chasing his shadow, or grooming himself to distraction?

I hear there's a man in Australia who may have some ideas on that.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Blogger ate my template! Bah!

Moloch in the Garden

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

--Allen Ginsberg

The word in the press has it that Juan Castro may be claiming more regular playing time at Shortstop, after the rookie Jason Bartlett made a crucial error in Friday's game against Texas and Castro had 3 hits in 6 at-bats in his place on Saturday and Sunday. Gardy told the Strib:

"We're not worried about feelings too much around here. We're trying to develop along with putting a winning team out there. ... As a manager, I'm going to put what I think is the best team out there. If I think on Tuesday I want to play Castro again, I'll stick him back out there. If it doesn't happen the way you expect, you start making adjustments. [Bartlett] has been struggling a little lately. Castro, he's the veteran who can step in and make the plays for you. We've been struggling not making enough plays, so you put the guys out there that know how to play a little when you're trying to get out of a funk."

A couple weeks ago, Gardy similarly decided to pull Rivas from the regular lineup in favor of the hot hand, Nick Punto; and I felt a warm tingle like he'd given me a swig of Schnapps in the late days of a hard, cold winter. I didn't mind that Punto is most likely just a light-hitting stopgap. He plays hard, he has genuinely good range in the field, he seems to know how to take a walk, he's a good bunter and can steal a base--and he's not Luis Rivas. That's enough for me. After more than 4 long years, Ron Gardenhire had finally run out of patience for Luis Rivas! Huzzah.

At least I hoped that was the case: that after more than 1900 plate appearances, Rivas had finally played his way out of his job, and Punto was simply the lucky beneficiary who happened to be the best replacement the club had onhand for the time being.

These rumblings about Castro and Bartlett, however, paint a less reassuring picture of an unsteady hand at the helm who is simply making gut reactions to small samples and the most recent game he's just seen.

It's true that Bartlett is batting just .242/.310/.374; and in the three games he got to play last week, he had 1 hit in 9 at-bats. However, for the month of May he has a respectable .346 on-base pct., and keep in mind that he's replacing a SS who hit .272/.303/.379 over the last three years. In other words, his plate production to this point in the season is roughly the same as the club had been getting out of Cristian Guzman; and meanwhile Bartlett's fielding range is better than anything I ever witnessed from Guzy at the position. Now he's getting benched, and Jim Souhan thinks he may even be headed back to the minors, because he had a couple hitless games in Baltimore and made a costly error on Friday?

Granted, Juan Castro has a track record of steady glovework, spring training gaffes aside. I see how it can be useful to have an experienced hand like him around in a supporting reserve role. But the kid's fielding looks like an upgrade over the previous starter at the position, his bat has been no different than what we've come to expect from the SS, and Castro's bat is likely going to be worse in the long run. Castro to date is hitting .244/.295/.317 for the Twins, and that's about representative of his abilities. Why would a manager pull the rug out from under his rookie and talk to the press about things 'not happening the way you expect,' because the kid made an error and a guy like Castro happened to go 3-for-6 over two games in his place? It looks like the man in charge can't stop himself from caressing the panic button, while maybe he's doing a little too much scoreboard watching in mid-May.

Snap out of it, Gardy. Your man Castro is a career utilityman for a reason. Your best player at SS is still the rookie. Let him play and have a chance to grow into the position. You got along with Guzy and Rivas for three years while you were in charge, didn't you?

Don't tell me that Rivas is on the bench only waiting for Punto to go oh-fer-4 and throw a ball into leftfield.... Jason Bartlett, I am with you in Rockland where you laugh at this invisible humor... I am with you in Rockland where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses.... While you are not safe I am not safe... We are not our skin of grime... We are beautiful golden sunflowers inside... Gardentool, tend to his progress and watch him grow.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Dinner with the Diva

Izzy eating after she came out Friday night....

You can't see her bright eyes, but look at that bushy tail!

"Do you mind? I'm trying to eat here."

Cats and newspapers....

Friday, May 13, 2005

Oh, Gordo

Listening to the Twins game this evening as described by John Gordon, our own real-life Ted Baxter of the play-by-play, I heard Gordo say the White Sox were losing to the Orioles, 3-2, after the Orioles had jumped to a 3-0 lead in the 4th. This, Gordo told his listeners, was the first time the White Sox had trailed in a game all season!

Wow. It kinda makes it hard to explain Chicago's 9 losses, though, doesn't it?

For those who haven't made social contact with a White Sox fan lately, the South Siders actually have set a trivial Elias Sports Bureau kind of record for holding a lead at some point in each of 33 straight games to start the season. Now that they've scored 3 runs to take a 5-3 lead over Baltimore in the 7th, make it 34 games. Isn't there a producer in charge of the broadcast, or somebody in the booth or truck, who could whisper corrections into Gordo's ear? Is he allowed to call games without supervision?

Meanwhile, Gordo and Dazzle seem more interested in tracking the Tampa Bay-Kansas City score and snickering about it than in watching a Twins game, at 6-6 in the 8th, which they're presumably paid to describe for those listeners who can't see it for themselves.

So it goes....

Where's Kitten? Hiding Like a Diva

Izzy is hiding under the desk at the moment, so today's edition of catblogging will feature my other cats. We will have to wait for more kittenblogging later this weekend.

First, here's Pearl peeking around the corner on the stairway....

Next, our other calico Abigail, sleeping in a favorite spot on the porch....

A classic O'Malley pose in the kitchen....

Finally, a couple of Ornette on the desk....

You see he likes big, flat spaces, and obstructing the area in front of my keyboard is often a choice location.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

bjhess Blog

I encourage everyone to jump over to the bjhess Blog today, as he digs into the supposed economic benefits claimed for the construction of new sports stadia. It's thorough and thoughtful work.

With apologies to him if I read him wrong, I think he and I are in the same boat here. We'd love to see the Twins playing in a great outdoor ballpark, and we don't mind a public/private partnership to make it happen. In the past, I've written my share of letters to Senators and state officials, telling them I want a ballpark. I've sent menacing e-mails to John Marty, like a good little Twins supporter. But the more I look into the details of each project proposal the Twins run out there, the less enthusiasm I can muster to be a soldier for their side of the issue anymore. Now I'm to the point where I'd like a ballpark bill to pass, but it bothers me more to see the public getting ripped off in the deal.

Don't try to con me on the indirect economic benefits to the community. The real profits are going to be generated inside the ballpark itself; and if you want to talk about financial windfalls, let's talk about how the profits inside the ballpark are going to be divided up. If the Twins want to sell me on the economic benefits of the project, show me the money. Cut us in. Guarantee a percentage of the revenue streams inside the park. Until then, just admit that it's an emotional purchase, a luxury item that makes no sense to buy, but the baseball fan in us just wants it anyway because the dream of it makes us feel all gooey inside.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Arrrr! Resto a Pirate Be!

The AP reports that Michael Restovich has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later.

Upon the occasion, filling in some answers in his stead for this quiz, I think it may be germane to alternatively refer to Resto by his new Pirate Name, which is...

Bloody William Bonney.

"Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!"

Yeah, a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, innit, Bloody Will?


When I scoped out prospective landings for Resto in late March, I didn't consider Pittsburgh because they had Jason Bay, Matt Lawton, and Craig Wilson available for regular duty at the outfield corners, plus Daryle Ward and Rob Mackowiak onhand to sub in as needed. Apparently a spot opened up, though, since Wilson injured his finger last weekend and will be on the DL recovering from surgery for the next two months.

Right now, Ward is the regular 1st baseman and Mackowiak is acting mostly as a backup infielder. Bay is a righty bat who has been splitting time between LF and CF; Tike Redman is the alternate CF, a speedy lefty who can't hit worth spit (current line: .129/.191/.258). Former Twin Matt Lawton is the regular RF, who bats lefty. Assuming that Ray Sadler (called up from AA last weekend) is returned to the minors, that would leave Resto as the 4th OF for the next couple months. Facing lefty pitching, it should be very easy for Manager Lloyd McClendon to fit Resto into the lineup by sliding Bay into CF or giving Lawton the day off. If he ever resolves to nail Tike Redman to the bench, he could even play Resto nearly every day.

PNC Park, the home of the Pirates, can be tough on righty hitters, but otherwise it looks like this could (finally?) be a good opportunity for Resto: he might have the novel experience of getting to play without anyone angling to take his job tomorrow or in two weeks. He performed well in his audition with the Rockies. If he keeps it up over the next couple months, by the time Craig Wilson returns, perhaps he'll find a home port in Pittsburgh to keep Bloody Will Bonney ashore awhile.

Revenue Streams

Today the Twins ballpark plan passed its first hurdle in the legislature, when the House Government Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee gave the proposal its stamp of approval by a 17-5 vote. An amendment to require a public referendum in Hennepin County was defeated. The Strib article indicates there was some questioning about how the club would profit from naming rights, but the issue of revenue streams is mentioned only in passing.

This week, Sweet Capt. Bess did some research for me that turned up this interesting text from the Brookings Institute, revealing that the original Twins contract with the Metrodome authority called for the ballclub to receive 30 percent of gross revenue from concessions at Twins games until 1.4 million tickets sold for the season, after which the Twins would get 20 percent. The MSFC authority also laid claim to profits from three city-owned parking lots for a 10-year period as well as $75,000 a year in perpetuity from parking meters. That was a slice of the return the public and its representatives expected to get on a $55 million investment, back then.

These days, we might put up $353 million to build a ballpark for the Twins, and we're willing to let the ballclub take all of those profits, and then some. And there's hardly even a debate about it.

I'm not against the Twins making money off this deal, or tapping new revenue streams to help them remain competitive in the standings--although it's worth noting that a Shiny New Ballpark does not necessarily equate to an Increased Payroll and Winning Teams. Look at Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Detroit for some dark cautionary tales close to home. The Joyride in the Jake ended even for the Indians a few years back. However, I am against the public, which is you and me, getting swindled in this deal. We should expect to get a decent share of the profits from this new ballpark in return for our $353 million investment, even if we can't get a deal like 70% of the concessions anymore. We should expect more than just the pleasure of outdoor baseball and vague promises of economic development in the Warehouse District in reward for taxes collected primarily in the suburbs of the county.

I want to see more people talking about the ballpark revenue streams, and our share in the take. I want to see real debate.

Why so quiet?

Pox on the Rox

The newswires have been reporting that Michael Restovich was designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies, but don't say his audition was a washout. In 34 plate appearances, he hit .290/.353/.452; and while he was in a regular platoon with Brad Hawpe for two weeks, Resto was hitting .346/.393/.538. Then Dustan Mohr returned from the DL, and Resto sat on the bench for nearly two weeks before he got a couple pinch-hitting turns and one more final start on Mother's Day in which he was 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Consider that the Rockies preferred to keep Dustan Mohr, a player two years older with a career line of .258/.335/.410 and currently batting .143/.200/.357 for Colorado, and one might take it as a clue to why that team is mired at the bottom of the NL with a 9-22 record.

Really, why would a club rebuilding from a 68-94 record last year and tanking so far this season make it any kind of priority to keep Dustan Mohr's the Pity rather than see what develops with a 26 year-old prospective talent, who performed very well in his audition for them as Michael Restovich did? I can only conclude that idiocy must be epidemic in the offices of Coors Field.

And their uniforms are ugly, too.

Monday, May 09, 2005

For Pennies a Day....

They say it's going to pass, like it or not.

Despite polls showing significant public opposition to any Twins ballpark project which requires public financing, particularly amongst the population of Hennepin County, it looks like Team Pohlad has finally polished off a scheme that will get the club an outdoor ballpark in their desired location near the Target Center. The Hennepin County Council voted, 4-3, to send the plan to the legislature for approval, and media reports have indicated that the club will have the votes to approve the deal in the capitol. Just a little political back-scratching may be needed in the House, is all. Mere details. It's all but a done deal, says the press.

So, after all the failed proposals over the past decade, what's changed?

The buzzwords are, "No State Money." The new plan requires no direct funding from the state budget, unless the legislature should want to kick in $100 million to add a retractable roof to the project. Purely optional, though! Not a deal-breaker! If the esteemed legislators of our great state don't care to keep our baseball-loving citizens warm in early Spring or Fall, or to guarantee our outstate kin that their weekend trips to the big city will not be spoiled by rain or snow, then that's between them, their constituents, and God. Dave St. Peter and his bosses only need permission to raise a sales tax of .15% in Hennepin County. The rest of the funding is promised to come from the ballclub and private sources.

This has been the entire focus of all media coverage of the proposal. "No State Money." If you shop or eat in Hennepin County, the plan would only cost you 3 cents on every 20 dollars you spend. For everyone else, why should you object? Dick and Bert run through those talking points every night with all the pleading urgency of someone asking us to adopt a child in Africa or help find the cure for juvenile diabetes. Call it St. Jude's Appeal for a Twins Ballpark: we will never give up the fight for Major League Baseball to return to the outdoors in Minnesota, on the public dime, as God and Bud Selig intended. Well, except that the club executives have been hinting that if this plan doesn't pass, then they just don't know what to do but throw in the towel. So pay up, Minnesota, or the orphaned, diabetic ballplayers will be doomed to their Metrodome squalor until they're forced to pack up like the Joads and go to Portland or Las Vegas. This time, we mean it.

Clearly, many state legislators are glad to see a plan that gives them political cover from their constituents who oppose paying taxes to build Carl Pohlad a ballpark. Never mind any other issues involved, legislators from outside Hennepin County can vote for this plan and claim: 1) they raised no state taxes, nor carved out any funds from the state budget, and 2) they helped Save the Twins. Meanwhile, some of them see an opportunity to trade their votes for permission to raise sales taxes for special, worthy projects in their own home counties. If the quid pro quo works out, and there isn't too much bad publicity about these extra taxes in the fine print, then some outstate officials can take credit for community projects back home, too. Pork barrel politicking in its finest form.

Any politician from Hennepin County may take heat for voting for the bill; but they may also take cover in the fact that the tax is a relatively small addition to the county sales tax rate, and they may point out that Hennepin County stands to gain the most from the project by its infrastructure improvements and the promised economic development in downtown Minneapolis.

Indeed, why should any reasonable person be against this?

Well, one thing that's been bothering me about the media coverage is the complete lack of attention paid to what the public gets back for its investment in this project, and how much we stand to lose once the Metrodome no longer takes in any baseball-related revenue. Even if the plan has cleverly found a way to remove state funding from the equation, the project still requires $353 million from We the People--which represents 74% of the projected cost. We're entitled to some kind of fair return on our investment. Are we getting it from this plan?

Well, the public gets "ownership" of the ballpark, under the care of a Ballpark Commission comprised of five government appointees. This commission would be responsible for allocating $1.4 million in annual maintenance and regular upkeep, or about 70% of the planned costs, which would rise with inflation. (This is the proposed estimate of upkeep costs, although the Metrodome authority has an expenditure budget of $14.3 million for operations, debt service, and passthrough this year.) It would also hold a 30-year lease signed by the ballclub. However, all revenue from naming rights, seat licenses, concessions, luxury suites, facility parking, and non-baseball events would go to Carl Pohlad's ballclub, which would be in charge of managing the facility. In my book, the man who takes in all the profits from a facility and pays a minority share of upkeep costs is not only the real owner of the joint, but he's playing his investors like chumps.

In fiscal 2003, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission earned $41 million in operating revenues from the Metrodome and claimed $61 million in total assets at the end of the year. An outdoor facility built primarily to host baseball may not match those figures, but the loss of 81+ event dates spanning half the year would still represent a sizeable chunk of dough. Also figure the loss of Gophers baseball and perhaps some summertime events being shifted to the sparkly-new outdoor facility, and this is no small source of revenue we're giving away.

The only financial compensation being dangled before us is the promise of economic development in the Warehouse District. But wasn't the Metrodome supposed to spur development on that end of town, too? And what is over there 23 years on, but parking lots and Hubert's? The Block E project near Target Center was created specifically to draw business development and shoppers downtown, and have you been in there lately? The space is dark and either vacant or mostly another outlet for corporate chains. The ballpark project proponents talk like the ballpark would be a boon to so many local small business owners; but if it's a boost to anybody, it's more likely going to be a boon to Applebee's and TGIFriday's. Otherwise, it's as likely that 23 years after the new park opens we'll still be walking past warehouses, vacant lots, and the city garbage incinerator on our way to and from the ballgames.

Also keep in mind that while there may be some economic benefit created by the project in one corner of downtown Minneapolis, the state government estimates that two-thirds of the money raised by the special sales tax would come from the county suburbs. What kind of economic development could really be expected to occur in Bloomington, Edina, St. Louis Park, and Brooklyn Center in reward for raising the majority of the project funding?

Oh, and for those of you who hoped that getting a new ballpark built would lead to Carl Pohlad finally selling the club to Glen Taylor or any other less loathsome figure, get this: the Ballpark Commission would be paid 18% of the gross sale price if the club is sold the year ground is broken on the project, but the percentage drops 1.8% annually until it disappears in 2016. In other words, a man who would haggle with his own grandson over the price of a cup of lemonade has every incentive to keep the ownership of the club within the family for at least the next 10 years--when he or, more likely, his heirs become free to keep all sale profits to themselves. Meanwhile, of course they're sitting on a goldmine while they watch the franchise appreciate in value by leaps and bounds. The Pohlad family has no intention of selling the Twins anytime soon, folks.

In the end, the benefits of this deal come down to whether you believe that Major League Baseball played outdoors greatly improves the quality of life in the community, enough that it's worth paying $353 million, plus millions more in lost revenue each year after the Twins leave the Metrodome.

I believe in investing in a community's quality of life. It is a good thing to have symphonies, art museums, libraries, and parks in the community, whether or not I use the facilities myself. I am a passionate baseball fan. I would love to see the Twins in an outdoor ballpark, so long as they don't screw up the design like they did in Milwaukee. I believe that having the Twins in Minnesota is good for the community, whether we as individuals are baseball fans or not. I also believe in getting a fair return on our investment when profits are to be divided up, and I believe a $353 million investment entitles us to be treated with respect when entering a partnership with private business on such a large project.

How far will we bend over to appease Carl Pohlad, to stop the threats to move or contract the ballclub, and to have our outdoor baseball? At what price is your dignity for sale?

I want to see a public/private partnership on a new Twins ballpark, but I also want a fair partnership in the true sense. We're still not getting a fair deal worked out in good faith. Shame on Carl Pohlad and his minions for doing more business as usual, shame on our representatives who are playing along, and shame on the local Fourth Estate for doing nothing but act as cheerleaders for the scheme. We're being played for suckers by the lot of them.

Do you mind?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Home Again

Photos of Isabella this evening, after returning from the hospital.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Izzy update

I'm working on a column that I won't finish today, but meanwhile, for those interested in my cat Isabella: she had surgery to get the blood circulating through her liver on Tuesday at the U of M. I've visited her at the ICU ward each day since then, and she's recovering nicely. Bright and alert, eating normally, popular as usual with all the staff. Today she was even in the mood to walk around and explore the visiting area, except when a dog might have been walking by. Then she looked wary, and once even got her back up in a defensive pose--which, in a way, was good to see, too. The only thing apparently bothering her was the gauze wrapped around her front leg to hold the I.V. line in place. She wanted to lick it and pull it off, already.

So, there is some chance of complications developing down the line, but she is doing well so far. She may come home tomorrow, or for sure by Saturday.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Sanity Now

At last, the Twins have sent Corky Miller to AAA Rochester and called up Terry Tiffee. With this, and Rivas getting bumped from the regular lineup, I may fast be running out of things to complain about. Anyone want to talk knitting or something?

My favorite part of LaVelle's report is how he adds this tag at the end: "The Twins were worried that Miller, 0-for-12 at the plate, would be claimed by another team because he is a good receiver. But they were able to slip him through waivers."

Slipped him through in the dead of night, I'm sure. Or else there really isn't such a demand for a backup Catcher who has 1 hit in his last 55 at-bats or has batted .111/.253/.111 in the last couple years in the majors. Who knew?!?

Leave it to the professionals, folks. They know what they're doing.

Ex-Twins Stats

The last couple seasons at the DTFC, I've made a habit of keeping a monthly log of how former Twins are performing. Feeling a bit burned out by the Rincon story and last night's loss to the Indians, today feels like a good time to check in with some old friends....

If I missed anyone, write a name in the comment thread and I'll add the player.

Eric Milton (Cin), 2-2, 5.79 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .301 opp avg, 32.2 IP
M. Redman (Pitt), 1-2, 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .241 opp avg, 32.1 IP
K. Rogers (Tex), 2-2, 2.11 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .243 opp avg, 38.1 IP
L. Hawkins (Cubs), 1-1, 3.60 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .167 opp avg, 4/6 Sv
E. Guardado (Sea), 0-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .238 opp avg, 8/9 Sv
Todd Jones (Fla), 0-0, 1.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .262 opp avg, 1/2 Sv

Aaron Fultz (Phil), 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .190 opp avg
H. Carrasco (Was), 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, .111 opp avg, 1/1 Sv

David Ortiz (Bos), .267/.312/.545, 7 HR, 18 RBI in 109 PA's
A.J. Pierzynski (CWS), .261/.329/.348 in 76 PA's
D. Mientkiewicz (NYM), .222/.317/.378, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 105 PA's
Corey Koskie (Tor), .264/.339/.434, 5 HR, 12 RBI in 119 PA's
Cristian Guzman (Was), .247/.275/.330 in 105 PA's
Todd Walker (Cubs), .381/.435/.476 in 23 PA's (DL, knee)
Casey Blake (Cle), .187/.291/.360 in 86 PA's
Matt Lawton (Pitt), .274/.375/.389 in 112 PA's
Damian Miller (Mil), .316/.388/.434 in 85 PA's
Michael Restovich (Col), .346/.393/.538 in 29 PA's
Dustan Mohr (Col), .176/.263/.353 in 15 PA's (just came off DL)
Bobby Kielty (Oak), .255/.364/.319 in 56 PA's
Chad Allen (Tex), .286/.333/.286 in 31 PA's
Jose Offerman (Phil), .150/.261/.300 in 23 PA's
Chris Gomez (Balt), .500/.611/.500 in 19 PA's
Quinton McCracken (AZ), .212/.288/.288 in 76 PA's
Henry Blanco (Cubs), .100/.100/.250 in 20 PA's
Javier Valentin (Cin), .263/.263/.368 in 19 PA's
Chad Moeller (Mil), .095/.174/.095 in 23 PA's
Dave McCarty (Bos), .500/.667/.500 in 6 PA's (Des. for Assign.)

D. Hocking, .077/.077/.077 in 26 PA's at AAA Omaha (KC)
M. Kinney, 0-0, 2.08 ERA, 1.39 WHIP at High A San Jose (SF)
J. Roa, 0-1, 8.31 ERA, 2.23 WHIP at AAA Indianapolis (Pitt)
A. Johnson, 1-1, 8.05 ERA, 2.05 WHIP at Puebla (Mexico)
R. Rowland-Smith, 2-2, 3.51 ERA, 1.36 WHIP at AA S.A. (Sea)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Well, the sun came up again today, after all.

It's interesting to see the changes people go through when an Abstract Principle pertaining to The Other Guy suddenly becomes a personal matter affecting One of Our Own. Many Twins fans who derided the new steroids policy as too lenient, and may have been calling for Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi to be run out of the game, today are thinking that the whole issue isn't so cut and dried. What are the safeguards against false positive results? Could Latino players be unaware of what's really banned because of a language barrier? Could Juan Rincon really be a cheater? What are the levels of cheating involved here? What did he really take? How do we really feel about a popular Twin getting busted? Should Rincon be booted off the team post haste, or does he deserve a second chance? What's become of our Moral High Ground?

Batgirl recently coined the term "Moral High Ground" in regard to her feelings about the way the Twins play defense. Over the years, if the Twins did nothing else right, the organization and its fans liked to believe that the team could field the ball better than most clubs. "We catch the ball around here," the management is fond of saying. It's their trademark, almost to the point of being a moral virtue. What's more, our rivals the White Sox have held a reputation for sloppy fielding, making it especially easy to enjoy lording our chief virtue over them as our team bests them in the standings yet again. So to see the Twins playing sloppy defense early this season while losing games to Chicago stung Batgirl. Not only did we lose to our rival, we were stripped of our most precious virtue in the process. Our fielders had booted away our moral high ground. I think that's the gist of it.

Turns out, a lot of Twins fans apparently believe that not only is the team supposed to be fundamentally superior to other clubs in the field, but the Twins--and by extension, the fans--are actually supposed to be morally superior, as well. Moral High Ground, indeed. Juan Rincon's suspension has spurred a sudden rash of soul-searching in Twins Territory. The immediate response from many has been, cast the demon out! He has shamed us, and he should be banished from our lands as soon as possible.

That reaction is just as bewildering and disappointing to me as the news about Rincon itself. How did we get the sense that we are truly Morally Superior as people just because we live in the Land O' Lakes? And what is so moral about shunning a man just because he made a mistake, in the first place? Juan Rincon apparently broke a new league rule covering what kinds of drugs he's allowed to take into his body. Exactly what he took or how he's benefitted from it, we don't know--and may never know much more than we do today. People say he's a good guy and they never would have suspected this of him; he never was busted by the minor league testing program, it's been said. Perhaps it's fair to assume that he really is a first-time offender who made an isolated mistake. The penalty under the league rules for his case is a 10-day suspension. For me, that's enough punishment for now.

Since the league announced its new drug policy before the season, I've felt that just the humiliation of a player's name being released to the public after a first offense could be enough of a deterrent to cut out steroid use eventually by nearly all but the most arrogant and sophisticated users. Seeing Juan Rincon get busted, I feel even more hopeful that Selig will let the program run its course. If Rincon thought he could beat the system, perhaps this public embarrassment will scare him straight; or if he was just caught in an accidental mistake, all the more reason why he deserves a welcoming back into the fold and a chance to put all this behind him.

Honestly, I don't think his pee cup really got mixed up with J.C. Romero's. Considering the potential benefits to a relief pitcher that could come by taking a drug that would increase arm strength and reduce muscle recovery time, Juan Rincon very well could have succumbed to the temptation to take a steroid. I never suspected him because of his body type, but I suppose the greater shock would be if every team did not have at least one steroid/HGH user in its bullpen. Juan Rincon is probably just the tip of the iceberg, which is a big reason why, when Juan Rincon returns to the mound for the Twins, I will not boo or treat him like a pariah. I will not call for the club to wash its hands of the man because he was caught breaking a rule. I think he deserves the chance to make good on this, and I will support him in his efforts. I just hope that he learns from the experience, and that his example may be a lesson to us all, as well.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Bad News About Rincon

Ace relief pitcher Juan Rincon becomes the first Minnesota Twin to get busted by MLB's new performance-enhancing drug policy. What was he using? Unfortunately, they don't announce such details. Rincon himself seems to be denying he did anything wrong; his agent plans to file a grievance with the league.

I'm in no position to know, but maybe Rincon's pee cup just got mixed up with J.C. Romero's? You know, kinda like the plot to View From the Top, except with urine samples instead of final exams in flight attendant school. Hey, I'm just sayin'. Not to accuse J.C. of being on the roids, but learning that he's been juicing would be less of a shock than this news about Rincon.

I'm sure that any relief pitcher could benefit from a drug that reduces muscle recovery time or adds a few mph to the fastball, and I'm not naive enough to believe that no Twins player could really be guilty of using a banned drug, but Juan Rincon? Next I'll be hearing that they caught Everyday Eddie with a syringe and a BALCO membership.

We'll see how it goes.

Notes on a Sunday Outing in the Park

Angels 2, Twins 1

So, Johan's streak of consecutive wins without a loss is over. It actually came close to ending last week in Kansas City, closer than anyone seems to remember. That was a 2-1 Twins win in which Johan dominated in 8 innings, allowing a run on 5 hits and a walk, striking out 8. But in the 3rd inning, you may have forgotten, "Super" Joe McEwing launched a high rocket down the LF line that just hooked foul, missing a 2-run homer by a foot. Ultimately, he struck out and Johan escaped the inning with no damage done, later going back to the hotel that night with the Win. Sunday in the 4th inning, Vlad Guerrero hit a nearly identical shot down the LF line--except it hooked into the foul pole netting and put a run on the board for the Halos. Ultimately, that would tag Johan with the Loss. So it goes....

I was at the game on Sunday, sitting up in my customary Sec. 227: excellent view looking straight down the 1B line and proximity to all varieties of concessions that the dome has to offer, from Famous Dave's to Polish sausages to cheesesteaks to ice cream to the very good burger grill. It's the best value in the joint, and don't even talk to me about the so-called "Home Run Porch"--which is a "porch" like the "Clear Skies Act" is designed to give us clearer skies. But, to each his own. Sit where you want, just don't be blocking my view of the field with your "Circle Me, Bert" sign, don't kick the back of my seat or bump your knee against my head, and don't otherwise annoy Capt. Bess, and we'll get along fine.

Anyway, as we were watching Lew Ford come to bat in the 1st inning, after Stewart and Castro had already grounded out, Bess asked how Leeewwwwwww! was doing and whether we might expect him to break the ice with a hit right then. I said he'd been doing well lately after a slow start on the season, and blahblahblah... but that Bartolo Colon could be tough when he's on his game, so "we might not see many hits today." Blame me, I guess, if you think I might have the power to put the whammy on our boys and bring Johan's streak to an end by uttering my thoughts out loud in Sec. 227. Then again, I felt pretty sure that Bush was going to lose the election last November and that the White Sox might sink back to 75 wins and 4th place this season. So the scope of my powers would seem to be fairly limited or scattershot at best.

It was a great pitcher's duel, but, funny thing, the Sunday afternoon crowd didn't seem to be really up for it. Sure, Johan easily got the loudest ovation in the pregame introductions. But watching him duel a pitcher who holds the Twins to a lone single to Rightfield through 7 innings? Hmm, not really so much what they came to see. Your local Public Library & Internet Cafe holds a noisier crowd on any given day, except for the occasional moment when Johan had two strikes on a batter and/or the video board hectored us to GET ON YOUR FEET and make some NOISE! It's funny how people can be moved to scream for TC Bear to shoot a T-shirt out of his mortar cannon in their general direction, too. (Take a hint, people: if you're sitting in the upper deck, TC Bear's mortar cannon is giving you bupkis.) Otherwise, I sensed the crowd was hoping for more Twins hits launched into the "Home Run Porch," and not so much of that dreary duel.

The hometown team did generate some excitement in the 8th inning when, with 1 out, Jacque Jones hit a soft chopper that dribbed just past Colon and he reached base when Chone Figgins bobbled the ball. (It was scored a hit, but really that was a gift from the hometown scorekeeper, who must be dreaming of helping Jacque win a batting title or making the All-Star team.) Colon made way for Scott Shields, who promptly gave up a single to Michael Cuddyer and walked Joe Mauer to load the bases. When Mauer was announced as the pinch-hitter, you could feel the juice get turned up several notches. You could tell, we believe in that kid, we sense something special will happen when he gets involved; or do we just so badly want to see the hometown boy make good? The buzz got even louder after he walked, bringing up LeCroy to bat for Rivas, and never mind that K-Rod was jogging in from the bullpen mound, nor the Twins' Curse of Batting With the Bases Loaded. It felt like the Twins were going to come back to win at that point. It had to happen, and LeCroy did punch a grounder up the middle that would have gone through for a single in some situations; but in that case the SS Orlando Cabrera was shading towards the middle, in perfect position to start the double play. The Curse strikes again.

Shannon Stewart led off the bottom of the 9th with a homer that carried just into the 3rd row of the "Porch," but K-Rod settled things down again from there, striking out Justin Morneau (who feuded with the umpire on a couple dodgy strike-three calls) to end the game. It was a bummer to walk back out into that winter weather yesterday, having seen Santana's streak come to an end before a fairly disengaged crowd. But the team did play a strong series against the West leaders, and might have been just a timely basehit away from a sweep. Also, more than ninety-thousand came out for the series; and to the Sunday crowd's credit, not many left before the final out. The team passed a challenging test, and it looks like the fans are on board to support the club through the rest of the season. I left the park feeling disappointed, but I feel optimistic about where the team stands at this point, too.

Now if only they could get this bench issue squared away.... (heh)

The Pioneer Press this morning ran a story headlined, Bench is caught short, in which Gardy bemoans his lack of options when K-Rod entered the game in that 8th inning: "We knew there was a possibility of a double play, but that's with everybody. After the fact, yeah, boy, I wish we would've done something different, but that's where we're short on our bench, not having another pinch hitter available, left-handed, like a Tiffee there. You might use Tiffee in that situation and save Matty for one more (pinch-hit situation)." The story writer Jason Williams points out in his piece that it's Corky Miller's presence on the roster which caused the predicament, but there is no follow-up quote indicating any self-reflection on Gardy's part. It's really too bad that there's nothing you can do to address that situation, eh, Gardy? Curse the fates!

After the game I also heard someone call in to WCCO to talk about whether Corky Miller really has any more value as a 3rd-string Catcher than Rob Bowen at AAA, and why couldn't they cut Miller to bring Terry Tiffee back. True to form, the host blew him off before anyone could be caught questioning decisions made by Twins management too deeply. What kind of sports call-in show pointedly discourages callers from saying anything inflammatory about the local ballclub's management, even on an issue like whether it's such a great idea to carry four Catchers on the roster? Yet it seems to be WCCO policy, whether it's daytime or latenight with Dark Star. Are they on the take, or did Tom Kelly just whack the balls off the lot of them sometime back around 1992? Don't kid yourself, I'll bet TK's got a few unique trophies kept away in his den, and not just the '87 ALCS and Series balls that Herbie gave to him.

Does this man resemble a neutered cat?

Perhaps he has more in common with Funny Cide than just a love for the racetrack.

Oh, so mean... so cutting... Oh, Minnesota, you know it's so true.


Two actual messages received in my Scout.com mailbox on Sunday afternoon, May 1, when the White Sox led the division by 1.5 games:

From: ZenSmellsLikePOOP
To: frightwig
Subject: FYI

Predicting the White Sox to finish with 75 wins when they have the MLB Record for 25 games in a row to start the seaon off, in which Chicago has had the lead every single game played. Chew on that brainiac.

From: MakeYaSayUgh
To: frightwig
Subject: Hey idiot

You picked the White Sox 21st overall? Boy, are you dumb.

You'd think they've never seen their team in 1st place at the start of May before, bless their hearts.