Monday, April 30, 2007

Links for 5/1

What a crazy weekend. After struggling to hit pitchers no one had ever heard of, the Twins put up 19 runs against the Tigers while taking two of three in Detroit. Torii Hunter returned with a vengeance after taking a pitch in the grill (possibly inspiring the team), Carlos Silva picked up his third win by turning in his third quality start, Russ Ortiz notched his fifth consecutive quality start and Jessie Crain gave up a run in each of his two appearances, but won one game and lost the other. And to top it all off, Johan Santana turned in the second best April of his career (only bested by his 2005 numbers).

So where do the Twins stand after an up and down April? Aside from the obvious answer of "Better than last year", there's still a lot up in the air. Last year's 9-15 start also afforded the Twins a chance (as well as forced them) to cut their ineffective veterans and try out the young talent. While they'll have the opportunity to discard Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva have more than earned an opportunity to continue pitching. After all, it's hard to cut the two starters who have the best ERA in your rotation. And oddly enough, the only real starter (Ponson doesn't count) that's struggling is Boof!, the only non Johan starter people expected to pitch well. Monsieur Bonser has been up and down all year, and no one is quite sure what's wrong with him, or if we should be worried.

At the plate, the Twins inconsistency continues (and will most likely do so unless Kubel and Ron-DL can add some power to the lineup). Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto have improved, but that was almost guaranteed, considering how poorly they started. The question still remains as to whether they'll get back to their 2006 levels and the answer is an important one--if they aren't both getting on base, the Pirhana offense doesn't work.

Last year, the Twins didn't start to dig themselves out of their early hole until Mid-May. Luckily, we don't have to worry about that this year. That being said, they still need to turn in a solid May, or else they may find themselves in yet another hole.

But for now, it's time for the Quick Links:

  • Coffeyville Whirlwind has used the 20th anniversary of the Twins first World Series Championship to take a look back at that miraculous season.
  • There are some who think that Joe Mauer would have been the #1 pick in more than one sport.
  • "New cars with automatic transmissions are not built with a clutch. New cars with automatic transmissions are now built with a Mike Redmond."
  • Will Leitch memorializes Josh Hancock
  • The Hall of Could Have Been
  • Harmon Killebrew takes a look back

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gone Fishin'

The end-of-semester crunch is on full time here at Sharkey Manor, so just another brief post today. But I find the Joe Thomas situation with tomorrow’s NFL draft to be an interesting one, and I thought I’d see what people thought about it.

For those that haven’t heard, Wisconsin offensive lineman and super-highly rated prospect Joe Thomas is skipping tomorrow’s NFL draft to go fishing instead. When I first heard this, I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do. It seemed to show how down-to-earth he was—that he didn’t take himself too seriously. After all, the draft is a ridiculous made-for-TV sideshow and his being there or not doesn’t change anything. Why not enjoy a day on the water?

Then I heard that the NFL Network is going to have a camera out on his boat to get his reaction. ...huh? I feel like that changes everything. Does this not reek of a publicity stunt? I suppose I could give him the benefit of the doubt, but this smells awfully fishy, doesn’t it?

Oh wow... I just realized the terrible pun at the end of that sentence. Please forgive me. Somewhere, a writing teacher weeps.

I guess I’m just disappointed, that’s all. I’m already tired of the draft-as-spectacle junk, and for a moment I thought we had a breath of fresh air and perspective. But unfortunately, Thomas is probably just another part of the show.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fantasy Baseball Corrosive?

Usually Baseball Prospectus is the target of pompous rants, which is why Transaction Analysis columnist Christina Kahrl's branding of fantasy baseball as corrosive surprised me, as it reeks of the same arrogance usually displayed by crotchety members of the baseball print world:

So, [Mariners fans] get King Felix, and that is quite simply a beautiful thing. And then we have last night’s departure from the mound. I have to think that when Hernandez came out of the game waggling his elbow, thousands of hearts leapt into thousands of throats, not even all of them belonging to Mariners fans, but to baseball fans. And then this afternoon I get reminded that there’s a huge subset of the audience that could care less about King Felix, Mariner, source of hope, because they’re interested in “F. Hernandez, RHP, Commodity, $25.” Cuz he gets strikeouts, donchaknow, and those are worth points.

Kahrl goes on to write:

I’m fascinated by team construction and player usage patterns, and how real teams try to really win or really get better. For me, there’s something fundamentally wrong when the order of concern isn’t over a great young pitcher’s future and what his possible injury means to him or to his team, but instead first flips to whether or not this injury affects something that, to me, is about as exciting as playing the futures market, and feeling the thrill of putting everything on soy.

Thousands of other baseball fans are also fascinated by team construction, so much so that they are inspired to try their own hand at being a general manager. When Bill Bavasi asks himself, "Where the heck do I find someone to replace Hernandez' innings?" and answers Jake Woods, it's a question of roster construction, which Kahrl finds beautiful, subtle, and nuanced. If Joe or Josephine Rotoplayer asks themselves that same question, and answers Mark Hendrickson, it's corrosive? And this in addition to whatever feelings fantasy players have for the Mariners (though Kahrl doesn't appear to trust that if you play fantasy baseball, you retain any emotional attachment to the game).

Kahrl's Transaction Analysis columns are a big part of why I shell out $40 a year to read BP's premium content (Will Carroll's Under the Knife is also a must read and Future Shock columnist Kevin Goldstein has been an awesome addition to what was already an exceptional group). She's also done great work on the annuals that BP publishes every year during spring training, but Kahrl should take a note from BP Executive Vice President Nate Silver. From his response to the Murray Chass column linked above:

We have found that millions of baseball fans appreciate our perspective on issues like these. At worst, we hope to offer them a choice. At best, we hope to increase the caliber of baseball discussion, and to give them another way to love and enjoy the game.

It's too bad an entertaining and informative writer like Kahrl is posturing like she were a part of baseball's self-appointed Ministry of Culture (see: BBWAA). No one way of enjoying the game is superior to another, but more importantly, the assumption that different perspectives are mutually exclusive is hack-kneed.

Eric Hinz, of Fake Teams put it well:

Would Hernandez be as well known if it weren't for fantasy baseball? God
knows, I listen to enough games on XM to know that the announcers should be
compelled to play fantasy sports just to learn about other teams' players!

With the proliferation of baseball fans, and specifically fantasy players on the internet, coupled with free league management services, fantasy baseball is bringing together baseball fans that would have never crossed paths before. It's also drastically expanded the base of players fans know about, which in turn expands the number of players and teams fans care about. In the reserve draft of my AL-only rotisserie league people used late round fliers on Yu Darvish and Yulieski Gourriel. There is no way fantasy baseball is diminishing people's connection with or enjoyment of the game. Sure it's not for everyone, but it's far from corrosive.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Warriors are Our Salvation

“Oh wow.”

With those two words, Steve Nash summed up the first chunk of the NBA playoffs. This was midway through the second quarter of Tuesday night’s thrashing of the hapless Lakers. As Nash was taking the ball up the court, he suddenly unleashed a spot-on alley-oop from forty-five feet to Shawn Marion (who was cutting behind the defense). Experiencing this play in real-time was jarring—one of those double-take moments. The pass was a laser.

The best part was only revealed on replay, however. TNT (whose coverage smokes ABC/ESPN, but that’s another topic entirely) fired up a court-level camera shot of Nash as he was crossing the half-court line. He seems fairly normal at first, then he looks up—and his eyes go wide. I mean, huge, popping-out-of-his-head wide. The replay then very clearly shows Nash saying to himself “Oh wow” just before he unleashes the dish to Marion.

He took the words right out of my mouth.

The Suns are a pleasure to watch—this much we all know. Against the Lakers last night they elevated their art to as high a level as I’ve ever seen, throwing up 68 points in the first half on their way to 126. Tasty. They spent the majority of the evening toying with Los Angeles and unleashing the blinding fury of Leandro Barbosa. The NBA is simply more fun with Phoenix around.

Tonight’s games mean even more. The second games of the Denver/San Antonio and Golden State/Dallas series will go a long way towards determining what type of playoffs we’re in for this summer. If Denver and Golden State manage to upset the two favored Texas teams in round one, we will be set up for basketball the likes of which we could only dream of watching San Antonio and Detroit a few years ago: fun!

Game one of the Denver/San Antonio series had an interesting vibe to it: the Nuggets simply seemed like the better team. This was not supposed to happen; the Nuggets are supposed to be the out-of-control squad looking to find itself for next season, while the Spurs are the steady hand looking for another ring. Thankfully for those of us who like to be entertained by our basketball, this was not the case.

The Spurs are boring. Sorry, it’s true. I say this with no malice or ill-will, but simply out of taste. They’ve been here so often that they seem too in-control at all times. Sure, every so often Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili get out and run a little bit, but there never seems to be any joy in their game. Denver gives us just the opposite: two major scorers (Carmelo and Iverson), a guard who looks to push the ball (Steve Blake), Nene emerging as a force on the block, and Marcus Camby sparking the fast break with blocked shots on the defensive end. A Denver overthrow of the San Antonio monolith (which would be helped tremendously by a game two win this evening) would go a long way towards bringing the joy back to playoff-watching.

Golden State is another matter entirely. They don’t start anyone taller than 6-9 (Al Harrington playing “center”). They have a coach (Don Nelson) who lives to push the tempo and run up points. He’s molded this team in his image and released them on the world for all of us to bask in. Their upset of top-seeded Dallas in game one was the most significant aesthetic blow yet struck in these playoffs. The halftime score was 38-38, if my memory serves, but this wasn’t a dry, defensive struggle. It was frantic, frenetic. Shots flying from everywhere. Loose balls. Absurd passes.

Dallas has the “better” team, so Golden State has simply opted to create chaos. The Mavericks are held up as the gold standard for creating a great basketball team: they seem to have all the pieces in place, with everyone playing their perfectly assigned role. The Warriors, on the other hand, simply toss out all the roles. Harrington is their tallest starter, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to wander out behind the three-point line. Baron Davis at the point guard is their best post-up, back to the basket player. So what? Dallas was forced in game one to adapt to Golden State’s style (their two centers, Diop and Dampier, barely played), and the Warriors prevailed.

In these game twos, two things can happen. The Texas teams may come out and reassert dominance, smashing Denver and Golden State to pieces. This would be a notable setback, giving the favored teams momentum as they head on the road. The other option is much more exciting: what if Denver and Golden State play it tough again? They don’t necessarily have to win (although that would be fantastic), but they can prove that they belong in these series. Then, friends, we really have something to watch.

I haven’t even touched on the virtues of teams like Houston, Toronto, and Chicago (LUOL DENG!) yet. Suffice it to say, after the putrid regular season, basketball is rising from the ashes. I hope you’re watching.

John Sharkey can be found practicing his crossover at

PS: I would be remiss if I did not give a significant hat-tip to the scribes of FreeDarko. If you aren't reading them yet, then you should be.

Deconstructing Norworth

It's been 99 years since Jack Norworth, an established vaudeville performer and songwriter during the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, first penned the lyrics to Take Me Out to the Ballgame while riding on a train to Manhattan. But it was only recently that the good folks at got around to giving their unique take on the unofficial anthem of baseball:

Take me out to the ball game…
Well, duh. We’re baseball fans. We’re the people you wrote the song about. We like baseball. Of course we want to go to the ball game. What better way is there to spend time on a fine summer’s day, unless it’s flinging vitriol at baseball writers and announcers who use every day as a new opportunity to display their ignorance of the game they actually get paid to write and talk about. Seriously, a dead person could come up with a more original opening lyric than this. Oh, that’s right; Norworth is a dead person. Never mind.

Take me out with the crowd.
We’re not the only baseball fans in this city or this country, you know. They’ve been playing this game for several generations now, since back before the Civil War, and there are rumors going around that it just might become very popular some day, sort of a National Pastime even. Of course, that could be one of those urban myths like albino alligators in the New York City sewers or Dice-K’s gyroball. So unless the game’s being played in Washington, D.C. or Kansas City, we would pretty much expect to be there with a crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…
Cripes, how many times do we have to cover this same ground? We’ve said it a bazillion times before. There are already peanuts in Cracker Jack. You don’t need to buy peanuts and Cracker Jack – BECAUSE CRACKER JACK ALREADY HAS PEANUTS IN IT! Give the vendors a break, already. They work hard schlepping up and down those steps for minimum wage so you can stuff your face with fatty overpriced junk that clogs your arteries and dimples your butt like a golf ball. And it wouldn’t hurt to carry a little spare change of your own when you head to the ballpark, you know. Self-reliance is a really endearing trait.

I don't care if I never get back.
Maybe you don’t care, but some of us do. We have lives and families. We have responsibilities. We work for insurance companies and whatnot. We have to find new ways to screw people out of their claims and raise premiums without drawing the attention of regulatory agencies or we don’t get paid. But instead we have to listen to you going on and on about you. Because just like Manny and Barry, it’s always all about you, isn’t it? On second thought, we don’t care if you never get back, either.

Let me root, root, root for the home team...
Oh, I see. Because the home team is the only team with good baseball players. Right. Have you checked the PECOTA rankings of the visiting team’s outfield this year? Or the Range Factors of their middle infielders? How about the WHIP of their starting pitchers or the FIP of their bullpen? The OPS, Isolated Power, and Win Shares of the 3-7 hitters? Because maybe there might be some players on the other teams worth rooting for just because they happen to be very good baseball players, even if they work for teams in different zip codes. We always expected rank homerism from Phil Rizzuto, but as intelligent, thoughtful baseball aficionados we should be well past that ourselves by now, shouldn’t we?

If they don't win it's a shame.
Look, this really isn’t prefrontal lobe surgery here. Even the best teams lose 50 games or more every year, and about half of those are at home. Sure, it’s a shame, but sabermetrics clearly show that no team has ever won all of its home games, even the Yankees, even in a strike-shortened season, and the probabilities against it happening are astronomical. They’re roughly the same as Sidney Ponson pitching a perfect game. Never happened, never will. Some days you get the bear and some days, well, the bear gets you. Get over it.

For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out…
Unless they’ve completely rewritten the rules of baseball in the last century-and-a-half, three strikes always equal an out, unless the catcher drops the ball on strike three with first base open, in which case the batter must be put out by a fielder in possession of the ball tagging him before he achieves first base or by a fielder possessing the ball tagging first base before the batter achieves it in order to record an out. Man, this just gets so damn old after a while. Did this clown ever actually play the game of baseball? Did he ever actually watch a game of baseball? Because this stuff should be as obvious as the ignorance that spews from the mouth of Joe Morgan like Linda Blair pea soup vomit on a nightly basis.

At the old ball game.
Yes, we get it. They’ve been playing baseball for many, many years. It’s a game with a lot of tradition and a long history. It’s a game that has stood the test of time. We get it, we really do. It’s a game that can even survive the soul-killing, endless repetition of a trite, hackneyed song like this one for nearly a century and be none the worse for wear. In fact, people don’t even sing this whole song because they don’t know the rest of the lyrics, just that God-awful refrain that they keep bleating over and over again like sheep in the slaughterhouse chutes. The rest of it is so bad that brain synapses melt down when you try to sing it. If this song were really any good, why did Norworth rewrite the lyrics nineteen years after it was first published? Why did he change the protagonist’s name from Katie Casey to Nelly Kelly? That’s pretty radical revisionism. I mean, the People’s Republic of China could learn a thing or two from this guy. Hey, Norworth! We’ve got your old ball game right here, you pitiful vaudeville hack.

This entry posted by Twayn, who can be bothered at

Monday, April 23, 2007

Links for April 23rd

It’s hard to be unhappy with the Twins performance this year when you consider that last year they were sitting at 7-11, the exact opposite of this year’s record. And how can you complain when the team is in first place in the division, tied with Baltimore (Who knew the Orioles had recovered so well from their opening series sweep?) for the second best record in the American League? Of course, dropping two of three to the Royals, including a wasted Ramon Ortiz’ consecutive quality start, (a missed opportunity considering their May schedule) really makes it hard to get into a celebratory mood.

It doesn’t help that there are question marks about when Rondell White and Luis Castillo will be able to return and how effective they will be. Or that Ron Gardenhire wants a third catcher (a natural result of Redmond being among the nine best bats available, due to White and Jeff Cirillo's injuries). Then there's the fact that we Twins' fans have been spoiled the last few years, and are thus a little freaked out by Joe Nathan's performance so far. And Anthony Swarzak, one of the Twins' best pitching prospects, is going to be out for fifty days for violating the league's drug policy (recreational, not performance).

And yet, the Twins are coming home in first place, something they could not say the entirety of last year. So life, while complicated, is good. And now, onto the Quick Links:

  • Jesse Lund of Twinkietown has a look at Alexi Casilla, aka L'il Luis.
  • "It takes two to tango and two to mambo/But you can do it all with just one Bombo"
  • So any talk of resigning Torii might be moot, since there's the possibility he'll be ineligible for three years. At least he'll take Mike Sweetney with him.
  • Brian Meehan of the Oregonian tells the story of how Pat Neshak became "Sideshow Pat". And Jonah Keri of has an interview with the submariner from Brooklyn Park
  • If there's one reason to lament the advent of contacts and Lasik, it's the effect it's had on baseball players' eye wear.
  • Finally, if you're looking for information on who the Vikings' are going to be taking in the NFL draft on Sunday, make sure to stop by the Ragnarok for player previews and other draft day discussions.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Twins-Royals Game Log

TOP OF THE FIRST: Twins 0, Royals 0.

Kyle (1:09:35 PM): Twins dodge a bullet early with DeJesus having the day off.

Kyle (1:09:42 PM): He's been on a tear.

John (1:10:04 PM): DeLaRosa!

John (1:10:10 PM): Huzzah!

Kyle (1:10:37 PM): He's been suprisingly adiquate in his first three starts.

John (1:11:04 PM): I'm massively excited for the Alexi Casilla era.

[Casilla lines out to Tony Pena, Jr. at shortstop.]

Kyle (1:11:34 PM): Nice contact there for a slap hitter, just placed too close to Pena.

John (1:11:45 PM): Yeah, he hit that well.

John (1:11:51 PM): And, he is not J.C. Romero.

John (1:12:01 PM): Which wins him all kinds of bonus points.

Kyle (1:12:04 PM): An excellent point.

[Punto slides head first into first base beating out the throw on an infield single.]

John (1:12:59 PM): Ah yes; it's nice to see Punto diving into first again.

Kyle (1:13:10 PM): Don't slide! It's not any faster and sooner or later he's going to tweak something.

John (1:13:26 PM): He gets hurt enough as it is.

Kyle (1:13:39 PM): And what's with Mauer catching while Redmond is in the line-up as the DH?

John (1:14:00 PM): I hate to use the word "idiocy," but...

Kyle (1:14:25 PM): That, or the Twins are really worried about Esteban German...

John (1:14:28 PM): Haha.

John (1:14:44 PM): And really, who in their right mind wouldn't be?

Kyle (1:14:58 PM): If he can just figure out a way to steal first base...

John (1:15:18 PM): He'll do it by just sneaking out from the dugout.

Kyle (1:15:47 PM): And just act confused if any of the umpires call him on it.

John (1:16:11 PM): Yeah - "What are you talking about? If I didn't get a hit, then how did I get here?"

[Jorge DeLaRosa walks Cuddyer.]

Kyle (1:16:14 PM): Wow did that pitch miss...

Kyle (1:16:24 PM): Looked like a pitch-out on 3-1.

John (1:16:43 PM): That's the kind of execution that will take you straight to 100 losses.

Kyle (1:17:20 PM): Bases loaded, one out... nothing like establishing yourself early...

John (1:17:29 PM): Especially for Ortiz.

John (1:17:39 PM): I'm all about giving him a cushion.

Kyle (1:18:30 PM): I read over at Baseball HQ that his fly ball rate this year has only been 19%, and to expect it to regress back to around 30%, which is when his chronic gopheritis will return.

John (1:18:50 PM): Ugh.

John (1:18:57 PM): Oh well - get what we can out of him.

[Hunter flies out to center and Bremer mistakes Mark Teahen for Ryan Shealy.]

Kyle (1:19:00 PM): Shealy?!?

Kyle (1:19:03 PM): In center?

John (1:19:21 PM): Teahen?

Kyle (1:19:31 PM): A sort-of-humorous-gaff by Bremer.

John (1:19:34 PM): Haha.

John (1:19:46 PM): But still - I didn't know Teahen could play center.

Kyle (1:19:57 PM): Define "could".

John (1:20:02 PM): Good point.

Kyle (1:20:14 PM): He's certainly capable of positioning himself there.

John (1:20:31 PM): He can put the glove on his hand.

John (1:20:45 PM): Decent catch on Hunter to end the inning, at least.

John (1:21:28 PM): I think I'd pay to see Shealy try to play center, though.

BOTTOM OF THE FIRST: Twins 0, Royals 0.

Kyle (1:21:58 PM): First baseman batting eighth for the Royals... always a good sign.

John (1:22:06 PM): Yeah, totally.

John (1:22:29 PM): Look at those empty seats.

Kyle (1:22:40 PM): I had a lot of fun at games when the Twins were terrible. I'd always pull the, "I'm from out of town, is there a trophy case I could photograph?" with the octogenarian they post to guard the stairs from the upper deck to lower level.

John (1:23:00 PM): Muahaha.

[Blyleven mentions the Twins have the best defense in the league.]

John (1:23:06 PM): "Twins have the best defense... statistically."

John (1:23:12 PM): Err... how so?

Kyle (1:24:32 PM): As much as I expect Ortiz to plummet back to Earth, he's shown great control all spring and early this season.

John (1:24:52 PM): What if he actually ends up pitching well?

John (1:24:57 PM): Like, four-ish ERA?

John (1:25:11 PM): Do we cannonize Terry Ryan?

Kyle (1:25:34 PM): It wouldn't be the first time I've been completely wrong, but I'd rather heap the praise on Rick Anderson.

John (1:26:10 PM): He could be the anti-Batista.

Kyle (1:26:22 PM): Unless the scouting department saw something in a pitcher that gave up over 30 bombs in less than 200 innings pitching his home games at RFK?

John (1:26:28 PM): Haha.

John (1:26:36 PM): He carried himself well.

Kyle (1:26:43 PM): Haha.

John (1:26:53 PM): Good attitude, always took control of pop flies.

TOP OF THE SECOND: Twins 0, Royals 0.

John (1:27:29 PM): I can't get over this, "Redmond at DH thing."

John (1:27:50 PM): I'd prefer to keep Mauer in some kind of protective bubble at all times anyway.

Kyle (1:28:25 PM): I don't mind it in isolation, against a lefty, with White and Cirillo on the DL, but yeah, do we really need Mauer behind the plate today, against the Royals?

John (1:29:17 PM): I don't see any reason not to DH Mauer - Redmond is more than serviceable behind the plate.

[Josh Rabe strikes out against DeLaRosa on a curve outside the zone.]

Kyle (1:29:57 PM): I like the organizational soldiers like Rabe, except when they're forced into extended duty, or when they're getting owned by Jorge DeLaRosa...

John (1:30:04 PM): Haha.

John (1:30:13 PM): Might leave that one off his resume.

John (1:30:23 PM): "Owned by Jorge DeLaRosa."

[Jason Bartlett flies out to left.]

Kyle (1:30:57 PM): Decent catch by Gload... so that gives KC a first baseman in left and a third baseman in center?

John (1:31:18 PM): I think they just put names in a hat before they fill out the lineup card.

Kyle (1:31:46 PM): Either that, or Jose Oquendo was named manager before the game but no one outside the team was told.

John (1:31:55 PM): Haha.

BOTTOM OF THE SECOND: Twins 0, Royals 0.

[Mike Sweeny squares to bunt and has to use the bat to protect himself on a pitch up and in.]

John (1:32:45 PM): Whoa.

Kyle (1:32:53 PM): A bunt, by Mike Sweeney?

Kyle (1:33:09 PM): I'm speachless.

John (1:33:14 PM): I thought he bunted it off his own face.

Kyle (1:33:27 PM): That was the right pitch for the situation.

John (1:33:46 PM): That's the kind of leadership that made Ryan take note of Ortiz.

[Alex Gordon steps into the box for his first at-bat of the game.]

Kyle (1:34:28 PM): Have you seen the Royals new marketing campaign?

John (1:34:32 PM): No.

Kyle (1:34:38 PM): Alex Gordon: Giving you a reason to pay attention.

John (1:34:47 PM): Haha.

John (1:34:55 PM): And killing my fantasy team right now.

Kyle (1:35:28 PM): You should start sending him angry letters using characters cut out of magazines.

John (1:35:49 PM): "iF YOu DOn,T HIT..."

Kyle (1:36:03 PM): Haha.

[Reggie Sanders is safe at first after a fielding error.]

Kyle (1:36:42 PM): Bartlett looked pretty rough on that backhand, the ball didn't appear to take any funny hops.

John (1:36:57 PM): I don't know why he tried to backhand it.

Kyle (1:37:11 PM): Groin affecting mobility?

John (1:37:21 PM): That'd be my guess.

Kyle (1:37:39 PM): Mine usually gets me to chase stuff.

Kyle (1:37:44 PM): Zing!

John (1:37:47 PM): Haha.

Kyle (1:38:06 PM): Oh, this is no longer a family show...

John (1:38:14 PM): We'll have to rate it PG-13.

[Ortiz strikes out John Buck swinging.]

Kyle (1:38:34 PM): Ortiz for Cy Young!

John (1:38:46 PM): We can start an online petition and everything.

Kyle (1:38:56 PM): Forget about locking Santana up long term, the Twins need to prioritize.

John (1:39:00 PM): Totally.

John (1:39:11 PM): Ortiz = Lifetime Favre-style contract.

John (1:39:43 PM): We'll have to rename the Cy Young the "Ramon Ortiz."

Kyle (1:40:06 PM): They already have that award. Eric Milton has won it the past few years.

John (1:40:12 PM): Haha.

TOP OF THE THIRD: Twins 0, Royals 0.

[Alexi Casilla steps into the box.]

Kyle (1:40:44 PM): Man, I bet Casilla is glad he got away from the middle infield log jam that is the Angels' organization.

John (1:41:07 PM): Yeah, no kidding.

John (1:41:16 PM): They moved Wood to third, right?

Kyle (1:41:41 PM): Yes, seeing as they've got Aybar and Cabrera is under contract still.

John (1:42:01 PM): I've got a man-crush on Kendrick.

[Casilla strikes out looking, Punto grounds out to second.]

John (1:42:27 PM): DeLaRosa... cruising?

Kyle (1:42:36 PM): Are we witnessing an Ortiz-DeLaRosa pitcher's duel?

John (1:42:51 PM): Not what I would have predicted.

Kyle (1:43:10 PM): It's the Gibson-Koufax of a new millenium.

John (1:43:20 PM): Hide the women and children.

Kyle (1:44:40 PM): I really don't want to have to say that the Twins really blew it by not capitalizing in the first with a converted reliever that Milwaukee discarded on the mound.

[Joe Mauer grounds out to short.]

John (1:44:55 PM): Ugh.

John (1:45:15 PM): I do enjoy the occasional run scoring.

BOTTOM OF THIRD: Twins 0, Royals 0.

[Ryan Shealy lines a single up the middle.]

John (1:46:52 PM): Ortiz almost got his head taken off.

Kyle (1:46:55 PM): And Shealy pulls his average back above .100.

John (1:47:03 PM): All hail Ryan Shealy!

[Tony Pena, Jr. attempts to sacrfice Shealy to second but bunts the ball foul.]

Kyle (1:47:42 PM): Why try to sac Shealy to second? It'll still take three hits to score him from there.

John (1:47:53 PM): Ba-zing!

John (1:48:18 PM): That kid behind the plate looks like he's having a wonderful time

John (1:48:34 PM): "Daddy, why do we suck?"

Kyle (1:49:01 PM): He was upset his old man cancled his dental appointment.

John (1:49:17 PM): That root canal is looking mighty attractive.

[Tony Pena, Jr. grounds into a fielders choice with Shealy out at second.]

Kyle (1:50:06 PM): Mauer better nail Pena trying to steal to justify the risk taken by sticking him behind the plate today.

John (1:50:22 PM): And hit another three doubles.

Kyle (1:51:12 PM): Ortiz is pounding the zone, and not getting pounded back. Nice to see.

John (1:51:27 PM): He seems pretty confident in his stuff.

John (1:51:38 PM): Which, against the Royals, is probably justified.

Kyle (1:52:05 PM): That's good for a guy sentimentally known as "Whiplash" back in our nation's capital.

John (1:52:19 PM): Kept the chiropractors in business.

John (1:52:29 PM): Along with Ted Kennedy behind the wheel.

[Ross Gload homers to center scoring Pena.]

Kyle (1:52:42 PM): And I jinxed it.

John (1:52:42 PM): Yuck.

John (1:52:53 PM): Fear Ross Gload.

Kyle (1:53:45 PM): How come with every homerun hit, according to Bert, the batter just "dropped the head of the bat"?

John (1:53:57 PM): It's just that easy.

Kyle (1:54:18 PM): Why didn't I ever think of that back in Babe Ruth?

John (1:54:24 PM): Totally.

John (1:54:32 PM): I can drop the head of the bat, too.

John (1:54:39 PM): In fact, I can drop the whole bat.

[Teahen pops an Ortiz pitch foul behind the plate and out of play to the first base side.]

Kyle (1:55:31 PM): I'm completely and utterly paranoid. Someone tell Mauer he's not allowed to run after pop fouls.

John (1:56:38 PM): Keep him on a leash.

[After Teahen singles, Sweeney singles to center and advances to second with Morneau unable to get rid of the relay from Hunter with no one covering second leaving runners at second and third.]

John (1:57:09 PM): Urgh.

Kyle (1:57:13 PM): Casilla should have been covering second...

John (1:57:32 PM): Bad times.

John (1:57:59 PM): Ortiz needs to man up.

Kyle (1:58:07 PM): That got scored as a double? I guess, just something cosmicly wrong with that tweener boosting someone's slugging percentage...

Kyle (1:58:47 PM): 1-2... Come on Whiplash!

Kyle (1:58:52 PM): Big K!

John (1:58:55 PM): Hee-ya.

Kyle (1:59:02 PM): Yes!

John (1:59:05 PM): The cowboy monkey.

Kyle (1:59:23 PM): Of Taco John's fame?

John (1:59:27 PM): Indeed.

John (1:59:28 PM): In fact, I will now call Ortiz "the Cowboy Monkey."

Kyle (1:59:44 PM): Have to love a fast food joint that tries to pass off tater-tots as Tex-Mex.

John (1:59:52 PM): Yum!

John (2:00:01 PM): Whiplash was at the North Dakota State Fair.

John (2:00:06 PM): I, sadly, missed that show.

Kyle (2:00:14 PM): You guys know how to party.

John (2:00:28 PM): Like crazy.

Kyle (2:00:38 PM): And I hear the beautiful women are as plentiful as the hills and trees...

John (2:00:44 PM): Ouch.

John (2:01:05 PM): Teddy Roosevelt is going to destroy you from the grave.

John (2:01:20 PM): Or just reach for his inhaler.

Kyle (2:01:38 PM): Joke's on me. I live downtown Saint Paul, which is pretty much the same as North Dakota after 5 PM.

John (2:01:56 PM): Haha.

TOP OF THE FOURTH: Twins 0, Royals 2.

Kyle (2:02:47 PM): Man, nine in a row and four Ks on the day for... Jorge DeLaRosa?

John (2:03:22 PM): Think we can swing a DeLaRosa for Ortiz deal?

Kyle (2:03:41 PM): We'd need to throw in Garza, Slowey, and Parmelee.

John (2:03:45 PM): That works.

John (2:03:55 PM): I'm ready to pull the trigger.

[Tony Pena, Jr. makes a great backhanded grab and throw to put Hunter out at first.]

Kyle (2:04:40 PM): Wow. Nice play by Pena.

John (2:04:44 PM): Nice stab!

Kyle (2:04:54 PM): He's going to need to make a lot of those to carry his bat.

John (2:05:13 PM): About three per inning, I believe.

Kyle (2:05:23 PM): Ouch, you're cutting deep.

John (2:05:44 PM): My apologies to Pena's friends and family that read this.

Kyle (2:05:56 PM): Or, just his family...

Kyle (2:06:07 PM): I know Senior reads our blog daily.

John (2:06:25 PM): I'm honored.

BOTTOM OF THE FOURTH: Twins 0, Royals 2.

[Reggie Sanders sends a hard hit ball to center, which is pulled in by Torii Hunter.]

Kyle (2:08:09 PM): Ortiz left that one over the plate, good thing it was an at-'em ball.

Kyle (2:08:15 PM): And coincedentally, it's interesting to learn Reggie Sanders is still alive.

John (2:08:20 PM): I never get used to the fountain blowing in front of the camera.

John (2:08:32 PM): Looks like they're playing in a monsoon.

Kyle (2:09:12 PM): Yeah... you'd think they'd find a better spot to position the camera.

John (2:09:40 PM): Like in any of the 28,000 empty seats.

Kyle (2:09:38 PM): Maybe it's a ploy to explain attendance.

Kyle (2:09:55 PM): If only it weren't monsoon season in Missouri...

John (2:10:21 PM): Keeps the rice crop healthy.

TOP OF THE FIFTH: Twins 0, Royals 2.

Kyle (2:12:32 PM): DeJesus is actually out of the line-up after being bitten by a banded krait.

John (2:12:57 PM): A...what?

Kyle (2:13:15 PM):

John (2:13:49 PM): Shealy stuck it in his locker as a prank.

Kyle (2:14:09 PM): Man, that's a tough crowd.

Kyle (2:14:58 PM): I think they've got the scrappy intestinal fortitude to come up with a plan so crazy it just might work, and beat the arrogant rich kids on the last day of the season with a brilliant trick play in the bottom of the ninth.

John (2:15:21 PM): It's perfect.

John (2:15:50 PM): I feel inadeqate, pining for the return of Rondell White.

[Jason Bartlett flies out to center for the third out of the half-inning.]

Kyle (2:16:59 PM): I could do with a little RonDL versus a dominat lefty like DeLaRosa.

John (2:17:19 PM): No kidding.

BOTTOM OF THE FIFTH: Twins 0, Royals 2.

[The broadcast resumes with Esteban German standing on second base.]

John (2:18:16 PM): Crap.

John (2:18:28 PM): German didn't want to wait for the commercials to end.

Kyle (2:18:51 PM): It's alright, I don't really want to see Esteban German doubling against my home town team...

Kyle (2:19:04 PM): Can we get a do over?

John (2:19:16 PM): Mulligan!

[Ross Gload grounds out to second with German holding.]

Kyle (2:20:54 PM): With a runner on second and one out, is there where Ortiz draws on his experience as a "proven veteran"?

John (2:21:08 PM): Hopefully.

John (2:21:19 PM): His "moxie," as the kids say.

Kyle (2:21:23 PM): 2-2... there's hope.

Kyle (2:21:37 PM): I do like the cut of his jib...

John (2:21:59 PM): He's the bee's knees, no doubt.

[Ramon Ortiz strikes out Mark Teahen looking for the second out of the half-inning.]

John (2:22:29 PM): Catches the black?

Kyle (2:22:37 PM): Nice job painting the corner. If he gets out of this inning, can we upgrade him from "proven" to "crafty"?

John (2:22:48 PM): Perhaps even "wiley".

Kyle (2:23:00 PM): Let's not get ahead of ourselves...

John (2:23:15 PM): True; we must contain our excitement.

Kyle (2:23:49 PM): Conference on the mond... better goatee: Bartlett or Ortiz?

John (2:24:06 PM): I'd go with Ortiz, but Bart's sideburns carry the day.

Kyle (2:24:29 PM): Yeah, Bartlett is rocking more of the chin-pubes look.

John (2:24:47 PM): That makes it harder for him to take command on pop-ups.

[Mike Sweeney singles to center, scoring German.]

Kyle (2:24:53 PM): Ah, nuts. 3-0.

John (2:25:13 PM): The twins are spotting them a lead out of pity.

[Alex Gordon grounds out to second to end the inning.]

Kyle (2:25:32 PM): Wow, was Casilla playing Gordon to pull.

John (2:26:29 PM): "Mets fan pleads not guilty to trying to blind Braves."

John (2:26:42 PM):

John (2:26:47 PM): Why didn't i think of that?

Kyle (2:27:31 PM): Interfering with a professional sporting event is an actual on-the-books crime in Queens?

John (2:28:09 PM): I'm surprised that the Nationals ever escape convition.

Kyle (2:28:21 PM): [Rim shot.]

TOP OF SIXTH: Twins 0, Royals 3.

Kyle (2:28:05 PM): Only three baserunners through the first five innings for the Twins?

John (2:28:18 PM): This is getting a little frustrating.

[Casilla grounds out to shortstop.]

John (2:28:54 PM): Oh good, another groundout.

John (2:29:23 PM): I was getting a bit worried that the twins had forgotten how to weakly ground out to short.

[Nick Punto grounds out to second.]

Kyle (2:30:22 PM): Nice toss by German, dashed my hopes of another infield single by Punto.

Kyle (2:30:33 PM): Mauer is up... big two out rally?

John (2:30:39 PM): We can dream.

Kyle (2:30:52 PM): I'm going to go find a hat to turn inside out quickly.

John (2:31:29 PM): The rally monkey is on speed-dial.

[Joe Mauer singles to center field.]

Kyle (2:31:35 PM): Nice. Single. I'm sticking with the Softbank Hawks cap on my head until the inning ends.

Kyle (2:31:53 PM): Time for DeLaRosa to make a mistake to the righthanded Cuddyer.

[Dick Bremer is calling a two run home run.]

John (2:32:06 PM): Dick is making the call.

[Mauer advances to second on a wild pitch by DeLaRosa.]

Kyle (2:32:29 PM): 2-0, man on second on the wild pitch... the tension is building!

John (2:32:33 PM): Bremer is like Nick Cage in that terrible-looking movie.

Kyle (2:32:54 PM): If he gets to spoon with Jessica Biel, I'm sure he'll take it.

John (2:33:01 PM): Good point.

Kyle (2:33:04 PM): And the whole two-run homer thing would be nice, too.

[Cuddyer doubles to left field scoring Mauer.]

Kyle (2:33:13 PM): Yes! RBI!

John (2:33:26 PM): We're coming! We're coming!

Kyle (2:33:29 PM): Not exactly a home run, but we'll take it.

Kyle (2:34:10 PM): Now for Morneau to tie the game up with one swing...

[Morneau grounds out to first.]

Kyle (2:34:20 PM): Or ground out to first.

John (2:34:23 PM): Curses!

John (2:34:28 PM): Foiled again.

Kyle (2:34:57 PM): He totaly would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling... Ryan Shealys?

John (2:35:09 PM): Haha.

BOTTOM OF SIXTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

Kyle (2:36:52 PM): If Ortiz can shut the Roayls down this inning, and give the Twins six innings of three-run ball, I think that's as much as we can ask of a back-end starter.

John (2:37:00 PM): Totally.

John (2:37:15 PM): It's not unreasonable to expect four runs against Jorge DeLaRosa.

Kyle (2:37:26 PM): Or is it?

John (2:37:40 PM): Well, once they give him his Cy Young...

[Reggie Sanders singles to center, but is then caught stealing by Joe Mauer.]

Kyle (2:37:51 PM): Yes!

John (2:38:01 PM): Does that make it all worthwhile?

Kyle (2:38:19 PM): I think so.

John (2:38:17 PM): Nice tag.

Kyle (2:38:20 PM): Man, Casilla just got the tag down in time.

John (2:38:35 PM): Ten years ago, Sanders would have beaten that out.

Kyle (2:39:37 PM): He also would have really intimidated a 12 year-old Casilla.

John (2:39:40 PM): True.

John (2:40:01 PM): And the 38-year-old Ortiz.

[John Buck flies out to deep left field.]

Kyle (2:40:04 PM): I had to hold my breath with Rabe going back to the track...

[Shealy pops out to second to end the inning.]

John (2:40:53 PM): I enjoy the pirhanas commercial.

Kyle (2:41:55 PM): It's alright. I'm more of a let's hit a bunch of three run homers so the little things become completely irrelevant kind of guy, but it's nice to see the Twins have a sense of humor.

John (2:42:10 PM): That works for me.

TOP OF THE SEVENTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

[Torii Hunter flies out to left field.]

John (2:42:41 PM): Yum! I love one-pitch at-bats.

Kyle (2:43:04 PM): 16 straight until Mauer singled last inning...

Kyle (2:43:23 PM): Time for Redmond to flash his DH power.

John (2:43:36 PM): Hafner-esque.

[Mike Redmond singles to right field.]

Kyle (2:43:59 PM): Base knock works.

Kyle (2:44:15 PM): You'll take anything you can get against Jorge DeLaRosa.

[Blyleven says something incoherent.]

John (2:44:18 PM): "A high-school punt"?

Kyle (2:44:37 PM): You've got me.

[Josh Rabe flies out to right field.]

John (2:44:43 PM): He dropped the head of the bat, and yet did not hit a home run.

John (2:44:51 PM): My reality is shattered.

Kyle (2:44:58 PM): So, two down, do you give Redmond the green light at first?

John (2:45:06 PM): Oh, totally.

John (2:45:15 PM): Get on your horse!

John (2:45:36 PM): They'll never see it coming

[Bartlett flies out to right field, ending the Twins' turn at bat.]

Kyle (2:46:13 PM): Six outs left, down two runs...

John (2:46:26 PM): I'm all for drama.

BOTTOM OF THE SEVENTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

Kyle (2:46:43 PM): As much as I love to rag on Ortiz, this one's on the offense so far.

John (2:46:52 PM): Indeed.

John (2:47:17 PM): Hmm - Lakers out in front of the Suns early.

Kyle (2:47:55 PM): My grandfather played a single game for the Celtics. He used to have a saying:

Kyle (2:48:10 PM): "Give 'em each 100 points and let them play the last two minutes."

John (2:48:17 PM): Haha.

John (2:48:28 PM): Or, if it's a Jazz-Rockets game, 70 points.

Kyle (2:48:39 PM): Haha.

[Tony Pena grounds to Bartlett who makes a nice throw to get Pena at first.]

John (2:48:43 PM): "He doesn't have his mother's arm, thank goodness."

John (2:48:45 PM): Thanks, Bert.

Kyle (2:49:33 PM): "He's not the best color man in the business for nothing, folks."

John (2:50:15 PM): It's the kind of hard-hitting analysis I've come to expect.

[Ross Gload grounds out to second for the final out of the inning.]

John (2:50:42 PM): Seven solid.

Kyle (2:50:45 PM): 3.86 ERA on the day for Ortiz. Nice work. Now we just need some runs.

Kyle (2:51:02 PM): You doing anything for the 7th inning stretch right now?

John (2:51:24 PM): A rousing listen of the Hold Steady's version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

John (2:52:33 PM):

Kyle (2:53:52 PM): Very nice. The guitarist in the picture looks very much like Halsey Hall SABR chapter member Howard Luloff, which should be really funny to a dozen or so people.

TOP OF THE EIGHTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

[Blyleven attempts to sum small numbers together during his color work.]

John (2:54:16 PM): Uh oh...

John (2:54:29 PM): Bert had to do math.

[Casilla, Punto, and Mauer go down in rapid succession.]

Kyle (2:55:43 PM): Down to three outs... eight innings strong for DeLaRosa... why do the Twins always make stiff lefties look like Warren Spahn?

John (2:56:29 PM): Urgh.

John (2:56:49 PM): We can stop giving the Royals pity now, and actually score a few runs.

Kyle (2:57:13 PM): It's alright, it makes the impending Twins' rally all that much more exciting. Either that, or is firm proof of points-shaving.

BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

[Dennis Reyes relieves Ramon Ortiz to start the bottom of the inning.]

John (2:57:42 PM): Big Sweat!

Kyle (2:57:50 PM): If you snuck up behind Reyes, and pushed him over, do you think he'd roll back onto his feet?

John (2:58:01 PM): He's like a sippy-cup.

[Mark Teahen doubles to shallow left field.]

Kyle (2:58:29 PM): Man, what's with the weak doubles today?

John (2:59:01 PM): The wonders of slugging percentage.

Kyle (2:59:13 PM): If Bartlett isn't ailing from a sore groin (and seeing as it's Sunday, what professional athlete isn't?), he gets to that ball.

John (2:59:26 PM): [Rim shot.]

John (2:59:43 PM): The KC night life is tough.

[Mike Sweeney comes to the plate.]

Kyle (2:59:59 PM): I love Reyes as brilliant reclamation project, but I get the heebie-jeebies when he faces righties.

John (3:00:19 PM): More Neshek!

Kyle (3:00:41 PM): First ROOGY ever?

John (3:01:04 PM): Sounds like something Reyes might have from the post-game buffet.

Kyle (3:01:17 PM): Twitch-&-Pitch has some decent taste in rock music, save for the nu metal.

[Reyes picks Teahen off second.]

Kyle (3:01:27 PM): Yes!

Kyle (3:01:44 PM): Roundie with a nice pick-off!

John (3:01:46 PM): Schweet!

[Sweeney singles to center field.]

Kyle (3:02:42 PM): Second hit off Reyes this inning, is there a lefty up soon?

John (3:02:58 PM): He's making me sweat.

Kyle (3:03:09 PM): It's like a Guardado save...

John (3:03:51 PM): Without the "winning" part.

[Alex Gordon strikes out swinging.]

Kyle (3:04:16 PM): See... Ks the lefty Gordon.

Kyle (3:04:43 PM): And in comes Matt Guerier?

John (3:05:09 PM): The strategery evades me.

Kyle (3:06:16 PM): Do the Twins have an off day tomorrow?

John (3:06:31 PM): I don't think so.

Kyle (3:07:31 PM): Cleveland at the Dome, I guess if the rest of the pen has been worked as of recent, it doesn't matter much who pitches to the ghost of Reggie Sanders.

John (3:07:48 PM): Haha.

John (3:07:59 PM): Does that mean he can't be hit by a pitch?

[Sweeney to second on a passed ball.]

Kyle (3:08:34 PM): Five hole on Mauer and Sweeny advances to second...

John (3:08:46 PM): Bah.

Kyle (3:08:49 PM): Redmond could have done that.

John (3:08:56 PM): Totally

Kyle (3:09:33 PM): Full count to Sanders, Sweeney will be going, big pitch for Guerrier...

Kyle (3:09:43 PM): And a walk...

John (3:09:45 PM): Crap.

Kyle (3:10:16 PM): If Guerrier doesn't get out of this inning unscaithed, we need to think up a demeaning knickname...

[John Buck flies out to right field.]

John (3:10:32 PM): Well, he's safe for now.

Kyle (3:10:35 PM): And Cuddyer makes that out as interesting as possible...

John (3:10:47 PM): We're all about entertainment value here

TOP OF THE NINTH: Twins 1, Royals 3.

John (3:11:54 PM): All the chips are down, etc...

Kyle (3:12:20 PM): Rally time. I'm ditching the Hawks cap in favor of my decaying Twins 5950. The sweatband is stained a dark yellow...

John (3:12:34 PM): Yummy!

John (3:12:43 PM): As long as it doesn't become self-aware.

Kyle (3:13:04 PM): "I'm sorry, Kyle, but I can't do that."

John (3:13:17 PM): Haha.

John (3:13:35 PM): "What are you doing, Kyle? Not, the washing machine?"

Kyle (3:14:07 PM): Naw, it knows I'd never do that to the brim...

[Joakim Soria relieves DeLaRosa to start the inning.]

John (3:14:08 PM): Gee, Dotel is injured - shocking!

[Cuddyer grounds out to second base, bringing Justin Morneau to the plate.]

Kyle (3:14:13 PM): Two outs left...

Kyle (3:14:23 PM): Time for Soria to make a mistake to the Canuck.

John (3:14:36 PM): I could deal with that.

[Morneau watches a fastball paint the corner for strike three.]

Kyle (3:15:26 PM): Wow, should have swung at that third strike...

John (3:15:35 PM): Ick.

John (3:15:43 PM): I thought it was low.

John (3:15:48 PM): Well, here we go.

[With Gordon playing deep at third, Hunter lays down a bunt.]

John (3:15:58 PM): Bunt!

Kyle (3:16:06 PM): Nice bunt by Hunter. Single's just as good as a homerun at this point.

John (3:16:20 PM): Need runners.

[Mike Redmond comes to bat.]

Kyle (3:16:40 PM): Let's go Redmond... DH powers, activate!

[Hunter advances to second unchallenged.]

John (3:16:59 PM): Defensive indifference is my favorite play ever.

[Soria runs the count to 1-2 on Redmond.]

Kyle (3:17:12 PM): Down to the last strike...

John (3:17:17 PM): Gulp.

Kyle (3:17:48 PM): Wow, did that catch the corner?

John (3:17:50 PM): Boo!

John (3:17:52 PM): Outside!

Kyle (3:18:19 PM): Yeah... I think the home plate ump has a flight to catch... or is a relative of Soria's.

John (3:18:28 PM): Conspiracy!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Power and Inconsistency

The offensive show the Twins have put on in their series against the Mariners has the Twins’ in the middle of an offensive upspring after a slow start to the season. And when the Piranhas are biting, Mauer and Morneau are emulating the original M&M boys and Cuddyer and Hunter have broken out their boom sticks, the Twins’ offense seems unstoppable. And yet, despite that aura, just like last year, the offensive can quickly lose it’s potency, something the team demonstrated when it started out the season by scoring only 23 runs in their first seven games.

So what’s the problem? Why were the Twins the only team in the top half of the Majors in runs scored to have an equal number of games where they scored between four and seven runs and where they scored three or less? Counting the three Twins’ playoff games, they had a bad offensive game (less than three runs) more often than they had a good offensive game (between 4-7 runs). There were eleven teams that scored three or less runs in more games than the Twins. Not one of them finished better than 18th in runs scored.

Those teams all had a lot of offensive issues, unlike the Twins, who lead the Majors in batting average, were eighth in on base percentage and were seventeenth in slugging, all respectable showings. And seventeenth isn’t that bad when you consider that the offense depended on four players with sub .400 slugging percentages. The effect of those players, however, becomes clearer when you look at isolated power, a metric for power that factors out singles.

And in isolated power, the Twins’ true offensive deficiency becomes clear. As a team, they had all the power of the computer nerds ruining baseball, finishing in second to last, with an isolated power of .138, ahead of only the Pirates. Not at all surprising considering how many at bats the homerless Jason Tyner received (not to mention Punto, Castillo and Bartlett).

Therein lies the Twins’ problem and the source of their inconsistency, both this year and last year. Intuitively, it makes sense, as well. Without power, runs are harder to come by, as a team needs to hit more singles it score than it would doubles or home runs. So when the Twins were stringing together single after single and consequently are leading the league in average, they were eighth in runs scored. This year, with Punto and Bartlett starting slowly, they’re only ninth in average and consequently, fifteenth in runs.

That drop demonstrates the danger in an offense that relies too much on batting average due to its lack of power. If the Twins can’t duplicate their team average of 2006, their offense of 2007 is going to be worse. And how likely is it that Joe Mauer is going to once again hit for an average few catchers have ever obtained? Or that Nick Punto is going to duplicate a year where his average was 34 points higher than his career mark? The same type of questions can be asked about Justin Morneau, Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett.

All of this goes to show that the problem with Piranhas as predators is that it takes the entire school to strip all the meat off. If only one or two are biting, then they only inflict flesh wounds. And if the Twins’ Piranhas aren’t able to duplicate their 2006 averages, then the little bites that they do take out of opposing pitchers will be too infrequent to do any real damage. At that point, the offense will go from “inconsistent” to “awful”, if those bites are infrequent enough. If you have any trouble remembering what that’s like, just think back to 2005, when the Twins were last in Isolated Power, 23rd in average and 25th in average. And then start praying that all the Piranhas continue biting.

Sweepish in Seattle

Have you ever noticed what fantastic wallpaper Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven make, not to mention cohorts Marney Gellner, Ron Coomer, and Anthony LaPanta? They'll go through a game running through inside jokes, rambling about random statistics, and showing the odd bout of omniscience -- and very rarely does anything they say make you stop and contemplate. Maybe that's how a baseball game should be, especially one starting at 5:40pm, just about the same time the kids are fussing, dinner is on the stove, and the dog needs a walk.

Thursday's 6-5 win over Seattle was no different. At one point Bert guffawed over how if he was Latin American it would stink because they would review his birth certificate and he would miss a couple of birthdays -- there was a joke about birthday boy Dennys Reyes in there somewhere as well. Later, Dick sounded a bit silly applauding Luis Castillo's brilliance as a leadoff hitter this season -- with 4 walks in 56 plate appearances, a .321 OBP and OPS around .600, I tend not to agree. Finally, Bert and Marney chimed in about Michael Cuddyer struggling to see in right field, only to see him lose one in the sun about six innings later.

But amongst all of that Tom-foolery, a fine telecast of an important Twins' victory, one statistic repeated by each member of the team nearly got by me... and then, once I thought about it, the fact shocked me as much as any I had heard in awhile:

This three game sweep by Minnesota at Seattle was the first since 1996.

Like I said, not much to think about except... 1996? This 1996? Go ahead and think back 11 years, if you dared to even flip on channel nine and watch Twins' games at that point. We're talking Jeff Reboulet, Rich Becker and the lovely Scott Stahoviak, people. It frankly shocked the system to think that team swept anyone on the road. But the Mariners? We're talking about a defending AL West Champion team in 1996 that had four probable HALL OF FAMERS on it -- Griffey, A-Rod, the Big Unit, and Edgar Martinez.

So, how exactly did that happen (besides being in the middle of a six-game M's losing streak that all but killed their hopes for a repeat division title)? Wouldn't it be fun to find out?

Well, in game one, on August 9, the 55-59 Twins were coming off of a three game sweep of the California Angels (break up those '96 Twins!) in Anah... erm... Los Ang... at Angels' Stadium. The Twins sent Scott Aldred to the mound against Bob Wolcott (like I said, noooooo one was watching this one). Despite Griffey, Jr. hitting a two run shot before the second out of the game was even recorded, the Twins rallied for six in the fourth off of RBI hits from Gregg Myers and Marty Cordova and a three run home run from Pat Meares. Bizarrely, the last pitcher for each team, Randy Johnson for the Mariners and Frankie Rodriguez for the Twins, were career starters to that point -- Rodriguez even earned a save in the 6-5 Twins' win, his first in a season where he started 33 games. Even more bizarrely? The box score shows the weather as 68 degrees with a two MPH wind blowing "out to centerfield." The game was in the Kingdome.

The next day the Twins won 10-4 in a complete laugher. Scott Klingenbeck went 5 2/3 for the Twins' win, while the home team roughed up Sterling Hitchcock for six runs in three innings. All told, Tom Kelly's squad raked 18 hits, including four more from Pat Meares and three each from erstwhile heroes Dave Hollins and Matt Walbeck... what a squad!

Finally, in the Sunday finale, the Twins got a virtuoso pitching performance from Brad Radke. He went eight complete, scattering eight hits for three runs in true Radke fashion... not so common for Brad, he struck out eight batters, including Alex Rodriguez three times! Maybe he should've saved it for the 2003 & 2004 playoffs. Oh well. The Twins won the game 6-3, with Marty Cordova driving in a pair and Frankie Rodriguez getting his second and last save not only of the series, but of his Twins' career. He would go on to pitch 206+ innings that season -- go figure.

So, the next time Bert and Dick try to slip a little factoid past -- give yourself a chance to reminisce... or better yet, do a little internet research and pull up some memories you didn't even know you had. If the result is anything like it was for me, you'll never be more thankful that you're a fan of this proud 2007 Twins' team and the largest collection of "superstars" the franchise has likely ever boasted. Sorry, Coom-Dog.

Cory Caouette is a lawyer living in San Diego who frequently ignores his 10-month old daughter when Johan is pitching.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Music To Whose Ears?

I learned something last week that read like a baseball epiphany - "The Humpty Dance" does not improve your eye at the plate. Reading about Michael Cuddyer's switcheroo on his plate entrance music got me thinking about the countless other rejected songs over the years by stars and, more likely, platoon players looking for the right tune to propel them to stardom. Surprisingly, I'm not the only one who has wasted more than a nanosecond on this subject. ESPN's now defunct Page 3 actually investigated this topic in 2004, unearthing a plethora of batter's box beats from each team's sound crew. Particularly enlightening is the fact that Manny Ramirez changes his music daily and even during the game.

If baseball is truly about the fans, couldn’t the fans have a say in the music that’s piped into their ears every at-bat and pitching change? This strikes me as an untapped realm of the fan experience, a gimmick that may hold the key to filling the outfield stands at a Marlins game. What if we, the people, got to choose the 5 second ditties that amused us as a batter strolled into the batter’s box? Civic pride would swell as fans formed a new musical bond with their players. To that end, Ricky, my Twins-partner-in-fandom-since-birth, assisted me in brainstorming the most appropriate entrance music for your 2007 Minnesota Twins. Of course, these are subject to change once a player endures a slump.

Johan Santana: “You’re the Best” – Joe Esposito. Just as Danny LaRusso was the best around, so to is Johan with his crane-kick changeup and sweep the leg fastball.

Joe Mauer: “Betcha By Golly Wow” – Prince. Ricky sums it up best. “Not only is Prince a fellow Minnesotan, but Joe's the kind of guy who would say 'betcha by golly wow’ to describe his inevitable 40-game hitting streak.”

Justin Morneau: He's the reigning MVP, so maybe he gets to pick his own song, but a strong recommendation would be “Canada’s Really Big” – The Arrogant Worms. To quote from the song, “So stand up and be proud and sing out very loud / We stand out from the crowd cuz Canada's really big.”

Torii Hunter: “Spydermann” – Another Bad Creation. A blast from the past from the East Coast Family to remind us of our superhero prowling centerfield.

Francisco Liriano: “I’ve Got My Finger Crossed” – Louis Armstrong. Armstrong speaks for every Twins fan hoping and praying Liriano dominates again.

Joe Nathan: “Closing Time” – Semisonic. There’s plenty that would work here, but this seemed most apropos.

Michael Cuddyer: “Breaking Out” – Santana. Clearly his potential is catching up with him. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Matt Garza: “Patience” – Guns N Roses. ‘Nuff said.

Boof Bonser: “Boof Baf” – Fugees. You don’t find too many people named Boof and you don’t find too many songs named after him. Symbiosis at its finest. I’d even recommend the song.

Ramon Ortiz: “Steal My Sunshine” – Len. All signs point to Baby Pedro being a Free Agent steal.

Carlos Silva: “Sadeness (Pt. 1)” – Enigma. The one with the creepy monks chanting over electronic beats. Hopefully it’s an incantation that cures Silva’s inconsistency once and for all.

Sidney Ponson: “Mr. Big Stuff” – Jean Knight. A tasteless, yet easy and fun jab at Sidney’s weight issues.

Jesse Crain: “Insane in the Membrane” – Cypress Hill. Just to scream at the chorus “Insane in the Crain!” Could spark a new line of parking lot t-shirts.

Pat Neshek: “Yellow Submarine” – Beatles. A nod to his unique delivery.

Glen Perkins: “Home Sweet Home” – Motley Crüe. A shout out to the hometown boy.

Juan Rincon: “Escapar” – Enrique Iglesias. A Latin tune for all the jams he extricates the team from.

Matt Guerrier: “Que Onda Guero” – Beck. Guero and Guerrier appear to share a word derivation. Plus it’s a good song.

Dennys Reyes: “Lefty” – Pushmonkey. It’s got a high rock intensity that our reliable lefty reliever would thrive on.

Mike Redmond: “Dance Naked” – John Mellencamp. His proclivity for batting practice in the buff suggests he performs a dance routine in the clubhouse as well. The inside joke would certainly bust up players in the dugout every Redmond at-bat.

Jason Bartlett: “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” – Fall Out Boy. Yeah, yeah, he’s technically in his 3rd season, but you get the idea. The sooner that question is answered, the better.

Nick Punto: “My Shorty” – Aaron Carter. Not to describe Nick’s significant other, but his relative small stature. And the chorus resonates with his overall effect on the team as a glue guy.

Luis Rodriguez: “Hot Hot Hot” – Buster Poindexter. I don’t know why, but this sounds like a song Luis might actually pick on his own.

Jason Kubel: “Hell’s Bells” – AC/DC. The obvious association coupled with the requirement that AC/DC be incorporated into every American sporting event in some fashion. Trevor Hoffman shouldn’t have exclusive use of this one.

Jason Tyner: “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis. As inspiration to hit that first homer.

Rondell White: “Remember the Time” – Michael Jackson. Sing with me – “Do you remember the time? / He used to hit .300. Do you remember the time? / He used to have a power stroke.”

Jeff Cirillo: “Ramblin’ Man” – Allman Brothers. A journeyman’s song. I suppose any Journey song would work just as well here. In fact, I’m vetoing myself in favor of “Any Way You Want It.” Yeah, I feel better about this.

Glenn Williams: “Down Under” – Men at Work. A no-brainer for everyone’s favorite Aussie.

Lew Ford: “Like A Rock” – Bob Seger. Though he’s not build Ford tough these days, I still buy Lew’s product.

Scott Baker: “Lost in the Shuffle” – Charlie Wood. His career’s theme music.

Alejandro Machado: “5-second Rule” – Funky Mama. Yes it’s a children’s song. No, not by Raffi. But it connects his Rule 5 status with the idea that if the Twins don’t want Machado, let him go. He’s been “on the ground” for 378,000,000 seconds and counting.

For whatever reason, nothing sprang to mind for the Dominican infield duo of Casilla and Castillo, though just saying their names like that just now triggered Menudo for some reason. (Now this has truly crossed some of my wires upstairs). If you have better suggestions, let's hear them. For now, I'm going to memorize the lyrics to "Boof Baf."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

T'd Out

A short post today; I’ve done precious little in the way of baseball-watching lately, which hopefully will change soon. I did want to take a moment to comment on the saga of Joey Crawford. He's the NBA ref who recently ejected Tim Duncan for laughing on the bench, and is now suspended for at least the rest of the season (and, according to this pay-only Marc Stein ESPN report, may be gone for good).

Aside from finding it a bit funny, I can't figure out exactly how to feel here. The ejection was absurd, no doubt. And Crawford isn't helping his cause after the fact, either. But I'm having a hard time getting from there to "this guy should lose his job."

NBA officiating has a serious image problem, no doubt. David Stern is obviously making an example out of Crawford. But I think this hurts more than it helps. The attention paid to the officials in the playoffs will be suffocating (especially if Wade starts taking more trips to the line than the entire other team again). But then on the other hand, this also makes it seem like the NBA takes seriously its commitment to good officiating.

At least, kind of. I mean, this was a pretty meaningless end-of-season contest we're talking about here. The ejection didn't cost the Spurs much of anything. And I get the sense that this is a strange issue to hold up as an example of NBA officiating. There are so many other instances of bad officiating (that actually meaningfully affected important games) that this seems minor.

Firing Crawford doesn't fix the NBA's officiating problem, and I'm worried that instead of casting light on the issue this will only serve to muddy the waters.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jason Tyner: Starting the next fan movement

Twins fans are known for supporting their beloved players even when they are on the DL; even when they are in a nasty slump; even when they make errors; even when they are Sidney Ponson. I’m not one for making predictions or driving a bandwagon, but if there’s a player whose cause is worthy of support and encouragement, I can find none better than Jason Tyner and his bid to achieve his first major league homerun.

On the field, Tyner looks like a rookie anticipating such a defining moment with wide-eyed childish amazement. Maybe that’s because the 6’ 1” native Texan looks like a 12-year-old 30-year-old. But Tyner’s been around, and he’s been pregnant with this homerun for nearly 10 years. The small but important, way over-due homer is poised to burst from his bat and soul and cause his daughter to ask, “Mommy, where do homeruns come from?”

Tyner made his major league debut with the Mets in June of 2000. Less than a year later he was an outfielder with the Devil Rays, collecting a career best 31 stolen bases. After nearly three years with the Rays, waivers, free agency and fateful winds of change brought him to the Rangers, Braves and Indians, where little kid-man Tyner was terrified of C.C. Sabathia mistaking his slim arm for a chicken wing and dousing it with barbeque sauce after a game. (Not wanting to give another giant pitcher any more ideas, Tyner currently does his best to avoid all condiments that Sidney Ponson has a palette for.)

So the Twins, displaying their unwavering faith in the little guys as per usual, signed Tyner in late 2004 to increase their outfield depth after the imminent departure of Jacque Jones. In 2004, Tyner did hit his first “professional” homerun in triple-A, which came after 2,632 homer-less at bats throughout high school, college and six years of floating in between the minor and major leagues. But what’s a homerun if it’s not knocked out of a major league ball park?

This April 23, Jason Tyner will turn 30-years-old and will have spent nearly 10 years as a professional baseball player. His homer-less streak is now at 1,068 at bats, the most of any active player.

Now the Twins can use a homerun whenever and however they can get it. Last Saturday, Tyner was inches away from contributing his first homer to the offensive harassment the Twins laid on his former team in a 12-5 win. It was so close even Sports Center made note of it and did a zoom-in, slow motion shot of the ball hitting that pesky baggie of ours.

The Twins kidded with him back in the dugout and clubhouse. Fellow piranha Nick Punto even gave him a heartfelt wedgie, which was promptly followed by a Bartlett nuggie. And crass Mike Redmond playfully stole Tyner’s snack money he was saving for the florescent orange crackers-and-cheese sandwich pack from the vending machine.

Twins fans get behind players struggling to officially achieve what they deserve. In recent years, we have seen the Liberate Santana (from the bullpen) movement, which has since evolved into the Free Matt Garza (from the minors) movement. The 2004 election brought about the exciting Nathan/Santana presidential ticket. Last year, fans displayed T-shirts and signs reading “Morneau for MVP,” “Mauer for Mayor” and “Santana for King of the Universe.” And retired pitcher Bert Blyleven has a continually growing support base for his Hall of Fame bid.

By June, if Tyner hasn’t gone yard, and history shows he probably won’t, I want a movement to roll through Twins Territory that’s fierce enough to get every fan on their feet when Tyner is at the plate. If we can celebrate an over-paid, over-hyped, medicated, chunky behemoth breaking the homerun record, we can surely be excited for a cheaper, fresher, much slimmer and lesser-known kid-man to hit his first homerun. I'll be spending my Sunday afternoon crafting my “1 is more impressive than 756” or “Piranhas can hit homeruns, too” sign for the next home stand.

Jason Tyner Notables:

  • Holds the Texas A&M school record for stolen bases AND hits
  • Named Texas High School Athlete of the Year
  • Member of the 1997 United States National Team
  • Hit a single in his first major league at bat off of then-Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina
  • Helps run Southeast Texas Baseball Academy, which provides baseball programs for kids

Jason Tyner Fun Fact:
His middle name is Renyt – Tyner spelled backwards. A palindrome. What's that about?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And you thought your taxes were complicated. . . .

I spent the better part o this Sunday participating in the mid-April classic: tax time. Watching the Twins’ game through my stack of W-2s, 1040s, and M1PRs I wondered if the real reason Joe Mauer was out of the line-up was because he was desperately trying to get his return in on time. This made me wonder- how do baseball players pay state taxes if they spend some much time playing in other states?

As it turns out, baseball players state taxes are exceedingly complicated. Because players earn income based on each game they are scheduled to play, both home and away teams are taxed in the state that the game is played in. This means each player has to file taxes in each state they play in!

In Minnesota, the taxation system follows a tax credit scheme that was brought forth in the early 90s. Under this system, both home and visiting teams have to pay taxes to the state of Minnesota. The taxation of the visiting athletes began relatively recently in California in the early 90s and is now policy in 14 of the 17 states that have MLB teams. This is often referred to as the “jock tax,” this name is a bit of a misnomer because the tax system applies to all workers earning income while performing services in other states. It is generally only enforced in high income and high profile cases such as athletes and entertainers –hence the nickname. Historically, Minnesota has particularly benefited from this so-called “jock tax” because the Twins payroll has been considerably lower than the league averages, meaning home games bring in more money then away games pay out.

Further complicating this tax system is the way in which it is implemented. All of the Twins are taxed in Minnesota (7.85%, the highest rate due to their large salaries) for each game they play both home and away. However, when they are playing an away game they are also taxed by the sate in which they are playing (if that state has an income tax). To account for this, Minnesota gives the Twins players a credit for the taxes they pay in other states. Since Minnesota has the second highest income tax of all states with baseball teams, the only time the Twins players end up with an actual credit is when they play in California (tax rate 9.3%). Visiting players are taxed here by Minnesota's rate and are, in turn, credited by their own states.

With all of these complications, I’m fairly certain that TurboTax doesn’t make a professional athlete edition. Fortunately, with an average salary over three million a year, baseball players can afford to hire an accountant. Despite my comparatively minuscule salary, learning about baseball players’ tax time woes makes me appreciate the relative simplicity of my own.

I am not an accountant and I know little to nothing about taxes other than what my tax software tells me- information for this post was gleamed from:

Aiuppa, Haupert and Sheroney, NINE journal, vol. 12. 1. 2003

Hoffman and Hodge, Tax Foundation Special Report, 130, 2004

USA Today Baseball Salaries list-