Preview: Home Run Porch
Home Run Porch
Out of Left Field
Winter Meetings News
Twins had the opportunity to take Eduardo Morlan, the minor league reliever they dealt in the Young-Garza swap, in the Rule 5 draft... they didn't and instead picked something called Jason Jones, who isn't bad but I doubt he has the upside of Morlan.
Twins also announced the signing of Punto to a 2-year, $8M deal, with a $5M option for 2011. Gardy says he is the starting shortstop. If they're set with that, they won't be moving Casilla to short, so all 2Bs are out of the question in a trade. The only way to improve this team now is at 3B, meaning one year of DeRosa or Beltre (good options, but not for long), or multiple years of Wigginton (decent option), Atkins (bad option, especially since we'd probably have to give up more for him than for Wigginton or DeRosa), or Kouzmanoff (horrible, horrible option).
From my last post here, nearly a year ago:
"I don't intend to abandon this site."
I'm no longer writing for MVN, either, but baseball is starting back up and I might just give this stuff a shot again.
Home Run Porch will be moving, however, and will now be hosted by Wordpress.
The new address is http://homerunporch.wordpress.com/
On the off-chance that anybody still checks this site after 11 months of inactivity, update your bookmarks accordingly.
Over at SBG
today, I saw this link
to a Jonah Keri article on espn.com. I encourage you to head over there and check it out, because Keri is a member of the national media who understands why the Twins have been great this decade - and he's the only person I've seen associated with ESPN who isn't enamored with Torii Hunter
A link in Keri's article sent me here
, where Jason Williams points out that the contracts of Hunter, Luis Castillo
, Carlos Silva
, and Ramon Ortiz
coming off the books next year will free up $25.2 million for the Twins. I've been optimistic so far on the Twins ability to keep Johan Santana
around, and having that much more cash to play with in the offseason gives me even more hope. As Keri writes, the Twins have much bigger fish to fry, in Santana and Justin Morneau
, than to pay Hunter (and in my opinion, regrettably, Joe Nathan
as well) into his (their) declining years and risk losing an MVP or Cy Young.
- Ramon Ortiz is the only player not to have reported to Twins training camp on time, but this is fairly common for players traveling from Latin America. Personally, I think it would be best for the team if he didn't show up at all. I still think J.D. Durbin will be a good #3 starter for a major league team - but it is unlikely the Twins will have room for him, as the starting rotation is likely to be Santana-Bonser-Silva-Ortiz-Garza (I figure the Twins have conceded the first four spots already, and only the fifth is up for grabs). Durbin could still make the team out of the bullpen, and I'd like to see it if only to keep him in the organization. Many forget (or didn't know) that he likely would have been called up instead of Garza last August had he not gone down with nerve damage in his elbow.
- The Twins appear to have re-entered negotiations with Justin Morneau. I'd love to see them come to an agreement soon, but I can't see Morneau's value being much higher a year from now than it currently is. In short, I'd love to see them lock him up long-term, but I won't lose any sleep over it if a deal doesn't happen this summer.
- Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves continue to be consistently mediocre. A loss at Washington tonight dropped them to 25-28, though they still hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference. It is nice to see Randy Foye starting, but still frustrating to see the other rookie, Craig Smith, continue to get declining minutes in favor of Mark Madsen and Marko Jaric. I'd love to see the team cut some of the dead weight by Thursday's trade deadline, but it seems incredibly unlikely to me that any team would be willing to take it on.
- The Wild, on the other hand, continue to impress me. I caught most of the game versus Dallas tonight, and once I started watching I couldn't look away. The Wild play an exciting brand of hockey. I'm definitely not a hockey expert, but it is the most exciting g(image) ame out there when the games are close. The Wild lead the league with 20 overtime games (in which they are 15-5), so they are a lot of fun to watch. The team has been on a roll since star winger Marian Gaborik's return in January, and goalie Niklas Backstrom has been filling in admirably for the injured Manny Fernandez. In fact, I think Backstrom has played better than Fernandez. Tonight, Mikko Koivu provided the game-winner in the third frame of a shootout as Backstrom stopped all three Dallas attempts - moving the Wild into 7th in the Western Conference and just one point behind Vancouver for the division lead. As long as Gaborik stays healthy, this team can hang with anyone, and can potentially make a run deep into the playoffs.
Twins Ink Cuddyer
The Twins signed
right fielder Michael Cuddyer
to a one-year, $3.575 million deal today, locking up the last of their arbitration-eligible players. The deal carries a $50,000 bonus if Cuddyer reaches 650 plate appearances. Cuddyer, like Justin Morneau, is not eligible for free agency until 2009, so the Twins have plenty of time to sign him to a long-term deal.
While the Twins stated their priorities this offseason as signing the heart of their order - Mauer, Cuddyer, and Morneau - to long-term deals, I think that a one-year deal for Cuddyer is the best option at this point. Cuddyer certainly had a great season last year, but I'm not entirely convinced he won't regress a little this year. I'd like to see more than one solid season from Cuddyer before making a long-term commitment to him. With Johan Santana's free agency rapidly approaching, the Twins have to be careful with their payroll. I'd hate to see them make a commitment to a guy like Cuddyer and then see him regress to his 2005 form. I do think Cuddyer will continue to do well, but I have no problem at all with the wait-and-see approach the Twins are taking.
Twins, Mauer Reach 4-year Deal
According to espn.com and the Twins official website, Joe Mauer has signed a 4-year deal
, which will keep him in Minnesota through 2010. The terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.
I'll have more to say once we hear how much the deal is worth, but I'll be very happy if it's in the ballpark of the previously rumored $33 million.UPDATE:
The deal is worth $33 million over 4 years. According to espn.com, the deal pays Mauer $3.75 million in 2007, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009, and $12.5 million in 2010. Mauer can also earn award and performance bonuses.
Now that Mauer is signed, I expect Morneau to sign a very similar deal in the near future. I'd like to see his contract last a year longer than Mauer's, for reasons explained here
My only concern is the money this locks up for 2009 and 2010, the first years of a potential Santana contract. Pohlad has been more willing to open his wallet lately, and I think they'll still make a run at Santana - but if Morneau's contract is structured similarly to Mauer's, it can't help their chances.
We Could Have Done Better
The Mets are reportedly close to a deal
with right handed starter Chan Ho Park
. The deal is worth $600,000 and could earn Park up to $3 million with incentives.
Given the Twins recent fascination with signing washed-up, once-brilliant starters, I'm amazed we didn't hear any rumors of Park heading to the Twin Cities.
Now, I'm not going to argue that the Twins should have signed Park, because I wouldn't want to see him in the way of guys like Matt Garza
, Glen Perkins
, Kevin Slowey
, J.D. Durbin
, and Scott Baker
. However, I will argue that Park would have been a much more positive signing than Ramon Ortiz
. Park posted a 4.81 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP last season for San Diego, while Ortiz had a 5.57 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in Washington. On top of that, we have the obvious: Ortiz is guaranteed $3.1 million, no matter how poorly (or how well, if you're really
a glass-half-full kind of person) he pitches for the Twins. Park will only make $3 million if he reaches all his performance incentives. And finally, it seems that Park would be the more likely of the two to regain his past form. Park has posted an adjusted ERA, or ERA+
of 115 or higher in three seasons, and injury contributed to his down years in Texas. Ortiz's best ERA+ was 115 in 2002.
Of course, both pitchers are far from brilliant, and I'd rather give some starts to one of the Twins' young guys than either of the two. But given the choice, I'd much rather have Park at $600,000 plus incentives than Ortiz at $3.1 million guaranteed.
Stewart to Oakland
According to Buster Olney of espn.com, the Oakland Athletics and former Twin Shannon Stewart
have reached an agreement
on a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth up to $2.5 million.
For an Oakland fan's take on the deal, check out Melissa Lockard's thoughts
over at Most Valuable Network.
I had heard Stewart's name in connection with Baltimore and Florida this offseason, with his hometown Marlins seeming like a good fit.
At first glance, the A's don't seem to have much room for Stewart in their outfield (with Nick Swisher
, Mark Kotsay
, Milton Bradley
, and Bobby Kielty
) or at designated hitter (Mike Piazza
). Of course, if Dan Johnson
struggles or gets hurt again, Swisher would likely move to first base, making Stewart the primary backup in the outfield.
I'd guess that around half of the $2.5 million is guaranteed money, the other half based mostly on plate appearance incentives. While I wasn't too high on Stewart in his last two seasons with the Twins, it seems like a reasonable, low-risk deal for Oakland. As long as Stewart stays off the DL (which might be asking a lot), he'll provide a decent bat as insurance if any starters go down.
Morneau (and others) Reach Deals With Twins
A lot has happened since I last posted.
We had some real baseball news, which I've been craving for the last few weeks. The Twins reached a 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the AL MVP, Justin Morneau
. Nick Punto
was signed for 2-years, $4.2 million; Juan Rincon
for 1 year, $2 million; and Lew Ford
for 1 year, $985,000. Also, the word is that the Twins and Joe Mauer
are nearing an agreement in the ballpark of 4-years, $33 million, which I think is a steal. That deal would lock up Mauer past his first year of free agency.
I can't argue with any of those. I'm guessing Morneau will be signed to a long-term deal sometime before the season is over, a contract structured very similar to Mauer's. Ideally, I'd give Morneau one year more than Mauer, for two reasons: A) I wouldn't want to have to worry about re-signing both of those guys to massive contracts in the same off-season. B) Morneau seems to want to stay with Mauer. If Mauer re-signs in 2011, Morneau may be more likely to re-sign in 2012.
I like the Punto deal as well. I would have liked to have given him a little less money, but two years is the perfect length for a player like Punto. If he proves that 2006 wasn't a fluke, the Twins have plenty of time to sign him to another extension. If he reverts to his prior form or gets hurt, they only have a two-year commitment.
The Rincon and Ford deals are likely the last they'll receive from the Twins. I'll be very surprised if either of them is in a Twins uniform in 2008.
In other news...
- Brett Favre announced his decision to return for next season. I remember being told that we'd only have to wait two weeks for that news. A month later, he reveals his intentions - and gets the media attention he craves. As far as the effect this will have on the playing field, I'm not sure what to think anymore. I can't stand the guy, but he doesn't strike fear in anyone anymore. Favre will not go out on top - a playoff berth is possible (though unlikely) and I wouldn't expect anything more than that.
- The Indianapolis Colts are the champions of Super Bowl XLI. My pick (which I forgot to post here) was Colts 23, Bears 13. The Colts won, 29-17, so I wasn't too far off. Peyton Manning was named the game's MVP. While Manning was solid, I would've gone with Dominic Rhodes.
4/14/06 - Twins 5, Yankees 1
The countdown rolls on. 17 days until pitchers and catchers report, 27 until the spring opener.
Since there isn't much new to report on, I'll take a (quick) look back at the first game I attended last season, the April 14 showdown with the Yankees. I sat in the cheap seats ($10, premium game and Pro Shop convenience fee) with Pete, a friend of mine who goes to UW-Madison. Scott Baker
took the mound for the Twins, who were facing Mike Mussina
. New York entered the game at 5-4, the Twins at 4-5 (coming off a sweep of Oakland).
The boxscore and play-by-play are available here
. A recap is available here
Items of note:
- Juan Castro's batting average of .346 - it was only ten games in, but surprising nonetheless.
- Scott Baker pitched a great game, giving up three hits over seven innings. At this point, it looked like he'd have a great year in the bigs.
- Another note on Baker - some may remember his "wardrobe malfunction" in this game. Up in the cheap seats, I worried he was hurt when he came off the mound. A guy with a radio gave us the news rather quickly - Baker's protective cup fell down his pant leg - and had a few good laughs.
- Lew Ford made an impressive assist from right field. I think we've got a much more reliable guy out there now, though.
- I saw what I believe is the only Tony Batista double I have ever seen in person. It plated Justin Morneau (who went 2-4 to raise his batting average to .237), and finished the scoring for the Twins.
- Mike Mussina lost his third consecutive decision against the Twins, after starting his career 20-3 against them.
Garnett Snaps Suns' Streak
The Phoenix Suns are one of the most fun-to-watch basketball teams I can remember. And the team that has frustrated me like no other defeated them last night, thanks to a monstrous 44-point showing by Kevin Garnett
I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the coaching staff, as well as Garnett. When the offense runs thrugh KG, and he allows himself to be more selfish, the Wolves can hang with anybody. With "pass-first KG
", the Wolves are a mediocre team. However, if "shoot-first KG
" sticks around, we may actually (amazingly) have a contender on our hands.
If yesterday was the start of a trend, that wait for baseball season might not be as bad as I thought.
I Even Miss Silva...
Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for spring training in 20 days. Not soon enough.
Things have been incredibly slow around the Minnesota sports scene these days, as the only major recent events I can think to make note of are Kevin Garnett
's All-Star selection, TwinsFest and Brian Rolston
's two-goal, two-assist performance in the NHL All-Star game. While I love watching good pro hockey, the All-Star Game - with no hitting or any real strategy - bores me. Plus, like many others, I had no idea it was on television.
In other news, the Wolves got their first win under "interim" head coach Randy Wittman
on Saturday, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers, 101-87. More impressive to me was the way Craig Smith
dominated the Sonics on Friday night, scoring 15 first-half points... and then not playing at all in the third quarter. After re-entering the game in the fourth, Smith added 11 more. And of course, the next day, he was rewarded with a whopping 18 minutes. Glen Taylor
and Kevin McHale
(I'll put money on that duo as the Strib's next Co-Turkeys of the Year without even knowing what is to come in the next ten months - any takers?) think this team is more talented than they are perceived to be. I agree - but I don't see that talent in Blount, Davis, James, and Hassell like McHale and Taylor do. The talent is buried on the bench - Randy Foye
, Craig Smith
, and even Bracey Wright
deserve more playing time than their veteran counterparts. Add Rashad McCants
to that list when he comes back.
The Wolves are too guard heavy, they trust their young talent even less than the Twins, and the front office is delusional. As much as I try, it's tough to see any hope for the near future.
The Wild are exciting but inconsistent. Plus, they only play 2-3 games a week and most of them are at 9 pm. And I don't know enough about hockey. When its playoff time, I'll be tuned in - provided the Twins aren't on.
Super Bowl XLI will be a nice diversion - but there isn't anything there to excite me in the week leading up to the game. Manning and Dungy might choke, Grossman isn't very good - same things I've heard the last three weeks. Some hype...
the Twins. I wish FSN would cover all of spring training - everything - I'd (seriously) sit and watch some long-toss between Chris Heintz
and Scott Baker
ahead of watching the mess that is the Wolves. Anything Twins-related except for Mike Redmond
's naked batting practice. I could go for a spring training, Twins-Devil Rays, Silva vs. Jae Seo matchup right now.
They say that hope springs eternal. Sadly, spring is still a few weeks away.
Twins Batting Order - 2007
What I think we'll see from Gardy on opening day:
1. Castillo, 2B (S)
2. Punto, 3B (S)
3. Mauer, C (L)
4. Cuddyer, RF (R)
5. Morneau, 1B (L)
6. Hunter, CF (R)
7. White, LF (R)
8. Kubel, DH (L)
9. Bartlett, SS (R)
What you'd see from me on opening day:1. Luis Castillo, 2B (S)
- A perfect leadoff hitter for the Twins (I wanted him there over Shannon Stewart at the start of last season) - he takes pitches, has great at-bats, and gets on base.2. Joe Mauer, C (L)
- Hasn't yet developed the power of a #3 hitter. I think putting him second gives us a much better chance to send our power hitters to the plate with runners on base in the first inning. He takes a lot of pitches too, Cuddyer will have seen a lot of the opposing pitcher's stuff by the time he gets to the plate. I'm sure some would argue that more speed belongs in the #2 spot, but don't forget that Mauer has great baserunning skills.3. Michael Cuddyer, RF (R)4. Justin Morneau, 1B (L)
- He belongs in the cleanup spot. More often than not, he'd bat in the first inning of games - with a runner on base - and give the Twins a great chance to jump ahead.5. Torii Hunter, CF (R)6. Rondell White, LF (R)
- I struggle with who should bat 6th (White/Kubel) but ultimately I put White there because he will often be pulled for a defensive replacement late in games. I like the L/R/L/R format whenever possible, as it doesn't allow opposing bullpens to bring in a lefty/righty specialist to face many consecutive batters. Also, if White were pulled for a defensive replacement in the 7-spot, it would set up the 4-consecutive-non-power-hitters that we saw so often last year late in games.7. Jason Kubel, DH (L)
- I can't believe how many people are off the Jason Kubel bandwagon. He put up monster numbers in the minors, and looked very promising before his injury. I expect him to be healthy and return to form this year. (Also, when he got regular playing time before his knees acted up this year, he was an RBI machine).8. Jeff Cirillo, 3B (S)
- I thought Cirillo was a great offseason signing for the Twins. He provides insurance for a Punto injury or simply Punto returning to his previous form. Personally, I think Punto will return to his previous form, and Cirillo can be counted on to bat near or above .300. Plus, he kills lefties, hitting them at an obscene .413/.451/.493/.944 clip last year). If only Gardy didn't think a platoon was a kind of boat...9. Jason Bartlett, SS (R)
- In my world, he's a great #9 hitter. In the real world, I expect this spot to belong to Cirillo when Punto fizzles, with Bartlett moving up to the 2-hole. I certainly wouldn't object to that either, but I feel like Mauer fits the #2 role better.
Any thoughts? What changes would you make?
An Injustice Indeed
I usually stick strictly to sports around here, but this is definitely worthy of mention.
I'm short on time, as I have an 8:00 class tomorrow morning, so this will be much shorter than this topic deserves.
I got back from playing some pick-up basketball around 10:30 this evening, showered, and - as is force of habit - logged on to espn.com
. The front page contains this article
. I encourage you to read it for yourself, as I'd rather you read it there than risk missing a detail in a short summary here.
The compelling article tells the story of Genarlow Wilson
, once a star athlete and honor roll student at his high school in Douglasville, Georgia. Wilson is now serving a ten-year prison term (without possibility of parole) for receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old when he was 17. The girl and prosecutors admitted it was consensual from the start. He stood trial on rape and aggravated child molestation charges, and was found not guilty to the former, guilty to the latter. In Georgia, aggravated child molestation carries a minimum penalty of ten years in prison without a chance for parole. That was how the courts punished Wilson, following the wording but not the intent of the law.
The law has since been changed, but it was not implemented retroactively, so Wilson is still in prison. Wilson's case has been before the Georgia Supreme Court, comprised of four Caucasians and three African-Americans. In a vote that could have gotten Wilson out of jail, the vote was 4-3 against. Sadly, I probably don't need to spell out which members voted for and against. Also, as is later stated in the article, a white high school teacher was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student - and received only 90 days in prison.
After reading this article, one week after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I felt angry and ashamed for our society. I am sickened that - over 140 years since the abolition of slavery and nearly 40 years past King's death - some people (worse yet, people in power) still don't get it.
I'm a white kid from a predominantly white hometown, and I go to a school that I would guess is about 95% white. I've been pretty shielded from this stuff (though I have seen it in person), and though (sadly) I wasn't terribly surprised, I was appalled to see something like this.
My first crack at writing on something other than sports around here, and I know this is a touchy subject. I truly hope to have done it some justice.
And once again - if you haven't yet, read the article
. I don't want you to miss anything I've left out here."So we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change" - John Mayer
They Fired the Wrong Guy
The Minnesota Timberwolves fired Dwane Casey
today, and have appointed Randy Wittman
as the new head coach. I've never been much of a Casey fan, but with the talent Kevin McHale
has given him, I don't think 20-20 this year is bad at all. I don't remember seeing anybody picking the Timberwolves to make the playoffs before the season began, and Casey has them in a playoff spot. I've disagreed with some of Casey's in-game decisions and would like to see Randy Foye
and Craig Smith
get some more minutes, but I don't think there's any question the team has played better than the talent they have. I have hope for Wittman, but Casey was fired without much reason.
The wrong guy was fired today. Casey had very little chance to do better, as McHale has assembled a pitiful team for him to work with.
Check out this poll
on startribune.com. At the time of this writing, 69% of Minnesota fans think McHale should be gone.UPDATE:
I just heard this on the Sludge & Lake
show on KFAN
and I agree wholeheartedly: If McHale hadn't blown two first-round picks in the Cassell and Szczerbiak deals, Allen Iverson would be a Timberwolf and Casey would still have a job.
We Could Do Better
It's been very slow lately around Major League Baseball, so slow that the Twins signing of Ramon Ortiz
graces the front page of mlb.com
as I write this. There is also an article
on the most prominent players still available in free agency. Tony Armas
, Steve Trachsel
, and Tomo Ohka
jump out at me as guys that would have given us something better than Ortiz at a similar cost. Then again, somebody from the Garza-Baker-Perkins-Durbin group could give us better at a better price.
Classes started at UWEC today - I'm not quite sure yet of how this will affect the frequency or length of my posts here, but I'll try to continue to update when I can.
I Don't Like This At All
The Twins are reportedly
close to signing right-hander Ramon Ortiz
to a one-year, $3.1 million deal that is contingent on his passing a physical.
Last year, Ortiz posted a 5.57 ERA in a pitchers park (RFK) in the National League. I don't know the exact translation, but I'm pretty certain that equates to something around or above 6 in the AL.
Until today, I thought Terry Ryan and Gardy had learned from their mistakes, and would start to give the youngsters a shot. I was wrong.
The way I see it, the opening day rotation will most likely be Santana-Bonser-Silva-Ortiz-Ponson. If that doesn't send shudders down your spine, you must have much more faith in Rick Anderson than I do. (Even if Anderson can fix these guys, I'd still rather have him work with Garza, Perkins, Baker, Slowey, etc. and see some of them in the rotation)
Maybe the plan is like last year. A 25-33 start before cutting the dead weight and playing .700 ball the rest of the way. But I don't think that works two years in a row.
Going into a 3-game series, it's possible that an opponent will face Silva, Ortiz, and Ponson as starting pitchers. If the Twins skip the fifth starter when possible (barring injuries), look out for May 21-23 at Texas, where many home runs will be hit. If they don't skip the fifth guy, doom and gloom comes even earlier, May 8-10 against Chicago at the dome. Sadly, I'll be at school in Eau Claire, not collecting Jim Thome balls while eating dollar dogs in the cheap seats.
My apologies for the rant, but needless to say, I'm much less optomistic about the Twins 2007 season now than I was when I predicted this
That may not even be the worst of it. In signing Ortiz, the Twins had to make room for him on the 40-man roster. They cut loose Alex Romero, a 23-year old AAA outfielder, who projects to be a reliable backup outfielder and perhaps even a solid starter. I'd actually rather have him on the big club than Lew.
(Not so) Hot Stove Report
There hasn't been much news to report around Major League Baseball the last few days, except for a few stories that I expect will mean nothing a few months from now:SAMMY SOSA AGREES ON A DEAL WITH TEXASSammy Sosa and the Texas Rangers agreed on a minor league contract worth $500,000 plus incentives. Sosa, with 588 career home runs, was terrible in 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles, and didn't play in 2006. I don't see the 38-year-old Sosa making the team out of spring training, but I'd say he at least has more upside than Tony Batista did for the Twins last year. If he does make the team, he could put up good power numbers, as the ball flied out of Ameriquest field, but I don't expect him to hit any higher than .250 or play anywhere other than DH.BARRY BONDS SAYS ROSE AND MCGWIRE ARE HALL-WORTHYHmm... Bonds thinks a guy who broke the rules by betting on baseball and a guy who probably used steroids should be allowed in the Hall. Think he's trying to pave the way for somebody else who broke the rules by using performance-enhancing substances?BONDS TO RED SOX?This seems ridiculous to me, but many are saying that the Giants may back away from the deal they agreed upon in principle with Bonds. The Red Sox face a similar situation, in that they may back away from a deal agreed upon with J.D. Drew. The Sox outfield defense would certainly struggle with both Bonds and Manny Ramirez, but this is interesting because it would form - arguably - the most powerful heart of the order in baseball history. Ortiz, followed by Ramirez, followed by Bonds... incredible protection for each of the three. But honestly, can anybody really see it? I fully expect Bonds to be in a Giants uniform once again next year.I'll also take this opportunity to plug my favorite non-Twin, Wily Mo Pena. Boston would be just fine without Drew, as they already have a right fielder with great power (.301/.349/.489/.838 last year), who by many accounts just needs the at-bats and experience to become a better hitter. Yes, this would also hurt their outfield defense, so once again Pena will be the 4th outfielder, just as he was in Cincinnati.A story that actually will have some effect on the 2007 MLB season:LAROCHE TO PITTSBURGH, GONZALEZ TO ATLANTAAdam LaRoche may be the most underrated player in baseball. I had no idea, until I looked at his stats, that he hit 32 HR with a .915 OPS last season. Mike Gonzalez took over as closer for Pittsburgh last year and converted all 24 of his save opportunities. I'm not sure if I should be surprised or not that this deal didn't get more coverage - it has been rumored since the winter meetings, but doesn't involve a New York team, so ESPN isn't interested. The teams also swapped prospects who spent last year in A-ball - OF Jamie Romak going to Pittsburgh and SS Brent Lillibridge going to Atlanta. Romak is 21 and has some power, and Lillibridge is a 23-year-old speedster (a little old for A-ball) who swiped 53 bags last year between low- and high-A.I'm from the school of thought that most closers are overrated (Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and Trevor Hoffman being exceptions), and that most teams can find a serviceable option among their other relievers. Add to that the fact that Atlanta doesn't need a closer (they already have Bob Wickman), and I'd say Pittsburgh got the better of the deal. Atlanta did need some bullpen help, but I don't think it's worth giving up a 30+ HR guy just entering the prime of his career.OTHER NEWSIn former Twin news, Eddie Guardado is close to a minor league deal with the Reds (who could probably be known as the Former-[...]
Twins Sign LeCroy
The Twins brought back designated hitter Matthew LeCroy on a minor league contract yesterday (as found in the "Welcome Back" section near the bottom of this
article). Before playing last season in Washington, LeCroy had spent his entire career in the Twins organization.
I like this signing, for the exact same reasons I suggested the Twins bring back Phil Nevin
. If he makes the team, LeCroy gives a powerful bat off the bench, as well as an emergency
catcher (as long as he can avoid making managers cry
In addition, LeCroy will definitely pose no harm to team chemistry, as he was considered a clubhouse clown and was loved by teammates in his previous stint with the team.
The Season That Was
Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers 33 days from now, on February 18. Ten days later, the Twins play their first exhibition game of the spring against Boston. Between now and then, I'll share my thoughts on the season that was - and maybe ease some of my regrets about not blogging last season.
The First Installment: Overview
I attended 16 games at the dome in 2006, the most I've been to in a single season. The first was the April 14 series-opening win over the Yankees, the last was the Game 2 ALDS loss to Oakland. I watched the spring training opener against Boston and season opener against Toronto from my dorm room in Eau Claire, and heard about the season-ending loss to Oakland while visiting a friend at Notre Dame. I'd estimate that I either attended, listened to, or watched at least 140 games this year, and plan on sharing my thoughts on some of the most memorable.
ESPN's Joe Schad reports
that the Gophers have signed Denver Broncos tight ends coach Tim Brewster as their next head coach.
Brewster is a relative unknown with no previous head coaching experience. In 2004, he was considered for the Illinois job that eventually went to Ron Zook. A profile
of his candidacy for that job is available at scout.com.
As I write this post, a Google news search for '"Tim Brewster" Minnesota' only yields one result. Brewster's name has rarely been mentioned in connection with this job, one that I hoped would go to Paul Chryst or Lane Kiffin. While he sounds like a good recruiter from what I've read, all there is to do at this point is hope for the best.UPDATE (8:30 PM): 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS
and KARE 11
say the U of M is denying that the job has been offered to anyone yet.UPDATE (Tuesday):
The U of M now confirms the reports, and will announce the hiring
I found this yesterday and wish I had posted it then, because it has since been fixed. So instead, I link to a Google News search
, where the headline is saved as the original. If that link no longer works, I'll just cut to the chase. I read a headline on startribune.com
yesterday that read: "Illinois man peddles stationary bike for 85 hours". It has since been changed to read: "Illinois man pedals stationary bike for 85 hours".
When I stumbled upon this yesterday, I did think it seemed more likely (although much less newsworthy) that a man would try to sell a stationary bike for 85 consecutive hours than ride it for as long.
Of course, the headline has since been fixed, but it was like that on startribune.com
for at least an hour yesterday. I'm wondering - since it was an AP story - who wrote that headline? Was it someone from the Strib? How didn't an editor catch it? Didn't I learn the difference between pedaling and peddling in elementary school? Ah, homophones... at least he wasn't peddling a stationery bike.
Jaric Leaving Town?
The Star Tribune's Steve Aschburner reports this morning
that the Timberwolves are working on a deal that would send one of Kevin McHale's biggest mistakes to Detroit. In return for Jaric, the Wolves would recieve one of three Detroit big men - Nazr Mohammed, Antonio McDyess, or Dale Davis. Aschburner states that the salaries match up best between Jaric and either Mohammed or McDyess, so Davis is the least likely to be traded.
I began reading the article with some optimism, hoping that maybe getting rid of Jaric was the first step in climbing out of this hole that McHale has dug. Mohammed and McDyess both make between $5 and 6 million, but McDyess is only under contract through 2007-08. Mohammed on the other hand, is in the first year of a 5-year deal with Detroit. So the logical move would be to go for McDyess... and therefore McHale's move will be to bring in Mohammed, yet another big man who can't rebound with an enormous contract (see Olowokandi, Michael; Blount, Mark; and Madsen, Mark). And Detroit can have a first round pick while we're at it.
Jaric has reportedly asked for a trade, so he'll most likely be leaving Minnesota soon, but I hope it's not in a Jaric-for-Mohammed deal. I'd happily welcome McDyess, although it would mean even less minutes for my favorite underused Wolf this season, Craig Smith. Detroit is desperate to move a big man soon, to make way for Chris Webber, but here's my plea to McHale:
Whatever you do, please don't saddle us with the contract of Nazr Mohammed. Or trade another first-round pick.
Bring Back Nevin?
Phil Nevin wasn't the most popular player on the Twins during his September stint with the team, and he didn't perform particularly well (.190 with 15 strikeouts in 42 at bats). Though he didn't have much success, Nevin enjoyed his stay with the team, and has publicly stated that he'd like to come back. However, with the Twins signing of 1B/DH Ken Harvey in December, it seems very unlikely that he'll be re-signed. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I'd like to make a case for Nevin's return to the Twins.
Nevin only hit .190 in his 16 games with the Twins, but posted a respectable OBP of .340. The Twins actually went 13-3 in games that Nevin appeared in, and he reached base in all but one of the games he started. Nevin also provides a power threat off the bench that the Twins have lacked. Last season, the Twins often played batters with no power in the 7th-2nd spots in the order. These are all from a very small sample, and Ken Harvey or others could probably fill those needs, but the biggest reason for bringing Nevin back is that I believe it would make Joe Mauer even better.
Through July 24, Mauer was batting .380. From that point on, Mauer batted .294. While .294 is still a very good batting average, it seemed clear that catching almost every day was taking a toll on Mauer. The Twins have a great backup in Mike Redmond, and it is possible to use him to give Mauer a rest without taking Mauer's offensive production out of the lineup. Ron Gardenhire, however, has an irrational fear of putting both catchers in the linup at the same time.
The logic is that if the starting catcher would get hurt, the catcher at DH would have to move behind the plate, and the Twins would have to forfeit the DH for the remainder of the game and send the pitcher up in his place. Now, the odds that any player will get hurt and need to be taken out of the game are slim enough. Now think of the odds that the starting catcher would get hurt early enough in a game that a pitcher would be sent to the plate for a significant number of at bats. And even if he were, who says it would cost us the game? Gardy, of all managers, should know it wouldn't. He started Juan Castro in 48 games last year, which is just like sending a pitcher to the plate for 156 at-bats.
All joking aside, could you imagine the spike Mauer's late-season production would have if he and Redmond split time behind the plate, with Mauer DH'ing the other half of the time? Enter Phil Nevin. Nevin has some catching experience, making him the emergency catcher if the starter were to go down. Just like that, Gardy's irrational fear of losing the DH would be put to rest.
I'm sure its not something we'll ever actually see from the Twins, but doesn't it seem worth giving it a look?NOTE:
As I've been trying to start up the next great Twins blog, I've noticed quite a few that are already great. One more that I suggest you check out: Twins Junkie