New on my List – Keiz-who?

First, my apologies for lateness. I have a finished post on the bullpen – but I’m going to wait a day or so to post it until we know a little bit more about what happened to Joe Nathan during today’s game. Scary to say the least – if Joe goes down, I think some slightly insane combination of Crain/Rauch/Mijares becomes closer.


Now that I’ve had my depressing thought of the day, I move on.

…To a new addition to my list. I founded “The List” with the very first post on Call to the ‘Pen, which excoriated Manny Ramirez. Since then, there have only been two additions to my “list” – Bud Selig, for his astounding insensitivity with regard to race relations, and MLB and Fox for conspiring to deprive me of Saturday afternoon Twins games eight to ten times a year (and it appears it will stay the same this year).

However, Bud Selig has at least attempted to work his way out of my wrath, so I have decided to give him a pass. This is mostly based on the fact that I just can’t keep up wrath for something as relatively minor as Jackie Robinson Day, and also because it just isn’t of the same magnitude of the others on the List.

The List is reserved for people that do something that I just can’t forgive. Something so egregious no sane person can understand why they did what they did. The List is for the worst of the worst, the stupidest of the stupid, the most tone-deaf of the tone-deaf, the most mediocre in all mediocrity.

That is why, today, I induct Keizo Konishi, of Kyodo News, into infamy On My List.

If you are wondering, well, who the hell is Keizo Konishi, you’re not alone. Last year in November, Konishi became famous for the very first time. By doing something incredibly stupid.

Now, some people just aren’t ready for prime time. You see it in politics all the time. Right now, for example, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) has risen to prominence due to his quixotic and (some say) self-defeating quest to kill either abortion rights or healthcare. Stupak was a long-term back-bencher, and now that he has started spending time on tv, it has become clear that he is renting a room for something like 1/3 fair market value (in the video), which is a big no-no, and could result in his reprimand in the House. His ties with a secretive religious group that some have described as a cult are also coming to light, and he is now looking at elective trouble. Now, don’t get wrapped up in his politics, but know that this probably never would have come up if he could have stayed on the back bench during the health care debate.

(Sorry to bring politics into this blog, which I have studiously avoided, but I lack for a better example)

Konishi is someone that I had never heard of, and it therefore surprised me to learn that he is a reporter that has been covering the Seattle Mariners for many years. As Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner and the Indispensible Fangraphs wrote on his twitter last November, “I probably read more about Seattle-based baseball writing than anyone alive. I’ve never heard of Keizo Konishi.”* Apparently, he covers the Mariners for the Japanese periodical Kyodo News, which means he covers Ichiro Suzuki, who is a sort of demigod in Japan. I was going to give an excoriating review of his brilliant writing style (which is actually terrible), but at some point between last November and now, Kyodo News has switched to a subscriber-only model, and now I can only see 1-sentence summary of Keiz-who(?)’s articles. \

(By the way, follow Dave Cameron at @d_a_cameron. He’s smarter than me.)

Anyway, searching for his work yields one article. One. Uno. MLB allowed a writer who had one credit that is accessible to the U.S. audience to vote on (arguably) the most important honor when it comes to the later (mostly meaningless) Hall of Fame decision. Go ahead and read it. It’s terrible journalism. Every other link that comes off of a search for his name leads back to his vote in the MVP race. It takes real talent to be that much of a backbencher in the world of journalism.

Anyway, everyone knows that last fall, Joe Mauer was elected MVP of the American League by a near unanimous vote. I remember hearing “near-unanimous” and wondering who pooped the bed. I assumed that it would be a Yankees beat reporter, as everyone in media had spent the last couple months overhyping Derek Jeter’s candidacy. Or at least someone with an axe to grind or a bit of home-town favoritism. But no. It was Keizo-freaking-Konishi. Who didn’t even vote for his man-crush, Ichiro Suzuki. He voted for Miguel Cabrera, who was best known last year for going out and getting drunk with opposing teams during a division title hunt and then for (allegedly) assaulting his wife. Everyone – and I mean everyone – wanted to know what exactly Konishi had been huffing to make him think that Cabrera was more valuable than Joe Mauer. But he wasn’t saying.

Until last Wednesday. Then Tyler Kepner, who is (at least in my mind) best known for rendering Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer both apoplectic with his suggestion that Mark Texeira was the “No Question” MVP in August 2009 (which really would have been pooping the bed, as it turns out), managed to track Konishi down and got him to talk about his vote. Go to that link and read all of it. I’ll wait.


Okay. That might be the worst argument for anything that I have ever heard in my entire life, and as a law student who reads a lot of crappy arguments and also as a guy with a wife who is excellent at pointing out the flaws in his arguments (love you, hon), I have heard a whole lot of crappy arguments in my days. I have read cases where the entire argument posed by one lawyer was that “the court should overturn modern contract law because it really hurts his client” (not an exact quote). I have read countless scribes argue that Derek Jeter should be MVP even as they acknowledge that he is not the most valuable player. I myself have made absurd arguments that the first day of spring training should be a national holiday so I don’t have to go to work or class.* But I simply cannot think of an argument that is worse than the one that Konishi made in support of his vote.

*I still had to go to work and class.

Before I get too far into Konishi, let’s remember one thing: Joe Mauer had a HISTORIC season. It was the best offensive season by a catcher, possibly ever. Exclude Piazza, who was a terrible defender, and it was the best offensive season by a catcher. Which is made all the more impressive by the fact that he is a catcher. Catchers are typically the player that has the least offensive impact in the lineup (other than maybe the shortstop, or the pitcher in the NL), because their value is in their defense. Or they have a lot of offensive impact, but no defensive impact. Cabrera is a first baseman. They’re supposed to be good offensively. And he was. Whee. But he didn’t add very much offensively. His UZR was 2.8 last year, which is above average, but not incredible. His positional value was terrible: -11.9. For more statistics, see Fangraphs. Mauer is here. Mauer had a 8.1 WAR. Cabrera had 5.5. I mean, there really aren’t many (if any) advanced statistics that give Cabrera a lead over Mauer.

That in mind, let’s break Konishi down (apologies to Kepner, I’m going to be quoting at length):

“I thought that the Western division and the Eastern division were almost decided by mid-August,” he said. “The only tight race was the Central division. Two teams went really deep, the Tigers and the Twins, so I thought the M.V.P. should be selected from those two teams.”

This is exactly the problem with the MVP award, and why no one takes it seriously anymore, including me (well, only serious enough to write about 2000 words or so, but not more). The standards for voting are so lax and undefined that it allows every voter to come up with their own standards. In this case, Konishi eliminated the East and West divisions because… well, he thought they should be eliminated. Never mind if there was a team in one division or the other that had a player that was “most valuable” (hypothetically speaking, of course). He just… decided that the East and West are too strong, and therefore, in these “strong” divisions there was no one “strong” enough to be worthy of the title of Most Valuable.

No, I get it. He subscribes to the theory of “the most valuable player is the one that drags his team kicking and screaming over the finish line.” With that mindset, of course the East and the West are ineligible for Most Valuable Players. They would be almost every year. The hallmark of the last few years has been the AL East wrapping up the Wild Card and its Division winner early, and the AL West either beating them to it or finishing just behind. Of course, there couldn’t be a player that is Most Valuable on a team that dominates their division, like the Angels did last year. That’s just silly to think that a good team could have a Most Valuable Player. Silly.

So, let’s look at the way that Konishi eventually got to the place where he pooped the bed:

“What I thought is, ‘Who has the most importance to those two teams?’ I imagined what would happen if you picked someone out of the lineup. For example, if I took Cabrera out of the Tigers’ lineup, I thought it would be a very different team. If I did the same thing for the Twins, if I picked Mauer out of their lineup, they would still have a better lineup compared to the Tigers.”

Wait, what? Are we talking about the same teams here? We’re talking about a Twins team that had no Justin Morneau and was giving regular playing time to THREE players that were hitting below .230 at the end of the season. We’re talking about a Twins team that had no Joe Crede and the worst defensive outfield in the Majors on average. We’re talking about a team that was relying on Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing to go six-plus innings two out of every five days. We’re talking about a team with no ace pitcher that survived on passable starters that were backed up by decent offense. We’re talking about a team that got a batting average of .209 from the 2-hole on the season (and that’s even with Joe Mauer batting there for a period of time when he was hottest). What was there really to like about the Twins lineup, other than Span, Kubel, Cuddyer, and Mauer at the end of the season?

Who did the Tigers have? Oh yeah, they had Curtis Granderson. Placido Polanco. Brandon Inge. Miguel Cabrera. Carlos Guillen. Magglio.  Jason Verlander. Rick Porcello. Edwin Jackson. Not perfect, but I like that list a whole lot better than I like the Twins as of Game 163.

So let’s pick Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera out of their respective lineups and see what happens. Here’s what happens: The Twins continue the fold they were accomplishing so well as of the end of July/beginning of August, and the Tigers ride their starting pitching into the postseason. Without Joe Mauer to say, “hey, guys, jump on my sideburns and let me carry you,” the Twins were done. True, as Konishi said, the Twins had players who exceeded expectations, but that was mostly because expectations were so, so low for many. Remember when Dave Cameron, normally a wise guy, excoriated the Twins for locking up Kubel when Hinkse was available? That still makes me chuckle. He also only lists three players that exceeded his expectations, while oh-so-many underacheived: Punto, Young, Casilla, Harris, Crede, and Tolbert, to name a few. This shallow analysis, unfortunately seems to be more typical than not. Without Joe Mauer, the Twins lineup was polar – there were a few really great players, but these were more than outweighed by the terrible and the under achieving. Without Mauer, the Twins wouldn’t have made it even to consideration for a game 163.

Without Cabrera,* the Tigers wouldn’t have had a player out drinking with the White Sox and getting into a domestic violence “altercation” with his wife (allegedly) in the heat of the playoff race/collapse.

* Oooh, oooh, something interesting. Cabrera is apparently a babalao, or high priest, of the Santeria  religion. The more you know!

Wait, you say Konishi had something to say about the Cabrera drinking incident? Do tell:

I asked Konishi if he considered Cabrera’s behavior on the final weekend of the season. With the Tigers clinging to their division lead, Cabrera’s general manager, Dave Dombrowski, had to pick him up at the police station early Saturday morning after a night of drinking and a domestic altercation. Cabrera played that night and went 0 for 4, stranding six runners.

Konishi said he was aware of the incident, but he said he was unaware of the details until after ballots had to be submitted. “If I had known what was going on there, my vote would probably be different,” he said. “Or maybe, I don’t know. I would have to think about it again.”

Give me a minute. I think I feel an aneurysm forming.

When deciding. Who was the Most Valuable Player. Based on who was most important to the team. Konishi didn’t do his research on Cabrera’s off-the-field unacceptable behavior? There are two ways to view this. First, he heard that something had happened, but didn’t follow up on it, which is irresponsible (and I think next-to-impossible, with the play the story got in the media and the baseball world). Second, he had already made up his mind and ignored the last week or so of the regular season. This would be reprehensible, and I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t know of any other way to have avoided the news stories about Miguel Cabrera and his off-the-field antics.

Finally, the best part of the article, to me. Kepner brought it up as if it was no big deal at all, framing it as a “cultural distinction.” First of all, it’s not. Second of all, I’ll let Konishi’s words speak for themselves:

“Maybe not many Americans think this way, but outside of America, the World Baseball Classic is a huge deal for the Japanese people — enormous,” Konishi said. “And that year, Cabrera played to the semifinals. Mauer didn’t. And how many games both players played was different, too.”

Really? He used the World Baseball Classic, which was not part of the regular season, which did not involve the Tigers at all, and its importance to the Japanese people (!!!!!!!!) to justify his vote. The World Baseball Classic, which was an utter joke last year, thanks to the fact that fewer than 1/4 of Major Leaguers (assumedly, the best players in the world, excepting Japan and Cuba) took part. Mauer, for the record, was not taking part due to a back injury. The World Baseball Classic, in its current incarnation, is a joke. It’s no more important than the Arizona Fall League or the Dominican Winter League. It’s a diversion. It’s a way for MLB to make money. That’s it. It’s a vehicle to transfer dollars (and yen, and pesos, and yuan, and etc.) from the pockets of fans into the pockets of MLB and its owners and facilities. It should not, and does not (in a just world), have any influence whatsoever in the major league season, much less in the MVP voting.

That said, the one, single part of Konishi’s argument that I could see as logical or that I could agree with is his note about the number of games each played. Mauer played 138. Cabrera played 160. Important distinction, but what Mauer did in his 138 was so superior to what Cabrera did in his 160 that I don’t think it should be any real issue here.

And this is where I differ from Joe Christiansen, who normally I respect greatly. He said, with regard to the decision, “if they think he put it together without much thought they are wrong.” JoeC is wrong. Konishi’s decision did not take any thought. This was the opposite of thought. This was rationalization of a decision NOT to care about making a decision that, right or wrong, could have made a major impact on a player’s career. LaVelle gets it closer, but still whiffs on the important parts: “While I would have voted for Mauer (didn’t have the MVP vote last year) this shows how someone can look at things differently.” To be fair, he did make the same points I did above about the relative lineup strengths. Kepner brings up a good point, as well, in his article: “In six games against Seattle last season, Mauer hit .333. In nine games, Cabrera hit .471. Perhaps that colored Konishi’s thinking, on some level.” But then he whiffs it too: “But he sounded to me as if he really had given serious thought to his vote. He just came to a different conclusion than everyone else.” No. Sometimes there is room for interpretation and coming to different conclusions than everyone else. Not this time. Not by a long shot. There’s a difference between Konishi being willing to come out and say why he pooped the bed, and excusing him for doing so. That’s what LaVelle, Kepner, and JoeC did. They excused him. The only mainstream writer that I have seen that got it right is, as usual, Aaron Gleeman, at Hardball Talk:

I appreciate Konishi’s willingness to explain his ballot in a public forum, but I certainly don’t appreciate the lack of insight and logic that went into his decision making. His vote made little sense, the reasoning behind his vote makes even less sense, and his having a ballot in the first place perhaps makes the least sense of all. Oh well.

Konishi should be kicked out of the BBWAA, or at least banned from any further voting of any kind. However, because I know that there’s no way this happens, I do the next most terrible thing, at least to my self-important sense of justice.

I put him On My List.


Hmm… Outrage doesn’t seem to cover it…

What do you get your beloved for your 62nd anniversary? Is it Gold? China? I know the 60th is Diamond, but I can’t think of anything better than that… There has to be something we can do! Oh, I have an idea!

Why don’t we have everyone in baseball wear your number for one day?! That seems like a great way to commemorate it!

I’m sorry. I may be burned out and cynical from the paper I am writing for law school (creationism in public education), but I can’t help but think that MLB is turning to platitudes – and public relations stunts – to commemmorate the breaking of the color barrier. Why in the world would else would Bud Selig declare that EVERYONE should wear number 42 this Tax Day (read: April 15). And why shouldn’t they? 62 is a nice round number. Just like 17, and 91, and 34. Geez, what else can we celebrate? I know… let’s all celebrate the day the first hot dog was sold at the first ballpark! We can all dress up like Oscar Meyer Weiners and then engage in a bizarre form of cannibalism as we consume dome dogs by the pound! Those condiment races would certainly come in handy on that day!

Okay, all kidding aside. Stop. Just. Stop. You are cheapening the achievement of Jackie Robinson with all your constant yearly memorials and commemorations and whatnot. I know this is the “big opening” of the Jackie Robinson rotunda at Citi Field, but seriously, have the damn Mets all wear number 42. You are telling me it is necessary to have players on teams that didn’t exist in 1947 wear a number that no one on the team has ever been allowed to wear, just so baseball can sell a few more tickets in the name of nostalgia and profits? I’m sure it means a lot to the all the D-back and Rays fans out there.

Should I be extra cynical and wager that the uniforms will be auctioned off for some charity after the game? The profits will go to some charity, but the publicity is good as gold for MLB.


Give me a break.

Bud Selig, you just made my list.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (NOMY)

So, Friday I got done with work and a meeting and hurried home, excited for a weekend of baseball, specifically for watching the Twins play on MLB Extra Innings, as it was then the free trial time (now I am back to watching on teh computer). Let me tell you what. The weekend was like a long night’s drinking, and I am having a hangover right now.

The first game was the first nice drink. You are just getting out there, so you get yourself a nice glass of scotch after dinner, and it goes down smooth, and leaves you feeling warm and cozy and happy (I’m a fan of a nice speyside glenlivet). But then it is time to go with friends. You’re still feeling good, and really happy, so you order yourself a shot of top-shelf tequila, you know, the kind that goes down smooth and leaves you feeling light-headed for a second or two afterwards? Yeah, the good stuff. And you look at the TV and see that the Twins are making the Sox do their laundry, and think “It’s gonna be a good night!”

However, it was not to be. Your friends take you to a seedy bar in a bad part of town, and proceed to give you cheap, tasteless American beer. You look at the tv and see that the Twins are losing a heartbreaker in the fourth, 0-1! You think, well, darn, that’s depressing. Your friends notice you look sad, and hook you up with a Jaegerbomb or two. Then you look up at the TV and find out the Twins lost the game 8-0.

By now, you’re pretty blitzed, but your friends aren’t done partying. You’re about ready to go crawl into your blankets and sleep off the Twins’ bad performance, but, hey, you aren’t driving. So your friends take you to an even seedier bar and you do vodka shots until you pass out. Then you wake up in the South Side of Chicago getting crushed by a life-size mannekin of Mark Buerhle next to a newspaper saying that the Twins lost, 1-6.

Depressing, isn’t it? I can’t say I’ve ever had much of that happen to me (and if I had, would I really reveal it on a blog where I use my real name 😉 ), but I imagine it is something like what happened over the weekend. Ugh.

New on my list (see the tab at the top of the page for the full listing):

Whoever came up with the bright idea to let FOX block out four or five games on Saturdays, when I clearly won’t be able to see the one that I actually want to see because I am out of the area! UGH!

Really? Again?

Hey all ~

I refuse to write a post about last night’s game of any substance. Let’s leave it at this:

Blackburn earned his way off my list.

Tolbert made me realize why I missed him… and why I didn’t.

Whoever’s idea it was to PH Young for Gomez is an idiot. And a genius.

The bullpen was, well, the Minnesota Bullpen.

Joe Nathan did great… and acted like Todd Jones (I defy you to disagree).

So, when do we get to see Korecky and Humber?

Who else was at least partially in favor of leaving Nathan out there until his arm fell off after he gave up the tying run? I wasn’t, but I imagine some were that angry.

Pridie did not impress me tonight. Which means that I haven’t ever been impressed with him. Huh.

Whoever decided that Gomez should be the one righty in the lineup vs. AJ Burnett because Gomez could succeed is, well, an idiot.

On a side note, check out Seth’s “Expert Picks” panel, which should be up in the morning or something. Good times.

There’s a fire in the kitchen; or, more offensive futility.

Have you ever had one of those moments? You know, the kind that happens when you are almost done with something (like cleaning the kitchen), but then you take a step back and take a looooong look at what is left. It really doesn’t seem like much. Nobody will see the dust under the shelves. Nobody will actually look to see if the gunk under the burners is wiped up. I might not have finished, but it’s just… good enough.

You know that feeling? It’s usually right. No one usually notices the cleaning deficiencies. However, every once and a while your mother-in-law comes over, and you better believe she’ll find ALL the dust! Then you go to heat up some water for her tea, and the gunk under the burner bursts into flame. Then suddenly your mother-in-law is screaming at you from the other room about how this wouldn’t have happened had you just cleaned the stove, and by the way, you’ll get mice and roaches because of the dust under the shelves. Meanwhile, you are fumbling for the fire extinguisher from under the sink and the neighbors are pounding on the wall and the smoke detector is going off and you finally figure out how to work the fire extinguisher and put out the fire.

After all the drama, you have one hot mess in the kitchen and one angry mother-in-law. See? Not doing the cleaning does come back to bite you.


Enter the Twins offense. Yesterday, the Twins scored five runs in the period of two innings. At that point, it was as if the hitters took a step back and examined their work, and it was good. They thought, “You know, that’s good enough. Our pitchers pretty much rock, and usually when we score five runs, we win. We rock. Come over here and pat me on the back. Oh, you? Sure, I’ll pat you on  the back too. Anyone want a Mai Tai? We’re done here.”

…And then the Twins’ collective mother-in-law came over when Perkins gave up back-to-back home-runs. At that point, the offense could have hastily brushed up some of the dust (possibly using the metaphorical cat) and wiped under the burners quick like a fox. Instead, they thought, “Nah, it’s good. We’ll be just fine. We still have a run. It’s not like the, erm, home runs (okay, so the metaphor is falling apart) will want some tea.”

…And then came Boof Bonser, who is really much more of a crumpets guy. When the, er, home runs inquired about tea and maybe inviting over some company, he was more than happy to oblige. Another home run followed, and suddenly the offense was dealing with a burning, screaming, pounding, hot mess. They looked at the scene and yelled, “Ahhhhh!!! Where’s the fire extinguisher?! Where’s the fire blanket?! Oh, where, oh where is Pat Neshek (it turns out he was busy prepping for a podcast with Seth Stohs, which should be very much worth the listen tomorrow at 8pm central)??!!!”

So, the Twins got out the backup fire extinguisher (Matt Guerrier), and it turns out, in an ironic twist worthy of Family Guy, that Guerrier was a joke fire extinguisher, and by the time he stopped laughing, another run had crossed the plate.

At this point, the offense panicked and ran, leaving all their friends to either burn to death or spit out the fire, neither of which turned out to be terribly feasible.


Yeah, making up metaphors that fall apart almost immediately is fun. However, the idea was to draw attention to a very real problem the Twins are facing: Their mothers-in-law are attending every game, causing untold amounts of stress (I kid because I love). Actually, name the last time the Twins made a habit of scoring runs in the late innings in a non-blowout situation? You have to look back to mid-June. Remember when, even though the Twins would be behind three or five runs, we just knew they would come back and win it? Remember when a three or five run lead was destined to stand up, just because that is what happens in a just world? It seems those days are past us. So, until then, I am praying for daily blowouts.

You know there is a problem when Matt Macri pinch hits and you heave a sigh of relief. Then, he strikes out on four pitches and you think, “You know, that could have been worse.” Yeah, we’re there. And state farm won’t help us this time.

New on my list:

  • The ‘Pen. And the Offense. And, well, everything to do with this team right now.

September Call-ups; Say it ain’t so, Jesse and Joe!

Over the weekend, the Twins announced their call-ups for the stretch run. If you have been living under a rock, then you haven’t heard. THey were Ryan Jorgenson (catcher), Matt Macri (utility IF, 3B), Matt Tolbert (UT INF), Jason Pridie (OF), Jose Mijares (LHP), Phil Humber (RHP, SP), and Bobby Korecky (RHP, CL).Really, only one of them was a surprise: Jose Mijares. Overall, about what I expected, though I would have liked to see a couple more dark horses. However, this is still a playoff race, though I am getting less encouraged at this point, and I can see the Twins wanting slightly more proven things.

  • Mijares was quite good last year in AA New Britain, then was in a potentially devastating car accident over his offseason; the lefty broke his pitching elbow and injured the shoulder. I heard reports that he wouldn’t be back for at least a year. Those reports turned out to be exaggerated, as he is back, posting a pretty decent line in both Fort Myers (2.61 ERA and .097 WHIP) and New Britain (2.63 ERA and 1.39 WHIP). To be honest, I have no idea where these numbers came from. Last season, he was sketchy at best, putting up mediocre (bordering on bad) lines in both New Britain (3.54 and 1.44) and Rochester (6.23 and 1.62). He throws in the mid-nineties, but shouldn’t be too much of a factor in the stretch run.
  • Korecky is also back, finally, after continuing his good year at Rochester. He finished the season with 26 saves and a 2.91 ERA (1.18 WHIP), as well as the only hit by a Twins pitcher in the DH era at the Metrodome. Korecky can provide a much needed arm in the back end of the bullpen, especially with the troubles that Crain has been having (making a good righty even more important).
  • I am interested to see what the Twins do with Phil Humber, after the way his Rochester season went. He started the year, well, badly would be an understatement. He did so badly that he pulled a Boof and ended up in the Rochester bullpen. Pitchers are given a spot in the bullpen to get confidence back and get control of their pitches; Humber did neither. However, when he was given another shot at the starting rotation, he grabbed it and performed very well. For my two cents, I would put him into the rotation when the time comes for one of the young starters to move to the ‘pen for the playoffs, if such a thing is in the cards; once the playoffs arrive, teams need a max of four pitchers anyway, what with the extra days off and all.

The rest of the players recalled were position players.

  • Jason Pridie (pronounced PRIDE-ey, not pretty) had an abysmal start to his season, but turned it around. In a way, he is Gomez, but backwards. Gomez started out great, then fell apart. Both strike out at an absurd level (Gomez: 122; Pridie: 150), both are good in the outfield. I look for Pridie to get an occasional spot start for Delmon Young or when either of Span or Gomez need a day off; he would also be a good pinch hitter/runner.
  • Matt Tolbert is back, having a healthy thumb again. I just about cried when he hurt his thumb; that’s the ONLY time that has happened to me. Tolbert brings an exuberance and love of the game that is just infectious; even when he couldn’t use the hand, he was at the games, shagging balls and signing autographs (with the other hand). I haven’t ever seen the kind of enthusiasm he brings; the kind of joy for the game. It’s as if he knows that his time in the majors is a gift, and he certainly took advantage; he was playing well before he hurt himself sliding into first (grumble). Oh, yeah, and he plays good defense. Tolbert would have been the long-term solution at second had Casilla not stepped up; he should be the utility infielder next year, after the Twins forget to re-sign Nick Punto. We’ll mostly see him as a pinch-runner and a late-inning defensive replacement at third, methinks.
  • Ryan Jorgenson: Not a big deal. We knew the Twins had to call up a catcher and we knew it wasn’t going to be Jose Morales (after he re-aggravated his horribly strained ankle last year). I was rather hoping to see some of Jeff Christy, but I’ll take Jorgensen. He really isn’t a big deal, though he calls a decent game from what I’ve heard.
  • Finally, Matt Macri is back! For everyone who thought Bass should have gone instead of him when Baker came back from the DL, be happy. Macri will probably be a non-factor, as it seems Harris has come into his own, and has generally (excepting Sat.) shown a better glove than Macri did. However, I do see Macri coming in as a pinch-hitter and as a late-inning replacement for Buscher against left-handed pitching.

Finally, a word to our two right-handed relievers whose names start with J.

Jesse Crain. What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened to you? You were throwing, at one point, over 97 mph and locating like crazy. Apparently, being good stuck in your craw, and you have become Brian Bass/Juan Rincon almost overnight. Keep it up, and I’ll have to come up with an incendiary nickname for you, which won’t be easy, since Gas Can Man (Rincon) and Kerosene Boy (Bass) have both come and gone. However, just so you don’t think I’m not up to the task, I’ll come up with something. And I’ll use it, unless you don’t start using your pitches better.

All yelling and frustration aside, Crain has given up the winning runs in three of his last five outings, and was charged with ERs in two of those innings. In addition, he has failed to keep inherited runners, well, on the bases. He is flirting with a 50/50 Ball/strike ratio over the same time period; he would be below 50% on strikes if he didn’t give up so many hits. Frankly, I want Crain either shut down for a week (at least) and then we can talk about his future with the club. I hesitate to want him to go away permanently, as Leslie Monteiro of Twins Killings does, but his future should be in question at this point. The only reason I hesitate, however, is that he really stepped up when Guerrier fell apart, and might be suffering from a bit of a dead arm at this point. Korecky should help give him a break.

As Leslie pointed out earlier, though, I would not be doing my job as a blogger if I didn’t call out Joe Nathan for his recent failures.

Let me be clear about something. I have never been a Joe Nathan devotee. He really reminds me of Todd Jones, who seems to relish in letting a few baserunners on before getting out of the inning. I remember what the Detroit announcers said about Jones when we played there in July: Jones may not get a lot of 1-2-3 innings, but he closes out wins and ends games. That is what Joe Nathan has done for the Twins; he makes my blood pressure rise about 30 points every time he comes in, but whatever it takes to win, i suppose.

However, I am not willing to let what he has been doing recently slide without saying something. He has done a great job of losing games for the Twins. He has five blown saves on the year; two have come on this road trip, including the unforgettable bad throw he made on Saturday to lose the game. Delmon Young gave it his lumbering best, but by the time he got to the ball in the bullpen, the second run had nearly scored. That kind of play doesn’t fly, especially when he had allowed the two runners before to reach base. Seriously, Joe. You need to stop letting people on without any effort, and then, magically, you will start to be, well, good again.

Playing with the Outfield; Problems Caused by Cuddyer (NOMY)

(Note: This post is mostly an expansion on posts I left here and here today. I wanted to take the space to thresh out the ideas more fully, so here you go.)

(NOTE: I will be going on my first real vacation in several years on Saturday, and thus might not have another post up for a week or so. I might have occasional internet access in Hawaii(!), and if I do, I will try to post a couple short updates. If not, have a great next week!)

The Twins have a dilemma. Right now there is a good chance that Michael Cuddyer will come back from his finger injury next week. So far, after three games, he is hitting .300 (3 for 10) with two doubles on his rehab assignment in Rochester and says that his finger is responding well to actually being used (last week he said that his lingering finger pain seemed to be stemming from unuse of the finger. While it is great that his finger is doing better, it could cause a lot of problems for the club if he comes back soon.

Cuddyer is a great guy and about the closest thing the Twins have to a leader in the clubhouse (after Red Dog, but taking batting practice naked is not necessarily leaderly). He also had a great year in 2006 and a passable last year, but last year he first started showing his propensity for injury. This season, he has only played in 62 of 114 games. if he comes back next week Friday for the West Coast road trip, he will have missed only two fewer games than he has played in this year, and there is still a chance that Cuddyer won’t reach 325 at-bats this year (he is currently at 234) and is currently hitting at a rather sad .252 (in contrast, the much-maligned Gomez is hitting .257, and his average is on the upswing after that brutal slump in July). It is impossible to know how he will play at the bigs after having such an injury-filled season. He shouldn’t go back to being the everyday LF, if only to protect his finger from further injuries. I would rather have him play about half-time for the rest of the season and then undertake a full rehab program in the offseason.

So, lets say that Cuddyer comes back and plays. Where does he take playing time from? He has four choices: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young.

Let’s start with Denard Span, who fighting with Alexi Casilla for the best Twins story of the year. I would have to say that Alexi is a slightly better story, since his success is a total surprise (he was hitting a whole .216 in Rochester before his call-up), but Span is a VERY close second. Since his second call-up, Span has been a major part of nearly every Twins game, and almost always on the positive side. He has been a fixture on the late-night highlight reels (hell, he’s made some of the midday shows too). He (nearly) single-handedly won the last game at Safeco Field on Wednesday, with a three-run triple that provided the first three Twins runs and one of the most amazing plays of the year, when he stole a home-run from some-people-hoped-almost-Twin Adrian Beltre. I wasn’t one of them, but that’s a story for another day. Span continues to impress at the plate everyday, getting very possibly the best at-bats of any Twins player whose last name doesn’t start with M. Any way you slice it, Span does NOT deserve to be sent down. The only downsides I can see with Span is that he is not very good at playing the Baggy and he doesn’t have a very strong arm to the plate. That’s the clearest call of any that will follow right now.

The Twins haven’t had a center-fielder with range like Gomez since, well, it’s been a while. Gomez sometimes has some difficulty with routine plays, but he leads the majors in out-of-position plays right now. I suspect a lot of this comes from having Delmon Young in left and Cuddyer (sometimes) in right. There have been at least a dozen plays this year where I thought, “Crap, that’s extra bases” only to have Gomez swoop in and steal the hit from mid-air. The kid is fast. ’nuff said. He also has a very strong arm, though not a particularly accurate one. Most of his errors on the season (four of seven) have been throws that were up the first base line far enough that they went into the dugout or to the backstop. However, he has seven assists and his errors has declined as he has hit the cut-off man more reliably. The hard question about Gomez is this: is his near-stellar defense enough to keep him an everyday player in the major leagues despite his hitting? To me, the answer is yes. Gomez is currently hitting .257 because of his devastating slump in July (which, coincidentally, started at almost the same time that Span appeared and started presenting a challenge for his job) after hitting .266 on June 27 and .282 on June 1. Everyone knows he has had trouble hitting breaking balls on the outside corner, but since being sent down to the 9-spot, with less pressure, he has hit .371 (13-for-35 with an OBP of .451, small sample size and all), even after a not-so-great series against the Indians (2-for-9, or .222). Gomez, right now, is doing what we all thought he would do at the beginning of the season. His problem is that with one stellar month, he made us all think that he would develop at a rate approaching hyperspeed (Star Wars fans out there?). I don’t think Gomez has anything to worry about.

What about Jason Kubel? He is rocking it right now, against everyone but, well, lefties. He is second on the team in HRs, with 16 (only two behind Morneau). He is finally giving Morneau a little protection, when Gardy will actually bat him in the 5th spot. Right now, he is losing a few at-bats to the right-handed DH du jour, but that is fine with me. He has been hitting very well recently, and almost handed the Twins a game the other day with two home runs, one against a lefty. However, he is sllllooooowwwwww in the outfield. He is defnitely a DH, and he has really come into his own this year. If we had anyone to replace him, I would say he would be good trade bait for next year, but for now, I will say that the FREE JASON KUBEL movement has a been a rather stunning success.

This brings us to Delmon. This is only his second year in the majors, so I have tried to cut him some slack. I did rip on one play the other day, but that was because it was Soooooo bad. His bat is doing fairly well right now, but his power is still totally absent. He has four home runs on the year, three of them at the Metrodome. Not exactly what we expected when we traded our top pitching prospect for him. For a while, he flirted with .300, but has since fallen back off to .290 or so. Above average, but not exactly the numbers we expected. His defense, on the other hand, has been exactly what I expected, back when I hadn’t heard of Delmon Young and thought we had traded for Dmitri (I was writing a thesis at the time, OK? So sue me.). Young hasn’t gotten a good jump on a ball all year and his routes to the balls that he does get to are horrendous. His range is tiny; his ass would be grass if Gomez/Span weren’t in CF to save balls in the gap. He manages to underhustle balls on a regular basis; he has been a half-step too short on balls over his head because of lackadaisical play at least six time in the last two weeks. His feet-first dives for the ball drive me insane right now. He has a good arm; I’ll give him that. His eight assists on the year lead the team, though I can’t remember when his last one came. It has been a while. He is absolutely killing the Twins in the field. I hate to say it, but I miss RonDL and Ford in LF, and that’s saying something. At the same time, I understand the dynamics of the game, and that the fans would be rather unhappy if the prize of the Garza trade was sent to the minors; it just won’t happen. However, I think a good benching would do him well.

So, with Cuddy re-appearing, what should the Twins do? The first is obvious: DFA either Ruiz or Lamb. Ruiz is a great guy and I was happy to see him get a couple hits, but I don’t think he has a spot when Cuddy gets back. He is a AAAA player in every sense of the expression. Mike Lamb is another good guy, and I have been waiting to throw out this article that shows his softer side for weeks now. I think he could help a team down the stretch that needs a lefty bat off the bench if the Twins do let him go. But for now, Ruiz is the most likely to go, and I could see a team poaching him off waivers and the Twins getting some unlikely prospect back (Ruiz has great numbers in the minors, and I could see a team grabbing him for a right-handed PH).

So, here is what I think the outfield and DH spots should look like when Cuddy gets back:

  • At home against a RH pitcher: RF: Cuddyer; CF: Gomez; LF: Span; DH: Kubel (Span has enough trouble with the baggy that Cuddy should play in right).
  • At home against a LH pitcher: RF: Cuddyer/Span; CF: Gomez; LF: Young; DH: Kubel/Cuddyer
  • On the road against a RH pitcher: RF: Span/Cuddyer; CF: Gomez; LF: Span/Young; DH: Kubel
  • On the road against a LH pitcher: RF: Span; CF: Gomez; LF: Young; DH: Cuddyer

I don’t really think it will shake out that easily, but I can dream, right?

New on my List (NOMY):

The BBTN announcers that are calling Manny “THe Great One” merely because he shares the same uniform number with Wayne Gretzky, who, if you were paying attention, played HOCKEY, which shares as many similarities with baseball as it does with Equestrian. Seriously. Just. Stop. It.