Friday, March 14, 2003
Aaron's Baseball Blog: SUPERSIZED (and with pictures!)As promised, today's entry is a massive one. I'm now on Spring Break for a week or so and I'm in good spirits, so what better to do then write a whole bunch of stuff about baseball?
The Twins signed Kenny Rogers to a 1 year contract worth $2 million, plus incentives.
I think my feelings on this signing are somewhat complicated and ever-changing, so I'll try to lay it out as simply as possible:
1) Adding Kenny Rogers to a baseball team for $2 million dollars is a good thing.
He's a veteran pitcher with a long history of being average or better and is coming off of a good season in which he pitched 210 innings with a sub-4 ERA in a hitter's park.
2) Removing Johan Santana from the rotation is not a good thing.
I've talked about Johan enough here that I don't think I have to discuss his pros and cons anymore, but suffice it to say I think the more Johan Santana the Twins get in 2003 and beyond, the better.
My initial reaction to this signing was that it was a poor decision. In fact, here is what I wrote on BaseballPrimer.com as soon as I found out about it:
Well, that's just great.After thinking about it a little more, I realize that my feelings were based entirely on Santana being bumped from the rotation. I have been pushing Johan as the next big thing more than perhaps anyone else in the world, so I was obviously very disappointed when I found out he won't be starting the year in the rotation.
However, thanks to some discussions with other Twins fans, I have come to the conclusion that this signing is a good one.
A few reasons...
1) There really isn't much downside.
If Rogers stinks, you cut bait, lose your $2 mill and stick Johan back in the rotation. Rogers was very good last year, but he did post a 6.19 ERA in a injury-filled 2001 campaign. If he appears headed toward a 6.00 ERA again, you stick him in long-relief or put him out to stud. $2 million bucks is a lot, but even to a team like the Twins it isn't going to affect their budget much. Plus, I believe they will be getting about $1.8 million from the insurance company to cover Eric Milton's contract, so they can just use that money to pay Rogers.
2) As my good buddy Ross pointed out, what are the odds that a team can go through an entire season with only 5 starting pitchers?
It has obviously been done quite a few times, but what are the chances that the Twins, who have already lost a starter for most of the year, would have been able to count on Radke, Reed, Mays, Lohse and Santana to each take their turn in the rotation every single time? Radke missed a ton of time last year and so did Mays, plus I think Mays is a strong candidate to stink in 2003. Rick Reed is like 56 years old and strikes me as the kind of player that could fall off a cliff at anytime. Kyle Lohse had a very nice season in 2003, but would you really be willing to bet on him pitching 180 innings with a low-4.00s ERA in 2003? I wouldn't.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of reasons to think the Twins will need more than 5 starting pitchers in 2003.
3) Santana will get his starts in 2003 and he'll pitch high-leverage innings out of the pen. I'll take 180-200 innings from a starter over 70 innings from a reliever anytime, but if the Twins can find a way to get him 15 starts in 2003 (like they did in 2002) and a total of 120 innings or so, I would be fine with that. He's only 24 and a few less innings on his arm is probably a good thing anyway, right?
I'd still rather see Santana in the rotation for 180 innings, but I figure 200 innings of Rogers and 120 innings of Johan is probably better than 180 innings of Johan and 140 innings of Jose Cabrera, Juan Rincon, Kevin Frederick and the other bums the Twins were talking about for their last bullpen spot(s).
This now gives the Twins the following pitching staff, as far as I can tell:
SP - Brad Radke (R)
SP - Kenny Rogers (L)
SP - Rick Reed (R)
SP - Kyle Lohse (R)
SP - Joe Mays (R)
RP - Mike Fetters (R)
RP - Tony Fiore (R)
RP - Latroy Hawkins (R)
RP - Johan Santana (L)
RP - J.C. Romero (L)
CL - Eddie Guardado (L)
That's a damn good staff. They don't have a real "ace" (which is what I think Santana could have been), but they've got 5 starters, most of them veterans, that should be able to give them league average or better pitching and some bulk innings.
The bullpen, which was looking a little bit shaky last week, is now back to being a major strength. You've got Tony Fiore to do the long-relief work. Fetters and Hawkins to shut down the righties and the lefty trifecta of Santana, Romero and Guardado to shut down anyone and everyone.
Actually, looking at that setup, if I had my way I would switch Kyle Lohse to the pen to get Johan in the rotation.
Check out Lohse's numbers:
vs Righties = .213/.272/.361
vs Lefties = .308/.392/.516
vs Righties = .219/.274/.393
vs Lefties = .348/.415/.597
Those are amazing splits for a guy that was actually a very good pitcher last year (180 IP, 4.23 ERA).
He did improve slightly against lefties last year, but he was just simply a better pitcher last year, period. I would love to see what he could do as a long-reliever/righty setup man, where he could be spotted against righty-dominated parts of lineups and kept away from left-handed power hitters.
As for Kenny Rogers...
I don't think he will post a 3.85 ERA again this year. Unlike most of the Twins other pitchers, he is a groundball pitcher. He also doesn't strike anyone out, which means he'll be relying on Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas to convert a lot of balls into outs in 2003, which is something I'd want to avoid if I were a pitcher. Nevertheless, he has a fairly sustained level of success and I would say 180-200 innings and a 4.00-4.50 ERA should be considered a nice season.
The Twins seem to be convinced that Santana is better off in the pen this year and, although I disagree and am disappointed, it's not the end of the world and I think he'll get his chance sooner rather than later.
The Orioles acquired Jack Cust from the Colorado Rockies for Chris Richard.
Believe it or not, I actually think Baltimore made a good move for once.
Chris Richard is a nice player to have. He can play first base and any of the 3 outfield spots and he hits well enough (.259/.325/.453 career) that he won't hurt you and can actually help when he's doing well.
That said, he turns 29 in a few months and has struggled with injuries a lot of late.
He missed several months last year after having shoulder surgery and is still not 100%. In fact, this what he said after learning he was headed to Colorado:
I haven't made throws from the outfield on consecutive days," said Richard. "I'm sure the shoulder will be able to handle it. ... I hope the Rockies realize that I'm less than 100 percent throwing from the outfield."When is the last time you heard an injured player say, basically, "Well, I am still hurting, so I hope the team knows that"? On a good team, Chris Richard is a good pinch-hitter/spot-starter at 1B/DH/LF/RF against right-handed pitching and a guy that should probably get 200-300 ABs a year. Like I said, a nice player to have, but nothing special.
Jack Cust, on the other hand, could potentially be an impact player.
Here are his performances of late:
Year LVL AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB SOA couple of "interesting" patterns here.
1) His batting average is falling like a rock: 334 to .293 to .278 to .265. That aint a good sign. However...
2) His "isolated power" is actually rising. For those of you unfamiliar with that stat, it is simply SLG% minus batting average. I would call it a measure of "raw power" or batting independent of batting average.
His actual SLG% has stayed almost identical, but because his batting average has fallen his ISO has gone way up. Basically, Cust is becoming less and less able to hit singles, but his power is still damn good.
One theory with this would be that he is having more trouble making contact with the ball as he moves up the organizational ladder, but that simply is not the case here. His at bat per strikeout rates are: 1/3.1, 1/3.0, 1/2.8, 1/3.0. That's pretty much a stable rate of striking out.
As long as we are looking at "rates" let's check out his homer and doubles rates. I am gonna forget about his 1999 stats because they came in Single-A and probably don't mean a whole lot in this discussion...
At bats per homer:
2000 = 22.4
2001 = 16.4
2002 = 15.6
At bats per double:
2000 = 14.0
2001 = 18.4
2002 = 15.0
Jack Cust has definitely got some impressive power. Besides the falling batting averages, the big knocks against Cust are that he is absolutely dreadful defensively and that he has typically played in very good parks for hitters.
I haven't seen him enough to give my opinion of his defense, but almost everything I've ever read about him says he stinks in LF and at 1B. Now that he's in the AL he can safely DH and just stick to hitting the snot out of pitches. As for the hitter's parks, that is definitely correct. Cust has not only played in hitter's parks, he has played in some of the best hitter's parks (Colorado Springs, Tucson, El Paso, etc). That takes some air out of his numbers, but it doesn't change the plate discipline and his power is still very real.
While Richard is turning 29 soon, Jack Cust is only 24. So, even if they were equals as players, Cust would get a huge edge. And I think Cust has the potential to be a lot better hitter than Richard, so it is really no contest.
As bad as Baltimore is (and trust me, they are pathetic) they now have at least a couple of intriguing, young players to build around.
Here's how I would assess their franchise building plan at this moment:
DH - Jack Cust, 24
RF - Jay Gibbons, 26
RP - Jorge Julio, 24
Okay, so it isn't much, but it's 50% more young players to build around then they had this time last week, right? You gotta start somewhere.
When I think of spring training, I think of sitting in the sun, sipping some lemonade and watching some baseball. In other words, paradise. But apparently some people get to spring training and get kind of ornery.
A couple of days ago Jose Mesa said he wanted to kill Omar Vizquel. Seriously.
You see, Omar Vizquel wrote a book that came out about 9 months ago. Seriously.
Anyway, in it he bashes Jose Mesa pretty hard for his performance in game 7 of the World Series a few years back (Mesa blew the save and Cleveland lost the game). Jose took great offense to what Omar said and responded like this:
"I will not forgive him. Even my little boy (Jose Jr.) told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him."First of all, Mesa seems to be missing the point about literature by saying you shouldn't write about other people. I mean, if Vizquel was limited to stories that only involved himself, the book would be even worse than it already is. Seriously.
And if I were limited to writing about myself, instead of baseball players, you'd get really sick of hearing about how much macaroni and cheese I ate in the cafeteria and how I chose to go about avoiding studying on that particular day.
Aside from that, the thing I am wondering is why Omar Vizquel thought that he could write a book and include negative comments about another active player and not expect some sort of retaliation. Plus, look at the pictures of those 2 guys again and tell me you don't think Jose Mesa's facial hair could kick Omar Vizquel's butt all by itself?
Of course, after Mesa's quotes came out, MLB stepped in and put their collective foot down. So here's what Mesa said yesterday:
"I was hurt by remarks by a former teammate," Mesa said in a statement Thursday. "I would never injure anyone."Gee, ya think someone had a chat with Jose?
Jose Mesa isn't the only guy in a bad mood this spring...
A few days ago Vlad Guerrero charged the mound after Brad Penny plunked him, but that's nothing compared to what happened Wednesday in the Dodgers/Mets game.
If you haven't seen the footage yet, you are really missing out. It is some of the best stuff I've seen in a while.
Basically, here's what happened...
Last March, Guillermo Mota plunked Mike Piazza with a pitch and Piazza waited until Mota was coming off the field at the end of the inning and confronted him, getting into a shouting match in the outfield.
On Wednesday, Piazza and Mota were matched up again and this time Mota threw the first pitch way inside, but missed hitting Piazza. No matter, he just threw another one way inside and this time he nailed him right in the back.
Piazza immediately threw his helmet to the ground and went running toward the mound, fist cocked for a punch.
The only problem was that Mota threw his glove at Piazza and then exhibited one of the most amazing displays of backpedalling that I have ever seen.
He literally ran around the entire field backwards as he was chased by Piazza, before Piazza was finally restrained by various people. But then Jeromy Burnitz and a couple other Mets went after Mota and he continued his amazing display of backpedalling, eventually fleeing into the Dodgers dugout and then all the way into the clubhouse.
Mota didn't stop there. He quickly got changed into his street clothes, jumped in a car and got the hell out of there.
Piazza also got in his car and left the stadium early, but not before going to the Dodgers' clubhouse and shouting, "Where's Mota?! Where's Mota?!" as he searched the locker room, shower stalls and training area.
Predictably, this situation produced some very nice quotes. Surprisingly, they came from a most unexpected source, New York manager Art Howe:
"If he wants to hit somebody he needs to stand there and fight," Mets manager Art Howe said. "He backpedaled faster than I can run forward."If I hadn't seen the footage I would say that is hyperbole, but I really think Howe is right. Mota is really an amazing backpedalist (Is that a word? If not, it should be).
"If he had gotten loose, I don't know what would have happened,"Once again, Howe is right on the money. Piazza looked like he had completely snapped. His eyes were bugging out of his head and his face was all red. I am fairly confident that Piazza would have beaten the living bejesus out of Mota, and yes, bejesus is a scientific term.
"The guy ran like a scared rabbit. If he wants to hit someone, he should stay there and fight. It was a set up, as far as I was concerned. I'm angry. He's my best player and I don't want guys taking potshots at my best player."I feel bad for Shawn Green, because you just know he's gonna get an Armando Benitez fastball right in the ass next time these teams meet and that's gonna hurt quite a bit.
Memo to Guillermo Mota: If you are going to try to act all manly and tough and plunk Mike Piazza, you probably shouldn't run away from him and backpedal your way around the entire infield, into your dugout and into a car. The two events (plunking and running) sort of contradict each other.
If this scene had played out in a bar or something, instead of a baseball stadium, here's how I envision it happening:
Mota: Hey Pizza, wanna fight?
Piazza: Sure, let's go.
Mota: Hold on one second.
Mota: [High-pitched screaming as he runs for his car in the parking lot]
Finally, there is this quote from Mota, which leads me to believe that, in addition to being incredibly scared of Mike Piazza, he is also an incredibly bad liar:
"I know what I did and it was not intentional," said Mota. "Whatever they (the Mets) think ..."No Guillermo, Mike tried to murder you with his barehands last year and you just happened to throw not one but two fastballs right at his back. If only Mota could lie as well as he runs backwards, he could have a career in politics after he retires.
Is anyone else interested in a tag-team steel cage match?
Here's what I'm thinking:
Mike Piazza, Omar Vizquel and Vlad Guerrero vs. Jose Mesa, Guillermo Mota and Brad Penny
I think it would work out very nicely. First of all, it is pitchers versus hitters. Piazza and Mesa are a good matchup and I don't see any way Mota or Vizquel would be capable of hurting anyone, so they are a good fit. Vlad and Penny could be a bit of a mismatch, but Penny is listed at 6'4" and 247 lbs. and maybe he knows karate or something.
It would be worth the price of admission just to see Piazza strangling Mota in the corner as Mesa picks up a chair and smashes it over Piazza's head, only to have Vlad Guerrero come flying off the top rope...
Hmm...I think maybe I watched a little too much Saturday morning wrestling when I was younger.
(If you want to download the video from MLB.com, click here. The link you want is located on the right side of the page, under "related links.")
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, March 13, 2003
TimeI realize this is the second time in a week that I am wimping out of writing a long entry and I really want to discuss the Twins most recent acquisition in some depth, but I just don't have the time.
I got a massive amount of emails regarding my illness that I discussed a couple days ago. Having so many people care (or at least pretend to care) that I am sick for a couple days is really quite touching, although it's a little freaky too. I called me dad last night and he said, "I heard you were sick, are you feeling better?" I thought he found out from my mom, but he told me that he read about it here (Hi Dad!) I definitely want to thank everyone that emailed me to say they hoped I felt better. The good news is that I am feeling a lot better.
The bad news is that today at about 12:45 I will be taking my final mid-term of the semester, so have been spending all my time of late studying for that, instead of looking up stuff about Kenny Rogers. I have to say that this mid-term ("Mass Media Ethics") is the most nervous I have ever been in my 4 semesters of college so far, and that includes final exams. For some reason I just can't get a handle on the class and I have absolutely no clue what type of stuff is going to be on the test. If you could all take a break from whatever you're doing at about a quarter to one this afternoon and think happy thoughts, maybe we can all work together to get me a halfway decent grade.
I got one of my other mid-terms back yesterday and was very pleased. I got 93/101. I was wondering why a mid-term would possibly have 101 points on it, but I was too happy with my score to ask. Of course, the 93/101 comes in the one class that I am taking "pass/fail," which means I just need to pass it with a C-minus or better and it doesn't effect my GPA. I would say that it is "just my luck," but I would actually need some luck to have a "my luck," wouldn't I?
The other good news (for those of you that are jonesing for my thoughts on all things baseball) is that after my 3 classes today I am officially on Spring Break. I don't have any big plans and I'm not going on a trip to the Bahamas or anything, so I'll definitely be pumping out a few thousand words a day for you to enjoy.
Since I've skipped out on producing a big entry 2 times this week, I'll make you a deal: If you forgive me and make sure to come back here tomorrow, I'll have an extra-long, extra entertaining, extra insightful entry waiting for you to read. How's that sound?
In the mean time, if you haven't already read my entry from yesterday, that might be a good thing to do. I've gotten a lot of good feedback on it and I think you'll enjoy it a lot.
Also, for what I am sure will be some interesting Kenny Rogers-talk, go check out TwinsGeek.com.
By the way, if I've said it once, I've said it a million times: FREE JOHAN SANTANA! (no, seriously this time)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Human BeingsIt is just natural for people to look at celebrities and idolize them. Some girls (and guys) put posters of Britney Spears on their wall, some people keep scrapbooks of Al Pacino and some people own every single baseball card that has ever had a picture of Jim Edmonds on it.
For me personally, I suppose that at least part of the reason I am such a gigantic sports fan is that, deep down, I really want to be the players I watch on TV. And if that's not possible, I think many of us imagine the athletes were admire as the guys we'd want to hang out with, the guys we'd want our sisters to date, the guys that stand for "what's right in sports."
I have lived in Minnesota all of my life and I've noticed some very real "rules" that Minnesota sports fans seem to live by.
1) If you are "one of us" (meaning from Minnesota or here to play for the University of Minnesota) you are "one of us" for life and we will treat you better than anything you can imagine - through thick and thin.
I would call this the "Bobby Jackson rule."
Bobby Jackson came to the University of Minnesota basketball team from a junior college, which meant he had 2 years of eligibility. He broke his foot the first year, which meant his Gopher career would last exactly 1 season.
Well, it turned out that one season was one of the best in the history of Minnesota basketball. Bobby (he quickly earned one name status here) led the Gophers to the Big Ten Championship and a Final Four appearance. He was the Big Ten Player of the Year and an All-American.
As someone that watched almost every game that year, I can honestly say that Bobby Jackson's Senior season was one of the best seasons by a college basketball player I have ever seen. If we needed a basket, he got it. If we needed a big stop on defense, he got. If there was a rebound or a loose ball to be had, he got it (despite being about 6'1"). I have never seen a tougher, harder working or smarter college basketball player.
Bobby was selected in the 1st round of the NBA draft and eventually ended up on the Timberwolves, where he was cheered like no other player on the team, despite the fact he came off the bench the entire time and averaged about 6 points a game. After a couple of seasons here, he moved on to the Sacramento Kings and the fans in Minnesota only got a chance to cheer for him a couple times a year.
Flash forward a few years and we find out that Bobby wasn't doing much schoolwork while he was here at the U of M. There was a huge investigation, a Pulitzer Prize was won and coaches and adminstrators were fired.
Bobby and some other players on coach Clem Haskins' various Gopher teams were having their papers written by someone else. If you go to Williams Arena (where the Gophers play) that Big Ten Championship banner is no longer there and you'd be hard pressed to find any mention of a Final Four appearance. In addition, dozens and dozens of wins are now "losses" in the record books, the program had scholarships taken away and experienced tons of other various sanctions. The whole thing was a complete mess and the basketball program is just now starting to rebuild.
Despite all that, I was at a Gopher game last year and Bobby Jackson was in attendance (he was in town with the Kings to play the Timberwolves). There was no announcement of his presence and Bobby was actually pretty well undercover (he was wearing a hat), but at some point some fans spotted him in the crowd. Within minutes, the entire place was chanting: "BOBBY JACKSON!" [clap, clap, clap, clap, clap] "BOBBY JACKSON" [clap, clap, clap, clap, clap] "BOBBY JACKSON!"...
This entire state is still in love with Bobby Jackson and nothing he could ever do, including academic fraud that led to severe penalties for the entire program, could ever change that. Unless...
2) If you're "one of us" and you "betray" us, you will forever be treated as if you ran over our dog on the way to robbing our grandmother's house.
I would call this the "Joel Przybilla rule."
Joel Przybilla was a high school star at Monticello High School here in Minnesota. He was a McDonald's All-American and probably one of the top 10-15 high school players in the country. He came to the U of M just like "one of us" should and was quickly approaching Bobby Jackson territory.
Like Jackson, Joel was not very interested in schoolwork and apparently he did not attend very many of his classes. Unlike Jackson, he no longer had Clem Haskins as a coach. The program was fresh off of all the trouble related to Bobby Jackson and Clem Haskins and the new coach, Dan Monson, was completely unwilling to let such things slide.
The day after Przybilla's best game as a Gopher (I don't remember the exact numbers, but I'm going to guess about 30 points and 15 rebounds - including the game winning basket - against Indiana) he was suspended from the team until he got his academic situation straightened out. Despite the suspension, Joel still wasn't very interested in academics, so he quit the team right in the middle of the season and declared for the NBA Draft.
He was only a sophomore and was beginning to show so much promise that it was like someone cooking a big steak for you to eat and then throwing it in the garbage when it finally was ready to enjoy.
An added wrinkle to this story is that the NBA Draft that year was actually here in Minnesota...and I attended it. Throughout the evening, footage of the various draft eligible players was shown on the big screen and every single time anything involving Joel Przybilla was shown (or even if his name was mentioned) the entire place went absolutely nuts, booing louder than anything I've ever heard.
Joel ended up getting picked 9th in the draft that night and when he went up to the podium to shake David Stern's hand, he was booed extraordinarily loud. Then when he went to another stage off to the side to do a television interview, the noise in the Target Center was so loud that it affected the interview.
It is now several years later and Przybilla has come back here to play several times as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. He is booed each and every time and I imagine he will be until the day he retires.
3) If you weren't "one of us" by birth or by virtue of playing at the University of Minnesota, you can be so damn good and nice that we decide to adopt you.
This rule would apply to professional athletes that come to Minnesota from other states.
Right now, the best example of this would be Kevin Garnett. He can do no wrong at this point. He's great on the court, he's a great interview and from everything we've ever heard about him, he's just a hell of a guy.
I think he's the best player in the entire NBA. Plus, I'd love to hang out with him, my mom thinks he's "cute" and, if I had a sister, I'd gladly fix them up on a date.
Flash back about 10 years and all the stuff I just said could apply to Kirby Puckett.
In fact, rule #3 would probably best be descibed as the "Kirby Puckett rule."
Kirby Puckett was born and raised in Chicago and attended Bradley University. The Twins drafted him with the #3 pick in the 1982 draft and he was roaming centerfield in the Metrodome full-time by 1985.
Kirby just had that special something about him.
He never had a "baseball body." He was extremely short (listed generously at 5-8) and he was what I would describe as "portly" in the early days and "chunky" later on. Yet, he played a Gold Glove centerfield for many years.
As a hitter, he despised the walk and swung at a ball more often than a strike. He was the very definition of a "bad-ball hitter." No matter what the pitch was, Kirby hit it and, posting .300 batting averages year after year. And he was at his best when it really counted. In 24 career playoff games he had a .309 batting average and a .536 slugging %.
His brightest moment came on the biggest stage. In game 6 of the 1991 World Series, with the Twins facing elimination, Kirby Puckett had one of the greatest single game performances in the history of the World Series. He drove in a run with a triple in the 1st inning. He made an absolutely astonishing leaping catch up against the centerfield wall in the 3rd inning. And he led off the bottom of the 11th inning with the game-winning home run, which inspired Jack Buck to say: "AND WE'LL SEE YOU TOMORROW NIGHT!" - 6 words that will never be forgotten by Twins fans.
A season later, Kirby was a free agent and turned down huge contract offers from other teams - including his hometown Chicago White Sox - to stay with the Twins.
Off the field, he had a smile that could light up a room, he came off very well in interviews and appeared to be a perfect family man. Plus, there was just something very lovable about him.
You could look back throughout the history of athletics and you'd be hard pressed to find an athlete as loved and admired as Kirby Puckett was here in Minnesota.
Then, about a year ago, some not-so-wonderful stories started popping up in the local newspapers here about Kirby, who had retired from playing (had been newly inducted into the Hall of Fame) and was a member of the Twins front office.
A female Twins employee threatened him with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Puckett's long time wife, Tonya, divorced him and said that Kirby had threatened to kill her and attempted to hurt her on several occasions. There was a story about Tonya locking herself in the bathroom and Kirby cutting through the door with a power saw. There was a story about Kirby allegedly threatening her with a gun while she held their child.
Most recently, there have been stories about Puckett's long-time affair with a woman and an incident at a local bar, which resulted in Puckett being charged with sexually assaulting a different woman.
Throughout it all, the majority of Minnesota sports fans have remained fairly silent about it, perhaps unwilling to believe that their Kirby could be responsible for such things.
And then, yesterday, I saw this:
That is what next week's Sports Illustrated cover looks like.
In it, there is a story by Frank Deford entitled: "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett."
The story, according to SI, deals with "a pattern of alleged sexual indiscretions and violent acts by the former Minnesota Twins icon."
As I said, stories about Puckett have been around for the past year or so, so this SI article isn't really uncovering anything new. Still, there is a difference between the people of Minnesota knowing all about something and the entire world knowing about something because it was written about in the most well-known sports publication in the world.
Frank Deford was asked about what the reaction of the people of Minnesota has been to the on-going Puckett saga:
The fans there are very much aware of what's happening, and they feel two things, which are reflected in the SI piece -- sad and betrayed. And I think they feel a little foolish. That's a big theme of this story -- the fans were taken. They gave their hearts away and it turned out that the man to whom they gave their hearts was not quite so deserving. Even if Puckett is acquitted of the sexual assault charges brought against him, it's still very clear that he's not the person everyone thought he was. But a fascinating aspect of this story reflects on how fans get so carried away with their heroes.I could not agree with him more.
Has there ever been something that you absolutely knew to be true? I'm talking 1 + 1 = 2 and the earth is round type of stuff. You just know it is true and you live your life with that knowledge.
Now, suppose one day you find out that it isn't true. 1 + 1 = 567 and the earth is a triangle. It is really an astonishing feeling and one that hundreds of thousands of people are feeling right now because of Kirby Puckett.
This is obviously a hot topic here in Minnesota. Yesterday I heard a sports fan talk about what a shame it was that all this has happened, but how glad he was to have someone like Kevin Garnett playing in Minnesota. He went on to say that Kevin is such a magnificent athlete, such a charismatic person and such a wonderful human being.
If I had had a chance to, I would have asked that sports fan how exactly that description of Garnett is any different than one of Kirby Puckett as few as 2 or 3 years ago.
The answer is, of course, that it is no different.
In various cities and states across the country and throughout history, athletes are loved, admired and idolized. Cal Ripken Jr. in Baltimore. Tony Gwynn in San Diego. Karl Malone and John Stockton in Utah. Michael Jordan in Chicago or Washington or North Carolina. Brett Favre in Wisconsin. Larry Bird in Boston. Magic Johnson in Los Angeles.
Bobby Jackson and Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. The list goes on and on and on.
What is it about all of those people and all of those situations that is different from Kirby Puckett and Minnesota? Absolutely, without a doubt, not a single thing.
Kirby Puckett being on the cover of Sports Illustrated next week isn't going to change very much, even for people in Minnesota. Some of us might say it will, but it won't. I'm still going to keep thinking of what an extraordinary athlete Kevin Garnett is and I'll keep wanting to hang out with him, my mom will keep thinking he's "cute" and if I ever get a sister my first choice for her will be Kevin Garnett.
In the end, people are just people, no matter how many base hits they get, how many game-winning home runs they hit or how bright their smile is.
Sometimes it hurts to be reminded of that.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Calling in sickOne of the things I pride myself on regarding this website is the fact that I consistantly provide a new entry every weekday. Sometimes I can't come up with a topic that inspires me, sometimes I am busy doing other stuff and sometimes I just don't feel like writing, but I make a major effort to churn out new material (and hopefully quality material) every day.
That said, I am going to use a "sick day" today and skip writing a long column.
Sometime around Sunday afternoon I got deathly ill (okay, maybe not deathly, but really sick!). I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it is a food poisoning/flu type of sickness (use your imagination), although I am pretty sure I didn't eat anything out of the ordinary recently.
So anyway, it is now Tuesday and it hasn't gone away and, in fact, it is worse than it was on Sunday. But do you wanna know the worst part about it? The fact that it is not going away and is actually gettting worse is the good news.
The bad news is that this week is mid-term week here at the U of M. I had one yesterday, despite the fact that I spent most of Sunday afternoon/night and Monday morning before class...um...doing other things.
I think I did okay on the mid-term, but the one I am worried about is my "Media Ethics" mid-term on Thursday. My plan was to study really really hard all week leading up to the test, but now the only things my body seems interested in doing are sleeping and...um...those other things.
So I am stressed out, dehydrated, tired and suddenly very familiar with the bathroom here at the dorm.
(A side note about the bathroom: Apparently someone (not me!) threw up in the hallway and on the bathroom floor here Saturday night. Now, I am a pretty easy going guy and it takes a lot to piss me off, but when I wake up on Sunday morning and I am not feeling particularly good and I go to the bathroom and find myself stepping in large amounts of vomit, I get very upset. And it wasn't just a little bit of vomit, it looked as if a whole team of pukers got together and did their thing in the men's bathroom. And no one bothered to clean it up or tell a janitor about it. They just threw up all over the floor (and on the carpeted hallway) and left it for others to find. So I went to the bathroom Sunday morning and...well, my sandals and the bottoms of my sweatpants have seen better days. Absolutely disgusting, particularly because I am now spending an awful lot of time in that same bathroom)
Some days I enjoy living in the dorm. Some days (like when people puke in the bathroom) I long for the days of living at home, sharing a bathroom with only one person (that has outstanding personal hygiene) and getting fed chicken noodle soup when I'm sick.
I am hoping what I have is a "24 hour bug" (despite the fact that it is already more than 24 hours, but who's counting...), in which case I will be back to posting new and exciting baseball entries tomorrow.
If you need to fulfill your blog fix for today, may I suggest...
Only Baseball Matters
The Cub Reporter
Or try some of these relatively new blogs that I enjoy...
The 700 Level
The Dump's Sports Blog
At the Ballpark
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Monday, March 10, 2003
The Injury BugQuite a few good topics from this weekend, so let's just dive right in, shall we?
Phil Nevin, who just recently started playing the outfield for the Padres, dove for a ball in a spring game against Chicago on Friday and severely separated his shoulder. From what I've read, Nevin will need surgery and it sounds as if he will likely miss the entire 2003 season.
Here's what Nevin had to say about it:
"It has to be put back together," Nevin told the San Diego Union-Tribune in a telephone interview Saturday night. "It has to be fixed. It'll happen again and again and again if I don't get it fixed."I don't know about you, but when I hear about a part of someone's body needing to be "put back together" it doesn't sound very pleasant.
Nevin missed a lot of time with injuries last year and wasn't all that great when he played, but from 1999-2001 he posted SLGs of .527, .543 and .588 and he hit 41 homers and drove in 126 runs in 2001. Obviously this is a pretty big blow to whatever playoff chances San Diego had to begin with.
I can sympathize with Padres fans though, because my team, the Twins, got some horrible injury news over the weekend too. It was announced about a week ago that Eric Milton would need surgery on his knee and originally everyone was saying he'd miss about 2 months, which would mean he'd be out for the first month of the season. Now it sounds like he'll miss 4-6 months and there is a chance he won't pitch at all this season.
Whereas the Padres don't really have a great replacement for Nevin in the outfield (they may go with Xavier Nady, Brian Buchanan or Roberto Kelly - yes, that Roberto Kelly), the Twins have Johan Santana ready to step into the rotation in place of Eric Milton.
Here's what I said about Johan back when the Milton story first broke last week:
The good news here is that Johan Santana, whom I have been yapping about for some time now, will likely get a chance to begin the year in the starting rotation. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it a thousand more times: Johan Santana has the most long-term potential of any player - pitcher or hitter - in the entire Minnesota organization. He's a special player and I think he will take a huge step up this year, in no small part because he'll get a chance to start every 5th day.To use a Bill Simmons line: I wish I could buy stock in "Johan Santana will be a star." Sadly I can't, but talking endlessly about him on my blog is close enough.
Since we are talking about injuries...
Mets pitcher Pedro Astacio has a "sore right shoulder" and will likely begin the 2003 season on the disabled list.
This isn't really front page news, but it gives me a chance to do something I have been trying to find a reason to do for about 2 months now, which is show you Pedro Astacio's stats from last season:
Half IP ERA OAVG HR/9Like I said, I've been waiting to share this information since I first noticed it a couple months back, but I didn't think a random entry about Pedro Astacio would interest many of you.
It is absolutely staggering to me that a team would allow a pitcher that had been very successful for the first half of the season to pitch the entire second half of the season as poorly as Astacio did.
First of all, how a guy with a 7.00 ERA pitches 81 innings in half a season for you is beyond me. But that point is almost irrelevant. Pedro Astacio came into the 2002 season with some serious questions about his shoulder. If I remember correctly, he was given the option of having shoulder surgery after the 2001 season or simply trying to "play through it" and he chose the latter, which is fine, I guess. However, if you have a guy with a serious injury red-flag and he starts the season very well and then completely implodes, don't you think that maybe someone should have pulled him from the rotation before he got 81 more innings in?
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems incredibly obvious to me that a guy with a 3.17 first half ERA shouldn't have a 7.00 second half ERA unless there is something wrong with him. And, when that player that there is obviously something wrong with has a history of shoulder problems...well, I think a team should be a little more cautious than to allow him to pitch 80 innings, many of them coming after it was painfully obvious he wasn't himself.
One more interesting stat: Astacio gave up 12 homers in 111 first half innings and then gave up 11 homers in 25 September innings. Ouch. It doesn't surprise me that his shoulder is acting up again and it shouldn't surprise the Mets, although I bet it does.
Finally, I wanted to catch up on an "old" story that I talked about last week...
Last Tuesday I talked about Byung-Hyun Kim possibly moving into the Arizona starting rotation.
Here's some of what I said:
I think it is an excellent idea.Kim made his most recent spring start last Thursday and pitched 4 scoreless innings (with only 1 hit allowed).
Here's a little from the ESPN.com article about the game:
Most significantly, the 24-year-old sidearming right-hander threw just 42 pitches, 30 for strikes. Manager Bob Brenly has said Kim must cut down his pitch count to become a starter. He was known to throw 30 or more pitches in an inning as a closer.Sounds like very good news all around. Kim was able to quiet some of the "concerns" that people had about his pitch counts (which is something I discussed in a lot more depth in the Tuesday entry) and it sounds as though Brenly is counting on him to be a starter.
Any development that means special pitchers like Kim will not be put into roles where they can only pitch 70 or 80 innings a year is a positive development in my book, so I am definitely rooting for Kim to succeed.
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