Friday, January 07, 2005
Sleeping With the EnemyThe Twins picked A.J. Pierzynski in the third round of the 1994 draft. After three short stints with the team from 1998-2000, he eventually became Minnesota's starting catcher, hitting .289/.322/.441 in 114 games in 2001. Last offseason, after 430 games with the team spread over six seasons, Pierzynski was traded to the Giants for a package of players that included Joe Nathan. After one disappointing season with San Francisco in which he hit just .272/.319/.410 in 131 games, Pierzynski was cut loose and became a free agent. And yesterday, in what is quite a strange and amusing turn of events, he signed with the Chicago White Sox for one year and $2.25 million.
In his time with the Twins, Pierzynski could be counted on to be two things. One was a consistent, productive, durable catcher. The other was a guy who got on the opponents' nerves. It was really quite a remarkable skill set -- catch a thousand innings, hit .300 with 45 extra-base hits, and piss off just about everyone you come in contact with. The funny thing about all of this is that front and center on the list of other teams that disliked Pierzynski were the White Sox.
Pretend you had a longtime girlfriend who you thought was wonderful in every way, but all of your friends kept telling you she was a horrible person. Your best friend had some particularly nasty things to say about her. Finally, after six years with her, you part ways. Then, about a year later, you stop by your best friend's house uninvited one night and who's there walking around in nothing but socks and one of his dress shirts? That same ex-girlfriend whose guts he hated for six years. That's sort of what this Pierzynski thing is like.
Watching Pierzynski play for the White Sox and spend each day in Chicago's clubhouse for a year should be incredibly entertaining for Twins fans, so on one hand this is a positive. On the other hand, the White Sox were looking at a catching combo of Ben Davis and Jamie Burke before yesterday and Pierzynski, for all his faults, is still a damn good player. The enemy just got stronger, assuming of course the White Sox players Pierzynski pissed off over the years don't decide to murder him in his sleep one night in the team hotel.
Some reading for the weekend ...
UPDATE: After you've read it, check out the ongoing discussion of the roundtable at Baseball Think Factory and USSMariner.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- National Attention: The Expos' 35-Year Journey to Washington D.C. (Part 2) (by Brian Borawski)
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Link-O-RamaIt's been a while since I unloaded my bookmarked links on you guys, so here goes ...
I really love sports. There's something so sexy and masculine when guys rattle off names and statistics. I can listen to them all day long.First of all, someone needs to give Eva a link to this blog immediately. It would be pretty amazing if that were a genuine quote that expresses her actual feelings, which is certainly possible. However, in the likely case that it isn't, you really have to give some credit to the publicist who suggested she say that in an interview with a men's magazine. It is the equivalent of George Clooney doing an interview with Cosmopolitan and saying something like, "I'm looking to settle down and get married, but looks aren't nearly as important to me as what's inside a woman."
Incidentally, I gave Desperate Housewives a chance and watched a couple episodes early on, but it did absolutely nothing for me. I realize there is plenty of eye candy for guys like me and the racy story lines seem like they should be interesting in theory, but for some reason it went over about as big with me as Ashley Simpson's Orange Bowl performance.
(And yes, I realize this blog entry got perverted and creepy in a hurry.)
Here's my favorite part, which is basically something I said here a few weeks ago, except much better:
The Internet is going to make gigs like this obsolete, once enough people realize that some guy in his basement is capable of turning out commentary as insightful as a tenured eminence who was handed a column 30 years ago and has spent the last 10 coasting on a scoop from the Reagan years. It takes dynamite to get some writers out of the paper.The funny thing is, I didn't notice either Coleman's column or Lileks' column until a couple people pointed them out to me, because there's enough quality writing available online to make me forget all about newspapers. Which, ironically enough, is essentially Lileks' whole point, as well as exactly what Coleman is afraid of.
The Hardball Times:
- Belated Hall of Fame Thoughts (by Aaron Gleeman)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
There Is No NextI've been getting a ton of e-mails lately basically asking some variation of "what are the Twins doing next?" The answer, of course, is nothing. As is the case each offseason, the biggest moves the Twins make are re-signing their own players and, in rare cases, trading away some of their own players. The team is just not a player in the free agent market, unless you know of some bizarro world free agent market where signing Juan Castro and Mike Redmond makes you a player.
The Twins re-signed Brad Radke, offered arbitration to every eligible player, gave a minor-league contract to Terry Mulholland, and let Corey Koskie leave via free agency. Those were not the moves that make up the first stage of the team's offseason plans, those were the offseason plans. What that means is that the roster is more or less set, with a few decisions yet to be made at the bottom of the depth chart.
Here's the 25-man roster I anticipate the team opening the season with if everyone stays (or gets) healthy between now and then:
LINEUP BENCHThe bench looks a little strange because the team's "fourth outfielder," Lew Ford, is penciled in at designated hitter, which leaves Michael Restovich as the only outfielder on the actual bench. If you move Matthew LeCroy into the starting lineup at DH (which could happen), then the bench has a backup catcher, two backup infielders, and two backup outfielders -- a typical alignment.
Jason Bartlett could force himself into the picture with a phenomenal spring training, but I doubt it. I would bet on him starting the year back at Triple-A and Castro starting the year at shortstop. Similarly, Luis Rivas isn't quite a lock to start at second base, which would then set off a whole chain of events that involves Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Augie Ojeda, and Terry Tiffee, but I would bet on him beginning the year there like he has every year since 2000 (especially now that the team is paying him $1.625 million for his meager contributions).
Aside from the off chance that the Twins decide to keep their Rule 5 pick, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Joe Mays is the only real question mark on the pitching staff. If he is ready to go, he'll get every opportunity to serve as the team's fifth starter. If he is injured or awful, Mulholland would be first in line to step in, followed by the team's top starting-pitcher prospect, J.D. Durbin.
So, as you can see, there are a few different ways things could go regarding the last men on the bench, rotation, or bullpen, but for the most part things are pretty well set. In looking over that roster, there is no doubt in my mind that it is a group capable of winning the American League Central again, but it seems obvious to me that the team has not improved itself in some very fundamental ways.
At some point the sort of thinking that brought Jacque Jones, Rivas, and Mulholland back but said goodbye to Koskie and is reluctant to give a chance to Bartlett is going to come back to bite the team in the ass. It will happen, I don't think there is even a question about it. The only question in my mind is when. Right now, on January 5th, considering the offseasons the White Sox and Indians have had, I don't think it'll be this year. On some level I suppose you can't fault the Twins for not making bold, outside-the-box moves when their rivals (I'm looking at you, Kenny Williams) have given them no indication that they need to.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Blast From The Past: Virgil Trucks (by John Brattain)
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Helluva BirthdaySo, yesterday was my birthday and what an exciting day it was!
I'm still sick from last week and my sore throat was made worse by the fact that I spent Sunday night in a smoke-filled restaurant/bar with a bunch of Twins fans as a blogger-who-shall-remain-nameless-because-his-wife-doesn't-know-he-smokes puffed away on cigarette after cigarette right next to me. I'm one of the rare non-smokers who doesn't mind people smoking around me in a bar, so I'm not really complaining aside from the fact that I've been coughing and hacking up all sorts of wonderfully disgusting things for the past 24 hours.
So what did I do on my 22nd birthday, with my cough, sore throat, and alternating runny/stuffy nose? I stayed home, of course. I spent the entire day working on my articles for Rotoworld's upcoming fantasy baseball magazine, which is set to be published by Beckett Magazines in the spring. Coincidentally enough, my several thousand words worth of material was due 22 years to the day after I was born. But wait, it gets even more exciting.
After my mom came home from work and saw what a spectacularly uneventful birthday I had just had, she offered to pick me up my favorite food for dinner -- mostaccioli with sugo sauce from Cafe Di Napoli in Minneapolis. Never one to pass up a good meal (or any meal, really), I agreed. The only problem, I came to find out, was that Cafe Di Napoli wasn't answering their phone, which made it awfully tough to place an order for takeout.
Instead, I settled for some chicken and macaroni and cheese from the Boston Market down the road from here, and went right back to work on my Rotoworld stuff. A year ago I spent my birthday losing far too much money in Las Vegas, so the good news about this time around is that I spent the day actually making money. Of course, there's something about Las Vegas that makes losing money there a lot more enjoyable than making money anywhere else.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Leveling the 1930s Playing Field, Part 2: The Careers (by Steve Treder)
Monday, January 03, 2005
They Say It's Your BirthdayToday is my 22nd birthday. I know, I know ... you'd think I would have made a bigger deal out of this before today. It seems like I should do something special here on my birthday, particularly since this is my first blog entry of the new year and all, but I really couldn't think of anything exciting to do. Instead, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have supported this site over the years.
When I started this blog on August 1, 2002, I never could have dreamed it would become anywhere close to this important to me. From the days when the only people reading were in my immediate family to the last few months, when thousands of people have stopped by each day, the response has always exceeded even my wildest expectations. With nearly 80,000 visitors, December was this blog's biggest month yet and the 28th consecutive month of increased readership. And, as you can see by the "counter" up in the left-hand corner, we'll hit one million total visitors sometime this month, which is absolutely mind boggling to me.
Whether today is your first time here or you've been coming every day for the past two years, thank you. Writing here and at The Hardball Times has been perhaps the most rewarding experience of my young life. I have enjoyed talking baseball (and whatever else crosses my mind) on a daily basis and it has been great corresponding with many of you via e-mail, and even meeting some of you in person.
I got together with a bunch of Twins fans last night, including several of everyone's favorite bloggers (John "Twins Geek" Bonnes, Bat-Girl, Will Young, Stick and Ball Guy, Eric from The Baseball Boys), and had a great time. There's nothing better than getting together in the middle of a too-cold and too-long Minnesota winter to chat baseball with good people, and I have this blog to thank for being a part of such a wonderful community of fans.
I hate to get all sappy, but I really want to let you all know how much you mean to me. From the daily e-mails I get and the nice things people say about me on other blogs to the people who shelled out their hard-earned money to buy THT's book or helped me pay for a new laptop a while back, I appreciate it. And if you're one of those people who just reads, without e-mailing or giving away money, I appreciate that too. As long as you keep stopping by to read what I have to say, I'll keep writing.
Here's hoping for a good 2005 for you, me, and the Minnesota Twins. Thank you.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Free Agent Wrap-Up: The Fourth Wave (by Aaron Gleeman)