Friday, February 25, 2005
Long WeekendI'm taking today off, but I wanted to post one little note: Thanks to everyone who responded to my request for insomnia sufferers and experts earlier this week. I got far more e-mails on the subject than I expected, which makes me think that a large part of this blog's popularity might be tied to the fact that most of you are just looking for something to read in the middle of the night. Shocking, I know. Anyway, my goal is to get back to everyone who responded over the weekend, so if you haven't heard from me about it yet, please be patient.
Here's some reading for the weekend:
- Coming to America (Part Two)
- Larkin for the Hall?
- Ryan's Q&A
- Spring Has Sprung
- Gardy's Q&A
See ya Monday.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Ryan's Q&AAs mentioned here yesterday, Terry Ryan participated in a live "chat" over at TwinsBaseball.com yesterday afternoon. He said very little of substance -- far less than Ron Gardenhire revealed in his Q&A over the weekend -- but since it's the end of February and I'm starting to really get baseball fever, there is enough to at least discuss.
On Joe Mauer's knee and the team's backup plan at catcher:
Our first alternative would be go with Mike Redmond and probably Matt LeCroy. Certainly, we'd have to keep an eye on anybody that might be available through the course of spring training. So far so good. Mauer is doing fine and going through all the drills. We haven't had any problems.The noteworthy thing here is that Ryan still thinks of Matthew LeCroy as an option at catcher, albeit an emergency option. At the end of last season the team went out and got a 97-year-old Pat Borders just to avoid having LeCroy catch once a week.
On the middle infield situation:
Punto hasn't shown he can be healthy enough yet, durable enough. The shortstop position is wide open. At second base, we have confidence Rivas can take the next step, we'll give him every opportunity to do that.If the Twins have done anything with Luis Rivas, it is certainly "give him every opportunity." I'm sure that breakout year is right around the corner too, because plenty of players have very little success in the minors, put together four awful seasons in the majors, and then suddenly become stars.
Nick Punto's freak collarbone injury sure has given him the "injury prone" label in the team's eyes, whether fairly or not. And it doesn't help matters that he is now having back problems this spring. As for shortstop being "wide open," I guess we'll find out whether that's the truth if Jason Bartlett puts together a strong spring. I'm inclined to think Juan Castro will be starting on Opening Day unless he gets hit by a bus down in Fort Myers or Bartlett hits like .850 with 20 homers and flawless defense.
On Justin Morneau's health:
He has had a number of things happen to him this winter. Wisdom teeth removed, appendix removed -- he had chicken pox and now's he got a little bit of a lung problem. He should arrive today or tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll get him enough strength to be ready by Opening Day.When I hear "hopefully" used in connection with a star player being ready to for Opening Day ... well, it isn't very encouraging. Between Jason Kubel's exploding leg, Mauer's bum knee, and Morneau's laundry list of issues ... ugh.
On the team's plans for Eric Munson:
I would say he will provide some depth at third, first, catcher and DH. He's a left-handed bat off the bench.This is about the fourth of fifth time I've seen Ryan or Gardenhire go out of their way to describe Munson as a bench bat, so I am guessing (hoping?) Michael Cuddyer's hold on the third-base job is a little more secure than some may think. Of course, if the curse on Morneau isn't lifted, the Twins may need Munson at first base.
On whether or not Lew Ford is the everyday designated hitter:
No -- he'll rotate amongst others. He'll play left, center and right. And he'll DH.I think this is mostly due to Ford being viewed as a young player (despite being 28) and the fact that teams are reluctant to name young players everyday DHs. On the other hand, it may also be the first sign that they are going to value defensive ability over Shannon Stewart's feelings, which is a good thing. Every inning Ford gets in the outfield instead of Stewart is a plus.
On what sort of baseball writing he reads:
I certainly read Baseball America, Baseball Weekly, The Sporting News and the Internet. I read newspapers every day from around the country. Most baseball books on the market -- "Moneyball" is a good baseball book. Any scouting information you can get is good.First, Ryan is the only person I know of who didn't cancel their subscription to Baseball Weekly when it changed to Sports Weekly. Either that or he hasn't realized it changed, since he is still calling it "Baseball Weekly."
Aside from that, I am intrigued by the fact that he called Moneyball "a good baseball book" and admitted to both owning a computer and reading stuff about baseball on the internet. By my rough estimation, those two admissions bring the chances of him having ever read this blog up to roughly 0.000005%.
Hi Terry! Keep up the good work.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Coming to America (Part Two) (by Aaron Gleeman)
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Spring Has SprungSimilar to that nonsense with the groundhog and his shadow, Luis Rivas has watched the first ground ball of the year bounce just past his outstretched glove, and so despite it still being below freezing here in lovely, snow-covered Minnesota, we know spring is officially upon us.
In other, less surprising Twins news ...
Joe Mauer came away from his first workout of the spring feeling good, which means his knee has passed the first test. Only a couple hundred more aced tests and he will have had himself a healthy season. And yes, that's me being unnecessarily pessimistic, as usual. According to Mauer himself, "It was a good first day."
On the other hand, Grant Balfour and Justin Morneau aren't feeling quite as good. Balfour, who missed time last season with shoulder problems, has what is being called a "tender right forearm." Meanwhile, Morneau apparently had an awful winter. According to Ron Gardenhire, Morneau had chicken pox, appendicitis, and a lung infection that led to pneumonia, all since the Twins were knocked out of the playoffs by the Yankees. And here I thought I had a rough winter because my favorite team signed Juan Castro.
La Velle E. Neal reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Morneau "was too sick to travel" when the Twins asked him to show up to camp early and still hasn't arrived. It is obviously better to have these problems in late February, rather than late March, but the Twins need Morneau to have a big season and hearing that a 6'4", power-hitting first baseman is "too sick to travel" after ordering one of everything from the sickness menu during the offseason ... well, it doesn't exactly match the first few pages of the script I had in mind for Morneau's first full season.
In other news, Rivas is completely healthy and got to camp nice and early.
The Twins will likely open the season with an 11-man pitching staff and every spot has already been reserved. This is good news, as 11 pitchers is more than enough, particularly during the first month of the season. Plus, they apparently won't need a fifth starting pitcher until a few weeks into the year, which in addition to giving more starts to the front four guys, should give Joe Mays a little extra time to work himself back into shape.
And finally ... Twins GM Terry Ryan will be doing an online chat at TwinsBaseball.com this afternoon, starting at 1:30 Central time. I'll be heading to class around then, but brave souls with nothing better to do should ask him something challenging and hope he answers it.
Perhaps something like: "On a scale of 1-10, exactly how stupid would someone have to have been to heavily criticize the Shannon Stewart-for-Bobby Kielty deal?" Or maybe: "How many years have you agreed to keep Rivas around for in order for him to destroy those compromising pictures he has of you?"
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Larkin for the Hall? (by Aaron Gleeman)
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Don't SleepThe last time I made this sort of plea to my audience, a number of you came through for me in a big way and it worked out wonderfully, so let's try it again. I am working on a paper for one of my classes on the subject of insomnia, and I am hoping a few of my readers have some expertise in this area.
Basically, if you suffer or have suffered from insomnia, or if you know of someone who suffers or has suffered from insomnia, let me know. Also, if you are a doctor or some other kind of expert on insomnia or sleep deprivation, let me know. And finally, if you are involved with a sleep clinic in some capacity, let me know.
I promise that nothing too major will be asked of you. Just answer a couple of my questions and give me your thoughts on the subject. I figure a few thousand people will read this little note today, so hopefully at least a few of you have some knowledge of people who have trouble sleeping that you're willing to share with me.
If you're interested in helping me out, please drop me an e-mail as soon as possible. Thanks!
Monday, February 21, 2005
Gardy's Q&AFriday's edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune included a Q&A session with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. Normally this sort of thing is filled with cliches and similarly uninteresting stuff, but the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal, actually managed to get a few interesting tidbits out of Gardenhire.
For instance, regarding Jason Kubel's strikeout against Mariano Rivera in a key spot against the Yankees in last year's American League Division Series, Gardenhire was brutally honest:
If I had known that Jason Kubel was going to go up there in that situation and have a panic at-bat, I would have done something else. He hadn't done that the whole time he had been here. He had been right on the ball and was on Mariano Rivera the last time he faced him, and not many others had been. You think about that all the time.I think calling it a "panic at-bat," while perhaps not Kubel's preferred wording, is a perfect description of what took place. In fact, here's what I wrote about the at-bat the day after it happened, back on October 7:
[Kubel] had perhaps the worst at-bat I've ever seen. Facing Rivera with the game tied at five and runners on second and third with one out in the eighth inning, Kubel took a first-pitch strike right down the middle of the plate and then swung at consecutive pitches that were literally above his eyes. Just a brutal effort in a crucial situation.Of course, in Kubel's defense, Rivera makes a lot of hitters look bad against him and Kubel was a 22-year-old rookie getting a surprise postseason start. Plus, when Gardenhire says Kubel "hadn't done that the whole time he had been here," he is referring to a grand total of 67 plate appearances.
Asked which jobs were open for competition as spring training gets under way, Gardenhire said:
There are not many open. We have to see who will come off our bench, third base and shortstop. We think we can fill them with what we have here in camp. A pitching spot is open, depending on Joe Mays. We want him to be that starter. He'll have a good shot. There's not too much after that.Gardenhire later followed up on those comments:
[Cuddyer] could still play second if Luis Rivas comes in and doesn't play well. I could put Cuddy over at second. Then I can put [Eric] Munson at third or Terry Tiffee. I've got options. There's lot of things that could happen here, but I want Cuddyer over at third. I think it is time. I think he is comfortable in the major leagues and has been able to make adjustments to different roles. I think he likes second base a lot, but he also understands the opportunity to get 400-500 at-bats at third, and I think he's ready for it.Those two comments are very interesting when taken together, because they would seem to contradict each other to some degree. Gardenhire lists third base as one of just four "open" spots on the team, but then says, "I want Cuddyer over at third. I think it is time." On the other hand, he does not list second base as an open job, but then goes on to say that Luis Rivas could lose his handle on the spot if he doesn't play well and Michael Cuddyer would be the next option there.
I would be interested to learn what separates the second-base situation from the third-base situation in Gardenhire's mind. Rivas is the favorite at second base, but could face competition from Cuddyer; Cuddyer is the favorite at third base, but could face competition from Eric Munson and Terry Tiffee. Yet one spot is "open" and one isn't. I'd also love to hear what exactly Rivas would have to do to qualify as not "playing well," since I was under the impression that he had been doing that to a sufficient degree for the past four seasons or so.
Basically, I think Gardenhire feels strongly about what he would like to see happen at every position except shortstop. He wants Rivas to come in and claim second base by playing well, he wants to give Cuddyer a chance to play every day at third base, and he would love it if Joe Mays would prove he is healthy and able to take the ball every fifth day. At shortstop, I assume everyone involved would love to see Jason Bartlett have a monster spring training and stake his claim to the job on a long-term basis, but even if he does that I'm not sure that he'd head north with the team.
Asked about Joe Mauer's health status -- the question on everyone's mind -- Gardenhire said:
He's got nothing wrong with his knee, but we want to make sure he gets through the early part of this camp. We'll see how it goes, because there's a lot of work for catchers the first part of camp. We will take it slow and protect him as much as we can. We've got extra catchers here. He looks great, but we still have to use some caution.That's stretching things a bit, because clearly Mauer does have something wrong with his knee, but Gardenhire is essentially just continuing to toe the company line about Mauer's health. At this point, everyone involved with the Twins has come out so strongly about Mauer being ready to go and ready to catch that the only thing we can all do is wait and find out. In other words, all the talk is going to be meaningless very soon. Mauer either can or he can't, and if you trust the Twins' medical staff and people like Gardenhire and Terry Ryan, the organization thinks he can.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Smoltz for Alexander (by Studes)