I took a course this semester called "Magazine Editing and Production" where the class created, designed, wrote, and produced one issue of an actual magazine. Each person in the class applied for jobs on the staff and then we worked all semester on what is hypothetically the "premiere" issue of the magazine. I was pegged to be one of two "staff writers" for IN Magazine, which basically meant my job was to write a lengthy, feature-style piece.
The editorial staff had a few ideas for story topics that I wasn't thrilled with, and I pitched pieces on both poker and blogs that they shot down. In the end, we settled on me writing about a topic that I've written about here occasionally, insomnia. In fact, you may remember me asking for any insomniacs who read this blog to e-mail me a couple months ago. Well, I was overwhelmed by the number of responses I received, and ended up using a handful of you in my story.
The magazine came back from the printer earlier this week, so those of you who are hanging around the University of Minnesota campus will probably stumble across a copy somewhere before the end of the semester. They are supposed to be available all over the place, from the student union and all the dorms to on-campus restaurants and stores. Here's what the front cover looks like, just so you can be on the lookout for it:
As you can see, my piece is the "cover story," although sadly that's not my bloodshot eye. We actually did a photoshoot with my eye, but apparently it wasn't bloodshot enough or something. My dreams of becoming a cover model were quickly dashed. Anyway, we also have a website devoted to the magazine that I thought the rest of you might be interested in checking out: InMagOnline.com
I have eight copies of the magazine (I was supposed to get 10, I only got nine, and then someone was able to convince me to give them one on my way home from class Wednesday) and the finished product looks really great. Far better than I could have imagined, especially after witnessing all of the chaos that went into producing it.
IN Magazine is a one-time publication, but it took some extremely hard work from a lot of people, and it would be nice to get as many eyes on it as possible. Plus, it has some really good content written by some really good writers. So go check it out, and if you read an article you like, go click on the "contact" page and let the person who wrote it know you enjoyed it. Hell, if you're a person in a position of power at a magazine somewhere, do yourself a favor and hire some of these people.
Incidentally, you'll notice that my contact information and picture are strangely and mysteriously absent from the contact page. I have no explanation for this, as I had my picture taken in the same photoshoot as everyone else. I can only assume that our editor-in-chief, Kay Steiger, made an executive decision not to drive traffic away from the site with my ugly mug.
One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Katcher, who once wasted an entire day of his audience's time by interviewing me, celebrated his five-year blogging anniversary yesterday. Paul's "PaulKatcher.com Celebrates Five Years of Existence" entry is a good read, especially if you're a fellow blogger. A lot of the stuff he talked about is stuff I talk about when someone makes the mistake of asking me about my blog. Plus, five years is a really long time. I often wonder if I'll still be blogging when this site's five-year anniversary rolls around in 2007. I also often wonder if Luis Rivas will be gone by then.
I'm sure this will come as a huge shock, but a lot of White Sox fans weren't very pleased with my "The New Sox" article at The Hardball Times earlier this week. A couple things: One, it's impossible to write an article saying a team's great start won't hold up without offending that team's fan base. Two, the number of White Sox-related sites that aren't fans of mine is huge, and that's just fine. In fact, I hope the same White Sox fans get angry at me next year, when I suggest that Chicago will finish behind the Twins for a sixth straight season.
It must be great to be a stathead, you don't even have to watch any games.
If you can find a human being on earth who has watched more innings of baseball over the past few years than I have, I'd like to meet him.
As if I didn't already have enough TV to watch, first comes last week's news about Ricky Gervais signing a deal with HBO and now comes this week's news that Comedy Central has a new show coming out starring Adam Carolla, and another starring Stephen Colbert. This may sound strange, but Carolla and Vin Scully are the two people whom I would enjoy listening to talk about literally anything. Scully because he'll make it sound so smooth and Carolla because he'll go off on a 20-minute rant about it involving parking tickets and high school football.
There are several kinds of funny. One major kind is scripted funny, like Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock, who put together standup sets that are pure genius. However, my personal favorite kind of funny is unscripted funny, and specifically unscripted, ranting funny. In this category, the only person who can even come close to Howard Stern is Carolla.
Of course, I am also one of perhaps as many as a dozen people who loved Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, a show that the same Comedy Central executive who hired Colbert and Carolla canceled because it "felt like the same show every night." By the way, for those of you about to send me an anti-Stern e-mail, don't bother.
I watched this movie and Million Dollar Baby back-to-back last weekend, and came away thinking Million Dollar Baby was overrated. Still good, yes, but overrated. I don't know why I feel the need to share that, but I felt like pretending to be Roger Ebert for a minute.
Something I actually said in last night's "Game Chat" just minutes before the game started: "No Victor Martinez for the Indians, which is a good thing." Martinez's replacement at catcher, Josh Bard, ended up hitting the game-winning homer for Cleveland.
It took more than a month, but the Twins finally decided it was safe to slip Corky Miller through waivers. An ongoing story during the first month of the season was the fact that the Twins were worried that another team would claim Miller, so they kept him on the roster as a third catcher while Terry Tiffee spent most of April at Triple-A.
Well, either the glaring lack of bench options for Ron Gardenhire in late-innings situations lately forced their hand or Joe Mauer's knee is really feeling good, because the team called Tiffee up from Rochester yesterday. And Miller, who has one hit in his last 55 at-bats in the big leagues, amazingly went unclaimed on the waiver wire.
In continuing what I think is now officially the theme of the 2005 season, the Twins went 0-for-6 with the bases loaded last night. They came up completely empty despite loading the bases with no outs in the first inning, scored just one run in the exact same situation in the second inning, and then loaded the bases before Lew Ford made the final out of the game in the bottom of the ninth. They are now 5-for-37 (.135) with the bases loaded this season, a number that would be even worse if it somehow accounted for all the double plays they've hit into in those spots.
I'm not sure what Skyway News is or who David Brauer is, but he wrote a very good article in it about the Twins' new ballpark proposal. Here's one interesting part, for those of us who enjoy getting completely ahead of ourselves:
Will it be a hitters' or pitchers' park?
Pitchers will hate it: The left field fence is 15 feet closer, the left field power alley moves in 14 feet and center field is shortened 6 feet. Right field is roughly the same distance away - but without the Dome's infamous baggie.
Normally I would comment about how this is bad news, since teams are better off building their new ballparks to favor pitching, but can there really be "bad news" in this case? I'll take another Coors Field if it means I can get a sun burn while watching a game.
CLE (10-15): Kevin Millwood (0-3, 3.90 ERA) MIN (15-10): Carlos Silva (2-0, 3.00 ERA)
2B Ronnie Belliard LF Shannon Stewart LF Coco Crisp 2B Nick Punto 1B Ben Broussard C Joe Mauer DH Travis Hafner 1B Justin Morneau RF Casey Blake CF Torii Hunter CF Grady Sizemore RF Jacque Jones 3B Aaron Boone DH Lew Ford SS Jhonny Peralta 3B Michael Cuddyer C Josh Bard SS Juan Castro
Last night's "Game Chat" went fairly well, with 30+ comments, so let's try it again tonight. I was supposed to go to tonight's game with a few buddies, but they chickened out for various reasons, so I'll be around.
As always, if you're watching on TV, feel free to give some descriptive play-by-play for the poor souls listening along on radio or "watching" along online.
Some good news, as the Twins have finally decided it is safe to send Corky "1-for-55" Miller through waivers. They outrighted Miller to Triple-A and called up Terry Tiffee from Rochester. As usual with the Twins, they made the right move while taking far too long to do so. So now there is finally a decent left-handed bat on the bench.
AG.com Game Chat: Indians @ Twins (5/3/05)
UPDATE: The combination of my regular writing gigs and some end-of-the-year school work has me wiped out and busy as hell, so I'm going to skip writing up this game. So in place of my regular post-game entry, please feel free to chat about the depressing loss game in the comments below. Oh, and this sounds like good news.
CLE (9-15): Jake Westbrook (0-5, 6.35 ERA) MIN (15-9): Joe Mays (1-0, 4.05 ERA)
2B Ronnie Belliard LF Shannon Stewart LF Coco Crisp SS Jason Bartlett C Victor Martinez C Joe Mauer DH Travis Hafner 1B Justin Morneau 1B Ben Broussard CF Torii Hunter RF Casey Blake RF Jacque Jones CF Grady Sizemore DH Lew Ford 3B Aaron Boone 3B Michael Cuddyer SS Jhonny Peralta 2B Nick Punto
I'm not sure how often I'll do this, but let's try a "Game Chat" for tonight and see how it goes. Obviously the more comments there are, the more often I'll post one of these, so chat it up. If you're watching on TV, feel free to give some descriptive play-by-play for the poor souls listening along on radio or "watching" along online. I have some actual school work to do since the semester is nearing an end, but I'll check in throughout the evening to mock lineup construction and in-game strategy, as always.
I was surprised that the Indians are +120 underdogs for tonight. That makes sense if you look at Jake Westbrook's record and ERA, but I still think he's a better bet to win a game than Joe Mays is right now (offensive support being equal, obviously). I probably would have taken the Indians in my "Today's Picks" if not for the fact that I have been betting against the Twins plenty as it is lately.
I suspect everyone else was as completely shocked to hear this as I was yesterday afternoon, but Juan Rincon has been suspended by Major League Baseball for using what is assumed to be banned, performance-enhancing drugs. I say "assumed to be" because, according to the Associated Press, "Under baseball's drug rules, the sport doesn't announce the specific substance a player tested positive for."
I talked to and heard from a number of Twins fans about Rincon's situation yesterday and was surprised by how many of them are talking about things like booing Rincon every time he pitches, boycotting the Twins, and even wanting Rincon released from the team. I have to say that, try as I might to understand this point of view, I can't conjure up even a fraction of that sort of disgust over the situation.
As has long been my policy here, I don't talk about the ongoing steroid story in baseball. In fact, I wrote about steroids in a meaningful way just once since this blog debuted in August of 2002. In short, I don't care. I know from the last time that a lot of people get upset when someone says that, but it's how I feel and it's tough for me to change that. It is far more upsetting to me that the Twins will be without Rincon in their bullpen than it is that Rincon allegedly took performance-enhancing drugs. (My journalism teachers would be so proud to know that I used "allegedly" there.)
I am fine with a player being suspended for breaking the rules, because I am one of those guys who strongly believes that rules should be enforced strictly in almost every instance. So in that sense, I am upset at Rincon for knowing the rules and breaking them (although certainly it's possible that he thought he was taking something that was allowed by the rules; I suspect we may hear more about that angle in the coming days).
At the same time, I am not going to demonize Rincon or talk about how the Twins need to release him from the team in order to set an example. I am not going to get all high and mighty about how something like this shouldn't happen to "a team like the Twins." All I am willing to say is that Rincon took a substance meant to improve his ability to play baseball in some way, it was against the newly established rules of baseball, and he now must face the consequences.
Dozens of athletes do what I consider to be worse things every year, and millions of people in this country take "performance-enhancing" drugs every day. If there was some pill I could take that would make me a better writer while potentially taking five years off the end of my life, I would take it twice a day, just in case the first dose didn't work. Half the people reading this paragraph right now are probably "on" something, whether for job performance, sexual performance, or performance in life.
That doesn't make them bad people or disgusting human beings, of course, and it doesn't make Rincon that either. In his case, he unfortunately has a job that now bans and tests for whatever substance he was on. So that's that. He'll serve his suspension the same as he would if he'd have gotten it for starting a bench-clearing brawl with a beanball (or perhaps corking his bat, if he were a hitter), and in a couple weeks he'll be back setting up Joe Nathan.
Oh, and before I drop this subject (and trust me, it will be dropped after today), I want to comment on the mainstream media coverage of Rincon's situation. No, I am not going to criticize the media for how they are portraying him or his "crime." Instead, I want to comment on the actual wording of the stories.
Twins reliever Juan Rincon has become the highest-profile player yet to receive the mandatory 10-day suspension for first-time offenders of Major League Baseball's new steroid testing policy.
One story says it's a "10-day suspension," while the other says it's a "10-game suspension." I saw the same inconsistencies from other news outlets yesterday as well. For instance, MLB.com and FOX Sports had it as 10 games, while Yahoo! News and the St. Paul Pioneer Press had it as 10 days. This may seem like me picking nits, but there is a difference and the fact that the story is being reported both ways is strange.
The Star Tribune reports that Rincon has a "10-game suspension" that "began Monday." Similarly, the Pioneer Press reports that Rincon "will be suspended for 10 calendar days starting [Monday] through May 11." If those reports are correct, Rincon would be eligible to return next Thursday, May 12, which would mean he'll miss nine games. But if the other wording is correct, he would miss 10 games and wouldn't be eligible to return until Saturday, May 14.
So which is it? Well, Ron Gardenhire seems to think the local papers have it correct, saying, "You feel bad for him, but you have to do the best you can until May 12 when he comes back." Of course, Gardenhire is the same guy who keeps giving Luis Rivas at-bats, so you never know.
Damn. It was sad to see Johan Santana's winning streak come to an end like that. Not that I'd have preferred to see him pitch horribly and get blown out or anything, but you know what I mean. Santana pitched extremely well, save for two pitches, and the Twins' lineup was helpless against Bartolo Colon. Then, once Colon left the game with an ankle injury the eighth inning, the Twins did what they have done best so far this season, loading the bases with one out and grounding into a double play.
The loss was Santana's first since the Tigers beat him on July 11, 2004. The interesting thing, aside from the fact that it took him 21 starts to lose another game, is that the loss to Detroit was very similar to the loss to the Angels yesterday afternoon. Santana gave up just two hits to the Angels yesterday, both of them solo homers, and lost the game 2-1 because the lineup couldn't score him any runs. Santana also gave up just two hits against the Tigers last July, one of which was a two-run homer, and lost 2-0 because the lineup couldn't score him any runs (literally this time).
Incidentally, Santana is now 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings through six starts this season. After six starts last year, he was 1-0 with a 4.59 ERA and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The Twins, meanwhile, are 15-9 after two dozen games this season, the exact same record they had through 24 games last year. They were just 10-14 through 24 games in 2003 and 14-10 through 24 games in 2002. In other words, everything is right on schedule.
Here is a sequence (courtesy of ESPN.com's play-by-play summary) from the bottom of the first inning Saturday night that I hope to see several hundred more times over the next dozen years or so:
- Joe Mauer walked. - Justin Morneau homered to right center.
Kelvim Escobar couldn't find the plate in the first inning, so after he started Morneau off 2-0 Angels pitching coach Bud Black came out to have a little chat with him. I imagine Black's message was something along the lines of "throw strikes," because Escobar's next pitch was a chest-high fastball right over the heart of the plate. Needless to say Morneau hit the ball a very long way. It would have been a three-run bomb if Jose Molina hadn't picked Jason Bartlett off first base in the middle of Mauer's plate appearance.
Aside from yesterday's 0-for-4 performance, when no one could hit Colon, Morneau has been in an amazing zone since coming off the disabled list. Here I was worried about whether or not he would be the same hitter after being beaned in the head by Ron Villone in the first series of the year, and all Morneau has done is go 14-for-33 (.424) with two homers, three doubles, and nine RBIs in his first eight games back in the lineup.
Bartlett isn't in quite the same zone. He had a rough night Saturday, getting picked off after walking in the first inning and then making an error on a would-be double play in the second. He went 1-for-7 during the series, lowering his batting average to .246, and was benched in favor of Juan Castro yesterday. One thing I was glad to hear about Bartlett is that he has been working on handling inside fastballs more effectively. To my completely untrained eye, that has been his biggest weakness at the plate thus far. Basically, if a pitcher gets ahead of him in the count and jams Bartlett inside, he pops the pitch up for an easy out.
It was great to see Michael Cuddyer come through with a big game Friday night, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. I have long been one of Cuddyer's biggest supporters, so his annual inability to get off to a decent start has me very frustrated. One good game isn't going to change that, and he's still taking a lot of good pitches and swinging at a lot of bad ones right now, but that's the sort of game he needed in order to give himself a little more time to get in a groove. Until proven otherwise, I will continue to say that Cuddyer is capable of hitting .270/.340/.450 or so given 500 at-bats.
Since each Twins TV broadcast is heavier on the new-ballpark talk than the last, I have to voice my one major concern. If you're going to go through all the trouble of finding an acceptable site for a new ballpark, getting the necessary funding approved and collected, and then building the actual structure, why build something without a retractable roof? In other words, if you're going to undertake a project of this magnitude, something that only comes along a couple times a century, why do it in a half-assed way?
Because it's going to cost 20% more? So what? If you've already got a plan for 80% of the funding needed to build the best possible ballpark that could be built in Minnesota, why not hold out for that last 20%? The extra money may seem like a big deal now -- and perhaps it would be a deal breaker, I don't really have any idea -- but in 10 years it's going to be just as big deal when games are being snowed out like they were in Detroit.
If you're going to do this, you have to do it right, and for a ballpark in a cold-weather state like Minnesota that means the ability to go indoors every once in a while when the weather dictates. Even without considering the potential for freezing temperatures and snow ruining games and hurting attendance, simply being able to end all potential for rainouts from April to October seems like a worthwhile investment to me.
UPDATE: Here's what Angels beat writer Mike DiGiovannawrote in the Los Angeles Times after visiting Minnesota over the weekend: "There has been a big push in the Twin Cities for a new open-air stadium to replace the Metrodome, but proponents of such a facility should take note: There were snow flurries in Minneapolis on Sunday morning, and the temperature outside the dome at game time was 40 degrees."
And finally, those of you who bravely made it this far may notice that there is now a place for comments at the very end of each entry. I have long been very anti-comments for a number of reasons, but I enabled commenting yesterday afternoon and am still trying to iron out some of the kinks. My goal (aside from cutting down the number of e-mails I get) is to figure out how to turn them on and off for specific entries, so we can have occasional discussions without leaving open the possibility of everyone bashing me and arguing with each other on a daily basis (which, as I've seen on far too many other blogs, is what tends to happen).
Until I figure out how to do that, however, I think I'll leave them open as a sort of experiment. So, feel free to comment away and I'll try to stop in as often as possible throughout the day to take part in whatever discussion is going on. However -- and I can't stress this enough -- I will not stand for personal insults in the comments. If you want to talk baseball, that's great. If you want to talk poker or Elisha Cuthbert or any other non-baseball topic, that's just fine too. But keep it civil, both to me and to everyone else in the comments. And if you posted something and it suddenly disappears, that probably means I thought you were being a jackass.