Friday, July 22, 2005
After "Friends," Lisa Kudrow has to sweat the TV business. The actress, who played Phoebe on the NBC comedy, is still waiting to hear whether her latest show, HBO's "The Comeback," will be renewed.I watch The Comeback every week, despite the fact that I absolutely hate it and think it is by far the worst show HBO has put on in years. I literally complain outloud (to no one) about how horrible what I am watching is, which I'm fairly certain is sign of extreme insanity. The show is so bad that it actually angers me.
I like Dwane Casey, but letting Saunders go was a mistake. When you have a coach who has led a team to significant success on a consistent basis after years of having no success at all, letting him go after one sub par season (or half season, in Saunders' case) is generally something that looks bad a few years down the line. The Timberwolves' problems go far beyond anything having to do with Saunders, and as we've seen with the Vikings the grass isn't always greener with a new coach.
Our task is simple: to determine, via a time-tested method (the 64-team elimination tournament as seen in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which ESPN used to show in its pre-sucking days) which ESPN broadcasting personality is the most totally loathsome and most deserves to suffer permanent paralysis of the vocal cords.There's even a PDF file with the 64-person bracket. Suffice it to say I'm extremely jealous about not coming up with this myself, but I guess I was too busy picking on Joe Morgan to create something so brilliant. As you might expect, there are a ton of tough matchups throughout the bracket, but I like Chris Berman, Stephen A. Smith, Stuart Scott, and Jay Mariotti in the Final Four.
My sleeper picks are Buster Olney, who goes up against Mariotti in an epic first-round matchup, and John Kruk, who looms as Scott's second-round opponent. Actually, Scott's entire region is a beast, with Scott (#1 seed), Morgan (2), Mike Lupica (5), Woody Paige (6), Whitlock (7), Kruk (8), and Jeff Brantley (12). Boo-yah!
I'm guessing one recognizable name will make it to the final table and the champion will be someone under 40 years old who no one has ever heard of.The "one recognizable name" would be Mike Matusow and the under-40 champion "who no one has ever heard of" would be 39-year-old Joseph Hashem. By the way, the CardPlayer.com live, streaming audio broadcast of the final table was incredible. I realize that does no one any good after the fact (although I did link to it that day), but it's still worth mentioning just because of how great it was.
A report in the Boston Herald suggested an expanded deal, with Romero and Joe Mays going to Boston for Mueller and first baseman Kevin Millar. But officials from other teams said if the Twins were indeed ready to part with Romero, Mays or starter Kyle Lohse, they could command much more in return.I can only hope this is true and Terry Ryan is as against trading J.C. Romero and Joe Mays or Kyle Lohse for two guys who haven't managed a .350 slugging percentage outside of Fenway Park over the past two years.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- News, Notes and Quotes (July 22, 2005) (by Aaron Gleeman)
- It's A Funny Funny Game 2.0 (by John Brattain)
Today's Picks (79-67, +$1,085):
Houston (Clemens) -160 over Washington (Drese)
Cleveland (Elarton) -125 over Seattle (Moyer)
Oakland (Harden) -150 over Texas (Park)
Thursday, July 21, 2005
A vote for not making a tradeI watched the Twins on ESPN yesterday afternoon -- the trio of Gary Thorne, Steve Stone, and Steve Phillips was very good -- and one of the oft-discussed topics was that the Twins are trying to make a trade for another hitter. They showed Terry Ryan on camera several times, and brought up names like Bill Mueller and Joe Randa as potential trade targets.
All of this trade talk is admittedly a lot of fun, especially for fans of a team that hasn't signed a big-name free agent in a decade or so. However, I don't think a trade is the answer to what ails the Twins right now. And even if a trade is the answer, a trade for Mueller or Randa certainly isn't. In fact, I think the idea that adding Mueller or Randa to the lineup is going to get the Twins back to scoring runs is silly.
Both Mueller and Randa would be an upgrade over what the Twins have gotten out of third base so far, but neither of them are really impact hitters and the Twins would only be getting that upgrade for about 70 games. The difference from now to the end of the season between Mueller or Randa and, say, Luis Rodriguez, just isn't very significant. Toss in the part about having to deal J.C. Romero, or possibly even Romero and Kyle Lohse or Joe Mays, and I don't see a potential trade as a positive thing at all.
The Twins' problems offensively go far beyond needing "another bat." Quite simply, the majority of their everyday players are performing worse than expected. Justin Morneau and Jacque Jones (aside from the ninth inning yesterday) have been completely lost at the plate for months now, Bret Boone looks done, Michael Cuddyer was hugely disappointing before losing his starting spot, and Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford have combined to slug .407.
Throw in the fact that Juan Castro has long been one of the worst hitters in baseball and they have two utility infielders (Nick Punto and Rodriguez) splitting time at third base, and I don't think it's tough to see why the Twins can't score any runs. Finding a way to get the players they already have to start hitting will do a whole lot more for the offense and the team's postseason chances than adding someone like Mueller or Randa.
This isn't a case of a team not having enough offensive firepower, because just a few months ago the team was doing just fine. Actually, prior to the start of the season I looked at the Twins' lineup and thought the offense could be significantly better than it was during the past few years. Of course, that was before they gave up on Jason Bartlett and Cuddyer laid another egg, and I still had visions of Morneau as the team's first legitimate cleanup man in years dancing through my head.
Instead, just about every hitter save for Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer has been disappointing this year, and several of the key bats have been scuffling for months now. Swapping Romero for a decent third baseman is not going to do anything but weaken perhaps the team's biggest strength, the bullpen. And the funny thing is that the ESPN guys were talking about how Romero is a hot commodity as a result of nearly every team in baseball wanting another left-handed reliever.
Well, guess what? If the Twins deal Romero they'll be left with Terry Mulholland as their lone southpaw in the pen. As I wise man once said, "That's not gonna be good for anybody."
MINNESOTA'S AL RANKINGSInterestingly, two of the only categories that the Twins rank among the top half of the league in are stolen bases (fifth) and sacrifices (fourth). In other words, "doing the little things" doesn't make much difference when you're slugging .404. I'd tell you how the Twins rank in Productive Outs, but it looks as though Buster Olney's favorite stat has vanished from ESPN.com's stats page.
UPDATE: Here's Peter Gammons on a possible Twins-Red Sox deal:
The Red Sox and Twins have had preliminary discussions on a trade that would send Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller to Minnesota for Joe Mays and J.C. Romero.Trading for Kevin Millar strikes me as an even worse idea than trading for Mueller. While Mueller has hit just .241 with .339 slugging percentage away from Fenway Park over the last two years, at least he's a third baseman who plays solid defense. Millar, on the other hand, is a sub par defensive player at first base or a corner outfield spot, and he's hit just .239/.326/.325 outside of Fenway over the last two seasons. Yeah, those two will get the offense going in a hurry!
UPDATE #2: Here's more on the deal, this time from the Baltimore Sun:
One possibility would be a three-way trade in which Boston third baseman Bill Mueller and prospects would go to Minnesota for reliever J.C. Romero and starter Joe Mays; the Red Sox would then trade Mays and starter Bronson Arroyo to Florida for Burnett and Lowell. However, Lowell's contract is also an issue in that deal and Florida is lukewarm on Mays, sources say.Sounds like an awful lot of work to get Bill Mueller.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week (by Dave Studeman)
- A Tale of Two Third Basemen (by Dan Fox)
Today's Picks (78-66, +$1,125):
Houston (Oswalt) -130 over Washington (Loaiza)
San Diego (Peavy) -140 over New York (Ishii)
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Crazy NinthHow can anyone possibly not love baseball?
The Twins came into last night's game at perhaps their lowest point of the season. Their offense had been so bad of late that they even had me saying things like, "I can't help but wonder if the Twins' postseason hopes are circling the drain." And they once again looked helpless at the plate, managing just two runs in eight innings against Daniel Cabrera, Steve Kline, Todd Williams, and Tim Byrdak.
And then, just when it looked like yet another frustrating one-run loss and yet another solid pitching performance wasted, the bottom of the ninth inning happened. I still can't quite believe what I saw, so you'll have to bear with me as I recap the crazy events.
Down 3-2 and facing B.J. Ryan and his 2.55 ERA, 62-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .210 opponent's batting average, Luis Rodriguez grounded out and Joe Mauer walked. As the tying run, Mauer -- who had already caught nine innings on the same surgically repaired knee that had everyone worried about his career all offseason -- took off for second base as Shannon Stewart struck out swinging.
Not only did Mauer make it safely with two outs for his second stolen base of the game, he popped up, dusted himself off, and advanced to third base when the throw from Eli Whiteside sailed into center field. Then, just moments later, Mauer sprinted 90 feet after a wild pitch and slid in safely on a bang-bang play at the plate.
Walk. Stolen base. Advance to third on a throwing error. Score the tying run on a wild pitch. It was like Mauer had channeled the still-living (and still-playing) spirit of Rickey Henderson for five minutes. But wait, it gets even weirder.
With the score now tied and two outs, Matthew LeCroy walked and was pinch run for by Michael Ryan. Torii Hunter followed with a single to right field and Ryan hustled to third base. The Twins suddenly had a two-out rally going, with two runners on and a run already in.
The only problem was that they had Jacque Jones at the plate. To truly appreciate just how big a buzzkill Jones being up in that spot is, you have to understand that a) Jones is a horrible hitter against lefties, including just .228/.280/.359 this year, and b) Ryan is one of the most dominant lefty relievers in baseball, holding left-handed hitters to a measly .174 batting average during his career.
And, of course, Jones got the game-winning hit. He chopped Ryan's two-strike offering right up the middle, Miguel Tejada made a nice play on it and threw on the run to first base, but the throw bounced past Rafael Palmeiro as Jones slid head-first into the base.
Twins win, 4-3. Oh, and Jesse Crain improved to 9-1 on the year and 12-1 in his career, and took over the team lead in wins. Seriously, how can you not love baseball?
UPDATE: In doing my morning news-gathering gig over at Rotoworld, I came across more on a potential J.C. Romero-to-Boston trade in the Boston Globe:
Lefthander Alan Embree was designated for assignment. ... With lefthanders Mike Myers and John Halama, the Sox felt they were protected for the time being out of the bullpen. But the Sox are one of several teams (as many as 12 according to one major league source) pursuing Twins lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero.Kevin Youkilis would interest me a whole lot more than Bill Mueller, mostly because he's a lot younger and won't be a free agent for quite a while. The idea that Mueller "would be an impact hitter at the Metrodome" is complete conjecture on the writer's part, because as I talked about yesterday he has hit just .241 with a .339 slugging percentage away from Fenway Park over the last two years.
UPDATE #2: I just realized today's game starts at noon. I should be around, so feel free to hang out in the comments section and chat.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Minor League Workhorses: 1946-1950 (by Steve Treder)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
Today's Picks (77-66, +$1,025):
Atlanta (Smoltz) -150 over San Francisco (Lowry)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
No OffenseAfter yet another excruciating one-run loss that involved good pitching and precious little offense last night, I can't help but wonder if the Twins' postseason hopes are circling the drain. It's amazing how thin the line is between success and failure.
All five of the Twins' games since the All-Star break have been decided by one run. They've lost four out of five, putting them at 49-42 and a half-game back in the Wild Card standings. Had they reversed that and instead won four out of five, they would be 52-43 and leading the Wild Card standings by 1.5 games.
A few more timely hits in key spots and everything would be right in the world. But now the team is spiraling out of the postseason picture and blame is being thrown all over the place. The offense, of course, deserves whatever comes their way. With last night's 3-2 loss, the Twins have now scored 0, 1, 2 or 3 runs in a game 34 times this season, or 37.4% of the time.
Here's a breakdown of their game-by-game run scoring:
RS G PCT%The American League average is right around 4.8 runs per game, which means the Twins have failed to come up with an average number of runs 51.6% of the time. If you stretch things a little bit and call five runs in a game average, they've failed to score an above-average number of runs in 60 of their 91 games (65.9%).
Remember that stat the next time someone tries to blame a pitcher for what's going on this season. Last night, it meant Carlos Silva not getting a win despite throwing nine innings of two-run baseball, and Juan Rincon eventually faltering in the 11th inning, his second inning of work.
On the subject of the struggling offense, here's a trade rumor from the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The Red Sox have called the Twins looking for pitching. Boston is believed to be interested in lefthander J.C. Romero, who could help stabilize a bullpen that had a 5.51 ERA entering Monday -- the second-highest in the American League.I am far from the world's biggest J.C. Romero fan, but I think a Romero-for-Bill Mueller deal would be a mistake. Mueller is a nice player who has done well with the Red Sox, but he is 34 years old, has had some injury problems, and is a free agent after this season. Plus, after a great season in 2003, he hasn't hit particularly well away from Fenway Park over the last two years:
YEAR G AB AVG OBP SLG 2B HRSince the start of last season, Mueller has hit .241 with six homers, 16 doubles, and a .339 slugging percentage in 98 games away from Fenway Park. If anyone reading this has Terry Ryan's ear, feel free to pass that tidbit along.
Oh, and here's a nice quote from Ron Gardenhire about last night's homeplate umpire:
He's an (expletive). Hunter Wendelstedt's a big (expletive expletive). He can kiss my (rear).Roughly translated, I believe that means "please fine me." Also, does a newspaper really need to alter a quote to remove the word "ass" and replace it with "rear"? What are we, three years old?
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Clutch Masters (by Dave Studeman)
Today's Picks (77-64, +$1,270):
Baltimore (Cabrera) -105 over Minnesota (Lohse)
New York (Mussina) -140 over Texas (Park)
Monday, July 18, 2005
The Change Has Come
There've been times that I thought
--- Sam Cooke, Change Is Gonna ComeThe change finally came this weekend, and to say it's been a long time coming would be a major understatement. In my three years or so writing about baseball for an audience, no player has received more of my attention than Luis Rivas. I once bought the hype and considered him a promising young player before I knew better, and Rivas has since become a bit of a running joke among fans of this blog.
Luis Oh-For-Thrivas, the Official Whipping Boy of AaronGleeman.com.
Rivas has epitomized my frustration with the Twins, who rushed him to the major leagues at the age of 20, handed him a starting job for five straight years, and watched as he actually regressed as a player. Or as Ron Gardenhire put it yesterday:
We wanted him to anchor the infield, and as you saw, he was very inconsistent. He had some injuries also. But here's a kid who's been playing for [five] years in the big leagues, and he's been about the same. He's never really taken it to the next level.The Twins have been a winning team in each of Rivas' five full seasons in the majors, but their unwillingness to cut bait on him and move on to a better option at second base encapsulated my frustration with their somewhat complacent organizational approach. Aside from the fact that he was young (which by itself means absolutely nothing), there was never any realistic reason to believe Rivas could become a good player.
Now, after wasting over 2,000 plate appearances and millions of dollars on someone who has consistently been one of the worst regulars in baseball, the Twins have finally sent Rivas down to Triple-A. And it's only about five years too late. The interesting thing is that it was Rivas' previous stint at Triple-A that got the Twins so infatuated with him in the first place.
Back in 2000, Rivas played 41 games at Triple-A and hit a very impressive-looking .318/.376/.478. Shortly after that he began his disappointing and infuriating career as the Twins' starting second baseman and leading out-maker. But unless you think 41 games outweigh years of mediocrity, there was little reason to think Rivas was ever a legit prospect. Take a look at his minor-league numbers before that brief stint at Triple-A:
LEVEL G AVG OBP SLG OPSRivas had proven himself to be a completely worthless offensive player, with low batting averages, very little plate discipline, and mediocre power. The Twins were apparently more than willing to overlook his track record when he had a good six weeks at Triple-A, but that has proven to be a horrible decision. In fact, Rivas' performance in the majors matches up perfectly with his numbers before that fateful stint at Triple-A:
LEVEL G AVG OBP SLG OPSI don't fault the Twins for investing playing time and money in a prospect and having him fail. I fault them for ever believing that Rivas was a prospect, and then for showing incredible stubbornness by continuing to believe it as mountains and mountains of evidence to the contrary kept rolling in. He has been almost exactly as bad in the majors as he was at Single-A and Double-A.
Waiting until now to admit defeat with Rivas has been very costly to the Twins. He has been one of the least valuable players in all of baseball during his career, costing the team a significant number of runs each season. Prior to this year that just meant a smaller margin of victory in the AL Central and perhaps a less-favorable postseason situation, but Rivas' horrendous play this season might mean a lot more in what is a very close Wild Card race.
In addition to the negative impact Rivas has had on the Twins in the regular season, he has completely collapsed in the postseason, hitting .158/.195/.184 in 16 games. And all the while he has kept the team from developing more attractive options at second base. For reasons that have long been beyond my level of comprehension, Rivas has been given more of a shot to establish himself as an asset to a big-league team than Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, and Luis Rodriguez combined.
The Twins have invested five years of playing time and millions of dollars in Rivas, and it has been a complete bust. The frustrating part is not that his career with the Twins hasn't worked out, but rather that it took this long for the Twins to see what should have been obvious all along.
Luis Rivas has not shown anything in his entire seven-year career with the Minnesota Twins that would jump out at you and say he has this "potential" that everyone talks about. ... "Potential" is only worth waiting for when there is some kind of sign that it is likely to actually arrive at some point and be worthwhile. I don't see that sign in anything Luis Rivas has done since 1996.
---Yours Truly on this very blog, November 9, 2002At that point the Twins had already wasted over 1,000 plate appearances on Rivas, and since then they've wasted nearly 1,000 more. They finally saw the light just in time to send him down to the minors while paying him $1.625 million to hit .250/.293/.287 this year.
What a waste.
UPDATE: This is hilarious.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Raffy and the Hall (by Aaron Gleeman)
- The PrOPS-Star Team (by J.C. Bradbury)
Today's Picks (77-63, +$1,370):
Oakland (Saarloos) +125 over Los Angeles (Santana)