It looks like the cat is out of the bag on Bill Simmons' upcoming book. There's no "release date" listed yet and it ranks just 36,421st on Amazon.com as of last night, but my prediction is that it eventually ends up as the best-selling sports book of the year. My other prediction is that Simmons' rabid fans, of which I am one, consider the book a disappointment. Personally, I'm sick of reading about the Red Sox at this point.
I happen to think this site -- from the title to the commentary -- is a little over-the-top, but I'm glad someone has the energy to keep up with all the nonsense spewed on ESPN and ESPN.com every day. I gave up trying a while ago simply because the sheer volume of it overwhelmed me.
This site made me laugh, but then I showed it to someone who doesn't watch Family Guy and they didn't see what was so funny about it. I think it's the sailor's hat.
I spend way too much time linking to articles I'm mentioned in and not nearly enough time talking about my relatives showing up in the news. So click here and scroll down to the third-to-last paragraph. That's my uncle, who told me the last time I saw him that he wants "to learn how to box and shoot a gun."
I saw this animation on Pearly Gates a couple weeks ago and it reminds me how I feel sometimes when I'm writing about the Twins. As I've always said, there's only so much Terry Mulholland you can take before your head simply explodes.
Finally, Gordon Wittenmeyer, the Twins beat writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has an article in today's paper entitled, "Twins' plan needs to be retooled." Here's one particularly interesting part (admittedly taken completely out of context):
In fact, the pitching has exceeded expectations. But almost everything else about the Twins' big plans has gone wrong since March.
Replace Corey Koskie with Michael Cuddyer? Cristian Guzman with Jason Bartlett? Doug Mientkiewicz with Justin Morneau?
That was the plan. The low-revenue Twins had cycled out veterans for young players the year before, and the year before that, and continued to win divisional titles - getting better along the way, some argued.
But with less than two months remaining in a season that appears headed toward one of the more disappointing finishes in recent team history, the Twins are faced with deciding how much of that two-year plan still makes sense.
"It's caught up with us offensively this year, with a lot of young hitters,'' said manager Ron Gardenhire, who also said he is more focused on trying to correct that in the next few weeks than focusing on changes for next year.
Now, no one is going to argue that Michael Cuddyer, Jason Bartlett, and Justin Morneau have had great seasons, but take a look at this:
FIRST BASE AVG OBP SLG OPS Doug Mientkiewicz .247 .332 .428 .760 Justin Morneau .248 .318 .455 .773
THIRD BASE AVG OBP SLG OPS Corey Koskie .246 .310 .396 .706 Michael Cuddyer .268 .344 .425 .769
If you want to argue that the Twins replaced Doug Mientkiewicz, Cristian Guzman, and Corey Koskie with the wrong players or that the replacements haven't produced the same sort offense that those three provided in the past, that's one thing (well, actually two things). But to argue that replacing them, period, has in any way been a mistake is silly.
Guzman is hitting .188/.233/.270 for the Nationals and has been one of the worst players in all of baseball this season. Koskie has a .396 slugging percentage for the Blue Jays and spent much of the year on the disabled list with a broken thumb. And Mientkiewicz has a .760 OPS for the Mets, has been in and out of the lineup, and is now on the DL himself.
As disappointing as you may think Morneau, Bartlett, and Cuddyer have been this season, they've all been better than the guy they replaced. Oh, and you also can't overlook the fact that Morneau, Bartlett, and Cuddyer combine to make about $1 million this season, while Mientkiewicz, Guzman, and Koskie will make about $12 million.
Sorry for how tardy today's entry is. I stayed up late to watch last night's 14-inning win over the Mariners and then had to get up bright and early this morning to do my ever-increasing number of writing gigs. So today's entry, in addition to being late, will be short and sweet.
This Joe Mauer kid might turn into a pretty good player someday. Four hits in five at-bats last night, plus two intentional walks, his ninth stolen base of the year, and a laser to second base to throw out Yuniesky Betancourt in the 13th inning. Mauer is now hitting .299/.374/.432 as a 22-year-old catcher in his first full big-league season. Oh, and he's thrown out 40% of attempted base stealers, too.
Combined with what he did when not on the disabled list last season, Mauer now has 496 career plate appearances in the majors, spread over 125 games. That's about a full-season's worth of playing time for a starting catcher, so it's a good time to take a look at what Mauer has done:
G AVG OBP SLG 2B HR BB SO SB 125 .301 .373 .466 28 14 52 63 10
Not a bad first "year." Mauer has a very modest 62 RBIs, but that's not really his fault, as he's batted .314/.411/.453 with runners on base and .349/.433/.523 with runners in scoring position. He is also 10-for-11 stealing bases (91%, although I'd rather he was 0-for-0) and has thrown out 39.7% of stolen-base attempts against him.
One quick note for those of you who care about such things: I've started writing a new daily baseball column this week, which will be posted on both Rotoworld.com and FoxSports.com each afternoon. It's very similar to the "Channel Surfing" columns I've been writing each Friday this season, except I'll be writing it six days a week. You can read yesterday's column on FoxSports.com by clicking here.
And yes, for those of you keeping track (hi mom!), you can now find my writing at AaronGleeman.com, The Hardball Times, Insider Baseball, Rotoworld, and Fox Sports. By my count that adds up to around 15-16 columns per week, plus MLB and NFL news blurbs each morning. As I've heard said about playing poker many times, it's a hard way to make an easy living.
It's comforting to know that I can go on vacation to another country for a week, pay very little attention to the Twins, and come back to find them just as clueless at the plate as they were when I left. I wouldn't want to come back to find them scoring actual runs, because that would be like coming home from your freshman year at college to find that your parents turned your bedroom into an office or something.
The Twins faced the best pitching prospect in all of baseball last night and were completely shut down for eight innings, before Eddie Guardado slammed the door in the ninth. The funny thing is that it's tough to tell exactly how well Felix Hernandez pitched. In most cases a 19-year-old throwing eight shutout innings in his second big-league start would be a huge deal, but the Twins have been making just about every pitcher look dominant over the last six weeks or so.
However, even setting aside the fact that Hernandez was basically facing a Triple-A lineup despite being called up from the Pacific Coast League last week, he looked damn good. He can blow people away with his fastball, he features outstanding offspeed stuff, and he did an excellent job jamming Minnesota hitters to force pop ups, broken bats, and weak ground balls.
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT 8.0 5 0 0 0 6 0 94
The sad part -- aside from the fact that I was already sick of watching this pathetic lineup before I left for Toronto -- is that the Twins wasted an outstanding effort from Kyle Lohse, who gave up one lone run in seven innings, while striking out seven Mariners and walking just one. (Of course, the boys on Baseball Tonight would gladly tell you he just doesn't know how to win.)
The Twins have gotten some extremely good pitching all season and that has continued during their slide down the Wild Card standings. If their offense could muster any sort of attack on a consistent basis, the big story would be just how effective the pitching staff has been this year. Instead, Lohse gives up one run and gets a loss, dropping to 7-11 on the year despite a 4.21 ERA.
After sitting at 35-22 on June 9 and 46-34 on July 5, the Twins are now in danger of dropping to .500 with a loss against the Mariners tonight. There's little you can do when the White Sox look headed for 105 wins and the A's refuse to lose more than a game per week, but there is simply no excuse for this team to finish at or below .500.
Despite three straight trips to the postseason, I have often been critical of the Twins, from trades and free agent decisions to in-game managerial moves and lineup construction. For the most part my criticism was met with rolled eyes while the team was winning. Perhaps if things completely fall apart down the stretch, Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire, and company will finally do something about the team's ongoing inability to maximize its talent on nearly every level.
* * * * *
One interesting note on Michael Cuddyer, who sat out last night's game with a bum knee and might be headed to the disabled list. He hit just .205/.275/.288 in April and looked brutal in the field, and because of his awful start his season totals have looked pretty sickly all year. However, if you toss out the first month, Cuddyer is hitting .286/.369/.471 with seven homers, 15 doubles, and 24 walks in 64 games.
I've been saying for the past few years that Cuddyer was capable of putting together .275/.350/.450 seasons, and it looks like he's finally starting to show signs of that being possible (although no one has noticed because of his poor April). In fact, over the last three-and-a-half months Cuddyer has probably been the best hitter on the entire team. So it only make sense that he's hurt now.