I received an absurd number of e-mails and comments about this, so let's address it once and be done with it: The "rumor" about the Twins potentially trading Justin Morneau to the Blue Jays for a package centering around Corey Koskie is beyond ludicrous. The idea that such a thing gets reported in a major newspaper is only slightly less disappointing to me than the fact that Twins fans would actually take it even remotely seriously.
Do you really think Terry Ryan is going to trade Morneau, a 24-year-old who led the team in RBIs and ranked second in homers during his first full season, when his main goal this offseason is to improve the lineup? Beyond that, if the Twins wanted Koskie back -- which I suppose is a possibility -- do you really think they'd have to give up a player the caliber of Morneau for him? Koskie is 32 years old, missed nearly half the season with injuries, has a contract that pays him about 15 times more than Morneau, and hit .249/.337/.398.
ESPN.com's Bill Simmons has been on a book tour/media blitz over the past few weeks, promoting Now I Can Die in Peace. I've been trying to keep up with all the interviews and stories about Simmons in various media outlets, but it's getting to be really difficult (which is good news for book sales, I'm sure). A few highlights:
* Part 1 and Part 2 of Simmons' awesome e-mail exchange with Chuck Klosterman.
* For some reason the fact that an engaged-to-be-married Elisha Cuthbert is hanging out with Justin Timberlake is more upsetting to me than the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com being engaged in the first place.
* I'm guessing comedian Dane Cook has been told to "kiss my ass" by any number of people in the past, but never has the offer been as enticing as when it comes from Charlize Theron.
(Incidentally, whether or not the readers of this blog are 100% in favor of the phrase "Waffle Crapper" is something that can safely be kept to yourselves. Speaking out against it as if this is some sort of FCC-regulated blog for kids just makes me want to use it more often.)
I've been reading a lot of NBA stuff this week, trying to get caught up with what went on during the offseason, and I was astounded at how weak this year's draft class projects to be. Here is ESPN.com's top 10:
1) Rudy Gay, Connecticut 2) Andrea Bargnani, Italy 3) Rajon Rondo, Kentucky 4) Daniel Gibson, Texas 5) LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas 6) Tiago Splitter, Brazil 7) Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas 8) Adam Morrison, Gonzaga 9) Al Horford, Florida 10) Malik Hairston, Oregon
Now, I'm sure just about every draft class looks worse before the season has started and breakout players have had a chance to emerge from the rest of the pack, but this year's looks particularly pathetic. And it's not like ESPN.com just ranked seniors or anything -- all eight of those college players are underclassmen.
As October rolls on and Fox begins dominating the baseball schedule, here's a site to keep bookmarked: ShutUpTimMcCarver.com. My percentage of postseason innings watched with the TV muted has been extremely high this year, although I will say that I thought Mike Piazza did a nice job behind the mic.
Here's an interesting profile of poker player Phil "The Unabomber" Laak in the Boston Globe. Or as you may know him these days, Jennifer Tilly's boyfriend (and poker coach).
This was my first week writing football columns for Rotoworld and FoxSports.com. If you're interested in reading them, here are the links: Tuesday ... Wednesday ... Thursday.
And if that's not enough Gleeman for you, my brand new weekly column on keeper-league rankings for baseball is up over at Rotoworld. I started with Joe Mauer and the catchers.
Finally, John "Twins Geek" Bonnes announced earlier this week that he is retiring from blogging. John is without question the godfather of the Twins blogosphere, first on his own at TwinsGeek.com and recently as part of the community at Twins Territory. I've been fortunate enough to meet and hang out with John on a number of occasions and he is as great a guy as he is a blogger.
When I first started this blog back in 2002, Twins Geek was one of only a handful of baseball blogs that I knew of. Now there are literally hundreds, with more than a dozen devoted to the Twins. It is to John's credit that he was able to sustain a high level of writing for this long and in doing so he played a major part in the thriving society of Twins blogs that he leaves behind.
In his farewell, John spoke of burning out:
The reason is that I'm just plain done. I'm burned out by a thousand little flames. The time. The ISP costs. The programming. The relentless task of posting every day. The lack of revenue. The system problems. The frustration of trying to grow a different kind of publishing model. The editing. The emails. The comments. The links, the other sites, the research, the syndication, the ads. Most surprising (and disappointing) is that I'm tired of the writing. And I'm tired of doing all of them, but not doing any of them well.
They can all be overcome, but the bottom line is that the passion isn't there any more. It's become more burden than pleasure. And the truth is that I couldn't be happier about walking away from it all. I'm looking forward to spending a little more time with my wife and kids, having a little more mental energy to dedicate towards my job, and being able to work on The Addition while listening to the radio call of the game without stopping to take notes.
I don't have a wife or kids, and my job involves writing about baseball. Still, I completely understand where John is coming from. There have been many times when I've thought that it would be nice to take an extended break from blogging, or perhaps a permanent one. I've kept going and still love it, but if I were in John's shoes I'm not sure that I wouldn't have stepped away some time ago.
Whatever you think of blogging or bloggers, know that what John has done took a tremendous amount of time, effort, energy, passion, and dedication. The beauty of blogging is that it is something anyone can do, but few can do it well and for a sustained period of time. John did both of those things, better and longer than most, and he should be very proud of his impact on the lives of many Twins fans.
There haven't been nearly enough Twins-related things that made me smile this year, so I'm happy to present the following news from the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E.Neal:
The Twins on Tuesday parted ways with second baseman Luis Rivas, the first product of their Venezuelan Academy to reach the majors and a contributor to three division championships.
Rivas, along with infielder Brent Abernathy and outfielder Mike Ryan, were outrighted off the Twins' 40-man roster and will become free agents. While the club is interested in keeping Abernathy, they will not make any attempts to re-sign Rivas or Ryan.
Rivas was the Twins' full-time second baseman for nearly three seasons (2001-2003) and made his debut in 2000 with a lot of promise.
"It's not just this year but a couple of years," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "We have deep ties with him. It just didn't happen."
Rivas, 26, batted .250 with a homer and 12 RBI in 58 games. He spent July 17 to Sept. 5 at Class AAA Rochester and showed no improvement when he returned. Since he made $1.6 million this season, and was eligible for arbitration, he would have been expensive to bring back in 2006.
Rivas was considered the long-term answer when he made his debut in 2000. In 2001, he batted .266 and stole 31 bases. He also made numerous excellent plays in the field, along with shortstop Cristian Guzman.
But he never hit higher than .266 and didn't get on base enough to take advantage of his ability to steal bases. And he struggled with positioning in the field.
His career with the Twins began to fade during the 2003 season, when his range and attentiveness came into question, and he began to be benched occasionally. That continued the past two seasons, when he was sent to the minors.
"Rivas has been here the better part of four or five years at the major league level," Ryan said. "Maybe he needs a change of scenery, and we're going in different directions."
It is truly the end of an era, as Rivas has been this blog's whipping boy since Day 1. Here is the legacy he leaves behind in Minnesota:
Rarely has a young player arrived in the major leagues at the age of 21, been given over 2,000 plate appearances spread over six seasons, most of them as an everyday player for a contending team, and shown such an across-the-board lack of improvement.
I find it impossible to write about the Twins on a day like today, when we are treated to three playoff games that kick off another month of postseason baseball ahead. So instead of reading me complain about something Twins related, go over to The Hardball Times and check out some of our awesome playoff coverage:
Needless to say THT will feature a ton of good writing by a ton of good writers during the postseason, so I'm hoping you'll all make it a daily stop. And if baseball isn't your thing (which I believe applies to as many as one person reading this), head over to Rotoworld to check out my very first Football Daily Dose.
Today's Picks (114-99, +$1,320): San Diego (Peavy) +175 over St. Louis (Carpenter)
And not "over" like it was a couple months ago, but "over" like the Twins won't play any more games until next year. To be honest, most Twins fans could probably use a little time off from watching and thinking about this team, although I'm sure having playoff baseball to keep everyone busy over the next few weeks allows me to feel that way.
While the actual games came and went without much attention this weekend, there was a lot of Twins talk in the news. The big story was that Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau allegedly got into a clubhouse scuffle last week. I don't care that two players fought at the end of a disappointing season, but the incident between a young player and a veteran suggest a larger problem.
In particular, Hunter talked about not liking the way the attitude of the team has changed recently:
Some of the things I just don't like in the clubhouse. I can't handle it. Some things are going to have to change. If it doesn't change, I don't want to be around that clubhouse. The young guys should respect the veterans. I'm talking about some guys, not all the guys. ... The reason I came here is to support the team on the final weekend of the season. But once I got to the clubhouse, I don't think I want to be here. I don't want to be a part of that. I'm depressed and frustrated about what's going on in the clubhouse right now.
Hunter and Morneau have had some issues with each other in the past, and I have no idea whether Morneau is a colossal jerk who doesn't show anyone respect or Hunter is difficult to be around and unnecessarily prickly towards young players. I would guess that neither player is without blame, but whatever the case it is obvious that the environment in the clubhouse has changed as the Twins have brought in a new wave of players.
That's not surprising, as most of the guys Hunter came up with are gone via trades and free agency. It's also not surprising that Hunter would react negatively to the change. However, if Hunter is no longer able to coexist with players like Morneau, the fact is that it is Hunter who should leave. While he is a key part of the team and a big reason for the Twins' recent success, if the team is going to return to the top of the division it will be because of the development of young players like Morneau, not Hunter.
Of course, this could all be just your run-of-the-mill infighting during a frustrating season. Or as general manager Terry Ryanput it:
We've had this happen before, and we'll have it happen again. These things come out sometimes when you're not successful, and we're having a tough year.
Let's hope that's all it is, because the Twins certainly don't need any more problems with their lineup as they head into a crucial offseason.
* * * * *
Some other Twins notes from the season's final weekend ...
Francisco Liriano looked tremendous in his start against the Tigers Friday, picking up his first big-league win while putting up the following line:
IP H R ER BB SO HR 7.0 5 2 2 0 8 1
A lot of fans seem to think that his inability to arrive in the majors and immediately establish himself as a top-line starting pitcher is an indictment of Liriano's status as an elite prospect. That's silly. He is a 21-year-old pitcher who showed flashes of brilliance, got knocked around a little bit, and posted a 33-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23.2 innings after starting the season at Double-A. That's good news, not bad news.
The even better news is that Ron Gardenhiresounds almost convinced that Liriano can step into the rotation full time next spring:
He threw as good as we were expecting and hoping he'd throw. He was throwing the fastball, using the fastball, locating the fastball and working off of that. Once he does that, his slider and changeup are unbelievable. ... He's going to have an opportunity to make this ballclub in spring training. He's impressed the heck out of the staff.
I'll have more on this as we get further along in the offseason, but the Twins' pitching staff is in outstanding shape for next season.
Unfortunately, Grant Balfourwill not be a part of that staff. After sitting out the entire season following Tommy John elbow surgery, Balfour will now miss all of 2006 after having surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The combination of serious arm injuries, one right after the other, could be devastating to Balfour's career. It's a shame, because he is by all accounts a good guy and looked to have a very promising future ahead of him this time last year.
The Twins may give Michael Cuddyera look as the everyday right fielder next season. While that's not optimal, Cuddyer's defensive versatility does give the Twins some offseason flexibility. If they acquire a good-hitting corner outfielder, Cuddyer can move back to the infield. If they find a new third baseman, Cuddyer can slide to right field. Of course, I've been saying for about three years now that they should just stick him at second base and leave it at that.
Johan Santana put an exclamation point on his 2005 season with a gem yesterday afternoon, tossing seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball against the Tigers on the way to his 16th win of the season. Sadly, Santana left the game just a few outs short of claiming his second American League ERA title. Instead, he finishes with a 2.87 ERA, while Cleveland's Kevin Millwood checks in at 2.86.
It's a shame, but in some ways I respect Santana for not caring about a personal accomplishment all that much in a season that has been so disappointing from a team standpoint. On the other hand, Cy Young voters aren't likely to give him as much credit for being unselfish as they would have for finishing with the lowest ERA in the league.