Friday, May 05, 2006
I never watched sports and I just said I needed to pick a team and I didn't know where to start. I felt like I needed to pick a team close to home, so Illinois was the pick for me. But when I was getting recruited by Illinois, Minnesota came into the picture and I always wanted to go to a school that played Ohio State. I always wanted to go to Illinois, but then once they dropped my scholarship I figured I needed to go to a school that played Illinois and Ohio State, so Minnesota was the best fit for me.Not that I'm complaining, of course.
I loved him. I think the Patriots got a steal. An absolute steal. I think he's going to be the best back in the league.That's incredibly high praise, but given that New England grabbed Maroney with the 21st pick in the first round I'm curious about why Shanahan didn't trade up into the top 20 to grab him. Denver moved up in the draft to snag quarterback Jay Cutler, so why wouldn't they have done something similar to grab a guy Shanahan thinks will be "the best back in the league"?
For a young running back, the only thing better than landing on the Patriots would have been landing on the Broncos, who seem to churn out 1,000-yard rushers like they have some sort of a mold for them in the basement of the team complex. On the other hand, perhaps Shanahan didn't want to use a first-round pick on a running back when he can just make a 1,000-yard rusher from one of Mike Anderson's cleats and a rubber-band from Terrell Davis' braces.
I've been collecting some of search-engine queries that people have used to arrive here this week, and in doing so have decided that the vast majority of them can be broken down into two distinct categories. First, you have the perverted stuff:
- A.J. Pierzynski shirtless
- A.J. Pierzynski boxers or briefs
- Derek Jeter naked
- Clonie Gowen nude
- Shannon Stewart nude
- Twins stroking
- Joe Mauer is sexy
- Mike Lieberthal thighs
- Doug Mientkiewicz's wife
- Marissa Miller Perfect 10 video
- Ken Griffey Jr. tickled
Along with that, there's the inquisitive stuff:
- Dick Bremer's salary
- Matthew LeCroy pronunciation
- Most recent Minnesota Twin with 30 homers
- What happened to Ben Grieve?
- Who is Jared Camp?
- Important people named Aaron
- Tim Raines' "rock" nickname
- My dog has pain when I pick her up
- Lisa Dergan and Scott Podsednik wedding
- Matt Leinart girlfriend
I don't really have a point to all of this, but I'm hoping that I'm not the only person who finds it somewhat fascinating.
If you're like me and enjoy LEN3's hard work covering the Twins, drop him an e-mail to let him know that you're hoping he has a quick recovery.
Wedding Crashers was very disappointing, yet still funny. Rachel McAdams was incredibly charming, Christopher Walken is always solid, and I loved the Will Ferrell cameo, but the plot was iffy even for a comedy and the whole thing dragged on for way too long. Grade: C-plus.
The Interpreter was the exact opposite in that I expected it to be horrible based on the title and the lack of hype, yet it turned out to be relatively good. I've never liked Nicole Kidman much and I always want to dislike Sean Penn in every role, but they both did a very nice job. I'm convinced that if the movie had a better title it would have made at least twice as much money. Grade: B-minus.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
The CureJoe Mays has been horrible since 2001, yet the whole time there are many people who have held out hope that he could rediscover whatever allowed him to win 17 games with a 3.16 ERA that season. Apparently ERAs of 5.38, 6.30, and 5.65 in the years since weren't enough to convince everyone that his finding that again isn't possible, because the Royals handed him $1 million plus incentives to stink for them this season.
If Mays' 0-3 record and painful-to-watch 11.07 ERA in five starts coming into last night's game didn't hammer the point home, then I'm guessing getting knocked around by the Twins just about put the issue (and Mays' career) to rest. Mays hasn't been able to get major-league hitters out for going on five years now, and last night he couldn't get the Twins out either.
The Twins have not only struggled to score runs over the past two years, they've done so while making a seemingly endless stream of marginal starting pitchers look like Cy Young Award candidates. This year alone they've been shut down by Joel Pineiro (9 IP, 2 ER), Nate Robertson (7 IP, 0 ER), Runelvys Hernandez (7 IP, 1 ER), Scott Elarton (7 IP, 0 ER), and Jason Johnson (7 IP, 0 ER), not to mention the guys you'd expect like Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay.
Last night, for one of the few times over the past 189 games, the Twins' hitters looked legitimately dangerous. They took borderline pitches to get themselves into hitter's counts and then punished the pitcher with hard-hit balls into the gaps when he grooved something over the plate. It was amazing to watch, if only because I'd forgotten what it was like to see a team that could hit with some power.
When they were done hammering Mays (and Jimmy Gobble, who relieved him in the fourth inning), his final line looked like this:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT
It's sad that the Twins' rare offensive outburst had to come against Mays, because he always struck me as a nice guy who has worked very hard to come back from various arm injuries over the years, and I'm guessing he would have liked nothing more than to have a good start in Minnesota. Perhaps even sadder is that I have no illusions (or maybe delusions) of last night's performance by the lineup carrying over to future games.
The Twins showed that they can crush a guy who has zero life remaining on his fastball, exhibits very little command of anything, is clinging to a big-league job with the worst team in baseball, and has the confidence of me at the Playboy Mansion. Unfortunately, they've shown far too often that they can't do similar damage against merely bad pitchers, against whom the Twins revert back to hacking at crap and putting softly-hit balls in play when they're not striking out looking on fastballs over the plate.
In fact, as soon as the Royals mercifully yanked Mays from the game in the middle of the fourth inning the Twins went right back to looking inept at the plate. Kansas City relievers Jimmy Gobble, Mike Wood, and Ambiorix Burgos--who entered the game with career ERAs of 5.33, 5.36 , and 3.79, respectively-- combined to post the following pitching line once Mays left:
IP H R ER BB SO HR PIT
The Twins' lineup showed last night that it can do serious damage against a completely helpless pitcher. The bad news is that by the time the Royals pop up on the schedule again Mays is likely to be out of the rotation (or out of baseball altogether) and the hitters showed that they still can't continue the damage against anyone with even a modest ability to record outs in the major leagues.
Similarly, Brad Radke managed to get out of the first two innings unscathed last night and showed that he can shut down a lineup that is Triple-A quality. The bad news is that one of the few big league-quality hitters in the Royals' lineup, Matt Stairs, took Radke deep, and the bulk of his starts going forward aren't going to be against teams with Kerry Robinson as their leadoff man.
And yes, only the Royals could be so bad that beating them 6-1 is depressing.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
One-thousand entries actually isn't such an impressive number and I'm sure there are thousands of other blogs that can top it, but it's a lot when you consider I typically post at most five entries per week. That's basically 200 weeks of consistent blogging, which is about 198 more weeks than I expected to have when I started doing this in August of 2002.
Monday I got a letter back from the insurance company asking me to clarify how I had lost the weight. I'm guessing they wanted to find out whether or not I had undergone gastric bypass--which likely carries some increased health risks--but since I've done it the old-fashioned way I felt surprisingly good about myself. "Don't eat so much and exercise a little" isn't the sort of plan that you can turn into a diet book, but it does work.
Because Greenway and Griffin were fairly safe picks and because the Vikings only drafted a total of six players, the overall quality of the draft may come down to how Tarvaris Jackson develops. I've never seen Jackson play and only heard him mentioned briefly prior to the draft, but he certainly sounds like a quarterback with some intriguing tools.
New coach Brad Childress made it very clear that one of his goals was to come out of the offseason with a young quarterback to mold over the next couple seasons, and Jackson is perfect for that. The Vikings traded up in the draft to use a second-round pick on Jackson, so they must think very highly of him. Hopefully they're right, because the team's biggest long-term weakness right now is at QB.
IP H R ER BB SO HR
YEAR IP ERA SO BB
The Twins rank dead last in the league in Defensive Efficiency Ratio, Shannon Stewart plays left field like he's suffering from vertigo, and Tony Batista plays third base like a pawn in chess, moving one square at a time and never laterally. Plus, Juan Castro looks sloppier and sloppier at shortstop, and the whole issue with errors is compounded by the fact that the official scorer at the Metrodome refuses to give Castro proper blame for botching plays.
If most poor defensive plays aren't eligible to be errors and the ones that are usually aren't given one anyway, what use is the stat?
They boo A.J. everywhere. Even in his backyard, his wife and kids boo him.I have a feeling Chicago fans would quickly become annoyed with Guillen if the White Sox weren't having so much success, but he's certainly interesting.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #27 Larry Hisle
LARRY EUGENE HISLE | LF/CF/RF/DH | 1973-1977 | CAREER STATS
Hisle batted .303 in 69 games at Triple-A, but his season was cut short in mid-July when doctors diagnosed him with hepatitis. According to a July 13, 1968 article in the Washington Post: "Doctors sent Hisle to his home in Portsmouth, Ohio, ordered him to follow a strict protein diet and get plenty of rest." After taking nearly a year off Hisle had another strong spring training in 1969 and was the Phillies' Opening Day center fielder and leadoff man.
He hit just .159 in April, but the Phillies stuck with him and watched as Hisle put together a fantastic rookie year, batting .266/.338/.459 with 20 homers and 18 stolen bases to finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting despite missing the end of the season with a fractured thumb. Hisle fell off a cliff in his second year, hitting just .205/.299/.353, and when he got off to another slow start in 1971 the Phillies demoted him to Triple-A.
Hisle batted .328 with a .597 slugging percentage in 62 games there, but then struggled again when the Phillies called him up near the end of the 1971 season. Philadelphia traded him to Los Angeles for Tom Hutton during the offseason and Hisle spent the entire 1972 season at Triple-A, hitting .325 with 23 homers and 91 RBIs in 131 games. He was traded to St. Louis that winter, and after spending less than a month as property of the Cardinals they shipped him to the Twins for Wayne Granger.
In two years Hisle had gone from being one of the most promising young players in baseball to being a minor leaguer who was suddenly with his fourth team, but landing in Minnesota turned his career around. Rather than spend yet another season at Triple-A, the Twins handed Hisle the starting job in center field. He went 4-for-5 as the team's leadoff man on Opening Day, hit .304/.360/.609 overall in April, and finished his comeback season at .272/.351/.422 with 15 homers in 143 games.
Hisle was even better in 1974, hitting .286/.353/.465 with 19 homers and 79 RBIs while splitting time between all three outfield spots. Those numbers may not look particularly outstanding, but it was a low-offense era and Hisle's seemingly modest .465 slugging percentage actually ranked ninth in the league. Hisle was on track for the best season of his career in 1975, hitting .314/.361/.518 with 11 homers and 17 steals in just 57 games when a bone spur in his elbow forced him to the disabled list.
Hisle returned from the DL after three weeks and to make room for him on the roster the Twins sent down first baseman Tom Kelly, who hit just .181 in 49 games during what would be his only season in the big leagues. After one start and a few pinch-hitting appearances Hisle was sidelined again. This time he missed nearly two months, returning in time to play 15 games in September and finish the year at .314/.376/.494 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs in 80 games.
Hisle bounced back to play 155 games in 1976, and while his .272/.335/.394 hitting line isn't overly impressive even considering the era, he did hit 14 homers while driving in 96 runs and stealing 31 bases. Then in 1977, with free agency just around the corner, Hisle had the best year of his career. He batted .302/.369/.533 with 28 homers and a league-leading 119 RBIs to make his first All-Star team and finish 12th in the AL MVP balloting (Rod Carew hit .388 to take home the award).
The timing was perfect for Hisle, who hit the free-agent market that winter and received several big offers. Hisle said at the time that he was interested in staying with the Twins, but talks reportedly broke down over some complicated contract details that included a loan and bonus money. Hisle eventually decided to sign with the Brewers, inking a six-year deal worth a then-massive $3.1 million. According to a November 19, 1977 article in the New York Times:
[The deal] put the 30-year-old outfielder in a financial league with Catfish Hunter of the Yankees (five years, $3.5 million), Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia (six years, $3,360,000) and Reggie Jackson of the Yankees (five years, $2.9 million).In the same article, Hisle described his decision to leave Minnesota:
I had enjoyed my five years in Minnesota and it wasn't going to be easy for me to pack up and leave everyone. The Twins mentioned the fact that they really wanted me and they made me an offer, but I had decided 100 percent that Milwaukee would be the place to play.Hisle was well worth the money in his first season with the Brewers, hitting .290/.374/.533 with 34 homers and 115 RBIs to finish third in the MVP balloting behind Jim Rice and Ron Guidry. He was on his way to a similarly outstanding season in 1979 when disaster struck on April 20:
On a chilly night in Baltimore, Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder Larry Hisle made the throw that changed his life. Mike Caldwell was on the mound for the Brewers, and Hisle didn't expect to see many balls hit his way because Caldwell, a sinker-ball pitcher, usually induced a lot of groundouts.Hisle stayed in the lineup for a couple weeks as a designated hitter, but the injury soon ended his season and, as Hisle said, eventually his career. Hisle came back as the Brewers' DH in 1980 and was hitting .283/.421/.583 through 17 games, but aggravated the shoulder injury while sliding into a base on May 19. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A year of painful rehabilitation failed to strengthen the shoulder sufficiently, so he underwent surgery. In 1981, he had another operation.After suffering the initial injury in 1979, Hisle played just 67 more games over four seasons before finally giving in to the pain. He retired following the 1982 season as a two-time All-Star with 166 career homers despite bouncing around in the minors during his early 20s and having his last full season at the age of 31.
Hisle's career with the Twins was short and sweet, with 662 games spread over five seasons. Despite that, the Twins' all-time leaderboard shows Hisle ranking ninth in steals (92), 10th in batting average (.286), 13th in RBIs (409) and slugging percentage (.457), 15th in homers (87), and 16th in on-base percentage (.354). His 1977 season was one of the best years by an outfielder in team history, and that's saying something given the names the Twins have had in the outfield over the years.
And all of that came in low-offense eras. If you adjust Hisle's numbers with the Twins for today's offense environment they come out looking something like .295/.360/.510, which along with good speed and the ability to patrol center field on a regular basis is pretty damn good.
TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS:
Monday, May 01, 2006
Limping Into MayWhen I initially looked at the Twins' tough opening-month schedule, I had hoped for a 12-12 April. With seven of the season's first eight series against legitimate contenders, a .500 start would have kept the Twins from falling behind much in the division while allowing them to build some momentum once the schedule let up a bit. Instead, the Twins finished April at 9-15 and find themselves in fourth place, eight games back.
There isn't a ton of difference between 12-12 and 9-15, but it's the way the Twins played in April that's so disappointing. The offense was predictably ineffective and the pitching was shockingly horrible, and the team often looked both overmatched and disinterested. The defense was sloppy, the starting pitchers put the team in an early hole nearly every time out, and the manager continued his annual tradition of giving at-bats to the wrong guys.
The month came to a fitting end in Detroit, where the Tigers embarrassed the Twins over the course of three games, outscoring them 33-1 while exposing nearly every conceivable flaw. It's easy to point to the pitching staff as the main problem, both for the Detroit series and the entire season, but in reality the pitching and hitting have been equally responsible for the team's 9-15 start.
The offense has produced 22 percent fewer runs than the AL average, while the pitching has given up 23 percent more runs than the rest of the league. That the pitching staff has received so much more of the blame is due entirely to expectations, because while the pitchers have been more disappointing they haven't been any worse. In an effort to balance the blame-to-responsibility ratio a bit, I'd like to focus on the hitters' April performances today.
First, the team as a whole ...
YEAR AVG OBP SLG R/G
Now, the individuals ...
PA AVG OBP SLG
Instead, the supposed big boppers in the middle of the lineup who are being counted on to drive all of those runners in have been absolutely pathetic. One good April performance from Rondell White, Torii Hunter or Justin Morneau and things would have been a lot different. White in particular has killed the offense, driving in just five runs despite the top third of the lineup working perfectly to provide him with 83 runners to drive in.
Not only has White hit an execrable .136/.143/.148 and matched his measly RBI total by grounding into five double plays, he's eaten up an astounding 83 outs in 91 plate appearances while doing so. That'd be difficult to do if you tried and it has washed away nearly all of the good work the top of the lineup did. Hunter's .189/.240/.378 line and Morneau's .208/.274/.416 performance have safely wiped away the rest.
While the middle of the lineup has dragged the offense down the most, at the bottom of the lineup Tony Batista and Juan Castro have been as bad as I feared. Batista's .267/.337/.427 line for the year is certainly above my lowly expectations, but when combined with statuesque defense at third base has made him the overall liability I expected. Meanwhile, Castro's magical ability to bloop singles into right field expired some time ago and he's now hitting a wretched .234/.258/.266.
The Twins can blame much of their struggles to score runs in April on surprisingly awful months from White, Hunter, and Morneau, but they certainly have no one to blame but themselves when it comes to Batista and Castro. Right field has also been a source of offensive futility, with Lew Ford starting the bulk of the time and hitting .214/.290/.286 while Michael Cuddyer stays glued to the bench with a .564 slugging percentage and Jason Kubel bats .303/.385/.545 at Triple-A.
One of the many things I've repeatedly opined here over the years is that if given everyday playing time for an entire season, Cuddyer is capable of hitting .275/.350/.450. Dating back to May 1 of last year--one full baseball season's worth of time--Cuddyer is batting .273/.343/.461. Yet despite that and the defensive versatility to play nearly anywhere on the diamond, Cuddyer has been given a grand total of 43 plate appearances in 24 games.
It's easy to blame the lack off offense on White, Hunter, and Morneau, but at some point the manager and general manager have to be held accountable as well. Terry Ryan chose to ignore extensive track records of sub par performances to bring in proven out-makers Batista and Castro rather than give chances to young players with actual upside or seek out more capable veteran options, and both decisions have predictably hurt the team.
Ron Gardenhire has done his part to keep the offense down by giving Batista, Castro, Ruben Sierra, and Nick Punto nearly one-fourth of the team's plate appearances while Cuddyer and Luis Rodriguez rot on the bench and Kubel and Jason Bartlett beat up on International League pitching. And in case simply handing out playing time to undeserving players isn't enough, he's further compromised the offense by drawing up faulty batting orders on a regular basis.
Given the highly flawed offseason maneuvering, the short-sighted refusal to trust the current batch of young talent, the organization's complete lack of planning, and the manager's illogical lineup preferences, the Twins are getting exactly what they asked for. A crappy offense.