Friday, November 10, 2006
Sadly, memories of a single performance in a single movie can only go so far (although Cuthbert was so impressive in The Girl Next Door that she put that to the test). She followed that up by appearing in House of Wax, but has done absolutely nothing since then aside from resuming her role as Kim Bauer on 24. Like many professional athletes who start slacking off the moment they sign a big long-term contract, Cuthbert began declining from the moment she overtook Alba for OFGoAG.com status.
I was in denial about it for a while, giving her the benefit of the doubt, but faith and memories can only go so far when you start looking like this in the rare instances when you're seen out in public. After all, being OFGoAG.com comes along with certain responsibilities and chief among them is actually, you know, looking attractive. I'm sad to say that the time has come to choose a new Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com.
I have two candidates in mind: Keeley Hazell and Jenna Fischer. On the surface these two women are very different, but at the end of the day I believe they both possess the qualities necessary to step into the incredibly large shoes left behind by Alba and Cuthbert, who each held the title for several years. Fischer offers the rare combination of beauty, brains, humor, the ability to blog, the same employer as me, and a brother-in-law whom I'm actually friends with, while Hazell basically just looks like this.
However, this is not a decision that should be made in haste and because of that I'm willing to solicit suggestions while I think things over.
As a group of reporters huddled near Moss, waiting for Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter, Moss asked politely whether they wished to speak to him.A small note like that creates so many questions, but my biggest one is why Moss gets featured in a newspaper account of the "incident" while the supposed professional on the other end of the exchange is simply "one reporter." I suppose if my chosen business was in the midst of a long, steady decline, I'd probably want my colleagues to keep me anonymous too.
Within a 655-word column that's presumably about football, Souhan includes references to back acne, hedge funds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scarlett Johansson, Pee-Wee Herman, Jesse Ventura, colonists, Manchester United soccer, shiny trinkets, Borat, the French's inability to win wars, Kenny Rogers, the Russian timekeeper from the 1972 Olympics, wardrobe malfunctions, global warming, asbestos-aloe gel, and getting drunk in Union Square. Seriously, I didn't make any of those up.
A 655-word column is already ridiculously short--I'm fairly certain I pump out 1,200 words during an average night's sleep--but if an editor at the newspaper were to remove the corny, forced, random, overwhelmingly unfunny pop-culture references from each of Souhan's pieces the Star Tribune would be left with columns that read: "The Vikings ... lost ... Sunday." As a wise man once said, "It's a great gig if you can get it."
My coach in Baltimore used to get on me and say, "Douglas, good gracious you're stomach is big." I would say, "Coach, that's my power pack. When everybody else is running out of the game, that's what I look for. It hasn't failed me yet."My new goal, for the half-dozen of you who care, is to lose 100 pounds by the one-year anniversary of my weight-loss effort, which is January 11. To get there I need to drop about 15 pounds in nine weeks.
UPDATE: The Yankees traded Gary Sheffield to the Tigers Friday afternoon and ... well, read this.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I put my mom on a plane to Europe yesterday afternoon, which means I'll be in full-on bachelor status in an otherwise empty house for the next 10 days or so. Sadly that'll undoubtedly prove to be a whole lot less exciting than it sounds, but it'll be good practice (among other things) now that it's becoming increasingly clear that one way or another I'll be moving out on my own sooner rather than later. Of course, at this point anything probably qualifies as "later."
On a related note, I have all kinds of ridiculously exciting news to share, but as usual I'm supposed to avoid spilling the beans for longer than I'd like. The past few months have been quite a blur for me on a number of levels and there are suddenly a lot of amazing opportunities being put on my plate. I've been sharing a lot of the details with my family of late and it's been really rewarding just to see their reaction to what's going on in my life.
My mom continues to be my main confidant, my aunt never ceases being my biggest supporter all the way from Milwaukee, my grandpa was downright giddy Tuesday night when he took me out to dinner and I told him about my trip to New York, and I can sense a feeling of pride (and maybe even a tinge of jealously) from my uncle over what's become of the baseball-loving monster he helped create many years ago. Plus, my dad seems thrilled about the fact that I'll soon have business cards.
I'm not sure exactly what I expected to happen as a result of starting this blog back in 2002, although certainly it wasn't this. There was a time not so long ago that I wasn't sure what direction I was headed, because the paths I chose to start out on proved to be dead ends. Through luck, skill, hard work or perhaps some combination of all three and some other things, I ended up stumbling upon a different route that has proven to be perfect for me.
I've never been happier with my life than I am at this very moment, both in terms of where it is and where it appears to be headed, and one of the best parts about it is being able to see a sense of pride and excitement in the people close to me who've been along for the entire ride. There are plenty of ways to measure success and accomplishment in life, but few things can top seeing someone you love genuinely thrilled for you.
Whenever I write an entry like this one, I fear that it comes across as bragging, when that's far from my intention. Perhaps it's silly now that thousands of people stop by here each day, but in many ways I still view this blog as a place for me to talk about whatever it is that's on my mind and a way for me to keep people up to speed on what's happening in my life. More than anything else, an entry like today's is about me simply saying, "Wow, I can't believe how things are going."
I was watching a John Mayer concert on television last night (save the snide comments, because I'm a big fan) and he said something to the audience that struck me as incredibly sincere and poignant. After singing a song from his debut album, which was released five years ago and turned him from an unknown to a star, Mayer said: "Thank you for giving me a life in music. It's all I ever wanted and it's all I'll ever need."
My own journey basically started five years ago as well and as that first blog entry disappears further and further into the rear-view mirror I think more and more about how much the people who read this each day have meant to me. Mayer probably says a lot of things to his audience between songs without giving any of them a second thought, but what he said couldn't possibly have summed up my feelings right now any better.
Wherever my current path takes me, however many other paths I end up traveling in the future, and whatever happens from here on out, I owe an awful lot to this blog and to the people who gave me my first audience. Thank you for giving me a life in writing. It's all I ever wanted and it's all I'll ever need.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Liriano Undergoes Surgery
Francisco Liriano underwent what is being called "successful" Tommy John surgery yesterday, which basically just means doctors completed the tendon replacement and no one left a scalpel in his elbow. The Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, has more on exactly what took place in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Los Angeles Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum performed the procedure with Twins team physician Dr. John Steubs. ... "It went very well," Steubs said. "The ligament was thinned and stretched and not completely torn. It really didn't appear to be as strong as we hoped. I'm pretty confident, based on what we saw, that he will do well."Given Dr. John Steubs' description of Liriano's elbow ligament as "thinned and stretched" and not "as strong as we hoped," it's difficult to understand why it took this long--and required this many medical opinions--for surgery. In suggesting months ago that Liriano would inevitably need surgery and couldn't possibly pitch "through" the injury, one of the things I heard often in response was: "How can you say that if the doctors looking at him don't think he'll need it?"
A fair point, but as Dr. Lewis Yocum revealed a few days ago, he never actually looked at Liriano in person prior to this week. When he finally got a first-hand look at the elbow, he suggested surgery. And when surgery was finally performed, what he found was a ligament with some serious damage. There are a lot of intriguing subplots revolving around Liriano's elbow, not the least of which is the increasingly popular idea that Liriano deserves blame for the way he's handled the situation.
I find that notion absurd on several levels, yet many fans continue to talk about Liriano as if he's a lazy bum with no tolerance for pain. Meanwhile, we now know that if he'd followed the Twins' advice without speaking up on his own behalf, Liriano would be trying to pitch with an elbow ligament that was frayed, stretched, and not very strong. Given how this situation has played out and what we know now after the fact, I'd say if any party deserves blame--and it's likely no one does--it would be the Twins.
None of that is particularly important now, of course. Whatever stalling took place to delay the inevitable, whatever Liriano did to make the team think he wasn't a tough guy, and whatever direction the Twins tried to push this situation, it's now settled and the proper course of action was taken. Liriano will miss the entire 2007 season while he goes through a long and difficult rehabilitation process, and if things go according to schedule he has a very good chance to make a significant impact in 2008.
Here's what Terry Ryan had to say about Liriano's difficult comeback:
There is no rush and no urgency. If he does this right, there will be no questions about the player who is coming back because he will be his old self. ... We want to have 100 percent assurance of where he wants to go, and I want to make sure we are all on the same page. I would like for him to go to Fort Myers and be under our umbrella. ... He was like anybody who's never had something of this magnitude. He's aware of the responsibility, and he will be fine.Since the moment Liriano's elbow became an issue during the season, the Twins have been dropping not-so-subtle hints through the local media regarding Liriano's perceived lack of toughness. In fact, even within today's article describing the significant elbow surgery Liriano underwent yesterday, LEN3 writes that "Liriano will need to stick to a tough rehabilitation schedule" as if he's the only pitcher for whom that would be the case.
I found the Twins' public treatment of Liriano odd months ago and, given how things have played out since, I find it downright unfair now. They've done everything they can to push him to pitch through what turned out to be a very serious elbow injury, they publicly questioned his pain threshold at every stop along the way, and Ron Gardenhire even suggested that Liriano was mistaken when he reportedly heard a "pop" in his elbow during one of several pre-surgery comeback attempts.
Losing a player like Liriano for an entire season at the early stages of what has the potential to be a Hall of Fame career is incredibly difficult to take and the natural reaction is to assign blame. I don't think there's necessarily any blame to hand out here in terms of how or why Liriano's elbow was injured, because the Twins certainly didn't overwork him. However, within the handling of the situation once the injury took place, I think the Twins were at the very least somewhat misguided in their approach.
They doubted the severity of the injury, accused Liriano of not being tough enough to handle it, and did everything possible to have him pitch through it. At the end of the day, Liriano is a 22-year-old phenom with a left arm that suddenly isn't working right. His pain was real and his injury was significant, yet at times he was treated like a boy crying wolf. He did everything the Twins asked when it came to avoiding surgery, attempting two in-season comebacks and then trying a third early in the offseason.
Liriano wasn't lazy, he was injured. Liriano wasn't a wimp, he needed surgery. I recognize that trying to convince many Twins fans that the team was potentially wrong in the way they handled this situation is a nearly impossible task, and it's not even clear to me that they were significantly at fault. However, what is clear to me is that Liriano has gotten a bum rap over these last few months. As he begins the long process of building back the strength in his elbow, it'd be nice if that nonsense was put to rest.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Did Anything Happen While I Was Gone?
The first couple weeks following the Twins getting knocked out of the playoffs were filled with little in the way of actual news, aside from the team predictably exercising its $12 million option on Torii Hunter for 2007. Then I left the friendly confines of my bedroom by heading to New York (and Connecticut) for a few days and three discussion-worthy stories immediately emerged. It was like the Twins waited until I boarded the plane Wednesday night and then said, "He's gone, start the offseason!"
While I was doing all sorts of exciting things that perhaps I'll tell you about in great detail at some point, Hunter won his sixth straight Gold Glove Award, Carlos Silva's $4.3 million option for 2007 was picked up, and Francisco Liriano was scheduled Tommy John surgery. I've discussed all three issues here already while waiting for the offseason to get going and certainly none of the developments come as a surprise. Instead, they each sort of fall under the heading of "well, now it's official."
I've felt for months now that Liriano would eventually require surgery, although my non-medical opinion meant nothing beyond the fact that I read up on his injury and talked to some people who actually know something about it. In the end that's exactly how it played out, with the Twins putting off surgery for a while in the hopes that rest and rehabilitation could "fix" Liriano's problem (which everything I've read suggested was highly unlikely, at best).
After seemingly just delaying the inevitable to stall for a miracle (the real kind, not something involving Olympic hockey or Doug Flutie), the Twins ultimately went with Dr. Lewis Yocum's recommendation that Liriano's damaged elbow ligament needed to be replaced. Losing him for 2007 is a tough bit of news to get in early November, but it's only "news" in the sense that it wasn't 100 percent fact prior to now.
As discussed here following Liriano's second failed comeback attempt of the season, Tommy John surgery is far from a career-wrecker at this stage. In fact, there's plenty of evidence--including an excellent article in the soon-to-be-released Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007--to suggest that the surgery may help a percentage of those who have it and, at the very least, restores the vast majority of pitchers to their pre-injury effectiveness.
It is, as I've now taken to repeating in regard to Liriano, a mere speed bump on the road to greatness. One in ten major-league pitchers have undergone the surgery Liriano is undergoing today. Among those pitchers, nine in ten have come back from it with excellent results, typically within 18 months. In case you're curious, Liriano will be all of 24 years old in 18 months. The odds are in favor of him starting Game 2 of the 2008 season, after Johan Santana takes the mound on Opening Day.
Liriano's situation combined with Brad Radke's likely retirement (or similarly lengthy recovery from shoulder surgery) no doubt pushed the Twins in favor of paying Silva $4.3 million to return in 2007. It's an interesting decision to analyze, because there's no real argument for Silva deserving anywhere close to that kind of money based on his actual performance. He went 11-15 with a 5.94 ERA in 2006, giving up 246 hits in 180.1 innings, including a league-leading 38 homers.
Silva was certainly decent at times, which tends to be the case with any pitcher who's given 31 starts, but the end result was one of the worst seasons in recent memory. In fact, he posted the single worst ERA of any American League pitcher with 180-plus innings in a season since the mound was lowered in 1969:
YEAR ERAIn other words, over the span of 38 years, no AL pitcher has pitched at least 180 innings while being less effective than Silva was in 2006, which is amazing given that he did that pitching for a division-winning team. The idea that someone who sits atop the above list deserves $4.3 million the next season is absurd on the most basic level, particularly on a team where that accounts for about six percent of a mid-level payroll.
Within that ugly ERA were some similarly ugly numbers, including a steep decline in ground-ball percentage (to the point that Silva can no longer be called a "ground-ball pitcher"), the continued presence of an almost non-existent strikeout rate, and a ton of line drives and big flies. In other words, whether you think he's salvageable or not--and apparently pitching coach Rick Anderson does--Silva deserved his horrible ERA in 2006.
With that said, the Twins are in clear need of starting pitching and understandably felt that they needed to fill at least one of the rotation vacancies behind Santana with a veteran. I would argue that they'd have been better off cutting Silva loose and then using his $4 million to shop for someone better on the free-agent market, but the team apparently prefers the devil they know. Much like overpaying Hunter by a couple million bucks, giving Silva far more money than his performance warrants won't kill the Twins.
However, when taken together, the decision to pick up both options has sapped the Twins of any real ability to fill holes through free agency. Unless the payroll is significantly and unexpectedly raised, it's unlikely that a veteran third baseman or designated hitter will be brought in and it's unlikely that another veteran starting pitcher will join Santana and Silva in the rotation. Instead, Terry Ryan will hope his scrap-heap buys turn out a little better than they did in 2006 and perhaps focus on improving via trade.
Unlike the news on Liriano and Silva, Hunter taking home another Gold Glove has no real impact on the Twins. In fact, it has no real impact, period. Season-ending awards have taken on less and less significance over the past few years, at least for me, and the Gold Gloves in particular have come to mean almost nothing. There are so many examples of players winning the award despite being clearly undeserving that it's difficult to take it seriously as a legitimate honor.
Derek Jeter, who most Yankees fans would even admit is far from the best defensive shortstop in the league, has now won three straight Gold Gloves. Because he had won the Gold Glove in the previous two seasons, Rafael Palmeiro was named the best defensive first baseman in the league for a 1999 season that saw him play the position a grand total of 28 times. There are plenty of other examples, but I think you get the point.
As national writers have outlined, the managers who vote for the award tend to give it little thought, which is why a player can usually count on a long winning streak once he secures that first Gold Glove. The actual voting process is a joke, the people casting ballots don't take it seriously, and the results are often illogical. It seems obvious that being a "Gold Glover" should carry almost zero weight, yet to the average fan it continues to mean something.
All of which is a very long way of saying that Hunter winning the award in a season that saw him struggle defensively is no surprise. Twins fans will no doubt point to his winning the award as some sort of proof that Hunter didn't suffer any kind of decline in center field this season--plenty ignored it without an award to cling to, after all--but anyone who watched him out there should be able to see through that way of thinking with ease.
For much of the year Hunter was very good defensively, but for a non-trivial stretch of time he was bordering on downright bad. Whether or not that adds up to deserving a Gold Glove is perhaps up for debate, but it's not one I'll be participating in. If it's meaningful to someone, somewhere, that Jeter and Hunter have been deemed the best defensive players at their respective positions for the 2006 season, then so be it and long live the Gold Glove.
To recap: Liriano is undergoing season-ending elbow surgery today (possibly while you're reading this), the Twins have chosen to pay Silva $4.3 million after he turned in one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher in a long time, and Hunter has been given an award that purports to name him one of the league's elite defensive players for 2006. If nothing else, I guess that'll teach me to get out of bed.