Friday, February 23, 2007
There's something different about Abraham Nunez. His pleasant smile has evaporated. His twinkling eyes have hardened.I've seen prose like that about Derek Jeter, but Abraham Nunez?!
It sounds like people want better for me. And my perspective is, why do I have to be the component that's moved? Why can't organizations change? Why can't things change in the front office to bring in different people to better it?It's nice to know that Garnett views the situation almost exactly the same as I do, which is to say that he's not even close to the problem, whereas the people in charge of surrounding him with teammates are a disaster. Put in Garnett's shoes, I might look at the mediocre roster and inept decision-makers around me, and decide to get the hell out before it's too late. To his credit, Garnett sees things differently: "Man, I have hope. I'm not one of these people who just up and bail when things are tough."
You might not have Jason Williams to kick around much longer. Rumor has it that Gordon Wittenmyer is going to Chicago to cover the Cubs and that Williams might be getting a new job too. St. Paul is already advertising for one of the jobs.That's obviously not exactly earth-shattering news--even on a blog some might say is obsessed with the newspaper industry--which is why I didn't think enough of the note to re-publish it outside of the comments section. However, sure enough the aforementioned job listing showed up and now I see that Gordon Wittenmyer has indeed left the St. Paul Pioneer Press to cover the Cubs for the Chicago Sun-Times.
For now at least it looks like Jason Williams remains at the Pioneer Press, although like LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he's been forced to suffer the indignity of blogging. For LEN3 and Christensen it seems like a welcomed opportunity to interact with readers and share information that otherwise wouldn't have made it into the newspaper, but thanks to some of that off-the-record, in-private gossip I'm fairly certain Williams doesn't feel the same way.
UPDATE: Entries like this are why, in addition to being the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LEN3 is going to be an excellent blogger:
My buddy Jim Souhan has arrived and already has stirred up controversy. He was in the corner of the clubhouse, talking with Torii Hunter about MY basketball game. I've routinely admitted to being the worst basketball player--ever--from Chicago, but I haven't been on a court with Jim for about six years, and I don't know why he's bringing up my game at 8:45 a.m.That story is amusing enough that I'm willing to let him off the hook for being buddies with Shecky Souhan.
Matt Cain was throwing cheese to Barry Bonds, maybe not 95 mph, but close enough. When Cain got Bonds to swing and miss at a chest-level fastball, he flashed a big smile from the mound and threw another heater, this one belt-high. Bonds fouled it off the ceiling of the cage.Bonds was interviewed by Jim Gray at the NBA All-Star game and gave such friendly, joking answers that my mom asked, "Is that the same Bonds who everyone hates?"
UPDATE: The Big Picture also just published an interview with Dan Steinberg, who blogs for the Washington Post's website. As a "mainstream blogger" he provides an interesting perspective and, as you might expect from someone who writes a great blog, gives a lot of really good answers.
You can see what the beard looked like after three days and what it looked like after three weeks. If for some strange reason you're not into watching the hair on my face grow from week-to-week, updates on the situation were also available via my Rotoworld colleague Gregg Rosenthal's blog. Seriously. Back on February 2, when the experiment was in its infancy, Gregg wrote: "Aaron Gleeman's stubble shows up in the baseball show."
Then, after returning from a lengthy trip to Japan, Gregg reported that "Tiffany [Simons] and Aaron Gleeman's burgeoning beard held down the fort on the baseball show" while he was gone. If nothing else, the last beard to get this much play on Rotoworld was Johnny Damon's Jesus look. I'd show you what it looks like now, except I chickened out and ended the experiment the other day so I could take a clean-shaven headshot for something.
Truth be told, it was a sorry excuse for a beard. There was far too much coverage in the neck area and not nearly enough coverage in the goatee area, which made the whole operation look ridiculous. With that said, I'm proud to have at least gone from "stubble" to a "burgeoning beard" within the span of 17 days. It makes me think that, if given enough time--perhaps six months or 15 years--I could come up with a legitimate, Ron Silver-like beard that we could all be proud of.
There are about 1,000 other potential questions where those came from, even without getting into what actually took place once Jones got to the strip club (it sounds like he got Britney Spears-level crazy). When he's not reporting on my facial hair, Rosenthal's blog is a great place to find Pacman-related updates, especially given that the mainstream media seems remarkably hesitant to cover the story for whatever reason.
I'm signed on to do a weekly call-in segment for an NBCSports.com show, the first of which took place yesterday afternoon, and I'm booked to do Baseball Prospectus Radio early next week. I'd need a time machine to make good on the dozens of radio shows whose invitations I stupidly rejected over the past couple years, but hopefully as I get more comfortable doing the phone-in thing I can make up for passing on so many good opportunities. Either that or I'll finally be able to order pizzas for myself.
As long-time reader Barry Hess pointed out to me last night, one of the great things about this site is that it allows me to be what Malcolm Gladwell describes as a "connector" in his book, The Tipping Point (which, incidentally, I'm in the middle of reading right now). Without this blog, how else could I get in touch with a dozen web designers and a handful of realtors who'd like to help me, not to mention hundreds of strangers willing to offer up their ideas? The internet is a hell of a drug.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Suggestions, Advice, and Ideas
I'm busy pumping out a new column for Rotoworld and also doing some NBCSports.com-related stuff, so unfortunately I don't have a whole lot of time for blogging today. However, I'd like to use this as an opportunity to solicit suggestions on a few random topics that have been bouncing around in my head lately. Consider the following as a cross between a survey and me simply asking a bunch of strangers for advice.
I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you who bought your first home when you were young and single, because like me I assume you had almost no idea what you were getting into. Hopefully you can help me avoid any mistakes you made along the way. I also wouldn't mind hearing from people involved in the real-estate business, who can offer up some expertise beyond personal home-buying experiences. What should I expect? What should I look for? What should I avoid?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
It was a long, mostly boring offseason for the Twins and their information-starved fans, but now that pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, the mainstream media's coverage of the team will thankfully begin to rise dramatically leading up to Opening Day. For instance, not only are LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune down in Fort Myers, writing articles for the newspaper, they've hopped onto the blogging bandwagon as well.
I already talked about this development a bit Friday--back when it was my own little quasi-scoop for a few hours--but both LEN3 and Christensen have hit the ground running since then, pumping out multiple entries already. Beyond that, the Star Tribune also has Howard Sinker of Minnesota Public Radio blogging what they call "an expert fan's perspective," smartly providing three new reasons for people to check out the newspaper's website on a regular basis.
As I've suggested here many times in the past, newspapers shifting more and more of their content and resources online is a good long-term move and, in this specific case, good news for Twins fans. It gives LEN3 and Christensen a chance to share information that they likely would have kept hidden away in their notebooks last season because of space constraints, and it also gives them both an opportunity to show a lot more of their personality to readers.
Anyone who's read this site for a while knows all too well that I have all kinds of strong feelings about blogs and newspapers, not to mention blogs run by newspapers. However, more than any of that, this simply means there will be more Twins-related content for fans to devour, which is always a positive thing. Plus, LEN3, Christensen, and Sinker all got on my good side right off the bat by linking to AG.com under their respective "blogrolls" (although, truth be told, they were each on my good side already).
Sinker even went so far as to devote an entire entry to my Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007 series, saying all kinds of nice things about the series and this site (albeit while also calling me "sometimes grumpy"). Playing up to my ego has always been a sure-fire way to get on my non-grumpy side, but more importantly all three of the Star Tribune's new bloggers appear willing to be very generous with their links to non-mainstream sites.
Not that they asked, but my three main pieces of advice for the Star Tribune's threesome is to let your personality show as much as possible, make sure to pump out content on a daily basis, and don't be afraid to keep tossing around the links liberally. Too many mainstream-housed bloggers don't fully integrate themselves into the blogging community, linking only to fellow mainstream writers or not linking at all.
There are plenty of reasons for that, one of which is that a lot of mainstream writers aren't exactly thrilled with the idea of becoming bloggers (particularly after many of them trashed bloggers in the past). I'm hopeful that LEN3 and Christensen will realize that becoming a legitimate part of the Twins blogosphere is actually a good thing, even for a print journalist. Some day, they might even blog about something other than Sidney Ponson's weight.
While I try to cope with the fact that three guys who started blogging last week already have more of an audience than I've built blogging nearly every day since 2002, here are some other Twins notes ...
I'm beyond skeptical that Anderson has enough tricks in his bag to override the fact that Ortiz has simply been a horrible pitcher for quite a while, but the good news is that he does have a long and varied history of past success stories. One of the pitchers who's thrived under Anderson's tutelage is Juan Rincon, a good-but-not-great minor-league starter who's turned into a dominant setup man. Here's what Rincon had to say about working with Anderson:
When I had some issues with my mechanics, the other guy [former pitching coach Dick Such] wasn't able to tell me anything. Andy picked it up right there. He's very good. And I can tell how he's helped the other guys. The younger guys especially. If I'm tipping [my pitches] or jumping out [on my delivery], he's able to tell me right away.Of course, if Anderson is indeed so good with young pitchers, the Twins should have been willing to let him work his magic on Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey instead of Ortiz and Ponson. The article ends with Anderson saying: "If Ponson and Ortiz come in and do a good job, that means we're having a good year." If Anderson can get either of those guys to spend all season in the rotation while posting an ERA under 4.50, the Twins should double his salary.
The Twins and reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau will resume talks on a multiyear contract during spring training. Mark Pieper, Morneau's agent, spoke with the Twins over the weekend, and the Twins confirmed their interest in trying to get a deal done after offseason talks broke down.It's likely that Morneau's stock will never be any higher than it is a few months after winning the AL MVP and the Twins have him under their control for several more seasons, so there's no big rush to work something out immediately. With that said, agreeing to something similar to Mauer's deal would be a good move for both sides. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the Twins are strongly pursuing long-term deals with Joe Nathan or Michael Cuddyer, who seem like the natural odd men out.
In addition to picking up the Rotoworld 2007 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide at local bookstores or directly through Beckett via subscription, there's also an enhanced online version available through Rotoworld.com. I'd recommend buying the print version that's published by Beckett simply because the physical magazine looks great and a lot of work went into putting it all together. Plus, I'm proud of the fact that I talked everyone into putting Johan Santana on the cover.
However, the online draft guide is probably the better overall value, assuming you don't mind not being able to carry it around with you. It's sort of a souped-up version that offers all the same stuff from the magazine (sans the Santana cover), plus a bunch of additional content. Perhaps most importantly, the online version gets updated constantly, whereas the print version went to press while I was in Dallas. In other words, you should buy both, if only because I wrote about 50,000 words for the project.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007: The List
I posted the final installment of my eight-part "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series here two weeks ago, but I figured it'd also be good to have another entry where the entire list could be found, if only for future reference. So, below you'll find the complete rankings, links to all 40 player profile write-ups, and some commentary on the overall state of the Twins' minor-league system, as I see it, heading into the 2007 season:
1. Matt Garza, SP [Profile] 21. Jay Rainville, SP [Profile]The strength of the Twins' minor-league system has long been pitching, but their current crop of young arms is among the best in all of baseball. As the simple math involved would tell you, most teams would love to have one of baseball's top 25 pitching prospects, but the Twins boast at least three of them in Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey, and might have a fourth top-25 guy in Anthony Swarzak.
Philip Hughes of the Yankees and Homer Bailey of the Reds clearly stand out as baseball's truly elite pitching prospects, but once you get past those two Garza has an argument for claiming the No. 3 spot. At the very least, I think he definitely slots in the top half-dozen. Perkins and Slowey aren't quite in that class of pitching prospect, but can each safely be placed in the 15-25 range. Swarzak is more likely in the 25-40 range, which is damn good for the team's fourth-best young arm.
However, as impressive as those first four guys are, what makes the Twins' collection of pitching prospects so amazing is that they also have a ridiculous amount of depth throughout the organization. Guys like Eduardo Morlan, Oswaldo Sosa, Alexander Smit, and Jeff Manship would be one of the top 2-3 pitching prospects in most organizations, but with the Twins they almost get lost in the shuffle. Beyond that, the Twins have all kinds of what I'd call "C-level" starter prospects.
That group includes Zach Ward, Ryan Mullins, Jay Rainville, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing, and J.D. Durbin, which is pretty impressive. For a lot of teams those guys would be considered top-notch arms, but for the Twins they're just one of the masses. Add it all up and the Twins have no fewer than 15 prospects who have a legitimate chance to be big-league starters, including several major league-ready guys.
Only Garza is a good bet to become an ace-caliber starter, but there are all kinds of No. 2 and No. 3 starter candidates in the mix, and the Twins already have a pair of aces in Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. In fact, at just 23 years old Liriano can certainly be included in the young pitching discussion, although his MLB experience means he's no longer a "prospect" for ranking purposes. Along those same lines, Boof Bonser (25) and Scott Baker (25) could also be thrown into the mix.
In other words, while the Twins sign mediocre veterans like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson to avoid trusting their young pitching and fans start worrying about losing Santana to free agency in two years, the organization will be absolutely stacked with potential starters for the foreseeable future. Actually, the Twins are so loaded with starter prospects that unloading a few of them in trades seems almost inevitable.
Even assuming Carlos Silva is let go after the season and no further veterans are signed, it's going to be difficult to fit Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey into five rotation slots this time next year. Plus, even if the Twins find a way to make that work--and/or deal someone like Baker, who they appear to have soured on--where does the next wave of Manship, Sosa, and Swarzak fit into the picture?
Some of the starter prospects mentioned above with surely end up as relievers, but the Twins have plenty of intriguing bullpen arms already. Pat Neshek is technically still a prospect, but he'll resume duties as one of Joe Nathan's setup men this season. Yohan Pino, Jay Sawatski, and Jose Mijares will also be knocking on the door for a bullpen spot relatively soon, and Durbin might have to stick as a reliever coming out of spring training if the Twins want to avoid losing him on waivers.
Through shrewd drafting, trades, and development, the Twins have assembled an embarrassment of young pitching riches. Pitching prospects tend to weed themselves out with injuries and stagnation, which means you can never have too much young pitching, but the Twins appear capable of putting that theory to the test over the next few years. It'll be vital for Terry Ryan and company to determine which ones are truly keepers and then deal the other guys for some value before they die on the vine.
Of course, the flip side to having an insane amount of quality young pitching is that the Twins are lacking in top-notch position-player prospects. At this point Chris Parmelee is system's best bet for a middle-of-the-order offensive force, and he's a year out of high school and has barely stepped past rookie-ball. The Twins have zero of baseball's top-25 hitting prospects, and only Parmelee and Alexi Casilla have a good argument for being included in the top 50.
With that said, the Twins' lack of top-notch hitting prospects is somewhat misleading, because they've graduated elite prospects Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel to the majors during the past three years. Much like with Liriano, Bonser, and Baker on the pitching side, Mauer (24), Morneau (26), Kubel (25), and Jason Bartlett (27) are young and/or inexperienced enough be included in the young hitting picture.
On the other hand, even including Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Bartlett along with the prospects leaves the Twins with big holes on the long-term depth chart. There's no clear replacement for Torii Hunter in center field, where none of Denard Span, Trent Oeltjen, and Brandon Roberts currently look capable of stepping in for the pending free agent. At this point it looks like Hunter's replacement will have to come from outside the organization, which is where trading some of that pitching could come into play.
There's a similar lack of quality options in the outfield corners and at designated hitter, because the Twins simply don't have any impact bats close to the majors. The hope is obviously that Kubel and Michael Cuddyer will take care of two-thirds of those spots for the rest of the decade, but the third place for a big bat remains wide open. Even in terms of long-term bench depth behind Kubel and Cuddyer, losing Alex Romero on waivers earlier this offseason leaves the cupboard bare.
Bartlett is finally entrenched at shortstop and Casilla should be more or less ready to replace Luis Castillo at second base in 2008, but beyond those two the organization's long-standing lack of middle-infield depth remains. Even more extreme is the complete absence of quality catching prospects throughout the system, although that won't be an issue until at least 2011 and hopefully will throw further water on the misguided notion of Mauer moving out from behind the plate.
The Twins have a solid collection of intriguing prospects at third base, but with no clear long-term solution stepping forward they'll try to hold down the fort with Nick Punto and Jeff Cirillo until someone emerges from the group of David Winfree, Whit Robbins, Matt Moses, Garrett Olson, and Danny Valencia. There's plenty of talent there, but several of the guys still have a long way to travel up the organization ladder and questions about defense apply to all but Olson.
Taken as a whole the Twins' farm system is among baseball's best, which is impressive given the number of impact players they've graduated to the majors recently. However, what they really have is one of the 2-3 best collections of young arms, several of which are MLB-ready, and a sub par group of young bats, almost none of which are MLB-ready. That's not such a concern with Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, and Bartlett around, but it may be necessary for them to balance the scales a bit.