Friday, March 02, 2007
Gilbert Arenas, naked, pulled a bottle of water out of the beverage cooler in the visitors' locker room afterward and rinsed soap suds off him. He said it was warmer than the water flowing in the showers.Then, there's the sad version:
A Cloquet, Minn., teenager told police that he found it so funny when he dumped a pitcher of ice water on a 90-year-old nursing home resident in June that he returned and did it twice more, in December and again last month.
However, that name was met with an awful lot of backlash, so the stat was eventually renamed "Gross Production Average," which has the benefit of removing my name from the equation. The stat became a staple over at The Hardball Times and continues to be used there today, even after I stepped down as the site's co-creator. I bring all of this up because, much to my amazement, GPA was featured relatively prominently in a recent New York Times article by Alan Schwarz:
The Hardball Times, a statistics-oriented think tank out of the Baseball Prospectus mold, recently identified the same factor of 1.8 and started weighting O.P.S. accordingly. Better yet, one last simple step--dividing by four--put this new measure (called Gross Production Average) on the comfortably familiar scale of batting average, with figures generally ranging from .200 (horrible) to .265 (roughly average) to around .360 (superior). It's a language that most fans speak.Removing my name from GPA was one of the better decisions I've ever made, because it stopped people from automatically criticizing the stat before even giving it a chance to be of use. At the time I did it mostly because I was sick of all the negative feedback centered solely around what the "G" stood for, but looking back it's an important Tipping Point-type lesson on how seemingly minor changes can have a big effect on the widespread acceptance of something. The less Gleeman, the better.
I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.Upon reading that rant my initial reaction was to respond to it with the kind of line-by-line criticism that sites like this one are somewhat famous for, but I decided against it. Chass has covered baseball for 45 years, including nearly two decades as the Times' Yankees beat reporter, and was the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner in 2003. I don't know much of his writing, but he's beyond well-respected in the baseball community and probably deserves a mulligan because of that. With that said ... yeesh.
Apparently the Twins run a tight ship when it comes to blabbing to a lowly bloggers, but the same can't be said for the surprising number of newspaper, radio, and television employees who read AG.com. I bring this up because after relaying an anonymous tip I received about Jason Williams leaving the St. Paul Pioneer Press, I got confirmation of that story and a slew of (mostly unrelated) gossip. Sadly, most of it probably qualifies as only marginally interesting. Of course, I'm easily amused, so keep it coming.
As a journalism-school teacher once told me, "Being a reporter is tough, but getting people to tell you stuff isn't. People love to talk."
Not surprisingly the raw numbers went down a bit after October--although not nearly as much as I expected--but more importantly the traffic remained significantly higher than it was during the same point last winter. For instance, AG.com's traffic this January was up 22 percent from January of 2006. February was up 27 percent. During the span from the Twins' elimination from the playoffs to their first spring-training game, the site amazingly racked up nearly 400,000 visitors.
To put that number in some context, consider that it took nearly 20 months for this site to reach 400,000 totals visitors after it launched it 2002. As spring training ramps up and Opening Day approaches, I just wanted to once again take an opportunity thank everyone who stops by here regularly, whether the Twins are playing or not. The amount of snow in Minnesota is pretty ridiculous right now and down in Florida Carlos Silva's sinker is still not sinking, but I'm looking forward to another season of blogging.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Jason Williams is done at the Pioneer Press about March 10. He's taking some sort of editing job at MLB.com and going to graduate school. No word on who's getting the beat, but it appears as if Kelsie Smith (fiancee of Chris Snow) is going to get one of the two openings. She's young, but did a bunch of Red Sox coverage the past couple of summers for the Boston Globe as an intern.You may recognize Chris Snow as the Boston Globe reporter who the Wild hired as their director of hockey operations last year, although I admittedly had to use Google to double-check that information because of my complete lack of hockey knowledge. I also know nothing of his alleged fiancee, Kelsie Smith, but I'll take my chances that she'll be an improvement over Jason Williams, who for various reasons has become a bit of a whipping boy here over the past year or so.
I read the Pioneer Press each morning back when I lived in St. Paul and didn't read everything off a computer screen, but now I get about 95 percent of my local newspaper coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In that sense replacing both baseball writers in the span of about two months probably can't hurt too much--regardless of whether or not you agree with me that the coverage hasn't been all that good--and bringing someone in from a major newspaper like the Boston Globe is a positive step.
If the Pioneer Press is interested in filling the apparent vacancy in an unconventional way, I could give them some names. If nothing else, the arrival of Smith would bring some much-needed new life to the local newspaper scene and might serve to keep the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, on his toes a little bit. Between the prestigious OTBWoAG.com title, his newfound presence in the blogosphere, and a couple hits in the Twins' media softball game, LEN3 might be getting cocky.
There is no question that if we had not brought up Matt Garza last year, with all of the things that he accomplished in the minors last year, he's a guy everybody would be salivating over.Souhan fails to provide much context for that--shocking, I know--but the implication seems to be that Ryan feels Matt Garza's stock dropped because of his 50 innings in Minnesota. If that's the case, it would certainly help explain why the Twins misguidedly felt the need to go out and get both Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson this winter. It would also be a shame, because while Garza was certainly less than outstanding after being called up, he more than held his own after a rough first outing.
Castillo learned it was his turn for a physical and wasn't thrilled to learn it meant a rubber-gloved rectal exam. "I think Luis will be fine, but he had a rough day today," [manager Ron] Gardenhire said. "Not normally what we like to see. He was scared to death he was going to get the finger, and I think it totally flabbergasted him."The potential for jokes here is so plentiful that I'm going to be an anti-Souhan and just leave it alone.
Even when the three-year deal runs out following the 2009 season, the Twins will still have Crain under their control for one more year, his final arbitration-eligible season. In other words, he's still their property through 2010, just like he was before the three-year deal. All this does is give the team some cost certainty and give Crain some insurance in case he suffers a major injury. With that said, it's likely that a healthy Crain would have earned more than $3.25 million over the next three seasons.
There are many good things that have occurred because of my move to right field. The obvious and best reason, I guess, is that it has given me the opportunity to play every day at one position without the fear of having to remember to bring my other three gloves (a first baseman's mitt, a third base glove, and a second base glove) down to the field for the game. Because I grew up in the infield and played so long professionally there, I sometimes miss the action that comes with being in the infield. But with the way things have worked out, the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives by a long shot.If he weren't quite so diplomatic, Cuddyer likely could have phrased that answer a little differently. For instance: "The obvious and best reason, I guess, is that it stopped the Twins from jerking me around from position to position, and from the lineup to the bench. I'd rather still be in the infield, but at least this way I get consistent at-bats." Of course, maybe having a bunch of different gloves really was the main issue, in which case I'll just shut up now.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Sir Sidney, Overkill, and the Rotation
Joe Christensen took a break from blogging long enough to pen a nice feature-length article about Sidney Ponson for Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. The piece includes plenty of quotes and details about Ponson's difficult upbringing, checkered past, and star status in Aruba, plus some reason for optimism regarding his chances of turning a once-promising career around. Christensen covered Ponson when they were both in Baltimore years ago, and their familiarity helps shape the article:
Since 2003, when Ponson won 17 games in a season split between Baltimore and San Francisco, he's been released by three teams. He's been through alcohol rehab and anger management. He's had his transgressions, such as punching a judge on an Aruban beach, played out all over the media.In talking about the Twins' offseason I've tended to lump Ponson in with Ramon Ortiz as veteran free-agent signings coming off horrible seasons, but that's not entirely fair or accurate. I actually liked the decision to give Ponson a minor-league contract, because there's almost zero risk involved and he has the potential to be a passable back-of-the-rotation starter for about a million dollars. Ortiz has similar potential--at least to some extent--but he's guaranteed $3.1 million and a spot on the roster.
Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire clearly want to avoid turning over three-fifths of the starting rotation to rookies and second-year players, which is certainly understandable. Taking a low-cost flier on Ponson is a smart way to avoid doing that, but taking a low-cost flier on Ponson and giving Ortiz $3.1 million guaranteed just makes it look like the organization once again simply doesn't trust the outstanding young talent it has on hand.
I would have loved to see Ponson signed to a minor-league deal and thrown into a competition with Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey for the final two spots in the rotation behind Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, and Carlos Silva. Instead, Ortiz has already claimed one of those two spots and Ponson is competing with a handful of young pitchers for just one job, with the early reports suggesting that he already has a definite leg up on the rest of the field:
Even though the Twins signed Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract, they expect him to win a job in the starting rotation, manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday.True to his self-destructive form, Ponson is putting that to the test with visa problems, which apparently will keep him from pitching in an official exhibition game until mid-March. Both Ryan and Gardenhire have expressed disappointment and frustration over Ponson's inability to get his situation straightened away, which could certainly impact his chances of securing a job. However, he's still able to throw on the side and work out with the team, so barring further problems it shouldn't be a huge issue.
If Ponson ends up making the team, the Twins will have spent about $9 million and 13 percent of their payroll on three pitchers (Silva, Ortiz, Ponson) who failed to post a single sub-5.00 ERA between them last season and combined to go 26-36 with a 5.84 ERA in 456 innings. Meanwhile, it's possible that the rotation at Triple-A Rochester will include Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey, which has a good chance of being a better foursome that the non-Santana starters the Twins leave spring training with.
I recognize that almost all major-league teams, and particularly the ultra-conservative Twins, are much less willing to simply hand jobs to young players than I would be. Because of that, I understand the motivation behind re-signing Silva for $4.3 million despite his coming off a brutal season or scooping Ponson up off the scrap heap on a low-risk move. What I don't understand--and what I ultimately have a problem with--is the decision to do both of those things, and hand Ortiz $3.1 million.
It's one thing to give the team some extra options and take a little pressure off some young players. It's an entirely different story to seemingly go out of your way to push those young players aside by collecting--and devoting a big chunk of the payroll to--mediocre veterans who, at best, might be able to avoid being complete disasters long enough to keep those young arms at Triple-A until they're too ripe to avoid picking any longer.
Last year the Twins began the season with the predictably execrable combination of Tony Batista and Juan Castro manning the left side of the infield, got off to an ugly 25-33 start as they combined to hit .234/.283/.350 with bad defense, and then ditched the veteran mediocrity in favor of younger talent on the way to a playoff run. Despite that experience, they seem content to do the same thing this year, with Ortiz and Ponson playing the roles of Batista and Castro.
The bottom three-fifths of the rotation may not be quite as disastrous as the left side of the infield was and perhaps the Twins can once again win despite the self-imposed handicap, but for once I'd like to see Ryan and Gardenhire simply put the best team on the field. Don't worry about how old everyone is. Don't get caught up in thinking that being a veteran who doesn't play particularly well means you provide leadership. And don't base decisions on how loudly Jason Bartlett calls for a pop up.
Trust the talent you have regardless of when it was born, spend what little money you have available to fill legitimate holes on the roster instead of buying expensive, mediocre insurance for spots you don't need it at, and go to war with the best possible group in place. If the AL Central is as tough as I expect it to be this year--with perhaps four of the 10 best teams in baseball--the Twins will need every win they can get from Opening Day to Game 162 in order to make it back to the playoffs.
Opening the season with Silva, Ortiz, and Ponson in Minnesota and Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey in Rochester might be a lot of things--and might not prove to be a season-killing mistake--but putting the best team on the field isn't one of them.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Aaron Van Gogh (Part 2)
Note: For the second day in a row, I'm posting a completely pointless and self-absorbed entry. Sorry, but such is life when you read a site where the day-to-day content is essentially determined by whatever's running through my head at any given time. If pointless and self-absorbed isn't your thing, feel free to skip it and come back tomorrow, when I'll pump out a couple thousand words about the Twins. I promise.
Yesterday in this space I described (and showed a gross picture of) a problem I've been having with my right ear. Yesterday afternoon I visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who diagnosed me with something called an auricular pseudocyst. According to WebMD.com, "the condition is uncommon" and "may be misdiagnosed or underreported by clinicians," although the doctor I saw certainly seemed sure that he knew exactly what it was.
A few more tidbits from WebMD:
Mortality/Morbidity: Without treatment, permanent deformity of the auricle may occur.Exciting, huh? Basically, there's fluid built up in my ear between two layers of cartilage. This has caused swelling and some deformity, as the cartilage gets bent out of shape, which you can see in the picture from yesterday. What makes it different than a normal cyst--and why it's instead called a pseudocyst--is that simply draining the fluid serves no real purpose. If you do that, the fluid will apparently just re-fill the same space eventually, and the problem will start all over again.
WebMD informs me that "no medical treatment is uniformly effective" and offers a half-dozen types of "surgical care" options. My doctor plans to drain the fluid and then eliminate the "pocket" where the fluid forms by removing cartilage and rebuilding the ear around what's left. In other words, I need surgery. The doctor seemed relatively confident that things would go smoothly, but did scare me a bit when he said, "One risk is that, with less cartilage in place, the ear could collapse on itself." Seriously.
A few weeks ago I had a sore ear and now I'm looking at surgery, which is a shock to my system after not visiting a single doctor for anything in at least five years. Now I'll be visiting a doctor for one reason or another at least five times over a six-week span, culminating with someone slicing my ear open and rearranging things in there. The lesson, as always, is that if you stop ignoring a problem and decide to actually get it checked out, it's possible that they might find something wrong with you.
In happier news, bad ear or not I taped a pair of video segments for NBCSports.com that are running this week. One is a stand-alone piece on the Twins' starting rotation and the other is my call-in to the weekly "Fantasy Fix" show hosted by Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal. I'm a little sad that a chunk of my Twins report was edited out, because it takes some of the context away, but more importantly I'm pleased to say that I was featured alongside Shana Hiatt on the NBCSports.com "media center":
If you're interested in watching the aforementioned videos, click here for my solo segment about the Twins and click here for the "Fantasy Fix" show where I call in to chat with Rosenthal about how Adam Wainwright and Jonathan Papelbon figure to handle moving from the bullpen back to the rotation this season. Oh, and since I probably need to redeem myself after forcing that gross picture of my ear on everyone, click here to see why they call Hiatt "The Goddess of Poker."
Monday, February 26, 2007
Aaron Van Gogh
Important note: Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune devoted an entire 1,483-word column in Sunday's newspaper to essentially saying he doesn't like blogs. It's an odd column full of misguided logic, old-fogey stances, and straw-man arguments, but after reading the following completely pointless and self-absorbed entry you might start to think he has a point. You've been warned.
A few weeks ago I was watching Inside the UFC on Spike TV when I saw a segment on cauliflower ear, which a lot of wrestlers and mixed martial arts fighters get as a result of frequent ear trauma. A couple days after watching the show, the upper part of my right ear started getting sore, which I figured was some sort of weird psychosomatic effect of watching the segment. I thought nothing of it until, after a few more days, my ear started looking noticeably swollen in addition to still being sore.
The ear continued to hurt and throb, and it was getting so swollen and deformed that the outer rim started to actually turn inside out a little bit. I haven't been to a doctor about anything in several years and generally go with the "ignore it and it'll go away eventually" theory of health care, so I continued to pretend that nothing was wrong for another week or so. Then one day last week I looked in the mirror and saw this beauty staring back at me:
That's really blurry, because I'm even worse at photography than I am at keeping myself healthy, but suffice it to say that an ear is not supposed to look like that. In fact, it appears to look almost exactly like the cauliflower ears I saw on Inside the UFC. Of course, since I'm not a wrestler or an MMA fighter and I don't think you can get ear trauma just by watching something about it on television, I was pretty confused about what was going on.
Despite all of that, I still wasn't going to get it checked out until, after showing it to my mom for the first time Tuesday night, she said something like, "You have to go to a doctor immediately!" Since it wasn't really an emergency, I decided that going to an urgent care clinic Wednesday would be fine. After filling out a bunch of paperwork and waiting for about 20 minutes, a nurse called my name and brought me into an examination room.
She asked what the problem was, looked at my ear for about a second, jotted down a few notes, and then proceeded to take my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. After scribbling a few more things on my chart, she informed me that "the doctor" would be in to examine me in a few minutes. Sure enough, he arrived a couple minutes later, sat down, glanced over the chart, looked at my ear, and began the following exchange with me:
DOCTOR: Are you a wrestler?With that, he half-heartedly asked if I had "any questions?" as he walked toward the door, and my examination was finished in less than two minutes. I had essentially gone to a doctor so that he could say "I dunno" and then tell me to go visit a different doctor. The urgent care clinic said they would make the otolaryngology appointment for me and call me back with the details the next morning. They didn't, of course. In fact, they didn't call me back until two days later.
The nice woman on the phone told me that an appointment had been made for the afternoon of March 5, to which I responded, "March 5, as in two weeks from now?" She said yes, that was correct, and then we hung up. About 45 seconds later, the phone rang again and the same nice woman said, "The doctor says you definitely can't wait that long. Can you go today instead?" I was working, so I said no, but that I could come in over the weekend. "Weekends are no good," she said. "How about Monday?"
Since I had just gone from a March 5 appointment to a doctor suggesting that I should be seen immediately within the span of a minute, I figured Monday would have to work. So, that's what I'll be doing this afternoon, perhaps while you're reading this very entry and being grossed out by that picture of my ear. My hope is that no additional damage was done by me not getting it checked out for two weeks and the urgent care clinic not bothering to call me back for two days.
Actually, the experience with the urgent care clinic got even more amusing yesterday afternoon, when they called "to check on how I was doing." Here's the exchange I had with some guy named John:
JOHN: I'm just calling to make sure you're happy with the service you received from us.As you might expect, I have a few questions stemming from the call. First and foremost, are all urgent care clinics this clueless? The doctor there finished examining me in literally two minutes and had absolutely zero information to give me about my condition, they failed to book me an appointment with another doctor for 48 hours, initially booked me one two weeks away, called back 45 seconds later to change it, and called back to "check on how I was doing" before the actual appointment took place.
Beyond that, they seemed to have no clue what service they had provided (or failed to provide) while I was there. I'm genuinely curious what would have happened if the doctor hadn't been standing there when the initial phone call was made to me Friday. Would I have simply waited until March 5 to roll around? And if so, would I still have gotten that same call yesterday, wondering if the issue was "resolved" and I was "happy with the service"?
I'm hopeful that the ENT doctor isn't as disorganized and useless as the urgent care clinic. Actually, for him to be equally as clueless, he'd probably have to incorrectly decide that my ear needed to be amputated, schedule me for an appointment in August of 2012, re-schedule me for an appointment Wednesday, and then slice off the wrong ear. Luckily, blogging doesn't require the use of ears, so I'll have something to fall back on when the cauliflower-amputee look ruins my modeling career.