Friday, March 16, 2007
It's an amusing back-and-forth, because that refusal to read the rapidly increasing writing on the wall represents one of the reasons that the newspaper industry is declining in the first place. This week's evidence--which someone in the comments section will surely inform me means absolutely nothing--is that 24 staffers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have accepted a buyout following the newspaper's recent sale.
That total represents seven percent of the newspaper's staff and includes several well-known names, among them long-time Timberwolves beat writer Steve Aschburner. Reporter Darlene Prois, who worked at the Star Tribune for 30 years, explained why she accepted the buyout offer by saying, "It's pretty uncertain here right now." I'm pretty sure Prois was referring specifically to the Star Tribune, rather than the newspaper industry as a whole, but she's right in either case.
The source was also right about Williams' replacement, Kelsie Smith, who previously covered the Red Sox at the Boston Globe. My thoughts on Williams' work are well documented, so I won't rehash them, but needless to say that I'm looking forward to a new voice reporting on the Twins. I know nothing of Smith, but everyone starts with a clean slate in my book and I'm hopeful that she'll win me over in much the same way Joe Christensen did after joining the Star Tribune last season.
I get married in less than two months, and we have the most last-minute wedding possible. ... I'm the editor-in-chief of our football magazine, which is impossibly due on the week directly after the NFL Draft. Coincidentally, that's also the week of my wedding. I also move in two weeks.I haven't said this to Gregg, because apparently I'd rather be a jerk publicly, but I think it says an awful lot about the power of women that someone who's more football-obsessed than anyone I've ever met could possibly agree to get married in the few days between the NFL draft and the due date for the football magazine he's editing. I'm sure I'd agree to something similar (or worse) if put into the same situation, but since that's in no danger of happening any time soon I can safely mock Gregg.
Here's what SI Digital president Jeff Price had to say about the partnership:
The speed and depth of SI.com content and the broadband video power of NBCSports.com is a unique combination of resources that enhances the user experience for fans on both sites. Building a strong relationship that leverages NBC Sports powerful video storytelling ability furthers our efforts to partner with the best brands in sports.Here's what NBC Sports senior vice president Perkins Miller (whom I've actually met!) had to say:
From our live pre-game programming for Notre Dame and the NHL, to our wrap-up shows for football and golf, NBCSports.com has been on the forefront of original broadband sports programming. With SI.com's world-class writing and photography, married with our Rotoworld fantasy news, NBCSports.com users will have a richer, more informative visit than ever before.Like I said, I'm not sure exactly what that all means, but it sounds interesting, I respect what SI.com has done, and I love the fact that Rotoworld is prominently involved in the plans.
There has been a lot of concern voiced outside the organization about the lack of experience for some of these young arms, but the Twins don't see any reason to hesitate using these young starters right away.OK, let me get this straight. The Twins may end up spending about $9 million on the veteran trio of Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson, who went a combined 26-36 with a 5.84 ERA last year. Despite that, Thesier is suggesting that they "don't see any reason to hesitate using these young starters right away." Really, they don't see any reason? Is there another explanation for the rotation being filled with veterans coming off horrible seasons instead of, you know, those young starters?
The kicker, of course, is that Thesier further suggests that the "concern ... about the lack of experience for some of these young arms" is coming from "outside the organization." Really, people outside the organization are the ones who're hesitant to hand things over to the young guys? I guess all those outsiders forced Terry Ryan to re-sign Silva for $4 million, hand Ortiz $3.1 million, and bring in Ponson. The Twins trust the young guys, but these silly outsiders love the veterans! I'm glad that's settled.
(I think Thesier has improved a tremendous amount since she first took over the Twins beat at MLB.com last season and given some of the things I've written about her work she was exceptionally friendly to me when we met at the Winter Meetings in December. With that said, I sometimes wonder if her articles are written in some sort of bizarro world that I just haven't discovered yet. On the other hand, she did break the news that Jason Kubel and Jeff Cirillo are likely to platoon at designated hitter.)
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Plug Day & A Possible Meet-Up
Someone going by the name "aweb" left the following comment here the other day:
What's the point of keeping the personal blog going if you aren't going to link to stuff you have on other sites? I know some have complained about that, but I hereby complain that you don't link to articles you have written for other spots enough. As long as you keep producing stuff here, I think you should be more free with links to yourself.The "point of keeping the personal blog going" is that I write thousands of words here every week that don't appear anywhere else--most of them about the Twins, non-sports topics, or my personal life--but I understand the basic point he's trying to make and have heard plenty of similar comments in the past when I haven't linked to something I've done elsewhere. Of course, when I do link to stuff I've done at other places, I get complaints about self-promotion.
For the most part, I avoid linking to my work at Rotoworld.com and NBCSports.com, because I assume that the majority of the people reading AG.com are aware that I appear on those sites--whether in writing or on video--on a regular basis. In fact, during the baseball and football seasons I essentially write for those sites every day. On the other hand, it does bother me that people who enjoy my work might not see all of it because I'm not doing a thorough enough job telling them where to find it.
So, at the risk of boring and angering many of you, here are some links to recent, non-AG.com work I've done:
If you decide to read it, keep in mind that it was written for a non-Minnesota audience that isn't nearly as obsessed with the Twins (or baseball in general) as the people who read AG.com on a regular basis, so the information is pretty basic and there's not a whole lot of analysis. I did touch on a couple things that I haven't written about here much in the past (while admittedly lapsing into a Jim Souhan-like shtick at times) and I'm especially proud of the article's conclusion, which wraps everything up nicely.
The show is hosted out of New York by the capable and charming duo of Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal, and my segments are strictly of the call-in variety, so you won't be able to catch a glimpse of my post-surgery ear. However, you can hear my never-ending quest to spread the word about Johan Santana's greatness while staring at a goofy headshot of me. Or you can just look at Tiffany (or Gregg, if that's what you're into). Either way.
I'm not 100 percent certain that I'll be able to show up, but if I am able to make it I'll a) bring my gross-looking right ear along for everyone to gawk at, and b) gladly buy a beer for any AG.com reader who stops by. Plus, watching the tournament with an obsessed George Washington alum and the Twins Geek probably beats hanging out with me anyway, free beer or not. So yeah ... hopefully I'll see a few of you there this afternoon. (If you're planning to show up, drop me a note in the comments section.)
UPDATE: The good news is that I'm dangerously close to buying a house. The bad news is that I probably won't be able to make it to Senser's today. But like I said, go hang out with Will and John anyway. Feel free to say bad things about me to them behind my back, since my ear is already bleeding anyway.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 11-20
Previous Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 21-30, 31-40, 41-50.
Below you'll find the fourth installment of my fifth annual ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, which is not to be confused with the team-specific "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series that I completed last month. I began publishing my prospect rankings back in 2003 at the Baseball Primer site that has since become Baseball Think Factory, and the 2004, 2005, and 2006 versions can all be found at The Hardball Times.
These rankings reflect my feeling about each player's long-term chances for (and degree of) success in the major leagues and are by no means authoritative, because I'm no more an expert on prospects than anyone else who follows them closely. You'll likely find that my rankings lean more heavily towards older, established prospects than many other rankings, and a further explanation of what I base the rankings on can be found in the introduction to last year's series.
20. Adam Jones | Seattle Mariners | CF | Age: 21 | Bats: RightThe 37th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Adam Jones began his pro career as a shortstop before shifting to center field last season. Though still rough around the edges, he's reportedly made great strides and has the skills to be a Gold Glover. Jones also has the potential to be an impact bat, although his numbers thus far have been merely good thanks in large part to the Mariners pushing their prospects more aggressively than other organizations, including calling an unprepared Jones up at the age of 20.
19. Troy Tulowitzki | Colorado Rockies | SS | Age: 22 | Bats: RightAfter three years as Long Beach State's starting shortstop, the Rockies grabbed Troy Tulowitzki with the No. 7 pick in the 2005 draft and moved him quickly through the system. Tulowitzki began his first full season at Double-A, hitting .291/.370/.473 in 104 games before getting the call up to Colorado in August. He struggled in 25 games there and is battling Clint Barmes for the starting job this spring, but is without question the Rockies' long-term answer at shortstop. He should be solid, but unspectacular.
18. Luke Hochevar | Kansas City Royals | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: RightAfter going 15-3 with a 2.26 ERA in his final season at Tennessee, Luke Hochevar fell to the Dodgers with the 40th pick in the 2005 draft because his signability was in question. He failed to reach an agreement and re-entered the draft last June after playing in an independent league, going No. 1 overall to the Royals. The whole thing cost Hochevar some development time, but he gained about $2 million, blew away Single-A hitters after signing, and should be in the majors by midseason anyway.
17. Brandon Wood | Los Angeles Angels | 3B | Age: 22 | Bats: RightThe recent move from shortstop to third base lessens Brandon Wood's long-term stock, but offense remains his primary asset. After busting out with a record-breaking season at high Single-A in 2005, Wood followed it up by hitting .276/.355/.552 in 118 games at Double-A last year. His huge strikeout totals are a major concern and may keep him from posting good batting averages, but slugging third basemen with mediocre on-base percentages still have plenty of value.
16. Andrew Miller | Detroit Tigers | SP | Age: 22 | Throws: LeftConsidered by many to be the top player in last June's draft coming out of North Carolina, Andrew Miller dropped to the Tigers with the No. 6 pick due to his bonus demands. He eventually received over $5 million in guaranteed money and was called up in August as part of the deal. A 6-foot-6 left-hander with a mid-90s fastball, Miller struggled to find the plate out of the Tigers' bullpen, but his long-term home is at the top of the rotation. He'll begin this year in the minors, but should see Detroit by August.
15. Evan Longoria | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | 3B | Age: 21 | Bats: RightConsidered one of the few top-notch hitters in last June's draft after batting .353/.468/.602 at Long Beach State, Evan Longoria went third overall and blitzed through the minors, hitting .315/.360/.597 in 62 games between low Single-A, high Single-A, and Double-A. Drawing just one walk while striking out 20 times at Double-A is concerning, but Longoria had a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio in college and at both levels of Single-A. He looks likely to reach Tampa Bay by midseason, probably at third base.
14. Reid Brignac | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | SS | Age: 21 | Bats: LeftA second-round pick in 2004, Reid Brignac hit .361 in rookie-ball, struggled at low Single-A in 2005, and broke out with a huge season between Single-A and Double-A last year. He won the California League MVP before hitting .300 after a late-season promotion, combining to bat .321/.376/.539 with 24 homers in 128 games as a 20-year-old. There's some question about whether he can remain at shortstop long term, but Brignac's glove has reportedly improved and his bat fits anywhere.
13. Mike Pelfrey | New York Mets | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: RightMike Pelfrey finished his amazing three-year run at Wichita State by going 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA in 2005, but high bonus demands allowed the Mets to snatch him up with No. 9 pick. Pelfrey has since shown why he was widely considered the top pitching talent available, making his big-league debut midway through his first pro season. He struggled with the Mets, but posted a 2.43 ERA and 109-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 96 minor-league innings, and should be in New York for good by midseason.
12. Andrew McCutchen | Pittsburgh Pirates | CF | Age: 20 | Bats: RightJustin Upton, Fernando Martinez, and Cameron Maybin get far more attention among 20-and-under center-field prospects, but Andrew McCutchen is one step ahead of them while offering a similar set of impressive all-around skills. Not only has McCutchen done well in the low minors--hitting .297 with 16 homers, 56 total extra-base hits, 39 steals, and 79 walks in 172 games between rookie-ball and low Single-A--he also hit .308/.379/.474 in 20 games at Double-A as a 19-year-old.
11. Billy Butler | Kansas City Royals | LF | Age: 21 | Bats: RightBased on hitting alone Billy Butler is one of the elite prospects in baseball, but his complete lack of defensive value drops him in these rankings. Originally a third baseman when the Royals made him the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Butler is currently a left fielder and will likely end up at designated hitter. A .344 hitter in 314 pro games who turns 21 years old next month, Butler combines huge power potential with good strike-zone control and has a chance to become an all-around offensive monster.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Twins Notes (Plus an Aaron Van Gogh Update)
The solution for Perkins was to develop a sinker. It's a pitch that he used in his first start of the spring on Sunday in the Twins' 8-5 win over the Blue Jays. Though Perkins had thrown the pitch during his first two appearances in relief, he said it's taken some time and work with pitching coach Rick Anderson on his grip to really get comfortable with the pitch. But after his results Sunday, he feels like progress is being made.It seems somewhat risky to start tinkering with a pitcher's fundamental approach. In Perkins' case, being an extreme fly-ball pitcher might be what's allowed him to be this good in the first place, rather than what's keeping him from being better. With that said, if Rick Anderson can get him to maintain a similar level of overall effectiveness while converting a fraction of his fly balls into ground balls, it will make a big difference long term. As with most "changes" in spring training though, I'm skeptical.
Instead, they'll have to either hope that Machado is healthy enough to begin the season on time (setting aside whether or not the Rule 5 pick is good enough to earn a spot in the first place) or acquire a middle infielder from outside the organization. There's been some talk of No. 6 prospect Alexi Casilla breaking camp on the roster, but that seems incredibly short-sighted given that he could use additional seasoning at Triple-A and would be burning valuable service time while rarely playing.
I expected the Twins' lack of position-player depth to hurt them this season, but I didn't think it would start doing so in March.
Ponson did coax some grounders, but the Dodgers drilled some of his pitches, too. Scouts behind home plate clocked his sinking fastball between 86 and 89 miles per hour. In 2003, when he won 17 games, he often hit 94 mph. After having surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in October, Ponson said he is still regaining strength. "It's my second start of the spring," he said. "I'm not going to beat myself up over it."On the other hand, Gardenhire said Ponson's outing "was pretty good" and "if he keeps throwing like that, we're going to be happy." I realize that's more or less a meaningless mid-March quote designed to keep the pressure off Ponson following his first outing of the spring, but just once I'd love to see Gardenhire give someone under the age of 25 that same type of treatment.
Span ... impressed the entire team bench with the motor he showed as he turned a double into a triple in the ninth inning of Sunday's game. Span ran so fast around the basepaths that his batting helmet flew off, and it earned some chiding from Gardenhire. "We need to get some Velcro for that helmet because it keeps falling off, he runs so fast," Gardenhire said with a chuckle. "Maybe we can put a spoiler on it, something to keep it on and keep the wind down."I'm a sucker for anecdotes like that and Gardenhire can always be counted on to supply a good quote, but for all that speed Span has never stolen as many as 25 bases in a season and has been thrown out on one-third of his career steal attempts. He's also managed just 36 doubles and 18 triples in 1,452 pro at-bats--not counting the double he apparently "turned into a triple" yesterday--which is why he's the Twins' No. 29 prospect. Oh, and my suggestion would be a chin strap.
I'm burying what is hopefully my third and final "ear update" here at the bottom of today's entry, because the majority of the people reading this site likely don't really care. Plus, even the small percentage of you who are interested enough in what's happening with my ear to read the previous two updates probably aren't overly excited about seeing an incredibly gross picture of it, post-surgery. So, consider this your warning.
Proceed at your own risk.
Seriously, stop scrolling down unless you want to be grossed out.
Really, don't do it.
Fine, just don't blame me.
See, I told you not to look.
That's what my right ear looked like, about six hours after undergoing auricular pseudocyst surgery. It was pretty gruesome for a while and probably even looked worse than the "before" shot, but thankfully the various fluids stopped leaking out of the area at some point and things have calmed down quite a bit over the past 24 hours. For as awful as that picture looks, it was probably one of the "easiest" surgeries of all time.
I was at the hospital for about five hours, which is far from a great way to spend your Friday afternoon, but the actual surgery lasted all of 25 minutes. I required zero sedation during the slicing and dicing, and was eating dinner with eight other people (and later playing poker) within two hours of the final stitch being sewn up. Actually, I would have gone from surgery table to dinner table within an hour if not for the hospital "misplacing" the bag that contained my clothes for about 45 fun-filled minutes.
Things got a little scary once the area ceased being numb later that night, but I'm proud to say that I've taken just one pain pill--so I could get some sleep Friday night--despite getting a whole bottle full of vicodin. I'm not sure if I have a high tolerance for pain or if the surgery just wasn't that big of a deal, but I was back to work last night and will be working my full schedule this week (beginning this morning), although I did skip my weekly video report on NBCSports.com to avoid freaking the viewers out.
Oddly, I apparently have little problem freaking the people who read this site out. Go figure. Sorry.