I'll try to make this an especially long Link-O-Rama, because my guess is that I probably won't have the necessary energy to put something lengthy together next Friday. Consider this note a preemptive apology. The final walk-through for my new house is Thursday afternoon, I'm heading to the James Morrison concert at the 400 Bar Thursday night, and the closing for The House That Blog Built is Friday afternoon. Under normal circumstances that qualifies as about three months' worth of activity for me.
If anyone else is planning to go see Morrison Thursday night, let me know and I'll look for you. I've somehow managed to talk two cute girls into going with me, so I won't look quite as dorky as I would have standing all by myself, and I'll gladly buy a drink for any AG.com reader in attendance. If you're on the fence about going--it costs $12 and I think it's a pretty small show--here's a clip of Morrison doing an acoustic version of "This Boy" to sway you:
Here's an amusing quote from a big-league general manager talking about an immensely talented young starting pitcher:
He's trying to become a man, and we're not letting him. It's time to let him. He's stupid young. It's ridiculous. That is so forgotten because ... he's sure of himself and he's never done anything wrong. People look at him like Bob Gibson. But he was a child last year.
In theory that quote could have been from Terry Ryan talking about Matt Garza, except the Twins aren't going to "let him" do anything but beat up on Triple-A hitters to begin the season and there's slightly less than a zero-percent chance that Ryan would ever use the phrase "stupid young" in a positive way. To find out which GM actually said it, and about which young pitcher, click here.
Strange but true: A year ago today I was featured in Sports Illustrated. At the time I was quite certain that being pictured with my Boston Terrier alongside Bill Simmons was going to be the highlight of my life, but in the year since I've dropped 90 pounds, signed a multi-year contract with NBC Sports, and bought a house. Plus, I even exchanged e-mails with Simmons, using the whole SI connection to keep him interested long enough for a few back-and-forths. In other words, SI should really feature me now.
I enjoyed this great clip of Adam Sandler subbing for David Letterman earlier this week, but most of all came away from the whole thing convinced that Matzah Ball should be Letterman's permanent replacement.
Over at SI.com, friend of AG.com Alex Belthdid a very nice job interviewing the man who recently became the blogosphere's all-time leader in wins, ERA, innings, and strikeouts, Curt Schilling. Here's my favorite part:
SI.com: Do you think that Internet-based baseball analysts and writers should be available for BBWAA awards and Hall of Fame voting?
Schilling: Oh, it'll come full-circle at some point. Why wouldn't it? They already have a much larger impact than the Murray Chass' of the world would like to believe. I mean, you've got guys who are putting out what I know to be legitimately valuable statistical information and its relevance to a game in a win or a loss at Baseball Prospectus. Then you have guys that I'm not too fond of, like Murray Chass, who says, "What is VORP and who cares?" It was a stupid article. The only thing it did was show his ignorance to me in modern day baseball. Because those numbers do matter, those numbers do have value. Do they have value to me in getting a player out? No. But I would tell you that there are a lot of front offices that use those numbers for a lot of important decision making.
I occasionally get complaints about my Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com updates, but thankfully they're greatly out-numbered by comments in favor of the ongoing topic. Every once in a while I even receive a passionate e-mail supporting the OFGoAG.com cause, like this one from a reader who I've decided to spare some public embarrassment by calling simply Matt K.:
I do think you should make Jenna Fischer the OFGoAG.com. I realize it isn't meant as a deep expression of your feelings about the universe, but it would be nice to pick someone who is a decent combination of cute-and-hot, and seems to have something of a brain. (I'm not kidding myself, of course--I'm sure, as a Hollywood actress, that she's on her way to being incredibly narcissistic and self-important. Sad.)
It would be a nice way to set yourself apart from the image of "bloggers" and "statheads" as assumed by idiots like Chass and Reusse, and, indeed, picking Fischer over the usual string of untalented, quasi-pornstars and bimbos would be the "smart" move in making a choice off the beaten path not unlike someone realizing that Matt Stairs was a much better hitter than Garret Anderson in their respective primes.
I'm not sure how much of that I even agree with, but it's nice to know that my linking to pictures of good-looking women for no real reason beyond that fact that I enjoy looking at them has such a profound impact on some of you. In an effort to help you decide if she's indeed the Matt Stairs of women, here's Jenna Fischer's spread in Wired Magazine. Stairs has a career OPS+ of 118, but I suspect he's never looked quite this fetching while wearing nothing more than a bunch of post-it notes.
If Fischer is equivalent to Stairs, does that make former OFGoAG.com Elisha Cuthbert comparable to Garret Anderson? Either way, I'm really not sure what to make of this.
I had such low expectations when it came to the University of Minnesota's search for a new men's basketball coach that yesterday's hiring of Tubby Smith came as a complete shock. I laughed at the people who suggested big names like Rick Majerus or Flip Saunders could possibly be interested in the position, and would literally have believed that the Gophers hired Saul Smith before I believed they got his father.
Smith is not without faults and there aren't a whole lot of Kentucky fans who're sad to see him go, but it's a no-brainer move for the Gophers. I would love to hear exactly how this whole thing came about and what kind of sales pitch athletic director Joel Maturi gave to Smith. Even if reports about Smith stepping down from Kentucky to avoid being fired are true, it's fascinating that he'd choose a low-rung Big Ten school over any number of more appealing jobs, including a couple in the same conference.
Last but not least, I've been talking with Star Tribune blogger Howard Sinker about setting up a get-together for blog-reading Twins fans in early April, so look for details relatively soon. If we can draw a solid crowd, including what I hope will be a good showing from the plentiful Twins blogosphere, it's something we could set up somewhat regularly throughout the season.
UPDATE:LaVelle E. Neal IIIreports that Joe Mauer has a potentially serious leg injury:
Twins catcher Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left fibula. He will be treated with a bone stimulator and physical therapy and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.
Mauer came to the ballpark today complaining of soreness in the leg. An MRI was taken, which revealed the stress reaction.
A stress reaction is considered a precursor to a stress fracture. The Twins say they are optimistic that the condition was diagnosed early enough to keep it from becoming a serious long-term problem.
I'll try to post most details as they become available, but ... well, I guess it's not worth getting worked up over quite yet.
UPDATE #2: Two people with knowledge of the situation have contacted me to say that the Twins think Mauer will be able to avoid being sidelined for a significant length of time and may actually be in the Opening Day lineup. So, for now at least, disaster averted.
It's early yet, but Jason Williams' replacement at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Kelsie Smith, has been pumping out some good articles. Among them is a well-written piece that looks at the early stages of Francisco Liriano's lengthy comeback from Tommy John surgery, including how things might change once his elbow allows him to begin throwing again:
Once Liriano gets back on the mound, [pitching coach Rick] Anderson said they would work to smooth out his delivery. "We'll make some adjustments to keep him (facing) the catcher more instead of being violent and falling off (the mound)," Anderson said. "If anything is good about this, it's that he's starting over with his delivery."
Liriano said he's not going to "put away" the wicked slider ... "I'm going to throw my slider, too, you know," Liriano said, "but I'm going to throw more of my changeup, my two-seamer."
Last season, Liriano hesitated in telling manager Ron Gardenhire when his elbow was bothering him. He said he's learned now that it's more important to be honest. "I'm more open this year," Liriano said. "Last year, that was my first year, I wanted to pitch, make sure that I was going to be up the whole year with a major league team. I thought if I got hurt they might send me down to Triple-A."
Between Smith's solid start on the Twins beat and the Pioneer Press' long-overdue website redesign, it's been a good week for the Twin Cities' "other" newspaper.
The source of Alejandro Machado's ongoing shoulder problems was found to be a partially torn labrum that will sideline him well into the season and may require surgery. Machado is a Rule 5 pick, which means the Twins have to offer him back to the Nationals if they fail to keep him on the major-league roster for the entire season, but the injury allows them to stash him on the disabled list and buy some additional time to make a decision.
Between the natural amount of time needed for Machado's shoulder to heal up and the long and leisurely minor-league rehab assignment the Twins could send him on once he's reasonably healthy, the team could put off a decision for most of the year. Of course, while that makes it a little easier to keep Machado in the organization long term, it also means the Twins are without a backup middle infielder right now.
Thankfully, Ron Gardenhire appears to have softened on his initial stance about Nick Punto sticking solely to third base, indicating that he'd be willing to use Punto to back up Jason Bartlett at shortstop if necessary. Not only is that an obvious, reasonable solution, it would allow the Twins to keep Jeff Cirillo and Luis Rodriguez as the backup infielders despite the fact that neither of them can handle shortstop.
Casilla is one of those guys that if something happened to one of my infielders after the season starts, and it's for an extended period, he's the guy I'd want out there playing.
I suspect that both Gardenhire and Terry Ryan would ideally like to be able to keep Casilla at Triple-A until September, before handing him the starting job at second base next spring following Luis Castillo's departure. Assuming Bartlett and Castillo can stay relatively healthy, it's a plan that should work as long as Gardenhire is willing to take advantage of Punto's defensive versatility.
Apparently Sidney Ponson's relationship with the Baltimore media while playing for the Orioles was pretty horrible, because plenty of ugliness on both sides was documented by various newspapers when Ponson pitched against his former team last week. For instance, here's how the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly began a column about Ponson:
Different uniform and different hairstyle. Same old Sidney Ponson.
The Prodigal Right-hander was back at Fort Lauderdale Stadium yesterday, happily greeting old teammates, taking jabs at Orioles fans and stiffing the Baltimore media. It was like old times, except he now has a thick dark mullet, wears the Minnesota Twins stripes and hasn't posed for a mug shot in months.
It's interesting to note than Ponson appears to have a good relationship with Joe Christensen, who covered Ponson in Baltimore before joining the Minneapolis Star Tribune last year. More importantly, Ponson appears to have secured the final spot in the Twins' starting rotation, predictably beating outMatt Garza and Glen Perkins. In other words, as I've been fearing all offseason, the Twins will pay $9 million and give 60 percent of their starts to a trio of pitchers who combined for a 5.84 ERA last season.
Justin Morneau and the Twins have ended contract negotiations without agreeing to a long-term deal. Morneau reportedly turned down a deal that was similar to the four-year, $33 million contract that Joe Maueragreed to this offseason, but doesn't seem overly upset about it: "Oh, well. I'll just have a good year and we'll try to get something done next year." Because of Morneau's service time, he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2010 season anyway, which means a four-year deal would have simply given the Twins some cost certainty.
As part of their ongoing team-by-team season previews, I appeared on Baseball Prospectus Radio to discuss the Twins with Will Carroll. Click here to listen to what is, I think, the first over-the-phone radio interview I've ever agreed to do.
Friend of AG.com Tom Tango is running "community forecasts" to see if the "wisdom of crowds" can out-perform various projection systems when it comes to predicting how players will fare this season. He's specifically looking for some hardcore Twins fans to share their predictions, so go check it out.
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.
10. Tim Lincecum | San Francisco Giants | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2006 A- 2 2 0.00 4.0 1 0 10 1 A+ 6 6 1.95 27.2 13 3 48 12
A diminutive right-hander with a unique delivery, Tim Lincecum fell to the Giants with the No. 10 pick in last June's draft despite leading college baseball in strikeouts. He destroyed the low minors after signing, combining to whiff 58 batters in 31 innings while holding opponents to a .127 batting average, and his mid-90s fastball caused a stir this spring. He has skeptics, but others make a compelling case for Lincecum's delivery as an asset and there's no denying his potential for overpowering hitters.
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2004 RK 6 6 0.47 19.1 14 0 23 4 2005 A- 26 18 2.74 121.1 100 5 110 51 2006 A+ 13 13 2.09 77.2 54 4 103 23 AA 13 13 1.63 77.1 50 2 85 28
A second-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2004, Yovani Gallardo pitched very well in the low minors during his first two pro seasons and then put together an amazing year between Single-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2006. Making 13 starts at each level, Gallardo led the minor leagues with 188 strikeouts, posted a 1.86 ERA in 156 innings, held opponents to a .192 batting average, and used his ground-ball tendencies to serve up just six homers.
8. Matt Garza | Minnesota Twins | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2005 RK 4 4 3.66 19.2 14 3 25 6 A- 10 10 3.54 56.0 53 5 64 15 2006 A+ 8 8 1.42 44.1 27 3 53 11 AA 10 10 2.51 57.1 40 2 68 14 AAA 5 5 1.85 34.0 20 1 33 7 MLB 10 9 5.76 50.0 62 6 38 23
A 2005 first-round pick out of Fresno State who emerged as an elite prospect last year, much was made of Matt Garza's struggles with the Twins. However, Garza seemed fatigued at the end of what was his first full season and posted a solid 4.75 ERA over 47.1 innings after an ugly debut. Before that he had a 1.99 ERA and 154-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 135.2 innings blitzing through three levels, holding opponents to a .179 batting average. A No. 3 starter now and a potential ace down the road.
7. Adam Miller | Cleveland Indians | SP | Age: 22 | Throws: Right
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2004 A- 19 19 3.36 91.0 79 7 106 28 A+ 8 8 2.08 43.1 29 1 46 12 2005 A- 3 3 5.06 10.2 17 0 6 4 A+ 12 12 4.83 59.2 76 5 45 17 2006 AA 26 24 2.75 153.2 129 9 157 43
The 31st overall pick in the 2003 draft, Adam Miller put together a strong 2004 season before an elbow injury limited him to 70.1 mediocre innings in 2005. He came back strong in 2006 as a 21-year-old at Double-A, posting a 2.75 ERA and 157-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 153.2 innings. Armed with a fastball-slider combination that produces tons of ground balls, Miller held opponents to a .226 batting average and nine homers. After impressing the Indians this spring, his time at Triple-A could be brief.
6. Andy LaRoche | Los Angeles Dodgers | 3B | Age: 23 | Bats: Right
Son of former two-time All-Star pitcher Dave LaRoche and brother of current Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, Andy LaRoche first made a name for himself by hitting .305 with 30 homers between Single-A and Double-A in 2005. He followed that up by hitting .315 with 19 homers between Double-A and Triple-A while playing through a torn labrum, posting a fantastic 64-to-66 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 117 games. Considered a solid defensive third baseman, LaRoche's all-around game is without flaw.
5. Homer Bailey | Cincinnati Reds | SP | Age: 21 | Throws: Right
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2004 RK 6 3 4.38 12.1 14 0 9 3 2005 A- 28 21 4.43 103.2 89 5 125 62 2006 A+ 13 13 3.31 70.2 49 6 79 22 AA 13 13 1.59 68.0 50 1 77 28
The seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft out of a Texas high school, Homer Bailey began last season dominating hitters at high Single-A and then stepped it up a notch beyond that following a midseason promotion to Double-A. A 20-year-old facing much older competition, Bailey went 7-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 77-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 68 innings. There was talk of Bailey possibly joining the Reds in September and again this spring, but he'll begin the year in the minors to gain a little more polish.
4. Delmon Young | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | RF | Age: 21 | Bats: Right
The No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, Delmon Young hit .326 with 45 homers and 78 walks in his first 215 games while reaching Double-A as a 19-year-old, but has since seen his power and plate discipline decline. Young continued to hit well after a promotion to Triple-A in mid-2005, batting .306 over a 168-game stretch that includes a month in the majors, but managed just 17 homers and 20 walks during that span. He's still bound for stardom, but might be a different type of hitter than he initially appeared.
3. Chris Young | Arizona Diamondbacks | CF | Age: 23 | Bats: Right
The most underrated elite prospect in baseball, Chris Young is an outstanding defensive center fielder with big-time power, speed, and plate discipline. With 275 strikeouts between 2004 and 2005 his main weakness had been making consistent contact, but Young made huge strides in that department last season, striking out a total of 83 times in 472 at-bats between Triple-A and Arizona. The clear favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, Young is capable of a 20-20 season right out of the gates.
2. Philip Hughes | New York Yankees | SP | Age: 21 | Throws: Right
YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB 2005 A- 12 12 1.97 68.2 46 1 72 16 A+ 5 4 3.06 17.2 8 0 21 4 2006 A+ 5 5 1.80 30.0 19 0 30 2 AA 21 21 2.25 116.0 73 5 138 32
Taken in the first round of the 2004 draft out of a California high school, Philip Hughes has emerged as the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball thanks to electric stuff and impeccable numbers. After thoroughly dominating the low minors to begin his pro career, Hughes made the leap to Double-A as a 20-year-old, posting a 2.25 ERA, .179 opponent's batting average, and 138-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116 innings. An extreme ground-ball pitcher, Hughes is a near-perfect pitching prospect.
1. Alex Gordon | Kansas City Royals | 3B | Age: 23 | Bats: Left
YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO 2006 AA 486 .325 .427 .588 29 69 72 113
After winning the Golden Spikes Award during his final season at Nebraska, Alex Gordon went No. 2 overall in the 2005 draft behind Justin Upton. He jumped all the way to Double-A for his pro debut and filled the stat sheet by hitting .325 with 29 homers, 69 total extra-base hits, 72 walks, and 22 steals in 130 games. With Mark Teahen moving to right field, Gordon is expected to begin the season as the Royals' starting third baseman and is an obvious frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year.
I'm the type of guy who laughs at the people who get upset over talking about a no-hitter while it's going on, so I'm perfectly willing to make this announcement despite the presence of a potential jinx. Things aren't quite official just yet--there's still an inspection to conduct this afternoon and a closing to sit through--but barring a last-minute change that would make me reconsider the whole talking-during-a-no-hitter thing, I'm now the proud owner of a beautiful 2,020-square foot home.
A busy weekend filled with paperwork and negotiating kept me from producing actual written content for today, but in the absence of that I do have some nice pictures to share. In the interest of space and combating boredom I'll leave the bathrooms, dining room, utility room, and deck off the tour, but here's a room-by-room look at the place (furniture not included) ...
Living room (13 x 14):
Kitchen (9 x 18):
Family room (14 x 14):
Master bedroom (17 x 16):
Second bedroom (11 x 13):
Amusement room (23 x 12):
Patio (16 x 17):
All that and it'll only take me until May 1, 2037 to pay it off! In the meantime, if you have suggestions regarding painting, furniture, and DirecTV installation, drop me an e-mail or a note in the comments section.