Perhaps some day in the future, when it's time to quit blogging, I'll simply copy Jenna Jameson's recent retirement speech and inform my readers that "I will never, ever, ever spread my legs again in this industry. Ever!"
Apparently life sometimes imitatesJohn Pinette's comedy bits, although 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds isn't what I'd normally associate with "banned from a buffet for eating too much." Here's my favorite part of the story:
"She says, 'Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much,'" Labit said.
Labit and Borrelli said they felt discriminated against because of their size. "I was stunned, that somebody would say something like that. I ain't that fat, I only weigh 277," Borrelli said, adding that a waitress told him he looked like he a had a "baby in the belly."
I'm guessing that she didn't get the full 15 percent.
Not only has LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune long been the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, he's been named "Rumor Royalty" by Tim Dierkesover at MLB Trade Rumors.
LEN3's partner in reporting over at the Star Tribune, Joe Christensen, recently wrote a good article about the Twins' history of trading star players for prospects. Christensen correctly points out that many veteran-for-prospect trades have turned out well for the Twins despite being ripped initially by fans and media members who were simply unfamiliar with the young players involved. With that said, the article contained one assertion that seemed like a stretch:
In 2003, some thought the Twins were fleeced when they sent A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano.
That day, Giants GM Brian Sabean said, "It's not often that you can send a reliever and two unproven prospects for a front-line, lefthanded-hitting All-Star catcher."
Yeah, silly Twins.
While it's technically true that "some" thought the Twins were fleeced in the sense that "some" could very well just mean Brian Sabean and A.J. Pierzynski's grandmother, my recollection is that the typical reaction to the deal was pretty favorable at the time. I'm not sure what the local newspapers printed on the deal, but on November 17, 2003 my analysis was that "trading Pierzynski now seems like a very reasonable thing to do" because "his value has probably never been higher."
My conclusion: "Ultimately I don't think there's really any way for the Pierzynski trade to be viewed as a bad one." And that came despite my dramatically underrating the potential of Francisco Liriano ("a shot at becoming a dominant left-handed reliever") and also selling Joe Nathan's upside a little bit short. Pierzynski was a fan favorite and a good player, but the Twins had Joe Mauer ready to replace him and needed bullpen help with both LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado set to leave as free agents.
In a quote that has to be true because it's too over the top to be effective parody, long-time Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessywrote the following about Jim Rice's Hall of Fame candidacy:
Memo to 30-year-old stat geeks combing through Jim Rice's numbers: Get out of the house and look at the sky one time. I know personal contact frightens you, but let go of OPS for a moment and try talking to someone who saw Rice play, or better yet, played against him.
The man who many Bostonians mockingly refer to as "Curly Haired Boyfriend" is apparently under the impression that "30-year-old stat geeks" have some sort of say in who becomes a Hall of Famer, but in reality that couldn't be further from the truth. Only Shaughnessy's fellow newspaper writers--the guys who presumably "saw Rice play" when they "get out of the house and look at the sky"--have Hall of Fame ballots and they've failed to give Rice enough votes for 14 straight years.
Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine senior editor Jayne Haugen Olson recently appeared on the Cities 97 morning show (scroll down a bit) to discuss the magazine's recent article on local websites that prominently featured AG.com and my ugly mug. I'm certainly not against self-promotion, but it's also nice when someone else does it for you (plus, Cities 97 is one of the few local radio stations that I can stand listening to).
The first installment of my annual series on the Twins' top 40 prospects kicked off yesterday with a familiar, disappointing name in the No. 40 spot.
If you missed it on Monday, there's still time to submit questions for me to answer next week in this space. For details, click here.
Otis Redding was my pick for this week's AG.com-approved music video, but it was tough deciding between a black-and-white version of "My Girl" or a live version of "Shake." On one hand, "My Girl" is a classic song and Redding covered it well in the version that I stumbled across. On the other hand, "Shake" includes Redding encouraging everyone to "shake it like a bowl of soup," which is one of my all-time favorite lyrics. I'm pretty sure that no one will mind, so I'll just pick both. First up, here's "My Girl":
Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36
40. Denard Span | Center Field | DOB: 2/84 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2002-1
YEAR LV PA AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO 2005 A+ 212 .339 .410 .403 1 7 22 25 AA 304 .285 .355 .345 0 11 22 41 2006 AA 597 .285 .340 .349 2 24 40 78 2007 AAA 548 .267 .323 .355 3 30 40 90
Pegged as the eventual replacement for Torii Hunter from the moment that the Twins took him in the first round of the 2002 draft, Denard Span is still nowhere near being ready to step into the center-field vacancy created by Hunter's departure and probably never will be. Aside from a strong half-season at high Single-A three years ago there's little in Span's minor-league resume to suggest future big-league success and he now sports a .283/.348/.348 hitting line in 2,184 career plate appearances.
Span has long been billed as a leadoff-hitting speedster, but struck out 90 times in just 487 at-bats last season despite having zero power and has yet to get on base at a good clip or convert his raw speed into actual value. He's drawn a walk in just 8.3 percent of his career trips to the plate, which works out to 40-50 walks over the course of a full season, and has been gunned down on one-third of his steal attempts despite never swiping more than 25 bases in a season.
Span narrowly clings to a spot on this list because at 24 years old he's still young enough to develop further and did put together a strong second half at Triple-A last season, hitting .306/.371/.393 with improved strike-zone control. At this point only the most out of touch fans still consider Span a big part of the Twins' long-term plans, but the team will be slow to give up on a former first-round pick and even modest improvements could make him an option as a reserve outfielder.
39. Brandon Roberts | Center Field | DOB: 11/84 | Bats: Left | Trade: Reds
YEAR LV PA AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO 2005 RK 311 .318 .386 .438 4 19 24 44 2006 A+ 586 .293 .349 .355 4 23 36 82 2007 AA 420 .293 .355 .374 3 20 32 56
Originally taken by the Reds in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, Brandon Roberts hit .318/.386/.438 with 32 steals in 68 games at rookie-ball after signing, got off to a slow start after being pushed up to high Single-A in his first full season, and was traded to the Twins for Juan Castro in July of 2006. Simply getting rid of Castro made the trade a good one, but Roberts has provided an added bonus by becoming a decent mid-level prospect who might have a big-league future.
Combined between the slow start as property of the Reds and a strong finish after being dealt to the Twins, Roberts batted .293/.349/.355 with 50 steals in 131 total games at high Single-A in 2006. He continued to look like a reasonable facsimile of Jason Tyner last season, moving up to Double-A as a 22-year-old and batting .293/.355/.373 with three homers, 20 total extra-base hits, and a 56-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 110 games, although he surprisingly went just 14-of-21 swiping bases.
Roberts only has power when compared to Tyner or Span and suffers from the same lack of plate discipline, so he's never going to be anyone's idea of a quality starter. However, Roberts is considered a strong defender in center field and should be able to post solid batting averages thanks to a good contact rate and top-notch speed. While a poor man's Tyner doesn't sound appealing, the organization lacks MLB-ready center fielders and like Span he could become a useful bench player.
38. Steven Tolleson | Shortstop | DOB: 11/83 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2005-5
The son of former big leaguer Wayne Tolleson, Steven Tolleson played three years at the University of South Carolina and was taken by the Twins in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. He signed quickly and batted .321/.457/.571 in 16 games at rookie-ball, but then hit just .176 after moving up to low Single-A to end his debut season. Tolleson went back to Beloit to begin 2006 and batted .287/.390/.392 in 42 games to earn a midseason promotion to high Single-A.
He held his own in 49 games at Fort Myers, hitting .268/.353/.408 for a .277/.369/.396 overall hitting line in his first full season. Despite that solid showing and the fact that he was already 23 years old, the Twins sent Tolleson back to high Single-A and kept him there for the entire 2007 season. He batted .285/.388/.382 with 27 steals in 132 games while leading the entire organization with 79 walks, giving Tolleson a .273/.377/.387 hitting line with a 182-to-156 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 277 career games.
Tolleson has just 16 homers and a measly .114 Isolated Power in 1,168 career plate appearances, but has played all over the infield defensively and could have a future as a solid utility man if the Twins actually give him a chance to move up the organizational ladder. If he can maintain the combination of sound middle-infield defense and excellent plate discipline while making the jump up to Double-A this season, Tolleson could force his way into the Twins' plans.
YEAR LV PA AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO 2006 AA 282 .211 .276 .311 3 18 19 56 2007 AAA 411 .311 .366 .399 2 28 30 44
When the Twins selected Jose Morales out of Puerto Rico in the third round of the 2001 draft, he was an 18-year-old middle infielder. While spending his first two seasons in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, he hit .284/.315/.356 with zero homers and a 54-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 games. In 2003 the Twins made Morales a catcher and he spent the next two years hitting .287/.330/.390 with six homers, 38 total extra-base hits, and a 115-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 151 games at Single-A.
Morales moved up to Double-A in 2005, but knee and back injuries limited him to seven games. He returned to New Britain in 2006 and hit just .209/.273/.306 in 82 games, but bounced back last season by having the best year of his career at Rochester. Morales hit .311/.366/.399 with two homers, 28 total extra-base hits, and a 44-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108 games to earn a September call-up, going 3-for-3 in his big-league debut before suffering a gruesome-looking ankle injury running the bases.
The injury isn't a long-term concern, but Morales is 25 years old, was likely playing over his head a bit in 2007, and has zero power. With that said, he's a switch-hitting, high-contact catcher with solid defensive skills and has shown some semblance of plate discipline recently after hacking at anything early in his career. He figures to take over for Chris Heintz as the Twins' catcher-in-waiting should anything happen to Joe Mauer or Mike Redmond, and could emerge as Mauer's long-term backup.
36. Matt Tolbert | Second Base | DOB: 5/82 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2004-16
A four-year starter at the University of Mississippi, the Twins selected Matt Tolbert in the 16th round of the 2004 draft despite a modest .288/.365/.394 career hitting line. He signed quickly and made his pro debut at rookie-level Elizabethton, batting .308/.376/.500 in 33 games, and then skipped low Single-A while making the jump to high Single-A during his first full season. Tolbert struggled at Fort Myers, batting just .266/.326/.365 in 111 games, but was promoted to Double-A in 2006.
Tolbert again struggled and was demoted back to Fort Myers, but hit .303/.360/.458 in 40 games there to earn a trip back up to New Britain. He hit just .255/.339/.360 in 72 total games at Double-A, but rather than ask a 25-year-old to take another crack at the level the Twins pushed Tolbert up to Triple-A last season. He hit .340 in April and .370 in May before eventually crashing back down to earth, hitting just .267/.323/.396 in the second half to finish the season at .293/.353/.427 in 121 games overall.
Despite an amazing start that got fans who didn't know better way too excited, Tolbert's "breakout" season actually blends in with the rest of his career. He's hit just .280/.345/.405 in 377 minor-league games and turns 26 years old in May, which adds up to a low ceiling. However, as a switch-hitter who controls the strike zone reasonably well, has solid speed, and can handle second base or third base defensively, Tolbert could carve out a decent major-league career as a utility man.
Over at MLB.com, Kelly Thesierreports that "so far it appears no progress has been made" in the Twins' attempt to lock Justin Morneau up to a long-term contract extension. Morneau told Thesier that he's "looking for a long-term deal if it makes sense for me" before adding that "no discussions have been had." Morneau figures to make around $7 million via arbitration this season, but is under the Twins' control through 2010.
At one point last season Morneau said that he'd be willing to sign a five- or six-year extension to remain in Minnesota, but reportedly turned down an offer from the Twins that was similar to the four-year, $33 million extension that Joe Maueragreed to last winter. As good as Morneau has been and can be, his .276/.340/.498 career hitting line is just slightly above average for an MLB first baseman and paying that type of player something like $12 million per season would be risky for a team like the Twins.
On a somewhat related note, a little birdie informed me that a long-time AG.com reader will soon be joining the staff at MLB.com and covering the Twins alongside Thesier.
When the Twins traded forCraig Monroe in November and then signed him to a one-year deal worth $3.82 million last month, I suggested that there were several other right-handed hitters on the market who're better than Monroe and figured to be available for significantly less money. Among the players mentioned specifically by name was Emil Brown, who sure enough is now property of the A's after inking a one-year deal worth just $1.45 million earlier this week.
Monroe and Brown were equally awful last season and neither player is an especially good bet at this point, but Brown's recent track record is clearly superior. Combined over the past three seasons Brown hit .279/.340/.428, including .289/.353/.488 against lefties. During that same stretch Monroe batted .254/.300/.439, including .281/.332/.481 against southpaws. Brown was seven percent more effective overall and five percent more effective against lefties, yet Monroe is set to make 2.5 times as much.
In laying out various potential replacements for Torii Hunter earlier this offseason, I noted that Mike Cameron was one of the more appealing options because he "figures to be far less expensive than Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand" despite being a relatively comparable player. While Hunter got $90 million from the Angels, Rowand got $60 million from the Giants, and Jones got $36 million from the Dodgers, Cameron signed a one-year deal with the Brewers that's worth just $7 million.
Cameron is 35 years old and has been suspended for the first 25 games of the season, but for a total commitment of $7 million he's a fine short-term investment. Cameron was once among the truly elite defensive players in all of baseball and remains a good center fielder, and he's hit .255/.341/.456 over the past two seasons despite playing in the majors' most extreme pitcher's ballpark. Take a look at how his numbers compare to Hunter's over the past three years and for their respective careers:
That the Twins were never even rumored to be in the mix for Cameron seemingly suggests that they're confident about acquiring a new center fielder via trade, in which case signing a 35-year-old makes little sense. However, if dealing Johan Santana or Joe Nathan doesn't net a good, young center fielder who can immediately fill Hunter's shoes then the fact that Monroe is making almost $4 million and Cameron is making just $7 million means that the Twins made a mistake somewhere.
In an effort to add some organizational pitching depth, the Twins signed Randy Keisler and Zach Day to minor-league contracts. Keisler should be little more than Triple-A rotation filler at Rochester, but Day is more intriguing. He debuted for the Expos as a 24-year-old in 2002 and posted a 4.01 ERA through his first 285.1 big-league innings, but hasn't been healthy since 2004 and didn't throw a single pitch in the majors last season following rotator-cuff surgery in June of 2006.
Day is closing in on his 30th birthday and has thrown a grand total of 87.1 innings with an ugly 6.80 ERA since 2004 (with minor-league numbers that aren't much better), but was a ground-ball machine prior to his arm problems and possesses at least some semblance of upside. If signing Day keeps the Twins from bringing in this season's version of no-upside veterans like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson it's a plus whether or not he ever throws a pitch in Minnesota.
As a follow-up to my suggestion last week that the Twins' bonus-related stinginess may keep them from taking full advantage of having three of the first 31 picks in June's draft, Baseball Americanotes that only two teams spent less on their 2007 draft picks than the Twins. First rounder Ben Revere was widely considered a second- or third-round talent and thus cost just $750,000, which is the smallest bonus any first-round pick has received since 1998, and the Twins spent a grand total of $1.8 million.
To put that in some context, 14 players received at least $1.8 million on their own and the average team forked over $4.5 million, including a half-dozen teams that spent over $7 million. Having two "extra" first-round picks also means having to give out two "extra" first-round bonuses, so the Twins may be even less likely than usual to select an elite player who has large bonus demands. MLB payrolls get most of the attention, but the draft is another area where money gives some teams a huge advantage.
General manager Dan O'Dowdrevealed recently that the Rockies "stuck our nose in on the Santana thing," but didn't get very far in talks with the Twins because "Santana has a no-trade clause and has a desire to stay more on the East Coast." That may explain why high-payroll, prospect-rich teams like the Dodgers, Angels, and Mariners haven't been linked much to Santana, and may keep the Twins from getting the best possible return for him.
Normally my annual series on the Twins' top 40 prospects would have started by now, but it seemed smart to hold off for a while when a Johan Santana trade appeared imminent. I spend way too much time as it is compiling the list, writing the profiles, and debating whether some 20-year-old who may never even make it to the majors should be ranked 38th or 39th, so I'd have felt even sillier finishing the series only to see the Twins acquire multiple top prospects for Santana.
I'd really prefer to avoid having to significantly rearrange the rankings and boot several deserving prospects off the list to make room for players who came over in a big trade. Of course, a Santana deal seemed imminent in early December and it's now mid-January, so at some point the show must go on. If nothing happens on the Santana front over the next 24-48 hours, this year's top-40 prospects series should begin later this week.
In the meantime, it occurred to me that it's been almost exactly three months since I opened the floor up for reader-submitted questions. In fact, the last time was mid-October and back then I wrote that "it's a good idea" to do so "every few months." If you're unfamiliar with how this works, it's basically a poor man's version of an online chat session. You ask questions, either by posting in the comments section or e-mailing me, and then I answer them in this space at some point in the near future.
In the past when we've done this there have been more than enough submissions to devote separate entries to answering "baseball questions" and "random questions," so it's perfectly acceptable to ask something that has absolutely nothing to do with the Twins. In fact, it might be preferred. If there's some pressing issue that you want my opinion on or some random thing that you've been wondering about me or this blog, fire away. And ... go!