Before getting to the latest batch of links, my apologies for the lack of content here this week. My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday in order to catch an early morning flight to New York, where I was met at John F. Kennedy International Airport by a woman from a car service who was holding a sign that read: "Mr. Gleeman." After crossing that oddly thrilling experience off my list of things to do in life, I was driven in style to the former home of Dunder Mifflin's "other" branch, Stamford, Connecticut.
In addition to a fictional paper company, Stamford is also home to the NBCSports.com offices. I spent two days there meeting many of my co-workers and bosses in person for the first time, working in an office setting for what was more or less the first time in my entire life, and shooting a slew of "season preview" videos with Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal. Over at her NBCSports.com blog, Tiffany had some kind words to say about my time there:
I must say a small gracias to our special guest. Over the course of the past two days, Studio H (where the magic happens) has been graced by the presence of the one and only Aaron Gleeman. Normally Aaron calls in to give his advice but for this special occasion, he flew in to co-host the Fantasy Fix Baseball Preview Shows.
It's not often we hang out. Backing up a tad, Aaron and I's relationship has mainly consisted of telephone calls and a few emails here and there. We've met in person only a handful of times so as one would expect, 48 hours of Gleeman in Stamford was a treat. We shot I think four shows yesterday and then another six today (give or take a few).
Let me be the first to tell you AG happens to be extremely comfortable gabbing to a camera (I definitely had wayyyy more mess ups then him) and offers some good one liners along with his analysis. Throw in Gregg Rosenthal with his list of sleepers and you got yourself some pretty good advice from two credible experts. Plus the "Man Crush" segment is a nice touch.
First of all, "48 hours of Gleeman" sounds like a fate that should have been included on the wheel in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, somewhere between "Aunty's Choice" and "Gulag." Second, as you'll see when the videos go live on NBCSports.com at some point next week, the "man crush" segments (and the various off-camera jokes that predictably stemmed from them) were probably more "homo erotic" than "a nice touch."
Either way, everyone in Stamford was extremely nice, the NBCSports.com offices seem like they'd be a great place to work, and as Tiffany alluded to above the in-studio video shoots went far better than my camera-phobic mind expected thanks to help from pros like Simons, Rosenthal, Matt Casey, and Brett Vandermark. The whole experience was a fantastic one, but the downside is that I've yet to master the art of blogging on the road.
Thanks to Rotoworld and NBC Sports I've seemingly traveled morein the pastcouple years than in my first 20-plus years on the planet combined and each time my big plans for blogging get wiped away by jet lag, work, being social, and alcohol. I really can't imagine how people with actual lives manage to maintain decent blogs. Luckily there are no more travel plans on the horizon, so things should get back to normal here just in time for Opening Day. In the meantime, here is this week's linkage ...
Long before he became an annoyingly repetitive television analyst who loves to attach "type" and "level" to nearly every word that he says, spends half of each broadcast circling people in the crowd with his telestrator, and botches every other opposing player's name, Bert Blyleven was merely a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher who had equally outstanding fashion sense:
It won't stop me from having to mute the FSN broadcasts all season, but that's a great photo.
Finally, there's photographic evidence that being a backup guard on the NBA's second-worst team and dressing like me in the ninth grade hasn't stopped Marko Jaric from dating a supermodel.
No doubt motivated by my video-shooting trip to Stamford, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's dynamic duo of LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen is now saying stuff in front of a camera.
It's not as shocking as Ken Tremendous/Michael Schur from Fire Joe Morgan recently revealing that he's married to Regis Philbin's daughter, writes for, produces, and plays Mose Schrute on The Office, and was formerly a writer on Saturday Night Live, but the man behind The Big Lead has also revealed his identity after two years of anonymity. Following in the footsteps of Schur and now Jason McIntyre, perhaps some day soon even I'll ditch this silly pen name.
Difficult as it may be to believe, one absolutely horrendous article by long-time Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daughtery made me thankful for both Patrick Reusse and Ron Gardenhire.
A recent study showing Derek Jeter's defense as poor has predictably upset fans, media members, and the Yankees, which is especially amusing given that countless studies have consistently shown the exact same thing for the past decade or so. One of many writers to stick up for Jeter's glove, Yahoo! Sports columnist Tim Brownopined that "if there was a four-hopper straight at the shortstop to end a game I had to win, I'd want Jeter and his alleged cement-shoed range standing right there."
In other words, if a ball is hit right at the shortstop and range isn't even a factor, Brown would be fine with Jeter's lack of range. Admittedly, it's tough to argue with that. Yankees scout Gene Michael made a similarly flawed case for Jeter, saying: "A ball is hit to shortstop. Who do you want to catch it? Who's going to catch the ball at him and then make the throw?" Like Brown, Michael seemingly attempts to defend Jeter's range by saying that he's perfectly capable of making plays that require zero range.
In related news, I'm a fantastic cook if all that's needed to prepare a meal is heating something up in the microwave.
If you missed it last week, I penned the Twins season preview for Deadspin, managing to work in references to Boof Bonser's gut, Pat Neshek's blog, and Keeley Hazell within the same article.
For the most part I've recently avoided discussing the newspaper industry's decline after repeatedly delving into the topic previously, but Editor and Publisherreports that the country's top 20 newspapers "have collectively lost about 1.4 million copies in daily circulation" over the past four years, which works out to around 10 percent of their overall print readership. Locally, the Star Tribune declined 10.2 percent during that time and as of September had "only" 341,645 copies in daily circulation.
I Am Legend the movie was disappointing because it strayed far from Richard Matheson's amazing novel in so many important ways. The film's ending was particularly upsetting to me, but the alternate version would have been even worse.
Sorry about the lack of new entries, but I'm currently at the NBCSports.com offices in lovely Stamford, Connecticut (former home of Dunder Mifflin's "other" branch). I'm flying back from New York tonight, so there may be some new material here Thursday and there will definitely be a Link-O-Rama on Friday. In the meantime, check out the Twins season preview that I recently wrote for Deadspin.
The Johan Santana trade produced the Twins' top two prospects (Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra) and four of the team's top eight prospects (Gomez, Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber), which suggests that the haul for Santana was a pretty solid one and shows how weak the system was prior to the deal. Even after acquiring the foursome of Mets prospects the Twins' collection of minor-league talent ranks no better than average among all MLB teams.
With that said, the Twins' overall system is deeper and more balanced than last year's version despite graduating Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla, and Pat Neshek to the majors and parting with Matt Garza, Eduardo Morlan, Alexander Smit, and Alex Romero. The top-40 list remains dominated by pitching, especially among the system's premier prospects, but between Gomez at the top and 11 other hitters scattered throughout the top 30 the position-player depth has been improved somewhat.
In particular, the team has focused on stockpiling center fielders over the past year, acquiring Gomez, Ben Revere, Jason Pridie, Angel Morales, and Dustin Martin to go with holdover Joe Benson. Three of those players came from early-round draft picks and three came via trade, changing the position from a weakness to a strength in one season despite the continued decline of former first-round pick and one-time "center fielder of the future" Denard Span (who narrowly missed cracking the top 40).
Center-field depth has been beefed up considerably and catcher, third base, and shortstop are also areas of improvement since last year, but the system still lacks high-upside, middle-of-the-order bats. Chris Parmelee, Deibinson Romero, and Danny Rams perhaps fit a loose definition, but none are close to the majors. Aside from the 19-year-old Rams, 20-year-old Parmelee, and 21-year-old Romero, the system's best bats are mid-level prospects like Danny Valencia, Brock Peterson, and Erik Lis.
Of course, with Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel each seemingly around for a while, the need for a slugging first baseman or corner outfielder to emerge from the farm system is lessened. In terms of help at the big-league level, what the Twins figure to need in the near future are shortstops, second basemen, and third basemen. Unfortunately, while the system's infield depth has improved it's still far from impressive.
Trevor Plouffe and Paul Kelly (and rookie-baller Starling De Los Santos, who narrowly missed the list) are the system's best hopes to develop into starting caliber shortstops, and whichever one of Plouffe or Kelly doesn't end up at shortstop immediately joins Casilla (who lost his prospect status last season) as the top bets at second base. With former first rounder Matt Moses washing out and David Winfree moving off the position, third base is left with Romero, Valencia, Matt Macri, and Brian Buscher.
The pitching picture is significantly prettier, as the Twins' farm system boasts a nice mix of high-upside youngsters (Guerra, Tyler Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett) and MLB-ready arms (Mulvey, Humber, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn), plus plenty of other potential rotation options (Oswaldo Sosa, Ryan Mullins, Mike McCardell, Yohan Pino, Jay Rainville, Zach Ward, Kyle Waldrop).
Toss in young non-prospects like Slowey (24 years old), Francisco Liriano (23), Scott Baker (26), and Boof Bonser (26), and starting pitching clearly remains the organization's main strength even after losing Santana and Carlos Silva this winter. Graduating Neshek to the majors and trading Morlan away leaves few outstanding relief prospects in the minors, but odds are that many of those aforementioned starters will end up in the bullpen long term.
Including both prospects and non-prospects, here's a rough organization-wide view of all players who are 29 years old or younger:
CATCHER: FIRST BASE: SECOND BASE: Joe Mauer, 25 Justin Morneau, 27 Brendan Harris, 27 Wilson Ramos, 20 Brock Peterson, 24 Alexi Casilla, 23 Danny Rams, 19 David Winfree, 22 Brian Dinkelman, 24 Jose Morales, 25 Erik Lis, 24 Matt Tolbert, 26
SHORTSTOP: THIRD BASE: CORNER OUTFIELD: Trevor Plouffe, 22 Deibinson Romero, 21 Delmon Young, 22 Paul Kelly, 21 Danny Valencia, 23 Michael Cuddyer, 29 S. De Los Santos, 21 Matt Macri, 26 Jason Kubel, 26 Steven Tolleson, 24 Brian Buscher, 27 Chris Parmelee, 20
CENTER FIELD: RH STARTER: LH STARTER: Carlos Gomez, 22 Scott Baker, 26 Fran Liriano, 23 Ben Revere, 20 Boof Bonser, 26 Glen Perkins, 25 Joe Benson, 20 Kevin Slowey, 24 Tyler Robertson, 20 Jason Pridie, 24 Deolis Guerra, 19 Brian Duensing, 25 Angel Morales, 18 Anthony Swarzak, 22 Ryan Mullins, 24 Dustin Martin, 24 Kevin Mulvey, 23 Michael Tarsi, 21 Brandon Roberts, 23 Jeff Manship, 23 Denard Span, 24 Philip Humber, 25 Oswaldo Sosa, 22 Alex Burnett, 20 Mike McCardell, 23 Yohan Pino, 24 Nick Blackburn, 26 Jay Rainville, 22 Zach Ward, 24 Kyle Waldrop, 22
There are plenty of noteworthy players throughout the organization who aren't listed above, but that should at least provide a rough outline of the Twins' depth at each position.