Now a mother, former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Jessica Albais making the most improbable, dramatic comeback since Josh Hamilton. Expect her to be traded for Edinson Volquez shortly.
Of course, being a mom didn't stop Kate Beckinsale from finishing third in the recent OFGoAG.com voting and it doesn't stop her from looking like thisin a bikini.
In order to protect the identity of the person involved let's just say that the managing editor of a very popular sports website recently pointed me to Chickipedia and said: "You're the first person I thought of." It's nice to be the baseball blogosphere's foremost pervert.
Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star has long been my favorite newspaper columnist, but after launching a personal website last year he became my favorite newspaper columnist-turned-blogger. Now he's been hired by Sports Illustrated, which while excellent news probably makes any potential "favorite" titles way too long. He's just really, really good.
Also harder than it looks? Actually eating the Michael Phelps diet that was linked to in this space last week. Meanwhile, the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, has the same diet as the average 12-year-old.
Phelps has obviously become the star of this year's Olympics, but Bolt's performance strikes me as more impressive, or at least more relevant to the overall world of athletics. There's zero question that Phelps dominated his sport on a historic level, but "swimming" is a lot more specialized and niche-like than "running." Being unbeatable in the pool doesn't translate to much else without water involved, but running ridiculously fast translates on at least some level to nearly every major sport.
If given the choice between being the world's greatest swimmer and the world's fastest man, my guess is that most people would pick the latter without giving it a second thought. Seriously, imagine being so fast that you can coast to the finish line while showboating and still blow out a collection of the world's greatest runners ... in a race that essentially lasts 10 seconds. Suffice it to say that you won't see many articles wondering if Phelps could possibly have a future in the NFL.
On the other hand, you will see at least one article pondering whether or not Phelps is "a douche." Also in Bolt's favor is that he doesn't have to worry about suddenly being at very high risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Yet another situation where running would come in more handy than swimming.
It comes about five years too late, but Jennifer Love Hewittfinally agrees with the advice that losers like me have been giving her for a decade:
I wish I had been nude from the time I was 12 until I was 28. I looked great! I want to tell all young girls to walk around in bikinis all summer and enjoy it. I want to tell them to never, ever feel bad about anything, because there will be that one day in your 20s when you'll eat a hamburger and actually see the hamburger on the side of your leg. Initially it's shocking, and you think, Whoa, I have to actually think about what I eat and work out double the amount I did before.
In terms of timing, her revelation is a bit like someone on their death bed noting that not smoking three packs of cigarettes every day for 50 years would have been a smart move. Hopefully this is sufficient motivation for the world's scientists to get working on a time machine.
Oh, and the above video also provides a decent definition of "not safe for work," so be warned.
Last week the Twins made a trade with the A's for Gary Gaetti's son, Joe Gaetti, who'd been let go by two teams despite hitting .284/.366/.511 in six minor-league seasons, including .284/.360/.543 in 80 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Gaetti debuted at New Britain over the weekend and homered in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, it was also his last at-bat, because Gaetti tore his Achilles' tendon while rounding the bases and will miss the remainder of the season.
My keeper-league fantasy football draft has been unfolding via e-mail all week. My team didn't start out very pretty, because last season's keepers like Ronnie Brown, Laurence Maroney, Travis Henry, Vince Young, and Marc Bulger have since seen their value dip so much that they weren't even worth retaining under the protection rules. Regardless of sport or league I'm not really used to doing a whole lot of rebuilding, but the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide got me through it.
From the constantly updated player profiles and detailed projections to the in-depth sleeper picks and customizable cheat sheets, trusting the Draft Guide gave me a ton of confidence despite spending the past six months focused almost entirely on baseball. This is half-plug and half-testimonial, but either way if you're going to be drafting between now and Week 1 you should definitely have the Draft Guide by your side. My fellow keeper leaguers especially will benefit from the keeper-specific analysis.
QB: Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub RB: Jonathan Stewart, LenDale White, Selvin Young, Chris Johnson WR: Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson, Donald Driver, Ronald Curry TE: Kellen Winslow
That's what my team looks like with five rounds to go, and considering how things looked before the draft putting together that group in a 12-team league is a minor miracle. Gregg Rosenthal convinced me to buy into his Cutler hype, so if lives up to his billing as "the next great quarterback" Rosenthal will be my hero. For the most part this space rarely contains gratuitous plugs for Rotoworld stuff, so trust me on this one. Get the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide.
Finally, some practical advice that can be applied to important, real-life situations that people find themselves in every day.
Whenever the subject of the newspaper industry's rapidly declining print circulation comes up in this space, several commenters inevitably mention the growing number of people who read newspapers primarily online. That always struck me as a very fair point and a very important distinction to make, but apparently that's not necessarily the case.
When a longtime AG.com reader gets a job covering the Twins for MLB.com, metrics like "Defensive Efficiency" start popping up in articles.
For too long my non-online reading was pretty much limited to the baseball books that publishers sent me because of this blog and my association with The Hardball Times, but for some reason lately I've gotten back to reading tons of non-sports books. I'm planning to put together an all-in-one review for later this month, but in the meantime here's an amusing excerpt from Nick Hornby's brilliant debut novel High Fidelity:
These people look as though they wouldn't have had the time to listen to the first side of Al Green's Greatest Hits, let alone all his other stuff (ten albums on the Hi label alone, although only nine of them were produced by Willie Mitchell); they're too busy fixing base rates and trying to bring peace to what was formerly Yugoslavia to listen to "Sha La La (Make Me Happy)."
So they might have the jump on me when it comes to accepted notions of seriousness (although as everyone knows, Al Green Explores Your Mind is as serious as life gets), but I ought to have the edge on them when it comes to matters of the heart. ... Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship. Maybe Al Green is directly responsible for more than I ever realized.
That passage doesn't even begin to do justice to what is an excellent, hilarious book, but as a huge Al Green fan it made me smile. All of which is why this week's AG.com-approved music video is Reverend Al performing "Sha La La (Make Me Happy)" on Soul Train:
Twins Notes: Slowey, Hicks, Revere, and Sweet Fancy Moses
Kevin Slowey tossed seven innings of two-run ball against the A's last night, shattering his previous career-high with 12 strikeouts. Through his first 30 career starts Slowey struck out six or more batters just seven times and totaled more than eight strikeouts just once, when he fanned nine in a win over the White Sox on September 23 of last year. And not only did he rack up 12 strikeouts last night, he did so without issuing a single walk, putting him in some elite company among Twins pitchers:
YEAR DATE OPP IP R H SO BB Johan Santana 2007 8/19 TEX 8.0 0 2 17 0 Johan Santana 2004 9/19 BAL 8.0 0 7 14 0 Bert Blyleven 1986 9/24 KAN 9.0 2 9 14 0 Johan Santana 2006 6/13 BOS 8.0 1 5 13 0 Jim Kaat 1968 8/16 BAL 9.0 2 9 12 0 Jim Kaat 1967 9/18 KAN 10.0 0 6 12 0 Camilo Pascual 1962 6/26 NYY 9.0 0 9 12 0 Dean Chance 1967 7/2 WAS 9.0 1 5 12 0 Mark Guthrie 1995 5/25 DET 6.0 2 4 12 0 Kevin Slowey 2008 8/19 OAK 7.0 2 5 12 0
Last night Slowey joined Johan Santana (three times), Jim Kaat (twice), Bert Blyleven, Dean Chance, Camilo Pascual, and Mark Guthrie as the only pitchers in Twins history to record at least 12 strikeouts without a walk. Fittingly only Blyleven lost his start, tossing a complete game in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on September 24, 1986. Slowey is now 14-9 with a 4.05 ERA and 132-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 career starts, including 10-8 with a 3.78 ERA and 91-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 starts this year.
At a recent $250-per-plate charity event raising money for the local Boys and Girls Clubs, numerous Twins players waited tables and tended bar at Morton's Steakhouse. Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Star Tribunewrote about the evening and the newspaper's website features pictures from the event along with an amusing video recap narrated by McKenna Ewen (unlike most sites they won't let me embed the video here, so you'll have to click the link). Here's what Justin Morneaulooks like tending bar:
Who is the man who wrote this column and what has the Star Tribune done with Patrick Reusse?
Earlier Saturday, the amiable host of a long-standing Twin Cities sports talk show received a call from a gentleman suggesting that Delmon Young was having a season for the Twins nearly as productive as Mauer's. He wanted to stick with the basics to make this comparison. As of this morning, those numbers are .321 average, 74 runs scored and 59 RBI for Mauer, and .294, 62 runs scored and 53 RBI for Young.
"There's not that much difference between them, and yet the media gets on Young and doesn't criticize Mauer,'' the radio caller said. He remained unimpressed when the disparity in on-base percentage was pointed out. Mauer leads the league at .414, compared with .339 for Young. The 75-point gap accounts for dozens of walks, many of which have moved runners forward into scoring position and contributed mightily to Justin Morneau's current total of 94 RBI.
Denard Span and Alexi Casilla have rightfully gotten tons of praise for their impact following midyear call-ups, but Brian Buscher also deserves some love. After going 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs last night Buscher is hitting .314/.343/.431 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 44 games. That's right at the MLB average of .266/.337/.437 for third basemen and he's also played surprising decent defense at the hot corner, posting a .735 Revised Zone Rating that's safely above the .698 positional average.
First-round pick Aaron Hicks' pro career is off to an excellent start, as the 18-year-old center fielder has hit .303/.399/.484 while going 11-for-12 on steals through 40 games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Plus, those raw numbers actually underrate Hicks' performance significantly thanks to the GCL being an incredibly pitcher-friendly environment where the average hitter has produced a measly .254/.333/.357 line this season.
If you adjust Hicks' rookie-ball performance to the AL's current offensive level, his hitting line jumps to .320/.405/.570, which is amazing for a teenager making his pro debut. Hicks' strong 30-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio is also very encouraging, because high-school draftees typically lack plate discipline and drawing walks isn't something that the Twins are known for stressing. Hopefully he can follow the Joe Mauer path by bringing a patient approach at the plate with him to the organization and maintaining it.
Not to be out-done by Hicks, 2007 first-round pick Ben Revere continues to lead all of minor-league baseball in batting average by hitting .379/.433/.497 in 83 games at low Single-A. He's homered just once in 374 plate appearances, but has still shown solid power with 17 doubles and 10 triples. In fact, despite the one long ball his .118 Isolated Power is right at the Midwest League average of .121 and adjusted to the AL offensive environment his hitting line comes out at a ridiculous .400/.450/.550.
Along with hitting like a souped-up Tony Gwynn, Revere has stolen 44 bases at a 77-percent clip. He hasn't shown as much plate discipline as Hicks, but it's tough to blame someone for eschewing walks when they're hitting .380 and a 31-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio is outstanding for a 20-year-old anyway. Combined with what he did in rookie-ball during his pro debut last year, Revere has hit .360/.416/.484 with 44 total extra-base hits, 65 steals, and a 51-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 133 games.
Randy Ruiz has yet to display any power, which is surprising given his 17 homers and 33 doubles in 111 games at Triple-A, but has shown how he compiled a .302 batting average during a decade in the minors by spraying line drives all over the field. Ruiz is 11-for-29 (.379) with two doubles and five RBIs since replacing Craig Monroe as Jason Kubel's platoon partner, quickly instilling enough confidence in Gardenhire that he's even received some starts against right-handed pitching. Shocking, huh?
Lost in Carlos Gomez's season-long struggles at the plate is that he inexplicably stopped running for three months after being a major base-stealing threat early on. Gomez went 16-for-18 (89 percent) stealing bases through 32 games, putting him on an 80-steal pace. However, over his next 74 games he was just 5-for-13 (38 percent) on the bases, including a 28-game stretch from July 1 through August 6 in which he failed to swipe a single base while attempting just two steals.
Gomez has started running again recently, swiping four bases in his last 11 games, but his 25-for-35 (71 percent) mark in 117 games overall is disappointing. During the winter my suggestion was that the Twins should give Gomez some extra development time in the minors and avoid needlessly burning through a year of service time while he'd likely struggle. Given his .250/.286/.343 hitting line, 113-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and inconsistent work on the bases that would've been a good plan.
Last week in this space Al Reyes was highlighted as a potential acquisition for the Twins' struggling bullpen after he was designated for assignment by the Rays and now he's freely available after being released yesterday. Reyes is 37 years old and has a history of arm problems to go with some off-field issues, but like many veteran relievers floating around the waiver wire and piling up on the scrap heap these days, he'd be a worthwhile addition to the Twins' right-handed relief options:
Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP)
2008 05-07 Matt Guerrier 4.14 4.48 Al Reyes 4.33 4.07 Jesse Crain 4.41 4.45 Boof Bonser 4.49 4.53 Brian Bass 4.40
With a 4.33 xFIP this season Reyes would rank second to Matt Guerrier (4.14) among the team's right-handed relievers, and his 4.07 xFIP over the previous three years is better than Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Boof Bonser (and would be better than Brian Bass, except he didn't pitch prior to 2008). Reyes is far from a world beater, but he's at least as good as any right-hander the Twins have trotted out of the bullpen since Pat Neshek went down and another capable arm in the late innings would help.
Of course, if general manager Bill Smith were actually interested in providing Ron Gardenhire another capable reliever he'd have claimed Chad Bradford off waivers, traded for LaTroy Hawkins, or called up Bobby Korecky. Korecky has six straight scoreless outings at Triple-A, saving five games during that stretch to give him a 2.99 ERA, 67-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .236 opponent's batting average in 69.1 innings. Bradford and Hawkins have combined for 11 shutout innings with their new teams.
UPDATE: Reyes signed a minor-league contract with the first-place Mets, who reportedly may give him a shot at closer. Meanwhile, the Twins finally cut Bass loose Wednesday about three months later than they probably should have, making room for Casilla's return while leaving Korecky at Rochester.
Following Guerrier's latest ugly outing Sunday versus the Mariners, the Seattle Post Intelligencer had a disturbing note on the Twins' worn-out setup man:
Yuniesky Betancourt is the toughest player in the AL for a pitcher to walk. Kenji Johjima is third-toughest. They both walked in the eighth inning against Twins' reliever Matt Guerrier.
Guerrier is 0-2 with a ghastly 19.89 ERA over his last nine games, allowing 15 runs in 6.1 innings.
Jodi Mientkiewicz first went to the cardiologist last Friday, after dealing with shortness of breath and a dropping heart rate over the previous week. [Pirates manager John] Russell said that her heart rate had dropped to as low as 35 beats per minute. A normal resting heart rate is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
The cardiologist discovered a viral infection in a critical location of Mientkiewicz's heart, to which the doctor said "you couldn't put a bullet or a needle in a worse spot to where the infection is," according to Russell. The infection kept the heart rate low and prevented the top of her heart from sending a signal to the bottom of it.
Scary times in the midst of what has been a solid season for Mientkiewicz, who's hitting .285/.371/.388 in 280 plate appearances for the Pirates while seeing extensive action at third base for the first time in his career. Jodi Mientkiewicz has been released from the hospital and is reportedly doing well.
During last night's game FSN play-by-play man Dick Bremer repeatedly called A's right fielder Jack Cust "a free swinger." Bremer no doubt came to that conclusion after seeing his AL-leading strikeout total, but as with many things he says it couldn't be further from the truth. Among the 158 major-league hitters who qualify for the batting title, only three--Bobby Abreu, Chone Figgins, Mauer--swing less often than Cust, who as if on cue took three straight Slowey pitches for a first-inning strikeout.
Even if going 1-5 with a 3.78 ERA and 65-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 69 innings at Rochester doesn't earn him a September call-up to Minnesota, Casey Daiglewill still be doing just fine.
Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune earned my respect a long time ago, but if he hadn't this excerpt from his "notebook" column Monday would have done the trick:
Seattle reliever R.A. Dickey had his knuckleball dancing, but it looked like Elaine from "Seinfeld" when he matched a major league record for wild pitches in an inning with four in the fifth.
Aaron and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
One sign that you're probably having a fairly bad day is when shelling out $400 for a new toilet is merely your second-biggest expense of the morning behind dropping $1,000 on a new water heater. Oh, and then after coughing up $1,400 you sit down to watch your favorite team lose at home to a team that was 5-23 since the All-Star break. That was my Monday and unfortunately this is what my blog entries look like after a day spent watching delivery trucks come and go while hanging out with a guy named "Ike."
One of my favorite blogs, U.S.S. Mariner, has been chronicling the Mariners' horrendous season full of bad decisions, management changes, and mistake-correcting personnel moves. Jarrod Washburn's situation became a hot topic over there last month, when the Mariners reportedly turned down a trade from the Yankees that would've shed Washburn's contract. Two winters before signing Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48 million deal, the Mariners handed Washburn a four-year, $37.5 million contract.
With a year-plus remaining on the deal Washburn has given the Mariners a 23-41 record and 4.51 ERA in 516.1 innings, which is even worse than it looks at first glance considering Seattle's pitcher-friendly ballpark. Rather than a last-place team having to pay a glorified back-of-the-rotation starter $10 million next season, the boys at U.S.S. Mariner have been pleading with the Mariners to dump his contract on any team willing to take him.
Instead, when the Yankees expressed interest in Washburn prior to last month's trading deadline the Mariners reportedly asked for a legitimate prospect in exchange, which predictably ended those talks. When the July 31 deadline came and went, the Mariners placed Washburn on waivers while the boys at U.S.S. Mariner hoped that the team's new management had come to their senses and now simply wanted to rid themselves of Washburn's contract.
Washburn was claimed off waivers last week, at which point the Mariners could have told the claiming team "he's yours" and be done with his contract, saving $10 million for next season while eliminating a mediocre 34-year-old starter from the rotation. Unfortunately for Dave Cameron and Derek Zumsteg, that's not what happened. Once again the Mariners asked for a valuable player in return for Washburn and once again that predictably led to the interested team backing off.
To put U.S.S. Mariner's frustration in perspective, imagine if the Twins had signed Livan Hernandez for two years instead of one. Now imagine that they owed him $10 million for 2009 and when repeatedly given chances to dump that contract ruined things by asking the teams willing to assume his salary for something of value in return. Washburn isn't quite as bad as Hernandez, but as a fan of U.S.S. Mariner who has zero ties to the Mariners it was fascinating to read in a schadenfreude sort of way.
That is until learning that the team putting in the "winning" waiver claim for Washburn last week was none other than the Twins. Seriously. Suddenly a front office's well-documented incompetence had not only ruined the Mariners, it had saved the Twins. Details of what took place between the Twins and Mariners regarding Washburn are fairly cloudy and differ significantly depending on which sources you believe, but according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribunethe basic facts seem clear:
Bottom line: By placing that waiver claim this week, the Twins were willing to take on Washburn's entire contract--$13 million through the end of 2009 for a 34-year-old lefty who is 5-12 with a 4.58 ERA--and the M's walked away from the chance.
Washburn was placed on waivers by the Mariners last week and the Twins claimed him, at which point they could have been forced to take on his remaining contract. Instead, the Mariners asked for further value in return, the Twins balked, and Washburn was pulled back. It took 100 games for the Twins to dump Hernandez and trust a rotation full of 26-and-under starters, so the last thing they needed was to acquire another team's washed-up veteran at the cost of $10 million next season.
Claiming Washburn two weeks after ditching Hernandez is like going to Taco Bell for dinner after lunch at White Castle kept you in the bathroom all afternoon. Washburn is not a useless player. In fact, if he was 24 years old and made $350,000 instead of being 34 and making $10 million, he'd basically be Glen Perkins. However, that extra decade and $9.65 million changes things completely. If there's one thing the Twins don't need right now it's a 34-year-old fourth starter who'll cost $10 million next season.
Now that a healthy, effective Francisco Liriano has joined Perkins, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Kevin Slowey in the rotation while Boof Bonser remains in the bullpen the Twins have six starters on the roster, each of whom is better, younger, and cheaper than Washburn. In fact, Washburn costs four times as much as all six combined. Rather than actually wanting Washburn my hope is that the Twins made the claim to keep him from the White Sox, although that hardly would've been a bad thing.
Whatever the case, the Twins took a misguided risk involving little upside and it failed to hurt them only because the Mariners trumped the bad gamble with a worse decision. Losing three straight games at the Metrodome over the weekend was nice, but the Mariners did the Twins an even bigger favor by not realizing how much better off they'd be without Washburn around. Even Washburn was surprised that the Mariners didn't jump at the chance to make him another team's problem.
One day maybe the Twins will stop going after overpriced, washed-up veterans, but in the meantime it was nice of the Mariners to save them from themselves.