A Truly Scary Development

December 1, 2010

Around the time the Twins were being swept out of the 2010 playoffs by the Yankees, I had drafted a post comparing the New York Yankees to a professional wrestling villain. It was surely a brilliant work of literature, but it didn’t meet the high editorial standards of CW, so it was relegated to the WordPress trash bin.

I was reminded of that post while updating myself on the Derek Jeter contract controversey.

On one level, the tabloid-ish fill to the whole affair is somewhat delicious being that the player in the center of it all is constantly praised for the “great character” it takes to stay out of tabloids and police blotters. Additionally, it must be a bitter pill for Jeter-lovers everywhere to discover that Yankees management, of all people, do not buy in to the Jeter hype. I’ll admit, it’s hard not to enjoy the daily updates for these very reasons.

Still, there is a disturbing undercurrent to the ordeal. Is it possible that the Yankees are turning a corner as an organization? Might they actually begin to leverage the financial advantages of being the Yankees by making intelligent, statistically informed baseball decisions instead of throwing large sums of money at marginal free agents?

Nah, I prefer to think that they will ultimately listen to the star-crossed media-types who are indignant that the icon of a generation might have to make ends meet on a mere $15 million-per-year salary and give in to the Captain’s demands.

That would be a characteristic of the Yankees we know and hate.

The Yearly Gold Glove Scam

November 10, 2010

Joe Mauer won his third gold glove yesterday. Also of note was the fact that Torii Hunter did not win the award for the first time in nine years – no small feat considering that he probably hasn’t deserved the award for the last five seasons.

That is about all the time and space I am willing to waste on an award that recognizes Derek Jeter as the best shortstop in the American League.

Triple Triples II

July 7, 2010

It has been almost a week since Denard Span became the 29th player in major league baseball history to hit three triples. To put that in perspective, there have been 21 perfect games in major league history, so it is a feat just slightly more common than the perfect game.

The Minnesota/Washington franchise has been involved in five of those games – three times on the “right” side, including Span’s game.

The last time a member of the Minnesota Twins hit three triples in a game was on July 3, 1980 when Ken Landreaux did it against the Texas Rangers.

One of the more recent occurences came at the expense of the Twins. Lance Johnson, then with the Chicago White Sox, hit three triples in a 14-4 win late in the 1995 season.

Interestingly, all three events were home games for the Twins, one at each of the parks the team has called home.

Washington was involved twice, once when Joe Kuhel did it against the White Sox in 1937, and once when the Nats were the victims of Charlie Gehringer and the rest of the Tigers in a 21-5 loss in 1929. Since Gehringer had his three triples at Griffith Stadium, that makes four ballparks in franchise history that have played host to a three-triple game.

A Crazy Half Inning

June 3, 2010

I had the ESPN game between the Cardinals and the Reds on in the background, so I was able to catch the last six outs of Armando Galaragga’s should-have-been perfect game. I didn’t see any of Dallas Braden’s or Roy Halladay’s until after the fact, so I thought I might have lucked out. As it turned out, I did. I saw one of the most entertaining and frustrating half-innings that doesn’t involve my favorite team.

First, the could-have-beens. This would have been the third perfect game in less than a month. There have been 20 in the history of major league baseball. I don’t think it is anymore than random chance that there have been so many recently, but it is a remarkable stretch, even without Galarraga’s.

Now, the should-have-beens. Jim Joyce missed that call. There have been a lot of terrible calls in the first two months of the 2010 season, but that was easily the biggest of the bunch. It was probably not the worst. In Joyce’s defense, there was some strange footwork on the base, and the play was not as clear at full speed as it seemed in the slow motion replay (the worst thing that can come from this is a louder cry for instant replay).  Galarraga, the Tigers, and baseball should be celebrating another perfect game. As it stands, it was one of the most fascinating one-hitters I can remember.

What should be remembered about that game – Austin Jackson’s back-to-the plate catch in (very) deep left-center field. That is what an outfielder with range looks like. He went and got the ball, and the sheepish grin on Galaragga’s face immediately following the play told the story: he got away with one there. That was a ball that drops most of the time (it might even be a home run in some ball parks). I suppose, then, in the end it evened out.

Though it wasn’t a perfect game, what actually happened is probably going to be more memorable.

That Reminds Me of a Story…

May 14, 2010

The Mariners are up in arms about a report by Tacoma News-Tribune reporter Larry LaRue that Ken Griffey Jr. was unavailable to pinch hit in a recent game because he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse. As I have picked up little pieces of the controversy over the past week, I am reminded of a Jim Souhan column from a few years ago in which he leveled the charge that Joe Mauer had invented a leg injury.

What is intriguing about the two columns is how different the Mariners’ and the Twins’ players reaction to the charges were.

Mariners players have been very publicly shutting LaRue out, to the point where Cliff Lee would not speak at a press conference until the reporter left the room. This was on the heels of a team meeting in which Mike Sweeney reportedly offered to fight the two anonymous players quoted in the original report. Unsurprisingly, nobody took Sweeney up on his offer, leaving the team to conclude that LaRue had simply made the story up. For its part, the Mariners organization has stayed out of the fray, issuing a statement essentially hoping for an “organic” end to the dispute.

In September of 2007, Jim Souhan penned a column in which he expressed the opinion that it was time to move Joe Mauer to third base. Tucked in that column was the somehow related nugget:

In 2007, Mauer – like the Twins – revisited 2005. In spring training he caused a scare with what was termed a “stress reaction.” I’ve spoken with trainers in other sports who have told me there is no such thing.

Souhan flat out said the team’s young superstar and future franchise player had concocted an injury out of thin air. Unlike LaRue, he did not cite team sources, he instead talked to a few of his trainer friends who said there was no such injury (never mind that a Google search at the time turned up several hits on “stress reaction”).

I don’t recall any team push back on Souhan. I don’t recall it even being an issue outside of the Twins’ blogosphere at the time.

It’s not that I am particularly impressed with the Mariners players. The “reveal yourself so I can beat you up” is probably not an effective way to start a team dialogue, and not speaking to the reporter, who simply did his job, comes across as childish. Still, it’s a team sticking up for a teammate.

Perhaps the Twins handled the allegations the right way in 2007 – it is possible that a player or group of players privately communicated disgust with Souhan. Smart money says they didn’t. The 2007 Twins clubhouse was dominated by Torii Hunter, who had questioned Mauer’s toughness in the past. It is likely that team leadership agreed with Souhan’s sentiment, or perhaps had even planted the seed of doubt. In any case, I wonder if, given the new makeup of this team, there would be a different reaction in 2010.

Unwritten Rules

April 27, 2010

I appreciate Joe Posnanski’s take on the A-Rod/Dallas Braden pitching mound incident of a few days ago. I agree that if the perpetrator were anybody but Alex Rodriguez, the focus of the negativity would be squarely on Braden – as it should.

Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure – that I understand. I can see that he comes off as arrogant, that he makes more money than he knows what to do with, and that some of his accomplishments include the specter of performance enhancement. This is true of Rodriguez and any number of other professional athletes. Why the hate is so zeroed in on Rodriguez is another matter.

It’s not that I am shedding any tears for the Yankee third baseman. He’s doing alright despite his villainous public image. I don’t like him in the way that a Twins’ fan shouldn’t like the best player on the Yankees, but I have to admit: I enjoy watching Alex Rodriguez play baseball.

He’s a great player – probably the best of his generation – yet underrated to the point where most casual baseball fans won’t even say he is the best player on his own team. The fact is, on the question of Jeter vs. A-Rod, the numbers aren’t even close. A-Rod is a better hitter and fielder, he hits for more power and historically gets on base at a better rate than the Yankee captain. You can argue which is a nicer guy, but on the field the choice is clear.

So the latest is that Alex Rodriguez walked on the pitching mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball. As unwritten rules of baseball go, this must be towards the back of the unwritten book. It may have been somewhat of a jerk move, I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t seem to warrant the attention that Braden gave it. I can give a young, fiery pitcher a break for something expressed in the heat of the moment, but to treat it as anything other than an overreaction by a young pitcher borders on silly – a transparent expression of the dislike for the man that existed long before this event occurred.

Play Ball … Faster

April 12, 2010

Baseball is my favorite game, but it is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws I have noticed over the past three decades is the pace of the game. It seems to be getting slower, with games involving the Yankees (and now the Red Sox) being the slowest of the slow. Post season games involving these MLB money-makers are even worse, generally grinding to a halt in or around the seventh inning (even without the ridiculously long seventh-inning stretch ceremonies at Yankee Stadium).

There are various reasons for the length of the games. Some of it is due to the fact that the hitters on said teams take a lot of pitches. It’s hard to complain about professional baseball players with habits that tend to make baseball players successful. I have no problem with that. A lot of the extra time, however, is due to the constant timeouts called by batters, trips to the mound by catchers, and other time wasting strategies employed by teams to give their relief pitchers more time to get ready. A few years ago, I decided to stop worrying about it. I figured this was going to be part of baseball for better or worse. The last thing Bud Selig is going to want to do is make his cash cows angry by telling them how to play the game. I’ll just go about my business and avoid Yankees and Red Sox games as much as possible.

Imagine my surprise, then, that an umpire of all people decided to speak up on the issue. I think Joe West used some hyperbole, and went a little far calling the teams “a disgrace to baseball,” but overall he clearly has a point (I also found Gardy’s thoughts entertaining – and he’s right, commercial breaks account for about 45 minutes in a typical nine-inning game).

It is a pet peeve of mine that football fans will often call baseball boring. Though there is a lot of down time in a typical baseball game, there is more potential for action at a given time than in a football game, where the actual contact time adds up to about 10 minutes. I will have trouble getting into basketball until they fix the end of games, where stopping the clock with intentional fouls has become a science and coaches seem to have unlimited time outs. Unfortunately, Yankees and Red Sox games are giving professional football and the last two minutes of basketball game a run for their money in pure down time.

A couple of ideas to get to a solution: expand the strike zone back to the rule book version and start enforcing even more strict limits on those things that are the biggest time-wasters: coaching visits to the mound, catcher visits to the mound, infield huddles, and timeouts called by batters and catchers.

Ron Washington and an Open House

March 19, 2010

Ron Washington has made some headlines in the past week, and it is of interest to this blog for no other reason than the fact that Washington played for the Twins from 1981-1986.  He was mostly a shortstop for the Twins. His busiest season was 1982 when in 470 plate appearances he hit .271/.291/.368. He ultimately lost the starting job to Houston Jiminez in 1984. Washington continued to play utility infielder behind Jiminez and later Greg Gagne. He may have missed his chance to be a permanent part of Twins fans’ memory when he was released by the team just prior to the start of the 1987 World Championship season. Washington likely became expendable when the Twins traded for Al Newman earlier that spring.

UPDATE: Now Washington is admitting to use of both amphetamines and marijuana during his playing days. The plot thickens…

In happier news, this weekend I will get my first look at Target Field during and open house for season ticket holders. Pictures and a full report will be posted on Monday.

Maybe there will be an announcement about a certain catcher signing to make the weekend even better.

The one good thing about the ALDS

October 20, 2009

The 2.5-year-old took an active interest in the games. He even, in a moment of anger, called his mother a Derek Jeter.

watching the game by you.

Yes, that is his official Target Field hard hat and his Joe Mauer batting champion wiffle bat. The best part is that he asked to get all of the baseball props out while he watched the game.

As I was watching Game 3 of the ALCS last night, he asked for about the fourth time in the last week “when are the Twins going to play?” How do you explain the concept of offseason to a kid who probably has no memory of the last time the Twins didn’t have a game tomorrow?

On Instant Replay in Baseball

August 25, 2008

It is now all but inevitable that baseball will begin to use instant replay during the 2008 season.

While it sounds like replay will only be used to determine home run calls at first, it is not difficult to imagine that a successful “test” through the end of this season could lead to more reviewable plays by the time teams take the field for the 2009 season.

It remains to be seen how replay might impact baseball, though smart money is on making games longer, though I don’t think the potential breaks for an occasional home run call will be the end of the world (though it will probably lengthen games enough to undo all of the gains made by the new directive to enforce the 12-second pitch rule).

The main argument of those who are in favor of replay is that umpires should use all of the tools at their disposal to get the calls right.

The NFL has had some form of instant replay since 1986, with the current coaches’ challenge system taking effect in 1999. A few observations from the football games that I have watched over the years:

1. There is no television moment less compelling than a referee sticking his head under a video replay hood, and

2. Somehow, even with the instant replay system in place, calls are missed.

Someone who likes football better than I should do a study on the subject of instant replay and correct calls. I don’t know what the numbers would look like, but it doesn’t seem particularly rare, based on my observations, for a call to go to replay only to still be missed (or at the very least bad calls are upheld due to a lack of “indisputable video evidence”).

I am willing to be proven wrong, but it all just doesn’t seem worth it at this point. For a handful of correct home run calls a season, baseball fans and players will be subject to delays, technology problems, and arguments over replay usage.