Put your hands together for Joe Mauer!

Since returning from the disabled list, Joe Mauer has been quietly reassembling himself, like a hitting terminator emerging from the blazing hell fires of suckitude, back into the consistent--if robotic--man we all know and respect.

Mauer mid-rehab stint
While the hitting was something we all thought could return, we're glad to see that Mauer's defense has also been less terrible than in the past. We like to imagine that the reason for this is that Mauer has finally taken our advice and begun using his prime position at first base to develop his chops in a second career: stand-up comedian.

His time on the Disabled List was clearly beneficial to crafting a solid two minute set, and we at Peanuts from Heaven are proud to imagine the totally fake, and utterly made-up Joe Mauer comedy set, so everyone, please welcome to the Target Field first base bag....Joe Mother-Loving Mauer!

Mauer: Hello, it's a real pleasure to be here tonight. You seem like a, uhhhhhhhhh, very nice, you know, group of people. I'm going to say some things that I find comical, and I, uhhhh, hope you like them.

Okay. Start out with a classic here...
It'll be faster if I do both parts, so, uhhh, who's there?
...Joe Mauer...
....Joe Mauer who?...
...My name's Joe Mauer and, ummmmmm...I'll be your first base comedian tonight...
Have you ever noticed how much fun it is to play baseball?
I have.
Do you know what I like about playing first base?
When guys in the clubhouse talk about girls, I can say that I've just been to first base with a lot of people....
...and it's not a lie...
...because lying would be wrong....
That's uh....that's...that's pretty great, you know.
Thank you.
So I, uhh, I had some milk before the game today.
Do you like milk?
You should try some, it's really great. and uhh...helps you build strong bones.
I was uhhh, on the disabled list recently you know?
And the thing about the disabled list is that it's sort of like being on the naughty list with Santa.
Except instead of a lump of coal, you get a massive radiating pain in part of your body and a tidal wave of insults from fans who think you're an overpaid cry baby.
Okay, that's my time...Your next comedian is Brian "You might be middle-infielder" Dozier.


Counting Down to Year 2 of the Great Twins Scotch Bet

The Winner with her scotch
Alright, I'm about to go back to work which means I'm going to ignore all my actual responsibilities and focus instead on the joys of blogging about baseball--woo personally destroying the education system!

Okay, for the last two years my wife, father-in-law, and I have made a simple bet. How many games will the Twins win this season? The winner gets a glass of great scotch paid for by the losers. Last year my wife won by expecting the Twins to underperform and received a glass of 25 year old Talisker Single Malt Whiskey. A drink she described as "a delightful mouth punch from Jean-Luc Picard in a smoking jacket", with a finish I described as "an echoing hulk smash"

That's fancy English major talk for "really-really-good."

So this year we're doing the same thing again. And, true to form, my wife was pessimistic, my father-in-law was optimistic and I was realistic.

Our Bet Range
Stinky (my wife) Fewer than 70 wins
Smelly (me) 70-74 wins
Gouger (my father-in-law) More than 74 wins.

Why do I bring it up? Because, as of today the Twins have only 35 games left to go this season and have a record that stands at 57-70 which means the following

If the Twins win 12 games or less, Stinky wins (for the second straight year)
If the Twins win 13 to 17 games, I win
If the Twins win 18 or more games, Gouger Wins.

Why should you care? No earthly reason really--unless you like people making snooty comments about scotch. They're like people who make snooty comments about wine, except they have higher alcoholic volume drinks and so get much more poetic, much faster!

Also it helps to focus my writing each week to think about who the Twins face and how it may turn out:

What's the Twins current pace? 72 Wins-90 losses Right in my sweet spot...enough to start me dreaming about the Balvenie 21 Year Old-Port Wood...Dark enough to haunt my dreams, old enough to drink itself.
Who do we play the next 10 games? Detroit for 3, Kansas City for 3, Baltimore for 4
Who has the edge this week? Definitely Stinky. The Tigers and Royals are in a pitched battle for the Central crown while the Orioles are again defying expectations at the top of the AL East. Maybe the Twins can take a game in each set...but I'm pretty much banking on at least one sweep.

Who matters most this week? I had a whole thing written about our lackluster offense, and then they blew up for 20 runs last night. Still, with the Tigers scuffling and some inexperienced lefties on the schedule this week, it would be a great time for Kurt Suzuki, he of the .877 OPS versus Lefties, to return to his sweet swinging ways...at least it would for me.


What the Twins' World Needs Right Now

The trade deadline is looming over the heads of Twins fans right now. Like a honed knife's edge, like a hunter's net, like a disapproving parent at the doorway of a kegger thrown by their independent child: it's looming.

At least that's my feeling. And I admit it's a weird one. After all the Twins are sellers (again) in a seller's market (witness the hauls for relatively unimpressive talents thus far). We should be confident. We should be beaming with pride. We should be the belle of the ball, fending off suitors for our valuable assets. Sure they aren't that valuable, but who cares? It's the trade deadline, value is inflated and we've got what other teams want.

So why does the deadline worry me so much?

Twins War Room (artist depiction)

Because I feel like we need to get something great out of it, far more than any contending team does.

Because I feel like we need a win. And if they aren't coming from the field, then they need to come from the smoke-filled rooms where deals are made. (Though I suppose, since smoking bans went into effect the rooms are probably just filled with smug self-importance.)

It's not that surprising or worrying that the Twins are sellers. It's not surprising that the season is in tatters and we're all debating what they can steal from some desperate rival's hands. What is surprising is that I'm nervous about it, and I'm all too resigned to seeing the deadline pass with another unimpressive whimper.

After three years of supporting management's decisions, I'm dumbstruck. I've supported patience and measured responses. I've supported building from within. I've supported the cautious investments in low-end free agents. But now I've got nothing, and I'm desperate.

I can't figure out why woefully struggling players trot out to the field long past their sell-by date. I've got no idea why our young players are accepted as consistently inconsistent. And I'm at an utter loss to understand why prospects are left to languish in the minor leagues when there's no better rival for the position in the bigs.
My cat has already given up
In short. I'm a Twins fan. And I am desperate.
We need a win here. We didn't just lose 7 games on the home stand. We lost a year of development for Sano. We lost half-a-year for Buxton. We lost a couple months of Meyer and May learning the big league routine. We lost a chunk of cash on Pelfry and Nolasco. We lost the feel good memories of Bartlett, Kubel and Matty G. We lost the hope of a consistent Arcia, a burgeoning Pinto, a resiliant Hicks. We are in a constant state of losing Joe Mauer: day by day, sore inch by sore inch, percentage point by percentage point, insult by insult...until, I'm convinced, some day he wakes up and either can't play or can't wait to play anywhere but here.

We might be the unluckiest team in baseball, but right now we are definitely losers. And we're starting to feel like we're always going to be losers (hence the widely reported swing towards apathy this last week). This feels like a chance, a golden chance to get a win. But that's the problem with feeling like losers: even when you have a golden chance to win...you start expecting that you WILL LOSE.

That's why the trade deadline's looming. This is our chance to turn Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia and Kurt Suzuki into Gold* (See note below). But there's that nagging fear that they'll turn into a flaming bag of poo instead. After all, when you're as desperate as I feel right now, you don't make the best choices.

We need a win right now. I want us to win right now. And I have very little confidence that we will.

But hey...If I wanted to feel confidence on a regular basis I wouldn't be a Twins fan. If I was on the point of collapsing into apathy or anger I wouldn't keep using the "we" pronoun when talking about a team that has never employed me or asked my opinion about anything.

*Honestly, I know they aren't worth gold and no GM would give us gold, but if we could get a couple pieces of bronze, and an opportunity to see a piece of silver from the vault, I'd call that a win.


What I Learned from the 2014 All Star Game

I'm surprised to note that I have not blogged about an al-star game in three years. Not in Kansas City, nor in New York. Maybe I was actually off living my life. But with the game in the Twin Cities, I was eager to both celebrate the festivities in person, and watch the game (with all the excellent athletes and irritating announcers that come along with it).

Here's what I learned.

Atmosphere > Imagine Dragons--I'm not much of a musical person, but I have to say that going to the All-Star weekend concert (free courtesy of Mrs. Peanut's work connections) was much more enjoyable for Atmosphere's presence rather than Imagine Dragons. However, for future reference major touring pop bands that play all-star games (because I know you all read my blog), if you want to make fans forever, play a personalized version of that team's "song". If Imagine Dragons had played "We're Gonna Win Twins"...or even the first 8 measures, I'd have been a fan for life.

My mom makes interesting bets--Rather than predict or argue over silly inconsequential things in the baseball game, like who will win, or how they'll score, my mother had a fun time predicting exactly what stupid things singers would do during All-Star Festivities. Singing for a living has that effect, and though the exact number of trills, flats, sharps, and unfortunate breath marks were never exactly cross-referenced with any website, it was good fun to bet on it never the less.

Even body language is tough for Joe
Joe Buck Can't Read--My father prefers to channel his baseball watching towards the announcers. Usually, this involves rolling his eyes at Bert or clapping along with Dick Bremer, but when the national announcers call the game it involves total exasperation with Joe Buck, who doesn't seem to understand that it's a good idea to read a scorecard while calling a game to cover simple things like: the teams, who's batting, the score and which inning it is. But by god he can say "cold Coors Light" better than any other announcer in history so, he'll keep on announcing until we're all old and gray.

Alcohol Helps--Speaking of cold Coors Lights...I don't drink them. But I do drink other things, and when subjected to Joe Buck, I encourage others to do the same.

John Bonnes/Nick Nelson Help--Speaking of drinking, special kudos to Twins Daily peoples for hosting a fantastic happy hour at Mason's on Monday night. Attending with the better half of the blogging duo (Mrs. Peanut/Stinky/Kristina) we were treated to beer and cheery conversation--even if John doesn't approve of Little Big League like we do, it was nice to talk to fellow nerds.

Everyone has a connection to Derek Jeter--Speaking of nerds, did you know that Derek Jeter's not a nerd? Did you know that Derek Jeter has known Derek Jeter all of his life? Let's see if Derek Jeter would sit down for a candid interview with Derek Jeter to discuss how Derek Jeter Derek Jetered Derek Jeter. (Any more broadcasts like this Fox and I think he's legally allowed to file a restraining order)

We need to love water more than oil--Fans at the game spotted a sign above the jumbotron around the fourth inning, and Twitter responded as it usually does, with one giant "#WTF?!?!" Still, point taken giant sign, I'll stop cuddling my own personal barrel of crude oil and start snuggling with an 8 pack of Evian.

Local Boys Done Good--Glen Perkins got the save, Kurt Suzuki had a nice relaxing day in the bullpen catching other guys and Pat Neshek...well...maybe we shouldn't mention Neshek as he took the loss. But he did make it to the All-Star game by a far more circuitous route than any of us would have expected when he was on the final ballot 7 years ago. So in a truly Minnesotan spirit let's just say "good for him."

Minnesotans Don't Like Loud Noises--Fireworks went boom, we were upset, that's all that really needs to be said.
Mike "Derek Jeter" Trout wins the
Derek Jeter award for Derek Jetering

Mike Trout is Good at Baseball--Unfortunately, when he makes his retirement tour the first question he'll be asked was "how did it feel to win the All-Star Game MVP in Derek Jeter's final season?"

So we're on to the second half, and with the World Cup done I might actually blog more frequently! Oh wait, school starts in a month...well, it'll be a fun month at least.


Cliff Notes Guide to the 2014 Twins: "When I bound the Rose sheaves"

Summary: Ch. 3 "June"
Entering the month of June the Twins were still lurking on the fringes of what could be defined as a "dangerous" team. One that didn't know it wasn't good enough to be playing like it was. One that could rely on youthful exuberance, energy and enthusiasm to see them through good days and bad, perhaps best symbolized by Oswaldo Arcia's triumphant return to the fan base's hearts and minds against Milwaukee.
Pity it didn't last

Yet Arcia's twisted ankle in the next inning is an obvious harbinger of the difficulties to come. Because into this scene of insouciant optimism came the Houston Astros, the Twins' mirror image in both youth, recent history and foolish optimism. Faced with their mirror image, an given an opportunity to own their identity, the Twins instead reverted to a feeling of smug superiority and were critically exposed in a series loss to a "team" in name only.

Rather than grab hold of our inadequacy and owning it in a moment of self-realization, the Twins sought external intervention from Kendrys Morales. Morales' veteran acumen made him a likely mentor-figure, but his tragic flaw of both doughy physique and extended absence from the game made it challenging for him to halt our emerging malaise.

Sure enough, the longer we journeyed away from our safety net, our security blanket (if you will), the harder it became for us to survive as up-and-comers. Step by step the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels and Rangers battered our fledgling optimism until it an all other hopes for greatness were bundled away for the year, as the rose sheaves in Robert Browning's poem. Whether or not this recognition serves to benefit or bedraggle the Twins has yet to be seen...that's what the second half of the season is for...obviously.

Character Development
Kyle Gibson/Phil Hughes--The dueling courters for the fickle fan's hearts these two pitchers seem to alternate hot and cold by the month. Their mystique is engaging, yet aggravating, as fans continue to quest for their one true pitching love. 
Brian Dozier--Dozier's progress continues in fits and spurts. Blooms of triumph are tempered with the storms of inaccuracy and self-imposed pressure. His emergence still makes him the closest thing to a protagonist this season has, but his fall may mirror the story's as well.
Joe Mauer--As with all things Mauer, his month featured  both flickers of hope and shadows of despair. His hitting stroke returned, but the team faltered again. His command of the strike zone was more evident, but he was injured near the end of the month and seemed poised to vanish again into the backdrop of the story as swiftly as he emerged.
Glen Perkins--Joining Mauer in the ranks of under-developed static characters of the season is closer Glen Perkins. Rumors of his tremendous performance are everywhere. Like graffiti tags asking "who is John Gault?" or the infamous red "V" from Frank Miller's dystopian graphic novel: V for Vendetta. Yet, he appears so infrequently that there's little to appreciate and even less to dissect.
Kendrys Morales--The third chapter of our season introduces a new character, a rarity for the Twins' series of season-long books, but a welcome one. Morales' dualism--symbol of contender status/presence on a losing team; designated hitter/ineffective hitter--offers another confounding presence that is hotly debated in literary/baseball circles.

Key Quotes/Stats Explained
Pitcher WHIP with 3-5 Runs of Support--1.505. Unsurprisingly, the Twins perform poorly when they have 2 or fewer runs, and are great when they have more than 6. But most of the season they've been in the 3-5 runs of support range. Unfortunately, that's when the pitchers have had their worst Walks + Hits Per Inning Pitch (a measure of average base runners allowed per inning). To reach that average we likely have three base runners every two innings. That's not bad if you have one single in one inning, but it gets rougher if you have a walk followed by a double, you're playing with fire.
Team Road tOPS+--91--the tOPS measures how far above or below the total On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage is (100 = the same, 0-99 = Worse,  101+ = better). For all the talk about Target Field being a hitters park, the Twins as a team are significantly better at home than on the road, and that's most apparent in the driving forces for the team. Brian Dozier's tOPS+ is 69, and Kurt Suzuki's is 79. While each man is an increasingly beloved fixture for the team, their performance near loved ones is clearly different than their performance elsewhere.

Literary Term to Impress your Teacher/Attractive English Major Friend:
In time almost every baseball season shift their focus away from the starry-eyed romantic or idealistic perspective towards the genre of Naturalism. This stark, honest, appraisal of reality is clearly evidenced in the tonal shift of the Twins' June. Gone are the fanciful imaginings or idyllic appraisals of our present and future, instead we confront the world as it is with a fuller experience of both the trials of frequent defeats interspersed with notable joys (i.e. sweeping the White Sox). While this may seem disappointing, cynical or unpleasant in comparison with the happy fluffy early stage of the season, Naturalism is really a genre designed to rediscover the beautiful by stripping away the false claims and artificial window dressing that most artists rely on. If you have wanted the Twins to be focused on the future rather than the present, you really want them to be as Naturalistic as possible the rest of the season.


Joe Mauer, Michael Bradley, and The Problem With Artistic Athletes

So I've been more or less completely consumed with the World Cup this month. Watching every match I can, reading interviews, reports, reviewing highlights, and writing like a maniac. But I still think of baseball, perhaps never more clearly than when I was watching a World Cup match with some friends last Thursday.

We needed a point against Germany, or some good fortune in another match. Being Minnesota sports fans, we fully anticipated that everything would turn against us at any given moment. As a result, every flaw, every foul, every mistake increased our anxiety and our ire, and nobody got under our skin as much as Michael Bradley.

Bradley--mid-mistake. (From Slate.com)
For those who don't know, Bradley is widely believed to be the best American player. A creating midfielder he basically serves as the point guard, distributing, defending, inventing and supporting every aspect of the game. A favorite in European leagues, bigwigs and pundits think that Bradley could easily make every one of the other 31 teams at the World Cup (even intimidating German and Brazilian squads).

But that didn't excuse Bradley's lackluster play. He was nowhere in the first match. He gave away the ball that became the equalizing goal against Portugal. And in the final match versus Germany he was sloppy: losing the ball frequently, making clumsy/ineffectual challenges. Suddenly my friends were out for blood.

"Bradley, what is wrong with you?!?!"
"Bradley gives it away every time, I'm telling you!!!"
"God, Bradley, just stop! STOP!!"

I couldn't remember the last time I'd heard so many people, so upset, with such a talented athlete. Until I remembered my last trip to Target Field and the shouts at #7...Joe Mauer.
Joe Mauer Misses the Cheers (From CBS Sports)

"Mauer, what is wrong with you?!?!?"
"Mauer grounds out every time, I'm telling you!!!"
"God, Mauer, just stop! STOP!!"

I sort of assumed it just revolved around the old story: big name, big expectations, minimal delivery, maximum reaction. But there's a little something more to it than that I think. After all, we seem perpetually enamored of other players, even though they certainly have down moments too...why be enraged by Mauer and Bradley and not the others?

I think the reason might lie in our selection of heroes. We love the strong, the powerful, the mighty men who never cease to amaze with their offensive exploits: think Harmon Killebrew, Jim Thome and, in the soccer world, Clint Dempsey. We also love the daring, the bold, the unbelievable save-the-day types: Kirby Puckett at the wall, Johan Santana at the end of a losing streak, Tim Howard any time of day.

But those two styles of heroes do not match well with either Bradley or Mauer. They won't win things single handedly (either with goals or home runs). They won't save the day (either with sparkling defense/pitching or miraculous goal keeping). They are more like artists than heroes. Doing things that seem unusually beautiful and nearly impossible to quantify. They distribute the ball where it's least expected (either with passes or with spray singles hitting through defensive shifts). They provide a team with a reliable pillar requires opponents to develop specific plans. They are lauded by many--particularly those who see them at a distance and know their reputation. Sure some artists can also be powerful or save the day (Magic Johnson comes to mind), but if you can't you drop in stature rapidly (looking in your direction Ricky Rubio)

Of course there's one big gap between an artistic athlete and a straight forward artist: artists don't need to win anything, athletes always do. So, when an artistic athlete goes from great to average, it's easier to abandon them than hold on to the quietly valuable work of the past. And if they have a run of bad form while the team succeeds in spite of them, fans can get down right angry at the waste of talent who should be making a good team great rather than holding them back.
What the hell Strathairn?!!

Those who hate on Mauer and Bradley would be rather like if art fans got pissed when Monet refused to change style when Seurat and Van Gogh got more experimental, or if movie goers whined about David Strathairn never getting back to his Oscar nominated potential.

Of course, that hate doesn't have to last forever. Every World Cup match brings a new slate of heroes and raft of scapegoats. In the last week alone, Joe Mauer went from washed-up to offensive lynchpin. A weak bit of artistry inspires nothing but frustration, but even the weakest artist is still an artist, and capable of transcendent moments.

When those moment comes, I look forward to hearing all the jeers and frustration die away, and for one word to supplant them. One word when Bradley hits Clint Dempsey in perfect stride. One word when Mauer knocks in two with a single to the opposite field. One word, in city/state/nationwide chorus: "YES!"


Paying to Anticipate: An adventure in baseball cards

I finally did it. I told myself I ought to. I explained all the ways why. I made sure that I actually could do it, and then I did it.

I sold a large chunk of my baseball card collection.

It wasn't doing anything, it was sitting in a box in my attic. When my neighbor set up a yard sale and offered me a chance to sell some things, I went to get them. Sure enough, old DVD players, printers, and stereo systems...passed...a couple hundred 1988 baseball cards...gone in a flash.

I don't need more baseball cards (no one does...really), but I still make an annual pack a special ritual for myself. A reward for a year worth of teaching, a method of keeping my place in a mountain of books. As I've done before, I thought it might be fun to write about the process of opening up my packs (both a regular and a heritage set)

First the flashy new deck, as my dog sits at my feet, hopefully looking at me like I've unwrapped a treat for us both to eat. No luck pup.

Paul Goldschmit leads off...I know him, power hitter prospect, okay...then Hiroki Kuroda who excites me as a fan of good pitching, and churns my stomach as a symbol of Yankee wealth. Michael Brantely and Jonathan Pablebon follow, so far a solid crew.

There we go: Yordano Ventura...do you know who Yordano Ventura plays for? Did you know there was a person in the world named Yordano Ventura? Apparently he was a September call up who has an active twiter account (#LetsThrowFire)--I wonder what the old cigarette companies who started this tradition would have written on the back in lieu of twitter: "When walking down the street, King Kelly shouts out: 'I ATE A PASTRAMI SANDWHICH, POUND SYMBOL YUM!' Oh that Kelly, always a fan favorite."
Back in the swing of things, an old school Buster Posey card...the same psuedo style as a lot of the cards I just sold...perhaps the universe is giving me a sign to track down the buyer and steal them back. No, wait, Francisco Liriano follows him up, that's a sign that you should just appreciate your memories, lest the regret eat you alive.

Ahh...and here they are, at the back of the pack...the also rans: Wily Peralta, Nick Hundley, Eric Sogard, Scooter Gennett and Jack Hannahan. The only who remotely stands out is Scooter...and it's far more for he fact that his name is Scooter than anything else.

What about the classic pack, fewer cards, classier stock than the ultra shiny newbies, a little more price. Perhaps here will be the bonafide stars, the exciting pack of a full blown team of all-stars I wouldn't trade for a Byron Buxton rookie...oh who am I kidding, they're just cards...

Opening it up, I swear I could smell that old cardboard gum, the stuff that made my jaws hurt as a kid, but that I stubbornly ate, piece after piece, because I felt bad turning down the gift of gum each company had so thoughtfully inserted for me. (I admit it, I've always been naive).

Andres Torres tops the deck, glum and dead-eyed, then Jayson Werth with a more manageable beard than usual...Aha, a bulky Prince Fielder in his new Rangers uniform...just what I was hoping for, and just what Rangers fans were hoping for...a positive image, regardless of the injuries and disaster that lay ahead.

John Neise is alright, but Darin Ruf makes me wonder if these cards are all that special...apparently he had a strong power swing for the Phillies at the end of the season...but I'm not sure I buy it. Just like I didn't buy in to  most "Impact Rookie" cards Topps chucked into my packs as a kid.

Darin Ruf? Really?
A throwback Jim Plamer card reflecting on his 1965 debut (the year the heritage pack is emulating), is solid and nice to imagine as a rookie card slipped among your mom/dad's old belongings. Travis Wood and Brett Lawrie won't have the same effect on my kids I'm sure. Finally a card of AL ERA leaders Annabelle Anibal Sanchez and Bartolo (Semi)Colon. 

That's it. I confess myself disappointed*. 21 cards and not a single Twin. I pick out a few I'd like to hold on to--both for the fun of bookmarking my pages and on the off chance they develop into something special (Gennett, Kuroda). But there were no Twins. No favorites. And I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to save my money and wrap a random selection of my old cards in paper for the same illusion.

It's silly to repeat this ritual, silly to spend money (any money) on an easily abandoned, quickly forgotten distraction. But I'm not really paying for a long term investment. I'm not even paying for short-term distraction. I'm paying for a certain feeling, a memory of childhood, and a reminder that potential is so much more fun than reality, like dreaming on what Prince Fielder can accomplish in Texas before he plays a game. (I mean, if I had gotten a Brian Dozier, I wouldn't give a fart about the deluge of relievers and middling talent). I love the moment of anticipation, the wait, the hope, the discovery. Like seeing runners in scoring position with less than two outs, I have all manner of hopes and wishes for how they score, or how the pitcher dances out of danger. It doesn't matter if it lives up to my expectations or not, it's the thrill of the not knowing that gets me every time. 

Maybe I'll find someone to give me two bucks for the cards at another garage sale, or maybe they'll get chucked by my wife in a burst of spring cleaning. I'm not concerned about what happens to the opportunity lost, I'm already dreaming about the opportunities to come. If that doesn't make me a baseball fan, I don't know what does.

*Though I do pause to fulfill another fun distraction--imagining the best line up I can make with the cards I was dealt--Pitcher Palmer, than Posey-2; Fielder-3, Gennett-4, Lawrie-5, Sogard (out of position)-6, Torres-7, Brantley-8, Werth-9...Underwhelming as they are, I'm pretty sure they could beat the Astros.