A little story

Once upon a time there was a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins who thought that he was actually early 20th century philosopher Frederich Nietzsche. He wasn't really, but this did not stop him, or uninformed bloggers, from believing it was true.

One snowy winter day in December 2010 (the 11th to be exact), Jesse Crain and his teammates decided to take a stroll through downtown Minneapolis. "Dudes," said Delmon Young. "Why are we walking in a blizzard?"

"I have no idea, but this is super fun!" cried Matt Tolbert, leaping and bounding over snowbanks and laughing with joy. "He stopped in wonder at the top of a hill from which he could see the metrodome. "Wow guys!" he said in a half whisper. "Look at it, it's so beautiful and magical! Like a giant fluffly marshmallow."

"Yeah," said Justin Morneau, tearing up a little. "Remember all the great memories we had playing there? Like when Torii burned half his face off sliding across the astroturf?" They all chucked and shook their heads, remembering his shriek of horror as he realized the friction had set his jersey on fire.

"Good times, good times." Said Kevin Slowey. "Well, even though we don't play there anymore it's good to know the ol' dome will always be there, to preserve our precious mem-". At that moment, there was a deafening tearing sound and the roof of the metrodome slowly collapsed in on itself like a sadly deflating balloon under the crushing weight of a gazillion points of snow.


"No," Jesse Crain replied calmly. "There isn't. God is dead. You disgust me with your backwards Christian morality. Behold the power of ZE UBERMENSCH!" He put his hands on his hips and tried to tower imposingly over his teammates but nothing really happened. "That's just silly," Denard Span replied. "God is not dead. He is alive in all of us. I talk to him before every game."

Jesse laughed. "Ridiculous. Everyone knows that faith is just the same as not wanting to know what is true." "But," Denard replied, "we can concieve of the existence of God, therefore he must be real."
"Um, no," replied Jesse. "I can conceive of unicorn, but that doesn't mean unicorns are real."
"They totally are," said Tolbert.
"No they aren't," said Denard. "But horns are real, and horses are real - and it is only because these two things exist that we can conceive of a Unicorn. God is That Than Which None Greater Can Be Conceived - and because we can concieve of this, it must be real."

"Agh!" Jesse cried. "You and your ontological reasoning! You think you can win but you can't! I can't conceive of that...anything...YOUR MOM!!!" And with that he exploded in a tiny puff and turned up four days later in hell. Or actually it was the White Sox clubhouse, but they're pretty much the same thing.

This deeply confused the White Sox front office, and when Ozzie Guillen first saw him his immediate reaction was to attack him with a fishing pole screaming "DON'T LET IT EAT ME!"... but soon they all just got used to him being there and decided to let him stay.
And that's how Jesse Crain became a White Sock.
The end.

Yes, I am writing this instead of my 15 page strategy paper which is due tomorrow. Shut up. I totally have my priorities straight.


The Getting or the Gathering

During this, the holiday season, our airwaves are inundated with stories that remind us of what this time of the year is really all about: kindness, compassion and loving concern for our fellow earthlings. Occasionally, we lose sight of this holiday spirit and fixate upon shiny new gadgets or sparkly baubles or free agent baseball players worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Because this is a baseball blog, I'll focus on the last one of those things (although, my i-Pad IS very very shiny). {Note, for best results, read this post along with the music at this link}

In the wake of the trade that sent JJ Hardy to Baltimore, a subtle sense of depression has infiltrated the normally peppy Twins blogosphere. Hardy's salary had to be cut to afford a new pitcher, but we can't seem sign one. And while our rivals have wrapped up big names (Victor Martinez in Detroit; Adam Dunn in Chicago; Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in Boston), the Twins front office seems to be dreaming of sugar plums and hoping that Santa delivers a free-agent miracle into their stockings.

In the eyes of many this is a source of vexation. We seem to have reached a plateau--competing for the title, but never winning it--and while other teams keep coming up with the funds to pay sixth starters, long relievers and reserve infielders multiple millions, we insist on asking obscure, inexpensive youngsters like Duensing, Slama, Burnett, Tolbert & Plouffe to do what higher profile back-ups on big clubs do. Such unproven-no-names and best-case-scenarios "is what differentiates [the Twins] from the big spenders out east, and its the exact kind of thing that will keep them from ever being able to surpass the Yankees in team talent" (according to the wise old dean of Twins Blogdom, Nick Nelson).

Such painfully frank analysis, especially from a blogger of Nelson's calibre, makes the whole game of baseball seems like a foregone conclusion; an equation that will invariably end in pinstriped easterners holding a big gold trophy. Faced with this impending failure, despair has permeated the Twins blogosphere. "We're screwed," they say. "We're dead," they say. "We've got no chance to compete" they say. Without quality free agent acquisitions our team may as well shuffle loose the mortal coil and join the Pittsburghs and Seattles of the world. (Or, to return to the holiday theme of this post: we pout that unless we have that expensive new player all the other teams are getting, the whole year will be ruined and we'll never be happy again.)

Far be it from me to say Nick Nelson is wrong, but I will (politely) disagree with the gloom and doom that has blossomed in the wake of his (and others) concerns. Maybe it's just the season-- the warm feeling inspired by one glass of egg nog too many or too many viewings of A Muppet Christmas Carol--but I can't summon the same despair. This is the time of year to embrace the spirit of the season and the people who surround us. Instead of fixating on the things that we don't have or the material possessions that we desperately want, now is the time to concentrate on how being with other people brings out the very best in ourselves.

Celebrating the holidays is not unlike being a baseball fan. You find reason for hope even in the darkest part of the year. You learn to celebrate and express gratitude for what you do have rather than what you don't. You spend quality time with your nearest and dearest and remember that, though they can drive you crazy, you're tied to each other for a lot longer than one day.

So, if you're convinced that life won't be worth while unless the Twins put a cool dirt bike of a player like Derek Lee or Brandon Webb underneath our tree come the 25th, take a deep breath. Remember, there's hope for every team every season. Remember, others (in say, Cleveland) would love to be at our "plateau". And remember to enjoy this time with your fellow fans no matter who joins the fold. Even if all we get is a pair of socks named Nick Punto, it's the holidays, its not about the getting, it's about the gathering.


The Most Magical Winter Meetings Ever!

On Sunday I provided my annual predictions for what the Twins would do at the Winter Meetings. Today I provide my annual recap of the Twins activity during the Winter Meetings using the only journalistic skill I have....a fevered imagination laced with pop culture references.* (For previous years of examples click here or here)

10:55 AM--Upon hearing the announcement that George Steinbrenner was not elected to the Hall of Fame, the entire Twins front office sheds a collective tear of gratitude that Bert Blyleven's (hopeful) induction to Cooperstown will not be overshadowed by legions of Yankee fans paying homage to a multi-billionaire.

4:10 PM--The Pohlad family offers Cliff Lee eight thousand lakes over seven years. They are turned down.

8:21 PM--Team officials have a dinner meeting with the agents for Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka regarding a potential contract for the next three seasons, but nearly ruin their chances by failing the oh so crucial business card exchange at the beginning of the meeting.

10:56 PM--In a desperate attempt to save the potentially disastrous negotiations, a slightly tipsy GM Bill Smith commandeers a local karaoke machine and delivers an soul stirring rendition of Cee Lo Green's "F*** You!".
11:00 PM--Even though he hates the cultural stereotype, Nishioka and his agents can't resist Cee Lo Green, and hop up on stage to join Smith in an encore. (Meetings are described as "productive")

5:12 AM--In an effort to beat the crowds, Smith and his deputies stand outside the gates to the Magic Kingdom in order to get on all the cool rides first.

11:42 AM--Tiring after their ninth roller coaster, Smith wonders if four prospects and all day ride passes would be enough to get Royals Pitcher Zack Grienke in a trade.

11:43 AM--Smith sees "Buzz Lightyear's SpaceRanger Spin" and wisely holds on to his most valuable assets.

7:20 PM--To make a good day even better Smith picks up the 6th Season of Lost on DVD from a "Discount Bin" in one of the many Disney stores ("C'mon," Smith is heard to remark "the finale wasn't that bad!")

3:01 AM--Halfway through rewatching the final season of Lost, Smith regrets ever letting go of Matt Fox.

7:17 AM--In an attempt to get over the loss of Matt Fox, Smith goes through an address book full of old, often injured pitchers hoping to impress one of them with his knowledge of Lost.

12:23 PM--After Octavio Dotel, Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, and Chris Young greet his theorizing with awkward silence, Smith drowns his sorrows in appletinis with Nick Punto (for old time's sake).

5:58 PM--After a few too many appletinis Smith offers Carl Pavano a two year contract worth $20 Million, and offers Carl Pavano's mustache a 3 year contract worth $36 million.

9:14 PM--Despite an impassioned argument by his mustache, Pavano decides to wait for a better deal.

6:26 AM--After Orioles GM Lee McPhail bogarts the bacon bucket at the hotel's make-your-own omelette station, Smith agrees to trade JJ Hardy to the Orioles in exchange for two relief pitchers, the bacon bucket and three kinds of cheese.

10:38 AM--While packing up for the flight home a Twins official trips over long ago misplaced infielder Brendan Harris. Having filled all their suitcases the Twins have no alternative but to include Harris in the trade with the Orioles.

*Please note: All depictions of Bill Smith in this post are made out of affection for his acumen, the belief that he can take a joke, and jealousy of the fact that he is far smarter than I am.


The Winter Meetings: The Happiest Place on Earth...if your name is Cliff Lee

On Monday, while the rest of us freeze our patooties off, Bill Smith and the Twins front office staff will start a week in Orlando, Florida. In between riding the teacups and losing their money to one of the few businesses that makes the New York Yankees look impoverished, they'll try and set up the Twins for a run at the 2011 World Series. As is our wont on this website, we'll suggest just what we can expect to happen--and offer a suggestion for just how the Twins Staff can use their surroundings of the Magical Kingdom to their best advantage. (P.s. click on the years to see some of our brilliant analysis from 2009, and 2008)

1st: We sign one fairly solid reliever--Clearly I misspent my youth. Instead of writing, reading and arithmetic I should have been working on one great split-finger fastball. If only I had read this opinion piece from Roy Halladay when I was a boy! Brandon Fuentes, Johnny the (G)Rauch, Matty Gurrier and (our homie) Jesse Crain (Ze Ubermensch) are all ready to pick up big paychecks in exchange for throwing a horsehide spheroid.

With so many members of our bull-pen due for raises, we can probably wave good-bye to most if not all of them. But if we're lucky, we could trick one of them to ride Space Mountain with us, and subtly ask them to re-sign them at a reasonable cost. If we ask this just before we plummet down into one of those super sweet neon lit tunnels, then they'll scream out "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY" and we'll claim they agreed to terms with us! (Deceitful, perhaps...but if you've got any better ideas I'd love to hear them).

2nd: We sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Sounds like Nishioka actually is pumped to be a Twinnesotan including those magic words: "I don't think I will give up the idea of going to the majors because of the amount of money"--somewhere, heaven, hell, as a reincarnated goat herder in Tasmania, Carl Pohlad is smiling.

So, after offering $5 million just to talk to him, we can seal the deal with a couple million and a quick glimpse of the glitz and glamour he can expect to find in the Twin Cities!...........Or we could get him into Disney World. (You know, just on the off chance that tater-tot casserole sushi leaves something to be desired.) And if we sign him in Orlando we can promise to take him back to Epcot's Japan section anytime he gets homesick!

3rd: We pick a pitcher or two off the scrap heap. Remember Sidney Ponson and Darren Oliver and Livan Hernandez...you know, the retread guys who nobody else was to keen on so they ended up in Twins uniforms for various lengths of time? Yeah, it's time to do some more of that. And after it worked so well with Carl Pavano can you really blame us?

But sadly, while it worked well with Pavano, he's over our little rebound rendez-vous and setting his sights on somebody with plenty of money and little intelligence (c'mon Mets, you know your cue when you hear it!). So--who's it going to be Bill Smith? Former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb? Former flash-in-the-pan John Maine? Former/Current shoulder-injury hazard zone Freddy Garcia? All of them are available, but to tell who is really worth signing take the whole lot of them to the It's a Small World Ride with a bucket of balls--whoever decapitates the most animatronic moppets before the end of the ride gets the contract!

4th: We toy with the Pittsburgh Pirates just a little bit more. Stinky and I have made no secret of the fact that our National League homeboys are the Pittsburgh Pirates (commemorating the 50 year anniversary of beating the Yankees in arguably the greatest game of Yankee beating ever!). So if the Twins and the Pirates do a little business together, we'd love it!

Turns out that the Pirates are sweet on every female Twins fan's favorite shortstop: J.J. "Sexxypants" Hardy. And nearly got him in a trade...but like a big brother teasing his sibling at Blizzard Beach, we laughed off their plea to play with the cool kids. (Not that I harbor any grudges against my big brother or anything...sniff) C'mon Twins make something happen, if we sign Nishioka, JJ's expendable anyway so trade him away for that nerdy Ross Ohlendorfer guy--we wholly support the idea of more nerds on the pitching staff (especially if Jesse Crain leaves town)

5th: Souvenir Shopping. We say this every year, but seriously...very little actually happens at the Winter Meetings, and if the first month of the offseason is any indication, the Twins aren't really keen to do anything anyway. So, you know what Bill Smith, it's cool if you just want to chill with your co-workers, ride Splash Mountain, check out the Pirates of the Caribbean stage show, you probably won't miss anything anyway. But would you mind picking up about 800,000 of these little beauties for all of us back home?.....Thanks, you're the best!