Gamblin' Man

I have fun at Terry Ryan's expense. (Sorry big guy, it's just too easy.) I photo shop him in all kinds of compromising outfits like say...this one!

While this seems bad, plenty of people are frustrated enough with Terry's attitude to this off season to do far worse than photoshop him onto a Dutch breakdancer's body. Just what did he do?

Well, he seems to have taken an already suspect pitching staff and filled it up with even more questionable characters including: a pitcher with two years experience who just had elbow surgery, a journeyman pitcher who hasn't had a positive WAR in 3 years, and another fading prospect who lost almost all of last year due to Tommy John Surgery surgery. The greatest ray of hope is that we may be the last best hope for a left-hander from a playoff team (whose best season was 5 years back).

There are other complaints from other quarters: trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere, not upgrading the middle or corner infield, failing to buy us all ponies and cotton candy (okay that was just his granddaughter). But by and large the wrath is focused on the "upgrades" to the pitching staff.

To many (if not most) it will seem like the team has simply forgone any effort to be competitive this season, looking to find names to fill out the line-up card rather than find top notch game changers. Instead of carefully selecting long-term investments (like Zack Grienke or Brandon McCarthy), Ryan has wagered the season on the vague hope that we could win the pitching lottery.

But, as easy as it is to find fault with the GM's decisions, I don't spend a lot of time doubting or second guessing his moves for two main reasons:
  1. I doubt that venting my spleen all over the internet will change TR's decision making process in any way shape or form.
  2. I know enough about baseball to know that I don't know anything about baseball.
Terry Ryan's winning numbers?
I may be the first blogger--writing in a medium that requires sincere belief that other people think you know what you're talking about--to admit that I really don't know squat. And if you, gentle reader, are really honest about it, I'll bet you'll admit that you don't know either. We don't know who will succeed and who will fail. We don't know whether the pitchers we've signed will prove resilient or so utterly neurotic that they can't function. Every day has uncertainty, but few areas have as much as that most volatile part of baseball: starting pitching

Sure, a long-term investment in a star pitcher sounds good, but while you might be netting CC Sabathia, you might also get disasters-in-waiting like Barry Zito or Mike Hampton.

Sure, last-ditch, desperation contracts seem like a lottery ticket to nowhere, but while you will likely lose your money, you just might come up a winner with an RA Dickey or Ryan Vogelsong. 

One of my last chances
to post Marquis de Marquis
Even within Terry Ryan's own history there's a legacy of lottery ticket wins and losses. How many people were jumping with joy for the acquisitions of Carlos Silva or Kenny Rogers? How many regret their optimism for Jason Marquis or Sidney Ponson?

Creating a starting rotation is an awful lot like buying a lottery ticket. You take a guess and hope it works out. When it does (even if it's just getting $100 for landing 3 out of 5 or winning 75 games with a patchwork quilt of has-beens and never-will-bes) you have to figure out what to do with your winnings. If you're smart, you seek out some prudent investments (i.e. extend Joe Nathan; trade Boof Bonser for anything at all); if not you're just going to keep on buying lottery tickets until the end of time.

I have no idea how this rotation will pan out. I have major doubts, to be sure (I sincerely doubt that Kevin Correia has a Cy Young season just waiting to happen), but I also know that my judgements aren't based on the same information, and knowledge that Terry Ryan and his team has. As much as I love the game, as much as I think I understand it, my knowledge and comprehension barely scratches the surface of those who cover it full time. That's not to say that the Twins' front office will always be right, just to say that I have no idea (right now) if they will be right or wrong.

I like to think that I know more than that, but in reality I just don't.

But I do know that Terry Ryan looks funny in that "Clog-Enthusiast/Construction-Worker" get-up.


Rational Thinking on an Irrational Topic

This is one of my favorite times of the baseball year, which is odd because there's no games being played, no highlights to goggle over, no action to analyze.

But there is the Hall of Fame, that marvelous institution/debate instigator that symbolizes so much and actually means very little. This is the time to think about the history of the game, the greatest players to walk on a diamond, and exactly how baseball still relates to our values personally and as a society. As a  fan of baseball history and a chronic over thinker, this is perfect for me.

Seriously...it's a good book.
In approaching the question of who I would vote for (which I don't and--barring a radical change in BBWAA rules never will--have), I decided to try a more logical, rational approach than the normal touchy-feely me is known for and than the great debate headquarters of Cooperstown, New York is used to. I thought, I'd fill out a ballot as an economist would...or even better, as a Freakonomicist would.

Those who've read the books by Stephen Levitt (pride of St. Paul) and Stephen Dubner know that, to an economist's mind, voting is futile. Elections (especially national ones) are decided by thousands of votes not just one; however the more local your election (mayor, city councilor, school board) and the smaller the margin of error in polls, the more likely that your vote will matter.

But civic elections are simple affairs--one winner, lots of losers.When it comes to the Hall of Fame there are really three kinds of winning: (1st) get 75% and get elected for enshrinement; (2nd) get more than 66% and apply enough peer pressure on voters to eventually get elected; (3rd) get more than 5% and stay on the ballot until you can boost yourself up for enshrinement.

So, if you cast an economical ballot for the hall of fame, then you can break down your vote to those three categories. You vote for people who might or might not reach one of those three thresholds (and don't worry as much about people like Roger Clemens or Dale Murphy who won't make 75 or 66% but will easily top 5%. With that in mind, here's how I would vote (if I could):

Yup, I'm biased...
1st--Guys to get over the top
It's no sure thing that any one will be elected this year. But the two candidates deemed most likely to succeed also happen to be two people I think are quite deserving and would be proud to help put into the hallowed halls. Craig Biggio reached the rarified air of 3,000 hits while adapting to three different positions: Catcher, 2nd Base, and Center Field. He might not be the most eye catching candidate this year, but a vote for him gets tremendous bang for your buck. The same goes for Jack Morris, who may benefit from what some people call the "acehood fallacy", but also dosen't deserve to suffer for it. Sure that one great Game 7 may be the main reason he's inducted...but it was our game 7 so...he surely deserves a boost.

3rd--Guys to save from elimination
If you read other people's ballots, chances are that you see lots of star powered name hemming and equal amounts of "gee-I-wish-I-could-vote-for" hawing. Since less than 5% of the vote eliminates you from future consideration, and since many people are doubting the next three candidates, a vote for them helps to encourage debate about guys who need a little more consideration before their time runs out. Ergo, I'll vote for the eternally moving Kenny Lofton (best lead off man of the 90s), Edgar Martinez (best DH, possibly ever) and Larry Walker (best Rocky Mountain-based jack of all trades).

Maybe they aren't surefire hall of famers, but they should be discussed more than once or twice, and voting for them helps keep them outside of the danger zone and on the ballot a little while longer.

2nd--Guys to make people talk about
For some reason, some voters (cou*knuckleheads*gh!) will only vote for players who've already been voted for by more than half the electorate. They're happy to vote guys in, provided their colleagues yell at them loudly enough. So, now that Jack Morris is being talked about (and perhaps inducted) we can move more guys up into the conversation (even if that conversation is fraught with ideological disputes of the rights and wrongs of drug use).

Listen, Monsieur Hendersono...
Start with two guys whose problem isn't drug use, but things beyond their control. So I'd vote for  Lee Smith (whose mistake was being very good at a job that lots of people don't like--and whose exclusion is a little like not letting John Adams into your house party because you don't like politicians) and Tim Raines (whose mistake was not being named Ricky Henderson's non-union Canadian equivalent)

Next, we'll start the steroid discussion by making people talk about good candidates whose only problem is being pilloried over a lot of hearsay and conjecture. Chances are voters will move first on good candidates who haven't been publicly identified as dirty-no-good cheaters--once we have consensus on them, we can move on to the more difficult headliners. So, I'll cast a vote for Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.

That's 9 votes already...but since it's make 9 get the 10th one free, I'll also toss on Barry Bonds, because he's another conversation worth having: one of the best players without the juice, (the best player allegedly with the juice), more multi-faceted than the other boppers (Messrs Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire et al), less prone to "his career was fizzling" blame than his most high profile partner in (alleged) crime (Mr. Clemens). Barry's case is special, and probably won't be solved within the next 3, 5 or even 10 years...but once he hits 50-60% a few more will waver, and a few more, and a few more...and that's how consensus is reached.

Now, of course, my perception of baseball's history, who the greatest players are, and what our values will make a difference to practically no one (save, maybe my wife [hi honey] and my mom [hi momma!]).  And yet! What is this time of year for if not for imagining that writing up your convoluted thoughts about baseball somehow qualifies you to make sweeping assertions about the history of the game, the greatest players of all time and baseball's relationship to our values? What is this blog for, if not to give voice to my opinions, as part of the longest running debate in baseball? I'll make my assertions, and others will disagree, and all will be well in the world of baseball punditry.

That's why I love this time of year: great debates, even on a tetchy topic.

(Think I'm right? Think I'm wrong? Leave your thoughts in the comments below)


Ring out the old. Ring in the new.

It's 2013, and that means that the Twins haven't lost a game yet this year!!

Yes, enthusiasm has been in short supply for the past two seasons, with more than a few loyal supporters questioning their allegiances faster than the Malfoy family at the end of the Deathly Hallows.

We peanuts have long been among the most sentimental of the blogging community. We sigh with memories of Johan and Torii (heck, we even mourned Boof Bonser and Brendan Harris). And as the Twins rebuilding project has begun to gain momentum more and more of the guys we cheered for when this blog began have left the franchise.

We give out plaques
just for being fun...
As always, we remember the players who've left us with a vote to induct them into the Peanuts from Heaven Hall of Fame (see the poll at the right). We laud the players who might have been good, but were mostly fun to watch and made us love the game (hence the inductions of Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez). So look through the list, vote as often as you like, and remember that 75% gets you in, 10% keeps you on the ballot and anything less than that gets a spot in the Jim Hoey Memorial Garbage bin of the mind.

But while reminiscences are satisfying to some, they really don't do much to address the present. As much as we peanuts love the by gone days of competitive, talented ball players whom we could photoshop in awkward ways, those days are over, and it does not do to dwell on dreams only to forget reality.

About a month ago, right after the Ben Revere trade, I took Stinky (Mrs. Peanut to you) out for a nice Italian dinner date night. We commiserated about the dearth of lovable guys and the uncertainty of new players. As she said, "everyone who made me love this team is gone, and in their place are a bunch of people I'm not sure will be here in six months. I used to cheer because I loved the team and the guys who were part of it. Now, I cheer because they wear the same clothes that the guys I love used to wear."
The happy couple during
a happier season

I have a feeling that Stinky spoke for a lot of Twins fans that night, few of whom are members of the blogosphere, but many of whom sit down the row or at the same bar and who have begun to approach the summer months with apathy bordering on estrangement. I've certainly had similar moments, and I've read many similar thoughts from other bloggers. But, as I told my beloved Stinky that same night, "this is part of love. The people you care about don't stay exactly the same as when you first met them, they grow, they change, and you find new things to love about them."

We could close up the blogging shop right now, satisfied that it was an amusing diversion for many years, and hope that some day the Twins sweep us off our feet again. Or we can keep writing, keep chatting and actually redouble our efforts as we find new things to love in this new team. This version of the Twins might not win, (okay they definitely won't win) but they can be entertaining and we can find entertainment in their efforts. So join us as we ring out the old (with the PFH HoF vote) and ring in the new (with new posts welcoming in our quirky line-up).

It's going to be a fun year.

--Smelly/Scruffy (Mr. Peanut)