There's no Punting in Baseball

As you may know, people really like sports.

Lots of people.

Millions of people.

And they like it so much that they will furiously dissect the evaluation and selection of new players during the epic "drafts" that have come to dominate a fans' off-season calendar. (I sometimes wonder if aspiring draft pundits are standing on their elementary school playgrounds right now arguing over who Timmy should have taken third for kickball, Johnny who was caught eating paste but can run a 6.3 dash to first base, or Annabelle who hasn't had a great season 'till now but does have tremendous upside.)

While drafts are great opportunities for armchair GMs to opine and prognosticate about the future, they also signal the beginning of the end for veteran athletes who will soon be replaced by younger, less expensive talent. Such was the case for Minnesota Vikings' punter Chris Kluwe on Saturday. When the  Vikings drafted a young punter int he fifth round, pundits and fans raced to analyze the pick and debate the likelihood that Kluwe would never wear gold and purple again [outside of World of Warcraft that is].

But a change in punters' isn't normally a newsworthy event, unless that punter is a prominent personality who appears on NPR and Comedy Central [as Kluwe is]. It is even more noticeable when said punter is an outspoken proponent of marriage equality [as Kluwe also is]. Suddenly, changing punters seems to be less of a management decision and more of a referendum on a employing someone who capitalizes on his (relative) celebrity.

I don't know the Vikings reasoning for removing Kluwe, and I doubt I'll ever know. I am sure that in football, as in almost every other sport, when talent is similar the younger, cheaper option is preferable to the older, pricier option (that's just sane management). I am also sure that the Vikings are in the business of keeping fans happy, so I can see how a controversial kicker who espouses uncomfortable opinions does not necessarily help the business. Kluwe's attitude and advocacy seemed to alienate his supervisor (the special teams' coach) and also seemed to irritate a swathe a fans [if the plethora of "he-should've-kept-his-mouth-shut-and-played-the-damn-game" comments on talk radio and the internet are any guide]. Given that the NFL eschews societal controversies and that Kluwe's fellow gay-rights agitator in shoulder pads (Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo) was recently cut, the Vikings' real reasons for drafting a punter may well be drowned out by a public perception that a player's personal opinions partially contributed to the loss of his job.

If they have allowed his opinions to influence their decision making, then by preparing to cut ties with Kluwe, the Vikings and the NFL are punting a controversial topic downfield. But [and behold my segue back to baseball] would we be having the same conversation if we were talking about Chris Kluwe, middle reliever, instead of Chris Kluwe, punter? If Kluwe was not involved in the highest profile sport in the country, if he was just another "colorful" veteran about to be displaced by a hot prospect, would there be a public perception that his opinions were partially responsible for the end of his career (at least in the Twin Cities)?

I have to think that the answer is yes. Regardless of what sport you play, there's an attitude prevalent among the fan base for sports that playing the game should trump personal opinions. And no matter what opinion the player has and no matter whether you agree or disagree with that opinion, I personally believe that we should be rooting for players and athletes to share their opinions more rather than less.

I know several arguments against having opinionated, activist players prominently featured on your local team. Starting with the thought that they ought to just "play the game" and leave their opinions in their homes, but I can't help but feel that would do our favorite athletes a disservice if we discouraged them from speaking up when they think it matters.

I know some worry that controversial opinions are bad for business [especially since the costumer base for most major sports tends to be conservative], but with polarizing issues you can often gain as many fans on one side of the ideological divide as you lose from the other. (And when discussing gay marriage, the opinion gap between young and old suggests you may well find more long term fans.)

I know some believe that athletes are here to entertain not to agitate, but just because someone is an entertainer doesn't preclude them from having the same right to free will and free expression as a data cruncher, corporate executive, factory worker or educator. More to the point, you might not like Clint Eastwood or George Clooney's politics, but they still are free to express themselves whenever they see fit

I know some cite concerns around locker room morale as a reason to avoid the controversial, but other businesses throughout the country find ways to survive despite disparate opinions in the break room or board room. And if the armed forces can continue protecting and defending our nation with both heterosexual and homosexual servicemen and women (not to mention tolerant and intolerant opinions about sexual orientation) in the same barracks, I have to imagine that professional athletes can play a game.

I know some feel like the purpose of sports is simply to amuse, thereby providing a distraction from the controversies and difficulties of the world around us. Certainly amusement can be nice from time to time. Yet, if taxpaying citizens are going to be held responsible for financing the stadia, arena and ballparks [as we do with other amusement based public institutions like say the Guthrie theatre], it would be nice if (in addition to providing amusement and community pride) teams engaged with the issues that local citizens/financiers are facing too (like the Guthrie does with their plays).

On balance, it would be foolish to ignore the difficulties that come along with having an opinionated player in the locker room. But the difficulties are not insurmountable. Heck, they're barely even daunting. So if baseball (or any other major sport) allows fears over the fallout from opinionated players to dictate their team management, they will be be taking the easy way out of a simple situation.

This is the time to act, and few sports can do it as easily as baseball. Given the sport's historical prominence in challenging social conventions, it seems natural for baseball to take the lead in dealing with the issues of the day (and with a 162 game schedule, its only a matter of time until big issues become part of the every day routine of your life). Baseball's the sport that asked us to consider anti-semitism (with Hank Greenberg), to consider racism (with Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby), to consider the restrictions of labor laws (with Curt Flood).

Of course, simply speaking out in favor of gay rights is not the same as being Jackie Robinson, still, now is the time for sports teams to deal with gay rights. (Witness the fact that in the time between my first draft this morning and my published draft this evening, free agent basketball player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in a major sport.) Opinions about homosexuality are already out there, from the in-game trash talk of Yunel Escobar to the public comments of former Twin Torii Hunter. Baseball teams don't need to go out of our way to hire opinionated players, or to protect them from losing their jobs if they aren't as effective as others, but I hope we never need to dissect the motives for releasing a player whose opinions set them apart from the norm.

If a Twins player speaks up about their opinions, whatever side of the issue they land on, I hope that they are heard, respected and engaged as part of a broader debate. With respect to Edward R. Murrow sports is now what TV once was, it can entertain, but it can also "teach, illuminate...and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends." That responsibility begins with the players and extends out to the managers, executives and owners who work with them, then to the fans who cheer them on.

For everyone involved, and all of us watching/cheering at home, I hope that baseball doesn't punt this opportunity away.


Wha Happened? #4 (@ White Sox & v.s. Marlins)

Here's your quick, easy, inaccurate guide to the last week in Twins Baseball

Game 15
Cold Weathered Out
After going all the way to Chicago just to find out that another game would be postponed due to inclement weather, the Twins groaned loudly in protest. Manager Ron Gardenhire's offer to take everyone out for ice cream was a nice thought but...seriously...whose thinking about ice cream on the 79th day of February?

Game 16
Twins 2 - White Sox 1
In the afternoon, we peanuts thrilled to see the Twins squeak out a win in the Windy City, behind a strong 7 innings from Vance "Vanimal" Worley, and the night only got better as Mrs. Peanut and I went to see Minnesota Opera's version of Turandot...which would look something like this to the Vanimal.
Game 17
Twins 5 - White Sox 3
Years ago, we Peanuts met Jesse Crain. In addition to being polite with your run of the mill fans, he also seemed vaguely entertained by our comical shenanigans and goofy photoshops. For this reason we said that he was not just a "mensch" he was in fact "the Ubermensch". This allowed us to make all kinds of goofy allusions to philosophy while writing Twins recaps and caused much amusement...at least for us.

And while we Peanuts still want to take every opportunity to destroy the White Sox, we're a little less keen on crushing our pal "Ze Ubermensch". So when Ze Ubermensch came into pitch with the bases loaded we had to pause before remembering what we really wanted to see.

Facing Josh Willingham, Ze Ubermensch chose to open with one of his favorite argument/pitches, guaranteed to throw hitters off balance: "We speak of 'stranding runners' in baseball, and yet, in order to be 'stranded' shouldn't one be eternally lost, abandoned and forlorn, strapped to their base as if it were an island in the stream? Given that the runners, do in fact return to the dugout and thence to the field, is it not morally superior to leave them to their own devices, challenging the so called 'stranded' to survive the treacherous jog back to the bench under their own guile and intellect? With the human mind capable of such complex, instinctual foresight, denying these runners the right to exercise their mental acuity is akin to negating the will of the student to question his teachings."

Cogent as that argument may be, our own local God of Thunder unleashed his Willinghammer all over Ze Ubermensch with a bases clearing double. Standing on second base Willingham was heard to remark to Crain: "Sorry...I couldn't hear your question over the sound of my awesomeness..."

The Blizzard of Oz
Game 18
Gross Weathered Out
In their offices at Target Field the Pohlad brothers mutter darkly about moving the team somewhere with nicer weather that doesn't run the risk of so many early season snow/rain outs...like maybe: Nome, Alaska.

Game 18 Take 2
Twins 4 - Marlins 3
Through the gloom of yet another April snow storm, the Twins took the field to battle the Miami Laughingstocks...I mean Marlins. As good fortune would have it, they had with them a young rookie with a nickname tailor-made for this kind of weather: "The Blizzard of Oz" Oswaldo Arcia! And with a heroic summoning of his magical prowess the Blizzard Wizard smote the Marlins with a three-run blast to take the lead and seal the game.

Game 19 
Marlins 8-Twins 5
Sensing my disparaging comments of them in the previous paragraphs, the Marlins took their revenge on Mike Pelfrey. As frustrating as their hitting was for Pelfry, it was more aggravating to hear them snidely shout out Nickleback lyrics with sheer condescension "Should've seen it coming!" jeered Placido Palanco, "It had to happen sometimes" crowed Greg Dobbs, "You went and bought a knife/to an all out gun fight" giggled Rob Brantley This was frustrating for Pelfry, but more frustrating for fans who realized that the Marlins actually sing better than Nickleback front man Chad Kroeger,

Mr. Peanut: Brian Dozier (with a small sample size this mostly an award for improved defense and plate discipline, but still warranted)
Nutty Buddy: Trevor Plouffe (again, it's a small sample size, but mediocre plate work plus poor defense means fans are seeing Eduardo Escobar through rose-colored, beer-goggled, Plouffey eyes)


Adopt A Prospect II.1: Helping Luis Perdomo Get his Groove Back

When last we left Louie P. he was capping a stellar 2012 season with an abysmal September call-up full of tears, recriminations and the natural side-effects of too much time spent around Jose Bautista.

It was a tumultuous offseason for Perdomo as well, getting cast down from the opulence of the majors to an out right assignment to Rochester. He also lost his bearded prominence among Twins' pitchers to a couple of guys who broke camp with the major league squad: Tyler Robertson and Liam Hendricks (both of whom are now back in Rochester with Perdomo). Now wearing the stubbly shadow left behind in Fort Meyers by Alex Burnett he's off to an inconsistent beginning with the Red Wings.

Peanuts from Heaven means
no disrespect to Tony Robbins
whatsoever...please don't sue.
Following up on a suggestion from our offseason blue print last fall: we peanuts firmly believe that the solution is for Luis to unleash the power within! (However, since Tony Robbins is both unavailable to teach that to Luis and extremely litigious, we'd like to alter that instruction slightly. So Luis, in case you (like all humans with a functioning brain cell and access to the internet) google yourself in the near future. Here is our guide to DE-RESTRAINING A FORCE INSIDE YOU!

Step 1: Take what is in you, and put it OUT THERE!

Remember Luis, you are a source of power and dynamic energy. The human body is capable of incredible things, and, as an athlete, your body is capable of amaze-tastic things! You can do anything because you have the same bones, blood and muscles as thousands who have gone before you. (You could be a nobel laureate, or a world class inventor, or President of the Dominican Republic...or--and I'm just tossing this out there--you could be an above average major league relief pitcher!)

But all that naturally existing energy and all those positive ions are trapped inside of ourselves, inside of our cores. It is up to us to let them out Luis! Visualize your strength! Visualize your stamina! Visualize your beard! And let it rise up through the surface and out into our real world. Let your strength flow through your arm and push the ball an extra mile-per-hour faster. Allow your stamina to expand your frame and fill you up with the will to go more than two-thirds of an inning. Permit your beard to be YOUR BEARD!!


(This instruction was intended for Luis Perdomo only...following the Peanuts from Heaven De-Restraining a Force Inside You [DRAFIY] without specifically tailored guidance from a Peanuts From Heaven approved Force De-Restrainer may result in serious injury. Peanuts from Heaven is not liable for misinterpretations of their lessons...but please don't think this lesson is encouraging to remove your own appendix...that's crazy talk)


Wha Happened? (#3 v.s. Mets & Angels)

Game 10
Mets 16 - Twins 5
Artists rendering of
a Metropolitan player
Yeah...that happened. But on the plus side, at least our name isn't a shortened form of the snobby title "Metropolitans". As in: "Oh, how droll! The Metropolitans have bested those cold weather klutzes in Minnesota! I must broach the topic with my Monacle repair man, when I go in for my bi-quarterly cleaning!"

Game 11
Mets 4 - Twins 2
Returning to the team after surgery and rehab, Scott Diamond was warmly received. And through four shut out innings life was grand indeed as he pitched like he actually knew what he was doing.

After finishing the fourth, Diamond returned to the dugout and got bearhugged by pitching coach Rick Anderson. "GOD I'VE MISSED YOU, SCOTT!! It's so good to see someone hit his spots and control the movement on his pitches. I can't tell you how awful it's been. I just...DON'T EVER LEAVE ME AGAIN!!"

All this hugging and bromance was wonderful (though not exactly fun for Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley to watch from their spots on the bench), however it did have the unfortunate side-effect of squeezing Diamond's very tender arm. This in turn led to an increase in his fatigue. Which led to giving up 7 straight hits and four runs. It also led to Justin Morneau cautiously avoiding all hug-happy coaches after his 7th inning homer helped the Twins avoid being no-hit.

Game 12
Sleeted Out
Rather than playing the game the Twins curled up in the club house with big bowls of popcorn and watched classic movies like The Princess Bride and The Land Before Time.

Quietly consistent...

Game 13
Twins 8 - Angels 2
Full disclosure, Stinky and I watched most of this game after attending a scotch tasting at Surdyk's in North Minneapolis. From what we can tell from our notes scribbled on a variety of bar napkins: Joe Mauer's plate approach seems light, airy and almost floral at first before finishing like a dagger, while Kevin Correia continues to undermine our expectations by flourishing glimpses of smoke mixed with a wide range of candied toffee, vanilla and butterscotch notes...or pitches or whatever...(Also the Glendronach 12 year went 2 for 4 with a homer).

Game 14
Twins 8 - Angels 6
Continuing a ramp up of aggressive posturing since his grandfather's birthday: our supreme leader Chairman Mauer continued his assault on Los Angeles decrying them as a "harbinger of Western [Division] decadence, whose profligate spending on talent will forever leave their souls empty of the hard work and moral triumph that is present in every Twinnesotan heart." When asked about his own oversized contract, the Chairman (praises be upon his sideburns) smote the reporter with a cleanly struck single up the middle.
Game 15
Snowed Out
Up until the last minute the Twins were planning on playing the game. But once it became clear that the school bus sent to pick up rosy-cheeked rookies Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks wouldn't make it, and when Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee and Ryan Pressley asked their moms to "pretty-please" not take them to the stadium, they had no choice but to give it up and plan to play LA another day.

This week's Mr Peanut: Chairman Joe Mauer
This week's Nutty Buddy: Aaron Hicks (there's two kinds of Aaron Hicks fans, those who want him to go down to AAA and figure his game out, and those who want to make him a bowl of chicken noodle soup and promise him that it'll all work out in the end...we're the latter.)


Wha Happened? #2 (@ Orioles & Royals)

Here's our second edition of Twins recaps as only we can do them: inaccurately but chock full of puns and bad jokes!

Game 4
Orioles 9-Twins 5
MASN Sports
Picking up where he left off last year, Liam Hendricks was a frustrating mixture of promising and aggravating, wriggling out of a few jams but ultimately giving up four runs to the Orioles on the condition that they keep all Dingos in the greater Baltimore area on a firm leash.

Despite Hendricks struggles, the Twins stayed in the game thanks to Brian Dozier's rosy-cheeked "Can-Do!" attitude which children find adorable and which fans will tolerate provided he doesn't air mail any throws to second.But sadly, Brian Dozier's hope of playing hero, as well as Tyler Robertson's hope of having an intimidating beard, was smashed by Baltimore's Chris "Crush" Davis. When asked why he hates all the Twins and Twins fans, and why he won't let us have nice things Davis replied: "Huh? What are you even talking about?"

Game 5
Twins 6-Orioles 5
Hurt by Davis' confused dismissal of our totally reasonable, and not at all melodramatic reactions to the previous day's loss, Brian Dozier was sitting forlorn in the clubhouse until Justin Morneau (he of the broad shoulders and MVP award) asked what was wrong. Dozier sobbed: "Chris Davis wasn't playing nice! He just hits the ball hard and doesn't even care that we try to do the little things right! He's a real meanie, I don't want to play with him any more!"

Morneau comforted the BrianDozer (well, as much as you can comfort an anthropomorphic bull dozer) saying, "don't worry Brian. You just keep trying to do the little things right, and remember that if you ever feel bullied by someone who hits the ball hard, just tell an adult and we'll fix things up." So it was that Morneau stood up to Chris "Crush" Davis, telling him in the third inning (after a line drive single), "you need to learn some manners, Mr. Davis."

Replied Davis, "uhh....what?"

He teaches hitting...and manners
Shaking his head with disappointment, Morneau responded, "if you don't know you clearly weren't paying attention to our feelings. In Canada we have a word for people like you: jerks. Just for that, I'll only be leaving one canister of maple syrup as a thank you gift for hosting us this weekend!"

"I don't...why am I? Are we supposed to give hosting gifts?"

"You'll see, after Chris hits this homerun...oh, you'll see...", replied Morneau and sure enough Chris Davis did see. He saw Chris Parmelee's home run, he saw his own costly error prolong the 9th inning, and he saw Justin Morneau capitalize on that error to drive in the game's winning run.

"I hope you learned your lesson, Mr. Davis" said Morneau, again perched on first base.


"What was the lesson?"

"To pretend I know what the hell you're talking about?" But this response was again, impolite to Justin's Canadian cultural mindset and to the ever sensitive Twins' youngsters and so....

Game 6
Twins 4-Orioles 3
The blood feud continued into Sunday, even though Chris Davis was still totally unaware of what he had done to irk the Twins so much.

In the third inning, full of righteous indignation, Justin Morneau swung with all his might and lifted an easy fly ball to center. When it fell between Nate McClouth and Adam Jones, Morneau trotted into second, but didn't feel good about it.

Looking back at first base he saw Chris Davis, in what Morneau assumed was a humble acknowledgement that he was wrong and Morneau was right and that he had agreed with McClouth and Jones to let the easy fly ball fall between them as a peace offering. (Davis was in fact, just doffing his cap to check out the girl in the 10th row)

Moved by this kindness Morneau shouted out: "Sorry, Chris! Let's be buddies again! I'll give everybody a couple jars of maple syrup, mmmkay?!"

Confused (as usual) Davis gave Morneau a thumbs up and moved on with his life. Though he struck out in a crucial situation and though his team did lose the game, he did end up with maple syrup, so he won at life.

Game 7
Royals 3-Twins 1
Shockingly, Kevin Correia continued his solid performances as a starter, handcuffing the Kansas City bats for 7 stellar innings. His performance was so good that most fans who had heretofore decried his signing as "the worst thing to happen in the history of ever" were forced to reevaluate things and put a variety of genocides and Kristin Stewart's acting career ahead of him on the list of "worst things in the history of ever" again.

As the tide was turning, Corriea, sensing a great disturbance in the Scapegoat force immediately set about correcting this, giving up three in the eighth to lose the game. Fans throughout Twins territory cheered...by booing.

Game 8
Do it for the Shocker!!

Royals 7 - Twins 4
Returning to the media market closest to his beloved Wichita, Mike Pelfrey was determined to what his alma mater, the Wichita State Shockers, could not do: beat Louisville!

Unfortunately, Pelfrey's attempts to throw balls so easy to hit that the Royals would launch them through the stratosphere, over the state of Missouri, Southern Illinois and right into Rick Pitino's face was not conducive to winning the game and the Twins dropped their second in a row.

Game 9
Royals 3 - Twins 0
Winding up the road trip, the Twins were eager to get home, and, with a foul little storm blowing trough Kansas City, they didn't have a whole lot of motivation to go and do anything, not even pick up little Chris Parmelee or Brian Dozier from soccer practice or second base or whatever.

So do we Chris, so do we
Yup, the Twins went 0-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 12 men Wednesday night. In fact, it wasn't until they went to the airport and Eduardo Escobar broke down crying that they realized they had left Brian Dozier on 1st base without telling him he could come back inside from the rain storm...(rookies...)

Mr. Peanut Award (best player of the past week): Chris Parmelee (Last week's nutty buddy got on base or an RBI in every game of the road trip...even the one where he only had 1 at bat)
Nutty Buddy Award (player who needs some support): Aaron Hicks (Batting .057 with strikeouts in almost half of his plate appearances shows that the man might need a little love)


Now Closing for the Twins: James Bond

Growing up, there were three songs that would invariably draw my entire family in to the tv room: "One Shining Moment", "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "The James Bond Theme". Last Friday (after Chris Davis crushed the hopes of Twins fans with a game-winning grand slam), I watched a James Bond documentary (Everything or Nothing available on Netflix streaming) to cheer myself up.

This will all make sense...I promise
As a result I started to see all kinds of overlaps between the movies many of us love, and the team pretty much anybody reading this care about. And while hearing all about the two principle topics  amongst Twins nerds this last week--how good is it to have Joe Mauer batting 2nd (courtesy of Gleeman and the Geek), and why is being "closer" the only thing that Glen Perkins can do (courtesy of Twitter freakouts)--I couldn't help but think that both the documentary and the Twins conversations all have to deal with the idea of "playing a specific role".

After all, you can practically picture the casting notices for each of these positions
Starring Role: James Bond 
Debonair British spy capable of crushing a man's trachea and cracking bed springs with foreign hotties. (All commonwealth accents accepted, black hair preferred)
Seeking #2 Hitter
should be (1) able to get on base, (2) able to run reasonably well (scrappiness a plus)
Searching for: A Closer
  Will be pitching the 9th inning ONLY, should limit runners, throw hard, handle stress and only worry about pitching the 9th inning.

Sometimes you have exactly the right person for the part (see: Brosnan, Pierce; Castillo, Luis; Nathan, Joe). However, just because these are the expectations doesn't mean that likely candidates for the job will always succeed (anyone who has suffered through Sean Connery's Never Say Never Again or watched Matt Capps pitch with the game on the line will attest to that).  But with the way the Twins' franchise has been going lately, having obvious candidates for the job is increasingly rare.

Another Craig/Mauer parrallel

One option the Twins have, now that players obviously suited to a role are longer an option, is to try something different and unexpected.  That's where Daniel Craig comes in as Bond, and that's where Joe Mauer comes in as the #2 hitter. Remember, Craig was seen as too short, too unknown and too blonde to be Bond when he first got the job. Mauer can certainly get on base, but speed? scrappiness? I don't think so.

Of course, the fans came to love Craig as Bond (or at least buy tickets to see him), and if early excitement is any indication, Twins fans are okay with letting Mauer bat a little more frequently than he has been. While it might chafe at Gardy's sense of baseball "tradition", it's got fans pumped and willing to try something new.

The other thing the Twins can do, since obvious selections are no longer an option, is to do something slightly less daring than "different and unexpected" (hence, more likely in the Twin Cities). Rather than taking a wild shot at totally different options, the Twins can go with someone they knew and trusted, hoping that they could rise up to the standards in time (the rotating flotilla of #2 hitters from Tolbert to Casilla to Dozier proves that). That style of casting echoes the hiring of Roger Moore, a popular sort-of-Bond actor, who also had been a friend of Bond producers.

The thing is, it took fans and ownership time to figure out what to do with Moore. After a couple average films, it was clear that the square-jawed, dry humor, animal magnetism wasn't going to be his thing like it was for Connery (or like poor George Lazenby tried to make it for himself). Instead Moore spawned a more cartoony Bond, with less toughness and more of an "aww-shucks-I-electrocuted-you" kind of effortless espionage. The crowds wanted a different take on Bond, and though it took some time, both producers and fans got it in the end.

This is your future, Glen. Don't fight it.
So you can think of Glen Perkins as the Roger Moore of Twins territory. The truest heir to the mantle of "closer" since Joe Nathan's departure in 2011, Perkins was a known quantity, trusted by the coaching staff. So far, he has handled the same old part with aplomb, but fans of Perkins, and fans of the Twins are willing to see something other than the same old, same old. Perkins has been a big league starter (successfully at that). He's been good in middle-relief and set-up jobs. So why not put a new spin on the old part and let Perkins close down any inning where the lead's in trouble?

Besides, if my analogy proves accurate, we're bound to end up with the Twins saving the world, killing a megalomaniac, and blowing up an evil lair. Translation: WE'RE GONNA FINALLY BEAT THE YANKEES!!


Wha Happened? #1

In an effort to keep my blogging on a more consistent time-line, I have decided that rather than writing when the mood strikes me (or I sigh dispiritedly at my inactivity), I will try to post short recaps of each series after they wrap up--this way I have a regular time to write and a consistent subject to write about.

Of course, while lots of people will tell you what happened, only we Peanuts can tell you what happened...in our imagination!

Game 1
Tigers 4-Twins 2
When the game time temperature is 33 degrees, you tend to assume it's late October...or that you're playing in Nome. That temperature scared most players into bundling up, but our own resident Wild Vanimal, Vance Worley, went out hurling in his shirt sleeves. After struggling in the early innings, numbness set in and Worley was able to do his job effectively.

However the offense was somewhat lacking, as only our great and glorious Chairman Joe Mau...er picked up hits off Tigers' ace/opening day starter/video-game-cover-boy/beloved boyfriend of supermodels everywhere: Justin Verlander. Said Chairman Mauer of his continued hostilities with the Detroit Righty "We shall not allow the Tiger pups' imperial aggression to stand. Strikeouts are capitalist thievery of our people's glorious love of hitting. Our vengeance for today's defeat shall be swift and permanent!"
(Also...our nuclear reactor is totally connected to the power grid)

Game 2
Twins 3-Tigers 2
Correia before the post-game
buffet of tin cans
Following Monday's pledge from the chairman, the Twin fans approached Wednesday's game slightly warmer, but much more hesitant to cheer (as evidenced by the scant 22,000 people who paid...and even fewer who turned up). This might well be attributed to your favorite scapegoat and mine: Kevin Correia who couldn't even stink as terribly as we all thought he would when signed over the winter, becoming the second Twin pitcher to have a quality start in as many games.

Still, the Twins trailed after Correia left the game and continued to do so until the 9th inning when Eduardo Escobar (who?) hit a double off the wall in left. Escobar (him, you sure?) delivered the tying and winning runs to allow the local team to celebrate in grand style. Some of them even congratulated Escobar (really, him?) even though they occasionally called him "Pedro" or "Alexei" by accident.

Game 3
Twins 8-Tigers 2
With a record above .500 there's for the taking, it was widely assumed that the Twins would lose and lose horribly to keep order in the universe. This did not happen.

So now that we have a chaotic universe, does it really matter that Mike Pelfry pitched well in his first start since Tommy John surgery? (both runs were unearned) Now that the randomness of genetic inanity will lead to fish flying and birds swimming, does it really matter that Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe both homered? With black turning into white and Keannu Reeves inheriting the title of "Greatest Actor Ever", should we really care that Aaron Hicks got his first base hit and Ryan Pressley got his first strikeout?

Logically the answer should be no...but since there is no order in the universe logic is for suckers and yes! HUZZAH FOR THE TWINS!!

To wrap up, we'll pass out a few awards, because, honestly, they'll probably be some of the only awards we win this year.

Our Mr. Peanut (Best Player of the Series): Justin Morneau (consistent hitting, getting on base and fishing innumerable Pedro Florimon throws out of the dirt)
Our Nutty Buddy (Player who needs a little support): Chris Parmelee (the heir apparent to Morneau's spot in the order had a rougher start: 1 for 10 with 5 Ks, but he did catch Torii Hunter on a throw to third)


Why the City Pages are Silly

It's a spring-time tradition. When Spring Break arrives, I say goodbye to my students, make a few Arrested Development jokes with my colleagues, and pick up as much as I can find on the impending baseball season

This year, in addition to the standard season preview issues of Sports Illustrated and ESPN, I also picked up the City Pages, on the basis of it's ominous headline "Baseball's Fiscal Cliff: As another season begins, MLB faces an unsustainable future--and you're picking up the tab". (Certainly a title capable of grabbing attention, and the whole article is available here)

Credit: City Pages
The fiscal cliff referred to by author--Pete Kotz--is based on 4 clear points (with the emphasis and dire headline being based most clearly on the 4th point)
  1. Baseball is beset with competitive imbalance
  2. To Kotz's mind the more popular NFL and NBA help their sports thrive by helping teams thrive in middle-markets like Green Bay and San Antonio, while grand ol' game is trapped in a recurring cycle where "the big crush the small with painful regularity".

  3. Baseball is losing its fan base (particularly among young men)
  4. You can see the diminishing fan base in the graph at the right. The audience for a typical World Series game has shrunk by 29.6 million eyes from 1980 to today. Including the surprising stat that "More women age 50 and older watched the world series did men under 49".

  5. The largest financial gain for baseball is its lucrative tv contracts which will soon come under threat from increased demand for better product

  6. It's no surprise that Sports are lucrative for broadcast networks to air (no one lines up to watch March Madness stunners on hulu the day after). So there are multiple millions if not billions in the offing when teams agree to broadcasting contracts. However the companies that own your local teams' broadcaster (Time Warner/Disney/Viacom/News Corps) are able to recoup the oodles they pay for baseball by making satellite and cable companies sell lower rated channels like Disney XD along with ESPN or FUEL Tv alongside Fox Sports North. Of course the satellite and cable companies pass that cost on to consumers.

    But with the rise of on-line watching, Kotz argues, all viewers are increasingly likely to switch off the tv unless things change, and bills (which may soon top $200/month) drop. (Perhaps through an anti-trust suit from Viacom which seeks to eliminate the channel-bundling and sell channels to consumers individually.)

  7. If the cable contracts change, the tv contract bubble will burst, competitive imbalance will become entrenched and the few remaining fans will have to pay exorbitant prices in order to ever see a winner again.

  8. This is the core of Kotz's case. If you can buy individual channels, those who want family fare (like Disney Channel) but not sports will spurn the extra cost on their cable bill and, as he sees it: "[b]aseball's welfare payments from non-fans will corrode. And with an audience in decline, remaining subscribers will be forced to spend that much more to compensate." Thereby leaving poor teams like the Twins charging fans more both at the turnstiles and on the cable bill to make money, hire players and win games.
This is an argument. But as I see it, it has a couple of clear flaws too.
  1. Baseball is rife with parity
  2. This would be Jayson Stark's turf, so I won't really get into this too much, I'll just to trot out perhaps the best stat of all:  12/32 NFL teams have won a Super Bowl in the last 25 years, by contrast 16/30 MLB teams have won a World Series over the same time span...yup, you've got no chance if you aren't the Yankees

  3. Baseball's fan base cannot be judged by World Series ratings

  4. image
    True, but irrelevant. Credit: CityPages
    To be sure, baseball's World Series' ratings are embarrassing. But they are less embarrassing when you consider how baseball does in other venues.
    News reports point out that daily viewership of local teams is fairly constant within most media markets. Take the Tigers: they get about 168,000 people tuning in to tv each day, plus 199,700 people tuning into the radio, that'll be 367,7000 people tuning in each week...just within Detroit. (The Lions draw from a national audience to try to match that in one day).
    On top of that, you should consider the fact that baseball's long season enables a near constant conversation about the games on social media and the internet. "Detroit Tigers Blogs" kick out 40 million hits on google, "Detroit Lions Blogs" kick out about 24 million hits. (Heck the Twins even crush the Vikings (about 22 million to 19 million...AND THE TWINS STUNK WHILE THE VIKINGS MADE THE PLAYOFFS)
    The truth is that, while national ratings are down, local interest is up. Would it be nice to see the World Series return to its bygone glory? Yes it would. But do woeful World Series ratings mean baseball is doomed? Absolutely not.

  5. Lucrative tv contracts are undoubtedly valuable, but are not the only factor in making a team competitive

  6. Naturally local markets can pay more if they have more subscribers (Angels and Yankees broadcasting contracts are going to pour more money into the teams they're paying than local broadcasters in say, Oakland and Tampa Bay).
    Nevertheless, as the last decade worth of parity (see point 1) has made clear, you don't have to be swimming in tv contract cash in order to make your team competitive (witness the success of the A's and the Angels, or the Rays and Yankees). Teams have found ways to succeed without money before, and they'll seek ways to succeed without them now.

  7. Who says that this is what will happen if the cable contracts change?

  8. Here's the biggest problem I have with Kotz's article and the City Pages' fear mongering. They've given into what I tell my students is an "if...then fallacy". If one thing happens, then another will inevitably follow. You see it in presidential campaign ads (like...this one).
    Credit: City Pages
    But there's a problem with assuming that one action will invariably lead to atom bombs or war with moon nazis: there's no way to know whether or not this will really happen. Let's say Kotz is right and cable companies start offering the chance to buy channels individually rather than as a set. Why does that mean that customers will abandon sports channels rather than turning to them in greater numbers? (Personal example: the only non-network channels I watch are FSN, ESPN and Comedy Central anyway...so I'm in regardless; my younger brother can't afford cable, but if he could get the sports channels he wanted without paying hundreds of bucks for sports AND SoapNet/E!, he'd do it in a heart beat).
    Or, if you prefer, if cable contracts change AND sports channels are abandoned, why does that mean that teams will be forced to charge regular fans more? Why won't it lead to a greater degree of fiscal restraint? The fall out from A-Rod's mammoth contract (and subsequent crapitude) has already largely flattened player's prices. Moreover, with 15 years of solid labor agreements behind them, the union has a good sense of what they can/should expect from management. If they know finances are getting crunched, they'll have to accept that and the lower salaries that come along with it.
    However you slice it, there's just no guarantee that the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" is  nearly as dire as Kotz and the City Pages make it seem.
There are problems with baseball. It's naive to argue otherwise. But should we really be bracing ourselves for a financial disaster that will doom us to decades of overpaying for the foreseeable future? Probably not.

I can see why the City Pages published the article ('tis the season, after all), but there's just no need to make a 125 year old institution that has weathered recessions, depressions and wars that minimized their workforce seem like it's going to be doomed because of a cable company's law suit? That's just silly.


Opening Day Preview!

Welcome to Opening Day! Before we begin please note the brand new feature in our top menu: "Find Your Favorite Twin". In just four short clicks you can find your new favorite player to root for this season (even if they aren't yet on the big league roster.

We should also welcome the latest addition to our Peanuts From Heaven Hall of Fame: Jim Thome!

Thome crossed the 75% threshold just ahead of other candidates Joe Nathan and Denard Span who will be back for next years ballots (alongside Messrs Young, Pavano, Crain, Liriano, Nishioka, Baker, Revere and Casilla while Slowey, Hughes, Marquis, Capps and [surprisingly] Jason Kubel will be off the ballot.)

Now for  the big stuff. As the season kicks off in earnest today, it's my last chance to predict the outcome of the season and prognosticate with the best of them (which is to say all the other people who will be proved wrong in six months). Just to k

eep some consistency with other (smarter) bloggers I'll use some of their terms for things

Twins' record: 70-92

Harmon Killebrew Award (Team MVP)--Justin Morneau
I'm going to go with the medias favorite definition of an MVP: how good would the team be without them? Morneau has looked consistently better as he becomes increasingly removed from his concussion, I'll guess that he plays well enough to help keep the Twins about 3-5 games below .500 until a June trade leads him to a healthy pennant race for the first time since 2008 (remember his issues kept him off the field in '09 and '10), meanwhile the Twins will drop off with out him, to about 10 games below .500, proving that he is indeed valuable.

Johan Santana Award (Team Pitcher of the Year)--Glen Perkins
With Scott Diamond out for the first month and other pitchers looking shaky, I'll take the cheap way out and give it to the best pitcher on the roster...even if he only gets to pitch twice-a-week. Perkins has played better and better since coming back from his injury/snit in 2010, besides at least one St. Paul product needs some love.

Rod Carew Award (Rookie of the Year)--Aaron Hicks
Who wants some JAG?!
While we'll likely see a veritable flotilla of starting pitchers make their way into the rotation and different points this year, I can't see any of them having a stand-out or noticeable year. While I don't think that Hicks will be with the big club all year long, I do think that his play will be the best of all the rookies and show considerable promise for the future.

And finally, our own special Peanuty-Award: 
Carlos Gomez Award (Most Entertaining Player)--Samuel Deduno
This isn't for playing well, this is just for playing in a way that excites, entertains and--most of all-- amuses us. I think that title will go to Samuel De-Dude Bro, the often erratic, always effusive pitcher who throws just well enough to make you think that maybe, this time, he won't break your heart, and then he does.... Rest assured, we'll be amused as bloggers, even if (as fans) we won't be.

Postseason Predictions (*Wild Cards)
AL: Angels, Tigers, Jays, *Rays, *A's; Rays > A's; Rays > Angels; Tigers > Jays; Tigers > Rays
NL: Giants, Reds, Nats, *Braves, *Brewers; Braves > Brewers; Reds > Braves; Nats > Giants; Reds > Giants
World Series: Tigers beat the Reds in 5
But since logical predictions are always wrong I'll say it actually becomes
Indians beat the Diamondbacks in 6.
(America watches the Here Comes Honey Booboo/Dance Moms cross-over instead)

Now, at last, let's shut up and watch some baseball! (Then talk some more...because it's baseball!!)