12.03.2014

The Battle over Torii Hunter




He's back. Torii Hunter is back, and in the 7 hours of his official presence in a Twins line-up again there are two clear camps in response to his return.


In the blue corner, weighing in at 140 characters, 140,000 grey hairs in the last four seasons and 140 million liters of digital ink are the analytically minded, podcast savvy, SABR-metrical, writers, critics and yes...fans who wonder what the heck the Pohlad's were thinking.

"This is not the Torii Hunter we fell in love with," they remind readers, listeners, viewers and random passers-by.

He is not the defensive wunderkind we saw steal homers from Barry Bonds, he's not even the workman-like defender we saw handle Eduardo Escobar pop outs in Anaheim and Detroit. He has struggled lately, and one thing the Twins outfield does not want for is corner outfielders who struggle defensively (see: Arcia, Oswaldo; Willingham, Josh; Nunez, Eduardo Freaking)

The Torii we came to know and love was prone to gaps in his approach at the plate, always good but never quite great. While that also changed in the years he was away, 39 year-old Torii may not be able to maintain that production. And as younger talents vie for playing time, the curious sight of an aging corner outfielder with declining production and defensive value getting constant playing time and clinging to his no-trade clause becomes all the more questionable.

This is not the mega-watt smiling, do-no-wrong, clubhouse hero either. One afternoon worth of press coverage seemed to confirm that. Claiming that "whoever believes in that SABR-metric stuff never played the game" (despite the successful A's GM/former first round draft pick/former Minnesota Twin Billy Beane being a leader in the field) did not allay the fears of the analytically minded writers in the room and at home. Hunter then proceeded to call Mike Bernadino of the Pioneer Press, "a prick" four times, because Bernadino asked about how his opposition to gay marriage may have affected his free agency and may yet affect his leadership. Only Kris Humphries had a shorter honeymoon.

So, says the camp in the blue corner, "this is not the Torii Hunter we fell in love with." Defensively, offensively, socially: it's different now. But there is another side to this.

In the red corner, weighing in at $221 million dollars in revenue, 73,000 household wide television audience, and four straight 90 loss seasons is the Twins front office who wonder "what the heck's the problem?"

Loathe as we writers may be to admit it, the front office can see and know these issues. They may not believe in defensive metrics, but they know a 39-year-old outfielder is going to be less effective than the 32-year-old they last had in uniform. They may not project many stat-lines, but they saw enough of Jim Thome (not to mention Tony Batista, Shannon Stewart, and Dave Winfield) to know that a 39-year-old hitter isn't a 32-year-old hitter. And while Hunter's not keen to talk about his beliefs, the ownership isn't exactly shy about theirs (leading the list of contributors to the anti-gay marriage amendment in 2012).

Heck, they'd probably take mummified
Torii Hunter
The Twins brass knows that this is not the old Torii Hunter, and they do not care, they want this Torii Hunter.

Bear in mind, the Twins are not just in the business of fielding a winning baseball team, they're in the business of making money. To be sure, the best teams make the most money, but even the worst teams can make some.

If you're a business and you know your most loyal customers will come back again and again even when they are dumbstruck and aghast at your decision making, you know that you can make "dumb" and "ghastly" decisions again and again. Their opinion doesn't matter. They'll keep coming--even if only to complain.

What matters is the undecided, the ambivalent, the apathetic customers, ones that you may have lost in the lean years and can bring back (even briefly now). Last year the biggest crowd at Target Field (36,952 to watch the Yankees on July 4th) wouldn't have been in the top 8 home crowds of the 2013 season--when the team was even worse. Sure a great team would solve that problem, but we aren't going to get a great team over night, so let's appreciate what we can have: a beloved local legend on a farewell tour (you saw the crowds for Jeter/Rivera? Torii might only get a tenth of that...but that's a lot better than the Twins have drawn recently).

And even if you don't see this as a cold, callous and calculated business decision, you can appreciate it as a comfortable move at a time of great uncertainty. There's a new manager, a bevy of new talent in the wings, the team is in flux and adding one familiar face, beloved by the front office, admired by the layman fan base, is a way to ease the transition from one regime to the next.

You may not believe the "clubhouse leadership" lines, you may not buy the "mentorship" lines, but what you buy and what you don't is moot now. The Twins bought Torii Hunter 2014, not 2011 or 2007, and they wanted to do that. If it fails, it fails, but if it excites a few absentee fans, if it eases the transition and if it supports the next generation of outfielders, then it's worth it.

Call it Twins Teri-Torii, call him Torii-Wan Kenobi, but above all else, call it what it is. A decision that was made (past tense), as fiercely as we may fight about it, argue about it and debate it, the results won't be known until next spring and summer. (Even then since the arguments are being made in different directions, there not be a winner. Maybe Tori'll be terrible and bring in fans/make the clubhouse brighter, or maybe he'll be great on the field and as insignificant as Jason Bartlett in the annals of Twins reunions gone by. We can all be right, we can all be wrong!)

11.24.2014

#14,001



For the last three years, the Murphy family has tried to answer a single question: how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame?

VoteTonyO_Tony_Oliva_Official_Fan_Club
The Vote Tony O Team
No one asked them to answer that question. Not the Twins. Not Tony himself. They weren't deputized or drafted. They chose to do it themselves, coming together in a kitchen to found Vote Tony O to find out, "how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame?"

That's not an easy question to answer, and as someone who writes more than he takes action, I'm a little worried that I can't do much. After all, baseball writing focuses on providing clear and concise answers to clear and concise questions. Which player won the game? Which team lost the trade? Who's washed up? Who's the future? There's a quick answer to each of those questions and a swath of data to support any answer you give: box scores and power splits, defensive metrics and pitch mapping.

But when it comes to addressing Hall of Fame worthiness, things get trickier. For instance one advanced measure, which analyzes an array of statistics and contexts, puts Tony ahead of no-doubt-legends like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson, but behind such faded who-the-hecks as Gavvy Cravath and Harry Stovey.

"The numbers are easy", says Mike Murphy, one of Vote Tony O's spokespeople. "[They've] all been a record since 1976, but it's a little bit harder for us to quantify what Tony means to the community."

Fuzzy though the quantification is, it's certain that Tony Oliva means a lot to his communities. He is and has been a role model for Cuban players coming to America. He served as a cornerstone of the Twins for the past 50 years as a player, a coach on both World Series winning clubs, and an announcer for our increasingly diverse fan base. Above all, he stands out as an indefatigable ambassador for the game, the team and life itself.

Over the years Murphy and his family have seen this more than most people. "Tony loves being Tony. Tony loves being the guy that people want to come up and meet and touch and get an autograph. He loves everybody that comes up to him; he bends over backwards for these people, and it's because he truly enjoys it. "


Again, anyone who has seen Oliva around the Twins in recent years knows it. Though the team has hardly been a bastion of good vibes, Oliva is often the greatest source of entertainment. He smiles. He beams. He radiates a love of the game that would insulate an ice fishing cabin in International Falls, and embodies a passion that those who fixate on questions about winning and losing too often forget.

But the Murphy's won't forget that passion, because they can't forget one of the rare times Oliva was dispirited rather than optimistic: winter 2011, the last time Tony was up for election. Mike Murphy remembers the push to the ballot. Remembers they day of the announcement. Remembers how "exactly the way you think it would be in your head, [that] was the way it was. You know the clock ticking and nobody talking, then depression sets in.

"And the weird thing was Tony wasn't depressed he didn't get into the Hall of Fame. He's at peace with it; he's fine. That part's not a big deal. I'm sure he wants it, but the fact that he isn't in there? He's okay with it.

"The part that disappointed him and bothered him was that he felt that he let his fans down...This is 35-ish years after the last baseball game he played. He was disappointed not because he didn't make it, but because he let his fans down."

So while others might shake their heads and moved on with their lives, the people behind Vote Tony O have taken up a three year campaign to push for Oliva's induction. They tweet. They promote. And they inundate the Hall of Fame with over 14,000 post cards highlighting Tony's achievements, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the game. According to Murphy, that has been the real drive of the group, focusing on "the character of the guy, the integrity of the guy, and re-shining some light. Hopefully we can pick up those last four votes and put him over."


Four more votes, that's all Oliva needs. Twelve out of sixteen members of the veteran's committee. Former colleagues, executives and writers who know the game and its history, who should understand the effect that Oliva has had. And even though the votes belong to those men, and the honor of selection belongs to the players, the Murphy's know that the institution isn't just the property of the gatekeepers or the honorees. "It's a museum. It's a New York State museum. It's a public thing, and frankly as a baseball fan: it's my museum."

And even if you dispute Oliva's credentials (or refuse to consider him until after Gavvy Cravath gets his due), the leaders of Vote Tony O believe it's important to speak your mind. "It's our museum," repeats Murphy. "If [fans] feel strongly about anybody on that list be it Gil Hodges or Jim Kaat, I think it's their responsibility to let [the Hall of Fame] know. Nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong. But what we know as a fact is that an awful, awful lot of people think that Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame, and that's what we [want] to share with those 16 guys."

So, how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame? Simple: do whatever we can.

The Vote Tony O website has a wealth of post cards that you can print and mail to the Hall of Fame (also linked to here for your clickable perusal). The baskets of cards are dumped out in front of the committee members and makes for a rather effective image (as noted by former committee member Tommy Lasorda).

So here's what you do
1. Click on the links to find the post card you like.
2. Print one (or preferably more) off.
3. Add a personal memory.
4. Address it to:
Baseball Hall of Fame

Attn- Golden Era Committee
25 Main Street
Cooperstown NY 13326

5. Attach a stamp to the card.
6. Drop it in the mail.

Whether you stood beside him at the Cuban sandwich station at Target Field, or held out a ball for an autograph at the Metrodome, or cheered with the Knothole Gang in the Old Met's bleachers on a Saturday afternoon, I think you'll agree that Tony Oliva is an integral part of what Minnesota baseball is.

Thank You, Tony
Whether you appreciated his friendly demeanor, or his clutch performances, or his bad-ball hitting, or his mentorship, or his courage in simply being a man of color in minor league towns that kept him separate and unequal, I think you'll agree it's time to stand up and say "thank you" to Tony Oliva.


Whether you want to recognize a player who never got his due, or acknowledge the role he played in cementing baseball as an international game, or just want him to savor the game's greatest honor before (like Ron Santo and Buck O'Neill) it's too late, I think you'll agree it's important to call on the Veterans Committee to "Vote Tony O".

Do your part: click, print, sign, lick a stamp, and make yours the 14,001st plea for the Veteran's Committee to Vote Tony O.

Well...14,002nd. I already sent mine.

10.28.2014

The Great Twins Scotch Bet of 2014: Conclusion

After our second year of watching and gambling on Twins baseball, we Peanuts from Heaven had our annual pay-off dinner/drinking fest at the St. Paul Grill, aligning perfectly with Game One of the World Series. And while Stinky bemoaned Alcides Escobar's lousy pitch selection (seriously, three pitches up by his eyes? I mean...who does he think he is, Delmon Young?), we also made time to talk about the team we actually care about.

In the midst of the third...or maybe fifth...scotch, I started to think that there were, surprisingly, some similarities between the drinks I savored and the players who made it possible. High falutin'? Yes. Totally subjective? Sure. Overly generous to players who still managed to lose 90 games? You bet. But hey after this many scotches, it's hard not to get a little generous.

Kyle Gibson = The Strathisla 12 Year
Gibson struggled at the beginning of his career. Then, after showing some promising points to him, but he had a hard time finishing the job in later innings/months of the season. The Strathisla [pronounced, Strah-eel-ah] smells a little like minerals when you start, then tastes both sweet (like caramel) and potent (like pine), before finishing a little meekly.

The Edradour 10 Year = Eduardo Escobar
The Edradour, or...Eduaradour, if you will, comes from the smallest distillery in Scotland, it's relatively under the radar, seemingly unimpressive and generally unknown. But those who know it, and like it are fiercely loyal. As if the backstory isn't convenient enough, there's the fact that the drink tastes like a mix of mild peppers and pulpy citrus...you know, like an occasionally defensively stylish, occasionally offensively potent short stop. 

Brian Dozier = the Glenmorangie 18 year
Obviously, Brian Dozier is the team's current Dream Boat. A total sweetheart of a guy who, has a bevy of fans, like Glenmorangie (outsold only by the big guns of Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenfidditch and Balvenie). The 18 year old variety is just as sweet as Dozier's looks, with wheaty/grain like notes that bring to mind the amber waves of his hair, before finishing with a little woody kick (kind of like Dozier's home run pop).


The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban = Glen Perkins
Speaking of the Glenmorangie, the Quinta Ruban's my personal favorite, not unlike Glen Perkins himself. There's spices and orange-y sweetness for a full-bodied dram that finishes nicely. Perkins himself obviously finishes nicely, is "full bodied" to put it politely, and as his twitter-feed and rapport with his running wife suggests has a fine mix of spice and sweet.

Phil Hughes = The Balvenie 21 Year Portwood
Balvenies are slightly more obvious in the global market (not unlike Phil Hughes former team, the Yankees). But even among Balvenies (or Ex-Balvenies as the case may be) a 21 year old scotch is a rare thing, much smaller in volume than most of the 3-8 year old scotches that dominate the market...this doesn't come along very often. And when you finish the drink in a special port barrel, it adds layer upon layer of complexity. I didn't know much about Phil Hughes when he was signed, I don't know a tonnage about him now, but I do know that his season this year was a special one, and without it, I wouldn't have had this Scotch. So for that Phil Hughes I give you a special toast. Slainte.

10.21.2014

Laughing through the Pain: Hitters & AARP

A year ago I offered an alternative statistic for measuring player worth--not in wins/losses, but in the far more useful field of entertaining the fan base: Amusement Above Replacement Player (AARP) for short. The statistic is measured in five key categories on a scale of -2 to +2, 
  • Play 
  • Nickname:
  • Physical Traits: 
  • Personality/Demeanor:
  • Oddities: 
When added up, these statistics gives us a total AARP somewhere between -10 and +10. 

Last year, the AARP statistic revealed that while the Twins could hit, they couldn't really inspire much to interest the general public. Beyond Joe Mauer there just weren't many other people of note, Brian Dozier's break out season aside. A year older and wiser, it's worth wondering who if anyone has been able to grab attention and interest of the masses.

Again regular statistics don't always do it justice, but there's reason for optimism for Twins fans, especially when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.

Josmil Pinto--Last year's promising start was tempered by the fact he neither got regular playing time, nor did he get to stay with the team all year. But on the plus side, I'm now convinced that "Josmi-and-the-Pussycats" is going to be the next great Saturday Morning Cartoon.
AARP: 1.6 (Up +0.6 from last year)

Eduardo Nunez--Having been saved from the Yankees, Nunez has a little redemption/comeback story about him, but is never as interesting, curious or good as other players AARP: 0.2 

Chris Colabello--The plucky, scrappy narrative story line remains a fan favorite and even though he will likely never get better than the one magical month that one magical month makes him special. AARP: 0.9 

Aaron Hicks--It seems like there are two camps on Aaron Hicks, those who will never forgive him for disappointing them the first time, and those who will need at least two seasons of great play before they learn to love again AARP: 0.6

Kennys Vargas--The big bopping Rookie who actually has more than a single month under his belt, Vargas is definitely encouraging irrational optimism with his Ortiz-esque appearance, Ortiz-esque interview style and Ortiz-esque moon shots. Even his nascent nickname's ("Li'l Papi", "Bam-Bam", etc) are winners. AARP: 3.4

Chris Parmelee--Parmelee is the forlorn example of where the Twins were for so many years: neither amazingly talented nor totally without promise and featuring nearly no personality at all. AARP: 0.3 (Same as last year)

Oswaldo Arcia--"Ar-see-ya" (or "Waldo" as I prefer to call him) keeps earning loyalists. The streaky power he has flashed for two years promises to make Target Field's faithful stand up and cheer every time he crushes one when it counts (seeing his standing-o back in May was proof of that), and the unpredictabilty of his mohawk has entrenched him as a local landmark. AARP: 3.1 (Up +1.6 from last year--gains in playing (though not defensively), nicknames, and physical appearance)

Danny Santana--I sadly left behind my cable subscription right around the time Danny Santana became a fixture in the Twins line-ups but I have remained consistently impressed by his positivity and energy despite being consistently played out of position by Twins management. Whether or not he ever gets a chance at shortstop "Dan-San" or "Dan-the-Man" has a sizable leash from Twins fans. AARP: 2.3

Eduardo Escobar--Brad Swanson began the Eddie 500 campaign in the spring and I was happy to join in the fun, little did we know that we were witnessing something even better: the emergence of "Nick Punto 2.0". For both that nickname and his play, I salute you Eduardo Escobar! AARP: 2.5

Gratuitous Plouffe Bash
Kurt Suzuki--The man who was supposed to be a back-up, then a place holder for Josmil Pinto, just never went away. Between the clutch hitting, the positive community involvement, the unique Hawaiian background, and--now--the long-term contract, Suzuki's lovable, but perhaps a little early in his peak. AARP: 2.9

Joe Mauer--The Chairman (all praises to his name) continues to be mildly amusing to those of us who know him best, but right now it looks like he's trying to keep up on the field and has slipped below the level of nationally recognized superstar. AARP: 4.8 (Down -0.4 in field performance)

Trevor Plouffe--The joy of shouting "Trevor!" in my best Neville Longbottom impression has risen dramatically this year, and the head smacking stupidity of his play at third base has decreased. Combine those two factors and you have a far more AARP: 1.8 (Up +1.4 thanks to on-field performance and wider variety of nicknames)

Yeah Diamondcentric
did it better
Brian Dozier--The biggest surprise of last year continued his flair for great hitting, highlight-reel-fielding, impressive hair, and a true good-ol-boy southern charm. He's not the face of the franchise like Mauer is, but he is a tremendous asset and widely appreciated both on the field and in the community. AARP: 4.2 (Up +0.5 with wider appreciation of nickname, and off field personality)

Last year's break down of the offense showed one elite player (AARP Greater than 5.0, Mauer) and one local favorite (AARP Between 2.0 and 4.9, Dozier). This year while Mauer's not a nationally elite name any more, the core of the team seems solidly in place. With Santana, Escobar, Suzuki, Arcia, Vargas, Dozier, Mauer (plus Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes on the mound) creating a rather likable, if not world-beating core of the team, the Twins have much larger set of players who fans can form an attachment to. 

Of course many other writers will point out the folly in forming an attachment to players whose greatest value is on the trade market, but hey, if you wanted genuine analysis of player value, you wouldn't be reading this article about a totally made up and arbitrary statistic.

If you'd be interested in more "shouting", "yelling", "making things up" then I eagerly encourage you to post in comments or suggest other directions for the postings.

10.20.2014

Laughing through the Pain: Another Way to Look at Pitching in 2014

A year ago I offered an alternative statistic for measuring player worth--not in wins/losses, but in the far more useful field of entertaining the fan base: Amusement Above Replacement Player (AARP) for short. The statistic is measured in five key categories on a scale of -2 to +2,
  • Play: 
  • Nickname:
  • Physical Traits: 
  • Personality/Demeanor:
  • Oddities: 
When added up, these statistics gives us a total AARP somewhere between -10 and +10.

Last year, even by the totally made up AARP statistic, the Twins Pitchers were an abysmal crew to watch, the four most notable starters (Vance Worley, Liam Hendricks, Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno) registered a total 3.9, and none of them will factor for the Twins going forward. While the relievers were more consistently positive, there was some upheaveal there too.

So how did the Twins pitchers fare this year?

Well, on the field, still not great, but AARP doesn't just measure on the field performance it measures off the field personality and general likeab-ility/fan value, and in that category there are both some sizable gains and some serious problems going into next year.

Pitcher AARP (by Innings pitched)

Still trying to popularize You Make Me Feel Like "Duensing"
Brian Duensing--I have a soft spot for Dozier (what with the similar majors in college and the appreciation for the near impossible job he had starting an elimination playoff game). But the days of the "Duenslinger" shirts at Target Field are pretty far gone, and his peripheral numbers dropped significantly. AARP: 0.5 (Down -0.1 from last year, play didn't help, off field work did)

Glen Perkins--Perk remains the jolt of life in the Twins bullpen, the local guy who engages with friends and foes alike. While an injury down the stretch cost him the end of the season (and the team a couple of games) he did have possibly the best moment of the year when he and Kurt Suzuki closed out the All-Star Game AARP: 3.6 (Up +1.2 with gains in every category--even nicknames are easier to go with now)

Casey Fien--Increasingly the Twins most reliable set-up man, which is a double-edged sword. Nice, appreciated but by no means interesting. If he grew a Snidely Wiplash mustache my nickname of "Dastardly Fien" would be easier to make popular. AARP: 0.6

Jared Burton--There was once a time when Jared Burton and Glen Perkins were dueling for the hearts and minds of Twins fans in the race to remove Matt Capps. Now he's just kind of there... AARP: -0.2

Anthony Swarzak--We'll always love the "Swarzak" Duck quack, especially as he returns to the spot starter role that suits him so well. And while FIP suggests he's better than his ERA, his soft tossing no strike out mentality continues to remind fans of the things they never liked in Twins pitching gone by.  AARP: 1.1 (Up +0.5 for both the play and greater appreciation of the "Swarzak!" Quack)

The Old Nolasco Propaganda
Ricky Nolasco--at the start of the season I saw Ricky Nolasco's twitter feed as a sign that he was going to be an energizing force for the team. Instead he turned into both exciting and confusing, less exclamation mark than Interrobang (‽). Though on the plus side, that's his new nickname as far as I'm concerned. AARP: 1.2

Kyle Gibson--Yes, Kyle Gibson has the second most innings pitched in Twins territory this year. And while he was certainly serviceable, he was by no means the most amazing thing on the mound. And while tolerable is a step up for Twins pitchers, it's a long way from exciting. AARP: 0.7

Phil Hughes--Ahh Phil Hughes, for every amazing, dumbfounding, refusing to walk a batter performance that Phil Hughes had this year, he also had a "meh" post game quotation to go with it. And while we love any body who can set a pitching record in a Twins uniform (or at least a good record), we'd love a little more personality (we cannot confirm claims he mocked Brian Duensing on Twitter, but can confirm that he has a good enough personality to wear a silly mustache and honestly admit his own failings). AARP: 2.6

By the lofty standards of AARP you need something above a 5.0 to be a nationally relevant player, and no Twins pitcher is anywhere close to that. BUT, Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes make for a solid combination every fifth day, and if Ricky Nolasco does in fact start using the Interrobang on a daily basis we may be in business.

Tomorrow I'll post thoughts on the hitters, but in the mean time:

Wonder how the AARP stat got started? Want to give your own AARP numbers or question my methods? ...leave a note in comments, or just yell at your computer screen really loudly...I can totally hear it.

9.29.2014

An Unconventional Pick for the Next Twins Manager

Here's the truth. Both of us peanuts love Ron Gardenhire. We know that we're in the minority there...especially after the last four years...but c'mon, he looks like a little garden gnome. He's ADORABLE!
Seriously though, thank you for the support you provided and the lack of lawsuits you threw our way Gardy. You're a cool dude.

But now our attention turns to the real focus of the hour. Who will replace Gardy on the top of the Twins dugout step?

Maybe without the glove...
Right now the fan base seems split into two camps:
1--Someone in house who can carry on the "Twins Way" and maintain the loyal, disciplined, do the little things right mentality that helped Kelly and Gardenhire lead the Twins to seven more postseasons than they ever had before. (More postseason berths helped that too.)
2--Someone from outside the organization who can provide a fresh perspective, a new way of doing things and maybe, just maybe, EVEN MORE POST SEASON WINS!!

But why not split the difference and choose someone who has been loyal and integrated in the Twins for the last fifty-or-so years, AND is not yet part of the organization? Someone who knows "The Twins Way" AND can approach problems in a way that no manager has ever done before?

That's why my pick to be the next Twins manager is...MY MOM!!

Yes, I think my mother should be the next Twins manager and before you scoff, allow me to deliver the following points in her favor.

  • She's a life-long Twins fan, a former member of the knot-hole gang in Bloomington, homer-hanky waver from Montana, and loyal knitter/shouter from her current home in Minneapolis.
  • She has over three decades of experience tending to unruly boys who don't know what's best for them
  • She's an excellent cook (so the Pohlad's can save on wasteful post game spreads in lieu of post game potlucks!)
  • She has better nicknames for players than most managers do, and can lead rally-chants like "Mientkiewicz, Mientkiewicz, Make me a Sandwich!"...which will be particularly useful if Douggie M. is her Bench coach.
  • She is wise enough to tell players after critical errors: "Don't do that!" in the kind of stern, but loving tone that players will definitely respond to.
  • She speaks French which is kind of like Spanish...
  • She knows enough social media to engage with fans, but not so much that she would get distracted (unlike Ozzie Guillen)
  • I'm sorry, I'm sure you're nice people
    But No...just No.
  • Hiring her would give young female fans something to aspire and relate to OTHER than being a Fox Sports North Girl.
  • She's a state championship knitter, which would be killer at charity auctions and events ("Bid on this award winning sweater from the Twins manager")
  • She's an excellent Mezzo-Soprano, so our national anthems will forever be on pitch!
  • She's working to understand SABR-metric statistics, but still appreciates a good RBI.
I know that many will prefer to debate the merits of Manny Acta versus Terry Steinbach, and others will say that managers don't make much difference anyway...but I don't care. I'm fully on board with this.

MY MOM FOR TWINS MANAGER!!

9.28.2014

The Great Twins Scotch Bet: WE HAVE A WINNER!!

And that winner...is me. Yay for me!

Yes, all you loyal readers out there (which blogger seems to think is in the 1,000 range and I know is much closer to the 1.000 range), I have won something, because the Twins (in turn) won something!

With their victory last night over the Detroit Tigers I have triumphed over both my wife (and fellow blogger) and my father-in-law to accurately predict that the Twins would win about 70-71 games this year
YAY! Someone we've never met has won a prize for doing nothing
more than making a slightly more accurate guess than other people!
YAAY, MR. PEANUT!!
Clearly, the Twins did this to thank me for my years of selfless blogging on their behalf. My positive attitude and enthusiasm. Still, it was a team effort, with a host of victories being tallied courtesy of a surprisingly strong Eduardo Escobar (justifying the love I gave him back when he used Grease as his walk up music), an unusually potent second baseman, a bullpen that didn't struggle until recently, and Phil Hughes' New Years resolution to give up walking people.

However, clearly the most important person was me, which is why I've been saying that "I" won, rather than "we" won. Although, to be true to myself, it seems only right that I offer the Twins a sip of my scotch. So come on over, Ricky Nolasco! Come on over, Oswaldo Arcia! Come on over, Kyle Gibson and Anthony Swarzak, Ryan Pressley and Brian Duensing, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas (assuming you're actually old enough to drink), you can even come on over, Joe Mauer: The Drinks are on Me! (Or more accurately, my wife and father-in-law who graciously don't see this as bragging!)

And now the only question is--Balvenie Portwood, or Laphroig 25?

9.21.2014

The Great Twins Scotch Bet: Pt. 4 Down the Stretch They Come

"We're helping Scruffy win
a scotch!!"
It shouldn't be too much a surprise what's going on...after all, I can't seem to find time to write anything but this form piece. But in case you're allergic to scrolling down, here's this week's update in the Heavenly Peanuts Scotch Bet (2014 Edition)


Coming down to the last week of the season the Twins stand at 66 and 89, on pace for 69 wins, which is to say dangerously close for the purposes of our bet.

First, it's time to admit again that my father-in-law (known affectionately here as "The Gouger" to protect his true identity from shareholders) has been eliminated yet again. His prediction of 75 or more wins was still too optimistic for the Minnesota Twins to deliver on. However there are two of us left and here's how it shakes out.

Mmm...peat...
If the Twins win 3 games or less, Stinky [my beloved, Peat-addicted wife] wins
If the Twins win 4 games or more, I win [and will likely settle for an excellent, though possibly mellower and more Sherry-tastic scotch]

While running a 14 K Saturday, Stinky expressed her feeling that perhaps this year would be my year. Then of course the Twins dropped back to back games to the Indians and left us very much unsettled about the week ahead.

The final three home games of the season will pit the Twins against the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of exactly three teams with a worse record than the Twins. (They've played the other two (Texas and Colorado) as well and have a cumulative record of 4-6...yes...we even lose to the losers.) Then they go on the road for four against the Detroit Tigers, who have surprisingly struggled against the Twins this season. (In fact, the Twins only have winning records against five teams: the Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners.)


Remember when you wore this
ugly D-Back-ish jersey and were
awesome Kyle? We do...
So, what will it take for me to get my wife to buy me a drink? A 4-3 stretch, which--coincidentally--is exactly the stretch the Twins just completed this last week. They'll send their best pitchers up against the Diamondbacks (assuming a slightly less than terrible Ricky Nolasco now counts as one of our best)...and it will be particularly important for Kyle Gibson to bounce back with a good final start. Trevor May and some sacrificial lamb (in lieu of Tommy Milone) will likely get pounded by the Tigers in the first two games in Detroit, and if that allows the Tigers to rest players up for the playoffs Nolasco and Gibson might just save my proverbial bacon.

God Speed and Good Whisky to you Twins Pitchers...we're all going to need it.

9.14.2014

The Great Twins Scotch Bet: Part 3, That Sinking Feeling

Hint...it's not looking good.
Backstory: Each year, my wife, father-in-law and I place a small wager on the Twins final record. The victor gets a glass of excellent scotch, the losers get to pay for it.


It's been about 10 games since my last update (give or take a double header), and with just two weeks to go in the season, it seems like I ought to check in and see how things are looking.

Gouger's Bet: 75-87 or better
Smelly's (my) Bet: 70-92 to 74-88
Stinky's Bet: 69-93 or worse

2014 Twins 63-86...on pace for 68 Wins
Here's how the Twins need to fare in their last 13 games for us each to win

If the Twins win 6 games or less, Stinky wins
If the Twins win 7-11 games, I win
If the Twins win 12 or more games, Gouger wins.

Me watching the bullpen
I truly admire my father-in-law. He genuinely thinks that the Twins have a shot every year, he is genuinely disappointed every time they fail to live up to his expectations, and he is genuinely happy to buy us scotch.


I, however, feel utterly dumbfounded. I mean...really...my first update post, 22 games ago, had the Twins in need of just 13 wins to make me happy...here we are, about three weeks later, and they haven't even gotten to half of that total. We aren't battling the most dangerous teams in the world, and yet we are getting kicked in the nuts as consistently as a peanut farmer at a mule pen.

It's half full...I swear!
It's half-full!!!
Forget who we play for the next week, the big question is, do I have any chance at all?


The Twins are returning home for the next 9 games, this week that includes six games against the Tigers and Indians, both of whom are in the thick of the Central Division title race. 

While the Twins have had some success against the Tigers this year, even I can't delude myself into thinking that we can get more than a win against them this week...after all, we aren't playing the Tigers from July with the Twins from May, and then there's the whupping Cleveland foisted upon us this past week...which makes me even more dour.
My best chance is for the Twins to sweep the Diamondbacks next week (one of the few teams even more woebegone than we are) and squeak a couple wins this week...but I'm not hopeful...

9.02.2014

The Great Twins Scotch Bet, Part 2: 1 out of 3 ain't Bad

Thank You Delmon...Thank you
As the Twins celebrate the workers of the world by beating the crab-cake consuming, wanna-be Lords of the American League, Baltimore Orioles (in a game punctuated by Joe Mauer exploiting Delmon Young's defense like the cold blooded despot that he is), it's time to check back in on our annual scotch bet.


Yes, it's been 10 games since my last update which means that we are now down to just 25 games left in this season and this year's scotch bet. So where do we stand?

Gouger's Bet: 75-87 or better
Smelly's (my) Bet: 70-92 to 74-88
Stinky's Bet: 69-93 or worse

2014 Twins 60-77...on pace for 71 Wins

Yes, I'm still, marginally ahead here...thank you very much Chairman Mauer for absolutely annihilating Orioles pitching today, and no thanks to you bullpen for beginning the overworked implosion that you have so rightfully earned.

Here's how the Twins need to fare in their last 25 games for us each to win

If the Twins win 9 games or less, Stinky wins
If the Twins win 10-14 games, I win
If the Twins win 15 or more games, Gouger wins.

Things are looking up...get it? Get it?
Now, you can start to see the challenge here...my father-in-law needs the Twins to post a winning record over the final month of the season, in the heat of a playoff race, at a time when the bullpen is exhausted, the starting pitching is inconsistent and the opponents are desperate not to have any bad losses.


Good thing he's such an optimist.

So...Who do we play for the next 10 games? Chicago at home for 2, the Angels at home for 4, the Indians on the road for 3, and one spare game in Chicago.
Who has the edge? Call me crazy, but I'll say me. The Twins have a winning record against exactly one team left on their schedule...and it's the White Sox. If they grab two of those three and one from the Indians, they'll be in a good place for the next set of ten (featuring more White Sox, more Indians, and the surprisingly Twins-averse Tigers). Provided that the Angels don't crush our souls, I could well be on my way to sweet, sweet scotch.
Welcome back, Gulf of Tonkin
What matters most this week? It has to be the bullpen. With the offense by turns effective and exhausted, and the starting pitching in "Gibson, Hughes, prepare to lose" mode, it rests on the increasingly underrested bullpen arms to save the day. So here's hoping that Logan Darnell, Lester Oliveros, Michael Tonkin and AJ Achter are up to the challenge.

9.01.2014

Cliff Notes Guide to the 2014 Twins: The Insistent Out of Tune/Of a Broken Violin on an August Afternoon

Chs. 4-5: July and August
The fledgling, flickering hope alive in the hearts of the Twins and their fans at the end of June was doused with the frigid realization of inadequacy. The pivotal moment established by the previous chapters' foreshadowing was for the "All-Star Game" to be held in the middle of July. 

Yay! The Party's Over!!
In hosting the party, the Twins had their moment to seize relevance and prominence, to rise up to a stature and status which has so frequently seemed out of their reach. When they threw the doors open to their guests they were confronted with the truth that they cannot hope to compete with the shining stars of the baseball firmament.

Like Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby or the Narrator in Proust's In Search of Lost Time the Twins are party-goers without an ounce of composure or self-reliance. Hidden away in a corner of their stadium until the final moments, they emerge just in time to see the celebration end. Yet when everyone leaves, the team collapses into a disheartened funk. Pulling themselves out of the doldrums to win just 3 of the next 10 games, leaving their fans disappointed and the team itself broken.

But, in a cruel twist of fate, the team is not allowed to creep back into anonymity, awaiting another spring and fresh start. Instead they are subjected to an extended August road trip, through the repeated self-flagellation of sporadic hitting and consistently implosive pitching. Moments of triumph (including an outburst of 32 runs against a vaunted Tigers team) are tempered by the now blatantly inverted hierarchy of the team's past glory, as former fools and patsies the Kansas City Royals repeatedly batter the squad.

Character Development
Kendrys Morales/Sam Fuld/Kevin Correia/Josh Willingham--These chapters are often paired together because they feature the departures of four previously significant characters. Each of these characters was fraught with contradictions that are both enticing to some readers and maddening to others (witness the previously mentioned Morales and his dualism: i.e. symbol of contender status/presence on a losing team). Tellingly, when each character exits the team clubhouse these moments aren't regarded with celebration, despair, or even much surprise. Instead they appear to be the annual sacrifices to whatever deity drives Twins' Baseball operations: a constant memento mori for their teammates and a simple transaction to their fans.

Bam-Bam & Dan-San
Kennys Vargas/Danny Santana--While all the fixation on veterans around the trade deadline, and in the departure gates of the Minnesota airports serves to bring a glowering gloom over everyone, two of the most prominent replacements offer hope and opportunity. Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana (substituting in for Kendrys Morales/Sam Fuld respectively) also feature prominently in this volume's awareness of cultural differences, shifting the clubhouse away from non-descript veteran white guys to young latino players, a mirroring of the nation's demographics as a whole.

Trevor May--While Vargas and Santana emerge as options within the line-up, May is an intriguing study in the cyclical nature of expectations and reactions. Prior to the expulsion of Correia, a great many fans were clamoring for May's ascendency to the major league roster. Upon his arrival, May sputters, gags, and behaves precisely as you would expect an uncertain young man to behave. In his (admittedly small) sample of performance, he appears to be every bit the mockable man that the aforementioned Correia was, providing the clearest link between this team and the second section of TS Eliot's "Portrait of a Lady"--from which the title came.

Kurt Suzuki--The other figure with the clearest gain from these two months is new catcher Kurt Suzuki. One of the two Twins to attend the aforementioned awkward all-star party, Suzuki parlayed his early success to fondness from fans and a long term contract. However, these moments of growth and personal victory are balanced by the knowledge that many other longer-term Twins signing (including the recently departed Willingham) have collapsed.

Key Quotes/Stats Explained
Cumulative WAR for Morales/Fuld/Correia/Willingham-- 1.1 
Cumulative WAR for Vargas/Santana/May/Schafer-- 2.7
WAR (or Wins Above Replacement) is often the go to quote/stat for fans to trot out, yet the creation of the number is a rather complicated and differ depending on which equation (or translation of the equation you cite).

Generally speaking, things that positions players do to create runs (including drawing walks, getting various kinds of hits, and stealing bases) are multiplied by their relative weight or importance (home runs matter more than singles, etc.) and adjusted in relationship to their position on the field (with center fielders/short stops getting greater credit than first basemen and DHs). Those positive numbers are compared to the average player in the league to create a viable means of judging one player against another.  [Meanwhile pitchers are judged almost entirely on preventing runs, largely through runs allowed during their innings pitched]. While the best players might have a +8 WAR, the average starter would be around 2, while the average bench player would be between 0 and 1.9

Within these chapters the Twins removed four players from consistent play and gave their time to four others. The four who left totaled 1.1 (though Kendrys Morales' -0.7 pulled that down significantly), while the four who stepped up totaled 2.7 (again undermined by Trevor May's -0.9). The broad take away is that, even though it does not translate into immediate results in the "win column", this shift is for the best for the Twins and their team. However, the net gain amongst hitters (+2.5) fails to compensate for the net loss from Correia to May (-0.7).

Literary Term to Impress your Teacher/Attractive English Major Friend:
Mmm...that's a good pastiche
Our recent literary and cultural history has leaned heavily on satire and parody. The Daily Show uses satire to deliver a pointed critique on common styles of tv news programs. The "Scary Movie" franchise uses parody to expand on cliches and tropes in horror movies to the point of making them explode in absurdity. But the Twins' use neither of these, preferring instead to use pastiche, which again uses styles and habits of others, but does so for the purpose of honoring and complimenting the initial creator, rather than mocking them. Like TS Eliot--whose "Portrait of a Lady" poem builds off of Henry James, Christopher Marlowe and Jules Lafourge--these chapters of the Twins' 2014 season pay homage to the wealth of talented athletes who played on the field during the all-star game, and the restarted franchises who regained their talent through creative destruction.

8.29.2014

Designated Everything

Most of the wise and trusted Twins blogs have noted that while the team's current offense, to put it politely, sucks harder than a Super Powered Hoover. Yet, they say, help is on the way from the prospect ranks--even if many of them are currently injured.

That's a big but...
However, all that hope for the future comes with a caveat as big as Kenny Vargas' backside. To wit: most of the good hitters are not terribly athletic and have serious questions about their defense. Sure we may have boppers, but what do you do with a team that has nine potential designated hitters?

The obvious answer is just to designate a bunch more positions and let a whole raft of back up people hit. Creating a roster (around 2016 that looks like this)

C-Kurt Suzuki
1B--Joe Mauer
2B--Brian Dozier
SS--Danny Santana
3B--Miguel Sano
LF--Eddie Rosario
CF--Byron Buxton
RF--Aaron Hicks
Pitcher--Anything with an arm...heck a slot machine will do.
Designated Hitter--Kenny Vargas
Designated Hitting Catcher--Josmil Pinto
Designated Hitting Left Fielder--Trevor Plouffe
Designated Hitting Right Fielder--Oswaldo Arcia

Now, critics will point out that this is...you know..."breaking the rules of the game"

BUT! Perhaps there's another way. After all, you don't really need a good outfield if your pitchers induce strike outs and ground balls. So, and prepare to suspend your disbelief fans, what if, in a crazy mixed up world of my own imagination, where up is down, left is right and the Twins hire a manager who decides to use platoons (I told you it would need a major suspension of disbelief), you try to use these players strategically?


Consider the 7 claimants to the "DH" role right now as well as the two most athletic "outfield prospects" who aren't totally at sea with a bat:
Joe Mauer, Kenny Vargas, Josmil Pinto, Oswaldo Arcia, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks.
Where do you think you're going?

If you assume that we can count on two years of Suzuki at Catcher (which apparently is also expected to be a Josmil Pinto free zone), Dozier at Second, Santana at short and stop gaps replaced by Bionic Byron Buxton in Center, then we have five spots left to play with (in order of least defensive danger): DH, First Base, Left Field, Right Field and Third Base

Here's how those 9 players rank in terms of OPS in their Major League Careers or the last season of the minors (biased I know...but hey, if you expect quality analysis from me, you clearly didn't read my "Joe-Mauer-could-play-better-if-he-became-an-amateur-stand-up-comedian" post)
OPS Versus Righties
Sano (.975)
Mauer (.922)
Vargas (.844)
Pinto (.813)
Arcia (.799)
Rosario (.705)
Parmelee (.704)
Plouffe (.674)
Hicks (.543--though .746 all year at three levels)

OPS Versus Lefties
Sano (1.027)
Pinto (.892)
Vargas (.828)
Plouffe (.807)
Mauer (.748)
Hicks (.746 majors....854 all year at three levels)
Parmelee (.710)
Rosario (.630)
Arcia (.620)

So, like I said, that's not perfect, indeed it's a big fat set of assumptions...i.e. that hitting lefties in Triple A or Double A is equivalent to major leagues (Josmil Pinto's gap from the AAA Lefties to Big leaguers is a whopping 206 points to the worse at .686...though that still puts him ahead of Arcia)

Still, I think that if we assume A) he doesn't come back as a shell of his former self and B) he can still throw the ball, that Miguel Sano is going to be a full timer no matter what. Preferably at third base the hardest of our five positions defensively and the one he would play better than everyone else on the list

That leaves 8 guys for four spots, and here's where my idea comes into effect what if we had not one platoon, not two platoons, BUT FOUR PLATOONS!!! The platoons would be based on both the opposing pitcher, and whether or not we have a fly ball pitcher going ourselves. 

Take a break Joe...literally whenever
you want.
Here's how I could see it
Versus Lefties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Vargas
LF-Mauer (or Plouffe if Mauer needs a rest day)
RF-Hicks

Versus Lefties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto/Vargas (whoever's hotter)
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)
LF-Plouffe
RF-Hicks

Versus Righties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)
LF-Arcia
RF-Rosario

Versus Righties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto
1B-Vargas
LF-Mauer
RF-Arcia

A couple of pros to this approach. 
Thanks for the memories, Chris
1--It clarifies value to the team pretty quickly: Parmelee doesn't care any of these sets of four so if someone is willing to give you a prospect with a pulse take it. Rosario only cracks one line up, and theoretically you should be able to find a solid defensive outfielder who can handle right handed pitching at a steady clip, so see if he has any value too.
2--It allows you to start thinking about defensive liberty. Vargas has some background at first, but I would bet that Josmil Pinto could figure things out there as well as Matthew Lecroy did and be a third catcher, and Mauer's still a bit of an athlete (we hope). If Mauer could do a little time in Left, all of a sudden, Trevor Plouffe is expendable.
3--You have a more structured schedule to keep Mauer healthy. Less time against lefties will be better, especially as Joe gets older. And, if/when bullpens are used and right handed relievers come in...who's that sitting on the bench with a bat in his hands? What's that...a former MVP and batting champion? How about that!

And, just to show I can acknowledge my own failings, I'll admit a few weaknesses too...
I stubbornly still have faith
in you Hicksy.
1--My data set is totally messed up: no debating that, but I think it's reasonable to say that after years of hearing that "help is on the way" from the minors and looking at prospect rankings, this is a reasonable assessment of potential at the majors
2--I assume that everyone will reach their potential: yup, I do. They won't, but I teach public school, I have to think about potential more than existing skill or I'd go nuts.
3--Mauer in Left? I mean....Mauer in Left??? Again, point taken, there's every chance that the Twins/Mauer would never consider such a deal with the risk of a wall, or another outfielder, or a beer bottle at risk of hitting his head and ending his career. However, I would say that Mauer is still a fine athlete, even with the wear and tear, and that historically left field is perhaps the least exposed position on the diamond...maybe Josmil Pinto could figure it out, maybe Adam Brett Walker will develop so fast that we have a whole other problem, but for now that makes the most sense to me.


8.25.2014

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...
Knock-knock....
....
knock-knock...
....
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...
.....
....
okay...
...
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.
...yeah...
...
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.

8.23.2014

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.

7.29.2014

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.

7.18.2014

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.