"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Mainstream This!

Kudos to Fourth Pew Center for tipping me off to this story. I needed a new ulcer.

Beliefnet.com: Indianapolis, May 26, 2005

A judge's order that keeps a man and his ex-wife from exposing their 9-year-old son to their religion of Wicca has been appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Thomas E. Jones Jr. questions an order that Marion County Superior Court Chief Judge Cale Bradford put into divorce proceedings that bars Jones or his ex-wife from exposing their child to 'non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals,' the Indianapolis Star reported Thursday. Jones has asked the state appeals court to look into the case.

The judge's spokeswoman said the judge would not comment on the case, the Star said.

Both Jones and his ex-wife practice Wicca, a pagan religion that predates Christianity and preaches balance between its practitioners and nature. Jones claims that the judge put the paragraph about religions in the divorce papers without either parent asking for it.

Well, actually, Wicca doesn't predate much of anything, but I find this story disturbing for reasons far more serious than that minor factual error.

Remind me who's been foaming at the mouth about the evils of "judicial activism" for the last year or so? Oh, that's right--conservatives. I'd like to see those same lawmakers condemn this piece of judicial activism. Bet they won't, though. They'll just call it "upholding the values this great nation was founded upon" and nominate this idiot judge for a federal post.

Religious freedom--how's that for a value this great nation was founded upon? This judge's unwanted addition to the divorce decree was unconstitutional (like much of the Patriot Act, but I digress). Government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion--ANY religion, with the exception of religious practices which break other fundamental laws, like those against murder. "Government" includes the judiciary. You follow? Then you're ahead of that judge, congratulations.

We pagans aren't the most cohesive bunch. I think our creed actually reads: "And it harm none, do as thou wilt, unless thou wilt organize, in which case, can it." There's not going to be a press conference by the National Pagan Council on the 5 o'clock news to protest this ruling, mostly because I don't think there is an NPC. There's not going to be a Wear Your Pentacle to Work Day, either, because a lot of us work in corporate America and if you really believe there's religious tolerance in this country, wear a pentacle into a cubicle farm. I dare you.

But we knew this was coming, didn't we? Not this, specifically, but this sort of thing. It starts with cases like the above, and if these rulings are not overturned, it expands. This administration has made no secret of its desire to weaken or even eradicate the establishment clause, and unfortunately there are a lot of average citizens out there who think it would be a pretty good idea, because they don't realize it's their freedom under fire, too.

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Today's Baseball Fix

A long, sunny holiday and the Twins and the Saints are both between series. But you can still get your baseball fix at 12:30 Central at http://www.redwingsbaseball.com/. The Twins AAA affiliate Rochester Red Wings play the Richmond Braves at Frontier Field in Rochester, NY. A live, free radio webcast is available on the Red Wings site.

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Notable Performances

Hitting and Fielding

Hot Streaks:

Nick Punto - 19 for 61 (.312) over current 12-game hitting streak. 5 doubles, triple, 3 stolen bases.

Shannon Stewart - 36 for 110 (.327) in the month of May. 7 homers, 16 RBI, 10 walks, 2 stolen bases.

Joe Mauer - 41 for 133 (.308) in 2005. Caught 10 of 22 attempted base stealers.


Justin Morneau - 6 for 51 (.188) in his last 15 games. 2 extra-base hits (double, homer) over that span.

Jacque Jones - 18 for 86 (.209) in the month of May. 3 extra-base hits (double, 2 homers) over that span.

Torii Hunter - 42 for 177 (.237) in 2005. Committed a bizarrely high 3 errors in the field.


Hot Streaks:

Carlos Silva - 1-0, 1.89 ERA in last two starts. No walks allowed, one complete game.

Kyle Lohse - 3-1, 2.30 ERA in 5 appearances (4 starts, 1 relief). Only one home run allowed.

Jesse Crain - 0.96 ERA over 18 2/3 innings pitched in 2005.


JC Romero - 9.00 ERA over last 4 appearances (2 innings pitched total). 1 walk, 3 hits. 2 of 4 inhertited runners scored.

Joe Nathan - 0-1, 5.73 ERA over 11 appearances in May. 1 blown save, 7 earned runs, 14 hits, six walks.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

See Ball, Hit Ball

"They couldn't break a chandelier if they had batting practice in a hotel lobby."
--Bill Lee, in reference to the Anaheim Angels

Woo-hoo!, we thought, coming into the season. This year we've got Jacque Jones to smack the ball to right, Shannon Stewart to smack the ball to left and center, Joe Mauer to smack the ball all over the field, and Justin Morneau to reduce the ball to its component atoms. We've also got Torii Hunter's 20+ homers, Lew Ford's signature doubles, a third baseman whose sporadic hot streaks are positively scorching, and a rookie shortstop who hit .332/.417/.892 in AAA last year. It's gonna be a great year!

Well, hell, we think now. What happened?

Are they just plain not hitting? They're hitting .270 as a team, actually. Not the best in the league, but in the top half. The team with the best record in the league, the despicable Whine Sox, are hitting only .251. But batting average, as we all know, is a deeply flawed measure of offensive performance. Let's dig deeper...

AL Avg417136462162236141.327.738
AL Best465171712663727198.359.829
AL Worst 38110327180949108.295.664

I've highlighted the categories in which the Twins dip below the league average. One thing becomes immediately apparent--our boys are hitting, and walking, but they're not hitting for extra bases and the double plays are killing them. Note that they are the league worst in hitting into double plays. 49 extra outs in 46 games, my friends. Ouch.

Now, let's examine the same stats, but only for situations with runners on. They're still getting all those singles and walks--what's happening afterward?

AL Avg1886121191223669.349.780
AL Best22679332393727106.397.877
AL Worst 151471314594951.293.671

GDP, predictably, remains the same, as does SAC. Both require runners on. This time I'm calling out the categories where the Twins are above average. Note that the Twins lead the league in OBP with runners on. That does not sound like a team with offensive woes, does it? But too many of their extra-base hits (including homers) are coming with bases empty, and of course the double plays are still a serious concern. Additionally, the walks, which will only rarely cause a run to score directly, inflate the team OBP. Still, how does a team that gets more hits, walks and sacrifices than the norm with runners on have such difficulty scoring, even with a rash of double plays?

The simple answer is, they may be moving the runners along, but they're just not bringing them home. They are particularly inept with bases loaded. Only one team has had more bases-loaded at bats than Minnesota's 55. Of those 55, the Twins have squeaked out ten hits, 3 walks, and four sac flies, for 31 runs. Sound good? Consider that there were 165 baserunners involved in those at-bats, and only 31 scored. We've got ourselves a 18.8% success rate. Ouch, again.

Obviously, it's easiest to score with a runner on third. But I found something very interesting when I looked a little more closely at the Twins performance with the coveted runner 90 feet away. With bases loaded, which includes a runner on third, we have the 18.8% success rate. With runners on second and third only, it rises to 30.1%. With runners on the corners, it jumps to 40.6%. With a runner on third only, it soars to a mind-boggling 86.4%.

Shouldn't it be easier to score runs with the bases loaded? Or with two in scoring position? Especially when your team is having a hard time hitting anything but singles? The simple answer is yes, it should. But it isn't. Not for these Twins.

Is it the pressure? Are they swinging too hard, or too early? Are they too desperate to impress? Are they too afraid of failure? Is it just bad luck that will even out as the season goes on?

I wish I knew.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005



Gardy, Gardy, Gardy.

I told you not to use Romero with runners on, but do you listen? No. And look what happens.

You, my good man, owe me a beer for forcing me to witness the horror that was the end of last night's game. Make it a Guinness. And give one to poor Juan, too, for saddling him with the loss.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wild & Outside

Ever been to a St. Paul Saints game?

We go a few times a year, to see baseball played outside for the fun of it. At Midway Stadium, there are no skyboxes, no fat contracts, no roof. You can get a beer for a buck, or a good beer for three. There's a grill behind the third base stands that flame-grills brats, polish sausages, hamburgers and chicken--culinary heaven on a warm spring evening. The baseball is played at about the level of the late innings of an MLB spring training game, and the between-innings diversions stretch from the cute to the frankly bizarre. The announcer is as likely to heckle the visiting team or the fans as he is to broadcast the bare facts of the game. We sat in the front row behind the home on-deck circle, and paid the munificent sum of ten bucks for the privilege.

I love major league baseball, don't get me wrong. The sheer talent and skill, the familiar names and faces, the rivalries and histories captivate me. But sometimes it's simply glorious to sit on an aluminum bench with a real beer in one hand and a real hot dog in the other (neither of which is easily acquired at the Dome), soaking up the late-day sun (which absolutely cannot be acquired in the Dome) and watching a bunch of guys I wouldn't recognize if I met them in line at the grocery store play ball.

Would I still go see the Saints if the Twins also played outside? Absolutely. There's air of innocence about the independent leagues--the taint of excess wealth that permeates the MLB and causes the haves-vs-have-nots tensions are absent in the Northern League. Team incomes are roughly equivalent and very low. Players make between $800 and $4000 a month during their abbreviated season. What the independent leagues lack in talent they make up for in exuberance. It's a different style of baseball, and it definitely has its own charm, and its own allure for dedicated and casual fans alike.

The Saints and Twins are rarely in town at the same time. If the Twins are on the road and the game's not on TV, think about heading over to St. Paul. It's a great time.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

An Open Letter to Ron Gardenhire

Dear Ron,

Hi, how's things? Tough game yesterday. Say, I wanted to let you know about something pretty nifty. It's a stat called "Inherited Runners/Scored", or "IR/S". It's a ratio of how many runners a pitcher inherits from the previous pitcher to how many he allows to score. Taken over a significant period, it can help you decide which reliever to bring in when your starter falters. I know you're all about innovation, so I wanted to make sure you'd heard about this.

Take last night. Lohse was getting a little tired, and he put runners on the corners with one out in a tie game. So obviously you want to go to one of your best setup guys, and even though they both got used in the last game neither pitched more than an inning. The next three hitters due up are a lefty, a switch hitter, and another lefty, so you lean toward Romero.

Now, lefty batters are hitting .227 off Rincón, versus .174 off Romero, but the two are allowing virtually identical OBPs at .320 (Rincón) and .321 (Romero). Neither has given up an extra-base hit to a lefty batter this season. Romero has given up 4 hits, 2 hit batters and 3 walks with 4 RBI in 23 ABs, Rincón 5 hits and 3 walks with 2 RBI in 22 ABs. Given the next three hitters, we start to lean slightly toward Rincón despite the "handedness" matchups, because he's shown better control and allowed fewer RBI. But it's very nearly a wash.

So far, so good. Now, let's take a look at IR/S, shall we?

162/51 (.315) 45/21 (.467) 13/5 (.385) 100/28 (.280) 52/14 (.269) 6/1 (.167)

So, both historically and immediately, Rincón is definitely better at handling inherited runners. JC, meanwhile, has been terrible over the last season-plus, not just lately. Hmmm. Very interesting. It looks to me like putting Romero out there is almost begging that runner on third to score. He's definitely a start-an-inning kind of guy, don't you think?

So, Gardy, dearest, next time it's late in a close game and you've got runners on and both Romero and Rincón available, for the love of God, sit Romero the hell down.

And tell Silva to pull his pant cuffs up. He just looks wrong in the ankle-length "jogger" style.


Oh, and by the way--Thursday? Bunt on Sabathia. He hates that. He'll get all mad, plunk a batter or two (hey, free baserunners!), and get tossed. And we want him tossed, don't we? Yes, we do. Preferably early.

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Monday, May 23, 2005


I love major league debuts. The hope, the promise, the infinite possibilities as yet unsullied by reality. The one bright spot in Jason Bartlett's questionable demotion to Rochester is the opportunity it afforded 24-year-old Luis Rodriguez, a middle infielder who has been in the Twins minor league system for eight (!) years.

Young L-Rod made his major-league debut on Saturday, in a game we'd all like to forget, thanks. He entered the game in the 8th inning as a defensive substitution, and in the bottom of the inning he grounded out to third to start his major league career. But that's okay, no one else on the team was hitting, either.

Two innings in the field and one at-bat does not a proper debut make, so it was all still fresh and new yesterday when he came into the game in the 8th again, this time as a pinch-runner for Matthew LeCroy. One round of infield musical chairs later, and he was playing shortstop in the ninth inning of what was starting to look like a lost cause, with the Twins trailing 4-2. The Brewers scored in their half of the ninth, widening the gap to three runs.

Ah, but then fate conspired to give the rookie another chance. A Jones single, a Ford RBI double (Leeeeewwwwww!) and a Stewart homer (Steeeeewwwww!) later, the game was all tied up, and the UPN cameras zoomed in on Milwaukee closer Derrick Turnbow just in time for the metro area to lip read his F-bomb. Turnbow got the hook so his manager could wash his mouth out with soap, and up to the plate stepped little L-Rod, looking wide-eyed and all of twelve years old.

He got a hit. Of course he did. It was his second major league at-bat, it was the bottom of the ninth, and he'd given the Twins organization eight years of his life just to get there. He swung at the first strike he saw and zipped a smooth single into right, becoming the go-ahead run at first base. But they couldn't bring him home, and on to extra innings we went.

The Brew Crew had us chewing our fingernails in the top of the tenth, putting men on first and second with only one out and JC "Jitters" Romero on the mound. I confess, when Chad Moeller hit that hard grounder toward the second base gap, I made a sound somewhere between a groan and a squeak. This couldn't be good.

It wasn't good. It was fantastic. L-Rod flung himself forward to snare that ball, landing on his stomach, and then rolled to his side and from that horribly awkward position flipped the ball to second in time to begin the inning-ending double play. Saved!

The Twins went down quietly in the bottom of the tenth and the Brewers did likewise in the top of the eleventh. The bottom of the eleventh began with a Ford triple (Leeeeewwww!) to deep left center. This would normally have been a double, but Lew turned on the afterburners when he rounded first and saw the fielders still chasing the ball. Cuddyer drew an intentional walk, then helped himself to second base during Tiffee's at bat, which ended in a grounder to third. Stewart was intentionally walked to load the bases and get to the rookie. Guess who?

L-Rod fouled off the first pitch then hit the second sharply, but alas, his bat broke and it didn't go far. Second baseman Junior Spivey reached it in no time, but it took a funny hop and Spivey bobbled it badly. L-Rod reached first, Ford reached home, and the game was over--Twins win, 6-5.

When the winning run scored, I have a sneaking suspicion that L-Rod was feeling just a little bit pleased. But don't quote me on that.

(Jim Mone/AP)

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Sunday, May 22, 2005


Nine innings. Five hits. No walks. Three strikeouts. One run. Seventy-four pitches.

That, by the way, is the fewest on the official record--pitch counts have only been uniformly tracked since 2000--for a nine-inning complete game.

This 4-1 gem was thrown by our very own Carlos Silva Friday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, who must have received a scouting report that said "Throws strikes. Swing early and often." He kept throwing his sinker over the plate, and the Brewers kept knocking it at the Twins fielders. I suspect he didn't have his best stuff out there, either, as more than half of the balls put in play were hit in the air, and he's almost exclusively a ground-ball pitcher when he's at the top of his game. That only makes Friday's feat more impressive.

Nine innings. Seven hits. No walks. Four strikeouts. No runs. One hundred and ten pitches.

This is the game Milwaukee lefty Doug Davis pitched against the Twins Saturday night while cruising to a 6-0 win. Lew Ford hit two doubles for the Twins, the other five hits were singles. Meanwhile, Radke was doomed by a 2-run homer and a 2-run error, while Jesse Crain lost his perfect ERA, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk without retiring a batter. On the bright side, JC Romero came into the game with runners in scoring position and didn't let them score. I was, and remain, pleasantly stunned.

Speaking of that error, it not only served to usher in two unearned runs and put the Twins in a demoralizing 4-0 hole, it also catapulted Cuddyer into the league lead for errors at third. The only other AL third baseman with 8 errors, Detroit's Brandon Inge, has played 43 more innings. People keep reminding me that Koskie wasn't so hot with the glove when he first got to the majors, and that is certainly true, but I'll take this opportunity to remind them that Koskie in his worst season compiled 15 errors. Let's all take a moment to do the math and realize how ridiculous this is becoming.

I'm glad Cuddy's finally hitting (and am hopeful, though not quite convinced, that it's not just one of his sporadic hot streaks), but he has got to do something about his fielding. More drills, different drills, something. Anything. This club is not the kind of offensive powerhouse that can carry no-glove players on the assumption that we'll knock in enough runs to make up for any gaffes in the field. The Twins require, at a minimum, basic competence.

  • Santana pitches this afternoon, with something to prove after an unfortunate display of human frailty on Tuesday.
  • Jason Bartlett went 2-for-5 in his first game at AAA Rochester.
  • Justin Morneau has five home runs in the month of May.
  • Kyle Lohse has a May ERA of 2.77, over 3 starts.
  • Two "everyday" players have not committed an error since 2004: outfielders Shannon Stewart and Jacque Jones.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Catching Up

Okay, I'm a lot calmer now. Sleep helps. And I haven't finished my first cup of coffee, so the depth of ire I can muster up is limited.

Aside from my boy Bartlett being sent down (which totally ruined the whole series-win buzz, thanks, guys) and the ass-whoopin' Santana and the Twins endured on Tuesday, it was a great series.

On Wednesday, Kyle Lohse actually pitched like a big-league starter. It's true! He only allowed 2 runs in 6 innings. And even though Cuddyer played the whole game at third, not once did I feel the need to say "Corey would've had that". Cuddy actually hit the ball, too, which still stuns me even though he's had these hot streaks before. Just not this season.

Jesse Crain polished his sparkly 0.00 ERA with a hitless inning of work, and my darling Juan Rincón put the past behind him and did likewise. (P.S: Jesse, sweetheart, whatever that thing on your chin is, shave it off. There's a good boy.) Joe Nathan capped off the relief trio with a 1-2-3 save in the ninth. The Twins won 3-2.

Thursday's afternoon matinee game saw the return of the 2001 All-Star Edition Joe Mays. "Joltin'" Joe threw a complete game shutout on just 93 pitches. Yes, 93. This is amazing in two respects: first, how often do you see a complete game pitched in under 100 pitches? And second, when was the last time Joe hit the 80-pitch mark and didn't immediately proceed to do his very best Rick Ankiel impression?

Meanwhile, Cuddy hit the ball again, and so did backup catcher Mike Redmond and utility guy Juan Castro (no, he is not our shortstop, our shortstop is, um...temporarily indisposed) Those two aren't exactly on the team for their batting prowess, if you know what I mean, so it was nice to see them have good games. Besides, the rest of the lineup was pretty uniformly 1-for-4, so we needed multiple-hit games from our 7, 8 and 9 hitters.

Speaking of the rest of the lineup, Jones and Morneau are slumping a little the last week or so. Okay, they're slumping a lot. It's just a few days, but I thought I'd mention it. It bears watching; we rely on those guys. Lew Ford's on a much more even keel lately, after a slow start to the season. Good to see him flying stiff-backed around the bases again! Mauer remains creepily good, and I hear that Nick Punto, who was on a bit of a tear offensively, could be back in the lineup tonight after straining a calf muscle and missing several games.

This is Border Battle Weekend, with the Twins hosting the Milwaukee Brewers, and (in what is sure to be a special thrill for Cubs and Twins fan Fourth Pew Center) the Cubs host the Whine Sox.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005


Minnesota Twins News:
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins decided Thursday to option shortstop Jason Bartlett to Triple-A Rochester after the rookie battled lately with confidence issues.
In the month of May, I'm 2 for 2--first my favorite pitcher gets busted for steroids, and now my favorite position player gets busted back to Rochester. (Remind me why I consider myself qualified to blog on baseball?)

Fate completes the ugly trifecta by causing the Bartlett jersey I ordered some weeks ago to arrive today.

Excuse me, I need to go swear the paint off the den walls now.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fils D'une Chienne!

Toronto 10, Minnesota 3

Well. It appears that Johan's evil lookalike escaped, went on a slimming regimen, and managed to fool the boys for six innings this time. Johan should secretly get a tattoo that he can show the pitching coach before every inning to prove it's really him, because Johan "K" Santana does not give up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings with a walk and five measly strikeouts.

The Twins' nine hits and three walks wouldn't have done the job, either, but they could (should) have managed more than three runs. Come on, guys, a 25% success rate isn't going to cut it.

In honor of this rare visit from our neighbors in that sane and lovely country to the north, I swore entirely in Canadian the whole game. Damnez-le! Sacre crap! Five-hole! Merde! There were a lot of opportunities to swear, what with all the Toronto hits and the fielding miscues and the stranding of runners. Oh, and the Whine Sox win over Texas, that came through before our game was technically over. I nearly let an American curse loose on that one.

And hey, welcome back, Corey. Good to see ya. We're sending Kyle Lohse out tonight, that should be fun. For you. Me? I think I'll just watch "Lost".

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I like Jason Bartlett. I really like Jason Bartlett. I've made no secret of that. So if you want to take the following with a grain of salt, you go right ahead.

I do NOT understand this:

Minnesota Twins News:
Two hits in Saturday's 5-0 loss earned Juan Castro another start at shortstop Sunday vs. Texas over scuffling rookie Jason Bartlett.
Another key hit in the sixth inning of Sunday's 5-2 win could keep him there again for the next game Tuesday. Castro's two-out single kept a rally going and led to Shannon Stewart's game-winning three-run home run.
'I'll do whatever I feel is right Tuesday,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. 'I'm going to put winning teams out there. We're not worried about feelings too much out here. We're trying to develop, but we put a winning team out there.'

So Bartlett has an admittedly crappy late April/early May, and he's on the bench. I'd find that a lot easier to swallow if we hadn't put up with Rivas's lousy bat and limited range for four years before putting Punto in his place. Or if we hadn't put up with 2+ seasons of no-bat/low-effort from Guzman after the infamous shoulder injury.

But the fact of the matter is that Bartlett is adjusting to major-league pitching, and even in the midst of that process he's not much worse than Guzman was, and is actually doing much better for the Twins than Guzman is for the Nationals. They each have 4 errors, and Guzman is batting .219/.257/.539 to Bartlett's .242/.310/.684. Even allowing for the adjustment to NL pitching, Guzzy's having a really sucky start to the year. And here we are, replacing Bartlett with Castro, hitting .244/.295/.613, which is an offensive downgrade. Huh?

Speaking of errors and batting...

Shortstop is traditionally the most error-prone position. You expect your shortstop to end (and yes, to start) the season with more errors than anybody else. And yet our third baseman, who has 3 "extra" errors at 7, is still being trotted out there day after day. It's not as though his bat is making up for it, either--he's hitting .257/.315/.660, no better than Bartlett in any way that matters. If we're punishing people for starting slow at the plate and mishandling plays in the field, why the hell is Cuddyer still out there while Bartlett rides the pine?

I mean, really. Let's at least have some consistency here. If Punto is our best second baseman and Castro is our best shortstop, then Tiffee has to be our best third baseman. Heck, Tiffee can actually hit, which isn't something Punto, Castro, Bartlett or Cuddyer have been accused of lately.

I just can't wrap my brain around why on earth we'd bench a promising shortstop for having a few bad weeks when we routinely and mutely accept season after season of crappy output from others. We keep hearing about how we're going to "give him some chances" and "stick by our choice", and still these guys do nothing. But then a talented player earns a spot on the roster, and we can't be bothered to see him through his first slump.

It seems like some players are sacrosanct no matter how terrible they are, and others, no matter how promising, are shuttled back down to the minors at the least sign of trouble. It's not just Bartlett, after all. How many times has Tiffee been up and down? Remember how fast they shot Morneau down to Rochester last year when he failed to beat the snot out of every pitch he saw? Where's Michael Restovich these days?

If they really want to put a winning team out there, as Gardy says, then they should think long and hard about who's going to win them games over the long haul, not just this week.

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For A Good Cause (or Two)

Sunday was a bit chilly and windy for a 6.5 mile walk along the river, but we did it anyway--we and thousands of others turned out for the 2005 Minnesota AIDS Walk, which raised over half a million dollars for treatment and prevention of HIV in Minnesota.

What an experience! It was simply amazing to see so many people, from all walks of life, gather in pursuit of a common cause and in celebration of life, love and the memory of those who have passed on. Our team has already decided to do participate again next year, and we'll be raising our fundraising goal for 2006.

Monday was also chilly and windy, which made the cozy warmth of Morton's steakhouse all the more welcome during the second annual MLB Players' Trust dinner and silent auction. Morton's dished out the most wonderful food you can imagine (the chocolate truffle cake was better than a game-winning grand slam) while Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, JC Romero and Shannon Stewart mingled with the guests. I'm not sure how much they raised, but it was one heck of a good time.

Torii has got to be the friendliest guy on earth. He greets everyone like an old friend. We talked a bit about spring training, and how nice it is to have baseball outside. I asked Jacque how Juan Rincon is holding up, and he said Juan's doing okay, and that the whole organization is behind him, and that that's the best thing about being a Twin--how they support each other. Shannon says he feels pretty good, that the old injuries act up a bit now and again, but it's nothing he can't play through. I didn't get a chance to talk to JC.

Tonight, "Cy" Santana and the Twins square off against the Toronto Blue Jays and my beloved Corey Koskie. This is going to be bittersweet.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Friday the 13th

Friday night, Joe Mays took the mound with the Twins, and after the game he said all that need be said: "I would love to get through the seventh inning here one of these days".

I won't go into the details, they've been hashed over quite well in today's papers. And frankly, it's just too depressing. This was one of those games that I'd rather just forget about. It started so well--the Twins took a lead in the first inning and by the seventh led comfortably at 6-2. What followed was a mishmash of errors, missed plays, bad calls, bloop singles, hits that just barely squeaked fair, and one that just barely squeaked over the wall. It was like someone flipped a switch--one minute they were cruising, the next, collapsing.

Of course, the Whine Sox won again, putting us 6 games back in standings that don't mean a whole lot until the All-Star break. Still, it's no fun to see them having such fun. That's OUR fun. We want it back.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Anybody Got A Napkin?

"Since then however, everything concerning Giambi has shrunk: his physique, his batting average, his homerun and RBI totals, his confidence and, if what I've heard about the side effects of steroids is accurate, his....well we don't need to go there."

This line, from Minnesota Public Radio's blog The Bleacher Bums, gets the dubious distinction of being the first thing this season to cause TBL to nasally expel her morning coffee. Good thing it had cooled a little.

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Let's say it's the eighth inning of the rubber game in a series versus a team with a potent offense, and it's all tied up, and the enemy has two runners on and no outs. You're Gardy--who do you send to the mound?

That's right--Juan Rincón. The Eighth Inning Guy. Nathan's Opening Act. The Scythe.

But who do you send in if Juan Rincón is serving a ten day suspension because something (no one knows what) flashed positive on his drug test, and he says he didn't do it and I for one believe him because this is a guy who takes upon himself the blame for losing a game even if there were three errors behind him, but the MLB doesn't care if he got a dishonest trainer in winter ball, or some nutritional supplement the FDA can't be bothered to regulate contained something it didn't bother to list on the label, or he was prescribed Nasonex for his allergies? And on top of that, what if Jesse Crain pitched two tough innings the day before and isn't really available?

Well, then you send in JC Romero, because when he's good he's really good, unless you consider that he's hardly ever good when the pressure's really on, and the eighth inning of a tie game against the red-hot Orioles is what the beat writers like to call a "pressure situation".

You cross your fingers and you bring Romero in and the next thing you know there's an RBI single and an error at third (by the backup third baseman, who actually knows what that leather thing on his left hand is for) and a bases loaded walk fer-cryin'-out-loud, and there's your game, folks.

Would we have won that game if Juan Rincón had been there? Who knows? Would we have had better odds? Absolutely. The MLB allows teams to fill the roster spot vacated by a player on suspension, but that does not mean the consequences for a positive test land only on the player. Presumably, there is a good reason why he was on the roster in the first place, not the guy who got called up to fill the hole. The team loses something, too.

So, Juan, your suspension is over tomorrow. I hope you come back ready to pitch and mentally prepared for the unkindness of the masses. I hope that in future you rely solely on good food and One-A-Day for your nutritional needs. I hope the drug test isn't so primitive as to read a positive on Nasonex. I hope that the next time it's close in the eighth, you'll get up there and mow 'em down.

Welcome back.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Small Ball Keeps Twins In the Game

There are pitchers out there who just have our number. Some of them seem have it every time (Bartolo Colon springs to mind), and some of them occasionally forget it but shut us down at the least opportune moment, like when we're 4 1/2 games behind the Whine Sox.

Young Baltimore lefty Eric Bedard, while no Johan Santana, had our number last night. Luckily, the defense behind him wasn't keeping pace with his outstanding performance. Through seven innings, the Twins managed only three hits and two walks against Bedard, but managed to score three runs. Homers, you wonder? No. They didn't get the big hits, but they did all the little things right.

In the first, Stewart reached on a two-base error, Punto laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third, and Morneau hit a two-out RBI single to center. Does Stewart score from second if Punto fails to sacrifice? I don't think so, the single wasn't that deep. Likewise if Stewart hadn't hustled out the extra base on the original error.

In the fifth, down 3-1, LeCroy walked, then Ford banged into a fielder's choice. But the third baseman overthrew the second baseman, and instead of the forceout at second we got runners at first and third, as LeCroy not only reached second safely on the error but then gamely sprinted like cold molasses down to third, barely beating out the recovered ball. I hear he's still catching his breath. Then Cuddyer hit a sacrifice fly (Oh, my stars--he contributed! I may swoon!) to shallow center, narrowly scoring the hurtling LeCroy.

Fast-forward to the seventh, when the Twins trail 4-2. Hunter walks, LeCroy singles, and Hunter legs it out for the extra base, landing at third. Another sacrifice fly, this time off the bat of Lew Ford, and Hunter scores, narrowing the gap to one.

In the next inning, with time running out, Punto singled and promptly stole second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, despite the batter (Joe Mauer) frantically signalling him to stay at second, because as wild pitches go it wasn't all that impressive, but Nick Punto can get to the next base faster than my cat can get to her food bowl after I come home two hours late, so it all came out fine in the end. Then Mauer hit a sacrifice fly, and Punto came home. Tie game.

Let's compare:
Baltimore has four runs on a single and three homers.
The Twins have four runs on two errors, a sac bunt, three singles, two walks, three sac flies, a stolen base and a wild pitch.

They went into extra innings knotted at four, and that's when they remembered that they had a day game the next day and should probably get some sleep. Jones and Stewart opened up the tenth with back-to-back homers and that, as they say, was that.

What a great game. It had everything--sacrifices, weird plays, fundamentals both executed and flubbed, good pitching, great pitching, shaky pitching, hustle, and a sprinkle of extra-inning power on top, for zest.

"Twins baseball" at its best, folks--bon appetit!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Twins notes: Second base belongs to Punto:
BALTIMORE -- Nick Punto has officially usurped Luis Rivas as the Twins' starting second baseman.
Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't want to make a big announcement, but he confirmed the decision before Monday's game against the Baltimore Orioles.
'Right now, Punto's playing second base and he's playing very well,' Gardenhire said. 'It's not like a platoon there. I'm going to play him, and mix in Luis whenever I possibly can, just like I have the other guys.'
The righthanded-hitting Rivas had started only three of the past 11 games at second base, with his past two starts coming against lefthanded pitchers. The switch-hitting Punto made the other starts at second base in that span, all against righthanders.
'I can't do anything about it,' Rivas said. 'I have to keep working hard. It's tough for me because I've always been in every game.'
Rivas, who had been the starter since 2001, said he started pressing too hard once he realized his job was on the line. He is batting .204 with a .273 on-base percentage; Punto is batting .234 with a .319 OBP after going 0-for-4 in Monday's 3-0 loss to Baltimore.
Gardenhire said he didn't have a formal meeting with Rivas to explain the situation, but third base coach Al Newman has spoken to Rivas about it.
'I'm sure he'd rather be out there every day playing,' Gardenhire said. 'But like I said all along, we're going to put the best team out there. And he wasn't getting it done there. He had a bad stretch, and the other guy was playing well.'

Well, after a "bad stretch" spanning much of the last three years, it's about darn time! Not that Rivas doesn't have the sweetest double play pivot you've ever seen--he does--but if a guy is going to hit under .260 every year, he's going to have to either hit a lot of homers or be able to consistently lay down a bunt when it's called for.

Neither Rivas nor Punto will ever be a power hitter, but Punto can definitely bunt. He's got greater range in the field, too, which is a definite plus with Silva and his ground ball extravaganza going every fifth game.

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I confess, I've been watching the last few games with one eye on the laptop, so the finer points of the games eluded me. There were some not-so-fine points that were a good deal of fun, though.

Friday 5/6, Twins 7 @ Devil Rays 1
Santana threw a complete game, seven strikeouts, no walks, 92 pitches.
The M&M Boys (Mauer & Morneau) go boom: Mauer for 3 in the 3rd, Morneau for 2 in the 5th.

Saturday 5/7, Twins 8 @ Devil Rays 1
Lohse squeaked through 5 innings. Didn't have his best stuff, but held on and showed some much-needed composure.
Morneau go boom again for 3 in the 6th.

Sunday 5/8, Twins 9 @ Devil Rays 6
Mays looked great until the seventh, when he coughed up four runs and got yanked.
LeCroy go boom for 3 in the 6th.
Mauer go boom all by his lonesome in the 9th.
Morneau a homer shy of the cycle (Why didn't you go boom, Justin? WHY???)

Monday 5/9, Twins 0 @ Orioles 3
Nobody went boom. Nobody even went bam. Some days I think these guys are so overwhelmed with love for Santana that they want every starter in the AL to look like him. This was one of those days.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005


I grew up in the country, where the gardening is easy. Except for the family dogs' instinct to dig, of course. And the baking Texas sun. And the occasional water shortages. Hmm. Okay, not so easy.

Urban gardening presents its own challenges. Water is plentiful up here in Minnesota, and the summer weather is more congenial than in the deep south. And we don't have a dog. The primary factor is space. Get creative--if it'll hold soil, pop a plant in there!

Terracing adds space and interest

Decide what kind of layout you want before you go to the garden store, so you don't end up with more plants than you have room for. Leave room for young plants to grow!

Hanging baskets use space otherwise wasted on air.

S-hooks turn windowboxes into fence boxes. We're going to plant more in these, once we find out whether the cedar chips really do keep squirrels away.

Herbs grow well with minimal attention, and fresh herbs are great for cooking and grilling. The more sun, the better.

The potholders on the fence will be playing host to some basil, thyme and oregano I'm sprouting from seeds indoors.

Waiting for tomatoes. Vegetables really don't take a lot of space. We've had great success growing them around and between existing bushes and daylilies.

One lone dill plant one summer turns into hundreds of dill seedlings the next. Reserve your space accordingly! Dill is utterly impervious to the Minnesota winter, and will sprout as soon as the last snow melts.

Catnip, like dill, would probably survive a nuclear strike, much less a winter. This one is in its third year, throwing out new leaves before Easter without fail. You should see it in August. Planting catnip also allows you to get to know all your neighbors' kitties.

Urn! Don't you love that word?

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Friday, May 06, 2005

And On That Note...

Wow. Two complete games in a row. Anyone remember the three-game complete game shutout streak Radke, Santana and Lohse put up last year? And Lohse is going tomorrow night--hmmmm...

Anyway, I'm beat, but I'll leave you with this thought:

Johan Santana is ours, all ours, for four years.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

All the Game's a Stage

Weird tidbit of the day: the Twins scored five runs on five hits in the bottom of the fifth inning on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of this millennium (that's today).

The Twins won today's game 9-0, on the back of a heroic pitching performance by Brad "Will Pitch For Run Support" Radke and a spurt of hitting by the Twins lineup. So effectively did they dominate both the offensive and pitching sides of the game that the Indians were reduced to little more than props around which the true dramas of the game took place.

Under the Teflon Roof
a play in three acts

Act One
Setting: the Metrodome, top of the first inning. Brad Radke enters stage left. His teammates are arrayed around the field, a batter at the plate.

Radke (aside) - I've given this team ten years of my life, and do I get any run support in return? No. Well, I don't need any. From this day forward, I depend on no bat!

Radke retires three batters and exits stage left. CC Sabathia lumbers in stage right.

Sabathia: (snarls)

Twins batters quake and retire after posting a hit and a walk. Sabathia exits, Radke enters. Radke retires three in quick succession. Sabathia returns, collects two outs and then drills Twins catcher Mike Redmond in the elbow.

Redmond (walking to first base) - I'll get you for this, CC Sabathia!

Rivas - I've got your back, Redmond! Rivas hits a single.

Stewart - As do I! Stewart hits a single. The bases are loaded.

Bartlett - Oh, crap--am I up? Wait for me, guys! Bartlett flies out to center.

Sabathia exits, Radke enters. Behind him, the Twins in the field murmur fretfully amongst themselves about Sabathia's tendency to hit batters, especially when facing the Twins.

Radke (aside) - See what I have to put up with? Bases loaded--nothing. And now they're all scared just because Redmond's got a little bruise. Pansies.

Radke pitches another hitless inning. Sabathia follows with a scoreless inning of his own, though he allows a hit and a walk. In the next inning, Hunter misses a catch on a shallow fly ball, breaking up Radke's no-hitter, and then bobbles the ball so badly the hitter reaches third.
Radke - Dammit! Guys, I don't expect you to hit when I'm around, but you better field!

Twins (chorus) - Sorry, Brad!

Act Two
Setting: the Metrodome, bottom of the fifth inning, game tied 0-0. Rookie Jason Bartlett strolls to the plate, carrying his trusty bat. The Indians are on the field, Sabathia on the mound.

Sabathia - (snarls)

Bartlett - You know, CC, that was intimidating the first few times I faced you, but it's starting to seem a little silly. I don't believe I'm afraid of you anymore. Bartlett hits a homer.

Ford - Hey, man, don't look at my ribs like that! I'm still afraid of you! Ford grounds out to third.

LeCroy - I've been hit in the face. I can handle anything! LeCroy singles.

Hunter - I have to make things right with Brad! Hunter singles.

Tiffee - I'm in the big leagues! Tiffee singles.

Cuddyer - I'd rather get beaned than go back to the minors! Cuddyer walks, LeCroy scores.

Redmond - Now I shall have my revenge! Redmond singles, Hunter scores.

Rivas - I do not like sitting on the bench! I must make Gardy play me! Rivas walks, Tiffee scores.

Sabathia leaves the game. A relief pitcher enters.

Stewart - Must get Cuddyer home! Stewart grounds into a force out at second, Cuddyer scores.

Bartlett - That homer to left was cool. I wonder if I can hit one to center? The field's deeper there. Bartlett flies out to center. Guess not.

Radke returns to the mound.

Radke - Wow. Five runs. I don't...I don't know what to say, guys. Radke wipes away a tear. Thanks.

Act Three
Setting: the Metrodome, bottom of the seventh, Twins now lead 6-0. Jason Davis is pitching for the Indians. There are two outs, and Rivas is on first base. Stewart is batting.

Davis - I do not like these Twins. Especially when they are beating us. We thought this game was in the bag, what with Radke pitching. They weren't supposed to get any runs! But they changed the rules, like the sneaks they are.

Davis hits Stewart with a pitch.

Stewart (walking to first) - You wouldn't be so brave if this was the National League, punk!

Bartlett - I gotta hit this ball before it hits me! Bartlett singles.

Ford - I'm only afraid of Sabathia! Ford doubles, Stewart scores, Bartlett scores. Davis backs up the catcher on the play, and he and Stewart come face to face as Stewart scores.

Stewart - Listen, punk-- Stewart's voice is lost in the commotion as both dugouts empty. The umpires restore order quickly. The home plate umpire warns both dugouts. Gardy comes running back onto the field.

Gardy - You gotta be kidding me! Why are you warning us? We're the ones who keep getting beaned!

Home Plate Ump - Your player yelled at their pitcher.

Gardy - You'd yell too, if you got plinked by a major-league fastball! If you warn my team, my pitchers can't pitch inside! We're being penalized for something we didn't do, you ass-scratching baboon!

HPU - That's it--you're outta here!

Gardy - WHAT?! Gardy stalks over to home plate and kicks dirt over it. You have got the worst case of cranial rectitis it's ever been my misfortune to encounter!


Gardy - Oh, I'm leaving. But one of these days we'll both be here again. And when that day comes, my catchers won't be so quick to grab those foul tips that can come up and catch an ump under the chin.

Gardy stalks out. The game continues peacefully until the top of the ninth. Radke returns to the mound, and Redmond joins him there.

Redmond - What do you want to do here, Ace? You're looking at Peralta, Belliard and Crisp.

Radke - I'm thinking about beaning Peralta.

Redmond - Aw, man, you've got a complete game shutout going. Why would you blow it for that?

Radke - But, they hit you! Don't you want revenge? And they hit Stewie, and he had to come out of the game. I feel like I should defend you guys.

Redmond - Listen, Ace, I got my revenge with that RBI single. CC and me, we're even. And Stewart didn't leave the game 'cause he was hurt--he played up a little bitty bruise so he could get off the field and sneak into the Indians clubhouse while they're all out here. He's putting Nair in Davis's travel undies as we speak. It's all good.

Radke - So you guys won't mind if I just wrap this thing up?

Redmond - Mind? Ace, we insist.

Redmond claps Radke on the shoulder and trots off the mound. Fade to black

The End

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Around the Horn - May '05

Today we're taking a break from banned substances and difficulties beating beatable teams to play the inaugural round of "Around the Horn"! There are two ways to play Around the Horn--double-play style, which is what we're doing today, and strikeout style, which we'll try next time.

An around-the-horn double play in baseball goes as follows: the batter hits the ball to the third baseman, who throws it to the shortstop (or second baseman, but we're going with shortstop since Jason Bartlett is TBL's favorite position player and he's just so darn cute, what with being twelve years old and all) for the out, who throws it to the first baseman for the out at first. The ball then returns to the pitcher for the next at-bat.

Around the Horn goes much the same way, except we've got questions instead of balls. And one of these days I'm going to do an all-female round so that statement will take on a double meaning.

In this and future rounds of Around the Horn, TBL will be the pitcher. Each round will feature a guest infield, Twins fans who have proven their wit and knowledge on the battlefields of fan forums and Twins blogs.

Meet today's guest infield:

At third base, smoothly fielding any question no matter how hard-hit, Bubblemint of Batgirl's "Batling" fan community!

At shortstop, relaying answers with the ease of a well-oiled machine, Twins Junkie of TwinsJunkie.com!

And at first base, fearlessly defending her position, She-Ra of Batgirl's "Batling" fan community!

The pitch, the crack of the bat, and the play is on!

TBL asks: What player from another team would you most like to see in a Twins uniform?

Bubblemint says: I have always wanted to see Jim Thome here with the Twins. A DH that's a big home run hitter, a veteran presence, and a good guy who seems like he'd fit really well on this team. Only problem is, he couldn't play first base, since we do have JustInCredible over there.

TwinsJunkie says: I always wished we could've landed Jim Thome. He pounded us with the Indians while we pounded no one. I want to know what it feels like to have a true power hitter in your lineup, that you think can crank one any time he comes to the plate.

She-Ra says: Corey Koskie. Does he count? Despite some early pessimism, I think the infield will alright without him, but his absence in the clubhouse has to be felt. Plus just think about an entire season of a healthy, chair-beating, power-hitting, walk-taking, clubhouse-pranking Koskie. It would be positively inspirational.

TBL asks: Predict the AL Central Division standings at the All-Star break. Optional: include predictions of team win/loss records and/or other team statistics.

Bubblemint says:
1. Twins
2. White Sox (probably running neck and neck with us)
3. Cleveland (They really are better than they have shown us so far)
4. Tigers (Take THAT Dmitri Young)
5. Royals (I feel bad for the KC fans...they really got their hopes up last year, and were pushed back to earth very quickly.)

TwinsJunkie says: I'm not much for predictions but here you go:
Twins, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals
I know what you are thinking: how bold of him to pick the standings EXACTLY as they finished last year. The Twins are looking too good right now not to be in first, and the White Sox looked pretty good when we met with them. I don't buy the hype with either the Indians or the Tigers, but because of the Detroit bullpen (or lack thereof) I think the Indians will slide into third. It's true what Dmitri Young says; the Indians and Tigers will be competing this year, but not as he envisioned.
P.S. The Royals flat out stink.

She-Ra says: Twins, White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, KC.

TBL asks:
 or  ?

Bubblemint says: High socks or no socks, that is the question.
I guess for me, it depends on the player. I always liked Dougie with his socks up...Rivas too, but when the whole team did it, it was odd for me. I suppose I could get used to it if they did it all the time, but for the most part I'd have to say no socks. I truly believe only certain players look good doing it.

TwinsJunkie says: Always felt like more of a traditionalist so I have a soft spot for knee-highs. When I played (until 7th grade) I always wore them even though the flies could bite right through them.

She-Ra says: Oh, the beauty of a graceful, well-developed calf muscle! Catchers and portly DHs are absolutely exempt.

TBL asks: What one thing that the Twins haven't done the past three seasons would most improve their chances of getting to the World Series this year?

Bubblemint says: I'd like to see us spend a little money to get a big hitter. A really dependable DH.

TwinsJunkie says: To be honest, nothing THAT important. The fact is, we could've very well been in the world series last year; and I guess the biggest thing we do have is another year of playoff experience under our belts.

She-Ra says: This one's easy - beat the $%^#@!* Yankees!

Double play complete, the ball returns to the mound.

Bubblemint asks: What's your take on the Sheffield vs. Boston fan incident the other day?
[editor's note: the questions were originally asked in mid-April, it just took a while to get all the responses together]

TBL says: At first I thought it was just stupid and rather disgraceful on both sides, but after seeing the replays it really seemed like the fan was just being a little dumb, trying to get a ball without checking to see if the fielder was coming after it. Sheffield should be used to grasping hands when he's fielding near the wall--he needs to control his temper. I'm sure it's very annoying when ball-hungry fans reach into the field of play, but frankly it's something every outfielder and corner infielder has to deal with at some parks. Get angry if you lose a play you could have made? Yes. Lash out physically? No.

TwinsJunkie asks: What is the funniest sports joke and/or heckle you've ever heard?

TBL says: My favorite heckle is one I'm finding plenty of occasion to use this season, now that I'm seated level with the first-base ump: "Hey, ump! Bend over and use your good eye!"

I can only think of one joke at the moment, but I do love mocking the ViQueens...
Q: How do you keep the Vikings out of your yard?
A: Erect a goalpost.

She-Ra asks: Why oh WHY is Corky Miller still on the roster instead of Terry Tiffee--and how long before they shake things up?

TBL says: Corky Miller is on the roster because someone (presumably Gardy and/or Terry Ryan) got it into their heads that Mauer is made of spun sugar, and that if his leg breaks off at the knee we couldn't possibly make do with only two backup catchers--yes, I'm counting LeCroy--for twelve hours while someone flew in from Rochester or New Britain.
The good news is they're increasing Mauer's catching duties on a more accelerated schedule than they were talking about during spring training. Back then they hadn't anticipated having him catch more than three games in a row until closer to mid-season, and he's already done four a couple of times with no apparent difficulties.
I think they're still going to be overly cautious about making roster moves, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a trade involving Miller or LeCroy next month if some other team offers it to Ryan. Unless such a trade opportunity does arise, though, I don't envision them paring down to three catchers until right around the All-Star Break.
Free Terry Tiffee!

Thus endeth the inning. Many thanks to Bubblemint, Twins Junkie and She-Ra for playing! And thanks for reading, everyone!

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Rincón Question

"It was like hearing that my church had sold out."
--Babe Ruth, on the Black Sox scandal

I find myself today in the invidious position of being very sad without knowing precisely why. Am I sad because my favorite baseball player knowingly used steroids or some other banned substance? Am I sad because he was dumb enough to put something in his body without knowing exactly what it contained? Or am I sad because he's the innocent victim of some horrible mistake, like a sample swap?

I don't know. And I'm made more sad by the very real possibility that I'll never know. Unless it was a sample mixup, and that sample still exists to be DNA tested, the chances are we will never know with any real certainty. We will be told things, conflicting statements from opposing sources. We will be offered evidence, perhaps. We will most likely be required to form opinions, make decisions, and then find a way to live with that seed of doubt.

We have read only the opening chapter of this story. This afternoon, Juan Rincón himself will add to it, by holding a press conference. The Twins organization has said little, but what is there to say? They cannot say they believe he is innocent, and risk being shamed by their own naivete should hard evidence of knowing culpability arise later. They cannot say they think him guilty, and risk being shamed by their own faithlessness should events conspire to exonerate him.

Some have already tried him and found him guilty, unable to conceive of any circumstance in which science might be flawed or incomplete. Some have tried him and found him innocent, incapable of believing that he might be so grievously flawed. I wish I could make my decision so easily--it would be a comfort to believe something, and be able to cling to it.

Last night I intended to spend the early evening writing. My hero is being presented with something of a conundrum, a vast variance between the official version of certain events and the story offered by an alternate source. He has an opportunity to learn some troubling truths about the effects of myth, slander and selective history on the world around him, and on his own assumptions and prejudices. But thinking about that led me to thinking about the story likely to unfold in the coming weeks, the cut-and-dried official version which in essence says, "a substance was found, therefore guilt is known", and the more human, less concrete, story Juan Rincón will probably tell us, about how a single test can be misled and misleading.

It is easier to accept the official version, backed as it is by science and carrying the weight of policy and administration. But the story that is recorded for posterity is not always correct, as my hero is learning. Sometimes the much-maligned villain was actually a decent guy who just made some mistakes, or worse yet, was punished for someone else's. Then again, sometimes a villain is a villain is a villain. And sometimes ballplayers take things they aren't supposed to.

It is terrible to me that an innocent man might be forever tarnished by an unproven, but compelling, accusation. It is terrible to me that a guilty man might be forever excused by an unprovable, but plausible, alibi. It is terrible to me that a sentence must be served before an appeal is heard.

I've said before that the MLB testing policy needs revision. I believe that now more strongly than ever. Before, I was concerned entirely with catching the guilty. Now I see clearly that the reputations and livelihood of the innocent (and, to a lesser extent, the merely foolish) must be protected as well. To that end, I propose:

  1. All testing shall be done on blood samples, not on urine. (Some of the best steroids are not detectable in urine, and you bet your ass any "big name" guys who are using, are using those.) Any sample testing positive shall be immediately subjected to a DNA test. Substance testing results are not to be released or acted upon until player identity is verified through a genetic match. Samples testing positive are to be retained in cold storage until all appeals have been exhausted.

  2. Penalties for verified positives are not to be imposed until an initial appeal has been heard. This first appeal will be heard within one week of the reporting of positive results to the player and his team. This serves to minimize both the time the guilty continue to play before serving their suspension, and the time the reputation of the innocent is called into question. A second appeal may be filed after commencement of suspension. Full transcripts of all appeals will be made public within three days of the hearing.

  3. Positive results will be reported directly and simultaneously to the commissioner's office, the player, his agent and his team, by the lab. There will thus be no question that positive results for marquee players may have been suppressed by the commissioner to preserve the good name of baseball; this good name will be best preserved by a transparent testing system.

  4. Annual testing will be done at a rate of 140%. To wit, all players shall be tested at least once per season, at random intervals and without prior notice, and a further 40% will be subjects of additional random testing. Spring training is considered part of the season for testing purposes.

  5. A first offense which stands after appeal will be punished with suspension and substance abuse counseling. A second offense which stands after appeal will be punished with suspension, substance abuse counseling, and ineligibility for postseason play for five seasons. A third offense which stands after appeal will be punished with immediate and permanent removal from the MLB and all its affiliate organizations and ineligibility for the Hall of Fame.

For baseball to be a truly clean game, everyone must be tested. Every user (famous or obscure) must caught, punished and treated. Every mistake must be corrected openly and swiftly.

We, as fans, deserve a clean game. We deserve to know the name of every steroid user. We deserve the opportunity to forgive or not forgive, as we choose. We deserve to know, with as much absolute certainty as is possible in human matters, whether our favorite player is innocent, guilty, or just stupid.

Because doubt is infinitely more corrosive than knowledge.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Juan

Twins' Rincon suspended; drug violation alleged:
Minnesota Twins pitcher Juan Rincon was suspended for 10 days Monday, making him the fifth player suspended under Major League Baseball's new policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Rincon was a key contributor to the Twins' AL Central-winning team last season. He went 11-6 with two saves and a 2.63 ERA in 77 games. This year, he was 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 appearances.

Twins' pitcher Rincon suspended 10 days
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball today announced that Juan Rincon of the Minnesota Twins has been suspended for 10 days, effective today, for violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program

Oh, Juan. No.

Not you. Not that.

Update, 12:45 pm:
Juan is filing a greivance, which basically amounts to saying "Hell no I did NOT do that!".
FOXSports.com - MLB- Twins pitcher gets 10-game suspension:
Rincon's agent, Ed Setlik, said a grievance was planned. But unlike other penalties, suspensions under this policy take effect immediately and are not delayed pending a hearing.
'Suffice it to say, he was devastated and stunned by the result,' Setlik said after speaking with Rincon.
No word yet on when the grievance will be heard.

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