"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

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The yearly tradition of carving one insanely complicated jack-o-lantern continues!

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Friday, October 28, 2005

The Crack Of In The Bat

Fourth Pew Center recently dropped me a line to ask:

So, how come so many broken bats these days? Did they outsource the manufacturing to China?

(Seriously. There really are more than I remember from The Good Ol' Days)

My knee-jerk answer is: Well, yeah, probably they did outsource or otherwise cheapen the bat-making process. Is anything made the way it used to be? Why put out a quality product when people will buy more of a cheap product AND have to replace it more often because of the higher breakage rate?

And I've been told, though I can't recall by whom, that bats break more because hitters and pitchers are stronger--something to do with opposing shockwaves and the relative stregth of each vs. the grain of the wood. A stronger swing against a harder pitch = more stress on the bat = more breaks. Makes sense, I suppose.

So. Anyone out there know the scoop?

Still on deck:
2005 - what went right?

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Another Ironic Use of "Free"

Free agents. Definitely not free. Often quite expensive, at least the ones you really want.

Are there any "free" agent hitters out there who could help the Twins next year? Sure. Any we can afford? There's the question.

Here are the free agents I know about, along with their 2005 team, salary, OBP, OPS and position. More players will become free agents as the offseason goes on, as teams decline options and contract negotiations go south, but the guys below are (at least technically) available.

Mike PiazzaNYMC37$16,071,429.326.778R
Paul KonerkoCWS1B29$8,750,000.375.909R
Brian GilesSDOF34$8,063,003.423.906L
Hideki MatsuiNYYOF31$8,000,000.367.863L
Kevin MillarBOS1B34$3,500,000.355.754R
Bill MuellerBOS3B34$2,500,000.369.799S
Joe RandaCIN/SD3B36$2,150,000.335.787R
Mark GrudzielanekSTL2B35$1,000,000.334.747R
John OlerudBOS1B37~$750,000*.344.795L
*As reported in a news item on KFFL.com. More regular sources (ESPN, CBS Sportsline, etc., do not list a 2005 salary)

We can't afford Mike Piazza. Even with Joe Mays' salary burning a hole in the organization's pocket, we probably can't afford anyone who made over $8 million last year, unless ol' Carl is willing to pony up some cash. Although I sure wouldn't mind seeing "P. Konerko - DH" on our lineup cards next year...

Millar and Mueller both look like bargains to me, if they ask for anything near their 2005 salaries. We sure could use a third baseman, and though most people seem to be hoping for a power bat, after last year I'm perfectly happy with a guy who gets on base at a good clip. Joe Randa looks like a similar bargain on first glance, and while I certainly wouldn't mind aquiring him, for the money I'd rather have the younger guy who switch hits.

We've also got a vacancy at second, and lo and behold there's a pretty cheap option with some decent numbers coming on the market. But we do have a few cheaper internal candidates (Cuddyer, Punto, Rodriguez), so I'm guessing it would take more power than Grudzielanek has shown to convince the Twins to eat the extra salary.

As it stands now, the Twins' best shot at acquiring more power will be in trade. But more free agents will be entering the market in the coming weeks, and some could be pleasant surprises. We'll check back when and if anyone interesting crops up.

On deck:
2005 - what went right?

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Weekend Knitblogging

So I picked up this book called Odd-Ball Knitting, which is full of patterns to use your stash on--you know, that half-skein left over from the shawl you knitted three years ago, or the lone skein of a gorgeous discontinued yarn that you scored for two bucks on clearance? Yeah, that yarn. Too much to throw away, not enough to make a scarf out of.

In the pages of this book, I found my new favorite thing in the world to knit.


The catnip mouse.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Tyner, Kubel in Outfield Mix

Twins Sign Tyner to Minor League Deal:

The Twins signed outfielder Jason Tyner to a Minor League contract on Friday.

Tyner batted .321 (18-for-56) in 18 games after being called up to Minnesota on Sept. 2. In 133 games with Triple-A Rochester, he batted .286 with 18 doubles, two triples, one homer and 36 RBIs.

Last week, the club removed Tyner from its 40-man roster. The 28-year-old was originally signed to a Minor League deal last year and invited to Spring Training. It's likely he will be among the invites to big-league camp this spring.

Minnesota also reinstated right-handed pitcher Grant Balfour and outfielder Jason Kubel from the 60-day disabled list. Balfour missed all of 2005 after having ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in May. He also had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder on Sept. 29.

Kubel also missed the entire 2005 season recovering from surgery to repair torn anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee, an injury he suffered on Oct. 12, 2004, while playing in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year-old is continuing his rehabilitation playing in the Twins' Instructional League at Fort Myers, Fla.

Raise your hand if you consider the re-signing of Tyner to be evidence that a Torii Hunter trade is not entirely out of the question.

I'm raising mine. Here's why:

I don't believe for a second that Jacque Jones will be a Twin in 2006. And I think his job is earmarked for whichever of Ford and Kubel does best in Spring Training--with the other having a pretty good shot at DH, unless we acquire one via trade or free agency in the offseason. The market's looking a bit slim (which I intend to get into later in the week) so at this point the organization can't count on any such thing, though it's certain they'll try. But trying may require a chunk of the change currently allotted to Hunter's salary.

A trade of Hunter would leave a hole in the outfield. We'd have to get someone (or several someones) really good in trade for Hunter to pull the trigger on a deal, of course. But if a team offered us, say, a good second baseman and a relief pitcher and perhaps a prospect or two, we don't want to pass it by because we're just plain short on outfielders.

The outfield without Hunter and Jones would consist of Stewart and two of Ford, Kubel, Tyner and possibly Cuddyer. One of those four might end up as the DH, and you always want a spare outfielder on the bench if you can swing it. (Nick Punto, though he performed valiantly when called upon, doesn't really count as a fourth outfielder). Then there's the possibility that Cuddyer could be playing third or second next year, which would leave us short in the outfield unless we found another DH. Unless...

Well, you see where I'm going with this. With so much positional uncertainty, a slim free-agent market, and a small pool from which to fill three outfield positions, the Twins made a very smart move with this signing.

Hey, remember when we had so many outfielders we released some just so they'd have a chance to play somewhere? I wonder if Restovich is under contract yet...

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Corky On the Hill

You may recall that yesterday I mentioned stumbling across pitching stats for catcher Corky Miller. Was it a mistake, the line for another C Miller of the pitching variety mistakenly attached to the wrong player?

Oh, no. It really happened.

Barons Blast Wings
July 31, 2005
Shane Victorino went 3-for-3 with four RBIs to lead Scranton-Wilkes Barre to a 9-1 victory over Rochester on Sunday at Lackawanna County Stadium.

The Red Barons scored in seven of the eight innings they batted. Victorino belted a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give Scranton-Wilkes Barre a 4-0 lead. He also doubled, singled and scored three runs from the leadoff spot, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle.

Carlos Ruiz led off the seventh with a home run and Victorino's RBI single plated Jim Rushford to make it 8-0.

Danny Sandoval went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Jorge Padilla added three hits and scored twice to pace the Red Barons' 17-hit attack.

Red Barons starter Gavin Floyd (4-6) pitched eight scoreless innings to earn the win. He gave up four hits and a walk while striking out six. Yoel Hernandez allowed an RBI double to Josh Rabe in the ninth for Red Wings' only run. Rabe went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles -- the only extra-base hits for Rochester.

Rochester starter Ricky Barrett gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings. Jason Miller surrendered three more runs in two innings and catcher Corky Miller served up a home run to Mark Budzinski in the eighth that capped the scoring for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

--Tim Leonard/MLB.com

Corky Miller: Individual Stats (Pitching) 2005

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Thoughts on Knitting

I would like to state, for the record, that intarsia sucks.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Going, Going, Gone

Usually, the exodus begins after the playoffs. Not so, this year.

Third base coach Al Newman has left the Twins after nineteen years with the organization. Newman cited "some difficulties here" that he felt weren't addressed until they went beyond the point of resolution. He publicly wondered if he were being made a scapegoat (presumably by the organization, because the fans generally think highly of him) for the team's failures this past season.

TBL says: Well, that sucks. I have to wonder if the rampant immaturity that soured clubhouse relations this year spread to the staff, too.

Outfielders Jason Tyner, infielder Glenn Williams and utility man Brent Abernathy were outrighted to Rochester. All are out of options and eligible to become free agents. The organization has expressed a certain amount of interest in working out new deals with them.

TBL says: Mostly I think this is about clearing space on the 40-man roster for possible trade pick-ups, free agents and Rule V draftees. Tyner and Williams in particular did quite well for the Twins last season and should at least be rewarded with an offer. Whether or not those offers are better than any others remains to be seen. The likelihood of Abernathy receiving another offer from the Twins will probably depend on whether or not the Twins get themselves a brand new second baseman in the offseason. If they don't, the job is likely to fall to Nick Punto and Abernathy could return and be in the mix for a utility role. But I'm not holding my breath, especially if Williams is still a Twin.

Designated hitter Matthew LeCroy was outrighted to Rochester and will become a free agent. The organization has expressed its regrets at the end of a longstanding relationship but will not be attempting to re-sign LeCroy.

TBL says: With all those extra outfielders floating around the last few years, the Twins haven't been able to come up with a whole lot of at-bats for LeCroy, and LeCroy is one of those guys who's at his best when played very regularly. I advocated cutting him loose before this season--not because he's a poor player (he isn't), but because the Twins can't give him the time he needs, and he can't give them the part-time power hitter they wanted him to be. Hopefully he'll catch on somewhere as an everyday DH and finally get his chance to shine.

The $8.5 million 2006 option on the contract of right-handed pitcher Joe Mays was declined. The Twins will buy out his option year for half a million and Mays will become a free agent.

TBL says: Baker. Liriano. Bonser? Durbin? We've got younger arms who can probably manage Mays' 5.65 ERA (or better it) for a heckuva lot less than the millions we would've had to pay Joe. Of course, they say the second season after Tommy John surgery is when most guys really come back into form, so there is some risk for future embarassment with this move. But, well, he wasn't exactly Johan Santana before the surgery, y'know?
[Digression: Whilst browsing the AAA pitching stats to see if Bonser had done well enough to be included in the list above, I ran across something interesting. It seems that Corky Miller, who started the season as the Twins 4th catcher (Four catchers! Remember that?), pitched an inning in relief at Rochester sometime this season. Boy, would I love to know the story behind THAT! ]

Second baseman Luis Rivas was outrighted to Rochester and will become a free agent. The Twins will make no attempt to re-sign him.

TBL says: 'Bout damn time, too.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005


TBL is being run ragged at the moment, but will return shortly with a veritable spate of posts.


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Friday, October 07, 2005

My Kingdom for a Hitting Coach, Again

Third base coach Al Newman will leave the Twins to become an advance scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks, ending a four-year stint that included some
communication problems with other members of the coaching staff.

It's unclear who will replace Newman. It's possible that Ullger will return to third base, where he coached from 1995-98. He also filled in for Newman in 2003 while Newman recovered from a brain hemorrhage.

My first thought upon hearing the news of Newman's departure (well, okay, my second thought--my first was "NOOOOOOOOOOO!") was that this is a prime opportunity to get Paul Molitor back on the Twins bench, this time as the hitting coach. He's been a bench coach for the Twins in the majors, and a special hitting instructor (whatever the hell that means) in the minors. He has also, unlike the rest of the coaching staff, had a career as a player which featured impressive hitting numbers.

So. Do they go out and get Molitor? He'll probably command/demand a decent salary, but after this limp-noodle-bat season, can they really argue? Is there any good reason NOT to go out and get Molitor? I haven't heard of one, but if there is one, do enlighten me!

I just keep thinking of our hot-hitting April, and how Molitor was with the Twins in spring training. Cause and effect? Maybe, maybe not. But I'll take a maybe seriously right now.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Falling Apart

So the Twins season ends. They swept Detroit to leave on a high note, but after three consecutive division championships, that was little consolation. The team that looked so very promising in April collapsed long before October, degenerating into injuries, infighting and incompetence.

Sure, it was a winning season--barely. And a few years ago, with different guys and different expectations, that would have been okay. But not this year, not with this team. The Twins' hitting woes have been analyzed to death, but that wasn't the only problem they faced. A rush of minor news items at the tail end of the season point out how deep the cracks in this team go.

Hunter went down with a broken bone in July. Stewart hasn't played since mid-September. After pitching on a bum knee all season Silva was yanked to have his surgery early when it became clear the postseason was not in the Twins future. Radke missed his last several starts after battling neck and shoulder problems for months.

Old news. Here's what you may not have heard:

--Juan Rincón had surgery yesterday to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow. How long and how much this affected him is not clear.
--Justin Morneau has a bone spur in one of his elbows, too, and may have offseason surgery.
--Johan Santana has been pitching with a sore hip for weeks.

--Terry Mulholland dislocated a finger during pregame warmups in the Detroit series.
--Michael Cuddyer will have knee surgery today to clean up damaged cartilege.
--Juan Castro strained his back and was unavailable to play in the final series.

The blow-up between Kyle Lohse and manager Ron Gardenhire made news for days. JC Romero's temper tantrum during the penultimate series, likewise.

The fact that Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau got into an argument on Thursday was also widely reported, but the punch Hunter threw at Morneau in the course of that argument has been left out in many accounts. (Oh, and Torii? You might want to keep in mind that Justin could probably pull your arms off if he so desired.)

Is this what the Twins have come to? Starters smashing chairs into the manager's door, relievers storming off the mound to yell at coaches in the dugout, veterans throwing punches at younger players? Not to mention months of both players and coaches making pointed statements in the media about how some unnamed but clearly-painted players lack passion or fortitude or both.

You know what? As much as I and other fans are fascinated by the inner workings of a baseball team, there are things that should never reach our eyes/ears. Some things should be handled by the team, within the team, behind closed doors.

If someone really does need to bust their butt more or suck up the pain of a nagging but ultimately minor injury, then the powers that be need to make that clear to them, not whine to the newspapers about it. If a player is being immature, then the coaching staff needs to sit him down and explain what's appropriate and demand that he conduct himself properly in future. If a member of the staff has behaved badly toward a player, that player needs to take his grievance up the chain, not out on a door.

In other words, guys: Shut up. Just shut the **** up, all of you, and try to act like grown men. You might be surprised how much a mature attitude in the clubhouse could improve the team on the field. And even if it doesn't make a damn bit of difference on the field, win or lose we'll respect you more at the end of the season if you act like winners.

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