"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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Glory Days Revisited: Outfield

Ah, what verdant stretches do our outfielders from the unforgettable years of 2002-2004 patrol now?

Brian "BOOM" Buchanan played for the Padres and Mets after being traded away from the Twins, then spent time with the St. Paul Saints and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks before recently signing a minor-league deal with the Royals.

Lew Ford refused an assignment to the minors at the end of the 2007 season and signed as a free agent with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan. Here's hoping "Leeeeeeeew!" doesn't mean anything obscene in Japanese.

If the following is news to you, you need to emerge from the cave more often: Torii Hunter signed with the Angels for ninety million dollars in November. Zounds.

Jacque Jones, as you may recall, turned down an offer of arbitration from the Twins in 2005 and soon signed with the Cubs, where he performed fairly well through 2007 but had ongoing conflicts with management. He was traded to the Tigers in the offseason.

Bobby Kielty was traded to the Blue Jays in mid-2003 for Shannon Stewart (more on him anon). In the offseason, the Jays turned around and traded him to the A's for Ted Lilly. He performed poorly for the A's in 2004 but they stuck with him and were rewarded with both a solid 2005 and the presence of biggest Irish afro on earth in their dugout. He saw limited action in '06 and was released while on the disabled list in mid-2007. He signed on with the Red Sox shortly thereafter and went on to hit what turned out to be the game- and series-clinching home run in a pinch-hit appearance during game 4. They signed him to a 2008 contract in the offseason.

Traded to the Giants before the 2004 season, Dustan Mohr has proven hard to keep track of. He played well for the Giants that year but was not retained. He spent 2005 with the Rockies, where he saw limited action and hit poorly. He struggled as a fill-in player with the Red Sox in 2006 and was demoted to the minors and ended the season in AAA for the Tigers. In 2007 he played in a handful of games for the Devil Rays around midseason and was released. He has yet to sign with another team.

Minnesota-born Michael Restovich, claimed off waivers after spring training 2005 by the Devil Rays, was back on waivers within a week and claimed by the Rockies, who traded him to the Pirates that May. He was released at the end of the season, signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs, where he spent the 2006 season. He then signed on with the Nationals in the minor leagues, failed to make the club out of spring training, was called up in mid-April and hit himself back into AAA within weeks. He is currently playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Presumably he made it to Japan by using some small fraction of his frequent-flier miles.

Michael Ryan has not played in the major leagues since the end of his 2005 season with the Twins. He spent 2006 in AAA with the Braves and 2007 in AAA with the Phillies. He is now an unsigned free agent and does not appear to be in spring training with any organization.

Shannon Stewart played for the A's in 2006 and is currently in spring training with his old team, the Blue Jays.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Glory Days Revisited: Infield

Today we discover whatever happened to those closest to the diamond in the Twins' glorious run of 2002-2004.

Catcher Henry Blanco (aka "Mango Face") moved on to the Cubs after his 2004 stint with the Twins, and is still there. He is such an excellent defensive catcher and game-caller that even the dubious distinction of having the lowest career batting average among active players with 1000+ at-bats cannot dent his career prospects or the affections of Cubs fans.

After a brief stint in the Brewers' minor league system, Pat Borders became the injury-riddled Mariners' main catcher for the first half of 2005. Seattle displayed its gratitude by designating him for assignment at the All-Star break. He signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers in 2006 but failed to catch on with the big league club. He announced his retirement in May of that year.

Second baseman Jay Canizaro never returned to the majors after his 2002 stint with the Twins. He played one season in the Devil Rays minor leagues before leaving baseball.

Chris Gomez worked his utility-infielder magic with the Blue Jays in 2004, the Orioles from 2005 to mid-2007, and the Indians in the latter half of 2007. He is now with the Pirates. Arr!

After six seasons alternating brilliance and boneheadedness for the Twins, shortstop Christian Guzmán signed a huge four-year contract with the Nationals in 2005, where he has become a byword for disappointment. His 2005 season was nothing short of a disaster, 2006 was entirely lost to a shoulder injury and surgery, and 2007 consisted of brief periods of greatness bracketed by months of disabling injury. He is currently on the last year of his contract

Utility infielder Denny Hocking left the Twins after ten seasons and signed with the Rockies, whom he played for in 2004. In 2005 he played for the Royals. He is now retired and has been doing radio work with Fox Sports.

Ah, Corey Koskie. TBL's all-time favorite player. Brooks Robinson reincarnate in the field. How TBL misses thee. Corey signed with the Blue Jays for the 2005 season but was plagued by injury and did not play much. He was traded to the Brewers and was doing fairly well until suffering a concussion in early July, 2006. Post-concussion syndrome kept him off the field through 2007 and the expiration of his contract. He has not signed with another team.

When the Twins declined to offer a contract after the 2005 season, Matt LeCroy caught on with the Washington Nationals. A less-likely candidate to play in the National League TBL has never seen; the man was born to DH. Catching a game in 2006 due to injuries to both of the team's catchers and despite known bone spurs in his throwing-side knee, he allowed six stolen bases and was lifted in the seventh in favor of a first baseman. The Nationals manager was literally reduced to tears when speaking of it later, defending his decision and LeCroy's abilities. He would spend the second half of the season in the minors and refuse an offer to manage one of their minor-league teams to continue his playing career through a minor-league contract with the Twins. He saw major league action as a September callup, and signed a minor league deal with Oakland in the offseason. He was assigned to minor-league camp early in spring training and requested his release, which was granted. He is currently a free agent.

Doug Mientkiewicz (aka "Dougie Baseball", "Dougie Defense", "Eye Chart") was traded to the Red Sox in mid-2004 for Justin Jones (who promptly amounted to nothing), where he caught the final out in Boston's World Series win and was the subject of controversy for keeping the ball, which has since been given to the Hall of Fame. He then played for the Mets, Royals and Bankees in quick succession. He is in spring training with the Pirates under a minor league contract.

2004 Twins DH/pinch-hitter and very occasional right-side-of-the-infielder Jose Offerman saw limited action with the Mets and Phillies in 2005 before embarking on a second career in the independent leagues.

AJ Pierzynski, after spending only one year with the team that traded Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Franciso Liriano to get him (pardon TBL while she chortles...), settled in as the White Sox's everyday catcher and continues to piss people off across the league. He has also made occasional offseason appearances since 2005 with a fringe wrestling outfit called Total NonStop Action.

Catcher Tom Prince retired in 2003 after a brief stint with the Royals. He is currently the manager of the rookie-league GCL Pirates in Bradenton, FL.

The Twins let free-swinging second baseman Luis Rivas drive them crazy for six seasons. The Cleveland Indians put up with it for four games. He spent 2006 in the minor leagues with Tampa Bay, caught on with the Indians, played his four games, got busted back to AAA and is now with the Pirates on a minor-league contract. (Is it just TBL, or are the Pirates grabbing up an awful lot of the Twins' former infielders for this year's spring training roster?)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

+3 Nathanator of Closing

The Twins just announced that they have signed Joe Nathan to a contract extension through 2011, with a club option for 2012. No word yet on how much that cost.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Glory Days Revisited: Pitching

For some reason, who can say why, TBL has been feeling nostalgic for that incredible run of winning seasons and (less-winning) postseasons from 2002 - 2004. And she started to wonder, whatever happened to those boys?

So TBL decided to hit the Google and find out!

Today we will hunt high and low for long-lost, newly-lost and gladly-lost pitchers from those magical seasons.

Grant Balfour missed 2005 recovering from surgery (and being paid by the Twins). He signed a minor-league contract with the Brewers and rehabbed there until mid-2007, when he returned to major league play and posted a 20.25 ERA in three appearances over 10 days. He was then traded to the Devil Rays and finished out the season with them. He is currently on their spring training roster.

Jack Cressend pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 2003 and actively sabotaged them in 2004. That about did it for his career.

Tony "Palmball" Fiore was last spotted in 2006, playing for an independent league. He has not played in the MLB since his stint with the Twins ended in 2003.

Aaron Fultz pitched for the Phillies from 2005-2006, then was picked up by the Cleveland Indians on a one-year contract with a 2008 option. He is in spring training with the Indians but is struggling.

"Everyday" Eddie Guardado went from Twins closer to Mariners closer, playing there from 2004 to mid-2006, when he was traded to the Reds in July. In August, he blew out his pitching elbow and did not return to major league action until August 2007. His return did not go well. He is now in spring training with the Rangers.

Seth Greisinger played briefly for the Braves in 2005. He then moved on to a career in the Japanese leagues; he will be pitching for the Yomiuri Giants this season.

Following a disastrous stint as closer for the Cubs, LaTroy Hawkins has pitched in a setup role for the Giants, Orioles and Rockies. He is currently pitching for the Evil Empire.

Mike Jackson dropped off the radar in 2003 and pitched poorly for the White Sox in 2004. He is now retired.

Matt Kinney pitched for the Brewers for almost two seasons after his last with the Twins (2002). Designated for assignment in August 2004, he was claimed off waivers by the Royals and finished out the season with them, whereupon he signed with the Giants. He played briefly in San Francisco in early 2005 and then in the minors through 2007. He is currently pitching in Japan.

After the Twins traded Kyle Lohse and his bad attitude to the Reds in mid-2006, he continued to earn less than half his money and was traded to the Phillies in mid-2007. He did well enough there but they did not extend him a contract, and he sat home well into spring training before signing with the Cardinals for (a faintly ludicrous) 4.25 million on March 14th.

Joe Mays signed with the Royals when the Twins declined to offer him a 2006 contract; he was released by the Royals six weeks into the season. Most pitchers would have changed their names and left the country after that, but not Joe. He caught on with the Reds and lasted a whole seven weeks with them. The next season he signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers but, failing to turn his spring training invite into a major-league job, requested and was granted his release. He has not pitched since but is generally listed as an unsigned free agent rather than a retired player.

Having missed most of 2003 due to injury, Eric Milton was traded to the Phillies for Carlos Silva and Nick Punto in the offseason. The Twins got the best of that deal, as his best post-Twins ERA is 4.75, and that was from 2004. He spent 2004 with the Phillies, then got himself a huge 3-year contract with the Reds which drove fans crazy until his tenure with the team came to an end last May with a season-ending injury. At the time of this writing he is an unsigned free agent and is not, so far as TBL can determine, even in spring training with anyone.

After two seasons with the Twins, Terry Mulholland pitched briefly with the Diamondbacks in 2006 and then retired.

Mike Nakamura pitched for Toronto in 2004 and is currently the closer for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. (Hee!)

Brad Radke pitched through 2006 and then retired with a career record of 148-139, 4.22, which is more impressive than it sounds--consider that he pitched for the Twins during the abysmal years of 1995-2000.

Rick Reed retired after going 6-12, 5.07 for the Twins in 2003. Probably a wise move. Still, he was a great help in 2001 and 2002, and for that we thank him.

Joe Roa played in the minors for the Pirates for a year following his 2004 season with the Twins and is now retired.

Kenny Rogers (aka "The Human Rain Delay") has done quite a bit since bidding Minnesota goodbye after the 2003 season. He spent 2004-2005 with the Rangers, pitching in 65 games and beating up two cameramen before moving on to Detroit, where he got himself a World Series ring and made the Twins hitters look foolish at every available opportunity.

JC Romero spent a season with the Angels, half a season with the Red Sox and half a season with the Phillies after the Twins traded him for Alexi Casilla after the 2005 season. He is still with the Phillies after a posting excellent numbers in the second half of 2007. No word yet on whether he continues to devote his spare time to teaching toddlers how to throw a proper tantrum.

You all know where Johan Santana is. Dammit.

Carlos Silva signed a staggeringly large 4-year contract with the Mariners in the offseason.

TBL can find no trace of Bob Wells after his nigh-apocalyptic 2002 season with the Twins.

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