Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Predictions

Twins-Specific Predictions

Twins MVP: Jason Kubel
Twins Top Pitcher: Kevin Slowey
Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama
Twins Most Improved Player: Francisco Liriano

Bold Predictions:

1. Jesse Crain leads the team in saves.
2. Jason Kubel has a better season offensively than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.
3. Jose Mijares isn't on the roster at the end of the year (oh, and he eats a small child).

A.L. Central Prediction (Standings):

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians

Three Keys to Success for the Twins:

1. Liriano rebounds from awful 2009
2. Someone steps up at closer.
3. Ron Gardenhire doesn't manage the bullpen like a guy who just did 6 consecutive 30 second keg stands.

Rest of the League Predictions
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox

3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas Rangers
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Oakland Athletics

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Florida Marlins
2. Philadelphia Phillies

3. Atlanta Braves
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets

1. Colorado Rockies
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres

A.L. MVP: Josh Hamilton
N.L. MVP: Hanley Ramirez
A.L. Cy Young: Jon Lester
N.L. Cy Young: Josh Johnson
A.L. Rookie of the Year: Desmond Jennings
N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward
A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Francisco Liriano
N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Troy Glaus
World Series Prediction: Twins over Rockies

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Backup Catcher

Who should be the Twins backup catcher?

Ah, glad you asked, since this seems to be a surprisingly hot button issue for something that is so, you know, irrelevant. I mean, the Twins still have the best catcher in baseball. So let's be honest, the Twins could put one of those screens that bounces the ball back to you (you know, the ones that everyone had as a kid) behind the plate and it probably wouldn't cost them any games.

Is that legal?


Soooo...the Twins backup catcher should be a pitch back?

Well, no. My point is, the Twins could bring back Derek Parks as their backup catcher and it wouldn't really cost them any wins. Having said that, Wilson Ramos is clearly the most talented option.

Ok, so Ramos should be the backup?

Again, no.


Well, see, now you are just overreacting. Everyone seems to be overreacting. We're talking about the backup catcher here. It's not like the season is going to hinge on who gets 24 at bats before Jose Morales and his strangely off-kilter teeth come back to flail around while trying to catch popups behind home plate. I guess my point is, if the Twins season comes down to who their backup catcher is, they are going to have bigger things to worry about. And while Ramos is clearly the "best" player the Twins could have backing up Mauer, there is absolutely no reason to have him sit on the bench and play once every 10 days. It doesn't make sense. I mean, there are really only two options for Ramos: 1. Change positions. 2. Traded. That's it. He is stuck behind the BEST CATCHER IN BASEBALL. Oh, and they also just signed that very same strapping gent to an 8 year contract. So basically, if the Twins are going to trade Ramos they are far better off sending him to AAA so he can sock a few dingers and show other teams what he is made of. And if they decide to move him to another position, well then he needs to do so in the minors. In a nutshell, having Drew "don't call me Sal" Butera on the roster is better for everyone. Especially Butera, because he can, you know, pretend he is talented.

What? Sorry I stopped listening.

Oh never mind, it's not important.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baseball Dreams

My random Friday post comes on Saturday this week. I know, my bad. At least I didn't skip it like last week. Anyway,I wrote this about a year ago. Technically it is a speech I gave for a public speaking class, so while you are reading it picture me standing uncomfortably at the front of classroom of people if you want the true effect.

I grew up on a baseball field. A dusty diamond of endless dreams. In the confines of those two white lines, on bases ninety feet apart, I was lost in my own little world. Anything was possible on the baseball field; where time stands still and hopes and dreams are limitless.

Every summer day was exactly the same. Baseball. Soaked in sunshine or drenched in rain, it didn’t matter. There was a game to play.

The players were made up of eight neighborhood kids: me, my two brothers, and five of our friends - the core group that played everyday. And don’t get me wrong, it was every day. Eight players though, was just the minimum. Each day would see a constant merry-go-round of kids that would come in out of our game. Strangers, friends of friends, anyone could play. That cast of characters changed, but the eight never did.

The field itself wasn’t much to look at. The weeds nearly overtook the infield dirt, and the outfield grass was borderline grass at best. It was really nothing more than a diamond shaped dirt patch sprouting a sky high chain link backstop. The field was snuggled into a quaint little park in our middle class neighborhood, but was the type of the place the city was too busy to properly upkeep.

Although to us, it was Yankee stadium, and it was all ours. Our sanctuary of endless possibility.

The games would last for hours. Time never mattered. When you are a kid you have all the time in the world. The score? Who cares? The inning? Doesn’t matter. Ball four? No way, I’m not taking a walk. Time to come home for dinner? Alright, alright I’m coming.

It really was The Sandlot – well, minus the beast. We were a throwback to the days of old, when kids went outside and played. While other kids were inside with Mario and Luigi, we were outside laughing, running, cussing, spitting – playing. We were having fun and dreaming big. Nothing else in the world mattered.

People say nothing is perfect, and yet, everything back then was. We had no cares.

And yes, there was conflict, but it always got resolved. That was part of the process; learning to deal with one another. Only once did that conflict escalate.

My friend Joel was on the mound and I was at the plate. Joel was kind of the trouble maker of the group. Although, I was a cocky prick in my own right, so we tended to butt heads. During this particular game, for reasons that were not clear then, and are even less clear years later, we were having a spat. Joel took offense to something I said (although it couldn’t have been that bad, after all I was seven). He then planted what, to a seven year old, seemed a blazing fastball in my ribs. I charged at him with blind rage, my eyes burning with hate, ready to destroy. At a dead sprint I wound up and swung a mighty right hook. Everyone else rushed to the mound trying to decide if they should encourage, or stop, the fight. It didn’t take long before the question was answered for them.


Never before had our games seen blood. But I had done it. Ended the fight with one mighty swing. That’s right, all it took was one punch and the fight was over. The loser lay dejectedly on the ground.

That loser was me.

I had slipped on the dirt and cut up my arm. Yep, in my rage I both started, and ended, the fight. I had beaten myself up. The worst part was I had to go home to bandage up my arm so the game was over, at least for me.

But I was back out as soon as my wound (and ego) healed. Come the next day none of us even remembered, or cared, what the fight was about in the first place. Petty squabbles never mattered. There was baseball to be played.

That’s how it is as a kid, you don’t waste time worrying. Nothing really matters but having fun and dreaming big.

As we get older we tend to lose our childlike perspective on the world. I guess it’s inevitable. Now, we spend our days worrying about grades, finding a job, and trying to avoid homelessness in a floundering economy. Life seems to change from a childhood of hopes and dreams, to an adulthood of cynicism and concern.

But, as I think back to myself as a little boy in the confines of those two white lines, on bases ninety feet apart, I remind myself that life can be simple, and worrying gets you nowhere. I remember how important it is to be carefree. How important it is to dream.

What is life, after all, without a dream?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Final Roster Spot

Remember opening day 2002 in Kansas City? On the surface, it was just any other beginning to a season. It brought the same luster and promise that the beginning of any new season brings.

Another year of baseball had arrived, and win or lose, there is nothing better than those 162 days of summer.

2002 brought extra promise because 2001 had featured the first winning Twins team since John Smiley toed the rubber and Chili Davis was still cool. (Back when we thought he was just a guy with a cool name instead of, you know, a wife beater.)

So while we thought there might be something special about 2002 before a batter had even stepped to the plate, we knew there was something special about 2002 as soon as the first batter crossed home plated and slapped hands with Cristian Guzman.

The batter was Jacque Jones and he had just finished yanking the second pitch of the season over the right field fence for a patented leadoff home run.

That’s one of those random home runs, and one of those random moments in general, that I will never forget, because it was at that exact moment that I was 100% certain 2002 would be a special year for the Twins. They weren’t just a silly aberration, but a legitimate baseball team.

2002 is, of course, a long time ago, and Jones isn’t nearly the player he was back then. And as he continues to suit up in Spring Training for his Minnesota homecoming, looking back on the nostalgia of years past does nobody any good in evaluating Jones’s current value to the Twins.

I mean we’re talking about a guy who played with the Newark Bears last year (with immortal teammates such as Shawn Chacon and Jay Gibbons).

I will be the first person to admit that I am a sentimental son of a bitch, and I am a sucker for random veteran signings, so bringing Jones in intrigued me from the beginning. I never thought he was a legitimate candidate for, well, almost anything, but I still thought, “hey, that’s fun” when the Twins signed him.

Sure, the question at the time was, “wait, why did the Twins just sign Jacque Jones?”
But it was still fun to consider the thought of him making the team.

Well, with one week of Spring Training left, the question has shifted from, “wait, why did the Twins just sign Jacque Jones?” to “wait, why aren’t the Twins playing Jacque Jones in centerfield?”

It has been well documented that the Twins don’t have anyone to back up Denard Span. And while I love getting denarded as much as the next guy, we all know that having guys play 162 games a year isn’t how the Twins roll.

Call me crazy, but I don’t really want to see Michael Cuddyer prowling center field, well, ever.

So far this spring, the only names that have been considered for the backup centerfield role are Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla. And, of course the aforementioned Cuddyer, who would shift over from right to patrol the center of Target Field on Span's off days.

The most frustrating part is that Jones has been playing well this spring. Yes, he is getting older, but at one point the Twins were debating whether Jones or Torii Hunter would be their centerfielder. I just find it hard to believe Jones doesn't have better range than Cuddyer. (Although he certainly doesn't have a better arm. If I had a nickel for every time Jones made a throw from rightfield that basically went straight into the ground...)

Look, I know that Casilla is out of options, and he still has some value (supposedly) so losing him to waivers isn't preferable, but isn't the goal fielding the best team? is having Alexi Casilla on the bench hitting .205 while trying to play a position he's never played before really the best option? The dude looks lost playing infield, and he's always played there.

Color me skeptical about Casilla mastering a new position.

And Tolbert? Really? Do I even need to say anything or can we all just simultaneously laugh and move on?

The fact is, Jones is the only hitter who has earned the last spot on the bench. The Twins need someone who can play centerfield occasionally, and, surprise, Jones is an outfielder. It seems so simple.

I know you can say, "but Jones can go down to AAA and Casilla can stay with the club. Jones will always be there to fall back." But I say, what has Casilla done to earn a spot on this roster?

He seems lazy and disinterested, and hit well for a couple of months two years ago. He plays terrible defense and does things that makes us all scream, "wait, what the fuck is he doing?" At this point, any talent he showed in the past has been overshadowed by his consistent inconsistencies.

I, for one, am ready to cut ties with Casilla. The first step to that process is giving Jones a chance to slide into centefielder and answer the question of who fills the final roster spot?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quick Thoughts on Joe Mauer

I really have only one thing that I want to address, and that is the nay-sayers. The people who are claiming that the Joe Mauer contract is going to lead cellar-dwelling-A-Rod-with-the-Rangers situation.

It won't.

Teams can operate with a large contract if they build their team in a wise and largely internal way; which, coincidentally is the epitome of how the Twins do business. Yes, Mauer will take up a sizable portion of the payroll, but we are talking about the single most important athlete in Minnesota history. Bar none.

Considering the fact that Mauer will be making about $11 million per year more than he is this year, his contract doesn't actually change the Twins payroll that dramatically. When you account for inevitable rise in payroll from the inevitable rise in revenue, that $11 million gap shrinks pretty damn fast. The fact is, the Twins are going to continue to have more money to put into the team.

In a nutshell, the payroll was going to rise into the $100 million range regardless, people.

As long as the Twins can continue to surround Mauer with quality, young affordable talent (something they have been doing for ten years) the payroll won't be an issue. The only difference is, the Twins actually have a legitimate superstar to go with the talented, affordable group of young scrappers they cultivate.

I guess the point is, everyone who is complaining about the Twins locking up one of the best players in baseball, needs to stop living in the past. And as long as the Twins continue to spend smart, spending will hardly be an issue.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The 12 Man Pitching Staff

I wrote this about a year ago for another site, but it summarizes something I have been pondering lately. I wanted to write something better on the subject, but, well, sometimes you just have to re-run things (aka, I'm lazy).

There has been a disturbing trend in Major League Baseball the last few years: The structure of teams pitching staffs.

We are long removed from the days of four man pitching rotations, and guys pitching up to 300 innings. This isn't automatically a bad thing; however, it is disturbing how many teams are shying away from an 11 man pitching staff and moving towards 12 or 13 man staffs.

And they are doing it in the name of “protection.”

Not to go all Bert-tastic on you, but this is absurd. Pitches aren't becoming bigger pansys, they are just being brought up in a culture that breeds lower pitch counts, with plenty of bullpen help to fallback on.

The problem with this situation is that there just aren't enough quality arms for every team to have seven or eight solid options out of the bullpen. Instead of having five starting pitchers who are trained to pitch seven innings on a given night, there are five starting pitchers who are trained to pitch 5-7 innings – assuming they can get that far on in 100 pitches. That can leave up to four innings to get through with relief pitchers. Couple this with the fact that most relievers are trained to only go one inning, sometimes even less (see Reyes, Denys) and your pitching deep pitching staff turns shallow very quickly.

The fundamental flaw with this thinking is that it's a lot harder for a relief pitcher to warm up, throw 25 pitches, sit down, and try and do that again the next day then an already warm starter to throw 125 pitchces. And this is where the change needs to take place.

The pitching staff needs to be set up as follows:

Five starters: Trained not by pitch counts, but to make it through seven innings. This won't always work, but I'm not advocating demolishing the bullpen, just tweaking it.

Closer: Trained to pitch 1 – 3 innings. If you need this guy for a two inning, or even three inning save, he should be able to do that. Why leave the best reliever on the bench during the most important time in the game? And sometimes that comes in the 8th inning.

Setup: This could be a lefty or righty, but is essentially your "number two closer." He's the guy you are most confident in getting some outs in the seventh or eighth inning on days when you don't want to overwork your closer. Guys would still need some rest.

Middle relievers: One lefty, and one righty. These are the guys would come in on days when your starter struggles; or, if they pitched a stressful five or six innings (a lot of baserunners, tough situations, etc.) you can go to one of these guys in the sixth or seventh. These guys would also be available for specific righty-righty, or lefty-lefty matchups.

Long reliever: The one "mop-up" guy. There will be days when your starting pitcher just doesn't have it. That happens. If your starter gets lit up like Glen Perkins, you need another option. Now, this doesn't mean you necessarily pull a guy after two innings and five runs, but sometimes even Tim Lincecum pitches like crap. Pitchers need to have some resiliency, but if your starter is having one of those days where he can’t get anyone out, you need someone to come in and pitch.

That would equate to five starters and five relievers and, if a team chooses, you could add in an extra lefty just in case you want both a lefty and right setup guy. The key, of course, to all this working is rethinking how starting staffs operate.

It would not take that long to change the mentality of a starting pitcher. Once an arm is warmed up, there isn't a big difference between throwing 100 pitches and 125 pitches. Often times, that is the difference between going five or six innings, or going seven innings. If teams rethink how they train pitchers in the minor leagues, it would add depth to the roster at the Major League leve.

The way it is now, teams complain about the lack of pitching. The fact is, however, that the problem isn't too little pitching, it is too much pitching. If you train your quality pitchers to pitch more innings, it will alleviate the concerns of an untrustworthy, and overworked, bullpen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Leave Liriano Be

The only thing more ridiculous than moving Francisco Liriano to closer is thinking that Carlos Silva's four shutout innings today for the Cubs isn't an aberration. And, let's be honest, that is pretty damn ridiculous.

Liriano is most valuable to the Twins as a starter. He proved his maximum worth in 2006, and while that level of success will be nearly impossible to replicate, if Liriano can pitch anywhere near that level, he will be a legitimate number one starter.

And number one starters? Slightly more valuable than closers.

While it is true that Liriano has the skill set that could translate into being a very good closer, that skill set is much more valuable to the Twins pitching six or seven innings instead of one. Closers can be found, but a potential ace doesn't come around very often.

The biggest problem with making Liriano the closer, is that doing so must be done on the basis that he is back to pitching up (or at least close) to his full potential, because if he isn't, Liriano as a closer would be a disaster. And who, in their right mind, can justifiably say that Liriano at full form is more valuable as a closer than a starter?

Other than maybe the crack head who was arrested on my bus this morning (true story) nobody would possibly make that argument.

I don't want to say closers are a dime a dozen, but consider for a second where Joe Nathan came from. He had never closed a game in his life, and while he was coming off a solid season with the Giants, there was very little to suggest that he would become one of the most dominant closers in the league.

Yes, it is impossible to expect the Twins to catch Nathan-lightening in a bottle with whoever they decide to put in the role, but they can find someone to do the job without screwing with Liriano. Hell, even Latroy Hawkins had 11 saves last year.

The fact is, closers can be made. Number one starters cannot.

While it is impossible to claim Liriano will become an ace again, it is far more beneficial to the Twins to let him try.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Contract Binge

The Twins have been dishing out so many contracts lately that I am half expecting Bill Smith to call me up to say that I just received a 4 year $13 million deal wrapping me up through my arbitration years; assuring me financial and job security most people only dream of.

I can just imagine the internet lighting up: "Wait, what? The Twins signed that douchey guy with a made up word as the title for his blog to a long term contract? And I thought the Blackburn deal was ridiculous..."

Point being, the Twins are pretty much giving everybody a contract these days.

With the signing of Denard Span to a 5 yr/$16.5 million deal, the Twins added to a list of core players with modest contracts that also includes Jason Kubel, Scott Baker, and Nick Blackburn. When coupled with the larger contracts of Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and the pitcher formerly known as closer, the Twins get a pretty good idea of where they stand financially the next few seasons.

Aside from Nathan, who may never again pitch for the Twins, that list of players makes for a fairly substantial chunk of a fairly successful team.

While it is easy to look at Span and Blackburn deals and think to yourself, "WTF dawg? Dude's are still arbed and under control for the next few years regardless, so why you gettin so frisky?" I look at it and think, "Your financial foresight is impeccable."

The Twins are in a situation now where they can pull out their ledger (I like to think Bill Smith has keeps track of contracts in a big leather ledger scribbled via ink and quill, but maybe that's just me) and feel fairly comfortable with their financial forecast.

Like any forecast, there are no certainties with any player or any contract. And the concerns voiced over some of Blackburn's inconsistencies in particular are understandable, but there is also something to be said for having a financial plan.

In locking up Blackburn, the Twins now have two starting pitchers who have proven at one point or another they can be quality starters (at the Major League Level) signed to long-term deals. The other being Scott Baker.

Basically what this means for the Twins, is they know that Baker and Blackburn will be penciled in as their two and four starters for the next few seasons. And when you consider the relatively modest amount the team is paying for their services, it is pretty comforting to know you have 40% of the rotation under control, and exactly exactly how much that control costs.

Similarly, Span's contract takes him through the rest of his arbitration years (with an option for his first year of free agency). And, like Blackburn and Baker, the Twins are paying for the comfort of knowing Span will be penciled in as their leadoff hitter for the next five years, and the exact amount those years will cost the team.

There is something to be said for that level of comfort.

And that comfort comes from both the known commodity on the field, as well as the financial stability off it. Signing guys through their arbitration years allows the Twins to control the player's contracts, rather than allowing their contracts to control the Twins.

Building an complete baseball team is about putting pieces together, and doing it in a way that allows flexibility to add more pieces to the puzzle. And that is exactly what the Twins are doing.

The foresight allows the Twins to look a few years ahead and know how much money they have to play with. A concept that is even more important as we all wait patiently (or not) for the contract that shall not be named.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Ever wanted to hear the sweet, sultry tones of my undeniably sexy voice?

I know what you are thinking, "Of course, who doesn't?"

Well I am here to tell you you are in luck. I will be joining Fanatic Jack and Topper Anton on their weekly "Twins Talk" podcast tonight (show starts at 9 pm).

There is about a 4% chance that I will be interesting, but I am sure the other two will be so you should check it out.

And if you can't check it out live, you can always download the podcast and/or listen to it later. So, really, you have no excuse not to tune it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Training Rundown

1. Nick Blackburn

The Twins have been getting slaughtered in the blogosphere for giving Blackburn a longterm contract. While I can agree with the argument that in many ways it makes more sense to go year-by-year with Blackburn, why exactly is this deal such a bad thing?

Is Blackburn a great pitcher? Ok, no.

Is Blackburn a good pitcher? Well, I'll go with goodish.

The fact is, consistent starting pitching is hard to find, even if that pitcher is consistently a 3-4 starter. I know Blackburn's peripheral numbers point to some inevitable epic falloff, but the dude has been unfailingly consistent the last two seasons. Hell, he basically had the exact same stat line in 2008 and 2009. And, color me old school, but I like the "big game pitcher" niche he has carved out. Is it technically irrelevant to his stat line? Well yes. But there is still something comforting about the title.

I understand and accept the fact that Blackburn doesn't strike anyone out, but at some point you have to just accept a player for who they are. Blackburn is a solid starter, and penciling him in somewhere in the middle of the Twins rotation for the next four (or five) years at an average salary of $3.5 million per year, is fine with me.

2. Joe Nathan

First of all, Nathan is a 35-year-old pitcher coming off elbow surgery, so the fact that he has some discomfort in that elbow shouldn't be all that surprising. It's probably nothing. (UPDATE: By "probably nothing" I meant "definitely something." Amazing how fast things become dated, eh?)

Having said that, closers are kind of like running backs. At some point, they just hit the wall. Sometimes their decline can be attributed to injuries, sometimes it can be attributed to age, and sometimes, well, they just show up one day and suck (see Tomlinson, Ladainian).

Point being, regardless of injury, I think this is the year that Nathan hits the wall. I am basing this not on deep-rooted statistical analysis, but simply a random gut feeling. Irrelevant? Completely.

Oh sure, I could make an argument about how Nathan started tailing off at the end of last season, but he tailed off at the end of 2008 too. And that didn't seem to matter for most of 2009.

So, while it would have been more impressive if I had made this call a week ago, I'm saying that, regardless of injury, Joe Nathan won't be the Twins closer at the end of 2010.

3. Joe Mauer

I was going to write something reassuring here about how Mauer will sign, but fuck it. I'm not going to acknowledge the situation until he actually signs (and he will). And even then, I'll probably just post a giant picture of a smiley face or something, because really, what else is there left to say?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

State of Flux

A friend of mine texted me the other day to inform me he had just found a job. Exciting news, obviously. Like me, he is a recent college graduate (even moreso since he graduated in December and I graduated in May) who had been meddling through the post-graduation "now what?" phase.

While leaving the ranks of the jobless, parental basement dweller is clearly a cause for celebration, my friend said something interesting in referring to his employmental-conquest. While explaining the perks of his new job, he informed me that once you have worked for a few years and have established yourself in the company, you can set your own hours, which, in his words, "will be nice when I have kids."

Excuse me?



Did I pass out halfway through this conversation and wake up ten years later?

Here is a 23-year-old guy who just wiggled into his first "real" job, and is pretty much resigned to the fact that, "hey, this is the beginning of the rest of my life." Anyone else see a problem with that? How is that the mentality that our society has cultivated?

Granted, maybe it is unfair to assume that isn't what some people want. Maybe people want to get through college, grab a job, grab a wife, bang out some kids (no pun intended), and creep up the job ranks. And I suppose I shouldn't question that. If that is what someone really wants at age 23, then rock on.

For me, however, the idea of even committing to a "real" job seems unfathomable. Yes, I am out of college, so apparently that means "real life" has begun, but I guess I just don't have any interest in the lifestyle model I outlined above. At least not at age 22.

Oh, sure, I am employed at the moment, but I like where I am at because there isn't a sense of permanence for a minimum wage making intern (which is essentially just code for "I have no responsibilities here whatsoever").

And, sure, my internship is great experience for the future, but that doesn't mean the future has to arrive tomorrow. I in no way feel like I am "grown up." In fact, I feel like I am stuck in some sort of weird post-college flux period where I am not really a functioning adult member of society, but I am not really a college kid either -- which only bothers me because I am pretty sure I just compared my life to "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" by Britney Spears.

Regardless, there seems to be an unjust societal pressure to convince college grads to fear any sense of flux. To basically say, "graduate and and get your shit together."

Or, more specifically, "Go to grad school or get a job, otherwise you're fucked."

Hmm...decisions, decisions: Grad school, job, or fucked...huh. guess I'll get a job.

Maybe I am delusional, but to me this ideology is detrimental. How can anybody reasonably justify that someone at age 22 or 23 NEEDS to immediately reconcile the rest of their life if they want to have any shot at being remotely successful? Where is the logic in that?

You're going to tell me that we get 22 years (the latter of which -- when we are supposed to be really making decisions -- are spent in a drunken stupor) to plan the rest of our life? 22 years to decide the next 50? What? Come again? In what possible way does that way of thinking even remotely resemble logic?

I don't know, maybe I am naive. Maybe I am, in fact, fucking myself by not having a plan, but I just don't believe that is the case.

Do I have goals and aspirations? Yes I do. But what I don't have, is a blueprint for the rest of my days. And I don't want one. I take comfort in the unknown. As I sit here, and consider the concept of having my entire life planned out, and knowing my daily routine, I become increasingly uncomfortable.

I don't want to want to fall into black hole of complacency, wake up 30 years later, and realize my entire life just passed me by. And that is precisely why I am, for now, completely comfortable in my state of flux.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Franchise

Francisco Liriano was the best pitcher in baseball in 2006. Unquestionably. Sure, he didn't do it for a full season, because, you know, he threw almost exclusively 90 MPH sliders which tends to be hard on the old cannon.

The fact is, in 2006 when Liriano was on the mound, every game was an event. You didn't skip a Liriano start because you never knew what you might see. 20 strikeouts? Maybe. Flailing hitters looking like idiots? Certainly. Perfect game? Sure, why not.

Point is, Liriano was not only an ace in 2006, he was a once in a lifetime ace.

Flash forward to March 3, 2010. On the eve of the Twins first spring training game, Liriano is nearly an afterthought. Sure, there has been some rumbling lately due to his winter ball resurgence, but the reality is he right now Liriano is simply fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation.

After Tommy John surgery stole all of 2007 from Liriano and forced a rebuilding 2008, many fans had high hopes for 2009. When he showed a few signs of life in late 2008 (although nothing near his 2006 form) and unconfirmed reports about winter league dominance began to surface that offseason, fans began to believe the "Franchise" was back.

Then 2009 happened. Liriano was awful. Absolutely awful.

Between pitching poorly and putting too much pressure on himself, the man who seemed invincible in 2006 turned into, without a doubt, the worst pitcher in the Twins rotation. He lacked everything he once had.

Watching Liriano pitch in 2009, was worse than listening to Glen Perkins speak.

The point is, Liriano needs to turn the corner in 2010. It isn't fair to expect him to become the pitcher of 2006, but it wouldn't be fair to expect that even if he had never gotten hurt. If, however, he can reach into the same stratosphere as is 2006 performance, the Twins will go from being good to great.

It is kind of ironic that in some ways this is the most important season of Liriano's career, and yet he has almost no pressure on him. Nobody expects anything out of Liriano after his dismal 2009. Yet, if he fails, and has a repeat performance his career is basically over. Oh, he may continue to pitch, but certainly not effectively.

I for one, am jumping right back on the Liriano bandwagon. Guzzling down his kool-aid. The dude is coming back, and coming back big this year.

My reasoning has nothing to do with his stat line in the winter league, mind you. Yeah it was a beautiful stat line, but more importantly, after actually watching him pitch, he looked more like the Liriano of old.

He was slimmed down, looser, more relaxed. It looked like, for the first time since 2006 he was just letting it rip. And, while the cynic might say it is easy to do that facing Alexi Casilla and company in meaningless games, I say whatevs.

Even last year, Liriano's problem was confidence, not talent. The talent was always there. And now, it appears, he has that old swagger to go with it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Constant Question Mark

When Delmon Young makes solid contact. And I mean really solid contact. When he lines the sweet spot of his bat as perfectly as possible with the middle of the baseball, nobody on the Twins hits the ball harder. Nobody.

Not Joe Mauer. Not Justin Morneau. Not even former great Jason Tyner.


We saw glimpses of what Young is capable of in the second half of last season, especially down the stretch. Young's line in September/October? .340/.364/.544 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI.

Is this a big enough sample size when compared to the rest of his disappointing career? Of course not.

The odds are, Young hasn't turned some corner, and put up the same type of season he has every year of his career (he has actually been surprisingly consistent. Or at list consistently inconsistent.)

Are the stories about Young dropping 29 pounds in the offseason overblown? Of course they are, it is part of the whole "spring training stories game." Someone comes to camp in the best shape of his life, and suddenly it is all aboard the one-way train to career-yearsville.

With two years in a Twins uniform under his (now looser) belt, and one similar year with the Rays, the easiest thing to do is assume Young is what he is. We've seen enough, and we can peg Young as the guy who has a lot of talent, but will never live up to it because he can't grasp the "grip it and rip it" concept of hitting. That is to say, he thinks he is a scrappy singles hitter.

Somewhat ironically, the other easy thing to do is take all the good things we have seen in Young and say "this is the year he puts it together." People have said that every year since the Twins acquired him after all.

When the Twins first acquired Young, I was in the camp that loved the deal and felt -- having never really seen him play -- that he would, in fact, "put it together" and at least partially replace Torii Hunter's bat in the lineup. He was a highly touted prospect coming of a decent rookie season, after all.

When it quickly became apparent that someone had taught Young that taking a full hack at a baseball was inappropriate, and inside outing squirters to the right side of the infield was the best possible hitting approach, I gave up on Mr. Young. His stubborn refusal to adjust and realize that he is a power hitter whose batting average is irrelevant, didn't help matters.

So basically, since about May of 2008 I have been out on Young. I thought he would never get it together. When he showed signs of his talent, I scoffed at the apparent aberration.

Well, I am here to announce that I have changed my mind on Young. I'm going to be the one touting his potential this season. Not because he lost weight, or because he hit well for awhile last year, but because I actually believe he is finally ready to be a Major League Baseball player.

People forget that Young is, well, young. The dude is only 24. Have you ever met someone under 24? I mean, I know a fair number of people under the age of 24, and, quite frankly, I would be more shocked if any of them DIDN'T throw a baseball bat at someone than if they did. My point is, people under 25 are stupid. They just are.

I know what you are thinking, "someone plays the maturity card every year you sniveling jackass." And you're right, they do. And, yes, I am fairly snively.

The fact is, however, Young has proven time and time again that he has not made that jump in maturity. And, personally, I believe that everybody makes that leap at some point in their life. To varying degrees, yes, but at some point everybody's brain clicks and they start to actually figure shit out.

So why do I think it will be this year for Young? Well, OK, the weight loss does help. It shows a certain level of focus. But also, it just seems like it is time for him. He finally has an unquestioned starting job in left field, and little to no pressure on him. In fact, he and J.J. Hardy get to battle for "least amount of pressure on the roster" this year because nobody has high expectations for either, and they get to hit 7th and 8th in a lineup that includes Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer.

Do I have some hard statistical evidence for why I think now is Young's time? Not really.

Call it a gut feeling, I suppose. (Or maybe a lack of gut feeling in Young's case.) All I know as I am sitting here on March 1st, I believe in Delmon Young.

I guess that is what the optimism of spring training does for you.