Friday, April 29, 2005

Talk of the Town

Once again, I'm sorry for the relative lack of posts the past couple of weeks. I got the season started on the right foot, but events have picked up a bit lately around here and time has been a little short. No matter... I'm here today, and that's all that matters.

First of all, a quick rant about yesterday's 6-5 win over the Royals: What in the heck was Luis Rivas thinking!?! By now I'm sure most of you know the play about which I currently rant: Rivas (pinch-running for Morneau) is at second and Hunter is on first with no one out in the 10th. Jacque Jones misses on his bunt attempt (which was bad, I'll admit) but then the worst happens - Rivas strays too far off second base and is picked off by the catcher!!

This was a baseball gaffe that rivals Pat Borders' inexplicable non-block in game four of last year's ALDS (with the go-ahead run on third), far eclipsing it in terms of utter stupidity. Luis Rivas is in the game for one reason: he is fast and (supposedly) a good baserunner. Instead, he almost singlehanded crushes a potential game-winning rally simply because he lost focus. If any of the high school kids my dad or I coach ever committed such a boneheaded mistake, they would get an earful in the dugout and deservedly so! But here Rivas is, making $1.2 million, and he does something that even 12 and 13-year olds know not to do - never go too far off the base until you see the bunt hit the ground! It's just common sense Luis - stop thinking about the clubhouse card game and get your a** in gear.

Okay, I just had to get that rant off my chest. On to the real topic of today: the stadium.

Now I know many of you out there aren't particularly fond of this issue. A good portion of you don't live near the Twin Cities metro area and thus can rarely attend Twins games at the Metrodome. Most of you (including myself) do not live in/frequent Hennepin County often and thus would be unaffected by the sales tax increase.

I also suspect that a large percentage of you have become so disenfranchised by the stadium movement's complete lack of success over the past nine years that you have officially given up. I'm here to tell you this: Don't.

I've been searching for a way to vocalize my thoughts on this subject for a few days, but Jimmy Souhan over at the Strib actually beat me to the punch on Tuesday with this article. Here are a couple of my favorite lines:

-In response to those who say we should instead use this money to fund other things:
"Most taxes provide temporary or incremental relief to complex and persistent problems. If you told me raising $1 billion would end homelessness or eradicate traffic jams, I'd happily donate more than my share. In real life, most societal ills seem as impervious to cash as the common cold is to medication."

-For those who think the deal benefits Pohlad too much (from Souhan):
"Yes, this is a great deal for Pohlad, but that's the way the world works -- rich people make good deals for themselves, whether they own sports teams or computer companies.

The rich will always get richer, with or without our help. Think of the Twins as our team, and Pohlad as a caretaker. We're the ones who will watch the sunset from the bleacher seats, while our kids wear those timeless TC caps."

-And another equally well-stated point from Shane over at Greet Machine the other day:
"[I]n the nine years this debate has been raging how much extra money has any of these issues [education, healthcare, etc.] received as a result of our not building a new Twins stadium? That's right. Nothing. Nada. Zip. In other words, for nine years our illustrious state legislators have used this argument against building a new Twins stadium. At the same time they have never actually said, "Well, now that we aren't building a stadium let's use that money for education!" Bzzzz! This has never happened! To put it another way, our legislators talk and talk, and argue and argue, but they never actually do anything to fix either problem! So, time's up! Get off the swing set, it is our turn to take it for a ride."

Shane has been doing some excellent work about the most recent stadium proposal, and I thoroughly enjoy reading what he has to say every day. This issue hasn't gotten a lot of mention in the Twins blogs for a variety of reasons (and I can't say that I blame them... it's much easier to write about baseball than politics) but I vow to stay informed and keep you up-to-date on what I think. I'm glad the Strib has ran a few articles about this issue over the past week, because a number of them (including Souhan's and this one by Doug Grow) have been excellent. I encourage you to follow this ever-developing story, because like it or not, it trumps the on-the-field action right now in terms of overall importance.

Lastly, I'm a bit curious: Do you, the readers of this (and the other) Twins blogs care about this issue? Wouldn't you like to see a stadium built? Would you agree to pay the miniscule sales tax if you bought a lot of things in Hennepin County? Are you just so frustrated with the whole situation that you don't care? If you'd like to share your opinion on this issue over the course of the weekend, please do so in the comments section. A couple people did the other day, and I appreciate that. What about the rest of you?

-Ryan M.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Snow Day

I said I'd be back with a weekend recap today, but since the Twins essentially got the weekend off (not playing either Saturday or Sunday) I've decided to take the day off as well. Plus, I'm kinda lazy like that :).

One interesting tidbit of news did emerge over the weekend, however: the Twins and Hennepin County came to an agreement on a stadium deal, which will be officially announced this afternoon. Now before you get too excited, just remember that we've gotten to this step like a half dozen times before, and funny, we're still playing in the big concrete bowl downtown.

With that being said, I'm actually fairly optimistic about this latest plan. The sales tax is miniscule (you'd be hard-pressed to complain about $.03 on every $20, or about $30 extra on a brand-new car), Smilin' Carl has decided to pony up his dough with no strings attached, the site is absolutely perfect (especially from a logistics point of view), and there is absolutely NO state money required for anything. I would hope that the state would consider the $100 million investment in the roof a worthwhile thing, but if they don't, that's their perogative.

All in all, it just seems too damn good to be true, so there is naturally no way it will actually be approved by the Legislature before they run out of time this session. Our state legistlature takes for frickin' EVER to do ANYTHING (even by legislative standards) and they've got about eight gazillion things to get done in the next month. I desperately hope they do get it done (I'm someone who went in on season tickets 8 years ago in hopes of getting priority at the new digs) but I can't be anything more than cautiously optimistic at this point.

Shane from Greet Machine, our resident stadium expert among Twins bloggers, actually expresses many of these same sentiments in his entry for today, which I encourage you all to read for more in-depth analysis.

The Twins Chatter early betting line on this stadium plan actually going through? 4-1 (against). Any takers?

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Plethora of Multitudes

Yesterday's extra-inning 10-9 win over the Royals was filled with so many notable occurances that I felt could not go un-commented upon here at TC, so I'm going to break my week-long string of (relative) silence and put up an original post today - bullet point style.

  • The bubble finally burst for Dave Gassner, as he was absolutely pounded by the previously-punchless Royals yesterday afternoon, allowing five runs (four earned) in just an inning and two-thirds. I had very much hoped it was the real Gassner that shut down the Indians last Saturday, but I fear the one who showed up today is closer to reality. When you don't have much velocity as a pitcher, you're margin for error is just that much smaller. Gassner throws everything but gas, and it hurt him Thursday when his control wasn't impeccible.

  • Lew Ford seems to be back on track after an auspicious start to the season. He went 4-6 yesterday (and is now 7 for his last 12) and drove in the game-winnnig run with a bases-loaded (imagine that) RBI single in the 10th. Jim Souhan wrote a nice little piece about TC's official player today, as it appears he may have made the necessary adjustments after suffering through a slow spring and first three weeks.

  • Was anyone else out there a bit surprised at how Gardenhire managed his catching situation at the end of the game yesterday? Mike Redmond, playing for the first time in week after Mauer had caught three straight games, had to leave the game in the eigth after a collision. Corky "Corky" Miller (sorry, couldn't resist that one) replaced him defensively, but interestingly enough, Gardy pinch-hit Mauer for Miller in the 9th inning with the winning run on third. Now I completely agree with Gardy's decision to use Mauer in that situation (even though he was intentionally walked), but I just find it a bit interesting that he would do it in an extra-inning affair. The game could have easily gone on a quite a bit longer, with Joe catching an extended amount for an unprecedented (this season at least) fourth consecutive day. Any thoughts?

  • Tonight's game against the Tigers marks the return of one Carlos "The Jackal" Silva, who is back after a bizarre (and as it turns out, unnecessary) trip to the disabled list. The improbable return of Silva and the reemergence of Joe Mays really brings home exactly why the Twins remain the team to beat in the Central this season: they have pitching, and lots of it.

  • Justin Morneau also returns to the lineup tonight, and he will hopefully provide some needed production in what has been a very inconsistent offensive unit thus far. It also means the defensive circus that is Matthew LeCroy gets to ride the pine for a while, which is never a bad thing.

There ya have it folks - plenty of storylines to follow this weekend. It should be an entertaining series to watch, as the Tigers get another chance to prove that they are legitimate contenders this season. Tune back in on Monday as I'll be back with a weekend recap of the series. Until then, have a great weekend everybody.

-Ryan M.

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Mike Redmond and Mike Sweeney collide at home plate during the 9th inning of yesterday's game. Sweeney was safe on the play and Redmond was forced to leave the game.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bonus Material: Predictions

The Twins suffered yet another disappointing loss at the hands of those accursed ChiSox today (I don't know about you, but they are REALLY starting to get on my nerves about right now). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch any of the game and therefore don't really feel qualified to write anything intelligent about it. Plus, I'm incredibly sleep-deprived... lots going on here at St. Olaf!

In lieu of a new post today, I'm going to reprint (for your reading pleasure) a season predictions article I wrote for our school newspaper last week. It's not the most in-depth piece every, but if you just so happened to be curious about who I'm picking for the playoffs this year, well, here you go! If you're interested in who some other Twins bloggers are picking, click here.

Consider yourselves forewarned: even though I didn't pick the Twins to win it all, I still fervently hope that they do! :)

"Predicting October... In April"
By Ryan Maus

One of the most enjoyable things about the game of baseball is that it lends itself to prognostication extremely well. Each new season brings with it a flurry of predictions found in every sports page, magazine, radio show and weblog around the country. As a self-professed baseball junkie, I am always asked, “Who’s your pick for the World Series this year?” I usually put off answering such questions, knowing that any predictions I give will almost assuredly look like pure folly six months from when they’re made.

Despite this, baseball season just wouldn’t be complete without the requisite attempt at prognostication. Without further ado, I present my playoff picks for the 2005 major league baseball season:

American League East: Before the Toronto Blue Jays’ surprising crash to last place in 2004, the order of finish in this division had remained unchanged for six consecutive seasons: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. Unless you are the Yankees or the Red Sox, the most you can hope for in the East is a third-place finish, and I that pattern will hold true once again this year. The Sox may have vanquished the Curse last fall, but the Randy Johnson-led Yankees have been constructed to win over the long haul.

My pick: Yankees (Red Sox as wild card)

American League Central: The Central has traditionally been one of the weakest divisions in baseball from top to bottom, as over half its teams routinely finish with losing records. That should change this season, as Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit all believe they can challenge the three-time division champion Minnesota Twins. The White Sox, Indians and Tigers all boast impressive lineups, but the Twins’ pitching staff (led by AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana) is simply too good and too deep to be overcome.

My pick: Twins

American League West: All four teams in this division could conceivably finish with winning records, given the dramatic off-season improvements made by last year’s cellar dwellers, the Seattle Mariners. The Texas Rangers, a surprise contender a year ago, will be doomed by their lack of pitching once again this season. If anyone is poised for a significant drop-off, it’s the Oakland Athletics, who will feature a starting rotation with three players under the age of 25. In the end, the well-balanced and newly re-christened Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the name change being a thinly-veiled attempt to increase revenues) will most likely make the playoffs.

My pick: Angels

National League East: The East should be one of the most competitive divisions in 2005, as three teams (Atlanta, Florida and the New York Mets) all appear to have a legitimate chance to win. However, as their early 1-6 start indicates, I believe the perennially-underachieving Mets will do so once again this season, despite the offseason additions of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This division will be a dogfight between the Braves and Marlins, with the loser most likely ending up as the NL Wild Card.

My pick: Marlins (Braves as wild card)

National League Central: The mantra in this division has always been “If the Cubs are healthy, they could …” Well, the Cubs (mostly notably starting pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood) were not healthy in 2004, and the preliminary outlook for 2005 isn’t too rosy either. The St. Louis Cardinals, NL Champions a year ago, are back and ready to make up for their four-game collapse in last year’s World Series. The Houston Astros received a nice boost with the return of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens but will miss the departed Beltran. It’s in the cards for the Cards again this season, as they will win over 100 games and take the division crown.

My pick: Cardinals

National League West: While there appear to be clear-cut favorites in just about every division in baseball this season, the NL West is definitely the exception to that rule. With artificially-enhanced über-player Barry Bonds on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time, the San Francisco Giants could fall in the standings. The Dodgers made a number of interesting (some would say foolhardy) personnel decisions this past winter, and I would be surprised if they repeated as division champs in 2005. Instead, it will be the underdog San Diego Padres that make the playoffs for the first time since 1998, beating out an improved Arizona Diamondbacks team.

My pick: Padres

Even in this era of beefed-up sluggers and inflated offensive numbers, the key to success in the big leagues still comes back to one thing: pitching. It is for this reason I think the Twins will shock New Yorkers when they top the Yankees in the AL Division Series in October. I also believe the Red Sox will see their luck run out as they are beaten in the ALDS by the Angels. In the National League, the Marlins and their outstanding staff will move past the Padres in round one while the Cardinals will defeat the Braves in the other series.

In the American League Championship Series, the Angels will emerge victorious from their 2002 ALCS rematch with the Twins, while the Marlins will surprise and win the National League Pennant over the Cardinals. Your 2005 World Series Champion? For the second time in three years (remember 2003’s improbable upset of the Yankees?), it will be none other than the Fightin’ Fish themselves, the Florida Marlins.

How's that for prognostication?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Not Up To It

I'm extremely sorry to disappoint all of you today, but sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Today (unfortuately) was just one of those days, so I won't be able to post anything new. I'm usually pretty good about updating on Mondays (it's one of our bigger days) but I just don't have it in me today. For some excellent Twins analysis, I suggest you check out the links on the left side of this page.

On a positive note (for me, anyway) I recently found out about a couple of baseball trips that I'll be going on in the next month and a half or so! I'm going to Boston and New York at the end of May to catch a Red Sox-Atlanta game AND (amazingly enough) a Red Sox-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. Plus, I'll be making the drive down to Omaha for the 2005 College World Series, which is one of my favorite baseball events. So even though TC might not have anything new today, rest assured, I am not sitting on my laurels!

Have a great Monday everyone and we'll see you here tomorrow.

-Ryan M.

Friday, April 15, 2005

One Year Later

In all the hullabaloo over yesterday's impressive 10-4 win over the Tigers, many of you (and by "many" I mean "everyone except me") may have forgotten that today, April 15 2005, actually marks the one-year anniversary of Twins Chatter! That's right: one year ago "Your source for insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage" officially went public (although a little premature linking from Seth put a little scare into me!).

Now one year may not seem like much to any of you, but in the blogging world it actually a notable accomplishment. Blogs are not enterprises that typically inspire longevity; they are "easy come, easy go" endeavors, usually sputtering out within the first few months of existence. While it would be a lie to say that we haven't endured our fair share of bumps in the road, Twins Chatter is still here (and you're still reading this!) so we must be doing at least something right!

A few notable accomplishments from year one:

  • We've had over 26,600 people visit in the past year (for a modest average of 73/day). We've also had almost 31,000 "hits" or page views (for a more respectable average of 85/day).

  • We've posted on 214 separate occasions.

  • Twins Chatter was highlighted in the extensive Star Tribune piece (sorry, the links are all expired now) about Twins blogs that ran back in early October. This photo (I'm the one on the far left) was actually on the front page of the Strib's Variety section on October 5.

  • And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that we've been doing some decent writing over the past 12 months. Posts about Blanco's HOF career, Victory Sports, the 2004 draft, Dougie's departure, the ALDS loss, The Battle for the Ring, reelections, spring training, and this interview were some of my favorite posts, and I'm sure John will point out some of his favorites sometime soon as well.

It's been a year of ups and downs for Twins Chatter. We never quite made it into the mainstream Twins-blogging scene (i.e. Twins Geek, AG, and Batgirl status) but I have pretty much accepted that fact and am content with the little corner of cyberspace that we've carved out over the past year. I never quite got around to designing a fresh new look for the site, although we do have our very own logo now (which I am very pleased with). And we've struggled with bouts of inconsistency at times, such as taking almost the entire month of January off as well as two weeks in March.

However, I believe that the writing you'll find at this site today is much-improved over what was here 12 months ago, and in the end, that's all that really matters. Twins Chatter was here before the more recent influx of Twins blogs (many of which were started last fall or this spring) came into being, and I think we'll still be here when they are gone. I'm going to keep plugging away, and John will continue to support me as best he can.

In closing, I just want to thank you all for your continued patronage and I hope you feel it's worth the time you spend at this site every day. As always, feel free to post any comments you may have below and I'll do my best to respond to them.

-Ryan Maus

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Terry Tiffee: 2005's Lew Ford?

Unfortunately for most of us in (as well as outside) Twins Territory, Wednesday's Twins vs. Tigers game was not broadcast on television - for some reason the waning moments of an extremely overrated team's now-hopeless "playoff push" took preference last night (postscript: I'm told those reasons were contractual... too bad for FSN). That was unfortunate, because yesterday's game sounds like it was an extremely entertaining one.

Anyway, that brings me to the title of today's post: Terry Tiffee. As you probably well know by now (I'm not naive enough to think that TC is the first stop on everyone's web browsing schedule) Tiffee was the star of last night's game, going 2-4 with a double, homer, and 3 RBIs in his first game up from AAA. He even hit in the cleanup spot! Even before that surprising performance, it seemed like every semi-knowledgable worth his/her weight in off-color Teflon Twins fan has an opinion one way or another about this 25 year-old corner infielder.

Since I would lump myself in with that group of people (perhaps even near the head of the class) and I am paid so very un-well to share my opinions with all of you, I'll briefly summarize my opinion of the Tiffmeister (as he shall from now on be called). First of all, all of you are exactly right: Tiffee definitely deserved to make the team out of spring training. He didn't impress me that much the time I watched him down in Florida (and I heard conflicting reports about him from people "in the know", if you will) but his numbers were very good overall. Instead, concerns (arguably overly-cautious concerns) about The Knee led to the retention of Corky "Corky" Miller, who appears to be nothing more than your standard AAA catcher but with a funky first name.

Despite the fact that he has never been considered a top-tier prospect, Tiffee has done nothing but hit in his time in the big leagues. He was outstanding as a replacement for Koskie last September before he went down with a season-ending injury partway through the month, and appears to have picked up right where he left off.

My rhetorical questions for you are as follows: Is there a chance that Tiffee could become 2005's version of Lew Ford for this team, the unsung seasoned minor leaguer who steps in and exeeds expectations? Or is he simply a mid-level prospect who has been lucky enough to play his best baseball in the majors? Conventional wisdom says that he doesn't have the skills (bat speed, hands, etc.) to cut it as an everyday player, but then again, conventional wisdom has been known to fail on occasion (see Eckstein, David).

Say (theorectically speaking, of course) that Tiffee continues to hit at a torrid pace. Who would he replace in the lineup once Morneau returns? Cuddyer? Ford? Rivas, perhaps? I must admit that despite my initial skepticism (I've never considered Tiffee to be a potential starter in the majors) the possibilities are intriguing, and I'm all for anything that improves this team. Anyone else have any thoughts on the issue? I realize this discussion is extremely premature, but I just thought I'd get a jump on what may become a hot issue over the next couple of weeks.

Either way, it's getting late and I'd best be going to sleep. Tomorrow's game will be on TV (thankfully!) so I'm sure we'll have something more substantial for you then. Take care, everyone.

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Two different photos of Tiffee's fourth inning home run.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Proving a Point

The Twins are the three-time American League Central Championships for a reason and they continued to prove it last night. While the rest of the division continues to catch up in terms of talent the Twin’s organization continues to be one step ahead. What makes the Twins special is that they love being the underdog so much that they seem to swoon every summer just to give teams false hope and then pull away in the closing months. Comments made earlier in the week by a certain Tiger outfielder only served to fuel the fire of a team that has learned how to win. Last night the Twins beat the Tigers with a walk dramatic walk-off double by Shannon Stewart.

The Tigers are a much improved team thanks in large part to their willingness to overpay for just about every big free agent player (some of them actually even sign with the team!). In the next couple of seasons their payroll is expected to exceed $100 million, almost doubling that of the Twins. They also have a good manager in Alan Trammell. Both their lineup and bullpen have potential. Their ace, Jeremy Bonderman, is developing into an impressive pitcher and Mike Maroth has come a long way from his 20-loss season.

Despite all of this the Tigers are still a team that falls a couple of pieces short. Their veterans are old and injury-prone and their pitching is yet unproven. What this all means is that the Twins will no longer be able to beat up on them like they have in past seasons but they also wont have to worry about looking up in the standings to see orange come September. So while Dmitri Young has had a good start to his season, his grasp of reality remains a little off.

There were plenty of highlights for the Twins besides the way the game ended. Joe Mays finally started a game, and while he wasn’t great, it was a step in the right direction. Many people disagree with me but Joe Mays is a big key to this season, whether Carlos Silva is able to come back quickly or not. I continue to look for Mays to have a good year and prove his critics wrong.

Both Twins homeruns last night were impressive. Bartlett and Cuddyer showed how strong they are. Bartlett’s homer looked like he had got a little under it and yet he was still able to muscle it over the fence. Cuddyer just spanked the ball. It is easy to imagine Cuddyer someday bringing it all together to at least hit 30. With Morneau out of the lineup it’s important for others to pick up the slack.

Both Juan Rincon and JC Romero were electric last night. It’s scary to think how good this bullpen can set up. The team was even able to score a run off of Troy Percival for the first time ever.

If the team can figure out a way to get Craig Monroe out they will be well on their way to exercising all of their demons on the Tigers.

Linkin' It Up

I don't have the time or inclination to post any original thoughts on the Twins tonight (there was no game today, so I'm using that as an excuse). However, I would like to direct your attention to a few links/tidbits for your reading pleasure this Tuesday.

Maybe it's not all bad
There are actual some positive news coming out of the Metrodome today! Carlos Silva may (possibly) not need surgery after all, which would be by far the best news I have heard in a long time. Also, Justin Morneau may not have to go on the disabled list, as an MRI and CT scan showed there was nothing seriously wrong with him. Click here for the Strib article.

A tough start? What gave it away?
New York sportswriter and frequent contributor Buster Onley, a favorite of Aaron Gleeman, posted the following on his blog (available to ESPN Insider subscribers only) the other day:

Tough Start for Twins

The Minnesota Twins got through the first week with three wins in six games, right in the middle of the AL Central's five-team scrum. But they had the worst week of any team in baseball, unquestionably, losing pitcher Carlos Silva for at least a few months with a serious knee problem. And there are worries about first baseman Justin Morneau, still dizzy after getting beaned last week. The short of it is that Morneau has had four other concussions in the past, and feels foggy and light-headed. For the Twins, it is the equivalent of the Yankees losing Hideki Matsui and Carl Pavano, or the Red Sox losing David Ortiz and Matt Clement.

And at least one observer is predicting they won't be part of the AL Central race. No less an authority than Dmitri Young says the Tigers and Indians are the best teams in the division. This from's Mark Sheldon:

Detroit Tigers first baseman Dmitri Young won't see the Twins until Tuesday's series opener at the Metrodome. But after Detroit finished its series with the Indians on Sunday, Young has apparently seen enough to make some predictions about the outcome of AL Central. "This is our rival right here," Young said of Cleveland. "Forget the other teams. I think it's going to come down to us and them. Just look at the different positions, look at the matchups. The matchups are pretty similar." The Twins have won the last three division titles and are many experts' pick to take a fourth-straight championship. When a reporter asked him about Minnesota, Young shrugged. "Us and Cleveland," he said.

Interesting quote from Young, I thought. Is this unjustified arrogance or simply confidence?

Well, I was planning on having a few more links, but I just couldn't find the right ones. If you're still hungry for reading, check out the other Twins blogs, linked for your convienience on the left side of this page. Tomorrow John will be back with some more Twins-related thoughts.

-Ryan M.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Chattin' It Up

This was an eventful weekend in Twins Territory (I don't know about you, but I like that phrase much better than my previously-coined Twinsland), probably the most eventful weekend of the year thus far. And nothing shall go un-commented upon here at TC.

  • Although the Twins lost 2 of 3 to their arch-rivals from the South Side, Carlos Silva's potentially season-ending injury was the story of the weekend. It sorta blindsided everyone, including those people in the organization, especially given how well he pitched last Wednesday. I will go on the record with this right now: I do not think that Joe Mays will be an adequate replacement for The Jackal. I may have been able to live with either Kyle Lohse or Joe Mays stinking it up every five days, but both? I'm not so sure about that. I almost guarentee that Mays will struggle initially (which is at least somewhat understandable, given the fact that he hasn't started a game since Aug. 29, 2003) but I will still be surprised if he regains his long-lost effectiveness this year at all. Mays was hit pretty hard towards the end of spring training and in his only appearance of the season on Friday.

    And as Aaron Gleeman states today, Dave Gassner isn't the answer to our problems either. He's a soft throwing lefty who might fool some bad teams (hopefully) but probably isn't going to be mowing down quality major leaguers anytime soon.

  • Justin Morneau's extended absence also has me worried about the state of the Twins. Originally it was thought that he would be out only a day or two, but now the timetable is very uncertain. He'll see a specialist today, and it is sounding more and more like there might be something pretty serious wrong.

  • The new-look Go-Go Sox impressed me this weekend in taking two of three. The Twins did not play particularly well either Friday or Saturday, but the ChiSox deserve a lot of credit for putting both of those games away with some timely hits and timely thrown double play balls. The Sox were dismissed by much of the media this past winter, predicted to finish as low as fourth in many preseason predictions, but I wouldn't be surprised if they stick around for quite a while this year after seeing them play firsthand.

  • The Twins defense has been a little disappointing through six games. We all knew it probably would suffer with the departures of Dougie, Koskie, and Guzman, and that indeed seems to be the case. Cuddyer can be absolutely infuriating at third sometimes, making a spectacular play in the hole but then botching a routine grounder or throw. And LeCroy makes Morneau look like Dougie Baseball himself over at first - that's how bad he looks. He misplayed a couple of balls early in the game Sunday that could have made things dicey for Johan. I seriously can't wait until we get him off the field and into the dugout where he belongs.

    Rivas also had a mental gaffe last night, failing to cover second in time on a steal attempt. I believe Corky Miller would have had his first highlight as a Twin if Louie had not been so slow (the runner probably would have been out).

  • "Sweet" Lew, the Official Player of this Blog, has had a rough start to the season. He's got just four singles so far this season (at least two of them infield singles) and I have yet to see him hit the ball with authority. Has the bubble burst for everyone's favorite computer geek? I sure hope not, but Lew's going to have to make some adjustments relatively soon if he hopes to stay in the lineup on an everyday basis.

That's all I've got for you today. If you disagree/agree/don't care about what I said today, feel free to express that inner voice in the comments section below. I (or possibly even John!) will be back with more Twins Chatter tomorrow.

-Ryan Maus

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Interview with Mike Herman: Minnesota Twins Media and Player Relations Manager

Greetings, loyal readers. Yesterday, as most of you all know, the Twins were able to pull out a season-opening series win against the Mariners, as Carlos "The Jackal" did exactly what he is paid to do. I wasn't able to catch the game because of some other duties of mine, but fortuntately I will be able to get some Twins Chatter milage out of what I did in lieu of the game.

While in Florida a week and a half ago, I conducted an interview with St. Olaf alumni Mike Herman, who also happens to work for the Twins in their media and player relations department. Since this is a field that I may someday enter myself, I thought Mike would make an excellent subject for an interview. Below, I will post for your enjoyment the Twins-related questions that I posed to him. It's a very fascinating interview, and it provides some unique insight into the Twins' front office.

I probably won't have anything new up for tomorrow, as I'm falling behind on my homework. However, I'll be at Friday night's game (along with many of you, I hope) so be sure to cheer on our hometown nine as loudly as possible.

Note: If you would like to read the entire interview (St. Olaf-related questions and all) just click here.

Ole finds home with Twins

By the time most people enter the hallowed halls of higher education, they have long since dismissed any dreams of playing professional sports. But have you ever entertained the possibility making a career with a professional sports team? Mike Herman, former St. Olaf baseball player, is living out such a dream. He is currently holds the position of manager of media and player relations for the three-time American League Central Division Champion Minnesota Twins, dealing with players like Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and Joe Mauer on an everyday basis. Mike recently took some time out from his busy schedule to chat with the me from the Twins’ spring training home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Coming into college, what were some of your career aspirations?

I wanted to go into sports broadcasting. I had done internships with TV stations and also in media relations departments of sports teams. But originally, I wanted to be on TV, but that quickly faded when I realized what my financial situation would be after college. I wanted to make money right away; I didn’t want to work for nothing for some small town station. I wanted a job related to sports and somehow related to the media.

You went through a number of different career changes before you ended up here with the Twins. Can you take us through that path?

As a sophomore, I interned for KARE 11 during the summer. My freshmen and sophomore years I also worked for the sports information department, writing articles, interviewing coaches, calling the Star Tribune to give them scores, stuff like that. I was also the sports editor for the Messenger as a junior, and I also wrote some stories after that. I interned with the Phoenix Coyotes for two j-terms. After I graduated, I also interned for a TV station in South Dakota, and that’s when I started realizing that I needed to get away from the TV industry and into the public/media relations area.

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Mike with Hammond Stadium as a backdrop.
Then I started as an intern with the Twins in the winter of 1999. A friend of mine worked for Midwest Sports Channel (MSC), and she was always on the lookout for me for jobs. One day she called me and told me the Twins were looking for someone in media relations, although it was only an internship. I said “I don’t care” and called the guy up anyways. Even though they already had their candidates, the guy agreed to take a look at my resume. I called him an hour later and he agreed to interview me. One day I got a call (actually the day before my birthday) offering me the internship, and I’ve been there ever since. I got the full-time job just before the 2000 season.

As the media and player relations manager, what exactly does your job entail?

I set up interviews, and generally take care of any media requests that come in—commercials, public service announcements, and player appearances (like an autograph signing)—I set all that stuff up. A lot of it is media services; whatever the media wants. My job is to make our club as accessible as any other club in major league baseball. This means that we need to do a lot more than the Yankees in terms of media services, because everyone wants to cover the Yankees.

Another aspect of my job is taking care of the baseball information, like stats, game notes, and baseball-related press releases. Basically, we disseminate information. Our job is to get as much information out there as possible promoting the Twins. There are some cases where we have to deliver negative information, but we try to put a positive spin on it if at all possible.

How does your job differ here at spring training?

It’s pretty much the same thing. We have a lot more interview requests during spring training, just because there are so many more players. For example, because Justin Morneau is from Canada, we get every radio station in Canada wanting to kick off baseball season by interviewing Justin. But because there are so many of them, we have to be careful about how we handle it. Everyone thinks that when you come to Florida for four weeks it’s a vacation, but it’s actually a lot of work down here. I’m not complaining, but we put in long days under the hot sun and humidity. But it’s still a good time.

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Mike giving a tour of the facilities to some St. Olaf baseball players.

What would you say are some of your favorite parts of your job?

Number one, I get to watch baseball for a living. Growing up, playing the game, I just love the game of baseball. I get to be around a great organization, one of the best organizations in the league to work for. PR people from different teams come into our office when their team is in town and comment on how there’s a different feel when you walk around the Twins offices. Everyone’s happy, everyone’s upbeat. Part of that is because the upper management treats everyone so well. In our organization, most people still come from within. You start here, you keep moving up, and finally, you get to the top.

One of my other favorite things is that I get to travel a lot. I get to go on a lot of road trips, see a lot of different cities and ballparks, and meet a bunch of different people.

What are some of the disadvantages?

I do have to put in a lot of hours, which is hard sometimes. Also, sometimes you do have to deal with the egos [of the players]. We’ve been pretty lucky on the Twins—we don’t have many guys that are that egotistical. A lot of the times you just have to be careful what you ask of these guys. They’re financially secure; they don’t need $100 here, $100 there. You have to pick and choose when you go to them for a favor.

What is so unique about the Twins organization that allows them to win all these awards like Baseball America’s “Organization of the Year”?

On the field, I think a lot of it comes from scouting and development. Our minor league system has always been known as one of the stronger systems in the game, so the credit there has to go to our minor league coaches, scouts, our general manager, assistant general manager—people like that. Another thing, which I mentioned earlier, is that everybody (even upper management) respects everyone else, regardless of where you are on the totem pole.

That also applies to the baseball side of things. We have so many homegrown players, especially compared to teams like the Yankees that barely even have a farm system [due to trades], and we always know there’s someone in the minor leagues that can come up and help us. There’s a “Twins way” of playing, and it’s taught in the minor league system. If we call a guy up, he knows what’s expected from him in order to get to the major leagues, because that’s all they’ve been pounding in his head for the last six years. That’s a big reason why this organization has been so successful.

As a Twins fan, I’m curious: How do you think the 2005 Twins will fare?
I don’t see why we can’t repeat as Central Division champions. Our pitching staff is still one of the best in the major leagues. In spring training we lead the American League in earned run average. There’s still the matter of getting production out of the shortstop position but other than that, we should be just fine.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Solid Second Showing

For the first 4 innings of last night’s game it appeared the Twins were in for a tough year. Forget all the big predictions going into this season, in the first game and half of the year the team had shown that it couldn’t hit or pitch up to expectations. When Johan Santana gives up 4 runs to start a game something appears to have gone horribly wrong. All it took was ½ of an inning for everything to be as it should be. Suddenly the team was making plays in the field, their CY Young was back to his old self, everyone in the lineup had a hit and all that was left was for a bullpen full of power arms to finish it off.

Anytime Johan Santana starts he is story of the game. He didn’t have his best stuff last night and had to rely on his changeup even more than usual. The best pitchers in the game are able to overcome bad innings and Santana was marvelous. He didn’t allow a run in his last 4 innings while finishing with 6 K’s and the win. He kept his team in the game so they had a chance to come back.

The lineup finally showed what it was capable of. This lineup should be better then last year with no easy out 1-8 in the order. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter have a chance to be an especially potent combo. We haven’t seen the power potential yet but this team is going to need to generate a lot of runs anyway.

To many, Jacque Jones is an enigma and last night he did a little to prove that both true and false. He showed what frustrates people when he swung at the first pitch and hit into a double play early in the game. His homerun to end the 5th inning scoring was really a thing of beauty and gives hope of the kind of season he is capable of.

The Twins look like they are going to be just fine with a rookie at short. It is hard to remember his brief stint with the team last year because he did nothing special. Now he looks like a hitter at the plate and showed he is able to come up big when needed. He isn’t going to be Cristian Guzman right away but he is showing the Twins weren’t crazy to let Guzman go this winter. Speaking of infielders, even Luis Rivas didn’t look too bad at the plate last night, hear is hoping he proves Gardenhire and me right.

The Twins were able to showcase much of their bullpen with Santana’s early high pitch count. For the most part they looked pretty good. There was a scary moment when Jesse Crain hit Brett Boone but JC Romero was able to come in and pitch effectively, always a good sign with him. Juan Rincon showed no ill effects carried over from game four of the ALDS and threw some pretty nasty stuff. Joe Nathan ended the game like he is supposed to.

With the excitement of the early season it is easy to lose sight of the old cliché that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Games are played for 9 innings and often times the difference between an out and a rally is less than an inch. The Twins are a team built for success. Brad Radke and Santana can have bad outings and Joe Mauer can strike out 3 times and the beauty of the sport is they all can bounce back the next time out. This is the first of many wins in what promises to be an exciting year of baseball.

John (Yes, I know it has been a while)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Brief Opening Day Thoughts

I don't have a lot of time to write tonight (damn you, 8 a.m. classes!) but I thought that I would briefly share a few thoughts with all of you about yesterday's game, the first of 162 here in 2005. I was able to take time out of my busy schedule and caught every single pitch on TV (I wouldn't miss it for anything), so I'm coming from a position of familiarity here.

Here goes:

  • Brad Radke wasn't perfect by any means, but he did put together a pretty solid outing overall. The two mistakes that hurt him the most (the two home runs) came on fastballs that he simply left up in the zone. I had a sinking feeling that Brad might be somewhat flustered after his mental gaffe in the first, and sure enough, he grooved the very next pitch to Sexson. Sexson's third-inning homerun came on a pitch that only he could hit out: just a little bit above the knees and out over the outside corner. Not a terrible pitch, but that's the reason the M's gave this guy $50 million this winter.

  • The M and M boys didn't look stellar at the plate against the crafty lefty Moyer, as I thought might happen. Joe didn't hit the ball that well all day, and Morneau looked pukey in just about every at-bat (save his lineout to right late in the game). That's the risk you run with two young left-handed hitters batting back-to-back: the occasional off-day. I think both these guys will fare much better tomorrow against Gil Meche.

  • How about that throw by Mauer to nail Ichiro stealing? Even though Ichiro was probably safe, it was still a helluva play by Joe. There aren't very many other catchers out there that can scoop a tough pitch out of the dirt and still throw out one of the fastest runners in the game. Now I remember why we like this guy as a catcher so much :).

  • Jacque Jones and Luis Rivas, two much-maligned Twins this offseason, turned in a number of excellent defensive plays yesterday afternooon. Hopefully we'll see that excellence transter to the plate in the near future (although Rivas did have a single in yesterday's game).

  • Jason Bartlett looked very comfortable at the plate, a 100% improvement from his brief stint last summer. If he can cut it defensively (he wasn't tested at all Monday) this kid might just make it.

  • Despite suffering their first Opening Day loss since 2000, Monday's 5-1 loss wasn't a wasted effort by any means. Bradke pitched decently and the defense looked solid, and the Twins hit the ball hard a few times (with little to show for it). Johan K. Santana is in a good position to enact a little revenge tonight, and I think he is chomping at the bit to do so. Be sure and tune in to FSN at 9:00 p.m. CT tonight.

Tomorrow, Twins Chatter readers, should see the triumphant return of my long-absent partner John. Be ready to welcome him with open arms, as his presesce has been missed in the ever-expanding Twins blogosphere. Also, I have a nice little feature interview planned for later this week, so keep your eyes peeled for that as well.

Until next time,

Ryan Maus

Monday, April 04, 2005

We Come To It At Last

All I can say is this: It's about time.

We have been waiting for this day for almost six months. We've been waiting since Ron Gardenhire made that infamous non-move back in Game Two. Ever since Ruben Sierra launched that three-run homer off Juan Rincon in the eighth inning on October 9. Ever since Pat Borders so ignominiously ended his 16-year career with that most inexecusable of all baseball blunders: the passed ball.

We have been waiting for this day for 177 long, dark, and cold days. We've seen dead weight shed (Guzman). We've seen dead weight retained (Rivas). We bemoaned the exodus of a true Canadian folk hero (Koskie). Yet at the same time, we cheered as two key pieces stayed home, preserving hope for the future (Radke and Santana).

For 4,248 hours we have been awaiting the official return of our hometown nine. The foul stench of scandal emerged, doing all it could to dampen our excitement. We saw the return of the free-spending days of yesteryear, yet we sat patiently on the sidelines, confident in our battle-tested approach. Divisional opponents made bold moves in an effort to unseat us, one even trying to beat us at our own game.

For 254,880 minutes we have anxiously looked to this day. We have nibbled on the juicy nuggets of springtime the past two months. How would The Knee recover from a setback? Could illness truly fell a once-burly slugger? Would mediocrity (the utilitymen) or potential (Bartlett) emerge from the Scrum at Short? Could the Thunder from Down Under (Balfour) keep his head on straight and arm healthy?

For one entire off-season we waited patiently. A legend, one who was with us from the very beginning, saw his journey come to an end. A great many changes occured this past winter, profoundly shaping the game we all know and love. Yet in the end, none of it truly matters. In the end, only one thing really counts: the game.

Today, the cycle begins anew. Mistakes are forgotten. Optimism flows like wine at a springtime wedding. Wintery aches melt away like the snow on a balmy April afternoon. Baseball is back, and I can only say one thing: It's about time.

Let's play ball.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Day at Spring Training In Pictures

Sorry about the lack of a new post yesterday folks. Things sort of piled up on me while I was away, and it's taken a couple of days to get them all sorted out. Today, I'm going to share with you a few of the pictures I took while at last Thursday's Twins vs. Pirates matchup at Hammond Stadium (a 5-4 Twins victory). It was (unfortunately) the only day of the trip we had to spend in Fort Myers, but it was still a great experience. Mike Herman, former St. Olaf baseball player and current Twins media/player relations manager, gave us an inside tour of the facilities before the game started and allowed us to watch most of the action from the press box (which was pretty cool). I'm no Art (who I saw with his camera by the dugout), but I think there are some pretty decent shots here.

Have a great weekend!

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Joe Nathan walks by some starstruck St. Olaf baseball players before last Thursday's game.

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Wayne Hattaway does some work in the Twins clubhouse. Pretty nice, huh?

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Matty LeCroy takes some last-minute swings in the under-stadium batting cage.

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Juan Rincon does some weightlifting in the training room.

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The official lineup card (posted in the clubhouse) from Thursday's game.

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Tony Oliva, never one to shy away from a conversation, gives an Ole player some advice.

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Starting pitcher Joe Mays warms up in the bullpen.

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The rest of the available pitchers for the game sit in the bullpen.

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Shannon Stewart makes his way onto the field right before gametime.

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A wide view of Hammond Stadium.

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The view of the action from the press box.

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Dan Gladden and Herb Carneal as they broadcast the game on WCCO.

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Juan Castro makes contact during the later innings.

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Terry Tiffee actually scored on Castro's hit.

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Jesse Crain, one of my favorite Twins, gets warm in the bullpen.

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Wouldn't this sign look great in my dorm room?


One Final Word: In case you hadn't heard, Micheal Restovich was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday. It's been a long six years for Resto in the Twins organization, and although I'm sad to see him go, I'm glad he'll finally get the chance to show what he can do in the bigs. I actually saw the Rochester native play back in high school back in 1998, and the 425 foot foul ball he hit at our local high school field in Northfield is actually the stuff of legend around here. Good luck, Resto. I wish you nothing but the best.