Siberian Baseball

Friday, May 26, 2006

Youth not being wasted on the young

Francisco Liriano for the Twins.

Felix Hernandez for the Mariners.

This is the reason I got season tickets. This is the reason I swapped for all the Mariners games I could get my hands on. This is the reason I'm a big baseball fan.

I'm so excited I might leave early for BP.

All of this and I can't find a single person to go to the game with me?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Big Skirt goes yard twice

Topping the ESPN in-game highlights right now is Frank Thomas stepping and knocking the crap out of the ball in Chicago (Twice! Twice!).

Good for him.

One of the signs of how good things are going for the White Sox? It seems most of the folks in attendance agree with me. It's hard to tell without sound, but there were an awful lot of smiles in the bleachers tonight.

Yeah, it's shaping up to be another good year on the South Side.

Seeing that reminded me of being in the Metrodome last summer and seeing David Ortiz slugging away in BP. After he'd peppered the upper deck for a few minutes, hitting the reired number banners, the overall vibe was undoubtedly, "Why can't we sign guys like thaaaa... shit."

Not that Ortiz was the monster he is today in Minnesota - his last three seasons saw home run counts of 10, 18 and 20 - but you could make a case that the Twins should have seen the hand writing on the wall - in that same span he had OBP numbers of .364, .324 and .339 and slugging percentages of .446, .475 and .500 - and maybe waited to see what he could do in the next two or three seasons.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Good for Thomas. I understand why the move was made and he'd have no real spot in the lineup (plus his numbers aren't so great for Oakland this year) but it's always a little more fun to see someone light up their old team's pitching staff, especially when you don't give a damn about the teams involved.
  • Speaking of Ortiz, he has 3 RBI through seven innings tonight, matching Manny Ramirez's RBI total against the Yankees. This is why Ramirez was a amjor piece to bring back, despite his offseason bitching and assorted Ramire-zaniness. Screw the Manny being Manny garbage, but forcing pitchers to give Ortiz something to hit is one of those things you can't really quantify in the box scores or on paper.

    Take Ortiz, leave him in Minnesota and I bet his numbers don't explode the way they have in Boston. Call it a hunch, but batting Torii Hunter or Lew Ford after Ortiz doesn't really scare teams into throwing to a slugger.

    I know, it's crazy. The point is that without two big bats in your lineup, just having one doesn't do you much good in the long run.
  • Maybe Rick Sutcliffe is still a little woozy from his hard weekend last week, but when they ran the ESPN graphic of frontrunners for the AL Rookie of the Year, his comment about Francisco Liriano was that he'd make a good run if he breaks into the Twins rotation.

    ... Uh, kinda like he did last week, Rick? I don't care if you're hung over, you still need to pay attention while you sit bleary-eyed on your couch watching SportsCenter before Teletubbies.

    As a child I sat and watched Harry Caray literally every day during the summer, so I don't expect much from my announcers. I just ask that if you're going to speak at least be factual. Especially with prepared stats and graphics packages. Or, just take Harry's lead and don't say a damn thing for five, ten minutes at a time.

    Oh, and for the record, Liriano spelled backwards is Ona-ir-il... Onnnna-ear-rill! Onairil... Unassisted triple play there, back after these words from our good friends at Budweiser.
  • Kerry Wood is ready for Tuesday's start, according to Great, maybe that was the problem last week. He just wasn't ready yet.

    Yeah, that's the ticket...
  • What the hell is going on in Detroit?

    How long before we have to ask - legitimately, mind you - "Are the Tigers for real?"

    Every year one team rockets out of the gate and falls off by July (see the 2005 Baltimore Orioles) and the Tigers definitely fit the bill there, but really? The Tigers?

    A game up on the White Sox with a series in Kansas City is a great place to be if you're a Tigers fan (the Tigers fan?)

    Now there's a really, really awful team. I need to start picking on them - some of the Rays fans more than know their stuff. Some of Kansas City is unaware that they have a major league team in their hometown. (Just playing with you, Rays Index - someday when I strike it rich, I'm buying you a Cleveland Spiders jersey).

  • Cripple fight! (part II) - Cubs vs. Marlins Tuesday night for Game 2 of the series. Call me crazy, but I'll go see Johan Santana square off against the Tribe instead.

There, made it through the whole post without making a cheap joke about "Wang" playing for the "Yanks." Somehow that pairing means all is right with the universe.

(Photos from / /

Saturday, May 20, 2006

WWE Interleague Edition

Call me naive, but it took until I was in my mid-20s - OK, last year - when I realized that baseball teams can be done for the season before most of us even start thinking about the All-Star Game.

Fittingly, it was Ryne Sandberg's "autobiography" that gave the Cubs' June swoon more gravity that it had ever had before. I'd always assumed that pure pride would keep a team competitive until at least July, but Ryno set me straight. That, and the Shawon Dunston vs. Nolan Ryan story is the only reason to pick that steaming pile off a used bookshelf.

Something tells me that the 2006 Cubs are done, regardless of what happens with Derek Lee and Kerry Wood. Don't even get me started on Mark Prior.

It's a tough call in the NL Central - if they can stay within striking distance until they get Lee back, they might be able to pull off a miracle, but when have the Cubs ever been known for overcoming the odds?


At least someone jacked AJ Pierzinski in his anti-chin. I think the rest of the season may be a letdown after that. Even before he joined the Southsiders just looking at him made me kind of angry.

I'm just shocked that there was on-field violence not involving a fan - That's got to be some sort of record for the Cell, right?

* I can't think of a funnier tradition than snubbing a guy for his first home run. Boston pitcher Josh Beckett, who looked like a newborn calf for his first few at-bats made contact in the seventh and somehow hit a homer.

He got back to the dugout and the bench held tight for a good 30 seconds before Curt Schilling lost it and the team mobbed him with hugs and high fives.

Pure comedy.

* The Babe has company with Bonds now tied at 714 career home runs. I would have been OK with walking him until his sub-par fielding and elderly knees drove him out, but statistically, it was bound to happen.

Good for you, Barry. Now go away.

* Cripple fight!

The Devil Rays (18-24) and Marlins (11-29) go at it again tomorrow at 12:15 pm CST.

I can only imagine tickets are still available. This is the downside of interleague play. Some don't work (Braves vs. Diamondbacks), some are pretty boring (Twins vs. Brewers) and some just fade into the swampy haze (see above).

* And finally, how funny is interleague play when pitchers who haven't seen live pitches since high school have to pick up a bat and try to not look foolish. It's one thing to be the ninth guy in the order, it's another thing to have to shake off the rust to try and compete.

Second only to this are designated hitters forced into the field at first to get into the lineup. If things didn't go well, I think the Red Sox had instructions to try rolling the ball over to first to help out David Ortiz.

(Image from

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Twins miss the boat on the Big Train

Walter Perry Johnson.

417 career wins.

5,914 innings pitched.

A 2.17 lifetime ERA.

The Big Train.

Twins career wins leader? What the fuck?

In my ongoing secret, but nonetheless scarring battle with the Metrodome scoreboard, the idiot board has struck again. Before the last White Sox game we saw Saturday, the Big Train's name popped up as the Twins' career leader in several categories.

"Walter Johnson played for the Twins?" the Girl asked.

"No," I grumbled "... They're just idiots."

Here's the thing - the Twins have a very legitimate claim to Johnson and his records. When the Twins were "founded" in 1961, they were a transplanted version of the Washington Senators. Harmon Killebrew was on the Senators from 1954 to the move six years later. Jim Kaat was also a Senator who made the switch. Obviously, 20 or 30 who-dat's and other also-ran's made the switch, too, but those two names stand out among the rest.

My question? Why count him as a.) the Twins career leader when he died 14 years before the switch and b.) If you consider him part of the franchise for wins, why is his number not retired?

The second question is easy in theory - no numbers were used then, but why no mention of him anywhere?

Here's the list of retired numbers: Killebrew (3); Tony Oliva (6); Rod Carew (29); Kent Hrbek (14); and Kirby Puckett (34). With just a quick pass through, I also found Joe Cronin, Tris Speaker and Bull Durham were former Senators.

You guessed it, no mention of them in the Metrodome, either.

My point is that if you're already recognizing Washington players as career leaders, why not go the extra two feet and formally bring them in under the Twins umbrella. They have an ironclad claim to those former players, moreso than the new Nationals or the second coming of the Sens who moved to Texas to become the Rangers (managed first by Ted Williams).

It just makes no sense to me. Right now two of the greatest players the game has seen have no final farewell when all it would take would be to hang a few extra banners in the seats no one sits in anyways... OK, the seats no one is in in the upper deck... and in right center field.

Had the Twins denied any knowledge of their previous incarnation, it's one thing. But to list old players from Washington on their history page and then not claim Johnson or Speaker as their own makes no sense based only on the fact that they had no real numbers to retire.

Granted, Speaker only played one year (in 1927) but when Johnson, who is arguably one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball history, played wire to wire (from 1907 to 1927) for Washington, why is his banner not up next to Puckett or Hrbek?

With all due respect, neither one of those guys will be top 10 in anything except to get in line at a free buffet.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The case for moderate respect

It took a little while (maybe a week or so) before the Twins figured out how to quit creating a mini-circus during their seventh-inning Kirby Puckett tribute each game.

You see, the giant bear and his t-shirt cannon come back for round two in the middle of the seventh and after the opening night mess, they have been bringing the bear out an inning earlier since.

Good call.

Now they don't have Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World punctuated by the dull "fwoomp" of the compressed air cannon. Just adds a little class to the whole shooting match.

Other quick thoughts from last night's comeback win against the White Sox:

* I had to call The Tank in the middle of the game when Ozzie Guillen got run for arguing with the umps. I'd said a few innings earlier that I wanted to see Ozzie get the boot, just once.

I got my wish.

I also enjoyed that crappy "Nah-nah, hey-hey goodbye" song being played as he headed to the showers. Almost as good as starter Javier Vazquez getting chased from the game to Had a Bad Day. Way to be, audio guy. Way to be.

* Rondell White had two hits, including a double last night. His cleats are en route to Cooperstown, his urine is being sent to three independent testing labs and we're all being asked by the National Weather Service to watch for pig shit from the flocks of swine that have taken flight in the past 12 hours.

* AJ Pierzinski - Is the only player I've seen out and out booed this year in the Metrodome this season. I have no idea if he was kicking puppies in the dugout throughout the course of the game or what, but the ill will, no chin jokes and booing got worse with every at-bat.

Way to go, Twins fans... you're learning, I guess.

* Francisco Liriano, you're my hero. I'll be checking your contract soon in preparation for a jersey purchase if this keeps up. Just try to keep out of prison in the future, willya?

(Photo from:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Juan Pierre, defender of dead fat guys

I'll admit I haven't been following the Barry Bonds home run chase too closely. It's kind of like hearing your alternator start to go under your hood. You know it'll happen soon and that you won't be too happy when it does, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it.

Knowing that he was one behind tying Babe Ruth going into Tuesday's game against the Cubs didn't sway me one way or another (I'd actually be more inclined to skip a game with Bonds in it than watch it). Seeing Rich Hill get the start was pretty surprising, though. More on that later.

Despite his light-hitting as of late (.172 BA; .273OBP) he redeemed himself in my eyes to end the fifth inning tonight when he made Bonds wait at least another at-bat by picking a near homer at the wall in dead center. Good for him - what's the opposite of a curse? Maybe the Babe will hook us up with that.

Could any other team use a "Benevolent Helping Hand of the Bambino" more than the Cubs? Other than the Royals?

In the imaginary league of my mind, when Pierre left the field after that catch, he smirked and said clearly into his glove, "Fuck you, Juicer... not on my watch."

Back to Hill, it's now the sixth inning as I write this and if he holds on, he's got bigger stones than most rock quarries. Imagine stepping in from the minors and if making it to the bigs wasn't intimidating enough, they stop the game every nine batters to hand you a marked ball in case it's deposited into the outfield stands, tying Babe Ruth's home run record?

Yeah, yikes.

Things that worry me? Two effective pitches from a starting pitcher - a fastball and a big, crazy curve. Things that please me? A left handed starter on the mound - this is big, considering he replaced Glendon Rusch in the rotation.

But hey, Kerry Wood should help shatter attendance records in Iowa this weekend.

Elsewhere in Major League Badminton:

* I'll admit it, I get a kick out of the Giants' announcers. Mike Krukow gets more entertaining the more you watch him. Like the anti-Ken "The Swinger" Harrelson.

I'll admit that the tandem of Duane Kuiper and Krukow was a sideshow for me initially, because of their involvement in the EA Sports series, but they've really grown on me this season. As annoying as Krukow was in last year's game using his catchword, "Meat," when it's used in a live game, it can be pretty entertaining. (When the Cub fan got beaned by the Randy Winn homer, Krukow chimes in with, "Ooooh, not good. Next time bring your glove, Meat." In that case, yes, bring a glove. That was just embarrassing for everyone.)

His gimmick is to "eliminate" fans by covering them with the telestrator - drawing over them for all sorts of crap like hat violations and being a douchebag in a kayak. Good times.

While several color commentators in both leagues make a living circling people (like Minnesota's Bert Blyleven) Krukow enjoys marring fans' images on live TV. Awesome.

(Another strange phenomenon around the league that is tailing off now is making fun of the AFLAC duck as it waddles across the trivia question on FSN broadcasts. Moreso in the first weeks of the season, but it seemed like every announcers was having a cheap laugh at the duck's expense. Leave the duck alone - unless he's out there personally trying to cripple these people. I think this might be a real possibility.)

One thing? Enough with the yahoos in the bay, already. We get it - they ride in canoes with nets. That's great. Stop showing them every 45 seconds. Are things that boring inside the stadium? WGN doesn't sow shot after shot of people on the El platforms at either ballpark, why all of these wet losers?

* I just heard Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano referred to as "The Zombie." Did I miss something? I've never heard that and want to make sure I'm ahead of the pack with this.

If you thought the fake Matt Clement beards were awesome, imagine a few hundred Cubs fans with dark circles around their eyes, moaning and demanding brains. Insert your own early day game/frat boy/hangover jokes here, I'll wait.

* What's up with the lopsided scores tonight?

Initially it was just the Braves slapping the fish 10-2, with the White Sox putting a decent hurt on the Angels. Then, the floodgates opened in New York. By the end of the evening, it looks like this:

ATL 10, FLA 2
CWS 9, LAA 1
BOS 14, NYY 3
MIN 15, TEX 5

Lowly Minnesota and its three road wins beats Texas like the Rangers owed them money for a new stadium. Hell, even the Royals got a 10-spot on the board.

What happened here? Did the new Barry Bonds juiced home run balls get mixed into the gen-pop ball bags?

(On a side note, would there be a better story 10 years from now than if it leaked that Bud Selig introducing weighted balls with a steel core as Bonds' special marked balls? Like a nice, heavy metal so the balls wouldn't leave the park? That'd be phenomenal. If you see a ball fall from the pitcher's hand and hit the mound with a thud like a shot put, you know what's up)

(Photo from /

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The best five bucks I'll ever lose

So Frank the Tank and I have a standing bet on when Minneapolis would break ground on a new baseball stadium for the Twins. The winner gets five bucks and the right to bring up their "rightness" over the loser's "wrongness" for 30 to 40 years.

This is about as good as it gets for us - ask us about the deal we cut with a buddy for 30 bucks in"don't break my legs" cash at a peeler bar, once. It's a doozy.

The Twins have until May 2007 to find a damned shovel for me to take this one and every indication is that I'm going to lose out on this one. Caught between a few major power plays, a candidate for governor and a populace that, on the whole, fails to appreciate major league baseball, the Twins are about out of luck and out of town.

You know what, guys? Call me, I'll help you move. I own a truck and everything.

The overriding sentiment is that the Twins are expendable and all I ever hear is, "If they put that on a ballot, I'll vote against it. I'll also vote for a former smackhead and fail to fund libraries, too." Bottom line? People are pretty passionate about their opposition to paying for a new baseball stadium on the heels of two new football stadiums, too.

While gallons of ink are spilled to speak of tough fan bases in New York, Boston and Philly, how do we miss Minneapolis? Two World Series titles in the past 20 years and three consecutive AL Central titles until last year? Oh, that's what you've done for me lately... Screw that, I don't want to pay another sliver of a percentage on sales tax...

This baffles me. I can't imagine this happening in Chicago, but there they have the benefit of two entrenched franchises I suppose. Oakland, Kansas City, Tampa? Yup, yup and yup for possible moves. Seems like the Twin Cities should be on the bubble for this sort of thing, but they're not.

Still, as sad as I'd be to see baseball leave town and take the rest of the majors with them, I've come around to realize that if a town is too stubborn to give their team a halfway decent home, then by all means, send them somewhere else. The Metrodome is awful. It's cramped, the turf is a joke and the whole thing smells like a foot. It also fails to accommodate fan needs and as we learned leaving Tuesday's game if too many doors are opened at once, the roof deflates - they had security barring the exits and everything.

Also, its got a Nazi roof.

I'm not saying that moving the Browns from Cleveland, the Nordiques from Quebec or the Dodgers from Brooklyn is acceptable in any way, shape or form - just that when a town makes it clear that they don't want to help provide a major-league caliber facility in any sport, it's best that they hit the road.

Las Vegas Twins, where can I buy a hat? Considering the short-sighted ill will and bitterness in town, I'm enjoying the karma of the Twins being the front runner to become the first team in what should prove to be a phenomenal pro sports town. We can even get Pete Rose to manage. I just hope we can transfer our season ticket package.

Here's the thing - Minneapolis/St. Paul has major league teams in hockey (The Wild), basketball... sorta (Timberwolves), football (Vikings) and baseball (Twins). Remove these teams to leave only football and what do you have? Green Bay. Yeah. Not good.

It's a fair comparison. Green Bay has the Weidner Center, Twin Cities have the Guthrie. Green Bay has dormant industry and paper mills, the Twin Cities has dormant industry and a Ford plant. Green Bay is a cold, desolate place where I spent four years, the Twin Cities legally have me bound through next June. I can honestly say that by cherry-picking teams, Minneapolis becomes Green Bay very quickly - a third-class city with slim hopes of making it back up to the second tier.

I say this without the usual dose of Minny-hating venom. This is just the way things are.

You say you hate the Twins and don't watch baseball? Great. You think the cities are fine without them, no problem. Just don't come crying to me when your tax money starts rushing out to cover the loss of jobs when the Vikings move (which they will) and the Gophers get a new field (also a certainty). At least the Twins are fighting to stay within city limits.

How many cents on the dollar will Minneapolis see on a beer sold in Anoka County? Better yet, how many beers do the sell each year at the Guthrie Theater, Science Museum of Minnesota and a barren warehouse district combined? See where this is going?

While most residents are content to subtract Metrodome staff (engineers, ticket takers, cleaning crews, etc.) from their mental ledger, that's the tip of the iceberg. Hotels, restaurants, parking, concessions are all sources of revenue for the state. While concerts every few nights at the Target Center are great, the scope and sheer number of games in a professional baseball season are a cash cow that the city can't afford to pass up.

Let's say that hotels and the like go to half staff in the summer without the Twins in town to fill them. That's lost revenue in taxes paid by both employers and workers in addition to choking out the obvious cash flow. The Vikings are looking to move out of the county with their new home, which leaves the Timberwolves and University of Minnesota athletics to buoy the budget.

For those who argue that the Metrodome can be kept on as a concert venue to replace those dollars, go ask the former employees of the Pontiac Silverdome how that's working out.

Would you rather pay a few cents on every hundred bucks you spend (with millions more paid by out-of-towners at the Mall of America, etc.) or worry about downsizing and a hiccuping local economy as the hospitality industry loses a major revenue source?

In my opinion, it's more than losing a pretty cool small market ballclub and having a dead area where the Dome used to be. I'd rather the team go where it would be appreciated, supported and pull a dedicated fan base. Not every town can be New York, Boston or Chicago with rabid fans, but is it too much to ask for a little respect?

How about just tolerance for a team's existence in the meantime? For the people who brought you "Minnesota Nice" this is a real hatchet job.

(Photos from: The Minnesota Twins / /

Monday, May 01, 2006

All sorts of rods

For those who read Sports Guy on ESPN, here's the A Rod video he'd mentioned last week.

We got you covered like that.

Lassie, come home

Bringing things full circle, the Red Sox have re-acquired Doug Mirabelli to come back to Boston and catch for Tim Wakefield, the knuckleballer I spent a great deal of time on to start the new season.

My arguement was that a knuckleball pitcher is only as good as his catcher and after driving one to retire, it's been pretty ugly since then.

With a glut at the position after picking up Mike Piazza, the Padres were more than happy to send him back for two minor-leaguers and some cash.

As of this afternoon (Wakefield is starting tonight against the Yankees) the stats for Wake stand at 1-4, with a 3.90 ERA, a .231 batting average against him and WHIP of 1.27. Mirabelli is also behind the plate tonight - pretty impressive for a guy who just got off a cross-country flight.

We'll wait and see how those numbers evolve in the next few weeks. Watching Wily Mo Pena right now, I think most of Red Sox Nation is wondering how much the Yanks want for Johnny Damon.