Siberian Baseball

Friday, June 29, 2007

The ongoing Deadspin tussle

It started innocently enough with a post on Stop Mike Lupica, asking why some blogs or outright sports sites get more love from than others.

When I read the headline on, I pretty much expected a tongue-in-cheek article, probably in the same vein as the title, "Who has been buying Will Leitch drinks?" It hasn't been that easy.

Well, some of the writers involved as examples of sub-par posts that Deadspin chose to run with took offense and - as happens more often than not - the whole thing took on a life of its own with comments sections getting a little heated and this response from The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes.

Luckily, this site is still under everyone's radar, but for what it's worth, I'm coming down on the side of commenters like Tearjerk Spotter whose advice boils down to "Write better material."

In the course of a week, I've been tentatively declined for a stock photo site ( for pictures that they would like to see retaken and I'm working on doing just that. While it stings that I feel my three sample shots were head and shoulders above some of the images I've seen there, I know that I'm also capable of better quality, so I'll go back to it with my camera and have a stronger showing in a week or so.

I've been pretty lucky in terms of the Deadspin love, with some shared link dump attention and a post of my very own (sigh) last week, which drove traffic here through the roof and gave me more confidence that I'm on the right track.

I've only been ignored once in the past by the New Yorkers, so it's a pretty hard to find fault with their selection process, but I'm also very careful about what I send them. When I'm just messing around, having fun at the expense of the White Sox or my pal Rondell White, I usually just keep that to myself or see what Ballhype's community thinks.

I don't get all bent out of shape when I send an e-mail and nothing goes up. While I don't think that all of Deadspin's decisions are winners, I do appreciate the fact that there are plenty of submissions headed to their inbox and that personal preference, what has been on the site recently, what the community is most likely to sink their teeth into in the comments section and even what type of a mood they're in when they check in on the link are all factors in what actually appears at their site.

At the risk of deepening the case against me as a Deadspin apologist or suck up, it does come down to those two words- their site.

Just as I will ignore some blogs here because I don't think they're very good or can appreciate what someone has to say, I don't like everything I read, either and make decisions based on my own set of standards.

There are also some posts that just aren't consistent with the style of this site or I flat out disagree with. In those cases you can make the decision to link to a site and rip away at what you see as their flawed logic, but I prefer to try and stay positive with regards to the blogging community as a whole.

In the meantime, I think the best advice is the same as was offered above - write better material.

(Image from:


Thursday, June 28, 2007

That was kind of embarrassing

If Craig Biggio wanted to make his 3,000th hit memorable, he certainly hit his target.

After a single to center, Biggio decided to push his luck and try for second, where he was unceremoniously thrown out by a Wily Taveras strike to Troy Tulowitzki.

Way to go, Jose Cruz... Just keep him at first, man - Biggio's not as young as he used to be.

It was The Girl who caught Tulowitzki's apparent apology to Biggio before all hell broke loose and Cruz started trying to hunt for the ball - let's hope we don't have a Mientkiewicz situation on our hands here.

Bonus points for bringing Jeff Bagwell out to the field to share some of the applause, that was a pretty classy move by Biggio.

Congrats and welcome to the 3,000 Hit Club.

(Image from


Torii Hunter doesn't have a gut

Just to piggyback a bit off the big media in the Twin Cities, Torii Hunter broke the constant drone of Kevin Garnett trade rumors yesterday with this interview on Dan Barreiro's show on KFAN - see how easy that is to give a little credit? And on the Internet, no less.

LaVelle E. Neal III from the Star-Tribune had this story this morning and broke it down nicely, but the door is definitely open for Hunter to return with a new contract next year. Whether the Twins pursue this now or at the end of the season is up to them, but Hunter's comments about his love of the team and the city should speak volumes to the fans who are starting to ask the "Will he or won't he?" questions about his future in Minneapolis.

Hunter went out and cranked two homers in today's game against the Blue Jays, so he seems to be just fine with the level of uncertainty about where he'll be next year.

It's worth noting that he mentions at the end of the interview that sooner is better than later for a deal, but from everything I've heard this season and last, Hunter would be willing to employ the hometown discount to stay in Minnesota.

There's something to be said for being the face of the franchise and as a friend at work pointed out, he was taken under Kirby Puckett's wing as a younger player and Puckett was a one-team player for his career. That continuity appears to be important to Hunter and he's made comments in the past about the differences between the Yankee clubhouse and others, so he's aware of the pulse around the league, which should work in Minnesota's favor.

These discussions were had last summer as well, with Hunter returning from injury and heating up for the playoff race and eventually playing a crucial role in the Twins' first-round exit in the fall. The Twins picked up the option on his contract after rumors of a trade to the Yankees in July and August and fans have been keeping an eye on him since Spring Training this year.

Honestly, if I'm the Twins I hold onto Hunter like the Cubs did with Ryne Sandberg and the Padres did with Tony Gwynn because at the very least, he provides a good example for the young players coming in. The big difference is the vocal presence that Hunter provides in the clubhouse as well.

From Hunter's reactions, he'd have no problem holding on to that same jersey for the rest of his career.

(Image from:


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day Baseball

I look at the out of town scoreboards and see a few getaway day games slated for the afternoon and it makes me glad summer is here.

In contrast, the 90-degree, elderly-scaring high-humidity day we saw yesterday in the Twin Cities made me realize summer was here. Not very happy about it, mind you, but very aware.

This dovetailed nicely with a quick chat I had with a friend at work about day baseball and the wonder that is green grass and fresh air. While I can't remember the year, day or team, I can remember the first time I saw the playing field at Wrigley.

Honestly, I'm not sure if I really remember it or if I've just seen the field so many times since then that I've been able to patch things together since then, but it's a real enough memory to make me smile in January and I see the season starting to slowly gain steam.

Regardless, today is a day that was made for baseball and with groundbreaking slated for August to get the ball rolling on the new ballpark, there's a whole generation of fans who haven't seen games on grass or free from the ball mall that is the Metrodome and that's a shame.

A word of advice, though - keep in mind that outdoor parks have a new set of hazzards unto themselves. When you tell your boss you're sick and won't come back after lunch, make sure you have plenty of sunscreen.

No one gets sunburned on a sick day, dummy.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)


Monday, June 25, 2007

Because you can't pull fat

I guess I was in a little bit of denial about the death of Rod Beck.

I saw the story yesterday morning. I watched updates pile up on Deadspin - tagged "Too Young" - as well as the home papers in Chicago and Boston and still couldn't find much to say.

For a guy I never met, I didn't think this would be such a strange few days. From odd duck quote machine in San Francisco to good luck charm for the 1998 Cubs to a guy who pitched his arm into retirement for the Red Sox, it was a pretty entertaining run.

How many other athletes can you think of that prompt e-mails in the middle of a work day regarding his now famous stay in Iowa, living in a trailer and hanging out with fans?

The stories are better left for people who hung out with him and got to see him in his prime and in his element. Honestly, I'm going to be ignoring whatever is found regarding his death because I really don't want to know.

I'd much rather remember 1998 and a guy who looked like a grammar school gym teacher helping to take the Cubs to the playoffs. Or the man who made the phrase, "I've never heard of anyone going on the DL for pulled fat" famous.

Now, I'll remember a chuckle I just got when looking for a picture to post and an exact quote from Beck. By entering, "Beck, pulled fat" into Google, it suggests, "Did you mean, 'Beck, played fat?'"

Well, that, too.

(Image from

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

This is getting out of hand.

See the guy to the right?

That's Rondell White - sometimes Twins player, fill-in designated hitter, easy punchline here at Siberian Baseball and injured since April.

You can look it up anywhere, even the Twins site - the last game White played was April 4. He was hitting a blistering one-for-nine when he left the lineup. Oh, and two RBI.

Rondell was on pace to hit no homers for the year before he was cut down by injury.

OK, look to the right now.

See all the Twins the team is trying to get us to vote for in the All-Star Game? Because there they all are - Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Nick Punto... Wait, Nick Punto, really? Punto's probably not even the best third baseman in the state when you consider beer leagues and Division III colleges.

Oh, shit - that's White, too! Right at the top! In a picture from an e-mail from this week! And on the Web site!

What the hell is going on?

Not since Nomar Garciaparra was leading voting despite tearing apart his groin on national television - everyone saw it happen, stop voting for the guy - have I been this worked up.

I don't remember things being this out of whack last season. Sure there are weird spikes for Japanese players and those aided by the East Coast (Yankees/Red Sox) bias, but this is out of hand.

If you're trying to put your guy over the top in a close outfielder race or if you have a young star - Like Mauer versus Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada last season - then go ahead and push for your guys from the front office.

When you're just listing your roster, including players who haven't seen the field since the third day of the season and a few who wouldn't make the All-Star team in your division, that's over the line.

I know lots of guys are hurt this year, but let's try and be a little more realistic in the future, shall we?

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Don't bother heckling Cuddyer... he can't hear you

As part of a fairly snarky "Know your Twins" type of bit on KFAN this week, I found out that right fielder Michael Cuddyer is deaf in his left ear.

According to Stan McNeal's Sporting News write up on Yahoo! Sports:

You have to pay close attention to know he's deaf in his left ear, the result of a childhood virus. When filling out paperwork after being drafted, he checked "no" by the line asking if he had any hearing problems. "It wasn't a problem," he told reporters. "It isn't a problem."

As a partial season ticket owner on the right field line this year, that got me thinking - if he really, really stunk up the joint one night, to the point where the natives got restless, would he even care?

Or notice?

I'm thinking this is more of a strength than a liability for a major league right fielder.

Obviously, it has to be easier for him to play right field, where his "good" ear in facing his center and right fielders. Whether this is a concern of the manager is up for interpretation, but in his career, Cuddyer has three starts in left and 262 in right.

In addition, he's started 24, 46 and 137 games at first, second and third base, respectively. With reaction-based positions - like third - it's probably not as important, but in terms of avoiding collisions with a roaming center fielder, it's not the worst idea for the Twins to put him in right.

At the very least, it keeps an army of bloggers and callers to talk radio from speculating about why a catch was or wasn't made. Seeing as he's leading all outfielders this year with 14 assists, I think most fans are OK with Cuddyer.

You don't need stereo sound to rifle down to first to double up a runner.

(Image from


Friday, June 22, 2007

Boston, here I come

Flights from Minneapolis are a tad more expensive than I'm used to.

Flying out of a hub like O'Hare really helps keep the price down, but a flight from here to Chicago, Chicago to Boston, transportation, hotel and game tickets are a small - nearly insignificant, really - price to pay to see a monkey throw out the first pitch at Fenway.

Again. To see a monkey throw the first pitch out at Fenway, again.

I missed out the first time and I'll be damned if it's going to happen again.

Thanks to With Leather for drawing attention to this, probably causing a rush on tickets in the process. So, I guess in reality that's a thanks for crushing my dream.

(Image from


Thursday, June 21, 2007

... And Shooter McGavin as the Yankee Clipper

Following a link off of another site today for the upcoming ESPN miniseries The Bronx is Burning - don't worry, I haven't seen any advertising for it yet either, but I'm willing to bet that ESPN will more than remedy that in the next four days - I stumbled across something wonderful.

In addition to having Oliver Platt playing who I assume to be Steinbrenner from the official site's cover art, I kept scolling down to see who'd be playing the leads as the 1977 Yankees, I kept needing to click to see who was who.

Needless to say, I stopped when I saw Joe DiMaggio being played by Christoper McDonald, the handsome gentleman pictured to the right and best known as Shooter McGavin.

Having played Mel Allen in 61* - and doing a god job there - I can't see why this won't work, especially playing an aging Joe D. I mean, it's not like they need McDonald to play center while the camera rolls or anything.

Still, I'll be sitting and waiting for that turning point in the season when DiMaggio called Billy Martin (as played by John Turturro) to gather the team together before a tough series in July. It was there, gathered under the seats of Yankee Stadium, where he looked every man on the team in the eye and told them, "I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast."

(Image from:


Monday, June 18, 2007

South Side Board of Tourism

I'd heard about these commercials from my dad and brother-in-law, but hadn't seen them until I was watching the White Sox game tonight.

Thanks to the South Side of Chicago Board of Tourism, there's all sorts of comedy to be found right up until you actually click a link and get sent to the official White Sox site. Then it gets less fun quickly.

I'd also like to point out three things here:

1.) The Sox site proclaims, "We are Chicago baseball" across it's banner
2.) This year's Cubs team will be more than willing to punch you for saying that - it's been two days since their last fight
3.) Most Cubs fans will never, ever look at the White Sox site or even, so points one and two don't really matter

Still, kill a few minutes watching the commercials if you're an out-of-towner or just want a cheap laugh after you've lived or worked on the South Side.

I think my favorite page on the site is answering the question, "Is the South Side in another time zone like Michigan?"

The answer: Contrary to popular perception, the Southside is most assuredly not in a different time zone. Central Daylight Time is adhered to as rigidly down here as it is in the rest of Chicago. Regional anomalies, such as having a winning baseball team, have lead to a perception that the Southside is much further away than it actually is.


(FYI, your Chicago White Sox - Fourth Place, 2-8 in the last 10 games as of 8:30 p.m. tonight).

(Image from:

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

At least they're attacking the other team now

Good for Derrek Lee, setting the new standard for the Cubs and going after the opposition for a change. At least there's more room to throw wild, haymakers that are so far from their target it would make WWE wrestlers blush.

Frank the Tank called within 15 seconds of the initial swings to make sure I was watching this touchstone moment in Chicago Cubs history. Truth be told, I think he wanted to make sure I saw the franchise player break his wrist for the second time in as many years, should one of those punches actually land.

(* Side note: Frankie is back this week and poses this to his readers:

The selling radio station owner didn’t think the Twin Cities area had “enough of a black population to support the station’s format”. C’mon, there’s got to be at least five or six black people that live in Minneapolis other than the members of the Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings, right? Anyone? As for Carl Pohlad getting into the hip-hop game, I’ll let Minneapolis Red Sox comment on that one.

To which I say, is this the face of modern hip-hop? Yes, a thousand times, yes. Carl is in the heezy... well, maybe the nursing heezy.)

So, two big guys swung like a bunch of giraffes and no one was injured, but I'm still cursing TiVo for not having a Vista-friendly app to let me rip TV to the blog right now.

When you watch this "fight" over and again on YouTube later, watch for two high points.

1.) I'm pretty sure that's Michael Barrett who trips Sweet Lou in the middle of the fracas.
2.) What the hell was Zambrano doing before the dust up? Considering he's been publicly chastised for his *ahem* excessive Internet usage, it doesn't look good when he runs out with his pants falling off. I'm waiting for word that he was in the can when he heard the crowd go off. That would capture the 2007 Cubs for me in a big way.

I suppose this will work, too

Mark my words - If I need to create a "Fistfights involving the Cubs" tab for posts, someone at 1060 W. Addison is getting an angry letter from me. I'm writing it in my head right now.

(Photo from


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Don't call it a comeback

I usually shy away from traditional "link dump" posts on both the blogs because if I ever got started, lazy would become the word of the year around here.

For a really good link, I'll make the exception.

Thanks to the incomparable Ballhype, I came across a New York Times article about Kerry Wood's rehab and it's wildly different than I'd been led to believe by the Heckler. Let me take a breath, that was a lot of cyber-name dropping for me.

So, Wood is in Arizona working to come back to the majors and between the story and the multimedia presentation, I dare you not to start pulling for the guy, unless you have a small, cold, White Sox supporting heart.

The really interesting part was the time spent on digging up who was "really" to blame for his spectacular flame out. I tend to think that regardless of who would have stepped up to tell Wood to change his throwing motion, he would have blown them off and he says as much.

As an added bonus, enjoy watching all of your favorite pitchers after reading this story (at least watch the quick video... please?). You'll swear they are all a few pitches away from disaster.

As a bonus, here's a pretty clever posting on English to SABR from a few weeks back. Just like Wood, it's time for a fresh start.

(Photo from

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Sweet Jesus, get her out of there

Ever been to a ballgame?

Kellie Pickler hasn't.

Ever been to a ballgame with a friend who's trying to sleep with a girl who will never shut up and has no idea what's going on / Ever seen a game from the Wrigley Field bleachers?

Then you know the hell all Cubs fans are suffering through right this very minute.

You see, it's country music night at the ballpark and the way it works, whoever sings the Take Me Out to the Ballgame gets the bottom of the inning to chat with Bob Brenley and Len Kasper. Larry the Cable Guy was last night's guest and it wasn't even Country Night.

There is no way she is this dumb, Southern or oblivious to the world around her. She seemed genuinely shocked at the number of people at a professional sporting event. For all intents and purposes, they might as well have put a hyperactive child with ADD in the booth and had him freebase sugarcane.

Compounding the problem are the announcers, pandering to her. If they're just egging her on because they can't believe how dumb she sounds, I owe them more credit. More likely, though, is that Kasper is sleeping on the couch tonight for his, "I'll teach you baseball, Sweetheart" routine.

Among the gems tonight:

"They should have a baseball team called The Pickles."

"They call that the outfield, right? Sometimes I get that mixed up with racing. 'Cause you know, because we have an infield in racin' but you don't go camp out on the baseball field."

When it was pointed out she had red high heels on, "It's great, because they match the jersey!"

"This is good popcorn!"

In all fairness, most of the guests who sing wouldn't bat an eye at an unassisted triple play and would keep plugging their movie/record/new fragrance as the broadcast crew sputtered with delight, but this was over the line.

I think there should be a simple rule, where if you screw up the song, you get no face time in the booth (unless you're Ditka, because he's just a riot).

"I almost said Apple Jacks instead of Cracker Jacks," said Pickler. (She did biff the peanuts and Cracker Jacks line, asking for popcorn, instead). She capped her half inning with, "They don't sell milk at ballgames do they? Wouldn't go good with the beer, would it?"

No, sweetie, it wouldn't. Now take you popcorn and beat it. It's enough to make you nostalgic for Larry the Cable Guy.

(Image from

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Well, that was strange

Much like my constant crowing for a passable DH in Minnesota, I rarely shut up regarding the need for the Cubs to find (or pay for) a front-line closer.

When the dust settled on Ryan Dempster's outing in Atlanta tonight, it was one inning pitched, three runs, all earned with three hits and three walks. (I'm still double checking that line because - while I'm seeing it in two places - it still looks so damn strange.)

It was a weird game and a weird loss, but it wasn't a lot of fun to see things go downhill so quickly. It really doesn't make me feel any better to see the trainer out there after the slider that got away for the go-ahead run, either.

Between the birds at the Tigers game and the Royals (yes, the Royals) blowing the doors off the Phillies 17-5, I think it's best if I go lie down now.

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Thanks for nothing, Band Mom

The Twins have a larger percentage of local high school marching bands and choirs for the national anthem than I am used to.

I'm not asking for Marvin Gaye every night, but it seems at time like there's a clockwise rotation around the Twin Cities where if you want a spot on the field, you're welcome to it. Prince can only do the anthem so many times, I suppose.

Normally, once the pitchers start warming up in the bullpens, security shoos away the looky-loos so that folks who actually paid for the seats can see what's going on. The exception was apparently during the Red Sox series.

As I was going through and editing, deleting and basking in the pictures I took while Curt Schilling was warming up, I was driven nuts all over again.

The reason? Band Mom.

She'd managed to convince security that she should be at the bottom of the aisle to see her kid(s?) march onto the field. Apparently, the team-provided photographer wasn't good enough for her.

She appeared in roughly half of the pictures and since I saw her early, I framed most of the shots so that I could cut her out later. She was uncuttable in a few. I wouldn't care, but she was dead in the way for any decent shot where I could catch the back of the jersey with the name plate.


So, here's to you, lady. We're happy your kid is the fourth trumpet and hope it was worth being in everyone's way to commemorate the day they stood on that sacred carpeting and played to a crowd that forgot where the high school was as soon as they were announced.

I'll never forget you.

(Photos from MinneapolisRedSox for Siberian Baseball and ruined by Band Mom)


Twins Territory Update - Hitting

The second half of the double-headed monster that is holding back the Twins is a lack of offensive production to start the season.

Injuries to Joe Mauer, Jeff Cirillo, Rondell White and others have smothered the offense at times and it's to the point that even Johan Santana is at .500 for the season. Let's take a look at his season so far, given he's the new gold standard for pitchers - if he's at .500, what chance do any of the Twins' other arms have?

The breakdown looks like this:

4 ER - 2-2
3 ER - 0-1, 1 no decision
2 ER - 0-3,
1 ER - 3-0
0 ER - 1-0

In other words, if you're looking for a win from the team with the AL batting champion, AL MVP and a center fielder known for hitting for power (comparitively) you'll need the perennial Cy Young winner on the mound, hopefully giving up a run or less.

Just for giggles, let's check out Carlos Silva - at the other end of the ERA spectrum, but one of the only other pitchers who's started consistently for the big club.

7 ER - 0-2
5 ER - 0-1
3 ER - 2-1, 1 no decision
2 ER - 1-0
1 ER - 0-2

While you shouldn't need to outslug teams to rack up five, six or seven runs every night, the run support being shown is pretty weak. While teams tend to lean a bit more on their aces for wins and other pitchers seem downright unlucky when it comes to run support, this helps to highlight the power outages seen in Metrodome.

Sure, Mauer has been out and came back this weekend, but when you're waiting patiently for Cirillo and White to return, it's not like plugging Albert Pujols back into the lineup.

This has been my pet theory for two years now - with the talent on this team and a new ballpark in the works, there's no good reason why the Twins should shy away from signing a big bat to get steady work as a DH.

Right now, it's almost like filling the utility spot on your fantasy team. I understand the small-market mentality, but that doesn't mean that being clever is going to dig the Twins out of that hole.

Frank Thomas was available for pennies on the dollar last year when he signed with Oakland. National league vets are looking to play out the string yearly (Jim Thome springs to mind). There's no good reason why Minnesota can't trick someone into coming for a visit before the snow falls in October and get them to sign on for a few years as a solid DH.

Meanwhile, the Twins lack power from traditional spots in the order, mainly at third (Nick Punto, who makes Little League managers scream in disgust as he slides headfirst into first base on a weekly basis) and in the outfield, where Torii Hunter is flanked by Michael Cuddyer and a rotating cast of Jason Tyner, Jason Kubel and Lew Ford.

When you're hoping for career years every season - like they got in 2006 from Punto and the Piranhas - that's a simple recipe for failure. So far it's only good for 29-31 and third in the AL Central.

(Note: In my Sunday surfing, I'm not the only one who's noticed the recent skid for Minnesota. Not that it's difficult to see or anything, but still.)

(Photo from MinneapolisRedSox for Siberian Baseball)

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Friday, June 08, 2007

I bet you Vin is proud

My favorite announcer of all time is Vin Scully.

Call me old school, but I really look forward to his broadcasts because he'll always add something to the games, regardless of the quality of the play that day.

Whether it's some insight from years of calling ballgames, little things he'll do to make the games more fun or the behind the scenes input he'll add in, I could watch two last place teams phone it in as long as Scully is the one with the coverage.

One of the small things you'll notice without really noticing is that Scully won't openly root for the home team while he calls a game. I'd read somewhere - I think it was the Sports Illustrated compilation on baseball writing - that the decision to not make a scene over the performance of the home team was a conscious decision.

This was a carry over from working the New York market at a time when the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers were all "local" clubs and he was wary about alienating anyone listening on the radio that day.

I was reminded of this tonight during the Red Sox / Diamondbacks game when a play in the bottom of the third got an interesting response from the crew working the game for Arizona.

Daron Sutton and Matt Williams watched as Chris Snyder hit a roller up between the first and second basemen for the Red Sox and Alberto Callaspo advanced to second and swung a wiiiide turn towards third.

JD Drew threw in to Julio Lugo at second, who couldn't catch Callaspo, who slid back to put runners at first and second. The only problem is that when Callaspo stood up to brush himself off, he never called time with the ump.

Lugo watched and waited and when Callaspo stood off the bag to knock the dirt off his uniform, he tagged him out.

Instead of calling it a bush league trick play or bellyaching about it, Sutton and Williams called it a little more evenly, cited a need for the younger Diamondbacks to be more alert and used the whole play to reframe their ongoing storyline of how the Sox - though unconventional personality-wise - make sure they are prepared for the games and execute well.

I'm more than burned out on Hawk Harrelson and Ron Santo in the Chicago market peddling their shtick as unabashed homers, especially when I hear the Arizona crew get back to basics like this.

As Don Sutton's son, I'm thinking there's a conscious decision made here as well. Considering how goofy the D-backs booth has been in the two and a half years I've had the baseball package, this is a nice touch.

Nice work by the most recent addition to the Arizona booth.

(Photo from:


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Your National League fantasy tip of the day

Two words - Edwin Encarnacion.

His numbers for the year - with time off for a stint in AAA because of a reported run-in with his manager and sub-par fielding in the bigs - read pretty well.

He's 43 for 149 (batting .290/slugging .352) with 3 homers, 19 runs and 23 RBI. Nothing to write home about, until you see that in the past month he's batting .338 with an OBP of .419 and slugging .508 (9 runs, 2 HR, 9 RBI).

You could do worse for a third baseman in the NL if you're in a pinch.

I only mention this because he went 4-for-4 tonight with a homer a run and 3 RBI. I look forward to seeing him on SportsCenter in the morning.

(Photo from:

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One out away.

The smart fan inside me says it was a good stop of a losing skid in a win the Red Sox needed in a bad way.

The knucklehead sheep fan says, "Sunnuvabitch!"

I thought this bit from the Boston Globe about shaking off catcher Jason Varitek was pretty interesting, though:

"We get two outs, and I was sure, and I had a plan, and I shook Tek off," Schilling said. "And I get a big `What if?' for the rest of my life."

It was not the first time a Boston pitcher shook off Varitek in the ninth inning only to see a no-hitter get broken up. Pedro Martinez did it Aug. 29, 2000, against Tampa Bay, giving up a single to John Flaherty on a fastball instead of the curve that Varitek called for.

Hey guys, start listening to your catcher, especially if they're the captain.

(Image from

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Twins Territory Update - Pitching

What a difference a year makes.

Last season was my first full one I'd spent in Minnesota and it gave me a little rosier view of the Twins organization. Nothing has made this clearer than watching the fans eat their young with the disappointing start this year.

I think I was pretty typical in my assessment of the team before the move. In Chicago, you're mildly aware of their presence, they hang around all year, make the playoffs and then make a quick exit. Oh, and every few nights, you'll see Torii Hunter on Web Gems as he bounces off the baggies in the Metrodome.

I was never really sure of how they won - I think a lot of fans fall into that category - they just kept moving along in a sluggish AL Central.

There's really nothing new here this year - let's not forget they got off to a season-crushing slow start last year before the emergence of Justin Morneau and Francisco Liriano - but coupled with injuries and a lack of pitching depth, the Twins are in bad shape here to begin June.

On paper, the lineup isn't comprised of world-beaters, but as a team, there are enough pieces in place - and in the right positions - to contend for the Central title this year and for years to come.

Start with perennial All-Stars in Joe Mauer and Hunter, Johan Santana and Joe Nathan. Add support players in Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and assorted pirhanas and the team should win more than they lose.

But they aren't... So what gives?

Start with some bad timing. In the midst of a slump a few weeks ago, voices of the organization from upper management to team leaders like Hunter, all spoke as one in blaming a lack of hitting on the nights when the pitchers excelled and vice-versa.

They lost seven one-run games going back through April and according to LaVelle E. Neal's game recap this morning, last night's blowout loss was "the fifth time the Twins have given up at least 10 runs in a game this season and the third time in the past three weeks."

In short, the Twins' watertight bullpen of last season is gone. The bigger problem is that so is half of the usable rotation from last season. An injury to Liriano and the retirement of Brad Radke mean that there's a rotation of minor league pitchers and retreads trying to spell the team in between Santana's starts.

Currently, Santana, Boof Bonser and Carlos Silva are the meat of the rotation, with Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz having already washed out. The buzz tends to revolve around the young arms in AAA, with fans hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again and see a Liriano-like spark to help get the team back on track.

Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza lead that charge, with Slowey in the rotation and Garza still waiting for his turn. Scott Baker rounds out the rotation for now, which shouldn't be scaring anyone.

Once the starters are through, the games are handed over to a bullpen that has also seen its share of injuries and isn't seeing the same success as they did last year when a trip to the pen was nearly automatic.

Injuries to Glen Perkins, Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain haven't helped matters. Games are falling apart before being handed over to Joe Nathan. Slumping pitchers that let leads slip or fail to stop the bleeding seem to be more situational, as the Twins are 13th in the majors in ERA this morning with a team ERA of 4.21 (for some perspective, the Padres are at the top at 2.94 and the Devil Rays are last at 5.39).

With more time or less day job, I'd love to break things down by late innings or how many starters are run before the 5th. I suspect that the problems aren't with talent or performance as a whole, but rather blow-ups that tank games for Minnesota. Much like the phenomena of the "big inning" where pitchers get into trouble, I'm betting this is a staff-wide problem.

I'm working on the other side of this equation with the Twins hitters - a glaring problem entering the season in my opinion - but I'm not really buying the "when it rains, it pours" hypothesis advanced in this season's dry spells.

Also, as much as I'd like to see the Twins do well - at least it's easier to move season tickets for a winning team when I'm out of town - I can't see it happening with Santana, Bonser, Silva, Slowey and Baker.

Well, at least without consistient hitting.

(Photo from MinneapolisRedSox for Siberian Baseball)

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

I know you're all sick of Yanks/Sox, bear with me

As much as I hate to admit it, there were better games that could be on ESPN tonight in the place of the Yankees/Red Sox game. For the record, yes I'm getting tired of the Worldwide Leader's decision to air any and all games between the two teams - burning fans out on the teams and their rivalry can't be any good for baseball and it can actually hurt ratings in the fall.

Piling on to the situation is the unending coverage of Alex Rodriguez being stalked by the media in Toronto as he made the rounds with a woman who wasn't his wife - a situation that I think is really out of bounds.

Say what you will about the old media being too chummy with ballplayers, obliterating the lines of journalistic integrity - teams used to foot the bill for reporters to travel on the road with the team and held sway over who each paper chose to cover the games - but there was a strong sense of what happened on the field and the personal lives of players.

I'm reading a Joe DiMaggio biography right now and there have been more than a few references to DiMaggio going in and out of cathouses both in and out of season. I can't imagine the kind of firestorm this would set off today. Whether it was politicians or athletes, there were plenty of things that were seen but not reported and I don't think that's such a bad thing.

Much has been made of social columnists covering the Rodriguez story and not being forced to be around the players and I think that there's a solid point there. While I don't condone what he's being accused of, I don't think it's the media's place to out Rodriguez on the front page.

Maybe I'm a little too old school like that.

* So, how are you enjoying suspension Sunday? Lou Piniella is out until MLB tells him he can come back and play nice after a problem with an ump bump and there were a few other guys getting run as well. None had as much fun as the Mississippi Braves manager did on his way out, though.

That's because it's impossible to have that much fun.

Michael Barrett will not be catching for Carlos Zambrano until those two can settle their differences and will likely be disciplined by the Cubs.

Anyone care to place odds on Gary Sheffield getting a call from Bud Selig's office for his comments to GQ?

* Roger Clemens is running a little late in his return to the Yankees and Barry Bonds is stalling a bit in his chase for Hank Aaron... Awesome, now what will ESPN cover for 35 minutes on SportsCenter? Oh, right... Clemens' injury and Bonds' chase and why neither is going as quickly as planned.

* It's weird to have Milwaukee ahead in the standings - though it happened last year as well - but their recent skid (4-6 in the last 10 games) hasn't done them any damage in the incredibly weak NL Central.

It's a rich get richer situation in most divisions, with the exception of the Diamondbacks who have rattled off a 9-1 streak to catch up for a three-way tie with Los Angeles and San Diego.

Man, the NL West is weird.

In the AL Central, the Indians have cooled a bit and everyone except for the Royals are within 7.5 games of them. More on the Twins mid-week, but they're showing signs of life. Not many, but two signs are technically plural and count as "signs" of life.

* And because he's fine I can say this: Hey Doug, karma sucks. Guess you should have given the ball back after the World Series, huh? Sorry about your sprained cervix.

This is the long, petty way around to pointing out that the Yankees first base problems are only beginning. With the first- and second-string first basemen out for a while, it's been pretty brutal to watch the stiffs New York is trotting out there.

Expect more than a few problems with position play there this week.

(OK, I feel better now - just saw this from With Leather.)
(Image from

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Boy, Michael Barrett sure likes to fight

In the course of a long baseball season, teams that have run so far ahead of the pack that there's precious little to keep their interest, even in May, need to make their own fun.

This is evidenced by the following clips on Bugs & Cranks of the tussle in the Cubs dugout where Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano got into it.

No, wait - this team can't win, has major bullpen problems and really can't afford to lose either of the participants if they want to so much as stay close in the NL Central.

The Tribune is claiming the fight was a result of mounting frustrations in an two-error, 8-5 loss to the Braves this afternoon - just to highlight their point, the online photo gallery features fight photos and shots of players missing balls.

At least they were sent to neutral corners until things had cooled off... Wait, they were both allowed in the clubhouse at the same time and there was a second act according to Lou Piniella? Jesus, can't the Cubs do anything right?

A few things come to mind:

* Can Barrett go a full season without assaulting someone?
* Someone needs to tell Zambrano to avoid punching a man in catcher's gear. It's like a goalie fight in hockey.
* Good for Zambrano to lead with his non-pitching hand. Someone was watching Bull Durham in the off-season. (Though it looked like he was looking to get his right hook into the party when the rest of the dugout swarmed them. That was dumb.)

(I'm posting the YouTube video of the ESPN clip from AwfulAnnouncing as a bonus.)

(Photo from:


Out with the old...

For those who didn't see the news on the RSS feed from The Mothership, one of my favorite Twins blogs is done (hopefully just for now) as Batgirl is going to take time out for her young family.

I find this to be much more sincere than when I here it from some athlete or disgraced politician.

In its place on the links section will be a new site - I can't call it a blog, but that's where it'll be for now - Ballhype.

Very cool concept, very addicting, very likely the reason I'll eventually be fired.

Not that they don't have an acceptable case right now, just the reason it'll get pushed over the top.