January 2010

What In The World Is Happening To MN…!

Okay, so first this guy comes to the Vikes…

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And now this guy is a Minnesota Twin…

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Is nothing sacred anymore?!

Actually, in all honesty, I think this could turn into a great move for the Twins.  If Thome doesn’t see consistent playing time, he will be a HUGE addition to our bench.  How many times have we lamented seeing guys like Brian Buscher or Matt Tolbert pinch-hit in a key spot late in the game?  Big Thome solves that problem.

Also, this puts a bit more pressure on Delmon Young to perform, as Jason Kubel could easily become the everyday leftfielder and Thome could DH full-time.

Worst case scenario: Thome doesn’t have any pop left and we end up paying him less than we paid Mike Lamb. 

The End Of An Era

For as long as I have been following the Minnesota Twins, one thing (well, besides the one rubber-armed old fogey left-handed reliever) that has remained constant is a grizzled, experienced catcher to either handle the pitching staff in the abscence of a long-term starter, or to mentor guys like Joe Mauer and A.J. Pierzynksi.

In the late 1990s, that guy was Terry Steinbach…

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Then, in the 2000s, the torch was passed from Tom Prince…

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…to Henry Blanco…

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…and finally to Mike Redmond…

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However, it was announced a few days ago that Redmond, a free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, meaning the Twins will go with young Jose Morales…

morales-jose1.jpg …as their primary backup to Joe Mauer during the 2010 season.

This decision makes sense, as it is either boom (catch all year) or bust (lose a large chunk of time due to injury) for Mauer, it seems.  Red Dog was no longer an overyday player, although an apt fill-in on Thursday and Sunday afternoons, and thus probably couldn’t hold the job alone in Mauer’s abscence.

I enjoyed watching Red over the past few seasons, and will miss that inside-out swing and all those little dinks between first and second that always seemed to drop in for hits.  I wish him the best in Cleveland and have always thought that, if he wanted to and the opportunity presented itself, he could be a big league manager someday.

The Answer

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the rough shape that major league baseball is in when it comes to parity and competitive balance.  I was then challenged by another blogger to provide a solution to the problem.  To me, the solution is relatively simple…it’s the implementation that is the tough part.  Here are my thoughts…

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First and foremost, baseball needs a salary cap akin to the system in the NFL.  Sure, baseball has the luxury tax, but that is like asking a billionaire to pay a thousand-dollar fine everytime he does something wrong.  It sounds like a lot, but to the billionaire it is relatively little, thus he will continue to repeat his bad behavior (e.g. buying up and keeping contracted all the best players).  In the NFL, teams can only spend a certain amount (in 2009 the figure was $128 million) per season.  Plus, there is even a “minimum floor” clause of sorts that says a team has to spend at least so much money (like a minimum speed limit on the freeway) in order to prevent some franchises from just packing it in and hoarding $$$ to line their wallets if the season isn’t shaping up as planned.  Sure, there would still be bad teams.  However, general suckish-ness would be based on poor team management, like, say, starting this guy at QB…

 

Secondly, the TV pot needs to be broadened as well…

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Once again, the NFL (which I considered to have the best professional sports economic system out there today) requires TV rights to be shared between both teams competing.  In baseball, all the revenue goes to the home club.  So, the Yankees, because of their enormous and populace viewing area, can create their own TV network and rake in the dough, while the Twins (after trying that approach with Victory Sports Network and failing miserably) plod along with Fox Sports North and, comparatively speaking, get chump change in return.

Those two changes would go a long way towards making baseball much more economically sound (in terms of honoring the heritage of the game, not just turning the biggest possible profit by assuring the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs every year), and would not be all that difficult to implement.  However, major obstacles still exist in the implementation of the plan.

The biggest problem (and this will probably be the biggest understatement I ever post on this blog) is this guy…

confused.jpg Allan H. “Bud” Selig, baseball’s commissioner, was once an owner himself (of the Milwaukee Brewers), so he is very sympathetic to their causes.  Thus, he will NEVER impose sanctions on their freedom, even if it means destroying the fabric of the game in the process.

Because of this, the Players Union (once headed by Donald Fehr, but now led by Michael Weiner, pictured below)…

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…won’t, and doesn’t, budge an inch, as they are always terrified that former owner Selig is out to get them.  That is why implementing a salary cap or steroid testing is like pulling teeth.  A new, much more impartial commissioner would go an incredibly long way towards rectifying the situation, but since the players are still raking in the dough and the owners are protected by Buddy-Boy, the status quo hasn’t quite been shaken enough yet to oust Selig.

Of course, in a certain humerous turn of events that even I can smile at, Selig’s contract expires after the 2012 season.  In other words, right before the world is supposed to end (!)…

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So, I guess our only hope is to pray that the Mayans were wrong…as after ’12 baseball might get back on the right track!

Hall of Fame: 2010

Well, it was announced the other day that Andre Dawson…

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…was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Dawson was a bit before my time as a baseball fan, thus I never remember seeing him play, but the stats (2,774 hits, 438 HR, .279 BA) seem to indicated that he is sort of a “fringe” pick. However, I did see that he won numerous Gold Glove awards and was once Rookie of the Year (1977) and MVP (1987). I’d like to hear what people have to say about his induction.

Of course, as usual, this clown (!)…
BertBlylevenHOF.jpg…is left on the doorstep.  This year, he missed by just .08 of the vote (garnering a 74.2% vote total), boding well for his chances next year.

Finally, it was almost fitting that, the day before the balloting was released, Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson announced his retirement…

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He is about as sure a first-ballot HOFer as can ever exist, and I will miss his dominance out there on the mound. 

A Decade Of Twins Memories

I know I’m a little late on this, as the New Years parties are all but forgotten already, but I wanted to take a few moments to recount some of my favorite Minnesota Twins memories of the decade past:

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2000: When a team features such players as Jay Canizaro, Butch Huskey, Jason Maxwell, Sean Bergman, and Mike Lincoln, it was a bit difficult to really get excited about the teams’ chances.  However, having just been introduced to the sport and completely enthralled by it, I can remember going to the basically-empty Metrodome (been to a T-Wolves game lately?) with my Dad, buying an outfield seat, and then moving right up close to home plate because not even the ushers cared what you did back then!

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2001: The team finally comes together and starts winning thanks to players like Doug Mientkiewicz, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Eric Milton.  The Twins didn’t win the division, but after nearly a decade of losing baseball, they finally brought some excitement back to the Dome.

contractbud.jpg2002: The year I learned to hate Bud Selig.  In an effort to make MLB more profitable, Selig hatches a scheme to contract two franchise to bolster the others.  The obvious choice were the Montreal Expos (later to become the Washington Nationals), but the Twins?  Obviously some back-room buyout deals between Buddy-Boy and Twins owner Carl Pohlad were occuring.  Luckily, MLB realized that contraction was ill-advised and allowed the Twins to easily capture their first division title since 1991.

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2003: After a dominating 2002 campaign, the Twins were nearly out of the division race at midseason of ’03. However, after acquiring outfielder Shannon Stewart from the Blue Jays to bat lead-off, the Twins took off and won the division nearly going-away.

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2004: Of the back-to-back-to-back division title winning teams, this squad was the best.  In the ALDS, the Twins took the first game at Yankee Stadium and were on the brink of going up 2-0 heading home.  However, Joe Nathan (who had taken over for the departed Eddie Guardado and been completely dominant the entire season) led an extra-inning lead slip away and give the Yankees momentum to win that game and then sweep both at the Dome.  Of course, maybe it was just fate, as those Yanks proceeded to go up 3-0 on the Red Sox and well, Dave Roberts can tell you the rest…

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2005: Not a fun year for Twins Territory.  We didn’t outright suck, but we never really competed for the crown, either.  Even the usually stoic Brad Radke was overheard griping about the lack of run support from a horrendous offensive unit.  Also, this was the year that tensions erupted between Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau and a few blows were thrown, one that somehow connected with little Lew Ford!

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2006: The Twins spent one day in first place, but since it was the final day they made it count!  They played well pretty much the entire season, but so did the Tigers.  A late-season hot streak pushed the Twins over the top on the season’s final day.

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2007: How quickly a team can go from “contending” to “rebuilding”. In the first losing season under Ron Gardenhire, a lack of fundamentals and downright sloppy baseball made the final month of the season almost unwatchable.

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 2008: After underachieving all season, the Twins basically needed to win out the final week of the season, starting with a sweep of the White Sox, whom they were chasing for the division title. I was at all three of those games at the Dome, and they are (easily) the most exciting games I have ever been to. The Twins would later lose to the Tighty Whities in a one-game playoff, but not before some of the most exciting baseball I have ever witnessed.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200910067016143&c_id=min

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 2009: (Read: 2008).  This time the Twins make the one-game playoff count in the most exciting single baseball game I have ever watched!

It was a great decade of Twins baseball memories…why not try for another one?!

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