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Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday-Monday Review

It's been a big, big 3 days to be a Minnesota sports fan, so here I am to recap.

Saturday--The Little Brown Jug returns

I have a confession to make: I was sound asleep for the whole first half of Minnesota's romp at the Big House.  Absolutely out cold.  See, it was Tommie-Johnnie here in St. Paul and as a result, I woke up and drank alcohol violently for about 6 hours that morning and went home to sleep rather than go to the UST game.  Watching the Gophers was a priority as well, but that didn't go according to plan as a nap was in order.

Anyways, when I did wake up, it was nothing but pure joy for me for 2 quarters.  Gophers defense flying all over the field and Mitch Leidner finally looking like a quarterback made for enjoyable viewing.  As did shot after shot of Michigan fans in the stands looking like I've looked watching the Gophers roughly 1000 times.  I mean, this is pure gold right here.

As Kevin Malone once said, "it's just nice to win one."

Sunday--Teddy Time

Teddy Bridgewater's first start went according to plan better than almost anything in Vikings history (citation needed).  He was very solid and a few times spectacular in a well-planned game by Norv Turner and company.  NORV!!!!!!!!!!!  In true Vikings fashion however, he was injured late in the game and everyone had some nice Vietnam-like flashbacks as old friend Christian Ponder made his first appearance of the season.  That wasn't fun.

As a disclaimer, I think Bridgewater expectations should be tempered a bit.  After all, the Falcons defense is not exactly the Steel Curtain and Teddy made a lot of plays in an offense that was designed to ease him into action--lots of short and intermediate passes and a surprising performance by the running game made the degree of difficulty a tad lower.  On Thursday, the Vikes have to go and face an actual competent professional defense in a tough place to play.  That, coupled with Teddy's bum wheel to me spells a shellacking, but finally having a competent QB has Viking fans going ballistic (and well deserved).  

Monday--Ron Gardenhire is fired

After 4 years of completely inept Twins teams, our guy Gardy was let go.  I do think that his firing is a step in the right direction, but by no means was he the biggest problem with the team in this streak of 90+ losses.  I think that there are a lot deeper problems in the organization and they start right at the top with the Pohlad family and Terry Ryan.  That being said, almost no one in the history of baseball has kept a managerial job after a run of such ineptitude.

There were good times and bad times with Gardy.  Early on, moderate amounts of success were achieved, but to me the Gardy Era always left me with more to be desired.  6 division titles but only 1 playoff series was won.  The 2006 team was the best of my lifetime and it got swept out of the playoffs.  Etc, etc, etc.  

To me, the big problem still lies with the team's reluctance (or downright refusal) to embrace analytics.  Terry Ryan is too old school to do so and the ownership group is too out of touch to know how to run a good, modern baseball team.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tommies vs Johnnies

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year, and no I don't mean the day Wendy's is giving away free Baconators at a Gopher Hockey game.  It's Tommie-Johnnie, the one day a year that St. Thomas dresses up and plays pretend that it's an SEC school.  It's pretty cool.  In honor of drinking outside all day long tomorrow, I have prepared a list of Tommies and Johnnies for your pleasure.

Tommies (the good guys)

Tommie Brady--the handsomest and best QB of all time.  Hot wife.
Tommie Hanks--Castaway is a great movie
Tommie Selleck--great moustache
Tommie Collins--great drink (closed-circuit Plum's, make a drink called this and sell it on Thursdays for like $3.  That one's for free)
Tommie Watson--great golfer (Ryder Cup is this weekend, go US)
Tommie Petty--Last Dance with Mary Jane makes me tear up it's so good
Tommie Kelly--he won some World Series for the Twins or something

Johnnies (the bad guys)

Johnnie Wilkes Booth--guy shot Lincoln, what an asshole
Johnnie Hinckley--he shot a president too, and he didn't even die.  Not only is he a dick but he's an incompetent dick.  Fuck him.
Johnnie Starks--Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan owned him.  Guy sucked and was thin skinned
Johnnie Wayne Gracie--never heard of him, but google says he was a murderer.  Guy sucked.
Johnnie Cougar Mellencamp--couldn't decide what name he wanted and is a poor man's Springsteen

Johnnie Harbaugh--related Jim Harbaugh, so automatically an asshole.  Also: said Ray Rice is a good guy after he beat his wife.

So there you have it.  Tommies>Johnnies

Enjoy tomorrow, every one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

1/3 of a Post About Some Awkward Fake Endorsements

These athlete endorsements aren't real but it would be really funny if they were!

JR Smith for Bentley—own the car he will have repossessed in 2020.
Jim Harbaugh for Values—Sportsmanship, don’t leave home without it
Antoine Walker for Pawn America—They give me a good price for all my memorabilia
Pete Carroll for Jesse Ventura’s show about conspiracies
Chris Paul for Microsoft—I’m exclusively a Surface guy now just as a thank you to Ballmer for bailing me out from Donald Sterling.
Curt Schilling for the Tea Party—After squandering millions from the state of Rhode Island he is totally against government spending, from experience!
Jonathon Papelbon’s appearance on NPR—I bet they wouldn’t like each other!
John Rocker for Rosetta Stone—learn to speak the languages of all the ethnicities this man hates
Marvin Harrison for his car wash—come get a fresh wash and wax, and hopefully not shot!
Antonio Cromartie for Trojan—I’m disappointed I actually took the time to type that joke.  My dad has made that joke.
Vince Wilfork for Slim Fast—he’s fat!
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for Hooked on Phonics—he is bad at reading

Joe Mauer for Land O’ Lakes—he already has this endorsement, yet I came up with it independently

Monday, September 15, 2014

What to do about Adrian Peterson's mess?

This Adrian Peterson situation is an absolute disaster.  After being charged with essentially child abuse (whatever the official legal jargon actually is escapes me right now) on Friday, it's been a whirlwind of sadness, confusion, and people on twitter advertising their idiocy in broad daylight.  It's a situation I would classify as "icky," and I can't wait for it to be over.  

I'm not happy with how I've been able to compartmentalize and separate the generational talent Adrian Peterson and the alleged, now serial (after today's report of another child "disciplining") child abuser Adrian Peterson.  I think I land somewhere in the middle of all the different viewpoints I've heard in the past few days.  I'm unhappy with that.  There are the people that are loudly voicing their disgust with our fallen star (these are the ones that are correct) and there are people who are essentially saying that Adrian Peterson shouldn't be in trouble for giving his child a glorified spanking (these are the ones that are incorrect).  

When I sit down and think and read reports about what he allegedly did, I'm sad and disgusted.  I'm alarmed with the cavalier manner in which he seems to think this type of punishment for his children is ok, how he got them and how it's a cultural thing.  However, when I get away from actually thinking about the brutality, I start drifting towards thinking about how this is all going to blow over, and he's going to be back out there 8 yards deep before we know it.  I was justifying my desires for the Vikings to be good and how Peterson helps make that happen by saying that Peterson isn't necessarily vicious, but ignorant.  I'm wrong to do that.


It's not going to blow over.  I imagine this situation is similar to someone getting a DUI; you don't get pulled over the first time you do it.  He's *probably* been doing things like this for a while.  One report stated that his child said his old man has a "whooping room" and "likes belts and switches."  Good God.  Another report came out today in which he gave a different child a black eye.  The whole thing is cringeworthy, especially considering he lost a child a year ago to child abuse at the hands of another man.  Despite the Vikings tone-deaf reinstatement of Peterson this afternoon (a move that came from an ownership that wasn't present at the press conference, no less), I would be surprised if he suited up in purple ever again.

This leads me back to the dark place as a fan that allows me to hope he plays again and we all forget about this and he rushes for a lot of yards and we win the Super Bowl and all is well in paradise again.  What a dehumanizing way to look at sports.  It's pretty gross to think that I would probably be a pretty happy guy if this all went away and we started winning.  People's views on things like this are warped, and that's troubling.  It wouldn't be the first time people looked the other way when a legend showed that he isn't deserving of such a (for lack of a better term) God-like status.  Kirby Puckett did some pretty disturbing things to women in his day, yet he's regarded with the likes of Paul Bunyan around here.  He has a statue and there's a street named after him.  I wish we as a society could quit lionizing these sports heroes of ours.  There's no reason we should do this.  I support the Vikings because of where I grew up, not because of Adrian Peterson.  We root for laundry as Jerry Seinfeld once said.  We shouldn't look the other way (like I was starting to do) because the person in question wears our color laundry.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Paul George, Not a Smart Guy


I think I’ve found my professional calling over the past couple of weeks and I didn’t realize it until about 20 minutes ago.  Believe it or not, I haven’t been getting any formal education on this topic from my current institution (shocker I know), and I don’t even know where I’d look to get it.  That being said, I think a really good job fit for me would be to run twitter accounts for professional athletes.  Just twitter, none of my athletes would have facebook accounts, those are for the birds.  And in running those twitter accounts, my first order of business would be to tell my clients this: don’t tweet.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Seriously, if you’re in a burning building and twitter is your only modicum of communication, just go down with the ship.  My second order of business would be to ensure this by breaking their phone and throwing the pieces in a nearby body of water.  If I am not subsequently fired, I could have a prosperous professional relationship with these idiots that are good at sports.

In all seriousness, why do we care what athletes think?  The thing that set me off on this rant is a tweet that I saw this morning while I was eating breakfast penned by the ever-eloquent Paul George, who believe it or not, doesn’t exactly have an enlightened take on Ray Rice spitting on and beating his wife: 



 


We all know what happened there, so I refuse to discuss it further because it honestly makes me sick, but I want to discuss the question at hand.  Why do we care?  Obviously, Paul George, Anthony Smith, and 9/11 truther Jesse Ventura before them are celebrities, or at least quasi-celebrities, and they have our attention when they want it.  That coupled with a twitter account gives them a platform. 


Should it?  I’m going to go ahead and say that it shouldn’t.  Why would I care what Paul George thinks about not just this issue, but literally anything?  The only people whose opinions I value are my parents and my close personal friends.  Here’s another shocker, Paul George does not fall into either of those categories!  If he weren’t good at putting a basketball through a hoop, his opinion would mean just as much as mine to the general public.  It’s unfair to him and to us that what he says and does off the court is in any way newsworthy.  Nothing he's ever done has ever signaled that I should care what his opinion is on anything.  If instead of being a world-class athlete, he was a St. Thomas student that I was mildly acquainted with, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't give a shit about anything he has to say.  He'd be just another idiot with an opinion, and I don't give a shit.  People should think of athletes like this more often.  I feel like Us Weekly right now, because ATHLETES, THEY’RE JUST LIKE US (read: they have shitty opinions just as often as any other member of society).  As Charles Barkley once said, “I am not a role model.”  He was ahead of his time.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What Job Would He Have?

So it’s pretty obvious to anyone that knows me that I love baseball more than a fat kid loves cake (s/o 50 Cent).  I mean, I’ll watch a Padres-Diamondbacks August game where neither team has been relevant since before Memorial Day.  I get truly excited to spend my own money to go to Target Field in late September for a Cole DeVries start.  That being said, while watching all my baseball, my mind wanders.  I wonder which players like or dislike each other.  I wonder what kind of snide comments all Matt Garza’s teammates make about him.  I wonder what Brian Wilson orders at McDonalds (2 cheeseburger meal, drinks Mello Yello, wild card).  I wonder about the last time Yonder Alonso bought an Affliction tee.  I wonder if Caleb Thielbar has ever had a serious girlfriend.  Maybe I have ADD, I don’t know, but it’s funny (to me at least).  My favorite thing to brainstorm is what job each player looks like he would have if he wasn’t a baseball player.  Here are some of my thoughts (side note—if I ever offer you “some of my thoughts” on something, run the other way as fast you can, fair warning):

Joe Mauer—youth pastor
Mauer’s Uncle Abe honesty and all-around unwavering integrity scream youth pastor at your local Catholic Church.  The Mauer drinks Land O Lakes instead of beer jokes work with my view of him.  I remember someone at a confirmation thing I had to do once getting up in front of 100+ kids rolling their eyes and explaining that even though we really wanted to bang the girl we brought to dinner (Applebees) and a movie (something with Will Ferrell) in 10th grade, we shouldn’t, because she will be someone’s wife someday.  Also I can definitely picture him wearing a long sleeve American Eagle polo at age 27 and saying something like, “thanks to the cafeteria staff for that wonderful meal of sloppy joes, potato cakes, and jello.  Now let’s bow our heads in prayer.” 


Drew Butera—Apple Store employee
Drew Butera is not particularly good at baseball.  If baseball personnel would have realized this before he hit the major leagues (I wish baseball personnel would have made the same mistake with me just fyi), he would have gone to whatever his state’s version of St. Cloud State is, gotten a degree in business, not finance, not accounting, not marketing, just business, and then been unemployed for 18 months before swallowing his pride and getting a job at his local mall’s Apple Store.  His combination of good looks and yuppieness make him the perfect Apple Store employee.  He really, really thinks you should buy $30 of extra Cloud space.


Heath Bell—used car salesman
Heath Bell wears bad suits.  He knows everything about the changes in production that happened on Oldsmobiles between 1994 and 1995.  He agrees with you, middle aged father looking for a reliable car for your daughter to drive to school and marching band practice, that, yes, this Cutlass Supreme always was an underrated model, and since this particular number was only owned for 11 years by an elderly woman that, yes, it was indeed kept in great condition until her unfortunate move to Guardian Angels Nursing Home.  It’s fuel efficient.  It’s safe.  It’s economical.  He can even wiggle on the price tag of $3200.  Heath Bell is a used car salesman.


Eric Sogard—cool high school English teacher
It’s the glasses.  You know this guy was the high school athlete, like the guy in American Pie that blew off his last lacrosse game in order to sing in the choir and chase down the girl he liked.  He’s got a real sensitive side to him.  In college, he fell in love with smoking weed and American Classics was the only class he would show up for.  5 and a half years later, he had a degree.  Guy fell in love with Southern Gothic style writing, and Hunter S. Thompson just speaks to him, you know.  Now, he hands out copies of The Great Gatsby and wants everyone to cherish the first time they read this marvel.  He rides a bike to work.  Also, every good looking girl in your class has the biggest crush on him, even though he dates the hot economics teacher.


Nick Swisher—Bartender in Panama City who loves his job
Nick Swisher is a bigger bro than the president of your friendly neighborhood frat.  I mean, if you’re early twenties, that’s fine.  I mean, it’s annoying, but generally socially acceptable.  But Nick Swisher is on the downhill side of his career.  He’s mid-30s though.  But he still wants to be 22.  So he did what anyone faced with a third life crisis does (well, not really), he moved to Panama City and got a job bartending for college kids during spring break.  You didn’t really ask him, but he just fell in love with it here, bro, and this is the only life he can imagine.  He still dresses like he’s 22 and every year on the first night, he can’t wait to get to work and check out the talent, bro.


That’s enough for now, except as an aside, I’d like to say that I really wanted to write one about Josh Hamilton working at a Circuit City while smoking a bunch of weed and hooking up with girls who are generally wild cards well into his mid-30’s.  Like he’s essentially Seth Rogan’s character in 40 Year Old Virgin, but I thought it would be bad taste given his history essentially doing that for 4 years, save for the job selling RCAs.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vikings Season Preview (DEPRESSION)

Guess what you guys, there’s football tonight!  I mean, it is two of the teams I can’t stand the most, but the Seahawks are good, so the Packers might lose, and the misery of Packer fans is good for morale as a whole.  Anyways, I’m not going to write about how much I hate Aaron Rodgers’ stupid smug face or that big fatso Andy Reid-impersonator Mike McCarthy (not much anyways), I’m going to instead write about my beloved (reviled?) Vikings, who are as a general rule going to be bad again (unless they’re good, that would be fun).  Before my preview though, I’d like to unveil my idea of regional Monday Night Football theme songs. 

That means every market gets its own version of the song.  Hank Williams, Jr. wouldn’t be able to sing them all though because he is too busy hating gay people and Democrats (more on this later (not really)).  In Minnesota, there are some good artists that could play the song.  Bob Dylan is from Hibbing.  Prince wrote a crappy song about the Vikings once.  Atmosphere is a thing.  But since the theme of the Minnesota MNF song is depressing, I’m going to have to say that GB Leighton is the artist of this particular version because when I hear his/their music, I get depressed.  Remember that Twins Territory song?  That sucked.  Anyways, it would go like this.

Bum bu-bu bummmmm da na da na
Da da da da dada, duuuuu nuuuuu nuuuuu nuuuuuuu
Are you ready
Are you ready
Are you ready, ready
Are you ready for some DEPRESSION?
Some Monday night misery
Hey, this is "Rocking" Randall Hank
Ready to get the mild distractions from the cold weather started
We got the teams on the field
And we turned down the lights
All my rowdy friends are back for Monday night

So yeah that’s pretty much all I have come up with so far, except for this: remember when at the end of the song when we were kids the helmets of the two teams would collide into a big explosion?  I was thinking for the beginning of Vikings games, there could just be a big Vikings helmet spontaneously combust inside the Metrodome, causing the roof to collapse and snow cover the field.  What's that, the sound of TV executives lighting cigars and green lighting it?  That's what I just heard.





Offense Preview
Quarterback: Matt Cassel is the starter, Teddy Bridgewater is the backup and he’s pretty cool, but it’s important to note that Christian Ponder is still on the roster, and if he sees any time on the field, you can find me in my bedroom crying.  Hey Ponder, has anyone ever told you that you might be a lefty?  Just a thought.  Best case scenario—Cassel plays really well with good weapons all around him and the Vikings are good!  Worst case scenario—Ponder does Ponder throw punt things while my roommate says things like, “you know, he throws a pretty good ball, he just can’t throw it very far.”  Or this:
Sorry, everyone.

Running Back: 

etc, etc, etc

Receiver: Cordy Patterson is really, really fun (#analysis).  Also, Greg Jennings has a pulse and proved as such once a professional quarterback started playing last year (not to beat a dead horse, but thx alot PONDER).  Also, Kyle Rudolph is good and he just got a raise, which is nice for him, I'm sure.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that John Carlson is gone, which means all that came from his tenure in purple is one epic freakout I had last year in game 2 when he fielded a squib kick at the end of the game against the Bears and rather than just go down and give the offense a chance for a hail mary, he proceeded to try and run it back, and fumble the fucking ball in the process.  In my rant after the game, I compared me being mad at the Vikings to a dog owner being mad at his dog taking a shit on the floor every day.  You can be mad at the dog, but after a while whose fault is it, really?

Offensive line: I can't break much down on the offensive line, because I don't actually know a lot about the intricacies of football (I'm what they call a rube), but I do know that I saw Matt Khalil at Canterbury Park for the Kentucky Derby one year, and he is indeed a large human (confirmed).  Also, I have to mention one of my favorite athletes of all time, Bryant McKinnie, who used to be an offensive lineman for the Vikings (topical).  I loved him because he made millions and millions of dollars, yet had the money saving strategy of a homeless person.  The guy literally blew like $50 million buying champagne and hookers.  He produced my favorite line in my favorite wikipedia article of all time too. "McKinnie allegedly picked up a naked woman, placed her on the bar and performed cunnilingus on her in front of the crew and other guests."  Awesome, just awesome.  Also, unpopular Minnesota opinion alert--Matt Birk is kind of a cock.

Defensive line: I have no idea if these guys are supposed to be any good, but Sharrif Floyd kind of sucked last year.  Also, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen were locked up to big contract extensions, which seems like a questionable idea at best.  Anytime you can give a guy with less than 20 career sacks in 4 years $42 million and $20 million guaranteed, you have to do it.  

Linebackers: They kind of suck.  Chad Greenway used to be good (not great), but most middle aged Vikings fans hold him in higher regard than Joe Mauer (read: they're idiots).  The linebackers are supposed to be the heart of the defense (I just made that up I think) but last year, they allowed a lot of plays like this to happen.
I will use literally any excuse to post this video.
Defensive backs: Xavier Rhodes was a huge disappointment.  Marcus Sherels kind of sucks.  I'm not even sure AJ Jefferson knows the difference between a post pattern and a math textbook.  At least they cut Chris Cook, who was as bad at football as he was at not beating his girlfriend.  Among their other notable cuts is Mistral Raymond, who I will personally miss because I will no longer be able to make the joke about his name actually being Missedtackle Raymond.  So long, sweet prince.

Special teams: Blair Walsh is really good, actually a nice job by Spielman for getting him in the 5th round.  A good kicker is really valuable if you have a good team (I'm just saying things now, I have no idea how much it actually matters), and Cordy Patterson will run back no fewer than 3 kicks for touchdowns, which save for Adrian rumbling for an 80 yard TD is the most exciting play in football to me.  However, their coach sounds like he's a real dick, and that sucks.

Week 1 prediction: fuck it, maybe we will win, I don't know.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trade Deadline Notes

Deadline Day is finally here for MLB teams, as all non-waiver trades must be made by 3 PM Central today.  The Twins are terrible again this year (breaking news) and should be sellers, although their actions have been more of the stand-pat variety, although there has been a lot of interesting Twins news already today.  First off, the Twins shipped Outfielder Sam Fuld back to Oakland in exchange for Starting Pitcher Tommy Milone.  They also called up First Base prospect and recent Futures Game participant Kennys Vargas from AA New Britain to the majors.  Finally, it has been rumored today that the Twins are trying to work out a contract extension with Kurt Suzuki.

 

The Twins claimed Sam Fuld off waivers from Oakland back in April, and he’s played nearly every day (and pretty well to boot) in CF or LF.  Fuld has played surprisingly well in 60 games this season (53 with the Twins), putting up a triple slash of .263/.356/.366 while accumulating 2.3 WAR, which is third on the Twins behind Phil Hughes and Brian Dozier.  That being said, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has been a journeyman backup outfielder for most of his career, so it’s incredibly likely that his great numbers are the result of random distribution of outcomes rather than it having any other explanation.  Other teams know that, so a huge return for Fuld wasn’t to be expected.  In Oakland, I imagine he profiles as a 4th outfielder, defensive replacement type on the World Series contender.

 

Coming to Minnesota in exchange for Fuld is right-handed starter Tommy Milone.  At first glance, Milone seems like your typical Twins get, as he doesn’t throw very hard (fastball average this season is only 86.5), and doesn’t strike anyone out at a level higher than league average (5.7 K/9  this year, 6.51 K/9 career). However, Milone is a fly ball pitcher, and has thrived in his career at the Oakland McAfee O.co Alameda County Flint Michigan Megabowl Coliseum, which is decidedly a pitcher’s paradise, as he’s posted a career fly ball rate of around 41%.  Also, it should be mentioned that Milone is just 27 years old, posted 2.8 fWAR 2 years ago in Oakland, and isn’t a free agent until after the 2017 season.  That kind of batted ball profile on a pitcher could work in another (albeit milder) pitchers’ paradise in Target Field, and coupling that with 3 years of a fairly cheap and possibly serviceable mid-rotation arm at the low price of Sam Fuld who is a 4th outfielder who they got for nothing 3 months ago seems like a wonderful move by the Twins and Terry Ryan.

 

It was also announced that bopping 23-year-old first baseman Kennys Vargas has been called up the big leagues.  I’m excited to see him play because he has true light tower power and has had success at every level of the minors so far, albeit not necessarily at an advanced pace.  Because he is friends with David Ortiz and bears a resemblance to the should-be future Hall of Famer, people love to make that comparison in regards to Vargas.  It should be noted that as a 23-year-old, Vargas is sporting an .832 OPS at AA and hasn’t yet played at a level higher than that.  When Big Papi was 22 (read: younger than Vargas is today), he posted a 111 OPS+ (that year equated to .817 OPS) in the majors, while blasting 9 home runs in about a half season’s worth of work.  That’s not to say Vargas is going to bust, but people thinking the next David Ortiz is being called up should cool their jets a bit.  He could become a useful DH-type in the future for the Twins, but expectations should be tempered as he has never appeared on a top 100 prospects list and has always been considered a project.

 

It was also rumored today that the Twins are interested in extending first-time All Star Kurt Suzuki after his success this year in Minnesota.  A Suzuki extension if kept at a reasonable price and length could be an ok move for the Twins, but if it gets to be much more than one year with a club option for a second year for $10-12 million, it gets dicey.  Suzuki has had a career year this year, and there are signs that a changed approach and renewed health may have some causation effect on his season thus far.  He’s walked exactly as many times as he struck out so far this season (that’s good), and after spending a few years as a part time player, it could be posited that he’s refreshed and healthy enough to catch every day while producing at the plate.  However, there is a whole career’s worth of data that says he won’t keep this up, and it doesn’t seem like good business to buy low, and then double down on a surprisingly successful free agent signing, especially when the alternative is to sell Suzuki as his value is highest and get prospects into an organization that has a stacked farm system but won’t compete for at least another season.  The risk of him turning back into a pumpkin in my mind is far greater than the risk of cashing in on him at his current value and regretting it.  I hope he’s in another uniform at the end of the day, but I won’t hold my breath.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Twins Stathead Application

Fangraphs.com is a stats and analytics heavy baseball website that can be found on the internet (aka the world wide web) and doubles as one of my favorite ways to procrastinate while I should be studying.  For nerds like me, it’s one of the meccas of baseball knowledge and advanced thinking about the sport.  It attracts an audience of really intellectual baseball fans and high-level thinkers (myself not included), and every so often, MLB teams post job openings when they’re looking for a nerd with a calculator who never played the game.  In the latest posting, my favorite ballclub is looking for a new stathead to crunch some numbers, and since I took a couple of stats classes and like baseball, I am a wonderful candidate.  I sent in my resume, cover letter, and application (fingers crossed), and even dropped Dave St. Pete’s name (my cousins used to babysit his kids so this whole thing is just a big formality), but just in case they go in another direction, I’m just going to make this available so the other 29 teams don’t miss out.
JOB FUNCTION:  As a member of the front office, collaborate with the Baseball Operations staff to develop, deliver, and maintain data driven solutions for analytics and architecture of player information and evaluation systems. This position requires strong statistical, software development, and database management skills.
Strong statistical background—I used to be an Actuarial Science major but switched out because it’s too hard and I’m not smart enough because I was bored and don’t test well.  I got a C+ in a class taught by a prof with a thick Russian accent, so I’m more than qualified.  CHECK
REPORTS TO:  VP, Technology & Manager of Major League Administration & Baseball Research
Last time I checked, this isn’t Bill Smith, so I’m still interested.  Just wondering, will I be making more or less money than Billy upon hire?  That’s kind of a sticking  point since I never traded Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps, just saying.
ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS:
Work with Baseball Operations, Scouting, and Minor League staff to maintain and expand upon the existing player information and evaluation systems.
I can get a subscription to Baseball Prospectus when my first paycheck clears and I listen to podcasts all the time.  Plus I’ll be at the Futures Game on Sunday, and would be willing to scout those guys and see which of them would best fit The Twins Way.
Use an iterative software development approach for quick roll-outs combined with incremental improvement process to existing systems and environments.
Quick roll outs?  I been rolling out quick since Luda dropped Roll Out back in my elementary school days.

Review existing data structure and define any necessary changes or additions to that architecture to produce efficient and intuitive data structures.
I imagine this involves proofreading a Microsoft Word doc, maybe an Excel spreadsheet or two at worst.  Nick Punto hit second most of his career with the Twins, there honestly can’t be a ton of analytics going on.
Integrate multimedia and data from outside providers into data architecture and player information system.
I can help Gardy bookmark baseball-reference.com onto his Internet Explorer homepage, check.
Design and develop procedures to calculate advanced player statistics and manage player evaluations, rankings, and other information into an integrated system.
Advanced player statistics?  You mean like Moneyball, right?
Continually work with Baseball Operations staff to identify features and areas of improvement within the player information system to facilitate a user-friendly research tool.
Facilitate a user-friendly research tool?  Sure, I’ll help get Gardy acquainted with the computer, I’m more than qualified after teaching my mom how to use her iPhone.
Create standardized reports through the use of graphs, charts, text, etc. to be consumed by Baseball Operations staff.
That’s something I can do.  I used to be really good at art in elementary school, with my work being featured in the Minnesota Timberwolves Game Day Program, so drawing a few graphs and pie charts should be no sweat.
Perform advanced statistical analysis on large sets of baseball data to help in the decision making process of the Baseball Operations Department.
I took STAT 333 last fall and got a C+.  I could do most of the homework myself (Remember, not a good test-taker), but got help sometimes.  I think I still have those other kids’ numbers, so if I run into any problems I’ll shoot them a text.
Assist Manager of Major League Administration & Baseball Research in identifying technologies and data sources that offer value to the Baseball Operations department.
I will point him in the direction of literally anything Tom Tango has ever written.
Communicate results to appropriate staff members through presentations, written reports, and tools.
Wrote a research paper on cybermetrics in my senior English class in high school and got an A-, so written reports I can do.
Be a liaison between the Minnesota Twins Baseball Operations Department and the Office of the Commissioner and MLBAM in regards to baseball-related technologies.
Cool, liason to Bud Selig means I’ll get to travel because we all know he doesn’t email.
TECHNICAL QUALIFICATIONS:
  • 4 Year Bachelor’s degree in Technology.
That’s a funny way to spell “Economics.”  We’ll make it work.
  • 2+ years of hands-on development experience with .NET Framework, C#, ASP.net MVC, XML, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, AJAX, Entity Framework, Web API, and the MVVM design pattern.
We’ve made it this far and this is our first hang up.  I’m doing pretty good.
  • Experience with basic front-end user experience design.
…..
  • Proficient with Microsoft SQL Database management and schema design.

  • Experience with developing solutions that consider massive quantities of data.
…….
  • Proficient with Visual Studio.
Define proficient
  • Working knowledge of Microsoft IIS.
Working knowledge is kind of a loose term if you ask me.
Ok, so I kind of just blew the save (baseball term).
REQUIREMENTS:
  • Experience with Sabermetric player evaluation techniques and concepts.
I’ve been reading Fangraphs for years, so experience I got.
  • Experience with Pitch f/x, play-by-play, and/or TrackMan data sets.
Pitch f/x is really super cool and I usually read when Jeff Sullivan writes about it, so if this is an interview I would say that yes I am experienced.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with all aspects of Baseball Operations, Scouting, and Player Development staff, and understand their job functions and subsequent software needs.
I am a wonderful, prodigious communicator, and I have expressed that on every resume and application I have ever filled out and turned in.
  • Ability to lift and transport items up to 55 lbs.
That’s kind of a loaded question, but yes, I’m interning this summer and have no problem swallowing my pride, rolling up my sleeves, and finally cleaning out Bill Smith’s office for you on a day where I have some downtime.
  • Must be able to sit for extended periods of time.
Check.  Big time check.
  • Ability to relocate to the Twins Cities area.
I will do that as long as the Twins let me have time off to drive back to Hibbing to play for the Miners every summer weekend and a few days a week.  Nothing we can’t work around.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nolasco and Injury Culture

Mike Berardino, Pioneer Press—SEATTLE – Eighteen starts into his Twins career, veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco finally admitted he has been struggling with some level of soreness in his throwing elbow since spring training.
Nolasco, signed to a four-year, $49 million free-agent deal during the offseason, left the team on Monday and flew back to the Twin Cities. The Twins’ Opening Day starter was due to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Tuesday, when he will be examined by Twins medical director Dr. John Steubs.
According to Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony, Nolasco had not sought treatment from the club’s training staff all year. Nolasco mentioned the elbow issue during a Monday meeting with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson.
“After some coaxing he finally admitted he’s been struggling since spring training with a bit of a sore elbow,” Antony said. “He said he can’t get loose more than anything. Said it gets tight. Some days it’s better than others. (Sunday) he had a real difficult time getting loose, so we called it a day after two innings.”
Nolasco, 31, was pulled after two innings and 42 pitches on Sunday after giving up six earned runs to the New York Yankees. That start pushed Nolasco’s earned run average to a career-worst 5.90.
Just six of his 18 starts have been quality starts: six or more innings with a maximum of three earned runs.
Over his past 11 starts he has posted a 10.64 ERA in the first inning. He held opponents scoreless in the first inning over his first seven starts.

After signing the richest free agent contract in franchise history, it’s no secret that Ricky Nolasco has been absolutely awful and thus far a huge disappointment.  His 5.90 ERA is more than 1.5 runs higher than his career mark entering 2014.  He is striking out fewer batters, walking more, and giving up more home runs than his track record would suggest that he should.  He’s leading the league in hits allowed.  It’s no question his deal has been one of the biggest disappointments from free agency this past winter.  After seeing these facts or simply watching him pitch a few times, it’s evident he’s not the same guy he’s been for the majority of his solid big league career.  No one should be overly surprised that he’s been pitching hurt. 

Ok, so he’s hurt, and that sucks, but at least there’s an explanation to why he’s been so underwhelming.  Seems like a pretty straightforward story, right?  That’s where this starts to get interesting.  Pioneer Press Twins Beat guy Mike Berardino, who wrote the piece above in italics and who does great work covering the Twins night in night out, tweeted this out not long after his story was posted:

@MikeBerardino: I asked Gardy if he wants his pitchers to tell him when they're sore. He suggested he did not want to know until it rose to a certain level.

I like to picture Gardy volunteering this small look into his philosophy in the clubhouse, in between giving Eddie Escobar a quick instructional on the art of the sacrifice bunt and watching an episode of M*A*S*H on his tube RCA TV that Tom Kelly bought new in 1986.  Try harder to sound like the game has passed you by Gardy, you can’t.  I mean, he sounds to me like someone’s dad talking Twins at a bar.  Mauer’s soft, Nolasco’s soft.  They’re all soft these days!  Unless you’re really hurt, you go out there when you see your name on that galdang lineup card!  Every time.  Period.  Gotta try to go the distance and get the win!  Bartender, gimme another Busch Light!  Seriously, this kind of tough guy, sack up, you’re not injured you’re hurt BS is so outdated in today’s game.  What exactly is that “certain level” Gardy?  Because it’s evident to me that Nolasco reached that certain arbitrary level of injured a while ago.

If this is the kind of mindset that Gardy wants his players to have, a 1980s bite-the-bullet, grit it out approach, then he is no longer a viable option.  Berardino’s article says word-for-word that only after some coaxing could the Twins Brass get Nolasco to admit that his arm has been tight since Spring Training and that he hasn’t been right all year.  I’m not in the Twins Clubhouse on a daily basis (shocker, I know).  In fact, I have never set foot in the Twins clubhouse, so I don’t feel comfortable making these broad generalizations about a company that I have no internal knowledge whatsoever, but it certainly screams culture problem to me.  Why else would Nolasco, a very good and most durable pitcher whom the Twins have a lot invested in, be compelled to hide injury and pitch ineffectively for months on end rather than feel comfortable admitting that he isn’t right and needs some time before he’ll be able to get out on the mound and pitch to his talent level and perform up to the expectations of his contract?

There is no point to playing injured or feeling like you should have to hide an injury.  I realize that it’s a long season (cc MightyFlynn) and no one is 100% as the season wears on, but there is a difference between sore/hurt and injured.  And as it stands, Ricky Nolasco at whatever x% he was pitching at isn’t a very good pitcher.  Had he felt comfortable going to Gardy and saying, “hey, I’m not right, I need some time, put me on the DL,” the Twins could have easily gone to the minor leagues and gotten someone who could have helped the team more than an injured Nolasco has for the past couple of months.  Trevor May or Alex Meyer potentially could have come up and helped the club.  I have no knowledge of the internal workings of any other clubs either (again, shocker), but I imagine smart teams do their best to make sure their players feel more than comfortable disclosing injuries and getting treatment.


Instead of the approach, the Twins Twins’d and Nolasco toughed it out for a handful of starts, being ineffective and possibly further injuring himself and hurting the club’s investment in him.  I do realized this is a culture problem with layers upon layers upon layers.  I ripped up my shoulder in high school and didn’t tell a soul until months after it happened, afraid of what answer I would get.  Who knows if I hurt it worse by continuing to play baseball while eating Advil like they were Skittles.  No one wants to admit they’re hurt or to miss any time.  It’s incredibly frustrating.  So I get that this is not all the Twins’ fault.  Nolasco has probably been conditioned to go out there every 5th day, no matter how he feels, for upwards of a couple decades.  That being said, I’ve become less and less enamored over the past few years with how the Twins do business.  When something like this happens I feel justified in thinking that the Twins brass is filled with people who are simply incompetent boobs.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thomas Vanek at a discount price


Yesterday we were greeted with the news that former Gopher great and current NHL sniper Thomas Vanek left upwards of 30 million dollars (!!!!) to sign a 3 year deal with the Wild.  This is a move most people will say they saw coming down the pipeline years in advance, but I never once thought it was a foregone conclusion, especially with the Wild's reluctance to go super long term with free agents this time around.  It is exciting because it's a move people have anticipated since the day he left the U for Buffalo, and rumors and excitement for #26 have only booned with the arrival of ex-teammate and good friend Jason Pominville from Buffalo a year and a half ago.

 

On ice, it’s pretty much a consensus that this is a good move due to the fact that Vanek agreed to take less money and less years, giving the Wild the flexibility to sign some of their younger guys like Haula, Granlund, and company later on, while at the same time giving the offensively challenged team some much needed fire power.  It also leaves the Wild free of any obligation during Vanek’s exit from his prime in 3 years, which is huge considering they are still on the hook for 11 more years of Suter and Parise each, and who knows what kind of players they will be 7-8 years from now.  That’s about as in depth as I feel comfortable going since I’m not by any means a hockey X’s and O’s mind, but it sure seems to me that this move will help the wet blanket that has for many years been the offense.  I’m super excited about it because he was my first favorite player at the U, and the first Gopher that I really made a point to follow regularly once he went on to the NHL.  Now I actually get to watch him night in, night out again for the first time since I was like 12.  I can’t wait.

 

Another reason this is huge is on a much more macro level of Minnesota sports.  Finally it feels like the Wild are becoming a free agent destination.  I know there are obvious connections to the state for Vanek, but there were 30 million extra reasons to go elsewhere that he left on the table.  It feels like the Wild brass’ plan is coming to fruition right before our eyes, as they are getting really good at supplementing their homegrown young core with key free agents and trades.  Honestly the Twins should take notes. 

 

Having these big name guys come here, just to be here and try to win together is a great feeling as a fan, and one that none of us have ever really had before.  I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today, it feels like we are kind of the Heat of hockey now.  Obviously it is a lot tougher to get to the Stanley Cup Final out of our conference than it is for Miami to make it to the NBA Final out of the hapless East, but it feels like the Wild are building a winning culture here around Suter, Parise, and the kids, and other players are taking notice.  I’ve said it a dozen times by now I bet, but he left 30 million dollars on the table.  To come here.  That’s something that players do when they are ring chasing—when they want to go to Chicago, Detroit (in the past), Pittsburgh, etc.  Not to come to the Wild.  I know they won’t play a meaningful period for another 3+ months, but it already seems like a big win.
 
For your viewing pleasure:
 
 
 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wolves Draft Thoughts


'''"You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take"—Wayne Gretzky’—Michael Scott’—Flip Saunders.'

 

This old sage parable (if it’s not Biblical, it should be—oodles and oodles of wisdom) pretty much sums up the Timberwolves 2014 Draft (you know, besides the two second rounders they sold, those are shots they didn’t take).  The Wolves grabbed Zach LaVine, a 2 guard from UCLA, and former Gopher tormenter and Michigan Wolverine, Glenn Robinson III. 

 

As for the LaVine pick, it was leaked on Wednesday that the Wolves had come to a quote-unquote handshake promise agreement to select LaVine with the 13th overall pick.  Protip: don't let the rest of the league know who you want at 13.  I don't know if the leak or the fact that LaVine was acquired without as much as a rumor of another team looking to move up to get him ahead of us or at least exploit us into giving something up is more troubling.  They were all just like "fuck it, go ahead."  As I discovered today reading twolvesblog.com, this wink wink should come as no surprise, as LaVine’s agent Bill Duffy and Flip were teammates at the U in the 70s and the franchise has shown nepotism towards Duffy clients in the past.  There’s a reason this organization is so often referred to as “the country club.”  In LaVine, the Wolves are essentially giving up the chance at getting a player that is ready or almost ready to contribute (cough Gary Harris cough) and instead are going with an uber-athletic project that is not *especially* skilled at any facet of the game yet.  That’s fine if you’re a team that’s ready to blow everything up and rebuild, but with Pek, Rubio, and soon-to-be Klay Thompson the payroll for big money, that isn’t the direction the Wolves are showing that they’re trying to go--they're trying to compete.  The other problem with the pick is that the Wolves have shown almost no ability to develop a player that they have drafted since Kevin Garnett, save for maybe Nikola Pekovic.  So taking LaVine under the predisposition that he will be developed into a great shooting guard is presumptuous at best and delusional at worst.  Flip said it himself, it’s a swing for the fences pick.

 

As for their second pick, I’m actually feeling really good about the apparent objective the Wolves had.  They took Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III, who like LaVine is super duper athletic, and also super raw.  However, the difference is that in the second round, those are the kinds of swing for the fences hacks that you should be taking.  Some say he’s a first round talent, and I just think he’s a smart lottery ticket that was snatched up in a “what do we have to lose” manner.

 

The overarching problem with this franchise lies in ownership and upper management.  Flip Saunders’ actions have shown that he isn’t sure whether the Wolves are willing to blow things up and go for a rebuild, but keeping in mind that he has named himself the head coach after one hell of a head coaching search, I would lean towards the idea that he wants to win.  Which is the problem with the LaVine pick (which is complete potential) in the context of the impeding Love trade (getting Klay Thompson is a win now move, albeit a questionable one).  With this kind of inconsistency coupled with Flip having more job security than a tyrant in a totalitarian state (he’s a fucking owner for God’s sakes, not like they can fire him, EVER), I fear the Wolves are destined for years of 35 wins and 9th overall picks.