Friday, December 16, 2011

Minnesota Twins Off Season Moves

Three long time Minnesota Twins have or are about to depart the Twins via free agency. Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer have signed with Texas and Colorado respectively, and indications are Jason Kubel is leaving as well.

From 2004 – 2009 Joe Nathan was the second best reliever in all of baseball. He made 4 All-Star teams in those six years while compiled a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 21.2 which is a very impressive total for a reliever.

Through his time was the Twins Nathan was a class guy, and importantly to me as an autograph collector, he always answered fan mail, and has a beautiful signature.

However 2010 and 2011 were not kind to Nathan mostly due to injury. At 36 Nathan probably does not have many playing years left, so it is understandable that he was looking to sign with a team that has a good chance to win it all. Texas has better chance of getting to a World Series than the Twins, so Texas is where he went.

With the Twins signing of Josh Willingham to play right field, Michael Cuddyer’s 11 year stint with the Twins came to an end. Cuddyer will be remembered mostly for his amazingly dignity and numerous charitable efforts. Like Harmon Killebrew before him, Cuddyer treated fans with great respect, and was loved by many for doing so.

Cuddyer also answered his fan mail, and had one of the most readable autographs in the game. I like Michael Cuddyer, but he really only had 2 great years (2006 & 2009). In 11 years with the Twins Cuddyer hit 141 home runs, posted an OPS + of 111, and had a WAR of 11.1. In the last 6 seasons Willingham has hit 131 home runs, posted an OPS + of 121 and had a WAR of 12.6.

Willingham’s numbers have been superior. Both men are 32, but Willingham was willing to settle for a 3 year $21 million dollar contract while Cuddyer signed with Colorado for 3 years and $31 million. Cuddyer is a great guy, but Willingham gives the Twins more production for less money.

I have a photo of Michael Cuddyer dumping a bucket of Gatorade over Jason Kubel after Kubel had hit a home run to win an important game back in 2006. At Twinsfest 2008 I had Jason Kubel sign the photo. Cuddyer had already signed it, and after Kubel signed it he would not give it back to back to me. Instead he took a minute to look it over which normally players don’t do. I told when the picture was from. The normally reserve Kubel look up at me with a big grin and said “Oh yeah, I know when it’s from,” then he gave out a satisfied chuckle. It was great to see a player get a chance to relive a good memory from something I had.

Unfortunately Jason Kubel’s time with the Twins is likely up. Kubel had an up and down career with the Twins. His best year was 2009. Overall he hit 104 home runs, posted an OPS + of 112, and a WAR of 6.4. Kubel seemed to hit a lot of big home runs for the Twins, but with $96 million of the Twins supposed $100 projected payroll already committed, Kubel is likely to sign elsewhere for some pretty good cash.

Ryan Doumit has been signed to replace Kubel at DH. Doumit also offers protection at catcher, 1st base, and right field all positions he has played before. Doumit can hit, but his defense is ordinary. Still with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau’s health still in question, the Twins need Doumit’s versatility.

Jamey Carroll has also been signed by the Twins. Carroll is slotted to take over at shortstop. 2011 was a disastrous year at short for the Twins. Carroll steady defense and solid hitting in the #2 spot in the batting order will be welcomed, though he 37 and his performance could decline quickly.

I will miss Nathan, Cuddyer, and Kubel. Good guys who played hard for the Twins. I am pleased with the signing of Willingham, Doumit, and Carroll. I think they will help. I am also intrigued by the signing of Sean Burroughs to a minor league contract. In the early 00’s Burroughs was a highly rated 3rd base prospect who had stardom written all over him. Unfortunately substance abuse problems ended his playing days and nearly destroyed him. He is making a comeback, and played briefly with Arizona last year, after putting up some impressive numbers with their top minor league team. Could Burroughs be a diamond in the rough? I guess we will find out.

In fact we will find out if the moves to let Nathan, Cuddyer, and Kubel go and bring in Willingham, Doumit, and Carroll will work out best for the Twins. All Twins fans including me really hope they do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Creating Baseball Cards

Not every baseball player gets a baseball card. Some players are in the majors for such a short period of time, they never qualify to be on a baseball card. This has caused me a problem in my quest to get a signed baseball card from every current and former player of the Minnesota Twins.

I decided since a card of every player did not exist, I would create some cards of my own. I downloaded the free design layout program Scribus, and began working on some designs.

I needed something with plenty of white space. Many of the players without cards are older former players who want to sign nicely in a visible spot, but their hands are not what they use to be, and their writing can be a little messy especially if they are trying to fit it into a small spot.

I decided landscape design allows for a larger open white space for the player to sign. It also allows me to see the autograph well even if the player signs in harder to read ink pen instead of the preferred blue sharpie. Also, some players want to personalize the card to me or add a short message or religious verse. The large white space allows this without making things look messy or cramped.

I wanted to include the different Twins logos used throughout their history. I put the Twins logo from the 60’s and 70’s in the upper left corner and the Twins logo used in the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s in the lower left.

Baseball cards tend to include photos of the players, but finding photos of many of these former players is difficult. When I do find photos of the players, they are often of such poor quality; it does not pay to use them.

When I do find a good enough looking photo of a player, I can just replace one of the logos with the photo. Remember these cards are 3.5 inches long and 2.5 inches high, so the photo cannot that big meaning you need something sharp, clear, and bright.

I have used different fonts and colors for the text. I will continue to experiment with them, but I always want the player’s name up top, and a phrase connecting the player to the Twins.

The words “Win Twins!” is catch phrase used throughout Twins history, so I thought it might be worth including it on the card.

Below is my current card design:

I have had a good success rate with these. They may not be as flashy as some of the custom card design I have seen other people make, but they are functional and inexpensive to create.

When I can I send players professional made baseball cards, but when no such cards exist, I think the players appreciate the fact I took the time to make something that acknowledge their time with the Twins.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Greatest Minnesota Twin of All-Time?

                                            Rod Carew

Myth is something that we believe is true, but in reality it is not. The power of myth is that even though the myth can be factual proven wrong, many yet still believe the myth is true. Many baseball fans and media types often believe one player is better or worse than he really is. Why do they believe such things and create this myth?

I believe human nature leads us to like certain people over others, and we then create a “justification” as to why we like that person over another. The “justification” may actually be correct, or it is a myth. Either way it is a justification in our own or possibly other’s mind.

I have often wondered if a baseball player’s stats alone tell us everything about a player’s performance. If a player hits 30 home runs in a year is that a good year for the player? In most cases yes, but what if most of the 30 home runs were hit when his team was way ahead or way behind. Does this still make his season a success? What if another only hits 15 home runs, but all of those home runs either put his team ahead or won a game. Is that player more valuable than the player who his 30 seemingly meaningless home runs?

I wanted to determine who the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time was and modern statistic helped me do so. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a complex formula that takes into account a position player’s runs produced on offense and runs saved on defense. Those runs produced and saved are then calculated into a formula that produces how many of the player’s team wins that player is responsible for above what a replacement level player would be responsible for.

The formula for pitchers is different, but the concept is the same. How many more wins was the player better than his replacement.

The formula favors catcher, shortstops, and centerfielders since those are the most difficult and important defensive positions. Corner outfielders, 1st basemen and DH’s are not as favored because those positions are easier to find replacements.

I got my number from and use I only use the WAR a player accumulated while in Minnesota. Before they were the Minnesota Twins, the Twins were the Washington Senators. Some players played for the Senators in Washington then followed the team to Minnesota. I do not count those players accomplishments in Washington only what they did in Minnesota. Here is what I came up with:

1. Rod Carew – 62.7
2. Harmon Killebrew – 54.9
3. Bert Blyleven – 45.7
4. Kirby Puckett – 44.8
5. Tony Olivia – 42.4
6. Brad Radke – 41.4
7. Joe Mauer – 40.3
8. Chuck Knoblauch – 35.4
9. Kent Hrbek - 35.3
10. Johan Santana – 32.1

Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, Cesar Tovar, Frank Viola, Gary Gaetti, Dave Goltz, Jim Perry, Corey Koskie, Joe Nathan, and Justin Morneau are the next ten players. Torii Hunter is 26th on the list. Michael Cuddyer does not even make the list.

Rod Carew was worth 62.7 wins above what is replacement would have been worth to the Twins while Harmon Killebrew was worth 54.9. Does this mean Rod Carew is the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time?

Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr., Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, George Brett, Robin Yount, Tom Seaver, Babe Ruth, Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Stan Musial were some of the other players declared by WAR to be the best all-time player of their team. These men are all baseball legends that fans not only know, but probably could tell you what team they were declared the best of. So here WAR looks like it knows what it is talking about.

However, WAR also declared Pee Wee Reese the greatest Dodger of all-time (he beat out Duke Snider 66.7 to 66.5 while Sandy Koufax came in at 54.5), so maybe there is some room for argument or is there?

Carew won 7 American League batting titles. He is the Twins all-time leader in batting average (.334). Carew retired the Twins leader in hits and stolen bases as well as batting average. In 1977 he won an MVP award with the best single season performance in Twins history. He started in 11 All-star games. Rod Carew was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer.

The power of myth though will not allow Rod Carew an easy path to being the Twins all-time best player. Many Twins fans will tell you Harmon Killebrew and his 5 home runs titles, his 1969 MVP award and his incredible warm and humble personality make him the greatest Twin.

The power of myth will not allow those same fans to remember Killbrew was so bad defensively that if he played today he would be a full-time DH. Killebrew hit only .260 (78 points lower the Carew), and despite playing 2 more seasons than Carew with the Twins had 142 fewer doubles and triples.

It took 4 tries for the Twins all-time home run and RBI leader to get into the Hall of Fame, but in many Twins minds, he was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest Twin ever because Harmon Killebrew was a great home run hitter, and a great guy off the field.

The power of myth leads many fans to tell you Kirby Puckett is the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time. Puckett was considered by many to be the most popular athlete in Minnesota history. His Twins won 2 World Series. Puckett’s performance in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series was legendary. Puckett hit for power and average. His career batting average is third all-time to Carew and Joe Mauer while his 207 home runs are 5th all-time.

Puckett’s career was cut short due to injury. Many believe he would have gotten 3000 hits as a Twin had he not been hurt. Then they say there would be no debate of his greatness. Puckett never won a MVP, but he started 6 All-star games which is second in team history to Carew’s 11. Puckett was also a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. Everyone loved Kirby Puckett because he could hit, field, and was such a great guy.

However, Puckett swung at every ball thrown his way rarely drawing walks which cut down on his overall offensive production. Puckett’s defense was overrated as he played deep in center field in order to get back and make several home run saving catches that looked nice on TV, but were countered by the many singles he let fall in front of him.

Also how much credit does Puckett get for his Twins winning a World Series? Puckett was the best player on those teams, but what about Hrbek, Blyleven, Viola, Gaetti, Knoblauch, and Jack Morris who were just some of his talented teammates. What if they had been Carew’s or Killebrew’s teammates instead?

When he died Kirby Puckett was hailed as the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time. The myth of Kirby Puckett as a great all around player was solidified. When he died Harmon Killebrew was hailed as the greatest Twin of all-time even though just a few years earlier it had been Puckett being hailed. Killebrew’s myth was being solidified as well.

Then there is Joe Mauer. Minnesotans love that Joe Mauer was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is now the most loved athlete in the history of Minnesota (replacing Puckett). Mauer won the 2009 MVP and has 3 batting titles to his name. His average WAR per season is better than any player in Twins history. Are we watching the greatest Twin of all-time as he is currently playing for the Twins?

Statistics say Rod Carew is the best Minnesota Twin. Myth though refuses to allow that fact to be so clear cut. There is no arguing Babe Ruth or Tom Seaver is the greatest Yankee or Met. Those players not only have the stats, but they have the myth of all-time greatness. Carew may have stats on his side, but many Twins fans love the myth of Killebrew’s power, or Puckett perceived all around greatness and his 2 World Series, or Joe Mauer seemingly effortless drive to greatness.

Maybe having multiple legends like Carew, Killebrew, Puckett, and Mauer on the same plane of greatness is better than having one true mega star like Mike Schmidt or Willie Mays.

Of course, as previously mentioned, the Twins were once the Washington Senators, and if I had included the Senators’ players in my ranking, as many baseball people do, than Carew, Killebrew, Puckett or Mauer would have no chance at being considered the greatest player in this organizations history.

Walter Johnson, a charter member of the Hall of Fame, and his WAR of 127.7 (more than double Carew’s 62.7) would win hands down. Add to his impressive WAR score the fact that most baseball people consider Johnson the greatest pitcher of all-time, and stats and myth would agree Walter Johnson, a man who likely never step foot in Minnesota, is greatest Twin of all-time.

However, I excluded the Senators from my rankings, and that means Rod Carew is statistical proved to be the greatest Twin of all-time. Myth though is not so sure about that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maya Moore Signs My Basketball Cards

In an earlier post I mentioned I had sent basketball cards that I had made on my computer to 4 Minnesota Lynx players asking if the would sign them for me. Seimone Augustus signed for me right away. Lindsay Whalen signed with a dried out marker and failed to even seal the envelope. Her cards are basically unreadable. Candice Wiggins and Maya Moore had not responded.

Well on Saturday I receive two envelopes in mail. One was former Minnesota Twin Kevin Jarvis who had signed a card for my current and former Minnesota Twins collection. The other was the Lynx’s Maya Moore! Ms Moore signed both the cards I had sent her in blue sharpie; personalizing them and adding the bible verse Col. 3:23.

I think Maya Moore will become the greatest female basketball player of all-time exceeding Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper, and Lisa Leslie. I also find it interesting Ms Moore has chosen the wear the number 23 which was the number Michael Jordan (considered the greatest basketball player of all-time) wore. I found it even more interesting that Seimone Augustus wears 33 which was the number Scottie Pippen (Jordan’s right-hand man with the Bulls) wore. Jordan – Pippen, Moore – Augustus, perhaps the Lynx are about to embark on championship dynasty much like Jordan and Pippen’s Chicago Bulls.

The Lynx are very popular right now, especially amongst the growing sport fan base of young women. I have notice with every passing year more and more young women have been showing up at Minnesota Twins events and games. I believe the Twins and Lynx have been catering more to the young female audience, and it will help both organizations in the future.

Of course nothing helps a sports team’s future more than winning. Right now the Lynx are the WNBA Champs, and with young superstars like Maya Moore to lead them, their future is bright.

Thank you to Maya Moore for signing my cards. Above is a picture of the unsigned version of one of the cards I sent to Ms Moore.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Twins Fire Bill Smith and Bring Back Terry Ryan as GM

The Minnesota Twins have fired Bill Smith as their general manager, and replaced him with former General Manager Terry Ryan. Ryan is a vaunted figure amongst Twins fans. He rebuilt the Twins into a winner. Smith on the other hand is greatly disliked by Twins fans. Under Smith’s leadership the Twins have made multiple bad trades and some questionable free agent signings that have put them in a bind.

Here is a list of Bill Smith good, bad, and just plain ugly moves.

The Good

  • Smith was able to trade minor league pitcher Yohan Pino for to Cleveland for starting pitcher Carl Pavano. Pavano has been a solid starting pitcher for the Twins while Pino has never made it to the majors.

  • Smith signed free agent Jim Thome to $1.5 million dollar contract in 2010. Thome promptly played like a player worth $10 million, and became a cult hero in Minnesota.

  • Smith was able to acquire shortstop Orlando Cabrera, reliever Brian Fuentes, and reliever Jon Rauch for little or nothing. All three players helped the Twins with a division tile.

  • Smith traded Carlos Gomez for shortstop JJ Hardy. Hardy had the look of a long term answer for the Twins at shortstop. Unfortunately Smith would trade Hardy (see below) away before Hardy could he was answer.

  • Smith signed young international prospect Miguel Sano to a then record signing bonus. Sano is the now the best prospect in the Twins farm system, and has the look of a future superstar.

The Bad

  • Smith traded 2 time CY Young award winner, and fan favorite Johan Santana to the New York Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Santana pitched well for the Mets, but not as well as he had for the Twins. Santana also missed all of 2011 with injuries. Gomez, Humber, and Mulvey never did much for the Twins and have left the organization. Only Guerra is still around, and he is still in the minors with a chance he might be become a reliever. Smith should have gotten more for Santana, but it should be remembered Santana had the power to veto a trade, and he only wanted to pitch on the east coast.

  • Smith allowed valuable relievers Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain to leave as free agents. In retrospect Smith should have re-signed one if not both, but he had Matt Capps and Joe Nathan both coming back and earning a combined roughly $20 million which may have affected his thinking.

  • Smith signed Japanese league star Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a 3 year $9 million contract. Nishioka had a miserable year in 2011 and his future is cloudy at best.

The Ugly

  • Smith traded starting shortstop Jason Barlett and young pitching prospect Matt Garza to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. Barlett and Garza helped Tampa to the World Series, and both remain solid to above average major league players. Young had one good year (2010) and three bad years. Harris mostly was below average and was sent packing. The Twins are in need of a shortstop and top of the rotation pitcher. Bill Smith gave both those things away in this trade.

  • Smith traded catching prospect Wilson Ramos to Washington for reliever Matt Capps. Capps proved to be an ordinary at best while Ramos has the look of a good catcher who will be around for the next 10 years.

  • Smith traded J.J. Hardy, who he had acquired just the year before, to Baltimore for two non-descript minor league relievers named Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Hardy had a great year and was signed to a contract extension by Baltimore. Hoey and Jacobson had bad years, and have iffy futures.


In the end Smith traded Johan Santana, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Wilson Ramos, and JJ Hardy, and all the Twins have left in the organization from those trades is a minor pitching prospect Deolis Guerra, and relief pitching non-prospects Jim Hoey, Brett Jacobson, and Lester Oliveras.

Five good major league players traded and you only have 4 non-descript relievers to show for them. No wonder Bill Smith was fired.

Welcome back Terry Ryan. The Twins need your help badly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Minnesota Twins and Baseball Free Agency

Baseball free agency is upon us once again, and millions of baseball fans will clamor for their team to sign a big name player who will help them win next season.

The Twins coming off their worst season in years are looking for a starting shortstop, a backup catcher who can hit, a starting pitcher or two, and plenty of help in the in bullpen. However, the Twins history says they won’t be finding any big name player on the free agent market.

In fact the Twins history shows they will leave most of their free agent go to other teams, and most of those players will achieve little with their new clubs.

After the 1976 season baseball had its first true off-season of free agency. Bill Campbell was the Twins first free agent. Campbell had been the best reliever in the American League for the Twins in 1976 going 17-5 with an ERA of 3.01 and 20 saves.

Campbell signed a 5 year $1 million dollar deal with Boston. This was consider outrageous money (oh, how things have changed since then), and much was expected of Campbell. He delivered in 1977 with a very good season then followed that up with a bunch of subpar years.

Outfielder Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock had brilliant years for the Twins in 1977, and entered free agency as hot commodities. Hisle signed a 6 year $3.15 million contract with Milwaukee while Bostock signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Angels. Twins fans were outraged that Twins had let them go. When starting pitcher Dave Goltz left after the 1979 season to sign with the Dodgers, Twins fans started giving up hope.

However, Hisle, Bostock, and Goltz never lived up to the amount of money they were given. Hisle had a brilliant 1978 for Milwaukee then proceeded to get hurt and never play more then 27 game in a season for the next 4 years. Bostock was having a good 1978 when he was tragically murdered late in the season. Goltz never even came close to having even an average season with the Dodgers, and they released him before the end of his contract.

Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Jack Morris, Jeff Reardon, Dan Gladden, Shane Mack, Chili Davis, Eric Milton, David Ortiz, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain have all left the Twins as free agents. Some had success, some failure, some a little of both. Were any really worth retaining? You could argue Hunter, Gagne, and Ortiz were, but it is not a high percentage of the number of free agents who have left the Twins.

The Twins will likely loose 4 more free agents this off-season. Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Joe Kubel, and Matt Capps are free agents. I expect 3 if not all 4 to leave. Cuddyer and Kubel have spent their entire careers with the Twins while Nathan has spent most of his productive years with the Twins, but money talks and all 3 could quickly be out of the Twins price range.

I was trying to think who the Twins biggest free agent signing was. Minnesota natives Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, Terry Stienbach, and Paul Molitor all signed with Twins as free agents, but took less money to do so. Chili Davis signed a 2 year $4.5 million dollar contract in 1991 that was a fairly large investment at the time. However, since then the Twins have signed few free agents. Players such as Orlando Hudson, Rondell White, Livan Hernandez, and Jim Thome took less the below market contracts mainly because not many teams were interested in them.

There is lots of talk of the Twins signing shortstop Clint Barmes and catcher Ryan Doumit or catcher Rod Barajas not to mention a bunch of pitchers of varying talent and price range. Will the Twins invest in any of them? One cannot be sure, but their history says not unless they can get them at below market cost. Then again, when you loss 99 games as the Twins did this year, they may make an exception.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Minnesota Lynx

Congratulations to the Minnesota Lynx for winning their 1st WNBA title! I had created basketball cards of Lynx’s players Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Candice Wiggins, and Seimone Augustus.

I never heard back from Moore or Wiggins. Whalen signed my card with a dried out marker making it hard to see her autograph. Whalen also failed to seal my envelope. I was lucky the card did not fall out.

Only Augustus signed a card for me nicely. She even returned it to me in 7 days. By the way who ended up WNBA playoff MVP? Seimone Augustus. No doubt signing a card for me and winning MVP honors are related. Okay maybe not, but thanks for signing my card Ms Augustus.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Twins Year End Review

I wrote in a post earlier this year that the fate of the Twins season rode upon the health and performance of superstar Joe Mauer. Mauer managed to only play in 82 of the 162 games the Twins and was never really fully healthy in any of the games he played. Promptly, the Twins lost and lost and lost.

2011 marks the worst Twins season in over a decade. With a payroll of over $100 million dollars this Twins team is the biggest debacle in franchise history. So much was expected, so little achieved. This was a record year for Twins players getting hurt, but it was also a year where everyone on the team underperformed.

There is much work to be done in the off-season, but this much is painfulyl obvious – the Twins need a healthy and productive Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Mauer is more likely to come back to form than Morneau. Morneau’s concussion issues have many people worried he may have to retire. At best, Morneau may end up a full-time DH with Mauer and youngster Chris Parmelee sharing time at first base.

The Twins made two disastrous moves before the start of the 2011 season that help doomed them. Correcting these errors could be costly, but it must be done.

First move was trading promising catching prospect Wilson Ramos to Washington for reliever Matt Capps during the 2010 season. I wrote at the time that I felt the Twins made the trade because they thought they had a chance to advance to the World Series. They were wrong. Capps has proved to be an ordinary reliever who is not worth even half of the $7 million he was making let alone Wilson Ramos.

Ramos is now a promising young major league catcher who hits solidly and fields well. With Joe Mauer status at catcher uncertain, the Twins need a solid hitting, good fielding catcher. They had one in Wilson Ramos, and basically gave him away for an overrated reliever in Matt Capps. They only good thing about Capps is he is leaving as a free agent and the Twins can use that $7 million he got paid for something more useful like a shortstop.

Move two was trading starting shortstop J.J. Hardy and reserve infielder Brendan Harris to Baltimore for 2 minor league relievers (Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson) who have little potential to help the Twins. The Twins said they dealt Hardy and Harris to save money and because they wanted more speed in the infield.

Hardy had a great year and was signed by Baltimore to a long-term contract extension. His replacements in Minnesota - Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe – were abysmal. Alexi Casilla can play short, but he is looks better at second base which is where the Twins say he will play next year. That leaves minor leaguer Brian Dozier, who has shown some promise, or the Twins need to go outside the organization to find a replacement and that is likely to cost them.

With a group of young outfielders in Ben Revere, Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson, Brian Dinkleman, and its possible Plouffe might switch to being an outfielder, the Twins will likely have options to replace the likely the departing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Therefore, most of the Twins efforts to fix the everyday lineup will center on finding a shortstop and a backup catcher.

The Twins pitching in 2011 was not any better than the play of the position players. Numerous injuries and poor performances led to a near complete meltdown of the staff.

Only Carl Pavano made every start he was scheduled to make, and only Glen Perkins performed well in the bullpen. Those two will return in 2012. Who else is anyone’s guess, but Scott Baker pitched well when he was not hurt (he missed at least 10 starts), and Nick Blackburn has a long-term contract that likely makes him untradeable.

Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, and Perkins are 4 out of a needed 12 pitchers. Where are the other 8 going to come from? Good question, but while working on finding a shortstop and backup catcher, the Twins will also be looking for as much good pitching as the can find.

I hope things go better for the Twins in 2012, but a lot is riding on the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau plus the Twins ability to solve their problems at shortstop, backup catcher and the pitching staff.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thome Not Viewed as Great as Others in 600 Club

Jim Thome has now become the 8th man to hit 600th career home runs. Of those 8 men, 3 (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa) are under the suspicion of using steroids to enhance their performance. Because of this you could argue that there are really only 5 players who are undisputed 600 home run hitters (Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Thome).

While Thome’s accomplishment is impressive, and he is one of the nicest guys around, he unfortunately is not viewed as being on the same level of legend as Ruth, Aaron, Mays, and Griffey are. In fact, Jim Thome has never been “The Man” on his team. Never that franchise player the team is built around.

In Cleveland where Thome spent his first 12 years he was often overshadowed by the likes Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, and Roberto Alomar.

In Philadelphia Thome was traded away to make room for a “real superstar” named Ryan Howard. Thome came to the White Soxs after Paul Konerko had led them to a World Series victory and was cemented in his position as the White Sox’s “main man”.

Thome never an MVP and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting only 4 times never finishing higher than fourth.

Thome’s teams never won a World Series losing in 95 and 97. Thome never played any position in field well defensively. In fact, Thome is most known as a DH, not a legendary all-around outfielder as Ruth, Aaron, Mays, and Griffey are viewed.

Thome never inspired a cool nickname like Ruth (The Sultan of Swat, The Bambino), Aaron (Hammerin’ Hank), Mays (Say Hey Kid), or Griffey (Junior).

Thome was always been Robin to someone else’s Batman. Thome hit home runs, walked and was a great teammate, but he never had the myth that he was “the man”.

Like the Twins now Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, Thome has piled up impressive stats without developing a myth of immortally. The other night Blyleven complained on television that Derek Jeter chase of 3000 hits got more attention than Thome chase for 600 home runs. Blyleven said that Thome feat was greater than Jeter’s because fewer people had achieved it.

Maybe so, but in reality when people look back at this era, Derek Jeter will be viewed as much greater player than Thome whether he was or not. Derek Jeter has the myth of being a franchise player on multiple championship teams. No amount of home run Jim Thome hits will overcome that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Terry Pendleton Helps Me Remeber the 1991 Minnesota Twins

I sent a baseball card to 1991 NL MVP Terry Pendleton on 7/30/2008. Mr. Pendleton was a member of the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1991 Atlanta Braves making him the only man to be on the 2 teams the Twins beat to win their 2 World Series Championships.

This weekend the Twins will celebrate the 20 anniversary of their 1991 World Championship team by hosting the reunion celebration. Many of the players of the 1991 team will return to be honored.

The 91 Twins are considered the best Twins team ever.

Jack Morris, Kevin Tapani, and Scott Erickson were the foundation of a good starting staff. Rick Aguilera, Mark Guthrie, Willis, Steve Bedorisan, and Terry Leach anchored a strong bullpen.

The everyday lineup of Kirby Puckett, Shane Mack, Dan Gladden, Chili Davis, Kent Hrbek, 91 AL Rookie of the Year Chuck Knobluach, Greg Gagne, Mike Paglirulo/Scott Lieus, and the underrated Brian Harper, who in 469 plate appearances amazingly stuck out only 22 times and even more amazingly walked only 14 times, formed one of the best hitting and fielding Twins lineups ever.

Add in key reserves Randy Bush, Al Newman, Junior Oritz, and Gene Larkin, and you had one great team.

The 1990 Twins had the worst record in the American League, and the 91 team started the season with a 2-9 west coast road trip. In June however they reeled off a 15 game win streak, and ended the season with the best record in the American League.

Puckett would hit .429 with 2 home runs to help the Twins beat Toronto in the 1991 ALCS (Toronto would go on to win the 1992 and 1993 World Series). I watched the end of climatic game from the concourse of the Target Center because my Mother and I had tickets to the Judds “farewell tour”.

The 1991 World Series against Atlanta was in my opinion the best World Series of all-time. Five of the seven games were decided by one run with all five of decided in the last at bat.

Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7 with Game 6 ending on a Kirby Puckett walk-off home run, and Game 7 ending up being 1-0 in 10 innings.

Jack Morris outpitched Atlanta John Smoltz in Game 7 going all 10 innings giving up 7 hits 0 runs while walking 2 and striking out 8. It was the greatest World Series pitching performance of all-time, and for it Morris was named the World Series MVP for it

My brother and his then young son had come up from Texas to visit, and together with my parents we watched the Twins win Games 6 & 7. The memory of Jack Buck calling out, “the Twins are going to win the World Series, the Twins have won it” as Gene Larkin lifted the series winning hit in the bottom of the 10th still echoes pleasantly in my head.

Today as I was thinking of posting something about the 91 Twins I got a signed baseball card in the mail. It was from Terry Pendleton whose memories of the 1991 are not as good as mine. 1099 days after I sent it (that’s 3 years and 4 days) my Terry Pendleton card returns to provide me a chance to remember some of my best memories as a Twins fan.

I know you did not do it intentionally Mr. Pendleton, but thanks for helping me remember some good times. Win Twins!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Meet Ben Revere of the Minnesota Twins

I got to meet Ben Revere at an autograph signing held at AME Sports in Roseville, MN. Ben signed a banner (which you can see in the above picture) given to me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago by my sister-in-law.

Ben seems like a really nice guy who is just happy to be able to live the life he is living. Twins fans love Ben because of his speed on the bases and in the outfield, and because he does seem to so warm and upbeat. Long term though I fear Ben won’t be a star. That is not to say he won’t be a solid player, but his lack of power and inability to walks limits his upside.

Ben wears the #11 which was last worn prominently by Jacque Jones. Jacque was a member of the 2002, 2003 & 2004 division champion teams and he hit 132 home runs in his 7 years with the Twins. Jacque also struck out over 700 times and posted an OPS + of only 100.

Like Ben, Jacque did some things well, and some things not so well which kept him from being a star. However, Jacque is still well thought of by Twins fans who remember his time here. Ben Revere time here could be viewed in roughly the same way – not a star, but as a contributor who helped the Twins to success.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Country Power Index (CPI)

For the fun of it I decided to assign 1 point for every million albums sold, every #1 song, every top 10 song, every CMA award, and every ACM award a country music artist achieved over their career. For example if you had sold 10 million records, had 10 #1 songs, had 30 top 10 songs, won 5 CMA’s and 5 ACM’s you would have 60 points. Artists with say 10.5 million records sold would get 10.5 points.

I used RIAA certifications to measure album sales, and Billboard Magazines country charts to measure #1 and top 10 country songs.

Of course there are possible inequities in this process as older artists from the 60’s and 70’s were not credited with selling as many albums as they did, and in the last few years record sales have flagged due to people just digitally downloading the songs they like rather than buying the whole album. On the other hand older artists had longer careers as artists who could chart songs meaning they were able to amass more top 10 and #1 singles.

Also Brooks & Dunn won a lot of CMA and ACM awards for being vocal duo of the year when really they had no competition whereas male and female solo artists had a great deal more competition for their awards.

I call my measurement the Country Power Index or CPI. Of course CPI does not measure artistic impact, so whether someone is considered a great singer or whether they have classic songs that will last beyond their lifetime is not factored in. Instead CPI shows an artist dominance of the airwaves, retail sales, and award shows.

I also want to point out that while I did my best to be accurate, there could be mistakes in these calculations.

Here now are the top 15 artists of all-time and their scores:

George Strait – 228

Garth Brooks – 207

Alan Jackson – 150.5

Alabama – 150

Reba McEntire – 139.5

Merle Haggard - 136.5

Conway Twitty - 131

Brooks & Dunn – 130

Tim McGraw – 125

Eddie Arnold – 123

Kenny Rogers – 119

Willie Nelson – 109

George Jones - 108

Dolly Parton – 105.5

Ronnie Milsap – 102

Notice only 2 female artists (Reba & Dolly) show up. This proves what has long been known – that country music has always been a male artist format. Otherwise I am not surprised who is on this list as each of these artists were dominate forces in country music for many years.

In case you are looking for country icons named Johnny, Waylon, Loretta, and Tammy. Here are their scores:

Johnny Cash – 96

Waylon Jennings – 86.5

Loretta Lynn – 84.5

Tammy Wynette - 59.5

Here are the top 5 amongst those artists who emerged in the 80’s. You could point out Strait and McEntire benefitted from having great success in the 90’s as the well 80’s while the other 3 artists on this list earned most of their points during the 80’s. I did not have the time to break out Strait and McEntire’s scores by decade. It would have be interesting to see how made points they earned in each decade.

George Strait – 228

Alabama – 150

Reba McEntire – 139.5

Hank Williams Jr. – 82.5

Randy Travis – 75.5

Here are the top 10 amongst artists who emerged in the 90’s. In case you are wondering – and I am sure someone is – Billy Ray Cyrus scored a 19.5 and LeAnn Rimes a 33.

I think this list includes most of the dominate artists of 90’s though again you could point out many of the artists (Chesney and Keith especially) earned point in the 2000’s as well as the 90’s.

Garth Brooks – 207

Alan Jackson – 150.5

Brooks & Dunn – 130

Tim McGraw – 125

Kenny Cheseny - 93

Toby Keith – 86

Shania Twain – 75

Vince Gill – 75

Dixie Chicks – 68.5

Faith Hill – 67.5

Here are the top 5 artists amongst those who emerged in the 00’s. Paisley has won a bunch of awards which is why he is so out front. Underwood and Swift have amassed their numbers with far fewer years in the industry than the others, so I expect them to eventually overtake Urban and RF.

Brad Paisley – 80

Rascal Flatts – 69

Keith Urban – 51.5

Carrie Underwood – 48

Taylor Swift - 39

Finally a look at the group of country artists who in 1989 revived country music, and set the stage for all the success country music has achieved since. They are collectively called the Class of 89. While officially the group consists of Garth, Alan, Clint, Travis, and Mary Chapin. I also added Vince and Lorrie as both really had their commercial breakthrough in 1989.

Garth Brooks – 207

Alan Jackson – 150.5

Vince Gill – 75

Clint Black – 58.5

Travis Tritt – 39

Lorrie Morgan – 24.5

Mary Chapin Carpenter – 22.5

If this was 1995 I would have told you that Black, Tritt, and Carpenter would have had higher scores. However that is not the case. It just proves you have to judge an artists career over an extended period of time, and in its own way CPI does just that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Minnesota Twins Update

The Twins have played 58 games with their franchise player Joe Mauer having played in only 9 of games. Add to that the fact the Twins have been forced to call up 14 players from the minors due to injuries and poor performance, and it is no wonder the Twins have the worst record in baseball.

Still it has been an interesting year with interesting subplots, some of which I write about below.

Casilla and Plouffe

Alexi Casilla seemed on the verge of being release, now he is playing like the team’s most valuable player. After a horrid start, Alexi Casilla has become an igniter in the Twins lineup with his batting average having risen over 100 points to .262. He leads the team in stolen bases with 8 which is twice as many the as anyone else on the team.

Casilla has had quite a ride with the Twins since being first called up in 2006. From bad to good to bad to good, Casilla’s play has been all over the place, and rightly earned him the reputation of being an enigma. He may yet fail again, but Casilla recent play has earned him a chance to play out the season as a starter

Casilla supposed replacement Trevor Ploufe on the other hand has earned the demotion he received. Plouffe was called up when Casilla go off to a horrible start. Ploufe, a former 1st round draft pick, had the chance to win the shortstop job and secure his spot on the team for the next few years. While Ploufe did hit 3 home runs in his time up with the Twins, I have never seen someone airmail so many throws to 1st base.

Plouffe’s throws seem to be careless, and he was to easily upset by reports questions about his bad play. He also hit only .200 in the 18 games he played for the Twins. Bad defense, being easily hurt by bad press, and hitting only .200 is not a good combination to have if you want to be a big league shortstop.

Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins

I have never seen the entire Twins organization turn on someone as they have turned on pitcher Kevin Slowey. Twins television color man Bert Blyleven, who is a Hall of Fame pitcher, has repeatedly slammed Slowey on air about Slowey’s unwillingness to pitch out of the bullpen. Others have followed in bashing Slowey whose time here in Minnesota is obviously about to end.

I have meet Kevin Slowey and thought he was a pretty decent guy. That said Slowey has been with the Twins 5 seasons and has yet to pitch more than a 160 innings as a starter (typical good starting pitchers pitch 200 + innings in a season). Slowey cannot seem to stay healthy, and when he is healthy he gives up way to many fly balls many of which turn into extra base hits.

Glen Perkins was once like Slowey, a man about to be sent into exile, but Perkins arrived this year with the attitude he was going to move to the bullpen and be effective. To the surprise of many, Perkins has been the Twins best reliever. Though he is currently on the disable list, Perkins has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise for the Twins this season.

Liriano and Pavano

Right now the highlight of the season is Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter. However, Carl Pavano’s no infamous attack on a garbage can in the Twins dugout in at Kansas City on May 1st may go down as the symbol of how most Twins fans feel about this season.

The Future for These Twins Might be as ex-Twins

I believe if the Twins are over 10 games out of first place by the all-star break in July, they will explore trading Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, and of course Kevin Slowey. All but Young will draw interest, and many will be traded. I do not think as some have suggested that Jim Thome will be traded as he is too beloved here to be sent away via trade. Plus Thome may take a while to reach home run number 600, and the Twins will not trade him till he reaches that milestone.

I respect Justin Morneau for playing hard even when it is obvious he still has injury concerns. I respect Joe Nathan for realizing he was not ready to contribute to this team, and removed himself from the closer role, and asked to be put back on the disabled list. Men of character are hard to find in pro sports, and Morneau and Nathan are 2 of them.

I think Morneau will be back to his old self and with the Twins next year. Nathan, on the other hand, will likely not be back, but should land a job elsewhere.

The Twins Minor League System

Luke Hughes, Trevor Ploufe, Rene Rivera, Steve Holm, Rene Tosoni, Brian Dinkelman, Ben Revere, Jim Hoey, Phil Dumatrait, Eric Hacker, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzek, Anthony Slama, and Chuck James are the 14 players called up from the minors to help the Twins. Only Revere, Swarzek, and James have major league talent.

Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko, and Dusty Hughes were Twins on the opening day roster that had no business being on a major league roster and should be in the minors. Come to think about it, Dusty Hughes is back in the minors. I have a feeling Tolbert and Repko’s time on the big league roster is limited.

The only minor league talent the Twins have not called up this season that is even remotely ready to help them are starting pitchers Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks. Gibson is at Triple A Rochester, and Hendriks is at Double A New Britain. The Twins currently have enough decent starting pitching that neither man is needed, but by next year Gibson especially will be a factor.

Outside of Gibson and Hendriks the Twins best minor league prospects are Oswaldo Arcia (a 20 year old outfielder who can hit for power and average), Adrian Salcedo (a 20 year old starting pitcher with ace potential), Miguel Sano (a 18 year old hitting sensation), and Nate Roberts (a 22 year old outfielder who can hit). All have star potential and all are in low A ball or the rookie leagues which means 2-3 years minimum before they can be counted on.

Unfortunately it looks like supposed top 10 prospects Aaron Hicks (21) and Alex Wimmers (22) are not on verge of greatness as many had hoped. Hicks is a great defensive outfielder who cannot hit. Wimmers has suddenly lost his ability to throw strikes. The Twins were counting on both players to help out in the near future. Now it looks like neither will be ready for some time if at all.

There is always hope some minor league player will suddenly blossom ala Denard Span, and there are other players in the system like Joe Benson, James Beresford or Logan Darnell who have the chance to be a good player. On the whole though all the really good players are young and will not be contributing next year.

Final Thought

The Twins may yet somehow end up contending, but I sense this is a lost year.

I think the Twins organization needed to be knocked down off their high pedestal. The Twins organization has started acting pretty smug lately. It was time to remind both the baseball side and the business side of the Twins that they are not infallible. There is a fine line between being a winning and losing team.

If there is one thing I know about the Minnesota sports fans, it is they support winners not losers. God forbid the Twins have a couple losing seasons in a row. Target Field will become a ghost town. Let’s hope that does not happen, but the Twins had better watch out because it can easily become the case.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My First Twins Game of the Year

I went to my first Minnesota Twins game of the year on Friday, and promptly watched the Twins bullpen blow a 5 run lead in the 8th. I found out later the Twins had their major league record 755 game winning streak when entering the 8th inning leading by 5 or more runs snapped with the loss.

The record was a tribute to the many good relievers the Twins have had over the decade like Joe Nathan, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Juan Rincon, Matt Guerrier, etc. Unfortunately it looks like the current Twins bullpen does not posses relievers of such quality.

One good thing that did happen at the game was I got an autograph Nick Blackburn baseball. I obtained the ball by buying a “Ball in a Bag” from the Twins Wives Organization. They have several brown bags in a basket that had an autographed baseball in them. If you donate $25 you get to choose a bag.

I asked Carroll Gardenhire, manager Ron Gardenhire’s wife, to pick a bag for me with the hope she would get me a ball signed by someone decent who I do not have a signed ball from already. Nick Blackburn fits the bill. Thanks Carroll for coming through for me!

In case you were wondering you had to pay $100 to have a shot at a Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, or Justin Morneau ball. That is a little above my price range, and I already have signed balls from Mauer and Morneau.

Despite the loss, I did have a good time at the game, and wish I could go to more, but the tickets are pricey, the parking is pricey, and the food is pricey and not all that good. Still the environment is enjoyable and it is worth attending a couple of games a year in person.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harmon Killebrew

Harmon Killebrew has died. Harmon was the Twins all-time career leader in home runs (475), RBI’s (1325), and OPS + (143). As a Twin Harmon amassed a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 54.9 which is second best total in Twins history.

Some Twins fans will tell you Harmon is the face of the Twins franchise. Other Twins fans will tell you, as they did when he died, that Kirby Puckett is the face of the Twins franchise. While other Twins fans will tell you Joe Mauer is the true face of the Twins franchise. Oh, and don’t forget Rod Carew who advanced statistical measurements say was the greatest Minnesota Twin of all-time. I say why do we have to have only one face of the Twins franchise?

Most Twins fans will tell you Harmon was one of the nicest men they ever meet.

I have meet Harmon twice in person. To honest he basically ignored me the first time we meet, but he did hurriedly sign my baseball for me. The second time we meet he signed a baseball card for me then took the time to tell me about the pen he was using to sign the card with. He said he had specifically brought the pen with him to signed baseball cards.

I have been in four autograph lines where because Harmon talked too much to the people ahead of me I did not get through and get his autograph. I also sent a donation to his foundation in exchange for Harmon to sign a picture and baseball card for me. I asked him to sign in blue, he signed in black. I was told he would be put “HOF 84” on both items, and he only did so on the picture.

Of course Harmon was no different than any other person. He had his good days and his bad days. He had his reasons for basically ignoring me the first time we met just as he had his reason for being friendly to me the second time we met.

It was not his fault I cut off in his autograph lines. The Twins people who running those lines knew Harmon was the slowest autograph signer in all of baseball. They should have cut the line off after 100 people rather than let people sit there and fester then get angry when they did not get through the line.

Like what happen when Kirby Puckett died, people will spend too much time talking about how great a man Harmon was. In reality no one deserves all that praise. We all do good things, we all do bad things. We all at times are nice people, and we all have our moments of being not so nice people. No one is perfect.

I think Harmon would say of himself that he was a very good baseball player who tried to be as good a person as he could be. Sometimes he succeeded being that good person, sometimes did not succeed.

In the end that is all we could ask of him. Rest in peace Harmon, you did the best you could.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Liriano Autograph Signing

Here are some pictures of my encounter with Francisco Liriano who was signing autographs at Fan HQ. Francisco signed a photo for me on which he added the inscription “No Hitter 5/3/11”, and he signed an Allen Ginter baseball card for me.

Francisco does not get out much to sign autographs, so it was great of Fan HQ to stage this signing. Thanks to Shaun and everyone at Fan HQ for doing this. If you ever need some sports memorabilia and apparel, and you live in the Twin Cities area, check out Fan HQ as they have a nice selection of items.

I also added this picture of me at the free Drew Butera autograph signing at Fan HQ a while back. As you can see Drew is attempting to hand me back my baseball card, but I am to busy posing for the camera.

I also notice I am wearing the same jacket and hat. I only have one Spring/Fall jacket so wearing it is understandable, but I have at least 5 Twins hats so we will have to work at getting a little variety my choices of head gear.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Liriano's No-Hitter

I have never seen a no-hitter from start to finish till I saw one last Tuesday (5-3-2011) thrown by Francisco Liriano against the White Sox. Liriano had never thrown a complete game less a shutout in his major and minor league career. Yet there he was pitching the first Twins no-hitter in roughly 13 years. Let’s hope this is the start of revitalization of Liriano the ace pitcher. The Twins certainly need him.

In my previous post I said the Twins have chance to contend because they have a franchise player in Joe Mauer. I also mentioned the only thing could prevent Mauer from keeping the Twins in contention was his health. Well guess who has played only 9 of his team’s first 31 games? Joe Mauer is on the disabled list, and may not be back till the end of May which might be too late to help the Twins this season.

Let hope it is not too late, and Mauer can come back and carry this team. Let’s hope Liriano becomes the staff ace. Let’s hope that several other Twins start playing better, and this team heads to the World Series. There is always hope. As Twins fans saw on that magically night in May, sometimes hope is realized.

On a side note, I will have in-person encounter with Francisco Liriano. He is scheduled to sign autographs at FanHQ which a sports memorabilia and apparel store in the Twin Cities suburb of Minnetonka. For $20 a pop you can get him to sign a card, photo, or ball. $10 for inscriptions including what I think will be the most popular inscription – “No-Hitter 5-3-11”.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Joe Mauer Gives the Twins a Good Chance to Reach the Playoffs

Elite position players determine whether your baseball team is a playoff contender. It is as that simple. Don’t believe me? Consider the following.

The Kansas City Royals made the playoffs 7 times during George Brett’s playing career. The Royals never made the playoffs before or after the time Brett played for them.

Since 1890 the Philadelphia Phillies have been to the playoffs 13 times with 10 of those times featuring teams lead by Mike Schmidt (6 times) or Ryan Howard (4 times).

Reggie Jackson lead the Oakland A’s to 5 straight playoff berths (1971-1975). When he left after the 1975 season the A’s did not make the playoff, but Jackson’s new team the New York Yankees did. By the way the Yankees went to the playoffs 4 of his 5 years Reggie Jackson played for them.

Joe Morgan arrived in Cincinnati in 1972 and the Reds went to playoffs 5 times in 8 years including winning their first World Series in 35 years. When Morgan left for Houston in 1980, Houston made the playoffs and Cincinnati did not.

Barry Bonds lead Pittsburgh to the playoffs three straight years (90-92). Bonds left Pittsburgh in 1992 and Pittsburgh has not made the playoffs since.

When Derek Jeter arrived, the Yankees returned to greatness. Players have come and gone in New York, but Derek Jeter has remained and the Yankees keep going to the playoffs.

I could go on, but you get the point. Not every championship team has an elite position player on it, but most do. If your team has a legitimate elite player on it then you have a good chance of making the playoffs.

That is why the Minnesota Twins have a good chance of making the playoffs again in 2011 as they have an elite position player in Joe Mauer.

Yes, the Twins’ bullpen has been rebuilt, the starting rotation may lack a true ace, Justin Morneau is coming off a major injury, the middle infield could have problems, some players are aging, but Joe Mauer remains.

Since Mauer has started playing full-time in 2005 the Twins have made the playoffs 3 times and lost a chance at a fourth berth by losing a 1 game playoff to determine the division championship. When they did not make the playoffs in 2007, Mauer missed 52 games due to various injuries while in 2005 (the other year they did not make it) he was coming back from a major knee injury.

Mauer is only 28, so the Twins still have a good 4 to 5 years left at the top unless Mauer is injured. So health to you Joe Mauer, we need you most in order to make another run at the playoffs.

(The above picture is Joe Mauer's 2006 Allen & Ginter Baseball Card. I think it is one of the best looking Joe Mauer baseball cards of all-time.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Random Thoughts on Country Music

Here are some of my random thoughts regarding events in the country music world so far this year.

New Music

The only new country music I have gotten into lately is from artists on the far fringe of the country genre. The Civil Wars is a duo that makes acoustic orientated music that might qualify as country. Whatever it is I have to say it is reverting to listen to even if the subjects and lyrics are depressing.

Crystal Bowersox is a former American Idol contestant who is not exactly country, but is pushing her new single “Farmer’s Daughter” to country radio. The song is about her troubled relationship with her mother. The song is sung with great passion and some anger which sets it aside from the bland, generic music I heard every time I turn on and then quickly turn off my country radio station.

Alan Jackson Down Under

My favorite country singer Alan Jackson is touring Australia for the first time in his 22 year career. I have read and heard he is a big star there, and his all shows are sold-out. While I think it is great he finally got over there, I have wonder what took him so long. 22 years and he never got there? I wonder if it was just too easy and too lucrative for him to keep touring in the United States every year, though we can never know for sure because we are not inside Alan Jackson’s head. Hopefully he won’t wait 22 more years to go back again.

Lady A Grammy Wins

I cannot get pumped up about Lady Antebellum’s big Grammy wins for their massive hit “Need You Know”. I think it is their best song, but for the most part I am not into their music. I know numerous other folks are into them, and I think that is great. We all should be allowed to listen to what we want, not what other people think we should.

Reba McEntire Finally Gets Into the Country Music Hall of Fame

After Alabama and George Strait were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 & 2006 respectively, I was certain 2007 would bring the election of Reba McEntire. Alabama, Strait, and McEntire debuted at roughly the same time rose to super-stardom in the 80’s with Strait and McEntire carrying on their super-stardom into the 90’s.

Instead Vince Gill was elected in 2007, and McEntire had to wait 4 more years till she was finally elected this year. I think it was it wrong to elect Gill ahead of McEntire. McEntire has achieved far more than Gill, and has been around longer. She certainly deserved entry into the Hall of Fame before him. He would likely agree.

Unfortunately like all voting, voting for the Country Music Hall of Fame is not a non-bias activity. Gill is a popular guy amongst the voters, and they rewarded him. Other folks like Kenny Rogers and Garth Brooks are not so popular with voters, and they will have to wait for induction.

That is not fair, but it is the way the system works. Nonetheless it is great to see Reba McEntire get her just due. Hopefully Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, the Judds, Dwight Yoakam, and Randy Travis will be amongst those who join her in the next few years.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Twinsfest 2011

This winter it has either been me driving in miserable snow and ice conditions or me being sick. It sounds like it has been a rough winter for many people, so here’s hoping spring will be here soon.

Twinsfest, the annual gathering of Twins fans during the dreary winter months, was held on January 28-30. If you are into the Twins and especially if you are into collecting autographs of Twins players this is the place to me.

Normally Twinsfest is held at the Metrodome, but when the Metrodome roof collapsed this winter they had to move the event to the National Sports Center in Blaine, MN.

The NSC bills itself the largest amateur sport complex in America. Whether it is or not, it is closer to my home than the Metrodome and it has free parking.

I went on Friday the 28th and found the line for Joe Mauer autographs shorter than usual. I assume I would get his autograph, but fate worked against me. It seems they were holding the event in two different buildings on the NSC campus, and the one Mauer was signing in had a strict limit for how many people could be in it at one time. Well, guess who was right at the cut-off line.

At least I was not stuck outside waiting in the cold, wondering why the line was not moving like some folks were. It seems a lot people had assume the Mauer line was also the line to get into the other building, so they stood out there and waited even though they did not want Mauer’s autograph.

I quickly found where the other building was and promptly got the autographs of 20 different current and former Twins.

Delmon Young, Anothony Swarzek, Dusty Hughes, Nick Blackburn, Jason Repko, Jason Kubel, Eric Hacker, Pat Neshek, Alex Burnett, Brian Dunesing, Scott Diamond, Jeff Manship, Antony Slama, Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Michael Cuddyer, Juan Berenguer and Brian Raabe, may not be as sexy of names as Joe Mauer and Jim Thome, but I collect autographs of all current and former Twins, not just he big stars.

Current players Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Jose Mijares, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka choose not to attend Twinsfest this year. Morneau was ordered to stay home and continue recovering from his concussion. Nishioka choose to remain in Japan and celebrate his former team’s Japanesse World Series win.

I was disappointed that Capps, Pavano, and Liriano were not in attendance. I would think those three should have made the effort to get up here and show the fans some love. Matt Capps especially should have made an effort as he not been with the team long, and has made no effort to appear at any public event in his time with the Twins.

I was going to go Saturday, but the crowds were incredible, and there was no one signing that day that I really wanted to get, so I arrived bright and early on Sunday morning instead.

With no “big” stars signing on Sunday, the crowds were lighter and I was able get Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and former manager Tom Kelly.

I also got former Jim “Mudcat” Grant was singing on behalf of the Fergie Jenkins foundation.

There seems to be a growing trend at Twinsfest of outside groups bringing in former players to sign for money. The Fergie Jenkins Foundation brought in Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Phil Niekro, and Rollie Fingers along with former Twin Jim Mudcat Grant. Meanwhile the Bob Feller Museum brought in Hall of Famer Robin Yount, former Dodger great Steve Garvey, and former Twins Jim Kaat and Jeff Reardon. Former Twins icon Frank Viola was also suppose to be there, but became ill.

I expect these outside groups to continue to bring in outside players as the Twins basically bring back only former players who live in the area. Several former Twins have not been back in years. I also think a lot of Twinsfest attendees are into getting good players from other teams

Also on Sunday I visited the Twins minor league autograph corner. The major advantage of this group is the autographs are free! The lines are also shorter, though I noticed the lines for #1 prospect Aaron Hicks and #2 prospect Kyle Gibson were longer than the others. I guess other people were thinking like me – get these guy’s autograph now before they gets up to the big club because then the lines for them will be really long, and it will cost money.

I found out the second time through the line that you could get 2 items signed from each player (normally it is only 1 autograph per player). I wish known this the first time through the line as Hicks was signing, and I would have gotten him on ball as well as a card. As it was I got signed items by Hicks, David Bromberg, Rene Tonsi, Chris Parmelee, Kyle Gibson (card & ball), Kyle Waldrop, Joe Benson, and last year 1st round draft choice Alex Wimmers.

Hopefully some if not all those guys will work their way up to the big leagues. If not, their autograph did not cost me a thing.

Finally, I bought an autographed Kirby Puckett ball. Granted it was signed on the sign panel, not the favored sweet spot, but it was much cheaper then other Puckett signed balls I have seen. I don’t have a ball signed by Puckett, but always wanted one. Since Puckett’s death has created more demand all Puckett signed items are getting more and more expensive, so I think this was a good buy.

Upon getting home on Sunday, I got a bad sore throat which turned into a bad cold from which I am still recovering. Nonetheless I had a real good time, and got to meet several interesting fellow Twins fans. I look forward to next year’s Twinsfest whatever it is held.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Meeting Gary Gaetti

Gary Gaetti is my favorite Minnesota Twin of all-time. Gary was a 2 time All-Star, 4 time Gold Glove winner who was also the MVP of American League Championship series. He was the heart and soul of the 1987 Twins’ World Championship team.

Gary is one of only 3 Twins (Harmon Killebrew and Justin Morneau are the others) who have hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 rbi’s in back to back seasons (Gary did it in 87 & 88).

Gary is the only Twin ever to hit a home run in his first regular season at bat and his first post season at bat.

I meet Gary Gaetti for the first time in person in 1983 at a baseball card show. He signed a Minnesota Twins schedule that day for young teenager (me) who was in awe of actually seeing a real baseball player up close and in person.

When I started collecting autographed baseball cards through the mail, Gary Gaetti was the first player I sent to. 9 days after I sent to him, Gary sent a signed card back to me signed in red sharpie. Yes, red sharpie. No other player has ever signed a card in red for me, so it is a card that stands out in my collection.

I have sent more cards, a photo, and baseball, and he has almost always signed for me and signed for free. In fact, when my first signed photo was damaged, I wrote him again and he immediately signed another photo for me, even personalized it.

My most treasured signed baseball card is an 88 Topps card which Gary signed in blue sharpie “Gary Gaetti 87 ALCS MVP”.

27 years after first meeting him, I had the chance to meet Gary Gaetti again. He was signing autographs at a card show not far from my house.

I have met a Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Paul Molitor, and Rod Carew. I have met current superstars like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Johan Santana. I have never been nervous in their presence. I was nervous meeting Gary Gaetti.

He was very gracious in listening to me tell him who I was and how much I loved to watch him play. He signed a baseball bat “Gary Gaetti 87 ALCS MVP” for me. I don’t know if I will ever me Gary Gaetti again in person, but I will always remember my 2 meeting with him fondly.

Thanks Gary for signing my stuff and for being a good guy!

(Below is a picture of my signed bat. I took the picture with my cell phone camera, so the quality of the picture isn't the greatest, but the signed bat itself looks great.)