Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

Archive for the ‘Minnesota Twins and Baseball’ Category

I pass too much time on America’s Pastime.

The Waltz of Baseball

Posted by verywellthen on April 7, 2010

In honor of Target Field’s opening season.

This season, I want to create a movement in baseball.    One that twirls like a dance floor in Vienna – in perfect three-quarter time.    I want baseball to waltz.

I don’t want a craze.  I’m not talking about a mass-Macarena type of stunt – using baseball crowds to further a national fad.   I want a long-lasting rethinking of baseball’s long-established theme song,  Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  It’s already a sing-along.  Now I want it to be a dance-along.

For years, on the rare occasion of a baseball date, I have grabbed my partner (usually surprised) when the organ music starts and we have carefully danced in the peanut shells in front of our seats during the seventh inning stretch.  Take Me Out to the Ballgame is a waltz, a rare step that even I can figure out.  So it just seems natural that people would want to dance to it.   But like all things related to my dancing, no one has taken my lead.  I don’t see baseball fans gliding through the aisles.  My idea has yet to catch on.

Harry Carey in his drunken sloppiness made the song a crowd-swaying drinking song.  Replace the disposable plastic cups with steins and you could be at a Munich beer hall (with foul poles).  I love the idea that such a grand sing-a-long exists, at any baseball stadium, anywhere.  Now, let’s add the twist – or the twirl.

My reform will come about only by an organic movement, and an organist movement.  First, the organists.  Pick up the tempo a bit.  Or you’ll be replaced by a string section.  Come on, it’s baseball, not a funeral.

Next, the organic movement.  This is where you come in.  You, reading this. Dance.  Grab your partner and dance.     A baseball stadium at the stretch is a place full of joy.  Dancing should be on the agenda.  But hey, keep it a tame joy — it’s a tight spot you’ll be dancing in.  Safety first.

Finally, the third step for the three-step is to spread the word.  If you blog, consider a link.  If you Tweet, Tweet the news.   Use your social networking and your social graces.   See if you can get the baseball loving world to dance.    Create the critical mass, that beautiful dancing cheek-to cheek critical mass.

I’ll know it went viral when I look up from my dance partner’s eyes during the seventh inning stretch, and see my vision.   The whole stadium twirling.  Cubs fans and Cardinals fans all halting on the hesitation step in perfect unison.  Right after the “and cracker Jack” line, the whole place reversing spin together.  Couples falling in love again.  Strangers meeting.   Brothers comfortable enough with each other to dance, albeit at arms length.

Take me out to that ballgame.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 2 Comments »

Opening Day Music

Posted by verywellthen on April 4, 2010

For at least the last dozen years, I have made it my opening day tradition to pull out Steve Goodman’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”  from my CD collection.    I love Jethro Burn’s mandolin work.  In the joy of opening day, Jethro is as much plucking my heartstrings as he is plucking mandolin strings.

And every year, while I’ve got the Steve Goodman CD out, I inevitably play Steve’s more famous “A Dying Cubs Fan Last Request.”  More smiles.

This year, My opening day music selection continues with a CD I picked up since last opening day:  the Baseball Project.   There’s a line in “The Yankee Flipper” (About Jack Black McDowell) I like on so many levels:

Jack loved the Replacements and we drank enough that we became them.

And I’ve spent plenty of time in the last years channeling the spirit of the Hold Steady.   The first time I ever heard of the band, oddly, was when I heard their version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”   The only youtube version of the song I can find is a mashup with some good Metrodome nostalgia.

Happy Opening Day.

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Dear Joe Nathan,

Posted by verywellthen on March 12, 2010

Dear Joe Nathan,

Sorry to hear about your elbow.    Man, that must suck.   It sucks for me, and I’m just a fan.  You’re the one with the bum elbow and the tough decisions.

You are, like, all that any of us bloggers are talking about here on the Twins-based internet (the Twins-ernet?).  Howard over at the Strib – you know, that Section 219/220 (whatever it takes) guy – he even linked to a medical video that showed how Tommy John Surgery is performed.

Wow.   That Tommy John thing is really something.   I’m sure Dr. Andrews already told you all this, but I was amazed to learn they take a tendon from another part of your body and loop it into your damaged elbow to stabilize everything.

But I also learned something else.  Sometimes they don’t use your tendon.  Sometimes they insert the tendon from another donor.  Well, that got me to thinking… and I got this idea.

You see, it’s not like I’m ever going to have a baseball career or anything.  I mean, let’s face it, my shot at glory has faded.  But then I just get ideas like the one I just mentioned and there seems to be some glimmer of hope.

So I’ll just say it.

Joe.  It would be so incredibly awesomely cool if … if you’d use my tendon for your Tommy John Surgery.  I mean, if that’s the route you’re going to go.

I mean, I’m just imagining you coming in and blowing away Pujols on a nasty slider to lock down the 2011 World Series, and I’d be high-fiving my friends at the bar and screaming… SCREAMING!!!… at the top of my lungs, “That’s my tendon!  That’s my Palmaris Longus Tendon!”  Oh gawd, that’d be awesome.

I’ve always said I’d give a testicle to be a major league baseball player.  And here I’d only have to give up a little ole arm tendon I rarely use [Note to self: check on limitations of missing P/L tendon.  Can I still type?  Click a mouse?].   I mean, it still wouldn’t be me out there mowing ‘em down – you’d be doing all the real work.  But just knowing that there’s this little part of me helping out … that’s all I’ve ever wanted.    Don’t worry, they’d still be cheering for you, Joe.  But I’d hear Target Field a’rockin and though they’d be chanting “Joe! Joe! Joe!”   I’d hear them chanting my name instead.  It would be like one of those fantasy baseball camps times a million.

I’d even pay you to take my tendon.  No, really!   I (as in ME) pay YOU for MY body part.    [That way, I don’t even think it would trigger any of those anti-organ-selling laws.]    I’d be willing to go as much as $500.   I’d offer more, but I still need, like, my MLB Extra Innings package and everything.

I’d have to ask that the Twins pick up the cost of my surgery too.  Do you think they’d spring for that?  It’s medically related to your surgery, after all.  And one more thing… after my tendon is harvested (yes, that’s the medical term) I’d like that the surgeon work with a tattoo artist to have my arm-stitches look like stitches on a baseball.  [Do'ya like that?  Maybe you could do the same thing with your stitches.]   As for my stitches, when I’m at the bar, with my friends, and us cheering you and the World Champion Minnesota Twins (yow!),  I would show everyone my baseball stitches to emphasize my point.   You gotta admit, Joe.  That’d be so eff’ing cool.

Let’s say that we keep this a secret, Joe.   If word got out there, I know there’d be others who’d pay dearly to do the same thing — I probably shouldn’t have told you that : )   But, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are a lot of obsessed fans out there.   I mean, how many guys have had there ashes scattered at old Yankee stadium?  You can buy a coffin with a licensed Red Sox logo on it, for christsake.

I’ll be honest, it’s not like I’m going to get far in a bidding war.  But since it was my idea Joe, if you pick me, I’ll be sure you get the credit for all this.  I mean, why hasn’t anybody else thought of this?!   This is the next big thing in athlete and celebrity endorsements.

You could be the pioneer of this, Joe.   Tommy John was first with the surgery and his surgery fame has outperformed even the fame of his very fine pitching career.    You, too, could live on immortally.    Every pitcher with a torn UCL will face the same reporter question:   “So, Tommy John Surgery, huh?  Who’re you going to grant your Joe Nathan Rights to?“

You should probably check with Dr. Andrews to be sure this would work.  Maybe he wants a better “specimen” than me – I’m not in too bad of shape or anything, I got this treadmill in my office and all.  But maybe there’s like a blood-type compatibility thing.    Wouldn’t that be awful, Joe, if your body rejected my tendon after the transplant?  And what if that happened in the bottom of the ninth in the ALCS against the Yankees?    I’d be to Twins’ fans what Bartman is to Cubs’ fans.

So maybe I should think this through a bit.

You know what, Joe?  I don’t need to think about it.

I can’t worry about what might go wrong.   I’m willing to take that chance.  I got to go seize the moment.  And if A-Rod knocks one out of the park, so be it.   The grumpy columnists might be unkind, but I have to be fearless and not let the fear of failure control my life.

But you know that.  That’s the heart of a being a closer.  And maybe, the tiny little woven elbow-bracing tendon of a closer too.

With or without me, Joe, good luck with the decision.

Sincerely,

Your Brother In Arms (ya’ think?)

[UPDATE: The post above was originally posted on March 12, 2010 while Joe Nathan was facing the decision on whether or not to have Tommy John surgery.   The next day Howard Sinker of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave my post a prominent (and kind) excerpt and link on the Strib's Twins website.     Joe elected to have the surgery using his own ligament.  The surgery was performed on March 26.    The Star Tribune quoted Joe, just before the surgery, as saying "I told him to put Usain Bolt's ligament in there if they have to."  I like to think that Joe Nathan was inspired to make the joke of using another person's ligament after reading or hearing about my post.]

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 2 Comments »

Wilco (the baseball lineup)

Posted by verywellthen on August 3, 2009

thealbum-lg

I always play song 3 first whenever I buy a new album.    I’m trying to find the sweet spot first.   I am guided by the baseball protocol to place a team’s best pure hitter in the third spot in the lineup.

Usually, my approach does not bear any special fruit.   Albums from the vinyl days seemed more structured to save the gems for the beginning or end of one of the sides – often leaving the 3 spot with filler.    Nowadays,it seems like most albums are front-loaded, more like the general intent of a baseball lineup, though it doesn’t seem to me that there is any trend to place great importance on the number 3 spot in an album.

But every now and then I find that perfect song – rich and pure – right there at number 3.    When I do, I look further to see if the album lineup could succeed as a baseball lineup.

The current CD hogging my car stereo works pretty well as a batting order.   Wilco (the album), the latest effort from my favorite active band is worthy of a baseball lineup analysis.

So here is Wilco (the lineup).

1.   Wilco (the song).  The leadoff hitter should set the tone for the team.   Here, with a droll characterization of all that is Wilco, is Wilco (the tablesetter).

2.  Deeper Down.  The second slot is typically given to a control bat ,  a song that can move the runner over.   Wilco does what many teams do – put a light-hitting middle infielder as a placeholder.   If it’s possible to capture in a song the essence of fouling off a lot of pitches – this song does that.

3.  One Wing – Third – the best pure hitter, the best pure song.  Tweedy through beautiful metaphor (on base percentage) and Nils Kline through virtuoso guitar (slugging percentage) have created an OPS gem.

4.  Bull Black Nova  — Here is the power spot.  Wilco has a ‘roid rage paranoia trip taking power rips for your speakers fences.  Maybe not Ruth and Gehrig, but Wilco has put a great 3-4 combo on this album.

5.  You and I — It’s good to mix  in righties and lefties – or in rock parlance : rockers and ballads.  Wilco adds a left-handed ballad (and duet with Feist).

6.  You Never Know — Still room in the lineup for another big RBI song – the closest thing that Wilco has to a radio hit (if radio did rock anymore).

7.  Country Disappeared — The bottom of the lineup is the place for the specialty roles, the aging good-ole-crowd-pleaser, experimenting with a rookie sound.    There are familiar Wilco strains all over this one.

8.  Solitaire —  I love the simple hard-learned lesson of this one.   This song is my shortstop – a sweet and sublime fielder batting eighth.

9.  I’ll Fight – Here’s the brush back pitch.   A brash flamethower of a pitcher slotted number 9 (I’ll go National League rules — from place of origin or place of residency – I suspect Tweedy to be either a Cubs or Cardinals fan).

10.  Sonny Feeling – Okay, the batting lineup metaphor breaks down – few albums (non art-rock variety) limit themselves to 9 songs.   But this song sounds like a middle reliever – so I’ll just keep filling out my lineup card.

11.  Everlasting Everything – And here is the closer.  Kind of a veteran, ground-ball inducing type, not a high strikeout-rate type of song.   It can still pile up the saves.

There it is.  Wilco (the Scorecard).   I challenge you to take a favorite album and see how it stacks up as a baseball lineup.

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Joe Mauer’s Batting Title Average — An Ephemeral Stat

Posted by verywellthen on June 15, 2009

[Update: Joe Mauer now qualifies for the batting title -- this post is now irrelevant.]

 

Under the “Tony Gwynn Rule” Joe Mauer just took the batting title lead.

Apply the batting title criteria to Joe Mauer’s stats and Joe took the lead for the batting crown over the weekend, capped by his 3 for 5 performance against the Cubs on Sunday.    Joe doesn’t have the “qualifying” plate appearances – but you don’t need all those PA’s to truly qualify, you just pay a major penalty if you’re short.

Call it the “Tony Gwynn” rule, if you will.  The rule has been around since 1967, but it was Tony who benefitted from the rule in 1996 — a season where he ended up 5 plate appearances short of the batting title threshold of 3.1 plate appearances per game.  

Tony’s season ending average was .353, ahead of Ellis Burks’ .344.   Ellis had the highest batting average of any National Leaguer who qualified for the batting title.  Did he take home the batting crown?  No.  The rule allows for trading in a player’s deficient PA’s for outs.  Apply a theoretical zero-for-five day to Tony’s stats to get him to 503,*  and Tony’s batting average would have been .349, keeping him ahead of Ellis.   

* Most use 502 as the qualifying PA’s, but I come up with 503 using my canons of construction to interpret the horribly worded Official Major League Rule 10.22(a).    The rule establishes a “minimum” of “as many or more total appearances at the plate” “as the number of games scheduled” multiplied by 3.1.     The rule includes an example, which misses in its attempt to add clarity.  The example reads: “If a major league schedules 162 games for each club, 502 plate appearances qualify (162 times 3.1 equals 502)” (emphasis mine).   

162 times 3.1 does not equal 502.  It equals 502.2.  If 502.2 is a “minimum” then 503 is the first integer above the minimum.    When interpreting a statute, I would look to the text for the meaning, and give little credit to an illustration with loose math. 

Tony’s official batting average that year remained at .353, of course, but what if Ellis had hit .350? Tony would have appeared second on the batting title list with a .353 average, confusing future stat gazers who would see a .350 ranking higher on the list.    I’ll do what any baseball geek does when he wants to minimize confusion — I’ll create a new stat (yeah, right).    Tony’s batting average that year was .353, but his “Batting Title Average” (BTA) was .349. 

As of close of business today (Sunday, June 14, 2009), Joe Mauer’s batting average is .413.   His 181 plate appearances leave him 21 short of the 202 necessary for the Twins’ 65 games to date.   Adding a hypothetical O-fer 21 streak to Joe’s season gives him a .364 BTA.  Ichiro has a batting average (if you’re above the minimum, your BTA and BA are the same)  of .360 as I type this.    A season-ending strike breaks out overnight and Joe is the champion. 

The batting leader lists of MLB, ESPN, et al.  won’t bother to adjust for this dynamic during the season.    There’d be too much ‘splainin’ to do.    I doubt I’ll have the time to update this chart during the next few weeks until Joe catches up and it just won’t matter anymore.   But here it is, shown below in a chart — a moment in the season when there is a secret champion. 

 

 

 

2009 AL BTA Leaders  as of the date below plus the top 2 in the 1996 NL race. 

UPDATE:  [Observation about Batting Title Average :  If Joe Mauer sits a game, his batting average stays the same, but his Batting Title Average drops (an assumed 0 for 3.1). ]

                     [Another observation about BTA:  Walks don't impact BA, but improve BTA b/c they count toward plate appearances to reduce shortfall without assuming an out.]

End of July 5, 2009            
Player At Bats Hits PA’s Games Average PA Shortfall Batting Title Average
               
Joe Mauer 216 84 256 83 0.389 2 0.385
Ichiro Suzuki 323 117 342 81 0.362 0 0.362
               
Gwynn 96 451 159 498 162 0.353 5 0.349
Burks 96 613 211 685 162 0.344 0 0.344

 

[Original posting on 6//14/09 -- the stats used as the basis of the article above.]

Player At Bats Hits PA’s Games Average PA Shortfall Batting Title Average
Joe    Mauer

152

63

181

65

0.414

21

0.364

Ichiro Suzuki

242

87

257

63

0.360

0

0.360

Kevin Youkilis

172

57

216

63

0.331

0

0.331

Victor Martinez

242

82

331

65

0.339

0

0.339

Justin Morneau

249

82

287

65

0.329

0

0.329

               
Tony Gwynn 96

451

159

498

162

0.353

5

0.349

Ellis Burks 96

613

211

685

162

0.344

0

0.344

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 1 Comment »

The Other Rotation — The Twins Outfielders

Posted by verywellthen on April 3, 2009

The Twins are going with a five man rotation.  Hardly news in modern baseball, huh?  Well, not just for the starting pitching, but also the outfielders.

The plan is to use five outfielders*, in somewhat equal proportions between the LF, CF, RF and DH slots on the scorecard (minus the DH slot for 9 NL hosted games).

From day to day, the factors on who plays and who stays might depend on the matchups, injuries, who needs a rest and Gardy’s whims.  Maybe one player will get hot or fall behind and the lineup decisions will fall easily into place.  But until then, here are some proposed guidelines on how to ration the at bats.

 

The North/South Divide

Like any rotation, it’s good to have a mix of lefties and righties.   Young, Gomez and Cuddyer bat right.  Kubel and Span, left.  More right handed pitchers means more split opportunities for Kubel and Span.  Span actually hit lefties better than righties last year (874 OPS vs. L to 795 OPS vs. R).  That is not consistent with his minor league career, but nothing about last year was consistent with Span’s minor league career.  

On the Turf

Defensively, only  Span and Gomez stand out.  Only Span can easily rotate through the outfield.   Delmon is a fixture (almost in the real estate law sense) in left.  Cuddyer plays only in right, where his strong arm is a plus if he doesn’t have too much ground to cover.  If Gomez belongs on a major league roster, he belongs in centerfield.    Kubel can flip between right and left, but if he’s not a liability in the field, he’s at least a toxic asset.    I’d trend toward Span,when used, in the big field (e.g. right field in Fenway, left field in the Metrodome), and toward Span and Gomez when the Fly Ballers are pitching (namely, Baker and Slowey).

Designating the Designated Hitter 

Span and Gomez don’t add value when there not contributing defense, so only Kubel/Young/Cuddyer should rotate through the DH slot.    Also, keep in mind, the DH spot would be a nice place to rest the Bad-Back Joes (Mauer and Crede) and Morneau on occassion.    Mauer’s back injury inhibits his running, so the DH isn’t a place to use his bat while convalescing.  Nonetheless, I’d get even a healthy Mauer more DH time than last year (only 19 PAs at DH in 08, down from an average of 75 the previous two years).  Kubel’s the default against righties, and the righties mix it up against the southpaws.

 

 

Any of the five could be thought of as a major league starter.  Yet none of the five come with a high degree of certainty.  Kubel is hopefully continuing to rehab past the ACL in the AFL incident.  Cuddyer is as defined by his injuries as he is by his one stellar season.    Delmon hasn’t approached the lofty expectations that surround him.   Something clicked for Span last year, but a track record would be a nice thing to have.   Gomez is ADHD manifest in a center fielder.  (Do you prescribe Ritalin to focus more or Xanax to mellow out?) It’s a big year for each of them to prove themselves.  And each will get 4/5 ths of a chance to do so, so the plan goes.  

 

 

* The full names for those who don’t obsess about all things Twins:  Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel.

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The Big Story In Baseball for 2008

Posted by verywellthen on December 10, 2008

There were the exorcized Rays and Philly getting a belated championship.  There were the Cubs looking like champions but (again) disappointing their increasingly demanding fans.  There was Roger Clemens trying to extricate himself from the allegations of his personal trainer and Barry Bonds sitting the whole year.  There was Pujols excellence and MannyBeingMannyInLA.  

 

But the biggest story in baseball in 2008 is the biggest story in the nation in 2008 and one that is just beginning to unfold — the It-Might-Be-Great-Yet Depression.  

I’m no economist, but I’ll play one on the internet and conjecture that baseball revenues are primarily tied to four things:

1)taxpayer subsidies, mostly in the form of all those new stadia, mostly financed through public bonds;

2) fans, either showing up at the gate or buying the cable and internet packages and licensed baseball;

3) uber-rich owners throwing money at their little trophy hobby (not technically revenue, but it can keep those salaries inflated),

4) corporations paying for the luxury suites and premium seating and advertising and naming rights.  

Oddly, I think the revenue source that will dip the least will be the from the fans.   Maybe I’m too big of a fan to objectively project my behavioral theory to apply to the casual fans or the family-of-five-on-a-sketchy salary fans, but I love the sport too much to look away.  

Regardless, baseball is about to get a financial fastball — high and tight.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 1 Comment »

You’re My Favorite Thing — Posterisks

Posted by verywellthen on December 10, 2008

Kansas City never hit my radar screen as a place to live.  But when I discovered Joe Posnanski’s baseball-ish blog, I wished I had been reading his Kansas City sports columns for years.   His tales of childhood in Cleveland make me nostalgic for it, though I’ve never even been in Ohio.  He isn’t old school, he respects the modern stats, yet he’s been around enough to anchor them with necessary caveats and a human basis.  His touch is light enough to stay well above the frequent baseball-blog tone of ridicule.

And damn he’s funny.  I get most of his references and his jokes seem just a more advance and adroit form of humor that I feel I’m almost capable of.

I don’t know if he pioneered his use of footnotes, but he’s self-promoted his style with the name Posterisk. when he’s lost on a subject that I don’t have much emotional involvement (such as writing about the KC Chiefs), I’ll scan what he’s dubbed the Posterisks.  It’s sort of like David Foster Wallace footnoting, except that you’re led to the footnote by an asterisk, the footnoted section is typed in italics and resides just below the paragraph that originates the asterisk*.    It’s easy to read in computer scroll text.   And nothing makes me smile like a good tangent.

* And he will even embed Posterisks**

** I need to think of something Posnanski-style funny to put here.  ***

*** Okay, here is the Posterisk that first pulled me into the almost daily musings of Joe — much to the loss of my professional productivity.  Scroll down to the third italic segment for his imagined pitch to the TV producer for Gilligan’s Island.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball, You're My Favorite Thing | 2 Comments »

 
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