Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

My Harmon Tribute

Posted by verywellthen on May 17, 2011

It was either 1971 or 1972.    The local TV station* in Bismarck, North Dakota would show about a half dozen early season road games to whet the appetite of regional Twins fans for the upcoming season.   It was a Saturday afternoon.   In the kitchen, on the high counter ledge there was a small black-and-white TV with grainy reception.  On it was this stocky right handed hitter that my brother identified in that big-brother-as-teacher sort of way (as in, “you really ought to know who that guy is”), as Harmon Killebrew.

*It was probably KXMB, but if that guess is wrong, then it was KFYR.  Yes, kids, I spent the first fifteen years of my life with just two TV stations.

That is the first memory I have where I was aware of the Minnesota Twins.    I’ve dug around Baseball-reference trying to figure out what game that was — my best guess is April 10, 1971 @ the White Sox.    I know I was not aware of the Twins when they made the playoffs in 1970.  So, with my first memory being 1971 or later, The formative years of my Twins-fandom was all about longing.  There would be nothing as rewarding as a playoff game until 1987 — which made that 1987 October so grand.

Also, therefore, I never saw Harmon at his Killer-fiercest.    I’d kill for a 28 home run season from a 2011 Twin, but it was one-notch down from his almost-all-amazing previous dozen years.     Four years later on the same black-and-white TV, I’d watch Harmon in a Kansas City Royals uniform making his incongruous final season.

But I revered him.  I protected his memory from friends or brothers who would soon be calling him Harmless Harmon.  By revering him for his greatness that came at a time before I remember, I had already hooked into baseball’s ability to form tradition.  What could tradition be to a six year old?  Yet, I already had my link to the Twins first decade.

And that first baseball image on a black-and-white TV projects forward to — it has led to 40 years without missing a box score.

Thank you for all that you linked me back to and all that you led me to, Harmon.


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Theodoric of York, Medieval Twins Trainer

Posted by verywellthen on May 8, 2011

As the injuries accumulate for the Minnesota Twins and injured Twins struggle to make it back to the lineup effectively, plenty of questions have arisen regarding the medical care and oversight given to the Twins by their training staff.   VeryWellThen.Com recently got a chance to sit down and ask some probing questions with one member of the Twins training staff, Theodoric of York, Medieval Twins Trainer.*

*Nothing was more required viewing for Monday morning pre-bell discussions in my junior high home room than Saturday Night Live episodes, especially those hosted by Steve Martin.  [Original Video]

VeryWellThen:  Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today, Theodoric.

Theodoric of York:  Thank you for having me.

VWT:  Before we discuss the numerous Twins injuries, I’d like to ask you a little about your background.   According to the Twins’ press release, your medical credentials come from Yorkshire Tri-County Barber School.  Is that correct?

TofY: Yes.   As you may know, for much of the past millennia, medical services have been provided by barbers.  I’m sure they told you back in grade school that the iconic red and white striped barber pole symbolizes the blood and bandages used in the profession.   That’s pretty much what we’ve got here in the Twins’ clubhouse – blood and bandages (laughs).

VWT:  Yes.  Lots of them.  Well, let’s start off with the injury most on the minds of Twins fans — that of Joe Mauer.

TofY:  Oh.  Yes.  Joseph, son of Jake the Coach.    Yes, a fine lad.  Coming out of spring training, we were concerned whether his bodily humors were properly balanced for a full season of playing catcher and we did some tests on Joseph.   We used a Caladrius Bird – an important diagnostic tool with an uncanny ability to detect illness.   It first looked at Joseph’s face indicating that he did not need to go on the Disabled List, so we authorized Joseph to start the season with the team.

VWT:  And do you feel you made the correct diagnosis?

TofY: Well, as it turns out, the bird may have been inadvertently attracted to the smell of Head and Shoulders Shampoo, causing it to turn its head the incorrect way.    When we re-tested Joseph, the humors were clearly out of balance – “black bile-ateral weakness” was our revised prognosis.

VWT:  How do you think that condition was exacerbated by Joe’s bout with a virus.

TofY:  Actually, we intentionally introduced what you refer to as a “virus”.    We of the medical arts refer to it as a “phlegmatic and coleric temper rebalancer.”  We put it in his protein shake.  We formulated it to shock the proper tempers so as to elevate his weaker humours to bring him into better balance.

VWT:  So why did the flu-like symptoms pass through the clubhouse?

TofY:  How were we supposed to know that Delmon, brother of Dmitri the Firstbaseman and Justin of the Northern Land would drink Joseph’s milkshake?

VWT:  Okay.  You brought him up.  Let’s talk about Justin Morneau.

TofY:  Well, when Justin of the Northern Land first came into the training room last July, we – consistent with the latest studies in the doctrine of signatures —  ordered a poultice made of the seeds of skullcap to alleviate Justin’s head discomfort.

VWT:  Do you think your efforts hastened what still ended up being a rather long recovery time?

TofY:  Look, we do everything humanly possible, but we trainers are not gods. Medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time.     Why, just ten years ago, we would have told Justin to “suck it up” and “get back in the game” and that “it’s all just in your head,” but now we know better.   We now know that Justin’s concussion was caused by a hex put on him by a Canadian warlock in retaliation for Justin competing against his homeland team — the warlock’s beloved Blue Jays.

VWT:   Oh, yes, the slide into second base did take place in Toronto.  And how have you been able to break the hex?

TofY:    How did we “reverse the curse”?  Is that what you’re asking?  Well, we weren’t able to bring back Big Papi – a proven spell-breaker.   We’ve tried a few approaches suggested by some of the Caribbean players, but they didn’t seem to have any effect on this particularly Canadian version of a hex.   We’re not sure, but we believe the hex lifted due to the warlock’s concentration being re-focused on a new anger — things started to turn for the better right about the time that Justin Bieber lost the Grammy Award.

VWT:   Interesting.  Let’s turn to Joe Nathan.

TofY:  Yes.  Joseph of the A.J. Trade.   I have to say, I’m a little embarrassed about his treatment.   We used a procedure that I fear reflects badly upon the profession.   A totally barbaric method, outright early-medieval.   It consists of taking a tendon from the patient, drilling holes in his elbow and weaving the tendon through the elbow.   Talk about unenlightened.  I guess this was perfected on another gentleman allegedly from York, — a ‘Tommy John’ — though I had not heard of him nor of his father.

VWT:  What was your preferred approach for Joe?

TofY:  I had advocated for the much more modern idea to bury Joseph overnight up to his head in the on deck circle, but I guess it’s against the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

VWT:  Let me go through a series of other injuries and you tell me what you have proposed for treatment.  Ready.

TofY: Ready.

VWT:  Delmon Young

TofY: Blood letting

VWT:  Kevin Slowey

TofY: Blood letting.

VWT:  Jason Repko

TofY:  Blood letting.  And suppositories of calomel and jalap.

VWT:  Suppositories?  For a quadricep injury?

TofY:  Oh….now….Who’s the barber?

VWT:  Fair enough.   Jim Thome

TofY:  Oblique Injury.  We’ve tried blood letting.  Leeches.  A worming.   Nothing worked.  I’ve talked to trainers on other teams – no one has any clue what to do about that.

VWT:  Tsuyoshi Nishioka

TofY:  We’ve got him up on the gibbet – sort of a rack – twice a day to stretch out his bones.  He’s probably going to come back too tall to play second base.  The Timberwolves appear interested, however.

VWT:   All interesting remedies.  But I have to say all very unorthodox.    With all the injuries and unexpectedly long recovery time, I need to mention that there have been some rumblings about the job that the training staff has been doing for the Twins.  Any comments?

TofY:  Wait a minute.  Perhaps our critics are right.  Perhaps we have been wrong to blindly follow the traditions and superstitions of the past.    Maybe we trainers should test our assumptions analytically, through experimentation and “scientific method.”   Perhaps this “scientific method” can be extended to other fields in the baseball endeavors.    Perhaps someday pitching staffs can be managed for optimal effectiveness instead of for contrived stats like “wins” and “saves”.  Perhaps individual batting performance can be measured by more meaningful values like the ability to avoid an out rather than team-dependent stats like RBIs.  Perhaps I could lead the way to a new way of thinking, an age of rebirth, a Renaissance!



Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 1 Comment »

Twins Keep Spinning Wheel of Fortune

Posted by verywellthen on April 19, 2011

The Twins are off to a poor start.   The A Team is suffering from unilateral fibula weakness, bilateral leg weakness, multilaterial stomach sickness.

To address ever-changing conditions and just to shake things up, Gardy has been announcing daily role changes with the Twins, sometimes many changes in a day.

  • Joe Nathan is no longer the closer — Matt Capps takes over that job.
  • Cuddyer is wearing all sorts of Twins caps — taking on additional roles of first base and second base, in addition to his usual right field.
  • Jim Hoey is the new right-handed setup guy.
  • Eric Hacker is in as the new long-relief guy.
  • Steve Holm is the new catcher guy.
  • Tolbert plays first, as in the position where you usually put your most feared hitter.

Over on the internet, the public is demanding that when Joe Mauer comes back he should play first base, third base and center field.  And if I understand the Tweets correctly — all at the same time.

So a little shaking-things-up and the Twins rolled off a season high two (Yes, TWO!!!!!) game winning streak and then got rolled 11-0.

So shaking up led to a couple of wins and has proved to be inadequate, all at the same time.    The Twins are thrashing about right now, both literally (as in Delmon’s and Alexi’s hitting approach) and figuratively.   And this is major league baseball — you might get by hacking at everything for a little bit, but it won’t bring good things for long.

But what the heck.  The Twins are either tossing up the post-game spread and/or causing nausea amongst the fan base.  So let’s just keep the wheel of Fortuna in spin and see what happens.  Here is some fictional changes, mostly which won’t be tried by the Twins any time soon.  Except in the case of emergencies.   Feel free to suggest others:

  • Carl Pavano and Drew Butera will remain battery mates, but Butera will now pitch and Pavano catch.
  • Jason Repko will go from fourth outfielder to fourth second baseman.
  • It is said that all relief pitchers are frustrated closers.  And after enough lost-wins all starting pitchers must be frustrated with the relievers.  So in a move designed for everybody to understand each other better, Twins relievers will all become starters and the starters become relievers, for one turn through the rotation.
  • Francisco Liriano will switch from a left-handed pitcher to a right-handed pitcher.    Bert Blyleven, Twins announcer, applauds the switch, saying “That’s how I pitched in my day.”
  • Alexi Casilla will move to “rover” and bat tenth.
  • Superblogger Aaron Gleeman will replace Bill Smith as general manager on an interim basis.   According to Smith, “things aren’t working out right now, and I take full responsibility for the results.  So I am going to see if I can contribute more effectively as a blogger and critiquer and let Aaron take on the day-to-day franchise management, at least on a temporary basis.”     Smith has indicated that he will move into Aaron’s mother’s basement.  It is unclear at this time if Bill’s mother will displace Aaron’s mother from the upstairs or if Mrs. Gleeman will move into the upper concourse of Target Field above Aaron’s new office.
  • Twins engineers are exploring whether they can get Minnie and Paul to switch sides of the Mississippi River in the Target Field sign.
  • Gardy announced that he will fill in for Wally the Beer Man, who himself has changed roles to become a celebrity bartender at nearby Sneaky Petes.  Gardy will continue to manage while selling beer, except during pitching changes when Rick Anderson will pick up the beer sales.  Given the crappy start of the Twins, underage fans with fake IDs should really not challenge Gardy, I’m just saying.
In the meantime, the AL Central standings are in complete role-reversal.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | Leave a Comment »

2011 (Bobby) Darwin Award — for Best Start to Twins Season

Posted by verywellthen on April 10, 2011

As I write this, the Twins stand 3-6.   The team is hitting horribly (team OPS = 0.527 — dead last in the majors, including those teams that have pitchers hit.)   No one is off to a blinding start with the bat.

That wasn’t the case in 1972.

One of my earliest baseball memories was the red-hot start from the Twins 29 year old rookie center fielder Bobby Darwin.    Fresh on arrival from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Darwin began his Twins days on a tear – hitting 5 home runs in the first 8 games to start the 1972 season and his career as a starting center fielder.

That spring, I was a fledgling little Twins fan.  My Twins Cities relatives had come for a visit to Interior Dakota and in that group was my cousin Bobby – the first real die-hard Twins fan I had ever met.     Bobby loved to talk about the Twins and that spring we were both sharing our enthusiasm for the new rookie who shared his first name.  My untempered enthusiasm was that of an innocent 7 year old.  Cousin Bobby, being 3 years older and a bit more jaded told me, “yeah, every year some Twin starts off really hot, but then they cool off.”

He was teaching me an important baseball lesson – what the statheads would later inform me is called “regression to the mean.”

I didn’t believe it.  Bobby Darwin was going to keep hitting home runs all year I figured.  But sure enough, just as cousin Bobby predicted – Bobby Darwin cooled off.  He hit his sixth one in the 12th game of the season, but didn’t hit his 7th one until the 45th game.    By then he fell off the league leader charts that occasionally provided filler in the local newspaper’s sports page.

In the end, it was a nice little debut season by Darwin.  He ended up tied for ninth in the league with 22 home runs (those were tough days for hitters)  and posted an OPS+ of 123.    Darwin lasted 3+ years with the Twins, when he was shipped off to Milwaukee, perhaps because the Twins tired of his high strike out totals.

So now its 2011.  And I  had planned on giving some Twin a Darwin Award — as in Bobby Darwin — this Spring for the best start in the first week to ten days of the season.

Then the Twins go and put up offensive offensive numbers.    But I was so clever in thinking up this award that I have to pick someone, I guess.

Well, it’s not going to come from the offense — Span leads the team with a 742 OPS.    It’s Ruthesque in comparison to the rest of the Twins offense, but not league-leading and even below Denard’s career OPS.

So I’ll look over to the pitching side.

Joe Nathan has three saves in three attempts.  One was shaky, but he’s done everything asked of him.   All three team victories nailed down by Joe.  He’s even on ESPN’s top-5 in saves.

But I like Nick Blackburn’s start a bit better.   He’s on the AL leader board with an 0.77 ERA for qualified pitchers.   Two starts, both winnable.    Nothing dominating in his appearances (only 11.2 innings and 4 Ks), but Nick’s not a dominating-type pitcher.

The Twins are not off to an inspirational start.  And it was exactly an inspirational start I was looking for in giving out this prestigious self-invented award.    I don’t imagine any young Twins fans dreaming about these stats when they fall asleep in their Twins pajamas.   But I’ll remind them of the lesson I learned years ago — that there is “regression to the mean.”    The Twins hitters will get better this season.  They have to.

Hopefully before they are naturally-selected out of the AL pennant race.

So, I present the inaugural 2011 VeryWellThen.Com (Bobby) Darwin Award for the best start of the season for a Twins player to… Nick Blackburn.

Posted in Minnesota Twins and Baseball | 1 Comment »

Twins Join AL East for First Part of Season

Posted by verywellthen on March 29, 2011

I’ve always felt sorry for the AL East’s “other” teams – Tampa, Toronto and Baltimore.    They have to compete for limited playoff spots against the financial power of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Plus, in the “unbalanced” schedule,  they can’t even demonstrate how much more worthy they might be when compared to AL Central or West contenders – their record carries the damage of so frequently fighting hard inter-division battles.

This year the Twins will be a de facto AL East team early, at least for six weeks.  Their early record might reflect it.

Consider this:

  • 15 of the Twins first 20 games are on the road – all road games against AL East teams.
  • By May 15, the Twins will have played 25 games against AL East opponents, 26 against the rest of the league.

If it seems like the Twins are fighting a headwind this season, it just might have to do with a prevailing wind from the East in the first part of the season.

Of course these things do even out, more or less.  The sailing should be smoother later for the Twins than for Detroit (only 14 games against the East by May 15) or the White Sox (12 games against the East by May 15).

I can’t tabulate the psychological impact of fighting from behind all season – if that’s how things set up in the early stages of the season’s race.     As an agnostic to psychological factors – they may exist but they are unknowable  —  I’d like to think that it just won’t matter by Judgment Day of September 28 (season’s end).

BTW,  I’m only now realizing that the new schedule is WEIRD.  Opening Day is a Friday.  The final day is a Wednesday.    Did I get the memo on this?

And one last gripe on the schedule – as a Pacific Northwest based fan, I’m not happy (or any other dwarf except probably Grumpy) about the fact that there are only two games scheduled in Seattle this season, both on a weekday.    Curses, MLB schedulers.

Tough schedule or not, bring it on.

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Twins Offseason Underwhelms, Therefore I Am

Posted by verywellthen on March 28, 2011

Courtesy xkcd

There’s a story I once heard, surely apocryphal, about a college philosophy final exam with one question:

“Prove that you exist.”

According to the story, some daring student stapled to the exam a parking ticket that she had received that morning.   Adding nothing else she handed it in.  She got an ‘A’.

As an engineering graduate I was annoyed by this story — philosophy majors can get full credit for the correct answer without showing their work?   But to the extent this student exists (she didn’t prove it to me), I have to hand it to her.  I think she got it just about right.

It’s not the big things in life that really define our existence.   Love and Death and Tragedies and Winning Lotteries – we call these things “dreams” or “nightmares”, because there is something surreal about them.  These are our memories hallucinogens – or the places we can’t bear to look.

But a sure way to knock yourself out of any solipsistic mindset is all those frustrating little things or even the tepid pleasantries that there’s just no way you think up if the world is just a figment of your imagination.

So, to the management of the Minnesota Twins this past offseason – thank you for proving that I exist.

I’d have to ask if I was dreaming if the Twins had landed Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke.   But Alexi Casilla, starting shortstop – a dream for no one other than Alexi.  Dusty Hughes (a reliever not even wanted by Kansas City) claimed off waivers– there’s no way that I’m fantasizing about that.  In fact, let me staple the entire bullpen card to a philosophy exam.*

*At this point I’m considering the loss of Billy Bullock only to be a parking ticket type of life-confirming annoyance.  If he shall someday blossom as the next Mariano Rivera, then perhaps this offseason has been merely a bad dream.

It was an offseason of Cuddyer’s wart, Mauer’s Head and Shoulders commercial, Morneau’s persisting unease.    It was a winter to prepare oneself for 200 plate appearances by Drew Butera and a future without Nick Punto.

The only really intriguing move all winter was the acquisition of Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan.    He is one of only two projected 2011 Twins starters that hasn’t seen action as a Twin (Dusty Hughes being the other).    But Nishioka’s addition led to musical bases, with J.J. Hardy being the odd middle-infielder out,* and I don’t think that’s an overall plus.

*After J.J. got traded, I was really hoping that Nishioka would win the shortstop position.   Not based on any optimal defensive arrangement, but because I wanted to hear John Gordan make a double-play call as ““Roku-Cuatro-Three”.  I might have to settle for a call of “Seis-Shi-Three,” which is kinda okay, but not as cool.

It was just that sort of off-season.  Nothing gawd-awful, nothing special.   A few paper-cuts.  A move here or there that, as my uncle might say, is “better than a sharp stick  in the eye.”  Things that I can turn to if I ever feel life is just too vivid to be real.

But I have to keep in mind: paper-cuts and improvements-over-eye-poking-sticks aside,  this is a team that won 94 games last year.      If the moves seem pedestrian, I do get to root for a realistically-contending team again in 2011, for the eleventh year in a row.     Try convincing the childhood me – the one whose baseball memories  began with the Not So Good Twins Years, Version I (1971-1986)  — that I’m not living a dream.

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The Oscar De Milos: A Farewell to Arms and Other Body Parts in the 2011 Academy Award Nominated Films

Posted by verywellthen on February 21, 2011

This year, the Academy should hand out Oscar statuettes with the arms cut off – little Oscar de Milos in honor of all the dismemberment in this year’s nominees.

I’ve seen all ten nominated films this year, and there’s a lot of missing body parts.

It’s no spoiler to anyone that 127 Hours is about a hiker forced to cut off his own arm to free himself from a boulder in the Utah wilderness.   But the amputations don’t stop there.   And I’m not just talking about all the times Mr. Potato Head’s arms fall off in Toy Story 3.

From the Best Picture nominations – here’s my list of severed and damaged body parts.

** Spoiler Alert ***

** This list is full of spoilers. Come back and re-read this later if you don’t want anything given away.  **

127 Hours – Hiker cuts off arm.

Winter’s Bone – Daughter cuts off hands of drowned father to prove father is dead so as to prevent the bondsman from claiming the family home.

True Grit – Mattie has arm amputated after snake bite.   An outlaw gets his finger chopped off.  Leboeuf bites through his tongue.   Rooster Cogburn has missing eye.

The Fighter – Marky Mark’s hands get broken by a cop.   General boxing film mutilation.

The Black Swan – At least in the paranoid mind of Natalie Portman, a finger-tip gets clipped off, plus some serious self-cutting.

Inception – There must have been some detached body parts somewhere in that Freudian-scape.  Or did I dream that?

Toy Story 3 – Mr. Potato Head’s arms.  Mrs. Potato Head’s eyes.    Oh, the Spudanity.

The King’s Speech – The cat has the King’s tongue.

The Kids Are All Right – Just some long-lost semen that isn’t missing after all.

Social Network – Lawyer’s suing for millions over emasculated pride.


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Twins DHs: Disproportionate Hitters

Posted by verywellthen on February 9, 2011

Pretend that you are Gardy and you are filling in the DH slot in your lineup card sometime in the upcoming season.    You’ve got some pretty good options:

  • Jim Thome – Second place active career home run hitter, still appears to have something left.
  • Jason Kubel – The numbers were down last year, but over 20 HRs each of the last three years in a less-than-full-time role.
  • Joe Mauer – He’ll need breaks from catching twice a week, but you need to keep his bat in the lineup most days.
  • Justin Morneau – There’s a thought that post-concussion Justin should rest more this season and one way to do it would be to give him occasional hitting-only days.

That’s four pretty damn fine options for DH’ing.   But there’s just one thing – every one of them is left handed.

Fortunately for the Twins, only about 25% of innings thrown in MLB are tossed by southpaws (unfortunately, it seems to be 90% for Yankee playoff pitchers).

Below is a table with the versus-Lefty and versus-Righty splits (2010, last 3 years, and career) for the four options.  I also include the number of plate appearances each got at DH last year.


  2010 2010 2010 3 year 3 year Career Career
  PAs at DH OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP
Thome 311 1154 769 939 802 1047 763
Kubel 182 792 655 881 663 840 666
Mauer 97 978 711 965 849 952 768
Morneau 7 1113 966 958 839 917 778


An all-left-handed DH assault could work.  In fact it already did – last year.  The Twins only gave 66 Pas to DHs other than the above. And the Twins had an overall OPS+ at DH of 127.    It worked quite well.

Fine-tuning that a bit, I’d try to work in as many Mauer and Morneau DH days as I could on days when the opponents start a lefty – since they both have handled lefties tolerably in recent years (well, 2010 Mauer, not so much) and will have their positions taken over by right-handed hitters.


But then I started kicking around this other idea.    I feel like I need to take a shower just for thinking it, but should the Twins consider trading Jason Kubel for a right-handed bat?

I heart Jason Kubel.  He’s perhaps my favorite Twin – just as Gardy likes slappy, middle-infielders because they remind them of himself, I like soft-spoken guys born in the great state of Dakota.

But being on the same team as Jim Thome doesn’t give Kubel much chance to shine.

This is the last year of Kubel’s contract.   I don’t hold out much hope of the Twins trying to resign him after this year, though with potential draft picks looming, the Twins will be tempted to offer him arbitration. (Elias has deemed him a Type A Free Agent at the end of 2010  — which includes Jason’s sweet 2009 numbers, so his status might yet drop below A level.)  He’s owed $5.25M this year.   The Twins have indicated they want to increase team speed – so his outfield play doesn’t play into that plan at all.

So, should the Twins identify a few candidates and make a few calls?   The target might look like this:  a right handed DH/Corner Outfielder on a team looking for left-handed hitting.

I guess it would take a lot to impress me.

First of all, a righty in the DH platoon only gets so many at bats.  A new righty wouldn’t complement the righty corner outfielders of Young and Cuddyer.   There are plenty of injury scenarios (Thome, Morneau, Cuddyer, Young) where Jason’s value and opportunity significantly increase.   Kubel could earn the Twins some draft picks if next year’s arbitration dance follows an offer/decline choreography.   And if he does stick around, he might not have to share the lefty-DH spot with Thome in 2012.

Maybe, most of all, I’m blinded by my Kubel affection, and I’d like to have at least one more year of him around to see if he can find his 2009 self again.


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Goodbye Rob Neyer, Good Luck

Posted by verywellthen on January 31, 2011

When the web developed into something with enough waves to “surf,”  baseball was one of the waves I dove into.   Think about it — “surfing” — that is, mass casual reading —  was not really a form of communication that really existed before.  At least not for me.

And one of these one-way conversations I voluntarily placed myself in front of, was the baseball writings of Rob Neyer.  He was probably the main “national” voice, while TwinsGeek and Stick and Ball Guy were the two Twins voices I first tapped into.

Rob Neyer announced his departure from today.   Tomorrow or maybe sometime soon, he’ll announce where he’ll end up.    Speculation is that he’ll have a new gig soon, so maybe I’ll just change the channels where I hear him.

On the channel of, Rob was the guiding voice into a re-thinking of baseball for me.  It’s always been the one sport I loved.   And with Rob leading the way, I got to fall in love with it all over again in the liberating ways a fresh look can bring.     Rob championed some arguments that were easy enough to accept — such as the overvalue of the RBI, and some I’m still trying to get my head around — such as the pitcher having so little control over the destiny of a batted ball.

I get to live in the same town as Rob.   I got to meet him for a beer once, due to a mutual friend.  It was after book-reading by Rob in a local bookstore.   After the reading and after the book-signing — but before the beer and before Rob had to run off to conduct a late-night baseball radio interview — I saw Rob combing the aisles of the bookstore looking at books on bird watching.   I concluded that he wasn’t merely a sports nerd, but something better —  a man with a curious mind.  (Who happened to land a damn fine gig applying the curiosity toward baseball.)

Last year on this website, I wrote a farcical piece offering Joe Nathan my tendon for use in his Tommy John surgery.    The said mutual friend forwarded this piece onto Rob.  By that time Rob read it, the piece was long past relevant, but here is what Rob said about it via an email reply…

”  That’s awesome. I wish I’d seen that at the time, would have dropped into the blog. Next time…”

Oh.  If only.  A Neyer Link.   I’d pray for  a Friday Filbert, or maybe a mere Monday Mendoza.

I also once got a personal wave from the Dali Llama (I swear this is true.  Some future post.)   Rob’s personal seal of approval ranks right up there.

Good Luck Rob.

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Cruel Summer: Crain Wreck and Other Cruel Nicknames

Posted by verywellthen on December 16, 2010

Jesse Crain goes to the White Sox and so goes one of the best Cruel Nicknames the Twins ever had.

Jesse  has been at times a top-notch reliever for the Twins, and he’s had his down periods where he was tagged, not always fairly, as the Crain Wreck.

Cruel Nicknames – I’m sure they’ve been around as long as the game.  But how were we to know them until the internet came around?    The beat reporters traded kindness for access, so the behind-the-back dugout nicknames never made it to me.    Maybe I would have overheard some in a bar, but unlikely, since I haven’t been geolocated in Twins Territory since the mid 1980’s.

But then along came the internet, where snarkiness knows no bounds.

My personal favorite Twins Cruel Nickname:  Hansell the Regrettable – a reference to Greg Hansell, one of many otherwise undistinguished  Twins relievers of the mid 90’s.  I’m not sure how I even ever heard of the nickname.  I must have read a posting by some irreverent fan on some Twins bulletin board back then, before TwinsGeek, Stick and Ball Guy, Glleeman and the like pioneered the modern Twins baseball blog.

More recently, I’ve seen some bloggers referring to Delmon Young as ‘elmon Young– presumably because he provides no D.   The joke’s been around a while – often attributed to football teams in ‘etroit or ‘allas or ‘enver in years when they have a poor defense.  Glad to see it imported to baseball.

There are several characteristics that make up a good Cruel Nickname:

1)  There must be some performance basis for the nickname.    A good Cruel Nickname can not be an ad hominem attack.   Back in the 80’s, David Letterman called the Braves reliever Terry Forster a “Fat Tub of Goo” – that doesn’t work.   If Letterman had called him a “Fat Tub of Goo With a High Walk Rate” – well, that wouldn’t be catchy, but at least it has some basis.

2)  Though they need basis, they need not be fair.  They can’t be.   Major League baseball players are an elite class.  They all have extraordinary skills.  Few really deserve their nicknames. But, still, a few disappointing losses, some poor plays, a bad streak — and a good Cruel Nickname can stick.

3)  They must be clever.*  A play on the player’s name works.   So is an appropriate pop reference.  Perhaps the best of all baseball Cruel Nicknames is that of Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart . When the movie of the similar name came out in 1964, someone needed that nickname and Dick was just the bad fielder to get it.  When “Major League” debuted in 1989 with a character known as Rich “Wild Thing” Vaughn – someone needed to inherit the nickname in real life – and there was Mitch Williams all ready for the name.

* I can hear my inner Tyler Durden asking “How’s that working out for you?”

Do you have any favorite Cruel Nicknames you remember?  Do you have any you want to enter into the lexicon of Twins fans?

Now that the Crain Wreck is gone, there’s a much-needed void to be filled for Twins’ Cruel Nicknames.   Here’s one I propose:  as a tribute to his propensity to get picked off at first, henceforth, the Twins center fielder shall be known as: Denard “Short Attention” Span.*

* Denard’s thought bubble when on first:  “Okay.  Take a little lead off of first.   A few more steps.  Focus on the pitcher’s leg…watch…watch …hey, look at that babe up behind home plate…damn, she’s fine…oh shit…Oh Shit…DIVE!!!…CRAP!!!!!!….Picked off frickin’ again?!…Jeezus!!…Gardy’s gonna kill me…Damn, I’m am so f…hey, I wonder what they’ll have at the postgame spread…”

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