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January 31, 2008

Is there any doubt?

People! I appreciate your efforts to calm me down. But I won't have any of it! It is time to be angry!

We     did     not     even     get     one     major     league     ready     player!!!!!!!!!!

Not one! Johan Santana is the best pitcher in major league baseball! We can't even get one decent player for Johan Santana?

Behold! I present to you the first two-time winner of the Knucklehead McSpazatron of the Week!

Billy Spongebob Smith

Terry Ryan might be Patrick to Bill's Spongebob, and Pohlad plays a pretty good Mr. Krabs, but Billy Smith got schooled by the beasts in the east.

I agree whole-heartedly with Patrick Reusse who wrote today about Carlos Gomez:

If he's not in center on March 31, and on merit, then the Twins waited seven weeks to make the worst deal possible.

Is this what we have to look forward to after 2010? Can the Twins ever have the best player in baseball? Or will they always let players like this go?

And if they are forced to let players like this go, will the Mets, Dodgers, Yankees, or Red Sox always just toy with us until we accept a less than stellar deal?

Was Kirby Puckett the last Hall of Famer that will play the bulk of his career as a Twin and retire as a Twin?

You know, in a couple of weeks I will probably have calmed down. By then I will have probably accepted the fact that the Twins are like a college team: new players come and go every four years. But as a fan ... as a ticket buyer ... as a taxpayer who helped get this new stadium built ... it is my responsibility, no it is my right to express my dissatisfaction.

I am disgusted with this situation. Give me a couple of weeks, but right now I am going to be disgusted.

Posted by snackeru at 8:14 PM | Comments (11)

January 30, 2008

Upon further reflection

Spongebob: Okay, but what if the worm didn't take your tail?
Sandy: If that worm ain't got my tail, who does?
Spongebob: (unconvincingly) Um, I do?
Sandy: You do? Where?
Spongebob: Um... in my pocket.
Sandy: Well, why didn't you just say so? Give it here! Come on!

(Spongebob looks nervous, pulls something from his pocket, and opens his hand)

Sandy: Spongebob, that's a paper clip and a piece of string.

I don't know why, but this exchange between Sandy and Spongebob reminds me of what just happened between the Twins and the Mets. Let's see ... yesterday the part of Sandy was played by Billy Smith, and the part of Spongebob was played by Omar Minaya.

The sad thing is, unlike Sandy, Billy took the paper clip and piece of string.

Could this trade have gone any worse? I would have taken Jacoby Ellsbury, alone, over this trade. I would have taken Phil Hughes, alone, over this trade. Lester, alone ... Cabrera, alone ... why the heck did we give up the best pitcher in baseball for 4 players, none of which who are ready to make any substantial contribution to the Twins right now? Could we not get at least one player that can fill a position now, and fill it well? Are you kidding me?

To me, it points to possibly two overarching reasons for this trade:

1. As Shooter points out today, Johan Santana didn't want to stay with the Twins. And if Walters is to be believed, which is always a scary proposition, he was willing to be kind of a jerk about it. And ...

2. The Twins did not want to trade him to an American League opponent. Namely, they didn't want to trade him to the only two teams in the American League that could afford him.

To me, all other reasons besides these are superfluous. Johan didn't want to stay with the Twins, and the Twins wanted to get him out of the American League.

Realizing this, Omar must have said, "Merry Christmas to me!" I gotta say, the book Moneyball made Omar look like a tool. Which means that right now Billy Smith looks like a toolbox full of tools. He is the fricken Craftsman of MLB general managers. Omar just stamped "Stanley" across his forehead.

You know what? Nick Coleman has every right to lay into the Twins right now. Go Nick! I can't believe it, but I agree with Nick Coleman.

The Twins have proven once again to be absolutely inept when it comes to public relations. We got nothing for Hunter, and we are getting nothing for Santana. The Twins two most popular players in years. All of this with the public paying for a new stadium. Unbelievable.

You know, I wasn't necessarily against trading Santana, but I am definitely against trading him for a paper clip and a piece of string.

Posted by snackeru at 9:23 PM | Comments (12)

January 28, 2008

In case you missed it ...

• From an article about ballpark cost overruns in the mighty Pioneer Press this weekend comes this interesting tidbit:

Work has proceeded so well, Bell said, that a 2009 opening had been discussed. But speeding up the project to be ready 14 months from now would have required "a great amount of double-time and overtime work, which would have considerably increased the cost of construction," he said.

The Twins rejected the notion of a midseason move out of the Metrodome, as the Seattle Mariners did when they abandoned the Kingdome for Safeco Field in July 1999. "The additional time gives us a chance to make sure everything is done right and done well."

Wouldn't that be sweet to move into the ballpark early? It would appear that while construction costs are more than expected (which the ballpark bill mandates the Twins pay for) the ballpark itself is a little ahead of schedule. It would also appear that it will be finished some time in mid-2009. Maybe even early 2009.

• In case you are wondering, my son got 3rd place at the Pinewood Derby this last weekend. Since he got first place last year, this didn't upset him too much. In fact, 3 years ago my older son got second place, so my younger son was happy that we now have a first, a second, and a third place trophy.

• Finally, if you are wondering what happened to the KMOTW last week, well I had something all ready to go, and then Bill Smith signs Justin Morneau to a SIX year contract. Again, a SIX year contract. I didn't think I'd ever see the day the Twins signed someone for that long. That is incredible. I was so blown away I decided to just sit back and revel in our good fortunes.

Now, like the fantastic Howard Sinker, I am leaning towards the Twins doing everything they can to sign Johan.

The best argument I have heard for this move is that if the Twins want to compete for a World Series title they need a strong anchor for their starting pitching staff. Johan Santana is the Sandy Koufax of his era and would provide the leadership necessary to make the Twins' pitching staff one of the best in baseball.

In addition, the Twins really aren't that far from making an offer that Santana would probably take. They are offering $20 million a year for 4 years. Santana wants 7 years, but not even the Mets, Yankees, or Red Sox would give him that. Surely the two sides can come together? Would we really give up the best pitcher in baseball when a little give and take would probably do the job?

Of course, this assumes Johan wants to come back. Let's assume he does.

Posted by snackeru at 7:46 AM | Comments (20)

January 24, 2008

The Defending Champion

andpine.jpg

We won it all last year ... will this year show off our car building prowess once again? Check back this weekend to find out!

Posted by snackeru at 8:31 PM | Comments (20)

January 23, 2008

Details emerging

Good article from Jim Souhan today regarding the new Twins ballpark. Lots of details that haven't really been hammered out. A couple catch my eye.

The best thing about the park? It's small. That might sound strange, but there is nothing worse than an oversized stadium holding a small crowd. St. Peter guessed that the final capacity might be a little less than 40,000, meaning the place will feel intimate when holding small crowds and raucous when full.

Hmmm ... I was hoping for at least 42,000 with more upper deck cheap seats. Along those lines:

St. Peter said ticket prices will start at $10 or $12 dollars, and that the team's tradition of family packs and discount nights will continue. A good seat behind home plate will probably run about $50, and the 400 or so primo seats right behind home plate, part of the "Champion's Club," will probably run a couple hundred apiece and include parking, food, drink and wait service.

If the cheapest tickets are $12 I will be mightily upset. How about this ... you can charge $12 but then you had better make up for it by actually spending some money on players. A good start would be signing Santana since you let Hunter get away for nothing.

I'm feeling rather curmudgeonly today. "Primo" seats and $50 seats behind home plate do not excite me at all.

I want my son and I to hop on our bikes, take the Cedar Lake Trail to the ballpark, plop $20 down for some cheap tickets, $10 down for a couple of hot dogs, and enjoy the game. Please assure me that this is going to happen. Then I'll be really excited.

Posted by snackeru at 12:46 PM | Comments (18)

January 21, 2008

Misery Loves Company

mort.jpg

As Vikings fans some of our greatest victories are Packers' losses.

Believe me, if you are a Packer fan, I feel your pain. When Tynes hit that field goal, I could feel the anguish come over the border in waves. Much like the 1998 Vikings, the Packers were a team of destiny led by a legendary quarterback playing at home in a can't lose situation. In an ESPN poll the same day, not even New York fans were picking the Giants to win. The Packers, at home, in the cold? It wasn't a matter of if they would win, it was a question of "by how much?"

But I gotta admit, I had a smile on my face when Tynes hit that field goal. In fact, I think I even gleefully laughed. Quite frankly I am surprised by my reaction. I thought I didn't care who won, but when it came down to the nitty gritty I found out that I really wanted the Giants to win. Years of hating the Packers will have that effect on a person.

So, I just wanted to say thanks to the Giants. Two weeks of hearing about Favre vs. Brady would have been unbearable. But honestly, having the Packers lose so spectacularly makes the picture above a little easier to take. I don't know why, but it does. It is going to take a few more years of healing to fully get over the 1999 NFC Championship, don't get me wrong, but let me tell you the Giants win yesterday helps a lot.

Misery loves company. Welcome to my misery Cheeseheads. I hope you stay for a while!

Posted by snackeru at 8:38 PM | Comments (18)

January 18, 2008

Couple of things plus the KMOTW

First of all, I must apologize for my silence. The winter months are the busiest time for me and my family. All the activities my kids do, plus teaching at St. Kate's, means that I have very little time. In addition, yesterday was my birthday! Thanks to all of you who sent me wishes for a good day. In truth, I had a pretty boring day. Work, dinner, basketball practice with my son, and then I watched a crappy movie. When you turn 35 birthdays just aren't a big deal anymore.

inrainbows.jpg I don't know why, but now I want to talk about something completely different. I want to talk about music. Let me tell you something ... In Rainbows by Radiohead is a pretty good little album. As Freealonzo will attest, I had some negative things to say about it when it came out. But now I can't stop listening to it. It is a very mature album. None of the anger or freakish experimentation of previous Radiohead albums. It displays a very confident band intent on making interesting yet accessible music. "Bodysnatchers," "Weird Fishes," "House of Cards" ... just beautiful.

Now for the Knucklehead of the Week. I've had a couple of nominations. First of all Garrison Keillor for having a humongous house of his own but suing a neighbor for wanting to put up an addition. Jerk. Then Freealonzo nominated the baseball writer who gave Chuck Knoblauch a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame. That gave me a chuckle. If only we could figure out who that is! That would be perfect.

No, as the Hot Stove League goes on, there is only one person I want to give this award to:

spongebill.jpg

That's right! It is Bill Smith of the Minnesota Twins! Bill, for the love of all that is holy, please do something with Johan Santana! Please! Trade him, sign him, just figure it out! Plus, if we do trade him it is becoming readily apparent that we will probably end up with a water boy, a piece of string, and Tarvaris Jackson. Regardless, I just can't take it anymore.

So, that is my two cents for today. Bill Smith is my Knucklehead McSpazatron of the Week. Anyone disagree?

Posted by snackeru at 8:36 AM | Comments (12)

January 11, 2008

A whole bunch of Knuckleheads

I was coming home today from work when I read one of the most perplexing things I have read in a while. On 94-West, right before the Lowry Tunnel, there is a huge billboard for KSTP-TV that actually has running news headlines. So, I look up to see what news story they were promoting on the billboard and I was amazed to see this headline:

"New Wild owner says he probably won't move the team. More at 6:00 on Eyewitness News."

This was quite shocking to read. I thought, "Is moving the Wild, one of the most successful NHL franchises, even an option? Is Leipold really considering this?"

So then I thought, "Well, I guess I'll have to tune into KSTP-TV Eyewitness news at 6:00 to find out."

What a complete crock! The news comes on at 6:00 and they immediately go out to Tim Sherno (loved him on the channel 9 morning show) on location at the X and he says, "We've all got some questions for the new owner. Most importantly, is he going to move the team like Norm Green? Well, I asked him that question and here is his response."

(cut to a shot of Craig Leipold, looking slightly stunned at the question)

"No, I am not going to move the Wild out of Minnesota. Minnesota is the State of Hockey, the team has great fan support, and this is the best franchise in the NHL."

Yeah, big surprise there. This is the angle KSTP chooses for this story? Seriously? Will Leipold move the team? The Xcel Energy Center has been sold out since it opened, the building is regularly picked as one of the best venues in any sport, and the NHL freely admits it made a big mistake when it moved a team out of this area the first time. Only a complete moron would think this is even an option.

For this pure stupidity I hereby choose everyone in the KSTP news department as my Knucklehead McSpazatrons of the Week.

spongekstp.jpg

Unfortunately, the more I think about this the more I think that actually I am the Knucklehead. It is obvious KSTP went with this angle to draw in viewers. Man am I ever a sucker!

Oh well. See you soon!

Posted by snackeru at 5:40 AM | Comments (11)

January 10, 2008

The Glory of Their Times

I'll probably expound on this later, but for the past ten years I have avoided everything and anything about baseball. I would not see any movies, I would not read any books, I would not watch any TV shows about baseball. I would watch the Twins religiously, don't get me wrong, but anything with even the slightest hint of nostalgia about the grand game of baseball I avoided at all cost.

Unfortunately for me, it would make me depressed, even angry. You see, I never thought in my wildest dreams that a new Twins stadium would ever be built. My Scandinavian pessimistic ancestry convinced me that the Twins would either move or be contracted. For that reason, I could not bear to think about baseball beyond the Twins need for a new stadium. Any time I thought about baseball, invariably my mind would wander to that cheap bastard Carl Pohlad, the Humpty Dome, and the thought that at some point in the future the Twins would be no more. Man that made me angry.

I thought baseball was about to abandon me and I didn't like it one bit.

Now that the Twins are definitely getting a new stadium it is like a huge weight has been lifted from me. In the past couple of months I have consumed as much about baseball as I have time for. I have started to watch Ken Burns's documentary about baseball (avoided it like the plague for years), and I have watched The Natural and Field of Dreams with my kids. I recently watched Eight Men Out and I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis. For years watching and reading this stuff would have gotten me so worked up my wife would have kicked me out of the house, but now I am really enjoying myself.

One book I have recently picked up is The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter. The book is a series of interviews he conducted with players who played from about 1900 to the 1940s. I haven't gotten too far into it yet, but I am enjoying it immensely. It was obviously a different time and a different game back then, and yet the timeless nature of baseball becomes quite apparent as these old players describe the game they love. For example, take this interesting story told by Davy Jones who was most famous for playing with Ty Cobb and the World Series Detroit Tigers teams of 1907, 08, and 09. He beings:

It was during those years, I think about 1908, that I saw Germany Schaefer steal first base. Yes, first base. The say it can't be done, but I saw him do it. In fact, I was standing right on third base, with my eyes popping out, when he did it.

We were playing Cleveland and the score was tied in the late inning. I was on third base, Schaefer on first, and Crawford was at bat. Before the pitcher wound up, Schaefer flashed me the the sign for the double steal -- meaning he'd take off for second on the next pitch, and when the catcher threw the ball to second I'd take off for home. Well, the pitcher wound up and pitched, and sure enough Schaefer stole second. But I had to stay right where I was, on third, because Nig Clarke, the Cleveland catcher, just held on to the ball. He refused to throw to second, knowing I'd probably make it home if he did.

So now we had men on second and third. Well, on the next pitch Schaefer yelled, "Let's try it again!" And with a blood curdling shout he took off like a wild Indian back to first base, and dove in headfirst in a cloud of dust. He figured the catcher might throw to first -- since he evidently wouldn't throw to second -- and then I could come home same as before.

But nothing happend. Nothing at all. Everybody just stood there and watched Schaefer, with their mouths open, not knowing what the devil was going on. Me too. Even it the catcher had thrown to first, I was too stunned to move, I'll tell you that. But the catcher didn't throw. He just stared! In fact, George Stovall, the Cleveland first baseman, was playing way back and didn't even come in to cover the bag. He just watched this madman running the wrong way on the base path and didn't know what to do.

The umpires were just as confused as everybody else. However, it turned out that at that time there wasn't any rule against a guy going from second to first, if that's the way he wanted to play baseball, so they had to let it stand.

So there we were, back where it started, with Schaefer on first and me on third. And on the next pitch darned if he didn't let out another war whoop and take off again for second base. By this time the Cleveland catcher evidently had enough, because he finally threw to second to get Schaefer, and when he did I took off for home and both of us were safe.

This book is full of stories like this. It is a book of great memories and I just have a huge smile on my face the whole time I am reading it. Some people call it the greatest baseball book ever written. Since I haven't read too many I'll have to make that judgment at a later time, but for now I am loving it.

If you are interested, this book is probably sitting on a shelf at your local library. Just sitting there waiting to be read. It was written in 1966, so I don't think too many people are clamoring for it.

Anyway, that is my spiel for today. Have a good one!

Posted by snackeru at 6:23 AM | Comments (5)

January 8, 2008

Heard at Great Clips

The last time I was at Great Clips I heard something that gave me pause. This time what I heard was spoken to me.

Stylist: So, what do you do for a living?

Me: Well, I'm a librarian here at the U of M.

Stylist: Really? That must be the best job in the world, being around all those books.

Me: Actually, I am the library webmaster. I manage the library web site.

Stylist: So, you are a librarian and you work with computers? Wow. I think that is the geekiest job I have ever heard of.

Me: Ummm ... I suppose it is now that you mention it.

So, I have the geekiest job in the world. I have been humbled by a Great Clips stylist.

Posted by snackeru at 9:22 AM | Comments (30)

January 7, 2008

Guitar Hero, Moneyball, and observing behaviors around you

This will be a meandering post of little cohesion.

I got Guitar Hero III for my birthday. I've got some pretty decent skills on the Medium category, but my skills don't even come close to this kid's skills.

If you've never played Guitar Hero you may not be impressed, but believe me this kid has got some amazing skills that the vast majority of us do not have. Hand eye coordination to be sure, but also the unbelievable ability to rapidly process information and translate it into action at a mind boggling pace. His brain takes the information and a split second later he can correctly come up with the appropriate movement. Some of us could maybe do this for 10-20 seconds, but this kid can do it for the length of an entire song.

What does this mean? Sure this kid has obviously practiced, but there is little doubt that he has a skill that few of us have. What I want to know is what will this kid do when he gets older? How does this skill translate to the type of person he'll be, and the type of career he'll have? This skill is unique, but a smattering of others like him probably have it. I wish we could identify them and follow them as they get older. The amazing ability to rapidly process information must make this kid more likely to be good at a certain career path. What is it?

How about baseball player?

I just finished the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It tells the amazing story of using statistical analysis to recognize better who are the best baseball players. The ability to hit a baseball, or better yet, the ability to recognize whether or not a baseball should be hit is another amazing skill that few of us have. Billy Beane and Paul Podesta of the Oakland A's have made it their life's work to find these players: the players that can get hits and maybe more importantly get walks. Because it is the players that can get walks that make the fewest outs, and as we all know, as long as your team is up to bat, as long as you don't have three outs, you can score runs.

It is a simple concept, but apparently a lot of teams have had a hard time coming to grips with it. You see, most baseball teams still believe in the concept of "manufacturing runs." This is partly done by bunting and stealing bases, two activities that greatly increase a team's chances of getting an out. These are two activities that you will hardly ever see the Oakland A's perform. The Oakland A's value the ability to get on base, and as safely as possible round the bases, before almost any other statistical measure. Hits and walks ... if you have the skills to get either, if you have a high "on base percentage," the Oakland A's want you no matter what you look like or how much potential (or lack of) you might have.

I'm probably not doing the book justice, and this is only a part of what the book describes (it also discusses fielding and pitching statistics), but it is this type of revolutionary thinking that have made the Oakland A's so successful. They are taking a look at the game in ways that few people inside of baseball ever have and they are building a very successful low budget team based on these new discoveries.

Since I have read this book I have become enamored with the thought that this kind of thinking can be used in all sorts of fields, from my own field of librarianship, to the job of parenting. Look at this blog entry called What My Kids Tell Me About the Future of Media. This parent just watched the behavior of his kids and came up with some remarkable hypotheses regarding a whole bunch of stuff including his kids' preferences for TV shows over movies, the ubiquity of gaming, the Internet as entertainment, saved music being more popular than radio, and the continued popularity of the printed word in books and magazines (but not newspapers). He then tries to figure out what his observations mean with some interesting conclusions.

To wrap this up, it is this kind of thinking that I'm going to try to train my brain to do this year. What are the hidden truths out there that are just bubbling at the surface waiting to be found? And where can we find the measurement materials to make this kind of thinking possible?

And to bring it back full circle, I think the parents of the Guitar Hero III kid should give him a baseball bat. His ability to quickly determine and act upon a piece of information could make him a hitting and walking machine.

Posted by snackeru at 7:21 AM | Comments (12)

January 3, 2008

The Knucklehead McSpazatron of the Week

Oh boy. Most of the time the KMOTW makes his mark by doing something stupid off the field. Zygi Wilf won it by begging for money for a non-existent plan. Roger Clemens won it for taking steroids, and Torii Hunter won it for saying no one would want to play in the new Twins ballpark.

This week's winner, though, definitely deserves it for his performance on the field.

I could have given it to Roger Clemens, again, for his less than believable rebuttal to McNamee's accusations. I mean, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard the "Lidocaine and B-12" excuse, well I'd have more than 4 cents, let's just put it that way. Seriously, lidocaine and B-12? Let's consider that Brian McNamee is a former, highly respected personal trainer with a Master's degree in sports medicine. Don't you think he knows what he is injecting into a baseball player's butt? He knew what he was giving Andy Pettite, but not Clemens? Give me a break.

I could have also given the award to Sid Hartman, for his sycophantic pro Zygi Wilf column this week. I don't have a problem praising Wilf when he actually does something right, but when I read the title, "Wilfs won't hesitate to spend on Vikings" I just laughed. Does't Sid write this column every year? Well, I've stopped believing it. And furthermore, if it means that Wilf will sign another player like Visanthe Shiancoe (or "Shianc-dog" as he likes call himself) then I say save your money. It would be better spent on an actual dog.

Brad Childress could have won the award (and he maybe should have) because, as my mom says:

How can a team with seven pro bowl players and the Rookie of the Year not be in the playoffs????

That is an excellent point Mom! I guess when you've got Chilly-Willy for a coach a lot of surprising things can happen.

But as I said above, this week's winner of the KMOTW gets the award for his performance on the field, and unfortunately his performance, or the fact that we had to watch it, is more the fault of Mike Tice than Brad Childress.

Behold! The winner of the Knucklehead McSpazatron of the Week is:

spongetroy.jpg

That's right, it is Troy Williamson! Man, Troy Williamson couldn't catch a cold in a day care center. He couldn't catch a rash at a poison ivy convention. And apparently he can't catch a football unless it somehow gets wedged into his facemask. Just look at this picture:

Troy drops another one

Right out of his hands before it bounces off his shoulder! This was such a spectacular failure as a wide receiver it actually made me burst out laughing. Can you believe this guy was picked seventh in the draft? Seventh??!?!?!?!?! It leaves me absolutely dumbfounded.

So, for giving us one last pathetic performance as a "wide receiver" for the Minnesota Vikings, Troy Williamson is my Knucklehead McSpazatron of the Week.

Posted by snackeru at 9:09 PM | Comments (12)

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