It Might Be About Damn Time To Get My Shit Together

Much of my adult—or whatever you call your mid-twenties—life has been spent dreaming of a career that involves either writing or baseball or—in some perfect world—writing about baseball.

(Note: I’ve recently made peace with the fact that I won’t be playing baseball or, more than likely, working in baseball for a living.)

Instead, I’ve made my millions multiple-hundreds in the “library services” world.

There was, however, a glorious period of time (ie: the fall/winter of ’09) in which my baseball writing was top-notch and I eventually become the top-ranked baseball writer at the burgeoning sports website, “BleacherReport.”

As is often the case, my writing was hindered by Christmas vacation and then was absolutely obliterated by a dang-near year-long battle with writer’s block.

As has proven to be the case in the past, a trip home to Iowa was enough to re-charge the batteries and get me feeling the need/urge/craving/etc. to write again.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to really get my ass back into gear in regards to my baseball writing. Most of this is because my beloved Minnesota Twins haven’t really done a damn thing beyond trade away the shortstop I have a man-crush on.

Today, however, I received reason enough to get my shit together in the form of an email from the fine folks at BleacherReport that read:

“We want the members of the Bleacher Report community of writers to be the first to know about this coming opportunity.

Bleacher Report will start hiring a small number of writers for part-time paid writing positions immediately – a limited number at first, but more over time. These paid writers will be given specific assignments by Bleacher Report editors and be responsible for meeting goals – volume, traffic and engagement, and quality.

We will accept some external applications but, for the most part, Bleacher Report will look to source candidates for these paid writing positions from our existing writer base. Our best Featured Columnists will be considered for these positions.

Newer writers may qualify for the Featured Columnist program by proving themselves consistent contributors of high-quality entertaining content and demonstrating expertise in a specific relevant subject area.

There is no need to apply directly for these paid positions; over the course of several months, our editors will reach out to writers who qualify.”

I know, right?!

Now, I don’t want to get the cart ahead of the horse here, because I’m certainly not the world’s greatest baseball writer. I’m not big into sabermetrics and I’ve got no real cable, so I don’t get to watch 1,000 games a year, but I generally know what I’m talking about despite a lack of live games and ESPN-infused insight.

I’m a dude who does his research and legitimately loves the game more than he does some of his family members (sorry, Aunt Linda). This is all because of my Pappy.

As a kid, baseball was my major connection with my Pappy.

He is much, much, much more of a “manly man” than I’ll ever be and he has that particular connection with my brother, G-Doggy. I’ll never have that.

I’m not the kind of guy who wakes up at 5am, ready to go work and roof a house. I’m the kind of guy who wakes up at 5am and rolls back over to sleep for a few more hours before waking up and getting stoked to write about something moderately amusing that happened at his library job the day before.

As an adult, baseball is just as important between me and my Pappy. I’ll never fully understand his stories about working in the cold to fix up a crappy run-down house and he’ll never fully understand (or perhaps really respect) my stories about working in a dusty old library, and that’s okay. That’s life. We live in different worlds.

The important thing is that when we’re chatting about who will be starting in left field for the Mets or who will be the Twins designated hitter against southpaws, we’re on the same page.

My Pappy is—without a doubt—the reason I love baseball as much as I do and for that, I am eternally grateful. There is nothing else in my life that is as simple and pure and beautiful as a game of baseball. It is the ideal way to spend a day/morning/afternoon/life.

As I said, I’m not the greatest baseball writer, but I’m also not the worst.

I’m sure I’m either far too technical and impersonal or way too personal and unprofessional—I have some serious troubles finding that middle ground—but I do know what the hell I’m doing.

And when I’m “on,” by golly I am motherf’n “ON.”

The problem is that I’ve yet to really get my shit together on the baseball writing since my recent battle with writer’s block came to an end.

I’m still incredibly overworked and likely in WAY over my head at work, but you know what…I’m gonna handle that like a champ. If I don’t, well then I’m going to go down swinging.

I’m going to find a way to factor what I really want to do—(ie: write)—into my ridiculously busy work life and also comically busy social life.

This is a legitimate chance for me to finally do what I really want to do and, by golly, I’m gonna make this shit happen.

…or go down swinging, that’s kinda my thing.

Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles | Leave a comment

The Champagne is On Ice…

Let’s be honest, this is undoubtedly the best Minnesota Twins team that the club has had since 2006 and—arguably—the best overall team since the club’s fortunes turned around at the beginning of the last decade.

As such, I’ve decided to eschew my usual fears about angering the mighty Baseball Gods and I’m going to go ahead and show an overwhelming amount of optimism, rather than temper my enthusiasm in fear of “getting too cocky.”

With that in mind…

That’s right, my Faithful Readers, I’ve got four bottles of bubbly on ice and waiting.

One for when the Twins clinch the American League Central.

One for when the Twins win the American League Division Series.

One for when the Twins win the American League Championship Series.

…and one, glorious bottle that’s waiting—oh-so-patiently, mind you—for the Twins to win the World Series.

It’s tough enough being a Twins fan in Boston and having a very limited pool of brethren to enjoy this amazing season with, but I’m certainly not going to sit back quietly and let these major milestones pass with little more than an excited Tweet or Facebook post.

If When the Twins win, I’m gonna celebrate and I’m gonna celebrate right…by spraying champagne in my girlfriend’s eyes and screaming like a mad man…just like the pros!!

PS: Following tonight’s big come-from-behind win over the Indians, I’m currently watching the Athletics lay the smack down on the White Sox thanks to the fine folks at MLB.tv. An Oakland win clinches the division tonight!! Sure, sure…it’ll be like one in the morning before this is over, but whatevs…

PPS: It should also be noted that I’m watching the White Sox home feed of the game on MLB.tv, mostly because I’m hoping to hear Hawk Harrelson cry before the night is over.

UPDATE: OH HELLS YES!!! Let’s go ahead and run the B-Squad out there tomorrow when everyone has the “flu-like symptoms” (read: hangovers) and then let’s see about winning the whole f’n thing!!

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Minnesota Twins, MLB, Playoffs | 4 Comments

15 Bold Predictions for Tonight’s Vikings/Saints Game

15) Brett Favre throws for 5,000 yards and 22 TDs (in the first half…and then rests the ankle whilst T-Jax lets the Saints back into the game)

14) Adrian Peterson rushes for 1,500 yards, scores 11 times and… fumbles twice.

13) Drew Brees does something charitable. Likely ends up on Oprah before half-time.

12) Percy Harvin—on the receiving end of most of those touchdowns from Favre—misses the entire second half and all of weeks 2 through 11 with horrible migraines.

11) Reggie Bush leaves the team in the second quarter to reunite with Kim Kardashian. No one sees anything wrong with this decision.

10) Jared Allen kills a beer vendor, giggles like a school girl, and walks away.

09) Brett Favre retires.

08) Jeremy Shockey injures himself. Additionally, grass is green and water is wet.

07) One of the referees makes a call that someone watching the game vehemently disagrees with, they react inappropriately. Additionally, grass is green and water is wet.

06) Chad Greenway remembers he’s from South Dakota. He cries a little.

05) Pat, Kevin and Madieu Williams all realize they have the same last name and they form an exclusive club. I am not invited. Most likely, neither are you.

04) Visanthe Shiancoe eats a live kitten.

03) Jonathan Vilma, sick and tired of being mistaken for Velma from Scooby-Doo, changes his last name to Williams and, along with sisters Venus and Serena, joins the aforementioned Williams Club.

02) Brett Favre un-retires and leads a drive to undo all the wrong that T-Jax did in the second-half. He gets the team within two points of tying it up.

01) Jim Thome—in town to acquire his favorite performance enhancing drug…shrimp gumbo—shows up and kicks the game-winning 103 yard field goal.

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Posted in Brett Favre, Football, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, NFL | Leave a comment

2010 MLB Draft: Minnesota Twins Select Alex Wimmers with First-Round Pick

The Minnesota Twins drafted Ohio State pitcher Alex Wimmers with the 21st overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

This is the second-year in a row that the Twins have used their first-round selection on a highly-touted collegiate hurler.

A year ago the club took a gamble on injured Missouri starter Kyle Gibson with the 22nd pick. Gibson is now healthy and rapidly working his way through the minor leagues.

Keith Law of ESPN.com described Wimmers as “one of the most Major League-ready prospects in the draft.” This evaluation—from one of the top player evaluators in the business—indicates that Wimmers could be on a fast track similar to that of Gibson.

Wimmers was described by Baseball America as having “the best changeup in the 2010 draft crop” and that “few pitchers in this draft can match the depth of his repertoire.”

That repertoire includes the aforementioned changeup, a good curveball that he can throw for strikes, and a solid—if not unspectacular—low-to-mid ‘90s fastball.

His fastball currently sits right around 90-92 mph and touches 94 mph when he really dials it up. It is believed that he could add a little more velocity if he builds arm strength by using it more in pro ball.

He was described by John Manuel of Baseball America as “the closest thing to Brad Radke in this draft” and the Twins had some pretty good success with that Radke guy once upon a time. He is a reliable starter who throws strikes and likes to challenge hitters.

His three-pitch mix, solid command, and excellent presence on the mound should all help him move quickly through the system as he has been very successful throughout his collegiate career.

Wimmers won back-to-back Big Ten pitcher of the year awards after going 9-2 with a 3.27 ERA in 2009 and following it up this year by going 9-0 with a 1.60 ERA for the Buckeyes this season. He struck out 86 and walked 23 in 73 innings pitched this year.

The Twins have had a lot of success with players cut from the same cloth as Wimmers.

He is a strike-thrower who doesn’t have any overpowering raw stuff, but he possesses a very good total package that figures to project out well as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues.

If his fastball can catch up to his other pitches in a hurry, it’s entirely possible that Wimmers could make his big league debut by late 2011.

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Posted in AL Central, Alex Wimmers, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins, MLB, MLB Draft | Leave a comment

2010 MLB Draft: Fifteen Targets for the Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are often praised for doing things “the right way.”

This sentiment—although cliché and not entirely accurate—generally defines the organizational importance placed on pitching, defense, small ball tactics, and player development.

Although the Twins have seemingly eschewed the small ball tactics in recent seasons, the club still believes heavily in defense and pitching.

It would seem that the club has an abundance of outfielders already in the system with top prospects Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, Max Kepler, and Angel Morales all seemingly within a few years of reaching the big leagues.

As such, the Twins could logically be expected to abandon the usual philosophy of drafting the best available player—no matter what position he plays—and instead opt to improve by adding a big-armed pitcher or another infielder to the farm system.

Minnesota possesses the twenty-first overall pick in tonight’s First-Year Player Draft and could use that pick on any of a number of players.

This year’s draft—after the projected top three picks of catcher Bryce Harper, shortstop Manny Machado, and right-hander Jameson Taillon—has been deemed “wide-open” by many experts.

In fact, in describing the quality of the draft pool after those three, one unidentified NL general manager said, “there’s virtually no difference between the fourth and 44th picks.”

With that thought in mind let’s take a look at fifteen players that could join the Minnesota Twins organization tonight during the opening-round of the First-Year Player Draft.

Check out the slideshow at BleacherReport.com.

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Minnesota Twins, MLB, MLB Draft | Leave a comment

Why the New England Revolution Need Their Own Stadium

Dear Mr. Kraft,

First of all, let me say that Gillette Stadium is quite an impressive structure. In fact, I was quite literally in awe of its immensity the first time saw it looming up out of the distance as I drove down Route 1. Loss of fan atmosphere and home-field advantage aside, I’m sure it’s a marvelous place in which to watch a New England Patriots game.

However, I have to say… it’s a terrible place to watch a New England Revolution game. Why, you might ask? Because it’s huge. Way too huge to play host to a Major League Soccer team.

The Revolution consider a sellout crowd to be about 22,006. The seating capacity of Gillette is 68,756. Even if I’m in attendance at a sellout Revs match (which is highly unlikely, considering the overall average attendance at Revs matches is 15,844), it still feels like I’m only one of a handful that’s shoved into a corner of a vast behemoth of a stadium. Observe the seating chart for Revs games below (gray areas are closed-off during soccer games):

And that’s only the bottom bowl (and a tiny section of the second). Imagine, if you will, being a player on the Revolution. Perhaps you watched World Cup matches as a kid and dreamed of one day playing before a huge crowd of singing fans who wave their scarves and banners in support and chant your name. With that dream firmly planted in your mind, imagine stepping onto the pitch at Gillette for your first match. Not even half of the lower bowl of the stadium is full. The fans in the Fort (the 3 orange sections) are singing and screaming throughout the game, but the rest of the crowd could be watching golf for all the noise they’re making. Bit of a disappointment, huh?

Now, compare Gillette’s seating chart to that of Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire:

Isn’t that much more reasonable? Doesn’t that make so much more sense? That seating chart is the whole stadium. There aren’t two more bowls looming empty over the fans on game-day. The fans are all right there, as close to the action as FIFA regulations will allow.

In fact, 14 of the 16 current MLS teams have stadiums similar to Toyota Park (or will within a year or two). 11 teams have soccer-specific stadiums that seat 27,000 or less. Two teams (DC United and KC Wizards) are in the process of building soccer-specific stadiums, and one (Houston Dynamo) plays at a university’s football stadium that is at least of manageable size  (32,000 seats).

The only other MLS team to play in an NFL stadium is Seattle. The Sounders play at Qwest Field (also home to the Seahawks), which has a similar seating capacity to that of Gillette. However (and that’s a big however, Mr. Kraft), Qwest was designed to be BOTH an NFL stadium and an MLS stadium. For Sounders matches, the people at Qwest adjust things (I’m not entirely sure how, though I’m guessing they close off the upper bowls) to bring the size down to a manageable 27,700 seats that (here’s the kicker) SURROUND the pitch. They don’t shove all their fans into one corner of the lower bowl.

Now, just amuse me for a few seconds and watch this video of Liverpool fans before a Champions League match against Barcelona:

How awesome would it be if Revolution matches were like that? I know, I know… soccer isn’t nearly as big in the States as it is in Europe, or, you know, the rest of the world. But the MLS is expanding pretty rapidly (two more teams will be added in 2011), and some MLS teams (I’m looking at you, Seattle and Philadelphia) have fans that are pretty freaking hardcore and dedicated. The Revolution even has two factions of fans – the Midnight Riders and the Rebellion - that are working hard to expand and strengthen fan support for their beloved Revs.

Wouldn’t it be nice to make the stadium more fan-friendly for them, and more conducive to the sort of electric soccer atmosphere that you witnessed in that Liverpool video? Right now, any noise that those in the Fort make just disappears straight up. Having the fans all the way around the pitch, nice and close to the action, not only makes it easier for those fans to see the game, but it also provides a tighter environment, brings fans together, and brings that Revolution player I mentioned earlier so much closer to living his dream of playing in front of a packed house.

A few years ago, Mr. Kraft, you and the city of Somerville, Massachusetts sat down and talked about possibly building the Revs their very own stadium. You made a good number of fans (myself included) very excited at the prospect of hopping on public transportation and making the short journey to our very own soccer-specific stadium close to the city. No offense to Foxboro, but it’s quite a haul and Route 1 is no fun before or after games. The proposed site in Somerville would be close to the T, right off a bus line, and within walking distance of many in New England’s most densely populated city:

In fact, I know of several Revs fans who say they would gladly purchase season tickets if it didn’t require regular trips down to Foxboro. If you don’t do it for the fans, Mr. Kraft, think of the revenues. Even the two 2011 MLS expansion teams have (or are planning to have) their own soccer-specific stadiums. This is a good bandwagon for New England to hop. You’ve got the location, you’ve got a good amount of support, God knows you’ve got the money. Now can you please get this going?

Cheers,
DGobs

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Posted in Cheap Seat Chronicles, MLS, New England Revolution, Soccer | 2 Comments

You’re Doing It Wrong: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox Loyalty

There is no rivalry in sports more storied than the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox—or so ESPN tells me, constantly—and with that type of long-term, history-laden rivalry comes some serious battle lines, right?

Literally hundreds of books have been written on the subject.

More ink (or is it pixels) have been spilled over this rivalry in newspapers and online than any other in all of sports. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that this rivalry alone has kept some sportswriters employed.

The rivalry has its own freakin’ Wikipedia entry and a YouTube search for “Yankees vs Red Sox” yields nearly 10,000 results.

Heck, there’s an entire television network dedicated to preaching the prominence of this rivalry.

We’re talking about the type of rivalry that divides families and tears friendships apart.

People have legitimately been beaten and killed as a result of their respective allegiances in this century-old rivalry.

With that in mind you’ve got to think that there is absolutely no reason for something like this to happen:

As much as I hate to give either the Yankees or Red Sox any more press, I can’t help but ask myself, what the heck is going on here??

Like seriously, how is something like this allowed to happen?

I’ve been in those bleachers at Fenway, I’ve been booed unmercifully by an entire section on more than one occasion for wearing Minnesota Twins gear and—on one fateful day—a vintage Tampa Bay Devil Rays t-shirt.

I’ve been to a Sox/Yankees game and seen fight after fight breakout over nothing more than someone doffing the cap of the visiting team.

So explain to me, how is it that this gal’s transgressions are allowed to pass unscathed, by either party.

I would be content if a band of rogue New York fans rose up in arms to slay her with weapons they’d fashioned from those miniature souvenir baseball bats.

I’d be equally approving if the usual Fenway bleacher creatures were to use her as a ritual sacrifice to Jon Papelbon before the ninth (they do that you know).

What I can’t stand is for this to pass, seemingly without any sort of repercussion. She’s just enjoying a beer and watching the game. What the heck is that?

I had a beer vendor refuse to serve me the day I wore the Devil Rays shirt and this is all peachy?

Let’s hear it folks, what’s your take on the situation?

Is she part of some sort of government test study to determine how long a cute gal can survive in hostile conditions?

Has she had too many of those $8 Budweisers and accidentally grabbed the wrong hat (or shirt) on her way out of the powder room?

Or does she simply work for ESPN?

Hat Tip – [Total Pro Sports]

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Posted in AL East, American League, Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Cheap Seat Chronicles, MLB, New York Yankees | 2 Comments

J.J. Hardy Injury: Minnesota Twins Shortstop Lands on DL with Wrist Injury


The injuries just keep on coming for the Minnesota Twins.

In March, the club lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Last week, reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer sat out with a heel injury that threatened to land him on the disabled list.

And just today, the Twins placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. Hardy initially sustained the injury sliding into third base on a triple a week ago.

The move is retroactive to May 4, meaning that Hardy can be rejoin the big league club next Thursday in Boston for the finale of a two-game set against the Red Sox.

Hardy was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last fall for outfielder Carlos Gomez who—ironically enough—also landed on the disabled list today with a with a left rotator cuff strain.

Prior to the injury Hardy—a notoriously streaky hitter—was off to a less than impressive start at the plate. Through the season’s first 25 games Hardy posted an uninspiring .250/.299/.400 batting line to go with three home runs, eleven RBI, and four doubles.

In essence, the time off could do Hardy some good as it largely believed he’s been pressing at the plate in an effort to prove that his dreadful 2009 was an aberration.

To fill in for the injured Hardy, the club recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester.

Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk said it best…

“…the Twins have added to their amazing collection of banjo-hitting utility infielders by calling up Matt Tolbert from Triple-A. Tolbert is anything but deserving after hitting .232 with a .632 OPS and six errors in 27 games at Triple-A, but he’s a poor man’s Nick Punto and so naturally Ron Gardenhire loves him.”

The move is nothing if not disconcerting.

As Gleeman mentions, the club is already stock-piled with prototypical “small ball” style players in Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla.

The club could have used this opportunity to call up the supposed third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia or bring Luke Hughes back for a second go-around with the big club, but neither is doing anything overly inspiring at Rochester.

Additionally, Valencia and Hughes are both third basemen by trade, although Hughes has spent plenty of time at second base as of late, but neither of those positions appear to be open with the big club.

The Twins appear content to leave Nick Punto at third base—his best defensive position, according to UZR—and Orlando Hudson isn’t going to suit up anywhere but second base.

That leaves current Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe as the most logical player to call up in this situation.

Plouffe, 24, is off to a solid start with the Red Wings hitting .278/.344/.452 with two home runs, thirteen RBI, and eight doubles through 29 games.

The Twins, however, appear to be playing favorites and going with one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, the “scrappy” Matt Tolbert.

Tolbert will likely split time with Alexi Casilla who isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his paltry .261/.292/.304 batting line.

To their credit, UZR rates both Casilla and Tolbert are above average defenders at shortstop, albeit in very small sample sizes.

The Casilla/Tolbert combo isn’t an ideal solution for the Twins, especially with the division rival Chicago White Sox in town and a weekend series with the world champion New York Yankees looming on the horizon, but the duo should serve as an adequate defensive stopgap until Hardy returns next week.

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Injuries, J.J. Hardy, Matt Tolbert, Minnesota Twins, MLB | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Phillies Fan Gets Tasered

When the action on the field grows tiresome too many fans decide to create their own entertainment.

That was the case last night in Philadelphia where a 17-year-old Phillies fan hopped the fence and ran onto the field during the eighth inning.

At the time the Phillies were down 6-2 after giving up a five-run inning to the St. Louis Cardinals. This apparently was enough to encourage the young fan—whose name has yet to be released because he is a minor—to make his own entertainment.

The fan jumped the fence and led two officers on a chase around the outfield at Citizens Bank Park in front of a reported 44,817 screaming fans.

The security officers eventually ended the chase when one of the men pulled out a Taser and “subdued” the 17-year-old.

According to both teams, this is the first time a Taser has ever been used to apprehend a trespasser during a game.

Phillies spokeswomen Bonnie Clark said the police department is investigating the matter and discussing with the team whether using the stun gun was appropriate.

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore told The Philadelphia Inquirer police internal affairs will open an investigation to determine if the firing “was proper use of the equipment.”

The 17-year-old will be charged with trespassing and likely suffering years of public humiliation amongst his friends.

After an incident like this, one can’t help but wonder if this is taking things too far.

In the past, officers would make a half-hearted attempt to catch the trespasser and more or less wait until they would run themselves out of energy.

At which point they’d simply escort them off the field and off to spend the evening in jail. Who knew that those were simpler times?

I’m all about keeping people off the field, but the Taser seems just a bit extreme given that this guy was clearly not a threat to anyone on the field.

Let’s hear it in the comments folks, what do you think?

Was the use of a Taser too much or is it a sufficient means of crowd control in this type of situation?

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Posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies | 4 Comments

Do the Minnesota Twins Lack a Killer Instinct?

The Minnesota Twins are living the high life.

The club left behind the antiquated Metrodome and moved into their brand-new, state of the art ballpark, Target Field.

The club has an increased payroll and is coming off one of the most productive offseasons in franchise history.

The club is 13-6—second-best in all of Major League Baseball—despite the fact that much of the lineup sits mired in early season slumps.

The Twins have won six straight series to start the season for the first-time in franchise history. All the while outscoring opponents 101-70 and looking far more polished than their counterparts.

Three weeks into the season, there is very little to worry about in Minnesota, or is there?

The club has dropped the last game of a three-game series four times, seemingly phoning it in after winning the series.

This is one thing that should have the club worried.

The Twins cannot afford to let off the gas early in the season, especially against weaker competition like Kansas City and Cleveland.

If we’ve learned anything about the American League Central in recent years, it’s that every single game matters.

Two years in a row the Twins have been forced to play a 163rd game with the division pennant on the line.

A few extra wins over lesser opponents in April are just as important as dramatic September wins over Detroit or Chicago.

All 162 games count exactly the same and the Twins appear to be treating every third game as a throw-away and not a must-win situation.

Anything can happen in baseball. Much of the offense could stay locked in neutral and not overcome their early struggles. The pitching rotation could struggle as the season stretches on. The currently untouchable bullpen could breakdown at any point.

Every game is important because of those unknown factors that creep up every season.

Right now the Twins are riding high, but so were the Indians in 2002 and the Royals were looking like world beaters a year later. Neither of those teams took home the pennant.

The Twins need to establish a killer instinct and finish out some of these early season series if they want to avoid another late season pennant push that leaves the roster exhausted for the playoffs.

It may be early, but the games are important. It’s time for the Twins to start acting like it.

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Minnesota Twins, MLB | 1 Comment

WWE Extreme Rules: Ten Things We Learned

After every WWE pay-per-view event, we’re supposed to be left with a feeling of satisfaction; as if all of our questions and concerns have been answered by the events that unfolded at the pay-per-view.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. All-too-often we are left with more new questions than answers.

Sunday night’s Extreme Rules was no exception. Following the event there are plenty of important questions to be asked, but there is no doubt we learned plenty of things at the event as well.

Without any further ado, here are the ten things we learned at WWE’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view.

Check out the slide-show at BleacherReport.com.

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Posted in Cheap Seat Chronicles, Professional Wrestling, WWE | Leave a comment

2010 MLB Predictions: Better Late Than Never

It’s pretty obvious that the posts haven’t exactly been coming hot and heavy in the past month or so. Things have been very busy at work and there was a fair amount of travel in the mix as well, but rest assured I’m neither dead nor done writing.

I do want to make one thing clear, these predictions were compiled before the season started, I just never got around to posting them, so anyone who wants to get up in my grill for not giving the currently-surging Rays or Athletics enough love, my apologies.

With that in mind, here are my preseason early season predictions for how things are going to shake out in 2010.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AMERICAN LEAGUE

NL EAST

Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

AL EAST

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

NL CENTRAL

St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Houston Astros

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals

NL WEST

Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks

AL WEST

Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers

NLDS: Philadelphia over San Francisco (3-1)
NLDS: Colorado over St. Louis (3-2)

ALDS: Minnesota over Boston (3-2)
ALDS: New York over Los Angeles (3-0)

NLCS: Colorado over Philadelphia (4-3)
ALCS: Minnesota over New York (4-3)

WORLD SERIES: Minnesota over Colorado (4-2)

There you have it, folks…the Twins are going to top the Rockies in what will undoubtedly be the least-watched World Series of all-time. ESPN will ignore it entirely, choosing instead to focus on whether Tim Tebow’s new haircut implies he can handle the complexities of an NFL offense.

Feel free to head over to your nearest bookie and put some serious cash on these predictions.

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Posted in AL Central, AL East, AL West, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Minnesota Twins, MLB, National League, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Playoffs, Predictions, World Series | 3 Comments

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins Agree on Massive Eight-Year, $184 Million Contract Extension

Minnesota Twins fans can now breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The biggest drama of the offseason—Joe Mauer’s contract status (or lack thereof)—has finally come to an end.

The Minnesota Twins have officially inked Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million deal that will keep the reigning American League Most Valuable Player in the Twin Cities through the 2018 season.

The deal reportedly includes a full no-trade clause and will pay the All-Star backstop $23 million per season from 2011-2018.

This is undoubtedly the largest contract in franchise history, but also one of the most important.

Mauer, 26, was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In high school, he was a multi-sport star at Saint Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall. During his senior year Mauer became the first—and only—athlete to be selected as the USA Today High School Player of the Year in two sports (football and baseball).

Mauer’s multi-sport prowess led him to make an important decision in 2001 when he turned down a football scholarship to Florida State University to enter the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

The Twins selected the hometown boy with the first-overall pick in the 2001 draft and the club was widely-criticized for taking the “easy pick” over the supposedly more talented Mark Prior, who had pitched at the University of Southern California.

Less than a decade later, Prior is a footnote in baseball history and serves as one of the ultimate “what might have been” cases of the generation.

Mauer, on the other hand, has blossomed into one of baseball’s brightest stars. In the process, he has more than shown he was the right choice and not the easy choice in the 2001 draft.

The hefty payday comes as no surprise on the heels of Mauer’s MVP campaign in 2009 in which he set career-highs with 28 home runs, 96 RBI, 191 hits, and 307 total bases despite missing the entire month of April with a back injury.

He made an immediate impact upon returning to the lineup by crushing a home run in his very first at-bat and never looked back.

Additionally, he led the AL in the new age Triple Crown categories of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage by posting a very impressive .365/.444/.587 cumulative batting line.

After his extraordinary return to the lineup, Mauer played in 138 of the team’s remaining 141 games.

Despite missing a month, and starting 28 games at designated hitter, Mauer managed to catch 939 innings, ranking fifth in the American League.

The MVP is just one of many awards that currently adorn Mauer’s mantle as he also won his third Silver Slugger, his third batting title, his second Gold Glove, and was voted the winner of the 2009 Players Choice Award for AL Outstanding Player, an award voted on by his peers.

Additionally, Mauer made his third All-Star team and lead the Minnesota Twins back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

The Twins were 11-11 while Mauer was out in April, but went 76-65 after he rejoined the club. In September, Mauer played a big role as the Twins overcome a seven-game deficit to win the AL Central.

His importance to the ballclub is undeniable, but it could be argued that it was even more important for the state of Minnesota that Mauer sign an extension rather than land in Boston or New York before Opening Day 2011.

There was speculation more than a month ago that a deal was imminent—if not completed—but that turned out to be false. Lingering negotiations led fans and media members to wonder if the deal had hit a snag or, perhaps, if Mauer had become trade bait.

Luckily, we now know those fears were unfounded. Although given the club’s history, one can’t fault anyone for being concerned.

The Twins have long-been a small-budget operation. In recent years many fan favorites such as Torii Hunter and Johan Santana exited via free agency or trade as a result of the team’s unwillingness to match the big money offers those players could garner on the open market.

This offseason, however, there were signs of change with the opening of Target Field and an anticipated increase in revenue the club has already increased payroll by roughly $30 million from Opening Day last season.

Signing Mauer to a deal of this magnitude shows that the Twins are not only committed to winning, but to pleasing the fans as well. Losing Mauer would have been devastating to the Twins fan-base and—subsequently—the franchise’s bottom line.

That situation has been avoided on what must be considered a major gamble for the organization.

Mauer is, after all, a catcher.

He plays the most demanding position in the game and has a track record of injuries to his knees and back. At 6’5” and 225 pounds, he is very large for the position and could conceivably have a limited shelf life behind the plate.

Additionally, the Twins are banking on last year’s sudden power surge becoming a trend rather than an aberration.

In the end, I think all parties involved come out okay in the deal.

The Twins have avoided any chance of a being run out of town by an angry, pitch-fork wielding mob of dejected Minnesotans and ensured themselves a pretty solid number three hitter for the better part of the next decade.

Mauer has long-term security and more money than Minnesota has lakes.

This would be a good time to make a comment about how Twins fans are the real winners in this deal, but let’s be honest, Joe Mauer just signed a deal for $184 million.

The fans come in second on this one, but I think we’re all a-okay with that.

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, MLB | 5 Comments

Joe Nathan Injury: Minnesota’s All-Star Closer Opts for Tommy John Surgery

It’s official, the Minnesota Twins will be without All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the 2010 campaign.

Nathan elected to undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery today after feeling continued pain and discomfort following a bullpen session with pitching coach Rick Anderson.

“Didn’t go like we hoped,” Nathan said. “We knew it was a long shot, but what this did do is clear my head.”

Nathan was originally diagnosed with a “significant tear” of his ulnar collateral ligament two weeks ago after he abruptly left an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox after just 20 pitches.

At the time he decided to rest the injury and then test it one more time before deciding whether or not to undergo the procedure.

It is believed that Nathan will undergo the surgery as soon as possible in an attempt to rejoin the club by Opening Day next season.

“Any time you’re going to be out for the season—but especially the timing of this, with this ballclub, this new stadium, the excitement—it’s definitely tough,” Nathan said. “But right now I’ve got to take care of myself and get myself ready for next year.”

Nathan, 35, is coming off a year in which he set the franchise record for saves with 47 and posted a 2.10 ERA, a .932 WHIP and earned a trip to his fourth All-Star Game.

Needless to say, the club will have a hard time finding anyone to legitimately fill Nathan’s shoes.

The club has, however, been exploring potential replacement options for Nathan since the initial word broke two weeks ago.

In that time the Twins have been linked to the like of Heath Bell and Kerry Wood as potential trade candidates.

The more likely option, however, is that Nathan’s replacement will come from within the organization.

Right-handers Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier are largely believed to be the front-runners with lefty Jose Mijares a distant third.

Rauch has some experience—albeit limited—in the role from his time in Washington and figures to get the first crack at the job.

Mijares has long been touted as having “closer stuff” on the mound, but many—seemingly including manager Ron Gardenhire—question whether he has the mental makeup to handle the role.

Guerrier has good stuff and a cool head to pitch late in important, high-pressure situations. He is also, however, very valuable as a setup man and Gardenhire loves to use him in multiple-inning situations.

It’s entirely possible that Guerrier’s success in his current role will prevent him from taking over as the club’s closer.

A popular dark horse candidate is current Twins farmhand Anthony Slama.

Slama has looked good in Spring Training, posting eight strikeouts, one walk, one win and a 0.00 ERA in four innings pitched.

He has a proven track record a closer in the minor leagues and appears to have all the intangibles it takes to be a big league closer.

With Opening Day just two weeks away, the race for the closer role is now officially up for grabs and—for all intents and purposes—wide open.

If nothing else, today’s unfortunate news should make for a compelling final two weeks of Spring Training.

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Posted in American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Injuries, Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins, MLB | 1 Comment

Minnesota Twins: Six Things Fans Will Miss About the Metrodome

After 28 long seasons spent cooped up inside a big Teflon bubble the Minnesota Twins will be moving to an exquisite new ballpark for the 2010 season.

Target Field figures to provide the Twins with not only a much better playing environment, but also much larger revenue streams.

The club has already made the most of the revenue increase by bumping the payroll nearly $40 million over last year’s Opening Day payroll. The on-field results, however, are a wait in progress.

The move will obviously have a large impact on the ballclub, but also on the fans that have trekked to the Metrodome for the better part of three decades.

With that in mind, here are six things that fans won’t miss about the Metrodome.

Also available in slide-show format at BleacherReport.com.

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Posted in AL Central, American League, Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Kirby Puckett, Metrodome, Minnesota Twins, MLB | Leave a comment