With Mauer closing in on 400 doubles, I've been starting to wonder whether he can break the franchise record. He needs 18 to pass Kirby for most doubles in a Twins uniform, but he has a long way to go to catch Sam Rice at 479. I can't imagine Joe playing in any other uniform, so I hope we get to do another countdown like this in 2019.
The so-called Greener's Law advises, "Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel." As any old farmhand can tell you, when you pick a fight with chickens, eventually you get egg on your face. (I made this up.)
Star Tribune scribe Jim Souhan recently authored a screed against baseball bloggers, calling them "plagiarists, amateurs, [sic] cowards and professional liars" who don't "have to have the courage and work ethic to show their faces in the clubhouse every 10 years or so." A prudent reminder here to readers that Souhan continues to insinuate that bilateral leg weakness, the diagnosed condition which afflicted Twins star Joe Mauer in 2011, does not exist. Souhan's professional biography does not indicate he holds advanced medical or athletic training degrees.
In his anti-blogger invective, Souhan details the groups of people he believes are and are not trustworthy sources of information about baseball. He includes himself in the former category, along with beat writers and "tethered bloggers," while team broadcasters, "untethered bloggers," and
Sid Hartman your grandpa the late Jim Ed Poole are in the latter group. (One wonders where ESPN-era Hunter S. Thompson falls in this taxonomy.) Souhan draws a stark contrast between his fellow Anna Politkovskayas of sports truth and the "local trolls and national know-nothings," who he accuses of being professional chickens:
[T}hey have the opportunity to get credentials and talk to people face to face and defend what they write, especially the many untrue things they write, and they never show up. They are afraid to. They are actual trolls, unwilling to do the work or look people in the eye and justify or defend what they’ve written.
There is a reason they take this approach. Their stuff wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of players and team officials. They’re afraid. And they would have to face the traditional journalists they’re trying to push aside so they have a place at the table.
These untethered-from-reality bloggers are trolls, liars, plagiarists and frauds. But mostly, they’re cowards.
Souhan's churlish defense of the unwavering bravery of the beat writer and the noble courage of the newspaper columnist has been echoing in my mind for the last few days. How could anyone doubt the stones of the guy who has to hear from Minnesotans who don't like how he does his job? What better way, I thought, for Souhan to show just how much juice he really has in this town, and just how unfettered by jeopardy to professional relationships his reporting is, than to write a series of columns on subjects that put his courage on display and show bloggers how the pros do it? Remember, this is the guy who claims he is one of "two columnists in town ... who can call up Tom Kelly or Hrbek or Torii Hunter whenever we like[.]"
So, I drafted ten suggestions for Souhan's column requiring the all access pass & intestinal fortitude of a real sports journalist:
- Souhan should ask his buddy Torii Hunter to go on the record about whether he still thinks Twins like Miguel Sanó, Rod Carew, & Tony Oliva are race "imposters." Has Torii ever apologized to Carew, Oliva, or Sanó for his bigotry?
- During the Nineties Souhan was a Twins beat reporter for the Star Tribune. Which Twins were steroid users when he was a beat reporter? What do clean teammates think of the PED users in the clubhouse during that time? Why didn't Souhan write about steroids in the organization then?
- What does Jim Pohlad think about his father Carl's failed attempt to take a payout from Major League Baseball to contract one of the American League's original franchises? What did the family hear from its former stars like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, & Kent Hrbek? What did Tom Kelly say to the Pohlads?
- What do Pohlad & St. Peter think the Twins owe the fans financing their taxpayer-funded ballpark after the worst stretch of on-field & front office incompetence during the club's half-century tenure in Minnesota? How high is Pohlad willing to raise the payroll to win the World Series and make good on the promises made to fans about championship-caliber baseball at their new ballpark?
- How do Jim Pohlad & Dave St. Peter justify the Twins' ongoing corporate partnership with Kwik Trip, a company run by enthusiastic Trump supporters, in light of Trump's policies on immigration and his detestable rhetorical footsie with white supremacists? Does that connection reflect the values of the Minnesota Twins and its leadership group?
- In light of recent movements to remove statues in public spaces that memorialize figures who professed significant racial prejudice, do the Twins plan to remove the statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who told an audience that includesd a reporter for Souhan's own paper he moved his club because Minnesota "only had 15,000 blacks here"? Get a response from Pohlad or St. Peter on the record.
- Interview Bert Blyleven and ask how he feels about the "untethered bloggers" who were the staunchest & most persistent advocates for his election to the Hall of Fame. What does Bert think old-school sportswriters missed in his career, and what can they learn from bloggers like those who supported his candidacy? What has Bert learned in his broadcasting career that has given him new insight on pitching or playing the game?
- What is the full, real story behind the firing of former head trainer Dick Martin? What does Martin think motivated his dismissal? And why have the Twins, who once had such a good reputation for injury prevention that Martin had an athletic training award named after him, been so plagued by injury problems since Martin left?
- Next time Souhan passes Derek Falvey & Thad Levine in the hallway, he should ask them which websites they would recommend to Twins fans who want to learn more about evaluating players, then provide links to & descriptions of their recommendations.
- Ask Glen Perkins for his on the record comment on Souhan's claims about his conditioning and when he plans to announce his retirement; report his response, word for word.
If Souhan has the cast iron drawers of a seasoned journalist, surely he won't balk at this small list. Since he has Access, why doesn't he show us he's not afraid to use it?
I was pretty certain I just needed new tires for our Subaru when I dropped it off Monday night for an oil change on Tuesday, but I asked them to check the wheel bearings just in case the rumble I was hearing meant I was in for more than a $50 bill. With 118,000 miles, it wouldn't be unreasonable to need to replace the original bearings. Fortunately, I just need tires.
This will be the third set of rubber for this car, which we purchased new back in 2008. The OEM tires, which I'm fairly certain were Bridgestones or Yokohamas, lasted four years and 76,000 miles. They were okay – much better than the Pirellis on the Camry that preceded the Subaru, especially in winter (even setting aside going from FWD to AWD). This second set, Continental DWS (Dry, Wet, & Snow), have lasted 42,250 miles. I got them on recommendation from an expert I trust, but I haven't been impressed with their performance since the second winter. Hydroplaning in some conditions (standing water in the tracks of lanes) started becoming an issue about a year ago, even with good tread left on the tire. I won't be buying Contis again for this car.
The Subaru's been paid for the entire time we've owned it, fortunately, but medical/health-related debt that we're just crawling out from under has kept us from building up a nest egg for a down payment on a replacement. With the addition of the Poissonnier and limited prospects for advancement (or even substantial raise) on the horizon, it's pretty clear that we'll be keeping this car for as long as we can. That's fine; I like not owning a car payment.
We use the car primarily as our "nice" car, for longer trips where it's nice to have an AUX jack and dual-zone climate control, and for bad weather/winter driving. Our daily driver is the '02 Buick LeSabre we inherited from Mrs. Hayes' grandfather when he ceased driving a few years ago. It's not even cracked 70,000 miles yet, though it's been racking them up steadily as our daily whip (to & from daycare and the bus stop) and grocery-getter. We won't be replacing it, either, though it needs a new set of rear shocks ($$) soon.
So, I've been researching tires. I'll be buying all-seasons because it's too early for snow tires and I can't afford a second set this year. I might decide to get a set of snowshoes for it next year, but who knows if I'll have the scratch when the time comes. Costco has a limited selection and very little price incentive, but they do come with Costco's warranty against damage/failure under normal operation. If I buy them from an online retailer, I have significantly more choice, but no substantial difference in price, and I'll have to find someone to install them. My independent mechanic doesn't do tires & alignments, but recommended another shop that's pretty reputable. Still, I'd feel like a jerk for bringing in the tires and only paying them for the mounting & balancing.
I should probably mention the tires I've been considering at this point. I'm sticking with the same size rubber as the previous two: 225/55-R17. The low-end decent buy is a set of Kumho Solus TA71s, which would run about $370, plus labor. The reviews seem reasonable, but the treadwear ratings mean I'm likely to need to replace these sooner. Mid-range options (all online) are the BFGoodrich T/A Sport ($505), Yokohama Geolandar G91FV ($565), & Nokian WR G3 ($580). The top choice is a set of Michelin Defender LTX M/S ($680 at Costco), but even with universally good reviews (and the best snow performance) those might be cost-prohibitive. My upper limit is about $750, including mounting & balancing. I'm wondering if I'll need the TPMS sensors replaced... If I can't get the Defenders, I'm leaning toward the Nokians; I trust the Finns when it comes to making a quality, truly all-weather tire.
Naturally, all this will cost about what my trip to Sacramento will run for flight & lodging. We have another wedding next month to boot.
Has anyone had experience with getting their whip re-shod at Costco? Or, for that matter, buying tires online and taking them in somewhere for mounting & balancing? I'm wondering if my inner Minnesotan is trying to talk me out of this because I don't want to offend the independent shop by taking some profit from selling the tires out of their pocket.
Yesterday Dave Cameron published a piece on the mid-season turn around by one of the most singular Twins. It's not who you're thinking.
This post brought to you from an actual coffee shop. Mmmm, breve & croissant for breakfast.
It's Saturday, which means we deserve a fresh pot to linger over.
Does a playoff-bound team drop three out of five to a club with a sub-.400 winning percentage in late August?
The humidity was over 90% here this morning, but it's starting to look like we won't get any rain. Apparently the humidity was also the reason Kepler-Różycki was not in the lineup for the second half of the doubleheader last night.
Let's stay hydrated out there.
Pinch-hitting in case hungryjoe doesn't have a game log ready to go live.
The first game of a proper doubleheader features Yet Another New Twins Pitcher™, this time Tim Melville. I'm somewhat surprised that Mitch Garver, who presumably knows Melville better than Castro or Gimenez, will be playing first base instead of crouching behind the dish. Starting Garver at catcher would've spelled Gimenez, who caught yesterday, and allowed Vargas to start at first this afternoon and Castro to start behind the plate tonight. Instead, Gimenez is catching again today. That's not a sign of confidence in Garver's defensive capabilities.
I'm making a fresh carafe of French press at the moment, so why not brew two?
This weekend the Twins will induct Michael Cuddyer (2001–2011) & Andy MacPhail (1984–1994) as the newest members of the club's Hall of Fame. This honor was first bestowed on five players—Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, & Kirby Puckett—and a former club owner in 2000.
MacPhail was the primary architect of the Twins' two World Championship teams, which had the potential to develop into a mini-dynasty had his boss Carl Pohlad given him slightly more latitude with payroll, particularly following the second trophy in 1991. MacPhail left the Twins in 1994 to take over the capsizing Cubs, and soon after Pohlad began issuing a string of threats to sell the team to an ownership group in a mediocre mid-Atlantic market (still without a team decades later), where it doubtless would have quickly withered in a minor-league ballpark under the heat from the Atlanta Braves dynasty to its south. True to form, a couple years later Pohlad conspired with his pal Bud Selig—so distraught over the loss of his beloved Milwaukee Braves that he hijaked the Seattle Pilots—to take a payout from MLB and contract the Twins. I doubt that is mentioned in his Twins Hall of Fame bio.
Apart from MacPhail and Pohlad, four other executives have been inducted, a somewhat restrained number given the franchise's Brezhnevesque fetishization of internal stability in its front office, to the point of systemic intellectual stagnation. These are:
Calvin Griffith, the owner who relocated the franchise to Minnesota, and whose considerable baseball savvy was only trumped by his racist grudges & motives.
George Brophy, general manager of the Minneapolis Millers until the club folded in advance of the Twins' arrival; he was promoted to the majors in Minnesota and eventually presided over the club's entire farm system, developing a prospect-rich pipeline that won it all two years after he retired.
Jim Rantz, who succeeded his mentor, Brophy, and ran the farm system through thick & thin for twenty-seven years.
Tom Mee, tridecennial PR man, uneven official scorer, and holder of various other titles, none more singular than "First Twins Employee*" (*non-player personnel, of course).
Cuddyer, the Twins' first round draft pick (9th overall) in 1997, will be the 20th player inducted by the Twins. He joins real some real Hall of Famers, some Very Good-ers who rightfully claim legendary status in Minnesota, and a couple guys with notable careers but dubious credentials. Unfortunately for Cuddyer, this last group describes his own Minnesota curriculum vitae. By position & rWAR with Minnesota, these players are:
C: Earl Battey
1b: Kent Hrbek
2b: Rod Carew
3b: Harmon Killebrew, Gary Gaetti
SS: Greg Gagne, Zoilo Versalles
LF: Bob Allison
CF: Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter
RF: Tony Oliva
SP: Bert Blyleven, Brad Radke, Jim Kaat, Frank Viola, Jim Perry, Camilo Pascual
RP: Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado
The lone elected–but–uninducted player is Chuck Knoblauch, the brassy second baseman of the 1991 World Champions who has ridden his way into ignominy on waves of domestic assault, performance-enhancing drugs, and sewer-worthy social media activity. Twins fans pelted Knobby with hot dogs in 2001. The Twins disinvited him from the Hall of Fame in 2014.
We are fortunate to live at a time when public monuments to reprehensible conduct are being contested and removed. Knoblauch's anathematization suggests the Twins are willing to draw a line; the question becomes, should the club reconsider how it has celebrated:
Calvin Griffith, who was memorialized in bronze outside Gate 29 in 2010. This is the same Calvin Griffith who said of moving his club from the District of Columbia to Minnesota—"I'll tell you why we came to Minnesota. It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. ... We came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."—and drove away the best position player in franchise history with his potent combination of bigotry & parsimony in the same night. If the Twins are an organization with a conscience, Griffith's statue should be razed before the end of the season. I am not the first to point this out. Perhaps I could make the first suggestion for its replacement: Carlos Paula, a Cuban right fielder who broke the Washington Senators' color barrier in 1954 and played for the Minneapolis Millers in 1957.
Carlos Paula presents an opportunity to consider the status of Torii Hunter, the Twin Cities media darling whose brand of casual bigotry seems to be amenable to the Pohlads, Dave St. Peter, and the new Derek Falvey-Thad Levine front office regime that retained him. Hunter once slandered black Latino players like his then-teammate Vladimir Guerrero, pioneers like Carlos Paula, and the most beloved Twin of all time, Tony Oliva, as race "imposters." One wonders what he makes of Miguel Sanó, the Twins' emerging slugger and a Dominican of Haitian & Cocolo heritage. During the press conference celebrating his return to Minnesota, Hunter indulged himself by publicly branding a reporter a "prick" four times for asking him to reflect on his freely-professed anti-gay rhetoric. The Twins had expressly brought Hunter back to mentor its talented, ethnically diverse next generation.
Carl Pohlad was a multi-billionaire who, as a young bank official, foreclosed on mortgagees during the Depression and then, at the end of his life, bilked his community for the beautiful ballpark the Twins call home. His manipulative, naked avarice will likely be forgotten thanks to the Vikings' new monstrosity, and in any case his kids aren't about to remove the statue of their parents from the ballpark's grounds. Hopefully a future owner of the Twins will find a more suitable place for that statue, perhaps overlooking the HERC.
Finally, there's the thorny question of what to do about Kirby Puckett, a phosphorescent talent whose effervescent personality made him a hero of a generation of Twins fans, and who, after his forced retirement, fell hard from atop the improbable mountain he scaled out of Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes. Frank Deford's "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett" read like the kind of hit piece someone as misanthropic as Deford would relish writing, but looking away from the accusations it detailed is not an option, no matter the apparent glee with which they were related. Over a decade after Puckett's early death, many of us remain deflated as the Metrodome he electrified, uncertain how to address a man who did much good in the community and failed to live up to that standard in his private life.
There are four other non-player members of the Twins' hall, disparate talents unified by indelible personalities:
Herb Carneal, always and forever the stentorian Voice of the Minnesota Twins.
Tom Kelly, laconic, fungo-weilding skipper of both World Series Champions.
Bob Casey, public address announcer whose quintdecennial gig in Minnesota's pro ballparks barely outlasted how long he held the second syllable of "Kirby."
John Gordon, everyone's loquacious radio uncle who, in his later years, could make guys like Jason Tyner sound like Babe Ruth.
The gap between the number of club executives and people who shaped the games on the field and in fans' minds suggests a couple areas where the Twins Hall of Fame neglects the club's history.
Rick Stelmaszek's two visits to Minneapolis this season following his pancreatic cancer diagnosis have been bittersweet. Stelly's firing in October 2012 after 32 years of coaching struck me as particularly cold-blooded. Stelmaszek was not the GM who assembled a bullpen corps that included Brian Duensing, Jeff Gray, Matt Capps, Tyler Robertson, and Anthony Swarzak. Stelmaszek was a notorious conditioning taskmaster for decades; unpreparedness and ambivalence would have been completely out of character. Twins players across generations seem to love the guy. For his critical role on two World Champions and his decades of relationship & player development, Rick Stelmaszek should be in the Twins Hall of Fame while he is still among the living.
Wayne Terwilliger's tenure with the Twins coincided with Andy MacPhail's, but it was neither his first experience in the organization nor his first Minnesota go-around in professional baseball. Twig might be the embodiment of both Minnie & Paul. He played for the St. Paul Saints in 1952 and the Minneapolis Millers from 1954–1957. In between, he played for the Senators from 1953–1954. Jackie Robinson's understudy on the '51 Dodgers, Twig appears to have been out with an injury when Carlos Paula broke the Senators' color barrier at home on 1 September; Twig & Paula saw action as replacements in the first game of a double-header in Detroit on 12 September. They both met again in Minneapolis as starters for the '57 Millers. Twig joined the Twins in 1986 and is one of a handful of on-field personnel on both the '87 & '91 teams. After leaving the Twins (why?), Twig managed the St. Paul Saints from 1995–2002. I don't know much about Twig's personal life other than his WWII tour with the Marines (including Saipan, Tinan, & Iwo Jima), but not many non-owners get to spend over sixty years in professional baseball if they're jerks. Somebody could go ask Willie Mays for a character reference—he & Twig were teammates on the Giants.
I am not ready for Sue Nelson to retire, but I hope that the Twins will see fit to celebrate a woman who has had as much influence on the soundscape of Twins baseball as any player to knock out a home run, or any broadcaster whose voice rises in anticipation, meshing with the fans shouting a hip-hooray as the ball soars out of the field. Sue would be a fantastic addition to the Twins Hall of Fame.
The last of these is Halsey Hall. Halsey's the namesake of the Minnesota SABR chapter, and he was inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame nearly thirty years ago, so this should be a relatively easy. If more proof of his merit was necessary, his status as an Twins' original—and easily the all-time most colorful—broadcaster, his longtime affiliation with the Minneapolis Millers, and his post-retirement tour as pre-game emcee at the old Met would be sufficient. And yet, with every year it seems less likely that Halsey will be elected to the Twins Hall of Fame. He retired from broadcasting in 1972 and died in 1977, so the current voters and younger fans likely couldn't care less about a loveable nut calling baseball games on radio signals that are probably passing into interstellar space.
But that's still a shame for the Twins. It's just not a Hall without Halsey.