Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Minnesota Twins Trade Deadline Extravaganza Live Blog Excitement

Welcome to the Kevin Slowey was Framed! 2013 Trade Deadline Extravaganza!  I will be with you until and through the deadline with hot takes, quick hits, rumors, speculation, and sandwiches.  That's right, I have sequestered myself up inside my basement.  I've got 12 turkey sandwiches, no fridge, a two-liter of Diet Slice, four plums, half a pack of Rolos and my dog.  I'm not leaving until the deadline has passed!!!

I'll bug the crap out of all of my sources today.  They'll be so sick of my texts, calls and pics after today that they probably won't be my sources any longer.  In fact, it might seem that by the end of this that I never had any real sources at all.  I'm doing this for you.  You, the reader.  You, the rumormonger.  You, the fan.

You might be asking, "why are you doing this in a blog on not on Twitter?"  That's an excellent question.  You don't follow me on Twitter.  No one does.  You should, but you don't.  You keep putting it off.  So, in essence, this is your fault.  Remember that.  It's on you.  

This isn't about me and this certainly isn't about Twitter.  It's all about tradez!  Will Glen Perkins be dealt?  Did Justin Morneau play his final game with the Twins last night?  Will Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia or even Sam Deduno join a new rotation?  Does Ryan Doumit have any value?  What about Jared Burton or Casey Fien?  Would the Twins do the unthinkable and trade Joe Mauer?

I'll be here all day, you jackals.  Make sure to mash that refresh button (F5) over and over.  You'll never know when my next hot take, quick hit, rumor, or turkey sandwich will be discussed.  It's going to be quite a day.

Update - 7:15am:  I am hearing that the Twins will not acquire Giancarlo Stanton.  Repeat, the Twins will not acquire Stanton.  I am also one sandwich in.  

Update - 7:55am:  Sandwich #1 has been eaten.  Very dry.  Also, I just remembered that our basement bathroom is not functional and therefore it will be very difficult to stay down here all day.  I will persevere.  No Twins updates, sadly.  

Update - 8:35am:  Polished off the Diet Slice.  May have been a mistake.  The turkey is just so dry.  I was going to make those great Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, but I couldn't find any.  I thought about dipping the sandwiches in cranberry juice like a French Dip, but I just have regular wheat bread and that would get really soggy.  But then I forgot to even add salt and pepper.  I still have 10 sandwiches to go.  I'll probably reserve the plums for juice in the meantime.  Oh, no Twins news either.  

Update - 8:50am:  3 sandwiches down.  With no trade rumors, I just keep eating.  

Update - 9:35am:  I drank way too much Diet Slice.  No way I make it down here until 3pm.  I may have to remove the sequester for emergency purposes.  I thought I saw a juicy rumor on Twitter, but it was just a Terry Ryan parody account.  It had a picture of The Brain from Pinky and The Brain.  Outdated and mean.   

Update - 9:45am:  Dropped a plum on the ground.  Down to three.  Also, the dog is now outside.  I repeat, the dog is now outside.  This is not a rumor.  

Update - 11:45am:  Locked myself out for quite some time.  The dog seemed amused, but then hot.  We got back in through the window upstairs, which ruined my plan but allowed me to get more Diet Slice.  Also, while I was away, something about the Twins actually surfaced.  I guess the Orioles are out on Morneau, which almost certainly means they will acquire him in a few hours.  Here's the link:

Orioles wuss out on Morneau

Update - 12:10pm:  According to most online rumor resources, everyone in the Twins' organization totally overslept but are working hard to improve the team after they have a quick bowl of cereal and some coffee.  Also, I've had six sandwiches and all of my plums.  I'm down to six more sandwiches and that half pack of Rolos.  I'll keep you posted.

Update - 12:45pm:  At least this is something:
Ate the Rolos.  

Update - 1:15pm:  All this lack of trading is really bumming me out.  I'm low energy.  I need some sort of physical pick-me-up.  I'm going to go do as many push-ups as I can!

Update - 1:16pm:  Those 7 push-ups really did the trick.

Update - 1:45pm:  Turns out the trade deadline sucks.  I've been playing Rollercoaster Tycoon instead of monitoring Twitt... I mean checking with my sources.  However, I feel a Twins trade coming.  In my bones.  Stay tuned.

Update - 2:40pm:  2 sandwiches and 20 minutes remain.  I'm starting to think the Twins don't have any trade-worthy assets or something.  Couldn't they at least trade off some of those awesome Metrodome artifacts?

Update - 2:55pm:  Five more minutes, nothing on the horizon except a lack of turkey sandwiches.  Not too surprised, but still disappointed.  

Update - 3:05pm:  Twins stand pat, but at least I didn't waste a whole day.

Boo, trade deadline.

Update - 3:30pm:  Drew Butera to the Dodgers for some slacks.  

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: A Tale of Two Castillo Trades

We're in the 2005 off-season and the Twins were buyers!  It's true.  The Twins were looking to add a quality piece to supplement their team and fill a hole after a disappointing 2005 season. 

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Scott Tyler and Travis Bowyer to the Florida Marlins for Luis Castillo.
Tyler never played an MLB game, and was out of pro baseball at the age of 25.  Bowyer threw 9.2 innings for the Twins in 2005, but never donned a Marlins uniform.  In fact, he never played in the Marlins organization at all.  He was out of pro baseball after that 2005 season.

Castillo was considered a major get.  He was a good second baseman who could run, hit and walk.  In 2006, he posted a .296/.358/.370 triple slash, good for a 91 OPS+.  He did get on base and he did steal 25 bases.  It was all good for a 2.3 WAR.  Of course, he was the second baseman of the future as well, right?  More on that later.

How did I feel at the time?

I'll admit, I was excited.  The Twins were selling off Minor League "assets" for a guy who could hit for a high average and steal bases.  Plus, he played second base, so Luis Rivas was nowhere near my favorite team.  It was all very alluring. 

Why make the trade?

"The Twins have spent the offseason looking to improve offensively and defensively. On Friday, they made one acquisition that addresses both needs."

That's according to this story.  Terry Ryan agreed:

"I know people don't know a lot about him in our market," Ryan conceded. "But I know people in the National League have a good appreciation for him. He can run. He takes good at-bats. He puts the ball in play but isn't afraid to walk. He's the type of guy expected to maintain because he's only 30 years old."

It seems like he is trying to justify the trade.  All he really needed to say was "we decided to spend some extra money and we gave away nothing to get him, and he's good."

Mike Redmond was also impressed:

"He's probably the best second baseman I've ever played with or seen play," Redmond said from his home in Spokane, Wash. "He'll be even better playing on the Astroturf. He comes ready to play and he'll give you everything he has. Our pitchers will love having him back there."

He then went out onto the field and took batting practice while just wearing just his cap and batting gloves.  Once done, he added more:

"I'm excited and pumped I'll get to play with Luis again," Redmond said. "He'll be great in Minnesota. I think fans will love him."

I think the fans did like him, but Castillo didn't have the charisma to be loved.  Redmond certainly seemed to love him. 


For me, the only thing keeping this trade from full-fledged overrated transaction territory is the players who the Twins gave up to get Castillo.  The fact that neither guy played an inning for Florida is significant.  Castillo was a part of the second Florida fire sale and the Twins grabbed him for nothing.  However, he was a slightly overpaid player who was on the downside of his career.  That doesn't mean he wasn't productive for the Twins, but he was hardly a major piece added to a potential Championship team.  He was fine, but little more. 

But wait, there's more!

It's 2007 and the the Twins are now sellers!  What a world!  It was the middle of that 2007 season and they were tired of their new toy.  Why not try to save some cash and pick up a couple new Minor Leaguers?

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Luis Castillo to the New York Mets for Dustin Martin and Drew Butera
Dustin Martin became a Rochester lifer, giving them three seasons of relatively uninspiring play.  Butera is currently the Twins' fans whipping boy, but has provided good defense as a back-up catcher over a few seasons with the Twins.

Castillo finished the 2007 season well enough to earn a four-year deal from the Mets, through 2011.  He made over $6 million each season, but didn't finish out that contract as a member of the Mets' active roster.  In fact, he alternated good seasons with bad in New York and retired after the 2010 season. 

How did I feel at the time?

Crud.  I guess all good things come to an end.  Castillo had been everything I had hoped he would be.  He hit for average, got on base and stole a few bases.  The worst part of this trade was how the aftermath affected Johan Santana.  I loved Santana and this trade specifically upset him.  Therefore, it upset me too. 

Why make the trade?

According to this story, the trade made sense because Castillo was easy to replace in-house:

With Casilla, current third baseman Nick Punto and top prospect Matt Tolbert, Ryan said he's satisfied with what the team has at second and third for the future. He also said he was comfortable enough with Casilla that the Twins can still stay in the playoff chase despite losing their leadoff hitter.

Well, Casilla nearly replaced Castillo, but he fell a "t" and an "o" short.  He did have an extra "a" though.  Now, the idea made sense.  Casilla was a somewhat promising player and Castillo wasn't really all that special at this point.  Casilla was loads cheaper and would be team-controlled for a few years.  If he faltered, Punto was right there to step in.  Matt Tolbert looked like a bird and was never worth a roster spot. 

More from Ryan:

"No, we're not giving up at all," Ryan said. "We're six-and-a-half games back, and we're better than we were last week. If we didn't think we could absorb this, we certainly wouldn't have done it."

The clubhouse was quiet while players and coaches came up for hugs and handshakes with Castillo, and the Twins certainly weren't happy to see one of their best players go.

"That's acceptable, and that's expected and I know that happens within the confines of the clubhouse, but I have a job to do," Ryan said.

I agree with Ryan here.  He thought there was a suitable replacement, so he dealt off an overpaid and redundant player.  Other players were unhappy, and rightfully so, but Ryan has to make the moves that he feels make the team better in the short and long term.  He can't let his job be dictated by players who know a whole lot less about running a team than he does. 

Plus, Gardy was on board:

"He's not dumping. He's rearranging, maybe to try to find someone that might help us," Gardenhire said.

There was no concurrent move.  This was a salary dump, but maybe a bit justified based on Castillo's performance. 

There was the whole Johan Santana portion of this trade.  I'm not going to include his quotes, but here's a link to a really interview with Santana.  He does not pull punches and in reading this, I can't say I'm surprised that he didn't continue his career in Minnesota.  I like that he spoke his mind. 


Castillo wasn't anything special to begin with.  Really, the first Castillo trade was more symbolic than impactful.  It showed that the Twins wanted to win and would buy the players they thought could help them do so.  In 2007, the second Castillo trade showed that it was business as usual.  Trade away a expensive, veteran player to save some cash. 

I can see why Santana was upset, but Castillo was hardly the player to make his points in regards to.  Castillo was overpaid.  He could be reasonably replaced with cheaper players.  At least, in theory.  The Twins really haven't replaced him at second, and it's now 2013.  Maybe Brian Dozier will finally lay the Castillo demons to rest.  Santana did have a point though.  If the Twins are constantly looking to the future, when does the future become the present?   

Who won the WAR?

Castillo with the Twins:  3.6 WAR
Castillo with the Mets:  2.9 WAR
Butera with the Twins:  -1.2 WAR

WAR won by the Mets; nice work Butera, you dingus.

One Sentence Summary

The Luis Castillo trades were more symbolic of greater organizational issues than what Luis Castillo ultimately provided and then took with him to New York.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: The Arrival of Nick Punto

There was blood in the water.  A.J. Pierzynski was still warm.  The Twins had just turned one soon-to-be-expensive player into three shiny new parts, each carrying a much smaller price tag.  The Twins were carrying a seven-figure pitcher who was going to get even more expensive.  Why not swap him for a couple shiny new parts as well?

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and a player to be named later (Bobby Korecky). 

Silva immediately joined the Twins rotation and had a successful 2004 season, winning 14 games.  He would then set the Twins single-season BB/9 record in 2005, while posting a 3.44 ERA in 27 starts.  He kind of ballooned from there, but the Twins wisely let him leave as a free agent after the 2007 season.  Punto was a mythical figure in Minnesota.  Some loved him, others hated him.  Punto was both an inexpensive and productive utility player and an expensive, miscast starter, often going back and forth between the two.  Korecky was just a throw-in who threw 17.2 innings for the Twins in 2008. 

Milton was nothing special to begin with and never posted an above-average ERA+ for the remainder of his career.  He did lead the league in home runs allowed in 2004 and 2005.  The Phillies let Milton walk after the 2004 season and the Cincinnati Reds signed him to an insane three-year deal worth about $25 million. 

How did I feel at the time?

Eric Milton:  not a fan.  I didn't like him very much, so I wasn't hurt when the Twins sent him away.  Plus, I was still reeling from the All-Star A.J. trade.  I had dyed my hair purple, was wearing nose gauges and really, really tight pants.  Like, super tight pants.  It was a time of turmoil.  I hardly even let the Milton trade register.  I was too jaded. 

Why make the trade?

Sadly, as is true with so many Twins trades, this trade was money-related, according to this story from

"By trading Milton, the Twins are trying to make room to re-sign their top two free agents, All-Star closer Eddie Guardado and outfielder Shannon Stewart. General manager Terry Ryan added that it gives Minnesota more flexibility to go after other players.  'It gives us the ability to at least pursue that," Ryan said. "You've got to give up something to get something.'"

This was back in the Metrodome days, so the payroll wasn't massive like it is now.  Wait, forget I said that.  However, the Twins were working with a budget and they did have to give to get.  In this case, they gave the right piece.  Silva and Stewart were productive the following year.  However, the Twins were not able to re-sign Guardado, as he left for Seattle.  However, they had just traded for Joe Nathan, so that worked out well.

The Phillies thought they had hit the jackpot.  Trade a spot starter and a utility guy for a quality lefty?  Sign them up! 

"Eric is a quality left-handed starter who will definitely be a plus for us in 2004," Wade said. "Our scouts, particularly Gordon Lakey and Charlie Manuel, really like this guy. We like the thought of having two left-handed starters near the top of the rotation."

Randy Wolf was the other "top of the rotation" lefty on the Phillies.  Wolf was the only starter on the 2004 Phillies with an ERA+ over 100, at 105.  Milton did give the Phillies 34 mediocre starts though. 

Here's why they needed him:

"The Phillies have been seeking another starter for the top of their rotation since Kevin Millwood filed for free agency last month. Philadelphia was interested in Curt Schilling, but the right-hander went to Boston in a trade with Arizona last week."

Missing out on Schilling was soothed with Eric Milton.  Eric Milton:  soothing ointment! 

Milton was happy:

"I'm happy for the opportunity. I'm glad the Phillies wanted me this badly," Milton said. "I'm just going to come there and try to win."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Eric, no one said anything about wanting you that badly.  They traded Carlos Silva and Nick Punto to get you, so settle down a hair.  He did win 14 games and the Phillies were so enamored that they let him walk at the end of the season.

It sounds like I'm being overly critical of Eric Milton, which might be a bit unfair.  I just wonder how much love he'd get if he had just been an average to below-average right-hander?

"He's a very good pitcher, a classic left-hander," said Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who saw Milton in the American League and who was with him on the 2000 Japan All-Star tour. "Eric has a solid, clean delivery with good arm speed and a very good change-up. He's quality."

The degree of quality is up to you to determine.  The 2000 Japan All-Star tour was epic, and thus, hard to shake from your memory.  I don't blame Kerrigan. 


This was a sneaky great trade for the Twins.  Milton was declining and getting to be outrageously expensive.  Silva and Punto weren't stars, but each provided cheap value for good Twins teams.  This is the kind of unsung deal that Terry Ryan doesn't get proper credit for.  He turned an overpaid, overrated starting pitcher into a younger starter who was actually better and a super utility guy who while frustrating, was often productive.  This trade also proves that a team doesn't always need to acquire hot prospects to make a good deal. 

Silva wasn't a great pitcher, but the Twins got a couple productive seasons out of him and cut bait before investing too much into him.  Plus, one of my friends in high school called him Car-lose Silva, which made great sense in his later days.

Punto likely should have never been a starting player.  He was more of a guy who could move around the infield, giving guys days off when they need them, all the while providing excellent defense wherever he was needed.  When the Twins signed him to that 2 year, $8 million dollar contract, the perception of Punto as a player got turned on its head.  He didn't merit that deal, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a nice player for a lot of years. 

Who won the WAR?

Milton for the Phillies:  1.4 WAR
Silva for the Twins:  9.0 WAR
Punto for the Twins:  10.2 WAR
Korecky for the Twins:  0.2 WAR

WAR won by the Twins!

One Sentence Summary

Nick Punto was not the anti-Christ and Carlos Silva looked like a pirate; easily enough value for soothing Eric Milton.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Morning Madness: July 29, 2013

So, are the Twins not terrible or is this just another mirage?  I've got to say, I've been going back and forth between "this team sucks" and "this team doesn't really suck" far too many times.  I'm growing tired of it.  It would be nice to just know, you know?  Every time I see a lineup posted, I giggle and then make a sad, pathetic joke about Rochester.  The starting pitching is underwhelming.  However, the Twins have exited the All-Star break with more wins than losses.  It is all very confusing.  It's a sort of baseball vertigo and it nabbed Ron Gardenhire who was a "DNP-tummy" earlier this week.  Whatever.  They aren't great, but they don't suck.  Fine.  I guess I don't really need to know any more than that.

Mauer's Twins

I've read a few anti-Joe Mauer sentiments related to his TOTAL ABANDONMENT of the Twins for the past few days.  I read these on Facebok/Twitter, so that's my fault.  I use those capital letters for effect.  I don't feel that way at all.  In fact, I applaud him for taking a few extra days to spend with his new daughters.  Not to get all "big wiener" on everyone, but my daughter was born about a month ago.  I took two weeks of leave and I wish I was still on leave right now.  I could have taken unpaid leave, but it wasn't in the cards.  Mauer can, so good for him. 

I know that many people would love to spend extra time with their children.  Mauer isn't special just because he hits a lot of doubles to left-center and has great sideburns, but I do think that if he wants to take a couple extra days and forfeit some cash then that's fine and dandy.  His salary is moot, as far as I am concerned.  Money isn't a substitute for family, special moments and life.  Baseball and work certainly aren't either.  I actually like him more as a result of that decision; he's not a baseball robot. 

Sano's pimpin'

This Miguel Sano saga is getting out of control.  He showed up a pitcher/ex-teammate, allegedly disrespected his manager and general manager and was basically suspended for four games as a result.  If he was disrespectful and needs to apologize his way back into the lineup, then that's fine with me.  If he's sitting for the bat flip/slow home run trot, then he needs to be back on the field ASAP.  Those are all internal issues, and I won't get too wrapped up in them.

The fans, on the other hand, have got to chill out a bit.  Both sides of the fence too.  Sano telling off his bosses and pimpin' a home run doesn't mean that he is a locker room-cancer who absolutely needs to be traded.  The Twins disciplining a young player for showing poor professionalism and letting his emotions get the best of him is not a big deal.  It's not a Twins Way or the Highway situation.  He deserved a suspension, if he did everything that is reported. 

The Twins retain control of Sano for at least 8 more years, assuming a 2014 debut.  That means they have 8 years and until Sano is 28 years old to mend any fences that were broken during this 4-day odyssey.  Everything is going to be fine. 

Deduno's dealin'

Apparently Sam Deduno is good.  I'll probably be the last person to ever come around to his side, but I'm getting a lot closer with every start.  As I mentioned in a thread on Twins Daily, all of his pitches break downward.  That kind of downward break is going to continually lead to ground balls.  If he doesn't hang pitches, he's going to continue to be effective.  Although, his walks are creeping up a bit and that is a concern. 

So, I'd trade him this week.  If anyone offered much of anything, I'd take it.  I don't think Deduno can keep this up, I don't think he is part of the future and I don't think we should assume that this two month stretch is more important than last years' two month stretch.  If another team wants to give the Twins a decent prospect for a 30-year-old journeyman with two months worth of good starts, then cool, fine with me.   

Then again, here's a list of all the players who I would trade, if the right deal came along:

I went a little heavy on actual Twins stuff, so here's some truncated Madness:

Random Link - Ceremonial First Pitches

If you read me (and if you do, I'm sorry), you know of my internet crush on Grant Brisbee.  He's funny.  A little over a week ago, he posted this piece about ceremonial first pitches.  It's mostly just pictures, but make sure to read the text as well.  The picture of Bud Selig will both haunt my dreams and always make me laugh.  Double bonus!

Fun Chart - Bases Empty

Here is a chart I made which shows who hits most frequently with the bases empty:

Total PA
PA w/ Bases Empty
% of Empty PA
Jamey Carroll
Eduardo Escobar
Joe Mauer

Those last few guys come up with runners on base at a higher frequency because they get to hit behind Joe Mauer.  Otherwise, the percentages are pretty even.  Interesting. 

Thought from Liz - Orange Safety Base?

If you didn't see the Tim Hudson injury, save yourself some queasiness and just take my word that it was nasty.  My wife has often wondered why baseball doesn't use the orange safety base that we all use in slow-pitch softball.  I've never really had a good answer for her.  It's just not macho, I guess.  The baseline and umpiring probably play a role too.  However, after seeing an injury like Hudson's it's a little hard not to overreact.  I wouldn't be against a second first base for close plays like those.  Fewer injuries might be worth figuring out the logistics and rules of it all.  Also, it doesn't have to be orange.  We could have it be sponsored too.  "The Safety Base, sponsored by Geico."  Pete knows that Geico doesn't advertise enough.

KWL - Drew Butera

Remember K = what I know, W = what I want to know, L = what I've learned.  These are great learning tools too, if you have kids.  They can be used for more than blogging.

Link to Something I wrote - Alf

So.  I can't really decide if this is funny satire or just stupid as it looks on the surface.  Regardless, I spent a solid 20 minutes putting different Alf heads on different Dodger baseball cards from the past.  I even made sure that he was playing the proper position.  If nothing else, the cards are somewhat comical.  So, here's the link and I hope you have the same exact sense of humor as I do.  If so, you'll love it.  If not, you'll be so perplexed that your head will explode.  Warning.

Parting Thought

The Trade Deadline is this week and that is both happy and sad.  If the Twins trade away any of my favorite players, I will be sad.  However, within a week, I will have long forgotten about those players because I am TWINS FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!  So, I will be happy with the new players we receive and immediately buy their action figures.  I hope the Twins are active this week.  This team is getting better, but still needs a lot of work.  If guys like Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and Mike Pelfrey can be transformed into younger, more exciting players, I hope the Twins pull the trigger.  In summary, trades are fun.

Have a nice week, everyone!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Career of Baseball Memories Remembered

Sadly, looking back on a career requires a career to be over.  Any career-retrospective is bittersweet; a celebration of years devoted to a field in which a person can no longer contribute in the manner in which they rose to prominence.  In the area of sport, these careers end tragically young.  Often people in their mid-30s are no longer able to perform at the required level and will quietly retire or worse, slowly decompose in the public eye.  The player can transition to other areas of the game, but can never truly get their playing career back. 

At the same time, giving words, time, space, and energy to a player's career is a true celebration.  We can look back fondly on the days when a player was an integral part of the game that they loved.  We can cheer for their accomplishments and explain away their failures.  We can highlight the glory days and sad days alike, with full knowledge of how the story ultimately ends.  With the benefit of hindsight, we don't have to dwell on the negative, but we can immortalize the positive.  It's almost as if we get to watch the movie a second time, but will full knowledge that our hero will survive the exciting turmoil that they encounter and we enjoy from the edge of our seats.    

With that, I present to you Alf's brilliant career with the Dodgers. 

Alf was hardly a top prospect.  You won't find any Team USA Alf baseball cards, like Shane Mack has.

No, Alf was just a baseball player, but nothing more.  He didn't come with fanfare and he certainly didn't arrive with promise.  He was short, and we all know what baseball does with short players.  What he lacked in height, he made up for with resilience and he used that trait repeatedly throughout his career. 

Alf's AA Manager Gary LaRocque had this to say: 

"Alf was a gamer." 

Gamer doesn't begin to describe Alf.  Alf was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an undrafted free agent after a surprising public tryout.  It was almost as if he had no prior baseball history.  No one could find any record of his existence, much less his baseball past.  Despite the interest his tryout generated, he was looked at as nothing more than organizational filler.  One player didn't see it that way.  Alf didn't see it that way.  He worked tirelessly at his craft.  He stayed at the fields later than anyone, and arrived before most guys were even awake.  It was almost as if he were alien.  Whatever gave him his strong work ethic, it certainly paid off as Alf quickly changed perception and became the Dodgers' shortstop of the future. 

By 1985, Alf was knocking on MLB's door.  He had shown in the Minors that he could hit, handle the toughest defensive position and win over his skeptical teammates.  However, a knee injury at mid-season delayed his call-up.  Alf's teammate Shawn Hillegas

"Yeah, that sucked when Alf got hurt."

While Alf's MLB debut was delayed, it certainly was not cancelled like some failed TV pilot.  Alf re-dedicated himself to baseball and made his MLB debut on Opening Day 1986, playing short and batting ninth.  It was the perfect spot for such a clearly short player.  It didn't take long for Alf to become an important part of the team.  Alf split his time between short and patrolling the outfield, showing off the versatility that helped him to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting.  In fact, he was robbed of the award by Todd Worrell

After this dynamic debut, the praise was flowing.  Alf's Manager Tommy Lasorda:

"We liked Alf."

By 1987, Alf was firmly entrenched in the Dodgers' plans.  He was a spark plug of sorts, so naturally, he moved to the leadoff spot in the order.  Alf finished that 1987 with stats that did not fit his small stature.  He hit 22 home runs, scored 91 runs and stole 27 bases.  He was a whiz in the field, and widely regarded as almost supernatural when ranging to his left.  Alf's former teammate and current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia:

"Alf was a good player."

While team success eluded the Dodgers, organizational success was celebrated repeatedly.  Who would have ever thought that an tryout player from basically nowhere could go from rags to riches in such a spectacular way.  Alf made a successful transition to center field in a rare instance of moving down the defensive spectrum on purpose.  His range was in center almost allowed his left and right fielders to sleep during opposing at-bats. 

By 1988, the Dodgers were hungry for team success and Alf was literally the face of the franchise.  Who can argue with a face like his?

While many point to Kirk Gibson's heroics and Orel Hershiser's dominance, others might want to consider Alf's contribution during the 1988 playoff run.  Alf played all five World Series games, scored a run in each and made a remarkable and memorable catch when he scaled the wall to rob Jose Canseco of an obvious home run.  Canseco recalls that moment clearly:

"I was mad when Alf caught that ball."

Hershiser himself couldn't say enough about the Dodgers' secret weapon:

"It was great playing with Alf."

1989 would be Alf's season of greatest individual success.  He posted a .320 batting average, finishing third behind Tony Gwynn and Will Clark.  He also made his first All-Star team, voted in by his loyal fans.  The cult hero had gone mainstream and seemed poised for a long run atop the National League leaderboards.  Teammate Kirk Gibson:

"Alf could do it all."

That off-season would change Alf's career path significantly.  While vacationing in beautiful Australia, Alf entered the ocean with swimming on his mind, but left with shark bites on his leg.  It was the flukiest of flukes, but it put Alf's promising career into question.  After months of painful rehab, Alf's speed and range had diminished.  No longer able to man the outfield, the Dodgers tried to convert Alf to second base.  While he was up for the challenge, his shark bite-riddled legs simply betrayed him.  Alf only played 43 unproductive games in 1990.  Teammate Eddie Murray:

"It's hard to run with shark bites."

By 1991, Alf was 31-years-old, infested with shark bites and out of the Dodgers' organization.  Unable to really play a position, the Dodgers released him just 18 short months after his All-Star Game MVP.  He latched on with the Montreal Expos, but Canada didn't help his legs any.  He played just 31 games, mostly as a pinch hitter.  No longer able to drive power from his legs, he managed just a meager .216 batting average and was released by the Expos after the season.  Expos teammate Larry Walker:

"It sucked that Alf got bit by that shark."

Not one to give up without a fight, Alf decided to eschew legs and just use his arm to play baseball.  He didn't actually give up his legs, just fielding and batting.  Alf started throwing every day and soon found that he had a UFO slider.  The Texas Rangers gave him an invitation to Spring Training in 1993 and he found himself on the active roster as a part of September call-ups.  Alf only threw 5 innings that season and he retired immediately following.  While he had some promise as a pitcher, it was not the part of the game that he loved.  Rangers Teammate Nolan Ryan:

"Alf threw gas."

For the next few years, Alf mostly stayed out of the spotlight.  In fact, it was almost as though he wasn't even on planet Earth.  Suddenly, he reappeared.  The nostalgia of his emergence lead to his reentry into the Dodgers' organization, first as a scout, then as their new manager.  Alf held down the manager position from 2004 to 2007, leading the 2004 Dodgers to the playoffs.  Former Dodger Jeff Kent:

"Alf was a good manager."

Alf left the Dodger organization after being replaced by Joe Torre following the 2007 season.  He was AWOL for a couple years, but has been consulting with the Dodgers for the past few seasons.  As a mentor to many young players, Alf is able to impart wisdom, but come and go as he pleases.  In fact, he often disappears for weeks at a time, with no trace.  Current Dodger Matt Kemp:

"Having Alf around is... great.  It's great."

The excitement regarding Alf-mania will never completely die down.  Recently, baseball card giant Topps released their Archives set, which puts fan favorites and legends together with current players.  Topps thought highly enough about Alf to issue a card with his likeness.

In hindsight, the Alf experience was a whirlwind.  At times, no one thought it would end.  Alf would reach the highest mountains of the baseball world, but also feel the wrath of actual shark bites.  For the player who never should have amounted to anything, Alf's career is certainly a spectacle worthy of remembering fondly.  He'll never be enshrined in Cooperstown, but he'll be enshrined in the hearts of Dodger fans worldwide.  Former Dodger Fernando Valenzuela:

"The Alf phenomenon was the biggest thing I've been a part of in baseball."

Editor's note:  Thank you to all of the current and former players for providing insightful quotes.  Alf repeatedly refused my requests for an interview.  His career said it all.

If you enjoyed this post, the least you could do is follow me on Twitter:  @bridman77.  I'll tweet a lot one night, then disappear for weeks.  It's a hoot.  If I get to 1000 Twitter followers, I'll live-tweet Timecop, just like the pros.  If you're really bold, I have a Facebook group too.  There are ten members.  Yep.  If it gets to 50, I'll give away my only 1991 Score Gary Wayne card.  I'm being honest.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Some Clete Thomas Animations

I'm currently obsessed with two things:  Clete Thomas's steely, entrancing gaze and making terrible animations.  I have combined my two loves and share them with you here:

So yeah, there you are.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: The Pierzynski Bonanza!

The 2004 season marked two important Twins milestones.  First, the team was coming off of playoff runs in consecutive seasons for the first time in over thirty years.  Second, the Baby Jesus, Joe Mauer was primed for his MLB debut.  As a result of the second milestone, the Twins were looking to unload a popular, but expendable catcher, seemingly entering his prime. 

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser

Nathan immediately became the Twins closer and a dominant closer to boot.  He would save 260 games over seven seasons with the Twins, posting a 2.16 ERA and 0.956 WHIP.  Liriano made his MLB debut in 2005, but really made waves in a thrilling 2006 season.  He threw 121 innings, striking out 144 batters and posting a 2.16 ERA before succumbing to Tommy John surgery.  He was never quite the same, but did post a very good 2010 season with the Twins.  Bonser spent parts of three seasons with the Twins, finishing with a 5.12 ERA in just under 400 innings. 

Pierzynski had a disappointing 2004 season with the Giants, clashing with teammates and posting a mediocre 86 OPS+.  He was released at the end of the season and signed by the White Sox, where he played for the next eight seasons. 

How did I feel at the time?

I wasn't super happy, but I wasn't super upset either.  I had taken to referring to Pierzynski as "All-Star A.J." because he made the All-Star team and I am super creative.  I was also very aware that Joe Mauer was going to be with the Twins the following season and an expensive backup like Pierzynski wasn't a luxury the Twins would be willing to afford.  Plus, getting three players for one seems like a good idea.  It's literally three times the players. 

Why make the trade?

"It's one of those things that was eventually going to happen," Pierzynski said, reached on a golf course in Hawaii. "I was one of the first guys people had talked about. And they've got the guy coming behind me."

That quote is from an AP story I found in an ESPN archive.  It's passive-aggressive enough, but not too disparaging.  You know for a fact that he knew Mauer's name.  However, it does perfectly explain why this trade made sense for the two teams. 

"That's all part of the reasons we decided to make this trade," general manager Terry Ryan said.  "We're dealing from a position of strength. We've got some talent at catching come up and some financial concerns, as far as making sure the pieces fit."

Again, "some talent" is Joe Mauer.  Plus, Pierzynski was due salary arbitration and was set to make a huge raise.  In fact, he went from $365,000 in 2003 to $3.5 million in 2004.  That is not an insignificant number, considering Pierzynski would have likely split time with Mauer, and possibly even backed him up. 

This story gives some great quotes about the players the Twins were acquiring.  On Nathan:

"He's got a good arm and gets people out," Ryan said. "He had a good year with the Giants and he's playoff tested."

"He's a stud," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Everything I've heard is he's a horse with a great arm. He should be a big part of our bullpen."

Like me, you're probably wondering if the Twins petitioned the league to allow a horse to pitch.  Gardy was speaking figuratively.  We all learned how playoff tested Nathan really was, right Alex Rodriguez?  Ouch. 

That was cold.

On Bonser, considered at that time to be a better prospect due to his closer proximity to the Majors:

"He's a young right-handed pitcher with a good arm and good stuff," Ryan said. "We think he's got the strength and stamina to be a future starter in the big leagues."

The stamina part was either wrong or a mean, sarcastic joke.  He did have a fun name. 

On Liriano, the wild horse (figurative horse again):

"The left-hander has an excellent arm," Ryan said. "We've got a good look at him in the instructional league and we liked what we saw."

I'd say!  It's borderline remarkable that they plucked a 20-year-old Liriano out of A ball and he made the impact that he did.

From the Giants' perspective, this trade was logical:

"While it didn't come up easy to give up Joe, we feel we've got some alternatives within the organization," San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean said. "It's not often you can send a right-handed reliever and two unproven prospects for a front-line, All-Star catcher."

On paper, that does make a lot of sense.  The players involved just didn't line up that way.  

Here's what Kyle Lohse thinks about the whole thing, if you care:

"I like him. He did just about anything you could to get a win," starting pitcher Kyle Lohse said. "He called a great game for me. It's kind of sad. It makes you wonder who else they'll keep and who they won't try to sign. It'll be pretty interesting."

No one effing cares what you think, Kyle Lohse.  Sit down and shave that ridiculous soul patch. 

And of course, A.J. did manage a slight dig on his way out:

"It's outside, so that'll be very nice," he said. "Playing in the Metrodome all these years gets kind of old and kind of stale."

Boom!  Roasted.


I'm quite certain the Twins are happy with how this trade worked out.  Pierzynski's a nice player, but he's no Joe Mauer.  In addition, adding Joe Nathan stabilized the bullpen for about a million years.  Honestly, if Mariano Rivera didn't exist, it's possible that Nathan would be considered the best closer of this generation.  Liriano never fully reached his potential in Minnesota, but fans will never forget his rookie season when he set the Metrodome ablaze and dominated with that ridiculous slider.  Boof is a silly name, which we all look back at fondly. 

The Giants would probably like a couple do-overs when it comes to this trade.  First, they would probably not make it at all.  Second, since they actually made the trade, they probably would not have released Pierzynski after one season.  He was not great in 2004, but then, he wasn't that much better from 2005-2011.  He never posted an above-average OPS+ during that time.  In fact, he didn't have an above-average offensive season until 2012, when he posted a career-high 119 OPS+ at age 35. 

The perception of Pierzynski as a player was quite different with Chicago.  He was a pain, but he was a productive and wily pain.  It's amazing what a punch to the jaw and a terrible call from an ump can do to change a player's perception. 

Who won the WAR?

Pierzynski for the Giants:  0.3
Nathan for the Twins:  18.4 
Liriano for the Twins:  9.5
Bonser for the Twins:  -0.3

WAR won by the Twins!

One Sentence Summary

Widely considered one of the best trades in Twins' history, this trade ultimately netted the Twins arguably their best closer of all-time, one extremely talented and frustrating pitcher and a guy named Boof. 

If you enjoyed this post, the least you could do is follow me on Twitter:  @bridman77.  I'll tweet a lot one night, then disappear for weeks.  It's a hoot.  If I get to 1000 Twitter followers, I'll live-tweet Timecop, just like the pros.  If you're really bold, I have a Facebook group too.  There are ten members.  Yep.  If it gets to 50, I'll give away my only 1991 Score Gary Wayne card.  I'm being honest.