Thursday, October 13, 2005
Good Morning everyone! Well, for the first week of the offseason, I have kept to my plan. I took Wednesday off completely from the site. You can't even imagine how difficult that was for me. I am so used to doing something. However, I also need to maintain my sanity, so this is good. Right?
Today, I am going to start by posting the first of a "Why Baseball?" series of articles. One day each week (and maybe twice some weeks), I would like to invite readers of this site to write a guest column for me on the topic. Essentially, the article should answer the question, Why baseball? What is it about baseball that draws us in? What is it about baseball that makes us cheer for our team every year whether they win 90 or lose 90? But also look a little deeper than that. When were you hooked on the sport? Were you young? Did you play ball as a child, or even into your adult life? Who were your favorite players, and your favorite team? (yes, this is primarily a Twins site, but (and I hate to say this) there are other teams that people have the right to cheer for as well, even in cities like New York, Boston or Chicago). Do you collect cards or memorabilia? Have you had any stories about meeting players or coaches or some of your heroes that you would like to share? Maybe you have a memory from playing Little League, or in high school? Or maybe you were fortunate enough to play in college or be one of the few really lucky ones to sign a professional contract? Maybe you are living the dream of every baseball fan and get to play in the Major Leagues, and want to tell us all about getting the call to The Show? Or maybe your greatest baseball story comes from a beer league? Or maybe you've never really played the game much but still love it with passion?
These are just some of the questions to get your started. I want this to be an individual representation of you. I think that we all obviously share this love of the game of baseball, and I know that I really enjoy reading what it is that gets us there and what is is about the game that gives us butterflies every spring when we hear the phrase "Pitchers and catchers report."
Of course, I don't want to hold you back. Essentially, if you write the guest column, the day is yours. After your "Why Baseball" article, you are free to include more topics. You can chime in with your thoughts on the Twins (or your favorite team(s)). Maybe there is a baseball topic that you would like to express your opinions on. You can also write your thoughts on other sports, either why you love them too, or stories or stats or whatever. Really, it is up to you.
Baseball is a game with such a rich history. It goes back as far as the Civil War, and maybe further. It is, and should always be, America's past time. There is a nostalgia, a certain romanticism about the game. It has been shown in movies, and in ballparks, and in the very game itself. There are stars and have always been stars, and as big as they get, they are never bigger than the game. It is that premise that I want to get across in these articles. Baseball and what it means to each of us can be such a personal thing. For me, it is one subject that seems to give me joy just talking about, and obviously writing about. Maybe I'm weird, but baseball is such a great game, the greatest game for certain. And as I'm typing this, all I can think about is James Earl Jones as Terence Mann in the great movie Field of Dreams, as he waxed poetic of the greatness of baseball. You all remember it:
Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
What is your field of dreams? Where have you traveled just to see baseball? Have you been to a Major League game played outdoors, the way it is supposed to be? Who were your heroes? What are your memories? So much is said in this message, and so much more can be said of this great game.
So, I am looking for volunteers. If you would like to have your day as a guest writer here, and answer these questions, please e-mail me. I am hoping to post one a week. You may ask, does it have to be long? Not at all. Again, to everyone, this game is different. Some of you may be as long-winded as me. Others are probably far more eloquent than I and can say something in far fewer words. I just happen to think that this is an interesting topic and hope that many of you would be willing to take some time to think about this. Again, after that, you are free to add your thoughts on other topics as well. If you are at all interested, please e-mail me. The other bonus is that it will give me a little bit of time off throughout the offseason. Maybe a day a week.
Let's get to this week's article. You have read Roger's thoughts here quite frequently. He also posted a number of great articles on the Twins minor league system over at Twins Territory. You may even remember that he was one of three people who participated in our Twins Minor League draft this summer. Roger and I have e-mailed back and forth from time to time since spring training this year. I had the chance to meet him and his wife when I was on WCCO down at the State Fair late this summer. They are good people. Roger has provided me with a lot of great incite over that time and I certainly have appreciated the sharing of some fun information.
So, without any further ado, I present our first Why Baseball posting by "Roger."
Well certainly not because I ever played the game. Growing up on a farm in Central Wisconsin in the 50’s and going to a one room school with less than 20 students in all eight grades, playing wasn’t an option. Yet, it was many of those summer days out in a field or on a tractor listening to Braves games on the radio and the voice of Earl Gillespie when I first learned to love the game. Although not a baseball fan, my Father always made certain that we took one Sunday off each summer so that we could make the three hour drive to County Stadium (in Milwaukee) to see a game. Those were special teams, Aaron, Matthews, Crandall, Adcock, Logan, Covington and Bruton [note, they also didn‘t have a regular second baseman most years]. Spahn, Burdette, Buhl, Pizzaro, Conley and McMahon. Then in the 60’s I was off to school in Madison, and later my team would abandon me for Atlanta.
My next exposure to the game was in the early 80’s when my son was playing ball in Madison, including a Senior Babe State championship with a trip to the Regionals in Louisville. Later he would play for Denver University, and I would enjoy spring trips to places like Las Cruces, New Mexico, with 2 or 3 games a day for a week or longer. After moving to the Cities, my youngest son was fortunate because we lived in Minnetonka and he would play for Minnetonka High School and Excelsior Legion. The Excelsior program is unique as both the Mantle and Legion teams play about 50 games a year, traveling the nation which enabled us to watch baseball in some wonderful places. Playing host Rapid City on July 4th, another July 4th tourney with fireworks in Hartford, CT, playing in a 16 year old Regional Babe Ruth Tourney in the Burlington Bees stadium in Iowa, Yakima, Washington, Jamestown, N.D., and others including most of the cities in North Dakota. However the highlight was playing in the Shoeless Joe Tourney in Evansville, Indiana, in the minor league ballpark where he played in the same center field as Madonna had when she starred in “A League of their Own,” part of which was filmed in that classic old ballpark.
Why Baseball? Because it has become such an important part of our family life. Although all of our children have scattered, my youngest son and I still meet one weekend each summer in some city for a weekend of outdoor baseball. This past year we saw the Twins play the Brewers in Milwaukee…in a wonderful outdoor stadium, where the game is supposed to be played.
But why the Twins? Growing up in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin, I was, and always will be, a Packers fan. Likewise, I will be a Badger forever. Then why not also a Brewers fan? When the Braves left, my team left and I never became much of a Brewers fan. Rather, I became and will remain a Twins fan…even if they also disappoint me and leave because our wonderful politicians don’t have the courage to approve the best deal this State will ever see to get a real outdoor stadium built.
It was after my son left for college in 1999 that I had the time to watch more Twins games and I became a real fan. Because of the time I spent with youth baseball, my real interest is with the Twins minor league system… I enjoy following young players as they work their way up through the system. I try to daily read each city’s newspapers as well as each team’s web site. I also spend too much time emailing back and forth with Seth about almost any topic related to the minor leagues. This past summer, I began writing about the minor leagues on the TwinsTerritory blog. Seth has asked if I would consider contributing to his site, so now I will be occasionally writing about the minors on SethSpeaks.net.
I expect that like many of us, I do an annual Top 30 and update it several times each summer. [Wasn’t Seth’s Top 50 an excellent report?] I was working on my year-end Top 30 this past month and when it was completed, I wasn’t satisfied. I expect most of you know the feeling, but I kept questioning… why should this player be rated higher than the next? After my list was done I remained rather uneasy, therefore, I created a formula so that I could rank each minor league player in the system based on their performance this past season. There are separate rankings for pitchers and position players. The formula is mostly mathematical with a smaller subjective value. Each player can earn bonus points for certain awards such as being an all-star or in the Baseball America Top 20 that they do for each league. Age is a factor compared with the typical age for each league and each player’s final numerical rating is discounted so that the value of a player’s performance in rookie ball is less than a player with the same numerical rating playing in AAA.
When this evaluation was completed, I felt better because my rankings were no longer based on what I thought about players whom I have never seen play. Obviously there are factors about players that a formula doesn’t take into consideration, however, this is an excellent alternative for someone not having access to a lot of scouting reports.
There were a few surprises mixed in with the obvious… Yes, Francisco Liriano is the Number 1 ranked minor league pitcher. Scott Baker is #3 and Travis Bowyer is #4, but it is unlikely that anyone would guess who is #2. Next week I will tell you more about the formula and the rankings of the 77 pitchers that pitched in the Twins system this season. The following week, I will post the rankings of the 89 position players…incidentally, Luis Rodriguez is #4 and Seth’s favorite minor leaguer, Trent Oeltjen, is #18.
Isn’t it great that we still have the World Series, and the Arizona Fall League just started this week?
So, there you have it. Thank you Roger for being the first Why Baseball writer. As you read, he will also be sharing his formula for minor league rankings over two weeks. It is likely that for those two weeks, I will post the Why Baseball articles on Wednesdays, if I receive any. Let me know what you think. If you would like to ask me or Roger and questions, please feel free to e-mail me.
The Angels and White Sox are tied at a game a piece. The Angels won Game 1 which somehow surprised a lot of people based on their travel schedule. That said, I know that baseball has their schedule, but they should have been able to alter it enough to have the National League game move up to Tuesday with the AL game moved to Wednesday. It wouldn't mess up Fox's schedule as games would be played at all of the same times. As for Game 2... what a game! Mark Buehrle threw nine great innings, and he was set to head out for the 10th. However, a horrible call allowed the game to continue and the White Sox took advantage and won the game. With two outs and no one on AJ Pierzynski struck out. Angels' catcher Josh Paul caught the ball in the air, and for some reason, the ump decided not to call Pierzynski out. The Angels all left the field (as they should!), and Pierzynski ran to 1B. There was an argument, but apparently none of the other umpires saw that Paul caught the ball and they let AJ stay at 1B. Pablo Ozuna pinch ran and stole second without a throw (totally on the pitcher), and then Joe Crede doubled off the wall in left field to end the game. My first reaction is that the Angels should appeal the game at that point. I have never actually seen an appeal upheld, and honestly, I don't know what would happen if they did. But if ever there is a clear reason for an appeal to be upheld, this is it. Who knows, the White Sox may have won the game in the 10th, 11th, or 18th inning, but it is always unfortunate when a great game, especially in the playoffs when so much matters, when a horrible call costs one team the game.
Oh, all that overshadowed a home run by Minnesota native and former Gopher Robb Quinlan!
In the National League, the Cardinals got a great start from Chris Carpenter and another homer from Reggie Sanders to take a 1-0 lead over the Astros. Game 2 is tonight.
Just a couple more thoughts, and a couple of things I missed on my day off:
First, I'm not even going to give it its own section because it is kind of disturbing. The whole Vikings Sex Party Boat thing is just so comical and crazy that it is almost unbelievable. I mean, it is so unbelievable that you couldn't just make it up! We don't know everything, and for that, I am appreciative. But let me give just a couple of thoughts:
I hear more people calling for the head of Mike Tice because of this. People can talk about how Tice is responsible for player's making penalties and bad decisions on the field. However, there is no way that he knew about this. He could have said whatever he could and ask the team to behave on their off nights, but this probably would have happened anyway. It isn't Mike Tice's fault any more than it is mine, and I know I'm not taking any responsibility!
What's next? Seriously, this team is awful! It is something all the time. Yes, this is a Vikings state and everyone loves the Vikings, but that should not be a reason to get away with everything. My assumption is that they assumed no one would say anything because they are Vikings. Well, someone told, and they should face some consequences!
From the sounds of it as I'm typing this, the most any of the players could get would be a misdemeanor. So, criminally or legally, it isn't going to hurt any of the players excessively. (assuming that certain acts and propositions were not made). However, if I'm the Vikings owner, or even the head coach, I am suspending every one of the Vikings that was on the boat for the next game. If there were 17 on the boat, all 17 should not play Sunday. That will make a point. As a Vikings fan, I will still cheer for the 38 players that did not go. And if players actually did participate, they should get suspended another game or two. I just think that this team now has a history of this type of activity. It needs to finally be dealt with!
Randy Moss was let go for reasons like his 'fake-mooning' of fans, walking off the field for the final 2 seconds of a game that was pretty much over, and saying funny stuff like "Straight cash, homey." What a horrible person, huh?
Finally, the Vikings and the Owner Zygi Wilf wanted a new stadium and put together and excellent package to make it happen. Think this is going to help that situation? My guess... any chances of a new Vikings stadium in Blaine any time soon are gone!
And, Mewelde... no one is buying that answer!!!
And finally, like many others... I am not surprised by this news. I'm not shocked. I'm not offended or horrified. As a matter of fact, this has made my day so much more enjoyable because I get to listen to all the KFAN talk about this! It's great!
Oh, and not to be rude, but a friend of mine said of the situation, "Interesting! The Vikings scored more in their off weak than they did through four games!" Good stuff!
I was really glad to see that Willie Eyre was added to the Twins 40 man roster. The 27 year old reliever had an excellent year at Rochester this year. He went 10-3 with a 2.72 ERA. In 82.2 innings, he struck out 74 and walked just 28 (and allowed just three homers). He will likely have a shot at the role that was filled by Matt Guerrier in 2005.
And on that note, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found the first "Why Baseball" article worth reading, and I hope that many of you will be interested in participating. I will be back tomorrow for more of my thoughts as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you're interested in participating, please let me know. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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