Archive for October, 2011

A Legend To Remember

October 23, 2011

Occasionally, I go through statistics of the great players in MLB history. Pedro Martinez. Ty Cobb. Jackie Robinson. Babe Ruth. Greg Maddux. I’ve heard of the legends, and while I don’t get the pleasure of watching videos of past games to see these masters of the game in their prime, the stats at least give me an idea of how good these guys were. It will pain the Jack Morris-type, “You had to be there” crowd, but it’s the best I can do.

Now that I’m the baseball fan that I am, I have some regrets. Regrets that my younger self didn’t realize just how good some of these players were. I have vague memories of Maddux* and Martinez, of Wade Boggs, of Kirby Puckett, but that’s all that I have. Vague memories. Almost like I’m looking through a fog, and all I see is the silhouettes of these players.

* Maddux in particular is especially disappointing because he was still pitching as recently as 2008, but I just never saw him pitch. Martinez is similar, but I seemed to see him pitch at the end of his career far more often than Maddux.Watching these guys in their primes must have been a real treat.



End of an Era… I Hope

October 14, 2011

Today, the Twins announced that they outrighted 4 players off the 40-man roster: pitcher Anthony Slama, catcher Rene Rivera, infielder Matt Tolbert, and outfielder Jason Repko.

First of all, I’m disappointed but not shocked by the Twins removing Slama from the roster. He’s always been the guy that could never gain the Twins’ trust, despite his ability to dominant the minor leagues. Certainly his stuff was nothing special, but he had a little funk in his delivery that made it difficult for hitters to hit his fastball and slurve. Throw in the fact that he hurt his elbow around the same time as Kyle Gibson, and it sounds like 2012 would have been a lost year for him anyway. He’ll probably end up needing Tommy John surgery just like Gibson, and if he does, he won’t be back until he’s 29 years old. Looks like he will be a lost cause.


The Pink Stops Here

October 9, 2011

Most notably in the NFL, we have started seeing professional athletes wear pink, as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a constant reminder to support the women that have or are currently fighting breast cancer, and to also donate money to help fight for a cure.

Despite the good intentions, I don’t like it.

Let me explain before you start accusing me of opposing the fight against breast cancer. Last winter, Facebook started holding a “Child Abuse Awareness Month” where Facebook users would change their profile picture to a cartoon character. Pretty soon, my news feed was full of Powerpuff Girls, Bugs Bunny, whatever. The goal was to get people to become more aware of child abuse.


Increasing Velocity

October 1, 2011

In 2007, general manager Kenny Williams went in an interesting direction in building his Chicago White Sox bullpen. He chose to load the ‘pen with flamethrowers, thinking that they could just blow away hitters. However, this meant counting on some wild cards, and most of them did not work out. Out of the 7 pitchers to see time in the bullpen that year that averaged 92 MPH or higher with their fastballs,* only their closer Bobby Jenks had a sub-4.50 ERA. That’s right, 6 pitchers that were on the roster specifically because they could throw hard, and only one guy had any amount of success. Jenks did show the results that could come if you harnessed your fastball (2.77 ERA), but clearly everyone else had resorted to chuckin’ and duckin’.

* I omitted Jose Contreras because he had only 2 relief appearances that year.

Look at these names. David Aardsma, Mike MacDougal, Nick Masset, Matt Thornton, Boone Logan, and Ryan Bukvich were the six that amassed 256.2 innings with a 5.75 ERA. Yuck. Absolutely a mess. Most of these pitchers have gone on to have solid years since 2007, but most of them have occurred with a team other than Chicago, excluding Thornton.

The Twins aren’t acting nearly as extreme as the 2007 White Sox, but they seem to be stockpiling some flamethrowers lately. It started with the J.J. Hardy trade, bringing over Jim Hoey. Then there was the Delmon Young trade, which netted Lester Oliveros. Finally, right before the end of the season, the Twins quietly claimed RHP Esmerling Vasquez off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks. If you toss in Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, and Alex Burnett from this past season, the Twins would have their own seven-man bullpen that can throw 92+ MPH. Plus, wouldn’t you know it that only one pitcher (Perkins) had an ERA under 4 out of this ragtag group, just like the ’07 White Sox?

If the Twins are seriously looking to improve their bullpen by filling it with hard-throwing pitchers, I’m completely fine with that. But those pitchers have to be actually good, something it seemed like the 2007 White Sox ignored and I’m afraid the Twins will do as well. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jim Hoey non-tendered this offseason, but I’m willing to bet that Oliveros and Vasquez will be looked upon to join Perkins, Burnett, and maybe Nathan in the bullpen for 2012.

If this does work out, it could be a great help in fixing the disastrous relief corp from this past season. However, typically with mid-90s fastballs comes plenty of walks, and that could make 2012 just as ugly to watch as this year. So here’s my plea to the Minnesota Twins: Go and amass as many flamethrowers as you want, but make sure they’ll work first before you start depending on them.