Thursday, July 31, 2008

Livan on the edge

If I had more time or interest I would put together the lyrics of Livan On The Edge (set of course to Aerosmith's song Livin' On The Edge), but as it stands right now I don't have the time or interest. (Note: I do have the time and interst to pull a lot of stats). Anyway, I felt like I should get a quick post in about the state of the Minnesota Twins. I have had time to watch (both live and on tv) and analyze the Twins because right now is a down time for me as a sports fan. I don't really care about the Brett Favre news, Nascar, golf, or even really the National League. My sporting eyes and ears are focused only on the surprising Twins.

The focus on the Twins has brought its ups (11 games over 500, Morneau, Baker, Span, Casilla) and downs (Livan, Young, whoever is batting as the DH), but for this post lets focus on the management. It seems like the Twins management is trying to add a level of difficulty in winning the AL Central. It wasn't tough enough for them to try and win the division when everyone was picking them to finish 4th of 5th. It wasn't tough enough that they traded Santana, traded Garza and let Hunter go, while signing a reliever who most people thought wouldn't be used that much this year. Instead Twins management had to make it more difficult by bringing in Lamb, Everett, Livan, Gomez , Monroe, Harris and Young. Those signings/trades haven't worked out. Lets recap the hitters before getting to Livan Hernandez
  • Lamb - 220 at bats - .227 average, .261 On-base percentage (OBP), .305 slugging percentage (SLG).
  • Everett - 74 at bats - .189 average, .235 OBP, .324 SLG.
  • Gomez - 410 at bats - .256 average, .289 OBP, .354 SLG.
  • Monroe - 163 at bats - .202 average, .274 OBP, .405 SLG.
  • Harris - 330 at bats - .255 average, .311 OBP, .364 SLG
  • Young - 385 at bats - .291 average, .333 OBP, .392 SLG
  • TOTAL for those 6 players - 1582 at bats - .252 average, .296 OBP, .362 SLG

Those numbers might not mean anything to you, so lets do a comparison between those numbers and the Twins overall numbers and the average AL numbers:

  • TOTAL for those 6 players - 1582 at bats - .252 average, .296 OBP, .362 SLG
  • Twins Overall (including above) -3691 AB - .278 average, .335 OBP, .407 SLG.
  • Average AL Team Overall - 3687 AB - .265 average, .333 OBP, .414 SLG.

The 6 Twins offseason acquisitions have been much worse than the average player. In fact out of the 18 possible numbers (average, OBP and SLG) only one player (Delmon Young) or the six has one number (his batting average) higher than the average AL player.

The strange thing is that I am not as upset about those 6 players as I am with Livan Herndandez. There have been a few articles written about Livan's struggles. If you care check out Rob Neyer's insider piece or another Neyer article about how hard Livan is getting hit. Or just check out a replay of last night's game where Livan looked like he was throwing home run derby balls to the White Sox. The reason I am upset is that unlike the 6 players listed above there is an alternative to throwing out Livan every 5 days to pitch. The alternative just happens to be Francisco Liriano. Twins and baseball fans might remember him from 2006 when he went 12-3 with a 2.16ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings. Anyway, he is dominating in Triple A and the Twins refuse to bring him up.

I guess I just don't understand what the Twins are trying to do. They are a 1.5 out of the division lead and they won't even put the best team on the field. They don't need to make a trade to get better (even though it would help). All they have to do is bench Livan and bring in Liriano (or anybody else).

I would like to think that after I convinced Kevin McHale to get Kevin Love instead of OJ Mayo (read the Hold the Mayo post I wrote before the draft), than I can convince Bill Smith to make the right move for the Twins.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Stan Musial

Baseball - Musial
Great article about Stan Musial by Joe Posnanski. I have only been reading his blog for about two weeks now, but I like the fact that he can combine old-school romanticism with new-school stats based analysis. I don't know why the two have to be mutually exclusive and why so many people seem to pick one side and stick to it. It is great to see someone embrace stats to better understand the past. The Musial article is a must read for any baseball fans.

Grocery store
I was visibly upset when I was told by the nice lady at Byerly's (a MN based grocery chain) told me that they were no longer carrying the same Rotissierie chicken lunch special that I have always loved getting on Monday. The Byerly's execs apparently deemed chicken and two vegetables to be less appealing than Indian food. I hope this isn't a sign that the Midwest as I know it is going through a culinary change and I should expect more curry in my future. Anyway, I told the nice lady that I was resistant to change and she said that "I shouldn't get married." I laughed at the joke (and my coworker laughed at the retelling), but honestly I have no clue what it means. If you get married then aren't you signing up for a life of less change than the alternative. Isn't that kind of the point?

Friday, July 18, 2008

"and he brought hockey back."

If you want to see what the political landscape is like in Minnesota please check out this commercial for Norm Coleman. For those of you who don't know Norm Coleman is the current Republican Senator for Minnesota. The thing is I don't blame Coleman for the commercial because for this state it is a really smart political move. Forget about gas prices, traffic, a light rail, education, etc. All we really care about in this state is a mediocre NHL team named after an adjective.

Congrats to Marie and Ron for getting married tonight. I am looking forward to the playing of "Golddigger."

Friday, July 11, 2008

1 year anniversary

Today marks my one year anniversary of walking into the World Wide Leader of Cheap Chic and announcing that I was quitting and that my last day was going to be July 12th. At this time a year ago I had all intentions of moving to North Carolina to better criticize Tyler Hansbrough and also to help preach to my nephew about the yearly excellence of Duke basketball. It is funny how things work out though.

Side note that actually is longer than my post: Why do female friends break up more than guy friends break up? This was addressed in a recent Clay Travis mailbag where Travis writes:

"First, all female friendships are on tenuous ground pre-menopause. So it's not like this friend of your ex-girlfriend is that important or truly irreplaceable. I was talking about this the other day: When was the last time you heard of two guys not being friends any more because of a controversy about who would be standing up in the wedding? Never, right? Yet, 50 percent of women end up hating a member of their bridal party before the wedding is complete. Sometimes after a decade of friendship they simply stop speaking. How is this possible? Moreover, what's the evolutionary advantage to this happening? It boggles my mind."

Specifically I can think of 3 good female friendships that have ended for no good reason. Two friends from high school, two friends from college, and two friends from work have all stopped being friends. 3 different groups of friends that have nothing (different regions of the country, circumstances, personalities, etc) in common. Why does that happen? I can't see any reason why my good guy friends and I would "break up." Certainly if one of my good guy (or girl for that matter) friends tried to contact me I would pick up the phone and be happy to talk to him. It would take a pretty significant event for me not to be friends with someone I have been friends with for a long time.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Safeco Field review

The Mariners might be an awful team this year, but the experience at Safeco Field is well worth it. As I did last year I will try my best to review the park compared to previous ballparks. For the record I have now seen games at the Metrodome, Wrigley, Miller Park, US Cellular Field, Great American Ballpark, Turner Field, the old Busch stadium, the old Arlington stadium, and the old Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium. Now I can add Safeco to the expanding list:

Before I get started here is Jim Caple's review of Safeco:

Scalping/Ticket Prices: A-

I feel like there needs to be a separate post on the "rules of scalping" since over the past few years I have started to learn the tricks to getting the best seats for minimal cost. These rules have come in handy for the fair weather Minnesota sports scene because almost always I can get Twins or Twolves tickets for under face value. Unfortunately, I broke one of the rules of scalping for the Mariners game by buying the tickets one hour before the first pitch. I still got a decent deal ($35 for $58 seats), but I felt like I could have gotten those tickets for $15-$20 if I would have just waited. I vowed to redeem myself for the next game (I went to the Wednesday night game against the Blue Jays and then the Friday day game against Le Tigres), but my friend Nicholas was nice enough to buy the tickets in advance.

Aesthetic Appeal: B+

If Miller Park (the Brewers) and Camden Yards (the Orioles) were combined I think that the combination would be Safeco. It was a nice looking stadium, but in the end I think that it was a step below both Miller and Camden. Miller had the feel of being larger than life and Camden had the appeal of being the first "old time" new stadium. Safeco was more middle of the road. Still, the park itself was a vast improvement over such stadiums as the Metrodome and US Cellular Field.

Thing(s) I wish I would have done:

Try some more of the food choices like the Pad Thai, burrito, or chocolate covered strawberries. Other than that there wasn't much in the way of in-game entertainment besides the game.

Fans: C+

For the Friday night game there was a Packers fan in the seat in front of my friend Candice and I who was friendly and knowledgeable about baseball and most sports in general. His claim to fame was that he stuck out Justin Morneau during a high school game in Canada. In the upper section on the Friday game there seemed to be a weird mix of sorority girls, post grunge guys, and people that were more interested in dancing during mid inning songs. Nobody was particularly rude, disrespectful, or even that much into the game. Maybe it would be different if the Mariners weren't one of the worst teams in baseball.

Buzz: D-

The only discernible buzz I could feel would be when Ichiro came up to bat, and still it was only a faint buzz. There is more of a buzz inside the Metrodome for Joe Mauer hitting an opposite field single. If one was to try and judge how the game was going through the atmosphere in the park then I am afraid you wouldn't know if the Mariners were winning or losing. One side note: Did you know that if you are a Canadian and you like baseball then you will probably be a fan of the Blue Jays? I was wondering why there were so many Blue Jay fans at the Mariners game since Toronot is 2570 miles away from Seattle, but I found out that people from Vancouver are fans of the Blue Jays since they are Canada's only Mlb team. This led to a large amount of fans at the game being Blue Jay fans and helped create a little bit of the buzz even if it was for the visiting team. These fans were especially hyped up since they had just celebrated Canada day.

Food: A

The garlic fries were outstanding and something that definitely would become a favorite of M's if she lived in Seattle. The hot dogs got mixed reviews (negative from Candice and very positive from Nancy), but that was more based on the type of hot dogs they got. Candice ate a hot dog from a normal stadium stand, while Nancy ordered the most expensive hot dog ever ($9!) from an outdoor grill. The $9 was money well spent though since this hot dog was incredible. The clam chowder ($8.50 in a bread bowl) was a novelty for a baseball game, but not something I would order again. The real star of the show was the Ichiroll Bento Box combo that has recently received some level of notoriety due to the New York Times writing about it. This was incredible if not expensive ($10.50), and something I would order time and time again if I was a local. I ended up ordering it twice during the two games that I went to.

Fun things to do besides the game:

There is the Mariners Hall of Fame that has video highlights of each player (Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez) honored. Also, you can practice your play-by-play by recording your call of famous past Mariner moments. There really aren't that many frills to the park though. One note is that I would recommend the tour of Safeco. For $8 on game days you can get a tour at 10:30am or 12:30am. On the tour you get to go down the field level, sit in the dugout, see the press room, and go to the owners suite. A bonus was our 70+ tour guide who was overflowing with baseball knowledge and trivia questions.

Overall impression: B

Safeco is an easy place to like, but hard a place to love. The cheap tickets (which might have been tougher in past/better years), great food, good sightlines, and friendly fans make for a great atmosphere. Also, it truly is a unique experiance to watch Ichiro while eating a Ichiroll. Still, I felt like there was something missing that would make this park truly memorable. In some ways it is better that the park isn't like Wrigley or Fenway in the fact that it makes it more accessible to the average fan. For the overall cost you could probably go to 20 games at Safeco for the same price as 4 games at Fenway. However, if you were going to pick a "last wish" park then I would rather go to a place like Wrigley. But if I had to pick an everyday park then I would pick Safeco. Safeco is the safe choice.

Friday, July 4, 2008


My wonderful company gives their employees 3 days off for the 4th of July, so I decided to take advantage of that and book a flight to visit some friends in Seattle. The trip had the added benefits of 1) seeing a new city 2) setting a pr for farthest Northwest in the USA and 3) baseball/new park. I will get to my review of the park later, but now I thought I would share a few pictures from the trip.

A view from the top of....

....the Space Needle

Inside the EMP

The shoreline and skyline

Those crazy Canadians before the the Blue Jays-Mariners game

Inside Safeco

From Pike Place Market

From Smith Tower

Nancy and I with Nicholas. (Actually it is the Freemont Troll)

The men of Microsoft

There will be more later. I need to review Safeco, give my thoughts on the Sonics leaving, and give my impression of the city. Overall it has been a blast so far seeing a new city with old friends. I am going to play a game of ping pong now with Nicholas before going to the afternoon game between the Mariners and Le Tigres. Happy 4th of July everyone.