November 2009

Game 163 was the final straw for TBS and Chip Caray

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Chip Caray and TBS have parted ways after Caray finished a shaky year with at least one botched call during the Twins-Tigers two-teams-enter-one-team-leaves AL Cental tiebreaker.

The back breaker was the following call during a lineout:

“Line drive. Base hit. Caught out there. The runner tags. Throw to the plate. On target. And in time! A double play!”

Of course, some friends told me that TBS’ entire presentation wasn’t easy on the eyes and was hard on the ears.

Broadcasters are going to make their share of mistakes during games (I have a greater appreciation for their work after filling in on KFAN a few times). It’s unavoidable. But it seems that Caray is coming off of a rough season.

Still, there’s one unanswered question: Why was TBS involved anyway?

Live from Chicago

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I’m here for Thanksgiving with the family and, I must admit, the last thing on my mind is the Bears-Vikings game this weekend. All everyone here is talking about is if Lovie Smith will get fired or will Mike Martz be the offensive coordinator next year – and if the 11-point spread on Sunday is too low.

Know what I’m looking forward to? Marian Hossa debuts for the Blackhawks tonight, and he’ll be on the same line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Wild fans might not want to read this, but you might be better off rooting for a bad year or two so you can draft high enough to get top young talent then add a Hossa. The Hawks have won seven straight games going into tonight’s throwdown at San Jose.

Now that Mauer-palooza has died down (until he signs a contract extension), I wanted to pass along some tidbits from brother Jake Mauer, whom I chatted up at his brother’s press conference on Monday.

Jake will manage Class A Fort Myers next season but just finished running the Twins’ rookie league team. One player he’s really high on is righthander Adrian Salcedo, an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic who was 4-4 with a 1.65 ERA for GCL. He walked just three batters and struck out 58 in 61.2 innings.

Salcedo has touched 93-94 on the gun but stays in the low 90′s and has very good movement on his fastball. “He’s got a great arm,” Mauer said. “And he works hard. He’s the type of kid who will go home at the end of the day and keep working.”

I’ve heard of Salcedo, but Mauer then tossed out a name I didn’t recognize: Manuel Soliman.

Soliman originally a third baseman but hit .189 in two seasons in the Dominican League. So the Twins have turned him into a pitcher. He was 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in DSL play this year with 20 walks and 55 strikeouts in 71 innings. The numbers scream that he’s new to pitching, but Mauer thinks Soliman has a live arm and a lot of potential.

So I’ll be tracking Solimon during the season. I’m guessing he’s learning how to throw other pitches than a fastball.

Mauer also saw Kyle Gibson during instructional league play and, like everyone else who has seen him, he came away raving about the top-shelf talent the Twins first-round pick showed.

“The first couple (innings) he was just kind of feeling his way,” Mauer said. “The last inning, he dominated.”

Our whole conversation started with Mauer talking about how his younger brother will (he used the word, `absolutely’) improve on his 2009 season. Then I asked him how things were in the minors.

“La Velle, Kyle Gibson is going to be good,” Mauer started. I would have loved to ask him about more players but I had other interviews to conduct.

Jake should have an interesting team at Fort Myers next season. In addition to Gibson, he should eventually have outfielders Aaron Hicks and Jose Morales and infielder Ramon Santana - if those guys don’t make Fort Myers out of spring training.

That’s all for now. Next week will be busy as I zero in on Twins targets heading into the winter meetings Dec. 7-11 in Indianapolis. Enjoy the holiday!

Update: Here’s the lastest from Pat Neshek about his rehab.

Back on the grid

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I know it’s been awhile. I had to whittle down some vacation time that I was going to lose on Jan. 1. So I took a couple weeks off. Went on a trip. Read a very good book about the 1975 Reds (The Machine, by Joe Posnanski).

To be honest, I had reached a point where I needed to drop off the grid for awhile. So it was time to take some time off. Now I’m back. Joe C. is keeping up with Twins news this week while I help out with Gophers coverage. I’ll be back on the Twins on Monday, when the AL MVP is announced.

For now, chew on this:

Noted baseball seamhead Bill James, in the upcoming Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010, has predicted the top ten players likely to sustain or improve next season. The number on the right is the Strong Seasons Leading Index Score:

Player 2010 Team Score
Dioner Navarro Tampa Bay Rays 26
Chris B. Young Arizona Diamondbacks 25
J.J. Hardy Minnesota Twins 25
Russell Martin Los Angeles Dodgers 24
Grady Sizemore Cleveland Indians 24
Dustin Pedroia Boston Red Sox 23
James Loney Los Angeles Dodgers 23
Ian Kinsler Texas Rangers 23
B.J. Upton Tampa Bay Rays 23
Nate McLouth Atlanta Braves 23

Here are the ten least likely to sustain or improve:

Jorge Posada New York Yankees 8
Matt Diaz Atlanta Braves 9
Craig Counsell Free Agent 9
Russell Branyan Free Agent 11
Jason Bartlett Tampa Bay Rays 11
Scott Podsednik Free Agent 11
Derrek Lee Chicago Cubs 11
Kendry Morales LA Angels of Anaheim 11
Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners 11
Rajai Davis Oakland Athletics 12

Figured that you’d like the J.J. Hardy part – although I’m guessing you all are rooting for him to improve and not sustain next year!

I would bet against James on Ichiro. I just think the Sultan of Slap will hit forever.

Here’s James’ explanation of his work: “Age is the most obvious indicator of likely movement. We also know that players tend to move back to their historical norms, so we look at last year’s On-base Plus Slugging percentage compared to his career OPS. We also factor in a player’s batting average on balls in play, his strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his speed before distilling all this into a single number that indicates how likely a player is to have a strong season in the coming year.”