Q and A

Picks to Click, 2009. The polls are open.

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

In 2007, you selected Jason Kubel and Matt Garza – yes the Matt Garza who didn’t even break camp with the team.

In 2008, you selected Delmon Young and Scott Baker – perhaps a year early?

Well, 2009 is here – and another chance to get it right.

The rules are simple here. Give me a position player and a pitcher you think will have a big year this year. I have begged in past years for you to list just ONE of each but still receive multiple selections. So I’ve come to grips with the fact that the decision-making process for some of you is too terrifying for you to settle on one person. So if you pick two, the first one you list will be counted.

The polls will close once Francisco Liriano throws the first pitch of the season. Have fun. Debate.

Q and A, Part II

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Sorry for the delay. Spent a chunk of the day at a local hospital, checking on a friend who is seriously ill.

from NEI Gopher:
It looks like Hughes & Valencia are both good 3rd base prospects as hitters – How is their defense? – In the meantime,if need be, Chipper Jones & John Smoltz for a few prospects? Atlanta is now on a budget – Might work for a year or two

Let’s focus on Hughes and Valencia.

Luke Hughes has played second base, third base and outfield in the minors-and is not considered a whiz with the glove. At Class AA New Britain, Hughes had a .888 fielding percentage in limited time third base. But Hughes has power potential and there’s a need for an everyday third baseman at the major league level.
Hughes will play third base during winter ball in Venezuela. His ability to get comfortable at that position will be worth watching.
Valencia has many fans in the organization and may be more of a prototypical third baseman than Hughes. But Valencia has only a half year at Class AA and my not be ready.
I expect both Hughes and Valencia to be in spring training next year. Should be interesting to watch – unless the Twins shock me and deal for a proven third baseman during the offseason.
from Jimmy Jam:
1. What is the deal with Ullger’s 3B coaching ability? I see him out of
position a lot of times, and why in the hell did he hold up Delmon Young at 3B on Sunday when Punto had an easy double. We almost ran into a huge gaffe  there. I realize it wasn’t the reason we lost, but geez.

2. Are the Twins seriously considering bringing back Punto? I don’t have any ill-will towards him, but Tolbert is his replacement and he doesn’t POP-UP as much and is much cheaper. What’s the scoop?

1. Being a third base coach means you’re going to get criticized. Ullger generally has been conservative. His predecessor was nicknamed, `Non-stop Newmie,’ by a slightly husky local columnist. I can’t remember the situation with Young (inning, score, outs, etc.) but you have to factor in all of that with the runner, the arm on the outfielder and where everyone is located when the ball is fielded. It’s not easy.

2. Haven’t heard anything on Punto. But he’s a valuable player because he can play everywhere and is a very good defensive player. I’d like to see Tolbert and Alexi Casilla up the middle next season, with Punto coming off the bench.
That said, I still feel that there have been way too many anti-Punto posts this year. I feel some people continue to rip him for 2007 when he’s hit markedly better this year. I wish he wouldn’t hit the ball in the air as much as he does, but he’s been better. He won’t be the reason the Twins miss the playoffs – if they miss the playoffs.
from jimmy bee:
Why can’t Pohlad spend money like Wilff does???

And where has that gotten the Vikings? The Twins locked up Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan since last season. They are willing to spend - they are not going to have the highest paid players in the game – but they just need to spend wisely. Trying to squeeze a year out of Tony Batitsta and Mike Lamb have not worked.

from Jimmy Jam:
LaVelle, here’s another question for you. I was down by Target Park yesterday
morning on some business. When I came back to my vehicle it smelled like I was inside of a dumpster. Got into my car and it absolutely stunk. Looked over to see that the garbage incinerator was in use. Gross! The smell was not something I want to take in when going to a ball game in the future. What steps are in place so that the fans don’t have to suffer through a reek-filled 9 inning affair?

I drove around the site last week with the windows down and sunroof open. Even stopped the car at one point, got out and stood for a while. I didn’t smell anything like you described. Did you brush your teeth that morning? Or have chili for lunch?
from Logan:
Also, Boof, does he get one more chance in MN next spring or does he get
dealt also?

Last, do the Twins miss Torii’s leadership in the clubhouse this year, specifically this month? I know that is a little controversial, but Gardy repeatedly said Torii was a leader in and out of the clubhouse and I am taking him at his word. Nobody seems to have stepped up to to take that role, Cuddy tries, it just isn’t the same.

Bonser turns 27 next month, so there’s still some upside there. The question is if he will remain a reliever or go back to starting. Just when he looked ready to take off as a reliever he’d have a poor outing.
There’s talent there. He can hump it up to 94 mph as a reliever and has a good curveball. He’s won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2009, so the Twins can hold on to him one more year and see if he figures things out. As for leadership. I sense that Justin Morneau has assumed a bigger role. Michael Cuddyer and Mike Redmond command a lot of respect in the clubhouse, but Morneau has been around since 2003, has a good work ethic and his presence seems to be growing.
Then again, Tom Kelly used to say that leadership is based on the pitcher that day….
from Steve A:
What don’t the Twins like in Brian Buscher, Matt Tolbert, and Matt Macri? We
keep hearing them talk about getting a legitimate 3rd basemen, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving these guys a shot, especially Buscher. Is it the fact that they want a Right-handed bat for the line-up? Or just aboutdefense? Thanks La Velle

Macri just showed up on the scene this year – and his numbers at Rochester aren’t exactly eye-popping. Right when Tolbert injured his thumb, Gardy was ready to play him every day and move Brendan Harris to third. That, of course, wound up being delayed. Buscher has had a good year. He’s given them a lift at the plate. He’s got to learn how to hit lefties and improve his throwing, but he’s been functional.
I see Tolbert as starter next season. He’s a high-energy guy who Gardy likes. As for Buscher, I wouldn’t blame the Twins for at least considering a deal for a proven third baseman during the offseason. They have the money and the team will be a legitimate playoff threat.

from Kpuck:
What do the Twins do to get the defense back to where it used to be…10th in
the league in defense this year. Lot’s of extra outs. Errors aren’t everything…KC has made 17 less errors than the Twins, yet look at their record. Still, a big concern.

If they follow the La Velle plan and have Casilla and Tolbert up the middle, the defense will be fine. If they don’t deal for a third baseman, they’ll have Buscher and Harris to platoon at third. Harris looks solid at third. Buscher has a couple things to work on, but his bat would offset his defensive issues some. And Punto may be around, and he’s a very good defensive player.
from amtrekman:
Is there any chance that Michael Cuddyer and the team would consider a switch
back to third base? Granted, he had his breakout season in right field but perhaps now that he’s a bit more of a veteran he could be moved back. It seemed to work well with Casey Blake and the Indians (and now the  Dodgers), a player who went from third to right and back to third to help the team.

The Twins remember the last time Cuddyer played third and don’t want to go  there with him. He’s fine in right field with a big arm.

from brett:
I posted this as a response to one of Joe’s game wraps last week, but I’m
wondering what you can tell us about Deolis Guerra’s adjustments this year. His K/BB ratio was horrible after being better in the same league last year, and stat heads can’t understand what’s going on unless we know what’s happening in real life. Changing arm angles, working on pick-off moves, working on new pitches, what?

Guerra threw hard, but his fastball was straight. In order to get more movement on his fastball, the Twins have him dropping his arm angle. His velo was down from reports that he hit 95 as an 18-year old.
I even called Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues, this morning for an update. “His velo, I think will come,” Rantz said. “He’s just 19 years old.”
from Walter Johnson:
Be honest, which Twins players did you hate the most when you were a kid growing
up in Chicago?

I had no problems with the Twins. I hated the Royals. Hal McRae, George Brett and Willie Wilson would just kill us. And I enjoyed watching the Cubs flounder.
from Bill Burditzman:
Henry Sanchez is hurt, they shut down Parmelee, can’t think of that other
guys name. Who else is being groomed as a power hitter in the organization?

Well, Luke Hughes has shown some pop. Class A Fort Myers catcher Wilson Ramos has massive power but is learning how to harness it. One other player they have high hopes for is E-town outfielder Angel Morales.
from Shaun:
Why does Gardy insist on always managing by numbers? Case in point -once again
messing with the bullpen and pulling out Mijares in favor of Gas Can Guerrier who promptly gave the Tribe the lead.

Gardy actually plays hunches – starting Brian Buscher against lefties is one example.

from TK(2):
One (almost rhetorical) question: Why can every, and I mean EVERY team hit
home runs when it matters except the Twins? True, we hit them when we’re winning big, or down by a lot, but when the game’s close- say we’re down by 2 with 2 on- we Never get them. Why can 29 out the other 29 teams get home runs in that situation, and we can’t? It’s Very frustrating to me, and it has tobe to many others out there I would think.

Is it our hitting philosophy? Do we tell our players to hit for avg. overpower? I could almost guarantee that you could take the Exact same line-up, put it in a different organization, and the power production would increase by at least 15-25%. Am I asking too much for a team that can hit homers at least on par with the Indians?

I don’t think the Twins preach that approach. They have tried to draft power hitters and many of them have failed. Remember when Cuddy, Matthew LeCroy and Michael Restovich were going to change everything? One of them stuck.
They have drafted Matt Moses, David Winfree and Henry Sanchez in recent years but they don’t look to be major leaguers. BAD DRAFTING!
This year looks bad because Delmon Young never got going and Cuddyer has had hand injuries.
The Twins actually have a power development program in the minors in which they take young slugging prospects and have them do drills to increase backspin on batted balls, which leads to more carry and homers. Morneau still does one of those drills. His homers are down but he still drives the ball.
But I’ll state this again: Offense is not the problem with the 2008 Twins.
from Beisbol-a-Go-Go:
1 – is there any way including fines that the team can use to minimize as
close to zero as possible sliding head first? (I’m NOT including pickoff  moves, many of those have to be head first). The many hand injuries so far this year may have already had a dampening effect but then there’s always LNP who will do it at any time. It was interesting that D&B said at the time of a Randy Ruiz feet first slide into FIRST! that something happened in his minor league career and he has never gone in head first since, so you can teach even “old dogs” new tricks with enough incentives.

2 – which coach(es) are responsible for sliding techniques? Now I’m talking about sliding hard enough to get there but not overshoot the bag so much that you can’t recover. I’ve watched nearly every Twins game this season and maybe my memory is playing tricks but I can’t remember the last time I saw so many instances of Twins making an out by oversliding and so few opponents caught the same way. Is this aggressive approach that Gardy promotes shooting them in the foot at times?

It is acceptable to dive into first base in order to avoid a collision or a tag. The Twins should use every means necessary to stop players from doing it in other situation. Once you leave your feet, you lose momentum. And fingers seem to get busted when diving into first. But players are going to dive into second and third to try to beat throws. Some players hold their batting gloves in their hands to reduce the chances of fingers getting busted up. And, hey, players are trying to make plays. Sometimes they will overslide bases and get tagged out.
Jerry White teaches sliding technique. And Paul Molitor has a presentation every year on the mental side of running the bases.
from Diggity Daz:
Why does the local media never, EVER, put any fire to Gardy’s feet or ask him
the questions they should be asking him?

He never gets any crap for the stuff he pulls–I think the media should be MUCH more critical of him. This shouldn’t be a “Well, we were supposed to be .500, but Gardy managed us to 6 games above” year–it should be a “We had a real shot at the playoffs if we’d have just been able to play .500 baseball through September.”

Yost was fired because he couldn’t keep the fire going. Why isn’t Gardy looked at under the same lens, LEN?

Next year, you’ll have the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, the Angels,the White Sox, the Tigers, and the Indians all with a decent chance to make the playoffs. It’s going to be a little tougher to be in the position the Twins were at the end of August of this year, next year.

For the most part, the right questions are asked. The answers often aren’t acceptable to those who read them. Or other forces drive the stories we are writing that day and affect the questions asked. Or it’s a question that has been asked in the past.

Gardy has a better record and more playoff appearances than Yost. That’s a bad comparison. The Yanks, Mariners, Indians, Tigers and others were supposed to be good this year, and we saw what happened…..

from Mark:
Anyway, it’s this: Everyone loves Joe Mauer. He’s a wonderful hitter and
catcher. Great guy, local boy, etc. I don’t want this to sound like I’m ripping him, but it might. If I can get ticked off at guys like Manny and others that fail to hustle to first on ground balls to infielders, then why is Joe special?
Case in point. I was down in KC for the series in August. He hits a routine
ground ball to the left side. He’s running half-speed to first. Problem is, the ball was bobbled. He then busts it down the last 45 feet and just gets thrown out by a half a step. If he hustles out of the box, he beats that easily. I watch Morneau and he’s busting it down all the way. Kirby was the same way.
I don’t want to hear the Barry Bonds excuse that they play 162 games and need
to “pace” themselves. How many times do you REALLY have to bust it in one game? Maybe twice. So let’s go!
Nobody makes a big deal out of it. But, if it makes the difference in one
game… that’s what the season could very well come down to.


Players who are ouchy and dealing with minor injuries usually get leeway on busting it to first base. I’m sure Mauer has been given such leeway. Leg soreness is always an issue with catchers. I wouldn’t get mad at Mark Rosen’s kid if I were you.

Q and A answers, Part I

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Sorry this took so long. Had some other tasks pop up on me in recent days.

Here’s the first part. I’ll try to have Part II ready to go on Monday – in time for you to get to work and continue to be unproductive while reading this blog.

 from Milldog:

Looking ahead to 2009,(although 08′ isn’t over yet!) what are the key areas the Twins front office needs to address?

Obviously, the FO needs to identify who should be part of the bullpen next  year. You can’t just say, `these guys stink and let’s dump them all.”

It’s not unreasonable to think that Pat Neshek comes back in good shape, Jesse Crain is sharper the second season after surgery and Matt Guerrier settles back in his old role. Dennys Reyes is a free agent and is due a huge raise. Don’t laugh – Ron Mahay is making $4 million this year. Will the Twins bring Big Sweat back? Craig Breslow seems like a good second lefty to have around. And I really like what I’ve seen from Jose Mijares. But I think they need one new arm in the bullpen.

The Twins also need to figure out who should be in their outfield in 2009. The emergence of Denard Span has raised the stakes. Michael Cuddyer is a core player and a clubhouse leader. Carlos Gomez has truckloads of talent. Delmon Young will hit a lot of homers in the league, he just needs to refine his approach some.

There’s not enough room for all of them.

Finally, they need to figure out if they want to have a jump ball between Brian Buscher, Luke Hughes and Danny Valencia next year for third base – or swing a deal for an established third baseman (if one is available).
from JustinCB:

To compliment Milldog’s post above, Howard mentioned in his post that the Twins absolutely need to make a move for a 3rd base power hitter. The money is there and the talent is available. If you agree with this La Velle, who do you think the Twins should be looking at this off-season?

The three names that jump out are Adrian Beltre, Kevin Kouzmanoff and GarretAtkins.

Beltre is the best of the group, and the target of various overtures from the Twins during the season. He’s headed into the final year of his contract – and will be coming off of left shoulder and thumb surgery (the thumb is the worst of the two – a ligament is being replaced). Beltre should be good to go by spring training. But what if he isn’t?

Kouzmanoff has upside, but his strikeouts and walks are ugly. Still, the Pods may try to move him so Chase Headley can play third. Atkins was believed to be a core player, but a recent report suggested that the Rocks may move him during the offseason. His home-road splits scare me. But the Twins have asked about him before.

The Twins would be wise to check in on all three of these players. And while it’s hard to part with a starter during the season, if one of the current starters – maybe not Franchise – have to be part of the package to land one of these players – especially if Beltre is healthy.

from RF:

Is the bullpen and rotation just worn out? Are they not used to pitching so many innings? And how much do we miss Neshek right now?

Actually, Aaron Gleeman pointed out recently that the starting rotation has averaged about 6 innings an outing, which is better than 2006 and 2007. So the bullpen hasn’t been worn out that much. I think the problem with bullpen has been Matt Guerrier in a tougher role, Pat Neshek being hurt and Jesse Crain in the first year following surgery. I’d still look into getting a proven right-handed set-up man – but it wouldn’t surprise me if the FO stands pat here.

from Tony:

Would you consider voting for Cliff Lee for MVP in a year where the best candidates (Morneau, Hamilton) are on non-playoff teams, and there is no offensive player really having a monster year?

Heh. I think everyone knows how I feel about pitchers winning MVP awards. I could always change my mind…but I haven’t yet. And how far has Lee gotten the Tribe this year?

Read my baseball insider on Sunday for thoughts on the MVP race.

from Plunkton:

With Yost getting the boot in Milwaukee – should Gardy be a little nervous? *-).

I expect Bill Smith to sit down with Gardy after the season and hammer out a contract extension. Gardy’s moves can be questioned, but I don’t know of a manager who doesn’t have moves questioned.

from romer:
Rondell White had a couple good months with the Twins before chronic injury.
And I remember the confidence Don Baylor gave the Twins. I was hoping that Ruiz would play that kind of role.Why are the Twins reluctant to use him much? He was doing pretty well for a while. He’s just not that good? Hard to believe that since he’s the AAA batting champion.

I’d like to see more of Ruiz. What’s unfortunate is that there was a rush to get Cuddy back on-line once he got healthy, which killed Ruiz’s chances of getting in the lineup during the recent run vs lefties.

Ruiz deserves to be on a major league roster. He’s paid his dues. I just don’t know if this is the right situation. Kubel should DH vs lefties and righties. Ruiz is very bad at first base. I don’t see how he can get 300 at-bats next season. And if he can’t, will he get dull on the bench?


from MarkW:

Honestly, what do you think of Gardenhire’s managing late in ballgames, late in the season, or in the playoffs? Basically in any “must win” situations? 5-9 record in September this year, and 6-15 lifetime in the post season… I understand all the cookie cutter answers of how he gets his guys ready to play, knows how to manage these kids, is a players manager, does the best he can with what he’s given, but in all honesty, his teams have had talent and have won 4 division titles, yet have been embarrassed in the playoffs. Does this not point back to the fact that his over matched with his “we’ll get ‘em tomorrow” attitude?

I think the shuffling of roles in the bullpen put Gardy in a no-win situation this season. Honestly, everyone in the bullpen has given up big hits. He gave relievers chances to get hot, and they never did. The FO deserves the blame for not addressing the situation properly.

And, while no one will admit it, they are mentally wrecked. Matt Guerrier has tried so hard to be accountable after outings, but has struggled to put his thoughts into words. I could tell it was eating him up. I was told Joe Nathan sat in the dugout for 45 minutes after Tuesday’s loss to Cleveland. Does the coaching staff deserve blame for not coming up with the right words to straighten them out? The coaches seemed to say a lot of the right things the previous six years, so I don’t know….

As for the postseason, they ran into the Yankees twice, a red hot Angels team once. The second time they faced Oakland, they didn’t have Liriano and sent the skeletal remains of Brad Radke to the mound. When were the Twins the favored team in any of those series?

from MarkW:

And do you think our pitching philosophy of pitching to contact is our ndoing at this point?

NOTE: over the course of under four games, we gave up 17 consecutive runs via the home run (on 10 homers). And the only thing that managed to finally endthe long ball pain was the Twins’ other major weakness — defense. (Team defensive efficiency of .694, 20th in baseball.)

I think the undoing was a developing rotation learning tough lessons, a bullpen that became a playpen and offseason acquisitions that led to poor infield defense. The Twins had Brendan Harris at second and Mike Lamb at third to open the season – and Adam Everett had a bad shoulder for most of the season. Some of the pitching problems are understandable. The bullpen needs tweaking. The defense was unacceptable.

Fortunately, there is evidence that the rotation will continue to improve. Slowey, Baker and Franchise look to be the big three of the group. The bullpen needs at least one new arm in addition to Mijares becoming the primary lefty. The Twins need to identify a shortstop. I vote for Casilla at short and Matt Tolbert at second next year, with Nick Punto as a super sub.

from Jake:

Is it just me, or has Joe Nathan gotten a little “Boofy” around the mid section (and neck, and face, and legs…)? Maybe that is why he has sucked for the final push. He is now fat and has no endurance for the end of the season…???

It’s just you. No doubt, it’s just you.

from Fry Dog:

LEN3 – Toronto has a good bullpen and word has it they want to dump BJ Ryan’s salary. Since the Twins are down on payroll, any chance we might trade for BJ as the 8th inning guy? Or, do you think the Jay’s would consider parting with Brandon League? We could use a guy like him that throws mid-upper 90’s for the set up role.

If not Ryan, League…who else is touted as a top-notch 8th inning guy that we might consider trading for?

Fat chance with Ryan. While I think Brandon League has a heck of an arm. He’s had some health issues and his slinging motion suggests more to come.

As for other options, the cost of middle relief has gone up so much that teams are holding onto their good ones as long as they can.
My complaint is that the Twins should have moved Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama through the system quicker. But I think Delaney could be a factor next year.

from jedidiah:

Why the hell are so many people giving up on the Twins? Are you assuming we’re going to let the Sox walk over us in the Dome next week? I’ll admit things don’t look good right now especially after how we used up our bullpenlast night. But still, making up 2.5 games is still possible. If we beat Lee today we’ll have some momentum going into Tampa Bay, which will be a tough series but I can see the Twins taking 3 out of 4 and then ready to demolish the White Sox. Wishful thinking? Probably. It’s just too soon to give up.
I was ready to throw dirt on the season too, then Alexi Casilla hit that improbable homer last night. Seriously, I was screaming at the TV on that one.

Can’t wait for the White Sox series. The Twins already are getting loads of national media requests for credentials.

Is jedidiah your real name?

a clusterbomb from Dawgzilla:

1) Why don’t we EVER win championships in Minnesota?

Um, the Thunder won it all a few years ago.

2) Why is it that all (exception for Ziggy, new owner of Wild given a pass, being he just bought team) Minnesota owners are tight!

Um, Glen Taylor has tried to spend, just not wisely. And you have to respect the regional economics that are in play.

3) Are you sick of the excuse “small market team”?

It is what it is. But you don’t have to outspend to win. Front offices need to be held accountable for bad moves, like the Ryan Mills- B.J. Garbe -Adam Johnson draft run the Twins went on, or the countless cheap free agents that have flopped – going back to Sean Bergman and Butch Huskey.

4) Will there ever be an athletic administration that cares about athletics at the U., namely the big revenue making football team?

Um, the Gophs cared enough to try to admit a borderline academic case in Marqueis Gray and import JUCO players. Give Dinkytown Tim a couple more years.

5) What are the chances that Brad, I love my West Coast offense and have a man crush on T. Joke., “Chilly” Childress fails to blow up a dynamite/gun powder factory with all the oil from the Middle East and a flamethrower?

I can’t relate to this concept….and T-Jax is now T-Backup.

from Ryan:

Could you step into the batter’s box against Mike Herman and get a hit?

Me? The worst athlete EVER from Chicago? I couldn’t hit Molly Gallatin.

Questions? I might have answers.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

I’ve decided to take a page from the Mike Russo playbook and hold a Q & A session.

Russo has prolific Q&A’s on his blog, but I’m sure there’s just as large of an appetite for Twins talk as there is for puck talk. So spend today banging out some questions you’d like to have answered – the players, front office, minors, new ballpark, media dining room food – and I will tackle the ones that deserve to be tackled.

Gotta imagine there’s a lot to ask about – especially since the Twins have one foot dangling over the abyss right now. True, 2.5 games out with 11 to play is not the end of the world. But given the way the Twins have played in recent weeks it’s hard to imagine that they are going to turn this thing around.

So file your questions below, and I try to answer them over the next couple of days.

Also, stayed tuned later this morning for a fresh podcast - and a minor league post this afternoon.