The only Big Mac I’m interested in is the one served at McDonald’s

Posted on January 12th, 2010 – 12:44 PM
By La Velle

Those were not crocodile tears flowing yesterday when Mark McGwire blubbered his way through an interview with Bob Costas about his admission that he took steroids and HGH.

McGwire was truly sorry for the mistakes he made during his career. McGwire, along with Sammy Sosa, helped baseball distance itself from labor wars with an all-time binge of home run hitting in 1998.

But it’s now official. Mark McGwire was riding dirty along with other busted members of the PED gang. We had our suspicions, especially after he stiff-armed a congressional committee in 2005 with his “I’m not here to talk about the past,’’ defense.

Now, let’s talk about the past.

McGwire was a cheater during an era in which baseball’s drug policy was a joke and many players took advantage of it.  The list of enablers is a long one, from officials on the MLB and club levels to teammates and even the media.

What’s fascinating is that McGwire believes the PED’s only helped him recover from injuries and stay on the field and had nothing to do with performance.

Sorry, Big Mac. You went from hitting 40-something homers to breaking the all-time single-season record. You’re going to have a hard time convincing us that it wasn’t the drugs.

McGwire likely has convinced himself of this – much like Roger Clemens has convinced himself that he’s done nothing wrong over the years. Yes, Big Mac, your swing had shortened over the years. Yes, you perfected the art of mental preparation. But when you missed first base and had to retreat to touch after historic homer No. 62, you were as massive as ever.

One of the biggest challenges facing Hall of Fame voters is how to judge players from the steroid era.  Do we look at it on a case-by-case basis, don’t vote for anyone you suspected to be a PED user or vote for anyone you want because it’s safe to assume that most everyone was using before 2002.

The Hall of Fame is not an all-Saints club. There are lawbreakers and cheaters and racists in Cooperstown. Gaylord Perry was an admitted manipulator of baseballs throughout his career, and he’s in the Hall.

And how do we know players weren’t cheating in the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s? The way media saturates sports today makes it harder for unscrupulous athletes to operate.

Players cheated because they thought they could get away with it. To me, once you decide to join the dark side, you must pay for your mistakes if caught.

I have not voted for McGwire since he’s become eligible for Hall of Fame balloting. And I will continue to leave the box next to his name unchecked.

Some Monday morning links

Posted on January 11th, 2010 – 11:50 AM
By La Velle

There have been many stories about Joe Mauer’s approaching free agency. And there will be many more.

But EPSN ESPN has blown out its baseball section front with a Mauer story, a story on how the Twins do business and, finally, a poll in which voters weigh in on if Mauer will remain a Twin after 2010.

As our Jim Souhan pointed out, Mauer has the advantage in negotiations.

The Twins scouted Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman when he worked out for clubs recently. But we didn’t think they had a chance to sign him, especially after they stepped up to sign Miguel Angel Sano late last season.

Chapman reportedly is ready to sign – with the Reds. Not Yankees or Red Sox or some other deep-pocketed team.

The deal is believed to be worth $30 million over five years, which is a load of cash for a kid who is not polished and might have makeup issues.

I also agree with a fellow scribe’s tweet that Scott Boras must be seething that Chapman can get $30 million as a free agent while Stephen Strasburg could get only $15 million because he was drafted. But this also is another example of why the draft needs to survive.

Still, the Reds must be salivating over a future rotation of Chapman, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.

Twins closer Joe Nathan has added a bunch of photos to his website.

I visited the Twins offices last week after the staff had some time to move in. The offices are located in the left field corner where the big Budweiser sign sits on top of the building.

I have a feeling that might have been the only time I’ll be in GM Bill Smith’s office because it’s sort of out of the way. All the magic will happen in the pressbox, on the field and in the clubhouses. Smith’s office is near the foul pole. He has a little porch he can walk out onto to watch games. Lucky guy.

Mike Herman, the Twins director of baseball communications, gave me a quick tour of the pressbox. It’s located to the right of home plate and is a little bigger than the old pressbox with more room to walk around. There are separate men’s and women’s bathrooms, a snack room and a work room.

The Twins’ baseball communications office is about three times as big as their old one. They even have a library and an archives room! By the way, if anyone has a 1966 Twins media guide, the club needs one for their files.

I’m going to write this once again. I can’t believe the Twins have a new stadium. And fans are going to love it.

Finally, you ever wonder just how lucrative it is to be a Hall of Famer. Here’s a story about what Andre Dawson can expect. Which will give you an idea of what Bert Blyleven can look forward to a year from now.

Twins announce spring training invites

Posted on January 8th, 2010 – 4:32 PM
By La Velle

Former major leaguer Mike Maroth leads a list of players the Twins will invite to spring training this year.

Maroth, 32, was 50-67 in sixth major league seasons, including a 2003 season in which he was 9-21. He missed all of 2008 because of shoulder surgery and had knee surgery in 2009.

The Twins watched him pitch this winter for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican league, where he went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. In 28 innings he gave up 26 hits and 13 walks while striking out 10.

The rest of the group consists of Twins prospects, including a few I’m sure many of you are interested in seeing.

Pitchers

Lefthanders Maroth and Jose Lugo

Righthanders

Anthony Slama (2008 Twins minor league POY)

Kyle Waldrop (2004 first round pick)

Catchers

Jair Fernandez

Dan Lehman

Danny “Bam-Bam” Rams

Infielders

Chris Parmelee (2006 first-round pick

Brock Peterson

Steve Singleton

Outfielders

Brian Dinkleman (guess he’s been moved from the infield)

Juan Portes

Ben Revere (2008 and 2009 Twins minor league POY)

Rene Tosoni (MVP of 2009 futures game)

These players will join the rest of the team (40-man roster guys) in camp. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 21.

Getting to the bottom of the Washburn story

Posted on January 8th, 2010 – 3:32 PM
By La Velle

I wrote a couple days ago that I would revisit the Jarrod Washburn story if needed. And it’s needed.

The Twins, indeed, made a one-year offer to Washburn for around $5 million that was rejected by Washburn’s agent, Scott Boras. The offer was believed to have been made about a week ago.

Someone with knowledge of the offer even said, “it’s been pretty much dead since then.”

So a tip of the hat CBSSportsline for getting it out there first.

I’m sure Boras is trying to get Washburn more than something in the $5 million range. But there’s always a chance that he’ll return to the Twins if those efforts fail.

It happened a year ago when Boras tried to get Joe Crede a sizeable base salary. The Twins stuck to their offer of $2.5 million, plus bonuses, and Crede eventually signed with the Twins.

What’s interesting is that the Twins took a shot at Washburn despite having four-fifths of their starting rotation figured out. Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are locks for next season. Lefthander Brian Duensing looks promising. Lefthander Glen Perkins, who might have to mend some relationships within the organization, is still around and is talented.

And lefthander Francisco Liriano is pitching well in winter ball. He tossed six shutout innings on Thursday on one hit and one walk with eight strikeouts. According to Twins GM Bill Smith, Liriano has thrown 11 scoreless innings in his last two outings.

But indications are that the Twins don’t want a repeat of last season, when unproven and raw righthanders Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship were used because of injures and Liriano’s struggles.

It also would be easier for the Twins to deal a starter – the Twins have let teams know that Perkins is available this offseason – if they have a veteran like Washburn in the rotation.

Washburn fits the type of free agent they are seeking: Someone who’s willing to sign for one season. The Twins are very reluctant to offer free agents more than one year for sizeable money because of the impact Joe Mauer’s extension would have on the 2011 payroll.

Sorry it too me so long to grab onto the right grapevine….

Twins add a pitcher (but it’s not who you think)

Posted on January 6th, 2010 – 5:20 PM
By La Velle

The Twins have agreed to terms with right-handed reliever Clay Condrey to a one-year major league contract. Condrey, 34, posted a 3.00 ERA in 45 games for the Phillies.

For more info, check out his bio here. 

Twins GM Bill Smith said he likes that Condrey has pitched fairly well for a team that’s gone deep into the playoffs the past two seasons.

Condrey replaces Bobby Keppel on the Twins’ 40-man roster. Keppel asked for his release so he could sign with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League. The guess here is that Keppel got a pretty nice offer and decided to go for it.

The odd thing is that Keppel leaves the Twins after getting his first major league win – in game 163.

Washburn: I know there was a report yesterday that the Twins have offered a contract to lefthander Jarrod Washburn. I have spoken with several people in the organization and received NO indications that an offer has been made. (Smith declined to comment).  The Twins have had interest in Washburn but, again, there’s no evidence that an offer has been made.

If that changes, I will let you know and I will give props to the CBSSportsline report. The responsible thing in these cases is to verify facts on my end before hitting the publish button.

And, as one person with the club told me, Brian Duensing might be better than Washburn right now.

Look for the Twins to release their long-awaited list of spring training invites soon. Indications are that Robb Quinlan won’t be one of them.